In September of 2022 I accepted a last-minute invitation to sort of a charity ride-cum corporate team-building ride in the Swiss Alps. Upon my return I wrote a story about it for Bicycling, which I’m pleased to report they finally published yesterday:
To this day I’m still not sure why Plume (the company behind the ride) invited me. I got the feeling maybe their PR person plugged “cycling journalist” into a popular search engine and my name came up, but I just tried it and that doesn’t seem to be the case:
They totally should have invited Henri Desgrange.
Anyway, I wish I’d been able to share more about the ride here immediately upon my return, but I figured it was better to wait for Bicycling to run the story, and I had no idea that wouldn’t happen for over a year. By the way, it looks like Pogačar came back for this year’s ride, and as a result I can now boast that there’s a photo of me on his website:
See? There I am:
I’m not sure if I was actively hiding or just distracted by my phone.
Speaking of this year’s ride, the CEO of Plume said he was planning to make it even harder this year, and judging from the route it looks like he did just that.
As for why I chose the Vengeance Bike instead of one that actually made sense, my original plan upon receiving the invitation was just to bring the Homer and do the whole ride in sandals. However, looking at video of the previous year’s ride it was clear to me I should at least use some kind of road bike (you know, pacelines and stuff), and as I say in the story I was enjoying riding the Kestrel so much just before my departure I figured “What the hell,” and just threw it in a bag. However, I suppose part of it was also my own insecurity–I had no idea what I was getting into or who any of these people were, and I guess I kind of figured if I was gonna get dropped then at least there would be more honor in it if I was riding a 35 year-old bike with a six-speed and no climbing gears. This is the same reason I used to dress the way I did in high school: if you can’t look as cool as the other kids, then take the opposite tack and come to school looking like you got run over by a riding lawnmower. Also, not to compare myself to Jobst Brandt or anything, but I knew he used to tour the Alps with like a 46×19 or something crazy like that, so I figured (hoped) I’d probably be able to manage.
As for Pogačar, I was secretly relieved that I never got to interview him because I had no idea what to ask him (“Uh, so what is it like to be a really good bike rider?”), but he did seem quite gracious and was happy to pose for photos:
But I’ll always think about those climbs. Maybe it was just my dumb gearing, or maybe my life’s too easy otherwise, but they made me feel elated and like anything was possible. One day I’ll have to go back and try it with normal gears…