January 4, 2015 § 9 Comments
Normally I answer all of my own correspondence, but every once in a while I get a cycling inquiry that is best handled by someone else, especially questions regarding getting a ride as a professional. This is a technical subject. Luckily, I am friends with a super excellent professional bike racer who gets paid money to race his bike and even owns his own sleeping bag. You may know this guy; his name is Profy McProstate and he has won the Tour of Buzzardguts four times, most recently in 2011. He has generously agreed to write the responses to this issue of WMCC #27.
I want to be a pro but I’m not sure about all of the traveling because I like to stay home with my cats and do fun rides with my friends. Plus, I get carsick and don’t like to drive or fly or travel. Also, my Internet coach has me on a strict training plan and diet that I can’t vary from. I need 30% of my calories to come from kale. And I have to have lots of massages. Also a bit concerned about what my income will be as a first year pro, as I have a mortgage. So, my pro career hasn’t really taken off. Do you have any advice for me?
I also want to be a ‘cross pro, a pro six-day racer, and a circus dancer.
Dedicatedly but unsure,
Although I am a dog person I can admire your passion for wanting to keep the relationship with your cats on the good side. I recommend getting a basket for the front of your bike so you can take them along on your training rides. They have nice ones now that you can take off very easily for race day. Your cats will have a greater appreciation for when you come home bonked and eat their catnip instead of putting it in their play toys. Lose your fun ride biking friends, the cats don’t like them anyway. With regard to the tough travel schedule of a pro, you should know that I hate cars, too. Most pros don’t even own cars, they ride to the races. If the race is further than six hours away they ride there the night before with their cats in the basket.
You can also save money on food by sharing canned tuna with your furry friends. They will be super stoked to be getting real tuna instead of those ground up horse hooves that are packaged as “cat tuna” and sold in that congealed oil that smells like last weekend’s barf bucket. After sitting in the basket all night as you pound through the rain and snow and ice, the cats will understand your need to have most of the can, as they will have personally seen how hard you have been riding.
Next advice, and this is a toughie: dump the Internet coach. The pro training regimen is pretty easy. Go as hard as you can in the first hour of your training, bonk, then limp around for another 4-7 hours. That’s what you need to make the break in all the big races, which will in turn get you noticed by the big pro teams. Plus, once you’re in the move, your break mates will share food and drinks, and they will give you cool tips “on the down low” about how to win that day.
Gotta have buddies to make it to the finish.
If you get dropped from the break, no need to worry, because bike racing isn’t just about winning. You can update everyone on Facebag, your blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and your Hairy Donkeysex app about how the energy drink or the energy bar made you sick because it wasn’t gluten free or vegan. Be sure to mention that you were the strongest guy in the break and you did the most work, and throw out some power numbers and maybe even a link to your Strava segment for the part where you were killing it the hardest just before you weren’t.
Back to diet, although I think the tuna has it covered, kale is overrated. I’ve actually raced on all sorts of dried dog food. It’s easier to find in bulk and you don’t need a Costco membership. Also, it’s more nutritious than most frozen vegan meals from Whole Foods, and lots cheaper. You’ll need to economize lots of things as a “firsty” (that’s what we call first year pros) if you want to hang onto that mortgage, and dog food is where most of us start. And finish.
With regard to massages, you won’t really be able to afford much more than the typical asphalt massage you’ll get your first few races, so stock up on Tegaderm. Since you are a cat person, you might try putting some of the catnip under your clothes on the area you want massaged. You get double the benefit, because the cats will knead the area and also give you free acupuncture. SO great for recovery, just make sure they haven’t been digging in the litter box because that shit gets under their nails and cat poop infections are nasty, literally.
‘Cross racing is easy. Do the same training as road, but by the time you bonk the race will be over, so you won’t need food. Your cats may not like the venue as they are typically louder than the epic local road race, if you can believe that there’s anything in this world louder than a couple of nervous housewives whispering prayers that their husband and sole breadwinner doesn’t go flying into the barriers.
Sixday racing will require you to fly, so you’re screwed. Plus at the Ghent velodrome they have a “no cats in baskets” sign right there at the entrance.
Circus dancing is better to think of later, once you retire from pro racing in a couple of months. You’ll have amazing stories of eating bad food and sleeping in places typically only used by farm animals, so they’ll bring you right in and probably give you a choice manger right next to the elephant stall, along with a 40-pound shovel. Plus the years of stretching you do as a bike rider will only help.
Yours in confidence,
I have noticed in races that there are dudes who go really hard at odd times. Then, there are other dudes who suck wheel all day and never seem to go hard. What is up with those wankers and how do I beat them?
As I’m fond of saying, there are only two kinds of people in a bike race: stupid strong, and stupid.
Just kidding. There’s a third kind, called “people who know what to do at the end of a race.” Generally that’s only three or four people, and I’m sure you’re one of them. Anyway, below is an anxiety graph that will help you understand.
Racing behavior among the stupid and the stupidly strong is driven exclusively by anxiety. Once you understand the scenarios in which riders are the most anxious, you will be able to exploit this weakness, unless you are the anxious one (likely) in which case you will be the exploitee. But on to the graph.
In the upper graph of the Blow-up Wanker, the top line represents his max potential effort. The bottom line shows his effort during the race. The farther away current effort is from max effort, the more anxious he becomes. In short, when the race feels “easy” he will attack, launch pointless breakaways, and squander his precious resources at the wrong time because he’s afraid the race hasn’t gotten hard, and therefore the decisive “winning” moment hasn’t arrived. He’s the guy drilling it at the front on Lap One, and coming in 54rd because he “didn’t want to get taken down by all those idiots in the field sprint.”
The shaded area shows that as his efforts get more intense, his anxiety decreases. He is only comfortable when deeply in the red, which always occurs at some random time and is unrelated to the dynamics of the race. He is the guy who always finishes the race/training ride/massage session and says, “That was the hardest one ever.”
In the lower graph of the Wheelsuck Wanker, the anxiety gap is reversed. It is only as the race gets harder that his anxiety increases because he associates hard efforts with getting dropped. Therefore, the Wheelsuck Wanker spends the entire race avoiding anything that might be more painful than his current state, including following or instigating the winning break, bridging, or max efforts with less than three laps to go. He is the guy who always finishes the race and says that it “wasn’t really that hard.”
In other words, you don’t need to do anything to “beat” them, as they will do that on their own.
Yours in confidence,
December 16, 2014 § 15 Comments
I carefully went over my race plan with Derek on Saturday night. “Look, Wanky,” he said. “Don’t be an idiot.”
“That’s a tall order. Sears Tower tall.”
“I know. But you can do it. Here’s the deal,” he said. I was so excited because I love talking pre-race strategy. Not that I ever implement it, but it’s fun. “You have to wait ’til halfway. Don’t smash yourself at the beginning.”
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah. Halfway through everyone will sit up.”
“Yeah. And they’ll be tired.”
“Yeah. Because of all the knuckleheads who’ve been killing themselves from the beginning.”
“Yeah. But not you. You’ve waited until … how long are you gonna wait?”
“Halfway!” I shouted.
“Exactly! And because it’s halfway and all the knuckleheads have been attacking from the gun, you’re gonna be fresh.”
“Yeah. And that’s when you’re gonna attack. One time. And make it stick.”
Derek shrugged. “Cross that bridge when you come to it.”
On the morning of the race my teammates were really happy to have me there. They were as excited as I was. “Hi, Eric!” I said. Eric is our team leader and super fast guy. He and I are pals. I said hello a few more times and he turned around.
“Oh, it’s you.”
“Yep. Here to work for the team!”
Eric came over to me. “Look, Wanky. Do two things.” He looked kind of upset.
“Yeah. One — stay out of my way.”
“Two — don’t chase me down. Got that?”
“Yep! It’s gonna be a fun race, huh?” I don’t think he heard me because he had already turned away. Then I saw my other best friend, Josh. “Hey, Josh!” I said. He didn’t answer for a few minutes but I kept calling his name and since he was standing next to me he finally heard me.
“Yeah?” he said.
“Well, ol’ pal, it’s gonna be a fun race today, huh?” I said.
“Look, Wanky, I don’t have time to fuck with your bullshit today. If you chase me down again in another race I’m going to kick your ass with a tire iron.”
“Did I chase you down last time?”
“No. You chase me down every time. And we’re all sick of it.”
“If someone would just tell me what to do.”
“We yell at you until we’re hoarse and you still chase us down. So cut the crap.”
“Okay, pal,” I said. “I’ve got a special plan for today anyway.” The rest of the team kind of glowered, but it was a happy, friendly sort of glower.
Soon the race started. Just like Derek said, the idiots all attacked from the gun, but not me. I did exactly what he said and waited until I was halfway through the first lap. Then I attacked. However, no one had sat up and no one looked very tired. In fact, they all looked quite fresh because they were all on my wheel. So I moved over and waited for another lap. “Maybe he meant halfway through the second lap,” I thought, and so I attacked again, but no luck. “Well it must have been halfway through some lap,” I told myself, so each time I got halfway through a lap I attacked I but never got anywhere except really tired.
Finally, about halfway through the race, everyone sat up. I was pretty beat from all the attacking, but I attacked again and they let me go. After a while out there I got even more tired. The wind was blowing and my bike wasn’t going very fast and I had all kinds of breakfast stuff gurgling up into my mouth. Yuck. Then some guy bridged up to me and I remembered the winning advice given to me by Daniel Holloway, 3-time elite national champion, which was this: “Be the second strongest guy in the break.”
That was gonna be easy since there were only two of us, except the guy I was with must have heard the same advice, as he kept trying to be second to me, and me second to him, until before long we were going about twelve miles an hour and another guy came up to us, a teammate, and then three more guys, including Josh. I was so happy to see Josh because he is a hammer. “Hey, pal!” I said happily.
“Don’t you dare chase me down. Or Ino, either,” he said, pointing to the other teammate.
“Oh, I won’t!” I promised.
“And remember, the fastest guy in the race is Eric and he’s back there, and none of us three can sprint so we’re not going to win out of this break, so let the other wankers do all the work so that either Eric can bridge and win or one of us can attack at the end when the others are all tired. Whatever you do, don’t fuggin’ work hard.”
I tried to remember all of what he said but it was too darned complicated and plus being in a break is the most exciting thing ever so I just went to the front and hammered as hard as I could. There was a young kid who had also bridged who never took a pull and sat on the whole time, but I didn’t pay any attention to him. Lazy kid. He was probably thinking about his math homework.
Josh kept yelling at me something about sitting in or sitting down or sitting duck but I was too tired to understand what he said. Towards the end someone attacked hard and opened a big gap; it looked like the winning move but thankfully I shut it down with a superhuman effort, then I realized it was my teammate Ino, darn it.
Then the lazy kid with the math homework who’d done nothing the whole break leaped away with one and a half laps to go. For a little punk he went fast. Somehow I caught him and then everyone slowed down. Next thing I knew our ringer Eric had bridged with 3/4 of a lap to go. He looked fast and primed for victory.
Then things got confusing. Some guy who looked pretty sprintworthy jumped hard right before the last turn. I got on his wheel and then some other things happened, I’m not sure what, but afterwards I heard some people saying that perhaps I had exploded in the middle of the sprunt and blocked all my teammates so that the lazy kid actually won. Not sure that’s true, by the way, but after the race none of my teammates would talk to me.
I think they were just tired.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and help me find a new team. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
December 13, 2014 § 8 Comments
In thirty-three years of riding and racing, I’ve gotten two good pieces of advice, which makes for an average of one about every seventeen years.
The first one was from the Fireman. I was pounding my brains out on the front of some stupid group ride. A few people got unhitched, but most didn’t. Towards the end I faded and could barely struggle home, much less contest the sprunts. The fresher rides beat me like a rug on cleaning day.
“Dude,” said Fireman, “just remember. You race like you train.”
“Huh?” I said.
“Yeah. You train like an idiot, and you’re gonna race like an idiot.”
I thought about that, and he was right. Fireman trains smart, and every year he wins a couple of very hard races. The races that he targets, he almost always places in. He’s not the best climber, the best sprinter, the best breakaway rider, or the best time trialist. But he trains smart, and he races even smarter.
It was good advice, but useless, because I love to pound on training rides. “Everyone gets shelled,” is my motto, so when it’s my turn I accept my beating, almost joyfully. Almost.
The second good piece of advice I got was from three-time national crit champion and all-around hammer and good guy, Daniel Holloway. I had watched Daniel work over the Gritters brothers earlier this year on the third day of the 805 Crit series put on by Mike Hecker. It was two against one in a three-up breakaway. Daniel had to go fast enough to stave off a lightning fast pro field, but not so fast that he burned himself out when it came time for the sprunt. With one lap to go he attacked the Gritterses and soloed.
“How’d you do that?” I asked one day when we were coming back from the NPR.
“Easy,” he said. “I followed the breakaway rule.”
“The breakaway rule? As in, ‘Don’t ever be in one?'”
He laughed. “No, that’s the wankaway rule. The breakaway rule is ‘Don’t ever be the strongest guy in the break.'”
“Yeah. If you feel great, don’t ever show that you’re the strongest. If you’ve got the legs to win and you’re up the road with three or four other guys, always be the second strongest guy in the break. Never the strongest.”
“What does that mean, you know, like, in reality?”
“Don’t take the hardest pull, take the second hardest pull. Don’t take the longest pull, take the second longest pull. When the ‘strongest’ guy takes a monster pull, show that it hurt you and rotate to the back, even quickly.”
“You saw the 805 Crit, didn’t you?”
“That’s the ‘then what.’ When it’s time, you go. And the ‘strongest’ guy who’s been out there crushing it for the last hour suddenly isn’t the strongest guy anymore. You are.”
I memorized every line of this conversation and swore I would put it into practice. On a few of the Donut Rides I’ve managed not to completely spend myself in the first ten minutes and have actually done respectably on the climbs. One time I even beat Dave Jaeger. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Daniel showed up for our new Thursday AM beatdown ride on the Flog Course around the Palos Verdes golf club.
On the first lap the Wily Greek strung it out, dropped all but ten people, and stuffed the rest of us deep into the hurt locker. After hanging out for a few moments in that close, uncomfortable space without enough air, I got dropped. Then I felt a hand on my ass and a strong push. It was Daniel, grinning, and the fucker wasn’t even breathing hard. “Suffer, old man,” he laughed, easily throwing me back up to the leaders.
On the second lap he attacked and only Wily and Derek could answer. The rest of us melted into a loose coalition of hapless chasers. Forgetting everything he’d told me, I rode like a madman, the strongest guy in the four-man chase. By the sixth and last lap I was a puddle of guts. When I hit the 20% final climb up La Cuesta, my chase group companions roared past. Daniel was coming down the hill. He saw me, turned around, and rode up next to me, about to offer me some key advice.
“Don’t say it,” I said.
“Don’t say what?” he asked.
“Advice. Don’t give me any more advice.”
“How come?” he said, grinning.
“Because it’s not seventeen years yet.”
He looked at me funny and easily pedaled away.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and you won’t have to wait seventeen years for the next great piece of cycling advice. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!