Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How many races have you won?

I was asked this question by co-workers a while back when the topic somehow turned from Local Development Finance Authorities to bike racing. It wasn't a straight line from one topic to the other; it bounced off a few other topics before someone in the small group around the water cooler (pop machine) discovered that I was a Roadie.
He threw this question out with a bit of an attitude: How many races have you won? He left out the "Oh yeah?" on the front end, but it was there in his tone. As if I have to prove how good I am or aren't. (Amn't? Ain't?)
Suddenly, I found myself wanting to turn this guy's attitude around and teach him a few things about cycling that he probably doesn't know. As if his acceptance matters.
I've won a few races. For example, one time when the rest of the peloton got stopped at a train crossing, or the time I told them I was just going to scoot on ahead to stop and pee.
Seriously, the few times that lightning has struck in the past 25 years stick with me as shining moments. But I'm sure that answering this guy's question with such a small number would only fuel his attitude.
And then it occurs to me: Hey, this is a team sport! I need to include every single win that my team has garnered. If I'm going to turn this doubter around, I need to tell the whole story. And just as I was about to say "Oh, about 10 or 15 last year." it occurs to me that he'll A. never believe it, and B. never grasp it.
But if I ask him how many softball games he's won, he's going to give the team's record without batting an eye, even in games in which he didn't play. He'll say something like "8 and 2".
We all understand "8 and 2". We accept this guy as having a winning record though he probably went "0 for 4" and never saw action in right field. But if you ask any Roadie how many races they've won in their career, they'll likely answer "Six". To prove my point, try it right now. Call and ask your Roadie friend how many races he/she has won.
Saying "Six" doesn't do your career the proper justice. What about all those times you covered every chase effort while your teammate was in a breakaway? That's hard work. Or the time you gave a lead-out to your sprinter? Or the time you attacked 50 times so that your teammate could attack once and make it stick? Are we being needlessly selfless when we don't accept any credit for our teammate's victory even when we busted our butt to make it possible?
Hell, even if I didn't finish the race, I should count it as a win if I made any effort before I went OTB. And if I didn't contribute anything, I'll own up to that, too.
So in hindsight, we had a great 2008.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Upgrading to a new Cat

Don't let me mislead you. Just because the Federation assigns categories to bike racers, doesn't mean that I'm writing a blog about it. I'm writing about ... well...um...John got enough points to upgrade to the next Cat.
Watch this:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fish Out of Water

We're talking about mountain bike racing today. I just spent a Saturday at the 2008 Iceman Cometh, a point-to-point race from Kalkaska to Traverse City, Michigan. It's been a huge event on the calendar for 19 years, and Steve "Iceman" Brown needed a voice at the finish line. I had only visited this race once (2 years ago) and really only caught a glimpse of it. Steve assured me that I could just stand there and ramble about bike racing for a couple hours. So I went.
The only other mountain bike race I had announced at/for was a 24-hour race in West Virginia in 1999. That event was a love-fest of bikelical proportion. Picture in your mind Woodstock on bikes. That's EXACTLY what it was like. At that event, I felt like the only Atheist at a Joel Osteen show. That's not so bad except that I was hired to talk about it on the P.A. for 25 hours without tipping them off. I was certain they would figure it out and carry me down the mountainside on a stick.
Icemand Cometh is a different animal. It's basically a 7-hour parade of mountain bikers of all shapes and sizes. They start in 29 waves in Kalkaska covering every age/gender/ability/zodiac sign, but finish in a steady stream in T.C. after riding 27 miles of northern Michigan logging/snowmobile/hunting roads.
The coolest part was the number of kids participating. There were hundreds. I can easily see the problem that Road Cycling has in attracting young riders. Roadies train on the road. Who in their right mind is going to let their kid do that? Mountain biking makes perfect sense for kids.
The second coolest part is the number of moms and dads participating.
Another cool part is seeing so many bikes on car roofs with number plates still on the handlebars. We were seeing them all the way down I-75.
The worst part is not knowing who the winners are in each category. They're all blended together like my famous Tortilla Soup. You can't tell who won what. That's too strange for a Roadie like me who is used to a well-defined finish. I can't shake that impulse.
Some other observations:
- A MTB race is like a running event, you dial up as much pain as you want for yourself. If you want to kill yourself, you can. If you just want to ride it and finish it, you can.
- I wanted rain and slop and freezing cold, but had to settle for idea race conditions and a fast course. They were calling it Niceman this year.
- In selecting my music for this event, I kept in mind Skip Obermeyer's advice: bring something to offend every part of the audience and you'll be fine. I didn't bring the Libera Me from the Verdi Requiem. It worked at a 'cross race in September, but I felt like the Iceman crowd wouldn't be so charitable.
- I know that economic impact numbers are ALWAYS inflated to make the event look better, but this one is truly a money wagon for the community. Restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and Murdick's Fudge Shop were all filled with Iceman riders on a weekend when there wasn't much else going on in Traverse City. Steve Brown deserves a medal from the Chamber of Commerce for putting that in his event plan.
I call the event a success based solely on the fact that I didn't get carried down the mountainside on a stick.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shipping Stuff to Montenegro

Scoll back through the entries on this blog and you'll find one that talks about gathering cycling equipment for a new cycling club in a small town in the former Yugoslavia. Well, it's time to box it up and ship it, and here's what I got:

That HealthNet-Maxxis jersey is from a box I received from Frank Pipp and Karl Menzies who both sent kits and helmets to the cause. (Frank is from the U.P. and Karl is from Grand Rapids - the Tasmanian part of town.)
The bulk of the stuff - including FOUR REALLY NICE BIKES - came from the Flying Rhino Cycling Club. It was all in great shape. All sizes of shoes, helmets, jerseys, shorts, and winter gear. Enough to clothe about 30 riders.
Just have to thank Kinetic Systems for putting the call out to the locals. And a big thanks to Frank and Karl for the HealthNet stuff. I hope they're able to find a team for 2009.