Yesterday, in the spirit of full transparency, I announced my plan for how I would race that day. Nobody could say they were caught off-guard by underhanded tactics.
Sure, they could still say my tactics were underhanded, and I wouldn’t refute such a statement. But they couldn’t say they were caught off-guard by aforementioned underhanded tactics.
I shall now describe the race, and let you judge whether these tactics were successful.
Before I talk about the race, though, I think it’s important to point out that this race marked the rollout of the 2008 Fat Cyclist jersey. There were quite a few of us sporting the men’s pink jersey:
From this photo, it’s quite clear that:
- I have ridiculously short, stumpy legs.
- I am about to pass out from holding my stomach in.
And then after the race, I got a couple of photos of Dug and me, because it’s very important you see something unique about Dug’s jersey. Here’s us:
And here’s Dug’s back.
So, um, did anyone else get a jersey with an upside-down logo on the back? Because I am incredibly jealous. I offered to buy it back from Dug for $250.
He did not accept my offer.
[Note to Twin Six guys: I think we should seriously consider an upside-down horse in the next iteration of the jersey. It could stand for "Fat Cyclist in Distress! Please send help immediately, preferably in the form of pie!"]
OK, On To the Race
In spite of my stated plan to cruise the race, when I got there, I could feel the pre-race antsiness creep up on me. I sensed that once riding, there wasn’t a lot I’d be able to do to hold back.
What surprised me, though, was how many people there were at the race in general — at least a couple hundred — and how many there were in my category (Men’s Sport 40+). It looked like there were maybe twenty of us.
Dug and I lined up side by side when it was our wave’s turn to go. Kanyon Kris got in front of us, thumping his chest and snorting in derision. "See my butt? Kanyon (as he prefers to be called) asked. "Well, get used to it, cuz that’s all you’re going to see during this race."
Man. Kanyon Kris loves his trash talk almost as much as he loves the letter "K."
The race director yelled "Go," and Dug and I quickly got shot out the back. Flat ground is the natural enemy of singlespeeds.
Dug is able to hit a higher cadence than I can, evidently, because he quickly got in front of me. Then the course turned to curvy, rolling singletrack. No need to push myself; we were stacked deep in the middle of a line of twenty or so riders on close singletrack. The effort you expend on a pass in this situation is simply not worth it; you make up no time whatsoever.
So I sat in, following Dug’s line. And that is when Part I of my plan to defeat Dug went into full effect. Specifically, a garden gnome in my employ, dressed in full camouflage, sat waiting at a strategic location on the trail: the lowest point in a sandy, off-camber dip-turn. As Dug hit that low spot, the gnome used magick most fowle to cause dug to wash out his front tire.
Dug went down heavily on his right side, with what I like to call a "harumph" of despair.
"You OK?" I asked as I went by, chortling and not waiting for an answer.
I would not see Dug again for the rest of the race.
A short section of singletrack climbing revealed something I had not noticed before. It can be really difficult to race behind a geared bike when you’re on a singlespeed. This is because the solution to a short, steep pitch is so much different on a geared bike than on a single. On a geared bike, you drop down into a lower gear, keep your cadence where it was, and spin up to the top. On a singlespeed, that’s not an option. You’ve got to build momentum at the base of the climb and then power up.
If — and this is a big "if" you’ve got enough power to reach the top of the climb, you’re going to get there faster than the guy on the geared bike.
Which is my way of saying that I nearly rear-ended geared bikes more than a dozen times on this race.
Anyway, as the singletrack gave way to jeep road, I caught sight of Kanyon Kris. I’m not certain why, but it seemed like a good idea to pinch his butt as I passed him.
So I did.
"You goosed me!" he said, matter-of-factly.
Let’s be clear. There is a big difference between a pinch and a goose. I would never goose somebody. And yet, I did not dispute his claim, even though I knew it to be false. I am above such petty squabbles.
Not every course in the world is ideally suited for singlespeed bikes, but yesterday’s course is. I did not reflexively reach for a lower gear the entire race.
And more importantly, my singlespeed drivetrain allowed me to feel smugly superior for big chunks of the ride.
I’m not sure how many times I saw people slow down drastically or even have to pull over in deference to their malfunctioning derailleurs (the course is sandy and has a deep water crossing at the beginning of each lap).
Simplicity doesn’t always equal elegance, but a good singlespeed sure feels elegant. Plus it makes people think you’re racing with a disadvantage when in fact at least most of the time a singlespeed can be every bit as fast as a geared bike.
Yesterday’s race was mostly on singletrack. When you’re climbing, there’s hardly any point in passing. When you’re descending, though, it becomes crucial. You’ve got to let the person in front of you know that you need to get by. But you don’t want to be mean about it. And you want to let them know at such a time that it’s possible for them to let you by. And then, if they don’t let you by, you’ve got to have a followup request that is more insistent, but not strident.
Singletrack bike racing: it’s more about the art of negotiation than anything else.
Passed at the Last
Before the first lap was over, I noticed that I had arrived at whatever place I was going to be in for my class in the race — the tags of all the riders around me were different colors than mine.
Weirdly, I had no idea what my place was. Was I tenth? Fifteenth? I hadn’t marked my approximate position in the initial scrum, and by the time I had finished the first two big climbs on jeep roads, I no longer had any idea how many people had passed me or how many people I had passed.
As I finished the second lap, though, I did finally encounter one guy in my class. We were on a gravelly, flat stretch right before the finish line. He passed me, and by the time I noticed he had the same color tag as me, it was too late to do anything about it.
I say "it was too late to do anything about it" as if I had anything left to do anything with. I was cooked, and he flew by, finishing eight seconds ahead of me.
To my credit, however, I refrained from yelling, "I’m on a singlespeed!" as he went by.
Mission Accomplished, for Brad, Tasha, and Me
Complete race results haven’t been posted, but I am happy to report that Brad won his Expert class — his first-ever Expert Class win, and he did it on a singlespeed. Check him out.
For those of you who are wondering, that duct-taped message Brad was wearing says "BEAT BOB" — Brad’s personal goal — and "WIN SUSAN."
And while I don’t have a photo of it, Tasha — Brad’s wife — won her class too. She was also wearing a Fat Cyclist jersey, also with a duct-taped "WIN SUSAN" message across her chest.
Have I mentioned that Brad and Tasha have been bringing my family dinner each Sunday afternoon, too?
I have such great friends.
As for me, well, I took fifth in the Men’s 40+ Sport category. Not bad at all, especially when you consider there were at least a hundred or so of us in that category alone.
Or possibly 20.
I’m not going to be racing much at all this season, but it’s good to know that if I lose a few pounds, I could still be a reasonable contender in the Sport category.
PS: I know you’re going to ask, so: Dug took tenth. His story’s here. And worth reading, I might add, were I so inclined.