The worst words in a bike mechanic's life are, "I was just riding along and . . ." This is usually followed by a tale of innocence that somehow results in a tangled mass of broken bike parts that is assuredly covered by warranty or it's the mechanics fault and therefore a shop expense. These would be funny except for the deadly serious approach by said innocent customer.
Former VeloNews editor Charles Pelkey was recently "just riding along" when he ended up a mass of broken parts himself. Before July 27, he was a well-respected journalist working for a major cycling publication. After July 27, his position at VeloNews had been eliminated and he was diagnosed with cancer.
As a writer and editor at VeloNews, I was quite aware of three particular job duties he had. He is, in addition to a journalist, a fellow attorney and was writing a column called "The Explainer". It is an unfortunate side-effect of our current society that all sports involves an extraordinary amount of legal wrangling and cycling is no different. Charles would wear his lawyer's hat, use his cyclist perspective and then come up with an explanation of the legal processes surrounding doping cases or other courtroom matters that the man-on-the-street could understand and appreciate. It was a voice of sanity and much appreciated, even by those who understood the legal process.
Charles next specialty was live-blogging for races. I have gotten up many an early morning to read the minute-by-minute report of races in Europe which Charles was providing by watching a live feed of the race and reporting the action online. It is surprising how live and how real the action is when you are reading it, but it absolutely takes you onto the road where you live the attacks and counter attacks in your mind's eye, and then feel like you are there for the final rush to the line. It is just as exciting to read it line by line as see it on TV, and often for our beloved one-day races that is not an option. I confess to also using these feeds to supplement my desk-bound attention to these races from my office and they are a great way to keep up but not have you slack-jawed staring at a TV or video feed during the grand tours. Luckily for us, Mr. Pelkey has taken this skill with him on the road and is now reporting on races from LiveUpdateGuy.com. His coverage of the Vuelta today was supplemented by ESPN's Bonnie Ford and Mad Dog Media's Patrick O'Grady (creator of the "Old Guys who get Fat in the Winter" cartoons, among much else). It was by far the fastest way to know about Tyler Farrar's crash. Oh, you didn't know about his crash today? You should have been tuned in.
Charles' last specialty, of which I was aware at least, was the jovial and kind-hearted rejection of amateur bloggers who want to step into the limelight. Yes, I was one of said bloggers who contacted Mr. Pelkey to offer my services. I thought that VeloNews wouldn't have realized that they needed the cycling tales of an overweight 40-something enthusiast, but that if they would just take a look at this plucky star-in-training, it would be a match made in heaven. I would speak directly to their primary readership, that is made up of other overweight 40-something enthusiasts who want more and better equipment, more time to ride and more time to contemplate our collective obsession. Alas, it was not to be, but Charles couldn't have been pleasanter about it.
As a result of these specialties, I was mightily sorry to find out that not only had Charles been dispatched by VN, but that he was facing surgery and chemo treatment along with the impending end to his medical insurance. It's a cold world sometimes.
Thankfully for Mr. Pelkey, he has friends and resources and, just for good measure, he has a ChipIn account from NY Velocity. He has asked people to hold up on donations for now, but just in a case, here is the link - Pelkey ChipIn.
And lastly, just so you know there is some humor in this dark story, here is a Twitter exchange between Mr. Pelkey and someone well known for his work in cancer, Mr. Armstrong - http://twitpic.com/5xzbyo.
So there I was, just riding along when . . .
Best of luck to Charles Pelkey on the road ahead. Along the way, be sure to stop by for live updates of bike racing at LiveUpdateGuy.com.