Beaudin Communique: The smell of bike racing in the morning

by Matthew Beaudin


Matthew Beaudin went from working at VeloNews to Rapha to the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team, as its communication director. In this first ‘Beaudin Communique’ from the new position, he explains why he made the move.


Jonathan Vaughters: “You want a job?”

I looked at my phone. Yes, that text read correctly.

Me: “What?”

JV: “We need a communication director.”

[Pause]

Internally, the words go: “But that’s the dark side. Public relations. I’m a sharer of the light. I’m a journalist.”

Seriously, ask any working journalist what they think of PR and then watch their face react. It’s like an allergy to words. Noses crinkle. I have no idea what my face looked like, but I’d had some time to be weaned off the drug of journalism. I had moved into marketing and had a good job at Rapha, a brand I’d long admired. I was actually at my desk in Portland, Oregon, when I got JV’s text.

And yet.

The thought of working for the team began to work its way into me like a porcupine quill. It worked and worked until it passed from one side to the other.

Do you want a job?

I don’t know, do I?

A number of years ago, I was a newspaper editor in Telluride, a small Colorado ski town. Then, I got a gig as a reporter at VeloNews in Boulder, Colorado. I went to the Tour de France a few months after, my third assignment covering cycling.

Three seasons later I’d been called, gasp, the C word by Wiggins (all hundred of us reporters had been, to be fair), had my car towed in Belgium on a snowy night before Gent-Wevelgem, been shut down by the Italian police on Monte Zoncolan for trying to get cute and ride the final climb of a Giro stage in front of the race.

I’d been hit by a car, and hit at a finish line in the Alps, though I won’t say by which grumpy climber. (Trade secret: They’re all grumpy!) I’d read more Department of Justice filings than anyone who is not a lawyer should, and I actually started to understand them. And I rode enough in France to finally understand what “Bon Courage” actually meant.

I came to the sport at the moment the knives of the past filleted the present and threatened to carve the future. There was always a story to write because we were all hostages to pro racing’s metamorphosis.

I wrestled with what I thought was fair treatment for the likes of Lance, George, Levi, DZ, and my future boss, JV, among others. I interviewed a guy named David, a self-proclaimed Cat. 3 doper in the New York racing scene. People went nuts over that one.

My friend and then-colleague at VeloNews, Andrew Hood, always said,“Pro cycling. You can’t make this shit up.” He’s always right, and he gets more and more right the more wine we drink.

So…do you want a job?

I thought about the things I loved the most about the elite part of the sport. The language soup simmering at every start line made up in chunks of Spanish, French, German, English. The hollering at finish lines, the sage older sport directors saying things to me like, ‘The minute I started thinking I needed to wear a helmet, I knew I was done as a racer.’ (Brian Holm, 2012).

It makes perfect sense, really. The second you believe you can be taken down, you are taken down. The lines in corners change and you become a smaller version of the rider you were, now afraid of what was once unimaginable.

Human nature, distilled into descending on a bicycle.

The order and the chaos. The way everything is cleaned, dirtied, torn down and cleaned again. The soapy water on the ground at Roubaix. I love the way the start line of a race is pageant and necessity. The cars all shine, the racers and bikes, too. Embrocation and chamois cream and the smell of espresso in those little cups. The murmurs of cigarette smoke and thin beer in the worn-in town squares of Belgium, all those old men sitting around taking bets.

I have loved cycling because it breathes new life into the relics of our past and creates a dialogue with the landscape of our futures. And a peloton cuts through it. A thin string of color rolling over the buried of World Wars in Europe and over the bleached, bone white of the Middle East.

Did I want this job? I needed this job.

And now, I’m in my hotel room, at Paris-Nice.

I watched as our guys spilled out of the team cars after Wednesday’s weather-shortened stage. Lawson Craddock and Matti Breschel randomly began singing an Eagles song.

I’m runnin down the road trying to loosen my load… Take it easy. Take it easy.

I’ve watched the incredible organization of a professional cycling team, from the top down. Everything is taken care of, from the affable soigneurs handing out room keys, the second the team arrives at the door of the hotel, to the directors sending out painstakingly detailed reports for the following day: dinner times, times bags need to be out to the bus, weather reports.

Our bus driver, Borja, drives to the start, opens up shop, drives to the finish, makes recovery food for the guys, cleans up the mobile locker room, cleans the muddied helmets. The team doctor runs around trying to keep invisible monsters like influenza at bay. It takes the mechanics four minutes to clean a bike. How come it takes me so much longer?

Because I’m doing it wrong. That’s why.

The sun is out this morning at the start of Stage 4 and it finally does feel like we’re racing to the sun at Paris-Nice.

It’s nice to be back.

About the author

Cannondale communication director Matthew Beaudin, at the prologue of the 2016 Paris-Nice

Matthew Beaudin worked for VeloNews for three road seasons, from 2012-2014, covering the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and spring classics as a journalist. He spent 2015 working for Rapha in content and social media, and is now communications director for the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter. His work can also be found on the Cannondale Pro Cycling Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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