Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Man In The Arena

On April 15 professional cyclist Stuart O'Grady made his dream come true by winning 'The Hell Of The North'. Arguably the most difficult one day race in the whole of cycling, Paris-Roubaix has been a major goal of Stuart for his entire career. Like most professionals, Stuart has had his fair share of disappointment and setbacks but 2 weeks ago he finally conquered the 260 km and 28 sections of cobblestones to be crowned the 2007 champion.

Riding for the Danish team CSC, Stuart works closely with team director Scott Sunderland (a former professional cyclist himself) in preparing for races as well as executing strategies during races in an attempt to be victorious. On April 15 the strategy worked.

For most cyclists Paris-Roubaix is an unrealistic goal but for a few (like O'Grady) who are suited to the race ,winning can be a career long ambition. In addition to the rich cycling traditions surrounding the race, there is also strong historical character associated with it. In Roman times, troops would march along a lot of the cobble stone roads that feature in the race. For many, the imagery of gladiators is used to describe the cyclists fighting for victory and attempting to conquer the many difficulties the race presents.

As is customary, Team CSC posts a race day schedule priory to an event, detailing times and itineraries. The day before Paris-Roubaix Scott Sunderland included the following quote from his race diary on the schedule. It apparently inspired the team and set the tone for victory the next day.

"It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. Or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement. And at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

Monday, April 23, 2007

'I Don't Give A F*ck Who He Is'...

One of my girlfriend's best mates told this story to a group of us recently. A friend of her father was actually there and saw it with his own eyes. I will do my best to try and tell it in the same way that she heard it and told it to us.

Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones has a house in Co Kildare, Ireland. Not far from his home is a pub called Furey's. By most accounts it is a lovely pub and serves excellent food every day of the week. One night last year to celebrate his birthday Ronnie decided to visit the pub with some of his close friends and a small entourage.

That very same night the friend of my friend's father was also in Furey's. As soon as Ronnie appeared almost everyone in the pub recognised him but (in typical Irish fashion) didn't make a very big fuss. The night progressed as usual with everyone drinking, laughing and telling stories.

At closing time with only a small number of people left in the pub (including Ronnie and his gang), the publican announced that there would be a lock-in. The shutters came down, the doors were locked, lights lowered and the remaining few were able to carry on with their evening for a few hours longer. Realising there was only a few people left and because it was his birthday Ronnie decided to take out his guitar and sing a few songs for his closest mates.

Seconds after hearing the first chord, the publican jumped out from behind the bar and announced to the small audience that there was a strict no music policy in his bar. No exceptions. As the story goes, everyone had a good chuckle before someone stepped up and said to the publican, "sorry, there mate but do you not know who that is?" And the publican replied (with a totally straight and irritated face) "I don't give a fuck if that is Ronnie Wood of The Stones! He can't play his guitar and sing in my pub and that's that!"

The entire place (including Ronnie) broke their shite laughing at the irony. But apparently, Ronnie was a good sport, respected the publican's wishes and put his guitar away.

Rock & roll stars. I guess they can't really do everything they want to and sometimes are put in their place...