A different way to race 

from bikemonger on singletrack

The Bikemonger is a fine, upstanding member of his local community. He would never stoop so low as to cheat to win a race. Would he…?

Racing sucks. Or does it? Well it does, or rather it started to suck for me. You see I suddenly found myself in my 40s, youngsters were getting younger, and races were getting duller.

My racing history goes back to the ’80s when we didn’t even have to wear helmets and there was a genuine sense of excitement in the air, a feeling of revolution: mountain bikes were a new thing and we were all new to it, and it was all cool. Even the neon tights were cool. My racing then became mainly singlespeed championships, which has nothing to do with racing. Regular cross-country races started to feel stale with people taking it too seriously. Look… no one cares if you win. I don’t care, your mates really don’t, your colleagues think you are a dick, and your family… Well they just hate you for being an obsessive dick who makes them wait in cold wet fields when they could be at a shopping centre or playground. “Mummy, why is daddy such a berk?”… “He is a cross country racer, it’s just the way they are.”

Cheating is bad, kids!Cheating is bad, kids!

So I reinvented racing.

Jack who works at the Bikemongery challenged this old guy in the local cross-country race at Wareham Forest. He is less than half my age and thought he stood a chance. And to be fair, he did. Cider was consumed and a bet was on. LOSER GETS A MOHICAN! We were now “hair racing”. I now had a reason to race. I like big hair, and was not sure I would win this, so I pro’d the hell up. “Be more Lance… Be more Lance…”.

I started cheating.

Racing starts way before the start line, it’s all about preparation. So I started the psychological race a week before the event. I sat in the shop before we opened, and texted Jack and told him I had been pre-riding the course and was running late. “We will open half an hour late today.” I was actually having a coffee and working.

I asked Jack to keep an eye on the shop while I took Olive the dog down the beach. I packed a bag with swimming gear and would even wet my hair at the beach. This, combined with the outright lie that I had swum a couple of kilometres, created the illusion of cross training. I just strolled around, played with the dog, and even had a nap on the beach.

On his day off I hid all the energy products in the shop and explained that a 22-stone triathlete had come in and purchased our entire stock. Nothing left, what’s the chances of that?

The day before the race we cycled together, where I calmly nailed every climb. On the outside I wore a credible veneer of capability and athletic prowess. Inside I was a car crash in a sausage factory with bits of body blowing all over the shop.

As a kind and generous boss I thought it would be nice if we went to Tawnies Wine Bar for some pasta to carbo load. We had a great crab linguine and a couple of bottles of wine. I ordered a third bottle and then faked a phone call – “gotta run, family stuff at home” – leaving Jack with another whole bottle to himself. Mike the bar owner was briefed: “Keep it flowing and put it all on my tab.” When I woke in the morning I was delighted to see Jack had posted to Facebook at 4am!

Race day had arrived. A big crowd, and a makeshift bar… And Vince from Primera Sport was there with hair clippers. I wore a Drunk Cyclist jersey while we signed on, then strategically switched to a Bob Marley jersey as we rode out to the start. This allowed me to hide in the pack on the start line. I was crouched down and could see him searching for me. Unfortunately he found me, I then dropped my chain at the start… But the cycling part of this racing malarkey was on.

We went round and round, like you do at cross-country races, round and round. I crashed hard, but after three laps I could see him ahead of me. I was about to lap him. Victory was mine. My hair was mine, his hair would be heading to ground, and would then be scavenged by birds and turned into nests. I followed “nest head boy” for a while, taking it easy and resting up, waiting for him to make a mistake, and then blasted past in a dust storm of narcissistic glory.

Vince had the clippers ready but had only done one lap and spent the two hours drinking the free beer. Despite this, giggling away, Vince managed to apply some sort of Mohican. Jack was an excellent sport, had ridden real hard, and wore his new hair with pride. Good on him.

So, my advice is if you race, find a reason to race. Don’t race for an overall win, everyone will think you are a dick. Pick a few mates, agree on a forfeit, and race your tits off, so you won’t be the one cycling 20 miles home in a floral old lady frock and bonnet from the charity shop. And hey, let me ask you this… did you ever see Lance in an old lady frock and bonnet?

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