A personal note:
Twisted Spoke owes one man a debt of thanks and it’s long overdue, like my credit card bill used to be.
When I started this blog, I had vague plans about where it was headed. In my mind I knew that with the right set of circumstances and planets aligning that someday I’d cover the Tour de France in person.
James has covered the tour 11 times — make that twelve coming up — and he’s an experienced pro that can writer faster then you or I can think. He’s written about every major sport and championship you can name. Just last week he was down in Monterey, California for the US. Open Golf tournament.
It was my extreme good fortune that Raia took a liking to Twisted Spoke. Regular readers know he’s written about the blog several times in his own cycling columns for the SF-Examiner. His support regularly gives me a massive boost in readership.
One of the many things I can thank him for is getting me to think big right away. It was James who suggested I step up and cover the Tour of California — which turned into an inspiring, stressful, exhausting and thrilling adventure that opened more doors.
He helped me with logistics, transport and getting press credentials. He got me into the Garmin burrito fest and the HTC-Columbia screening of the film Chasing Legends. He answered my endless series of dumb questions about how to cover a bicycle race.
That was California, then there’s France. When I got out from under the soul-crushing mortgage of the big house and into a rental, suddenly there was money again, money to dream with.
It was James again who suggested tackling the grandest of all tours, the Tour de France. He’s been such an invaluable resource for planning, scheduling, hotels, car rental tricks and how to get the sometimes stingy French to hand over a press credential to a neo-pro writer. It would be embarrassing to list all the times I’ve e-mailed and called James for advice.
Which bring us to the biggest thanks of all. Twisted Spoke is not only a fun escape from a fading advertising career, it’s my way toward something I can be passionate and excited about. In my own faulty, naive and circuitous way, I’ve become a genuine paid cycling journalist. That’s a major transformation and gives me confidence to branch out from there.
If you’ve tried make a career change in the last few years or been forced back into the job market, you know from painful experience that few people will help. Nobody returns calls or e-mails and all social graces are dead. Those with jobs are miserable because they’re also doing the work of the six staff people they had to cut last year. They barely have time to breathe, let alone give you a hand.
Maybe James Raia is old school, but he always seems to make time to lend a hand even when he’s on a tight deadline. If I count up the number of people who’ve gone out of their way to help me in the last few years, the number is only two. But if you have a friend and mentor like James Raia, that’s probably all you need.
So as you get fired up for an amazing Tour de France and all the exiting coverage, I suggest you check out Versus for James’ stories. If you’re ever going to buy a book in the Dummies series, it better be his book about the Tour.
James, a thousand thanks and a dinner with champagne somewhere in La Belle France. And P.S. I want a photo with the polka-dot girls, too.