Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A week in the Catskill mountains

You must have heard of them: the Catskills. No, they're not as high as the Rockies, and they're not as rough as the Cascades. But they are mountains, with ski resorts and lore. Heard of Rip van Winkle? Well, he is pervasive in the land of the "kills," which is a Dutch word that means something like "narrow stream." So, it's not as if a long time ago a bunch of innocent pussies were slaughtered in the Catskills!
Rip van Winkle appears in many disguises!
It was my second visit to the little town of Windham, the first having come two years ago when I was Vice Chief for the first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup to be held in the USA in several years. This year, Windham not only celebrated the third edition of the World Cup but much more so its resurrection after last year's devastating floods after hurricane Irene dumped ungodly amounts of rain in hours on the area. Watch this YouTube video, and you won't believe how pristine the little town is, once again. It helps when many of the homeowners are absentee landlords from NYC who have a lot of money (and connections) to help spur on the rebuilding effort. Just a few miles down the valley, in Prattsville, things are different—no outside money here, no tourists like in the ski-town Windham, and the destruction is still apparent.
A devastated building in Prattsville, 10 miles downstream from Windham
Uprooted trees and other debris are still piled up on the river banks
Idyllic—the river giveth, and the river taketh
I got to see a bit of the countryside during my stay in Windham thanks to two beautiful bike rides that I was able to sneak in between duties. Both loops (one 41, the other 37 miles long) took me through some gorgeous valleys and over some challenging hills. The vistas were amazing: You've seen pictures of the ever-more distant ridgelines that go from green to grey to bluish nothingness. The Catskills have them. Townships consist of signs and an occasional house, but "settlement" may be a better term than "village" or "town." The inhabitants of this region are definitely descendants of old Rip van Winkle....
Sleepy, hidden, inviting
Looking from a high vantage point toward the Hudson River valley
As mentioned earlier, I was in Windham for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, which featured the 6th round of the XCO (cross-country) and the 5th round of the DHI (downhill) of this season-long series. It is quite a sight to see all those European and American pro teams and riders descend upon such a sleepy town. The race is spearheaded by Nick Bove and Lori Torgersen, with much help from Rick Rasmussen and his wife, Amy. Nick owns the local bike-shop, and Rick and Amy make their money with their inn, the Hotel Vienna. I knew all four from my first visit, and I knew how hard-working they are. With their army of local volunteers they have managed to put an event on the map of international cycling that has an estimated economic impact of about 6 million dollars for the region! No wonder a direct representative of the governor was on hand for the press conference, especially in light of the rebuilding efforts and eventual success.

My work this time around was that of DCO, not commissaire. The race was inscribed for Elite, Sub-23, and Junior riders, which meant that I had to drug-test a certain number of each group, according to the rules that the UCI has established. I worked with interesting chaperones, who escort the riders who have been selected for anti-doping, and knowledgeable medical staff, who witness the sample taking procedure—my job is to complete all the documentation and make sure that proper protocol is followed. I had relatively little contact with the commissaires since our duties are completely different, but during some spare moment I took the lift to the start of the downhill and posed with these three fine commissaires:
Dorothy Nichols, Vicki Mackzum, Cyndi Smith, and the DCO on top of the mountain
Of the racing action I saw very, very little—the DCO is hidden away in his little fiefdom, waiting for the racers to finish the race and be escorted to the Doping Control Station. When the commissaires go home, our work begins. High temperatures and humidity (both abundant in Windham, together with beautiful sunshine) dehydrate people, and racers are no exception. Sometimes the urge to pee after a race is just not there, and thus patience is a virtue (and necessity) for a DCO. Chaperones who think it is a pretty cool thing to escort a World Cup leader to the controls learn the hard way that they cannot be dismissed until their assigned rider has finally completed the procedure. So, my glimpses of action had to happen during training.
A downhill racer catches some air close to the finish line
The DHI hot-seat, 48 hours before the finals
Late last night I returned to Lubbock, after another day of flight delays and rebookings thanks to US Airways' aging fleet. Now I'm home, for a full week and some change, and can continue to worry about my house-remodel project that has been coming along during my absence. But that's a topic for another blog update. For now, Happy 4th of July to everyone!


No comments:

Post a Comment