Report Title: Non-racers
"Meyrueis, Lozeref June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me." The Rider, p. 1.
Event: Oakland GP
Location: Oakland, California
Date: Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
AV Team: Thuy Nguyen, Jason Schmidt
Result: ? of 32 (At end of the report)
Course/Conditions: 8 turn crit with small climb. Good weather, minimal wind.
And so the 2013 racing season ends, likely in close to the best shape I've been since college, and lightest weight since high school - I return at least for a few months to non-racer status. Actually it ended several weeks ago after a great and fun final AVDT scheduled race weekend in Folsom, or so I thought. Rather than bore you with a lot of details on the Oakland GP, I’ll bore you with details on why I came back out to race Oakland and a few reflections on the season and cycling in general. Enjoy!
Time to pop the Champagne: When I arrived home with my son on Sunday afternoon after Folsom 2 days of racing, I arrived to find a bottle of Champagne, compliments of my wife to celebrate the end to another fantastic season with AVDT. I was celebrating the team success of the season, my wife likely celebrating the fact that it was over. Either way, much to remember and celebrate from a truly rewarding year of racing - and with a 5 year old and new baby last fall, a bit of shock still that we were able to make it all work and have a bit of success. Additionally, with a few points at Folsom I had reached 30 points and was now eligible for a cat 2 upgrade.
Put the Champagne back on ice!: After some back and forth with AVDT captains and DS’s I decided now was the time to upgrade prior to next season. I never would have planned to upgrade with only 30 points, but figured with several missed opportunities/crashes at San Rafael/Vacaville, I had done what I wanted in Cat 3. Let’s do it. Submitted upgrade according to USAC site – and within 1 day, upgrade ticket closed – denied, with note – ‘You need to explain how you achieved 30 points’. Ok, a bit abrasive – but hey I like directness. So I resubmitted, outlining the points/races, etc. The next day, an e-mail with very direct note challenging the field size in 2 of my races. I took a look at, and sent back my explanation on the field sizes and honestly outlined my interpretation - 1 case pretty straight forward that my #’s were correct, 2nd case a bit more my interpretation of a cat 3 masters race where they split ages after race, and I only used raw results across line (which isn’t specifically addressed in upgrade rules). I expected I’d get a note back saying, yes interpreted right or perhaps, no, that’s not how it works – you’re still a point short. Instead after a couple days I receive again, upgrade ticked closed – denied, with note beginning ‘Chris, a few things:’ then proceeds to curtly state the 2 examples again, with no explanation on why my interpretation is wrong. And finishes with ‘So, you are short on points.’.
So that settles it, ultimately it seems I’m short 2 points. Now if he had said – 'Chris, I see how you calculated – that’s not how we do it, you’ve had a great season, go get a couple more points and let’s get this settled – good luck.' I would have left the experience motivated, and thinking, wow – that's the way I want it – in Northern CA, they take this seriously and there’s no slipping in. Instead, my first response was – wow, I can’t believe someone sent a condescending note like this to another racer. Perhaps this is the post-Lance era we are now in, where people assume you are a jackass and trying to cheat unless you have proven otherwise, but my unfortunate first response was truly screw this, I’ve been tired of looking at these shrinking bird arms of mine – I will follow-up with those guys and tell them I’m in for the winter and spring basketball league. After calming down, independent of this guy, I'm not going to be swayed in my racing enthusiasm by one person or event – but it did get me thinking about a couple separate events I’ve witnessed over the past year. The first was a debate that my brother has been telling me is raging in the Midwest on the steadily declining field sizes and what it means for our sport. At one point – in the Chicago area they were passing around a viral video from this year’s NorCal Suison Harbor – where a few cat 1’s were going off, nearly breaking into a fight after the race – which lead to a conclusion there, the reason field sizes are declining is because we’re all as#holes. The 2nd event was a friend, former marathon runner, who was bored of running who I had convinced bicycle racing would be a good fit – he did one race (wrote a hilarious race report on the experience) and said he was done. While his first race experience was similar to most of ours – spectacular surge/blow-up and spit out the back – his real memory was the negative response/vibe he got from people when he said this was his first race – comments, ‘Oh great, stay away from this guy’, etc. Which is very different from running, where the amateurs line-up alongside the ‘pro’s’, and are encouraged by others.
So this entire episode has had me reflecting on what am I really doing to help improve the attitude people have towards this sport. So with a new need for 2 more points, and desire to draw others into the sport I moved on to Oakland GP.
3 things I would have missed had I not done Oakland GP:
1) Great time racing with Thuy and Jason on Sunday – these guys are two very strong 4’s (soon to be 3's), who I've really enjoyed meeting this season and have impressed me all season in training. These guys will both be stars on the 3’s team next year. Excellent race and time.
2) Saturday, thinking I would cruise out for a day before race leg opener - I got absolutely purified in a ridiculous downpour - a truly triumphant moment which reminded me how wonderful it really is to be able to ride a bike!
3) And most importantly – when I actually opened my eyes to who are hanging out at these races, you realize how many people are on bikes to watch the event in black biker shorts, but are not racers. I ended up in 3 different conversations with these cyclists about racing, and how much fun it is to be on a team. Next I talked to a family who was just hanging out, and convinced them to have their kid jump in the kid’s race - beaming faces for all. The genuine interest was palpable, and made me a bit ashamed for not noticing this before. There really are so many people like that around at these races – who happen to be riding in the area, and swing in for a race or 2. Additionally, a long conversation with one strong cat 3, who I think would be perfect fit for our AVDT 3’s team in the future (he followed up with e-mail by Sunday evening). So overall great race, and importantly eye opening final race experience for me – which I’m sure many of you are better with, but something I need to constantly remind myself and consider. Most won't give racing a 1st chance, or 2nd one if their first experience is mixed.
2013 Thank You’s:
This is my 2nd year with AVDT, and words can’t express the experience, learnings, development as a racer and absolute enjoyment I’ve had racing with this team. Before I was involved with AVDT I had never been anywhere near a podium or earned any points, and 2 years, and 60+ points later I’m truly shocked. It is not lost on me that every single one of those successes came on the back and with the full commitment and sacrifice of my teammates, captains, and DSs of this program – and while I can share the winnings, and say thank you, words cannot ever express the gratitude that I have for all of your sacrifices and friendship - it's truly been a pleasure being your teammate!
I've said before, but will say again - the captains (Robert, James, Ivan) and directors (Shin, Mike) of this team rarely get the true credit they deserve. It always seems easy when you look at something that's successful without truly appreciating how many miles were covered to get to even the first day of training. These guys had a vision and executed it from start to finish - that truly is special, and it only continues to get better. I still remember that first team meeting in James living room and thinking, wow, these guys are serious - I hope I can meet the expectations.
Finally, to Alto Velo, the board, Suffolk, SunPower and all of our sponsors for taking a risk on this development program, and creating in my mind one of the most unique, creative and well-run cat 3-4 development programs in the country.
While I don’t know yet what the future will bring for my next steps in cycling and racing, I am truly grateful for having had this opportunity to have raced with AVDT!
Btw - the 4th thing I would have missed out on if I had missed Oakland GP - one last podium (3rd place) in 2013 and 2 more points!
And also, I've still never shaved my legs.
On to the off-season!
Alto Velo Development Team 2013
Tag(s): Race Reports