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Drinking a Beer with Joe Degodoi 

The former pro-cycling mechanic talks Lance, Landis and drinking coffee in Spokane.

click to enlarge Joe de Godoi (left) at the Two Seven Public House in Spokane - TAMMY MARSHALL
  • Tammy Marshall
  • Joe de Godoi (left) at the Two Seven Public House in Spokane

He has been an amateur cyclist, a graphic designer, an inventor and a screenwriter. Now Joe de Godoi (pronounced "day-ge-doy") has opened Spoke-n-Joe, a combination bike shop/coffee house on 57th Avenue in Spokane. He took a break from tweaking derailleurs and sipping espresso to join me at the 27 on the South Hill to talk about living the life of the two-wheeled nomad.

How did you get into bikes?

I first was introduced to cycling back in 1982 [in Colorado]. After [my first] race, I was completely spent. I remember stopping on the side of the road and I go to clip out of the pedal and just collapsed right there. I laid there for a minute on the side of the road, in the gravel, and I thought, "Man, this may not be for me." [But] I just kept training. And I raced in the Steamboat Springs stage race. I got a little trophy for eighth place overall, and it just did something to me. I thought, "You know what? I'm ready for Europe."

And?

I went to Germany. I was 19. It was a cold night, fog everywhere, miserable weather, and I met this guy -- he was a triathlete and a cyclist. I asked him, "Where can I join a cycling team around here?" I didn't know how it worked. He said, "Follow me." We go up this huge cobblestone hill. And it's raining. It looked like something out of Jack the Ripper. And the team owner, he opens his door and he didn't invite us in. He started yelling and screaming and I didn't understand a word they were saying. I thought, "No chance. They're not going to let me ride with them." And he says, "OK."

It seemed like that whole year was nothing but rain. It was a series of a lot of racing and a lot of crashing. Trying to find out which races were best for me. My third season is when I started placing well enough to go up into the B class. Then I was an A rider for almost five years, from '87 until '92. [But] I had gotten into a really bad crash and had a couple of operations on my nose. It all just kind of started coming apart. I was getting older. I hadn't made it into the pros. It just never really came together. That's when I finally decided that it was done. So I quit racing in 1994.

Cycling had been your whole life. What then?

In order to stay in Europe, you have to have a trade. If I went in for a job interview and the guy says, "Well, what can you do?" and I say, "I can ride along at 30 miles an hour for extended lengths of time," he'd say, "Well, what can you do?"

It was tough. I drove semi-trucks and saved my money and invested in the stock market and [got] a degree in graphic arts. I started a sunglass company, invented a sports goggle ... and wrote a screenplay. It's a movie about cycling. I wrote the first draft and then I went back to Europe. And that's when I [became] a mechanic for Gerolsteiner [One of the top pro teams in the world and the former team of American Levi Leipheimer].

What was that like?

Fast and furious. They may tell you, "OK tomorrow, 5 o'clock in the morning, gotta head to Milano, pick up five bike frames and you gotta run those out to Priestina. Then by that evening, you have to be back here and to pick up five race bikes and run 'em out to Luxembourg because they need 'em by the morning. [But] I was at Milano-San Remo, the Giro di Lombardia, Paris-Roubaix. I was at the Tour de France in 2003. I was the glue guy -- gluing all the tires on the wheels. You have all this anxiety every day, because you're thinking to yourself, "Did I glue those wheels on good enough? Did I mess up?" You're constantly second-guessing yourself. Davide Rebellin, in the first week, hit hard and cracked his carbon fiber bike in half. And I don't care about the bike, the first thing I do is check to make sure the tires are still on the rims! They were.

Lance Armstrong won the fifth of seven Tours that year. What did he do for the sport?

On the one hand, you [hated] to see him make it look so easy. But then on the other hand, it gave [other riders] something to shoot for and just made it that much more interesting. I think he boosted cycling in the States by incredible amounts. I think a lot of his controversial personality is secondary to what he did. The guy was good. And he was a little bit arrogant at times, but he could also back it up.

Will they ever solve the doping problem in cycling?

You see your regular guy going to the office. Get up in the morning. "I need a whole pot of coffee to get going." These guys -- to get up in the morning and sit in front of the computer, you need a whole pot of coffee to get going? You're talking a little bit more effort than [that] as a pro athlete. It's a dog-eat-dog world. You have to be your best 24/7. I think that as long as a person's livelihood is at stake, somebody's going to be tempted to try it.

Did Floyd do it?

The only thing I can say about Floyd Landis: It's tough to make up 10 minutes on one stage in the Tour today.

How did you wind up in Spokane?

I contacted my high school sweetheart. She's the one who actually got me into cycling back in the day. She lived here ... and I moved out here. I started working as a graphic artist for Banner Advertising out in Liberty Lake. [But] I felt like I was kind of losing touch with a part of me. I haven't really known a life without cycling. So I talked with my girlfriend and decided to open up the shop up here and hope for the best.

I think the most impressive thing about Spokane [so far] is how many cyclists there are out there. Huge cycling community. I was really surprised how much people here were into biking. I was asked to participate in Spokefest [a community-wide bike event in September]. I think there's going to be just a ton of people that are going to get ... pulled over to the dark side. And I'm really looking forward to that.

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