The customer has spoken when it comes to the kind of race they like:
- Close to home.
- Easy and safe to finish.
- Mathematical chance of victory.
Oddly, when these people put on their cycling fan hats, they idolize riders who do well in far-flung stage races that are incredibly hard, amazingly dangerous, and virtually impossible to win. This fits the psychological profile of “I want to be like that person without all work.”
While looking over the SCNCA race calendar for 2016, I’d like to make a recommendation for a race that you certainly have not done. I can say that with confidence because last year the combined field including all categories and age groups had about fifteen people. All but five or six quit somewhere along the way.
This race is the immoral Tuttle Creek road race, slotted for February 6th in Lone Pine, at the foot of the eastern Sierras. I will tell you this: It’s harder than any other race on the calendar, and the first separation will occur within the first fifteen minutes. Worse news? You won’t be in the split. Instead, you and I will be off the back, then further off the back, and then quite simply alone.
The scenery was magnificent; incredible stone formations was set off against the gigantic Sierras themselves, and the iron gray sky lent a hardness to the atmosphere that perfectly matched the grueling nature of the day.
The climbing in this race was far harder than UCLA Punchbowl, Boulevard, or Vlees Huis. The hills were steep and punchy, long and grinding, and mostly endless. The downhill was easy and straight and safe and fast, but it ended much too quickly. Rain is always a possibility in February, and with El Nino it could easily be pouring, or, with a few degrees drop in temperature, could morph into freezing rain, sleet, or snow.
One of the loneliest moments in my life on a bike occurred during this race, with no one behind me for miles, no one visible ahead of me for miles, and the lone sign of a bike race was race promoter Steve standing on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere asking me if I wanted a gel, when what I desperately wanted was to quit and a blanket.
So why do it?
The first reason is that it supports the whacky promoter, a/k/a Motorcycle Steve, who you see zooming around on his motorcycle as a race official. Races are tough to put on, especially hard-ass road races far from LA that can be cold, or wet, or snowy, yet miserable even in the best conditions given the brutality of the course.
The second reason is that this kind of race promotes event diversity. If you have EVER complained about “too many crits,” you should nut up and do this bastard. If you finish you will count it among your best finishes ever.
The third reason is that the SCNCA calendar in 2016 has put the Decrepit Persons Bragging Event and State Championship early, early, early in the season. Getting the road fitness you will need to do well at the State Bragfest will depend on doing more than PCKRR with its baby climb, and maybe Boulevard. Tuttle Creek will whip you into shape and is a far better race than anything San Dimas has ever put on in terms of difficulty.
But the best reason of all is that finishing the event shortly before dark, wrung out, frozen to the core, and depleted of all precious bodily fluids, you get to tank up on a very ordinary cheeseburger at the cafe in Lone Pine that nonetheless tastes like the finest meal ever made. Trust me. It’s worth it.
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