Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Peacocks and their plumage

The only reason stage races exist is so people can feel good about the six grand they dropped on their TT bikes without having to resort to doing triathlons.

At least that’s the case in the amateur ranks. Back in the day when time trials were invented, everyone rode them on their regular road bikes and just pedaled hard in the drops. The Cannibal Eddy Merckx never spent time in a wind tunnel—he just pedaled his damn bike as hard as he could until he reached the finish line. The great Fausto Coppi rode every race like a time trial—once he went off the front, he was gone, never to be seen again.

It wasn’t until Lemond put Scott aero bars on his bike in Le Tour that we began the dick dance that modern time trials have become. Now everybody has a TT bike and the UCI has an opinion on whether or not it’s legal. Driving out to Tooele on Saturday morning, Steve and I were behind a pickup truck that had a pro-level TT bike on one side, and a pro-level road bike on the other. The road bike had gold bar tape.

Needless to say, if you have gold bar tape, you better be fast. Really fast. Unfortunately, someone forgot to send Mr. Goldbartape that memo because he got spit out the back of the masters field in the circuit race. Perhaps it was intentional so the bling of his bike wasn’t obscured by racing in a pack. But I’d think soloing off the front would have been a more effective means of putting the pretty bike on display.

The collegiate racers have the best system—they have to ride regular road bikes in a TT. The intent is to keep the sport from becoming prohibitively expensive for poor college students. Pat owns a TT bike, but he couldn’t ride it, because he races for a collegiate team.

How about similar rules for amateur racers up to the Cat. 1/2 level? There are all of five races on the UCA calendar where you can actually use a TT bike. Yet Steve was the only Cat. 3 not on a dedicated TT rig*. Countless Cat. 5s were on TT bikes, and these are guys who haven’t even done ten races yet. Either everyone I race against makes a lot more money than I do, or they’re starving their kids in order to fund their bike racing habit. Either way, it’s absurd.

*Jon S. converted his old aluminum-framed road bike to a TT bike by turning around a setback seatpost and adding some bullhorns and aero bars. Entire conversion probably cost him $200. This is the only way of doing it that makes any sense at all. Jon placed 9th in the TT, less than 30 seconds behind the winner, and I think he “trained” on the TT bike exactly twice. If you can call a chatty lunch ride with me and commuting to and from work “training.”

Adding to the absurdity of Cat. 4 and 5 racers with TT bikes is that TT and GC results don’t even count towards an upgrade. I didn’t even contest the TT on Saturday for that very reason. What’s worse is that unlike the last stage race I did, where I was going all out in the TT, I didn’t finish DFL. (So if you finished behind me in the TT and you were on a TT bike, your shop owner thanks you for adding to his bottom line, but if your goal is to be fast, you're doing it wrong.)

I’ll be honest—I wish I had the money for a TT bike and a couple sets of Zipps. But if I did, I could also afford to light cigars with twenty dollar bills. And that is just stupid whether you can afford it or not. There are about 1,000 guys in the world who make their living racing bicycles. Only a fraction of them make enough that I’d want to trade paychecks. As much as I’d love to have one of their bikes, one need look no further than what Tyler S. and Alex were on when they went 1-2 at last year’s High Uintas road race—easily the toughest race of the year—to realize it’s not about the bike.


  1. Then they complain about...
    A. Entry fees
    2. Team kit costs

    And drive off in their little penis truck....

  2. You make too much sense to be a roadie.

  3. Did the guy's truck have balls hanging underneath it? I saw a pair on a big truck driving home from Arizona last Sunday. With Kate in the front passenger seat I crossed my fingers that she wouldn't notice. Luckily she didn't, and I'm not sure what I would have said if she had.

  4. UtRider: it did. And after he parked and unloaded his bike, he took them off and stuffed them in his bib shorts.

    OK, not really.

  5. Hey, a Dentist has to do something with his money. :)

    I have some clip-on aero bars that I will sell you for real cheap.

  6. JZ: The attorneys have it burning holes in their pockets too from what I hear.

    Thanks for the offer on the aero bars, but you're assuming I want them. I think for the next TT I will ride it on my mountain bike. Of course aero bars on the MTB would be awesome.

  7. I know a lot of cat 5 road racers who could compete with the Cat 1/2 guys (They are called mountain bikers).

    I'm just's kind of cool to be a cat 5 AND be fast. And it's cool it a cat 5 guy has a nice bike.

    The numbers don't mean much to me.

  8. I used to support the idea of a ban on TT bikes in amateur races. But I don't anymore.

    As far as I know, the UCI has few, if any, equipment restrictions in mountain biking (although downhillers are no longer allowed to wear lycra, lest they taint the sport's image). If that weren't the case, I doubt we'd see nearly as many full-suspension bikes or lightweight 29ers. (If one accepts the premise that racing drives development)

    In contrast, consider the UCI-regulated world of road biking, where pro riders add weights to their bikes too meet arbitrary guidelines. Or, more close to home, I have to shorten the cockpit of my TT bike by 5 cm five minutes before my start time at the TofU prologue, just because some French dudes have decreed that aero bars not extend more than 85 cm past the nose of the saddle, even if the rider is nearly 6'5".

    The problem with equipment rules is that someone has to draw the line somewhere, and no matter where that line is drawn, it won't make everyone happy. Ban TT bikes? Fine. But what about aero helmets? Or Cervelo Soloists? How about rims? Surely Mavic Open Pros are acceptable, but what about Zipp 303s? 404s? 808s? And so forth...

    No matter what the rules are, some people will be able to buy an advantage. So it goes. (And for the record, I've never hated any bike as much as I hated the only TT bike I ever owned.)

    Some people have talent. Some people have nice equipment. Some have both. Some have neither. Fortunately, cycling is just a hobby for most of us.

    P.S. I'm just offering my opinion. I enjoyed the post, and I hope I didn't come off as an angry lunatic.

    P.P.S. I've always loved Style Man's rule for white shoes (back when we were all still wearing black): if you're going to wear them, you'd better come in first or last. I think the same applies to gold tape, so your unnamed rider was well within the rules of style :)

  9. And you should totally TT on your mountain bike. In a skinsuit, of course.

  10. Rick: name one.

    FG: as I think about it, the fact that TT and GC results don't count towards an upgrade at the lower levels is probably more effective than an outright ban on TT bikes.

    But that doesn't mean I won't still laugh when I see a 40 pounds overweight Cat. 5 on a P3 or a Shiv.

    And thanks for reminding me about Style Man. I canceled my subscription to Bicycling after they canned him.

  11. Mark- Brad, kenny, Chucky, Dug....shall I continue?

  12. Rick, I believe you about Dug. But I heard he was a Cat. 2 already. The others I'm not so sure.

  13. Free market - don't attend events that have TTs.

    All the rules and structure of road racing, ug.

    Faceless ghost - good points.

    For kicks I tried a Saltaire TT. I expected some TT bikes, UTRider and I were nearly the only ones not on TT bikes. I went ghetto TT, resting my elbows on the bars. The Race Of Truth told me I'm slow.

  14. just because it's a slow day at work, I'm going to make one last comment.

    I don't have the interest to validate this but I'm pretty sure a citizen racer won LOTOJA a few years ago. And citizens, as we all know, are worse than cat 5's.

    P.S. don't let Brad read your comment. he already cleans our clocks on the Alpine Loop climb EVERY time. I don't want to make him go even faster to prove my point.

  15. Rick: the citizen you speak of is Nate P, who just got a mandatory upgrade to Cat. 3.

    Brad is moving this summer anyway. We should taunt him while we can.

    Hi Brad.

  16. I'd also like to point out that nowhere in this post did I say that Cat. 5s (or citizens or MTB racers...) aren't fast.

    I just think it's stupid for Cat. 4 and 5 racers to drop a bunch of money on TT bikes. Unless they're triathletes. But triathlons are stupid, so I guess that exception doesn't count.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. edit - Sight of why we do this sport:)....

  19. I can't help but compare with group rides. For instance the Alpine Loop. It's an unspoken race to the top. The riders naturally break into "categories". Getting to the top is a win. Congratulate the fast guys. Sprint to the shack. Good workout, friendly competition, no overhead.

  20. Dave, sorry for the censorship--you make good points, but remember that like cycling, this blog is all in fun. Rick and I are having a bit of good-natured back and forth. And if guys weren't dropping big bucks on TT bikes, good shops like Racer's and Revolution wouldn't be able to stay in business. As nice as Melissa is to me, it's not because I'm her most profitable customer.

  21. I timed myself TTing up Emigration on my MTB to see how I would fare at the Thursday TTs and I wouldn't be last. I may try to do a few of the Emigration TTs on my MTB (with a skin suit, shoe covers and aero helmet of course) if they let me just so I can try to pass some guys on their TT machines.

    In the good old days they just let the fast mtbers start out as Cat 4s or 3s.

  22. Woohooooooooooooooo. Corner canyon was sweet this evening. Trent was crushing us on ghost. Even crushing a cat 2 BROadieeeeeeee. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  23. whatever...I'm pretty sure Rick agrees with me.

  24. JZ - do it! That would be an awesome stunt. If you do I'll be there cheering.

  25. LOL on the opening quote.

    You make so much sense in this post. I must agree with Andy H.