Tough guy

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Fake cyclingnews.com wrote a story about how the new extreme weather protocol may be making pro cyclists softer. Of course the lead photo is Andy Hampsten going over the Gavia through 78 feet of snow as it rains boulder-sized ice floes on his head, but they could have picked any of a zillion photos from BACK IN THE DAY, a glorious place that never existed and that everyone who wasn’t there can’t wait to return to.

The fake news subtitle says “Safety first as organisers and teams less willing to take risks,” but the fake article says nothing about safety first in the traditional sense of the word, i.e. concern for human life. Instead, we learn from Team Evil Empire’s Rod Ellingworth that “We spend a lot of money on riders, and their health and safety is key to the team.”

That sentence says it all, just reverse the logic: “We didn’t used to spend any money at all on riders, so their health and safety was irrelevant.” Which is how pro cycling used to be. Riders were treated like animals, paid nothing, forced to ride in spectacles so horrific that the only way to endure, much less win, was to become hopelessly addicted to heroin, cocaine, and every manner of drug, and then once used up–which took only a few years–thrown to the side so that another crop of desperately poor riders could be fed into the machine.

Ellingsworth should have said, “People deserve a safe and healthy working environment. Intentionally endangering them for the pleasure of others too craven or weak to do it themselves is wrong.”

But it was Team Evil Empire, after all, and he was simply voicing the calculus of the moment. These riders cost a shit-ton to develop and maintain. Don’t throw away the investment on one bad day of riding weather.

Cycling has a lot of fake tough guy stuff. Fake tough riding in bad weather. Fake tough riding long miles. Fake tough climbing high mountains. But you know what it doesn’t have very much of? Real toughness.

I used to be a Boy Scout but got booted after a couple of years due to general incorrigibility. I had problems with authority and rules, and although our scoutmaster was a kind and gentle guy, there were rules and you did have to follow some of them. Naturally I honed in on the ones that absolutely had to be followed and broke them, like the time I tried to cut off a tree limb before I’d gotten my totin’ chip and instead sawed off half my middle finger. Mr. Black wasn’t happy, mostly because I bled four gallons of blood, but also because I’d undertaken to do something I wasn’t qualified to do and had hurt myself as a result.

He didn’t care what my parents were going to think, exactly, he cared that I’d been hurt on his watch and that it had been his responsibility to make sure I didn’t do crazy shit like saw off part of my hand. Several other scouts earned a ton of first aid and finger reattachment merit badges that day, though, so from a scouting perspective it wasn’t all bad.

Mr. Black was healthy and fit but he wasn’t fake cyclist tough. The only thing he knew how to do was raise a family and look after a pack of wild Texas kids. But that’s not tough.

The other day one of my friends, a guy named Eric Arentsen, was coming back from some long-ass bicycle ride. He had just left Camp Pendleton and was riding north towards San Onofre State Beach. Suddenly he was flagged down by a group of cyclists and asked if he was a doctor. He saw a cyclist on the ground who was turning blue, and several cyclists trying to revive him. Several people had phones out and asked him to find a ranger or doctor.

He sprinted ahead and found a big group of riders that had just done a U-turn at the bottom of the parking lot. Two nurses turned around from this group to render assistance to the cyclist. He then caught a few more groups, several of which had passed the dying cyclist on the ground and had not bothered stopping to help. About a mile up he found a ranger who rushed to the scene.

Finally two fire trucks, a sheriff, and a life guard truck heading south with all lights flashing let him know that help was at hand. Eric was behind two cyclists riding side by side when the vehicles passed and he was stunned to see they cyclists not pull over in the narrow parking lot to give the vehicles room to get by. The vehicles slowed noticeably as they passed. When he rode by the riders they talked about the incident at the end of the parking lot and they said they “didn’t want to get involved.”

The cyclist survived, no thanks to the people who didn’t want to get involved. They were probably really tough cyclists, too, able to ride hard and fast and long but not quite tough enough to stop and help someone who was on death’s door, and certainly not tough enough to move over so that emergency vehicles could safely pass.

I wish it was an isolated incident, but I see it and hear similar stories all the time about self-absorbed two-wheeled douchebags who won’t stop to help change a flat, who won’t stop to find out if you’ve got the mechanical under control, who are often so fucking serious about their tough-ass hobby that they can’t even be bothered to wave back or smile.

It won’t surprise you to know that Eric is a scout. Not just any old kicked-out-of-scouting-like-Wanky-scout, but an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster. He’s a tough guy where it matters the most, setting aside his own selfishness to make sure a fellow human is okay. There’s no fake tough to people like Eric, just gentle decency and warm humanity that will go to the gates of hell and back if it’s the right thing to do.

Oh, and he can kick your ass pretty good on the bike, too.


UPDATE

I received this awesome note about the women who stopped and saved the cyclist’s life. Decency and a willingness to help … wow. From Lauren Mulwitz:

I must say I am moved. I think we are all moved by what happened this weekend.

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 5th we were on a team training ride down by Camp Pendleton. Upon meeting at a rest stop, our team was alerted of a gentleman having a heart attack. That gentleman’s name is James Nishida. Immediately we rushed to the scene, and Cindy Fenton, Michelle Disanti, and myself began CPR. What felt like an eternity, probably lasted about 15 minutes as we tried to resuscitate him. The whole time thinking, this is someone’s brother, someone’s husband, someone’s father … and he has to wake up.

You meet nurses, doctors, and paramedics all the time, and are somewhat aware of what they do … but you sometimes forget how amazing they are until you see them in action. They have the ability to save a life, which is one of the most amazing qualities a human being can possess. Cindy and Michelle showed no fear and went immediately into action. Cindy unselfishly gave him rescue breaths, which when you don’t know someone, takes a lot of courage and unselflessness. Michelle performed compressions until she was fatigued, and even then continued until the paramedics took over, and I kept the airway open.

This past weekend, my teammates, Michelle and Cindy performed a most heroic and compassionate action. They saved a man’s life. So, I would like to publicly acknowledge their heroic efforts as well as the rest of Purequosa for their support. We are all pulling for you James and wish you the best life has to offer.

To Brooke Nishida and family, we are all here for you and can’t wait to meet and hug James.

I love you girls. I love life. Proud to call these women my sisters.

END

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