Thursday, 12 December 2013

Total Rush - Total Dick

You can tell how much time and enthusiasm I have for Blogging here by the frequency of my posts.  It's rare that anything gets me stirred up enough to write more than 140 characters right now.

However, in the case of Total Rush I will make an exception.

The latest news from the Total Rush - Specialized crew is the fact that they thought it was pretty cool to run a promotional evening with topless models painted in their trademark pink and invite guests to have their photo taken alongside.  They then published pictures on facebook. Dumb move guys.

The response of the owner was to give a half-arsed apology and then recant it in a distribution email leaked to a journalist by someone with more brains.

I'm not going to link to pictures, stories or fascinating twitter streams.  You can google them if you wish.

What I want to do is to examine myself here.  Why am I so annoyed by this?  Is it more than this one incident.  Why is this so much worse than other similar things?  Why do I want to see Total Rush and everything it stands for gone from cycling?

Why am I so annoyed?
I am annoyed for many reasons but I'll stick to the main ones.  Firstly, I am annoyed because by promoting cycling in this way it portrays male cyclists as super masculine, misogynist idiots.  Self-absorbed and with little or no regard or respect for others, especially women.  Certainly this is an ethos keenly taken up by some male cyclists and a few women, but it has nothing to do with what cycling is for me or most people I know.  Secondly, it clearly casts women into the role of subordinate, objectified vessels.  Available for the use and enjoyment of men.  This is made even worse by the owners claim to be such a strong supporter of women's cycling.  That he is unable to see the conflict between these two just underlines the level of ignorance at work here.

Is it more than this one incident?
Before continuing, I must confess that I am now going to blame Total Rush and their clientele for a host of wrongs that surely bleed over into other groups but when this stuff goes down, you can lay odds that the perpetrator is wearing one of their jerseys.  You know the guy you pass and wave to who sneers back? - Total Rush! You know the guy on Beach Rd on a $15k bike with disc wheels who sucks your wheel and won't take a turn for 15km before sprinting past 100m before his turn? Total Rush!  You know the dudes in C grade who can't take a corner without bringing down the bunch? Total Rush!  You know the guys at the back end of B grade doing industrial grade performance enhancing drugs? Total Rush!  You know the arsehats who are more interested in the foam on their lattes, their sock height and where the arms of their sunglasses are than whether they have any skill on their bikes? Total Rush!  You know the fuckwits who load their bikes into their sportscars/V8s/Audi KnobEnds and then drive like every other homicidal idiot on the road? Total Rush!  I could go on.  Suffice to say that the topless model performance is a symptom of the problem.  These are the people who have come to our sport to promote their own egos and their own small worlds.  They are learning nothing from cycling, they are the "new golfers".

Cycling is such a broad and eclectic activity.  Freeing, liberating, joyous and social.  It brings home to us just how vulnerable and weak we can be and yet what great things we can achieve with perseverance and dedication. Cycling is one of the things we can do with the ability to actually make a difference to the carnage we humans and our cities bring to the earth.  It is open and available to all.  It is egalitarian and a great leveler.  I don't think these people get any of this.  It's all just about them.

Why is this worse than other similar things?
This is a tricky one and you may think I have double standards.  This makes me really angry and yet there are quite similar things which I either don't get upset about or quite like.  I'll take an obvious example, of a well known Melburn website.  The owner/proprietor does and publishes things that aren't totally different to this.  Many of his photos, definitely objectify women and set out to do so. No doubt about that.  I would claim there is a world of difference.  His work is self aware and commenting on the eye of the artist much more than the women portrayed.  It always portrays the woman as powerful and in control.  It encourages the viewer to consider the way they are viewing the work.  These are not some chicks with bikes.

He is a human first, a cyclist second and competitor third.  A superb rider, he will happily chat with D graders between races at the track.  On the road, he'll say hello the the kids on BMXs or the old asian guy on a K-Mart mountain bike.

Why do I want these guys gone?
These are the guys who get us a bad name.  The ones running red lights, the ones swearing at drivers and pedestrians, the ones with no skills but tons of testosterone.  The problem is that the world of mass media sees these guys as representative of everyone who rides a bike.  I want them gone, and now.

The good news is that we won't have long to wait. It should only take long enough for European Handball or Segways to become the "new cycling" so the vast majority of us can take a shower and move on....

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Blue Commuter

Yesterday was shit.  Headached and burned by software consultants I just wanted to get home and crawl into my cave.  Unfortunately this wasn't so simple.  I rode my bike the 60Ks to work in the morning in a regular training smashfest and needed to ride myself home again. With tired legs, a tricky headwind and the wrong gear this didn't entice me at all.

Grace with her 81" fixed gear seemed like entirely the wrong thing to be riding.

With my head in this space, I stepped out under a summer sky so blue I thought I might cut myself on it. Despite all the reasons to hate this ride, I felt my mood lift. Cheltenham Road's broken and glass strewn, on and off bike lane, passed under my wheels.  Hell's Highway stretch of the Princes through Hallam slid by without a single homicidal ute driver. Not a single door opened into my path on the climb of High Street, Berwick.  Even my most reliable magpie neglected to swoop me outside Bunnings in Pakenham.

As the kilometers wafted over me, my legs turned circles without effort, stress or urgency.  This is what riding a bike should be.  No intervals, no timing marks, no strava segments, no efforts.  The sound of the wind in the grass became more important than the fact that it was into my face. The colours, sounds and smells of the sky and earth invited me to join them in being a part of their dance.

Try getting that driving your drive home.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Last Unicorn at the Omnium

This last weekend I competed in the Victorian Men's Omnium Championship at the DISC velodrome. The Omnium is supposed to be a test of the best all around racer with five events ranging from a flying 200m flat out sprint to an individual pursuit.

The events scheduled for my masters athlete age group were:
  • 500m time trial
  • flying 200m
  • 5km scratch race
  • 2km individual pursuit
  • 5km points race
The final points race was run as a second scratch race due to the low number of participants in our age group.

I'll cut to the chase, I finished last. Last in my age group, last in every event. I feel like I ought to feel bad about this but the truth is that I don't. I enjoyed the day immensely. I learned a lot about racing at championships and I had the help,advice, friendship and support of a whole lot of great people.

My 500m time trial was ok but slower than everyone else. Starts were hand-held as there were not enough officials to operate the start gates. Starting without a gate was a bit of a new experience but not too hard to get my head around. The trick was to not push backward at all as is possible with a gate. I felt strong and took a fairly good line but finished with that feeling that I would go faster if I just had another crack at it. Time 41.350 seconds.

Flying 200m - Photo Leanne Cole

The Flying 200m is all over way too quickly. Nice entry, nice line, not enough speed. Again, I have to learn to do my best effort at the first attempt. Time 13.590 seconds.

Scratch race 20 laps, finished last. I rode as near to a perfect race as I could. I grabbed a good wheel at the start and clung to it for all I was worth. I had a rider spend around 5 laps trying his best to take that wheel from me but I withstood the pressure. I did NO work. This is a big deal for me because I very often end up bridging gaps or chasing, only to have nothing left when things get serious. So it was that I ended up near the front with a lap to go and no serious damage. I just wasn't fast enough, getting passed on the run to the line.

2km Individual Pursuit. This was the reason I was here. I really wanted a good crack at the pursuit before the Victorian titles in late February and this was the chance. Before the day I had thought that a 2:44 time would be something to aim for. I broke the start, badly, was recalled and had to start again. The second time I got away cleanly but really overcooked my second lap. By lap four I was already suffering badly and slowing down. At lap seven the wheels really fell off and I dropped into the 21 second area. In the end I finished with 2:44.842. At the upper end of what I thought was a good target but a big personal best and a time I can clearly improve on with a well paced ride. Position - last.

2km Individual Pursuit - Photo Leanne Cole

The final scratch race was pretty much a repeat of the first but I didn't have quite such a good wheel to follow. Yet again when the sprint was on, I had nothing to give. Position last.

So, with a perfect score as far as my position in the racing went, what was I doing here? Why bother? It occurred to me more than once during the day that I could expend considerably less energy and emotion for the same results.

The answer lay inside me and inside those around me. I did it because I love it. The test of pushing myself to the limit, finding what I'm capable of draws me in. More than this, being surrounded by others doing the same thing builds a bond that's more than competitiveness. It's a fellowship of explorers, people who understand exactly what territory I'm exploring. Finally, I had a small group of friends, coaches, coach's coaches, and interested parties who gave me encouragement, advice and helped me crack a smile when my legs felt like overcooked spaghetti.

All of this melted into a lovely, and magical day of riding where I set a PB and learned fron the many new experiences. Thanks to everyone who supported me, encouraged me, yelled at me and whupped my arse. I'll be back again and I won't come last.


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Deciding What Not To Do

In my last post, I promised to talk about choices. Recently someone suggested I talk about whether or not I'm doing the ACE this year. For those of you uninitiated into the wonderful world of Audax, the ACE is the Alpine Classic Extreme. The Alpine Classic on steroids.

The simple answer is no. The complicated answer is that I'm not doing it because it will interfere with my track racing. Am I insane???? I'm giving up doing something that I'm fairly good at (riding up big hills for a long time) in order to do something that I frankly stink at. The reasoning of course is complicated. I've been riding Audax for more than 30 years, whereas my track racing career really isn't even a year old, so how good should I really expect to be at it? Secondly, if I'm going to go off riding 1200 kilometres, how many fast twitch muscle fibres can I honestly expect my legs to recruit? Thirdly, comes my experience of Perth-Albany-Perth last year. It was a truly wonderful ride with great people and fabulous scenery. It just wasn't a challenge. I just went and did it. My bum hurt, my legs hurt, I was tired and I kept on pedalling. Maybe the hunger will come back soon. Lastly, I really love racing fast on the track.

If I'm ever going to give it a real crack, I'd better concentrate, hard.

So, it's no ACE for me, no ACC, not even hill repeats on the one in twenty. Just working hard at going fast, racing as much as I can manage and trying hard to only make the same mistakes around 43 times. I'm finding it a steep learning curve but so much fun. Yes, I'll miss all the fun and hubub in and around Bright, but most of all I'll miss that burn of pushing the last big climb out to the best I can do. So have fun with all that pain guys, I'll be thinking of you enviously. Maybe I'll be back next year.

In the pursuit of all of this I think that I recently became one of the first Australians to complete a 1200km brevet and compete in a flying 200m in a state championship within 3 months. More on that another day.


Friday, 31 December 2010

End As You Intend To Start

It's been a bloody long time since I've put anything up on this poor old blog. It's not that there's nothing to talk about. In fact there's so much that I haven't had time to stop ad ruminate. Since I blogged last, I've:

  • Run the Mallee Routes rides from Hopetoun again for a great bunch of riders
  • Raced on the track most Thursday nights
  • Trained at the track most Saturdays, and Tuesdays with Daryl's House of Pain Coaching School
  • Trained in the Cage of the cruel-wizard, Paul, my strength and conditioning coach
  • Ridden the 1200km Perth-Albany-Perth on almost no endurance training (in fact, almost zero road k's)
  • Ridden in my first open track racing meeting
  • Managed to have my first major tantrum about racing badly at my first open meet
  • Most recently competed in the Victorian Track Racing Christmas Carnival meetings at Horsham and Bendigo.

Why haven't I blogged about any of this rich seam of cycling ore? Too busy, too brain dead, too tired, too lazy. I mean to change all that in the new year so I thought it best to start today by writing about what I'm up to.

On Monday and Tuesday this week I traveled to Horsham and Bendigo to race in the Christmas Carnival meetings there. It was a big step for me because these tracks are very different to the lovely safe boards of DISC. The shapes and surfaces and wind of these outdoor velodromes tends to lead to very interesting racing. There is definitely a whole new degree of skill required to ride these tracks with their difficult bends and different banking. Riding DISC can be like being on a rail but out here, you have to know and understand the track and ride it all the way. A couple of times I almost managed this....

Horsham was somewhat marred by the strong winds and my inexperience with the odd track shape, but Bendigo was a real blast. I spent the afternoon with Damian relaxing in the shade while watching some great racing, interspersed with bouts of all out effort on the track. I can't say I won anything on the day but I raced well and felt like I'd won a million bucks. The Bendigo track was so fast and smooth, it felt like we were flying at times. The odd shape only adds to the racing by making it easier to open up or exploit a gap here and there. I seriously encourage anyone who can push a bike around to give these meetings a go at least once. You'll be back for sure. Right now I'm really looking forward to the track carnival at Wangaratta in January.

The other big ride I've done that can't be allowed to go by without further mention is Perth-Albany-Perth. This was a huge undertaking for the organisers and riders. I was utterly underdone for such a demanding ride but to my delight I found every minute of the ride wonderful. I didn't stress about the multiple flats and mechanical issues I encountered despite preparing my bike very well. I didn't suffer from bum abrasion or any serious pain. I just rode it and enjoyed the scenery. It was great to catch up with Michael Bentley again too, just unfortunate that the reason we ended up riding together was Kerri-Ann's crash on day one. I will write much more about this soon. I think there's a couple of good stories that need to come out.

I've had a bunch of fun this year meeting new friends and re-making old ones. The big disappointment has been the small group of people I thought were true friends who've been much more into judgement than friendship. I wish they'd at least talk to me about their problems.

Huge thankyous are in order for Daryl, Paul, Ray, Damian, Pepe, Michael, Michael, Michael, Leon, Thomas, Sophie, John, DJ, Jim, Surly, Scott, Rod and all the others who've renewed my faith in friendship. Especially I have to mention the support and love with which Lawrence has blown a constant breeze over the embers of my resolve.

Cycling wise, 2010 has been a real year of learning and working hard without much result. I'm realising that this is because I'm trying to do everything at once. The track racing isn't helping my Audax riding and the big distances sure as hell kill any speed I might have in my legs. So 2011 will be the year of decisions and choices. I'll share these with you if you're interested.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Mallee Rooted

There are a few things you really don't want to hear the night before you are planning to start a 600km, solo, unsupported ride in an isolated region. "Once in fifteen year weather event" ranks well up on this list.

So it was that I started out to do a reconnaissance ride for the Mallee Routes 600. I really needed to do this ride. Firstly, I needed it to check out the new course. Secondly, I really needed the distance to make sure my PBP qualifying is in order. My evil plan was to start very early on Saturday morning, knock out the ride in one hit of around 24 hours and then have a sleep before driving home on Sunday. Ha!

Going to sleep a Les's around 9pm on Friday night, the storm was raging so when I wheeled away at 2am Saturday, I was quite pleased to find it raining steadily, but not ridiculously and a moderate tail wind. It was also a ridiculously warm 15˚C. It took about 5km to realise I was over-dressed and to stop to remove some gear. I made great time all the way to Warracknabeal where I turned back into the wind.

So it was that at 3:30am the heavens decided it was time to open and the wind did it's best to blow me to Portland. The next 8 hours was a 140km slog directly into the wind with thunder, lightning and torrential rain. I couldn't see with my glasses on and I was blinded by the driving rain with them off. At one point I looked at my heart-rate monitor to see I was running in the high 160 bpm's, I was in my lowest gear, on the flat and doing 14kph. An empty biddon blew out of the cage and disappeared into the rain in a moment. I never thought of chasing it as the roadsides were under water. I have often carried empty bottles in the cages on my car at 100kph and never lost one. A look at the BOM observations for the area shows consistent wind speeds in the 60's and 70kph range with stronger gusts during this time. This section of the ride effectively trashed my times and my legs. Grinding into that wind shredded my muscle and will. From here on it was survival.

Twenty K north of SeaLake I finally got to turn off the wind for the westerly section to Patchewollock. Alas the cross wind proved nearly as hard to ride in as the headwind. Just staying on the road was a chore and while progress was better I failed to pick up much time. During this 50k huge black flat bottomed storm clouds raced in from the northwest with ferocious, gusting, swirling winds dumping buckets of freezing rain and hail. The right side of my face was blasted, hot and tingling. I realised I'd been riding for who knows how long with my right eye closed and was only able to open it with difficulty.

Patchewollock and a beer in the dilapidated pub, where I was the first and only patron of the day, revived my spirits before I set the spinnaker for Hopetoun. Whoosh... I was chased for nearly 20k by one of those black storms before it caught me. Ouch. I decided to stop and let it get ahead of me. It took a mere two minutes to pass. Good choice. Back in Hopetoun Les and Joan fed me up on yummy soup and risotto before I headed back out for the loop to Wyperfeld National Park.

This was the easiest section of the ride to date with much more roadside protection from the now lessening but still strong winds. The sections into the wind were also short which made for less of a slog. The rain squalls continued to roll through but I was getting used to them by now. This contained the weirdest section of the ride where I didn't see a car, a road sign, a kilometre post or any other sign of life through a black, rainy, swirly winded night for 50km. There weren't even stars to figure out which way I was riding. And no mobile coverage. A number of times I had to reassure myself that I really was on the right road, heading in the right direction and would eventually get back to Hopetoun.

When I did and decided I would need some sleep to cover the next 200km so I put my head down for two and a half hours before heading out again. Another 100km in the dark, into the head wind to Jeparit was punctuated with an emergency 15 minute sleep. The only place I could find was in the lee of a CFA shed lying on top of a sheet of corrugated iron with another pulled over me as a blanket.

At Jeparit, just as the sun was rising into a clear blue sky, the wind died right back. Yay! Within 20 minutes it was back and worse, it had swung back toward the north and was yet again a headwind on my way around Hindmarsh lake but by then the punishment was almost over.

I finally limped into Hopetoun some 32 hours after I started, what an epic... I'll write more on this soon, once my brain starts working again.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

100% Dance Hit Action!

When it's 6am on a Tuesday, 2°C outside, my legs and back are still twitching from last night's squat session; there's only one thing for it. To go like hell.

This morning's training session was a rip-snorter. Coach Daryl kept us going so we didn't get cold. Not much danger of that. The 50 lap warmup was even jiggier than usual courtesy of Ray "The Professor" and Miss Steph "accidentally" running a 94inch gear from the get-go. Warmup comfort factor was further diminished by a dodgy saddle setup. CD has managed to ratchet my saddle up to the point where it's more than 40mm higher than I ride on my road bike. Combined with a brutally up-hill saddle angle this made for some interesting peddling.

A couple of entries, quick saddle adjustment, whack on a big gear and we're into it.

My heart-rate regularly dipping into the 170's I don't dare venture too far from the puke bin. Some days my legs do just as I ask, and this was one of them. Smash into those pedals and the bike just goes forward. No squares here, just flying arcs of kickarse fun.

Jumping off the top of the track already in the high forties, I swoop at the two hundred metre line like a wedgie on a rabbit kitten. I leave nothing but a stray puff of grey fur. Hooking into a team sprint I realise I'm going 50kph and no more than a hand's width off the tyre in front of me.

It's mornings like this I know just why I love being on a bike so much. For these two hours I become something other than a ganglanky biped. I'm spinning circles, in circles in glorious circles. Now I just need to find somewhere to lay-down for a while to stop twitching.