Friday, 18 April
There is a sad, wonderful article in a recent issue of the Eugene Register-Guard about an amazing man in the Northwest cycling community. Norman Babcock is a special contributor to, and sustainer of, women's racing in Oregon.
I first remember Norman, in his capacity as an official, for his willingness to listen to my woes about some injustice or other in the (pro-1-2-3-4) women's field at the Tour of Willamette stage race. He would always hear me out, ask questions in his calm fashion, and promise to see what he could do. He would bring me back to equilibrium (from either the ranting or near-crying end of the spectrum) before I dared to go whine to the lady in the red Jeep Cherokee (she drives a Mini now).
When I started racing tandem, Norm greatly increased my sensitivity to the concerns of the non-riding partners of my male tandem captains and explained that some (many?) women think that riding tandem is just too close and personal for husbands to do with anyone but their wives.
One spring, I wanted to take a long lonely ride outside Eugene, past Wolf Creek to the Clay Creek/Vincent Creek/Smith River loop, but I worried about loonies in the woods and other hazards to women riding alone (those are utterly empty roads, no cell phones, nuthin' but trees). I sought Norman's advice on whether I would be "safe." I knew he would be cautious in his answer but respect anyone's desire to ride a bike in a wonderful space. (He worried more that my bike would fail than about my personal safety.)
At some prologue at Skinner Butte in Eugene, he told me about his experience leading a Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He said it was the most rewarding thing he had ever done in cycling, better than any race. He took a bunch of non-athletes and trained, encouraged, and cajoled them into riding an epic distance they never thought possible. He made them athletes. That was before the Poplollies, or maybe it was a dry run for the Poplollies.
I remember too that Eugene Celebration stage race where the Poplollies debuted. As the Register-Guard story says, he and Kori had pretty much made a women's cycling team from scratch. Without the Poplollies--without Norman--there probably would not have been a women's race. The Poplollies were indefatigable. They had so much enthusiasm they were (to borrow a Veloforma rider's recent term for someone else) "giddy." It is good for jaded, cynical veterans like me to have some giddiness at a race. It is good for racing to get new teams. And it is good for our cycling community to have been blessed with all of Norman's many contributions.
I thought that as I got older, the "fabric of my life" was supposed to become richer and fuller. Instead, it seems to be getting holes that used to be filled by the people who have made me what I am.