Many people love bike racing for its glorious, rich and complex history. Millions of others appreciate the limitless opportunities it offers for critique, insight, and clever snobbery. Yet others find irresistible its technological, engineering, and mathematical qualities, not to mention the medical and physiological aspects of human performance.
These people are, to a man, douchebags swimming in a delusional ocean of Massengill.Cycling doesn’t have a “glorious history.” Bike racing developed because a bunch of dirt poor European peasants figured out that it was easier to race their bikes on bad roads while loaded on strychnine and heroin than it was to sniff mule farts behind a plow all day and still starve to death. Cycling snobbery? Your stupid plastic bike and ugly jersey costs less than the transmission on a nice luxury sedan. Have you never heard of a Boesendorfer, a Lamborghini, a Piaget, or a Van Gogh? As for engineering, I don’t read the mainstream news much, but haven’t yet heard about the first bike on the moon. Human performance and cycling? It’s called “cheating and doping, and doping and cheating.”
The truth about bike racing
Competitive cycling exists purely as a vector to the gradual build-up, followed by the explosive brutalization, of the human spirit. That’s all it is. Build up, tear down, repeat, until finally there’s no build up left. Who hasn’t bought new equipment, trained hard for a target race, blathered about it to friends and family, only to be crushingly defeated, in public, on race day?
And who with a USCF license hasn’t had the following conversation, or a variant thereof?
Friend you’ve been bragging to at work for the last six months: “How’d the big race go?”
Shitfaced You: “Oh, it went okay.”
Friend: “Did you win?”
Shitfaced You: “Uh, no. But I achieved my goal.”
Friend: “What’s the fucking goal if not to win?”
Shitfaced you (spoken with embarrassment masked by condescension): “My goal was to [select one or more: prepare for the REAL race on my calendar next month/cat up to a 4/improve my personal best/block for my teammate/lead out the sprint from the back/improve my results from last year/beat my girlfriend’s time/finish ahead of all the non-dopers/beat the hairy wanker who got 42nd].”
Friend: “What place did you get?”
Shitfaced You: “43rd. But it was an unbelievably hard race. You have no idea how tough bike racing is.”
Friend: “I guess not.” [Friend’s actual thought: "What a loser.”]
Humiliation through bike racing, fortunately, isn’t limited to actually getting destroyed in the race. The shame, defeat, and debasement of one’s sense of self occurs, for many, long before the race even begins. It is this gift of crushing defeat that can be enjoyed by your friends and fellow racers like the finest and rarest of delicacies, and is the true spirit of the sport.
Which whine would you like with your meal?
Imagine my delight when a very good buddy emailed me the news that he almost certainly wouldn’t be at the Boulevard road race tomorrow. This was great news because I’ve never beaten him in a race. In fact, I’ve never finished a race within ten minutes of him. Ergo, there was no way he was going to beat me tomorrow.
Better yet was the cowering nature of his announcement, as if he’d dug through his mostly empty bag of excuses and been forced to come up with the most tattered, unconvincing, pathetic ones left at the bottom of the sack.
“Been getting by on less than six hours sleep,” was topped by the Old Faithful of “feeling sick and under the weather with a sore throat,” topped, incredibly, by this hoary old chestnut: “Work’s been crazy.” I looked in vain for a reference to “family time” or maybe even an impending pregnancy, although at 49 he’s pretty well past his childbearing years.
The beauty of these lame bike racing excuses is not simply that he put them in writing for quick and easy forwarding to thousands of people he doesn’t even know, but that these same excuses are being repeated by countless other wankers around the state who, on the eve of their certain destruction at Boulevard, are casting about for useful lines to throw to the water cooler sharks on Monday morning. The defeat and humiliation for these sad sacks is complete without even having had to pay the entry fee and roll up to the start line.
Line by line
A quick analysis of my buddy’s craven bike racing excuses and why they are so beautiful:
1. I can’t race because I’ve had less than six hours of sleep: Implication–all you other guys sleep 9 hours every night and how could I possibly keep up if I’m sweepy weepy? Fact–you sleep as much or as little as everyone else, and your failure to show up makes you a loser and a coward. No one cares why.
2. I’ve got a sore throat and may be coming down with something: Implication–all you other guys are healthy. Fact–Glass Hip Worthington is only one of many contenders who will be showing up cobbled together with baling wire, coffee, Advil, antibiotics, and nothing to get them through the race except a colossal dump in the port-o-potty, meanness, a will to win, and hand-ups by Maggie. You may be coming down with something, but that’s why you should have worn a condom.
3. Work’s crazy: Implication–all you other deadbeats are for all practical purposes unemployed. Fact–all the other deadbeats have, for all practical purposes, always been unemployed. That’s why they live in their sister’s basement and work part time at a bike shop. So what’s new here? They’re bike racers, aren’t they?
“Rich and complex history” my ass. Let the beatdown begin.
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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.