Monday, July 31, 2006
No, not on the bike. Strong on flats and descents, piss poor on hills. Nothing changes there.
I'm talking about the blogging.
I realize there are some days where I perform pretty well. Other days, well, it's as if I had mailed it in, but couldn't be troubled to get off the sofa, put on my underpants, stagger to the corner and drop it in the mailbox. Yet a day later, I follow it up with something hilarious or mildly intelligent. How do I do that?
Frankly folks, I haven't a clue. I think it's God-given talent, just my unique ability to write. My boss notices the same thing at work. One day, I'm Clarence freaking Darrow himself, the next day, it's as if an itinerant autistic hobo with a weak bladder, a quart of Thunderbird and non-existent attention span was writing my memos.
I realize some of you probably expect this pattern stems from doping. After all, how can you explain such lousy performances, followed up by world class blogging?
I really don't know how I do it. As Phil Ligget would say, there are some days I just lawyer with rage, with fire in my belly, and with several empty espresso cups on my desk, the smoking heaps of my enemies' briefs smouldering on the floor. Bob Roll would tell you that with my blogging, sometimes when I get on the internet, I leave nothing but carnage out there, smoking, burnt red meat on the keyboard. Other days, well, not so much.
Yeah, some people detect a whiff of high testosterone in my writing style. But I assure you, I've always had naturally high testosterone. There's no needles involved here. I like to think of myself as following in the footsteps of other writers who had outrageously high testosterone levels, like Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemmingway, and Gertrude Stein. Of course it's naturally occuring. Have you ever seen my back hair? Of course not, because I only take my shirt off when I'm around bears, among whom I feel less self-conscious. It can also be explained by my heavy drinking. Sometimes after a rough day, I offer myself a beer or six. "Here, Jim. Have a bunch of beer." "Thanks, don't mind if I do." We all know that alcohol raises testosterone levels, because Floyd said so, and the fans gave him a bunch of beers which he drank, and then he was detected with high testosterone levels. So it must be true.
So I want you all, including the European tabloids and Dick Pound, who has just about the worst name, EVER, to put an end to this whispering campaign about my erratic blogging. It's erratic precisely because I'm dope free. Y'all said for years you wanted a clean blog, y'all got a clean blog, so enjoy it. Hell yeah, it's unpredictable. But it's the best blog to come along in years. And it sure beats the hypodermics out of those other guys who are all jacked up on the juice, claiming to be great bloggers. They're just cheaters, and it's embarassing the way we let them eclipse the records of the pioneers without comment. I'm talking about those brave souls who rode out the flame wars of the Usenet, who competed in tough conditions in spite of inferior equipment. They didn't have Aeron chairs, they were stuck with something like 300 baud dial-up modems, yet still they tore up the T-3 lines with seminal emoticons such as ;-) and <:-<)> and !-(. Hell, Leet hadn't even been invented then and WiFi wasn't even a gleam in Vint Cerf's eye. These hard men were basically riding the equivalent of fixed gear bikes up and over the Mt. Ventoux of the DARPANET. You know, they did it without even having any Jolt or Red Bull? My hat is off my receding hairline, and I'm waving in the air in a drug-free salute to them.
No, the cheaters can never eclipse the great performances of those denizens of the Golden Age of Haxorzzz, and when I'm done, you're going to wonder how I did it without the juice. So lean back folks, and let's enjoy the ride together as two parts of a necessary pair: a clean, mean, blogger/reader machine, a horse and rider, or if you prefer a dog and pony.
And hey, would one of you bastards get me another espresso? A man involved in dope-free blogging sometimes gets a wee bit thirsty.
How bad was it?
Bad enough that when the scene occurs where Kevin Bacon is in his apartment fixing the cute messenger girl's bike/flirting and his girlfriend comes home, I had to exit out of On Demand and check out the History Channel, which was airing a show on the development of cement, or something like that.
It was so bad, that I was embarassed for Kevin Bacon. Never mind the inconsistencies of it. Hey, nice fixie...er, where'd that derailer come from? Where are the brakes on that thing? Ooops, guess it's fixed again, since you're spinning the handlebars around. Never mind all that. It's just the worst non-acting mugging I've ever seen.
It was so bad... well, I've never walked out on a completely inoffensive movie before, ever. It was that bad. Ever smelled rotten onions before? Y'know how it took days for the stink to clear out of your nostrils? Yeah, that's how I feel about that freakin' movie. It was that bad.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Everybody says it's a good thing - prevents having to scrub nasty leg hair out of big road rash patches, gives a minimal (14 second) aerodynamic advantage over a 40km TT, is in keeping with the Roadracing Ethos, the wife/girlfriend usually opposes it until they experience then they inevitably love it...
Great stuff, but nobody talks about technique. Here's some stuff I've figured out based on doing some shaving when I was a swimmer, eons ago, and based on what I've re-discovered over the last year or so. A preliminary concern - use a pair of clippers, hair or beard/moustache type, to take it down to stubble. It will take forever if you try to hack off a jungle of leg hair using a razor. Once you are down to stubble:
1) Get your legs wet. Even better if they are sweaty-greasy, like after a ride. I recommend water for this. Gatorade would be sticky.
2) Start with a fresh razor - at least two bladed. If you like a real challenge, and don't faint at the sight of your own blood, a deadly sharp straight razor or a dull single blade razor might be an interesting variation on this technique.
3) Use Edge gel, stick the lower leg on the toilet seat, and lather up. You do the bottom first, otherwise you cover yourself in shaving cream trying to bend over after your thigh is lathered up. I don't recommend using Smuckers Strawberry Jam for this portion of the operation.
4) Work from the back side of the calf and knee, to the ankle then shin then front of knee. Back to front, for the same reason, to avoid covering yourself in shaving cream, which gets expensive after a while if you waste enough of it.
5) Lather up the back side of the leg, then the outside then the inside. Shaving your male member and his two little friends is strictly optional.
6) Shave as far up as you like. The guys who don't race and who are just stylin' seem to stop somewhere just over the bottom of the shorts' leg line. If you are like me, actually race and seem to crash once in a while, you'll probably prefer to get the hip and butt - they usually take the brunt of any crash along with the outside of the calf, and if you have some Eye-Tie blood in you, as I do, your hairy butt will suffer horribly from getting hair stuck into the road rash.
7) Note the direction your leg hair grows. Shave against the grain. Don't press down hard, just maintain firm, light pressure and drag the razor upwards. In my case, the hair is parted up the middle of my thigh, probably the legacy of sitting 10 hours a day in law school then for 7 years as an attorney, wearing khakis or dress pants. So I have to start on the back of the hamstring, and work around my leg in semi-circles. If you in a wearing-shorts-job, better for you, your hair probably grows downward and simple upward strokes will work.
8) I start from the outside of the hamstring/thigh, and shave up and in. This way, I'm not bending over and getting shaving cream on my chest trying to reach up and under on the inside of my leg. I don't recommend trying to shave patterns into your leg hair here. Also, rinse the razor frequently, if you get a lot of stubble into it (and you'll get ten times as much stubble as you do when face-shaving) then the razor can skip and bounce a little on the skin, and this leads to cuts. Well, unless you're into self-mutilation, in which case, go to town, mate!
9) Careful on the back of the knee. If you stand facing away from the toilet and extend your leg, sort of toes-down on the toilet seat, you can get your knee straight enough so that the skin on the back of the knee isn't puckered, and you can gently shave it along with the top of the calf, all without taking off a huge strip of skin and revealing your tendons for closer inspection. This is a good thing... and quite frankly nothing burns worse than a back of the knee cut with sweat dripping into it. I had no idea about how much I sweated just sitting at work until I cut the back of my knee.
10) Careful on the front of the knee. There are lots of little dips and if you have a contact sports background, they'll be scarred up. You can take a whole chunk out if you don't watch out. Press more gently on this part of the leg and the back of the knee, and make multiple low-pressure passes if necessary. Screw this up, you'll have another impressive scar, though the story to go with it will be pretty girly.
11) Shave the calf and shin in any order. There are three trouble areas to look out for. The dimple on the inside and outside of your ankle is troublesome. Shave gingerly in the dip, and when you bring the razor up the tendon on the outside of the leg, press lightly. You can take off a 6" strip of skin here if you don't watch out because the razor hits the high point. Second, take care when going up the middle of the shin, for the same reason. Third area, the achilles and the wrinkly skin on it. I just leave that sucker alone, it's like shaving a golf ball, too many little dimples.
12) Shower up after you shave. If your skin can take it, use a good anti-bacterial soap, like Dial. Leave it on for 2+ minutes, that's how long it takes to de-germ your gams. Yeah, the chlorinated water hurts, so does the soap. Big frickin' deal. You don't like hurting? You should probably find another sport then.
13) After you shower, if you have some open pores (little blood spots or razor burns) douse your legs with rubbing alcohol, 93% type, with lanolin. Just in case you wondered, yeah, it burns, but not as bad as impetigo or some other skin infection would burn, and not nearly half as bad as scrubbing gravel out of a hairy scab after a race crash. If you feel like screaming... don't. It doesn't hurt as bad as going ass over teakettle at 35 MPH then having two guys crash into you, I can assure you.
14) After that dries, a bit of Neutrogena will take care of the leg skin. BTW, cats seem to like the taste of Neutrogena, and they may lick your legs at night if you use it post-shave and go straight to bed. This is really weird. Don't say you haven't been warned.
15) Don't go swimming right after you shave your legs. Lots of icky stuff in the water, besides your nappy butt.
You might be wondering why I'm putting out so much detail here. It's because in a past life as a swimmer, I used to shave and got some wicked skin infections I'd rather not go into the details of - reducing the cuts and disinfecting may help with that. I'm also hoping that once John Brewer gets all married up, he gets over the Fear of the Blade and can, Kenny Rogers' Son-style, "not do the things I done."
Can't have a guy sprinting up the Cat Ladder riding around like a hairy-legged Fred, now can we?
Sunday, July 23, 2006
(Other than the fact that On One, with bikes named the Gimp and Il Pompino simply rules...)
- I spent a chunk of Friday and Saturday volunteering at Squadra Coppi's excellent Giro di Coppi road race. Bill Cusmano had described the course to me as "relentless." I didn't realize how serious he was until I drove the thing in a car to sweep corners on Friday. The entire 11 mile loop is going uphill, or downhill. The only flats are the brief moments atop the hills or at the bottom, where, if you drew a perfectly flat line, it would touch a single point whose slope is 0 degrees. Brutal.
- I'm simply not in shape or thin enough to compete on the Giro course, or any seriously . In fact, I saw several big guys, larger riders I recognize from my class in local crits. In crits, they are front runners, I ride with them in the top 10 or 15 of most races in our class. At the Giro, they were at, and then off the back. I noticed a few guys who ride well in crits at the front at the Giro - they are good strong all-rounders. One of next year's goals is to be more like them - a lot thinner, and stronger climbing.
- One of the great things about that race was getting to know some of my teammates better while doing the prep work. I'm constantly grateful about having joined the Coppis. It's not a huge team, but the moderate size and caliber of the people who ride with the club make it a rewarding experience. I don't mind sweeping out corners for my amici.
- I was totally unable to stick to my training plan last week. That sucked. Not riding much makes me cranky, and missing my training goals just compounds it. Amazing how racing and training becomes an obsession, and how bicycling seeps into your bones, So that when you miss a few rides it feels very unnatural.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
So did everybody else.
Nothing I can say, would adequately describe the magnitude of Floyd's ride today. Floyd and the other 150 or so riders left in the Tour, have given us a gift. Were this baseball, and were we Red Sox fans, we could say "I'll die happy now."
Floyd isn't the only superb performer in this Tour. There are many, and at least two thirds of the stages have been contested as if they were one day classics. This is a Tour to remember.
As for Floyd - I'll shut up now. Any praise I could give only takes away from the magnificance of his feat today. Look at it, and be quiet with me for a minute so we can appreciate what he did.
H/t for the photo to the excellent Velo News.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
We racers and tifosi talk too much about speed, about 7 wins, about wattage and heart rates and the modulus of carbon fiber. We lose the essence of the sport which is men putting themselves in great suffering with the help of an impassable road up an impossible mountain, testing their mettle, legs and lungs against each other, giving all, failing, recovering, giving all again, looking into the heart of darkness and pain, looking deep into their own soul, and then riding out of something like hell, at a pace triumphant.
Or abandoning, utterly crushed.
Though the Tour is on tonight, I am almost afraid to watch, lest this tough Stage 16 should fail to measure up to the impossibly high standard set on Alpe d'Huez yesterday. That was champagne and caviar racing. Forget the dopers, Ulrich, Basso, Hamilton and the rest. We don't need them. Don't curse them, don't damn them - just forget them. They don't deserve to bring sacrifices to this altar, not just for the crime of doping, but for the crime of besmirching a very pure sport. The sport will forgive doping, after all doping is men trading years of their lives, risking jail and livelihood for a single sip from the cup, but cycling does not forgive stupidity and indiscretion on or off the wheel. This sport is mystical in its import whether dopers ride or not, and, in fact, assuming the rest of the peleton is relatively clean right now, it is better without the dopers, the competition purer, more free of baggage. What were their names again? Oh, nevermind. Doesn't matter. When an enormous pack of Top 10 caliber riders have a fair chance to win, when a great classics rider like Voigt or Schleck or Kessler has more than a chance to take a stage win, and when a guy who has had a so-so career like Axel Merckx has a chance to become a hero for 20 minutes, it is indeed a great day. The common men are reaching deeper into themselves than they thought possible, and becoming great men before your eyes. If you think that Basso or Ulrich, once cleared, will come back as strong as ever, think again. Some of these new men will ride with confidence, having tasted greatness and having realized what heights they are capable of. The dopers, by making themselves somehow larger than others, will return diminished.
The heated fight, victory, failure, redemption - these great themes played out on the 21 switchbacks last night. Warfare is the only human activity I can think of that surpasses bike racing. The only activities that rival a race, that can be for a minute its equal, are the rare great opera performed greatly, the finest wines and romantic love. Nothing else is finer, with both more wickedness and more purity, than a battle on wheels which strains the legs, the hearts, and the spirit of men - nevermind the the tense stomachs of the tifosi.
Yesterday's stage was unique. Other races and stages in the grand tours might measure up to yesterday's battle, but nothing will surpass it. We saw 150 men stripped down to the bare essence of their being. Some were found wanting, many measured up, and a surprising number completely surpassed themselves, and our expectations of them. I have not been racing for long, but I've been following the Tour for most of my life, and following it closely for over a decade, as well as reading about its history, culture and legends. While other stages may be its peer, other individual riders may turn it greater performances than the workmen did yesterday, none will be its equal for a racing fight. I sincerely hope that you, like me, appreciate Stage 15 for what it was: the very best of its kind we will ever see.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Okay, fine. That's all lies.
The truth is, after 9 days of watching the TdF stages twice in a row, I got nothin'. Less than Randy Johnson. Less than Barry Bonds without the Cream and the Clear. Less, even, than Terrel Owens' internal censor. I got jack, nothin', nada, zip.
Now go. Get out of here. Go bother somebody else.
Why the hell are you still here?
Go bug these high speed hotties on bikes or something. I bet they got something interesting to say, especially when they find out you've been stalking them.
Friday, July 14, 2006
All credit to Floyd Landis and Team Phonak. They have taken control of the peleton as a leading team is expected to do. Amazing the way morale affects one's cycling performance - they were in the dumps two days ago. Now they are riding with great confidence, even letting Popo go away for the win, and into the GC race. Floyd wears the yellow jersey well.
Much credit to Discovery, Popo, Hincapie and Johann Bruyneel. Bruyneel this morning - "we are out of it. No chance." A great psyche job, akin to "my legs are soooo heavy today. I will probably have to abandon before the first corner." Popo rode bravely and well. He did his share of work in the break, then attacked. And attacked. And attacked - until the other men simply broke under the pressure. Hincapie, for his part, has taken shell shock and a demotion with courage, and without complaint. He is obviously deeply depressed about not having the necessary legs, but he is taking it like a pro, in a manner worth emulating. Admirable performances all around. I hope he fights back into contention in the next few mountain stages, the Alps are more suited to his power riding style.
I had a nice 25 mile ride on the fixie in lieu of the Muffin Ride this morning. Sainted Wife had a dentist's appointment early, so I was off on the bike at 5:40 AM, trucking along trying to keep it in Zone 2. I did a familiar loop that I love to take on my geared bike that features a lot of woods, a couple nice wetlands, and a couple hills that used to trouble me on the geared bike. It's a big mark of my progress that the hills were no big deal, even on the fixed gear. Life is good.
This weekend warrior - hairy legs, Nike sneakers, rat traps, eases up to me at a light this morning. He gives me the hairy eyeball, then takes off a moment later when the light changes. Ahh, I get it. It's a drag race. What are we going for, Fred? Pink slips? Fred didn't notice I was on a fixed gear, I guess, and could only hit about 35 on the ensuing downhill of a big roller. Anyhow, he pedal mashed away from me, complete with some good derailer/chain rub. Zzzzrrr, zzzzrrr, zzzzzzrrrr. Bad form, bobbing, a lot of right to left on the bike. Oh well, no big deal. I just keep trucking along through the bottom of the roller, up the other side - 20 MPH steady - and who do I pass near the top but Fred. "Pop!" I think he rolled his clincher off the rim and flatted, from the looks of it, or maybe just busted the tire by riding hard and jerky through a gravel patch. Simple rough pedaling will do that sometimes. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyhow) I was deeply impressed.
Gatorade should market a kind of super-adhesive contact cement as a rival to Superglue. If it is half as sticky as Gatorade when you spill in on your hands, downtube and bottom bracket, Superglue will be bankrupt within a year. The only problem is coming up with a solvent for it.
There are few kinds of drivers I hate worse than the ones who gas it, to the point that their engine is screaming, to get past me to turn right and cut me off. It is a good thing I didn't start riding seriously until last year at a fairly old and mellow age, or I would be involved in a lot of roadside assault incidents. As it is, I have to settle for fuming impotently as I pedal along, or occasionally pulling up to the idiots at the next light and hollering in their window. My attitude is especially bad because I've had the benefit of traveling to a lot of places around the world, most of them bad, and seen a lot of people die in exceptionally stupid ways. There are good ways to die, and good reasons to sacrifice your life, or somebody else's. Getting to work 11 seconds sooner, is not one of them.
Have a nice ride, y'all. Keep it safe out there.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Hey, you think it will piss off the French to have an American - the son of openly religious Americans who happens to be the most un-chic (ergo un-French) person in the world - wearing the Maillot Jaune on Bastille Day? I do. Betcha the first "Floyd is doping" story hits the French press within 48 hours.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
C'mon, you pussies! You're pro bicycle racers. The reason you are cowed is because Lance cowed you. The reason he did is because he attacked, and attacked hard as soon as the mountains went upwards. It was never a sure thing that he would make it. Yet he went, year after year.
I hope there is an attack coming tomorrow. It's a brutal day, and if you were to attack, that is the day. You don't go easy and hope to nip people. The way to attack is to break the other riders' legs, to attack them when they are weak and crush them, to hear the wailing of their children and the lamentation of their women...
Okay, that is a little over the top, but the fact remains you win by riding smart for a while, saving your resources, then putting an outsized hurting on the competition.
Other than Mercado and Landaluze and the other guys who very bravely attacked and broke away, I saw nothing to make me smile in the peleton. Nothing. Agh.
This is like watching a much-heralded understudy in opera finally take the stage after the diva has gone down with the flu - only to find the understudy suffering from terrible stage fright and a cracking voice.
C'mon guys. I don't want to see this Tour go to the most defensive. Let's see if any of you have the balls to stand up and take the championship. We're not going to respect you otherwise.
Monday, July 10, 2006
- Am I the only one who got home tonight, turned on OLN, and freaked out because today's Tour stage wasn't on? I know it's only a rest day, but I wanted to see how the boys rest. Hey, I wonder if they use drugs for that too. They should have a jersey for the best slouch. It should be gray, the color of a Fruit of the Loom T-shirt - either an intentionally gray one, or a white one that hasn't been washed very well and just turned gray from being stuck to some Nintendo-playing, Doritos-swilling couch potato for weeks on end. You could put irregular stains on it, kind of like the results of half the pro peleton's hematocrit slides. My money for King of the Futons is on Zabriskie. I bet he rests better than pretty much anybody in the peleton, and I bet he does it with flair comparable to Savodeli's descending prowess - dangerous, innovative, and unpredictable. Though most of the Italian pros seem to rest relentlessly when they get on the wheel in breakaways, so maybe Zabriskie isn't that clear of a favorite.
- I'm not kidding about TdF withdrawal. I keep reaching for the remote. This is going to be bad two weeks from now.
- I found out today that a colleague whom I've known for a few years - a really delightful lady and a solid professional - is engaged to one of the Coppi guys I ride with. She then drops the bomb that a couple other colleagues, sharp folks with whom my office has had some interesting professional relations over time, are also racers, albeit with other clubs. It's a small world out there. I guess I'd better stop joking about everything and get really serious, in case they read this blog.
- Yeah, right.
- I passed a downed bicyclist on the median at Independence and the last cross street before you cross under Memorial Bridge. It looked like he hit the front right panel of a white van that was in the intersection. If I had to guess I'd surmise that the rider was riding along the right hand gutter going north into the intersection, and the van attempted to turn right and cut him off, knocking him up over the median onto his back. He wasn't moving much and was getting strapped onto a backboard when I drove by, and I'm going to say a prayer for his health. I nearly get hit this way about once a week. People consistently underestimate how fast I am going, gun it to get past me, then cram on the brakes and turn in front of me, cutting me off. When I saw the downed rider, I thought, "there, but for the grace of God..." It's a tough world out there for a cyclist sometimes.
- Good night all. Time to polish up my Surly Cross Check and get her ready for the commute/workout tomorrow AM. Keep it safe out there, or failing that, at least keep it interesting.
Yep, it's the Donut Derby. Here's the rules:
It's a race with rest stops every 12 miles where racers can get water, use the bathroom, and get DONUTS. For every donut eaten, three minutes (2006 rules)are deducted from your official finish time.Got that? Over 48 miles, I could probably eat 4 dozen donuts. Providing they had plenty of coffee. By my math, that's 48 * 3 = 144 minutes saved. At 20 MPH, I could knock out the 48 miles in 2.4 hours. Coincidentally, that's... wait for it... 144 minutes! That means I could finish the race when I started it, in exactly 0 minutes and 0 seconds. If I could prop up my huge gut on the top tube and stuff another cruller into my gaping pie hole as I rolled on creaking wheels out of the feed zone, I could actually finish in -3 minutes, which would be an all time world record in the 48 mile event.
There's a downside though. According to the rules,
if you chum a field, you're DNFHmmm. That could be the toughest part of it. Not that I'm concerned about myself. Oh no. It's riding through other people's chum that would mess me up.
Guess I'd better ride the cross bike on some wet weather tires if I do this race. Chunky Wet Weather tires.
This morning, I found this story, which discusses a chronic hip condition that Landis is overcoming. The ball of his ball and socket hip joint is basically non-existant, and he is putting up with chronic, severe pain just about every day, and is preparing himself for hip replacement surgery after the TdF. The agony he must go through every day is unbelievable, and the fact that he can only get on the bike from one side just blew me away. You know that funny, sitting on the nose time trialing position he has? That's because he can't sit with his butt back on the seat and remain in the aero position. Asked about whether he should even be riding at all, much less competing in the hardest multi-day bicycling event in the world, Floyd replies:
All the doctors have ever been able to tell me is that I should get a replacement when the pain gets to be too much. O.K., that sounds fine, but how much is too much? Can anybody tell me that? How much is too much?’That is toughness, folks. The Times reporter, not a member of the club, tries to put Landis' suffering in perspective:
Part of his ineloquence is job-related. Bike racers, like test pilots, don’t like to talk about crashes or pain. Least of all Landis, whose distaste for excuses is well known in the professional ranks. As he concisely puts it, ‘‘You’re either good enough to win or you’re not, period.’’
Fortunately, a survey begun in 2005 by the Osteonecrosis/Avascular Necrosis Support Group International Association offers a measure of insight. Respondents wrote that their pain was like ‘‘sharp stabs,’’ ‘‘crunching bone,’’ ‘‘labor pains,’’ ‘‘electrical shock’’ and ‘‘grinding your bare feet into hot broken glass and jagged shards of metal.’’ Another respondent invoked the labors of Sisyphus; still another wrote: ‘‘You lose everything even yourself in the pain. It consumes everything.’’
You got that? The pain cripples ordinary people. Landis is poised to take the yellow jersey, if not tomorrow then probably on Wednesday. Green Floyd also offers some insight as to how Lance Armstrong was able to perform as he did after his recovery from cancer.
The secret also supplied psychological fuel. During races, Landis cataloged riders and their favorite excuses. ‘‘Every time I heard somebody talk about how bad their stomach ached, I thought, That guy will be easy to beat when I get in shape,’’ Landis says. ‘‘And that works pretty well, because sooner or later, everybody makes an excuse.’’This blows me away. I don't have a lot of role models, but I'm tempted to make Floyd one of them. It seems to me there is an awful lot to admire about the guy.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Floyd Landis: The way I see it, there are five scenarios: If you're smart and you're weak, you can't win. If you're stupid and you're strong, you'll probably figure out a way to lose. If you're stupid and weak, then you should probably quit. If you're strong and smart enough to figure out how the race works, then you have a good chance of winning. If you're strong and just a little bit smart, smart enough to listen to the director in the car, and he's smart--that's the whole point of a director. When you have a lot of stupid, strong people who listen, then you have a good team. Because it's not possible in cycling to have nine smart, strong guys. Even if you took all the smart, strong guys you wouldn't get nine. So that's what the director is for. Would you confirm that?
Dave Zabriskie: Yeah. There are people in the sport who could satisfy themselves just staring at a pillar.
Funny, I don't remember Zabriskie being on that group ride when we were staring at the pillars. Oh well.
From Zabriskie's interview of Landis on Bicycling.com.
The first race was the 4/5 Over 30 at 8:00 AM. After getting up at 4:30 and riding up with Ken Woodrow, I was primed to race. Except I wasn’t. For some reason, I didn’t feel good, just didn’t have it together. It was like an episode of Star Trek where the phase generator is asynchronous with the deflector dish, which is misaligned. Okay, so all episodes of Star Trek were like that. It was like the episodes where one crew member, or a whole ship, is “out of phase” in space time and doesn’t exist in the same reality as everybody else.
In spite of doing a decent warmup, where I was existing this morning, at the start of the 4/5, was Shitterville.
When the race started I had big trouble clipping in. The small field of 35 or so passed me entirely. I was also in slightly too high of a gear considering my heavy legs. The race started hot and by the time I got clipped in I was 30 yards behind the second-to-last rider. I started sprinting to catch up, and got on the last wheel just before the first turn, a 90 degree turn into an uphill, with some red clay dust sprinkled artistically through the corner. Unfortunately, the last wheel was a group of three guys who were already 30 or 40 yards off the back. So I had to continue sprinting to try to catch up. Up the small hill, around the 150 degree off-camber, blind left turn, down the flat, down the short hill, up the hill in the left hand sweeper, a 90 degree right hand turn, up the false flat of the finishing straight, past the start line… and finally I had the last wheel of the main group. Unfortunately my HR was pegged at 186, my legs were cramping and I had an enormous stitch in my side. I hung in for 5 laps, the pace was unspectacular, but I just could not get untracked. At the end of five laps, I started to slip off the back of the pack and simply could not regain the wheel. After two laps off the back, I was 200 yards down and slipping fast, totally burnt. So I pulled off. The PA announcer said, “you can’t quit.” My incredibly witty response: “Wanna bet? Watch me.”
I was pissed. The question I asked myself was, “are you here for a workout, or to race?” The answer was, I was up there to race, and if I was going to be out of it in the 4/5, the least I could do was to race intelligently in the 5. This entailed showing up as fresh as possible for it, thus I wasn’t about to time trial, solo, for 25 minutes. That wouldn’t make any sense at all. So I pulled off. I wasn’t happy about sucking though.
Bill Gros had just arrived and talked to me, saying the most sensible thing I heard. “That’s racing.” He also said, “I was off the back here after four laps last year.” The course has been changed for the easier, but hearing that made me feel a little better about it. Some days, you eat the bar. Some days, the bar eats you… So I ambled off and eventually ate another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tried to drink some Gatorade to hydrate, and watched the Over 40 race and while attempting, Germans at Stalingrad style, to mentally and physically regroup. I felt assaulted. I just rode around for a while, not really trying to do a specific warmup but just doing 25 minutes of aerobic zone spinning and some brief seated accelerations while the Elderly Hammerheads burned up the track. (Funny words for a 39 year-old slow guy, eh?)
Eventually I rolled up to the line prior to the 5 race. I noticed a bunch of unfamiliar faces and vowed to race near the front. We started with a reasonably fast pace and I held second for a couple laps. Eventually I took a pull, then let some folks stream past me. Sure enough, a couple of the unfamiliar guys were getting their roadracing legs under them… it’s just that their legs happened to be two inches long and covered in short gray fur…
We had a prime around lap 4 and the pace shot up a bit. I backed off to about 10th place, just wanting to see how things would shake out. Primes in the 5s are funny. Guys slow down to 15 MPH, then wait for somebody to make a move. Usually, the move doesn’t come until 400 yards out from the start finish. So it was with our first prime.
The race continued. I settled into a routine of taking it easy up the finishing straight and letting guys pass me, working hard on the short hill after turn 1, bombing down the straight after turn 2 and passing everybody back, then spinning easily up the sweeper and back into the finishing straight. Around lap 9 on maybe an 18 lap race, we had another prime. The field slowed through the uphill. As soon as we hit the back straight, I told myself, “don’t ride like a pussy. Race!” I slipped into the drops and clicked it up a couple gears. I accelerated past the strung out field and into the lead as we hit the downhill. I really hammered it on the downhill, then around the sweeper onto the front straight. By the time we hit the straight, there was only one guy near me and I quickly ratcheted up the speed into the mid-30s, and dropped him to take the prime, a box of Clif bars. My head was pounding, my mouth was as dry as cotton wool and I was coughing a little after I crossed the line. I sat up and eventually the field caught up and I focused on drafting and recovering. I sat at the back of the pack and just spun for the next lap, and when we passed the finish line the PA announcer said “Y’all are two wide, you need to race.” A couple guys picked it up real hard all of a sudden, and I reminded the pack, “you don’t *have* to do what he says.” This was met by laughter within the pack. They slowed, and we cruised again at a hard (LT+10) pace for a while. So it went up to the second to last lap.
As we came up the sweeper two laps out, a big NCVC guy took a flyer off the front. He was really moving so we had to react and I took part in the chase. For the most part, I wheelsucked off an AABC guy, pulled a little going down the back straight, and we caught the NCVC guy before we reached the sweeper. At that point, the race was really on and the pace was high. There was a crash just after the finish line, I heard brakes, skidding and shouting, but it didn’t affect me so I kept pounding along.
I was riding in 5th or so. I really didn’t care exactly where I was because my planned move, similar to the prime lap, wasn’t going to start until the back straight, and I was pretty sure I could overpower most of the other riders there. So I stayed tight going up the hill and around the off-camber turn, and as soon as I was clear, and free of the danger of pedal strike, I put the hammer down. Up two gears, hands down into the drops, try to keep the elbows in and knees together. Sure enough, I passed everybody except for three guys who were off the front going into the finishing straight, the AABC rider and a guy in a pink University of Michigan kit and a guy from Artemis. We came into the finishing straight and I reapplied the hammer, put my chin way down and passed the Artemis guy. We had major separation from the rest of the field and I crossed the line in third…
Actually I didn’t cross the line. That was made up. A course official stopped us ten yards from the finish to prevent us from hitting the downed riders 50 yards up the road. This was really bitter, because our places were earned, we’d done our sprints, we had placings that were pretty clear, and the race should have been over right then as the other riders trickled in. It wasn’t though. They told us we’d race another two laps. While the meatwagon moved Ashley, a Snow Valley guy, off the road, I tried to talk people into taking it easy for the first lap to regain our rhythm, then we could hammer. I really didn’t want to see a repeat of that with 15 bunched up idiots. Everybody pretty much agreed, and (I think) we reached an agreement anyhow to come in at pace but to duplicate what would have been the finishing order. Sure, I would like to hold on to third so I had a conflict of interest, but more than that, second and third beat me fair and square. They worked frickin’ hard to do that, and I wasn’t of a mind to try to steal a win from them based on an improvident strategy devised by race officials. If we went all out I think I could have taken AABC, and I didn’t want to do that. It wouldn’t be right.
So we rode the first lap just fine, slowly picking the pace back up to race speed. By the time we hit the front stretch, we were going at pace, and things were working out alright. There was a junior there racing in second, behind the Michigan guy, but he was easy enough to pass on the back stretch. We came around the sweeper and into the finishing straight going hard, but not all out. The Michigan guy was well off the front in first. The AABC guy was in front of me with a little gap. I sat in third, Artemis in 4th, with folks behind us. It was fair. Artemis made some noises, then all of a sudden this LSV guy – who was ridiculously far off the back the last time we stopped - comes by me about 50 yards out doing a standing sprint, and trying to get past the AABC rider.
So I sat up. I wasn’t going to go all out, do a standing sprint and likely deny the AABC guy in second his position that was fairly won. So I rolled across the line in 5th.
At first I was pretty pissed about how that went down at the end. When you are going hard and the race is on, full stop, then there’s no quarter given. But when a guy is stopped a few yards from the line while leading by 5 seconds, and another guy is 5 seconds back from him, and the guy in third (me) is 5 seconds back, it seems to me it would be theft to use the neutral restart to cheat up 15 seconds and pretend to be competing on an equal footing. I thought we’d reached an agreement about this, and most of us had, it seems.
Oh well. I’m cool with it now. The U Mich guy got his win, the AABC guy got his second, so they weren't ripped off by a goofy official ruling, and all the other facts are known to the guys I ride with every week. I’d have rather stuck to my agreement to not try to rip off AABC’s placing, than to have done better but breached my promise.
I’m not saying it’s right or wrong to use the ref’s goofy ruling to make up maybe 20 or 30 seconds and to eke out a podium position, just that you have to decide what kind of a rider you want to be sometimes. A golfer in match play might concede a putt when he has been beaten fair and square, I think there are sometimes the kind of racer I want to be is supposed to sit up. I’ll take my fifth, and be grateful for it. See you boys in a week or two.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
I was grumbling yesterday doing the workout Bill Gros assigned me. I rode corners for an hour, keeping a high tempo on the pedals, accelerating out of most turns, working on keeping my eyes on the point where I was going, and firmly planting the outside foot on the “down” pedal to carve crisp, planted arcs through the turns. I even threw in some 180 degree turns at speed on tight cul-de-sacs, and some sharp, mid-corner swerves (to avoid little rocks, twigs, or sewer vent pipes) just to add some demanding impromptu and technically trickier changeups. Still, I had to ask myself:
“Why the hell am I doing cornering drills? I’m a lifelong motorcyclist. I handle way better than most in my class, probably I’m too comfortable and move around too much, making others nervous. Why am I not out doing a long aerobic ride? Or some hills?”
That was my thought yesterday. Today an unwelcome experience on the road made me understand why the cornering drills are necessary for racing, and really useful for general riding.
I was coming back from a three hour aerobic ride with a few standing sprints stuffed into the middle. Cruising around Crofton Parkway, I tucked in with some traffic heading downhill on the inner loop, past the playground off Eaton. I was moving along at around 35 MPH down the hill, keeping a good tempo but still getting dropped by the very-much-speeding traffic. I was down in the drops, covering the brake levers and spinning along with my head up. There is a four-way intersection at the bottom of the short hill I was strafing. On the right side of the intersection, there was a woman in a dark red Buick eyeballing me. We made eye contact. “That’s good,” I thought. “I have the right of way, and she’ll let me by.” When I was maybe 40 feet away, she stamped on the gas, pulled into the Parkway across my lane and most of the oncoming lane, and stopped.
In the space of a second, a hundred possibilities flashed through my mind. I started scanning for possible reactions.
First I looked for an escape route. Unfortunately, the proper route, behind her trunk, was out of the question. Her trunk was overlapping the curb, she was on the wrong side of the road, or at least right in the middle, and there was no way around. As I looked for an escape I tried to slow, grabbing a handful of brake. Both wheels instantly locked up, so I released as quickly as I’d grabbed them. If my shitty Tektro brakes locked up at that speed, that meant I was on the shoulder of the road, the surface was too loose to stop, and I didn’t have time to change line and attempt to brake.
I kept looking for an escape route. The route in front of her car was dangerous, the worst choice, since she’d hit me if she pulled forward. There was also a woman with a little kid and a dog walking along the Parkway on that side, approaching the intersection. So front was out.
I was either going to regrab the brakes and T-bone her at maybe 20 or 25, or make some drastic turn. There was only one decent option available at that point, to try to make the left turn.
So drawing on the 85 or so turns I did yesterday, I threw the bike over to the left, eyeballed the center line, planted my right foot on the pedal, held my breath and held on.
The front and rear tire scrubbed the road and slipped a bit, and I bounced as the tired struggled to catch on the tarmac. I heard some pings from the rear wheel. I kept looking up the road, if I was going to ram the right side of my body into her car, it was going to be blind.
By the time I loosed my grip on the bars and took a breath, I found myself a few tens of yards down the road going 30 MPH next to the Buick, whose driver had suddenly accelerated like mad. I had made the left turn, and was riding down the centerline. The driver next to me had a death grip on the steering wheel, had an iron gaze locked on the road, and blew past me. I braked a bit to do a U-turn and the driver stopped about 40 yards up the road. She stuck her head out the window. I didn’t even approach the car, I didn’t want to give myself a chance to discuss the incident with her, or throw my bike at her car, or something equally stupid.
When I got home a few minutes later, I noticed a few rear spokes were pinged loose, but everything was otherwise hunky dory.
Upon reflection, the lesson here is that racing has improved my handling a lot, and that handling practice of the sort Bill is making me do improves my skills immeasurably. Though I’m not a terrible handler for a rank novice racer, I’ve got a lot to learn, and intensive practice (like handling drills) seems to improve the skills by an order of magnitude. Could I have made that turn before doing a couple days worth of practice cornering over the last few weeks? Maybe. After the practice I’ve had over the last few weeks, could I make the turn again tomorrow? Definitely.
Racing does improve the breed.
Monday, July 03, 2006
I followed the Tour in the papers every day from the mid-eighties onward, starting with Lemond and Hampsten. It was always the same. Read the previews, check the sports page every day for the first week, then start checking for more detailed news during the second and third weeks. But this was box score checking. I only got really magnetically drawn into it when Lance started winning and we started getting daily coverage of his exploits. I think 2001 was the first year I really truly watched the Tour, and I was hooked. Still, it was catch the first week if I could, but pay serious attention starting in the second week.
Still, there was always a prohibitive favorite or two, some great rider to control the race and to watch. Or two or three greats to get entangled in a duel.
So can the magic last without the favorites?
I guess we got the answer yesterday and today. The finish of Stage 1 was a wide-open, crazy free-for-all, with perhaps 40 riders in contention in a massive field sprint. With the prohibitive favorites gone, the race is out of control, a Hobbesian wolf pack on wheels, and that's a good thing. Instead of two or three sprinter's teams controlling the field as it hurtles toward the line each day, the field marshalls are gone, nobody is in control, and it's every team for itself.
In yesterday's race, the usual half dozen prominent sprinters who normally dominate the first week of the Tour were struggling to find space as the pell mell peleton blasted full throttle toward the finish. Strong classics rider Tom Boonen was shut out. Robbie McEwen couldn't get into position to cinch a victory. And relative unknown Jimmy Casper pulled out the win. Phil Ligget nearly had a heart attack trying to describe the action. I nearly had a heart attack watching it. Thor Hushovd got terribly cut by a giant green cardboard hand, as Bob Roll put it, "the worst paper cut in the history of the world." It was simply amazing. And it was just stage one.
Today's race was more of the same, with T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler pulling off a valiant attack from 6 kilometers out from the finish, only to get caught up 100 yards from the end by a frantically charging pack. Robbie McEwen did take the win, after much harder work than he's used to. And we had no idea how it was going to end right up until the line was crossed. We'll probably get more tomorrow.
I think that's okay, and it's probably the adjustment we need after watching Lance and Lars and Ivan and Vino and Marco control the thing for so long.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
To get right to the point, I finished 8th or so in the Cat 5 Chesapeake Wheelmen criterium at the Bowie Science Center. Eighth place (or so) in a Cat 5 race is pretty pedestrian, but it comes as another little stepping stone in my development, so I’m over the moon about it, at least until the next Hell of the North (Arlington) hill ride puts me back in my slow moving place. More about the “or so” later.
The race started out the way it usually does, a bunch of guys burning off nervous energy going hard in senseless places right from the start. This is always the toughest part for me. If I was royalty, I’d be King Aethelred the Unready at this stage in the race – I’m totally, epically, completely unprepared no matter how warmed up I am, and disaster lurks everywhere, I could be slaughtered and not even know about it. I have to remind myself that if I can hang in for three or four laps, I’ll make it to the end, and the nervous guys certainly wont. Naturally, the organizers rang the prime bell on the second lap. Dang! Now why did they have to go and do that?
After about the fourth lap, the race settled down. The course was nice. The start/finish was 3/4ths of the way up a long slight uphill. At the top, there was a hard 90 degree right hand turn into a slight uphill, similar to the Quicksilver’s slight uphill before the finish. This morphed into a 10% downhill grade for a couple hundred yards, followed by a right hand turn into the “curve of the D,” which had a slight uphill for a hundred yards, turning gently right into a flat or slight downhill. This transitioned into a traffic circle, and the course took the first right off the circle. The circle was wide enough that it created a chicane into the finishing straight. The finishing straight had a very slight downhill at the start, followed by 400 yards uphill to the finish. It was a great, very fast course.
The peleton had a weird pace at first. We rolled up finishing straight at 30, to where it slowed at the top. That was just wrong, seeing the Pope at a peepshow caliber wrong, to be going that fast uphill. We’d slow considerably - to 24 or something then down to 20 - at the right hand turn into the little uphill, which was expected. But then guys slowed and soft pedaled down the 10% hill. Just about every lap I had to brake there and it pissed me off. I hate donating my speed and hard earned momentum to other peoples' laziness. I saw my speedo hit 18 or 19 a few times there, and one guy who was up front tells me it dropped to 15 on a prime lap, the one where I apparently went completely insane and attacked when I didn't need to. Ick. Then on the bottom corner there was a lot of braking for the first several laps. Guys who worked very hard to move up on the downhill would brake in the corner, losing speed going into the slight uphill starting the D curve. This screwed the rest of us, you could almost hear accordion music playing every time somebody hit the brakes in that turn. Unfortunately, the tune was that circus tune the clowns enter with, rather than Ride of the Valkyries. Fortunately, as is customary and traditional, the guys who work hardest at the start of crits around here get spit off the back by the finish, and we started seeing the brakers getting lapped by the 6th or 7th lap.
The traffic circle nervous for the whole race, everybody was trying to figure out a good way through. After several laps, I decided that because the wind on the finishing straight was coming from the gutter towards the yellow line, the best route was to suffer a little going into the traffic circle on the yellow line, ride straight through the circle clipping gutter on the island, then arc gentely to stay just inside the yellow line on the start of the finishing straight. This was a hard line to set up for because it required pushing into the wind down the D, but it consistently had me passing at least 6 or 8 guys each lap, and carrying huge speed into the uphill finishing straight. This in turn allowed me to soft pedal up 2/3ds of the hill each lap, recovering a lot of energy while everybody else busted hump. As usual, the easiest place to ride, is the hardest place to get to initially.
With about eight laps left, they gave us a prime. I didn’t exactly attack off the front, but when the pace slowed down – a bunch of guys apparently wanted to go 15 then have a field sprint – I decided to mildly attack and see what the field would do. I took off on the downhill after turn one. I was out front for maybe a half mile, taking care to not blow up my legs, but just trying to see what would happen, and if I could get a reaction out of people. Sure enough, going into the traffic circle, four or five guys streamed around me. Cool. I caught a wheel and spun up the hill pretty hard, my legs were burning, but I wanted to get to the top and have a real rest after my effort. I noticed the pack catching up with us near the top of the finishing straight, it took a pretty major acceleration judging from the way they were strung out. It would be interesting to know how many people that little attack blew off the back of the pack. It took about a lap and a half to get my legs back, but I didn't slip further back than about 12th.
It was uneventful from there until three laps left. At that point, they gave us another prime. Sadistic, and predictable. Kind of like riding the trainer in your basement, if the wife, kids, entertainment center and everything else in the basement could crash you out an any time.
So I sat in, and noted distressingly that we were spread out in single file, and three Snow Valley guys had passed me and settled in near the front (Steve, Tony, Brandon… nice move). This gave me some concern. Although I was in 12th or 15th, there was a *long* distance between me and the guys up front and I was starting to get gapped as we went into the curve of the D. I didn’t want to win the prime or do any work at this stage, so I started moving up along the outside as we went through the curve of the D and into the traffic circle. Eventually I settled in about 8th or so, and the field bunched up considerably as a couple guys diced for the prime and the rest of us worked to keep them in sight. A guy in red & white, but not NCVC, took the prime, I think. He was TT’ing off the front. Then they rung the bell for another prime, on the second to last lap. Call it the Dumb Guy Prime. That was totally wrong, my Hr was at 172 or so, maybe 180 by the top of the finishing straight, and I was in “just hang on mode,” with a couple matches left but none I was willing to burn. I don’t even remember what happened next, there was a lot of movement, and I got passed by a bunch of guys, and think I passed them back in the curve of the D, and going up the finishing straight. A whole wave of lactic acid was pouring into my legs at this point. It wouldn't be long now, no matter what happened.
On the last lap, I was sitting probably in 10th or so, and decided I was going to make a move coming out of the traffic circle. I didn’t have enough in the tank to go earlier, so I just got into the drops as we entered the curve of the D, and started to move up on the outside. I was well and truly blocked in by an LSV Kelly guy, who swung out in front of me right as I started moving, apparently hoping to make the same move, but to do so much slower than me. Just then, three guys rode around the couple riders who were pulling the train, and rode off the front. Dang it!
My balloon deflated here momentarily. Within a few pedal strokes, I decided to go a little earlier than planned, we were already gapped badly. I passed a bunch of guys and got up to perhaps 5th or so. It was definitely too early to go, since a whole raft of people, maybe 10, passed me right after the traffic circle, and now I was getting desperate. There was this “CLACK” sound behind me like somebody missing a shift badly, followed by a shout of “Oh, Shit!”
I mentally paused for a second, pedaled harder in case it was one of those instances where the guy’s bike hits the ground then shoots, forward, and then thanked God I was in front of whatever just happened. Time to go. I upshifted into the second highest gear, 50-12, got a little lower in the drops and just tried to spin harder, basically a seated, uphill sprint, kind of like Hains with a bad headwind. The funny thing is I started to pass guys back who had blown by me. As we passed the “200m” sign, I realized I could make up a bunch of places here, threw her up into 50:11, gritted my teeth and just ground away. I passed 3 or 4 guys maybe a hundred yards out, doubled down again, and then came across the line at the front of a cluster.
After the race, I met up with some Snow Valley guys (Tony, Brandon, Steve) and a couple unattached guys who were in the cluster I finished with and we checked the list. There were a bunch of open spots on the list, and our numbers were missing. We all made the "puppy with stepped-on tail" noise.
Turns out the camera was busted right when we crossed. Fortunately, I had counted riders right after the finish and knew at absolute worst I was 12th or 13th. But it was hard to say where I finished because I didn't start counting until after I had let up completely. Still, I could place a few of the guys and knew I beat them, but riders who weren’t really close, I just couldn’t say. After some discussion with the official, I decided I’d had enough, and said, “I’m number 128, put me where you want, I don’t care, these guys worked really hard the whole race, they were good to ride with, and I wouldn’t want to take anything away from them, it’s not like there’s a podium here.” So he put me in 8th, something I really appreciated. Moreover, it wasn’t totally unwarranted. I knew I was in front of a grupetto, and had crossed the line wheel-to-wheel with two other guys in the protesting group, and another guy who was behind us told me I had finished in the front of a gruppetto, in front of the Snow Valley guys protesting with me, so by process of elimination I had to have finished 8, 9 or 10. Still, I was a bit worried about it. I really don't want to steal a place I didn't earn.
The proof is in the pudding though, and I needn't have worried. I got home, and looked at pictures my wife had taken. Sorry I couldn’t download these at the race, guys; a 1”x1” viewfinder with a photo taken off-angle from 25 yards in front, doesn’t tell you a lot. But, upon further review and blowing up to 300% scale… The call stands. More or less. Here’s the photo:
This was taken a few yards before the finish. The guys on the far inside – the dark green jersey, the three Snow Valley guys – were coming up the inside of me, only the dark green was more or less even with me. I was passing the guy in the light green skinsuit to my right. (I think I edged him at the line as I looked over and he looked at dark green, but wouldn’t testify to that in court, it was close). The guy in black to my immediate right rear had popped, and was riding backwards. And the guy in light blue on the right was beating up on a bike the way no bike deserves to be beaten. Okay, it’s me. Guess I really need to work on the diet. And what's up with the splayed elbows? I hope I was getting ready to throw the bike or something, because I look just plain bad.
Anyhow, no matter how you cut it, I believe I finished between 8th and 10th. But I think got 8th in the standings because I was the person most insistent about trying to show some class – though all credit goes to the Snow Valley guys (Steve, Tony, Brandon) for saying the same thing, I guess this is where it helps to be a loudmouth.
In the end, I think I learned another Zen Koan of criteriums. Fight hard, be a good sport, and some times you’ll get rewarded for it. I don’t know that I deserve 8th, but a top 10 is definite, and I won’t complain about it either way. As they say, that’s racing. They call it Racing because while we all may love going to the County Fair and we can even ride a ride there, Racing *ain’t* Fair.
Final notes: Coppis Scot and Scot rode pretty good in the 4 race, especially Scot. You all are going to have to help me with last names. Actually, Scott Thompson was really well positioned and was dicing with the top three or four leaders going into the finishing straight, but as happens to good climbers sometimes, he turned into a kite in the headwind, I’m sure his CRP will have details. Walter Tyree also hit a milestone today, managing his first pack finish in a Cat 4 crit. You accomplished cycling gods may chuckle, but for most of us improvement is a very hard fought war, the athletic version of WWI where we fight for inches of gain in a 1500 mile battlefront. I’ve fought the same war in Cat 5, going from getting lapped early on, to finishing on the lead lap, to being 200 yards off the pack, to being tail end Charlie in the pack, to now worrying about finishing place. Walter won a battle today, and I have a ton of respect for guys like him who have to fight like that to get results, from what I’ve seen he’s a tougher fighter than I am and has all my respect. Talent is a gift from God and a lot of guys win on it, but hard work is all your own fault and it reveals your character, so all credit goes to Walter. Walter is also unflaggingly supportive of his teammates and hearing his cheering while I was riding my race was definitely uplifting.
Final comment: Thanks to the Chesapeake Wheelmenfor hosting a nice event. The course is really wonderful for us big guys who can lay down some watts, and it had just the right amount of technical turning to make it interesting. There was plenty of parking, porta-potties, and a post-race snack stand that had fresh cooked diner-caliber food, and none of the food had less than 1,000 calories, which is just what the doctor ordered after a race. (Full disclosure: I skipped it, see above photo if you need to know why, it looked delicious though and there were many favorable comments). It’s great to see a club that has lasted 60 years, and I hope that I’m spinning around (at racing age 99) to see the 120th. Check out the old photos of Wheelmen breaking legs back in the day.
As usual, this is all to the best of my recollection, which is demonstrably flawed. If you have corrections, leave 'em in comments.