Thursday, October 20, 2005

Getting an ass-whuppin' in a bike race

When I am riding or training along the Tama river (Tamagawa) I occasionally get into informal races. They rarely last long---2 minutes or less on average. Usually some Japanese guy on halfway decent bike all fitted out in his bike clothes---often old U.S. Postal team colors---is waddling along at 16-17 mph. When I go to overtake him, he decides he wants to race and will get up and go into an all out sprint reaching speeds of 17.3 mph. Beautiful sprints in slow motion without actually appying force to the bike, just body weight. I always hate this because I will have to waste energy to squash the sprint, or he will stay in front for 25-30 more seconds until he figures I ain't gonna just give up and wimp away because he accelerated. Often these guys just want to get in front with no clue of how they will hold it and seem shocked that being in front means ya gotta work like hell to stay there.

Well, today before my cold started hitting bad, I was doing a light zone 3 ride. I was averaging about 18-19 mph into a slight headwind, nothing spectacular. I was passing all the pretty tricked-out guys in their U.S. Postal or whatever clothes (riding at 15 mph) when I noticed a guy on my ass.

I hate that too, because most Japanese guys will ride your wheel to take advantage of the draft, but never take a turn pulling. He passed me a little while later so I figured I'd get on his wheel and ride for a while then stomp his twiggy ass. Well, this guy kept going, he wasn't weakening. I was waiting for the tell-tale Japanese sign of defeat---pretending to be thirsty and grabbing the water bottle while slowing. (This means, "Yea, buddy, I would have kicked your ass, but I gotta take a drink." Right.)

He never went for his bottle. In fact, after we turned a switchback--and he stayed on the correct side of the road---I realized he was not a Japanese, but a westerner. The shaved legs of a cyclist should have given that away sooner. Then, after we went up a small hill (while he remained seated---Japanese often have to stand to go over an anthill), he really started going. I was on him at 23-25 mph for maybe a kilometer or more with my heartrate monitor hitting 178bpm (just below my apx maximum of 181), but I let myself slip off his wheel and he accelerated slightly again. I could not catch him. I was dropped. My ass was kicked.

Actually, I enjoy losing more than winning, because of maybe 100 or more informal races I get in each year, I win 98 without trying. I can even take on and beat pacelines here. That's insane. Nobody in his right mind would take on a paceline of decent cyclists anywhere else as beating them would be impossible, a fool's errand. Actually, most of the pacelines aren't really pacelines. The riders don't seem to understand the purpose of them. One guy gets in front and stays in front---at 17mph. The guys who beat me are always older Japanese guys in their 40s and 50s. Young guys are no threat.

But this guy today really did a number on me. It has been a long time since I was dropped so badly. I have been getting so overconfident here---I remembered how hard it was in the States to race and beat younger or older guys. It's damned tough if you have a group of good cyclists racing. Very, very tough to win.

Well, I was brought back to reality today. I only wish I could have more chances to ride with, and compete against, decent, serious cyclists---Japanese or not. Then I can really measure how I am doing without being misled because I beat a bunch of tatemae pretenders all the time.

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