Dispatches, July 1997
A Not-So-Golden Parachute
Your humble tour guides: former cycling greats
By Andrew Tilin
Whither the retired professional cyclist? Times were tough enough while carving out a spot in the peloton, but now it must really be hard to make ends meet: No 401(k), few front-office jobs, and you don't even get to keep the team-issue bike. Thankfully, the solution may be as close as the race sidelines, where several old hands have found new
careers as ... tour guides.
With races like the Tour de France attracting scads of "cycling vacationers," who best to horn in on the action than
cycling's own? "I've got a family now, and the job is good dollars," explains Alex Stieda, the 36-year-old former Canadian national champion. "I'm not too proud to pick up someone's bag or fix a tire." Much to his employer's delight, it seems such pride is in short supply. "As time goes on," says Chris Gutowsky, president of Indiana-based Two Wheel Tours, "I'm sure we'll
see more and more of them needing to do work like this."
For The Record
It's Never Over Until ... We Check the Instant Replay
"When he told me he was shooting for 2:50 and his wife was aiming for 3:15, I almost fell over," says runner Jim Moruzzi, recalling his chat with John and Suzanne Murphy before last April's Boston Marathon. "They didn't look that fast." As the world is now aware, they weren't: Nine days after the Cypress, California, couple finished first in their respective age
groups, they were disqualified for skipping course checkpoints. Of course, the Murphys' saga is more than just a juicy footnote — it has focused renewed attention on the issue of amateur cheating. "It appears we've entered a dubious era," says New York City Marathon director Allan Steinfeld, who plans to crack down on cheaters at this year's event by adding extra
surveillance cameras along the course. And while the systems in place at Boston obviously worked well enough, race officials vow to implement even tougher procedures next year. Not, says at least one observer, that this is likely to keep scofflaws from trying. "I can't imagine why anyone would risk such humiliation," muses four-time Boston champion Bill Rodgers, "but
apparently we underestimate how desperate people are to impress their friends."
This month, as Stieda is den-mothering at the Tour de France for Gutowsky, former American rivals Andy Hampsten (1988 Giro d'Italia winner) and Ron Kiefel (11 years racing for the likes of
7-Eleven and Motorola) will be leading the troops for California's Breaking Away Bicycle Tours. Amazingly, even last year's Tour winner, Bjarne Riis, seems to already be prepping for his postracing career by hosting preseason training camps for the general public.
Not to say that many tears need be shed for yesteryear's spandex warriors. Apparently, some actually prefer the life of a tour leader over that
of a Tour leader. "I watch the guys race and I feel like a shell-shocked war veteran," says Kiefel. "Now I get to see the sights, plus have a lot of good food and wine.
Illustration by Gordon Studer