June 30, 2018 § 7 Comments
Here’s the USAC bike racing value proposition:
Day of the week: Saturday/Sunday
Wake up time: 5:00 AM
Departure time: 7:00 AM
Drive time: 1.5 hours
Entry fee: $40.00 (“service fee” if you pre-reg, late fee if you sign up day-of)
Drive time: 2-3 hours on LA freeway weekend traffic
Return time: 3:00/4:00 PM
For all this you get:
45 minutes of bike racing
May 13, 2018 § 21 Comments
My grandfather used to get up early every morning, shave, get dressed nicely, put on his porkpie hat with the little feather in the band, and drive his ’62 Chevy Impala down to Pearson’s Rexall Drugstore in Daingerfield, Texas. By 7:00 AM there would be a small group, five or six retirees sitting at their stammtisch, drinking coffee, and gossiping.
That’s all they did. Gossip. When the news was especially big, like the time the embalmer at Nail-Haggard Mortuary (a real place) ran off with a teenager to live in a shack in the woods, the old gossipy men in the drugstore would shamble out at a fast trot in order to be first home with the news.
Although the town looked at those old codgers affectionately, they were anything but. All they did was sit around and talk shit about people. They weren’t leaders in their community, in their church, or in any of the town’s charitable institutions. They didn’t get involved in youth activities, never ran for office, and never donated so much as a dime unless their wives forced them to. They were mostly stingy, selfish old men, arch conservatives, deeply racist hypocrites who railed against taxes and big gummint even as they benefited from it more than anyone else. They were often drunks whose only hobbies in life were cards and horse racing.
Eventually their little cabal faded away because they all died. They never brought younger people into the circle, and one by one they were laid out at Nail-Haggard, buried, and forgotten. The Rexall eventually shuttered, too.
Team Lizard Collectors revolt
The handwriting has been on the USAC wall so long that people no longer pay attention to it, like graffiti you pass daily until it blends into the landscape. Here’s what the handwriting has said for the last twenty years: “Masters racing is killing sanctioned amateur bike racing in the U.S.”
Of course there are other forces at work. Strava, a crappy product, instant gratification, selfie-cycling, and fun > achievement have all helped snap the mainmast and drive USAC onto the shoals.
But few things have been as destructive as masters racers. Simply put, they are spoiled, entitled, whiny, narcissistic, stingy, arch-conservative old gossips, just like the geezers who used to huddle at the Rexall in Daingerfield. What’s so incredible is that even among cyclists they stand out for their delusions.
Team Lizard Collectors has long been a collecting pot of dorks. You can’t belong to TLC without being a dork. If this sounds harsh, it isn’t. TLC is one of the only racing clubs that acknowledges the truth: Dressing up in a plastic clown suit and prancing around town on a child’s toy for which you have paid thousands of dollars is dorky. This includes Peter Sagan, sorry.
And TLC has succeeded because of its “Open Dork” policy, which welcomes every rider regardless of age, ability, or delusion. Virtually no experienced racers sign up with TLC. Instead, the team’s racers, with maybe one exception, are beginners who were initially dorks writ large, and who, through practice and falling on their face at the Mothballs Crit in Santa Barbara, eventually became somewhat competent bike racers. Of course this competence didn’t come in a vacuum. Team Lizard Collectors won the Team Championship Trophy for the CBR Crit Series last year, and has been active enough that the squad has had more race entries the last five years than any other team in SoCal, by a huge margin.
You would think that dorks would never forget their dork roots, and would always remember that no matter how many times they got third at the 50+ crit in Ontario, it was only a couple of years ago that they, too, were floundering off the back, or floundering over the handlebars face-first at Mothballs.
But if you think that, you understand nothing about human nature and road racing.
Enter the #winners, I mean #whiners
After a couple of seasons of getting third or tenth, it naturally came to pass that at least one of these ex-dorks suddenly adjudged that the other 200+ members in TLC were the true dorks. Why weren’t the other 200+ members racing? Or more accurately, why weren’t the other 200+ dorks helping Mothballs get that elusive win?
Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing what the rest of us see, i.e. a droopy, worn-out old shoe, the #winners looked into the mirror and saw unrecognized potential. Raw talent that just needed a little bit extra in organization and teamwork to bring home The Biggest Prize of All, i.e. first place at Ontario … or anywhere, for that matter.
And so, in a process as old as time, it is possible that the cream of the wrinkled, saggy, dessiccated 50+ crop will break away from TLC and form a new, wonderful, amazing, success-studded team of … leaky prostate masters chumpions. Sadly, it never occurred to Team Masters of None that they are doomed to fail.
Because they are.
The metrics of masters racing
In Southern California, America’s mecca for masters bicycle racing, there is exactly one “elite” masters team that has been around for more than four years. It’s called Monster Media, it’s in San Diego, and it has four of the best, winningest racers in SoCal across all disciplines. If you don’t know Phil Tinstman, Karl Bordine, Dave Koesel, and Chris DiMarchi, you haven’t ever raced here much as a master.
Every other masters squad is either new, i.e. less than two years old, or it has accepted the reality that you cannot succeed over the long term as a racing team without also including crappy racers, or even non-racers. Why is that? Because elite masters racers, the majority of whom are anything but, are notoriously cheap and unwilling to join a team unless it can offer a substantial “deal.”
Don’t worry, it is. Because a “deal” means free equipment, steeply discounted pro clothing, steeply discounted bikes, tents, nutritional support, race fee reimbursement, lots of #socmed glory, and a customized team van if you can swing it. Did I mention that elite masters were cheapskates? They expect all of this to be provided to them, and incredibly, on every single masters team that has been around for long, IT IS.
But the providing never comes from the prima donna members, rather it comes from the working stiffs who own companies, who own law firms and accounting practices, who have succeeded in the real world even though they never have and never will succeed as a #socal #profamateur. It’s these “failures” along with the rank-and-file membership who pay the bills and do the heavy organizational lifting for the elite masters wankers, and leaving aside for a moment the craziness of all that money going to narcissistic old men rather than into junior racing development, masters race teams must have this type of financial support in order to survive.
If there weren’t free shit, why would a leaky prostate, delusional #profamateur join? Why would any of these selfish old men want to belong to an organization just to promote cycling, help newcomers, build community, organize grass roots events, and do a few races with friends at their own expense? Crazy talk, yo.
Enter the lizards
Team Lizard Collectors is, I’m sorry to say, the best racing deal ever. You get deeply discounted bikes. You get ALL YOUR RACE ENTRIES 100% REIMBURSED. If you’re Cat 1 or Cat 2 you get two free full kits valued at $245/apiece (one if you’re a lowly Cat 3). To help you with that arithmetic, you pay $45 and get up to $490 back. Complex, I know. Throw in my $483.00 race reimbursement from last year and it almost starts to look like I’m getting paid to race my bike.
You also get free/deeply discounted nutritional products from Beachbody Performance, an acknowledged world leader in the field. You get full race support at every race, in every category. This means a tent stocked with free food, drinks, coffee, and a professional masseuse. Yes, you read that right. And as a racer you don’t have to lift a finger. The race day elves magically put it all up before daybreak, and take it all down, hours after you’re home in bed touching yourself in special places as you relive that 35th place finish at CBR.
Yet … nothing is free in life, and nothing is free over at TLC, either.
To get all of this you have to pay the outrageous sum of $45 a year. But it’s even worse because you have to endure the humiliation of being surrounded by non-racers. By social butterflies. By weaklings who, although they think you’re awesome, fill your water bottle, like your #socmed fakeface, organize fun parties, plan social rides, and idolize you, they obstinately refuse to be awesome racers in your mold. And this is what’s intolerable, apparently.
The thought that you, a hero among droopy prostates, would have to wear the same uniform with the same logo and design as the social butterflies, who, although they bring new members to the club, although they slavishly work the events, and although some of them actually even race, are simply too dorky for you now. At the end of the day, there are only two kinds of people: Those who can get you the vee, and those who can’t. You ain’t got time for that second kind.
Here is the mentality that has led to the revolt: “I appreciate you helping me through med school and raising the four kids and working those two jobs, but now that I’m a big deal and making seven figures, you’re not good enough for me anymore. Good-bye. And here are some green socks.”
Don’t go away mad, just go away
Of course every big club has mass defections every one or two years. It’s the nature of the beast. A small group of disgruntled riders gets mad because their awesomeness isn’t appreciated, so they form a splinter club where like-minded “real racers” can focus on the business of winning, unencumbered by the losers who only like fun rides, tent set-up, and paying for stuff.
These splinter elite race teams never succeed. The first reason they fail is because once they form, they realize that they really only have one good rider–and by “good” I’m using their metric of winning races. And they quickly find themselves working for that one guy, which is what’s known as #buzzkill. Reducing team size also reduces excuse size. With a truly small, elite team, you’re only left with one excuse for losing: You suck.
The second reason these teams fail is that talk about doing a bunch of races is different from actually doing a bunch of races. When you are over 50 years of age, you are mostly dead. The only way you can race to win 20 or more races a season is by having no other significant responsibilities of any kind. This describes no one except maybe the good guy who you’re now having to work for all the time. So what happens is that the first three or four races you have full team participation, which means half of the ten-man squad shows up, and the rest of the year it dwindles and dwindles until it’s just you two.
This leads to Massive Race De-bonerization, where instead of looking forward to race day, you dread it. There’s no tent. There’s no swag. There are no idolizing non-racers to fill your bottle, or coo over you for not having won again. Instead, you’re getting beaten by the same people who have always beaten you and who will always beat you, and you don’t even have an awestruck groupie to explain how if you’d just gotten better position in the last turn you would have come around Tommy Robles. Right …….
The final reason your team fails is that you get slapped in the dick with the economic reality of having to do a full race program without the financial support of a 200+ membership club and the myriad financial resources they bring to the party. It’s when wifey says, “You just spent $1,200 in race entry fees last year!” that shit gets real.
And of course the final final reason is that you are an old, worn-out shoe. You aren’t Phil Tinstman now, just like you weren’t Thurlow Rogers then, and just like you won’t be Greg Leibert tomorrow. Your best years are so far behind that you’d need a telescope to see them, unless of course you aspire to be one of those 70+ “racers” at the velodrome who devotes their entire life to a fake world champion jersey they can wear at home, in the yard, and in the shower.
The final final final reason you’re gonna fail? Because every human community requires youth and mentoring to thrive. People, it turns out, get old. And the older they get, the more they die. Prior to dying they take crazy left turns like illness, insanity, senility, incontinence, and zero-T, which all result in No More Bike Racing.
Just like my grandfather’s little group of nasty old gossips, the narcissistic little world of masters bike racing has just drawn the walls in that much closer by excluding the young, the enthusiastic, the inexperienced, and those with the resources of time, money, and good will. Rather than being mentors, teachers, and advocates who realize that their best competitive years are decades behind them, yet another clique of Baby Boomer Trumpers will steal away to stroke their shaved legs in secret, praying for the lead-out that, unfortunately, ain’t never gonna come.
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January 18, 2018 Comments Off on Does bicycle education work?
I cannot believe I am sitting here writing a blog post about bicycle education. If there is anything more boring, I don’t know what that might be. Oh, wait, yes I do: Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance and how it can protect you on your bike. That’s way more boring.
But like the Santa Ana wind dryness of insurance blather, bicycle education blather is a matter of life and death. It is dorky and requires you to slow down and pay the fuck attention, spend some time doing something other than shopping for bike porn. Like taking the time to buy and charge and put on front-and-rear lights, it’s well-spent time.
I sat down with Gary Cziko, bible-thumping evangelist for Cycling Savvy, but the testament wasn’t written by a bunch of goat herders out in the desert, it was written by people who have a lot of bicycling and traffic engineering experience when it comes to staying off the grills of Rage Rovers. Cycling Savvy uses various instructional paradigms to allow riders to ride anywhere. Streets, sidewalks (where it’s lega), you name it. Although lane control is the default technique, the idea behind bicycle education is that people ride bikes all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons, and there should be a way to address their riding with sensible, practical, safe techniques.
Increasing bicycle education
Gary is now in his fifth year of teaching as a Cycling Savvy instructor. The number of actual courses and actual people who have been through his courses is shockingly low; more about that later and why it’s less important than you might think. After about 13 courses and upwards of 130 participants, I asked Gary what he thought the biggest obstacles were to increasing bicycle education in Southern California.
He didn’t miss a beat. “Two main problems, those who think they don’t need the education because they don’t ride on streets, and those who think they don’t need it because they have a lot of experience.”
Gary knows about that last part. “I was an edge rider for years but Cycling Savvy makes it easy and safe and it decreases the risks.”
“How are you going to expand that?” I asked.
“Cycling Savvy wants to exapnd. We have two online courses but need additional funding to market the curriculum. We’ve hired our first full time administrative employee, an associate executive director. We’re looking into partnerships with charity rides, SCNCA, USAC, and affiliation with clubs, much as we’ve done with Big Orange. We’ve worked with Sean Wilson at SCNCA to develop a complete skills system, from racing to training and riding on the road.”
Still, with only a few courses having been taught, along with a few hundred people who’ve taken the online courses, I wondered if Gary was optimistic. Dumb question. It’s Gary, folks.
“I’m encouraged by getting cyclists in the full on-bike training, not just the classroom, where we work with riders of all skill levels to teach them how to surmount challenging situations. What’s encouraging is that people are changed and enthusiastic and they want to share with others. The Cycling Savvy curriculum started in 2011 and reached 18 states in 3 years. But we need increased funding for courses that reach families and kids, courses for fondo riders, and of course for e-bikes.”
With 5-10 courses planned for 2018, the need vastly outnumbers available resources.
Or does it?
The ripple effect
Gary agreed that more instructors, more classes, more online marketing are crucial. He also pointed out that by educating a few cyclists you can education hundreds more.
“There’s a ripple effect,” he said. “When we started the training in Big Orange, people were unfamiliar with it. Now, even though most Big Orange riders haven’t taken the course, every club ride has at least one rider who has, and those riders take the reins and make sure that the group is using Cycling Savvy principles. By changing even one or two people, you can affect everyone who sees this kind of effective riding and who then tries it out. Of course we need training for planners and transportation engineers, too.”
When I asked him about the dreaded PCH, Gary was emphatic that bicycle education has educated drivers, too. “There’s less honking. Motorists are used to seeing large groups of riders out in the lane. Cyclists are less hesitant to use the full lane when it makes sense. One study found that there is more honking the farther you are to the right, which makes sense because they see you from a long way back and can adjust when you’re in the lane. But with edge/gutter riding they don’t see you until the last second.”
Getting your club educated
If you belong to a bike club and you don’t have a club-wide bicycle education plan, now is the time to get one. Cycling Savvy offers online courses and in-person instruction depending on the area. The courses are cheap and can save your life. Importantly, in our own neck of the woods, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there anecdotally seems to be a lot less hostility than a couple of years ago; I chalk part of that up to the effect of people being more assertive and educated about where and how they cycle.
No matter how much you know or how experienced you are, these classes will open your eyes.
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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.
September 14, 2017 § 40 Comments
The era of organized bike racing is gone and it isn’t coming back. It has been replaced wholesale by Strava, grand fondues, club racing, and fun rides.
In unrelated news, the Kayle LeoGrande doping story got picked up by a news web site that focuses exclusively on Olympic sports. Kayle’s story is now running next to an article on the 2018 and 2024 Olympic host cities and a story about corruption at the very highest level of sport.
How the mighty have risen.
A friend sent me this incredibly sad post, which appears to come from Kayle’s Facebag page.
I think it’s sad because, if you read the story and the interview, you can see that Kayle is denying that he doped to improve his performance, something that the test results and his past behavior conclusively prove. A friend of mine who is a mental health expert and former bike racer identifies Kayle not as someone who should be pilloried, but someone who needs help and should be pitied. Perhaps he’s right. It’s very hard to read this without wincing.
In other, completely, totally, absolutely unrelated news, the last USAC crit of the year in Southern California, America’s hottest hotbed of crit racing, wrapped up last weekend. The men’s Pro 1/2/3 field had seven riders.
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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.
August 2, 2017 § 26 Comments
Almost two months ago I wrote about James Doyle, local buffoon, jerk, kook, pinhead, fool, tool, dunderhead, tosser, wanker, clod, goof, whackjob, lameass, numbskull, numbnuts, jackass, and all-round horrible person, and I wrote about him here.
James knocked down John Walsh in a bike race. John got badly hurt. A video camera captured James’s maneuver. A hue-and-cry ensued. And yesterday USAC suspended Doyle for one year and put him on the Bad Boy List. This basically means that if he pulls this crap again he can have his license revoked, even if it happens in a non-competitive venue.
Since I know the victim personally it feels really good to learn that the aggressor got punished. A lot of people think the punishment wasn’t nearly stiff enough, and they’re right. I was suspended for a year back in 1986 for simply cursing out the officials and writing mean letters to the USCF protesting my punishment. If you could get a year’s suspension for causing butthurt, you should be able to get a lifetime ban for almost killing someone.
Still, it’s progress after a fashion. Who can forget the way that USAC has historically ignored this type of attack? In 2011, Rahsaan Bahati was deliberately crashed out at the Dana Point Grand Prix. The video is breathtaking. After being knocked down, Bahati, the victim, was fined and suspended for throwing his glasses at the pack in anger. Rest assured that USAC didn’t take two months to render its decision.
The rider who crashed Bahati out received no penalty at all, even though the whole thing was on video and is one of the most brazen examples of evil and malicious bike riding I had ever seen prior to the Doyle takedown. Check the video here if you don’t believe me. Seconds 39-42 are unbelievable, but not as unbelievable as the fact that the rider who got punished was Bahati.
In any event, it’s encouraging to see that USAC is finally willing to take some responsibility for policing the hostile and dangerous riders in its ranks; what’s discouraging is that there is hardly anyone left anymore in the ranks. The Doyle-Walsh takedown sent a loud message to racers, and a screamingly loud message to their significant others: It’s not worth it. Doyle may have a year off the bike, but Walsh has injuries that will take a very long time to heal.
Those grand fondues and fun rides keep looking better. And better. And better.
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July 12, 2017 § 39 Comments
I like kids. Have three of ’em myself, and a grandkid, too. Great folks, all four. Kids? I recommend them if you can afford them, and I almost recommend them if you can’t. Kids are good.
I say “mostly” because there are some horrible people out there who, when they have kids, wind up with — surprise — horrible children. Beastly, awful little people who in turn grow up into beastly, awful big people who abuse other people, lie, cheat, steal, and worst of all, vote.
We’ve all seen these horrible little people and their psychotic enablers in soccer, baseball, and basketball. They’re almost a meme. Some talented or untalented little brat, abused and egged on by mentally defective parents, makes life a living hell for everyone else.
Cycling’s not immune, either. In Colorado there is a family of d-bags who recently behaved thus at a bike race, as reported by the parent of the victim:
Reluctantly I’m going to share a story about today’s Junior race in Longmont because violence is not okay. And violence encouraged by a parent is well… During the last lap of this race when K. came around another racer that racer swerved into K. in anger. Luckily both boys stayed up but K. had to stop because his wheel was damaged. When he didn’t come in with the others we worried. Finally he arrived and while he was telling us what happened the boy’s Mom came up and said “he deserved it for sucking my son’s wheel at the end.” My jaw dropped. I said, “You’re telling me this happened on purpose?” “Yes I told him to do it.” We walked away because frankly I didn’t trust myself to stay near her much longer. But then I thought about it and went back to the Ref to tell him. He got immediately red and said he knows the family, was not surprised and would take care of it. We left but now with a few inquires I’m hearing this is common behavior for this family and they have yet to be sanctioned. Frankly if it were up to me these parents would not even have custody of their children but at the least why is the cycling community @usacycling@bracolorado turning a blind eye and allowing them at races? This child is fast and his sister is a very accomplished racer but that should not matter at all. Finally, this is not a reflection of the Colorado racers as nothing like this has happened before. I’m already a mess worrying about accidental crashes and cars but to think of kids getting injured intentionally by one another is disgusting.
USAC has set up an inquiry. Let’s hope these kids and their family are removed from cycling forever … although we know they won’t be.
Anyway, the aggrieved parent wants to know why the cycling community is turning a blind eye and allowing these li’l monsters at races. Let me help with that.
Here in SoCal we have a mini-douchebag of a junior rider, supported by his douchebag parents, who was briefly suspended for fighting. Everyone knows he’s a jerk. People have complained to USAC about him, and he’s been a jerk for years. Arrogance, rudeness, dangerous riding, and nasty aggressiveness are his stock in trade. But because he is a talented rider he has gotten away with behavior that would have seen other riders sanctioned, and in fact his current sanction is a slap on the wrist compared to what he deserves. He’s a despicable kid who is a few months away from being a despicable adult.
The reason he’s been allowed to fester is the “talented junior rider” thing. In cycling, that means you’re one of fifteen people in the state who competes, and one of half a dozen who goes to nationals. So yes, with a little luck, tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, a coach, the nation’s only indoor velodrome, a travel budget, and a modicum of ability you will be “talented” because you’ll be a “national champion” and “state champion” who will “dominate” the other fourteen people in your age group statewide.
We see every year what happens to these “talented” riders when they graduate to the U23 ranks here, or worse, in Europe. We never hear from them again. Why? Because despite their parents’ delusions, they weren’t really all that talented so much as they were subsidized to compete in a vanity niche sport to (mostly) satisfy their parents’ egos. The Coryn Riveras out there are the exception that prove the rule.
The second problem is that USAC is terribly afraid of lowering the boom with severe sanctions against almost anyone, much less “talented” junior riders. USAC is in the midst of a death spiral, where competitive racing is slowly giving way to fun rides. This is because there is no younger generation moving up through the ranks, or at least not in sufficient number to replace the leaky prostates who currently sustain the sport and who are rotating out due to age, infirmity, boredom, injury, or risk exhaustion.
Few normal parents will make the financial commitment it takes for their kids to race bikes. Fewer still will put their kids in such an inherently dangerous sport. And only a tiny handful will let their kids compete against bullies who are instructed to chop wheels and “punish” wheelsucking, i.e. smart racing. Every one of these horrible brats who the system protects is responsible for countless other parents seeing the lay of the land and either yanking their kids from cycling or encouraging them to do something else.
It’s the other end of the James Doyle spectrum, where bad behavior and violence create an environment so toxic that you want to wash your hands and walk away and for dog’s sake take your kids with you.
In the old days these punks would have been taught a lesson with a properly placed wheel chop or a punch to the face by an older, bigger rider. I’m not advocating that as a teaching style, but the fact is that these kids have nothing and no one to fear because the old way has been banned and there’s no system of discipline in its place. The other riders and their parents don’t want a lawsuit or criminal charges, the referees turn a blind eye because of the paperwork and headache, the promoters don’t want to turn away an entry fee, USAC doesn’t want to draw more bad attention to how dangerous the sport is, and voila! You have an instant recipe for toxic cycling soup.
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June 20, 2017 § 25 Comments
My dinner table can be a pretty unforgiving yet hilarious place, especially when all the kids, spouses, and my grandson are gathered around. No matter how witty your repartee, it’s hard to keep a straight face when at least one of the dinnertime combatants is eating rice with his fist.
There’s a great deal of story one-upsmanship, with each person trying to tell a funnier tale than the one before, and at times you have to put down your fork, forget about chewing, and laugh for a while at the ridiculousness of people, like the angry constituent who called to complain about Obamacare. My youngest, who was interning at a congressman’s office, took the call.
“I don’t eat at McDonald’s! How come I have to pay for all those fat people with crappy diets?” the caller demanded.
“Well, sir, do you have a pre-existing condition?”
“Yes. I’m diabetic.”
“Obamacare forbids your insurer from canceling your insurance due to that. Without Obamacare, it will be much easier to drop sick people from health insurance, which sort of defeats the purpose of having it.”
“Well, all those fat people should shop at farmer’s markets,” the caller said before slamming down the phone.
As the comments ricocheted around the table, my son, who took countless of these calls over the last few months, shrugged. “It’s post-modernism. Facts are negotiable. They aren’t even facts anymore.”
Which got me to thinking about bike racing and USAC. I had spent a while earlier in the day talking with an SCNCA board member about the challenges facing sanctioned bike racing. My point, unbeknownst to me, had been very post-modern. I’d opined that there was no such thing anymore as winning; there were only different metrics for success.
This, more than anything else, is why sanctioned bike racing will only decline, even as ridership mushrooms.
Time was, when you wanted to respond to the gnawing insecurity troll that lived in your head who was constantly asking, “How fast are you?” the only way to answer was to race yer fuggin’ bike.
Every bike race had a winner, and except for one-off events like Madison or the TTT, “winner” was singular. Everyone else lost the race and would try again next week, where they would almost certainly lose again. All outcomes were binary.
And not only did every race answer the question “How fast are you?” but it answered simply: Your speed was determined by how long it took you to cross the finish line as compared to everyone else who started with you.
The nature of bike racing therefore meant that you didn’t win very much, if ever. But you were guaranteed a clear answer to the question. That’s what you were purchasing. An answer.
In our post-modern world, we are ruled by quantum physics. Things are this, unless they are that, and of course sometimes they are both at the same time, and by the way, you can never know how fast you are going unless you’re willing to not know your position, and conversely, we can tell you where you are but not simultaneously your speed.
The quantum physics, post-factual nature of the universe has crushed a lot of things, bike racing included. You can be a winner without ever doing a race — on Strava. You can beat a world-class field in a major Euro stage race without ever leaving your garage — on Zwift. You can drug dope and you can data dope. You can adjust your speed and placing by weight, gender, age, location, and year of competition to twist the outcome as surely as you can sniff an inhaler, inject EPO, or take testosterone to be faster than you would have been without it.
And there’s no winner-loser in a grand fondue, which is a race that isn’t even a race that qualifies for a world championship masters title that itself is a race … except when it’s not.
Your variable metric for success can be applied to gravel racing, to century rides, to group rides, or to personal races run on power meters, heart rate monitors, and Garmin head units. You had the biggest left-leg power output of that Strava segment ever. Or among 50-55 men who weigh between 200 and 210 pounds. Statistics may be worse than damned lies, but they are infinitely comforting because they will whisper back to you whatever you want them to say. OTB in a hilly road race or 47th in the sprunt won’t whisper anything back except “You suck.”
If you did a ride and didn’t win SOMETHING that is quantifiable, demonstrable to others in the form of an e-trinket or data point, you are clearly doing it wrong. All wrong.
The anachronistic search for a winner offered up by USAC-sanctioned events is as vain a search as trying to explain the perihelion shift of Mercury using Newtonian physics. The theory won’t fit the observable phenomena because no one wins anything anymore, except at the temporary slot in spacetime where they choose to set the goal posts.
Thanks to this post-modern acceptance of #altfacts and #quantumphysics, more people seem to be riding bicycles as a result, and enjoying them.
I’m good with that, except of course when I’m simultaneously not.
June 14, 2017 § 169 Comments
I will make this brief. USA Cycling is now “grappling” with whether or not James Doyle intended to knock down John Walsh in this video. Several commenters, here and on Facegag, have argued that you can’t really know what was in Doyle’s mind when he hit Walsh’s bars and therefore it wasn’t intentional.
Newsflash: You don’t understand intent or how it is shown.
- Intent can simply mean knowing the likely outcome of your actions. If you shoot a pistol in a crowded movie theater you can’t claim you didn’t intend to kill someone because in your mind you weren’t trying to kill the specific person who was hit by the bullet. You are presumed to know that firing the gun is dangerous. Therefore you had the requisite intent to be convicted of the crime.
- Proving intent doesn’t require the defendant to sign a confession saying “I intended to knock down John Walsh and send him to the ICU with life-threatening injuries.” You can prove it by physical evidence, by statements, by circumstance, and by past behavior.
- One eyewitness said that during the neutral lap after the crash, Doyle said that he had told Walsh to “give him more room and too bad for Walsh when he didn’t.” There was also allegedly a now-deleted Facegag post on Doyle’s page that intimated that the taketown was intentional. Countless riders have notified USAC that Doyle repeatedly exhibited the kind of aggressive behavior that crashed out Walsh. Admission, allegedly written statement, video, repeated past behavior–and USAC can’t immediately reach a decision?
USAC is already prepping the surgical field for a punishment that is less than a lifetime ban from sanctioned events. Chris Black, an SCNCA board member who has admitted that he has no role in the process but who nonetheless is close to the USAC official in charge of discipline, sent this gem yesterday to an outraged racer:
Wow. Not enough to take substantial action? What would it take? And why would he possibly say “the video by itself” when USAC has received numerous statements about Doyle’s behavior? To top it off, USAC is advising that it is more helpful to have eyewitnesses–sure, just like it’s more helpful to have a signed confession. But absent that there is plenty of evidence to carry the burden of proof here. Why are all these non-lawyers, non-judges, non-bike racers trying to pretend they are the U.S. Supreme Court?
My guess is that Chris Black has no idea what an intentional takedown is. [Note: several readers wrote to correct my misstatement regarding Chris’s racing background. Chris is an active racer with a long history.] What’s even more extraordinary is that Black is a former CHP officer and USAC official, proving once again that a lifetime of law enforcement and officiating has zero correlation with proper understanding or application of the rules.
Instead of making an outraged statement to the effect of “SCNCA will not tolerate reckless or dangerous riding in its events, much less intentional takedowns,” Black makes his unasked for and unprofessional judgment of what the evidence actually means and, more incredibly, how he thinks USAC will behave as a result.
Compare that with Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, whose organizing club, South Bay Wheelmen, is considering whether to ban Doyle from their upcoming race after viewing the video. Unlike Chris Black, non-bike racer, SBW members actually race and they don’t want a jackass like Doyle anywhere near them. SCNCA has lost over one-third of its members in the past year and a half, and with people like Black making absurd and reckless statements like the one above, it’s easy to understand why.
It’s also interesting to note that the promoter of the race where this occurred, Jeff Prinz, has been studiously silent, no doubt hoping that this won’t negatively affect participation in his upcoming July 2 race. Note to Jeff: Now would be a great time to reassure racers that Doyle won’t be allowed to race CBR, in July or ever. If you need someone to cover Doyle’s $35 entry fee so that you don’t suffer personal hardship by losing a race entry, hit me up and I’ll see what I can do.
Also, a criminal complaint has been filed regarding Doyle’s despicable actions. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has assigned DR number 17-022995 to the complaint. Please call (714) 647-7000 if you were an eyewitness or have video evidence that can assist with the investigation. Give them the DR number above so they can route you to the proper person.
June 13, 2017 § 124 Comments
When you enter a USAC bike race you waive most of your rights to sue anyone for negligently hurting you during the race.
But you don’t waive your right to sue people who intentionally hurt you. And you don’t ever waive your right to be protected from felony battery.
At the California masters state bicycling “championships” on Sunday, held in Ladera Ranch by promoter Jeff Prinz, a guy named James Doyle pulled a move that looks to me like a flagrantly intentional takedown. To view the video you have to type in either the password ladera45 or doyle.
The victim, John Walsh, wound up in the hospital with a bleeding brain, broken collarbone, broken back, and other ICU-worthy injuries.
If you are not a crit racer the takedown may not look obvious. If you are a crit racer, you will be shocked. Note that Doyle’s move appears completely premeditated. He is squeezed against the curb as he tries to pass at about 3:17, then backs off, waits for a gap to open, accelerates through, then lowers his shoulder and hits Walsh’s bars hard. Walsh is blindsided and goes down on his head. Doyle never looks back and sprints off.
In my opinion this was intentional, and not simply because I’ve raced countless crits and have seen riders make contact countless times and have been bumped countless times.
I believe this was intentional because in addition to the video, which is crystal clear, I know James Doyle. He is a despicable person. I’ve ridden with him and raced with him and I’ve been teammates with him, and the only way I can describe him is in Jekyll-Hyde terms. One minute he is super nice, a great teammate, and the next moment he is uncontrollably enraged.
Here are things I have personally witnessed this very bad person do:
- Scream psychotically at a woman on the Donut Ride who was startled when he came shooting up through a narrow, barely-wide-enough space between her and the curb. Note: This is exactly what he did in the video that shows him crashing out John Walsh.
- Scream psychotically at any number of riders on any number of days who were startled when he came shooting up through a narrow, barely-wide-enough space between them and the curb. Note: This is exactly what he did in the video that shows him crashing out John Walsh.
- Scream psychotically and challenge a very big and muscular (and friendly and gentle) cyclist to a fight when Doyle startled the cyclist with an outlandishly aggressive move on the Donut Ride. Note: This is similar to what he did in the video that shows him crashing out John Walsh.
- Scream psychotically and challenge a rider, who also happens to be a homicide detective, to a fistfight during the finale of Telo. Doyle then added to his douchebag bona fides when he called the guy a “cupcake” after the detective laughed and declined Doyle’s invitation to beat the shit out of him. The “cupcake” is super friendly and has by his own count been in more than 300 fistfights (and lost two). People would have paid good money to watch fistfight No. 301 and the resultant tooth donation that Doyle would have made to the pavement that day.
These are only a few of the incidents that got James Doyle kicked out of our club. Numerous riders in SoCal have seen his antics and been appalled by them. One friend described him as “The most dangerous rider I have ever seen because he rides every ride and competition as if it were a short-track motorcycle race. He makes no distinction between aggressively riding on the last lap sprinting for a win and fighting for 38th position on the second lap of the race.”
I don’t know what to say except that USAC better revoke his license permanently; Jeff Prinz better make a public statement and ban this jerk from his races; SoCal riders better ostracize Doyle when he shows up; someone better file a felony battery crime report; and James Doyle better lawyer the hell up and pray the DA doesn’t press charges.
UPDATE: Preliminary indications from Chris Black at SCNCA are that USAC will likely not find anything in the video that would warrant disciplinary action. If you think otherwise, and/or have examples of Doyle’s dangerous riding, hostile and aggressive behavior, please email email@example.com.
UPDATE II from USAC: On Jun 13, 2017, at 8:47 AM, Hodge, Chuck <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: “USA Cycling has already begun an investigation under our Policy III. Per our policy all riders are afforded due process when there is the possibility of revoking membership rights.”
Vice President of Operations
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Colorado Springs, CO 80919
June 5, 2017 § 18 Comments
SCNCA president Sean Wilson and CyclingSavvy guru Gary Cziko went to great lengths and expense over the last year to design a class for the SCNCA junior training camp, which was successfully run in January, 2017. They are now are offering a USAC-sanctioned traffic safety class this coming June 11.
One of the bonuses for this class, aside from helping keep you out of the meat wagon, is that, thanks to Sean and SCNCA board member David Huntsman, the class has been approved for USAC upgrade points. There are a lot of needs out there in the SCNCA catchment, but few opportunities to change things at the USAC level. The concept of using actual classes and education to keep junior riders from getting killed is a top priority and the SCNCA board has supported it wholeheartedly.
The class offers two upgrade points for 5-4 upgrades, 1 upgrade point for 4-3 upgrades and 1/2 a point for 3-2 upgrades. All of this for learning how to not get killed riding the edge of a narrow lane. Few efforts by the SCNCA are as deserving of praise and participation as this one.
Of course, many bike racers don’t yet see the value in CyclingSavvy-type instruction. What’s more astounding, actual “coaches” and “mentors” who are responsible for the lives of their charges somehow think that their “common sense” and “life experiences” and “racing with team Bumblefuck sponsored by Bill’s Sewage Treatment back in the 80s” is a legitimate substitute for skills, coursework, and understanding the law.
The location for the clinic is awesome: Redlands, a town with a rich history in SoCal cycling, and a place where riders don’t have to fight with the snarl of LA/OC/San Diego traffic. The cost is also incredibly low considering the benefit of the classes, the professionalism of the coursework, and the effectiveness of instruction: $50 for juniors and U23, $75 for elite and older riders.
If you’re involved with junior cycling in SoCal, if you ride a bike, or if you ever intend to ride one, this is a great time to give your riders and yourself the chance to survive and thrive on the bike for the rest of your life, not just while doing circles in a parking lot. And a “few short training sessions with CHP” will not — trust me– cut it.
The course will also include an on-road component so that participants get to practice what they’ve learned. As a longtime CyclingSavvy participant and class participant, I can assure you that this course can keep you alive. Participants will practice using parts of the Tour of Redlands, where cyclists learn to navigate some of the most intimidating spots in town safely and comfortably.
Now is the time to slow down, take a deep breath, and do some “non-race” learning that will help you ride better, race better, and most importantly, live longer. A lot longer.
Location: Bikecoach.com Fitness Studio, 700 Redlands Blvd., Suite M, Redlands CA 92373 More Information: http://www.gsandiamo.com
Contact: Sean Wilson; email@example.com