It’s only a thousand meters

October 29, 2017 § 30 Comments

The fruits of thievery are success.

Velo Club La Grange has for years put on an intra-club race series. It consists of a 500-meter race on the track; you can use a road bike. Later in the year there is a 20-km TT on PCH; you can use your full TT geek rig. This is the only time you will use it all year, btw. The series finishes with the legendary Piuma Hillclimb. It’s about three miles long, it’s steep, and hard.

A small handful of people (think Trump hands) worry that bike racing is dying or perhaps dead. In the “old way,” it certainly is, by which I mean that there is no new crop of young people getting USAC licenses. Why would they? When you race bikes you will get hurt. Better to raise your kids in a safety cocoon than have them learn about risk, injury, danger, and reward.

At the same time, a number of race organizers keep chugging along, here to survive another day on the fumes of past participation, and on the super-charged fuel of the modern fondue ride, which is actually a great concept. You can charge people $160 to ride the roads they can ride for free, everyone wins, and if riders are ambitious and do the long course you can make sure there’s no water left at the last four rest stops.

But I digress.

Velo Club La Grange’s intra-club race series is a template for encouraging people to race, for developing and discovering nascent racers in the club, and for ensuring that the DNA of their organization as a racing club does not degenerate into a social media contest about whose bike is newest or whose selfies are awesomest. Being a free template, I stole it under cover of darkness and transported it, kicking and screaming while tied up in a burlap bag, over to Team Lizard Collectors HQ.

Of course some of the lizard collectors weren’t impressed. “Who needs a club race?” and “This will steal attention from my #socmed posts!” and “How in the eff will this promote my sock brand?” and of course “But I don’t raaaaaace!” were all valid and legitimate objections to the scurrilous suggestion that a bike racing club should have a bike race.

However, the Team Lizard Collectors board is composed, unfortunately, of bike racers, and with the exception of online porn nothing gets them salivating like the prospect of a bike race with trinkets. So they signed off on the cheap imitation of Velo Club La Grange’s Excellent Adventure, and a misbirth was born. Here was the plan for the Big Orange Galactic Championship series:

  1. 1,000-meter TT at Telo. No TT bikes allowed.
  2. Latigo hillclimb. Bring your secret motor, you’ll need it.
  3. 10-lap TT at Telo. No TT bikes allowed.

Several lizard collectors wondered about the 1k event. “It’s too short!” and “It’s too long!” and “It’s too easy!” and “How come I can’t bring my wind tunnel-tested TT rig?” and “But I don’t raaaaaaace!” were all valid and legitimate objections to the scurrilous suggestion that a bike race didn’t have to be so complicated that its inherent complications would create its demise and allow club members to go back to their normal business of lizard collecting and selfies.

However, here were the answers:

  1. Give people a short race and it will encourage them to try it out.
  2. If you think the kilometer is easy, please come show us on race day.
  3. TT rigs have ruined time trialing. They allow you to literally buy speed, they require redundant equipment, and they take one of cycling’s best and safest events out of the purview of the casual rider. TT bikes also make the safest, easiest, and least stressful discipline horribly dangerous for newbies by putting them on twitchy, deadly, unsteerable dorkbikes. Plus, TT rigs look stupid AF and are crazy expensive clothes hangers.
  4. Don’t raaaaaace? No problem. Come ride one thousand lousy meters with a number pinned on, and with your time being compared to everyone else on the same course on the same day under the same conditions, and forevermore you will be called a bike racer. It’s that simple.

Saturday came and went, and 36 members from Team Lizard Collectors’ 300-member roster showed up to compete, several of whom were doing their first race and first time trial ever. Most impressively, four out of the club’s five board members raced; talk about putting your board where your organization’s goals are. Instead of organizing it so that everyone got a trinket by dividing the event into categories of age/weight/gender/astrological sign/religion, there was a women’s category and a men’s. That was it.

The event was a huge success. Riders came out who otherwise would not have. New riders raced their first race. Non-favorites whipped ass on the favorites. Certain people discovered an affinity for short, fast efforts, and with it they garnered real respect, not virtual kudos on Strava.

Best of all, the event shored up our club’s DNA. We’re a bike racing club, open to everyone, racer or not, but with a mission to increase bike racing and to give everyone the opportunity to learn about and participate in this awesome sport. If you run a club and haven’t yet put together one of these series, now might be the time. It’s a blast. And I’ll even loan you the burlap bag.



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§ 30 Responses to It’s only a thousand meters

  • dpcowboy54 says:

    There used to be a rule that for a club to be sanctioned by the ABL/USCF,now USAC), it had to put on at least one race a year.
    Pride flew out the window when clubs figured out that they could ‘partner’ with other clubs (maybe 3 or 4 other clubs) and put on a ‘track’ event on some obscure day to ‘put a check in that box’.
    Back in the day, some clubs would put on a race weekend in the spring, and a race weekend in the fall (real road races and crits) and a time trial “series” with an event on the same course every month. Others put on a stage race. A lot of clubs put on four or five club races in a year, but all were invited. No trinkets, just bragging rights. There were 20 or 25 clubs in SoCal, about the same in Norcal. The racing was just as fringe but there was an abundance of road races, crits, and TT’s. Somehow, that ‘ethic’ got lost…glad to see part it returning.

    • fsethd says:

      Funny how quickly you find out who likes to race and who likes to just say they belong to a racing club.

  • Michelle landes says:


  • Mark Maxson says:

    Seth – Kudos to you, Patrick, Kristie, the TLC board, and others for putting on this awesome event! It was fun, challenging, and chalk full of cool, nice, non-judgmental people all out to race and have fun. Unfortunately, our local criterium scene seems to be more an exercise of survival and fishing wheels down, than fun events for mere mortals with jobs, kids and a need to be at work Monday, instead of the ER (not withstanding some great efforts by local promoters to improve the imagine of local racing). I’d vote for you for President of SCNCA. In the meantime, wouldn’t it be great to have more events like the TLC Galaxtic racing series?! Thank you!

  • senna65 says:

    Reasons for lack of profamateurs showing up at races.

    1. Unless you are a freak or super charged, you can pretty much get cross-eyed for free at any number of fake road races throughout the week. Even better, if you live in CA, AZ, CO, UT, etc. you can tell the family you got dropped by this pro or that pro. Much better than saying you got got dropped cause Wanker went to the front.
    2. MTB’ing makes for better “pure” racing than road racing at the profamateur level. Nowhere to hide and your race isn’t over if you miss the break or get on the wrong side of the wind. Hammer has to stay down and you have to race every inch of the course.
    3. Business parks are pretty depressing places to hang out at, especially on the weekends and after work hours.

  • senna65 says:

    Wanker: Speaking of racing – do you know of Ayrton Senna? The greatest racer of all time in any wheeled sport…

  • JR says:

    Stole under the cover of darkness…that is fucking funny shit….did you make off with the cool sprinter van, it was.loaded with free stuff for the racers..

  • Theo says:

    Great stuff! So, agree on the TT bikes + extra$$$$….ruined the ITT below Pro level. I think this formula is genius.

    • fsethd says:

      So many people would race bikes if they could just start out with time trials. But that’s a massive investment. Promoters and clubs can really help by banning that silly stuff and returning the “race of truth” to legs and lungs rather than the fitness of one’s bank account.

  • Joe Camacho says:

    I happen to know there are no pastries involved in the LG series. This kind of innovation is simply not allowed in the bike world. I hope the course is corrected for the next event. And Brisket IS NEVER allowed.

  • pbearatx says:

    Wait. This sounds fun. Where do I sign up?

  • dangerstu says:

    Totally legit, 1k TT though some one has an evil streak.

  • channel_zero says:

    I’m out at all hours of the morning (I wish someone told me computers don’t sleep before I took the job) “The kids” are racing. It’s pretty late, on empty streets, mostly single speeds in one form or another. No stretchy underwear.

    LOTS of them. It’s very encouraging. From what I can tell, they are pretty content in street clothes and no carbon. There’s no crossover. No way.

    As an alternative to the vanilla 1K, you could do a “Sparkling Water 1K.” Clock starts, down an entire small bottle of sparkling water, do 1K TT. The finish line might get a little slippery at the first race.

    You can also do two 1Ks. The first one gets you in a bracket of 2 or 3 riders then race your bracket. Fastest time overall wins.

  • Sausage™ says:

    Sorry Seth, but you were not the first to steal the LG Cup idea. *I* was the original thief! A few years ago, I pitched Dr. Watts on the idea, telling him that BO should put on its own intramural race series, and gave him some tips on how to set it up, based on our own lessons learned running the LG Cup.

    I’m pretty sure the first event of the series actually happened – a 1K on Westchester Parkway, using the last section of the NPR course. Not sure if it continued after that. But I’m glad to see that this is back at BO, hopefully for good this time, and the name – Big Orange Galactic Championship – is awesome.

    Might have to steal that one. 😉

    • fsethd says:

      It’s not stealing when you give away valuable property. More like breach of fiduciary duty or spoliation of assets or something.

      Our brain trust, singular, was Patrick Noll, German engineer who likes, shall we say, precision?

      Thanks for sharing the LG wisdom. I hope more clubs emulate your initiative.

  • When i first started riding a road bike in 1996, i joined SouthBay Wheelmen. They offered an inter-club series, they call the Dave Richardson series…(named after a long time club member, and great man, who died in a crash while racing) They had criteriums, road racing and time trials!…one a month…it was amazing…i started racing that series for a full year before i got my feet wet in the (then) USCF.
    Soooo, if we are looking to give credit for who was first to offer such things…juss saying…the more the merrier!!

  • Robert C in Redondo says:

    “Plus, TT rigs look stupid AF and are crazy expensive clothes hangers.”
    I’ll have to show this to my tri-dork wife who actually is a pretty good cyclist.

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