Fading tees and memories

I’ve been to many press junkets, product launches, team presentations, press rooms, races and fun rides, and the common thread is one thing – free t-shirts.

I got the inspiration for this post from Steve Tilford who blogged about the many cycling socks he’s amassed through the years – quite the collection.

20130523_110735By far the most popular color for a bike industry t-shirt is black. A colored shirt will retain its color for the same duration as Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety. Most of the bike industry are grimy people who are coming back from a ride, going out on a ride, or working on their bike. Many of our cycling kits are black, so it’s easy to throw them all in the same laundry load. Black is also slimming.

I have a fondness for the Lion of Flanders as it’s the favorite part of the cycling season for me. Also, the iconic image of the lion is bad ass.

Specialized gave all the attending journos this tee when we attended the Roubaix bike launch in France, my first ever press junket. Literally my third day on the job and I was going to France.

By pure chance I was selected to ride in the VIP car during Paris-Roubaix. The car followed the main peloton about 100 meters or so behind the main peloton. Originally the space had been reserved for Specialized’s Mike Sinyard but he, along with a few other Big S staffers, came down with food poisoning and couldn’t get out of bed. So now I was following the group through the Arenberg forest in the VIP car enjoying light snacks and drinks.

L'Etape du Tour
L’Etape du Tou

Nine years later the Lion of Flanders decal on the shirt is a bit cracked, but it only gives it more street cred like a classic concert tee.

Another t-shirt that brings back fond memories is my L’Etape Du Tour tee. It was a 169 kilometer l’etape that the folks at Trek sent a few of us to back in 2008. We, along with a few thousand others, were riding stage 10 of the 2008 Tour.

As Trek was a sponsor of the ride myself and a few other bike journalists were placed in the first wave of riders as a courtesy. The ride started in the dark of the early morning and at “full gas.” Occasionally you’d hear someone yelling in French followed by the grating, grinding sound of a crash. The last miles of the ride was the ascent of the Hautacam, a 15-kilometer climb with an average gradient of 6.8%.

This aggression will not stand.
This aggression will not stand.

I had been on the bike for over eight hours when I started the hor category climb. To further put me into the hurt locker it started to rain. Climbing had kept me warm and the rain only a minor distraction. However I finally reached the summit and my body temperature started to drop. I was quickly pulling out of my jersey pocket the rain cape I had jammed in there.

Just because the thousand of cyclists had crossed the finish line didn’t mean the ride was over. We had to descend the Hautacam because the return buses were at the bottom. I was shivering so hard I had to stop several times in order to gain control of my Madone. Never before had I been that cold on a bike. That was a great trip.

Not all my favorite tees are black or given to me. I have a off-white Floyd Fairness Fund shirt I bought for twenty bucks. It’s got Lebowski on the front with “This aggression will not stand”, a quote from the movie. If you know Floyd at all you need to be conversant in movie quotes from The Big Lebowski, Idiotcracy, and Tropic Thunder.

Signature tee
Signature tee

Another white tee is my Colnago signature shirt. I think it was the Italian Tourism Board that sent a bunch of us to the land of the azzurri. In addition to feeding us great food we had a tour of the Colnago headquarters which also housed their museum. The room contained Colnagos ridden by some of he most famous riders – many with the dirt of race that made them famous still stuck to the down tube.

While these shirts are gradually fading, I’m hoping writing down these memories will keep the experience fresh in my mind.