1) How did I end up in Cat 4 anyway? I ask myself this pretty regularly, and most of the peloton is asking this about me after the first 25 km. Most people have to duke it out in Cat 5 and demonstrate some riding skills through race results before they graduate to Cat 4. Not me. Nope. When I applied for road racing to be added to my race license, someone at the ABA saw that I had ten (10) years of unsuccessful mountain bike racing experience (you can see the last 2 years of my winless race history here) and thought, “he’s no good at mountain bike, he must be a natural at road, lets plop him right into Cat 4”. How wrong they were.
2) The fast guys always talk about the “Big Engine” as in “Stefan should do well, he has a Big Engine” or “watch for Josh, he has a Big Engine” or, “Dave sure has a Big Engine”. Much of the pre and post race chatter among racers involves paying homage to the competition with this complement of one’s “Engine” being “Big”. Why isn’t my Engine Big? Damn it! I train hard. If I ever come up in these back-patting homages, I get “ Joe?…….Joe’s got a lot of base, a Lot of Base” . A….LOT….OF ..BASE! Everyone agrees, I have tones of base—what does that mean? I will tell you what it means; it is a really nice way of saying “he’s old, and his Engine is like that of a lawn mower.”
3) I started the Velocity Stage Race Time Trial (Stage 1) 30 seconds in front of Josh (he has a Big Engine). I was about ¼ into the course, when Josh pulled along side, said hello, and carried on like I was standing still. This is what I thought as I watched him ride from sight ahead of me: “Oh good, Josh is doing very well. This will be good for him. He is such a young guy (not much base), this will boost his confidence. Good for him……and his fancy-pantsy time trial bike……and his sperm shaped head gear….yeah! You think you’re so fast, so what? You’re beating the old guy in the baggy jersey on the cyclocross bike! Good for you, ya little turd, come back here and arm wrestle me, Punk! Think you’re so good.” My train of thought was interrupted by my heart rate monitor; the screen flashed “Heart rate too high!” Funny, it was a downhill section.
4) Criteriums are someone’s idea of a joke. You put fifty some people on a short narrow twisty course, on which they ride as fast as they can and as close to one another as possible while narrowly avoiding curbs, parked cars, sign posts and lime green dumpsters. Anybody who rides at a sane speed, keeping a safe distance from other riders, is pulled from the race by officials for being a safety hazard. Saturday was my first criterium, and I learned something important–I have too much base to ever be good at criteriums. That’s all I have to say about that.
5) Road races are like an episode of Survivor, and I always get voted off. They start out kind of friendly-like, there is a lot of chit-chat and camaraderie. People introduce themselves, and ask about where your from, and how the drive was and all that. It’s quite cordial at first, and the kilometers fly by as we all work together toward a common goal. The second half of a road race is different, and my new found friends turn on me, showing their true colours–hogging the best spots to find shelter from cross winds, surging and breaking, and refusing to stop for a pee break. And then, in the last lap, I think there is some kind of vote that happens, or maybe a secret signal or something because right when I am weakest, when I am most vulnerable, when I require the forgiving shelter of the peloton most, they strike all at once with an all out effort that seems to last just long enough to ensure that I am well off the back. I struggle shamelessly, “guys!” I yell, “wait up!” I plead, “I can make fire!” I bargan, but its too late, I have been voted out of the peloton. Will I ever finish a road race with the peloton? Probably not. Will the sun ever turn into a red giant and envelop the Earth? Eventually, yes.
6) I actually win a lot of bike races. I do it vicariously through other folks, with “Big Engines”, who are nice enough to acknowledge how much base I have in a way that makes me feel formidable. It was a pleasure to win vicariously through Stefan and Josh this weekend, and I hope do some more of it before the season is through.