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Fun with four!

From left, Vern, Scott, and Jon on 26-mile spin in central Maine.

A real treat ...

With the continuing presence of the pandemic, holidays and celebrations either aren't happening or if they do, the word "normal" usually isn't part of the equation. For example, take the recently observed Halloween. While the streets in my neighborhood did have a smattering of kids out trick-or-treating, it wasn't the typical scene of hordes of dressed-up youngsters — with their parents in tow — rushing from house to house.

What's all this have to do with riding a bike? Well, even though I didn't put on a costume — OK, there are those who think a cycling kit might just qualify — I did experience a big treat this last Saturday on All Saints' Eve.

Basically, out of the blue and through subsequent texting, a ride of two grew into a foursome, meeting at my house for a sunny and crisp 26-mile leg-stretcher. Joining me was the usual crew of Jon and Scott, but what made it special was having our good friend Vern show up on his sleet Pinarello, an Italian-made speed machine. Simply put, Vern accumulates a ton of miles riding tandem with his lovely wife, so the opportunity to go with the "boys" is much less frequent.

In fact, according to my logbook, which might exaggerate but doesn't lie, the last time Vern and I had pedaled together was Aug. 8, 2017, on a 17-mile journey. For a Jon-Vern-Patrick paceline, which at one time was a common occurrence along the roads in central Maine, it was on June 27, 2016; a spin that covered 35 miles. I was so surprised it had been that long ago, I rechecked my notes for accuracy.

Riding with Vern is always fun and it brings back many memories. Even though we live only a couple of streets apart, I'd never met him until we both attended a bike workshop put on by L.L. Bean nearly two decades ago. That encounter triggered countless hours of saddle time together, including several century rides around the state, and Vern playing a big role in my 2002 North Carolina-to-Texas trek, helping with lodging arrangements throughout the seven-state journey.

So, my Halloween in Hallowell was a success; I stayed away from the candy and I got to cruise on my bicycle with three very good friends.

The Pirate ...

I apologize if I sound like a broken record, but I've read another excellent book involving cycling. It's one I've mentioned obtaining, titled "Pantani was a god" (Rapha, 2018). Its 224 pages recount the life — and tragic death — of Italian road racing cyclist Marco Pantani.

It is full of testimonials from those who knew him best: former teammates, sports directors, people from his village, mechanics, journalists, his longtime girlfriend, etc. The book's cover is designed with phrases that are reflective as to what's written and expressed inside, such as, Pantani was loved, Pantani was il Pirata, Pantani wasn't himself anymore, Pantani was a hero, Pantani was the anti-American, Pantani was everything, and many others.

Pantani, like most riders in those days, was linked to doping. His drive to be a perfectionist and the accompanying pressure to win races, ultimately led to his passing away at the age of 34. Reading the book reveals Pantani wasn't a god, but he was, indeed, a great bike rider.

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