Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An open letter to the Fat Cyclist

Dear Fat Cyclist:

Since you're my friend, and I care about you, I thought that the best way I could talk to you about something very important was to put it in a public place where tens of people, but quite possibly not you, will likely read it.

Like me, you tend to obsess about certain things. In particular, you tend to obsess about upcoming bike races. In general, when one puts pressure on one's self to have a good result (however one chooses to define that) at a bike race, a bit of obsession is a good thing. But too much obsession is not, as you may lose track of the real objective while pursuing the intermediate details. Not to mention that too much pressure and obsession and chatter will inevitably lead to disappointment.

Since I know you are just under two months from your main objective of the year decade better part of your adulthood, I thought the timing was right to offer up a bit of advice, however unqualified I may be to offer it. [For those not in the know, the objective is the big belt buckle at Leadville.]

My advice is quite simple: stop obsessing about weight. You are light enough, and if you do the right things in training and put the right kind of fuel in your system as you get ready for the race, you will come into the event at the "right" weight, whatever that is. You are not Chris Horner, and this is not the Tour de France.

In the Tour, Chris has a team that will ride in front of him for five hours, leaving him on his own only at the very end of the stage for a blistering climb of all of about 20 minutes or so. At Leadville, you will be on your own for [hopefully under] the entire nine hours. Whereas Chris needs to be as light as possible for that crucial effort, your objective is a matter of survival over pure speed.

Yes Leadville has a lot of climbing, but these are not Clark's TT sorts of efforts. They are survival climbs. Many of them require walking your bike. And no matter how well you climb, climbing is not your cycling superpower. Your greatest advantage as a cyclist is the same as my greatest advantage as a cyclist: you are able to keep pedaling at a relatively high intensity for pretty much as long as you can keep fuel in your system. Play to that strength.

By now you probably know the course well enough to know what your splits need to be to make nine hours. But just in case, print the splits on a piece of paper and tape it to your top tube (but do not tape gel packs to your top tube, as such is an abomination). If you are ahead of pace, relax a little on the climbs to conserve some energy. Use that energy to go fast on the flats and descending. Going hard on the flats won't take the same toll as going hard on the climbs will.

The best way to train for racing is racing. Do the midweek races as well as the PC50 or the Crusher or the Tour of Park City (or all three).

You've got all the right tools--your new Superfly 100 (with XTR!) is the perfect bike: light, efficient, built to take the edge off the rough stuff to avoid fatigue and help you make up time on the descents. Of course your other Superfly would have been fine too, and it's proven to be up to the task, but I would ride the Superfly 100 if I were you, too. Physically, you're lean and training to peak at just the right time. Mentally, you have wanted this far too long not to get it. This is your year to put it all together. Now go and get it. You can't get fast and get skinny simultaneously.

Good luck!


  1. I like your argument. The same thought process applies to lifting weights and dieting. You can't build muscle mass while at the same time losing weight. To shed pounds, it's near impossible to focus your weight loss efforts on fat alone, you're going to lose muscle in the process, just the way it is. Find the right balance of feeding the muscles while not overindulging is key to being successful in whatever exercise/sport goals you have. You gotta eat to keep the muscles strong if it's your goal to be fast or be strong. If your goal is to lose weight, realize you're going to lose muscle in the process.

  2. OK, fine. That's good advice. I'm done losing the weight I need to lose anyway. Besides, since you actually got the <9, you're kinda speaking from a position of authority, damn you.