Change a Life, Win the Trip of a Lifetime: 12 Days Cycling in Southern Italy with InGamba

07.14.2015 | 4:09 pm

Pssst. C’mere. I’ve got this idea, but I’m going to need your help to make it happen. It’s a little crazy, but I think you’re going to like it.

Oh, and you’ve got to promise not to tell anyone about this. If other people find out, it will completely mess up the plan.

Promise? OK. Good. Here’s how it goes.

First, I’m going to announce that as part of my Grand Slam for Kenya contest this month, I’m going to give away a fully-paid trip to Italy with InGamba.

Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Yeah, I thought you’d think so.

So, as the second stage in this plan, I want you to donate as much money as you can possibly afford in this contest. I’m going to recommend you donate in multiples of $147, because that’s how much a Buffalo Bike costs. No matter how much you donate, though, that money is going to be matched, so your donation dollars go twice as far. 

I know, I know, this plan is so genius so far. But here’s where it gets really good.

When Katie Bolling at World Bicycle Relief draws a winner and calls you to tell you that you get to go on an expenses paid, incredible cycling vacation in Southern Italy, October 13-25 (yeah, that’s twelve days), with Eros Poli as your guide, you should politely say that you’d like me to go in your place.

Oh wait, sorry? I lost you on that part? 

Hmf.

Let’s Talk About This Prize

Okay, I never really expected that to work, but I had to try, right? I mean, it’s twelve days of biking, and eating, and hanging out and relaxing…in Southern Italy. While InGamba takes care of every single little thing for you.

Someone’s going to win this prize — worth $9150 — and I am so incredibly desperately jealous of you, I had to at least try to get you to give it up.

But honestly, I am not surprised you would want to keep this prize for yourself. Hey, if I won it there’s no way I’d give it to you.

So  let’s talk about what happens if you choose this prize. And — I’m just being honest here — you would be absolutely insane to not choose this prize.

The riding is going to be twelve days of the best of what Italy has to offer. Enough to challenge experienced riders, but no seven-hour death marches. 

On your first day in Tuscany, you’ll do the “Monti” ride — the quintessential glimpse into the Chianti region, rolling through small villages and past olive tree orchards.

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The next day, Pienza: into the heart of lesser-known Italy. 77Km of riding with one good climb takes you to the Relai Chiostro Di Pienza: an old Franciscan cloister from the 16th century.

And so it goes. On day three, into Lazio. Then toward rome on the fourth day. Then maybe a rest day, or maybe a lap around Lago di Canterno.

The days go on like this. Twelve days of the most perfect cycling adventure you could ever ask for.

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But what are you riding? Oh, good question. You don’t have to bring your own bike across the ocean and build it up. No. Instead, InGamba will have either a Pinarello Dogma F8 or Rokh ready for you to ride during your stay:

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Fully loaded, too, with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. And a Garmin 810, pre-loaded with the rides you’ll be doing.

And who’s going to take care of this bike while you’re there? Not you. Nosir. After each day’s ride, you’ll just hand your bike to one of the InGamba mechanics, who’ll wash and love your bike, ensuring it’s perfect for you the following day.

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I swear, it is so not fair that I am giving this prize away. 

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Looking good: InGamba will have a kit for you to wear during your trip: jersey, shorts (or bibs), gloves, hat, and socks. And they’ll keep them clean during your ride. You know: so you’ll look PRO.

Eating and Drinking

You’re not going to be eating at tourist restaurants, you’re going to be savoring local cuisine, prepared by the best chefs and restaurants not found in guide books. 

And the meals, beer, and wine are all included as part of your trip. 

Oh, did I mention that this is a luxury cycling trip to Southern Italy? 

The Guide

Eros Poli is a legend, a Mt. Ventoux stage winner in the Tour de France. And he’s a great guy. And an amazing storyteller. 

You are going, in short, to be absolutely positively astonished at the amazingness of your vacation.

Right now I am crying I am so jealous of the winner of this prize.

Perhaps you’d like to have more details. Well, I don’t blame you. Click here to download the PDF, detailing the trip, to get all the detail you need.

So, do you think the possibility of winning this prize is donation-worthy? Because I kind of think it is. So: Click here to donate now.

Let’s Talk About InGamba

Ingamba is — obviously — being incredibly generous by supporting the Grand Slam for Zambia fundraiser. And it’s not the first time they’ve done this.  

The thing is, InGamba isn’t just doing this prize donation for this WBR fundraiser. In fact, the InGamba community has raised over $90,000 for World Bicycle Relief.

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Here’s what InGamba founder, Joao Correia, has to say about why they support WBR:

Bikes change people’s lives.  For some of us it was a tool to make a living, for others a way to lose a little extra weight or simply blow off some stress.  But yet for a different group of people it’s a way to get around, that allows you to get to a job or school.  It can be that little push you need to get over the poverty line and make a difference for you family.  At inGamba we believe in bikes.  We also believe in making a difference and making sure it’s part of what we do.  Although our trips are about great food, wine and riding bikes our inspiration as a business is to make people’s lives better.  It can be one of our guests or it can be a young person in Africa whom we’ll never meet but along with our guests we will affect with our contribution that gives them the ability to get from point A to point B easier and therefore transform their lives.  Join the cause and make a difference.

This is a great guy, doing great things for the best reasons. I love seeing this. 

So: donate now to support WBR. You might win an unimaginably wonderful trip. Or you might win one of the two incredible dream bikes we’ve announced

Or you might win another grand prize from the Grand Slam for Kenya. Because there’s more coming. Oh yes. Much more. You’re going to love it.

Donate now.

 

A Letter from the Wife (With Helpful Annotations)

07.8.2015 | 11:41 am

A “You Aren’t Going to Believe the Next Prize Trek Is Donating” Note from Fatty: Earlier this week, I announced the first two grand prizes in the Grand Slam for Kenya fundraiser

Today, I’m excited to tease you with some hints about another prize Trek is contributing.

  • First hint: it is not a bike. 
  • Second hint: There are a certain number of cyclists who would consider this to be far and away the most amazing of the grand prizes. 
  • Third hint: I am one of two people in the whole world who know what all the prizes in this contest are (Katie Bolling of World Bicycle Relief is the other person). And I can say that if I were to get first pick at any of the prizes in this contest, this is the one I would pick. 
  • Fourth hint: I hope to announce what this prize will be, live, in a video webinar, very soon. Within moments of when the live video begins, before I say anything at all, you’ll have a very good idea of what the prize is.

What is this prize? Feel free to speculate in the comments, but I will neither confirm nor deny any answers. Still, if you’re the first to get it right, that’s got to be worth some bragging rights, right? 

Huge thanks go out to Trek, which is very obviously stepping up its WBR support in a massive way. Here’s what Adam Kostichka, Trek Advocacy Manager, has to say:  

“World Bicycle Relief is a fantastic organization and one that Trek is proud to have supported for years. We’re excited about the work they are doing and the future of the program. We will continue to support them through their great initiatives.” 

If I were you, I’d go donate. Right now

And now, onto today’s story, which takes the form of a letter from Friend of Fatty Allison Houston to her (also Friend of Fatty) husband, Dave, while he’s away in Leadville for a training camp, in order to prepare for his first racing of the Leadville 100.

Helpfully, I have added my editorial notes, in order to lend balance and perspective.

When the Cycling Hubby is Away, a Catty Wife May Play…or Organize His Stuff

Let me just get this out of the way. I don’t mean to be sexist. I realize this entire post may come across as grossly stereotypical, and of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but then again, there is a rule, hoo-boy is there a rule, and the rule is this: boy cyclists are WAY more into “stuff” than women cyclists.

Yes, I am going to say it: boys and their toys. Their damn #%^&$ bike toys left all over the house, yard, basement, garage. You may have noted that I used the term “boys” versus “women“ to make my gender distinction. Yes I did. That was no accident.

Look, I’m not saying women cyclists don’t fully appreciate the finer points of insanely good biking gear, it’s just we don’t need as much of it… as in we do not need one of everything, ever made for a bike.

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As my husband David (in Marin) is off on a family-sanctioned cycling trip for 10 days in Colorado and Utah, I am left with ample time to ponder the wreckage left behind from his departure and wonder, as I am sure every female partner of every male cyclist so often does, why, why, WHY?!

[While we men never ever ever wonder the same thing about all the bottles and tubes and stuff in the shower and near the sink and elsewhere in the bathroom. - FC]

Souvenir bottles . Really, you need to keep every single one of them? Because the race plate, jersey and swag bag from all those same events do not on their own prove that you were there?

[Because they have a lot of alternative uses, naturally. And a very necessary application for those bottles is guaranteed to appear the instant we get rid of them. - FC]

Spare parts. That pile, excuse me, those piles of spare bike parts are not doing any good for the world. Are you saving up to start your own bike repair business one day? If not, have you considered getting a blow torch to at least weld them into some cool art form that can better serve humanity?

[Actually, a blow torch is the wrong tool for the job. Not hot enough. It’s going to take a completely different kind of torch to make that stuff into art. Dave, better go buy one of those right now. - FC]

Used tubes. If you told me you were going to make it a mission to patch all the punctured tubes for reuse while watching the Tour de France or something, I could possibly buy in to you keeping them around. But you won’t. Not during the extended viewing in the morning because you don’t want to miss a word Phil or Paul is saying, nor will you patch during the abbreviated recast with Bob Roll in the evenings, even though you already know how the stage is won.

[OK, I’m with you on this one, Allison. - FC]

Orphan cycling socks . ‘Nuff said. They all need to die and by that, I of course mean get thrown away. I appreciate that many of them became orphans because the dog that I wanted to get is a sock eater (and pooper), but whatever the reason, the singles need to go.

[Those orphan socks are incredibly valuable. You put a tube in them, double them up, and then put them in your saddle bag. By doing this, you don’t wind up chafing a hole in the spare tube in your saddle bag. - FC]

Jerseys . While I kind of appreciate your desire to go all Christo one day by wrapping the world in the massive collection of cycling jerseys you are amassing , I also kind of resent that you need twice as much drawer space as I do.

[All I’m going to say is: it could be worse. - FC]

Orphan gloves . [see orphan socks]. Okay I know where the socks go but my dog does not poop gloves, so where are all the missing gloves, Michael Jackson?

[I’d like an answer to this question myself. That said, I’d like to point out that this is in no way a guys-only issue. The Hammer has as many orphan gloves as I do, and finds it just as frustrating. - FC]

CO2 tubes. If I strike one with a hammer in a rage after stepping on it and going flying across the room and landing on my butt, will it explode? And if does explode, am I guaranteed that it will do enough damage to take out the rest of the cycling gear? Might be worth it, but let me check our homeowner’s insurance first.

Energy Gels, Bars, Waffles and Electrolytes. Just so you know, I will be sending all of your cycling nutrition remainders to the next nation that experiences a major famine.

So. Much. Stuff.

All that said, while my own personal motto runs along the lines of “when in doubt, throw it out”, I would never do that to you, dear hubby. Well, not while you’re alive anyway. Now if you keel over on Columbine or Powerline this week, all bets are off, but otherwise, your bike stuff awaits your return.

However…

I will be taking advantage of your absence to oh-so-very-thoroughly organize all your cycling gear so it’s out of sight and neatly put away.

[The Hammer’s done that to me. Here’s what happens. The next time I’m looking for something and can’t find it because everything’s been moved to somewhere other than where I had put it, I turn the house upside down looking for it. The net result is a larger mess than the one that was there in the first place. - FC]

Stop hyperventilating. Can’t possibly be good for you at that altitude.

See you in a week. XXXOOO

Wife#1

Hobbyist, Minus Hobby

07.6.2015 | 12:51 pm

A Super-Excited Announcement from Fatty: Today I have a guest post from Kenny. It’s fantastic. So be sure to keep reading after I announce this announcement, OK? OK.

There are a lot of really great reasons I’m very excited about The Grand Slam for Kenya. I’m excited about the cause. I’m excited about the location. I’m excited to be a part of making the world a better place and having an immediate effect with my donation dollars. I’m excited about how generous everyone is being with their donations for this contest.

And, as you’d expect, I’m excited about the prizes. Today, I’d like to tell you about a couple reasons I’m excited for these prizes.

First, I’m incredibly excited — okay, let me be perfectly honest and say that what I’m feeling is closer to envious and astonished — to announce the first grand prize to be given as part of the Grand Slam for Kenya, which I can’t help but write in all-caps, bold, and red:

ANY TREK PROJECT ONE BIKE YOU WANT

What does that mean? It means that should you win, you can pick pretty much any top-end Trek you want, then choose a super-sweet paint job for it, and outfit it with the highest-end SRAM and Zipp components available.

For example, you could start with a custom Émonda SLR frameset:

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Then add a candy-apple red paint job to it and build it up with Zipp 202 wheels and SRAM Red 22 parts.

You would have yourself a bike that is so light, so fast, you would have to tether it down when you park it in the garage, to prevent it from floating around, wafting its way toward the ceiling.

(There are some limitations regarding paint and components, so be sure to read the details in the rules.)

Or you could build a Madone. Yeah, the new one.

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Or any other Trek frame. And let me assure you: right now, Trek is coming out with bikes that are making me really, really really want to make some room in my garage.

Sadly, I am not eligible to win. But you are. And you should try very, very hard to win. Which you can do, by donating in the Grand Slam fundraiser.

What’s the Second Thing?

Oh, that’s right, I did say there were a couple of things I was going to announce, didn’t I? Well, I’m going to have to haul out the all-caps, red, and bold again:

WIN ANOTHER TREK PROJECT ONE BIKE

Yeah. For reals. This year, we’re not just giving away one Trek Project One bike. We’re giving away two.

Which means your chances of winning one of these incredible dream bikes — bikes that generally retail for $8K – $13K — have doubled.

You want to know what bike I would really love to get? The Procaliber SL. It’s a ridiculously light hardtail mountain bike, while managing to be incredibly smooth-riding, thanks to the IsoSpeed decoupler. 

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I want one of these so bad. I want to build it up with SRAM XX1 components, an RS-1 Fork, and Rise 60 Wheels

And then I would flaunt it. Flaunt it hard. And I would ride that bike thirty-five hours per day.

At least.

We’re Just Getting Started

So there you go: the first two bikes in the Grand Slam are any Trek Project One bikes you want. Regardless of whether your itch tends toward road or mountain, racing or riding, you’re going to be able to find and build something that perfectly suits your needs and aesthetic.

If I were you, I’d be interested in donating. Very interested indeed.

So: 

Hobbyist, Minus Hobby
by Kenny Jones 

What if you started a hobby, and that hobby was so incredible that it transcended your everyday life? This hobby, which you started as a diversion to your work and “real” life, took hold of you and you decided that this hobby now was your real life and that your previous work life would be secondary.

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What if you decided that you would just let Hobby sweep you up and start taking you on adventures? And you discover that you are Hobby talented, and you wonder how you ever lived without it in your life. Your goals change and what was important to you is no longer important in the same way. Your time spent Hobbying increases year by year, and you spend less and less time on other things.

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And Hobby keeps growing, taking you to amazing places to see things you would never have seen otherwise. You start traveling weeks at a time to Hobby, sometimes to Hobbying events and sometimes just practicing Hobby in the most beautiful settings imaginable.

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Hobby makes you feel young, healthy and fit, much like you felt as a small child. And not only does it make you feel good, it is also beneficial for your body. Because of the increased Hobby-related physical activity, you get to eat more of the things you love. And that cold beer you drink afterwards goes down without guilt or remorse.

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And of course, Hobbying so much, you start hanging around other people who also Hobby – people who have similar views on the grandness of life’s adventures. You start to create lasting friendships with these Hobby people, even though they are often dirty with scabby knees. In fact, you take one of these Hobby people into your heart and make them your life partner.

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Oh, wait a minute…

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And then you decide to move to a place where you can Hobby year round, undisturbed by cold weather and short days. And you build a house with the sole purpose of being able to Hobby every day in your back yard. And then you do – day in and day out – never looking back, never regretting a thing.

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And when there comes a time where it’s no longer enough to just Hobby for yourself, you decide to give back somehow. You start volunteering as a high-school coach, teaching kids all about Hobby – how to Hobby skillfully and safely, how to Hobby fast. You find that you become even more energized spending time with these kids as you share with them the love of our abundant natural wilderness through Hobby healthy activity.

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Sometimes, however, you realize that your aging body is fragile and that frequent injuries take longer and longer to heal. And that doing your Hobby could lessen your ability to participate in Hobby. Is it worth it? How do you balance your desire to keep going with the pending possibility of crippling injury?

And what do you do when abruptly, your Hobby crashes into you with the force of a very large, unfriendly rock, and you are now facing a prolonged period of can’t-Hobby time?

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I now find myself immobile with a long recovery ahead – at least 8 weeks of non-weight bearing. I’m torn with the reality of being laid up. The physical pain of the injury pales in comparison to the emotional turmoil I feel from the restrictions I now have. Hobby has put me here, and it scares me that it could have been worse.

I started this post with “What if”, and the biggest “What if” that clouds my head these days is… What if I could no longer do my Hobby? What could fill this void? How would it affect my relationships with my partner and my friends? Who will I be when I can no longer do this thing that so greatly defines my life? I struggle with the answers to these questions. I’m sure that most people as they age are faced with the reality of their limitations. I usually ignore the possibility that I am mortal and I rarely think about being injured or worse.

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Fortunately, I’m expected to have a full recovery. Two to three months, and I’ll be back doing the things that I love and need.

I am not yet faced with the permanent “what if” of a non-Hobby life. But even this temporary injury-enforced time of rest helps me reflect and prepare for what that time in my life will look like.

What is life, if not discovering what you enjoy and who you enjoy doing it with? Our time on this earth is short. What’s the better life? Growing old on the couch or fighting through the highs and lows of doing stuff you love with people you love. When I’m old and feeble, I’ll have plenty of time to sit around. While I’m able, I will always choose to hit that fast, swoopy, rock-and-rooted gnar gnar piece of ripping single track and to accept the consequences of that decision.

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The 2015 Grand Slam…For Kenya!

07.2.2015 | 2:36 pm

A Note from Fatty: If you already know what’s going on here and are ready to donate, just click here. You’re awesome. Thanks!

This is the big one. The biggest fundraiser I’m going to do this year. 

No, not just big. “Big” is too small of a word. This is the grand one. 

This month — the whole month of July — we’re going to work together to get a thousand (at a bare minimum) bikes  over to the newest country supported by World Bicycle Relief: Kenya

We’re going to make it possible for 1000 children (70% of them girls) get to school faster, stay in school longer, and have better opportunities for work afterward.

And those thousand children are going to share their bicycles, education and opportunities, making the lives of their loved ones immeasurably better.

We are, together this month, going to suddenly, massively, and tangibly improve the lives of thousands and thousands of people.

And you know what? As you help, you’re going to have a remarkably good chance at winning one of half a dozen dream bikes, or a cycling trip to Italy.

Prizes

Let me tell you this: I’m going to be a little sneaky in this edition of The Grand Slam. Instead of revealing all the prizes you can win right up front, I’m going to tell you about them a little bit at a time.

You know, to keep you guessing. And also, so the sheer magnitude of the number and quality of prizes can really sink in.

But I will tell you this: As you donate, you get a chance at every single one of the prizes.

And I will also tell you this: I have never given away so many dream bicycles, from so many bicycle makers.

Every single one of these bicycles will be a top-of-the-line model, outfitted with the best components possible. 

There will be at least half a dozen bikes, and each is worth more than $5000. And some are worth more than $10,000. In fact, looking at the bike specs here, I’d say most of them are closer to a value of $10,000 than $5,000.

Since I’m dropping hints, I’ll let you know that some of the bikes come from loyal supporters of my WBR efforts, and some will be here for the first time.

Intrigued? 

Well, you might also be intrigued to know that we’ll also be giving away a cycling trip to Italy.

I’ll be revealing what the first prize is next week, once we’re all back from vacation.

How This Works 

For complete details on this contest — all the rules, legalese and whatnot — click here. Seriously, you should read this. It goes into detail about how winners will be notified, where the money’s going, the taxability of donations made in this contest, everything.

The short version, though, is that for every $10 you donate, you get one chance at winning a prize.

If you donate $147 (the cost of one bike), you get twenty chances, which includes five bonus chances. 

And of course, if you donate the value of multiple bikes, you get multiple bonuses.

Once July ends, we’ll draw chances randomly from all the donations made to my fundraising page. We’ll contact the first person drawn, and that person gets to choose from the complete pool of prizes. Then we contact the second person, who gets to choose from the remaining prizes in the pool. 

We continue this game of prize-giving musical chairs until all the prizes are selected. 

Matchy-Matchy

Giving because your money goes toward a bike that’s going to change someone’s life in a drastically positive way is enough reason to donate.

Giving because you also have a chance at winning an incredible bike or trip just adds to the goodness of the first reason.

But during this month, your donated money is being anonymously matched, dollar-for-dollar, by the Saks Kavanaugh Foundation.

And that makes for an absolute superstorm of great reasons to donate.

Yep, if you donate $147, another $147 gets donated. Your bike becomes two bikes.

And if we raise enough to buy 1000 bikes…well, that becomes two thousand bikes.

Which means a hugely beneficial change to even more thousands of people.

Why This Matters

Together with WBR, we’ve made a huge difference in Zambia. And now we’re going to help Kenya. 

Starting right now, World Bicycle Relief is starting work on changing the lives of 3,000 students from 20-30 schools throughout the rural regions of Nyanza and Western Province in Kenya.

Why? 

Because in rural areas in Africa, children travel huge distances to reach school, often having to leave home two hours before the start of school in order to arrive on time.

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That is, quite simply, ridiculous.

As you’d expect, this amount of commute — two hours, each way, each day — results in tardiness, absenteeism, and exhaustion. It’s no surprise that a lot of kids, particularly girls, give up.

You know how to immediately solve this problem? Make it so it doesn’t take two hours to get to school. In other words, give the kid a bike.

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Which is what WBR does. 

And it works. 

A two-year study in Zambia measured a 28% lift in attendance rates and a 59% improvement in academic performance among girls who received bicycles from WBR.

Seriously. 59% improvement in academic performance. Good luck getting that kind of boost in any other way.

Let’s Do This 

I’ll be back next week to reveal the first in the many prizes we’ll be offering. But let me encourage you to donate now, and you’ll be all set for the drawings for all the prizes that come out.

Not to mention you’ll be making a huge difference in someone’s life and future.

Not to mention your money will get doubled by the Saks Kavanaugh Foundation. Yow.

3000 bikes is a great goal. And I think that between us and the anonymous matching, we can be responsible for 2,000 of this 3,000 bikes.

We’ll let other folks take care of the remaining 1000.

Let’s get started. Click here to donate now.

2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 9: Battles, Conclusions, and Questions

06.30.2015 | 12:25 pm

Previously in This, The Story That Would Not End: 

  1. Race Prediction: We Will Lose
  2. Part 0: Generosity and Bratwurst
  3. Part 1: Cold Fury
  4. Part 2: A Day in the Life
  5. Part 3: Winning When You’re Losing
  6. Part 4: The Chase
  7. Part 5: Zombies
  8. Part 6: Stop Shouting at Me
  9. Part 7: Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
  10. Part 8: The Beginning of the End

I know too much. Way too much.

I have spent more time researching and analyzing this, the final leg in the race between Infinite Stamina and SBR-WBR, than I have ever studied anything

It’s not healthy.

As much as I know (way too much), however, I don’t know everything I want to know. I feel like I know who did what and when and where…but I still don’t always know why

I find myself second-guessing. And wondering what would have happened if my team would have done this. Or if their team would have done that.

Was this move smart? Was it the race-winning move, or was it the race-losing move? Would other cards — cards that were never played — have made a difference one way or another? Or would they have been countered and neutralized? 

So much happened in this last leg of the race — more than any leg between a couple of Coed teams should. It was intense, it was strategic, it was dramatic, it was fun, and it was…

Oh, let’s just get on with it, shall we?

And then, at the end, we’ll have an upbeat video recap of the race, featuring music by Duran Duran.

Yay!

Forensics and Who’s Who

What’s really bizarre is how little, as a racer, I knew about the race I was racing in…as I raced it. In a spread-out race — even when the gap between teams is just a few minutes — you rarely see your competition on the course. When you catch them, you don’t know why. When they catch you, you don’t know how. If they have a good strategy, you don’t know about it ’til after it’s too late.

What I’m trying to get at here is that a huge chunk of this story is stuff I learned afterward. Specifically, I learned it by watching Danny’s Strava Flyby from the final leg of the race.

Why Danny’s? Because this leg pivots around him, really (you’ll see why in a few minutes). And most (but not all) of the players in this leg do in fact show up in his Flyby. 

I’ll also be working from what I understand from conversations that happened after the race, as well as from comments in this blog.

It’s almost like actual journalism

Note: All times used in this writeup are based on when Danny started his ride.

Guessing at Opposing Strategies

For the first time in the whole race, it was hot outside. That was weird, because usually during the Rockwell Relay, every daylight leg is punishingly hot.

This heat means that Danny and Mark — leaving at 00:00:00 — were in for a punishing first six miles of their ride. 800 feet of climbing in that first six miles. Climby, but not brutally hard. 

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After that, they had 32 miles of working downhill to look forward to, punctuated with a couple of short-but-steep climbs.

Also, they’d be riding with the knowledge that Team SBR-WBR was not far behind, and that instead of riding against just Lynette this time, they’d be riding against Lynette and me. 

Lynette and I had put time into the Infinite teams each of the five times we had ridden during this race. And we had no intention of making an exception on this leg, now that we were working together.

That said, Lynette and I were not as confident as I was trying to sound. For one thing, as we sat there in the van — watching Danny and Mark disappearing down the road — we didn’t know how much of a deficit we’d start this leg with.

Earlier during the race, Danny had said that he’d had to ride slower than he’d wanted in his first two legs (leg 4 and leg 8).  On his twelfth leg — this leg — he wasn’t going to be holding back. I believed Danny, and expected him to show us some new speed on the climbs.

But this strategy — dropping Mark so he could do the climb faster — was a two-edged sword. By dropping Mark, he’d be free to fly. But he’d also be abandoning a crucial strategic capability: the ability to bring anyone from the Men’s Team on to join in, mid-ride. You can have people from only your own team jump in and give you a pull.

Without Mark in his train, recruiting the men from Infinite Endurance would become off-limits. Danny wouldn’t be able to leverage Ryan or Billy’s considerable climbing prowess. And — more importantly, considering the enormous amount of working downhill in this leg — he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of Big D’s unmatched wattage.

But that didn’t mean Danny couldn’t call on Mary, Marci and Troy to help.

And judging from the way Mary and Marci were kitted up at the starting line for this last leg, looking ready to ride, it was clear Danny would be calling on at least these two teammates. And it was a fair bet to assume that Troy would be jumping in to help too, as soon as he recovered from riding his own leg.

I guessed Danny would be getting help from Marci — the climber — from the outset. While she wouldn’t provide a lot of protection from the wind, there was very little wind anyway, and she would be a killer pacer.

But I guessed wrong. 

Team SBR-WBR Strategy

I can be a lot more confident in describing the Team SBR-WBR strategy for this leg, since it’s a lot simpler (and I actually knew what it was). In fact, I described it as Lynette and I hefted our bikes and walked across the dirt parking lot toward the timing mat, where we expected (hoped for) Cory and The Hammer, any minute.

“I’m going to pull you as much as possible,” I told Lynette. “We’re going to kill ourselves on the climb, because that’s where we can pull back the most time in the shortest distance. Stay as close to my wheel as you can.”

“Yell at me to go faster when you can go faster. Yell at me to go slower if I start dropping you at all.”

There you go. Our whole strategy.

Well, except we had one more card we could play, if we needed to.

Go

As Lynette and I slowly walked toward the timing mat — me nervously jabbering away — we saw a couple of bikes racing toward us. 

The Hammer and Cory. Our racers. Sooner than expected.

We broke into a run…or what passes for a run when you’re in road cycling shoes, carrying your bike, on a gravelly dirt parking lot.

We got to the mat at about the same time as our racers — maybe just a few seconds behind them — then got the timing chip switched over to Lynette’s leg.

And we were off.

Unfortunately, we forgot to tell Cory and Lisa where we had put the key to the van.

They’d find it, though. Eventually.

Infinite Stamina had a 5:51 lead on us. That’s a lot to make up in a leg with only six miles of mild climbing, followed by 32 miles of descending.

But we were going to give it everything we had.

The Climb, and More Strategy

Danny’s Flyby shows that by the time Lynette and I had started riding, Danny had already dropped his Infinite Endurance teammate, Mark. They had stayed together, in fact, for less than four minutes of this leg of the ride. 

For this climb, then — for pretty much the first time in the race — the Infinite racers were riding alone.

Meanwhile, for only the second leg in the race, SBR-WBR racers were not riding without a teammate.

And, in my usual humble way, I’d like to say that Lynette and I were crushing it. I was going hard up the hill, and Lynette was doing a fantastic job staying right on my wheel. Letting me know when I could pick up the pace a little, letting me know when I needed to ease off a little.

From time to time, we could see up and around a couple bends in the road. We were gaining fast on Mark…and we were gaining on Danny, too.

By the time Danny crested the climb — at which point Mary and Marci joined in to work with Danny for the descent — Lynette and I had erased just about two minutes of Danny’s lead.

And we had one more card we could play, still: Cory.

Cory is an incredible descender; I simply cannot hang with him when the road turns downhill. Lynette, however, can. There’s a big trust benefit to having been married for decades; Lynette and Cory know each other. We could bring Cory out at the top of the Veyo climb and count on huge gains — I’d bet on two minutes — in the final big descent into town.

So: we’d bought two minutes on the climb. Cory could take back two more minutes in the home stretch. That meant Lynette and I needed to earn back at least another two minutes between the working descent and the mile-long Veyo climb at mile 21.

But two minutes is a lot.

Infinite Sightings

I fully expected that Mark would be the first Infinite rider Lynette and I would catch during this leg of the ride. I would have bet money on it.

But I was wrong.

At 29:02, right after cresting the climb, Lynette and I crossed paths with Marci

And she was going the wrong way.

My head spun around. There was no possible way she had gotten confused and was accidentally riding in the wrong direction, right? She had to be riding back to the vehicle that had dropped Mary and her off a few minutes earlier, right?

But why?

Well, exactly twenty seconds later, we’d find out why.

Because twenty seconds later, we’d see Danny and Mary, sitting on the side of the road. Their bikes twisted together.

Crashed. They must have crossed wheels and crashed, I thought, and slowed as I got to them. That’s why Marci’s heading back. To get help.

Then I saw: No, their bikes weren’t twisted together. They were just near each other.

“What happened?” I yelled.

“A flat,” Mary shouted back.

Confusion

My head spun around. Thrice. In my head, I began a shouted dialogue.

A flat? We caught you because you had a flat?

What?

This doesn’t make any sense, I yelled, inside my head. At least three people on your team (Mark, Mary, Marci) have been with you since you got a flat about six freaking minutes ago? (I wasn’t accounting for the two minutes we had made up on them since the beginning of the ride.)

There are four of you, you have one flat, and you’re still sitting here? 

OK. Deep breath. Here’s what was happening.

Marci was going to go get their sag vehicle, which at this moment was about half a minute away. Mary was with Danny. Mark had seen Danny’s flat, and had kept going. 

How is it possible you are still here? I mentally demanded. You’ve got teammates and crew swarming this mountain like ants. You shouldn’t have been stopped for more than one minute.

But Danny had in fact been stopped for four minutes by the time we got there. All their racing strategy had been completely upended by the fact that they apparently had no plan for what to do in the event of a flat.

The SBR-WBR Problem Plan

For what it’s worth: Lynette and I had discussed, before this leg started, what our plan was in the event of a mechanical. I.e.:

  • If she had a mechanical and the van was not in sight, she would take my shoes and bike and go.
  • If she had a mechanical and the van was in sight, she would take The Hammer’s shoes and bike.
  • If I had a mechanical, she would keep going, I’d fend for myself or get picked up by the van. 

Racing is more than riding. 

Glad they had not crashed after all — and completely astonished that with all their resources Danny was still not moving — I yelled “Good luck!” Then stood up and got back up to speed.

Danny would be back on his bike in a moment (I assumed), and then he’d be working with two very strong riders. And they were every bit as motivated as we were.

The lead had changed, but the race was far from over.

The Chase Begins

Even before we slowed, found out why Danny and Mary were sitting there (in my head I remember them sitting in the dirt, though it’s probable they were actually standing), and took off, Marci had reached the sag vehicle, told them what was going on, and was on her way back to Danny.

By the time Marci returned to Danny, he had been stopped 4:24. At that point I’m guessing she had the sag vehicle with her and they did a wheel exchange. 

Six minutes — to the second — after flatting, Danny Marci, and Mary were riding again. 

But by then, Lynette and I had taken the six minute lead Infinite Stamina had begun the leg with, and converted it into a 2:16 lead for Team SBR-WBR. 

The Train Grows

This lead would only stick if we made it stick. Our plan to make this happen was as brilliant as it was elegant:

I would pedal my brains out, while sitting up and making myself as big as possible, to give Lynette a good draft.

I’m currently about twelve pounds heavier than I ought to be, so the “making myself big” part was easily accomplished.

At 37:42, we caught another rider. A rider in green. Danny’s teammate, Mark. 

“Hop on,” I yelled. I knew he’d strictly be a passenger. I didn’t care. There’s room for everyone on the Fatty train.

The gap was now 2:24. We weren’t just holding the gap. We were increasing it.

We saw the van. (Oh good, Cory and Lisa had found the keys.) The Hammer came running out, dancing, screaming, and ringing a cowbell. 

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 05 02

“We’re going to win!” I yelled.

“Don’t get cocky!” Lynette yelled back. “It’s not over ’til it’s over.”

She was right. I knew she was right. This race had flipflopped too many times for me to not know she was right.

I committed myself to killing it, right to the finish line.

The Train Shrinks…And So Does the Gap

Mark held on to us for a good solid ten minutes, at which point we hit a little rise and dropped him at 47:46. By then, the time gap from us to Danny had grown to 2:48. 

We keep going. Lynette is doing a fantastic job of holding my wheel and yelling at me when to speed or slow.

As for me, I am feeling incredible. I am riding in “Happy Warrior” mode, which is what happens when you were in “Cold Fury” mode, but have since emerged from “underdog” to “contender” status.

56:46 into Danny’s ride, Marci peels off. She’s done. I don’t know whether Mary stays with him or ends her ride, too. (Mary didn’t upload to Strava for this ride). The time gap has grown to 3:04. 

And then Danny evidently goes into Beast Mode. 

Between 56:46 and 1:06:06, Danny cuts into our lead by twenty-four seconds, bringing it down to 2:40.

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 27 10
Sorry this is blurry. It’s a still from video, taken from a moving vehicle

If the Strava Flyby is any indication of who he was with at this point (i.e., nobody), Danny is a strong rider, bringing back that much time in such a short distance.

Reinforcements

Danny wouldn’t be riding alone for long, though. at 1:06:06, Troy — who had just finished his own race leg — hops on to give Danny a pull. 

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 27 29

Making it official: All four of Team Stamina had been on the course, working with Danny, for at least part of this leg. All their cards were now on the table.

Three minutes after joining Danny, the two of them (Mary is no longer in the group) sweep up Mark. Within one minute, Mark drops off. This happens during the false flat section twenty-three miles into the race. 

OK, I’m going to be honest and admit I have no idea why they didn’t keep Mark with them at this point. Not only would it have helped to have an extra person to take turns pulling, but it would open up the resources in Team Infinite Endurance — notably, Big D — to them for the bomber descent ahead of them.

But you know, it’s easy to armchair quarterback, right?

Finish Line

We never wound up playing that final card: Cory pulling Lynette on the big descent. By the time we got to that descent, Lynette and I were pretty clearly holding our lead. In fact, by the time we got onto the bike path section close to town, we had brought that gap back up to 2:48.

We held that gap on the bike path section, following the twists and turns, knowing that the race was close enough that any little mistake could — would — destroy our slim lead.

And then, at 1:40:18, we hit the crosswalk light. And we waited for an eternity for it to change.

OK, in reality, we just had to wait for twenty-four seconds. 

And then it was really lucky Lynette was there, because I just about blew a turn. Lynette saw the sign, though, called me back, and we continued on.

Lynette moved to the front. We’re in town now, and she knows St. George better than I do. 

It’s all I can do to stay on her wheel. She is not taking this finish for granted.

At 1:43:06, Danny and Troy hit the crosswalk light.

Forty seconds later, that light changes for them and they begin to cross.

At that same moment, Lynette and I cross the finish line.

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 48 29

And there is a group hug.

Screenshot 2015 06 30 11 50 22

It’s the end of the closest, most exciting race I’ve ever been part of.

4:08 later, Danny and Troy crossed the finish line. (To me, though, it feels like the real gap between us was 2:48; the crosswalk business was outside of anyone’s control.)

Afterward

We got a team picture: 

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Then we sat down and talked for a bit while we ate the post-race picnic the organizers were putting on at the finish line.

Or I should say, some people were eating and talking. 

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I personally couldn’t do either. 

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Yeah, I was smoked.

Then we went back to Cory and Lynette’s house, where we got a shower, ate something, and fell asleep.

I awoke to a text coming from my friend Dave Thompson, who alerted me that we had slept right through the award ceremony.

We rushed back, where — luckily for us — at least some of the people from the other teams on the podium were still there. They were nice enough to pose on the podium for photos for us, in spite of our tardiness:

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Also, while we were napping, The Hammer won a paddleboard in a raffle. 

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Yeah, we know: that’s not how you use it.

Final Thoughts

I love racing. Love it. And this race was everything I love about racing. It was fun. It was intense. It was dramatic.

And it left questions.

If Danny hadn’t flatted, would Team SBR-WBR have won? I would argue that we would have. Good arguments can also be made for why Infinite Stamina would have won. But there’s no way to know for sure; it was too close. That’s part of what makes it a great story.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this question in the comments, though.

Did Danny’s flat cause the loss? I don’t know Danny, and don’t know what he’s like. I do know that if I’d had a flat in that stage where he did, then my team lost, I would have been miserable. I’d like to say — from my outsider perspective — that this flat tire was no more responsible for their team losing than anything else that might have cost a minute here, a minute there, during this race.

The temptation is to look at the final moments of a race and find reasons for a win or loss, but your time in a race is the composite of all your team’s actions. How and when you fueled. How your exchanges went. Whether you inspected your tires and lubed your chain between each leg. Whether you rode your hardest or sorta phoned it in for part of a leg (like I did in leg 9). How you trained in the months prior to a race.

Everything.

It’s really rare that a single event wins or loses a big race like this. I will say this: if Danny hadn’t flatted during this leg, I’d probably be kicking myself right now for not going harder during the first 2/3 of leg 9. If I had, Team SBR-WBR might have had enough of a gap that the race would never have been so close at the end.

What if. What if. What if.

Will there be a rematch? With this slim of a win, a rematch doesn’t just seem like a good idea, it seems necessary.

I don’t know whether the Infinite teams will be back, but The Hammer and I have put on hold our wacky plan for doing this race solo. After this experience, we’ve got to do it as a coed team again.

But we reserve the right to adopt some very intelligent strategy we learned this year from the Infinite teams.

I kinda like the sound of “Team Fatty” and “Team Fatty’s Domestiques.”

Is there a video recap of the experience, featuring a hit from the 80’s? Really, this is the most important question of all. And the answer, of course, is: 


2015 Rockwell Relay: Team SBR-WBR

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