Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pro Cycling Team Type 1 Whups Pro Dumbass TriDiva

What self-respecting amateur athlete would turn down the opportunity to ride from Santa Barbara to Buellton with a pro cycling team? (Even if the bike is her "limiter".) When I was invited to do the approximately 45 mile ride with members from all of Team Type 1's cycling teams (Pro women, men, and RAAM members), I instantly blurted out "I'd love to!"Then I looked down and saw my quads clench themselves in rage at my decision. My brain and body don't always work in unison. Yesterday was no different.

My quads were pissed. So pissed that they cried when I walked up the stairs into the Fess Parker Doubletree in Santa Barbara to meet Team Type 1. They knew, in their little quad world, that the only way out of Santa Barbara would involve a climb. They voted to seceede.

Team Type 1 logo

My quads aren't always so ornery. However, they had just completed the hardest ride they had ever been on in their entire quarter-century of being on Sunday evening--less than 48 hours before the proposed Pro ride.

Adhering to the adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," I rode 120 miles on Sunday, with 8700 feet of climbing in the middle 60 miles, time-trialing the first 10-mile climb----all with an 11-21 cassette. (For those of you in SoCal, this ride started at the Hermosa Pier, then did double Latigo, Muholland to Piuma, descending Topanga and back.)

Because I was still alive and it was beautiful outside on Monday, I proceeded to run 1 hour 20 minutes on the beach before throwing the Silver Bullet into Sparky to drive to Santa Barbara. I figured the Bullet (my first and only road bike assembled with community part donations, and very nice Dura Ace shifters that I earned from getting doored in 2006) and I would have a nice recovery ride down the beach after the team took off on their ride.

In the nanosecond before I gushingly agreed to ride with the team, I did a quick inventory that looked something like this: I didn't bring my purple leg warmers, hot pink arm warmers, and neon blue jersey with flowers all over it. Check. I won't look like a massive nerd.

I did, however, bring the jersey in which I got doored, which has a permanent car mark on the shoulder, and cheap knicker shorts whose crotch pad sticks out like a duck bill. And triathlon shoes. And The Bullet, bless him, who is not the right size for me and would stick out like a shiny hunk of tin in a sea of carbon Orbeas. At least he doesn't have aerobars.

And there's nothing I can do now about my decision to only shave for races. Let's just say I haven't raced in a while...a long while...

Quads? SHUT UP!

After lunch and a peek at the sleek, sexy racing machines Team Type 1 will be racing on this year, everyone got ready to roll out.


What could've been a chance to prove triathletes don't suck that bad at road riding turned into a massive battle between my brain and my quads. Almost immediately after starting, we began the climb.

My quads instantly signaled that they had nothing left. We hadn't even gone anywhere.

The women's coach and mechanic were following in the team Audi. Not too far into the climb, I was dropped. He told me to hang onto the car by putting my hand on the pillar just behind the passenger window, then proceeded to drag me up to the team. I had a fleeting vision of the Bullet and me being sucked under the Audi's rear tire.

It was the third most awesome and terrifying thing I had ever done on a bike. (The other two came later in the same ride.) The coach told me the rule was his contract riders couldn't hang onto the car, but the car was free game for everyone else. Which was mostly me.

When the car stopped to help a few riders, I charged on, hoping to gain some ground. 5 minutes farther up, I made a sharp left to be faced with what looked like a wall. Holy crap! I thought, I am actually going to roll backwards.

My quads couldn't turn the 21. I briefly dreamed of a bike with a granny gear. Just as I topped that little chunk of road, up came the car to drag me along--this time with two other people being drug along as well. I thought it'd make a nice ad for Audi.

The team regrouped at the top of the climb and I struggled to find a gu in my pocket. It would be the only thing I'd eat on the entire 3 hour ride; I was too terrified to take my hand off of my handlebar long enough to fish around in my pocket for food.

Then began the descent down a very sketchy and very narrow--but very fun--road.

The bumps destroyed my front water bottle cage, which snapped, making my water bottle ride sideways and whack my right leg. Then a bump popped my back water bottle out, which I miraculously caught between my legs, then popped back in when I had the chance to take my hands off of the handlebars. Later on, I locked up my back wheel. It all wouldn't have bothered me--except I was being watched. By a pro women's coach. Thus, this descent became "Terrifying Part 2" of the ride. He must've been appalled at my New Year's resolution (TBA) which has something to do with becoming a high-class ultra cyclist.

Finally out of the mountains (mostly) we popped out on a larger, rolling road. I'd say it was beautiful, but I wasn't really looking around. I was focused on catching back up to the team and on the argument with quadleft and quadright.

My quads told me they'd never forgive me for what I'd done--and the ride wasn't over.

It was around 4pm and windy. The team slowed down to catch me, as the highway we were on was dangerous, said the team member from Santa Barbara, and cyclists never ride on it. It was important to have the team car behind to keep other cars away from the peloton.

I rode at the back of the pack, worried my un-pro handling skills might cause a team catastrophe. At least if I ate it, the team Audi would survive crashing into me.

Almost immediately, my quads officially resigned from being a part of my body, and I was dropped. I imagined the coach was horrified--that he was the Mama Bear and the peloton was his cub and I was a dumbass human standing between them. As the gap between me and the peloton grew, so did the gap between the Audi and the peloton, effectively making the team leave their coach's protective bubble.Angry Bear

The car drove up beside me. I wanted to ask for directions, to tell him that I'd eventually make it there, he could go on ahead. I ride alone all of the time (obviously). But before I could, the rear window opened, the mechanic stuck himself halfway out of the Audi, and stuck his hand on my ass. And away we went.

Going what I'll guestimate to be 25 or 30 down a highway being pushed by a car will teach you to hold your line in an instant. Either that, or give you a heart attack. I tried for option 1.

When I reached the peloton with 6 miles to go, one of the girls suggested I get right smack in the middle to maximize the draft. I let go of my fear of destroying the team before the season started and wedged myself in there for a lovely 6-mile conversation with Matt Brooks, a 22(?) year old member of TT1's RAAM team.

We pulled into Buellton at 4:45pm. I was stoked. I'm sure the women's coach was ready to pass out from the terror of watching someone who has mostly only ridden in a tri-ton wedge herself into his pro peloton. (In my favor, I have raced several crits, and a road race...all in 2006.)
  • tri-ton (n): (a) a group of cyclists consisting of you, yourself, and your thoughts or (b) a group of cyclists consisting of one or two other triathletes, often to whom you are related, and in which at least one person has aerobars.

I drove home bleary-eyed with visions of becoming a pro cyclist someday (I can hear people across the world laughing right now. My first try-out wasn't exactly stellar). And most of all, thankful for the opportunity. I don't think any other pro team would have been so nice to a hairy rider with no quads, pink socks, mountain bike gloves, tri shoes, and a duck bill crotch.

Next time I'm going to hang out with pro athletes, I'll take it easy the few days before...and switch out that 11-21 cassette!

Live and learn.

Keep an eye out for my article on diabetic endurance athletes in May's Competitor SoCal



  1. I think you might actually have discovered the best way to ride...some guy copping a feel at 30 mph.

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  3. Ha! The last time someone grabbed my rear while I was training, I had to look at photos in the Poughkeepsie police station!

  4. Wait a minute! You're saying I can grab a woman's butt as long as I am "helping"? I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to get away with that.

  5. Ha! JOE! I'm so happy to hear from you! There are a few rules here for legal ass grabbing: 1. you must be in a car shrink wrapped with a pro team logo. 2. at least one person must vouch that you are the team mechanic. 3. the car must be driven by the team coach. Otherwise, as what happened in college (I was the victim of a random ass grabbing while running), you will be hunted down by local police in an embarassingly (both for ass grabber and grabbee) lengthy pursuit

  6. Just read this now after seeing the link from the new post - I still haven't stopped laughing!! Not "at" you of course, you're just such a darned entertaining writer!! :)

  7. Thank you Joan! Your compliment totally made my day a few days ago--and I was having a mega craptacular day! :)