Ex-pro racer entertains riders | PostIndependent.com

Ex-pro racer entertains riders

Jeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Ron Kiefel, roughly 12 years removed from his professional cycling career, these days spends maybe two to three hours on a bike each week.He joked that his participating in the ultra-scenic and laid-back Ride the Rockies probably quadruples his yearly mileage.The 47-year-old Denver-area resident, a veteran of seven Tour de Frances and an Olympic bronze medalist, is fine with that. There are new items of importance on his plate, like family and running Wheat Ridge Cyclery, his family’s business since his father purchased it more than 30 years ago.”I loved the competition of cycling,” Kiefel said, “using the skills. It’s that self focus. You put the blinders on and a lot of life is left behind. Now I have a family. A wife, 17- and 19-year-old step kids and the business is keeping me busy.”And, for the 11th straight year, Kiefel cleared a week for Ride the Rockies, which made a pit stop in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday. As he has on each Ride stop, Kiefel captained a cycling seminar dubbed “War stories from the peloton,” this one at St. Stephen’s church. He playfully entertained those in the pews – packed with riders and the Glenwood general public – with tales from the road.

A charismatic Kiefel opened the seminar by hopping behind the pulpit and muttering, “Let’s bow our heads and pray.”A cycling-loving crowd attentively ate up the words Kiefel had to offer. He talked about everything from breaking into professional cycling to, as advertised, war stories straight from the professional peloton, the pack of riders that inevitably coalesces in any road race.He also offered up his take on doping, which has plagued the sport of cycling for some time.”I’m glad that they started the testing,” he said. “With EPO and growth hormones, it would have been tough not to enter that world. A lot of those riders didn’t go to high school. They didn’t have options. Mentally, as a European rider, imagine you don’t take it, get dropped and then kicked off the team.”Kiefel hopes that American rider Floyd Landis, winner of last summer’s Tour de France, is innocent of the doping charges brought against him. What Kiefel doesn’t like is how quick the general public – and cycling’s governing bodies – were to toss Landis to the wolves.”I don’t know whether Floyd is guilty or innocent,” Kiefel said after the seminar. “What I don’t like is the due process for athletes. There’s not a lot of due process for athletes in cycling. Remember the Marion Jones (track) scandal. It was six months after the Olympics when they came out with that. With Floyd, it was five or six days. There was really no due process.

“Floyd wasn’t allowed representation. How can you be impartial to that? An athlete in this system is guilty until proven innocent.”Kiefel conceded that he faced the very question of whether or not to dope with the U.S. team back in 1984. Cooler heads prevailed, he insisted. “We were asked if we wanted to do a form of blood doping …,” he recalled. “But I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people like Davis Phinney and a good group of people who said it’s not ethical. They said we were good enough and didn’t need that.”Kiefel also shared his opinion on Lance Armstong, winner of seven straight Tour de Frances. Doping speculation surrounds the American cyclist’s amazing feat, particularly overseas.With or without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, dominating the sport’s marquee event is no simple task, Kiefel noted.”If a guy won the tour once, you can maybe attribute that to doping,” he began, “but Lance was up there consistently. There’s more than doping to that. Doping will make you a little better, but so much goes into winning something like the Tour de France.”

Cycling is much more strategic than meets the eye, Kiefel insisted. “You don’t have to be the strongest guy to be successful,” he said. “It’s often the smartest guy that wins the race. It’s about picking moments, knowing when to play the game. It is a game. You have to take risks at appropriate times, and understand why you’re taking the risk.”And then there’s the mental and physical anguish. Kiefel says he is most often asked what the Tour de France is like. He replies with a simple – yet loaded – answer.”It’s a lot of suffering,” he said.Not so with Ride the Rockies, though. Kiefel tackles the ride casually, typically riding alongside family members. He’s even ridden a stage on a tandem bike with his wife, Meegan.What he likes best about the Ride is watching everyday people give their all to complete stage after stage.”Some people out there and the effort they’re putting out is amazing,” he said. “For some people to ride 90 miles is like a Tour de France rider going 200. It’s really quite amazing to see the tenacity on display out there.”

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