Now that some time has passed and the booze has left my system, I have tried to do some soul searching to help cope with my competitive cycling dilemma.
For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself over and over again why do I participate in competitive bike racing. To this day I can’t come up with a straight answer. I first thought I wanted to race because I wanted to prove that I had what it takes to be the faster rider among my peers. I have come to find out that bike racing is so much more than that. I then tried to hone in on any specific aspects of racing that I enjoyed. Come to think of it, I was never particularly skilled in bike racing as a whole. The way I justified this was concluding that I have made the same mistakes multiple times over the course of three year-long racing seasons. While others are steadily improving their technique and having results to justify their efforts, I remained left behind in an infuriating plateau of self loathing and sadness. It’s taken me three years of recreational cycling to enter the world of racing. I let some of my friends talk me into entering this field, taking their word that I, “Got what it takes to do well.” I have come to realize that most friends whom have said this were basing their decisions on fitness and strength alone. Had they gotten to know the type of person I was on a deeper, more psychological level, perhaps they wouldn’t jump to such conclusions. Having made the same mistakes of the course of many years I have concluded that I do not have what it takes to be a competitive racer. This goes along with my apprehension to racing culture.
In between the spectators yelling at you during the races, telling you to “Move up!” and “Keep going!” to racers’ talks of what their coaches are telling them to do (mostly intervals) and how many watts they’ve maintained for how ever long their efforts are, there is a lot that just doesn’t jive with my approach to cycling. While I’ve been told that intervals are the key to winning races, I do not have the discipline, nor the right attitude to this ideology. When I hear people driving their cars to a location over ten miles away so they can do three to five ten minute efforts uphill then be done riding for the day, I die a little bit inside. Competitive cycling puts a serious emphasis on stress in both training and during a race of any type. There are near-crashes that happen often here in southern California. There is also the race tactics that include not contributing to the overall pace of the race unless you do it with enough conviction to win said race. While all of this makes sense, I have trouble agreeing with the moral/ ethical aspect of the phrase, “that’s bike racing.”
While I admire spectating the sport and enjoy watching the pros tear themselves inside-out, it’s the little things that get under my skin. It’s certain bike fads that I find myself cracking jokes on (like intervals.) The more and more I hear riders analyzing group rides with questions like, “What’s the average gradient? How fast does everyone go? Is anyone here racing this weekend?” another piece of me dies inside. If I had my way, I would spend most of my day (3-6 hours) in the saddle, with some hard efforts either intermittently, or just knowing the ride is going to be at an above average pace and be done with it. This may take the glamour out of the sport, but it is what makes sense to me.
Getting back to my conclusion, I keep asking myself if I need to enter a race to prove that I am a strong and fit rider. Part of the reason I became interested in the sport was the freedoms it allowed me. When entering the world of competitions, every other person on and off two wheels is trying to tell you what to do. Everyone wants to take control of you and (IMO) take your riding freedoms from you. This is the core of my dislike for racing culture.
Maybe one day I’ll get over it; maybe I won’t. Right now I know that I still have a passion for riding (mostly uphill at fast speeds) and do not see myself changing this lifestyle any time in the near future. I’m just going to shift my riding priorities away from racing and get back to the basics. I don’t know when I’ll race again but I can say with confidence that it will not be any time soon. Will you still be able to see me pedaling all through out Los Angeles, absolutely. Until next time….