August 1, 2014 § 26 Comments
This will only excite men over fifty, but last year Brooke made an appearance at the Brentwood Grand Prix. She walked around and chatted with folks, and even took in some of the racing.
This year, the race offers something even more exciting than the chance to mingle with former child stars: the Expo Ride. Roaring into the 19th Century full speed ahead, the Los Angeles metro is expanding its train stops so that you will one day be able to go up and down the west side without having to sit on the freeway or ride a bus. It’s a revolutionary and radical concept, and one day other major cities such as New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Beijing may one day follow suit. Visionaries even predict that one day the train will go from downtown to the airport.
While we’re waiting for those backwater capital cities get with the program, however, Los Angeles will be building ten new rail stops on the west side of the city, and you can sign up for the August 3 Expo Ride to take a bike tour of the planned train route. The 11-mile, leisurely paced tour starts at 9:30 AM and will show you how the new stops can be integrated with bike travel to make your west side transportation seamless and coordinated with your bicycle.
I often cringe at encouraging people to enter bike races, any bike race. This isn’t because I dislike races, it’s because sending someone off to a bike race feels like sending them off to the Battle of the Somme. But … if you’re going to do a bike race … and dog knows why you would want to … Brentwood Grand Prix is a good one.
It’s well organized, it has great prize money that most of us will never win, it’s in a fantastic location, it’s on a challenging course, and this year it’s also raising money for the Melanoma Research Alliance and for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition through the Expo Ride.
There are a couple of simple reasons to support these two organizations. The first is that MRA actually raises and donates money to research on melanoma. This is the disease that sneaked up on and almost killed west side legend Stuart Press. In a perfect world, the government would spend our tax dollars on melanoma research instead of spending $1 trillion on military aircraft that don’t work, but that’s a different rant.
LA County Bicycle Coalition is the strongest, most committed bike advocacy group in our area, and one of the best in the nation. It helps pass legislation. It helps get infrastructure implemented. It defends the legal right of cyclists to ride in the lane. It has educational programs for law enforcement and for schools. And it works to solve problems through dialogue and mediation rather than ideological broadsides. Plus, Eric Bruins is my good friend.
Some things are worth doing. The Expo Ride at Brentwood Grand Prix is one of them.
July 20, 2014 § 16 Comments
After years of lagging behind their more talented brethren in Southern California, bike racers in Northern California are finally beginning to make incremental improvements that, they hope, will eventually bring them on a par with the more accomplished southerners.
“It’s going to take years,” says top racer Johnny Metoprol “but we have to close the gap. It’s a total embarrassment, and thank goodness that Logan has stepped up.”
CitSB was able to sit down with NorCal racer Logan Loader and discuss his recent results.
CitSB: So, it’s a been whirlwind these last few days, I suppose.
CitSB: And I guess it gives new meaning to your last name.
LL: (laughs) They used to call me “loaded” in junior high, actually.
CitSB: How did this all come about?
LL: NorCal has been several steps behind SoCal for a really long time; it’s that simple. It got to the point to where we were asking ourselves practically every day, “When is USADA going to start showing us some of the love?”
CitSB: How do you feel now?
LL: I’m pretty pleased. SoCal racers aren’t the only ones who know how to get busted. My inbox has exploded with congratulations.
CitSB: Why methylhexaneamine? That’s a pretty weak drug to get popped for.
LL: I knew I’d hear criticism that it wasn’t really big time, I mean, we all know about the guys in SoCal shooting cortisone up into their superficial dorsal veins before races …
CitSB: Their what?
LL: Dorsal veins. You know, the superficial dorsal vein. It’s the one on your … you know … gee, this is kind of embarrassing.
LL: Right? And frankly the guys in NorCal aren’t at that level yet. Not to mention the girls. But methylhexaneamine seemed like a good place to start. After my 8-month ban runs I’d for sure like to try some of the better stuff. One step at a time.
CitSB: Any other reasons that an aspiring doper might start off with methylhex? Do you have some advice for the youngsters out there?
LL: Sure. Best thing is that it works great with the “loose powder” defense that was used so successfully by your masters guy down in SoCal last year. You get popped, fill a container with some contaminated substance, and blame it on the manufacturer. And you smile a lot and say “I’m sorry.” Got me down from 2 years to 8 months.
CitSB: Don’t you think the manufacturers are getting a little tired of being blamed every time some hacker turns up positive?
LL: No doubt, but as long as you don’t actually name the manufacturer and just blame it on an “over-the-counter supplement,” it’s pretty much a victimless crime.
CitSB: Let’s go to your tearful confession for a minute, the one that was posted in VeloNews. Pretty funny stuff.
LL: (really laughs) Right? My favorite line was “I will take full responsibility for my failure to properly read the manufacturer’s label and check for prohibited substances and fully understand the consequences.”
CitSB: That’s a howler, all right. Makes it sound like instead of being a douchebag drug cheat you’re just some moron with a reading problem.
LL: (really, really laughs) Right? (Guffaws, drizzles spit)
CitSB: The apology part was pretty funny, too, especially apologizing to your family.
LL: Like they give a flying fuck, right? It’s shameful enough that I’m a bike racer.
CitSB: Right. My favorite line was this one: “At no point was I attempting to enhance my performance or take part in any unethical practices or sportsmanship.” I mean, if you weren’t trying to enhance your performance why were you taking a supplement? To diminish it?
LL: Hee, hee. We talked a lot about whether to throw in the line about taking part in unethical practices or sportsmanship.
CitSB: I’m sure. What does it even mean?
LL: Nothing. It was just stupid-sounding flummery that we figured was dumb enough for VeloNews.
CitSB: How has your team responded?
LL: High fives all around. We think that with practice and getting used to handling the superficial dorsal vein and a 65-guage Tuohy needle, we can step up our game. No pain, no gain.
CitSB: Goals for 2015?
LL: I think the entire NorCal racing community is behind me when I say we can get a solid 5-year ban in the next twelve months.
CitSB: A second violation might do the trick.
CitSB: Any last thoughts?
LL: My ultimate dream? A lifetime ban. That would even the score pretty darned quick.
CitSB: Good luck. You can do it.
July 15, 2014 § 11 Comments
With the recent crash-abandons of Andy Schleck, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Frank Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador, and the remaining 189 riders, the lead in this year’s Tour de France passed today to unheralded Mathers Tumpkins, a little-known domestique for Team Diaper. Diaper was the last team to receive a wildcard invitation, and Tumpkins, a/k/a “Jellyroll,” was the last rider to be selected.
Tumpkins appeared astonished at being led to the podium and asked to pull on the coveted leader’s jersey. “One minute I’m the lanterne rouge and the next I’m on a stage sticking my tongue down some bimbo’s throat watching the Badger punch out some bum in a wheelchair. Dayum!”
Evgeni Mxyzptlk, director of Team Diaper, was also suprised. “That’s the shits, as we say on Team Didy. Only reason Tumpkins even got on the team was because his father owns the company.”
After Froome’s multiple bicycle-falling-off incidents and resultant boo-boo, the biggest news of the day aside from everyone giving up was Contador’s falling-off-incident. El Dopalero was eating a banana when he inadvertantly flung aside the remains and his bicycle slipped on the peel. Dramatic photos show El Dopalero’s bike frame cracked in half; bystanders said that Contador rode into a small 12-foot pothole and snapped the frame.
Specialized immediately issued a press release denying that its frame was weak, substandard, shoddily made, or in any way less than perfect. The release is printed in full below:
Specialized deeply regrets losing El Dopalero from the 2014 Tour de France. However, the catastrophic failure that appeared to occur when he slipped on a banana peel and rode off into a mine shaft had nothing to do with the integrity of the frame despite alleged eyewitness accounts.
Eyewitnesses were flown to a Specialized Rendition Center in Uzbekistan where it was determined through perfectly legal measures that they were drunk at the time of the accident. Each witness signed a full confession admitting that Specialized makes perfect bikes of uncompromising structural integrity.
Specialized fully intended to make the witnesses available to the media, but after signing their confessions they accidentally fell down some stairs and died. Moreover, in the event that El Dopalero did not fall into a volcano crater, we are prepared to offer evidence that the frame broke because it was damaged while passing the Belkin team car, or because it got run over by accident after El Dopalero fell, or because it was mauled, but not eaten, by the dog.
Race leader Tumpkins was circumspect about the crash and mass abandons as he chewed on his fourth donut and swigged from a bottle of beer. “Look, it’s all the same to me whether he rode off a cliff or is having a heavy monthly flow. Fact is, there’s no one left in the Tour except me and I intend to take my fuggin’ time.”
Mxyzptlk concurred. “There is no reason to rush anymore. Everyone else has gone home. This last 450-mile cobbled uphill headwind freezing rain and ice stage was too much, even for Jens Voigt and his pharmacist.”
When asked whether fans would stick around for a 2-week victory parade, Mxyzptlk shrugged and turned the corners of his mouth down in that funny Euro way which essentially means, “Who gives a fuck?”
Facebag issues Tour de France news blackout
In related Tour news, Mark Suckerberg, president of social media giant Facebag, issued a press release regarding the new Tour Blackout algorithm. “We have set up Facebag so that nothing can be posted on it anymore before the entire Tour concludes, thus saving sensitive members of our community from having the event spoiled for them.”
The new algorithm was apparently developed in response to the piteous cry made by Mr. Mailliw Enots, winner of the not-so-coveted 2013 Most Time on Facebag Award. Enots’s plea for help is reproduced below:
It is really terrible when blatherskite people post the Tour results before I return home from work because, juice box. Those who do this apparently have a deep seeded (sic) disorder marked by wanting to be considered important and knowing when they have done nothing to suggest they are either. This posting of spoiler things must be stopped.
Although it was later pointed out that Enots hasn’t been to work since 1974, and a study team posed the question of why he was on a web site that exists specifically to spoil everyone’s fun about sporting results while posting photos of last night’s dinner and cats, Suckerberg took pity on the orthographically challenged Savant from Hooterville.
“While it does seem strange that someone would be surfing Facebag at work (you get fired for that here at Facebag), and even stranger that they would be surprised to find out what happened in the day’s major sporting event, some people deserve pity, and if not that, at least a healthy measure of contempt, or both, and he is one.”
It is not clear how Facebag or Enots will deal with the fact that Mathers Tumpkins seems poised to win every successive stage until Paris.
July 9, 2014 § 52 Comments
Ronnie Toth qualifies as a phenom. In one year he went from a beginner trying out his first race to a Cat 1. Those who know him and who have raced with him agree that he is talented, hard working, and destined for success in the bike racing world. He entered the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix on Sunday, his first Pro race.
Today he’s on the incredibly long and painful road to recovery from a horrific accident in which he hit the steel barriers face first as he sprinted for the finish. His facial and head injuries are significant, and a fund has been set up to help defray his medical costs. You can donate here.
Whether Ronnie will be able to return to racing is unknown. But what is known is this: USAC in Southern California is complicit in his injuries and in many of the bad crashes that occur here on a regular basis. Our safety record is horrific, and testimony to USAC’s failures includes the death of Chris Cono in a Pro 1/2/3 race last year.
People who race in the Pro 1/2/3 races and in the Masters 35+ races, where the speed is often higher than the pro race, recount a battleground environment in which the most aggressive racers throw elbows, dive-bomb turns, brake-check, hip-check, and engage in a whole host of shitty maneuvers that have nothing to do with bike racing and everything to do with risky, violent intimidation. The worst offenders are well known, both the masters and the pros.
However, this isn’t the fault of the racers. They only do what the USAC officials will let them get away with, and one of the state’s top masters racers, recently returned from Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin, was blown away by the chief official there, Brett Griggs, who also happens to be the 2013 USAC Official of the Year.
Unlike SoCal, where officials don’t know anything about racing and don’t care what’s going on in the peloton, Griggs (an ex pro) and his team are watching the corners and after each race are proactively quizzing the riders. “Anyone dive-bombing? Chopping?” Riders who get reported or who are seen riding unsafely get a stern talking to, or they get pulled. Unsafe behavior isn’t tolerated. Crashes happen, but not due to repeat offender-type offenses because repeat offenders are disciplined and yanked.
Compare this with SoCal, where at one very publicized race this year a masters racer chopped and brake-checked another rider in a fast turn, almost causing a horrific crash. When the two riders took their complaint to the chief official, he stood there like a tree stump while the riders shouted at each other for half an hour. The official never said a single word. The riders walked away in disgust and the races went on, even though there were numerous eyewitnesses to the egregious and dangerous chop.
USAC officials in SoCal are famous for having no racing experience and for their random, clueless officiating, and it shows with regard to their approach to safety, or lack thereof.
I’ve never had a race official in SoCal or heard of one enforcing safe behavior in a crit or quizzing riders after a race. That’s because they are on site to collect their extortion from the promoter and they don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to the riders. The promoters can’t run races and monitor racer behavior, nor should they. That’s why they pay precious entry fee money to USAC officials, who rarely do anything beyond blowing the whistle.
Ronnie Toth’s terrible accident proves it. Many riders who are incredibly gifted and who jet up through the ranks in a compressed period of time do not always have the bike handling skills to match their physical prowess. This is such a well known aspect of cycling that categories exist to separate those with skills (supposedly) from those who don’t. Although I have never raced with him, one racer in the MBGP race on Sunday reported that Ronnie was “all over the place” and discussed it with other riders after the accident.
Moreover, the nature of his crash — a single rider sprinting, perhaps with his head down, in a straight line, into side barriers, with no other riders hitting him seems to indicate that his bike handling skills were not on a par with his Cat 1 license. There was a similar into-the-barriers crash by a relatively new Cat 1 or Cat 2 rider at the first race in the 805 crit series this year as well, and it too resulted in serious injuries.
Whether an aggressive and safety-oriented official would have been aware of this during the race or at other races and would have been able to proactively deal with the problem by pulling Ronnie is open to question, but judging from the way officials like Griggs in Wisconsin monitor safety, it certainly seems like they could have. At the very least, an aggressive policy of policing the peloton during and after races would decrease the mayhem that seems to characterize racing here which, thanks very much, is already dangerous enough.
Of course, that would require officials to do more than graze through the donut boxes.
With fatalities, lots of bad crashes, and officials who stand around with their thumbs up their asses, USAC in SoCal has the burden to start taking their job seriously. Our lives (News flash!!) depend on it.
I received an email from a person involved with the San Diego Velodrome and the aftermath of the death of rider Jackie Dunn. He criticized my article in detail. I asked him to post it as a comment, or to allow me to reproduce it anonymously, but never heard back. Since some of his criticism is valid I will summarize an edited version below. More importantly, he referred to a number of changes that have occurred since Jackie’s death which clearly show that better officiating and changing the culture at USAC can have important ramifications for riders.
1. At the time Jackie died, there was no USAC official because it was not a USAC race, therefore my attempt to link her death to bad USAC officiating was inaccurate, and it wrongly directed Internet outrage to USAC.
My response: I’ve deleted this inaccurate reference from the article.
2. The velodrome responded to Jackie’s death by:
– Harder promotions through the A/B/C/D series [not sure what this means, perhaps making it harder to move up through the categories, which is great]
–Embedded, vocal “mentor” riders in C/D [categories]
–Much more liberal use of official warnings, disqualifications in A/B [categories]
–Much more liberal use of unofficial “talks” to certain riders
–Updated emergency plan, with assigned roles
–A new role, which is in the event of any crash, no matter how insignificant, there’s a person who goes around and interviews any rider who saw the crash, and asks them what happened, and writes down the answers. This is used by the non-USAC officials to decide how to handle it, and to develop a record if there are patterns involving certain people.
My response: This shows two things. First, that whatever officiating was taking place at the velodrome when Jackie died, even though it was non-USAC, it was deemed insufficient and drastic steps were taken to improve it. That’s great and is a model for what USAC officials should be doing at SoCal crits and road races. Although my criticisms were directed at USAC, the above shows that officiating in non-USAC races as well can benefit from the kind of changes that SD Velodrome has implemented. It was my fault for calling Jackie Dunn’s race a USAC race, but the relationship between bad officiating and bad accidents still stands, no matter who’s at the switch. I wish the USAC officials would do, in the aftermath of the deaths of Chris Cono (2013) and Suzanne Rivera (2012), what SD Veldrome has done. But they haven’t.
3. There’s one official at the SD Velodrome behind a lot of the changes. She has made safety her mission. She helped implement the above changes, and joined the USAC officiating program with the mind of bringing some change to USAC. She’s now qualified to be a head USAC official, and has been head official of some of the Saturday Night races at the velodrome. She’s working to change the culture of USAC, too. She’s young, and a former racer who’s crashed bad. She’s “gets it.”
My response: This is great, and an example of how one person can make a difference. But the culture hasn’t changed yet in SoCal crits and road races, and officiating is still pretty much “anything goes,” with no follow-up on crashes, investigating why/how they happened, how they can be prevented, and identifying riders who need more hands-on help. In sum, I apologize for linking Jackie’s death to USAC, but it sounds like my premise was spot-on: Officials can make a difference, and they have an obligation to do the hard work of policing the peloton. That’s what they get paid to do.
May 24, 2014 § 69 Comments
I’ll be the first to admit that the patient was never particularly robust, but in 2014 there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of racers who line up on the weekend. At one of the best and toughest road races all year, Vlees Huis in Bakersfield, there was an incredibly tiny lineup despite this being one of the best organized, safest, and most challenging races on the calendar.
Plus they fuggin’ had beer. Now, when bike racers won’t show up to a bike race where it’s hotter than Beyonce doing the nasty with Heidi Klum and you get to slake your post-race heat prostration with cold, locally brewed beer, the Dogs have gone crazy.
We will leave aside for a moment the obvious: if Fields had ever heard you weren’t going to race your bike because it was “too hot” or “too cold” or “too rainy” or “too dangerous,” he would have kicked you off the team, repo’d your kit, and made you give back all the beer you had drunk. We will also leave aside for a moment that the “weather” in SoCal is the most wussified, gentle, bike-friendly weather in the continental United States.
Many factors may be at play besides the general cowardice, tenderness, and babyfication of modern SoCal bike racers, but there are only so many absentees you can blame on an angry spouse, the cost of entry fees, the fear of quadriplegia, and the general wussdom of all the riders who said they couldn’t do Vlees Huis because it was “too far to drive.” [Check the mileage sometime when you live in Houston and have signed up for the Fort Davis Stage Race for a bit of perspective on “too far to drive.”]
Flapping of the gums
The other day I got into an argument about whether some guy was the best climber in the South Bay. Back in the day this would have been a relatively easy argument to resolve. The guy who had won more hilly road races, or the guy who was always at the front on the long climbs would be crowned the champ, even more beer would be drunk, and we’d find something else to argue about.
But this time my adversary pulled out a shocking counter-argument: his Strava KOM’s. A guy who’s done a handful of hilly road races and has consistently gotten shelled on the tough climbs — or who hasn’t even showed up — maintained that his sexy Strava performance on segments as short as 200 meters meant that he was somehow a really good climber.
What the hell is going on here?
It used to be that the best riders were the ones who won bike races. Rahsaan Bahati, I thought, was the best bike racer around because he’s won the most races. Charon Smith, Phil Tinstman, Thurlow Rogers, Mark Noble, and guys like them, I thought, were the best old guy bike racers around because they’ve won the most races.
It would never have occurred to me that a person might consider himself excellent in some aspect or other of competitive cycling based on his Strava KOM’s.
But you know what? Lots of riders do.
They choose three or four carefully selected races each year, they do a weekly group ride, and they do the vast bulk of their “head-to-head” competition on Strava. Will someone please tell them that if it’s on Strava and you’re by yourself, it’s not head-to-head? No matter how many times you self-dial, you’re still just doing yourself.
The race of truth
Every bike race is a race of truth because the fastest rider always wins. For many, that’s a downer because there’s only one winner. You can’t go home and tell yourself that you’re at the top of the leader board of 50+ troglodytes with a BMI of 200. Worse, when you lose a bike race you don’t get any trophies or crowns on your iPhone.
Strava perfectly satisfies the urge to achieve what I call DIP — distinction, improvement, praise — it’s an urge that resides in all of us, particularly, it seems, those of us who cycle. Bike races don’t provide much DIP for most participants, even with the dozens of age/gender categories per event. Instead, they provide proof of what we all instinctively know about ourselves but wish wasn’t true: MOP — mediocre, overweight, pudknocker.
In any contest between DIP and MOP, DIP will always win out. Ride your bike and get a trinket every time beats ride your bike and get your spirit shattered every time, especially when the shattering may also include collarbones and carbon fiber.
Don’t be a DIP-shit
This Monday Chris Lotts will put on his Memorial Day Crit in Dominguez Hills. The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix, Death Valley Stage Race, and State ITT Championships will also happen this weekend.
If you’re in SoCal, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend at least one of these races. If you’re in L.A., I really hope you’ll at least make it to the Memorial Day Crit. If you can spare 50 minutes to analyze all your weekly rides on WKO and Strava, you can lug your ass out for a one-hour race at Dominguez.
Guys like Chris promote races year in and year out. It’s a gratifying job for them in that they play an integral role in the sport that they love, and it’s a blast getting to deal with overfull port-a-potties at the end of the day. But it’s a huge amount of work and expense, and when “racers” who live in the area choose to spend their time on Strava digitally satisfying themselves rather than competing in organized events, it eventually kills off the event. The margin on bike races is tiny, to put it mildly.
Maybe as a Stravasturbator you think that’s fine, and I suppose if your idea of being an accomplished racer is 0’s and 1’s endlessly strung together to make an image on a computer that makes you look tougher than Eddy Merckx, that’s okay. I suppose if it’s more fun to wear $500 worth of kit riding $7000 worth of bike to compete against your “friends” on Strava than it is to ride against your mortal enemies in a real bike race, hey, to each his own.
But let’s not confuse sitting at your stupid computer and clicking “kudo” with racing your fuggin’ bike.
May 14, 2014 § 8 Comments
The big weekend has come and gone. Three days of racing, big prizes, bigger wind, and top shelf competition have left their mark on the SoCal racing season. In many ways, it’s been a great mark. In others, not so much.
- SCNCA sucks. Why the fuck was this race on Mother’s Day weekend? Answer: because the best dates were “taken.” Mike Hecker puts his heart, soul, tree stumps, and the kitchen sink into this race series. This is precisely the kind of grass roots development that has the potential to build the grass roots. Better, he does it out in bumfuck nowheresville, one of the windiest damned places in California. This race is the only legitimate hardman crit in Southern California; to win it — hell, to finish it — you’d better be made of some stern stuff. It’s a premier race with premier prizes serving a premier purpose and attracting premier talent. SCNCA should be licking the sweat off of Hecker’s balls to get him to do this race. Instead they offer up the one weekend that, if you attend, will result in 51 weeks of Doghouse Hell because you spent Mother’s Day RACING YER FUGGIN BIKE.
- Daniel Holloway is a bike racers’ bike racer. Sleeps on couches. Tells funny stories. Congratulates the (few) people who beat him. Listens to Wankmeister’s tales of 50+ crit podiums. Whacks the snot out of all comers at the 805 Crit Series, Athens Twilight Criterium, and every other race you line him up at. We saw him take the Friday night event by the testicles, give them a squeeze, then fly down the lane to win with the same élan he showed at Dana Point et al. On Saturday he missed the break, but no problem. Sunday he made up for it by a tour de force win against Kyle and Brandon Gritters, shelling Kyle from the three-up break on the last lap, riding tempo all the way to the final turn, then leaving Brandon as if he’d been tied to a stump. And Gritters Bros. are badasses with an extra helping of whupass sauce.
- Monster Media is the master of disaster. I raced (sort of) the 35+ masters events and couldn’t believe how thoroughly they obliterated the competition. Meatballs DeMarchi finished the first day in second place overall and the team played its cards on Sat/Sun in such a way as to earn overall victory. Their cards were “hammer” and “crush.” The Monster MO was to send off Michael Johnson in a break with Kayle Leogrande and Rudy Napolitano that was so hard, so fast, and so nasty that anyone who chased would be assured of either leaving a liver on the pavement or a DNF. At the end of the day, Kayle had the win and MJ finished first among the omnium participants. This meant that Day 3, Sunday, would be a fight to get MJ or Chris DeMarchi to the line ahead of SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b MRI’s leader, John Abate. The Monster train started that Sunday race, which took place in a 25mph howling crosswind, so fast and so hard that of the 40 some-odd starters only 22 finished. Taking turns at the front to whittle down and crush the field, the teamwork of MJ, DeMarchi, Gary Douville, Scott Cochran, Shane Lawlor, and Bart Clifford absolutely demolished the wankers sitting at the back hoping to ride their coattails to the finish. The remaining corpses who survived the Monster Media a-bomb had nothing in their legs to either attack off the front or contest the sprint. Consummate riding by Surf City and their star sprinter-turned-leadout-man Charon Smith put Kayle Leogrande across the line again first, but since Kayle had missed the Friday race due to traffic he wasn’t in contention for the omnium. Note: Most terrifying item of the Monster Media mop-up is that their best racer, Phil Tinstman, wasn’t even there.
- This is how bike racing should always be. The events were well attended, the money was good, the courses were over-the-top challenging, there was a beer garden, the announcers were fantastic, everyone was in a great mood, and the cities of Lompoc and Buellton got to showcase their best side to a large contingent of out-of-towners. There were multiple levels of competition. You could race for the day or you could race for the series or you could drink Firestone beer and lie in the gutter for three days. I hope that next year the series is held on a better weekend, and that even more riders make the trip to experience such an intense and fun weekend of bike racing.
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? So, subscribe already, okay? Jeez. Think of all the money you spend on bullshit that doesn’t give you any satisfaction at all, for example Mother’s Day flowers. Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
Also, if you haven’t picked up a copy of “Cycling in the South Bay,” you can order it on Amazon here.
You can also click here to see the reviews.
May 13, 2014 § 23 Comments
There was a very big women’s bicycle race on Sunday for the Amgen Tour of California. In America, women’s bike racing is unimportant compared to men’s bike racing, which is saying something because men’s bike racing was recently rated as being less important than an old TV dinner.
There are many reasons that women’s bike racing is less important than something that is already less important than an old microwave chicken pot pie. The three reasons are sexism, gender discrimination, and misogyny. Those reasons came to bear explaining why so many women fell off their bikes on Sunday.
Eleven separate bicycle-falling-off incidents were catalogued, an impressive number even for cycling, where people regularly fall off their bicycles and often do so into steel barriers, beneath the wheels of speeding trucks, and off steep cliffs. The causes of this terrible contagion made their way to the only place that people ever calmly discuss anything, i.e. Facebag. Many explanations were put forth, including reasoned analyses that ended in “fuck you” and “you suck” and other indicia of dispassionate discourse.
Wanky solves the bicycle-falling-off problem
Some pointed to the grave problem of Internet coaching as the culprit. “People get coached on the Internet but they don’t get coached on how to ride their fucking bikes in a group and fall off their bicycles properly.”
Others pointed to the rose-tinted glasses that find the solution to every modern problem in a past world where everything was perfect. “Back when we used to ride our bikes with wooden rims and we had to flip the wheel to change gears, everybody knew how to ride. It’s this influx of [fill in name of contemptible influx here] who weren’t raised the old-fashioned way that are causing all the problems.”
Still others pointed to the need for clinics. “People should only get a racing license when they pass my skilz klinik. Everyone who passes my skilz klinik never krashes.”
None of these folks really nailed the problem, although there did seem to be quite a bit of self-dialing as various posters proffered their various qualifications. The problem is quite simple, and is expressed by the Peter Principle:
Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails such that all people rise to their natural level of incompetence.
This means that if you have been racing for very long, you’re as bad as you’re going to get, which is just bad enough to get shelled, gap out other riders, cross wheels, smash into barricades, and ultimately fall off your bicycle. If these things are not happening to you, you aren’t racing in your proper category yet. If they are, you know you have arrived.
The bad news: it’s not just everyone else
Indeed, the entire Amgen women’s race was designed to rapidly promote as many people as possible to their maximum level of incompetence by putting regional racers in the mix with the country’s top pros, then expanding the normal women’s field size of about 40 riders to a whopping, road-clogging peloton of 108 racers.
As you might expect, the winner was one of the best riders in the land, Carmen Small, followed by another of the best riders in the land, Corinne Rivera. As you might also expect, the forty-three riders who DNF’ed included a hefty contingent of regional riders who were far, far out of their league. In accordance with the Peter Principle, the best riders for the most part did fine, and many of the riders who were promoted en masse to the next level instantly found their level of incompetence by crashing once, twice, even multiple times.
The good news: it’s okay to suck
Since everyone eventually sucks, and since most people suck sooner rather than later when it comes to riding in the middle of an internationally televised world-class bicycle race when their normal fare is a parking lot crit, there’s no dishonor or even much to be surprised about when it comes to the bicycle-falling-off phenomenon. It either has happened to everybody who races or it eventually will, and it’s certainly no one’s fault in the sense that “the peloton is filled with incompetents” because every peloton is always filled with incompetents.
As with most bike races, it’s much easier to point the finger at the bonehead who “crashed you out” (still waiting for the bandaged rider in a neck brace to come up to me and complain that “I crashed myself out because I suck”) than to look at the real problems with women’s bike racing, alluded to above.
Any configuration of a bike race will contain a certain percentage of incompetents, and the larger the field, the higher the percentage. So what? If you find yourself at the bottom of one too many piles, and you don’t like neck braces, it’s time for you to choose smaller, easier races. There’s a certain level of bike handling you will never exceed. That’s okay, and all the skilz kliniks in the world won’t help you … much.
Since most metrics show that women like to ride and that there is a bustling trade in women’s bikes and gear, the real question is why doesn’t Amgen put on a women’s tour that parallels the men’s? That way you would have a smaller field with fewer incompetents. The crashes would still happen (see Peter Principle, above), but presumably they would be fewer because the selection criteria would be more strict.
In fact, if the same thing had played out in the men’s field and ten or eleven regional men’s teams had swelled the ranks of the Amgen men’s tour, there would have been mayhem. Guys in SoCal who are legendarily awesome (especially in their own minds) would turn into barricade fodder if they suddenly had to race with UCI Pro Tour elites. Actually, they wouldn’t last long enough to crash, as the peloton would pull away so quickly that their race would finish before it started.
So if the question is “Why does Amgen promote just one lousy Waring Blender mix-and-mash race for the women?” then the answer is fairly unsettling, but unsurprising. Races organized by men, for men, to include men are never going to provide equal platforms for women.
Now that sucks.
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