The vocal minority often defines a group, and, fair or not, stereotyping based on that minority often follows. I believe stereotyping is a human weakness and a vice, but that said, once spurned I can be a total prick. After much experience, I’ve concluded that cyclists are the most neurotic lot I’ve had the misfortune to associate. Specifically, road bikers. Yes, I am making a sweeping judgment and I risk offending some of my closest friends, but ‘roadies’ as a group are ripe with neurotic, insecure idiots. Compared to my other hobbies, like mountaineering, back-country skiing, even soccer dad, no other group can compete with road cyclists for ‘KOM – Dickhead’. And that is a lauded title considering some of the acid-veined soccer moms I’ve come to know.
So there I am, mile 204 of LOTOJA, two miles from the finish, and I’m in a tight pace line, pushing hard, averaging around 25 mph after a long, way-too-slow day. The fast pace, at least, will mean finishing strong, and with some style, after a frustrating day.
We’re all fatigued and ready to end the day, and we’re all in bad form, up and down off the saddle to stretch and give the butt some relief. Not the steadiest, but it works. Suddenly, from behind, I hear in a high-pitched, nasally, pissed-off voice, “HOLD YOUR LINE!” I’m tired and dazed and it doesn’t register that he’s talking to me. Just then the rider in front hits his brakes, and I do likewise to avoid a pile up, upon which I hear skidding tires from behind, and, suddenly pumped with adrenaline, I expect to be derailment to the pavement. Luckily there is no impact. The skidding stops but then I again hear that girly, high-pitched whine, “Holy shit! HOLD THE LINE!”
I finally clue in that he’s yelling at me so I pull out of the line and drop back next to ‘KOM-DH’ to have words, but before I can speak he fires again, “You shouldn’t be racing if you can’t hold the line!” he barks (like a Chihuahua). Seriously? He’s thinks he’s a contender? This brings me to laughter and I say, “YOU'RE RACING?? The winner finished nearly two hours ago, asshole!”
He gives me a crusty look and sprints ahead to the front of the line. Good, I’m thinking, at least he won’t take me out riding just off my wheel. But the damage done, the jackal in me released, and I size him up. I’m sure I could easily bounce him. He looks like a teenage-French girl: tall, emaciated, no muscle tone to speak of. I’m 5’8” and 160, and I probably outweigh him by 40. I’m sure I can bounce him. I’m sure a teenage French girl could bounce him.
We cross the finish line, and the feeling of elation is short-changed due to the ass-hole, “racer” just ahead. I’m pissed and move forward through the crowd to confront the guy. We make eye contact and he immediately drops his head and turns to look for his support. He slinks away, I guess he’s done fighting, but I’m tired and ornery and still ready to throw punches. I hold no illusions, this was no race for most of us, just a long ride of survival, and in my fatigue I’m not about to take crap from some wanna-be, ‘Lance-in-doping-France’. As he walks away I see my pretty wife and, in spite of my sweaty, stinky body, she throws her arms around me and gives me a wet kiss of congratulations. My “fight” instinct evaporates. I finally feel some elation for finishing another long day riding to Jackson. Now, three months later, I’m still scratching my head why a 12+ hour finisher thinks he’s so bad-ass? Just that neurotic biker mentality I suppose. Yeah, still fighting down the urge to stereotype.
I had no intention of riding LOTOJA this year. I’ve had four finishes, and a near miss, and the desire was no longer there. Two years ago I finished strong and felt good about the day, so what better time to retire from LOTAJ? Plus this summer was loaded with a big home project and the incessant scout camps I somehow agreed too. I just didn’t think I’d have time to train. If I put in, and that was a big if, I was guaranteed a spot due to my previous finishes, and seizing on that advantage, several co-workers (Ric and Lance) knew they could also get in if they were on my team. Bowing to peer pressure I reluctantly ‘put in’. It was early April and the pressure was on!
My training goals were simple: 1,000 miles by the end of July; 2,000 total miles by the end of August; and, at least 5, 100-mile days. Reality was not so simple: 806 miles by the end of July; 1,332 total miles by the end of August; and, only 1, 100-mile day. Between work, scouts and home, I failed on all three goals. My training started slow and faded as the summer slipped by. That said, I drew confidence knowing in my first LOTOJA, my training miles totaling only 655 miles, I finish strong.
On race day we start in the dark and about 20 miles in I realize I am not wearing my timing chip. Without it I’ll get a DNS thus forfeiting my 5-year award. Not that I’m into that, but I have to admit the award holds my attention. I briefly consider dropping out thinking "why ride this - I’m getting nothing in return?" Then the thought of the summer’s training, as well as abandoning my friends after promising loyalty, keeps me pedaling. The game plan was to ride as a team come hell and flat tires. Ride together and provide a draft for each other from mile 0 through 206. Basically ride a team throughout the day. The slowest rider will dictate the pace. So I stick with the plan even when I sense my team is suffering early, just figuring they are just working out the kinks and will speed up the pace soon. At Preston Idaho, mile 35, my wife brings me the timing chip, and I figure if I’m on the clock for 170 miles the organizers will have to concede I rode the whole thing.
We ride over Strawberry pass and I have to stop constantly to pee. I’ve overdone it on the hydration front, and every half hour to Montpellier (mile 85) I must stop for relief. My problems in the past were dehydration, so this year I took no chances. At every stop I tell my friends to ride on, not wanting to slow them down. So they ride on while I pee. Somehow I always manage to catch them as we climb towards Strawberry Summit. I am an average rider on my best day, but I can climb moderately well. After like my twentieth pee-stop, I catch my friends just before topping out on Strawberry Summit. We descend together to Ovid, Idaho, and I latch onto the back of a strong pace line, thinking my friends are right behind. We fly into Montpellier at 27 mph.
At the Montpelier feed zone I meet my wife and begin eating and refilling bottles, my friends nowhere in sight. Ten minutes later, they ride in; they missed the strong pace line and fought a strong headwind without the aid of the draft. They get off their bikes and sit in the grass. 20 minutes later and we’re still not riding. They say they are good to go and five minutes later we roll out of Montpelier.
From Montpelier, over Montpelier and Salt River Pass’, we again are separated and I ride alone into Afton, but aided by a strong tail wind. On the flats I think my computer is jacked, as it shows I’m riding unaided at 30 mph, but once at the Afton feed zone, mile 120, everyone is buzzing about the tailwind. Ten minutes later I’m ready to roll when Ric and Lance ride in. They both look strong but Lance surprises me by announcing he is finished for the day. He’s been cramping for the last 50 miles, he says, explaining the long sit-down at Montpelier. He fooled me. Ric says he’s feeling good so we mount up. Pulling out onto the road I hear the hiss of compressed air and realize my front tire just blew – in the feed-zone of all places (later I find an exposed spoke has rubbed a hole). Lance graciously loans me his wheel so we can ride on without delay, so we hit the road for Alpine, 30 miles north.
I feel good the rest of the day, a quick bite in Alpine where Lance returns my repaired wheel. He still looks strong and I urge him to ride the last 50 miles, but he’s is done, noting his wife is waiting in Jackson to celebrate their anniversary. Ric and I start up the canyon but it soon becomes evident that Ric is not feeling well. Just riding much slower than normal. Ric is consummate biker, the way they should be. No ego. Nothing to prove. Just rides for the pure joy of the sport. He commutes to work on a bike every day come rain, snow, sunshine or dark of night. He rides more miles in a year than I do in three, yet today, after 150 miles he seems to be hurting. Where he normally can hold 22 mph – solo - he now can only put out 15 mph, so I know something is off. He is a 'quiet giant': never a talker, just speaks by example, day in and day out. He keeps urging me to leave which I finally do. So much for my Band of Brothers loyalty. I feel guilty, but if it were me in pain, I’d want no partners either. I ride ahead and join another pace line.
Just north of Hoback Junction we come upon a traffic jam and we easily pass many stopped cars. A mile further we see the problem: on a bridge over the Snake River we pass an ambulance and a rider is laid out flat on his back, not moving, appearing to be asleep. The paramedics show no urgency in their treatment. The rider lies alone, the paramedics shuffling gear to the ambulance. Later we hear he was killed after falling off the bridge to the river. Apparently he was dead as we ride by, the paramedics preparing to transport him to the coroner.
So I finish the ride – it is NOT a race – and my little drama with KOM-DH is over. Kara and I join Laverna (Ric’s wife) waiting at the finish to cheer Ric across the line. It is crowded with many excited and tired riders and many families enjoying the moment. Ric finishes about 40 minutes later and he is beaming. Only then does he admit that he’s been cramping since mile 70. I’m a total wimp and would have dropped out before the pain even registered. He has all my respect.
As for time, without at timing chip at the start, I am assigned the earliest possible start time, which adds another 45 minutes to an already slow day. With that penalty Ric ends up beating me by 3 minutes, which is deserving considering the endurance and strength he shows by riding 130 miles in total pain.
Kara is the other hero, providing support for the sixth time, which is tougher than merely riding a bike for 200, or so, miles. I need to reward her for her tough duty, and we should be lodging in the Waldorf and she should be afforded a long massage and spa treatment. But no, our lodging is the Climber’s Ranch inside the National Park (Grand Teton), which is essentially a hostel where one sleeps on wooden bunks shared with sweaty, stinky climbers. I certainly know how to treat a girl! Yeah, I’m a romantic, but Kara is a sport and is happy with the accommodations. Luckily we (Kara, me, Ric and Laverna) get our own, private cabin to share. I feel bad for Kara, but inside I’m ecstatic. The Climber’s Ranch is quiet and remote, away from the nasty, plastic town of Jackson, at the foot of the beautiful Teton’s. I love staying here. I have many great memories of the place. Many great climbs started and ended at the Climbers Ranch.
It’s now late, and after a long day on a bike I head to the showers where I stand in the hot spray for as long as I can stay awake. I dry and dress and head back to our cabin, but as I’m walking the dark path, I hear an Elk bugling just yards away from the path. It is almost midnight, totally dark, with a frost in the air, and I stop, then sit and just listen. The bugling touches a primal chord and I feel at peace. This is the best moment of the entire summer. Biking doesn’t come close.
|Hmmmm, wooden bunks after a long day.|
|AAC Climbers Ranch. Kara is a brave woman. No concierge, no spa, no room service, but feels like a million miles from the plastic of Jackson.|
|The monring after.|
|Awesome view, and I'm not talking about the Teton's.|
|Ric, Laverna and a poacher.|
|KOM-DH! You'd think he just won Paris-Roubaix! I still think a teenage French girl could pound him.|