Tales from the Lardbutt Peloton, August 26, 2005

The following is a love story. A love story between a man, a woman, and a bicycle. A love story that...

Many people, including cyclists, have been affected by cancer. Through the hard work of researchers and charities, the necessary funds and treatment have been developed to much better deal with the disease, so that stories such as this one from Greg Taylor can end on a positive note.

A Love Story

The following is a love story. A love story between a man, a woman, and a bicycle. A love story that was briefly interrupted by cancer.

Oh, don't worry. Things are better now. This is a love story with a happy ending. The man and the woman are healthy, happy and still in love. And instead of one very nice bicycle, there are now two very nice bicycles - his and hers - out in their garage.

Two bikes: now that's what I call a happy ending.

This story also contains a challenge. A challenge to you, the gentle reader, to help make happy endings possible for other husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children, parents, and friends.

This is the story of my riding buddy Todd and his wife, Christy. On some levels their story falls into that classic 'boy-meets-girl, boy-wears-lycra-and-shaves-his-legs, girl-points-and-laughs-and-marries-boy-anyway' plotline familiar to most male cyclists. At the time that they married, Todd was a serious cyclist. Christy wasn't.

But, most improbably, Christy wasn't scared off or totally eeked-out by Todd's obscure and geeky pre-ride rituals - rituals shared by cyclists everywhere. Christy liked Todd. In fact, after living with Todd for a while, Christy quickly became a true fan of the sport. After meeting Todd, the month of July now meant only one thing - the Tour. In terms of name recognition, 'Lance' went from being the company that makes those stale cellophane-wrapped peanut butter crackers that you buy in airport vending machines to the best bike racer on the planet. Summer evenings at home were spent on the couch watching Tour stages on TV. Christy was even thoughtful enough to send Todd text messages on his cell phone with the stage results while he was away at work, especially if Lance was in yellow.

Now that's love.

Then, last summer, that happiness was interrupted. It started with some discomfort. Christy suspected that she was suffering from indigestion as a result of eating Todd's rotten cooking. When it didn't clear up, Christy went to the doctor. It turns out that it wasn't Todd's cooking after all.

It was cancer.

Things moved very quickly after the diagnosis. There was surgery to remove a part of her intestine, chemotherapy, and time to recover. Todd took care of Christy and kept riding his bike whenever he could. Riding his bike helped him to stay sane.

The month of July was once again spent watching the Tour. This year's Tour, however, was a bit different. Rather than sitting on the couch and rooting for Lance, Christy set up an old bike on a stationary trainer in front of the television set. Even though she was still recovering from the chemo and the surgery, Christy decided that this year's Tour was going to have an extra rider in it - her. So when Lance was on his bike, Christy was on hers, 3,500 miles away. Together, they kicked ass. As the Discovery Team's tenth rider, Christy and the boys romped to an impressive team time trial win. In the mountains, Christy traded pulls with Popovych and Hincapie as they towed Lance into the race lead. And by the time that the Tour finally rolled into Paris, Christy had definitely earned a share of the credit for keeping Lance in the yellow jersey.

After all, yellow is the most hopeful of colors, and Todd and Christy were definitely full of hope.

Here comes the happy ending part of this story. Twelve months have passed since she started her treatment, and the doctors say that her tests look fine and that Christy is pretty much good to go. To celebrate, Todd bought Christy a bike - a sweet Specialized Dolce - and he's been taking her out on rides to learn the ropes. They started slow, but going slow allowed Todd to teach Christy all of the little things that cyclists need to know. Important stuff like shifting, drafting, and blowing snot-rockets out of your nostrils.

Now that's love.

Christy has worked her way up from not being able to get off of the couch without assistance to a Todd-guided 45 hilly miles on her Specialized. She'll need that nice new bike and those miles under her saddle this October when Todd and Christy line up for the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Ride for the Roses in Austin, Texas. See, she's gone from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor and cyclist, just like her second favourite rider, Lance Armstrong.

Sorry Lance. You may have seven Tour wins and a wonderful foundation that gives hope to cancer survivors everywhere, but Todd's still the guy who taught Christy how to blow snot-rockets while on a bike. That makes him the number one man on two wheels in her book. That is, until Todd forgets and leaves the toilet seat up. No wife can forgive that.

Now for the challenge part of the story: We all know that Todd and Christy's happy ending wasn't due to good luck or chance. It was the product of faith, hope, and excellent medical care backed up by cutting-edge cancer research - research that is supported by organizations like the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Research that you can support so that others may have their own happy endings.

Christy is raising money to sponsor cancer research as a member of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Peloton Project. You can help her raise money by clicking on this link to the LAF website and making a donation before September 16, 2005. If just ten Cyclingnews.com readers click on her link and donate, I will fly to Austin for the Ride for the Roses and ride the 100-mile option myself. Big deal, you say? Well, how about this: I'll do those 100 miles on my fixed gear road bike.

I'm thinking of calling this the 'Leg Cramps for Cancer Challenge' because, given my current state of fitness, riding 100 miles anywhere on a fixed gear bike will be...stupid and painful. I fully expect that, at the end of what will undoubtedly be a very long day, my fellow riders will be treated to the sight of a large, tired, man on a bike limply flopping over like a trash bag full of tapioca, legs twitching uncontrollably as he crawls on all fours to the beer tent.

But, you know, if the 'Leg Cramps for Cancer Challenge' is successful, having to crawl to get that beer will be yet another happy ending to this story. It will mean that some very generous individuals, total strangers linked only by a love for cycling and an internet connection, were willing to help realise the dream of beating cancer in our lifetime.

Now that's a real love story.

[You, too, can sponsor Christy - go directly to Christy's page on the LAF website and follow the "donate" link.]

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