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By Patrick O’Grady
One fire burns out another’s burning,
One pain is lessen’d by another’s anguish.- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
I don’t often ride with other cyclists. I ride with racers.
The distinction is subtle, finer than a legal hair being split by aUSA Cycling attorney. Yet the yawning gulf that separates these subsetsof the group, “people who ride bicycles,” is as wide as, say, Monica Lewinsky’sbutt in a Naugahyde jumpsuit with a D.C. phone book in each hip pocketafter six months on a diet of Twinkies, Schlitz Malt Liquor tallboys, andjumbo buckets of the Colonel’s finest.To begin with, racers never simply “ride.” They “train.” As in “choo-choo.”A timetable is arranged, a departure point selected, a few warning hootssounded – “Alll aboooooooard!” – and an engine and caboose designated.Most racers settle in somewhere between these two points on the LacticAcid Express. But there’s always one poor sap who, more Hamtrak than Amtrak,finds himself a lone Costello watching a chain gang of Abbotts highballit over the horizon.That would be me.Pardon Me, Boy – Is This The Lactic-Acid Choo-Choo?
Getting spit out in the early seconds of a three-hour training ridewould be humiliating enough. But it’s rarely that simple. You could turnaround then, pedal back to your truck, or to the coffee shop, filled withsmiling, happy people who have lives, friends, hair on their legs.No, this is more along the lines of your cheery childhood encounterswith that 18-year-old sixth-grader, the kid with the pointy head and themisspelled tattoos, who thought you were a dork because you had a dad insteadof a parole officer. He’d get you down on the ground, then kneel on yourskinny arms while drooling a string of slobber toward your franticallywagging face – then suck it back in! – before letting it descend againlike a slimy spider on a gooey strand of web.He grew up to be a bicycle racer, a Category 2 roadie; not good enoughto sign with Saturn, but plenty good enough to make you shake your head.And for guys like him, it’s not the spitting out that bulges his bibs —it’s keeping you in suspense as to when it’s coming.We Will Ride on a Road of Bones
And it’s coming. Again, and again, and again. Sure, most racers wouldn’thurt a fly – because they’ve tried that, and they know that they can onlypull a fly’s wings off once. Clipping your wings they can do over and over,like Galileo chucking stuff off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just to seewhat happens.Italians. Fascists. Germans, basically, but with better wine, prettierwomen and a climate. First they’re pretending to study gravity (“Whaddayasay we climb a few hills?”). Next, it’s, “Ve vill now be riding a littletempo.” Before you know it, they’re invading Poland.Were they abused as children? Did portly Uncle Buster pinch their pinklittle cheeks once too often, and now they’ve got it in for anyone whostretches his Lycra in all the wrong places?Is it a matter of gravity? Mierda rolls downhill, and nobodywants to get caught holding the mortgage on that valley acreage. Especiallyracers, who resent cycling’s position at the tail end of our vehicularfood chain, dominated by White Freightliners terrorizing GMC Yukons scaringMercury Villagers frightening Lincoln Town Cars bullying Dodge Stratusestormenting Plymouth Neons startling Harleys menacing Hondas.Devil Take the Hindmost
These lords of the mechanized jungle will occasionally ignore a lonecyclist on the veldt. However, there’s something about the sight of anentire herd of racers that triggers their bloodlust. Racers know this frombitter experience with Mack mirrors, sewer grates and personal-injury attorneys.Maybe that’s why they’re always trying to croak the weakest rider inthe bunch. Simple Darwinism. Keep a tight, fast formation and that gibberingpsycho in the vomit-yellow minivan won’t be able to pick anyone off. Ifthings get ugly, we’ll throw him the fat dude wobbling around at the backof the back.The trick is to not be him. But that takes time and lots of hard work.There must be an easier way.Say, maybe Monica would like to go for a ride. I could use the company.She could use the exercise. And judging by the chorus of hungry honks justbehind me, someone could use the meat.
Inspired by Le Tour, Patrick O’Grady has decided to shut up forone afternoon and save his foul breath for a group training ride. Thisrecycled rant was first published in 1999 by Bicycle Retailer &Industry News. You want to see something really funny, watch the fat,hairy-legged sonofabitch flapping raggedly around behind a phalanx of fitroadies like one of the Chinese-made American flags currently adorningmany a superpatriot’s Japanese SUV.