Excuse Me, Mr. Cavendish
My friend Mary, who is not a bicyclist and hates all forms of exercise, nonetheless is a huge professional cycling fan. She knows the riders’ names and team kits, their race schedules, and who is being investigated by the International Cycling Union. She also attends pro cycling events and was an enthusiastic groupie at the Tour of Missouri where Thor Hushovd tossed her his stage winner’s bouquet. Thor is her dream date. Mine, with Mary’s encouragement, is Mark Cavendish.
The now-departed Tour of Missouri was a great event for watching pro cycling from the front row. Three years ago a group of us (including Mary’s husband and mine) sat at an outdoor bar on the Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza with a drink in one hand and a bell in the other, while the women’s criterium lapped us. After the women’s race we strolled to the men’s finish line (detouring past the beer tent) to watch the riders sprint in. Then Mary’s daughter and I ran after the stage winner for what must have been a quarter-mile, screaming, “Mark! Mark!” until he gave up and stopped for autographs. Mr. Spoked’s Tour de France cap has a signature on the brim because I chased down the Manx Missile. I would have shoved Elvis himself out of the way to get to Cav.
Two years ago, on the final day of the now-defunct Tour of Missouri, our group once again assembled in Kansas City. We stationed ourselves in the spacious lobby of the Hyatt Regency where Mary had heard the riders were staying. After a few minutes, she and her husband left to pick up something from their hotel room while my spouse went in search of coffee. Thus it was that I was completely alone in the lobby with a Sharpie and a t-shirt when who should walk in but Mark Cavendish, pushing his bike across the polished floor. I am not joking.
Several thoughts flashed through my mind. First, I remembered my humiliating behavior the previous year when I’d acted like a besotted teenager. Second, I knew Mary would never forgive me if I blew this opportunity. Third, I was fairly sure Cav wouldn’t remember me, especially if I acted like an adult. So I stood up and said in a clear voice, “Mr. Cavendish! Excuse me, Mr. Cavendish.”
Poor Mark. He’d been innocently walking along in his Columbia riding kit with his bike, hoping to get in a leisurely Sunday ride after having dropped out of the race earlier in the week. Or maybe he secretly hoped someone would recognize him. Anyway, Cav stopped when he heard his name and waited for me to walk up. In my best genteel manner, I asked if he could spare a moment for an autograph. Carefully, I placed the t-shirt upside-down on the bike seat (it was a Livestrong—sorry, Lance) and handed him the Sharpie. He didn’t say a word as I continued to murmur obsequious nothings about his exceptional cycling ability. It was all going so well, and then Mr. Spoked walked up with his coffee.
“What she’s not telling you,” my husband bellowed, “is that she made a fool of herself last year to get your autograph.” Cav started to giggle nervously. He might have begun edging away from us. Maybe he was trying to remember the fans for whom he’d gotten restraining orders. I quickly ended our one-sided conversation and returned to the cushioned chairs next to the grand piano, from which Husband and I watched Cav be mobbed by bystanders who had suddenly realized he was important. Mary returned too late to witness the spectacle, but she scored the t-shirt and was everlastingly grateful. Her husband, though, has continued to tease us both about our “boyfriends.” This year his email on hotel arrangements for the Tour of Colorado ended with the phrase, “If you have other ideas I can cancel, especially if Rebecca finds out where Mark Cavendish is staying.” Ha, ha.
But seriously, I’m pretty excited about the Tour of Colorado (USA Pro Cycling Challenge) coming up shortly. I’ve bleached my hair, whitened my teeth, and am practicing a podium-girl smile in case Cav happens to ride past the ditch from which I’m stalking him. Some people claim he’s arrogant, but I’ll remember him as shy–right up to the day he points at me and tells the police, “There she is. That’s the one.”