November 23, 2014 § 5 Comments
I know some dudes who are great racers and some other dudes who are great trainers but they’re not usually the same. F’rinstance, there’s a bunch of dudes who are killing it in October and November on the group rides and the dudes who win all the races are at the back or off the back, and then later in the year the training beasts aren’t doing so hot and the racing dudes are smashing everyone’s face in. What’s up with that?
Racing and training are different. I’ve broken it down for you below.
1. Training: You get to stop when you’re tired and then start again after a latte, a potty break, and a chat with your pals.
Racing: You get to stop once, at the end, or when you fall off your bicycle, which then becomes the end.
2. Training: Looks matter.
Racing: Legs matter.
3. Training: Everyone’s a winner.
Racing: There is only one winner. And it’s not you.
4. Training: Your buddies help you.
Racing: Everyone tries to kill you, especially your buddies.
5. Training: Mileage matters.
Racing: Winning matters.
6. Training: Strava matters.
Racing: Winning matters.
7. Training: The best rider doesn’t always finish.
Racing: The fastest rider always wins. [Note: I’ve said this before and been ridiculed. Now re-read it and STFU, unless it’s one of those races where the winner crosses the line last.]
8. Training: You can tell your wife you killed it.
Racing: Results are posted on USA Cycling.
9. Training: You can’t lose a training ride.
Racing: You can lose a race, and you will.
10. Training: Respect is earned by showing up, shit-talking, wearing a fancy kit, riding at the front, blogging, buying lunch for others, etc.
Racing: Respect is earned by winning.
11. Training: You might be able to hang with Daniel Holloway, Mark Cavendish, or Taylor Phinney on a winter SoCal training ride.
Racing: I don’t need to say this one, do I?
Hope this helps.
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November 20, 2014 § 7 Comments
Our team leader sent us all a link to an article about how to improve our crit racing. Here’s the link.
Now, our team leader knows what he’s talking about because he’s won a ton of big crits, so it makes sense that he would send us advice about how we can win, too. Unfortunately, his optimism is clouded by the massive cumulonimbus of reality. The only people who are ever going to win crits are the ones who already win crits. Instead, I wish he would have sent us an article about crit strategies for people who are hopeless and who have zero chance of ever crossing the line first.
I googled “tips for hopeless crit racing wankers” and got no hits except for a profile on some dude named Chris Lotts. So I thought I would type up some hopeless wanker crit racing tips and share them with you, because let’s face it, you ain’t ever gonna fuggin’ win a crit. Ever.
- Don’t fuggin’ crash. This is the number one rule for crit racing. If you’re a winner, you will sometimes fall off your bicycle because you have to take risks, bang bars, check timber, and see who’s testosterone is the stinkiest. Everyone else doesn’t have a fuggin’ chance, especially you, so don’t go home with your nuts covered in road rash. When you have to choose between taking the aggressive line or falling back 30 places, you sure as fugg better cower, brake, and give way. “How come your balls are all skinned up?” is not the question you want to have to answer when you get home.
- Don’t fuggin’ sprint. Are you in the top five coming through the last turn? Of course not! You’re a fat fuggin’ wanker who’s lucky to be in 65th place with his epidermis intact. Sit the fugg up and coast. Let the other knuckleheads battle it out for 64th place, ’cause one of them is going down. On his face. And his name is Prez.
- Don’t fuggin’ attack. You know who attacks? Winners, that’s who. Chubby, stub-legged wankers on $10k bikes are not going off the front for more than 10 yards, and if they do it’s on Lap 3. Go to the fuggin’ back of the bus where you belong. Even if you did get into a break, you’d be shelled. Instantly. Save your energy for the Internet chat forums after the race where your handle is “CritStud” and nobody fuggin’ knows you’re a greasy-fingered Cheetos addict with a saggy ass and a Cat 5 racing license.
- Don’t fuggin’ wait. You know the idiot who burns all his matches drilling it at the front in the first four laps? Sure you do, because that idiot is YOU. Let’s face it, when the screws get turned on the last five laps you’ll be so far back that your girlfriend will need a fuggin’ telescope to see your saggy ass. So, the time to do the glory pull is NOW. Early and often, then sink to the rear and soft pedal. All you need to be able to say is “Didja see me?” and get a cool head-of-the-field glory shot by Danny Munson or Phil Beckman. Fuggin’ winning.
- Panic like a motherfugger. When the race starts you should already have crapped four times and be nervouser than a tuna fish at a sushi cooking class. Veer like a crazyfugg from right to left, bounce off other racers like a pinball, charge the fuggin’ inside line on crowded, tight turns, and scream at everyone like you’ve got Ebola and can’t wait to share it. It’s the only way you’ll move up. To 55th.
- Complain about the fuggin’ prize list. So what if you finished 84th? Let the fuggin’ cheapass promoter know that if he’d been giving out hundred dollar bills instead of old socks you would have lapped the field. If he’s giving out hundred dollar bills tell him he’s a sellout fugghead for commercializing our pure sport and you finished 98th as a protest. If he punches you in the face it’s because you fuggin’ deserved it.
- Tell the officials they fuggin’ suck. Even a genius like you can’t win when the game’s rigged, and the game-riggers are the fuggin’ cheatfugg officials. Tell ‘em! Remind the zebras about how when you rode bandit in the Ol’ Scratchynuts Century where there were NO fuggin’ USA Cycling officials, you finished in the money, and her name was Zelda.
- Make the winners fear your fuggin’ gap. So what if you corner like a battleship with a broken rudder? There’s no reason the winners should benefit from that. Hustle towards the front and do your patented full-brake-plus-gap-out pedal stroke into the turn, opening up 12 bike lengths that everyone else has to sprint around. Are they mad? Do they yell and bitch? Does it make them tired? Sucks to be them, fuggers.
- Bounce your fuggin’ check. The d-bags promoting your event don’t deserve to eat, so always pay for your race with a bad check. They’ll never turn it over to the D.A., and the joke’s on them for taking money from a guy like you with road rash on his nuts anyway. It’s more fun than banditing a century, because the promoter has to pay a bad check fee to boot. Sucks to be him, fugger!
- Piss in the fuggin’ bushes. Just because the fuggin’ maroon promoter paid to have 15 port-o-potties doesn’t mean you have to use them. Whip out Mr. Business when the bag is full and whizz anywhere you want, especially if it’s near little kids or first time wives who’ve come to see their man race. If they think it’s a family affair, they got another think coming, especially when they see what a big ol’ handful of veined-up purplish manly wood looks like while they’re feeding animal crackers to the kids and grandma.
Anyway, I hope this helps all you aspiring crit racers out there. Good luck!
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November 18, 2014 § 17 Comments
As we settled into our lawn chairs around the blazing fire, one of our guests from the previous night appeared. She was not in Hecklebitch’s contingent, and so we welcomed her. After a couple of beers, she started to cry. “You can’t believe what Cora’s had to go through,” she said.
We sipped on our beer. She sobbed some more. Then T-Dub said, “Uh, who’s Cora?”
“She’s the transgender racer who raced with the women today.”
We looked at each other. “You mean that dude down at your camp site?”
“Cora is not a dude!” said Tammy. “She is a woman!”
We sipped on our beer some more and no one said anything. Three old guys who just finished recovering from a bad race and a worse hangover who are chilling around a campfire after a good dinner usually have a hard time getting it up for a meaty discussion on gender politics. Rob sighed and tried.
“So, what did Cora have to go through?” he asked.
“Some of the other women are complaining about her, claiming that it’s unfair for them to have to race against a man,” said Tammy.
“They kind of have a point,” said Mike, which sent Tammy off onto another crying jag.
“But she’s a woman!” wailed Tammy.
“Is she?” I asked.
“Of course she is! She’s taking all of the treatments!”
This was clearly one of those deals where our desire to slowly get plastered was going to be thwarted by arguing about whether or not Cora was a he or a she. “Tell her to come on over and have a beer with us,” I offered.
“This isn’t about beer!” wailed Tammy some more.
By now it was pitch dark, and it looked like we were in for the night from hell. I’d been mercilessly heckled. I’d finished DFL. I had the slowest lap of the day except for a kid in the 12-year old boys’ race. My new drunk hadn’t completely chased away my old hangover. My legs, neck, and shoulders hurt, along with my internal organs and most of my skin. And now we were stuck with someone who wanted us to argue about something that didn’t really matter to us. We were just guys having a beer.
And then magic happened. Someone said, “Well, we’re dudes racing in the dude division, so I guess you girls will have to work it out yourselves,” and Tammy ran off, sobbing.
After a few moments of silence, people began wandering over to our campfire, and by “people” I mean two beautiful women, and one of them sat next to me. Now, when you are an aged, wrinkly, stinky old dude who hasn’t bathed for two days after a hard race in the dirt, and you’re still wearing the same crusty underwear from Thursday, and you haven’t brushed your teeth, cleaned your ears, or combed the food out of your beard for 48 hours, the last thing in the world you expect is to have two beautiful women join your campfire. Hecklebitch, sure. These two? Nooooooo way.
So we all perked right up and thanked dog that it was too dark for them to see us properly. In addition to bringing themselves, which was gift enough, they also brought beer, good beer, which we swilled right away. As things started getting better and friendlier, the cute blonde next to me reached into her coat pocket and brought out a bottle of Fireball, a delicate mixture of cinnamon, gasoline, sulfuric acid, and whiskey. “Last time I drank this shit, someone got married,” muttered Mike as the sledgehammer started to hit.
Then a couple of guys came up to our fire. “Hey,” said the tall one, “can you give us some firewood?”
We only had a few logs left, perhaps enough to last past midnight, and we’d had to fork out good money and carefully tend our fire all night long. “Fuck no,” I said, “but pull up a chair and you can have a beer.”
“Thanks,” said Tallboy, and they sat down.
This was the mistake of the night. He took a swig of beer and began to brag, but not before telling the lovely brunette that “psychology is crap.” She was training to be one, of course.
When Blondie told him she used musical therapy to work with disturbed children and adults, he informed her that that, too was “crap.” In other words, he knew everything, which was impressive since he was only 21 and a chemical engineering student at Cal Poly there in SLO. He was camping for the weekend with some friends and they had obviously run him out of their campsite due to his incredible talents as an instant buzzkill.
The one thing he hadn’t learned much about in engineering class, though, was ‘cross racing, and in particular about aged, wrinkly ‘cross racers with crusty underwear who had just gotten through a conversation about gender equality, three cases of IPA, most of a bottle of rotgut, and were very focused on talking to pretty women. Within ten minutes he had done the unthinkable: Thanks to him, our women got up and left. Our two other guests left. Mike the cop had wandered off to retrieve his spare wheels from the pit and to keep from busting Tallboy in the face.
A brief pause ensued as Tallboy gathered his breath to tell us more about how much money he had, about how smart he was, and about all of his worldly success. “Son,” I said, “hold that next thought, would you?”
“Sure,” he said. Our voices carried over the entire campground, and people were listening.
“Because I want to tell you that you are the most obnoxious, arrogant little fuck I’ve ever met.”
“Yeah. You come to our campsite. You drink our fuggin’ beer. You insult three old dudes, one of whom’s a cop, the other works for the power company, and the other is a former middleweight boxer. You run off our fuggin’ women. So you know what happens next?”
“If you were my son, I’d hang my head in shame and ask you to change your last name. But since you aren’t, someone, probably the ex-boxer there, is probably gonna get up and knock out all your fuggin’ teeth.”
Tallboy stood up, his lower lip quivering. “I don’t like the way this conversation is going,” he said, as he strode off into the darkness.
“We didn’t like the way it started, asshole!” someone shouted after him.
The campground’s silence was broken by the sound of muffled laughter coming from various tables, benches, and tents. After five or ten minutes, people began appearing out of the darkness, laughing and pulling up a chair. Miracle of miracles, our two beauties returned as well.
As the fire died down to its embers and the Fireball whiskey burned down to our entrails, we looked up at the stars and beheld the brilliance of the Milky Way. “This ‘cross racing,” said Mike, “is pretty darned good.”
No one disagreed.
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November 17, 2014 § 7 Comments
It’s been scientifically demonstrated that when a group of strangers assembles around a blazing campfire in the wilderness surrounded by unlimited beer the evening will result in fisticuffs, fucking, a mind bending hangover, or, if you’re super lucky, all three. Mike and I only achieved the hangover part, and we staggered out of the camper the next morning wildly looking for the water bottle and, on the off chance we might find it and kill it, the cat that had spend the night crapping in our mouths.
“Dude,” I said.
“No beer for me the rest of the weekend. I feel terrible. It’s gonna take a couple of days to recover from that.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I’m done drinking, too.”
We glanced over the embankment to see what had become of our campfire teammates, and they were even worse off than we were. You know that slow staggering zombie gait, half bent-over, that people use the morning after a night that ends with no one even looking anymore at the label on the bottle? Their whole campsite looked like it had been occupied by the zombie apocalypse.
The blonde girl who had spent the night shouting at us and complaining that she “couldn’t understand it why no guy would stay with her for more than a year” was trying to get the zombie campers down to the race course because it had dawned on them that in an hour or so they would all be required to engage their hangover muscles in a vicious, relentless pain fest around the worst ‘cross course ever designed by someone who hates bicycles. Then memory fragments of the previous night came trickling back like pus from a freshly lanced infection.
“What time are you racing?” I had asked the blonde girl, who had looked like she was about thirty.
“I fucking hate bike racing,” she snarled.
“Did you notice you were at a bike race with a bunch of bike racers?”
“You don’t look like a bike racer,” she said, staring at my stomach.
“Good point,” I conceded. “So what are you doing here?”
“I’m the team heckler.”
“The team heckler. I’m the best fucking ‘cross heckler in NorCal and my team takes me everywhere to heckle.”
“You do kind of have a loud voice,” I offered, reflecting on her noisy, grating, and jarring manner of speaking.
“Shut up and keep drinking,” she said, so I did.
Thankfully my race didn’t start until noon, and Hecklebitch and the Zombies (I think they’re also a garage punk band) had gone down to do the women’s race. Mike and I ate several plates of dirt to keep the Gatorade down, cleaned our already clean bikes, and rolled down to the course.
Once there we did what everyone at every cyclocross race does; which is to say we began asking people about tire pressure. In ‘cross it’s all about tire pressure, and even though you run the same TP virtually every race, it’s terribly important to talk about it. At the sign-in table, which was a quarter-mile away from the opposite end of the course, we heard a terrible howling sound, like what you would hear if someone were trying to warn someone about a bank robbery, or if their child had been stolen, or if their balls had been sauteed and drained with a hundred safety pin punctures. It was a yammering, screaming, banshee of a yowl, and despite the distance it made our skin crawl.
“Who’s being tortured?” I asked.
The sign-in gal shook her head. “I don’t know, but it’s been going on all morning.”
“We’d better go take a look and kill it.”
“Kill what?” she asked.
“The poor animal that’s caught in the steel trap. That’s the only thing that could howl so miserably.”
Mike and I pinned on our numbers, asked a few more people about tire pressure and ignored their responses, and then did the only other mandatory thing that you have to do at a ‘cross race. It goes like this. “Hey dude,” you say to a bystander, “is the course open for a pre-ride?”
“No. There’s a race going on. The course is now closed.”
“Okay, thanks.” Then you go to a spot where no one is looking and hop onto the course. We did, and our punishment was immediate. The SLO ‘cross course had been laid out by a blind person. Not the usual blind person who does ‘cross races, but the blind person who, before beginning the all-day job of marking the course with with twelve miles of tape, begins the job with the tools of the trade (hammer, PVC pipe, steel spikes, and post-hole digger) as well as twelve cases of light beer.
This means that after about a quarter of the way through the course the blind dude with the hammer is himself hopelessly hammered, and the course becomes a mishmash of what you’d expect to see after several cases of beer in the hot sun: A fog of senselessly twisted barrier tape.
The course had a turn every twenty or thirty feet, which, of all the weaknesses in my ‘cross skill set, and there are about 3,350 of them, played to the weakest weakness of all — my inability to turn a bicycle. As we pre-rode the course, gradually approaching the backside, the banshee screaming increased and sounded more horrible, until we hit the small series of uphill turns that were pleasantly lined with massive gopher holes that ate your front wheel whole and jarred your bones so hard that it felt like your testicles would jounce out of their sack.
I checked my service revolver so that I could quickly shoot the trapped animal until we saw that it wasn’t a trapped animal at all, rather it was Hecklebitch. The noise was deafening. She had built her own heckling bell contraption, two thick pieces of metal that had giant steel cans welded to them. She would clang the cans together and it was so frightening that your first urge was to crap, your second to run away. Accompanied by a howling yell to “Pedal your ass faster!” and “Get at it, goddammit!” it was scary enough.
But what was truly beyond the pale was Hecklebitch’s incredible physical strength. Standing between the lanes on the sharp uphill section of the course, she would run parallel to her riders and scream at them while clanging the crazy cans of hell. Clanging the crazy cans took amazing Amazon strength, but doing that while repeatedly running a 4-minute uphill mile over a vale of gopher-style sinkholes and screaming like a drill sergeant easily made her the fittest person at the event.
To top it off she was dressed in black yoga pants and wearing a huge black floppy hat that obscured everything except her beady, red crazy eyes so that you actually thought hell had opened its gates and let out its worst denizen to suck your blood and eat you for lunch if you didn’t “Pedal faster, goddammit!”
And her teammates did in fact pedal faster; by the look on their faces it was evident that she was the best legal performance enhancer anyone in the race had.
“I’m not surprised she has trouble keeping a guy for more than a year,” said Mike.
“I’m surprised she’s ever kept one for more than a day,” I agreed. “If only because it probably takes her a full day to eat them.”
My race began and I attacked off the back, figuring I would catch everyone on the final lap and pass them in the beer tent. This course was so terrible that my technique of brake-hard-in-the-middle-of-the-turn-while-taking-the-widest-line put me way, way OTB. This was good because it meant I didn’t have to worry about being near any other pesky riders, but it was bad because my conspicuousness brought me to the attention of Hecklebitch.
By now she had been yelling and running and clanging nonstop for hours, and she was worked up into a frothy, sweating rage, making her earlier exhortations look like the peeping of mice. “Pedal your fucking bike you lazy, candy-assed sandbagging sonofabitch!” she cursed as I casually pedaled by combing my hair.
Unfortunately the taping meant I had to go back and forth like in a queue at Disneyland, passing her five or six times before advancing down the course. With each passing her rage mounted, and her teammates, who had finished, joined her in a knot of screaming abusers. They were so amazed at my slowness and apparent lack of effort that they reached new heights in insults and abuse, many of which were inventive and funny to everyone except me.
“Hashtag don’twannasweat!” screamed one.
“Hashtag don’tgetmyglassesdirty!” howled another.
“Hashtag allsmacknosack!” roared Hecklebitch.
As the abuse got more intense I began to fume, until on the third lap as they took their collective breath to heap additional insults on my head, I slipped in “Hashtag whycan’tIkeepaguyformorethanone year, and Hashtag becauseI’mbatshitcrazy.”
That shut up the entire heckling section for one full lap, but their lusty insults had provoked such amusement that a small clot of other hecklers had formed farther up. One guy kept yelling, “It will go faster if you pedal it!” until the final lap he offered up the worst insult ever as I rode by — because it was so sincere. “Quit sandbagging!” he said. Then he said “Hey, dude you’re just warming up, aren’t you? Sorry for all the heckling.”
By then I was moments away from being lapped and getting to beer early.
After the races were done for the day we regrouped at the campsite with T-Dub and Rob only to realize that we’d forgotten about our morning hangover, we’d forgotten our promise to stay sober, and most importantly we’d forgotten to re-provision the beer and wood for the campfire.
We jumped into T-Dub’s minivan. “This is a great bike race car,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “but it’s not so hot when you’re meeting a chick for the first time who you met on Match.com.”
In SLO we drove around looking for cold beer and toured the city’s main attraction, a couple of walls down a narrow alley that were covered in chewing gum. Apparently people chew their gum and stick it to the wall so in addition to being nasty it is really, really nasty. “Do they have a booger wall here, too?” I asked.
No one answered because we had found the liquor store.
Back at the campsite we ate dinner, stoked the fire, settled into our chairs, and expressed our gratitude that Hecklebitch and the Zombies had gotten butthurt by my hashtag comment. As night closed in, a different group of crazy people began to trickle in, lured by the warmth of the flames and the enticement of free beer.
And shortly thereafter shit got, as they say, real. Very, very real.
November 15, 2014 § 6 Comments
I knew it was going to be a great weekend of ‘cross racing when we saw the straw drummer. Mike and I were standing in line at the Starbucks and an older dude was sitting at his table holding big green straws in each hand and a straw in the crook of each elbow.
With his earphones in, grooving to the beat, he drummed the air with his drinking straws, flipping them like drumsticks and catching them again in his elbow and mouth. He was skilled but clearly insane, just like a ‘cross racer. Unlike a ‘cross racer, however, it was before noon and he wasn’t obviously drunk.
As Mike pointed the RV north to San Luis Obispo, we took inventory. “Beer?” I asked.
“Six cases. So we’re covered for tonight.”
“They’ll have that at the race.”
Knowing that we were fully provisioned I relaxed as we powered up the 101. Three hours later we got to El Chorro Regional Park where they were setting up the course.
After being cooped up in the RV we were champing at the bit to ride. I kitted up and raced over the dirt wall behind our campsite. On the other side a nice fellow had just finished setting up his tent, which he had inconveniently placed immediately in front of my bike. Due to his poor placement, I was forced to ride over his tent.
He was kind of upset as we untangled his sleeping bag and camp stove from my derailleur, but I explained to him that if he had not put his tent in the way of my bike it wouldn’t have happened and plus now he had a new rear entrance to his tent which would improve airflow.
Mike and I rode for twenty minutes around the course then returned to camp, exhausted by the hard workout and ready for a big meal. Mike threw together an awesome mountain of pasta and meat sauce, sourdough slathered in butter, potato chips, Oreos, and beer.
As our campfire blazed and the temperature dropped, all the neighboring ‘crossers, thirsty and cold, gathered to the flames like moths. After nine hours all the beer was gone and the ‘crossers from Oakland were getting restless. I know this because the tall blonde was picking up the empties and draining the last drops of beer and Ebola spit from them.
When she finally reached for my beer I was afraid things would get ugly and then magically the SPY crew of Jim, Aden, and Vic showed up with six fresh cases. The natives all relaxed and the tall blonde took her hands off of my throat and we were all friends again.
Sometime much later the fire had died, the bottles were empty, and Mike was starting to look pretty cute. We climbed into the RV and were soon snoring the sleep of the dead.
There might be a better way to prep for a ‘cross race, but I don’t want to know what it is.
November 8, 2014 § 6 Comments
This post is directed only to people in Southern California who meet one of the following requirements:
- You have a racing license.
- You have a fancy road bike, in which fancy > $1,500.
- You have a cyclocross bike.
- You have at least one Strava KOM.
- You troll Facebook on Sunday afternoon to find out the local race results.
- You follow professional race results.
- You have a power meter.
- You know what “WKO+” is.
- You like to “mix it up” on group rides.
- You have recurring fantasies of riding Merckx off your wheel high in the Alps, with your sixth consecutive Tour victory on the line.
If any of the above applies to you, please take note that on Sunday you will have 2 (two) opportunities (Möglichkeiten) to actualize your inner Walter Mitty in an actual bike race. These 2 (two) opportunities (Möglichkeiten) are outlined in detail below.
Möglichkeit A: Udo SPYclocross
This race has everything. If you’ve never raced cyclocross before, or if you haven’t yet gotten your feet wet this season, no race on the calendar is better than this one. In addition to fantastic organization, a challenging course, and the state’s best competition, Lake Hodges is a bottle’s throw from some of the best breweries in America. Cyclocross, because it’s bike racing, is hard. But it’s also fun — there are actual crowds, they actually cheer for (or at) you, and the only attitude is the attitude of “let’s have fun, and let’s race.”
Udo Heinz, to whom the race is dedicated, was struck and killed by a bus on Camp Pendleton almost two years ago. Udo was the epitome of a good rider. He tirelessly worked to organize and execute the best ‘cross races on the calendar, he was a safe and considerate cyclist who always looked out for the other guy, and he was the kind of person to whom others turned for help and advice.
If you have never raced ‘cross before, make November 9, 2014, your first race. It won’t be your last.
Möglichkeit B: SPY Upgrade Crit p/b CBR & Chris Lotts & Vera!
So let’s say that you don’t have a ‘cross bike or don’t know anyone who has one, which, frankly, is complete bullshit. But let’s say that we accept your bullshit because we’re friends and that’s what friends do. I know for a fact that you want to race your bike, deep down you really do — and there’s no safer, better place to do it than in one of Chris & Vera’s upgrade races. The race will go off on time. Bullshit dangerous riding will not be tolerated. Winners and near-winners will be glorified on a podium, and you will have the satisfaction of having actually raced your bike.
Well, there’s actually a third option for Sunday: Pull on your fancy riding outfit, wheel out your fancy racing bicycle, and pal around with your buddies at the coffee shop talking about how you wish there were more race opportunities in SoCal. See you there. At the race!
November 3, 2014 § 40 Comments
I was reading about the overthrow of the government in Burkina Faso, the collapse of the economy in Ukraine, the stagflation threatening the EU, the corruption and totalitarianism of the new Russian oligarchy, the spread of Ebola, the implosion of international cooperation on reducing carbon emissions, the hegemony of ISIS, the widening gap between rich and poor in America, the radioactive contamination of the seas by the still-burning Fukushima reactors, when a truly important news item caught my eye: SCNCA has eliminated the 35+ masters racing category for 2015.
After careful analysis, it appears that 29 or even 36 racers will be affected by this calamity, and so I dropped everything to find out what was going on.
The gist of the decision-making process was this: The 35+ category has fewer and fewer participants, so it will be zapped. The new masters categories in SoCal will be 40+, 50+, and 60+. Everyone under 40 will have to race his category, which for a number of racers is extremely uncomfortable, as their license reads “Cat 1.” What was previously a winning hand in the mick deasuring world of amateur cycling has now become a terrible liability for riders whose license says “awesome sauce” but whose race selection says “older fellow with leaky prostate.”
Who’s to blame?
The first people to blame are the promoters, because they are the ones least responsible. Just like poor people are blamed for their criminality because they’re the ones most often arrested, race promoters are to blame for declining race participation because fewer people sign up for their races.
When I think back to the halcyon days of 1982, I wonder why and how race promoters got the burning tire of “building the sport” hung around their neck? I never entered a race or even thought about entering a race because of a promoter. In fact, Tom Boyden (dog rest his soul) was, if anything, the best reason known to man not to enter a bike race. He was thieving, unscrupulous, cynical, and interested only in lining his own pockets.
Yet his races were full and riders who got into the game during that decade still constitute the largest number of masters racers — the 45 and 50+ categories. People didn’t race because the promoter was nice or because he gave good prizes or because his races were safe or well organized or timely. They raced because they belonged to a club that encouraged them to race. There was an expectation that if you hung out with the fast guys you would pin on a number even if you were one of the sluggards.
In our tiny little South Bay microcosm, we have numerous bicycling clubs, but only one that explicitly encourages its members to race. The others focus on wearing neat-o kits, enjoying the chummy camaraderie of pre-and-post ride coffee, and slumming around the peninsula on fancy rigs, but there’s nothing in their club makeup that says to members, “Race yer fuggin’ bike.” Instead, the vast majority of bicycle clubs say the opposite: “Let’s pal around on Strava,” or “Let’s do a Grand Fondue,” or “Let’s do a century ride down to San Diego and have a beer.”
These are all noble endeavors, and the fact that bike racing is considered an insane, prohibitively expensive cul-de-sac activity best left to idiots and the delusional is a good thing and proof that humanity actually evolves. But for those of us left in the evolutionary dead end of USA Cycling, it bears consideration that entering races comes first and foremost from the peer pressure of the club. Like trying heroin or sanal ex, lining up for your first bike race requires exhortation, encouragement, and the promise of good things to come, however outrageous and bold-faced the lie.
After promoters, the next wrongly blamed entities are SCNCA and USA Cycling. These entities, it is said, have failed to promote the grass roots, have failed to encourage race participation, and have failed to make bike racing more popular than it currently is, which is to say more popular than elective dental work.
This ignores history. When have these organizations ever done anything to grow the sport? In 2015 a USA Cycling race license will cost $70, for which the racer receives what? Useless accident insurance that, in the event of death, pays a few thousand dollars if you can fight through the red tape to get it? Safer races? Tell that to the families of the two riders who died in 2013. More promotion of cycling? Ha. Ha. Ha.
USA Cycling exists to collect membership fees to pay the salaries and officials’ fees of people at USA Cycling. That’s all it is, and that’s all it has ever been. The two great cycling booms in my lifetime were in the 80’s and the Lance era, neither of which had anything to do with the USCF, USA Cycling, or race promoters. Both eras had everything to do with clubs who encouraged — nay, demanded — that their members raced.
As USA Cycling fiddles while its house burns by raping the meager profits of promoters like Chris Lotts and Dorothy Wong, 35+ riders are caught in a vicious crossfire. SCNCA doesn’t care, promoters can’t (and shouldn’t) work to lose money, and there are so few 35+ racers anyway that, really, who shives a git? So as a 38 y/o racer with a wife and kid and job you have to bang bars with snotnose, testosterone-filled Pro/1/2 punks who are willing to die to win and you think that the value matrix (candy bar prime vs. long-term hospitalization) isn’t skewed in your favor? Shough tit. As long as SCNCA can sacrifice the few (in secret proceedings) for the benefit of itself + the many, it’s not simply business, it’s business as usual.
If the west side and south bay bike clubs told their 35+ members to get off the preen wagon and race their fuggin’ bikes 5 times a year, if all the other wannabe, gonnabe, oughtabe pretenders in SoCal and the clubs they belong to spent 1/10th of the time racing that they spend putting together “sponsor packages,” this problem wouldn’t exist.
But it’s always easier and lots more fun to call yourself a race club than to drag your teammates’ sorry asses to an actual bike race, especially when you can play tit-for-tat on Strava. </endrant>