Preach, brother

May 23, 2017 § 22 Comments

I am fairly reticent to preach about sobriety, and that’s mostly because I don’t really feel like I’m qualified. My reformed-drunk bona fides are pretty slim. I know tons of people who’ve been bone dry for 20, 30, even 40 or more years, but me? I don’t even know exactly when I quit drinking. I only know I haven’t had a drink today.

And frankly, my dear, that’s the only fuggin’ unit of time for me that matters.

Lots of times I want to write about being sober, and what it’s like seeing beer everywhere you look. Yummy, foamy, hoppy, alcohol-infused beer that is 100% pure beer. And I want to tell people that hey, being sober sucks in a lot of ways, well, actually, it only sucks in one way, and that is this: No one has figured out how to be drunk and sober at the same time. You have to pick.

My aversion to preaching about sobriety and preaching in general runs in the family. My dad was going to be a Baptist preacher when he grew up, but then he left the small goat stop that was El Paso in the 50’s and went to the University of Texas and met a Jew. My dad started lecturing the Jew about Christianity and his soul, and fire and brimstone, and all the good stuff that awaited him at the feet of Jesus.

The Jew, whose name was Abe (of course), listened patiently. He was a few years older than my dad and considerably better versed in the world. “Well, Chandler,” he said, “what if, after reading these fables of yours, a person doesn’t believe them?”

And that stopped my dad in his tracks, because for the first eighteen years of his life in Goatsville no one had ever raised the possibility that there were people who would refuse to believe the New Testament when confronted with it. He had been taught that the only barrier to everyone becoming a Baptist was their failure to have had the whole thing properly explained. This shock was the beginning of the end of Christianity for my dad, even though the final denouement didn’t come until he was in the navy, swabbing the decks of the U.S.S. Thomaston, a landing-ship dock. In between swabs he became an atheist, just like that. In the way that Jake and Elwood saw the light in the Blues Brothers, my dad unsaw it. The light went under a cold slosh from a bucket of seawater. [More than sixty years later my dad was visiting California and looked up Abe, who lives in Santa Monica, and called him up. Abe had zero recollection of any of this, but they got together and had a marvelous afternoon as my dad regaled him with how Abe had saved my dad’s soul from organized religion.]

But the point of this story was that dad’s conversation with Abe killed his preaching blues, and from that day forth he stopped preaching. So it runs against the Davidson grain to preach, and that’s partly why I don’t like to talk too much about being a drunk. Conversion zeal is oily in all its forms, and I kind of figure hey, if you are a drunk you had better quit, unless of course you don’t want to, in which case you should carry on, because it’s your life. My uncle Phil drank himself to death and was as happy as a clam until his last day on earth.

The reason I bring this up is because even though I’m no expert on sobriety, from time to time people, usually ex-drunks themselves, will make a quiet comment to the effect of, “Good job, wanker. Keep it up.”

And you know what? Those attaboys matter. They matter a lot. One part of the sobriety equation is knowing that people are watching, that people care. Not bike racer watching, i.e. watching in the hope the other guy fails, but human watching, friends and sometimes utter strangers for whom your battle matters and who are looking to hold you to account if you falter, and pat you on the back if you make it another day or another year or another five stinking seconds.

If you’re a drunk and want to dry out, you can. The bad news is that you have to do it alone. Nobody can do it for you. But the good news is that your fellow ex-drunks want you to succeed. It does more than validate them. Your effort helps keep them sober, too. You’re not some statistic, you’re a real person, and when you fight, well, you will find that when you look over your shoulder you have a lot more people in your corner than you ever imagined. You can be a drunk if you want to be, but it’s not required or foreordained. Sobriety is one straightened elbow away.

I’m writing all this because my dad sent me a Vote For Me email by a Houston judge, Judge Steven Kirkland. His election campaign pitch? “I used to be a drunk and I’ve been sober for 33 years. Sobriety has made me more honest and a kinder person.”

That’s pretty fuggin’ rad. That’s a guy I’d like to have in a black robe pronouncing judgment on my bicycling transgressions. That’s someone who has gone far beyond recovery and is way, way, way down the road of using his tribulations to lessen those of others.

And Judge Kirkland didn’t mention it, but being sober sure makes bicycling a lot more fun, too.

END

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Buying speed

May 22, 2017 § 32 Comments

Since I am cheap and especially cheap when it comes to bicycling crap, I was in a conundrum a couple of weeks ago. It had to do with the upcoming time trail for which I had sworn not to spend any money but for which I nevertheless desperately wanted to spend some money.

The first crack in my resolve was buying a new swimsuit. If I could spend money on a new swimsuit, I could spend money on anything.

Still, everything related to time trailing was too expensive, i.e., it cost more than a pair of nice socks. Naturally I looked at wheels and ruled out a $5,000.00 set of pure carbon wheels even though in their 100% carbon state they appeared to be more carbony than my existing 100% carbon, pure carbon wheels.

Rejecting the carbony option I decided to do the TTT on my tubulars, which was fine except that they are shallow climby wheels and not time traily wheels. To test them out I time trailed on the Parkway and they rolled great; I turned my fastest time over the course, completing the entire hour in exactly 60 minutes.

Next I took them to Telo and they flew through the corners. With these two conclusive checks it made sense to price out a pair of tubular TT wheels, but alas the Internet showed the same pricetag as the last time I’d checked an hour or so ago.

Finally I decided to look at racing clincher tires. These would fit on my FFWD F-4 100% carbon wheels made of full carbon, and at $64.95 each would cost less than a new wheelset. In fact, at $64.95 each, I would have to go through 38.4 sets of tires before equaling the cost of a new wheelset. And even if the tires only lasted for 300 miles, that would tote up to 11,520 miles worth of time-trailing, and since I only time trail about 25 miles a week, that would last about 460.8 weeks, or 8.86 years. If my time trailing dropped to 25 miles a month, or, more likely, 25 miles per year, then it would take about 460.8 years to equal the cost of the new wheel set.

So the 8.86-or-460.8 year payment plan was much more budgety, and I read up on racing clinchers to make sure I was getting the best ones, which were in fact the Vittoria Open Corsa SR clinchers. First, reasons this may not be the tire for you:

  • You ride a lot.
  • You ride far from home.
  • You are not good at changing flats.
  • You wear your tires until the tube is poking out through the threads.
  • You are crazy cheap.

Here are the reasons this may be the tire for you:

  • You don’t ride a lot.
  • You ride close to home.
  • You have tire-changing-hands-of-iron.
  • You don’t ride badly worn tires.
  • You want to go faster.

This last point is key. I tried the tires out at Telo last Tuesday and they are the softest, most supple thing I have been on since my earliest teenage encounters. I’d say they handle better than — gasp!! — my tubulars. They are super grippy at 100psi but at the same time very fast. I’m pretty famous for not being able to go through a turn without finding the worst line possible, and these tires made even my horrible line-finding a minor liability.

It is very difficult to tell the difference from one bike item to the next but compared to the Vredestein Training Clunkers I ride with year-round, these are a revolution and a heck of a lot cheaper than new wheels, or a fancy helmet, but not as cheap as a pair of fun underwear.

undies

Give them a try (the tires), but don’t complain to me if you get a flat. They seem to have the durability of reinforced Kleenex, but I will do a follow-up on that later. Maybe. Meanwhile, they have a cool red logo patch that says “PRO” on it.

tar

END

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Cycle travel

May 20, 2017 § 21 Comments

Now that I’ve been home for a few days I’ve had some time to reflect on bicycle travel. Mainly, I want to do more of it. Perhaps the most exciting part of bicycle travel is studying, and I mean studying really hard, super extra-hard, to learn the foreign language of the country that you intend to visit so that you can have a great time never using it and instead talking to everyone in English except when you very cleverly ask the waiter for more water or where’s the bathroom can I please have a hamburguesa.

Before I went to Mallorca this time I studied Spanish for a year beforehand. No one in Mallorca speaks Spanish, or, more accurately, wanted to with me. Especially our Norwegians, who were pinned from morning to night teaching us how to speak English.

The only lengthy convo I had in Spanish in ten days was doing the security check on Delta with the nice lady who was standing between me and the gate in Madrid as I tried to get home. She interviewed every single passenger, or at least the suspicious ones, well, okay, me.

“Where have you been?” she inquired.

“All your life?” I asked, trying to make a joke that didn’t work at all.

“In Spain,” she said, harshly.

“Mallorca.”

“Doing what?”

“Bicycling with Norwegians and Texans and Coloradans and a Virginian.”

“How many days?”

“About ten.”

“Do you speak Spanish?”

“Yes.”

She immediately switched to Spanish. “Any other languages?”

“Yes.”

“Which ones?”

“French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and I also happen to speak well English goodly.”

She got really suspicious. “Do you use these languages for your work?”

“No,” I said.

“Why so many?”

“So I can speak with people like you in order to get back on the plane into the U.S.”

“How did you learn them?”

“I studied.”

She was unhappy with all these answers, so she went back to the beginning, hoping to trip me up. “What were you doing in Mallorca?”

“Bicycling.”

“Anything else?”

“Watching the Norwegians win the drinking competition and watching the Americans win the hangover competition.”

She scowled some more. “Why do you speak so many languages? If it’s not for your job, it’s not normal.”

“That describes me,” I said.

“What does?”

“Not normal.”

“Your Spanish is excellent. How did you learn it?”

“When I was 13 I got put in Mrs. Simon’s Spanish class at Jane Long Junior High by mistake. She named me ‘Franciso.'”

“Oh, you learned it in school.”

“No. They kicked me out of class when they found out it was for 9th Graders and I was only in 7th. I really hoped that they would put me in Mrs. Barrett’s class, I had a huge crush on her. She also taught Texas history and every year took the kids to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, but she got divorced and moved out of state. I was totally in love with her.”

“Then how did you learn it if you were ejected from all classes?”

“Juan taught me, from El Salvador.”

“Who is he?”

“My parents got divorced when I was 15 and my dad was living in this little apartment complex off Braes Bayou called The Governor’s House, and Juan was the maintenance man, he had fled El Salvador’s civil war and he’d always be hanging around looking for somebody to chat with instead of maintaining, and I was kind of lonely and he taught me Spanish because he couldn’t speak a lick of English and I still remembered how to say, ‘My name is Francisco’ from my two days in Mrs. Simon’s class back in 7th Grade.”

“So you learned everything from a maintenance man? Can you read Spanish?”

“Yes.”

“Did the maintenance man teach you?”

“No, that was later in high school when I took Spanish from Mrs. Perez.”

“How many years was that?”

“Two, but I failed both years and didn’t learn anything.”

“Then why can you read?”

“Because in college I took Spanish with Ms. Elias Barrientos. I aced Spanish then because I’d failed it so much in high school.”

“Okay,” she said. “You can board.”

“Don’t you want to know how I learned Japanese?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

Which was a bummer, because I wanted to tell her about Dr. Fish Doctor, who taught me my first kanji in a subway. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that story before.

END

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Super Tink!

May 18, 2017 § 13 Comments

South Bay bike racer Kristabel Doebel-Hickok turned heads and blew minds a few days ago when she finished fourth overall in the women’s Pro Tour Amgen Tour of California, a race in which she got third on the queen stage and wore the best climber’s jersey for most of the race. As a fourth year professional riding for Cylance, she’s having her best season ever.

atoc_mountain_finish

Queen Stage, Amgen Tour of California. Photo used with permission, courtesy of Cylance Pro Cycling.

So I called up Kristabel to talk with her about the race.

CitSB: How did the race unfold?

KDH: I didn’t expect a top five in GC going into the race. You don’t try any harder in any particular race; I tried that hard at Punchbowl, too. It was the same effort I always give, with a different result. It was nice to be back with a full team and support at a world tour race! Afterwards I have a fun week ahead and we all have a little break due to the Philly cancellation.

CitSB: How was each stage?

KDH: The first stage ended on a 5-minute climb; I was 5th on the stage. Stage 2 had a big climb and finished on small one; I got third and moved up to fourth on the GC. Stage 3 was completely flat but windy and the Euro teams created echelons; it was not easy but with time bonuses the fifth GC woman moved up, so I dropped to 5th. On Stage 4 the woman who was third on GC finished further back, so I moved back up. I was three seconds off the final GC podium but in the final stage there were time bonuses and the woman I had to beat is a great sprinter so it was a far reach for the team to line out for me to beat her in the finish. I was on the podium after the second stage, and on the flat stages you protect the GC, while the team was looking for sprint finishes for my teammate Kirsten on the flat stages.

CitSB: How did the super hilly second stage unfold?

KDH: It started atop a ski resort, 34 degrees, and started with a downhill neutral. My coach warned me about clothing because once you get cold it’s really hard to get full power back. I went to the line fully dressed and the sun came out. The first climb is twenty minutes into the race, so I tossed my rain jacket at the start to the soigneur, but the climb wasn’t raced hard, and there were flat sections and open windy areas where echelons formed, totally unexpected, and if you’re in a bad position you’d never see the leaders again if it happened in Belgium. It was really hard going to the next climb, I was frozen, didn’t eat or drink enough, and Kirsten helped me position while Boels drove it hard and I followed, while the road leveled, pitched back up, and finally I went to the front because the team plan was for me to see what I could do.

I doubted it in the moment because it was windy and Boels had made it so hard but I decided it was better to try and fail than not try, so I went to front and rode steady hard for a bit and then a big attack came off my wheel, I followed it, there were a few more attacks, I followed, and after Hall and van Breggen attacked I couldn’t follow, they went up the road halfway up the climb, and with 5k to go I was with Guarnier, who was in yellow, with a group of other really strong riders and I realized I wasn’t going to leave that group so I sat and saved until the finishing climb. From the base there’s three straightaways and on the second one I thought, “You gotta try now,” and I had quite a bit left and attacked hard and ten seconds after I jumped the radio said, “You can go now!” but I’d already gone and then my director said, “Go full gas!”

It’s a long way from the bottom, and with probably 500m to go I exploded and looked back and even though there was a big gap, Ruth was coming fast so I put my head down and went all the way to the line and that’s how I got third. I was second in the QOM points but wore the climber’s jersey because the yellow jersey can’t wear both, and I got to wear it all week!

CitSB: Where are you in your development as a pro?

KDH: This is my fourth season and there are so many aspects to the sport, physical and mental. I made a big jump two years ago when I changed coaches and training, and I saw my numbers go up a ton, but now it’s all small improvements which is fun but there are no more massive gains and all the other aspects get so much more important. Aspects such as eating, drinking, and dressing are much bigger than any physical gains you can get at this point. There’s lots of room for improvement but I’m starting to see my capabilities, it’s just a matter of getting it out of me. I’m learning to work with teammates, using strategy, putting the pieces together, now that I have all the pieces!

Last year I did more Euro classics, was really thrown into the deep end, but my ATOC success was from last year’s hard work. This year the team took a step back to make sure I was healthy in and one piece and not doing so many hard cold races, it was a different approach. I’m going Europe for the Giro and other races later in the season.

CitSB: What’s important for a young woman who wants to race as a pro?

KDH: First, you have to understand what it means to race professionally and what sacrifice is and what it will take. When I first started riding, Greg Seyranian asked me, “Do you want to do this professionally?” but I had no idea what it meant. In my first two weeks of riding someone also said, “You’re gonna crash and if you don’t accept that you should get out now.” It has taken more than I ever expected but has put a lot into my life I couldn’t have imagined. I’d tell the young rider to keep challenging yourself. My first Boulevard road race was as important to me then as the ATOC is today. Every race I wanted to win and really go for it, but at the same time I had to step back and learn. I had enough disasters to wonder, “What’s going on? What changes do I have to make to get better?” And you have to this analysis even when you have success.

CitSB: What’s the learning process like?

KDH: As a team we said, “Let’s review after ATOC, good job but what can we do better?” For me? Order new shoes!

You have to keep learning and not settle in. Some teams are domestic, some are Euro; there are lots of ways to do pro cycling and a young rider should understand that, too. For me, I want to see what I can do. I won’t be done racing until I know “That’s everything I had and that’s as good as I could have been, that’s what I’m made of, that’s what’s inside me.”

I love racing in the US, it’s my home, there’s less crashing, but the highest level of the sport is in Europe. Of course the ATOC is at that same high level but generally you have to go to Europe and do World Tour races and that’s where you really get to test yourself. I’m enjoying it now. I have to go all in. 80% isn’t enough and I’ve always been that way. I’m a one-track person, I give something my all and go on to the next thing. After cycling I’ll be in another career and be just as focused but now it’s where can I go? I don’t know where that endpoint is in cycling. For example, people have decided I’m a climber. Sure, I climb well, but I don’t know if three years from now I’ll be just a climber.

CitSB: What would you tell a beginner?

KDH: I’d say that group rides in the South Bay and West Side were way harder than my first road race. I was up the whole night beforehand, afraid about clipping in. But the race started and they clipped in just like on a group ride. Why did I worry about that? If you can ride with the South Bay rides you can race with Cat 3/4 women, no question. And I’d also say that the things you think are stressful are no more stressful than on a group ride, it’s just that the stakes are a little higher because it’s a race.

CitSB: What’s the environment like for women racers?

KDH: It’s good. From the time I was an amateur there were pros who reached out and created opportunities for me. My first big stage race was Redlands, and Amber Neben offered me a spot on her composite team, and I won the amateur jersey and got a ride with Tibco. There are people who want to help up-and-coming racers. A few would rather you leave but mostly women want to grow the sport and encourage others. Look for those people who want to help and approach those who want to help. You don’t need it from the whole peloton, just from a few. Lots of races are stepping stones and then bigger races like San Dimas Stage Race that are local but have a taste of pro racing and you take it bit by bit and challenge yourself.

CitSB: How has your physiology changed as you’ve developed from beginner to elite amateur to professional?

KDH: Running, where I got started, was drastically different from cycling. In running you can get lighter and lighter and only get benefits; a year or two and you’re flying. In cycling, losing weight and getting that thin is short lived because you lose power and strength and there are even more side effects when you try to walk to the fine line of getting to race weight. I eventually had to decide that I didn’t want or need a runner’s build for cycling. My new coach, Dean Golich, emphasized power, being strong, and skills. He was tough on me about everything. If you just train hard your body will go where it wants. You can ride for thirty hours up and down PCH all you want at a deficit, underweight, and you’ll be fine more or less, but to do max intervals and push your body you have to have reserves and be healthy and strong, especially in the spring classics where you’re not getting sick and you have to be more well rounded, and with that kind of training you develop more cycling specific muscles. It’s been a natural progression, so that now I keep focused on the important gains–not losing a few pounds, but things like eating/drinking/dressing right, or figuring out where I made mistakes. It’s not a matter of a couple of pounds. The pro life is also a lot of hard travel, and the lifestyle takes a lot too, a different body and mind.

CitSB: How long is your season?

KDH: February to August for sure, through September and October if possible.

CitSB: What does your off season look like?

KDH: My post season? Two days rest and coach tells me what to do! No, we take a break and a little time completely off bike, do some walking and then a little running. Last off season was the polar opposite from my usual off season. No long easy distances, we worked on my weaknesses, high intensity. I did some long distances here in California, where it’s warm and sunny, but worked on weaknesses and improvement.

CitSB: What about mental recovery?

KDH: I don’t go crazy while taking physical recovery. It’s difficult to get much mental recovery because I’m such a one-track person and don’t really need it, but on holidays I’ll see family, enjoy things outside cycling. No racing in the off season is the best mental recovery because it removes the stress. Leave me with my bike and I’ll recover; easy riding doesn’t take anything away from recovery. Some riders need one month off, they don’t even want to look at their bikes, but for me, after a few days off I’m looking at my bike again.

CitSB: What high points are you seeking for 2017?

KDH: I want to finish the year with results at the Giro. That was my big goal last year but I crashed a lot and separated my shoulder. I’d like to have a good block of racing in Europe with good results. Some good results wouldn’t be the end of my season but if they were highlights I’d be happy.

END

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Deep in the overtrained hole

May 17, 2017 § 14 Comments

When I got back from my trip I knew that something was wrong. It wasn’t simply the exhaustion of travel and being away from home and a few hard days of riding, but something much worse.

I figured I might be overtrained. Why? Because prior to leaving for Mallorca I had ridden pretty hard beginning in December. Then, about a month before my trip I put in a crazy block of stupid hard riding that included one 60-minute TT workout each week. The icing on the cake was that a few days before flying out I had one of those magical no-chain days.

So, I was leaving town on something close to a peak, or as close to one as I’m capable of getting, more like a gentle bump, or at least a non-acute decline.

In Mallorca there was some hard riding, but what was killing is that the days were so brutally long. We’d spend 7.5 hours to ride 70 miles. On my best worst day, I did 140 miles but it took 11.5 hours. Even Wanky Math couldn’t make these numbers work because I’ve been riding at just under ten hours a week all year, and 11.5 seems plainly greater than 10. Even taking two full days off in Mallorca didn’t help, because each “rest” day was followed by more pretty hard riding, or PHR (technical term).

Back home I vowed to take off a couple of days before testing my legs at Telo Worlds, but instead I took one day off and should have seen the writing on my legs then and there. What were these heavy, cement-covered appendages that rebelled at even the thought of pedaling?

At Telo Worlds it was much worse, sixty minutes of agony followed by a one-hour pedal back through Despair Swamp, up Col d’Defeat, along the Wreckage Rollers, all the way to a glorious pity party at home I had arranged in my honor. I was asleep by 9:30 and awoke this morning twice as tired as when I went to bed.

My morning coffee and fresh Ms. WM Special Homebaked Bread tasted awful, that’s how bad I felt. Okay, that’s a total lie. The coffee and bread were heavenly. But still, it adds significance to my condition to lie like that because apparently one symptom of overtraining is loss of appetite.

Knowing I was overtrained and needed rest I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 AM sharp to do Internet research on overtraining. It always annoys the shit out of me when people describe Google searching as “research.” Why can’t they just say, “I googled cycling + porn”? Why do they have to say “research?” For fuck’s sake, people.

Another indicator of overtraining is irritability.

The Internet, as we all know, is useless, but it did indicate that I’m not overtrained. Overtraining is actually rare. What I am is something much more ridiculous. I’m a victim of non-functional overreaching. When I first read this I thought maybe that was porn talk for a failed reacharound, but no.

Non-functional overreaching is when you are really old and delusional and ride about 20 years younger than you should. Everything gets saggy and droopy and you hate life. I read a detailed discussion of the Men’s Fitness Warning Signs for failed reacharounds, and also reviewed the scientific literature, read Joel Friel’s take on it, read Bunny McTavish’s Internet Coach Training Tips on Overtraining, and was overwhelmed by the fact that nowadays everything on the Internet that purports to be a substantive discussion is boiled down into a bulleted list, presumably because no one has enough of an attention span anymore to read, you know, actual paragraphs. So I’ve condensed everything ever written or known about NFOR/overtraining below so that you can quickly make a scientific diagnosis without having to do more “research.” In short, you are suffering from NFOR if you are:

  1. Slow as shit.
  2. Irritable as shit.
  3. Tired as shit.

This is kind of problematic for me because I’m 1 & 2 regardless of my cycling regimen, and 3 whenever I work, which is all the time. So I may either be suffering from NFOR or I may just be a congenital dick.

You be the judge. But don’t invite me on a ride. I’m taking the next eleven days off. Sorry, ten. I mean, seven. Until Saturday.

Really.

END

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Tilford Tuesday: Ten Commandments

May 16, 2017 § 12 Comments

Buried somewhere in Steve’s thousands of Internet pages of wisdom, I came across this gem. It’s a list of ten rules for bike racing. I call them the Ten Commandments.

What’s so amazing about these rules is that they completely sum up what you are supposed to do during a race. If you could master even half of them you’d never need a coach, a power meter, a heart rate monitor … nothing. And because they’re so succinct they’re easy to remember.

As I read through these rules I realized why I’m such a shitty bike racer. I don’t follow any of them. In fact, the more I thought about it, I pretty much am the Antichrist of bike racing. I break all the commandments every time I race. Wow. No wonder I suck.

So I decided to annotate the rules with examples from my racing past.

FIRST COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt never be in the front pulling for no reason.

This is my bete noir, the Pointless Pull. Go the front, hammer, feel like a champion, revel in the pain being inflicted, suddenly feel a wee tired, drift to the back, there goes the winning move never to be seen again.

SECOND COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt always know which direction that the wind is coming from.

Wind? What’s that? Derek the Destroyer flies big jets and used to surf a lot. He knows where the wind is before he even gets on his bike. My Cousin Vinnie wouldn’t know the wind if it had a business card–that’s how well he hides from it. But me? Unsure about where it’s blowing from or how to avoid it, and therefore always smack out in it.

THIRD COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt always know the course, at least in thy mind, before the start and picture where the strategic points, hills and wind direction will occur.

“Before the start” means “chat with others about the condition of the port-a-potties.” Then be astounded when the race starts on a 30% climb. Astounded, followed by dropped.

FOURTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt constantly ask thyself if thou art in the right position. If thou are not, thou shalt get there.

I have BPHR, Bad Positioning Homing Radar. Always stuck behind “that guy.” What am I saying? I am “that guy.”

FIFTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt know when to do a single pace line and when to ride double echelon.

Huh?

SIXTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not be shouting at other riders telling them what to do. It just pisses them off and makes them want thee not to do well.

Okay, finally one that I often get right. Because it’s hard to shout and get dropped simultaneously.

SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt never look back for what’s going on behind thee. If thou really needest to know, thou shalt drift back through the field subtly.

A few weeks ago I went to the neck doctor. “Doc, I got a crick in my neck.” “You have Rider’s Crick,” he said. “What’s that?” I said. “It’s a joint problem caused by spending hours looking through your armpit backwards.”

EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not try to show off in races. Races are judged by who crosses the line first.

All I can say about this is, wow. Talk about taking all the fun out of bike racing.

NINTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt observe and rate the guys thou art racing against. Watch how they pedal, climb, corner, etc.

This is easy to do but not so useful for me because almost every race starts with the realization that I’ve never beaten anyone to the left of me, never beaten anyone to the right of me, and never beaten anyone behind or in front of me. And the way they pedal is “faster.”

TENTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt know where the finish line is and where thou plannest to sprint from.

Sprint?

Anyway, these commandments are so good and succinct you could almost trim them down and paste them on your top tube. And since it’s January 1st somewhere, now is a great time to make a new year’s resolution.

Which I’m going to do now.

tips

END

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Victimless cheating? Or Dick Doper redux?

May 15, 2017 § 30 Comments

Last year I rode with a guy who was, uh, fast. He was in his mid-50s and when we hooked up he had already been going crazy hard for a month, thirty days of back-to-back riding that included unbelievable mileage and intensity.

We only rode together a couple of times. He was unbelievable. A big dude who climbed like George Hincapie when he was in his “mountain climbing” doper phase. You’d be sitting on this giant dude’s wheel and thinking, “Physics.” And then he’d toss the physics book into the ditch and climb like Quintana.

At the time I didn’t think he was doping. Don’t laugh when I say this, but it never occurred to me because I’m not really that suspicious or cynical when it comes to cycling and drugs.

Instead of chalking up his performance to drugs, I chalked it up to the fact that he was getting back on the bike after a long winter, he had stayed fit in the gym and on the trainer, and after all of the big miles and intensity he’d crash and crumple like any other normal old dude who pushed too much, too far, too hard, for too long.

This year our paths crossed again, and although I didn’t ride with him, I did see him briefly. His upper body was unbelievable. According to one of the guys who did ride with him, he claimed to have put on fifteen pounds of muscle over the last year. And he looked it.

That’s when my eyes rolled so far back in my head that if they’d had numbers they would have looked like a slot machine. There are a lot of things you don’t gain when you get old and creaky, and one of them is lean muscle mass. Maybe you firm up what you’ve got, and maybe if you eat perfectly and diet perfectly and do all the other hard things that no one in their 50s can possibly do, you gain a couple of pounds of muscle. But fifteen-plus pounds of lean upper body muscle in twelve months?

That, my friends, only happens with a lot of time in the gym and a shit-ton of steroids.

I was discussing this with a friend who is very young. He seemed to think that if you were young and doing steroids to get buff, you were not very smart because the risk of side effects is so huge. But, according to him, if you’re in your 50s and juicing, the risks are much smaller. You’re already old and bald and sexless anyway, and the side effects take way longer to kick in. Plus, in Dick Doper’s case, there was no crime other than the illegal possession of the drugs.

“Look at it like this,” my friend said. “He’s not racing so it’s not like he’s cheating. He’s not ever going to get tested so he won’t ‘ruin’ his reputation. He does it to feel good about himself, maintain the delusion that he’s exempt from the grinding passage of time, and he’s not hurting anyone else. What’s wrong with that? Do you hold it against people for standing in the mirror and counting their new veins?”

“Yeah, but that asshole crushes you on the bike. Thanks to the drugs, on informal, competitive rides he always wins. He’s practically unbeatable.”

“So? Don’t ride with him.”

“I don’t. Not after last year.”

“Then what’s your complaint? He’s taking your Strava KOMs?”

“I don’t play Strava.”

“So you’re simply jealous that another old bald impotent guy is faster than you are? You want to be the fastest old bald impotent guy?”

“Pretty much.”

“Didn’t the Rolling Stones have a song about that? Something about not always getting what you want?”

I resisted the urge to smack him, which urge was made easier by the fact that he was 6’4″, a martial arts specialist, and a cop. “It seems lame for some reason.”

“Is there a law or some kind of ethical rule against being lame?”

“No, but …”

“How is it different from buying faster equipment? You can buy mechanical speed just like you can buy the chemical kind. Is it lame when you can afford electronic shifting and light wheels, and some young kid is pedaling on a heavier, slower bike?”

“That’s different.”

“Of course it is. The difference is that you buy mechanical speed so it’s okay, but Dick Doper buys chemical speed on top of the mechanical kind. And that pisses you off because it makes him faster than you.”

“There’s a huge difference. I’d think he was lame no matter how fast he rode.”

“What is the difference, then?”

“Mechanical advantages are obvious. You can’t lie about them. And except in a few circumstances, the advantage they give is small and can often be compensated for by smart riding, drafting, or even by playing head games with your opponent. It’s a lot harder to hide your disk wheel. But chemical speed is secret, and its effects are different for every rider. For some guys, it turns donkeys into racehorses. For others, its effects are much less pronounced. Any given aero wheel will reduce drag the same amount no matter who’s riding it.”

“Piffle paffle,” he laughed. “You’re butthurt. That’s all.”

END

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