March 1, 2014 § 21 Comments
I was pedaling along, talking to a pair of Cat 5′s about racing. A dude on a fancy bike passed us like we were tied to a stump. “Damn,” I said, “who does he think he is? Major Taylor?”
Stringbean looked at me. “Who’s Major Taylor?” he asked.
I didn’t know what to say, so I thought about it. “Ever heard of Eddy Merckx?” I asked.
Stringbean laughed. “Uh, yeah.”
Stumpy chipped in. “Merckx was the greatest ever. The Cannibal.”
“Why do you think he was the greatest ever?” I asked.
“Dude,” said Stumpy. “He fuggin won it all. He was The Cannibal.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I heard you the first time. So you reckon he was better than Major Taylor?”
“Who’s he?” Stringbean repeated. “Was he better than Merckx?”
“Couldn’t have been,” said Stumpy. “Merckx was The Cannibal.”
“Yeah,” said Stringbean. “Who was Major Taylor? I bet he wasn’t no cannibal.”
Der Sieger schreibt die Geschichte
Among black cyclists, Major Taylor needs no introduction. But for many whites, he’s an ancient name at best, a blank at worst. This is weird because you don’t have to race bikes for long before you hear his name. Although I knew, or thought I knew, the rough outlines of his story, it wasn’t until I read “Major” by Todd Balf that I got an appreciation for the man who was unquestionably America’s first sporting superstar and who, judged by his accomplishments, remains one of the greatest American athletes ever.
Had Taylor been white, his palmares would have been incredible. But dominating the domestic and international competition as a black man in the late 1800′s who faced threats of violence, blatant discrimination, and machinations to keep him from even entering races testifies to a stony will and indomitable competitive lust that makes the accomplishments of Eddy Merckx pale in comparison.
In his prime, Merckx was the undisputed patron of the peloton with a powerful team that protected him and worked tirelessly for his victories. Just as crucially, very little happened without Merckx’s consent. In his prime, Taylor had to fight for every position in every single race, and could look forward to racial epithets and overt discrimination wherever he traveled in the United States.
I thought about all this as I pedaled along with Stumpy and Stringbean. “Boys,” I said, “if you want to know what it means to be a champion, a real one, get yourself a bio of Major Taylor. He wasn’t The Cannibal. He was far tougher than that.”
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February 28, 2014 § 27 Comments
As Rudyard Kipling so famously wrote in his epic poem Gunga Din …
YOU may talk o’ gin an’ beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But if it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
It’s been the nicest winter imaginable for riding a bicycle, so warm and sunny and pleasant that the news from Chicago and the East Coast and other weather-challenged climes seems almost unfair. Then I remember that Karma Bitch and Karma Bastard always have the last laugh. That’s always as in “always.”
This afternoon I got my first taste of what it means to experience earth’s warmest January since humans began keeping temperature records, when I read a brief little article about California’s drought and how it has caused the Russian River to essentially dry up. You see, even though bicycle riders love sunny, warm winter days, and even though it makes them happier than a stoner at Hempcon to be out pedaling when their Midwestern counterparts are chained to the trainer in a cellar, there is one thing that California bicycle riders love every bit as much as riding bicycles, even more, perhaps.
Beer. Because unlike the soldiers in Gunga Din, bikers don’t do their work on water. They do it on beer. Over ‘ere.
And they don’t just love any old beer, they love California beer. And the California beer they love more than any other liquid refreshement in the whole pantheon of malt, barley, hops, and yeast is the beer with names like Lagunitas, Pliny the Elder, and Racer 5. Each of these treasures shares at least one thing in common: They exist due to the rolling blue bounty of the Russian River, which in turn depends in large part on Lake Mendocino, which in turn will go dry this summer if California doesn’t get more rain in the next two weeks than it’s gotten all year. That would be “last year.” The river itself is barely gurgling in the middle of a “rainy” season barely worthy of the name, a time when it should be raging, roaring, and plunging with clear blue water.
The deluge predicted for the next few days, if it happens, won’t be more than a tiny Band-Aid on a gashed, gaping, open wound. We’re in negative water territory and a few days of hard rain won’t save us.
How will California’s bicyclists get their beer?
“Nothing ever happens until it happens to you,” or so goes the old saw.
What’s about to happen to California cyclists is this — they’re going to finally have an endless summer, and it’s not going to be pretty. Most of the state is naturally a desert anyway, and if the megadrought that’s already in the works comes to full force, the manmade greenery here will wither and blow away like dust. Car washes will shut down, pools will empty, and a lawn or two in Palos Verdes may actually go brown (a little bit, maybe).
But we can still ride our bikes, right?
You can’t ride your bike if there’s no West Coast IPA at the end of the trail. It’s not so much that you can’t, it’s more of a “Why would you?” kind of thing. Tens of thousands of California drinkers have a cycling problem, and without the beer, well, the drinkers just kind of go away. And you can forget your precious California wine. The 2014 vintage isn’t even a hope anymore.
Until now you’ve probably not given a second thought to your 30-minute showers, your weekly carwash, and those endless lawn-watering sessions where you also make sure the asphalt gets good and doused as well. I hope after reading this you’ve gotten religion.
Your beer depends on it.
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February 27, 2014 § 33 Comments
I got an email today from a very pissed off bicycle rider. He said that the main reason motorists hate cyclists is “usually that cyclists don’t obey the rules of the road. And that is absolutely right.”
Then he added that he “for sure doesn’t stop at all stop signs, and doesn’t even pause at some, like remote t-intersections, where there is no one I can impede. But I at least pause at almost all of them, and stop at any with cross traffic, and always yield the right of way unless waved through. But I constantly see guys just blow thru stop signs as if they don’t even exist [Ed. note: As if what doesn't exist? The stop signs? The guys?] A couple coming down the hill crossed onto my road in front of traffic, which was going uphill so I didn’t have to brake but noticeably slowed; they just blew through. I yelled at them ’You are giving cyclists a bad name!’ I heard a ‘Huh?’ in response.”
The angry cyclist continued: “Climbing up to a 3-way, stop, where I might have wanted to roll without stopping, since I was climbing, some guy with a huge smile on his face, comes sailing by, ‘Hey look at me, I’m having a great day!” and just blew through the stop. Had I tried to roll through the stop sign as I wanted, I would have been t-boned. I yelled at him too. I’ll soon be known as the grump of Whapdale Heights.”
He concluded with this: “Sometimes cyclists scare me more than cars. I talked to another cyclist who does stop at stop signs, and who said he’d almost been rear-ended by other bikes when he stopped. I know you’ve blogged about this before, but maybe again? Or another angle? Or you don’t think it’s an issue?”
Don’t think WHAT’S an issue?
I didn’t know how to respond other than to say that it’s not my job to explain the behavior of cyclists any more than it’s my job to explain the behavior of motorists, or astronauts, or chimpanzees. I also noted that from a safety standpoint, five bicycle riders had been killed by cars in SoCal in the last five days, and the number of motorists killed by cyclists since the beginning of time is, like, zero.
So, as Noel would say, “There’s that.”
Still, Grumpypants has a point, and I think the point is this: He’s comfortable running stop signs, rolling stop signs, and ignoring the law when he deems it safe and convenient for him, but he damn sure doesn’t think it’s a good idea for you. His premise also speaks for itself: Cagers hate cyclists because they break the law, and that’s as it should be.
He made no mention as to whether it’s okay for cyclists to hate all cagers for the few drivers who also break the law, or whether death and dismemberment are fair punishments for cycling traffic infractions. There was likewise no word on where he stands vis-a-vis the rash of hit and runs in LA (we’re number one!), and on criminal penalties for killing cyclists, and on other minor issues such as the right of cyclists to operate in the lane pursuant to law without having to suffer police persecution and/or death.
My guess is that Mr. Grumpypants didn’t think of these things, or worse, he thought they were of much less importance than his own “close” calls with happy, smiling cyclists who weren’t following the letter of the law.
But now that you mention it …
I suppose I’m also one of those happy, grinning idiots at whom he shakes his fist when I go ripping through a stop sign before he can beat me to it. I am probably one of the people who angry, latte-chugging PV housewives curse in their cages as I happily pedal to work. I’m certainly one of those smilers who controls the lane while livid cagers, delayed for three or even five seconds, spit bile and venom only to whizz around me and beat me to the stone-red light.
Who hates whom?
The nub of the problem, of course, is the assumption that cagers hate cyclists. They don’t, and how could they, when most cyclists are also motorists? Who in the hell are “they?”
For every nutjub who screams and froths and flips me off, fifty others sigh in envy as I pedal along. They know that as between us, the one who’s pedaling to work is the happier one.
In addition to the cagers who are cyclists, and the cagers who wish they were cyclists, there are the great unwashed millions who don’t care one way or another. They see me in the lane, or they see me *pause* through the stop sign, and they could care less. “Bikes aren’t cars,” they think, if they think at all. “It’s a heck of a lot harder to get a bike going from a full stop than it is to mash on an accelerator.”
In other words, I reject the premise that “motorists,” whoever they are, “hate” me. And the ones who do could care less whether I blow a stop, roll through one, pause significantly, or put both feet down and do a little bow. They have deep-seated psychological problems, vote Republican, and are likeliest to shriek “Guns don’t kill people!” after every mass shooting.
Even more to the point, and perhaps this is where Mr. Grumpypants and I really diverge, I get on my bike and am willing to die for it, or at least be horrifically maimed and spend the rest of my life an even bigger vegetable than I already am. It comes with the territory, unfortunately, because when car meets bike, bike loses. Doesn’t make it right, but that’s the way it is in the big city.
So I make it a point not to smash into the cagers and to have them not run into me, and I remind myself every few seconds or so that there are no guarantees, that my fellow cyclists are not the enemy, and that since tomorrow may be my Unlucky Day, I’d better pedal hard and flog a few baby seals while I can.
After more than thirty years in the saddle and a regular output of 8,000 – 15,000 miles a year, if I do eventually get clocked by some cager who “hates” me, it’s still been worth it. I had more fun at age 50 on last week’s Donut Ride than the average cager has in a lifetime of commutes. But if they’re gonna take me out, they better take extra special aim, because chances are slim that I’ll be waiting, cow-like, for them to mow me down at a stop sign as I shake my fist at a fellow biker.
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February 26, 2014 § 28 Comments
With the impending release of his book, Battle Scars, former Australian cyclist Stuart O’Grady has embarked on a media tour and sat down with Cycling Fanboys for his first major interview since his retirement and dished on his experiences with drugs in the pro peloton.
Fanboys: Why the name?
SO: ”Battle Scars” is a name that is very appropriate to my career because there were so many battles. Battles all the time, every day. And you know, because of those battles I had scars. So, battles and scars, and then “Battle Scars.” The scars of battles. Get it? Bities, bitzles, bingles,the whole shebang.
Fanboys: After announcing your retirement on the first Monday after the 2013 Tour de France, you admitted to using epo ahead of the 1998 Tour, just before the French Senate released its report on doping in the Tour in 1998. Why the timing?
SO: Well, I sure as hell wasn’t gonna admit it during me career, was I? Maybe I’m Ozzie, but I’m not as dumb as all that.
Fanboys: And that’s the only time you doped?
SO: Oh, yeah. Just the day before the ’98 Tour. A tiny little pinch. Itsy bitsy amount, actually. Hardly enough to even see, much less make me ride faster. It was kind of a joke, really.
Fanboys: Wow. Because 1998 was the year, you know, that teams were supplying it in gross to their riders, everyone walking around with his own personal thermos of epo.
SO: Really? What a bunch o’ cheaters, eh?
Fanboys: So you didn’t really ever hear about other riders using drugs?
SO: Lord, no. The French guys, sure, and maybe some of the lower class riders, the donkeys, the guys who were never gonna be any good, maybe they did it, but the big teams, the legit teams, I can honestly say I never heard of anyone using drugs to gain an unfair advantage. It’s just not how we thought at the time.
Fanboys: Where did you obtain the drugs?
SO: Oh, I don’t remember. You know, it was just a very small amount, not more than a couple of thermoses. I think I got it from some gal in a bar. We was talking about the Tour and she said, “Try this,” and gave me a couple of thermoses. I only used it the month leading up to the Tour, kind of on a training plan I made up meself.
Fanboys: Did you notice any difference in your riding?
SO: From the epo? Blimey, no sir. It was like drinkin’ orange juice. Made me kind of drowsy, in fact, which is why I quit taking it right after the ’99 Tour, the year Lance won his first yellow jersey.
Fanboys: When did you quit using drugs?
SO: Immediately, right away, as soon as I heard about the Festina affair in ’98. I smashed me thermoses, got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it.
Fanboys: Except for ’99, right?
SO: Right. And 2000. We used a spot of it in 2000, me and the boys, but just before the Tour. It didn’t help us at all, though, so we quit immediately.
Fanboys: “The boys?”
SO: Oh, sure, you know, the boys on the team. It wasn’t organized by the team, it was all individualized, but we did it together. There was a big cooler on the bus, we had ten thermoses for each rider along with the other usual supplements, and just used them. I believe they made us slower, actually.
Fanboys: What were the other “usual supplements”?
SO: Test, corticos, clen, a blood bag ‘ere and there for when you was gettin’ a bit woozy after the big mountain stages. And before the big mountain stages. And the long flat days, too, and time trials, a pinch before and maybe a spot after. But that’s all we did, and after the 2001 Tour, Bjarne told us “no more drugs because drugs is bad.” You know he was tough about drugs like that and wouldn’t tolerate it. “It’s just cheatin’,” is what he told us all the time. So we just quit, and I’ll tell you that they didn’t make you any faster. They made you slower. That’s a proven fact.
Fanboys: Your admission of doping cast into doubt your subsequent results, particularly your 2007 win at Paris-Roubaix.
SO: Sure, I can see how people might think that, but Roubaix is a strongman’s race and drugs was gone completely from the peloton after the Tour wrapped up in ’02, I think it was. We just all kind of reached an agreement that cheatin’ wasn’t worth it. It was the right thing to do, so we did it. Simple as that.
Fanboys: How did you feel during all those years when you were denying drug use even though you were plugged to the bunghole with PED’s of every kind?
SO: I felt awful, actually. I just kind of buried it so far back in my mind because it was just one of those things that I hoped would never surface. It was the darkest period of my career. It was the darkest period of cycling in general until things got cleaned up for good in 2003, right after the Tour.
Fanboys: How did that come about?
SO: Well, we was using blood transfusions, and transfusions from our family, and from our pets, and of course there was always a bit of androstenediol, androstenedione, androstene, bolandiol, bolasterone, boldenone, boldione, calusterone, clostebol, danazol, dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, desoxymethyltestosterone, drostanolone, ethylestrenol, fluoxymesterone, formebolone, furazabolgestrinone, hydroxytestosteronemestanolone, mesterolone, metandienone, metenolone, methandriol, methasterone, methyldienolone, methylnortestosterone, methyltestosterone, metribolone, mibolerone, nandrolone, norandrostenedione, norboletone, norclostebol, norethandrolone, oxabolone, oxandrolone, oxymesterone, oxymetholone, prostanozol, norandrostenedione, norboletone, norclostebol, norethandrolone, oxabolone, oxandrolone, oxymesterone, oxymetholone, and maybe a spot o’ noretiocholanolone, stuff like that. None of it worked for shite, though, I can promise you.
And one day we just all said, “Hey, mates, enough’s enough. HTFU.” And that was it. I personally threw all my stuff away, broke it with a hammer, tossed it in the toilet. Remember it just like it was yesterday, felt a enormous burden off me shoulders, day after the 2004 Tour finished we was all like, hey, it’s a new day. Right?
Fanboys: Since your doping admission you’ve not been seen a lot in public. What’s Stuey O’Grady doing to occupy himself?
SO: Oh, you know, just bein’ a regular dad, playin’ with me 10-year-old, tryin’ to forget about all those battle scars, the ones from the battles. Epic battles. And scars, too. Epic battles, epic scars. Battle scars.
Fanboys: Any thoughts of returning for one last hurrah?
SO: Lordy, no. Twenty years as a pro, it’s enough. It was black times a lot of them times, black times for cycling, but we’ve turned a corner. Things is better now than they was.
Fanboys: Can you pinpoint when the change happened?
SO: Blimey, just like it was yesterday. It was right after the Tour, 2005 if memory serves, and we all decided on a new direction. Smartest thing we ever did, ’cause doping was killing us and people just couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
Fanboys: But didn’t you say that the drugs didn’t actually help?
SO: Oh, they didn’t. They made you slower, mate. But it’s the thinkin’ that they’re makin’ you faster that makes you go faster. Hard to explain, y’know? But Bjarne helped us change the game. It was right after the 2006 Tour, we dumped all of our stocks and investments in Big Pharma, just did everything pan y agua. That’s Polish for “bread and water.” And I’m glad it happened then, couldn’t have come at a better time because all that winter and then the spring of ’07 I trained pan y agua and HTFU and I won Roubaix that year, clean as a whistle. I can look back on me career and that day in particular with nothin’ but pride.
Fanboys: Thanks for your time, Stuey. We here at Cycling Fanboys really believe in you.
SO: You gonna buy a copy of me book, then?
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February 25, 2014 § 15 Comments
We were pedaling along the street, he and I, finishing an awesome day of bicycling awesomeness. “How’s your week looking?” I asked.
“Righteously snowalicious,” he answered.
“Dude,” he assured me. “I been skiing forty years. No worries.”
I wrinkled my brow. “Those bony legs of yours go up-and-down several hours a day, 300-plus days a year, and suddenly you’re gonna lock those old-man knees into ski bindings and race down double blacks like you were twenty-five and had nothing but naked coeds, a jacuzzi, and twelve bottles of vodka waiting for you at the end of the run?”
He laughed. “Wankster, you’re sounding like a very old woman. I’m going with my friggin’ family. Did you forget that my daughter is seven? That we’ll be doing bunny runs with her and and her friend that I could do blindfolded on one leg carrying a logging truck on my back? Dude!”
I mused. G3 was in the form of his life. He’d logged 48,203.23 miles over the winter, including noodling, intervals, big ring training, sprinting, and pelvic thrusting. He was loaded for bear this season, but everyone knows that fierce lateral knee movements are hell on old joints, and heller on the joints of old bike racers. Why would he jeopardize this incredible fitness for a mere family outing? Couldn’t he just swill beer by the hot tub and howl “Good job, honeys!” as his kid and wife came in from the slopes, covered in snow and frostbite?
And then something went “bump,” How that “bump” made us jump
The next time I talked to G3, he was in whatever state of depression is lower than the doldrums. “Where you been, man?” I haven’t seen you at the races yet this year.
“I been sick,” he said.
“With what? The plague? It’s been months since I saw you last.”
“Worse than the plague,” he said.
Apparently he had been lazily cruising down the triple-bunny run with his daughter and her friend. His mind was focused on the upcoming season opener at Boulevard, where he’d get to test his awesome form against the monsters of the Leaky Prostate Category. Somewhere between his imagined incredible attack on La Posta and his fantasy victory acceleration up Old Drugsmuggler Highway, he noticed that his daughter’s friend had dropped one of her ski poles.
“No prob, sweetie,” he said. “I got it.” Trailing behind the two girls, he squatted and reached down to pick up the pole, and he squatted low, real low, the kind of low that you better not try unless you’re a sixteen-year-old girl cheerleader with a minor in yoga. As he squatted, forty-five years of bone and gristle protested, and they protested with vigor.
G3′s day, week, month, and season were done. He folded like a mod pair of sunglasses, crumpled like a pinata, went down like a working girl. “Ohhhhh,” he moaned, not just at the savaging pain, but at the season and the fitness that went “poof” up into the clear winter air.
I did everything I could to perk him up, reminding him of how strong he’d be the latter part of the season, envying all the quality family time he must be having, and complimenting him on having learned the treachery and dangers of Old Fellow skiing without having actually pulled a Sonny Bono. Nothing worked.
You can’t have it all, American Express
A lot of people think that cycling is good for your health. I don’t. What’s good for your health is sitting on the couch, swilling beer, and taking brief walks outside when the weather is pleasant.
Getting run over by raging cagers, spilling downhill face-first on Las Flores at 45 mph, riding your IT bands/tendons/ligaments into permanent dysfunction, and enlarging your heart from ceaseless exercise don’t seem like much of a prescription for longevity. Worse, the more you ride the more invincible you think you are. “Hey, I can ride a hundred miles … bet I can totally manhandle those youngsters in a game of pick-up basketball.”
On the other hand, every time I stand around with a group of 40 or 50-something cyclists, I’m amazed at how completely different they look from the people I graduated from high school with, people who for the most part look at least a decade, if not two, older than they really are. The bikers are lither, they move more easily, and as long as you don’t look too carefully at the weatherbeaten lines in their faces, you’d be hard pressed to peg them at their real age.
Cycling makes you reach for more, sometimes for more than you probably should. It’s not a greedy reach, it’s the reach of “try.” And as long as you’re going to try, well, that means there’s also a chance that you’ll fail. Somehow the arms don’t reach out quite as far when you’re lying on the couch.
G3 may be down, but he’s not out. With 250 Big Orange acolytes restlessly awaiting his return … he’ll be back. Whether he’ll be back on the slopes again is another question entirely. Me? Have I ever shown you my jump shot?
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February 23, 2014 § 48 Comments
Los Angeles resident Sturgeon Palchewski expressed surprise yesterday at his daughter’s apparent lack of interest in cycling. Palchewski, a veteran cyclist of 27 years, was perplexed by his daughter Maribel’s reaction to his suggestion that they go out and “Do a few intervals before dinner.”
Maribel, age nine, was heard to say that she “Hates cycling worse than beets,” after which she began crying and ran to her room, slamming the door with what was reportedly a “horrific slam.”
Palchewski, who purchased a Pinarello kids’ road bike with Campy 11-speed electronic shifting for Maribel’s birthday earlier this month, couldn’t understand the child’s outburst. “She said she wanted a bike for her birthday so I got her a bike. We spent a week working on getting in and out of clipless pedals, oh sure there were the usual scrapes and scratches and bruises and she broke out a tooth, but she’s a fast learner and we were doing solid 20 – 30 milers in no time.”
Although he himself has never raced, Palchewski felt that it made sense to start his daughter doing junior racing as quickly as possible. “First of all, there are only three or four girls in the junior 9 – 11 field, so her chances of standing on the podium were huge. Huge. Second, and most importantly, in order to win you have to be able to suffer, and I mean suffer like an effing dog. That’s something you learn early, like those Belgian hardmen in the 60′s and 70′s who just came straight off the farm, you know, tough guys for whom a 300 km race in the rain and muck over cobbles was a hella lot easier than building brick fences and shoveling horseshit all day.”
Palchewski’s wife Tambrina was less convinced. “I think she just wanted, you know, a bike bike. Something she could pedal around with her friends. She was kind of surprised on her birthday, actually. You know what she said to Sturgeon when she saw the Pinarello thing? She said, ‘Daddy, I said I wanted a bicycle!’”
Along with the new bicycle, Palchewski also helped his daughter open a Strava account, and made sure the bicycle was equipped with an SRM power meter and Garmin computer. “Cycling now is data driven,” says Palchewski. “The days when you could just pedal on the cobbles all day and ride your way on to the Belgian national team, those days are gone.”
When asked his strategy for rekindling his daughter’s enthusiasm for riding a bicycle, Palchewski did not hesitate. “I think it’s the intervals before dinner that are getting to her. Maybe we’ll just focus on long miles with a steady diet of hard climbs, throw in a few jumps, duke it out for the city limit signs. Get her into some hard charging pacelines with the guys, you know? Kids develop grit when they’re on the rivet, get kicked out the back, and have to solo for a couple of hours. Maybe some windy days too, eh?”
At press time Maribel had slashed the tires of her new bicycle with a pair of scissors and was engrossed in her Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse set.
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February 22, 2014 § 12 Comments
This morning as I whizzed down towards Malaga Cove I saw a rider in a blue and electric green kit. She was ahead of me, but my momentum from the long descent meant I was going to catch her without hardly pedaling. From a distance she didn’t look familiar, but as I closed in on her she kind of did, but then again she kind of didn’t. I was looking at her legs, which were lean but super cut. Didn’t recognize the legs.
Then as I got closer I realized it was Tink. “Hey, Tink!” I said as I pulled up alongside her. “Damn, your legs are cut! I didn’t recognize you!”
She laughed. “How’ve you been?”
“Fine, but how have YOU been?” Tink was coming off a long layoff after breaking her femur late last year. She had turned pro with Team Tibco in the middle of the 2013 season, and at the time she went down on the bike path and broke her leg she was on pace to hit the season with both barrels blazing.
“Great, actually,” she said. “I’m a bit sore, had a hard day yesterday, but I’m ready for the Donut Ride!”
This was horrible news for me, as I’d been hoping to have a good Donut Ride, and knowing that Tink would be there going full bore meant I’d be fighting for table scraps. She is a world class climber, and the primary feature of the DR is climbing.
Buckle your seat belts
The ride unfolded as I feared it would, only worse. Sam Warford and Mackenzie Champlin rolled off the front as we left Malaga Cove, and stuck it all the way to the top of the Domes. By the time we hit Portuguese Bend, Mark Alvarado and Tink attacked and opened a gap leading up to Trump National. Stathis Sakellariadis, who had been biding his time, kicked it hard and ruined what was left of the peloton. Glued to his wheel he towed me, Greg Leibert, and a handful of others up to Tink and Mark, then pushed on by.
After pulling up the first section of the Switchbacks he flicked his elbow for me to come through, but it’s a cold day in hell when this 50-year-old beer belly will take a pull on a climb that involves a gang of snotnose punks who all weigh less than 140-pounds. However, Greg Leibert, who is 52 years old, acted on the First Principle of Climbing: When the others hesitate out of weakness and fear, that is when you attack.
So he did.
Stathis slipped to the back of the small group, disgusted at having me shadow him and knowing that in order to escape my sneaky wheelsuckery he would have to take me by surprise. Several sad sacks flailed up the next couple of turns, flicking me to pull through and finding out that they’d sooner dislocate an elbow than get me to do a lick of work.
As Greg dangled, Stathis punched it from the very back, flying away from the six riders who were left. Sitting second wheel I jumped, but had about as much chance of catching him as I did of catching a motorcycle. He bridged to Greg and the two of them flew away, not to be seen again until the Domes.
Back in the best-of-the-rest-bunch, I sucked some more wheel until we turned up Crest to the Domes. Then I punched it and only Tink and Wanker McGee followed. After a few more surges, slowdowns, surges and slowdowns, Wanker popped, hit the eject button, and parachuted to safety. Now it was just me and Tink as we raced the final half-mile to the Domes. She hit me several times, I sucked wheel and countered, then she’d hit me again, then I’d suck some more wheel, wheeze and cough, make dying-old-man sounds, and she’d hit me again until she finally ran out of hit about 200 yards from the end.
I did the Big Blue Bus spruntaround, slowly grinding by her while she laughed. Atop the Domes I saw stars. “Good job!” she said, not even out of breath.
What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?
The place, of course, is bike racing. What’s a nice girl like Tink, or Jess Cerra, or any other number of pro-and-pro-caliber women doing racing their bikes?
The reason I ask is because the system is so grossly sexist. The Tour de France, after more than a hundred years, offers pro women a single day of racing. The Tour of California, America’s premier bike race, finally offers women a TWO WHOLE DAYS of racing. Of course after a mere nine years it makes sense that the race acknowledged the existence of a pro women’s peloton, so you “girls” should be grateful. At least it didn’t take a hundred years, like the French.
The sexism in pro racing begins with races, or rather the absence of races, and it extends to every nook and cranny of the sport, right down the nuances of pro women’s teams riding Di2 Ultegra instead of Dura-Ace. It includes prize list disparity (as of 2014 USA Cycling will offer prize list parity for NRC races), media coverage, salary parity, the development of amateur women, and a gross inequality of financial resources at the national and international governing body level.
What’s so bizarre about this inequality isn’t the blatant sexism; we’ve come to expect that in every sport. What makes no sense is the fact that women’s cycling has every bit the financial potential of men’s cycling. Women cycle in huge numbers and are a completely untapped market for manufacturers and service providers trying to peddle their wares to pedalers. The economic power of women, if harnessed in terms of club/racing license membership, would bring a much-needed infusion of new dollars and new racers into the rather niche sport of bicycle racing.
The list of reasons — above and beyond “it’s the right thing to do” — to promote parity between professional men and women bike racers is a long one. And fortunately, there’s something about it that you can do.
Every revolution should begin with a great breakfast
The Women’s Cycling Association hosts a tour called “Join the Ride” on March 2, 2014, in Calabasas, CA, beginning at the legendary Pedaler’s Fork restaurant. Rider entry fees will support the WCA, the first organization in the U.S. dedicated solely to promoting women’s professional bike racing. This is part of a series of ongoing outreach efforts to include riders, promoters, and sponsors in the movement to develop a robust, independent women’s pro racing scene that will be around for years to come. Hope you can make it.