Monday, August 31, 2009

What Have We Learned This Season?

Here's what I learned or reaffirmed this summer:
- $30 is the upper limit of what I'll pay for a 30-minute crit.
- I hate having to show my license to pick up my prize money. You know that already.
- I love watching kids learning to ride the Velodrome. (I just stopped by at the Rochester HIlls Velodrome to catch a glimpse of the future stars of track racing. It's a total kick in the head to watch kids grit their teeth and tackle the 44-degree banking. I hope they realize how lucky they are to have that toy in their town.)
- It's possible to bonk while riding a rented bike on Mackinac Island - the last place on Earth you'd expect to bonk.
- No matter how much I try, I can't get emotionally attached to my bicycle. It is, and always will be, just a piece of machinery that I use to go fast. I do, however, recognize that some guys get attached to their bikes on a much deeper level. I don't understand it, but I do my best to not say anything about it... or laugh outright.
- Rest is underrated. I think too many riders ride too much for the amount of racing they do.
- I really think that many riders would be completely happy with a regular Thursday night racing series and only an occasional big event on the weekend. I know a lot of wives who would go along with that. And if you think about it, doesn't that make a LOT more sense?
- I cannot make myself ride a Time Trial. Even if I promise myself a box of Dunkin Donuts when I get to the finish line, I'll quit before I reach the halfway point.
- Only two of my coworkers have read my book. And I'm not bothered by that.
- The sport of bike racing is alive and well.

What did YOU learn or reaffirm this summer?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I have found cycling heaven.

Look at the back of your left hand. That represents Michigan's Lower Peninsula.
Up near the tip of the pinky? That's heaven. It's where everything you've wanted in cycling comes together.
I'm spending the week in the town of Boyne City. I've lived in Michigan most of my life, and I've spent very little time in this region. I've been an idiot.
Let's run down the checklist:
Paved country roads.
No cars.
Long hills that grind your legs off for a mile or two at a time.
Small towns with general stores.
Lakes to ride around when you don't want the hills.
A complete absence of traffic lights.
If I'm not back by Sunday night, you can sell my stuff and give my house to charity.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's Happened Here?

How mainstream do we want bike racing to become? Really.
If today's episode is any indication, I'll be fine with it remaining a niche sport.
Here's the deal: I registered for today's race without my license. They took my money without any issue. I didn't even KNOW the person handling registration. I just gave them my license number. A friend standing nearby said, "Yeah, that's him." Done.
That's how small and trusting this sport has always been. Nobody is trying to cheat the system. We're too small of a world to pull that crap.
I raced.
I took 10th, the last paying spot in my race. Here's where I got a glimpse of the future: When I tried to collect my huge pay-out, they wouldn't give it to me because I didn't have my license - even though the officials, timer, announcer, etc all knew me.
They said "it's the USAC rule".
If so, it's probably the least important rule in the book. And for years and years and years, our small little community has always made allowances for times like this. Riders who have forgotten their license? Happens all the time. ALL the time. I don't know how many riders I've vouched for in the past 25 years in my role as an announcer. Hundreds. "Yeah, that's him."
Incredibly, the woman passing out the prize money has known me for 20 years. And today she goes hard-line on this issue. Where did that come from? Who in this country is going to attend a bike race and impersonate the 10th place rider so as to make off with his prize money? Tell me. Who is going to go to that much trouble for .... are you ready for this... $10?
For some perspective, let me give you this: I guarded nuclear weapons during the Cold War and would let crews into the Restricted Area based solely on personal recognition. "Hey Bill! How's the wife and kids? Help yourself to the nukes!"
And today I have a 20-year acquaintance carding me for a $10 check?
They had no issue taking my money without showing the license, but it became a crime scene when I tried to collect my winnings without my license.
If we hit the bigtime someday and can no longer operate on personal recognition, I'll hate cycling.