Race Thoughts, Winners, And Sly Hints About the Next Contest

07.24.2006 | 3:35 pm

When the Tour of Utah folks asked me if I’d like to give away a trip to see this mind-bendingly difficult stage race, of course I wanted to. And in true bone-headed fashion, I made it an essay contest. Which means I had to had the distinct pleasure of reading ten gazillion essays on how much it was going to hurt to do that brutal sixth stage.

Several essays stuck out as great, but here’s my favorite:

One. More. Rotation.

One. More. Rotation.


One. More. Rotation.

Almost at the top. I can rest a bit on the downhill.

One. More. Rotation.



I hope the next climb isn’t as bad.

One. More. Rotation…. 

Massive congratulations go out to Mark Colburn, the winner of the “Win a Trip to the Tour of Utah” (hey, what a catchy name!) contest. You’re going to dig this race, Mark. I know I’m sure looking forward to it. (Ooooh, it’s so exciting to give away a major award!)


Didn’t Win? Stick Around For Something You Will Not Believe

As if giving away a trip to come see a top-notch stage race weren’t enough, the Tour of Utah folks have another giveaway they’re working on for Fat Cyclist readers.

Something awesome.

Something I would really like to keep myself, if I could figure out how to game the system.

And you won’t have to write an essay (I’ve read enough of those for one lifetime, thanks) to win, either.

I’ll announce the giveaway tomorrow. If you love cycling—or even if you think you might like cycling—you will not want to miss this.


Now for the Part Wherein I Present Thoughts that Occurred to Me During the 50-Mile Mountain Bike Race I Did Last Saturday, In Roughly the Order they Occurred to Me

Have you ever committed to doing something without really thinking it through? Something big? Something that you will soon realize will require a lot of you—quite likely more than you’d really like to give? Something that, once you get right down to it, you realize is going to hurt a lot and you probably shouldn’t have agreed to do, but you did, and now you’re stuck?

Yeah. Doing a 50-Mile mountain bike race in Park City, UT last Saturday was kinda like that for me.

Early last week, Kenny emailed me, saying something as simple as “Hey, I’m doing this race Saturday. So is Brad. You should come, too.” I am now convinced Kenny embedded an email-based hypnosis virus in that message, because without considering the consequences, I signed up.

And that’s how, Saturday morning at around 6:00, I found myself on a 50-mile mountain bike race course I knew next to nothing about. Just that it was really, really hard.

Here are some of my recollections from that day.


A Sense of Urgency

I’m sorry to start off with a kind of tacky thought, but I’m trying to be real here, and reality is not pretty. Anyway. Up until three minutes before the race started, I felt fine. Calm. Composed. And then when the race organizer got on the bullhorn and said, “Three minutes to start” I suddenly needed to use the bathroom. And not just to pee. I wasted ten precious seconds considering what I ought to do, then dropped my bike and bolted for the bathroom Some things cannot be put off. I was tearing off my Camelback, helmet and jersey (I was wearing bib shorts, alas) as I ran to the bathroom, took care of my business in record time (I didn’t take the time to read anything), and threw it all back on  as I made it back to the starting line. The result? I was back in place and throwing a leg over the bike with a whopping five seconds to spare.


Riding with Darth Vader

The first mile or two of the race are all climbing on graded dirt road, which is a good place to pass a few people. Then you’re on tight singletrack for miles and miles and you pretty much can count on being with the group you’re with for a while.

I, as near as I could tell, was riding directly in front of Darth Vader.

I didn’t dare look back to tell if he was wearing the mask and black cape, because I figured he’d stick a light saber in my spokes or something, but I knew it was Darth Vader from the loud breathing. Kkkkrrreeehhhh….kkkkrrooohhh. Kkkkrrreeehhhh….kkkkrrooohhh. Regular as clockwork.

“Good day for a bike ride this is,” I said, in my best Yoda voice.

Darth Vader didn’t get it.


Why is it easier to go up a hairpin?

At the beginning of the race, I asked a few people what it was like. Everyone who had done it had essentially the same point of view: it’s a brutal, endless day of climbing. Estimates ranged from 9000 feet of climbing to 12,000. Either way, that’s a lot. And it’s almost all singletrack climbing. Lots of it is technical.

They were right.

The whole day seemed like climb after climb, punctuated with short stretches of technical, no-rest-for-the-weary downhill.

I had lots of time to ponder something: Whether you’re on a mountain bike riding singletrack or on a roadbike doing a hard climb, switchbacks tend to give you a little bit of a climbing boost—you swing around and gain eight feet in altitude without spending a ton more effort. Why is that?

I asked a few people that question while I was riding. Nobody had a good answer, though some agreed that it did seem like switchbacks give you a magical boost.

Anyone else notice that? Anyone got an (interesting) answer for why?


Shot Bloks

As a blogging shill, I have my rules: I do not endorse a product unless I’m being given that product for free.

I shall now break that rule.

I ate Clif Shot Bloks a lot during this ride, and I really like them. A package gives you 200 calories, they taste better than energy gels, don’t have the gross texture, and didn’t upset my stomach at all.

I need a better way to eat Shot Bloks on the fly, though. It’s easy enough to open the package while riding, but getting them out of the package into my mouth while pedaling and steering the bike wasn’t easy; I had to look for spots where there was going to be either a flat or a sustained non-technical climb before I could eat.

Here’s what I’m thinking I might try: I’ll get a little sandwich bag, spray some Pam (Butter Flavor, perhaps?) into it, and then put the Shot Bloks in there. They should just slide right out.

Yes, I’m really considering doing that. I’ll let you know how it goes.


How Far Have I Gone?

One of the games I always play when doing an endurance ride is calculating the math of the ride. How far have I ridden? How far do I have left to go? What percentage of the ride have I ridden in terms of effort, not distance?

But Saturday, I didn’t have an odometer on my bike. I hadn’t really studied at a topo map or elevation profile of the course (and those never help me anyway). I was just riding, staying at my all-day pace, figuring I’d stop when I hit the finish line.

It was kind of a nice change.


My Right Arm is Lousy

My right arm is getting worse. Any time I ride for more than just a few minutes, my right hand goes numb, and then the numbness spreads upward. I’m pretty sure this has something to do with the umpteen times I’ve dislocated it.

Still, it’s a weird sensation to discover—as you turn downhill—that you cannot operate the rear brake because you have no sensation whatsoever in your index and middle finger.


My Teeth Are Gross

You know what happens when you eat sticky, sweet food for a couple hours, while doing most of your breathing through your mouth, all while riding your mountain bike on a dusty course behind a lot of people kicking up dust?

Your teeth stay perfectly clean and white, without getting caked by a layer of grit that can only be removed with battery acid.


Why Do Slow People Race?

Saturday, I was one of the slow people. Which means I had time to think long and hard about why people who have no chance of winning or even finishing in the top half, race at all. Are we trying to build character? Are we amassing stories to tell our grandchildren? Is it because we feel the need to be punished?

All of those are partially correct, but the main answer is: slow people race hoping that this day we will magically turn into fast people.

But we don’t.


I Wish I Had My iPod With Me

About 45 minutes into the race, I had settled into my race equilibrium: I had passed most of the people I would pass during the day, and most of the people who would pass me had done so.

Which meant I could look forward to riding alone for the next six hours or so.

And that’s when I started fantasizing about my iPod, which was sitting safely in my car. During the entire day, I would think things like, “If I had brought my iPod, right now I’d put on Social Distortion, and have it play their entire catalog.

Other playlists that occurred to me during the day include:

  • Johnny Cash, American Recordings selections (I have all the American Recordings albums, but have made a playlist of my favorites from each).
  • Rush, Moving Pictures. I don’t know why this occurred to me. It’s been years since I’ve listened to this album.
  • Devo, Greatest Hits. It’s now generally acknowledged that these guys are geniuses, right?
  • Oingo Boingo, Complete catalog. No better mountain biking music in the world, as far as I’m concerned.
  • Duran Duran, Greatest Hits. So sue me.

My Hairy Legs Really Collect Dirt

As I rode, I noticed: those of us with shaved legs had cleaner legs than those of us with unshaved legs. Really hairy dudes like myself looked downright nasty.


A Meditation on Oxygen At High Altitude

Most of this race is at above 8000 feet, but there are trees and undergrowth everywhere. I started thinking, “You know, I’ll bet that with all these trees and plants I’m riding around, there’s actually more oxygen here than at sea level!”

Which, ironically, goes to show how oxygen-deprived I was.


Post-Race Nausea

You know what’s the worst thing about an endurance race? What happens to your stomach about twenty minutes after the race. You’ve been beating yourself up the whole day, suffering in the legs but otherwise feeling fine.

Then you stop riding, and twenty minutes later you’re curled up in a ball, wishing you were dead. It is during this period that I vow, after each and every race, to never race again.

Eventually, the post-race nausea subsides, supplanted by an all-consuming hunger. Even as you eat everything that might possibly be edible, you forget the nausea, figuring out how you’ll do better next time.


My Time

I finished the race in 6:32. Does that mean anything to anyone?


10 Things I Love About the 2006 Tour (Alternate Title: My Hat is Delicious)

07.21.2006 | 5:20 am

Note from Fatty: Have you entered the Win a Trip to the Tour of Utah Contest? Today’s your last day! If you haven’t entered yet, click here to do it now.


To this point, I have not been exactly kind about the 2006 Tour de France. Which just goes to show: the Fat Cyclist is not about truth. It is about saying whatever happens to come into my head at the moment (which, luckily enough for the blog topic, is almost always cycling or cake).

And right now, I really like the Tour.

A lot.

No, even more than that.


Things I Like About the 2006 Tour de France

Yesterday (Tuesday), Dug and I were IM’ing. I admitted that once I got over the initial disappointment of seeing a big clash of the titans (Let’s face it, an Ullrich / Basso / Landis battle would have been something to see), I was really starting to like this Tour. Here are a few of the things / people I find myself really liking:

  1. Random Winner Generator: Here’s how to successfully choose the winner of a given stage: Generate a number between 0 and 1, then multiply by the number of racers in the field. Round the result up to the nearest integer and add 1. Map that result to the person who has that number in the GC rankings. If your random number seed is the same as the UCI’s, you now have picked the correct person to win the stage for the current day.
  2. Matthias Kessler: Before this tour, I don’t recall ever having heard of him. But this guy is strong (he’s won a stage), he’s dedicated (he’s been an exceptional and self-sacrificing lead-out guy), and he’s tough as nails. Did you see him flip over that guardrail? That would have sent me to the hospital (and it did in fact send two other riders to the hospital). Kessler just got up and rode away.
  3. Oscar Pereiro: You know, when Thomas Voeckler stumbled into the yellow jersey a couple years ago, everyone acted like it was the most wonderful thing ever. For my money, though, Pereiro is doing a lot more with a similar gift. When Landis gave Pereiro the yellow jersey with a gift of half an hour last week, you can bet that he didn’t realize how loathe Pereiro would be to give that jersey back. Did you see Pereiro ride Klöden off his wheel today? Holy smokes.
  4. Breakaway Planet: Earlier during this Tour, I made a joke about a “One Successful Breakaway per Tour” rule. How many have succeeded this Tour, though? Twenty? A thousand? In a Tour where anything can happen, people are more likely to try anything, I guess.
  5. Landis’s Massive Implosion: Before Tuesday, I thought the Tour was over, and that Floyd had it wrapped up? Who had an honest chance at closing the gap he had created? And then, on one bad climb, it was over. Landis had completely disintegrated, and I no longer had any idea who was going to win.
  6. Landis’s Gracious Post-Implosion Press Klatsch: Based on seven years of Tour watching, I had come to expect that when the leader has a bad day (or a really, really bad day), he would just disappear into his trailer and not come out until the next stage, at which point he would act all cagey and give some perfunctory, dishonest-feeling explanation of what happened. Instead, Floyd walked out, sat down, and candidly answered everyone’s questions, making no excuses whatsoever. Watch the video and you will not be able to help but like Floyd. I promise. I especially like the part where someone mumbles a question; Floyd doesn’t catch it. Instead of going to the next reporter, Floyd says, “Sorry?” as if it were his fault that the guy mumbled.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t Go Beyond This Point If You Haven’t Seen Thursday’s Stage

  1. The Most Inspiring Stage I Have Ever Seen: I used to think I’d never see anything as beautiful as Hamilton’s solo breakaway in 2003. The thing is, though, Hamilton was allowed to get away because there was no way he could ride back into contention. As far as I can tell, nobody allowed Landis anything today. He just took it. He rode up to the front of the pack of the best cyclists in the world, and he ripped their legs off. Then he rode up to the breakaway group, and he ripped their legs off. A couple guys dared to ride his wheel; they just got shot out the back. Nobody could hang with him today. It was a brute-force declaration of intent, and it left everyone in awe. Also, it left a bunch of professional cyclists flopping around, newly legless.
  2. No More Armstrong References: Up until today, Phil and Paul always seemed to talk about Floyd’s successes and failures in context of how Armstrong would have handled the situation. Armstrong would never have given Pereiro 30 minutes. Armstrong would never have blown up and ceded ten minutes. Today, though, they stopped talking about Armstrong.
  3. Landis’s Post-Race Interview: In this interview, Landis owns his horrible yesterday and lays it all on the line: He wants to win the whole thing, and he wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything else. No bet-hedging. No pretension. And he’s got a smile that he simply cannot stop.
  4. Floyd Landis’s Beard: Waaaaaay back in March, I mentioned that I would root for Landis to get on the TdF podium on the condition that he shave his beard. I now retract that condition. That beard’s starting to grow on me. In fact, I think I’ll grow one like it myself. (Note: If you take into consideration that there was no way I could predict the whole Defenestration of the Contenders (a much more appealing name for the scandal than “Operacion Puerto”), my predictions are pretty good. Landis is my top-rated pick of the people who actually started the race.).

PS: Next week is going to be big on my blog. I’ve got a giveaway that will simply knock you onto your butt.


PPS: Saturday, I’m racing the 50-mile solo event in the E-100 series. Wish me luck! 

Not Nice

07.18.2006 | 4:12 pm

Contest Note: The Win a Trip to the Tour of Utah contest ends this Friday. If you haven’t entered yet, click here to do it now.
Today, I had planned a very nice post. In fact, the title of the post was "How to be Nice." In it, I was going to relate three bike-related anecdotes where I have had encounters with people who I did not necessarily expect to be nice, but were.
One of the anecdotes was going to be about my ride in to work yesterday, where I tried to overtake another cyclist during the entirety of the Suncrest climb. When I eventually succeeded (about 50 feet from the summit, after a four-mile climb), he was gracious and complimentary, acknowledging that he had been giving everything he had to keep me at bay, and thanking me for pushing him to his limit. That was nice.
The second anecdote was going to be about how, about a week ago, when I yielded to a horseback rider, he observed that he maybe should have yielded to me, because I was climbing and had the harder job to get started again. "That’s OK," I said, "Bikes yield to horses. That’s the rule."  Later, when, by (not so) strange coincidence, I came across the same rider in another place on the trail network, he immediately pulled off the trail and said, "My turn." That was nice.
My final anecdote was going to be about how yesterday, as I rode home, up the north side of Traverse Ridge (about 1500 feet in just about three miles) in the blistering heat, I closed on, caught and passed a small tractor. As I went by the open-air cab, the driver said, "Good job, buddy." That was nice.
I was going to conclude with an inspiring observation about how much nicer people are than I generally give them credit for, and a heart-warming personal resolution to be nice.
That was before I went to the home page of MSNBC.com today.
Blindsided by a Spoiler (Which I Will Not Repeat)
Yes, I know that I went on and on about how I was going to use my SlingBox to watch the TdF at work, but the reality is I don’t have time to watch it, and my wife would be bummed if we didn’t get to watch it together each night (yes, my wife loves to watch the Tour every night. Husbands of the world: envy me).
So I’ve been going out of my way to not know what’s going on in the Tour during the workday. This is not easy, considering I’ve bookmarked pretty much every English-language cycling-related site in the world.
Never considering that (in the absence of Armstrong) TdF news would make the home page of a mainstream news page, I went to MSNBC.com for my morning news fix.
And there it was: a short headline that gave away the ending of today’s stage. I’m not the swearing type, but: damn it. Yeah, that’s about as severe as I get.
I now know how the L’Alpe d’Huez stage ends, effectively spoiling what I expect will be the most dramatic and exciting stage of the Tour.
And now I do not feel like being nice.

Levi Leipheimer Calls “Mulligan” on 2006 Tour de France

07.17.2006 | 12:16 pm

Note From Fatty: This fake news piece is also running in CyclingNews today. By the way of totally kissing CyclingNews’ collective butt, let me recommend CyclingNews for all your non-fake TdF reading as well. Thank you.


Paris, July 14 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – Following a closed-doors meeting with Tour de France Officials, Team Gerolsteiner held a press conference today, wherein team Leader—and former GC contender—Levi Leipheimer made the following announcement:

“Based on the fact that until yesterday everyone—especially me—has been having a totally sucky tour, I have requested that we call “Mulligan” on this year’s Tour de France to this point, start over with the prologue tomorrow, and try to get it right this time.”

“I hold in my hand an Official Do-Over Petition, which has been signed by a clear and wide majority of riders, race directors, journalists, and cycling fans.”

“Let’s just say that everything up until stage 11 (where Leipheimer took second after a long, brutal day in the mountain) was kind of like a dress rehearsal. I mean, you can see that our hearts just weren’t in it for the first week. Let’s take it from the top and do it for real this time.”


Christian Prudhomme Reacts

Tour de France Prudhomme, also on hand for the press conference, noted that there is indeed a Mulligan clause in the Tour de France rules. Says Prudhomme, “It’s an obscure rule, but Article 7.9.867-5309 does clearly indicate that ‘In the event that a majority of race contenders are ejected from the Tour before the beginning of the race, and in the further event that the people left in the race tend to lurch around haphazardly from stage to stage as if they were drug addicts who had suddenly gone cold turkey, and in the final event that by the time the second half of the race begins only a single serious contender remains in actual race contention, the metaphorical reset button shall be pushed and the Tour shall commence again.’”

“Well,” concluded Prudhomme. “I think this year’s Tour pretty much satisfies those conditions.”


Racers React

George Hincapie, mistakenly treated as Discovery team leader for the first 11 stages of this year’s Tour, had this to say: “Can we all please just accept that the climbing stage I won last year was just a fluke, and that the yellow jersey I wore last week just goes to show what a freaky Tour this has been? If we could start over and all get behind Popovych or Savoldelli, maybe we could get someone on the podium.

So yeah, I guess I’d be OK with starting the Tour over.”

Hincapie then hesitated for a moment and said, “But can I still keep that yellow jersey?”

Iban Mayo, who completely self-destructed without warning or reason as soon as the roads turned uphill this year, concurs. “Yes, a do-over would be an excellent idea,” the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider said. “If given another chance, I will ride with honor and will win stage after stage.”

“Or, I suppose,” finished Mayo, “it’s possible I may just blow up again. That’s kind of my trademark.”

Bobby Julich concurred that it would be an outstanding idea to restart the tour, providing he gets six weeks for his wrist to heal (and, presumably, to reconnoiter the course).


Liggett, Sherwen React

Well-known commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen were enthusiastic about the idea of restarting the Tour. “You know, I am sick to death of talking about nothing but what an unusual Tour this has been,” remarked Liggett. “Because everyone knows that when I say ‘unusual,’ what I really mean is ‘ridiculous.’ We commentators don’t look too good when we talk about what a strong time trial Leipheimer is going to put in and then he gets passed by a recreational cyclist, you know.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Sherwen. “Let’s erase the tape of the Tour thus far, reach into our suitcase of courage, and start from scratch. From the way these guys have been riding, they can’t be too tired yet.”


Floyd Landis Reacts

“You know, most people would probably expect that I wouldn’t want to restart the Tour, since I’m winning it and everything,” said race leader Floyd Landis. “But that’s not the case. I’d love to start over. This time, though, I’ll hire a better mechanic and maybe someone to watch the clock for me, so I ought to be in yellow by the end of stage one. That should be cool.”


OLN Scrambles

American broadcaster has had to react quickly, adjusting its schedule and making name changes to the program names.

“Considering that this race has been anything but Cyclismic, we are going to go with something a little more subdued for the series title. We’re thinking “Cyclezzzzz” has a nice ring to it.”


PS: Have you sent in your entry to win a trip to the Tour of Utah yet? If you haven’t, click here to do it now.

Win a Trip to the 2006 Tour of Utah: Enter Now!

07.13.2006 | 4:51 pm

You have no idea how excited I am to announce that the biggest Fat Cyclist contest ever is now live. I’ve got a banner up on my site, but for those of you who prefer to do your reading RSS-style, here’s the link for you to go enter:
Entering is really easy: just describe what’s going to be going through racers’ heads as they race Stage 6, the most gruelling stage of an incredibly gruelling race.
There’s nothing to buy, no registration to complete. It’s easy.
A huge "thanks" to Travis and everyone at the Tour of Utah for putting up with me, doing a cool, highly-unusual contest, and for putting on a really awesome race. I can hardly wait for it to start.
Now go enter!

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