Don’t Miss Your Chance
by Seth Davidson
You get one chance every year in Southern California to prove you’re a bike racer. In this case, “bike racer” doesn’t mean “dude who rolls around a business park for 45 minutes and outsprints 100 other idiots.”
It doesn’t mean “dude who goes all out for a few minutes on the velodrome and gets the fastest time.”
It doesn’t mean “dude who rides a $10k aero road bike on a TT course.”
It doesn’t even mean “dude who has the nicest Rapha stuff and hangs out post-ride longest at the coffee shop,” although that’s pretty darned close to the perfect definition of a SoCal racer, not to mention Manny Gooseman.
Nope, in this case “bike racer” means something sort of like this: “Dude who enters a long, extremely hilly road race with zero chance of winning and with every prospect of getting shelled and finishing alone.”
Who said anything about fun?
Please don’t tell me that you don’t do races unless they’re “fun.” Real road racing isn’t “fun.” It’s misery compounded by pain compounded by gradual collapse and marked by the relief of finishing. People who seek fun in bike racing have a whole world of events prepared for their pleasure: Crits, some TT events, some types of track racing, BMX, mountain biking, certain categories of ‘cross…
But real road racing? It’s the opposite of fun. It is a bad time gone bad. And Boulevard is the worst of times plunged into depression, inadequacy, and loss.
Please don’t tell me you’re not doing the 2013 Boulevard road race, but you’re going to do another road race later this year, as if that makes up for your slinking cowardice. Unless the “other race” is Devil’s Punchbowl or Vlees Huis, those other races lack the quintessential feature of Boulevard, which is that you will get dropped quickly and struggle by yourself for hours on a lonely, desolate course frequented only by drug smugglers, gun runners, human traffickers, and mobile home people who are badly drunk and made a wrong turn coming home from the Golden Acorn casino or the meth lab.
Please, please don’t tell me you’re not doing Boulevard because it’s too far and a waste of money. Traveling even 100 yards for a bike race is too far, and wasting money is the very foundation that the pyramid scheme of cycling is built on.
No, you’re not racing Boulevard because you’re going to lose before you even line up, and your tender ego is too weak to handle the message “YOU REALLY SUCK, YOU FAKER!” shouted at you by you about in large, internal capital letters. You’re not racing because you’re going to be eviscerated. Because your mathematical chance of victory is a perfect zero. Because the racer you wish you were is the racer you’ll never, ever, ever be.
So why do it?
You shouldn’t. Far better to stay home and test your mettle at Food Park, show your sparks on the Donut Ride, or flex it up on Swami’s.
This way you’ll be fresh for the crit on Sunday, when you can play bike racer again, and duke it out in the final 500 yards.
For you, if you were to do Boulevard, it would be far too harsh on your tender ego. You would see all of your friends ride away the moment the peloton crossed the railroad tracks. You’d be shrieking to yourself, “Shit! There go all my friends! I’ve only done part of the first lap, which was all downhill!”
Then you’d realize that none of them are your friends, especially your friends. They would prove this as they recede in the distance. They would not think about you at all, except perhaps like this: “He really sucks.”
For you, the pain of being dropped and abandoned would be compounded when you slowly slogged through the start-finish area. If anyone cheered for you, it would be with embarrassment. Since it’s the first lap, they might cheer slightly loud enough for you to hear. They’d look at you, not with admiration, but with a kind of satisfied contempt that said, “He really sucks. What’s he doing here? He’s no bike racer.”
This would get a thousand times worse on the second lap, because you’d have been picked up and dropped by someone who flatted, or by riders in another group. Each one would pass you and drop you and think, “He really sucks. He should stick to the easy stuff. He’s not tough enough for real bike racing.” You’d feel their contempt. They’d shout it with their pedals.
The second time up the long climb you’d feel okay physically, just slow and fat and worthless, but when you go went the start-finish no one would even look at you. “Why’s he still out there? Why doesn’t he just quit? He’s proving nothing besides what he’s already proven: He sucks. Now it’s just demeaning.”
On the final lap you’d completely run out of gas with most of the lap to go. Each pedal stroke would hurt. You’d get passed by old people, weak people, fat people, bony people, and finally by the carload of drunks again who would feel so sorry for you they’d pull over and offer you a ride home, wherever home is. You’d decline, but only because the car was filled with cigarette smoke, empty beer cans, three weeks of dirty laundry, and couple of flatulent old hounds.
There would be two people at the finish, one of them an official. As soon as you crossed they’d mark your name off and the race would be over. For you, for everyone. They’d give you that look like, “Because of YOU we had to stand out here in the fucking cold for an extra hour. Why’d you even show up? We hate you.”
So, enjoy your weekend
Once you got home, you’d ask yourself, “Why in the hell did I just do that?”
You’d have no good answer, but many bad ones.
I just wanted to prove I could do it. (So what’s next, proving you can survive a fiery 10-car pile-up on the freeway?)
I wanted to be there for my teammates. (Who think you suck and who were embarrassed by your miserable performance in THEIR team colors.)
I think it will help my crit racing. (You are now, in addition to being officially crazy, officially stupid.)
I was goaded into it by guilt and by the Wankmeister. (Add “officially pathetic” to the list.)
It was a good chance to get some quality racing miles under my belt. (No, it wasn’t, unless you plan to do future races at 12 mph.)
I’ve heard so much about Boulevard that I just had to do it. (Yes, but have you ever heard anything good about it? No? Me, either.)
I wanted to see if it was as tough as mountain biking. (Nothing is tougher than mountain biking simply because trees and boulders have zero give when you hit them with your forehead at 35 mph. But nothing hurts like a hard road race…haven’t you ever seen or heard of the Tour de France?)
I wanted to get out for the weekend. (East San Diego County isn’t “out.” It’s “in,” as in “in the crapper.”)
Of course by now the car is packed and you’re headed down to the race. Good luck. You’ll need it, along with a miracle. And in case you didn’t get the memo, there are no miracles. On race day at Boulevard, there are only sad stories of failure, defeat, and enduring the awful for no good reason. This…
…is bike racing.