2014 Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Part 2: Secret Weapons

10.16.2014 | 3:34 pm

Here’s are two very practical aphorisms you can share with people when you want to startle them with your deep insight into the underlying truths behind athletic efforts:

  • Every race you’re in is exactly as important and exciting as you think it is.
  • Any ride can be a race. 

You know what? Those aren’t just aphorisms. Those are axioms. I should just end this blog post right here; I’ve already given you about ten times more value than you’ll get from the average award-winning cycling lifestyle blog written by a beloved A-list celebrity superstar blogger.

But I’m not done. In fact, I’m not even close to done. In fact, I haven’t even exactly gotten started. 

My point — and yes, I do have one — is that The Hammer and I had been to Rebecca’s Private Idaho once to ride.

This time, we were there to race. Furthermore, we decided that we were going to treat it as an important race. And that we were going to race it as a two-person team. 

And that I would do everything I could to be a good domestique. Not the best possible domestique, certainly. But still, pretty good. 

Plus, I had a secret weapon. Or, as I’d later find out, two secret weapons.

I’m Doing Everything Wrong, Apparently

On the morning of the race I was standing around nervously. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. 

And also, I was being indecisive. I couldn’t make up my mind on one particular thing. So I worked through it by chattering a stream of consciousness to The Hammer:

“So I’m going to ride in front of you the whole day, OK? I don’t want you pulling at all unless I completely self-destruct. And if I do self-destruct, you just keep going, OK? I’ll finish when I finish. But if I start gapping you, you let me know anytime I’m more than five feet ahead of you, OK? We both know there’s a lot of wind out there. But the one thing I’m wondering about is whether we ought to stay together during the first KOM climb. I kinda want to just hit that as hard as I can and see whether I can beat my time from last year, OK? But maybe that’s dumb because pulling you at race pace is going to take everything I’ve got and maybe more, right? So we should just stay together, including on that first big climb, OK?”

And so on. For absolutely completely reals.

The Hammer is used to it, she says.

And then, as I was standing and rambling, my good friend Robbie Ventura came over and looked at me. And my bike. 

“Why are your handlebars so wide?” he asked. “Seems like they wouldn’t be very aero.”

“No, they’re probably not,” I agreed. “But they’re the handlebars I happen to own for this bike, and they’re really good for standing and climbing when I have it set up as a singlespeed.”

“Why are you riding a mountain bike anyway? Wouldn’t it be faster to race on a carbon cross bike?”

“It might be, but I don’t have one.”

“How come you have gels tucked under the legs on your shorts? You know that’s weight you’re unnecessarily lifting with each stroke of your pedals.”

“I had never thought of that.”

And then he looked at my secret weapon. 

“What is that?” he asked.

I told him.

“Are you serious?”

“Completely serious. It’s my secret weapon. It’s going to make all the difference in the world today. It’s going to get The Hammer on the podium. Guaranteed.”

“If you say so,” he said, his tone implying the exact opposite.

And, having me doubt everything about everything I thought I knew, Robbie walked away.

We got in line, near the front, now quiet; I was no longer in a mood to jabber. Instead, I was pondering how much extra effort those gels under my shorts were costing me.

A lot, I’ll bet. A whole lot.

Subject to Revision

The race began, and The Hammer and I stayed together, keeping near the front. Shouting “HOLD YOUR LINE” at anyone who got within a couple yards of us. Which was, basically, everyone.

The first few miles were on the road. Folks were riding along at a relaxed, chatty pace. The first — and really, the only — big climb of the day approached.

I felt like my heart might explode. I wanted to go.

“Honey, I think I’m going to have to attack on the climb. I don’t think I can help it.”

“Have fun,” The Hammer said. “I’ll see you at the top.”

I saw the timing mat, saw a line, and I went. I shifted to a big gear and stood up, turning hard, slow circles.

Yes, that’s how I climb, even when I have gears. It’s been a while since I’ve done it any other way. I’m pretty sure Robbie Ventura would not approve.

Except, as he rode by me, showing no sign of effort — he said, “nice work, Fatty.”

And then, as I neared the top — fewer and fewer people around me — I saw Kathryn Bertine, the pro behind the Half the Road documentary, as well as As Good as Gold, which (I would find out later) turns out to be a hilarious and inspiring book.

“Hey Kathryn,” I said.

“Hey Fatty,” she said.

That was about as much conversation as I had in me at the time.

I got to the top, gassed and not even in the top ten finishers (last year I was second). Later I would find out I was twenty seconds slower than last year. Not bad. Not bad.

All Aboard the Dave Train

I got to the top, waited for a minute or so for The Hammer — who was one of the first three women to the top — and then we got rolling.

At which point we were caught by Dave Thompson. Here’s a picture of him (with The Hammer and Dave’s wife, Amy…I’ll let you figure out who is whom) back in Leadville a couple months ago. 

IMG 9497

Dave, like The Hammer and I and basically nobody else, was on a mountain bike.

Dave jumped in front as we rode along the moderate downhill, and pulled like he had been a locomotive engine in a previous life.

Which may in fact be the case. I’m not all that sure about the specifics of how reincarnation works.

The thing is, though, Dave was too strong for us. He kept riding us off his rear wheel. He’d pull away, gap us, look back, and then coast ’til we caught him.

Meanwhile, train after train of cyclocross bikes were zooming by. Hauling like this race was going to be over in an hour. There was a time when I would have tried to catch and ride with people like that. Those days are past.

Dave, however, had a sense of longing in the way he pedaled; you could see he wanted to go with one of those flying groups.

“Go,” I said. “We’ll catch you if we catch you.”

And like that, Dave was gone. 

Now it was just The Hammer and me — cruising at an excellent race pace. 

And still, groups of racers on cyclocross bikes kept flying by.

“Don’t worry about them,” I told The Hammer.

“Oh, I’m not,” she replied, casually. “If they were really that much faster than us, they would have gotten ahead of us during the climb.”

I Have The Power

And The Hammer was right. The course leveled out, we cruised past the second aid station, the course started climbing just a little bit…and there were those groups that were going so fast.

I pulled The Hammer up to them, rode behind them for a moment. 

Then pulled to the front and began pulling a group. Before long, only a couple would be hanging on, and then they’d fall off too.

Without meaning to, we’d have just exploded a functioning peloton.

So we’d ride up to the next one and do it again.

I didn’t ask anyone to pull, I didn’t want anyone to pull. I had one task: to keep a speed just below what would put The Hammer into the red. Which, as it turns out, was just fast enough to blow up groups of guys on cyclocross bikes.

Dave was still ahead of us, though. Which wasn’t surprising, but it was too bad, because I had really been hoping to ride with him during today’s race.

Secret Weapon

Rebecca’s Private Idaho is a lollipop-style out and back, almost entirely on dirt roads. The loop at the top of the lollipop is where most of the climbing, the scenery, and anything remotely technical happen.

In other words, it’s the best part of the course.

Last year we just tooled along, shifting into low gears for this part of the ride.

This time, we kind of attacked it. And we kind of killed it. Passing people left and right on rocky descents, this is one part of the race where mountain bikes have the edge.

About the time we hit the halfway point — the top of the lollipop — I told The Hammer, “You go on for a minute without me. I need to use the bathroom…and to deploy The Secret Weapon.”

Which seems like a good place to pick up on Monday.


  1. Comment by ScottyCycles62 | 10.16.2014 | 4:43 pm

    “You go on for a minute without me. I need to use the bathroom…and to deploy The Secret Weapon.”

    I shudder to think Fatty how many times the Hammer has heard you say that!

  2. Comment by Black Sheep Cycling | 10.17.2014 | 5:33 am


  3. Comment by Chris | 10.17.2014 | 6:00 am

    “You go on for a minute without me. I need to use the bathroom…and to deploy The Secret Weapon.”

    I hope the next post is family friendly.

  4. Comment by MattC | 10.17.2014 | 9:19 am

    I don’t even have a plausible guess as to what the “secret weapon” could be.

    Enthralling post Fatty! You are the Yoda of killing us with cliffhangers!

  5. Comment by leroy | 10.17.2014 | 12:56 pm

    Well this is a coincidence.

    My dog’s secret weapon: he unclips and slightly lifts one leg just before launching a break away.

    It works because it’s not worth finding out if he’s bluffing.

  6. Comment by PNP | 10.17.2014 | 1:17 pm

    I have a mental imagine of a holder for a roll of TP welded to your bike!

  7. Comment by PNP | 10.17.2014 | 1:18 pm

    Mental image. Image.

    I’m so glad that it’s Friday.

  8. Comment by FltTestEngr | 10.20.2014 | 2:45 pm

    “How come you have gels tucked under the legs on your shorts? You know that’s weight you’re unnecessarily lifting with each stroke of your pedals.”

    “I had never thought of that.”

    Just for the curious: 2×32g gels/170mm cranks/cadence:80 = 0.2843 watts maximum.

    However, one side is going down while one is being lifted, so if you’re not accelerating or decelerating, the descending gel is giving its potential energy back and they cancel out.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.