(Bobby Lea is out in Beijing representing not just the USA, but the entire Mid-Atlantic bike racing community. He is racing on the track in Beijing, competing in the Points Race and the Madison. Back in the States, he is also a road racer with Rite Aid Pro Cycling. He'll be chronicling his Olympic adventure here on GamJams.
Questions for Bobby? Ask away in the comments and he'll get back to you. Remember that it's a 12-hour time difference though. And that he's at the Olympics.)
The Man Behind the Mask: A Dream Begins
by Bobby Lea
2008 USA Olympic Cycling Team
For those of you that didn’t know me before last Tuesday, and you can certainly be excused for that, I am sure you have at least heard my name once or twice in the last few days. My name is Bobby Lea, and I am here in Beijing as a member of the 8 person track cycling squad. My events are the points race and the Madison, which I will be riding with fellow Pennsylvanian Mike Friedman. You can look for my events in the tv listings on the 16th and 19th.
A Dream Begins
At 4.15am on Saturday morning, August 2nd, my Olympic journey began with the unwelcome ringing on the alarm clock. I was told all I had to bring was my equipment, underwear, and any personal items I may want for three weeks in China. That shouldn’t have taken any time at all to pack, right? Wrong! I horribly misjudged my packing time and went to bed way too late on Friday night, although I did have quite a nice sleep on the flight to San Francisco. Upon arrival I was met by a USOC representative and I was whisked away to a waiting tour bus, along with several other Olympians, for the trip to San Jose State University for team processing. Team processing is a fancy term for Christmas in August! We were given a Home Depot shopping cart to use during processing to cart all of our gear around! The clothing stations were set up in a gymnasium, and we moved from station to station trying on each item and collecting our Olympic Team gear one item at a time. At first I was a little shy about stripping down in the middle of the gym, but quickly got over that once I realized that was the norm as I saw many other world class athletes bearing (almost) all while sizing their kits.
Monday morning, bright and early, a bus arrived to take us and the softball team to the airport where we met the synchronized swimming team. We arrived in a private section of the airport, had our own check in and security line, and then we were off to Beijing!
Little did we know what awaited us upon arrival.
The flight to Beijing was long, very long. 11 hours and 45 minutes long to be exact. It was daylight the entire flight, and in order to minimize jet lag it was recommended, in a manual from the USOC, to stay awake for the entire flight. I was panicked! Normally I make my international flights pass by relatively painlessly with a healthy dose of ambien, but 12 hours awake on a plane sounded terrible! Clearly I had to adjust my strategy. Instead of relying on heavy sedatives, I marched onto the plane armed with a few good books, some issues of Newsweek for light reading, and a fully charged iPOD with 2 seasons of Scrubs and more music than I know what to do with. Oh yeah, and of course aspirin to aid against clotting and Excedrin in case I need a little caffeine hit to stay awake.
There was tangible excitement in the air as we were waiting in the gate area for the plane to depart. We were a mix of Olympic veterans and rookies, but everyone seemed equally as excited to meet one another, learn about the different sports, and get on to Beijing! The flight itself turned out to be not as bad as it could have been. I scored a great seat and had plenty of fellow Olympians to meet. And finally, 11 hours, 5 bottles of water, 2 magazines, and 1 book later we arrived in Beijing.
Upon arrival a few of us donned our USOC team issued masks, in accordance with the previously mentioned manual. And that was the beginning of it all.