Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Simulating Race Conditions

A couple of weeks ago while I was looking for bike racing on TV, I ran across a show produced by the Discovery Channel which picked two "average" cyclists to take to France to ride a mountain stage of the Tour de France. I missed the beginning of the show, but was compelled to watch the 50 or so minutes of the hour long broadcast.

Why did I feel compelled to watch? Because I have a sickness. You see, I became a cycling fan when there was no coverage of bike racing on television or media. You'll notice I didn't say "mainstream" media, because when I became a cycling fan, there was nothing that wasn't mainstream media. Basically we got our sports from Wide World of Sports or the newspaper. There was no internet and there were times when literally days or weeks would go by after the last stage of the Tour de France before I could find out who won. That seems unbelievable, doesn't it? But it was true. Let me tell you about the way we kept our food cold by putting ice in a box over the food, but if the river didn't freeze hard enough we would run out of ice late in the summer. But I digress.

So Discovery Channel picks these two guys, and in the weeks ahead of their Tour stage ride sends them to Trek for new Madones, sends them to Colorado for testing with Chris Carmichael, sends them to Spain to ride in the mountains with pseudo-pro Tom Danielson and his pro-rider wife, and then for dinner and a ride with Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie, all in preparation for them to ride one of the very tough mountain stages.

Putting aside my jealously that two schlubs who don't know jack about cycling and took up the sport in the last few years are treated to this extravaganza, one thing stuck out as the most extraordinary thing in the whole program. One of these guys lived in Washington DC and commuted to work on his bike. The cameras followed him riding along a few sidewalks and trails on the way to work. He did not appear to ride on any "open" roads or places without stoplights, trail intersections and scads of pedestrians. Also, you should know that this guy was not small, as in, even I at my sizable girth would come in at a smaller waist size. He was also not an experienced cyclist, so I guess I should give him some slack, but then again, he did say one of the dumbest things I have ever heard on television about cycling - and keep in mind that I have heard cycling commentary from Al Trautwig, Craig Hummer and John Eustice hyperventilating so much he should pass out.

So, as he is describing his "training", which consists of him riding trails to work in Washington, DC, he said, and this is a very close quote, "I try to simulate race conditions whenever I can."

I would like for anyone who races to consider that for just a moment. In fact, I will repeat it and when you read it again, I would like for you to think about riding a loop on a sunny Saturday that consists of the Centennial Trail that starts at the Big Red Wagon and goes to the Rotary Fountain before looping back while you think about this, "I try to simulate race conditions whenever I can."

You know, when I am sitting in a parking lot with my car idling, I try to pretend that I am winning the frickin Firecracker 500, so I guess someone should give me a NASCAR race vehicle and a firesuit, eh? Can someone who has never raced a bicycle, and frankly appears to have NEVER RIDDEN IN A GROUP have any idea what "race conditions" are like? Seriously? I get that grade school kids pretend that buzzer is going off as they take a shot at the hoop, but does any adult who has never played in a basketball game go onto television standing at the free throw line at the neighborhood park and say, "I try to simulate the pressure of the playoffs"?! Could you have a little respect for what is involved in a local training race, much less at the Tour de frickin France where the best riders in the world work for years and years to just get to the start line and then pretend that you can simulate that on the greenbelt between stop lights and kids in strollers!

"We get no respect, I tell ya," quote from Rodney "Rider Three" Dangerfield.

Even professional bike racers will tell you that one of the reasons they race earlier in the season than their main objectives is that nothing duplicates the intensity or difficulty of racing, EXCEPT RACING.

Look, I know this guy was new to cycling, so his ignorance should be forgivable, but still, have a little respect. How about "I try to go hard", "I try to go as fast as I can," or even, "I try to ride with as much intensity as a racer," but not, "I try to simulate race conditions whenever I can" when you have no idea what a race condition is.

By the way, one guy made it over all of the mountains in the replicated Tour stage. One didn't. I guess he will have a little more understanding of the terrain at least, but I don't think you can understand what race conditions are like until you have done it at some level.

I think I need to take a few deep breaths before I start sounding like John Eustice.
Rider Three

1 comment:

  1. Classic.

    So that's what those tools on the bike paths, dodging strollers/pedestrians/rollerbladers, are doing going so fast....simulating race conditions. Good to know.