The 2016 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 1: Before the Race

06.21.2016 | 11:52 pm

Today is June 22. It’s 4:47am. I’m in Dublin, Ireland. It’s light outside, and I’m completely awake. You know what that means? I’ll tell you what it means: it’s time to begin my 2016 Rockwell Relay Race Report!


I’m tempted to go all Tarantino on you on this story. Start in the middle, and work outward to the beginning and end. And it wouldn’t be just to mess with you, either. The fact is, somewhere in the middle-ish of the race, one of the freakiest, scariest moments of my life happened. This moment became the centerpiece of a race that would have been plenty dramatic even without this central event.

But I’m not going to start there. And more importantly, I’m going to ask commenters with knowledge of the events in the race — and pretty much every person who was at the race knows what I’m talking about here — to avoid talking about it, too. No spoilers, in other words, no matter how badly you want to.

All that said, I can’t resist teasing you with a picture from the day after the race. Specifically, one of my teammate and nephew-in-law Ben and me:

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There are a few things you should note from this picture. First, that Ben and I both look ridiculous, but his form of ridiculousness is much less goofy than mine.

Second, you can see that both of those helmets are in really bad shape.

And third, you can see that Ben and I are just fine. And in fact, all four of The Fatty Family were just fine by the end of this race. Considering the story I’m going to tell over the next few days, that’s probably worth pointing out ahead of time.

OK, let’s get started.

Taking Advantage Of Nice People

The first half of 2016 has been a crazy first half of year for me. Problems with the job, then no job, and now: new job. Cycling (and, let’s face it: blogging) has had to take a backseat to life.

And so I’m very lucky that I have good friends who will step into the gap and help me out.

First of all, The Hammer took complete responsibility for boiling the bratwurst for the pre-race WBR fundraising BBQ in the days before the race. Thanks, Beautiful.

Second of all, the four friends of Fatty making up Team “What Were We Thinking, Part Quattre” — Yann, Dave T, Chris, and Craig — took responsibility for grilling those brats. 


Thanks so much, guys. And thanks for saving a couple for me once I got there.

And finally, my friend Cory let me use the SBR Sprinter van during the race:

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Since our other options were to use a pickup truck with a camper shell or a seventeen-year-old minivan, this was the upgradiest of all possible upgrades.

A Moment of Irony

I woke up on the morning of the race with one single, important thought: “Oh no.”

No, its wasn’t concern or fear for the beginning of the race. Although I had that, too. It was the realization that I had made a massive planning error: all of my bike lights were completely dead. 

I knew they were dead because I had charged, then completely discharged, them just the day before, to ensure they were working.

However, I had not had time to charge them again before heading to Moab. 

So here we were, with the race starting in a couple hours, with six completely dead NiteRider setups. 


“I’ll have to tell Danny about this,” I thought. “He’ll appreciate the irony.” I plugged everything in to charge for the few hours between when I woke up and when the team left — we figured we’d have the rest of the team swing by the hotel and pick up the batteries after the race started, bought a couple inverters at the local grocery store to continue charging the batteries once we were on the road, and then hoped for the best.

Meet the 2016 Team: The Fatty Family

For the first few years The Hammer and I did the Rockwell Relay, Kenny and Heather raced with us. Last year, our good friends Cory and Lynette raced with us.

For 2016, The Hammer and I had an idea: put together a family team. 

Specifically, I’d race leg 1. My niece Lindsey would race leg 2. Her husband Ben would race leg 3. And the Hammer would race leg 4.

Labeling this as a “family” team may have been just a little bit of a red herring, however. Sure, we are all in the same actual family. But we all also happen to be pretty darned committed cyclists; out of the group of four of us, I’m pretty confident that I’m the least-fit rider.

The morning before the race, The Hammer and I went to Denny’s for our traditional pre-Rockwell Relay breakfast; Lindsey and Ben skipped it. “What is it with you two and Denny’s, anyway?” Lindsey asked.

Tradition. Just tradition. Plus we like to take a traditional Denny’s selfie.

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And then get the traditional team photo:

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Oh, well those are kind of awesome-looking jerseys. They sure look like they could be FatCyclist jerseys, but with a new design and some interesting and different colors. 

Hmm. I don’t recall selling a jersey like that. Interesting. Oh well, no big deal, don’t worry about it. The more important thing is that we then got a terrific — and traditional — team jump shot:

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Four great jumps, four totally different styles. I’m going to give us full marks for that.

Strategic Head Games

I was trying to just enjoy myself — to make this race into a vacation instead of yet another thing to be worried about — but I couldn’t help myself: I wanted to win. 

And I didn’t just want to win for winning’s sake, either. I wanted to win because I knew that the racers from Team Infinite Cycles also wanted to win. That they had been thinking about the victory we had snatched away from them in the last stage of last year’s race.

Their team name had changed: Now it was VR5. Or ZZTopR. RaZR maybe. We could never get the names straight, to tell the truth, and enjoyed not really trying to. But we did know that instead of just two teams working against us, this year they had brought three: two coed teams and a men’s team to work together, giving them the advantage of a working paceline for the entire race.

We had countered this tactic by bringing…one team, just like we always have. (And also by having me forget to charge the lights.)

I approached Danny to tell him about my light story, and then to ask him to straighten out who was on what team.

Danny hemmed and hawed, circumlocuted and just generally talked in circles.

“You’re not exactly being forthcoming, Danny,” I said.

“Troy told me not to tell you guys anything!” he blurted.

“That’s cool, we actually know everything about your team already,” I said. Which wasn’t true, but which also didn’t matter. At this point, our team strategy was locked in, and was very obvious. (I did in fact know a lot about their racer order and saw some big flaws in it, but I’ll get to that later: for now it was beside the point.)

And also, there was one tactic we had up our sleeves that team JVC didn’t know about.

And that tactic was going to make a huge difference once the race began.

Which is where I’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.



  1. Comment by MattC | 06.22.2016 | 12:46 am

    Dublin, eh? VERY COOL!! Never made it there yet…but it’s on my list. Enjoy your trip!

    Excellent start to the Rockwell Race Reports Fatty…you’ve really outdone your cliffhanger self! Bring it on I say!

  2. Comment by MattC | 06.22.2016 | 12:50 am

    Oh, and I just have to ask HOW is it that in your crushed-helmet picture you’re suddenly as tall as Ben? Cuz in the family photo he’s got you by a good bit. Nice try Fatty…you can get off that cinder-block now.

  3. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 06.22.2016 | 4:45 am

    If you want to keep details of the RR secret probably best to ask people not to talk about it rather than to talk about it (easy typo to make in a Dublin hotel bedroom at 04:47).
    Anyway, good to have you back and I can tell this is going to be a long haul.

    Oooops. Fixed that. Thanks for calling it out. And you’re right: this is going to be a long report, because a LOT happened. – FC

  4. Comment by Tom in Albany | 06.22.2016 | 4:56 am

    Yay!!! RRRR!!!!! (RockwellRelayRaceReport!) Go ahead and TM that quadruple R fatty!


  5. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 06.22.2016 | 5:11 am

    Oh, and the kit looks fantastic.

  6. Comment by Brian in VA | 06.22.2016 | 6:39 am

    Race report? Yum!

  7. Comment by Yannb | 06.22.2016 | 7:12 am

    I know what happened at the race, but I’m on the edge of my seat.

  8. Comment by Tim | 06.22.2016 | 7:18 am

    I don’t want to wait. It is like Christmas as a kid. Looking forward to tomorrow morning in Dublin so another race report can be posted. It will 100 here today so, I guess more like Christmas in Australia.

  9. Comment by Scott D Gilbert | 06.22.2016 | 7:30 am

    That is a great looking jersey!
    Also “Fatty’s back”! in true race report form (not that you were ever gone, just busy) leaving us waiting for the next installment with baited breath! (I’ve always wondered what bait is used for “baited breath”?)

  10. Comment by Paige | 06.22.2016 | 8:47 am

    Yay!! Love me some race reports from Fatty. It’s like Christmas since my favorite tv show also starts tonight.

  11. Comment by UtahTom | 06.22.2016 | 8:52 am

    Hooray! My favorite race report of the year. It is already off to a great start.

  12. Comment by MikeL | 06.22.2016 | 9:20 am

    One episode down. Fifteen to come.

  13. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 06.22.2016 | 9:20 am

    A hook and a cliffhanger in the same post.

    And you don’t even need to sell these stories, I’d be here anyway, and buy your books, too.

    But I’m glad my morning computer time now again has some worthwhile stuff to read. Bring it on!

  14. Comment by LyleB | 06.22.2016 | 9:35 am

    Hmmm… Can’t wait to see the rest of the new kit.

  15. Comment by steve | 06.22.2016 | 9:47 am

    How, how, how (how) can you read this and every other RRRR (TM) blog post and not want to be a part of this race?

    PS I was at the race and I have no idea what happened. Obviously you need to ride faster than we did to get ‘the skinny’ Can’t wait to read about it.

    PPS it was said that when Charles Dickens released his novels in serial format, his readers would pray that he didn’t die before he finished writing them… this feels like a Dickensian cliff-hanger.

    PPPS (thinking of the crushed helmet photo) please don’t die before you finish telling the tale.

  16. Comment by Jim | 06.22.2016 | 9:59 am

    Hmm, that is a nice kit, esp the cutoffs! But why black? Slimming yes, but also soaks up the sun.

  17. Comment by BostonCarlos | 06.22.2016 | 10:01 am

    dun dun dun….

  18. Comment by Vince | 06.22.2016 | 10:58 am

    Great racing with you Fatty. Glad I could offer a Coke handup on leg 1. I’m excited to hear how your race played out.

    Thanks Vince, especially for the Coke. There is nothing quite so good as a Coke handup during a race. – FC

  19. Comment by MLB | 06.22.2016 | 11:51 am

    Nice socks!

  20. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 06.22.2016 | 12:05 pm

    Thanks for another RRRR – looking forward to the next installments and you usual cliffhanger endings that keep us on the edges of our seats.

    I have to say that Lindsey’s form in your starting line jump is far and away the best of the bunch. Symmetry, pointy toes, complete control – she has it all.

  21. Comment by Scott | 06.22.2016 | 12:40 pm

    Was it a parade of zombies walking along the side of the road like last year? Please, oh please, let it be more zombies!

  22. Comment by Corrine | 06.22.2016 | 1:03 pm

    Love the RRRR! Don’t make us wait too long for the next installment. I hope you have a lot of down time in your work week so we can hear more. So many cliffhangers already.
    And for you that don’t know, Lael Wilcox, WON the TransAM this morning. She beat everybody and has the 2nd fastest time ever. Go, Lael!

  23. Comment by leroy | 06.22.2016 | 1:12 pm

    I hope you kept the receipts for those helmets.

  24. Comment by Tim D | 06.22.2016 | 2:40 pm

    Cyclingjimbo, Ben clearly is the coolest. While Fatty, the Hammer and Lindsey are jumping, Ben has just used the power of thought to levitate.

  25. Comment by spaceyace | 06.22.2016 | 2:55 pm

    @Scott, “bated” comes from the same root as “abate.” So, instead of bated breath, you could say holding/stopping one’s breath. Then again, when I think of some people’s breath, I think of that stinky trout bait, so who knows…
    Fatty, please make this a 34-parter! We love to hate the cliffhangers.

  26. Comment by PNP | 06.22.2016 | 5:15 pm

    Excellent! I was going into race report withdrawal. Your Rockwell Relay reports always make me want to ride it myself. I never will, but I still want to!

  27. Comment by ScottR | 06.22.2016 | 5:23 pm

    Greatly looking forward to the upcoming chapters!

  28. Comment by dgyeates | 06.22.2016 | 7:42 pm

    Hook firmly set!

  29. Comment by Anonymous | 06.22.2016 | 7:49 pm

    I am very proud of the family jump photo! Nice work!

  30. Comment by Tom in Albany | 06.23.2016 | 5:16 am

    I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment.

    I’m putting the over/under for the RRRR at 8.5. Any takers?

  31. Comment by Wife#1 | 06.23.2016 | 6:10 pm

    Dude you’re in Ireland…you better do at least one equestrian ride while you’re there. They have some of the best horses ever!

    Fantastic cliff hanger as always…looking forward to the whole race series.

  32. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.24.2016 | 10:22 am

    Fatty, best to listen to Wife#1. When she went to Ireland for work she didn’t ride.

    Next thing I know she buys an Irish Horse.

    (how big is your land?)


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