“Common” sense

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Creating these racing opportunities is the only way to combat the divisiveness of “racer” and “non-racer” factions within a club.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. Shoot for at least one series a year, two if you can swing it.
  8. Have a format that lets people showcase very different skills. We did: 1k TT, hillclimb, 10-mile TT.
  9. Use formats that exceptionally safe, like TTs and hillclimbs.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Most racing clubs have no problem recruiting non-racers. But your mission should be to give them the opportunity to race.
  13. I met so many people!!!!!
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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!

END

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Feeeeelings!

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.

Why?

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.

END

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Bike racer quiz

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.

  1. 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.
  2. I have “Cat 1” on my racing license. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  3. I have a really expensive racing bike. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  4. I belong to a bike racing team. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  5. I belong to bike racing club. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  6. I belong to a “concept” bike team. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  7. I used to be a bike racer. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  8. I have the most badass social media bike racing presence imaginable. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  9. I have more than a thousand followers on Strava. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  10. I won a bunch of sanctioned races totally doped. YOU ARE FOR SURE A BIKE RACER.
  11. I took a bunch of Strava KOMs totally doped. YOU ARE STILL NOT A BIKE RACER, AND YOU ARE BEYOND PATHETIC.
  12. I am on the board of directors of a bike racing club. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  13. I promote bike races. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  14. I own a home. YOU ARE ALMOST CERTAINLY NOT A BIKE RACER.
  15. I win every group ride I’m on. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER AND NO, YOU DON’T.
  16. I sponsor a bike team. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  17. I coach the most successful bike racers in the world. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER BUT YOU HAVE A GOOD CHINESE CONNECTION.
  18. Lance and I ride together in between court appearances. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER, AND NEITHER IS HE.
  19. 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.
  20. I am a bike lawyer. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER.
  21. 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?
  22. My name is [Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Patrick Sercu, etc.]. YOU ARE NOT A BIKE RACER. YOU ARE A DEITY.

END

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The people speak

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.

worlds

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!”

END

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Cheating?

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.

END

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Playin’ possum

November 20, 2017 Comments Off on Playin’ possum

I have been feeling kind of sorry for my ol’ buddy ol’ pal G$ lately. He has gotten super old. I think he’s at least 56 or a 100. I can tell because he doesn’t go that good on the climbs anymore. G$ used to be the fastest climber anywhere, but I have ridden with him a few times lately and he is over the hill.

It’s a sad thing to see, a good buddy who’s a darn good ath-a-lete, one day going gangbusters and the next day all creaky-kneed and slow and hobbling around on a walker drinking pumpkin spice latte. I felt extra sorry for my good ol’ buddy ol’ pal because today was the second leg in the Big Orange a/k/a Team Lizard Collectors First Ever Annual Forevermore Galactic Championships, an amazing competition modeled after a bad haircut that includes a 1k TT, a hillclimb up Latigo Canyon in Malibu, and ten laps around Telo.

Today was the Latigo stage and like I said, it was bittersweet to see ol’ G$ show up, a shadow of his former self but still high-fiving and backslapping and being full of good cheer, like an old dog licking its master’s hand right before you take it out and shoot it. Latigo Canyon is a 40-minute climb if you are really fast, and ol’ G$, my good ol’ buddy ol’ pal, still has top 6 on one of the segments; the overall is owned by “Cookies” Gaimon, who stole it away from Doper McDopeface Levi Leipheimer.

It was a mass start and the thirty or so starters were nervous as they should have been because I had some fiery good legs and was not going to be taking any prisoners. My plan was to start slowly and then gradually ramp it up until the searing pain inflicted by my tremendous power whittled the group down to five or six, including G$, my ol’ buddy ol’ pal. I didn’t want to drop him too quickly because if there’s one thing you learn over a lifetime of bike racing, it’s to show respect to your friends even when they are kind of broke down like one of Lee Iacocca’s K-Cars.

I had told Mrs. WM, who was traveling in the lead car to photo-document my impending victory, that I would be shattering the group at the ten-minute mark, so be ready.

The gun went off and Eric Bruins raced off the line like someone had stuck a string of lit Black Cats in his shorts. It was much faster than my plan stipulated, but I hopped on his wheel and waited. He is young and not too smart, so as soon as he blew up I would take over the pacemaking until the searing pain inflicted by my tremendous power whittled the group down to five or six, including G$, my ol’ buddy ol’ pal.

After a few minutes Eric got really tired, exhausted and on the verge of collapse, actually, but he is one of those guys who likes to try and fake you out with fake toughness so he didn’t slow down at all. Then at about the time I was ready to gradually ramp it up until the searing pain inflicted by my tremendous power whittled the group down to five or six, including G$, my ol’ buddy ol’ pal, my ol’ buddy ol’ pal G$ executed a silly, pointless, hopeless, very amateur, desperation attack.

It was everything he had (which wasn’t much), he went all out, which was kind of sad but I also respected it at the same time. He was going to splat but at least he would do it with panache. Eric hustled onto his wheel, still pretending not to be tired, and I hustled onto Eric’s wheel breathing kind of hard not because I was in the box but because I wanted them to know I wasn’t fooled. Behind me were four other riders, which meant seven, total.

I laughed to myself, because my plan had been to whittle it down to five or six, not six or seven, and we had one wanker too many. About this time poor old brokedown, creaky-kneed, a-little-bit-confused ol’ G$ did another fake attack, this one about as hopeless as the first one. I could see people get worried, but I didn’t get worried at all. I just figured I would let them all go and catch up to them later because I wasn’t quite ready to ramp up my tremendous power yet. Plus, it would make my ol’ buddy ol’ pal G$ feel good to have a little bit of a glory pull by himself with all those 20-and-30-year olds glued to his wheel with their faces all twisted and looking like they were giving a rectal childbirth.

About the time they all disappeared, if only for a moment, Mrs. WM came by with her camera. “Are you winning?” she asked and of course I nodded.

After what seemed like a few hours, along came Hiroyuki, Penta, and Maxson. They were going at a good clip because Hiroyuki was doing all the work while Penta and Maxson skulked at the back. I figured I would help them skulk so I jumped on. I would catch my breath before powering up to my ol’ buddy ol’ pal G$ and attacking him with my tremendous power.

For some reason, Hiroyuki decided not to slow down which made it very hard for me to gather my tremendous power. Penta and Maxson kept trying to skulk onto my wheel but I started playing possum, breathing like a dying man, wobbling, asking for my mother, and refusing to move so much as an inch towards that nasty and awful place filled with bad memories known as “the front.”

Penta and Maxson were not too pleased so they attacked me on the downhill, giving Hiroyuki a few moments’ rest and scaring the bejeezus out me. Hiroyuki then went back to the front and continued to stymie my tremendous power as I, Penta, and Maxson rolled over each others’ tongues, livers, and breakfast. Fortunately, about a quarter mile from the end I began to feel lively and fresh at just about the time that ol’ Penta and Maxson and Hiroyuki, tired from doing all the work, began to do the Bike Racer Arithmetic of “How do I not get last out of the grupetto?”

I jumped hard, throwing down a tremendous 200 watts or maybe 205 and sprunted past them, when up ahead of me, Ivan the Terrible, who had been dropped from the leaders way back in September, looked back and saw me coming on. No matter how tired he was, the thought of being pipped by cranky Gramps in the last hundred yards put the fear of dog into him and he took off like someone had put the other string of lit Black Cats in his shorts.

I almost caught him and would have if the road had been longer, which is Biker Speak for “he beat me,” and when I crossed the line, there he was, my ol’ buddy ol’ pal G$, having dropped everyone on the way to the top and completed the 40-minute climb in 37 minutes.

“Not bad for a guy who’s all washed up,” I said.

“Thanks, ol’ buddy ol’ pal,” he said. And he meant it.

 

Awesome photos courtesy of Geoff Loui and Yasuko Davidson.

END

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It’s only a thousand meters

October 29, 2017 § 30 Comments

The fruits of thievery are success.

Velo Club La Grange has for years put on an intra-club race series. It consists of a 500-meter race on the track; you can use a road bike. Later in the year there is a 20-km TT on PCH; you can use your full TT geek rig. This is the only time you will use it all year, btw. The series finishes with the legendary Piuma Hillclimb. It’s about three miles long, it’s steep, and hard.

A small handful of people (think Trump hands) worry that bike racing is dying or perhaps dead. In the “old way,” it certainly is, by which I mean that there is no new crop of young people getting USAC licenses. Why would they? When you race bikes you will get hurt. Better to raise your kids in a safety cocoon than have them learn about risk, injury, danger, and reward.

At the same time, a number of race organizers keep chugging along, here to survive another day on the fumes of past participation, and on the super-charged fuel of the modern fondue ride, which is actually a great concept. You can charge people $160 to ride the roads they can ride for free, everyone wins, and if riders are ambitious and do the long course you can make sure there’s no water left at the last four rest stops.

But I digress.

Velo Club La Grange’s intra-club race series is a template for encouraging people to race, for developing and discovering nascent racers in the club, and for ensuring that the DNA of their organization as a racing club does not degenerate into a social media contest about whose bike is newest or whose selfies are awesomest. Being a free template, I stole it under cover of darkness and transported it, kicking and screaming while tied up in a burlap bag, over to Team Lizard Collectors HQ.

Of course some of the lizard collectors weren’t impressed. “Who needs a club race?” and “This will steal attention from my #socmed posts!” and “How in the eff will this promote my sock brand?” and of course “But I don’t raaaaaace!” were all valid and legitimate objections to the scurrilous suggestion that a bike racing club should have a bike race.

However, the Team Lizard Collectors board is composed, unfortunately, of bike racers, and with the exception of online porn nothing gets them salivating like the prospect of a bike race with trinkets. So they signed off on the cheap imitation of Velo Club La Grange’s Excellent Adventure, and a misbirth was born. Here was the plan for the Big Orange Galactic Championship series:

  1. 1,000-meter TT at Telo. No TT bikes allowed.
  2. Latigo hillclimb. Bring your secret motor, you’ll need it.
  3. 10-lap TT at Telo. No TT bikes allowed.

Several lizard collectors wondered about the 1k event. “It’s too short!” and “It’s too long!” and “It’s too easy!” and “How come I can’t bring my wind tunnel-tested TT rig?” and “But I don’t raaaaaaace!” were all valid and legitimate objections to the scurrilous suggestion that a bike race didn’t have to be so complicated that its inherent complications would create its demise and allow club members to go back to their normal business of lizard collecting and selfies.

However, here were the answers:

  1. Give people a short race and it will encourage them to try it out.
  2. If you think the kilometer is easy, please come show us on race day.
  3. TT rigs have ruined time trialing. They allow you to literally buy speed, they require redundant equipment, and they take one of cycling’s best and safest events out of the purview of the casual rider. TT bikes also make the safest, easiest, and least stressful discipline horribly dangerous for newbies by putting them on twitchy, deadly, unsteerable dorkbikes. Plus, TT rigs look stupid AF and are crazy expensive clothes hangers.
  4. Don’t raaaaaace? No problem. Come ride one thousand lousy meters with a number pinned on, and with your time being compared to everyone else on the same course on the same day under the same conditions, and forevermore you will be called a bike racer. It’s that simple.

Saturday came and went, and 36 members from Team Lizard Collectors’ 300-member roster showed up to compete, several of whom were doing their first race and first time trial ever. Most impressively, four out of the club’s five board members raced; talk about putting your board where your organization’s goals are. Instead of organizing it so that everyone got a trinket by dividing the event into categories of age/weight/gender/astrological sign/religion, there was a women’s category and a men’s. That was it.

The event was a huge success. Riders came out who otherwise would not have. New riders raced their first race. Non-favorites whipped ass on the favorites. Certain people discovered an affinity for short, fast efforts, and with it they garnered real respect, not virtual kudos on Strava.

Best of all, the event shored up our club’s DNA. We’re a bike racing club, open to everyone, racer or not, but with a mission to increase bike racing and to give everyone the opportunity to learn about and participate in this awesome sport. If you run a club and haven’t yet put together one of these series, now might be the time. It’s a blast. And I’ll even loan you the burlap bag.

END

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