As most of you know, Steve Reaney won the Elite National Criterium Championship on Friday. Being a primarily selfish jerk, I’m rarely happy to see someone else win a race, yet I found myself overwhelmed with excitement when I heard of Steve’s success. Earlier in the season, Steve said to me, “I’ve changed the way I look at cycling this year. I’ve scaled back my goals to a more realistic level; for example, I’m no longer stressing out about trying to win a National title.” It seems that he was lying, or that his subconscious was less content to be “realistic.” Either way, congratulations to Steve and his team for yet another fantastic result on top of Talansky’s u23 TT victory and Moore’s Elite RR bronze!
I’m not sure if it’s the confidence that comes with wearing a ridiculous berry-infused American flag on your chest or if Velonews is really good at Photoshop, but Steve doesn’t look anything like a disgruntled naked mole rat in that photograph. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t live up to his namesake on such a momentous occasion, so I took the liberty of retouching the picture a bit.
That’s more like it.
Speaking of Cal Giant — and believe me, I never thought I would say this — I miss the good old days when that team deigned to dominate our district’s races. Even though Cal Giant was a frustratingly powerful team for many years, the team’s riders controlled races in a classy and professional manner; I find such behavior much less common now that Cal Giant has taken to racing extradistrictally.
This brings me tangentially to my next topic, which I’d like to refer to as “The Allegory of the Pain Cave.” This is a completely novel and non-derivative philosophical story about yesterday’s Burlingame Criterium.
Imagine that there are two riders — for the sake of the story, let’s call them Rand Miller and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits) — who have been held captive deep within the Pain Cave for their whole lives (or at least since the halfway point of the Burlingame Crit). These hapless souls know nothing besides the suffering, the darkness, and the restricted vision engendered by the lack of oxygen available in the Pain Cave; they are therefore incapable of clearly seeing the world around them. Rand and Scott can vaguely make out the blurry shapes of other riders in the distance behind them but, having eschewed the Real World of Packfodder for so long, these Pain Cave-dwellers cannot comprehend what they see. Only after these two riders are forcefully extracted from the Pain Cave does the reality set in: those blurry figures in the distance were not just ethereal shapes, but instead were riders with dubious finishing speed intent on ruining the existence of the Pain Cave-dwellers. Once removed from the Pain Cave, Rand and Scott become acutely aware that their existence to this point has been a mere reflection of the harsh truth: riders in the Real World of Packfodder are ignoble and are willing to chase breakaways even if they or their teammates have no apparent desire to contest the finish. Naturally, a return to the blissful world of the Pain Cave is impossible for these enlightened individuals, and they are destined to be poor, miserable outcasts for eternity (or at least until the end of the race).
What the hell was that? I don’t know; here’s one interpretation, though great literature often has many.
Halfway into the Burlingame Criterium, I found myself in a two-man breakaway with Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits), a rider that I presume needs no introduction. When Zwizanski goes, you can be assured that he intends to stay away for the remainder of the event, so I was in a good position.
I’m guessing that Scott has no idea who I am, but he is a rider I have come to fear and revere over the years; I have been dropped from breakaways by Scott several times, but I was determined to stay with him this time.
Now, I was rummaging through the Suitcase of Courage for the the first two laps of our break and was therefore not much use to my breakmate; however, after we settled into a rhythm I was able to make significant contributions to our forward motion.
Our gap hovered at twenty seconds for most of the race, then fell to ten seconds as we hit five laps to go. At this point, Scott was like “F this S” and pulled the plug, leaving me alone with the wind and a vanishingly small gap over the field. Figuring I’d attention-whore myself to the crowd for a bit longer, I kept pedaling like an idiot. I was caught with three laps to go.
Why were we caught? Is it because we’re slow? Yeah, it’s probably that.
It also may have had something to do with guys like this chasing with all their might. As you can see, the Disgruntled Naked Mole Rat is unenthused, as he tends to be when people race without thinking clearly. Even Socrites looks down upon the chasers and shakes his head derisively.
Photographs adapted from Jessica Layman’s collection
Take note of the fact that not one team seen vigorously chasing in the images above found it’s way into the top five at the finish, which begs the question: what was the point of all that?
Perhaps they were all working for Yahoo?, McGuire or that random, crazy-fast Midwestern guy, in which case their actions make total sense. Otherwise, can you guys please try and make it into the breakaway next time so you don’t feel obligated to pointlessly chase everything down? (Note: if this sounds familiar, it’s because the great Paul Mach wrongly accused me of chasing all of his uphill attacks last week. If he can complain, I can complain.)
Having said that, I’m a reasonable guy with an open mind. If I’ve totally misunderstood your team’s grand strategy, I’d love to hear from you so that I might better understand bike racing at the P/1/2 level. Enlighten me.
I suppose I should be done complaining; after all, things aren’t so bad. My team did manage to pull off a 1 – 2 – 3 finish this weekend in Santa Rosa, which I’ll discuss tomorrow. For now, I’m going to cut-and-paste some more ugly animal heads onto peoples’ podium photos, since that’s considerably less strange than anything else I can think of to occupy my time.