What Tour de France riders do for three weeks is pretty astounding. But what if they couldn't hear? That's the situation for John Klish, a deaf cyclist who will compete at the upcoming Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria (July 26-Aug. 4).

Imagine biking on a road if you weren't able to hear the sound of an approaching car. Or racing when you can't hear a competitor coming up behind you.

"That was one of the reasons why I started with mountain biking when I was 15 years old. I was intimidated by cars," Klish wrote in an email. "Eventually, I started riding road bikes in college and that help me break that barrier. I just needed to know how to ride along the road.

"I never hear cars coming. I just stay to the far right and keep an eye out, look behind me every minute or so. For mountain bike races, I look back behind me more frequently and take the responsibility to move over if I see someone. I also can look down between my arms and see how close the person is if he/she is right on my butt.

"I've had the typical near misses where people are just driving by you too close. I've learned over the years, it's better to wave thank you to those that do move over and do not respond to those who cut close to you. Save your energy for the beautiful ride ahead of you and for thanking the right actions!"

Klish says he was born with bi-lateral profound hearing loss of at least 85 decibels. He is deaf in both ears and requires hearing aids to hear any conversation. Even then, "I only hear voice sounds, so I have to look at the person speaking so I can comprehend what the sounds are."

The Deaflympics http://www.deaflympics.com/ have been held every four years since 1949, and more frequently before the interruption of World War II (the first competition was in Paris in 1924). They are separate from the Olympics and Paralympics, and as Klish understands it, they are operated almost exclusively by the deaf and hearing impaired. Competitors must have a hearing deficit of at least 55 decibels. They must also cover their own expenses.

Klish raised enough money by sponsoring bike rides and starting a webpage, and with savings from his job with the Colorado Department of Transportation. But others still need help. "I think it's also important for the fans to know that there are other deaf athletes that need help to raise money, raise awareness and support them," he said. "Please seek out your favorite deaf athlete and support them to attend this year's Deaflympics."

Klish will be one of 120 American athletes competing in Sofia. He'll be riding in the 1000M sprint, the 40K time trial, the road race and the 50KM points race.

"The only disadvantage I can think of is not being able to hear anyone come up from behind right before a sprint," he said of riding while deaf. "I have to look around a bit more and be more aware of these riders urging forward. I just started road racing again a couple of years ago and it's just a bit different world for me.

"I'm learning how to overcome that challenge at the moment. I'm almost there -- that's what I love, anyway -- challenges that push me to learn more techniques, skills and ideas to overcome certain obstacles and disadvantages. I immensely enjoy learning how to find strengths in those weaknesses, and then teaching others these invaluable tools."

You can say that again. In addition to being deaf, Klish also overcame testicular cancer. There is a certain other cyclist who survived that, but of the two, I find Klish to be more inspiring.

Christian Vande VeldeDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesChristian Vande Velde races this week for the first time since serving a doping suspension that was reduced to six months in exchange for cooperation with the USADA's case against Lance Armstrong.
Veteran Christian Vande Velde is one of three Garmin-Sharp riders who will start this week's Tour of Catalunya in Spain, their first race since serving doping suspensions that were reduced in exchange for cooperation with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's case against Lance Armstrong. Vande Velde, 36, of Lemont, Ill., signed with the U.S. Postal Service team before the 1998 season and rode in support of Armstrong at the Tour de France in 1999 and 2001. He subsequently competed for two European-based teams before joining the Garmin organization in 2008, and finished fourth at that year's Tour.

In 2010, Vande Velde was among numerous witnesses interviewed by federal investigators then gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of organized doping on the Postal team. Last year, he and 10 other former Postal riders gave sworn testimony, including their own admissions to performance-enhancing drug use, that collectively formed a crucial and compelling part of USADA's case.

The five riders who were active at the time received six-month suspensions and had some past results nullified. Armstrong's longtime teammate George Hincapie has retired. Levi Leipheimer was fired by his Omega-Pharma-Quick Step team and remains unsigned. Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and Tom Danielson, whose suspensions ended March 1, will compete at Cataluyna this week. It marks the beginning of what Vande Velde says will be his final professional season. His tentative schedule includes the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, a race he won last year in dramatic fashion in a time trial on the last day.

Vande Velde spent much of his suspension in suburban Chicago with wife Leah and daughters Uma, 5, and Madeline, 4. He also trained by himself (and occasionally with Zabriskie) in Southern California, where he struggled emotionally. "It finally dawned on me that I really enjoy this, and I'm really thankful I have my health and have the opportunity to race at the highest level cycling has to offer,'" he told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Saturday from Girona, Spain.

"I don't want pity from anyone. That's my biggest fear of saying these kinds of things, and that is the farthest thing from the truth. I'm just saying what I was going through. There were plenty of times when I questioned what I was doing at this stage of my career and why I was doing this. I definitely stumbled for a while there."

The following are excerpts from Vande Velde's conversation with ESPN.com.

What have the last six months been like?

[+] EnlargeChristian Vande Velde
Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty ImagesVande Velde considered retiring after winning last year's USA Pro Cycling Challenge but "didn't want to go away and hide after everything that came out."
It's been hard. I'm not going to lie. And I didn't foresee a lot of the things that would be hard. Like, for example, a training camp in November-December that a lot of times I didn't want to go to. I've been at a training camp at that point in time for the last 20 years of my life. Having that gaping hole there and not being retired, it blindsided me. I know I'm going to race this year, that'll come, and I wasn't freaking out about that. But it was definitely being away from the team, having that communication like I always have, that was hard, much more than I thought it would be.

I put myself out there and did quite a few public speaking [engagements] and it was all met really well. I was happy to do it, too, because there aren't too many questions I get asked now that I can't answer honestly. [Editor's note: USADA still has pending cases against former Postal director Johan Bruyneel and other staff members that could involve evidence from riders.] I enjoyed it, and I think most of the people I spoke to enjoyed it too. That was a different side that I didn't foresee being so positive.

I spoke to the Challenged Athletes Foundation [charity ride] three or four days after [USADA's evidence] was announced. That was one that I was pretty scared about, in all honesty. Of course people threw some hard questions out there and I addressed them. I definitely made it so that I wasn't that elephant in the room: "Come up and ask me, I don't want you to be avoiding me.'"

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