Down on the Boulevard (they take it hard) They look at life (with such disregard)

This is the toughest weekend of the year. All winter SoCal profamateur masters racers have trained like Olympians so that they can be fit and fast enough to completely crush the season on Facebook. Ever since September, legs have gotten leaner, veins poppier, guts have retracted, and WKO+ TSS scores have gone through the roof.

KOM’s on Strava have fallen like dominoes and sure enough, by the first week of January the top teams were going at it mano-a-mano, sparing no effort in the battle to see who had the coolest profamateur lycra underwear outfit. Wheelsets were bought, the mandatory full carbon quiver of wheels for TT’s, climbing, crits, and for sticking on the roof rack and cruising slowly through Manhattan Beach.

But none of the bulk protein drink purchases, 5-year gym memberships, incredible Instagrams of endless stair workouts, or gaudy finery of cross-posted Garmin files even begins to compare with the hardest, nastiest, toughest, gnarliest task that is staring us in the face a mere 24 hours hence: Of course I’m referring to the effort that’s going to be expended in coming up with excuses for not doing the Boulevard Road Race.

In the last few days I’ve heard everything from the imaginative to the awful. Here’s a sampling:

  1. I have a dinner date that night. (So reschedule.)
  2. My in-laws are going to be in town. (Drown them.)
  3. I’ve decided to focus on my work because that’s what pays the bills. (You are unemployed, remember?)
  4. The drive is too far. (Your team has a custom wrapped van, masseuse, and lounge chairs with your fuggin’ name embroidered on the back.)
  5. I heard it might rain. (Pack a raincoat and a clean diaper.)

Basically, an entire winter’s worth of training has dissolved into a lukewarm puddle of pee at the mere mention of “Boulevard.” You can’t talk to a crit racer for more than twelve seconds lately without hearing the phrase “I’m a crit racer.”

And that’s without you even mentioning the dreaded word.

There’s good reason to be afraid of Boulevard. It’s not the hardest road race of the year, so you can’t claim that it’s a climber’s race. The climbs are hard, but they don’t have the steepness or the viciousness of Punchbowl that allow you to get shelled on the first lap and then shrug, point at your beer gut and say, “This ain’t no race for Clydesdales.” [Note: Quit calling yourself a Clydesdale unless you’re strong enough to haul a 2,000-lb. dray of coal through the Ardennes.]

Nope, Boulevard is the bane of the profamateur masters class because it’s not so hard to be the exclusive domain of the twig-men, but it’s gnarly enough to strip bare your pretensions and leave you, beaten and crushed, three miles from the Mexican border where vultures and coyotes are waiting to gnaw off your quivering face after first picking the clumps of Clif Bar from the gaps in your teeth and shitting down your throat.

Boulevard has all of the terrible things you’d expect from a bad bike race — broke down trailer homes at the start-finish, toilets infested with vermin, and worst of all a very long drive during which you contemplate, mile after mile, all of the horrific things that are going to happen.

Will you careen off the road at 50 like Tree did that year, and wind up wrapped in a tight bundle of rusty barbed wire? Will you flip onto your head on the downhill, tear an artery, and come within seconds of bleeding out but for the dumb luck of an emergency room MD stopping to save your life like that year Mr. Chevy almost met his maker?

Or will something infinitely worse happen, like training crazily all winter only to be puked out the back on the first acceleration of the first climb, and left to stumble the remaining 40 miles alone, cold, wet, miserable, shivering?

The horror of Boulevard is that you have so much time to contemplate these and a thousand other miseries all the way there, and what’s worse, to contemplate them again all the way back: the missed winning break; the mechanical at just the wrong moment; the tactical superiority of another team; or, most likely, the galling truth that after all’s said and done, you simply suck.

What a bitter tonic, to parade around in front of your wife with shaved legs, to prance before the coffee shop windows in your tight little underwear outfit, to model your pretty bike to all the admirers only to have the whole charade popped quicker than a cherry at a frat party!

This is Boulevard, the Cinderella Ball where the dancers are tatted-up killers, where the belle of the ball is 6.0 watts/kg, and where the coach that brings you home won’t turn into a pumpkin, but rather a hearse.




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43 thoughts on “Down on the Boulevard (they take it hard) They look at life (with such disregard)”

  1. Not to mention the fact that ever since you won that race, you’ve been getting kinda hard to live with, you know?
    (sounds like your season is starting over there)

    1. I’m only getting warmed up. My tat artist has already given me 27 proposed designs, but my forehead is a special piece of real estate so I’m going to be picky on this one. I fully intend to milk this cow until its udders fall off. Anyway, have I told you about the race I won on Jan. 17, 2015? So it went like this: It was a dark and stormy night. A band of robbers sat around the campfire bright. “Tell us a story, Antonio, my boy.” And he began. “It was a dark and stormy night … “

  2. Legend in my own Mind

    Maybe they should rename Boulavard the “imaginary race” for these excusers and that way they really kind of “did” the race in their own minds.

  3. I know people that are actually using a 6-/12-hr MTB race, as an excuse to not race Boulevard. Maybe it’s the beer availability.

  4. It’s my easy week / my coach says it doesn’t fit in with my seasons goals / I’m chicken s#it / my first tooth just came through / #TheStruggleIsReal-ThisIsToRealForMe / urrmm I’ve had the start of a cold all week / my new bike has disc brakes so I have nothing to ride (my own excuse) / My dog ate my bike / aliens stole my shorts / I have a funny rash / I haven’t found my pacifier since the last time I spit it out / damn I wanted to do it this year but we have friends over / it’s super bowl weekend.

  5. 1. I would, but my wife says I’ve been gone too much lately
    2. I would, but my kids say I’ve been gone too much lately
    3. I would, but my pastor says I’ve missed too much church lately
    4. I would, but my boss says I’ve missed too much work lately
    5. I’d have to clean my bike afterwards
    6. Racing makes me nauseated
    7. I don’t have any spare tubes
    8. My frame pump broke and I used all my CO2 helping Betsy change a flat
    9. I might win and I don’t want to feel uncomfortable refusing to raise my arms on the podium
    10. I get to take my kid camping for Boy Scouts instead (oops, that’s actually true for me)

  6. All of the above is why the Reverend Billy G. And I will be there…sitting in the back of my F-150 with some that Muddy Mississippi Water turned to fine, fine,wine…only 25 minutes from the vineyard!

  7. You are talking above about Coyotes that sneak illegals across the border, yes?

    You’re on to something. I think if there was a race in PV, what would really put it on the map is to have the race go for 24 hrs and don’t have any street closures. Truly for the hardcores!

  8. My GPS can’t find the Boulevarde. Plus, I live in Australia and there’s no flights. Plus, I need to wash my hair. And my dogs.

    1. It was cold last night. No rain, no snow, but pretty cold. And, Boulevard is about at 19,000 feet elevation. Did I mention that it gets cold out here, especially when it is clear?

      1. Minnesota Expat

        An empty can of Coke, or unopened and full? It’s much more spectacular if unopened.

      2. Minnesota Expat

        True that! And then a bum pushing his shopping cart along the boulevard scoops you up, takes you to the recycling center, and viola’ ! You’re a bright new shiny can of coke back on the shelf at the 7/11! Isn’t life grand?

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