June 26, 2017 § 60 Comments
“What the fuck do you mean, this is your first ever dirt ride?”
“Yeah,” SOS said, shifting uncomfortably. “Me and Imprint just got new bikes and wanted to practice some.”
I wasn’t smiling. “This is a terrible place to do your first dirt ride. There’s no dishonor in going home now. You have to go to work on Monday. You guys have families. This ride is no joke. People have finished this thing up in the ICU. Do you really want a catheter up your wee-wee because your spine has been broken in four places?”
SOS and Imprint smiled nervously, unsure whether or not I was serious. “It’s only seventy miles. How hard can it be?”
Jay-Z, whose arm was in a cast, shook her head. “How hard? Look, SOS. It’s going to be the hardest fucking anything you’ve ever done in your life. That’s how hard.”
“Guys,” I said, “you gotta understand. This is no place to do your first ever dirt ride. You can pull the plug now.”
“Why should we?” asked SOS.
“I’ll tell you why,” I said. “Because when you get halfway out and have a bad crash or run out of steam or get a bad case of diaper rash or die, no one fucking cares. Everyone’s just trying to survive. No one fucking cares. Get it? No one. Fucking. Cares. And you will be on your own.”
SOS shrugged. “I’m not scared,” he said.
About that time the motel room door popped open and in came Duct Tape, wheeling her bike into the room. “Hi, everyone!” she said. “Tomorrow’s going to be fun!”
“What the fuck is that?” I asked.
“It’s my bike, silly,” she said. “I haven’t ridden it in nine months, though.”
“And was that last time through a rust pit? What’s that shit on the spoke?”
“Duct tape? On a spoke?”
“Oh, it’s on good, though. I daubed some Gorilla Glue around the spoke holder thingy.”
I looked at her bike, a rusted out $350 Specialized commuter bike with a velcro water bottle cage. “Did any of you people talk to anyone before you decided to come out here?” They shook their heads. “Do you know what the Belgian Waffle Ride is?” I asked.
They shook their heads.
“Do you have prepaid funeral plots?” I asked.
They shook their heads.
I got a splitting migraine. “Okay,” I said. “You’re all going to die.”
“But you’re not hammering tomorrow, right?” asked Duct Tape. “If you’re not hammering I’ll ride with you the whole way.”
“No,” I said, wearily. “I’m not hammering.”
I climbed into the bed, which I was sharing with SOS. “I brought some earplugs,” SOS volunteered. “Do any of you guys snore?”
We all lied and said no and went to sleep. “Me, either,” said SOS. “I lost my septum back in the 90’s.”
Within minutes SOS was snoring like he had a small family of bullfrogs lodged in his chest. Then his alarm went off at 3:30 so I was able to stay up until mine went off at five. Before we left for the ride Jay-Z came into our room. “What time did you guys get up?” she asked.
“3:30,” I said. “SOS’s alarm went off at 3:30.”
“I always get up to go the gym at 4:00,” he said.
Jay-Z looked at him. “You work out?” she asked.
About 120 idiots had shown up to do Joann’s Wafer Re-Do Ride, hosted by Michael Marckx in honor of Jay-Z’s selfless assistance to her teammate who got t-boned by another teammate and wound up in the ICU. However, two weeks before the re-do ride came to pass, Jay-Z shattered her wrist. But of course the show had to go on, and if she couldn’t go as a rider she and Michelle planned to go as sag specialists.
Michael assembled the riders and, posing in front of everyone, surreptitiously ordered that someone “take a picture of my butt.” Then he gave a grand speech. “We’re going to try to keep things together today,” he lied. “Those of you who are more confident and know the course can go on ahead, but the purpose of today’s ride is to stay together as much as possible and get to hang out with our friends.”
This monstrosity of a bold-faced fraudulent utterance went unheeded by the assembled victims, all of whom knew they were dealing with a pathological liar who could no more “stay together” with weaker riders than the sun can orbit around the earth. A few miles into the ride Michael unleashed a vicious attack, splintering the group, which was filled with the weak and infirm, and dashed on to a glorious victory, finishing so far ahead that he was able to shower, shave, and coif before the next finisher even arrived.
It’s thankless work crushing your own re-do training practice friendship ride in honor of a good Samaritan, but someone has to do it.
In addition to winning his training thank-you ride, MMX also arranged for the casual ride to be fully supported in the finest BWR style. Bad Sea Coffee had amazing coffee, hot and cold, throughout the ride, with mobile repairs provided by Velofix, drinks by GQ6, a start-finish venue by the Lost Abbey Brewery, and several sag stations to provide sustenance to the riders.
But back to our story. As Imprint, SOS, and Duct Tape started the first descent, which plunged down a twisting series of soft, awful, suicidal dirt hairpins that had sheer drops on one side and a cliff wall on the other, Jay-Z and Michelle drove up behind them and screamed, “Slow down! You’re going too fast! You’ll kill yourself, you idiots!”
Imprint shrugged and shouted back. “I got disc brakes! I’m good!”
At that moment he lost control and slammed into the cliff wall, which was made of brush and soft dirt, leaving a Wile E. Coyote imprint in the cliff. “Oh my dog!” the sag drivers screamed, as SOS and Duct Tape stopped to see how badly he’d been killed and whether or not they could wrest the gold band off his ring finger before he regained consciousness.
Imprint staggered to his feet and waved his friends on, who were in fact, like all cyclist friends, no friends at all. “I’m fine, he mumbled,” as large brain clots formed inside his skull.
“Maybe,” said Jay-Z, “but your tire’s flat. Get in the car. You’re done for the day.”
“No!” he resisted. “I gotta keep going!”
“Okay, well change the flat then.”
Imprint sighed. “I don’t know how to take the wheel off.”
“How can you not know how to take the wheel off your own fucking bike?”
“It’s new,” Implant said, “and I don’t know how to take off the disc brake axle and thing.”
Jay-Z, who was wearing her best 5-inch platform heels, floppy summer hat, and stripper’s negligee, got out in the knee-high sand and pulled the through-axle, changed the flat, aired it up with the floor pump, then cleaned the rubble out of the disc before pushing him back on his way, all with a shattered wrist in a cast. Having left the starting gate promptly at 7:30 AM, Imprint would not be seen again until almost eleven hours later.
In the meantime, Duct Tape began what would be a series of bicycle-falling-off incidents, some related to the wheel that wouldn’t go around in circles, others to the massive rocks and obstacles in her path, and her final, game-ending crash the result of plain old gravity. She finally gave up and lay on the road side with her hands above her head, in a sort of horizontal victory pose if you will, where the podium is the ground. Jay-Z and Michelle scooped her up and deposited her back at the brewery as they got yet another call, this time from SOS.
“Who is it now?” asked Jay-Z as Michelle’s phone lit up.
“It’s SOS,” she said.
“What does he want?”
“All he texted is a map and the words ‘SOS.’ For reals.”
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
They raced to the pindropped location, where SOS was seated at the roadside, bonked, sunstroked, and mumbling incoherently. “Uber lady,” he said. “That fucking Uber lady.”
“What Uber lady?” asked Jay-Z.
“You know how Wanky told me to pull the plug last night if things got gnarly?”
“Well, I had an emergency.”
“Oh, no. What happened?”
“I got a cramp.”
Jay-Z and Michelle looked at each other. “So?”
“It was a cramp,” he said. “And it really hurt. And that motherfucker Wanky and Patrick and that German girl, when I shouted out ‘Cramp!’ you know what they did?”
“They just kept riding away. They rode away, those fuckers!”
“Wait a minute,” said Jay-Z. “Wanky told you about this last night. I was there. What part of ‘No one gives a fuck about you’ did you not understand?”
“But I thought he was kidding. And then that Uber lady.”
“What Uber lady?”
“So I pulled the plug after I cramped like Wanky said to do and I called Uber XL and the lady came, this black lady in a really nice brand new sedan with leather seats, it was perfect for me and my bike.”
“Yeah, and she took one look at me and she was like, ‘Hell no, I ain’t putting your nasty ass in my car, hell no,’ and then she fucking drove off. That bitch!”
Jay-Z looked at SOS. “Well, you’re covered in white salt that looks like jizz stains and you’re as filthy as if you’d been riding for fifty miles in a sewer, and your bike is covered from stem to stern with grease and dirt, who the fuck would want to put you in their nice car? Except me, of course.”
SOS saw the logic, loaded his bike on the rack, and crawled into the car. “I can’t believe that sonofabitch Wanky left me for dead. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he mumbled.
“Yeah,” Jay-Z said. “Until next year.”
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April 25, 2016 § 8 Comments
I carry around my over-stuffed suitcase of non-courage, zippers broken and shit spilling out, handles frayed, two of the casters broken and the other two wobbling frenetically in opposite directions, only to find that it’s too big to be checked, or that there’s an extra cargo charge of $250, or that the best memories inside have fractured in transit into microtiny carbon splinters, or that the TSA has stolen my prized participant ribbons, or that upon reaching my destination the bag has been shipped to Malaysia on a Dutch flight that can no longer be found but is certainly somewhere over, or more likely in, the Indian Ocean.
The suitcase of non-courage is heavy, too heavy for a mortal to lug, and is so mixed with history and life and regret and misremembrance of things past that I wonder why I continue to drag it around from ride to ride, from race to race, from overwrought faux Grand Fondue to overwrought Faux Fondue.
This is precisely where I found myself on Saturday, another wasted weekend spent in search of that which by definition you will never find, and it was exactly at the nadir of the whole experience that the chaff fell away and the kernel lay, revealed.
I’d been relegated to the sidelines, which was fine, because after completing the first four BWR’s I was done abusing myself for the sake of someone else. The exhaustion and wreckage visited upon man and equipment alike by the Belgian Waffle Ride was nowhere more evidenced than in its effect on the ride’s founder, Michael Marckx, who had finally cobbled together the Dual Divinity: A ride so hard that he was afraid to do it, and a companion easier, shorter, flatter ride that he could actually win. It made me happy to see my friend, after so many years of teeth-gnashing defeats and failures, finally declare himself victor of his own event.
But more than the happiness of seeing Michael hoist himself on the shoulders of the myriad volunteers, friends, and admirers who had come together to make the BWR happen, I saw something else, something that penetrated, at least for a few moments, the hardened shell of skepticism that coats what remains of my battered and tattered old suitcase.
It was the incredible happiness of my friends and comrades at Big Orange cycling who launched into the event with full abandon and reaped the confidence and success that comes from lining up and finishing such a monstrously difficult ride. For the first time in my five years of struggle with this terrible day in North County San Diego, I stood at the finish line cleaned and scrubbed and utterly un-tired and un-hungry, watching in awe as my friends pedaled squares past the big banner, their faces as drained and beaten as any historic shower-stall photo from Paris-Roubaix.
Covered in dirt, many of them sported torn-apart clothing, shattered equipment, bloody limbs, and a kind of disbelief that they had managed to ever get back. One friend collapsed on a table, unable to even remove his helmet. I’ve never seen anyone collapse on a tiny round bar table, standing.
But as each rider revived, some after spending twelve hours battling a course that was simply designed to punish, and as they ate, then drank, then plunged their faces madly into the mounds of ice cream-covered-waffles, smiles began to play and the stories began to roll out.
Stories of fellow riders who simply dismounted and quit. Riders who were carted off in an ambulance. Equipment failures of every variety. Mental failures, physical collapse, “the wall” of endurance, pushing beyond, far beyond, anything they’d done before, and conquering this beast of a ride with sheer desire to complete a ride that the ride’s founder himself didn’t dare to attempt.
Although my suitcase of skepticism no longer has room for flowery praise of the “resilience of the human spirit,” the grandpa in me appears to have room for nothing else. These friends have accomplished something–what they’ve accomplished is unique for each of them, and its significance will really only reveal itself over a rather long period of time. Thanks for letting me sit on the sidelines and cheer you on.
Big O Riders (If I’ve left off your name or last name please add it in a comment!)
Stella de la Vega
Big O Cheerleaders
Big O Saints: These two guys spent the day in Dan’s Jeep covering the route and fixing bikes, providing medical aid, getting injured riders back to their hotels, and serving as roving rangers to protect and serve.
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January 20, 2016 § 11 Comments
It’s that time of year. Oh, wait, no it isn’t.
That time of year is Spring, April 24, 2016 at 8:00 AM sharp.
What now is, is the time of year when you sign up for the Belgian Waffle Ride far enough in advance so that you think you’ll be ready for it. The good news is that you will be! The bad news is that you won’t.
This year’s edition, the fifth, features another leisurely spin through the gentle rolling hills and well-maintained road surfaces of North San Diego County. As in past years, the BWR will be pain-free, fun, easy to complete, and filled with happy conversation as you pedal long miles side-by-side with friends, catching up on family news and philosophizing about life, dark matter, and what’s really going on with Chinese stocks.
Of course there may be one or two riders with a different agenda, and who, rather than seeing the BWR as a casual LSD pedal, see instead a painful mix of dirt, tarmac, water, gravel, and rocky sections buffered on all sides by difficulty, epic challenges, and extremely tough riding conditions.
But what do they know?
Well, they may know this …
Although each BWR has been more monumental than the one before, the 2016 edition is the toughest yet. At 144 miles, it is the longest, has the most dirt sectors, and rarely traverses an intersections. The complexity of the course means that there’s something there for everyone, except those who really want to stop. For them, there will be six major and six minor aid stations, some of which will offer tequila or Belgian ale while still offering water, Coke, and event-sponsored beverages.
Some of the sections are so hard you’ll have to walk unless your name is Phil Tinstman or Neil Shirley. Some of the heroic dirt sections from past years such as Black Canyon, Canyon de Oro, and Lemontwistenberg will rear their ugly heads, but the new challenges of Lusardi and San Elijo also await. The rock garden of Lake Hodges has to be traversed in both directions this year, same as the Mule Trail. Perhaps the best feature is the Highland Valley beatdown, five miles of unvarnished climbing hell out to Ramona where you can contemplate forging ahead or calling it a day.
The only way you’ll find out, of course, is to do the dance and sign up for yet another year of full-gas pedalmashing. Better yet, if it’s your first time you can toe the line and discover what’s so fun about slamming a great waffle-egg-bacon-coffee breakfast, riding hard, competing against the best, capping off the ride with more good food and even better beer, then collapsing in a heap and hoping like hell you thought far enough in advance to arrange for a ride back home.
Registration is here: https://bitly.com/bwrreg2016.
Over the next few weeks I’ll put together a series of training plans tailored to the different needs of the various BWR participants. For now the simplest plan is also the hardest: Ride yer fuggin’ bike.
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April 27, 2015 § 21 Comments
The 2015 SPY Optic Belgian Waffle Ride is a wrap.
It was uneventful for me, except for that one part where I was on Sandy Bandy behind some wanker who was in turn stuck behind a woman who had gapped us out. The guy said, “I’m passing!” and the gal said, “Pass me on the left!”
He did and she moved hard to the left as he passed, sending him sprawling in the sand and scratchy planty things. I was now terrified, and sat waiting for an opportunity to sprunt past. I did but then had a big gap to make up on the receding leaders.
Turning onto a wide dirt road I shifted the U.S.S. Aluminum into the biggest gear and raced to catch up. Dropping my head briefly, when I looked up I noticed:
- There was a 90-degree turn immediately in front of me.
- I was going way to fast to make the turn.
- This was gonna hurt.
And it did. I launched like a SpaceX rocket, hands out, legs akimbo, and face exposed to fully absorb the full impact of the rocks, cactus, and gravel. I lay there for a few seconds, then jumped up and tied my chain into a double half-hitch trying to get it back on the chain ring. A SPY van rushed up and got me going again. My neck throbbed and my legs dripped a mixture of blood and gravel slurry. With more than a hundred miles to go, it was going to be a long day.
But it wasn’t. I had been sent off in the Wanker Division, a/k/a Wave Three, and spent the day sweeping up and spitting out countless riders who had gone off almost half an hour earlier in Preen Wave 1 and Women’s Wave 2. At the end of the ride, numerous finishers came up to me, test-lifted my 30-lb. behemoth with its 38mm bulldozer tires and said, “Think how much faster you would have gone on a road bike!”
Of course, on a road bike I would have died on the very first dirt descent, and if I hadn’t I would have shattered the frame and wheels on my SpaceX launch. Far from hindering me, the heavy bike with massive tires reminded me early on to go slowly and conserve– and it all paid off with a finishing time of 7:42:04, fifteenth in the Wanker Division and good for about 50th overall. Most importantly, I beat Surfer Dan with whom I’d carpooled (he still owes me ten bucks) by .5 second.
There were amazing displays on offer throughout the day, but none more impressive than James Cowan, who attacked early and rode the thing in 7:11, good enough to eviscerate the Wanker Division and faster than all but fifteen riders for the entire day. Moreover, he did it without the help of the Cat 1 peloton’s shelter and speed.
So many riders got to savor the joy of simply finishing. Guys like Dan Kroboth, who dropped 75 pounds over the course of the year and endured a tough training regimen, came away with his first BWR finish. Behind the scenes the event “seamlessly” happened thanks to people like Victor Sheldon, who marked the course, then when the markings were rained on and blown down, remarked it again on Saturday, after which they were blown down again, requiring him to remark the entire course a third time, finishing at 2:00 AM on Sunday. The turns were impeccably marked and made the difference between the BWR being a ride and an Eagle Scout project in orienteering.
As expected, the food at the Gear Grinder grill was off the hook, as finishers were treated to sausage, chicken, and Belgian waffles heaped with ice cream, chocolate fudge, and cardiac arrest. Those who didn’t die immediately were carried off the Lost Abbey beer tent.
For my own selfish purposes, nothing was as important as the hand-ups of GQ6 and Coca-Cola. I swilled both throughout the ride, and wouldn’t have finished without them–that and my secret stash of Trader Joe’s trail mix, of which I ate an entire half-bag.
I was going to write an epic review in twelve parts, but this will have to do. My neck hurts. See you in 2016 … as a volunteer!
Note: What follows was sent to me by my friend Denis Faye, a fellow sufferer and finisher of this year’s BWR, who followed the strict protocol for requesting a mention something on this blog: 1) Be nice. 2) Hit the “subscribe” button.
From Denis: “I started cycling in earnest 2-3 years ago when my friend Steve Edwards (former La Grange, now a dirty MTBer living in Utah) gave me his old Cannondale Cat 5. We’ve been friends for 25+ years and he’s one of the great human beings. Currently, he’s going toe-to-toe with Lymphoma. I wanted to do something to both honor him and make a difference, so I’m doing a Birthday Challenge to raise funds for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. On May 30-31, Kevin Nix and I are riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two days. (That’s a little over 450 miles in 45 hours for my 45th birthday.)”
Here’s the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1447394325551415/
Here’s a blog post going into more detail: http://denisfaye.com/2015/03/26/450-miles-in-45-hours-my-birthday-challenge-to-beat-cancer/
And here’s the donation page: http://www.lymphoma.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=306330&supid=418211276
March 5, 2015 § 40 Comments
This ride is not sponsored, authorized, approved, recognized, encouraged, abetted, aided, promoted, offered, suggested, referenced, affiliated with, created by, managed, supervised, regulated, reviewed, evaluated, or in any way, shape, method, means, form, or function related to or otherwise connected with SPY Optic and its officially endorsed Belgian Waffle Ride.
But that is not all,
Oh no, that is not all!
On Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM pointy sharp I’m leaving from the bricks of the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks in order to ride my bicycle. I will be riding my bicycle for one reason and one reason only: To prepare my spindly legs and spongy lungs for the battering that awaits on April 26, 2015, the day of the 4th Annual Belgian Waffle Ride.
This BWR practice ride of mine, which is wholly unaffiliated with the actual Belgian Waffle Ride and its sponsors, will ride from CotKU to Pacific Coast Highway and from there to The Rock, where I will pee, take in the view, and then turn around and head back towards Los Angeles.
On the way I will make a left-hand turn up Yerba Buena, and when I get to the top I will go down Mulholland Drive until it hits Pacific Coast Highway again, where I will turn left. After a little while I will make another left-hand turn, this time up Decker Lane. When I reach the intersection with Encinal I will turn right and go back to PCH.
Then I will pedal back to CotKU and from there back to Palos Verdes where I will climb another long hill. After it’s all said and done I will have ridden about 140 miles, which is a long way, and will have gone uphill a whole bunch. I will be very tired.
You can come if you want and you can ride as much or as little as you see fit, and here’s the thing: Anyone who wants to join me on this practice bicycle ride can. The same way that you can jog behind someone on the bike path, or follow someone on the freeway, or hop onto the tail-end of a bunch of wankers sliding along a cross-country ski trail, well, you can ride in my vicinity when I go ride my bike, too.
The catch? I’m not promoting the ride other than to note its existence, and I’m certainly NOT suggesting that you do it. I’m not providing protection, medical care, organization, road permits, or anything else. Why? Because it’s my own private bicycle ride that I plan to do alone. If you show up, that’s your business. It’s not a race or century ride or a Grand Fondue or a public event or a private one. It’s not an event of any kind. It’s my own personal bicycle ride.
What does this mean? It means that if you decide to leave from the same place at the same time with the same destination in mind as I, you may well die or suffer horrible, catastrophic injury. You may get hit by a car, you may fall off your bicycle and split your skull, you may have some wanker smash into you, you may slide out on a descent and get killed, you may blow a tire, bust a rim, snap a chain, crater a fork, or have any of a million other bad things happen to you.
And unfortunately, this is the risk you take when you ride a bicycle on public roads. You are trading the fun of riding your bicycle on the street for the risk of death or catastrophic injury. I’m not encouraging you to do it, to the contrary. I’m warning you about the danger and telling you that if you show up, it’s your life, it’s your safety, and it’s your responsibility to come home in one piece — not mine.
If you do decide to meet up with me, it will be good training for the BWR. I won’t be hammering, that’s for sure. And at the end of the day, although you may well get killed, you may well not. It could even turn out to be fun. Your call.
So see you on the road. Or not!
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February 25, 2015 § 19 Comments
My collection of cycling clothing is pitiful. A few years ago when we downsized I got rid of all the old stuff. Marco’s long-sleeved Chazal jersey that he wore in the Tour, my old Molteni jerseys (wool, of course), and the various iterations of miscellaneous club outfits. Big O, Cynergy, Ironfly, even my old SPY stuff.
Now my cycling closet has nothing in it that is more than two seasons old. However, in my chest of drawers I’ve saved three jerseys from the recycle man — my Belgian Waffle Ride jerseys from 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Unlike a lot of other jerseys I’ve worn, these three I actually earned. And if you’ve signed up for the 2015 edition, which promises to be longer, harder, dirtier, and grittier than the previous three, what follows is some advice — some real advice — about how to earn yours.
I’ve broken it down into four approaches. Pick your poison.
- The 2012 Approach a/k/a “Win it!”: The first year I trained hard and did several BWR prep rides to learn the layout of the course. I envisaged a hard day in the saddle, and somewhere over the 119-mile course I would either contend for the victory or slog it out for a top-ten finish. I got dropped on the very first dirt section. By the time we hit it I was already gassed, and I stumbled along, blind and in confusion, for the remaining hundred miles. The 2012 Approach is not recommended. I vividly remember sitting in the finish area, starving and thirsty, having forgotten to bring money for food. If Christine Marckx hadn’t bought me a hot dog I wouldn’t be here today.
- The 2013 Approach a/k/a “Survive it!”. The second year I trained even harder and did even more prep rides. Knowing the impossibility of a good finish, as my name isn’t Neil Shirley, Brent Prenzlow, or Phil Tinstman, my goal was simply to do respectably. Unfortunately I got caught up in the excitement of the first dirt section below the bike path and fell off my bicycle trying to climb the stone wall from the dirt and gravel back onto the path. By the second gravel section I was gassed. Dave Gonyer blew by me en route to Couser Canyon, and then so did a hundred other people. This 130-mile miseracordia left me crushed and destroyed at the halfway mark simply because I had given into the temptation of “go hard” so early.
- The 2014 Approach a/k/a “Enjoy it!”. The third year, although MMX insisted on placing me in the first wave, I dropped off as soon as I realized that in the “neutral” zone we were cranking out 500 watts on the rollers. I fell back with Pilot and Junkyard, determined to ride at my own pace. Junkyard got sucked into the enthusiasm of a passing group on the dirt track after Lake Hodges, and sprinted off. “Junkyard!” I said. “Don’t!” I saw him at the 80-mile mark bending weakly over his bike as he tried to make sense out of the phrase “39 miles to go, and they’re the hardest ones with the most vertical and the most dirt.” I rode steadily the whole day and finished tired but not destroyed. 131 riders finished ahead of me, but none of them looked very good. This was the only BWR I’d done that I would call a success.
- The 2015 Approach a/k/a “Share it!”. The fourth year I’ll also train hard and I’ll also ride my own ride. There will be no getting sucked into the unwinnable competition for me–I’m even less Neil Shirley than I was in 2012. But unlike last year I’ll have a small group of riders who’ve been fileted and left for dead in previous years, who now know that the BWR is not to be conquered, only to be completed. Because whether you’re second or seven hundredth, the finisher’s jerseys are all the same.
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February 9, 2015 § 50 Comments
Before the first waffle has been eaten, the first sausage scarfed, or the first ale quaffed, the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride has its first bona fide controversy: Catgate.
On the online entry form, riders were asked to list their USAC racing category. Mistakenly thinking that their starting position would be determined by their racing category, some registrants took the opportunity to misstate their category and thereby get placed ahead of the lowly Cat 5’s, public, and “unranked” riders, not a few of whom are absolute beasts. Unfortunately for the sneaks, each registrant was checked against USAC records, and several riders were caught red-fingerboarded.
Since the “ride” will go off in three waves, some riders apparently believed that there was an advantage to going in the first wave even though it’s a timed event, with each wave starting at 0:00:00. A lively discussion of Catgate ensued on Facebag, where various punishments were discussed. Although I offered to do the beheadings, that option was not selected, and the fate of the would-be cheaters remains undecided.
Choices on the table include public shaming, relegation to the last wave, being banned from the ride, and having a note sent to your mother.
On the other hand, if there’s one thing about bikers you can count on, it’s the certainty that given the chance they will cheat. Actually, they will cheat even when they aren’t given the chance. Why?
Because cheating is fun.
The whole concept of the bike race is little more than organized cheating. You hunker behind the rider with the biggest butt to cheat the wind; you descend pell-mell or bang bars in the sprunt to cheat death; the winner of the race is the one who forces everyone else to work more while he hides like a thief in the night, waiting to slit the throats of those who ride with courage and honor. What could be more natural for a cyclist than cheating on a registration form, or cheating your way to the finish of a fun ride?
Moreover, the Belgian Waffle Ride was quite literally born amidst the pangs and throes of cheating cheaters who love to cheat. I will never forget the inaugural 2012 BWR, when a certain South Bay rider showed up and pirated it from beginning to end, eating the free breakfast, stopping at each aid station to gobble the food and drink, and enjoying the post-ride festivities to a fare-thee-well.
I caught up with him the following week and said, “Don’t you feel bad for being such a thieving, cheating, Delta Bravo, and generally worthless POS?”
“Nope!” he happily smiled. And he meant it.
Other infamous characters stamped the first BWR with a miscellany of misbehavior. One wanker held onto a truck for miles at a pop over the deathly dirt section of Country Club Road. Another cut the course. Another infamous cheater whose mendacious misdeeds were rewarded with the dreaded purple card not only cut the course but sneaked past Double Peak at the end of the ride, zoomed into the start-finish area, changed into his bicycling lounge suit, and displayed an “I got here first!” grin while those who had manfully done the ride struggled in beaten and exhausted wondering “How did that brokedown wanker beat me here?” — then he topped it off by disappearing with his finisher’s swag once people got suspicious and started asking to see the stamp that every honest rider received for passing the checkpoint atop Double Peak.
The invention of the purple card, in fact, was an acknowledgment before the ride ever started that bicyclists are some of the scurviest, cheatingest, least reliable mendicants known to man. Before the first BWR ever rolled out, a series of Freddie Freeloader cards were printed and handed out to the ride’s “Secret Police,” who were ordered to patrol the peloton and punish the perpetrators for their purplish pecadilloes.
In the second edition, even though there were no purple cards awarded, numerous riders who claimed to have completed the entire course failed to upload their required Strava data to confirm that they did in fact finish the route. You would think that having GPS data would be sufficient to deter the cheats, but no — if forced to choose between cheating and not, cheating wins out every time.
Last year the noose tightened a bit, with timing chips making it impossible for veteran course-cutters to ply their trade, and wholly eliminating the ride pirates, but misdeeds abounded. The most egregious included vehicle assistance at critical points in the ride.
Short of sailing a cargo ship bound for the Horn of Africa to smoke out the pirates, there’s no way to run a cheat-free event. And that’s a good thing.
For 99.9% of participants, the ride is so hard that whatever advantage you might eke out from marginal gains cheating is nullified somewhere around Mile 80, if not far sooner. And while it’s patently untrue that cheaters never win, especially in cycling, no cheater has ever won the BWR. To the contrary: In the inaugural event the leaders went off course, which couldn’t be detected because there were no chips being used, and rather than hop back on course they retraced their route to the point where they left the course, got back on, and finished — even though it cost them the win as Dave Jaeger, who had made all the right turns, beat them to the line and claimed the yellow jersey.
Neil Shirley, two-time winner of the non-race, is regarded as one of the cleanest, most honorable guys in the sport. No matter how many places in line you try to jump, you still have to pass Neil. Good luck with that.
The BWR is beautiful because it showcases the best and also the worst. You get to ride with champions and chumps, heroes and whores.
And at the end, if you’ve done it right, you finish with a satisfaction unlike any other. So go ahead and cheat your little heart out. If you dare.
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