Over the years, you've probably seen a few of those peek-inside-the-broom-wagon photos, those candid visual tributes to professional cycling’s defeated, demoralized, dejected, and destroyed. For maximum effect, these momentary glimpses inside cycling’s ferries of lost souls are almost always taken when the racing is at its bleakest – a cold and rainy April classic, a particularly devastating stage of a grand tour. Something like Liege in 1980, Gent-Wevelgem in 2004, or any Vuelta stage ending on the Angliru. The sponsors on the jerseys and the make of the broom wagon change over time, of course, but the basic composition of the through-the-backdoor shot remains comfortingly consistent: shell-shocked faces with 1,000 yard stares and a thicket of blackened limbs disappearing into dirty, wet clothes, all stacked like human cordwood on a cold, hard bench seat.
And if you look closely, you’ll see me – I’m the second guy from the back with his head in his hands.
Not literally, of course. The talent required to be eligible for a broom wagon ride in one of those races exceeds my own cycling prowess by a significant exponential factor. But figuratively, as you may have noticed, the Service Course tore off its number, handed it to the official, and climbed into the broom wagon somewhere back in October.
The reasons for the Service Course’s unceremonious wagon ride to the finish of 2009 are manifold and pretty boring – the usual real-world mishmash of loads of (paying) work, young children, sick children, holiday travel, and sick me. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some of the more recent silence here had something to do with my own deep-seated resistance to writing end-of-year-wrapups, “best of” lists, and inspired odes to cyclocross tubulars.
All of that meant that writing was in short supply this fall, as was riding – one ‘cross race, a few rides towing my two-year-old personal trainer in the Burley, and that’s about it. Fortunately though, cycling isn’t my profession, and writing about it isn’t a big part of my income these days either, so the cyclist and cycling writer part of me can come and go as he pleases without much real impact at all.
Except that I miss it. Terribly. So, like the hard luck brigades in the belly of the broom wagon, the Service Course may have retired a bit early from this year’s race, but it’s not quitting the game for good. With a little luck, the Service Course will be back at the start line early in 2010, ready to give it another go, just as soon as the major cycling news starts getting compelling and stops being about verbal slapfights worthy of junior high girls, revelations about things you kind of already knew, and positives for bullshit gym-rat dope. Or around February, whichever comes first.
In the meantime, I’ll do the only year-end routine I’m comfortable with – the thank yous:
Thanks to all those who have been great friends and supporters of this site, like Jim at the Unholy Rouleur and Whit at Pave, and to all those who have commented or sent a kind word via email.
Thanks to Ben, Steve, Charles, and Neal at VeloNews, who help me keep my relationship with professional cycling alive.
Thanks to Bill Strickland, Joe Lindsey, and Joao Correia at Bicycling, who apparently thought this blog was good enough to link to from their own, and to everyone else who saw fit to give me a bit of real estate on their particular corner of the internet.
Thanks to all of you who stopped by to read, and to all those who linked, Twittered, Facebooked, message-boarded, and otherwise alerted others to what you read here. Despite our end-of-year acquiescence to the demands of real life, it was a heck of a growth year thanks to you. I’m not quite sure what to do with that growth yet, but it’s nice to have.
And of course, thanks those to all those in the sport of cycling who, for better or for worse, provide us with all of our fodder here.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2010.