oh, i've gone out; in fact, i rode nearly 470 kilometers last week,
despite missing two days for various reasons.
but since taking a knock on the noggin two months ago,
the wind just hasn't filled my sails like it had earlier.
funeral today that shouldn't be, and that makes no sense.
another one in the planning stages for a kid far too young,
who stumbled and fell over what many of us
skipped and tripped merrily over for years.
too many preventable and avoidable deaths and injuries
resulting from people who are too busy, too angry, too inconsiderate.
too many broken hearts,
too many tear ducts working overtime.
chad, dorth; marty, sharon--i'm so sorry.
so very sorry.
. . . . .
my long time friend and mentor michael fatka kicked a hornet's nest
that's been bugging me for a long time yesterday,
and the swarm emerged instantly, indignantly,
and also, ignorantly.
history lesson, kiddies. listen up:
michael fatka knows more about cycling, and bike racing,
than anyone else in this state.
he fought long and hard to give women a real, equal footing
on a national and international level.
why don't you ask someone older than 40 [probably 45] about
where the real heart of racing was in the 70s and 80s.
the birthplace of how many national champions?
how many players on the world cycling stage?
if they don't mention michael fatka, michael's cyclery,
or ames, iowa, in the first two minutes, politely walk away.
point in fact: my new little track bike, the red trek from the early 80s,
with shimano ax, carries the name "peggy maas" on the top tube.
i asked michael about it. he told me about peggy,
where she raced, who she used to race for,
and who she was hanging out with the last he'd heard.
i'd spent hours on the internet trying to learn anything about her,
and michael offered it up like fresh zucchini.
you boys who think you know good bike shops don't know squat
until you've spent hours, days, seasons sitting on the sofa at michael's,
reading the telegrams from andy hampston telling about THE giro stages.
till you see, and touch, and play with, bikes, jerseys, photos, articles
about the forefathers of the sport you claim to know.
everybody knows about the recent antics of steve tilford,
but who knows how he got there?
ask michael. he does.
he got him where he is--ask tilford about michael.
before you jump all over michael for not attending these races,
do you know how honored you would be if he DID show up?
do you know what a resource you are wasting
by not asking him a thing or two?
now would be a GREAT time, since this may be the first time most of you
have even heard of this legendary cycling icon.
and i'm asking you to treat him with the respect that he deserves.
the man is an encyclopedia of knowledge,
and a fool is the person who ignores it.
michael's point is absolutely dead on,
and for you to attack him, or criticize him,
without questioning yourselves, your words,
with an eye on context and history, is foolish.
i understand that the "race like a girl" series is much-needed,
i applaud all those [especially dave, jane and donny]
who have worked long and hard to bring it to this point.
i further applaud and support--as i have said in person and print--
the women who are taking part in it.
i always encourage them and others to engage in
this wonderfully demanding and fulfilling sport.
but before this series was even mentioned,
i had questioned many folks, female and male,
about even the use of the term "gal" instead of "woman"
as a term of derrogation, with demeaning connotations.
in my experience, gal, chick, and other terms have long since been
tossed in the trash bin with the n-word, the f-word, and others.
words which do not belong in polite--or even civil--discourse.
and i still feel that way.
michael and i are of an era when women had to fight
for a place at the table,
and few were the men who were willing to join them in the battle.
for me, it was the fight for abortion rights,
the larger battle for electoral representation,
the right for economic equality,
educational equality, social equality, legal equality.
the right to be treated as a human, not a subset thereof.
sadly, because of incremental, more visible gains that have been made,
the masses believe that the goals have been met, that the war is over.
it is not.
the title "race like a girl," although "cute," is demeaning, a throw-back,
like separate waterfountains for whites and coloreds.
for micheal, it was this and more.
and his "more" included cycling.
as i grew with the sport of bike racing, his shops,
three different locations over the years, were places that were home
to racers and employees and customers of both genders.
to the extent that women's racing exists on a national level today,
a long overdue tip of the cycling cap goes to michael fatka,
and the old michael's cyclery in ames.
cycling in iowa today owes him better than what you're giving him.
i'll say it: thanks, michael.
[by the way, i still have the 1974 motobecane i bought at your first shop,
and the velodyne i won at the big store, and still use them.]
. . . . .
later this same day, i received this email from a reader,
who had cross-posted on bikeiowa:
For all you "newbie" racers,
maybe you should get a better idea of exactly WHO Michael is
before you tear into him any further.
He has done more for women in cycling than
any 4 or 5 race/training series will ever do.
I believe Kim pretty well sums it up, VERY well, in his latest blog.http://theorphanageandyou.blogspot.com/Thanks Kim!!
You very eloquently put into words,
what I've been trying to verbalize since this whole thing blew up.
Bear with me while I wax reminiscent here, folks.
Kim's mention of the loafing area at Michael's old shop
brought back a flood of memories for me.
That was my favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning, hang out in the loafing area, reading Andy Hampsten's latest postcard...mailed from some race in Europe, playing with the shop cats, discussing new (and old) technology with Ron, BS'ing with whatever bike-orphan was living at the shop for the time being. Browsing all the bicycle history that Michael had adorning the walls of his shop. Truly, two-wheeled paradise. My brother, who still lives in Ames, STILL considers it a rare treat whenever he might encounter Michael cycling the roads around Ames. On such an occasion, just to spend even 15 or 20 minutes with Michael as we rode back into town, is something I truly miss now that I'm no longer in Ames. For those that didn't race back in the day....those that only know carbon fiber frames, Lance Armstrong, and Gucci wheelsets...believe it or not, cycling did exist in Iowa prior to all those things. Michael was an integral part of that history...if not the foundation. AND....a few American pro's owe their careers to Michael for the strings he pulled to get them in the European peloton. Heck, I don't even have enough fingers to count the number of women that I am personally aware of that started racing because of Michael's influence...whether it be direct mentoring, sponsorship, or anything in between. I can only imagine how many women I'm NOT personally aware of. I completely agree with someone who had so much to do with getting women on bicycles, taking offense to the name. How about this, Josh? Instead of race like a girl (which suggests that racing like a girl might be lesser than racing like anything else), how about "Women's Cycling Clinic"...or was that just so simple a solution that it escaped your thoughts? Or maybe "Ride Like a Racer"...because isn't that what you're really trying to do? Get people, whether men or women, to graduate from bike riding to bike racing?
Sigh...anyhoo..thanks for listening.
. . . . .
[the mostly reverend says: thanks, rod.]