It really hit home today when I popped open VeloNews.com, and instead of clicking on the ubiquitous Giro d'Italia preview featuring a close-cropped Paolo Bettini, I went straight for the write-up of the NORBA opener about to take place in California. Maybe it's because my family is from the region around Fontucky, and I know the area, but I think it's more than that. (Kim hates it when I tell people I'm from California, but truth is, I was born about 20 miles from the location of this weekend's race. The Redlands road race runs through my uncle's neighborhood. My grandfather is in Riverside, and my aunt's family is in Corona. And yes, there are some killer mullets up there!)
See, in the past couple of weeks, I've noticed something very curious: Roadies aren't very good bloggers. Mountain bikers, on the other hand -- and especially those who also race 'cross -- are much more inclined to put their thoughts into web form, and are usually much more entertaining when they do. They're also more regular with their updates, and so over time I've developed a "relationship" with riders like Tristan Schouten, Nick Martin, Todd Wells, and others. I've read stories about killer gravel road races in Iowa. I've encountered Pentabike (awesome logo, by the way).
Between web browsing at work and marathon trips to Palos, I've started to ask questions. Just what is this suspension you speak of? If the Alpine Valley stage of Stupidweek is so hard, just how difficult is an MTB race at the ski mountain? How awesome is a whole, self-contained series that visits various points in the Northland each year, now in its 15th year?
I think it all started when I first saw Off-Road to Athens. All of a sudden, these men and women who were hiding in the trees had voices, and faces, and skills. I began to understand the beauty of clinging to an off-camber trail on the side of a volcano only barely wide enough for your tires. Coupled with a newfound obsession with 'cross, I now found myself dreaming of log hopping and trail riding instead of time trialing and high-speed cornering. Even the way I approach my web surfing has changed -- in the past, with road opponents, I read their blogs and web accounts in an attempt to find their weaknesses. Now, even with guys I will face head-to-head, I read more for enjoyment and fun, reveling in the freedom that being deep in the woods, lost beyond belief can bring.
I still take myself WAY too seriously to yet become a full-fledged mountain biker. (No, please, don't disagree. Really. I know of what I speak.) But the seed has been planted, and who knows? Maybe after another season of killing myself on the 'cross fields of the Midwest, 26-in. tires may just be in my future. (But then there's 29ers ...)
ONLY 226 DAYS TO NATZ!!