Okay, we journalists aren't supposed to have favorites. We're all
hard-hearted, hard-skinned, hard-boiled hard drinkers who secretly despise those
about whom we write.
Right? Well, no, not really. The hardest thing about me is my head
(according to those who know me best) and like very other cycling journalist I
know, I am also a cycling fan. I have my favorite team and my favorite rider.
In fact, that's how I came to write about cycling in the first place. It's a
A summer afternoon. My almost six-year-old son is off playing with friends
and it occurs to me that instead of doing housework, I could spend the afternoon
watching the Tour of France on TV. True, German "Wunder Kind" Jan Ullrich
wasn't there this year, but this American fellow is doing well and deserves
watching. Besides, anything is better than cleaning the house.
You've probably guessed by now: July 14, 1999. Bastille Day. 10th Stage.
Mountains (they're so much more interesting than the flat stages). The two
French riders who want to uphold the national honor on the national holiday are
finally absorbed by the chasers. A group starts going up a mountain - the last
mountain of the day - Alpe d'Huez. A rider breaks out of the group, a rider in
magenta. (I live in Germany, so I am a fan of the only German team that there
is at the time.) He comes away, builds up a lead, climbing, winding his way
through the serpentines until - What's that? A fan standing in the road knocks
him down! I can't believe my eyes! He gets up, gets back on the bike and pedals
frantically away, confused but determined, and goes on to win the stage with
tears in his eyes.
An interesting stage and an interesting cyclist. I discover that Team
Telekom has a website, and that there are other websites dedicated to cycling -
it's the beginning of a great love affair. I used to do public relations in the
US before I moved to Germany. Motherhood and housewifery are fun but not
enough. I tackle the keyboard and start writing a little, translating a little.
Throughout all of this I remain a faithful fan of Giuseppe Guerini. I suffer
with him though the years without victories. I admire how he tirelessly pulls
Jan Ullrich up countless mountains in countless vain attempts to win the Tour de
France. I rejoice when he wins a stage in the snow in Catalana in 2002,
frustrated only because it was shown on TV in Germany and I was on vacation in
the US. I worry every time his contract is up for renewal. I feel every injury
and sickness. And I rejoice for him when he gets married.
Fast forward a few years. July 22, 2005. 19th Stage, Tour de France. One
of those "in between" stages, too hilly to be flat, too flat to be a mountain
stage. And which T-Mobile rider is in the successful break? The mountain
climber, of course. Even as the group of four escapees nears the last
kilometer, I am happy that T-Mobile will secure the team ranking and sad becuase
I know he has no chance in a sprint finish. But what happens? He pulls away,
faster, his lead increasing. I stare increduously at the television as he looks
back one final time, then raises his arms in joy as he crosses the finish line,
well ahead of the others.
And I know I must write about it.
I no longer translate German stories for the English pages of a German
website. I am no longer the bored housewife looking for something to do. I
write a weekly column and news stories for various websites. I see my work
quoted and cited all over the web. I have readers around the world.
And what I have to say is: Thank you, Giuseppe, for making it possible.