R.I.P., Michele Scarponi

The hits just keep on coming. This time it’s Astana’s Michele Scarponi, struck and killed by a van while training near his home in Italy.

The roads are getting scarier by the day, and one wonders whether it’s just the fabled “economic uncertainty” that is kicking the pins out from under the bike biz. Uncertainty about whether you’ll return alive from a ride may be playing a role, too.

Coincidentally, I’ve been practicing the Zen of Grant Petersen lately, occasionally riding the bike on short errands wearing street clothes, sans helmet. Not that a helmet would provide much protection if I got centerpunched by one of the reckless, oblivious assholes who somehow got licensed to drive in Duke City.

The trails look better every day. Out there it’s mostly operator error that does for you. Though I do know one guy who got hit by a truck on a trail once. …

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35 Responses to “R.I.P., Michele Scarponi”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Very sad.
    The drivers do seem so much more aggressive and distracted than in years past, especially in Texas. Just got back from a bike trip to Davis, California where the first American bike lane was constructed 50 years ago. Very friendly bike town, so many paths, lanes and even signed bike routes to other towns. Bike parking at coffee shops/bakeries. We rode 68 miles to the east side of San Francisco Bay and rode back via Amtrak. Tons of bike storage hooks in the train. Wonderful place to ride. Drawback – small home in the city – about a million bucks.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Alas, it’s only gonna get worse. The new autos just keep getting bigger and they’re chock-full of gadgets that seem designed to kill us off. For every buck’s worth of safety (adaptive cruise control, lane-holding, Pilot Assist) it seems there are two bucks’ worth of distraction (like Apple’s CarPlay).

      My sis just bought a new RAV4 and said the salesman needed more time to explain all the new tech than to sell her the auto.

      Biggest advance for me when I stepped up to the ’05 Forester from a ’98 Tacoma? Power windows and heated seats. And I could live without the power windows.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Our experience with the new Corolla was similar to your sister’s RAV4 purchase. That touch screen, along with the display between the tach and speedo, can distract the hell out of you if you let it. Especially when selecting music from the iPod Touch (no CD player anymore). I haven’t seen a car with window cranks in over 15 years. The last one I owned was a 2001 Toyota Echo.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I get you on the high tech, Patrick. When I got the new Forester last year (it was hard to drive a stick shift with my arm in a sling for 8 weeks) it seemed like I would have to undertake a new Ph.D. program to understand all the touch screen crap. I barely use anything other than the radio.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Shoot, I bet I don’t use 3 percent of the potential of my iPhone when I’m not sitting in my car. When I am, I ignore the goddamn thing until I’m stopped somewhere.

        I used to be fascinated with technology, but lately it just seems to piss me off.

        I just sent a HERO5 Black with crippling audio issues back to GoPro (the customer-service person I spoke with was very pleasant and helpful). And a Timex Metropolitan activity tracker is going back on Monday (I’m only good for about three cracks at rebooting, reconfiguring and pairing watch, app and iPhone before I’m slightly over it). Only Timex product I’ve ever owned that I hated.

        Meanwhile, iMovie isn’t enough editing horsepower for my limited purposes, and Final Cut Pro X is too much, even if it did work with Yosemite, because of course it doesn’t.

        Pat, your flip phone is starting to look mighty attractive. So is that ’98 Tacoma.

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Our little corner of Arizona has drivers that mostly are courteous to bicycles. Maybe because we are a military town and many of them were stationed in Europe. But, my few close calls were with distracted drivers. I have yet to go on a multi-day tour; I hope fear doesn’t get in the way of that goal.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Pat, I had good fortune riding around the Greater Weirdcliffe-Crusty County Metropolitan Area too. The roads weren’t great, but there were fewer people using them, and most folks made an effort to share.

      Bibleburg was less friendly, and Albuquerque can be pretty ugly if you’re in the wrong place at the right time. The drivers here are absurdly aggressive and unskilled, and when they fuck up it’s generally in some spectacular fashion.

      Happily, there’s generally some sort of workaround that lets a cyclist avoid the worst of Duke City’s high-speed, multilane thoroughfares. You’ll ride more miles, but have more smiles.

  3. Libby Says:

    Patrick, please! I don’t want anyone to be a crash test dummy for Petersen’s “influencer” business model. “Make the undesirable, desirable.”? Zen to sell. Yup, no sense of humor about that today or maybe ever.

    Scarponi’s death is a terrible loss for his team and the peloton not “just” his family. So many thoughts of him on the bike and off. So many races. I can’t believe he’s gone. He had such an endearing, warm and gregarious personality in his interviews and after show on RAI before and after the races/stages.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Aha, not a GP fan, eh, Libby? I like his notion of riding in civvies from time to time. I think it can help humanize the cyclist for impatient motorists who ordinarily tend to see us as colorful speed bumps.

      But I keep such rides to a minimum — quick runs to the grocery up the road, to the coffee shop, that sort of things. And I use the bike path as much as humanly possible.

      I wonder how Scarponi’s macaw, Frankje, will adjust.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Good Lord. Well, in Italy they might at least take killing a cyclist seriously. Here in the US, its bloodsport.

  5. JD Dallager Says:

    There’s a person here at one of the car dealers called “The Genius”. After you buy your car you make an appointment where he takes 2 hours to walk you thru the hi tech stuff. I saw this same tech-fascination in fighter aircraft 40 years ago. People unfortunately got lost or died staring at the hi tech wizardry when they should have been looking out the window and using their commonsense.
    What a tragedy though for cycling and his family and friends.
    I quit road cycling 5 years ago because of too many near misses. Now I MTB. My philosophy is in road cycling someone else is trying to kill you; in MTBing, you’re just trying to kill yourself. Much more predictable and controllable while MTBing.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Everybody thinks s/he can multitask. Nearly everybody is wrong. Some of my most spectacular crashes have occurred while running, as my mind wandered away from what I was doing — negotiating a loose, rocky trail — toward a column, cartoon or video in various degrees of progress.

      Processes working in the background don’t run nearly as smoothly for meat-based computers as they do for our silicon-chipped cousins.

  6. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Perhaps you’ll be reading someday how yours truly was killed by some jackass in a car, but I’m not gonna be scared off the streets and that I own as much as the next guy! I pay plenty of various taxes both in the US and Italy – so it’s my gawdamn road too! Whether Scarponi or anyone else wears a crash hat or not, it’s too often the driver’s fault rather than the cyclist’s, but I find too many “close calls” that really aren’t that close – products of an “everyone’s out to kill me” paranoia rather than what’s really going on out there. Yes, phones and car gizmos make motorists more distracted but at least Iowa has now made fooling around with a phone while driving something the cops can stop you for – they don’t have to add it on to another infraction. The road belongs to EVERYONE and I’m gonna use my share!!! RIP SCARPONI

    • JD Dallager Says:

      Larry: Same here in CO. But there’s still a distinction between right and dead right.

      PO’G: you obviously have the self discipline to reject the siren song of tech at the appropriate time. Wish the always-gotta-be-connected texters were as mature.

    • David Rees Says:

      Larry I was truly awed when you rode up to the restaurant we met up in Malibu last week – on a freakin’ midday PCH ferchrissakes; death awaiting at every mile, or every foot. I wouldn’t have even DREAMED of riding on that stretch of road at any time – uova molto grandi. I’m a bit older than you, but I’ve lost most of all the taste for going mano-a-mano with things made of steel larger than me. In 65 years I guess I’ve just been brushed back, intimidated, had beer bottles thrown at me and outright threatened too many times now to feel comfortable on the roads. I’ve turned into a bike-patch weeny. Pray for me…

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        David, on the way back up PCH I DID have some ditz cross gawd-knows-how-many lanes of traffic up near the Malibu Pier to get into a cheap parking lot almost take me out. I think she saw no cars coming and hit the gas, never mind a cyclist, aren’t they too slow to worry about? I followed her into the parking lot and gave her an earful, then made it back “home” without anything other than a few rain drops hitting me.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        I nearly got drilled on Tramway the other day by an eejit with (wait for it) a bike rack on top of his car.

        Signaled my left turn, was clad in red, riding a red bike … maybe he thought I was Old Nick and he was striking a blow for Jeebus.

        Or maybe he just had his head up his ass, where swiveling it around to check for obstacles in his path would have proved fruitless.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I choose my roads carefully to avoid the knuckleheads. As Khal will confirm, Duke City is cursed with a huge number of high-speed, multilane, median-divided thoroughfares. Happily, the city provides free of charge a map detailing various bike lanes, paths, sanctuaries, bolt holes, escape routes, etc., and after a couple of years here I’m moderately confident about my choices.

      The most dangerous thing I do is ride the shoulder of Tramway, a popular training route for the local velominati. The speed limit is 50 mph, which of course is strictly advisory, and the right-turn cutouts are death funnels, regardless of whether one rides the shoulder or the adjacent bike path.

      As regards tech, I like it when it (a) serves a purpose, and (2) works. I don’t need anything more distracting than music in my auto, and sometimes I even shut that off. And don’t get me started on “smart” house stuff. I recently abandoned the idea of buying a new ‘fridge after examining some of the horrible damage that’s been done to the once-simple concept of home food storage.

  7. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Here is some low-tech that works as advertised. I just mounted a new 700-32 Marathon Plus on the rear wheel of the Saga. I applied the liquid to both beads before putting the tire on the wheel. Tire went on with only 1 lever, no sore thumbs, beads seated on first inflation, just easy peasy is what. Before these tires were a struggle to mount on the Bontrager Camino rims. They are also extremely tight on Mavic Open Sport rims. Good shit!

    https://www.schwalbetires.com/accessories/helpful_tools/mounting_fluid

  8. Dale E Brigham Says:

    OK, I am quite certain that I am the only 61-year-old male here with the filthy mind of a 12-year-old-boy, but “mounting fluid” just sounds…like it is for something besides bike tires. Will try to get my mind out of the gutter and act my age.

    BTW, just got back from a 1.5 hour bike trail ride clad in cargo shorts, boxers, T-shirt, and sandals (albeit, SPD ones). Did not die, and was not crippled for life. Did wear helmet, but that’s just me.

    Dale in Mid-MO

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      Dale that is funny! Bet Khal thought the same thing. Khal?

      And that sounds like a nice ride except the boxers. Weren’t you worried about the “boys” getting bounced together like one of those steel ball things people put on their desk?

      • Dale E Brigham Says:

        Pat: I appreciate your concern about my “bottom bracket bearings,” but it is not a problem for me. My wife keeps them safely locked away. She says it is for my own good. Keeps me out of mischief. Dale

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Haw. As a 63-year-old with the mind of an 8-year-old I endorse this view.

      Actually, I could have used some of this mounting fluid when I tried to put new rubber (teehee) on the Co-Motion’s tubeless-ready Alex rims. Good God awmighty. I can usually get an tire on just using my feeble old-man hands but not this time. Had to break out the tire irons and bad language.

  9. khal spencer Says:

    Alas. Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, is off to his next celestial ride.

    I was halfway through my Masters and writing my Ph.D. proposals when a friend and colleague who was a postdoc working in the same lab where I was doing experiments, offered me a copy of that book. It was pretty inspirational both in terms of the scientific method and in terms of working through some serious problems I was having at the time, i.e., trying to get through a Ph.D. while recovering from a brain injury inflicted on me by a wayward motorist and a divorce inflicted on my largely by myself.

    • David Rees Says:

      Thanks for that Khal, I didn’t know. An interesting man he was – even met him once at a book gig in SF – has to be a zillion years ago. I really loved the motorcycle maintenance bits of the book, and it’s relationship with you and the world, though a good deal of the zen stuff just didn’t touch me. Another to be missed…

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Still got my copy. A difficult yet important read, as both the NYT and Los Angeles Times note.

      In terms of Zen I found Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” more intriguing. Jim Harrison’s musings on the topic were instructional as well. But Pirsig’s work has to be in the library of any serious student of the introspective road trip.

  10. khal spencer Says:

    “The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling.” — Robert M. Pirsig

    Had to go back and add that to a previous blog post about the March for Science. Final mutterings over at LA Bikes.

  11. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Speaking of the hits keep coming. This fire started Monday at 150 acres around noon. Two red flag days in a row have at 18,000 acres right now. The fire is just North of Sonoita. Patrick, that’s the little town you rode through on your ACA Southeastern Arizona tour. It’s a little early for this shit to be starting.

    https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5164/

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