Friday, February 13, 2009


One of my guys got hurt last night; possibly a broken wrist, though I didn't hear either way today. As is frequently the case, it was stupid. We were playing Thursday night bike polo as usual and Casey the unicyclist, one of our MVPs, bumped into someone else. He took a low speed, simple spill that looked like any of the countless other times someone's tumbled at polo, except then he didn't start playing again. I didn't think much of it, figured he was just beat, until later when we wrapped and I realized he wasn't moving his wrist.

Standing there in our now traditional, emergent little post-game huddle, I thought for a brief moment about my plan for the evening---thirty second ride home, get changed, go jog, shower, hit bed early, say by 11:30. Watching him cradle his arm, it was clear that instead I'd have to figure another hour into there to get my car, drive to home or hospital, and scour for a parking space on my return.

Driving through the city, I thought about the definition I've long since settled on for "captain" in collegiate cycling: The one who makes sure everyone gets home.

I'm not sure when exactly I settled on this definition, but I'm sure it was at one ride or another of many I can think of, ending cold and slow, coasting home with a new rider hopelessly beyond their comfort zone. The night added a new shade to the concept, confirming its embellishment beyond just the racing set. After all, polo is less of a ride and more sheer anarchy, second only to alley catting in bedlam, and "my guys" no longer the team, but rather a motley collection of racers, alumni, and people wholly unacquainted with racing but devoted to polo.

On the Drexel team I think we've been fortunate that there has always been one or two people who wouldn't leave anyone behind, regardless of any disparity in ability. I gather that's not the case on every team, though fortunately it does seem to be that way for a great many.

Hopefully all of our team leaders have that in mind every time they wind up on a ride with fresh recruits. Looking at it from their eyes, that's what will ultimately win a rider their respect and a team a new devotee. Presidents file paperwork. Stars win races. Captains get you home, and that's much more important than training goals, ride plans, or egos.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Wheeled Internet

Directing the ECCC is hard. Stupid hard. Time commitment is one thing; the conference's appetite for hours, seconds, minutes, is voracious and growing, fueled by an unceasing, stupifying, terrifying tidal wave of email and travel.

Much worse though is the endless fighting, arguing, pulling teeth. Promoters you haven't heard from in weeks. Constant unfortunate decisions and unannounced changes from USAC. Staff, officials, riders with deplorable lack of vision, an axe to grind, or simply a bad attitude from somewhere. No matter how much positive energy you put into it, someone's willing to echo back that much and more, negatively. It's insidious, relentless, creeping up as you ride and sucking the life out of every pedal stroke.

So, it's awesome when someone does *something*---takes a positive action, shows some initiative, makes it happen. That's what makes this worthwhile.

Today's special action comes from Steve Hopengarten (Union) and Kyle Bruley (BU). Steve and I have talked for months about pooling and spawning a bunch of ECCC blogs, and Kyle's the talkative sort so he's been on board from "go" as well. Sadly, getting everything up and going has just never made it to the top of my conference to-do list, continually supplanted by something more pressing.

Fortunately, the two of them have decided "Damn that Joe Kopena, we're just gonna do this!" and taken the lead on marshaling the teeming hordes of two-wheeled scribes out there in the ECCC. Check out their new ECCC blog portal at, as well as their own excellent blogs.

A lot of riders and teams out there have blogs, and this is a great way to bring them all together and move some of our fantastic community online. For teams not running a blog, I highly recommend starting one. They're easy to create, easy to update, and a good way to keep the world informed about race reports, events, and just about anything going on in your team. Done well, it can go a long way to recruiting new riders, hooking up with the local community, building team history and tradition, and showing sponsors what sort of awesome group they're supporting. Check out some of the team blogs already linked to see some excellent examples.

See you out there---thirty days to Rutgers!