December 15, 2017 Comments Off on TUE for Tuesday
I read the sad news about Chrissy Frump’s adverse analytical finding which wasn’t a positive or a failed drug test and didn’t involve him breaking any rules but was more of a misunderstanding that requires further clarification to determine the complex, myriad factors that led to a non-doping violation positive potentially resulting in the loss of a grand tour title because of its non-dopingness.
In the meantime I did a lot of research about asthma and pro cyclists, which is another way of saying I typed in “cyclists asthma” and read the first three propaganda pieces churned out by Cycling News, which quickly interviewed a pro cyclist team doc (we’ll get the straight dope from him!) who explained that every pro cyclist is or should be an asthmatic and that the banned drugs wouldn’t help anyone perform anyway, certainly not by improving their breathing in an aerobic sport like … stage racing.
Anyway, after reading about how horrible cycling is for the lungs and that it is a gateway to asthma, I reflected on the past weekend’s upgrade race at our local parking lot crit, CBR. And now that I think about it, there were asthmatics everywhere. I don’t think you would see more pulmonary disease on an emphysema ward or in a West Virginia coal mine.
My own race, a Cat 2/3 upgrade event where people with nowhere to go in the sport of cycling beyond Suck Land pay money to get beaten again as they seek points rarer than the hammer that made the Ark of the Covenant, I realized that my inability to upgrade was a result of my lifelong asthma.
Unlike a lot of asthmas-come-lately, I had asthma from as early as junior high school. I remember wheezing and gasping horribly every time Mrs. Morcom handed out the Friday algebra test, and no amount of second-hand marijuana smoke inhaled in the bathrooms seemed to cure it. My asthma was crippling and led to an “F” which I had to make up in summer school in order graduate, which in turn led to even more asthmatic suffering that even more second-hand pot smoke (force inhaled) failed to cure.
It wasn’t until I began Serious Cycling at age eighteen that my asthma went away, but it was subcutaneous asthma, where it worked its invidious clogging of my lungs invisibly. To outsiders I appeared fit and quick and successful in a few shabby races and able to ride hundreds of miles a week, but inside I was a ruined asthmatic mess. Sometimes my asthma was so bad that when we hit a steep hill the only way I could get away from the pulmonary pain was by pedaling faster for an hour or two.
Anyway, as an older competitor it is clear that my asthma has prevented me from winning more races. Just the other day when Dave Holland was beating me in a time trial, I was on the verge of beating him but for the seven or eight asthmatic breaths that took almost a minute out of my finishing time. And in the hill climb, when everyone rode away from me, I would have beaten them had it not been for my asthma.
This played out again on Sunday at the upgrade race, where I was on the verge of winning except for my subcutaneous asthma. My only consolation is that everyone else in the race had asthma too, or if they didn’t, they would one day. In the meantime I’ll just send off my TUE for salbutamol with a sprinkle of EPO, HGH, and some Kayle Sauce, and keep my fingers crossed.
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December 12, 2017 Comments Off on Droopy McDongle
I think I am on record stating that bike racing is dumb and its practitioners somewhat dumber. I think I am on record that “world championship” masters bike racing on the track is especially dumb. You are 70. You beat one other person. You are not a world anything. You are a dude with a big belly who spends $700/month on an ex-Olympian coach and thousands more on the highest tech equipment available so you can ride faster (for a 70-year-old) for two kilometers than one other ancient fellow.
However, Sir Beater of One Other Person on Earth non-World Champion, you are only marginally more pathetic than the rest of us who race bikes. Why is this? Because there is no ridiculousness of which you’re guilty that the rest of us aren’t, too. You just can’t split hairs in a sport where people shave their legs.
And although it will be a long-away day before I recognize anything about the global significance of your accomplishments, I am more than willing — today — to respect your effort. And I respect every person who takes the time and effort to compete fairly. Competition is draining and requires preparation and intelligence, and much more of all those things if you are to be any good at it.
Sure, I think your faux world championship old fellow I-beat-one-other-dude-on-earth championship jersey is silly, but I have high regard for your effort. And that’s what bugs me about doping at the amateur level. And it’s what really bugs me about newly minted asshole Clayton Shepard, who won a couple of medals at masters worlds in LA a few months ago and then won a sanction from the UCI for being a provisional doper. It seems that Dr. Shepard (he’s a dentist) got a bit carried away and tested positive for GW501516, also known as GW-501, GW516, GW1516, GSK-516 and on the black market as Endurobol. It was invented in the 1990s and was abandoned because it caused cancer to develop rapidly in virtually all organs.
Not that rapidly developing cancer is important when you compare it to a fake world championship race for hobby bicyclist senior citizen dentists.
Anyway, here is how the race unfolded when Dr. Shepard came to race on the track at L.A. and went back to Minnesota crowned Champion of the Entire World of Men of a Certain Age Riding Bicyles, Namely 60-64 Except for Those Who are 59 but Turn 60 in 2017.
That is the link to the 60-64 worlds scratch race. The race is 30 laps, 7.5km. It starts at 4:58:56. One lap to get up to speed and then it’s game on. The perp, Clayton Shepard, is number 389. Mike Hines, a friend of mine and multiple champion, is 371.
Here is Shepard going from the gun and dragging a guy with him. Shepard pulls through too hard and gaps the guy out, who is aero AF to try to get back onto the wheel of this quickly moving cement wall. Shepard is casually looking across the track while pulling solo and checks to see how far he has to go to get around. Because when you are riding that fast on a velodrome you always want to gaze around. Maybe you might know one of the three people in the stands!
Here is Shepard after getting his lap and then riding straight through the field, at 30 mph, and going solo again, because why not? 30 mph is not that fast for a car.
And here is a nice view of him and his pot belly in his ultra-non-aero Sherman Tank position, riding solo as he boringly clocks out 31 mph laps. Trackies will tell you, as will all racers, that when you are riding solo and being chased by an entire field, an aerodynamic position doesn’t matter at all, and in fact, the bigger around you are the better the wind flow. Totally natural and normal. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Eventually Hines jumps across and catches Shepard as he is taking his second lap on the field. Unfortunately there is a crash at about ten laps to go, 5:04:00. Then they do a re-start for the last ten laps, and we have a break of four dudes, including Hines, who is the 2017 US national champion in the 2K IP, and who raced with distinction as a senior amateur (2nd at U.S. Crit Nationals), and has done hundreds of races in his successful career. Oh, he’s also a genetically gifted aerobic and anaerobic beast. Notably, Doc began racing in 2012 and has done less than 40 road races his entire life. Totally normal that he would go from pack finisher in Minnesota to ass-kicker in SoCal against tried and true racers.
They restart at 5:24:00 and give the four dudes in the break their gap, and so of course(!) Shepard goes straight to the front and drags the group around like some pro dog walker hauling around a bunch of scared puppies to take his second lap on the field and their first.Of course it still looks like he’s out on a coffee ride, a mere 31 mph, while all the rest are bleeding out of their ears and crouched down like beetles in a hurricane trying to hang onto the juggernaut from Minnetonka.
Doc Shep hasn’t quite mastered the art of faking a little bit of pain and effort to make it look less ridiculous (Cat 5 Provisionally Suspended Doper), though, because his breakmates are getting gapped with his beastly pulls, sitting up straight. Think that’s normal or natural or easy? Try it sometime! Hines is on the back, trying to stuff his organs back into his mouth.
Now they lap the field and Doc of course rides through the group again because there’s no one else in this race but him. Hines throws down hard and comes around Shepard with three to go, which is kind of a not an ideal move as his break companions get a free ride to the sprint. Hines leads out the last three laps; maybe he’s seen the writing on the syringe?
In the last lap Shepard puts away the coffee cup and powers past Hines, ho-hum, with a rider from Guyana passing Hines for second.
So who is this douchebag? Well, from his FB site, here he is fishing. I think I remember that training manual in Chris Carmichael’s early days, before he was sued for doping young athletes, “Bike Racing Conditioning through Pro Bass Shops.” Was this photo before he got on a program? Because now his legs are a block of muscle and mass, and as everyone knows, we gain muscle mass as we age due to greater levels of testosterone in our system and a more active endocrine system.
See? All you have to do is go fishing, yank a few teeth, and get a little older. You will get those legs, too!
And the obligatory FB page grab, https://www.facebook.com/clayton.shepard.7, doubtlessly edited by now as he demands a B sample and tries to explain how he’s a victim and blah blah blah low T tainted meat etc.
So far, there’s really nothing to this story. Doc Shepard appears to be a cheater. He appears to have cheated with drugs. And he appears to have been punished, at least provisionally. And of course I still appear not to care …
But I do. And what I care about are not the silly jerseys and the cheap medals (I tape my winning numbers to my front door, yo, both of them), but the disrespect. I’ve seen Mike Hines train and I’ve raced against him. He is very good. He works very hard. He takes no shortcuts. He has overcome horrendous injuries. He has won races in virtually every discipline in virtually every age category.
And some of this could be said about virtually anyone who’s pinned on a number for more than a couple of seasons. Maybe racing doesn’t make you a pro, but it makes you a whole lot more skilled on the bike than the rest of the people out there riding. And in my opinion, it’s the effort and commitment that deserves respect, regardless of what you think about the particular event and regardless of how you finish. No win is easy. No win is a gift. No win comes without going deep, either mentally or physically, and usually both. For a lot of people, just getting to the line is an odyssey.
Respect is important. It’s through riding and racing with people that you come to appreciate them. It’s through shared endeavors that you can put aside your differences long enough to agree on the rules and follow them; this is what breeds respect, and it’s why people who respect each other work so damned hard not to offend. It’s why respectful societies are less violent ones, more equitable ones. It’s why we agree to abide by the results.
Doc Douchebag takes the admitted absurdity of racing in your underwear, and through it he tarnishes the good character and earnest efforts of truly decent people. He takes the position of Vince Lombardi–that winning is the only thing, as big a lie as was ever told.
My hat’s off to every racer who competed, my hat’s off to every racer who won a heat or an event or a jersey, my hat’s off to people who cared enough about our silly sport to do it right, fairly, and with respect.
And my hat is especially off to the drug testers. Another one bites the dust.
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December 4, 2017 Comments Off on “Common” sense
We held the final stage in our club’s first ever Galactic Championship bicycle racing series on Saturday. The results were impressive: 52 out of 267 club members signed up to race. There were also a fair number of members racing cyclocross who couldn’t attend, so the total number of Big Orange Cycling members who pinned on a number was probably around 62 riders, a record in absolute numbers and in percentages (23%).
Below are the stage results and the overall:
Careful analysis indicates that I got my butt kicked. Hmmmm.
But there were some other things that, if you have any involvement with a bike racing club, might be useful lessons. Here were the main ones:
- The best way to get people to race is to provide your club members with intra-club races where they can experience racing in a safe, supportive, fun, educational, social atmosphere.
- Creating these racing opportunities is the only way to combat the divisiveness of “racer” and “non-racer” factions within a club.
- When the board supports and participates in this kind of event, most especially by board members themselves racing, members who have never raced will show up and try out racing. Nothing speaks to credibility in bike racing like racing your fuggin’ bike.
- Everyone loves it. First-time riders gain massive confidence, experienced riders have a blast and mentor others, and your club can have a series of social events organized around your club’s mission: bike racing.
- Many members in Big Orange don’t understand that we are a racing club; they think we are a social club that has racers rather than a racing club whose social events are organized around racing. This doesn’t mean everyone races or has to race. But it means that clubs continually reinforce their racing mission by giving people the opportunity to race. Whether they take the opportunity is their choice.
- Many members can be encouraged to race by having club races and by giving members the opportunity to first volunteer and “check it out.” I spoke with one member who was unaware that in a time trial riders went off one by one. I spoke with another new member, whose wife DID NOT KNOW that we are a racing club, and he wasn’t entirely sure about what that meant, either, other than he “didn’t want to do crits.”
- Shoot for at least one series a year, two if you can swing it.
- Have a format that lets people showcase very different skills. We did: 1k TT, hillclimb, 10-mile TT.
- Use formats that exceptionally safe, like TTs and hillclimbs.
- Don’t allow aero equipment! It will let everyone feel like they had a level playing and not that they were the losers in an arms race.
- Tell your new members explicitly that you are a racing club and that you will be encouraging them to race. Not hassling or pressuring, but encouraging through role modeling, education, and annual intra-club series opportunities.
- Most racing clubs have no problem recruiting non-racers. But your mission should be to give them the opportunity to race.
- I met so many people!!!!!
- Sponsors should be urged to show up and help out at club races. They will get to meet their customers, learn about bike racing, take pictures, and understand the value of their sponsorship.
- Set a number or percentage for members in 2018 to pin on a number. You’ll never hit a target you don’t aim for.
- Don’t be surprised if your event turns out to be the best bike racing you’ve ever done in your life.
Our event went off because board members Greg Leibert, Grey Seyranian, Don Wolfe, Michael Barraclough, and Geoff Loui signed off on it and raced. Patrick Noll did the timing and all of the organization. Kristie Fox brought food, put up tents and chairs, arranged catering, and helped with all aspects of organization. My wife Yasuko, and Jay Yoshizumi, took tons of great photos. Chris Gregory made killer winner necklace awards. Delia Park, Jodi, Jason, Lauri Barraclough, Stephanie Nowak, Mark Maxson, Kevin Salk, Andrew Nuckles, Tom Duong, One Stop Windows and Doors who donated their parking lot for the race, Greg Leibert, Connie Perez, and many people who controlled traffic at the chicane. And of course the wonderful party that Geoff Loui again hosted at his beautiful home put an amazing cap on a great race series.
Check out these these 200+ photos courtesy of Yasuko Davidson!
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December 2, 2017 Comments Off on Feeeeelings!
Many years ago, when this blog got underway, a true friend said this: “It’s good because it has a point of view. That’s what sets it apart.” He used to be the editor-in-chief of a major surfing magazine, and he knew about writing.
What he didn’t add was that “When you have a point of view, people will get their feelings hurt.” He needn’t have. I’ve been hurting feelings since I was old enough to talk.
When I blogged yesterday about what a bike racer is, and what a bike racer isn’t, it was like applying sandpaper to a sore rectum, and one of my subscribers made what he thought was the ultimate statement of disapproval by canceling his $2.99 monthly subscription. There’s a lot wrapped up in the idea that someone you’ve known for years can be so violently in disagreement that, unable to speak or write, the only way he can voice his anger is by withholding $2.99. Setting aside for a moment that people who use withholding money as a substitute for talking, especially when it concerns someone you know, the sad fact is that this person is one who loved hearing the truth until he felt like it concerned him personally. At that point he preferred something a bit less truthy.
“Satire is a mirror in which the reader sees every face but his own,” said Jonathan Swift, to which I’d add, “And when he does, he cancels his blog subscription.”
So I did what I always do. I emailed him a thank-you note for his long support and told him I was sorry to see him go. But what I didn’t tell him is that his petulance helped me a lot. It took me back to why I started writing this blog in the first place: To express my point of view. Not his, not hers, and not yours. Mine.
And as I considered that nugget and the friend who had encouraged it many years ago, I thought about what that point of view actually was. What is this blog really about?
The short answer is that it’s about cycling in the South Bay, but the add-on is this: And a lot of bike racing. This got me to wondering why the simple post of trying to define what a bike racer is pissed this poor guy off so utterly. The answer is a little bit complex.
A couple of months ago, before I walked away from #socmed, I noticed that my bike racing club didn’t have very many bike racers as compared to total club membership. I thought that was weird. Why would you join a club whose non-profit status is dependent on the mission of promoting and educating people about amateur bike racing, if you didn’t race, or want to race, or want to help other people race? What in the world about it could possibly be appealing?
So I looked around and noticed that my bike racing club was like almost every other bike racing club in Southern California. Lots of emphasis on “club,” not much emphasis on “racing.” And our club had more race entries than any other club in the state for the last two years running … and provides full, 100% race reimbursement no questions asked … and has a weekly racing newsletter … and mind-blowing discounts on clothes and equipment and bikes … and has a major physical presence at almost every race … and legendary weekly team training rides … and detailed race training plans … yet for all that, the actual number of people who pin on a number and go race is a minority of the membership.
The short answer is that even though bike racers look ridiculous and act ridiculous and are ridiculous, once you start riding a bike you realize that as ridiculous as they are, they are often the fastest people on the training ride. Or the group ride. Or the grand fondue. Or the local training crit. Or the fun ride. Or the coffee ride. Or wherever. And so you want to be like them, with this exception: You don’t want to actually race.
You want to wear racing clothes. Ride a racing bike. Do the faux group ride “races” and “race” on Strava. Memorize the “Velominati.” But that thing where you pin on a fuggin’ number and throw yourself into the middle of a bunch of aggro, fast-moving, win-at-all-cost nutjobs, risking death and catastrophic injury for the fantastic reward of 25th place or DNF or DFL? Uh, no thanks.
And just to be clear, that’s fine with me. There are as many ways to bike happiness as there are people on bikes. Bike racing isn’t for everyone, and these days it hardly seems to be for anyone. But regardless, a small cadre of people still do it, and another cadre of people still bust their butts to make the races happen. It’s a community and it includes lots of colorful characters, but the single most basic unit, the one that’s irreplaceable, is the nutjob willing to pin on the fuggin’ number, a/k/a the bike racer.
And just to be even more clear, I am glad when non-racers join our club. One day they may get inspired. One day they may help out at a race. Whatever they do, they’re often nice people, a little quirky, and fun to be around. The big tent is and should be open for everyone.
But it bothered me that relatively few people, people who seemed interested in racing, and people who posed and posted with all the accoutrements of bike racing, never raced. Were they anti-racing, or simply lacking a safe and encouraging environment in which to give it a shot? So, ripping off the very successful idea of our soul-sister-cum-competitor Velo Club La Grange, we did our own intraclub race series, and you know what? All hell broke loose, and it broke both ways.
The first wave of hell that shocked and stunned me was the extraordinary number of members who had never raced who, when given a free and safe and convenient and supportive venue, came out and raced their fuggin’ bikes. Most of them beat me like a rugbeater on a dusty carpet. All of them enjoyed the pre-race anxiety, the racing adrenaline, and the satisfaction of having done a real bike race. And the ones who didn’t race worked as volunteers, helping make the actual event happen. It’s amazing to think that members of a bike racing club would enjoy a bike race; almost as amazing as the thought that a bike racing club would actually put one on.
And let there be no bones about it, it was a club decision from the top down. Every single board member raced … how about that? And there were people who didn’t race, who didn’t want to race, but who showed up to help, because that’s the mission of the club: to promote bicycle racing. What could possibly make more sense and be less controversial than members of a bike racing club participating in, promoting, and assisting with an actual bike race?
Apparently, though, it rubbed at least one subscriber the wrong way. I’m not sure why; not being on #socmed anymore I’ve been spared all the details and have sniffed only the distant stench of the dust-em-up. But the bottom line is that somehow, by having your bike racing club put on a bike race and encouraging all bike race club members to race their bikes or help out, something elitist and exclusionary happened. Half of that I’ll agree with. If you didn’t want to help or enter or watch the bike race, you were pretty much excluded from it (by choice). But elitist? A free event open to everyone regardless of category, and a prohibition on all forms of high tech, expensive aero equipment? That’s elitist?
No, it’s not. It’s a bike racing club getting back to its roots at a time when this kind of thing couldn’t be more crucial if we are to survive. Because here’s the deal: If you don’t pin on a fuggin’ number and participate in an organized bike race, you ain’t a bike racer. You can wear the shit, ride the shit, and talk the shit, but you are not a bike racer, and you may be able to fool everyone at work and at home, but you ain’t fooling me.
Because words matter. The outside world may think we’re dopey, and you may think we’re dopey, but when Daniel Holloway drops in to ride with the locals, it’s awesome and you know it. When Fabian Cancellara shows up at Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica it’s a mob scene, and you know who’s taking all the selfies? The non-racers, that’s who! The ones who think racing is dumb, risky, a waste of time, and a waste of money swarm ol’ Fabian like flies on a big, stinking pile of, uh, honey.
So I thought about all this and decided to help people get their heads on straight about who was a bike racer and who wasn’t by writing yesterday’s post. It’s important because if you get to bask in the reflected glow of Holloway and Cancellara, if you get to “wink wink nod nod” imply that you’re a bike racer because you’re the group ride horseman, or because you just bought the coolest wheels ever, then you are ripping off everyone, especially yourself. What you’re also doing is missing a great opportunity. As our club races series showed, anyone can do a bike race. Bike racing isn’t complicated if you don’t want it to be. It can be safe and fun and done with zero fitness. If you think Fabian is cool enough for you to drool over, then trust me, you will get ten times more pleasure pinning on a number.
No one judges you because you don’t race. Every bike racer judges you for pretending to, but not.
Of course if it was just fakery and pretense I’d be down with it. This is SoCal, after all. But every person who pretends to be a bike racer and basks in the fake glory of looking and acting like one discourages other people from racing. If the payoff (and for some people, sadly, it is) is getting to preen and strut, but all you have to do is shop aggressively to earn the cred, then why bother to race?
Answer: People don’t.
The trend has become a toilet drain spiral, where there are actual groupings now called “concept” teams, where the sole purpose is to, for example, sell bicycle clothing. No need to race. No need to have a license. No need to do anything to be on a “concept racing team” other than buy into its “concept.” If you look the part, you’re in. But if you’re fat, slow, a little intimidated, but down inside really want to try out racing, well, tough. Because the concept team don’t need no racers, and it sure don’t need no fatties.
This is totally different from actual bike racing, which thrives on fatties, and is in fact filled with people who had significant weight problems but overcame them through training, diet, preparation, and a goal–the goal of racing. I could go through the list of current competitors who used to be morbidly obese who are now trim and fit and hard-charging bike racers. None of them would ever have made the “concept team.” So for each person who pretends or implies or suggests that they race because they, you know, associate with bike racers, there’s a counterpart who says “I’d like to race but why should I? These concept folks are way more popular and good looking and none of them seem to know anything about racing anyway.”
The fashionista elitism of non-racers is helping suck the life out of racing. Is the end of bike racing a bad thing? Of course not. Bike racing is as dumb today as it was when I started racing in 1984. If it’s going to die, let it. But don’t let it die because people who might otherwise have discovered its excitement and beauty were discouraged by the concept teamsters. Don’t let it die because 501(c)3 non-profit corporations dedicated to bike racing were too chicken-ass to encourage people to race. Don’t let it die because those who were engaged got subverted by those who couldn’t get out of bed early enough to train. And for fuck’s sake, don’t let it die because of Facebag and Strava.
What our club race series has shown (52 sign-ups for the 10-mile TT tomorrow, by the way) is that a whole bunch of people who belong to a bike racing club really do want to race their bikes, and that a whole bunch of non-bike racers are happy to come out and volunteer time and energy to make the racing happen. Give the bike racing people what they want, and let that dude who doesn’t care about this amazing sport cancel his $2.99 subscription, and kiss my ass goodbye.
December 1, 2017 Comments Off on Bike racer quiz
There has been a lot of confusion recently about what constitutes a bike racer. I’ve developed a self-evaluation form to help clear things up.
- I have participated in a sanctioned or otherwise organized bike race competing against other live, non-virtual human beings at the same time on the same day over the same course, in the last calendar year. YOU ARE A BIKE RACER.
- I have “Cat 1” on my racing license. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I have a really expensive racing bike. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I belong to a bike racing team. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I belong to bike racing club. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I belong to a “concept” bike team. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I used to be a bike racer. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I have the most badass social media bike racing presence imaginable. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I have more than a thousand followers on Strava. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I won a bunch of sanctioned races totally doped. YOU ARE FOR SURE A BIKE RACER.
- I took a bunch of Strava KOMs totally doped. YOU ARE STILL NOT A BIKE RACER, AND YOU ARE BEYOND PATHETIC.
- I am on the board of directors of a bike racing club. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I promote bike races. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I own a home. YOU ARE ALMOST CERTAINLY NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I win every group ride I’m on. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER AND NO, YOU DON’T.
- I sponsor a bike team. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I coach the most successful bike racers in the world. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER BUT YOU HAVE A GOOD CHINESE CONNECTION.
- Lance and I ride together in between court appearances. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER, AND NEITHER IS HE.
- My kid can kick your ass on the bike, and off it, too. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER, HE IS NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I am a bike lawyer. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
- I have a really popular blog about bike racing and lots of advertisers and I get more free schwag in a month for faux “reviews” than you have bought in the last ten years. YOU ARE STILL NOT A BIKE RACER, BUT CAN I HAVE SOME TIRES?
- My name is [Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Patrick Sercu, etc.]. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER. YOU ARE A DEITY.
November 24, 2017 Comments Off on The people speak
Since it’s the off season and no one, I mean no one, cares anything about cyclocross, the folks over at the UCI have come up with some fantastic ideas to reinvigorate and breathe life into the moldy old corpse of pro bike racing. Cycling in the South Bay showed this picture from the world championships to a cross-section of ordinary riders to get their opinions on pro cycling.
Snippy Turgerian, casual cyclist: “The Aryan gentleman on the left with the Hitler haircut who appears to be raising his right hand in some kind of salute is, um, interesting.”
Phoebe Flycatcher, mother of four who uses her bike for grocery shopping: “The fellow in the middle seems not to have learned that sticking out his tongue, and spitting, for that matter, are rude. But it can be cured.”
Blaze Corcoran, noted natty dresser: “Is this a world championship podium? It looks more like a Three Stooges candid. The fellow on the right needs a haircut and a subscription to Dollar Shave Club. Or maybe Two Dollar Shave Club. Yeeesh.”
Next, Cycling in the South Bay collected quotes from UCI management committee member Bob Stapleton and ran them by the average cyclist-in-the street to see how well the suits are connecting with the stinky lycras.
Stapleton: “If we can organize ourselves and work collectively across the different stakeholders across different elements of the value chain, that there is a lot of value that can be created, and we can free the sport of its historic rivalries that hold it back.”
Turkey O’Flanahan, noted cycling blogger: “Wow. That’s some pretty exciting meaningless mumbo jumbo! Can’t wait to go watch the prologue stage of the Tour de Nancy, or maybe a local parking lot crit!”
Stapleton: “People forget the attractiveness of the sport. There is no more dramatic or beautiful sport.”
Smedley Tunkins, bicycle commuter: “I’m not sure anorexia is all that attractive after the Karen Carpenter thing. But it is pretty dramatic to watch an alcoholic ex-doper screaming instructions into a microphone so his robot can follow the computer data to bring back a break. And by the way, what’s beautiful about falling off a bicycle?”
Stapleton: “Other sports that have used technology or revisited their format are prospering and we’re a little stagnant.”
Yvgenie O’Toole, amateur electrician. “Stagnant? Did he miss Fabian’s bike motor to win Flanders? And don’t cyclists have the best drug cocktails? We’re cutting edge. Always have been.”
Stapleton: “We have very little improvement in the economics for the large majority of riders. We have a lot of women who aren’t paid at all.”
Suzy Scathers, unpaid Pro Tour woman cyclist. “He says that as if finding the solution to not paying women is some kind of complex mystery.”
Stapleton: “The Tour of California is the absolute jewel of American racing. American teams need to have access to an event like that.”
Pooky McDoodle, Cat 4 crit boss. “I couldn’t agree more. Our team sponsor, Flubber’s Rubbers, would be so stoked to have us race the Tour of California. And I should add, we deserve a slot.”
Stapleton: “Europe is different from America, and America is different from Asia and Africa, we need to be mindful of that.”
Sanford Watlington III, Professor of International Relations, Harvard University: “Can we get this guy to be an adviser to the President, and have him repeat this sentence four or five times a day, slowly?”
Stapleton: “I think there is more that we can do in terms of … anti-doping …”
Wang Xing-Wen, Chinese pharmacist: “Hahahahaha!”
November 23, 2017 Comments Off on Cheating?
Every time I buy a new bike it’s a little lighter than the last one. Paying for less carbon? Who’d a thought?
The exercise of bicycle upgrading, because it’s always an upgrade, lends itself to a disturbing question. Is it cheating?
Upgrades mean buying speed that people with less money can’t afford. It doesn’t make me better intrinsically, just (a tiny bit) faster. What’s the difference between buying that kind of speed and buying drugs to go faster? A friend here in the South Bay has an 8-lb. bike and he goes uphill very quickly. When you’re on his wheel gasping for air, it’s hard not to wonder why you shouldn’t cover the differential with drugs or a motor. Is there an ethical difference?
A guy I have a lot of respect for, an F8U fighter pilot who now competes in the “mature” 85-89 tri-dork category, emphatically says there is. “Yes, there is an ethical difference. We have rules for competition and WADA has a list of substances and methods that are prohibited.” He adds, “In parallel we have rules for bicycle technology.”
His argument is that fair competition is what’s in the rules. Follow them and you’re playing fair. Issues of price and cost and wealth? Why stop there? In order to have a truly level playing field we’d have to also consider limits on training so that people with greater financial constraints who have to work longer hours aren’t handicapped vis-a-vis the wealthy semi-retiree.
The problem of course is that he’s limiting the discussion to organized competitions that follow the WADA code. Our local group rides, as far as I know … don’t.
I don’t agree that the issue of buying faster stuff or using drugs is one to be decided by rules. I think the resolution lies with what each person is trying to do within the context of the activity. For example, even though there are no rules against it, using Viagra to enhance sexual performance doesn’t appeal to me. What my body is capable of, or not capable of, is enough. If the other person is unhappy, well, she has options that, as the Bob Seger song says, “Don’t include me.”
Although I’m not 85, I have been racing sanctioned road races for the entirety of my adult life, have been first a (very) few times, and have seen that rules don’t provide much guidance. They have always been broken with impunity and easily so, and now they are rendered meaningless by available drug and equipment technology, all easily concealed, or worse, allowed by the rules.
So the question is “What are you in it for?” Simply speed? Or simply going faster than the next person? Neither of those is simple.
I see zero difference between drugs and expensive equipment and private coaching and trust funds and motors in the daily riding of a bicycle. They are all means to an end and they are justified or ruled out according to the end.
In my case the end is silly and, while not simple, not terribly complex either: I want to beat as many people as I can in sanctioned road racing regardless of age or gender using moderately light equipment, electric motors in the form of an e-transmission, healthy diet, about ten hours of riding a week, experience, cunning, and skill. Those last six things receive more than 99 percent of my time and money. They are available to almost anyone, and the cunning/skill departments are still in vast need of improvement.
For me, the benefit to racing is intrinsic and therefore it depends on intrinsic qualities. How tough? How smart? How quick the recovery? How well did you assess the course and the competition? It is sad and empty when any part of my race, or for that matter my ride, boils down to whether or not I tinkered with or purchased a particular piece of equipment. Hence time trialing isn’t really bike racing, at least to me. It’s a complex computation combined with a complex purchasing matrix, with a big dollop of fitness on top. The drama of “machine against the clock” died a long time ago, and aero equipment hasn’t revived it. More and more, it has come to resemble motor sports, where the machine plays a much greater role than the meatbag piloting it.
In my lifetime of racing, this opinion has been the minority view. Most people compete in order to win and that is all. Not winning, more than anything else, is why people quit racing, or why they migrate into categories/events where they “stand a chance of winning.” Absent the victory or at least its promise, racing holds nothing for them intrinsically. Strava and its categories reflect this desire perfectly. I only know a handful of people road racing today who were doing it when I started, although there seems to be no shortage of people who hop in for a season or two until they realize that the ceiling is low and it will never raise much at all.
I accept that people use a completely different recipe and often wholly different ingredients. Some of those people I still beat no matter what the cocktail. Others are far beyond my reach. Still others never were within it. Consumerism and the economics behind developing and selling technology, as well as the amplification of “success” on social media continue the trend of emphasizing the external and demeaning the intrinsic. You can always post a photo of a trick bike, but it’s much harder to capture the satisfaction at finishing 25th in a mind-bendingly tough road race.
My best equipment … wasn’t equipment.
And my best wins … weren’t wins.