By Brian Canty
I was always a fan of the underdog growing up and be it boxers, football teams, soccer teams or even basketball teams I always admired the guy/team who was/were never quite complete.
I’m talking Erik Morales, Arsenal, Mayo and Orlando Magic…and Euskaltel/Euskadi and Iban Mayo.
All of the above were (and still are) superbly talented, but also flawed in some way – and that’s what appealed to me.
Morales defeated 15 world champions but he was as reckless and wild in the ring as he was talented. I even recall waking up at 4am as a teenager to listen to his trilogy with Barrera, two of which he lost.
Arsenal could beat anyone on their day, but lose just as quickly.
Mayo had players capable of magic, but too often when it mattered most the magic never happened.
Another Magic and the Orlando teams from the 1990s?
Everything about them was easy to love – except the Chicago Bulls were just as lovable, and more successful.
And to top it off, the Bulls went and took down the Magic in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals.
It mattered not. The underdog was the real winner in my eyes.
It’s why, as a nipper on Christmas morning I’d opt to be a team like Senegal in Fifa or ProEv while my brothers fought over who was Brazil or Argentina.
And of course, nobody embodied the true spirit of the underdog more than Mayo, and his Basque-only band of warriors in that garish orange Euskaltel-Euskadi kit.
To me, he was a champion of the mountains; a beautiful, elegant, skinny Basque climber who was born into a poor family and became famous by virtue of his ability to go uphill fast.
I loved his backstory; a welder’s son from a tiny town outside Bilbao who suffered a terrible injury in his youth and was told by doctors he’d never run properly.
So naturally, he started swimming and cycling. And he started to do the latter really well.
He rose up through the ranks in Spain and later Europe and it was no surprise that some of his greatest wins came on his home roads in Pais Vasco.
But it was when he won a stage of the Tour de France to Alpe d’Huez in 2003 that his legend was secured in my eyes.
A year later he was back and seen as a real threat for GC. So when he beat Lance Armstrong by two minutes in a time-trial up Mont Ventoux in the Criterium du Dauphiné, many felt a new name would emerge to break the Texan’s dominance.
It wasn’t to be as he crashed, lost time, lost more time in the mountains and would abandon. His decline was swift thereafter, hastened by his suspension from the sport for a doping ban after testing positive for EPO.
Still, as a newbie cyclist, it was hard not to love the shoestring-budget team he was part of, and the way he rode.
It’s how I tried to climb and I often recall having my jersey flap in the wind, just like Mayo did.
I recall cutting up perfectly good white socks to make them look like the shoe covers Mayo wore.
If I’d have been allowed get an earring I’d have gotten two – just like Mayo had.
So, it is with little surprise that we at Eat Sleep Cycle are going to follow our hearts on this one and bring you news of the bikes we will ride in 2017.
Yes folks, we shall go to the Basque Country and to our adopted homeland of Girona we will return with Orbea bikes in great quantities.
We have searched and scouted for not only the best deal, but the best fit and a bike that we can say represents us the best.
Orbea was the chosen bike of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team while they were in operation and when they return in some form in the future, you can bet your last euro it’s what they’ll ride.
They are proud, passionate, dedicated, nostalgic, committed people in the Basque Country and so are we at Eat Sleep Cycle.
We’ve recently announced details of a tour we’re going to do there next year and yes, it will coincide with Pais Vasco and yes, it will travel through Mayo’s home town and yes, we will go and visit the Orbea factory.
Come with Eat Sleep Cycle folks! I think you will enjoy our company and how we do what we do.