Who remembers the 2011 Tour of California? If you’re drawing a blank, this might serve as a reminder.
The opening stage was cancelled due to snow so rather than basking in the California sunshine, the first day of the race looked something more akin to this — a dingy parking garage and a trainer. In our infinite optimism, we expecting nothing but wall to wall sunshine and therefore brought only a single trainer from Europe. So “stage one” was limited to thirty minutes per rider featuring a boring zone two with a few leaps into tempo or even threshold power to stay fresh for the next day’s action.
Of course, the subsequent stage two was shortened after a drive from altitude down to Nevada City, followed by a heated sprint to the traditional stage finish around Sacramento. (34 kudos, y’all!)
Preceding this untimely snow was a month of pristine weather in California. I strung together a week with friends in Napa and then another week of high altitude training overlooking Tahoe Lake. After a spring spent under prying Italian eyes making sure that we only ate little more than lettuce and pasta throughout the spring classics, it was quite pleasant to be the captain of my own ship cruising the proverbial bountiful waters of California. Then, in the five days leading up to the Tour of California, the team leapt from across the Atlantic and put together a brief training camp at 8,000 feet before the race. With the team now back within leering eyeshot, it was a sour dose of reality knowing that our dietary regime before the Tour of California was once again as extensive as the salad bar.
Two days into this camp, I decided I’d had enough. I tapped this guy on the shoulder and with my friend’s borrowed car, decided to go for a little joyride.
(Just in case there is any confusion, the part of this sticker blinded by glare reads, “I am not…” .)
With every race that he does, Peter’s accomplishments further position him in a league of his own. And it’s fueled by food. His hunger is prolific. The most painfully memorable line I heard him say was during our first year as teammates; we’d been shacked up in the same hotel for nearly three weeks during the spring classics in Belgium when he sheepishly asked, “Ted, do other teams let you eat after a race?”
Let me unpack the contents of the team’s post race food box for a little insight. Apples and cornflakes. Sometimes a small bag of almonds, but that was rare and highly frowned upon. That’s what we’re allowed to indulge ourselves on after a six hour slugfest. Other teams have jars of Nutella and Crueseli (the most delicious European granola you’ve ever tried), steaming vats of rice and omelettes and protein drinks and on and on and on. We had mealy apples and a box of cornflakes that I’m convinced was never opened in my four years with the team.
Two days in, enough was enough. “Let’s go for a ride Peter” and without a second thought, we were off. One of the only things that rivals Peter’s bike handling skills is his fondness for the US of A, so zipping parallel to Lake Tahoe in search of lunch, I was racking my brain for the most Americana establishment I could — mixed with at least a modicum of carbohydrates to power our way through the week ahead. Of course! Pancakes and Americana, duh. We pulled into IHOP.
It’s been long enough that we sometimes forget the early phases of Peter. Back then he was a talented, short haired introvert when the camera was on him, but that’s really not the Peter he was amongst friends. Bursting with energy meets Kids Says the Darnedest Things, as soon as that mountain of pancakes came out he was a kid in a candy store. The side of eggs and sausage was a delicious addition, but the icing on the cake for him was the lineup of syrups. There’s apple cinnamon and blueberry and raspberry and faux maple, all made from only the finest sources of high fructose corn syrup. Thankfully with my New England roots, I always travel with real maple syrup, it was at this point that I introduced Peter to the real thing. Using his pancakes as a sponge, I’ve rarely seen him so happy.
Something worked out well that week. He won a stage and podiumed two more. We’d started the sneak-out-and-get-good-food tradition while the team thinks we’re in our rooms staring at the wall like the good cyclists we are.
Fast forward to last Thursday. I was up on Baldy a few kilometers from the summit with the race speeding by. I’d handed out probably 200 UnTapped waffles over the previous four hours to the droves of fans along the course, here in my incognito waffle-hand-off attire.
The splintered lead group of Talansky, Majka, Bennett, and Boswell had come and gone. Next passed the remnants of the race’s best climbers. Then after a short lull there appeared Peter happily weaving his way up the road all alone from his time in the breakaway. Looking up the road, he called out “Teddy!” It wasn’t until setting off to college that I decided to graduate from being called Teddy to Ted. Yet almost from the beginning of our time together Peter always called me by my childhood nickname. As he approached, I reached into my pocket and handed him literally the very last maple waffle I had and handed it off as he gave me an awkward 3mph drive-by hug. He immediately got into it and had finished it by the time he rounded the corner waving goodbye.
Legend, that one.