problems of giantism (part 2)

Cycle sport is fascinating and glamourous. Most people don’t have the fortitude and humility for cycle sport with it’s grueling diet of pain, disappointment and humiliation. A road race – even at the bottom of the pyramid –  may have fifty starters, only one will win. In cycle-sport second place is also known as ‘first loser’.

the Cannibal on another good day

Cycle sport is fascinating and glamourous.

Most people don’t have the fortitude and humility for cycle sport with it’s grueling diet of pain, disappointment and humiliation. A road race – even at the bottom of the pyramid –  may have fifty starters, only one will win. In cycle-sport second place is also known as ‘first loser’.

Eddy Merckx once said  that:- “In racing, there are always more bad days than good.”

And he was Eddy Merckx.

There’s a category of person – almost all men – who love the frisson, the glamour, of cycle-sport but lack the courage, fortitude and humility required to participate. Some of these people enter events that are NOT races, then try to win them.

“Re: Dunwich Dynamo 4th / 5th July 2009

by *********** » Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:39 pm

Yes – it’ll be my fifth year (I DNF’d in 2007 due to the weather).

We’ll be leaving at 8pm and going like a bat out of hell. This may not be in the spirit of things, but it avoids having to pass hundreds of slower cyclists on dangerous roads, and the queues for food can be appallingly long if you get there late.”

Plenty to worry about in this exemplary gem pruned from the archive of an internet forum. The writer’s identity has been redacted.

No shame in not finishing, if you tried your best, better luck next year. Not finishing due to the weather – in 2007 there was a brisk tailwind, it rained during the night, which was warm, and the morning was fine and steamy – is the sign of an ill-equipped, ill prepared and callow rider. Not finishing a planned journey because of the weather, in England, in July, is pathetic.

I’m guessing the writer’s never held a racing license or pinned on a number to ride against the watch, that their idea of “like a bat out of hell” equates to a brisk but comfortable pace, and is a long way South of 40 kph?

These criticisms are matters of taste. The real embarrassment is the idea that they don’t want to overtake hundreds of slower cyclists on dangerous roads. Usually there are 364 and a half – this year one more – days when you can ride from Hackney to Dunwich without passing more than a dozen bike riders.

If you don’t want to meet other pilgrims why are you riding a social event?  None of the roads on the DD‘s recommended route are subject to avalanche, landslip or flash floods. If you find them more dangerous than you want them to be then you’re doing something very wrong.

last of the Flemish hard men?

An unwritten rule of cycle racing is ‘there must be blood”. In a race you’re expecting to take risks. As Sean Kelly sagely observed…

“You don’t think about hospital. You think about winning.”

Cycle-touring is different. Nobody is standing by to scrape you off the road and put you in an ambulance if you miscalculate. If the difference between success and failure is the width of a tyre you overslept or misread the ferry time-table. The point is to be reliable and efficient, to travel and to have fun.

The formal stop on the Dunwich Dynamo – this year at the delightfully secluded Sible Heddingham Village Hall – is to allow the luxury of running water and flush toilets. Hot drinks and a short menu are offered for sale to help cover the costs of opening and staffing this amenity. If you find the idea of queues ‘appalling’ fill your bottles, eat the food that you’re carrying and leave the rest for those who are less well prepared or more tolerant of waiting. If the food’s run out or the line is too long DON’T KVETCH. It will only draw attention to the fact that you’re lacking in the prime virtue of cycle travel SELF RELIANCE. Keep the place tidy.

The Dunwich Dynamo is a free event. It’s idiotic to float a free event and then complain if others use it to act out their harmless fantasies. If folk want to treat the Dunwich Dynamo as a road-race – and can somehow overlook the fact that it has no entry fee, no start time, no finish line, no prize list and no UCI ranking – and they manage not to endanger or inconvenience anyone but their own sorry selves where’s the harm?

In most jurisdictions bike racers are fined or disqualified for dropping litter. At the highest level, where a discarded bidon or empty musette will be fought over as if it were the blackened toe-nail of a medieval Christian saint, nobody minds. Debris is part of the show. In extreme instances…

…valuable equipment may be left behind in the frantic struggle to keep up.

Some people who’ve only seen bike racing on TV think it’s OK to drop litter so long as your bike has no mudguards, your riding as fast as you think you can go and your wearing a replica pro-team jersey. The truth is that affecting the reckless habits of a big time bike-racer on a free-to-enter touring ride makes you look like a DOOFUS.

If your cruising speed is North of 30 kph why not leave late and breeze through the field offering words of encouragement to the halt and the lame? A push on the uphills(ASK FIRST)? You might meet some nice people? If you find someone in trouble you may be able to offer help? There’s a surprisingly large number of people who think fitting a tyre is difficult, that a puncture is an emergency. Set a good example, remind people – softly – to be quiet in villages.

If you prefer to ride early and go as fast as possible remember your sweetie wrappers and dead tubes aren’t holy relics. If you drop them you put the future of the event in jeopardy. You carried them out, You take them home.

And make sure you’ve enough clothes to be warm on the beach in the small hours.

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