Photo Credit: 303Photo
With permission from The Alexi Grewal Story
Story: “So Alexi how was the Mead Roubaix race last weekend?”
Alexi: “Oh, it was OK,” he said slowly, then took a drink of coffee.
Story: I hate it when he makes me play 20 questions to find out what place he got, “And how did you do?”
Alexi: “… lot of guys quit… lot of guys went down… went to the hospital.”
Story: I also hate these terse/vague answers. I was going to have to say something to provoke him so I said, “So Alexi, did you really race from Mead, Colorado to Roubaix, France? I looked on ‘Map Quest’ to see how far it was, but it couldn’t tell me the distance… probably the Atlantic Ocean threw it off. How did you get across the Atlantic Ocean, Alexi?”
Alexi: No response (he’s killing me here). He took another drink of his coffee then finally said, “I got dropped… just another hard training ride.”
Story: “Did you finish?”
Alexi: “The break happened in the first 15 miles. There was a 30 mph crosswind… there was no way. I only had a 10 minute warm-up.” He took a sip, looked at me and said slowly, “I saw the break go… I knew how hard I’d have to go… I just didn’t feel like it.”
Story: I didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure what to say to this. We sat there in silence for a few minutes.
I know how hard it is for an endurance athlete to say something like that. It’s not OK for an endurance athlete to say that they don’t feel like it. Endurance athletes suffer to hell and back… and they still feel guilty about not going hard enough.
Alexi: But then Alexi started talking… as if suddenly it was “OK” to not “feel like it” and he had permission to go on,
“I picked up several stragglers that had fallen off the front for awhile… but then they all quit. The course was hard… several hills… 30% of it was dirt and sand. I had to walk my bike up one hill, the sand was so deep, but the wind… I had to lean my bike sideways. Imagine riding on ball bearings in a strong side wind.”
Story: I started to ask again, if he had finished the distance, but it seemed irrelevant… Alexi was willing to talk. I wouldn’t interrupt that.
Alexi: “Lots of guys quit… lots of guys. I picked up a couple college riders w/ two laps to go. They asked if I was going to quit and not finish the last two laps.” Alexi spoke w/ an unenthused monotone, “No, I am going to finish. They decided to keep going too… at the finish they thanked me.”
Story: “Did they know who you were?”
Alexi: “Maybe… I don’t know.”
Story: I have to admit I was feeling let down, listening to Alexi describe the race. Is this all that happened? I wanted excitement… not, ‘I finished the distance… I don’t even know who won… just another training ride,’ but then he smiled and said,
Alexi: “Elijah came to the race.” He probably wasn’t aware that he smiled, but I saw it.
The End of the Race:
Story: I go to the Loveland Rec. Center every other day to lift and workout. Before I leave I say to my wife, “I’m going to workout now. I’m not letting myself get fat like everyone else. What are you doing today, honey? If you want to give up… and get fat… I’m fine w/ that. Honey, are you listening to me?”
Anyway, a couple months ago, as I was checking in at the front desk at the Rec. Center, I looked over and saw Alexi sitting and watching football on the TV in the lobby. He doesn’t have a TV at home. And sitting on his lap was his son, Elijah. Elijah is a football player… not a bike racer. So every Sunday (the weekends Alexi has his son) he takes Elijah to watch football at the Rec. Center.
I went over to say hello and then said, “I’m here to work out. I’m not going to let myself get fat.”
Alexi told me once that he and Elijah watched that movie “The Rookie”, 4 years ago. Have you seen it? It stars Dennis Quaid (My wife thinks that he is good looking. I think that he looks fat). It is a true story about a pitcher that does an improbable comeback at the age of 40 and makes it to the major leagues.
Alexi said that as they were watching the movie he knew that Elijah was looking up at him. Alexi knew exactly what Elijah was thinking so he looked down at his son and said, “… don’t even think about it.”
Alexi back at the coffee shop telling me about the Mead Roubaix Race on Sunday: “As I started the last lap, the announcer said, ‘… And here is Gold Medalist Alexi Grewal. Will he quit or will he finish the race?’ I’m not going to quit. I can ride another hour in the cold wind. I’ve done it a million times.”
Story: “What was Elijah doing the whole time?”
Alexi: “He was having a great time. The promoter drove him around the course and gave him a huge movie camera. I’d see Elijah leaning out of the car filming me. It was like he was making a frick’n movie.”
Story: “That was the first time that Elijah has seen you race, wasn’t it?”
Alexi: Alexi ignored my question and said, “The whole time I was riding I knew that I wasn’t racing…which is a problem. I have The Tour of Gila coming up in a couple of weeks. I can’t ride like I did last Sunday… not at the Gila.” Then Alexi paused and added… smiling again,
“When I finished the race Sunday, I saw Elijah running to me, yelling, ‘Dad, you finished… you didn’t quit!’”
It was the first time Elijah had seen his father race. Sure, he had seen Alexi win the Gold medal on a video… but that’s not the same thing as seeing the real thing.
About the Author
I have known him for almost 30 years - ever since racing in the mid 80's. I think that Alexi's story is a fascinating journey from fame to rags to... well, we are still watching to see how it will end up aren't we?
I know that it is taking tremendous courage for him to comeback, face many old demons, try to stay alive, and this time, do it w/ more honor and poise.
And he is.
During the last 2 months I have been meeting w/ Alexi every week, emailing daily. We discuss his life, relive old stories (and current ones) and talk about his goals for his comeback. In the end we hope to put together a good story for people to read, relate to, and that will help others find the courage to get back in the saddle again, no matter what your age, or whether you eat breakfast at home or at the local soup kitchen, as Alexi does.
I will be sharing moments from our conversations each week, some of which, will be in the book. I hope they will give insight into who Alexi is now and the journey he's gone through since the Olympics. I welcome any and all comments like: What did you think about Alexi when he won the Olympics? What do you think about his comeback? Etc.