THOG chum

February 19, 2018 § 1 Comment

I knew it was gonna be a great day at the CBR crit because when I peeled off my skinsuit in the port-a-dumpster, the right long sleeve slipped down behind me and dangled straight into the brown hole of death, but I was miraculously able to jerk it out before it touched any of the burrito/coffee/egg sandwich mixin’s stewing in the bottom of the tank.

It was obvious before the race started that it would end in a bunch sprunt, which was great because I’m still recovering from The Influence, and after so many years of doing this I have a sixth sense about when a race will end with a breakaway and when it will end in a mass gallop. My race plan was simple. Sit for forty minutes, race for ten.

As I rolled up to the line scanning my competition the only possible fly in my ointment was Thurlow Rogers a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG. Incredibly, there are still people, all newbies, who don’t know who Thurlow is. I explain it like this: “I first saw him destroy a pro-am race in 1983. He’s the best living active bike racer on earth.” If people don’t get that, after watching him race, they do.

Archibald & Rufus, CBR’s crack announcers, had warmed up the crowd with their unique blend of edutainment, teaching the audience about the race while also talking about their Valentine’s Day gift exchange of dead flowers, a roast dog, and several anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers naming the other as a felon. Anyone who thinks that it’s boring to watch a bunch of tired old farts in their underwear pedaling around an abandoned parking lot windswept with dirty diapers and used condoms has never listened to a race get lit up by Archie and Roof.

It’s money time

The race began rather animatedly, with Dandy Andy firing off the front. I sat comfortably in 67th place and sighed. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”

Sure enough, they brought him back.

Next went G$, stomping away from the field and opening up a healthy gap until the field realized that sitting out in the wind for 45 minutes was something that Money was not only willing to do, but that he had done countless times before … for the win. I sighed though. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”

Suddenly THOG shot out of the pack with a couple of riders in tow. This animated all the sitters, none of whom was interested in racing hard, but all of whom were interested in chasing THOG. There is a beauty in cycling because even though you may personally suck, with a little bit of effort you can ruin someone else’s day who is really good.

I sighed as I watched the hopeless move. “No break is going today.” It occurred to me that one reason I was so convinced no move was going today is because I was weak, tired, sick, and desperate to do a few parade laps then go home.

WTF? I said NO BREAK TODAY

Once the bunch was back together, G$ glanced around and kicked it. This time he opened up a small gap and three other riders bridged up, Dandy, Jaggs, and No Pull Dude. The field watched, everyone keying on THOG and waiting for him to do all the dirty work. THOG slunk to the middle of the field and the break really started to pull away.

I sighed. “Not today, wankers. No break is going today.”

I checked my watch and we were a mere 25 minutes into the 50-minute race. I still had fifteen minutes to sit, which was good, because I wasn’t feeling it. Suddenly the pack had slowed and my momentum carried me far towards the front. At about the same moment, THOG attacked.

When other people attack it’s sometimes unclear whether they’re attacking or whether they’re imitating a fully loaded city bus pulling away from the curb while dragging a building behind it. When THOG attacks it is pretty clear that the only thing worse than being a toilet roll in the CBR port-a-dumpster is being a crank or pedal on THOG’s bike. The viciousness of the smashing and the acceleration hurt to look at, and then you don’t have to look at it any more because he is gone.

After half a lap THOG was a tiny speck. For some silly reason I attacked, city bus style. The peloton yawned and hell began. I was a dangling worm on a hook, stuck between the group and THOG, which is like having your head crushed between a grand piano and a concrete wall, only worse.

Three laps passed, but after two I was a solid two hundred yards back from THOG and couldn’t make up an inch. It was a matter of minutes before I detonated and floated all the way back to the peloton. At that very moment my pals Archibald & Rufus screamed over the microphone, “Davidson is bridging to Thurlow!!”

“He is?” I thought, wondering who this Davidson guy was and watching Thurlow get smaller and smaller as smoke began issuing from the cracks of my everything.

What goes around

One thing I learned the hard way is that when you are in a break with Thurlow, you pull your fucking guts out. He is the greatest. You are shit. If you wind up on his wheel it means something epic is happening, and now isn’t the time to be clever or cutesie or calculating. It’s time to beat the pedals so fucking hard that you think your knees will come unhitched. The times I’ve been in a break with Thurlow he’s never had to say “take a pull” or “quit dicking off” or wheel-chopped me and sent me flying into the ditch.

Most importantly, when there’s prime money or a finish on the line, he has always dispatched me with the facility of a large hammer removing one’s front teeth. In other words, breakaway chum.

And when Thurlow heard the announcers say “Davidson is bridging!” he looked back, and what did he see? He saw chum. THOG chum. Tasty, fresh, bleeding THOG chum. So he eased off the pedals for a few seconds and waited. By the way, Thurlow never waits. If you are too weak to bridge, sucks to be you. But in my case, if you do bridge, then it really sucks to be you. I struggled onto his back wheel, and the beating commenced.

In a few moments I’d recovered and was able to pull, and that’s the beauty of being in a break with Thurlow. You go harder than you ever thought you could. Who cares if you get dropped, who cares if you lose, who cares if your feet fall off or you scrape a pedal and impale your head on a fire hydrant? The only thing that matters is DON’T BE A FLAILING WANKER.

With the added chum power, we pulled far away from the wankoton until they were invisible. All the while in the real race up ahead, G$ was tossing his breakmates into the paper shredder as they sat on his wheel begging for mercy. With a couple of laps to go the RuggedMAXX II kicked in and G$ left his unhappy companions to fight for scraps, but none of that mattered to me. I was covered in sheet snot and could care less about the race; I was barely even aware I was in one. All I knew is that we had two laps to go, and until the moment that Thurlow rode off I was all in.

We hit the next to last turn, uphill and into the wind, and I wound it up, sprinting from corner to corner, taking the final turn, and giving it a dozen final smashes. Then I sat up and Thurlow breezed by, hardly even pedaling, and frankly rather bored with the whole thing. Fifth for Thurlow is an embarrassment. Sixth for me is a tattoo on my forehead.

After the race my cheering section ran up. “Why did you quit sprinting?” they asked.

“That’s Thurlow,” I said. “If you’re not sprinting him for the win, you sit the fuck up and pay your respects.” Which I did.

END

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Bike racing lessons

January 24, 2018 Comments Off on Bike racing lessons

I did two races on Sunday and finished mostly last in the first one and relatively last in the second. In the first race I attacked a bunch, got brought back a bunch, and sat up with a lap to go because one of the most basic bike racing lessons is “Don’t go where you don’t belong,” and I don’t belong UP THERE at the end of a crit that’s finishing in a bunch sprunt.

In the second race, being gassed from the first one, I sat at the back for forty minutes and then jumped free for a few laps in a doomed breakaway that was caught, swarmed, and discarded like so much used toilet paper. Again, it always pays to follow that most basic of bike racing lessons, “Don’t go where you don’t belong.” And by “pay” I mean “go home with all the skin you came with.”

Why does everyone sit?

During both races I watched while 90% of the field simply sat. A handful of people animated the race, and ten people placed in the top ten, but everyone else was content to go around in circles and then sprunt for placings 11-100. In case you think there’s a difference between 2nd and 100th, let me suggest that there isn’t.

But it’s more complicated than that and since I’ve witnessed the same imbecilic behavior in every crit I’ve ever been in, now seems like a good time to break down this whole bike racing thing, not so that anyone will ever do anything differently, but so that I won’t have to repeat myself the next time someone asks me about crit racing.

Bike racing lessons for the industrial park, 4-corner, crit wanker

Every race is different, and the biggest factor in how you place is who shows up, period. That’s why a local 70-year-old flailer who has never lined up in a mass start race calls himself a “world champion.” One other wanker showed up for the time trial, and the “winner” rode 2,000 meters faster than the “silver medalist.” The bronze medalist was an empty space.

For real bike racers, though, your competition is the most significant factor, and at CBR, where primes are generous, courses are wide and safe, the weather is good, and the atmosphere is fun, the riders who you cannot and will not beat, ever, are guaranteed to be there. From this we can take home the first lesson of industrial park crit racing, and the most important: YOU WILL NOT WIN, EVER.

Read that as often as you need to. Once you understand it we will move on to Lesson 2, and please don’t give me any “If!” and “But!” and “My coach says!” and “My Strava!” and “But wattage!”

I don’t GAF. You–yes, you–cannot win a CBR crit. Neither, of course can I, and please don’t remind me of that time last year when it was raining meatballs and I beat one other dude who quit midway through. That wasn’t “winning CBR,” that was “riding in the rain alone.” The reason you will never win a CBR crit is really simple. There will always be someone faster than you.

How do I know this? Because the same kinds of people have been winning this race, and races like it, for decades. You are not one of those kinds of people.

Understanding your crit racing limits

You may be wondering how I can be so certain that you aren’t ever going to win at CBR. Well, there are two reasons. One, you are too slow. “But my wattage!” you cry. Okay, perhaps you have the wattage. Perhaps you really do have enough power in the last 300m to win at CBR. But there’s a second reason you will never win, which is way more important than your power: You don’t know how to get in the right position, and stay there, on the last lap.

These two limitations, your speed and your position, can never both be overcome. This is because you are a fraidy cat slowpoke, and because at CBR there are at least a dozen riders who are consummately skilled at positioning, and who have a better sprint. And you could race and train and pay coach until the heavens go black forever, but you will still never come around Cory Williams, or Justin Williams, or Charon Smith, or Steve Gregorios, or Tommy Robles, etc. etc. etc.

I can’t overestimate the importance of understanding how hopeless your outlook is. It’s like walking on the surface of the sun, or breaking the two-minute mile, or chewing with your mouth closed. It will never happen, and it’s not until you accept that fact that we can proceed. By the way, if you think I might be talking about you, I AM.

Understanding everyone else’s crit racing limits

Once you accept defeat it’s time to study another of the important bike racing lessons, which is that none of the other racers can win, either. All those people around you? They are as hopeless as you are. You and they are one, together, joined at the hip. They, like you, have spent all that money and time on Facebook but they will be going home with something other than first place. This is called losing. You and they will lose.

Now don’t get me wrong. Coach will find something to praise you about and your numbers will be a navel for infinite gazing. Someone may have a photo of you charging around a corner and you will one day win a prime, or at least know someone who did. But you and they will still have lost and be losers. Remember this when you observe the field. “We are losers.” Repeat this as often as you need to.

However, sprinkled in among the losers are potential winners. You are not one of them and it’s pointless to speculate who they might be. It doesn’t matter; they are not you and you are not they. And since this kind of thing goes better with real names, I will give you a few from my own club. Ryan Dorris, Dave Holland, Anthony Freeman, Scott Torrence …

These racers can potentially win at CBR because they have top-end speed and the ability to position themselves on the last lap. There are other racers like them who can also win, but again, none of those racers is you, and never will be. It’s important to recognize that your team may have one or two potential winners in a bunch sprint and that you will never be one because this is the beginning of the process through which you can answer the key question about bike race participation: What the fuck are you doing out there if you’re not there to win?

To sum up: You’re in a bike race and your chance of winning is zero. Why are you there?

Breaking down purposeful racing

Leaving aside the only explanation for every junior racer ever, “My dad made me do this,” there are only four reasons for any human being to ever join a four-corner industrial park crit that is going to end in a bunch sprunt. Here they are:

  1. I’m here to win (this doesn’t apply to you, ever).
  2. I’m here for the training.
  3. I’m here to help my teammate win.
  4. I’m here to entertain the spectators.

There is no fifth reason to be in a four-corner industrial bunch sprunt crit. If you can’t peg yourself to #2, #3, or #4, it’s time for you to go into therapy. But first, go home because you don’t belong here, ever, and the pavement hurts.

I’m here for the training

This is actually a great reason to sit in the middle of a big pack, do nothing, and pedal hard the last lap so that you can get 58th. Bike races with lots of racers go fast, and speedwork is speedwork. Joining the bike race to improve your cornering, get used to racing in proximity with other imbeciles, and learning to bunnyhop body parts is all part of the skill set you will need if you plan to continue racing, which, by the way, is a bad plan.

However, in order to get much of a training benefit from crit racing where you ride around in the pack like a broken potato, you need to do more than one race. You need to do three, four if you can stand it. The additional races cost a measly fifteen bucks, and you will be absolutely frazzled if you put in three hours of crit racing, even if you just sit there like a wart.

The corollary is that if you only do one or two races you are not getting much training benefit from imitating a toenail. So once you accept that you will never win, if you decide that your goal is training, then do three races and make sure when you get home you can barely inject a steroid. That’s how tired you should be.

I’m here to help my teammate win

While this sounds like a good reason to do a four-corner industrial park bunch sprint, it’s usually not. Why? Because if your teammate is Ryan Dorris or Dave Holland or Anthony Freeman, they don’t need your help. At all. Not even a little bit. That fantasy you have of driving the pace on the final lap and dropping them off gift-wrapped with 200m to go is like the Tooth Fairy. Nuh-uh.

The most obvious reason this won’t ever happen is because if you had that kind of speed and that kind of positioning, you’d be capable of winning yourself, but as we’ve seen you have one or neither but not both. The less obvious reason and the sad one that your teammates won’t tell you is that they don’t need or want you anywhere near them on the last lap.

Your teammates are looking for a good wheel to latch onto, not yours, and you are violating that most crucial of bike racing lessons, “Don’t go where you don’t belong.”

It is painful to realize that you are worthless when it comes to helping others, but like gravity it is also a fact. You are a clogstacle, an object that gets in the way at precisely the wrong time, leading to crashes, bumps, shrieks of terror, and having thirty people pass you in the last hundred meters. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a wide-eyed new racer tell me how he was getting fit so he could “help the team” by “leading out Ol’ Grizzles,” and me never having the heart to say “Ol’ Grizzles wants you as far back as you can get without being in Montana.”

So now is a great time to take that fantasy of you driving the leadout train behind the woodshed and shoot it. Actually, you don’t even have to shoot it because it is already dead.

Meaningful help

But don’t despair! There is a way that you, a loser, can help your teammates, who might be winners. It’s not glamorous or glorious and you may well DNF, but since you’ve accepted that you will never win, and have decided that you don’t just want to ride around in circles like a greasy donut doing nothing, you can be a helper.

Here’s how.

Your sprinter dude teammates at CBR are waiting for the end. That’s it. They know who they have to beat and how they have to beat them. What they are hoping is that their competition is just slightly more tired at the end than they are because unless you’re sprinting against Charon Smith the differential is often not that great. This is where you, lowly wanker, can actually attack.

Attacking is simple. You wait until the pack bunches up, then squirt up the side pedaling as if you are being chased by facial herpes. The pack has bunched up because it is going slow; you are squirting up the side because you are going fast. When you hit the front you will keep going and they will watch you go, in amazement, perhaps sprinkled with a few giggles at your awkward pedaling syle (pull your left knee in, please).

“Who is that wanker?” they will all wonder, but you won’t care because you will be off the front and pretty soon instead of wondering, they will have to chase. Don’t ever think, even for a moment, that they will not chase and you will somehow solo to glorious victory. They will, and you won’t.

Key point: This attack helps your sprinter/potential winner. You will get caught of course and there will likely be a counter and you could well get punched out the back of the field, dropped for good, pulled by the ref, and forced to tell your wife that you DNF’d a stupid crit, but you will have done something far more interesting and useful and bike-racerish than going around in circles like a turd swirling the drain. What’s more important is that if you have teammates who are also doing the toilet swirl thing, they can do these attacks, too.

Each attack, though weak and doomed to failure and instigated by a complete flailer (you), results in someone having to expend energy chasing you down. That is often one of the potential winners and your teammate will be back there chortling. Make a note of this: DOOMED ATTACKS ARE GREAT TEAMWORK AND HELP YOUR SPRUNTER. Even more incredibly, you are not limited to one of these attacks. You can do two, three, or even seventy, as many as your legs can stand. And another bonus is that it is good training. So the next time you are in a crit simply going around in circles waiting for your inevitable 58th placing, for fuck’s sake make an effort, and then another, and then another.

Here’s another fact. If the 90% who never do anything all did one hard effort, the races wouldn’t end in a field sprunt. They would break apart and an actual bike race would occur. However, this is impossible.

I’m here to entertain the spectators

It is easy to understand why you wouldn’t want to attack repeatedly to help your teammate. Most teammates aren’t worth helping at all, even a little. In fact, most teammates are best served by being chased down like scurvy dogs. There are few feelings in life as enjoyable as watching a teammate in a successful break, and then helping the enemy bring him back. Betrayal and treachery rule.

So it’s not necessary to carry out senseless attacks so your superior teammate can bring home yet another winner’s mug and $50 check while you have to show up at the water cooler on Monday and explain that you “helped by losing.” No one will understand. The only thing they will understand is “I won,” which you will never get to say, and even if you do, they will immediately forget because it is a ridiculous thing that causes their brains to stop the minute you say “criterium.” No matter what they say they are all thinking “What the fuck is a criterium?”

The final and only sane reason to be at the bike race, since you can’t win and you don’t want to train and you wouldn’t help your teammates on a bet is to entertain the spectators.

Keep in mind that although for you bike racing is a mortally serious event contested between serious adults displaying the ultimate in mental acuity, reflexes, endurance, fitness, and speed, to the rest of Planet Earth you are a middle-aged man slowly and anonymously riding a plastic toy in circles in his underwear clownsuit while his pot belly sags over the top tube and a few bored family members eat tacos and hope you don’t get killed or, depending on your insurance policy, that you do.

Although studies have shown that some activities shut down the brain more completely than watching a bike race, such as being dead, for the most part industrial park crit racing is the worst. Fortunately, at least at CBR, Kris and Jeff Prinz had the foresight to hire Archibald & Rufus to do the race announcing. These two guys are funny, witty, insightful, experienced racers and pro commentators.

The catch?

Something has to happen in the race. Even Archibald & Rufus can’t make chicken salad out of chickenshit, and it’s up to you to bring the chicken. A well timed attack, a badly timed attack, a hopeless surge for a lost prime, a mad dash for a pair of socks or some nutritional supplement that you don’t need, anything that is dynamic and noticeable and that distinguishes you from the other sods stuck in the middle of the peloton counting down to 58th place is exciting! And the announcers will either say your name or, less thrilling, your race number.

“Here comes Number 607 on a hopeless attack destined for failure!” Rufus will roar.

The crowd will wake up. They will look. They’ll note your determination, your focused drive, your matchy-matchy socks, and they will admire your effort, because no matter how silly you look, punching off the front in a solo move is hard and looks impressive, especially to the ignorant and ill-informed, and especially with Archibald & Rufus comparing your daring to Eddy Merckx.

In other words, if all else fails, at least put on a show. You got this.

Conclusion: Bike racing lessons that work

I hope you’ve been able to identify yourself. I know I have. Industrial park crit racing can be gratifying but you have to get out of the blob. Everyone can’t be a winner; it’s not a lottery ticket where the chances are equal. But there’s more to life than winning. Just ask Charlie Sheen.

END

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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

 

TUE for Tuesday

December 15, 2017 Comments Off on TUE for Tuesday

I read the sad news about Chrissy Frump’s adverse analytical finding which wasn’t a positive or a failed drug test and didn’t involve him breaking any rules but was more of a misunderstanding that requires further clarification to determine the complex, myriad factors that led to a non-doping violation positive potentially resulting in the loss of a grand tour title because of its non-dopingness.

Chrissy and Team Mystery Package will get to the bottom of it and have retained O.J. to help them find the killers, with Bone-Idle Wiggins on retainer in case there is a witch hunt.

In the meantime I did a lot of research about asthma and pro cyclists, which is another way of saying I typed in “cyclists asthma” and read the first three propaganda pieces churned out by Cycling News, which quickly interviewed a pro cyclist team doc (we’ll get the straight dope from him!) who explained that every pro cyclist is or should be an asthmatic and that the banned drugs wouldn’t help anyone perform anyway, certainly not by improving their breathing in an aerobic sport like … stage racing.

Anyway, after reading about how horrible cycling is for the lungs and that it is a gateway to asthma, I reflected on the past weekend’s upgrade race at our local parking lot crit, CBR. And now that I think about it, there were asthmatics everywhere. I don’t think you would see more pulmonary disease on an emphysema ward or in a West Virginia coal mine.

My own race, a Cat 2/3 upgrade event where people with nowhere to go in the sport of cycling beyond Suck Land pay money to get beaten again as they seek points rarer than the hammer that made the Ark of the Covenant, I realized that my inability to upgrade was a result of my lifelong asthma.

Unlike a lot of asthmas-come-lately, I had asthma from as early as junior high school. I remember wheezing and gasping horribly every time Mrs. Morcom handed out the Friday algebra test, and no amount of second-hand marijuana smoke inhaled in the bathrooms seemed to cure it. My asthma was crippling and led to an “F” which I had to make up in summer school in order graduate, which in turn led to even more asthmatic suffering that even more second-hand pot smoke (force inhaled) failed to cure.

It wasn’t until I began Serious Cycling at age eighteen that my asthma went away, but it was subcutaneous asthma, where it worked its invidious clogging of my lungs invisibly. To outsiders I appeared fit and quick and successful in a few shabby races and able to ride hundreds of miles a week, but inside I was a ruined asthmatic mess. Sometimes my asthma was so bad that when we hit a steep hill the only way I could get away from the pulmonary pain was by pedaling faster for an hour or two.

Anyway, as an older competitor it is clear that my asthma has prevented me from winning more races. Just the other day when Dave Holland was beating me in a time trial, I was on the verge of beating him but for the seven or eight asthmatic breaths that took almost a minute out of my finishing time. And in the hill climb, when everyone rode away from me, I would have beaten them had it not been for my asthma.

This played out again on Sunday at the upgrade race, where I was on the verge of winning except for my subcutaneous asthma. My only consolation is that everyone else in the race had asthma too, or if they didn’t, they would one day. In the meantime I’ll just send off my TUE for salbutamol with a sprinkle of EPO, HGH, and some Kayle Sauce, and keep my fingers crossed.

END

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CBR #5–bike racing for fun and not much profit!

May 30, 2017 § 5 Comments

I did two races yesterday, the 45+ and the 35+. This was held on the “left-hand” race course, which is the longer one with four turns and which is almost pancake flat.

The 45+ field had almost ninety riders and there was no wind, so I knew it was going to be very fast. After the race someone said we averaged 28.5 mph over sixty minutes. I don’t know if that’s true, but the handful of times I was off the front it was ridiculously painful.

Two moves that would have worked in CBRs past were the one in which I followed Pat Bos. Basically, once the first salvos have been fired and people are starting to tire, any move with Pat in it is going to be a winning one. We stayed away for about a lap, but each time he flicked me to come through we lost massive speed. The pack seemed to bring us back with ease.

The other move was with Red Trek Dude. I don’t know his name but he is fast and super smart. Same deal, though. They pegged us back after a couple of laps and that was that.

With twenty minutes to go it looked for sure like it was going to be a field sprint, so I slid to the back. It’s funny how a peloton has a group consciousness, where everyone realizes the same thing at the same time without ever saying a word. Sometimes it’s “field sprint,” or “that move is gone,” or “bring it back.” I don’t know how you know but you just know.

I settled back to watch the fireworks because I’m a firm believer in leaving the dangerous, dirty work of sprinting to the sprinters. It’s true I don’t win much but it’s also true that I have a pretty good record of going home with all the same skin I left with.

The second race was slower, I think, but just as ridiculously hard because it was a smaller field. The 35+ race looked like it was going to be a battle between Rahsaan Bahati and Charon Smith, two guys who wrote the book on crit racing. It’s always weird how in one race things stay together and in another race on the same course on the same day under the same condition a break goes, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why.

I stayed at the back most of the race, where things would have been really easy were I not already gassed. The one time I moved up towards the front to see if any break action was about to happen, all I found was a lot of wind. So I slinked back.

While Rahsaan and Charon were watching each other on the last lap, Robbie Miranda hit out early and beat everyone to the line. It’s always exciting when an underdog beats the favorites, although Robbie wins so much he’s hardly an underdog. I was so tired after two hours of racing in circles that even sitting was a chore.

My Big Orange team tent was the happiest place at the race. We had several riders do their first race yesterday. Kevin Salk and Matthieu Brousseau were incredibly excited to race; Matthieu so much so that he put on a clown suit after the race and wore it on the podium. It was pretty awesome that while other people were fumbling for their podium cap our guy was buttoning up his entire clown suit. A huge contingent of Big Orange racers paid entry fees and raced. I could name them all, except I couldn’t. The NJ Of The Day award went to Andrew Nuckles, who did three races and never stopped talking for seven straight hours.

Sherri Foxworthy came to the race and snapped a ton of team pictures, as did Paul Cressey, so we have two team photogs who are each generously paid in granola bars and all the warm water they can drink.

Team members Delia Park showed up to cheer and chat and encourage, and Kristie Fox put up the tent at Dark AF:00, loaded the tent area with food and drinks, and spent the entire day pinning people up, refilling bottles, changing poopy racer diapers, then going out to race against some very fast women. Denis Faye of Beachbody Performance also came to cheer his wife, and Connie Perez, recovering from a bad fall, was there as well. Marilyne Deckman raced her way to fifth, Lisa Conrad had a strong showing in the 4s, and everyone agreed that Michelle Landes needs to woman up and switch back to Big Orange.

People who want bike racing to be more fun and who think that industrial park crits are boring need to see what happens when their entire team shows up, including spouses, kids, and S/Os.

Because it’s fun AF. Photos courtesy of THE Sherri Foxworth.

END

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Workin’ the mouth

April 7, 2017 § 14 Comments

I’ve always maintained that industrial park crit racing is really boring for spectators. A huge mass of people go round and round, they’re harder to distinguish than fall warblers, then someone shoots out at the end, throws her hands up, and the race is over.

Who’d want to watch that for fifty minutes, or even fifteen?

But then I thought about America’s most popular sport, throwball. The players are indistinguishable if you’re a neophyte. What they are doing is incomprehensible. Some umpire dude is constantly blowing a whistle and throwing a flag. Everyone suddenly decides to give the throwball to the other team. Someone runs across the finish line. Another dude kicks the throwball through the fork tines. Weird point combinations of six, three, one, sometimes two, appear at random. WTF?

And for all that, people go ape-fuggin-shit and hundreds of millions of dollars change hands online.

What do they got that we don’t got?

Then it hit me. Announcers. They got announcers. Some of them are great. Some of them are awful. All of them have mountains of crap to say. One dude talks about how four seasons ago one throwball dude dragged down another throwball dude. Another talks about somebody’s fifth knee operation. Some other dude compares one throwball team to the Pittsburgh Flintstones’ Stone Curtain from the 70s. It may be drivel, but it’s informative drivel.

But bike races? Crits have four types of announcers:

  1. This is my playlist. Hope you like the 70s.
  2. Nathan Newbie. “Hey everbody!! (Is this mic live)?”
  3. Jaded Fuddy Duddy. (“Looks like you all missed the break. Hahahaha.”)
  4. Awesome Announcer (“You’re not paying me? See ya.”)

Numbers one and two are self-explanatory and common. And guess what? Spectators don’t have to come to your industrial park crit to listen to K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Number three is some dude who’s been around forever, is sarcastic and cynical, and when he pays attention, if at all, it’s for the pro race. Men’s.

This year the CBR Crit took a different approach. It got Rahsaan Bahati, David Worthington, and David Wells to create an actual commentating crew.

AND IT PAID THEM.

These three guys are all smart, glib, and experienced announcers, but most importantly they know the racers and they know how to race. Whether it’s the Cat 5 Crit or the Masters 55+, they call out names, real names. None of that “Here comes number 69 leading the pack!”

It makes all the difference to a mom, dad, brother, girlfriend, sister, or boyfriend to hear a name called out. And it makes all the difference to all the spectators to hear experienced racers break down what’s going on, lap by lap. Analyzing riders’ strengths, speculating about weaknesses, commenting on strategy, filling the time with anecdotes and explanations makes these races become for the spectator what they are for the racer: Fun.

It’s easy to get great bike race announcers, but after a day or two spent in the hot sun shouting yourself hoarse for eight hours it transitions from “fun” and “helping the community” to “work.” Professionalizing it by paying the announcers for what they bring to the event is one of the best investments a promoter can make.

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Wanky Race Predictor!

March 31, 2017 § 20 Comments

cbr_20170402

Wanky Race Predictor for CBR Crit #4

Last 20 laps of the MP12 race will be fast.

Last 20 laps of the WP123 race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Cat 3 race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Cat 4 race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Old Fart 35+ race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Oldest Fart 45+ race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Sandbagger 35+ 3/4 race will be fast.

cbr_20170402

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B(u)RP

February 21, 2017 § 12 Comments

It is pretty easy to complain about the state of road racing, which is why I enjoy doing it so much. Complaining doesn’t require any research (my forte) and can be done based exclusively on personal experience.

Although I often want to say good things about the state of road racing, the effort it requires is so monumental that I just go over to Cyclingnews.com and scan the latest podcast of Lance & Co. explaining how “he wouldn’t go back and change things,” which is really nice of him not to do that.

Problem is, when good news appears it always requires work to verify facts, get names spelled correctly, and make sure that I didn’t give Willy Walleye a shout-out for getting 27th in the 55+ men’s race when it should have been for Timmy Tosser instead. So when a buddy pointed out that the Beginning Racer Program that started this year at our local CBR crit series was overflowing with riders, I shrugged because, well, work, and also because there were some things I wanted to complain about, such as how Lance ruined my childhood dreams.

Then this afternoon I was talking with Jeff Prinz, the CBR race promoter, about the racing this past weekend, and he spewed forth an incredible number of facts about the B(u)RP program and how it has really taken off. Sensing an opportunity for someone else to do the work, I hurriedly took notes, okay, I didn’t take any notes, but am pretty sure he said this:

  1. B(u)RP participation sessions both maxed out at 50 riders each, and the first one began at 6:00 AM. Riders were queuing up at 5:30 to register.
  2. After B(u)RP-ing, every single B(u)RPee raced, except for those who couldn’t because the Cat 5 races sold out. Sold out. Does that mean anything to you race promoters out there? Did I mention the races sold out?
  3. Feedback was incredibly positive. Good coaching, an explanation of the fundamentals, and a welcoming atmosphere made the program a success.
  4. The program will be continued for the remaining four CBR races on the calendar, and will be greatly expanded for the April race.

Participants said mainly that they wanted to race but were intimidated by the “throw ’em to the dogs” approach for which cycling is famous. I still remember asking Fields if there were anything I should know before my first race. “Don’t fall down,” he advised.

Of course that’s still good advice, but the execution can be tricky, and trickier still when it’s your first race and it’s everyone else’s first race too, and there just happens to be that one person in the race who upsets the apple cart, a/k/a Mr. Physics. It turns out that the B(u)RP has been around in SoCal since 2015, and in NorCal for THE LAST THIRTY YEARS, but it is a long way from here to Fresno and you have to get past all those hog farms and etcetera so that’s why it’s taken so long. I mean the Donner Party died that time coming down Hog Farm Pass from Fresno to SoCal.

What’s more interesting is the fact that every single crit in SoCal doesn’t put one of these clinics on. It’s weird because you’ll see a scraggly field of masters racers–sorry, make that four different master’s category races in a single event–and not one single B(u)RP for new racers to learn about and get enthused about the sport. It’s weird because it seems like if you were a promoter you’d be really stoked to have new young racers filling up their fields and advancing through the lower categories and paying entry fees much more than you’d be stoked about having to spend half an hour arguing with some 57-year-old stockbroker who harangued your wife about why she overcharged him five dollars at the registration table.

But I progress.

The things you’ll learn as a B(u)RP participant are:

  • Basic Pack Skills – Protecting Your Front Wheel. This is the single most important aspect of racing, and BRP coaches will teach you how to headbutt, hook bars, and discuss the anatomy of someone’s mother as you viciously fight to the death for the best starting place ten rows back in the field of 100.
  • Cornering – Choosing and Holding Your Line. Cornering is misunderstood by almost everyone except the spectators who pile up in the corners in bloodthirsty anticipation of watching a whole bunch of sausage get shoved into the casing on a fast, downhill, off-camber, slightly wet hairpin that narrows into a cattle chute.
  • Pack Awareness & Skills — This also known as “effective cursing” and “screaming at max heart rate.”
  • Sprinting Basics — Where you learn the cardinal rule of sprinting: Don’t.
  • Bringing it All Together — This part of the session is most important for the longevity of your career, as it involves techniques for explaining to your family that you really did “win” even though you got 89th place because you were on the front a bunch and I know I spent $400 to go race for fifty minutes but it’s cheaper than a crack habit (actually, it isn’t).

Anyway, hats off to CBR and the the Beginning Racer Program. We need more of it. And next time I promise I’ll include some facts.

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