April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments
Different people obviously enjoy different things about riding bikes, and you can tell a lot about what they like by the rides they do. Here are my rides from last week:
- Saturday Donut beatdown.
- Sunday 60-minute TTT practice with Kristie.
- Tuesday Telo fake crit with real vomit pieces.
- Thursday Flog intervals.
I’m doing TTT practice again today and no matter how I look at those rides about the only thing they have in common is that they aren’t any fun. It’s obvious I don’t like fun, or spoken another way, not having any fun is a lot of fun.
The Flog ride that we do on Thursdays is the least fun of any ride I have ever done. It’s in its third year and I wish I had a quarter for every person who has done it once. This past Thursday I felt awful, as I hadn’t recovered from Telo. The reason the Flog ride is so bad is that it is six hilly 5-6 minute intervals, which is not fun, but since you do it with a group, each lap is a mini-race.
Because we’re bike racers we keep score in our heads each lap, which is silly. We regroup in the parking lot after each interval, descend a twisty road to the start, and do it all over again. Everybody keeps score and strategizes how to win the interval, or at least how to delay the droppage as long as possible. Like I said, silly.
The fastest lap times ever recorded were when Daniel Holloway and two of his teammates came out and did it. I love it when people say “Holloway’s just a sprinter.” So ignorant. That guy, in addition to being clean as a whistle, is good at virtually every aspect of bike racing. Stathis the Wily Greek did the Flog ride religiously before he retired at the unripe age of 30-something. He won every lap almost every time, including the horrible 13-14% grade up La Cuesta, the climb we do the last lap on and where we take a glory group photo at the end.
Some people found it demoralizing to get smashed every single lap by Stathis, but I didn’t. I love that kind of riding because it is so real. You don’t dangle in between delusion and reality, you get reality force-fed down your throat. Stathis was so much better than you even on his worst day and your best day. Like the Alabama rednecks used to say about Bear Bryant, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.”
Most people don’t like that, I guess.
Anyway, I felt awful from the start. Greg Seyranian’s fitness is really coming around; he blitzed us on Lap 1. Then he started hard at the bottom of Lap 2 and led out the whole lap, and then dropped us at the end. Then on Lap Three he led out the lap and I sat on and managed to pass him at the top. Lap Four he led it out again, and Josh Dorfman uncorked a nasty attack that no one could follow. Lap Five Mike Hines attacked us all on the mini-wall past the stop sign. I hung on somehow. Mike is a masters world champion on the track. He has these accelerations that just break you.
On Lap Six I quit and went home, which I hardly ever do. I had a deposition later that morning, but that’s just an excuse. The reality is I apparently had had a little bit too much fun.
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October 23, 2016 § 16 Comments
The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards wrapped up with hardly any controversy! There are too many people to list for their wonderful contributions. No, wait, that’s not true. This is the Internet and there is absolutely no limit. So here goes!
First off is Diego Binatena, from Base Cartel. Why Diego? Because I fucking forgot to thank him last night, out of all the people who deserved mention. Bottom line? Buy his shit. It’s awesome and he’s a good dude.
This year the event hit the medium-time thanks to the Southern California and Nevada Cycling Association. They kicked in a ton of money and funded the toilets, the lights, the sound, the stage, free food, chairs, tables, pro photography services, and half the beer. In short, they made the event! My only question is this: Where were all the SCNCA award recipients? Jeez! What is it about “free food, free beer, and cash prizes” that you bike racers don’t understand?
The plus side was that there were plenty of SCNCA recipients to come collect their trophies and cash, and no group better represented the spirit of the night than the crew from SC Velo. What fantastic bunch of kids. I think they may have even learned new cuss word or two. I always take pride in mentoring the youth.
Anyway, on to the thanks!
Jan Luke, SCNCA President. Made shit happen. Made this partnership happen. Lugged in the trophies. Lugged out the trophies. Was awesome in every way!
Chris Black, SCNCA Vice President.
David Huntsman, SCNCA Secretary. Lawyer, advocate, friend, guy who has done so much to breathe new life into SCNCA.
Armin Rahm, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, dad, promoter, businessman, friend. Showed up to show the Amis how a Bavarian drinks beer.
Justin Williams, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, cool guy, friend. Ready with a quip and encouragement, hell of a bike racer.
Suzanne Sonye, SCNCA Board Member. Legend, legend, legend. Oh, and legend.
Matt Wikstrom, SCNCA Board Member. Mr. Git R Done. Handed out checks, coordinated everything for two months before the shit show, brought more goodwill, enthusiasm, and execution to the event than anyone ever. Plus kicked the shit out of everyone on the Donut. Except those two pesky juniors.
Sean Wilson, SCNCA Board Member.
Omar Lozano, SCNCA Board Member. Promoter, dad, husband, and part of the “new face” of bike racing promotion in SoCal. Enthusiastic hard working dude who supports juniors, local, and binational racing.
Dan Munson: Simply the best. Pro photographer. Even as I write this he’s putting together a folio of the amazing evening. Prepare to be blown away.
StageOne: Designed everything. Logo, t-shirts, patches, bar tape, banners, posters, and virtually every kit worth looking at in the South Bay.
South Bay Wheelmen: Local bike club that kicked in hard cash to buy flowers for the lovely deserving recipients.
Wend Wax: Chain wax. Look. This shit works. So go get some. Ryan Dahl generously donated 20 sets of Wend Wax, a billion dollar retail value, for the award winners’ swag kits. So frigging cool.
JoJe Bars: Energy bars. John Abate and Jessica Cera’s amazing energy bars that are organic, wholesome, taste great, and give you an amazing kick in the shorts when you need a boost on the bike or off.
Beachbody Performance: Everything you need to win, to finish, or to prop your legs up on the couch and watch the Cubs win instead of riding your bike. Beachbody has been the number one step up and deliver new sponsor for cycling in 2016.
BonkBreaker: Provided awesome swag bags to award winners containing energy snacks, energy chews, and super cool musette bags. Thank you!
Marc Spivey: Wanky Committee member who filled the venue with the right sound at the exact right time. Marc’s lifetime in the music and entertainment industry, and his passion for music has meant that every single year we’ve had sound that matches or exceeds the most famous award ceremonies anywhere.
Derek Brauch: With the help of Jami, put together the most awesome Wanky Swag Bags™ ever. Provided us with meeting space for our numerous and redundant meetings, the best analytical mind around to improve, question, improve, question, and improve until we were even better than the year before.
Trey Smith: The ghost in the machine. Every year Trey provides us with incredible sound that makes the whole thing happen.
Keedar Whittle: Fantastic comedian who kept people in stitches, hit the great stuff, didn’t shy away from politics, race, and biking, and left us all happy and glad he came.
Michelle Landes: Arranged flowers, total selflessness, and was there with a smile, encouragement, and assistance every step of the way.
Chris Gregory: Truly the Spirt of the Wankies. Whether it was ordering the Hall of Fame figurines, designing and making, the necklaces, choosing and assembling the invitations, recording and double-checking RSVPs, taking photos at the event, making elegant podium presentations, keeping things running smoothly, and always helping me just when the confusion was at its max, “thank you” doesn’t even begin to do it.
Lisa Conrad, Sherri Foxworthy, Stephanie Lin, Chris Gregroy: These four amazing women have been with the event since its inception, if “inception” is what you call a bunch of drunks in a dive bar trying to give away awards to passers-by. From the minute we said “Wankies” they donned their evening finest and showed up with shimmering with beauty, poised, happy, funny, gentle, and they’ve been here every year since. Truly, no matter how rough and sort-of-ready the biker gang crowd is, they give us all the class you can’t get all sweated up on a bike.
Jami Brauch: Jami artfully designed and stocked the swag bags despite having a newborn to care for–the bags were so great this year that people simply couldn’t resist stealing them. Can’t wait for next year!
Kristie Fox: She helped with the swag bags, she set up and managed the sales table (books, socks, bar tape, patches, t-shirts), and she singlehandedly ordered and delivered the most massive and awesome cake in the history of the awards. And cupcakes! And done with a smile and ruthless efficiency.
Strand Brewing Co.: No mere words can thank Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello for this amazing venue, for their support of grass roots cycling, and for providing the infrastructure and support to pull of this best-ever event. Oh, minor detail! FREE take-home growlers of White Sands DIPA, their top-shelf, brew, to every adult who showed up.
Tony Manzella and Echelon Color: Printed and delivered the amazing award ceremony posters. Ansel Adams said it: “The negative is the score, but the print is the performance.” And what a performance by Echelon Color it was!
Tara Unversagt: Tara worked to get SBW sponsorship involved, helped with swag bag materials, and did the ultimate job of Cub Scout Den Mother by keeping me organized and on track throughout the event. So much fantasticness in one person!
Phil Gaimon: Best UCI US pro road racer, attended our event, made us look semi-sort of legit, and promoted what is the best Grand Fondue on the calendar: Phil’s Malibu Cookie Dough Gran Fondo. Register here, register now. Phil drove straight from Clovis, NM, to make the event. How awesome is that? Very awesome!
Daniel Holloway: As if Phil Gaimon weren’t enough, reigning US road/crit champ Daniel Holloway brought the star power and picked up right where he left off. Being a part of the South Bay community. Thank you so much for sharing.
The 2016 South Bay Cycling Awards award winners were:
- 2016 Greatest Advocate: Sarah Barraclough for BMUFL/Master Safety Plan advocates
- 2016 Best Bike Shop: Performance Bicycle
- 2016Best Young Rider: Ivy Koester
- 2016 Best Old Rider: George Pommel
- 2016 Most Improved: David Holland
- 2016 Best Club: Long Beach Freddies
- 2016 Best Event: Dana Point Grand Prix
- 2016 Wanker of the Year: Denis Faye
- 2016 Belgian Award: James Cowan
- 2016 Group Ride Champion: Elijah Shabazz
- 2016 Best Sponsor: Beachbody Performance
- 2016 Best Male Racer: Justin Williams
- 2016 Best Female Racer: Katie Donovan
- 2016 GC Award: Joe Yule
- 2016 Crashtacular Fred: Marvin Campbell
- 2016 Strava KOM: Chris Tregillis
- 2016 Most Happy to Help others: Chris Gregory
- 2016 Most Fun: Sochin Lee
- 2016 Best Spouse/SO: Jeanette Seyranian
- 2016 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Tony Manzella
Until next year, thank you!!!
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March 30, 2016 § 27 Comments
I was riding along, minding my own business, trying to look like a very excellent profamateur. The four riders in front of me were all very excellent profamateurs and one of them was actually a professional.
I was feeling highly excellent, as this was my second Donut Ride back after my terrible bicycle-falling-off-incident in which I tumbled off the bicycle and broke my left nutsack. We were on PV Drive North and, as I believe I have already mentioned, I was doing very excellently.
Suddenly my profamateur suplesse was shattered by a horrible grinding and clunking and thunking and greenking and scranking noise that leapt up from the throat of my rear wheel like a terrible, garlic-and-onion-and-pizza-infused beer belch that will not be denied. “Here I go again,” I panickedly thought as I stopped pedaling with excellence and my face froze in a rictus of terror as I contemplated falling off my bicycle again and re-cracking my barely healed nutsack.
The others looked back to see why I had suddenly decided to set off a string of firecrackers and I coasted to a halt. I gingerly put my foot down and saw my chain hanging limply, with pieces of my SRAM Red derailleur cage attached. I was shaking, so certain had I been that a falling-off-incident was imminent.
Destroyer began examining the expired derailleur as Holloway went back to collect the shards of derailleur. Charon somehow had an extra plastic baggie and put the pieces inside. Destroyer called Uber and in a few minutes I was on my way home.
That afternoon I got a call from French Toast Ride Director Sportif Dave Jaeger. “Dude,” he said. “I heard you broke a derailleur.”
“Word travels fast.”
“I got a brand new SRAM Red 10-speed still in the box. It’s yours. Come and get it.”
“Really? How much? I’ll need to check behind the couch cushions.”
“It’s yours. I upgraded to 11-speed and don’t want or need it. If you can warranty the broken one, I’ll take it, but if you can’t, no worries.”
I got the new derailleur and went over to Boozy P.’s. “Dude,” he said. “What happened?”
“Obviously, the SRAM Red 10-speed is highly defective.”
“Yeah. I’ve only had it for about five years and it’s only got about 65,000 miles on it. It’s practically new.”
“Of course it is,” Boozy P. said, putting down his morning beer. “But isn’t that the same derailleur you crashed on in November and ground half of the derailleur body off when you slid across the road?” He had emptied the plastic baggie and was looking at the mangled parts.
“Yes, but it’s still clearly defective. Plus, all the stuff that got ground off was non-essential vitamins and minerals.”
“All vitamins are essential, Wanky.”
Boozy P. slurped down a few more essential vitamins, then slapped on the new derailleur and handed me back the baggie. He paused for a second. “Wasn’t this also the same derailleur that King Harold had to disassemble for you on the Donut a few months ago because you’d been trying to adjust it with Old. No. 72?”
“Coincidence,” I snapped.
“Be careful out there.”
I got home and took out a padded envelope, addressed it to RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas, and penned this short letter.
“Hi, Brent. I bought this new in 2012 and it appears to either be defective or I crashed the shit out of it and destroyed it. Most likely the latter. I know it’s a long shot, but could you send it back to SRAM and see if they will warranty it for its defective failure not to withstand sliding 100-yards across the pavement at 30 mph?”
A couple of days later Brent sent me a terse text message. “Lovely package received. On it.”
A couple of weeks later a nice brown unmarked box not filled with a bag of dicks arrived at my office. Brand new derailleur.
So when people tell me that the Internet is killing their bike shop, I think about Brent and his shop that is doing so well in Encinitas that he opened another one in Carlsbad. Off the hook service is his standard, and standing behind what he sells is a principle, not a slogan. And when I think about standing behind their product and giving the customer the benefit of the doubt I think of SRAM.
Maybe Internet bike shops aren’t so invincible after all.
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February 23, 2016 § 30 Comments
This is the hardest single-malt climb, aged 35 years, in the LA area. Feel free to disagree, but you will be wrong.
One of my buddies has a passion for things that don’t make sense, and he has this in common with a billion other cyclists. He texted me the other day. “What are you doing on Sunday?”
“I’m doing the hardest climb in the LA area. Single malt, aged 35 years.”
“Lots harder than Deer Creek.”
There was a pause because everyone knows there isn’t anything harder than Deer Creek.
“Santa Monica Mountains?”
More silence. “Where?”
“In Team Helen’s back yard. And hardly any of them have ever done it.”
I could hear his jaw flex through the text. “Really, now?”
“So how hard is hard?”
“It’s 30 percent for .1 mile. The total climb is about fifteen minutes.”
“How would you know that? You don’t use Strava.”
“I’m just making it up. But it’s still the hardest climb and none of your boys have still ever done it and it’s still on their porch stoop.”
“I’m in,” he said.
“I knew you would be the minute I said ‘hard.'”
“Can I bring people?”
“Instead of worrying about bringing people, you should worry about bringing gears.”
“Check,” he said.
On Sunday he showed up with a cadre of climbers. Although Michael is a big boy, he climbs like crazy, and he was surrounded by tiny people who climbed even crazier. Holloway, Jeff Mayhem, Strava Jr., a couple of juniors on the Specialized Euro squad; they were all there.
We turned up Topanga from PCH and the questions came rapid-fire. “Where is it? What’s the name of the road?”
“It can’t be here! I know all these roads.”
As we got halfway up Topanga I broke the bad news. “Boys, we’re going up Observation.”
The conversation ended as each rider contemplated his rear cog. Some had heard of it, none had done it. We turned left onto Grand View and then onto Observation, which goes down at first, which is nice, and then up, which isn’t.
A couple of guys got lost, breaking the rule of “If you don’t know the way, wait for the guy who does, even if he’s old and slow and has a leaky prostate.” We regrouped at the top, if “regroup” is what you call a bunch of broken people who aren’t ever again going to be un-broke.
Nobody said anything but they didn’t have to. When I got back home it had been memorialized as a segment called “Seth’s Hell.” Even though I was last.
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January 24, 2016 § 13 Comments
My coach, who didn’t know he was my coach, had sat up and was drifting back. I had been dropped on the very first section of the Switchbacks after Charon, Prez, and Bruins had split the huge field into fragments going through Portuguese Bend. They spun out the back like used rocket stages, but the damage had been done.
The lead group had about twenty riders and they pedaled away.
When Canyon Bob came by and motioned me to get on his wheel, it seemed like a good idea. I temporarily forgot about my [insert sympathy-getting excuse here] broken pelvis and focused instead on how happy I was to be on my bike.
Bob quickly brought me back into the way-too-red zone, and then I was alone again. Up ahead was Coach. I call him Coach because he once gave me some advice. “Don’t be the strongest guy in the break,” he had said.
Lots of people give me advice, of course. “Sit in.”
“Don’t move around on your bike so much.”
“Quit being such a dick.”
However, none of them won 26 pro races last year, have a fistful of national pro crit titles, or are considered the best bike racer in America.
Also, Coach became my coach because he hardly ever talks to me. I hate it when people tell me stuff. I am stubborn and dislike advice, especially when it’s unsolicited and free, and even more so when it’s paid for and requested. I once paid a woman $10,000 to not teach me how to pass the bar exam. That’s a true story, and I passed.
Ron Peterson, one of the top coaches in the business, has a word for people like me: “Uncoachable.”
Anyway, Coach has never given me any training advice. He doesn’t care about how I ride, when I ride, what gears I ride in, what equipment I ride on, what my schedule, diet, power numbers, heart rate, or what race calendar is. “You can find someone to advise you about all that on the Internet,” he’s fond of saying.
“Only thing I can help you with is, you know, actually winning a race.”
At first I thought he was kidding until, following his advice, I won my first two races since 1986. Do you know how hard it is to win a bicycle race, even a creaky-kneed, leaky prostate one? Let me tell you: It’s very hard. Very, very, very hard.
And it’s harder the older you get because there’s no churn. There are no younger guys coming up displacing the old guys. As you get older, so does your competition. They age grade right along next to you. The guys who were beating you in ’88 keep beating you in ’98, then in ’08, and soon enough in ’18. In math terms, they’re always doing calculus, you’re still struggling with arithmetic.
Coach is awesome because he fills in the huge void of ignorance that I live in, the ignorance of strategy. And the strategy itself isn’t difficult, but then again neither was sailing to America for the first time as long as you knew the earth was round.
So Coach drifted back. “Get on my wheel,” he said. I did, panting so hard it hurt almost as bad as my broken nutsack and fractured childbearing pelvis.
After a few seconds, you know, those really, really long ones that other people call “minutes,” normal breathing resumed. “Okay,” I said. “I can go faster.”
But coach didn’t go any faster. He kept me in this strange zone that said “I am doing a lot but I can do more.” My instinct, of course, was to do more. Isn’t that how you beat people?
Pretty soon we caught and dropped Canyon Bob, who I never catch and never drop. Then we got passed by a mini-three-man-train. Coach let them go. “They’re dropping us!” I wailed.
Coach looked back. “The climb’s not over yet.”
This bizarre purgatory of pain but not unendurable pain continued to ratchet up. We caught the mini-train. Where the climb jerks up for 200 yards they splintered and we left them for good without ever accelerating.
“Steep walls have a speed limit,” said Coach. “It requires exponentially more energy to accelerate on them and if you kick it there you have nothing left for the longer, easier grade where you can make time.”
We made time and picked off other riders, guys who are lots fitter and faster and younger and richer have prettier mistresses. They were not happy to get passed by Ol’ Gimpy Busted Nutsack latched onto the wheel of reigning national champ a/k/a Coach.
Now what had seemed like steady but endurable pain became suddenly awful. This corresponded with the short flat spot on the way to the Domes, where Coach sped up. I popped, he slowed, and I got back on, settling into purgatory again.
We caught and shed several more riders.
Afterwards he explained it. “Don’t ride in the red.”
“Okay,” I gasped.
I thought about that, and it prompted a billion questions until I reminded myself that one fool can keep a hundred wise men busy for a thousand years.
Then I pondered that out of that entire gaggle of idiots, only 11 had finished ahead of me, none was my age, none had a broken ballsack, and we’d picked off about half of the initial lead group.
“Hey, Coach!” I shouted. But like Racer X, he was gone.
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December 27, 2015 § 16 Comments
People are funny. If you give them a good tip they ignore the hell out of it, like the weird black mole that’s been blossoming on my shin and now looks like a rotten cauliflower that is oozing goo and has probably metastasized to my liver.
I went to the doctor a while back. “How long has that been there?” he asked.
“Long time? Short time?”
“Short time I guess. It was a gash and how it’s just some dried blood under the skin I think.”
“If it changes at all or doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks come back and we’ll take a look at it. Don’t ignore it.”
That was a looooong time ago and I ignored the shit out of it even as I noted its terrifying growth profile. So now that it is about the size of a child’s bowling ball and has learned to read and write and can even say its name, I finally made an appointment to go back to the skin doc.
I know what he’s going to say. “Well, Mr. Davidson, you’re dead now.”
And I know what I’ll say. “Who cares? My leg’s still jacked and I can’t ride for beans.”
But you? You won’t ignore some sage advice, will you? Because I’m going to give you some. Here it is: Go stalk Daniel Holloway’s ride schedule and follow him like a bad case of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Here’s the deal.
Daniel is the best bike racer in America. That’s not hyperbole or exaggeration. He won 345 races this year, half of them only pedaling with one leg. He races against the fastest lead-out trains on the continent and smokes them like a brat left overnight in the BBQ cooker.
But, whatever. This isn’t nearly as important as the fact that he’s in LA through the end of January, and what’s more important, shows up on most of the dork rides–NPR, Donut, etc. In other words, you have a chance to ride with the country’s winningest pro. And in other other words, five minutes spent riding with Daniel is worth 500 hours of Internet coach time and bike forum chat room palaver and Strava auto-titillation.
Unlike lots of supermen, Daniel has time for DLU, Dorks Like Us. Have a question you’ve always wanted answered? Daniel will answer it. He may be wrong, but at least you’ll be getting it from a pro.
Plus, he’s friendly. He intends to get in his workout, which often means all you’ll see is a tiny dot vanishing in the distance, but other times he’s pedaling around at DS, dork speed, trying to burn off the same cheesecake and lard-covered-butter cookies that you are.
Best of all, and most mystifying is when Daniel shows up on the NPR. Best because NOW IS YOUR CHANCE. Mystifying because when he hits the jets hardly anyone even tries to follow.
Dude! Pedal harder, please. This is your free coaching lesson. Even if you hang on for .0001 seconds, you will have gotten a better workout and will have seen what kind of acceleration it takes to escape the gravitational pull of 75 hackers pounding with a tailwind.
Better, if you’re like Smasher and manage to grab his wheel when he goes, he will absolutely beat your face in. All you have to do is hang onto his back wheel while he gins out 450 watts for four laps. You can do this, really, you can’t.
I know that you have a carefully planned workout regimen that is going to allow you to place mid-pack next year, but at least while Daniel’s in town you need to toss that plan out the window and follow this guy around, bothering the snot out of him with stupid questions. In addition to being a complete wizard with regard to tactics, he’s knowledgeable beyond belief when it comes to aero equipment and riding position, and has an ability to read a field that you won’t believe.
Of course I fully expect you to ignore this, because good, free advice is just that way.
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November 6, 2015 § 12 Comments
I decided to write down everything I know about performance cycling.
There. That sure was quick.
Then I decided to write down the things that, although inappropriate for others or unorthodox, have helped me achieve competitive success on the bike.
So that leaves me with my observations, and the problem with those is that they’re filtered through a brain that is politely described as “eccentric” and clinically described as “in need of strong medication.” But I regress.
The performance cycling pie has three equally sized slices. Well, they should be equally sized but they aren’t.
I. The training slice.
This is the one that in most pies covers 90% of the plate. I won’t tell you about training because you already know everything there is to know about it, which is why you won Paris-Roubaix last year. But I will tell you about my training slice for 2016 because it meets the only two criteria for a training plan that matter: It’s simple and I can do it.
- Don’t tire myself out. For decades I slogged and flogged, never passing up a long ride, never refusing an offer to take an interminable, stupid pull, never hesitating to follow up one hard workout with another, and then after that, another. But no mas. My new rule? If my legs feel flat I’m not riding. Why? Because I am old and wear out quickly, and if you’re over 40, so do you. You know how steel will wear out eventually? We’re not steel.
- Two hard efforts a week. Or less.
- Avoid any training regimen that involves data, or worse, social media, or worst, data and social media.
- Keep my weight at 150.
- Study Chinese more.
- Continue to finish each day with several tall, cold glasses of un-drunk beer. Recently I’ve been super enjoying not drinking Racer 6 IPA.
II. The aero slice.
This is the piece that some people focus on, but typically only as it concerns equipment. The current battle for “Most Aero” is being viciously fought between Strava Jr. and Sausage. The one ground down his carbon stem (full carbon, that is) so that the bolts no longer protrude. The other booked a room in the Specialized wind tunnel for his tenth wedding anniversary.
Fully 1/3 of your performance pie should be devoted to aerodynamics. The easy part is buying shit and loading up on 100% carbon components that are full carbon and taking your wife to the wind tunnel. The hard part is riding aero (and ever getting laid again).
Riding aero differs from buying aero, and as an inveterate cheapskate I’ve failed at both. In addition to a lifetime devoted to poor training habits, I’ve also developed bad positioning into an art form. The idiot out on the edge of the peloton, catching all the wind? Me.
The dolt riding three bike lengths behind the last rider? Me.
The clod who’s always on the wrong side of the echelon? Me again.
Unsurprisingly, stupid training and bad positioning go together. The bulk of your aero efforts should be comprised of wheelsucking, something that most cyclists gravitate towards naturally, and selective drafting, something that few riders excel at. None, it should be noted, surpass Vinny D.
Selective drafting is like having to sample fifteen wines before you pick one to drink. You don’t guzzle the whole tasting glass, just like you don’t commit to Twitch Thudpucker’s wheel for half the race. You put a little in your mouth, swish it around, then spit it out. Same with drafting. The wheel you suck should itself be well positioned. It should be ridden by someone who typically makes the split. And it should feature a big old ass, one that is wide and with overtones of blackberry, perhaps even including a tart yet buttery finish that goes well with fish. The rear panel should not be beyond its expiration date a-la-Brad House. And if Kjar isn’t around, you must learn to never follow riders who are smaller than you.
This can be a challenge, because little people are often the best racers. No matter. Spit them out and ride behind the bigger butt.
One difficulty I have always had in wheel selection is the delusion that I am small. Because I sometimes end up with the climbers, I mistakenly assume that I’m like them. I’m not. They are tiny and delicate and cute and you want to cuddle them and hook them up to a cheeseburger I.V. bag. But I am not. I am long and stretched out and a kind of elongated wind sail. So sitting behind tiny people doesn’t work for me, and henceforth I will not sit behind them. You shouldn’t either. What you will find, however, is that tiny people are constantly sitting on YOU. Use this to your advantage by throwing back your rear wheel, veering unpredictably, or stopping for no reason. Think PREZ.
The final piece of aero riding is navigating within the pack. This isn’t that hard (I’m told), but it is terrifying. The lugs who occupy the middle of the pack are using 78.3% less energy than I am as I slog over on the side in the wind, but they are scary because they have head tattoos, pierced teeth, facial scars, jangling ear dangles made of brass that play jingle bells against their top tubes, and they don’t cry when their bars bump. If you can develop the steel nerves to sit in this viper’s den of angry killers, you will arrive at the finish fresh and rested. Good luck with that.
III. The strategy slice.
For a very few riders, this is 90% of the pie, and they always win a few races a year. Do you know Gibby Hatton? He shows up to races with no teammates, not very fit, and always wins a few. Why? Because he has perfected aero pack riding and because he knows exactly when to pedal hard–once, in the last 200 meters, sitting fourth or fifth wheel in the last turn.
The rest of us had strategiotomies at an early age and are more or less profoundly stupid and incapable of thinking during a race. That’s too bad (for us, not Gibby) because it means that at no time in the race do we actually try to answer this question: “How am I going to win today?” [Note: “Go from the gun and solo the whole race” is not a strategy, just like “Be president of the United States” is not a career plan.]
Why are we so stupid? Because strategy involves constantly evaluating your “plan to win” against what’s happening on the ground. It’s a great idea to attack on the final climb unless there’s already a break three minutes up the road. It’s a great idea to come around Charon at the finish but 30 other people have the exact same plan and most of them believe in open carry. It’s a great idea to splat on your face in the last ten meters but Prez already has that sewn up. Plus, it’s not really a good idea.
Although dynamically strategic thinking is impossible for me, it is possible to pick one concept and stick to it. For example, “Don’t be the strongest one in the break.” Or “Don’t lead out the sprunt.” Or “Pay off the best rider.” That last one generally works very well.
So that’s it. Go forth and win. And remember who taught you how.
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