Wankmeister cycling clinic #27: Getting a pro contract and racing anxiety
January 4, 2015 § 9 Comments
Normally I answer all of my own correspondence, but every once in a while I get a cycling inquiry that is best handled by someone else, especially questions regarding getting a ride as a professional. This is a technical subject. Luckily, I am friends with a super excellent professional bike racer who gets paid money to race his bike and even owns his own sleeping bag. You may know this guy; his name is Profy McProstate and he has won the Tour of Buzzardguts four times, most recently in 2011. He has generously agreed to write the responses to this issue of WMCC #27.
I want to be a pro but I’m not sure about all of the traveling because I like to stay home with my cats and do fun rides with my friends. Plus, I get carsick and don’t like to drive or fly or travel. Also, my Internet coach has me on a strict training plan and diet that I can’t vary from. I need 30% of my calories to come from kale. And I have to have lots of massages. Also a bit concerned about what my income will be as a first year pro, as I have a mortgage. So, my pro career hasn’t really taken off. Do you have any advice for me?
I also want to be a ‘cross pro, a pro six-day racer, and a circus dancer.
Dedicatedly but unsure,
Although I am a dog person I can admire your passion for wanting to keep the relationship with your cats on the good side. I recommend getting a basket for the front of your bike so you can take them along on your training rides. They have nice ones now that you can take off very easily for race day. Your cats will have a greater appreciation for when you come home bonked and eat their catnip instead of putting it in their play toys. Lose your fun ride biking friends, the cats don’t like them anyway. With regard to the tough travel schedule of a pro, you should know that I hate cars, too. Most pros don’t even own cars, they ride to the races. If the race is further than six hours away they ride there the night before with their cats in the basket.
You can also save money on food by sharing canned tuna with your furry friends. They will be super stoked to be getting real tuna instead of those ground up horse hooves that are packaged as “cat tuna” and sold in that congealed oil that smells like last weekend’s barf bucket. After sitting in the basket all night as you pound through the rain and snow and ice, the cats will understand your need to have most of the can, as they will have personally seen how hard you have been riding.
Next advice, and this is a toughie: dump the Internet coach. The pro training regimen is pretty easy. Go as hard as you can in the first hour of your training, bonk, then limp around for another 4-7 hours. That’s what you need to make the break in all the big races, which will in turn get you noticed by the big pro teams. Plus, once you’re in the move, your break mates will share food and drinks, and they will give you cool tips “on the down low” about how to win that day.
Gotta have buddies to make it to the finish.
If you get dropped from the break, no need to worry, because bike racing isn’t just about winning. You can update everyone on Facebag, your blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and your Hairy Donkeysex app about how the energy drink or the energy bar made you sick because it wasn’t gluten free or vegan. Be sure to mention that you were the strongest guy in the break and you did the most work, and throw out some power numbers and maybe even a link to your Strava segment for the part where you were killing it the hardest just before you weren’t.
Back to diet, although I think the tuna has it covered, kale is overrated. I’ve actually raced on all sorts of dried dog food. It’s easier to find in bulk and you don’t need a Costco membership. Also, it’s more nutritious than most frozen vegan meals from Whole Foods, and lots cheaper. You’ll need to economize lots of things as a “firsty” (that’s what we call first year pros) if you want to hang onto that mortgage, and dog food is where most of us start. And finish.
With regard to massages, you won’t really be able to afford much more than the typical asphalt massage you’ll get your first few races, so stock up on Tegaderm. Since you are a cat person, you might try putting some of the catnip under your clothes on the area you want massaged. You get double the benefit, because the cats will knead the area and also give you free acupuncture. SO great for recovery, just make sure they haven’t been digging in the litter box because that shit gets under their nails and cat poop infections are nasty, literally.
‘Cross racing is easy. Do the same training as road, but by the time you bonk the race will be over, so you won’t need food. Your cats may not like the venue as they are typically louder than the epic local road race, if you can believe that there’s anything in this world louder than a couple of nervous housewives whispering prayers that their husband and sole breadwinner doesn’t go flying into the barriers.
Sixday racing will require you to fly, so you’re screwed. Plus at the Ghent velodrome they have a “no cats in baskets” sign right there at the entrance.
Circus dancing is better to think of later, once you retire from pro racing in a couple of months. You’ll have amazing stories of eating bad food and sleeping in places typically only used by farm animals, so they’ll bring you right in and probably give you a choice manger right next to the elephant stall, along with a 40-pound shovel. Plus the years of stretching you do as a bike rider will only help.
Yours in confidence,
I have noticed in races that there are dudes who go really hard at odd times. Then, there are other dudes who suck wheel all day and never seem to go hard. What is up with those wankers and how do I beat them?
As I’m fond of saying, there are only two kinds of people in a bike race: stupid strong, and stupid.
Just kidding. There’s a third kind, called “people who know what to do at the end of a race.” Generally that’s only three or four people, and I’m sure you’re one of them. Anyway, below is an anxiety graph that will help you understand.
Racing behavior among the stupid and the stupidly strong is driven exclusively by anxiety. Once you understand the scenarios in which riders are the most anxious, you will be able to exploit this weakness, unless you are the anxious one (likely) in which case you will be the exploitee. But on to the graph.
In the upper graph of the Blow-up Wanker, the top line represents his max potential effort. The bottom line shows his effort during the race. The farther away current effort is from max effort, the more anxious he becomes. In short, when the race feels “easy” he will attack, launch pointless breakaways, and squander his precious resources at the wrong time because he’s afraid the race hasn’t gotten hard, and therefore the decisive “winning” moment hasn’t arrived. He’s the guy drilling it at the front on Lap One, and coming in 54rd because he “didn’t want to get taken down by all those idiots in the field sprint.”
The shaded area shows that as his efforts get more intense, his anxiety decreases. He is only comfortable when deeply in the red, which always occurs at some random time and is unrelated to the dynamics of the race. He is the guy who always finishes the race/training ride/massage session and says, “That was the hardest one ever.”
In the lower graph of the Wheelsuck Wanker, the anxiety gap is reversed. It is only as the race gets harder that his anxiety increases because he associates hard efforts with getting dropped. Therefore, the Wheelsuck Wanker spends the entire race avoiding anything that might be more painful than his current state, including following or instigating the winning break, bridging, or max efforts with less than three laps to go. He is the guy who always finishes the race and says that it “wasn’t really that hard.”
In other words, you don’t need to do anything to “beat” them, as they will do that on their own.
Yours in confidence,