Sunday, January 17, 2010

Making Every Ride Count

TWO simple but powerful words are tattooed on the inside of Christian Meier’s left arm.

Last Chance.

They’re done in fancy writing and the tattoo, just two months old, still has that fresh blue look about it.

It’s a stark reminder for the young Canadian heading into his second Tour Down Under with Team Garmin-Transitions in Adelaide this week.

But it’s not there because of cycling. At 24, Meier is far from on his last chance on the pro circuit and will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself.

His late brother Michael, sadly, does not.

Michael woke with a headache one morning in March last year and was diagnosed with a brain tumour that despite surgery, tragically took his life in September.

Meier was four days from finishing his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain), and immediately flew home to attend the funeral.

He said it was "very difficult" to deal with at the time but the pain eventually motivated him to get back on his bike and ride like never before.

"It was also kind of really motivating for me to come back and realise that in the grand scheme, you’re out there riding your bike and it’s a little bit painful," he said.

"But it’s not even close to being as painful as laying in the hospital and basically knowing that your life might be coming to an end. It changes the way you think about pain in general."

The 2008 Canadian national road champion is heading into his second full season with Garmin-Transitions.

As well as sporting the team's new-look kit, Meier is sporting the tattoo in memory of his brother.

"He woke up one day with a headache. Two days later he was in surgery for a brain tumour. It came out of nowhere. He was a perfectly healthy 25-year-old man," Meier said.

"It’s (tattoo) kind of a reminder that any moment can kind of be your last chance."

His brother’s memory has also inspired Meier to take a stand in the global fight against cancer.

"I want to do some initiatives back home in Canada that support the cancer community. Do some different charity events so I’m kind of excited and it's become a bit of a passion for me to help that."

"It’s crazy how fast it can happen and how many people are affected by cancer. It’s becoming too common."

Meier, who was born in Sussex, New Brunswick, made his first pro team (Symmetrics Pro Cycling) in 2004 where he spent what he describes "an amazing" three years on the UCI American Tour.

That led to a spot on Garmin's roster where he is very much at home among the team's growing list of emerging young stars.

For one, he’s surrounded by three young Australians who have also been national champions in Jack Bobridge and the Meyer brothers - Travis and Cameron - who won their crowns last week.

Meier says he’s still "trying to figure out" what sort of rider he is, but after the TDU he'l target the Tour de Mediterranean in France before concentrating on his "team duties" where required.

He is also desperate to reclaim the Canadian national jersey he surrendered last year.

"I had it in 2008 so I'd like to have that back. It's a nice jersey to have," he said.

There's plenty happening off the bike as well with Meier to marry his fiancée in September. But for the next seven days his focus is solely on the Tour Down Under his second crack at the race after debuting last year.

"I thought it was amazing (in 2009)," he said."It’s such a great race for a few reasons. For one they have it set up well because the teams can come down a week early and acclimatise, you have great accommodation and you get to stay in the same accommodation the whole time."

"The food is always very good, the weather’s great and the crowds are amazing.(Last year) it was an amazing atmosphere. You could probably get some Tour (de France) stages in the mountain tops (like that). But apart from that you’re dealing with a handful of races that have those sorts of crowds."

Courtesy: Southern Times Messenger, Adelaide, Australia

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