A week ago I woke up at three in morning with Marco Pantani sitting on the edge of my bed.
Last month’s nocturnal stumble-about on a mountaintop in the pursuit of divine guidance wasn’t rapturous exactly, or even illuminating, but it was vaguely prescient. You remember, right? Vance Larmstrong and Mario Cipollini descended from the Heavens and spoke to us. Which, that was weird, but mostly because they’re not dead yet; so what, they’re on that Coast to Coast with Art Bell Remote Viewing shit? Maybe Out on a Limb with Shirley McClain, doing some out-of-body moves. Teleporting? Cloning? There’s no explanation really, other than either they’re ghosts or gods, which again, as far as we know the rules state you have to be dead to apply for either of those positions. But the thing is if I had to guess, right now Vance and Mario are at this very moment in Las Vegas, Nevada doing whatever it is they do that passes for living these days: riding tigers, tearing up the strip in a brand new matching pair of Polaris Slingshots, some lite misogyny, whatever. I guess who cares if they’re alive or dead or holograms, the point is they came to us and spoke to us and towards the end of speaking to us Vance was all I’ll be back, Schwarzenegger style. Okay not really but he did say something like, “Okay dudes, get ready because this is the first of many visits and we have a lot to cover.” Which at the time I was like, jesus this UCI mission of ours is getting weirder and weirder. Living Gods who are convinced a spandex zebra suit is the Shot Heard Round the World for bikes? And then a week ago I woke up at three in morning with Marco Pantani sitting on the edge of my bed.
- “Il pirata, is that you?”
- “Amico, che cazzo altro sta per portare uno straccio. Non e guardare questo bene farlo?”
- “Kuwait what did you say?”
- “Sorry my friend, I forget to say it in English. I said… listen, baby, it doesn’t matter. Let’s go for a walk.”
- “Okay, you ARE dead, so this makes a little more sense.”
- “I know baby it’s true, I’m 1000% dead and don’t I know it!, okay but shake a leg baby, it’s a nice night and your wife is starting to wake up.”
Outside it’s dark and balmy, summer is starting to wrap up. The Pirate helps me take the trash and recycling from the side of the house down to the curb (it’s the second Tuesday of month). He’s wearing kit.
- “Why are you wearing kit?”
- “Why are you wearing just your underpants and what are those shoes, how do you call them, Crocs?”
- “Never mind. Listen what’s happening to me? Is this real or am I dreaming? Are you in league with Vance and Mario?” And did Brian Cookson put you up to this?
- “Si si si si si, no no no nonononononono. Okay chess, I am with Vance and Mario, but not Brian, Brian is a puppet, our puppet.”
- “So what then, what’s happening here, how many of you are there, and what are you? And where is all this headed? Also, let’s go to that 7-Eleven on the corner, you like candy right? I don’t know why but I look at you and get candy vibes.”
Marco was into the whole candy thing. In particular he loves, apparently, Sour Patch Kids. Classic. We also got Coke-flavored Slurpees. At any rate we loaded up with a handful of 4th meal sundries, walked back outside, and sat on a curb under a fluorescent street light on the corner of Sumner and Martin Luther King Blvd. It was 4:30 am. He jumped right in and basically told me everything, like how in the afterlife he watches a lot of TV and movies. He said the afterlife is, for him at least, a lot like Lots of group activities and sharing, white walls, daily exercise, Friday night is Pizza Night, I guess it’s like summer camp if summer camp was mandatory and never ever ever ever ended. And I was all wait, what’s happening, are you in hell?, and he said no not really, but also he was kinda vague. He said something like, he’s almost out he’s just gotta do something good. He’s not stressed, he has a plan. That’s when I was said wow, that reminds me of Down to Earth starring Chris Rock as Lance Barton, an aspiring comedian and bike messenger! Marco flipped out, he was like dude, 1000%. He said yes, his situation was exactly like that! But quickly he started in again saying his personal “predicament” wasn’t important right now, what was important was saving the future of cycling. To which I was like. Of. Course.
And that’s when he brought up the movie Elf starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf and everything became immediately (and completely) crystal clear.
This is what he told me:
- In the movie Santa’s sleigh can’t fly anymore without a power assist, a motor basically.
- In the old days it flew on Santa Magic. But here’s the thing, Santa Magic gets its power from faith. Apparently back before electricity and science, in the dark ages, people were primitive and believed in all kinds of scary shit like witches, sea monsters and Jesus, and Santa Claus. Anyway, all that belief—which existed I guess in some kind of collective consciousness which is basically an analog or psychic version of the internet-cloud—is what powered his sleigh.
- In modern times, now that we know everything and think magic is for birthday parties, nobody believes in Santa Claus, ergo his sleigh don’t work.
- Listen, it’s a lot like… have you ever read American Gods by Neil Gaiman?
- Anyway, towards the end of the movie the 500-reindeer power jet turbine engine on Santa’s sleigh gets busted. It’s not important how but it’s pretty wild as it all goes down in Central Park. Great stuff.
- This means the world’s fucked: no sleigh, no presents.
- That’s when Buddy’s younger half-brother Michael convinces all of New York to sing Christmas songs on live TV.
- All that singing transforms into faith, faith = Santa Magic, Santa Magic = the sleigh can fly without the power assist.
- Point is, faith gets shit done and leads down the right path.
As his story came to a close I was was speechless—I mean YES YES YES it all makes sense—and I probably would have remained speechless if a gang of crust punks hadn’t, right at that moment, ridden past us on tall bikes causing Marco to flip-the-fuck-out. He started to chase after them but I was like dude chill, I’ll get you one if that’s what you really want but like what’s next, you want me to find you a polo mallet?
After things calmed down a bit Marco noticed the sun coming and said baby, we have to wrap this up so please let me tell to you the two more most important things. Cool, sup..?
- One, it’s not just me, Vance and Mario. There are more of us. Nine total. And we’re forming something big. Maybe think of us as Gods. And think of our “thing” not as a band, although we do jam sometimes, you should hear Roger on the flute!, or a team, no, think of it as more of a Pantheon. A Pantheon for Speed! You like? We kinda named it with Manual for Speed in mind. Which reminds me, you are more important than you think. You are like if Jesus and Luke Skywalker had a baby, but for Road Cycling. You are our son on Earth. You are the savior.
- Which brings me to my second point and then I gotta venga venga venga. We need you to spread the word. We need you to save the Future of Cycling with Road to Rad. But science and facts and surveys and anecdotal evidence won’t be enough. We need faith and heart too. You need to find the gospel, our gospel, and champion it. Maybe next time I will bring you commandments or something. In the meantime check your email. A few days ago we possessed one of your favorite artists, Sam Taylor, and through him we took a group selfie along with a couple of hot hot hot individual snaps. First things first: put them on a t-shirt and sell them.
Okay but then what??”