The hard way

February 9, 2020 § 17 Comments

There is a guy who occasionally shows up on our group rides who is clearly doped, and doped good. I get it, actually. He isn’t good enough to stay with the leaders without drugs, and it’s not from want of trying. He trains incredibly hard and probably has an expensive coaching program, etc. etc. etc., but there is a point where your age and ability index catch up with you and no matter how well you train, dropped.

Like I said, I get it.

I even get it, wankers doping on group rides. What’s a better feeling than saying to yourself, “I dropped a bunch of people 20 years younger than me!” or better yet, “30 years younger!” or best of all “40 years younger!” There may not be a fountain of youth, but dropping younger riders on a group ride is certainly a very tiny creek of it. And if you aren’t encumbered with things like a sense of fair play, heck, why not?

And there’s not really a lot to complain about. Dick Doper is faster so you’d better turn yourself inside out to not get shelled. That’s good for YOU. And group rides aren’t subject to rules or regulations, so if Dick Doper wants to put a hidden motor in his muscles or in his downtube, so what?

Ah yes, the old “So what?”

Well, here’s “what.”

I was talking to a judge the other day in a settlement conference and he mentioned that he was a cyclist. He’s an older guy, 67, and looks just like all aged, grizzled, roadie types do: lean, young for his age, and spry. We got to talking about cycling.

“I got hurt a couple of years ago and have been unable to get my power back,” he said. “I just need to get to 200 watts FTP. Then I can hang with the Saturday ride again. 216 and I’ll start dropping people.”

“Yeah?” I said. I knew what Dick Doper would do.

He was clearly bothered by the drop-off in power; who wouldn’t be? “It’s quite puzzling. I’ve done everything; gotten online coaching, worked on various aspects, but I can’t get back to 200. Any suggestions?”

It was interesting to listen to this old guy because you could tell he was honest. It never occurred to him to use drugs in order to close the gap. “Yeah, I can get you back to 200.”

His eyes lit up like only a cyclist’s eyes can when you say those magic words. “What do I have to do?” he asked.

“How many miles a week do you do now?”

“I don’t go by miles, I go by hours,” was his wrong answer, as if he were a UCI pro where time is time is time.

“That’s your first mistake. How many miles a week do you do now?”

“140,” he said immediately, cuz if there’s one things cyclists know, it’s EXACTLY HOW MANY FUGGIN’ MILES A WEEK THEY RIDE.

“You need to add in about 200 miles a week.”

His face fell. “What?”

“Yeah,” I said. “You need to add in about 200 miles. Really slow miles, often known as ‘junk miles.'”

“You’re kidding, right? That’s old school. We used to ride that way forty years ago.”

“And how’d you ride?”

“Pretty damned fast.”

“Huh. Almost like there’s a connection.”

“There’s no way I can handle 350 miles a week.”

“Of course you can. They have to be slow, though.”

“How slow?”

“13-15 is plenty. Slow enough that you don’t even feel like you’ve ridden.”

“That’s all?”

“No. Make 80% of your miles junk, and stack 20% of full-gas intensity on top of that. You’ll get your 200 back. Guaranteed.”

He shook his head. “That’s … just so … hard.”

I looked him square in the eye, just like Fields or Tilford or Eddy Merckx would’ve. “I never said it wasn’t.”


Victimless cheating? Or Dick Doper redux?

May 15, 2017 § 30 Comments

Last year I rode with a guy who was, uh, fast. He was in his mid-50s and when we hooked up he had already been going crazy hard for a month, thirty days of back-to-back riding that included unbelievable mileage and intensity.

We only rode together a couple of times. He was unbelievable. A big dude who climbed like George Hincapie when he was in his “mountain climbing” doper phase. You’d be sitting on this giant dude’s wheel and thinking, “Physics.” And then he’d toss the physics book into the ditch and climb like Quintana.

At the time I didn’t think he was doping. Don’t laugh when I say this, but it never occurred to me because I’m not really that suspicious or cynical when it comes to cycling and drugs.

Instead of chalking up his performance to drugs, I chalked it up to the fact that he was getting back on the bike after a long winter, he had stayed fit in the gym and on the trainer, and after all of the big miles and intensity he’d crash and crumple like any other normal old dude who pushed too much, too far, too hard, for too long.

This year our paths crossed again, and although I didn’t ride with him, I did see him briefly. His upper body was unbelievable. According to one of the guys who did ride with him, he claimed to have put on fifteen pounds of muscle over the last year. And he looked it.

That’s when my eyes rolled so far back in my head that if they’d had numbers they would have looked like a slot machine. There are a lot of things you don’t gain when you get old and creaky, and one of them is lean muscle mass. Maybe you firm up what you’ve got, and maybe if you eat perfectly and diet perfectly and do all the other hard things that no one in their 50s can possibly do, you gain a couple of pounds of muscle. But fifteen-plus pounds of lean upper body muscle in twelve months?

That, my friends, only happens with a lot of time in the gym and a shit-ton of steroids.

I was discussing this with a friend who is very young. He seemed to think that if you were young and doing steroids to get buff, you were not very smart because the risk of side effects is so huge. But, according to him, if you’re in your 50s and juicing, the risks are much smaller. You’re already old and bald and sexless anyway, and the side effects take way longer to kick in. Plus, in Dick Doper’s case, there was no crime other than the illegal possession of the drugs.

“Look at it like this,” my friend said. “He’s not racing so it’s not like he’s cheating. He’s not ever going to get tested so he won’t ‘ruin’ his reputation. He does it to feel good about himself, maintain the delusion that he’s exempt from the grinding passage of time, and he’s not hurting anyone else. What’s wrong with that? Do you hold it against people for standing in the mirror and counting their new veins?”

“Yeah, but that asshole crushes you on the bike. Thanks to the drugs, on informal, competitive rides he always wins. He’s practically unbeatable.”

“So? Don’t ride with him.”

“I don’t. Not after last year.”

“Then what’s your complaint? He’s taking your Strava KOMs?”

“I don’t play Strava.”

“So you’re simply jealous that another old bald impotent guy is faster than you are? You want to be the fastest old bald impotent guy?”

“Pretty much.”

“Didn’t the Rolling Stones have a song about that? Something about not always getting what you want?”

I resisted the urge to smack him, which urge was made easier by the fact that he was 6’4″, a martial arts specialist, and a cop. “It seems lame for some reason.”

“Is there a law or some kind of ethical rule against being lame?”

“No, but …”

“How is it different from buying faster equipment? You can buy mechanical speed just like you can buy the chemical kind. Is it lame when you can afford electronic shifting and light wheels, and some young kid is pedaling on a heavier, slower bike?”

“That’s different.”

“Of course it is. The difference is that you buy mechanical speed so it’s okay, but Dick Doper buys chemical speed on top of the mechanical kind. And that pisses you off because it makes him faster than you.”

“There’s a huge difference. I’d think he was lame no matter how fast he rode.”

“What is the difference, then?”

“Mechanical advantages are obvious. You can’t lie about them. And except in a few circumstances, the advantage they give is small and can often be compensated for by smart riding, drafting, or even by playing head games with your opponent. It’s a lot harder to hide your disk wheel. But chemical speed is secret, and its effects are different for every rider. For some guys, it turns donkeys into racehorses. For others, its effects are much less pronounced. Any given aero wheel will reduce drag the same amount no matter who’s riding it.”

“Piffle paffle,” he laughed. “You’re butthurt. That’s all.”



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