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Thoughts On: Bike Racing

(Written by: Mike Little)

I Miss Bike Racing

To start with, I wanted to write a blog about travelling to an empty Canadian Tire Motorsports park on Good Friday to have a nice, long, solitary cry… but i felt that it may not make for an interesting read.  So, I’ll keep that story for another day. While in the midst of these unprecedented (in our lifetimes) times - my mind frequently wanders to bike racing. The idea of bike racing.  I miss it, we all miss it.  Not the suffering, per se, but the entire experience.  It is just great. The suffering, too, I guess.

While most of us toil away on Zwift, smashing ourselves to the point that sleep becomes somewhat difficult even hours after our virtual Midweek crit...I think back to outside racing.  With real humans. Remember outside? Don’t get me wrong, I love Zwift as much as the next guy...but not as much as some guys who get really mad about it. It feels like real bike racing...the suffering, at least.  However, it’s just different. It’s a video game, and in order to be “good” you need to understand the game...something that takes some time. Like real bike racing, but...different.  

I am happy that virtual racing exists to somewhat quell that competitive urge that bubbles up a couple times a week.  But, there is something super special about riding your bicycle fast outside, with other people. Something about the all-consuming, exhausting act of pushing your limits and going way too fast while wearing a super nice Lazer helmet and what could pass for underwear in any other situation.  

Things I love about real bike racing:

  • It is an escape:
    • With so much going on in our lives, we turn to the bike as an escape.  All of the worry from our lives can blissfully disappear while we are chewing the stem and questioning all of our life decisions and trying not to get dropped in some Sunday afternoon race somewhere in Southern Ontario
    • Personally, my mind becomes so clear that I have managed to hit the same pothole many times in a circuit race even after making MULTIPLE mental notes to avoid said pothole.  Don’t hit the pothole...okay, don’t hit the pothole again.  
    • Being in the middle of a race is so all-consuming that my only worries are whether I will drop the next feed or if I try to take my jacket off while riding a little too fast to be safe.
  • The outfits:
    • Honestly, outside of cycling how often will you see groups of adults parading around in matching lycra outfits?  Not often. The funny thing is that we are PROUD of the outfits. That would be funny, though. Maybe if we just wore the kits without riding the bikes?  I’m rambling now...
    • Speaking of the outfits - our new kits for 2020 are arriving and they look pretty good.
  • Camaraderie:
    • A great thing about racing bikes: we all travel great lengths to the same venues each weekend to line up alongside one another and only talk to our teammates.  There is nothing like the feeling of driving six hours for a ninety minute crit and getting that knowing nod and a smile from the person you have been racing against for the last decade but haven’t actually had a conversation with.
    • Honestly though, the fact that I can tell a story involving a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, and an unemployed person and it’s not even the beginning of a bad joke is super cool.  We get to race with and against such a wide range of people we never would have encountered if not for the bike. In what other world would I feel comfortable screaming at a brain surgeon to hold their line?  
    • One of my favourite things is the post-Midweek gathering at an establishment near my house with some of my fellow racers.  We generally go for a post-ride beverage and share a pizza. Sometimes we stay a bit late. I’d name that establishment, but I’ll abstain for now.  I’ll just call it “The Bigger Benefit”.
  • The stories:
    • Some of the most interesting things I have experienced are because of bike racing.  For example, I learned (as a grown man) that it is completely reasonable to “answer the call of nature” while ripping along at 50 km/h.  That’s a real niche thing that cyclists can understand...however, runners do have us beaten for their weird bathroom stories but that doesn’t make my colleagues think I am any less-strange if I tell them how we pee during races.
    • There is so much “type 2” fun with bike racing.  Not fun to do, but fun to talk about. Last year’s Good Friday Road Race, for example, where a bunch of like-minded maniacs stood in raining, sub-zero weather for upwards of ten minutes before the race even started.  Just to make sure that my hands were even less-functional than they would have been I changed gloves pre-race because I DID NOT WANT TO OVERHEAT. Spoiler: I didn’t overheat...or finish the race.
    • There are times when I had to go to work wrapped up like a mummy by a combination of tegaderm and gauze.  The stories behind all the money I spent on medical supplies are ones I still tell, however.  

I love everything about riding, and racing.  The happy and the sad. We all work so hard to be able to put all of our self-worth into our last race result.  I personally cannot wait to beat myself up again over a split-second decision I made while my heart rate was over 190 bpm.  I’m sure we all feel the same.  

I look forward to seeing everybody, in real life, as soon as is reasonably possible.  Until then, I’ll happily take part in internet races and continue to do my part to help flatten the curve.

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(Written by: Adam Millar)

Things About Bike Racing That We’re Longing For:

  • Checking the pre-registration list to see who we’re up against
  • Inspecting the Strava files of last year’s race and realizing how hard the climb is gonna be
  • Figuring out who is driving to the race and how many bikes they can take
  • “I’m packing all the kit I own, just in case”
  • Friendly/nervous/awkward pre-race interaction with the guy who dropped you last race
  • Waiting in the bathroom line for the second time and probably not the last time
  • Weekly tire pressure discussion and debate and doubt and fear of regret
  • The pre-race corral where you’re definitely not nervous but rather excited and determined
  • Almost pissing your pants because of nerves in the pre-race corral
  • Not getting a call-up and thinking “I should’ve gotten a call-up, this is bullshit”
  • Confirming the length of neutral roll-out with the random guy beside you
  • Watching the first attack after neutral and thinking “lol good luck buddy”
  • Realizing that first attack has stuck and now a group of 5 has a minute gap already
  • Checking your bike computer to see how many k’s are left and thinking it’s a lot
  • Trying to generate small talk in the bunch and failing
  • Missing that bottle in the feedzone but not worrying about it
  • Checking your bike computer to see how many k’s are left and realizing it’s not very many
  • Wishing you didn’t miss that bottle in the feedzone last time by
  • Watching the hitters make their bridge move and deciding you’ll let them go and simply bridge to them after the climb
  • Riding alone in no-man’s land for 30 seconds before pulling chute and waiting to be caught by the grupetto
  • Crossing the finish line with that guy from the bathroom line and trying to figure out who won 
  • Finding out who won and not being surprised 
  • Reconvening with your teammates and taking turns describing the simple circumstances that prevented you from winning 
  • Taking off your sweaty kit and putting on casual clothes only for them to get sweaty too 
  • Packing the car with much less precision than you did that morning 
  • Stopping at an adequate fast food place to suppress disappointment with saturated fats
  • Getting dropped off at your house and spending the evening trying to figure out why you take part in this circus act called bike racing 
  • Checking the pre-registration for next week’s race to see who we’re up against

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(Written by: Jeremy Rae)

What's Really Important?

We’re headed into the end of April, and in normal circumstances we would have been a few races into our season. After many solo miles, and countless hours thinking about the good and bad of bike racing, it’s funny the stuff that you remember, or the things that end up being most notable. One of the best weekends of the year for me last year was GMSR, and while performing well as a team was definitely a highlight, it’s the small things that I remember most: 

  • Convincing the guys for months beforehand that the “hills aren’t too hard”, it's a “super fun weekend”, and that “Lawson’s Finest beers await”.
  • Pulling our bikes out of the car to go for a recon ride. Our AirBnb was halfway up App Gap. 10 seconds into our first ride of the trip we’re screaming down a mountain at 75km/h. Dylan comes ripping past me into the first turn, misjudges the corner and almost flips over the guardrail. He looks at me and says “DID YOU SEE THAT SAVE?”
  • Riding into town for some amazing pizza after stage 1. Did we eat too much? Nah, tomorrow’s a flat stage.
  • Waking up every day to the smell of breakfast that Dave Bibic’s cooked us.
  • Crossing the finish line on stage 2 and finding out Geoff’s sprinted for 2nd. Holy shit! 
  • Waking up from a nap after stage 2 and thinking “I need to clean my bike”. Going outside and seeing that Ian’s already cleaned and serviced all of them.
  • Mike telling the story too many times about being peed on during stage 2. Hey Mike you should probably stop telling that one.
  • Dylan asking infinite cycling-related questions to us at the AirBnb, like we’re experienced vets. Ha!
  • Waiting near the cars after stage 3. I had come 2nd on the stage and ridden back to the cars solo to wait for the guys. After some minutes, I see them coming up the mountain together, Adam with arms raised, Mike screaming at the top of his lungs because they’ve heard the news and were super excited for me.
  • Going for an ice bath in the creek after stage 3. Dylan submerging his entire body under the frigid water while Mike and Ian were still on the bank working up the courage to get in.
  • Buying tacos for the guys with my prize money. We had money leftover so we stopped and each got a tub of Ben & Jerry’s at the gas station. Life was good.
  • Taking the bikes out of the car before stage 4, a rainy crit in downtown Burlington. The guys definitely didn’t want to race. Had I said “let’s go home,” I don’t think anybody would have objected. Instead, I looked at them and said “let’s f***** do this” and there wasn’t a single moment of hesitation from them.
  • Sitting on a patio post crit in downtown Burlington. For the first time that day, the sun had come out. We drank beers and considered never going home.


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