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The life of a pro racer.from "Stranger in a Strange Land".

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The life of a pro racer.from "Stranger in a Strange Land".

Old 10-13-04, 11:18 AM
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cyclezealot
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Each month in my cycling mags. one of the first reads is "At the Back" column in Velonews...Anyone read" Stranger in a Strange Land," in the Oct.25 issue by cycling pro Austin King formerly of Jelly Belly team.
King makes the life of a pro racer sound a little harsh..Think those in the lime light of pro racing feel cheated in life by their lime light in European race scene?
King makes the racer sound almost depressed. I thought the adrenlin rush made an athlete feel up...
Excerpts from the article..."For seven months he lives the methodical life and struggles to keep in touch witht the world he used to know. He shaves his legs every third day., counts calories and isn't self conscious of wearing lycra.There are not parties, late nights with girls, . He's grown to appreciate the rewarding taste of a nice cold beer, but he stops at one."
"He has no one to share his war of emotions but himself. There hasn't been a steady girlfriend as long as he can remember."Women weaken legs, he convinces himself. because for the time being his companion is a bicycle."
"Bicycles never complain and are always on time," he chuckles. covering up something hidden deeper."
This written by a US National riding the European circuit. Is King an exception.?
THink most cycling racers depressed? Guess, a cycling career of 10 years, might get a little same ole, same ole- when not on the winning team?
But, I would think- it to be the pinnacle of a life's training. Plus, pro cycling on the European cycling set...The pro's are like gods. They go into a bar for their ONE drink...They have no cause to be lonely !?
When, You read the exposse of a cyclsts in any cycling mag..just does not seem you hear of many complaints about the life dealt them, except for their racing disappointments..and they seem eager for the next season.?
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Old 10-13-04, 11:24 AM
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What's the connection with RAH's 'Stranger in a Strange Land' in the article?
Micheal Valentine Smith at least 'grokked' everything around him.
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Old 10-13-04, 11:30 AM
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VS...Sorry, unfortunately did not read "Stranger in a Strange Land." Care to give a little elaboration as to this possible connection..."Grooked"? This word would make one think Smith is enjoying life..?
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Old 10-13-04, 11:59 AM
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'Grokked' is a term Heinlein uses in the book to describe a person fully understanding, comprehending, feeling and being ultimately cognizant of one's enviornment, objects or persons around them. 'Grok' is the closest you can come to describing a Martian concept. It would be the very essence of being, and beyond.
Of course the writer may have taken a simplified approach with the idea of a person being brought back to Earth from Mars and having to learn the ways, customs, and life as a human, when he was taught by Martian elders.
And never quite fitting in, and ultimately having the rejection of many around him because of their misunderstanding him.
Smith had some awesome powers, though, while being so innocent.
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Old 10-13-04, 12:07 PM
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Steve... Grook...Don't we all have this dilema...Can't fit in with everything and everybody...Some of us are exceptional in our talents, some ordinary..
Seems to me, what gives us emotional sustinence is acceptance by our 'peer group'. What everyone else thinks - to hell with them.
I would think the emotional connections with your riding buddies in such a situation as pro cyclists would be like 'commrades in arms.' Even if they sort of are your competitors. Recall how Armstrong's ridding buddies came to his aide after his bout with cancer...And do not many of the US cyclists families or significant others share their season in places like Girona, Spain...
I would think a team of cyclists who spend 7 months together in a common cause, would be grokked....?
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Old 10-13-04, 12:26 PM
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In the book...
To learn how to 'grok', one first had to learn the Martian language, which was not impossible but difficult. Micheal set up a 'school' to do just this. To grok doesn't need approval, only understanding. In a foreign land, if you learn the history, culture, language, and people there you will begin to understand, but you will still be a foreigner. You will have begun, but not grokked.
Maybe that is why it was difficult for the writer of the article to feel comfortable. He never had that internal peace but was always in conflict with his needs, wants and dreams and the requirements he put upon himself. And it affected his cycling ultimately. Maybe it's easier here in the U.S. where one was raised.
Maybe one is just not willing to learn...
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Old 10-13-04, 02:21 PM
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Learning Martian is definitely a universal cultural event and takes being adopted by strange circumstances...But, is not the process called assimilation...Once assimilated you become a part of your new group..Maybe, origally from outside the group, you remain a little different..
So, I would bet many on the US Postal team are 'buds' for life.
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Old 10-13-04, 02:58 PM
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From cyclezealot: Once assimilated you become a part of your new group..Maybe, origally from outside the group, you remain a little different..
I think the writer was maybe inferring that he always felt like a 'Stranger in a Strange Land'. In the book, Micheal Valentine Smith was never at home. He was taken from it, and many saw him as a threat. He just didn't quite fit in, to his disappointment, and ultimate destiny.
(He did make many friends though.)

Perhaps that is the feeling when an American goes to Europe to compete, either actual or percieved.
Some exert much effort to understand the people they are living among and maybe find their racing lacking, and some may see their racing doing alright but the culture shock too much.
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Old 10-13-04, 05:17 PM
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....so are we talking about a cycling pro's life or martians?...let us know. I'll cintribute to the former but the latter is to deep fro this little black duck

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Old 10-13-04, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Hitchy
....so are we talking about a cycling pro's life or martians?...let us know. I'll cintribute to the former but the latter is to deep fro this little black duck

Hitchy

That's a good question...since science fiction can be largely allegorical, I don't know how deep the author meant his correlation with a work of Robert Heinlein's.
Either way, I think we are considering if riders from the U.S. feel like strangers when they race in Europe?
If they were like the hero of 'Stranger in a Strange Land' they would have no problem with being there and doing their best, but life, like the book, isn't all predictable. Therefore when a rider arrives in Europe to race he's faced with many challenges he didn't have before. That can take energy and focus away from training and racing. Any success has to come from a deep-seated drive and desire. How hard is it to keep that focus when you are in a strange land?
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Old 10-14-04, 12:11 AM
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Maybe, Steve once in awhile the person who could be assimiliated, does not want to..?
Our recent spate of US cyclists, we certainly have something to offer..I would hope Europeans respect our entrants dedication to the sport..
I have always hoped sport transcends all cultures.
Maybe, those Europeans who might snicker at US cyclists, could be them..But, we should ask ourselves- since we entered their contests, are we playing by their rules.?
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Old 10-17-04, 01:11 PM
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I think the point of the article is that this racer could not and would not give up his heritage. He was in a country foreign to him, one that did not provide the comfort of familiarity. He had to focus on training and racing with everything around him being strange, unfamiliar. Is is any wonder the word familiar comes from 'family'.
The only family he may have is the team, and then they are still surrounded by people and a place he did not grow up in, one different from America.
When I visited Italy this year, I had feelings of being in a cyclist's paradise. I rode through land I had only read about or seen in photos. I imagine that may be the best way to see a country. When you take on a job in that country, even racing, the feeling would not be the same as visiting.
In this way many American cyclists would feel like 'Strangers in a Strange Land'. They will never totally fit in and be integrated no matter if they wanted to or not, because of who they are. After all, they are there for a job, not to become Italian or French or Spanish, and that is where their energy and time is going.
Maybe this is something of what the writer was saying?
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Old 10-17-04, 02:42 PM
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Funny how different people react to similiar situations...In 1999, 9 fellow cyclists went on a bike tour of Loire, Normandy...Everyone had a great time..Guess, we were there for fun however; rather than a 'job.'
But the stories I could tell about how cordially we were treated. ANd welcomed..My bike touring status got us invited into French homes on three ocassions. Most of us camped with locals in parks..Everyone was very supportive...To our group, we were off on a pleasant adventure for almost three weeks. Several have returned since, being they thought they had been in a cyclists mecca.
The key, might be this 23 year old going off to distant shores...Some young people are tied to home and not ready to cut the strings, with such distance to familiar surroundings...
Could be a poll here in Bike forums..How many young aspiring cyclists would pass up a chance to ride in the Tour De France. ?
Bet then my wife teaches French and we are both francophiles.
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Old 10-17-04, 03:45 PM
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Most of the peloton in Europe are lower to middle class riders. It's been that way for years. It is a chance for them to move up and a chance at stardom. That is their legacy.
As far as Americans who have raced in Europe, they are almost all from upper-middle to upper class; Jacques Boyer poor, hardly. Greg LeMond poor, not. Even Lance Armstrong, while starting in the middle class, had heavy sponsorship before heading to Europe. They are making good livings now, not racing (except Lance), but in other businesses.
How many poor Americans have raced successfully in Europe?
How many poor Europeans have raced successfully in Europe?

It wasn't until Greg LeMond demanded higher salaries that riders, at least the stars, started making good monies. Now an American, if he doesn't have American sponsorship going with him, is taking what could have been some European's salary. That American rider could have a nice living staying in America, not racing, but getting a college education and settling into a well-paying job here in the U.S. Many of the European's only chance to make a better living is through racing.
That is the 'Stranger in a Strange Land' paradox.

America doesn't have the racing schedule that Europe has. That's why the top racers here can opt to go to Europe. Now that sponsors see it is viable to put their money into a racing team, there may be more money coming from America and more riders going to Europe.
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Old 10-18-04, 10:23 AM
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Agreed... I always go right to the back of VN and read OTB first.

'Scuse me if I don't wade through the deep analysis... it's not clear to me what the puzzle is? In the interest of a cycling career, he's chosen a pauper's lifestyle with minimal pay, minimal rewards. Live to train. Zip for a social life, other than other cyclists in the same situation. Yeah, I think it'd suck. He may be, e.g., better than 99% of all US cyclists, but what good does that do him in Europe? I'd expect the thrill of racing in Europe passed after the first contract. He's just a face in the crowd.
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Old 10-18-04, 12:51 PM
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There are plenty of examples of excellent riders not making it in Europe...Alexi Grewal is one I admired for his winning the first medal at the Olympics since my wife's grandfather won in Stockholm in 1912, and his audacious spirit when he rode.
The reason Lance has made it is because he is absolutely phenonmenal; it didn't matter where he started, or where he went, he is at home on the bike.
99% of Americans going to Europe aren't going to dominate racing in the same way. So they are relegated to supporting the team leader or a short career.
Just because they were very good here, doesn't mean they will be the same in Europe. More likely they will be average. It's relative.
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Old 10-18-04, 01:21 PM
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I agree with a lot written so far.

It's a tough life, even for European riders. Now imagine being an American on top of it all. Different food, different language, different weather, some tacit prejudice against you because you're American, and on top of it all you're getting paid poorly and have no guarantee that you'll have a job next year.

No thanks.
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Old 10-19-04, 09:08 AM
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Ok, would an Aussie rider (Stewie? Robbie? Cadel?) feel the same
alienation as the author describes in the VN article?
I won't even comment on MVS and Grokking, let alone explain who
Lazarus Long is. .

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Old 10-19-04, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by lotek
Ok, would an Aussie rider (Stewie? Robbie? Cadel?) feel the same
alienation as the author describes in the VN article?
I won't even comment on MVS and Grokking, let alone explain who
Lazarus Long is. .

Marty
I would think that an Aussie rider would feel similar (this with me not knowing too much about Australian cycling). Again though, it isnt likely that those three would feel as bad--they are exceptional riders, able to put a hurting on the pack even there. They have larger salaries, good contracts, and arent too worried about having a job next season.
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Old 10-19-04, 10:50 AM
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Man, you guys are depressing me...Always thought in a second life, aspiring to be even a domestique would be a life's goal..Maybe we are internationally minded and not intimidated by 'strangers in strange lands' ( even at the age of 23?).
But, now what to aspire to in a second life..Life's illusions burst.
Just from what you read, I have always thought All the posties to be upbeat.
Being apart of a team, sharing common goals is supposed to be a unifying experience.
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Old 10-19-04, 11:55 AM
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Not to put too fine a point on it, but Heinlein didn't mint the phrase "stranger in a strange land." He borrowed the title of his book from the King James Bible.


Exodus 2:22
And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
The phrase evokes a sense of loneliness and alienation. Anyway, the author of the article may not have been referring to the SciFi classic at all.

OK. Maybe I did put too fine a point on it.
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Old 10-19-04, 09:05 PM
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"And the Bible cites this sort of scum as being a righteous man." -Robert A. Heinlein, 'Stranger in a Strange Land'
...a treatise on Lot.

Anyway, you are probably right, the writer (VeloNews) just liked the words for a title, also. Like the movie 'A Night in a Strange Town'. Sounds good. Only, he wasn't having such a good time. Still, we are only speculating as to why he wasn't.
And perhaps why he never could.
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