Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hey Folks, Let's Cool It a Bit

Is it just me, or has there been a recent surge in aggression in the local and regional bike-racing scene??

Not just slice-'n-dice riding; I'm talking about real fighting, or close to it.

Must be the summer heat.

Let's see... last week a couple of on-again-off-again hot-heads almost came to blows before the start of the Thursday 8:00 roco ride. WTF? It's a beautiful morning in Santa Barbara... you're about to go ride a bicycle while the rest of society marches off to work... and you want to fight? I don't get it.

Then I get word of a skirmish during local Sunday Worlds a few weeks back. Punches were thrown, bikes got tossed, and F-bombs were dropped all over Goob canyon. What gives? Was the issue really that important? Did people (or person) crack when heart-rates went over 200 or they got dropped? BFD!

Tempers flared even yesterday on our weekly Tuesday lunchtime love-fest. Seems some folks don't like the sorta unstructured nature of the thing. Something about accelerations and pulling through ...or not pulling through. I dunno, it seems to me everyone can get what they want out of the ride without imposing rules. I like riding it as if we were a break-away, which means if the speed drops and I feel good, I'm gonna pull through faster. Not attacking, just a reasonable acceleration. Maybe it's time to try something else on Tuesdays anyway...

This phenomena isn't just local either. Nor is it limited to the male side of the sport. Check out this thread on the SoCalCycling forum:

San Pedro Skirmish

Woaah! I had the apparently-false impression that women racers were a lot less confrontational and generally more supportive of each other (at least face-to-face). Actually, I still think that's true. Perhaps last weekend was the result of some long simmering problem between just a few ladies. Seems like an anomaly, not the norm.

Maybe not so rare on the men's side however--another thread from that forum, which started off with a video from former-SB-boy Coulter Cederloff:

Ontario video

Dang! What's a light-weight like me to do if your typical LA crit involves a lot of body slamming?? Make's me glad I never see the front anyway! (Hmmmm... my heart-rate just elevated a few beats thinking about racing for that final turn at Manhattan Beach this upcoming weekend... anyone want to try to get away with me?)

And then a few weeks back I ran across this thread on Rahsaan Bahati's blog. Again, I won't even pretend to understand what goes on at the front when these guys are racing for the win. But I have been head-butted out of line at the end of Masters races a few times, and it sucks. Move in on me if you need to--maybe I'll lean back on you, maybe I won't--but no hitting, k? Back to Bahati... it appears from the comments to his post that all has been forgiven and folks are back to respecting one another. Good outcome. In any case, I really like the All-Star Fishes and how they race together.

And don't go thinking this is just a SoCal thingie either. Up north is not all hugs and kisses, at least according to some of the blog smack. In the highly competitive geezer races, it seems Safeway and AMD/Disco have had some altercations this year. Maybe there's a long history going back to when these guys were battling in the p/1/2 races, and some of it bubbles up from time-to-time. I don't know, so I really shouldn't talk/write about it. Ooops, too late. Fortunately, it seems like most of those folks have a pretty strong mutual respect for one another, even if tempers flare occasionally.

Oh yeah, if you haven't seen it already, check out the awesome video of the big-money p/1/2 race in Stockton last weekend. Pertinent here is the crash in the closing laps as emotions and heart-rates rise. Does it look to you like a blatant push started that carnage? BTW, I'm from Stockton, I can assure you that pavement was HOT!

So what are we to do? Well, for one thing, please remember that we all have a hell of a lot more in common with each other than with the population at large. As cyclists, we generally respect our bodies and our environment. We understand competition and hard physical effort. We shave our legs for crissakes! Let's reserve our anger for the morons in over-sized SUVs that get their kicks by buzzing us as we ride. Scorn the idiots who throw their trash by the side of the road, break bottles in the streets, and flick cigarettes out their car windows. That's the kind of anti-cycling behavior that should incite your anger, not some fellow cyclist who doesn't ride his/her bike exactly the way you want.


Gary said...

Interesting. I have been riding here for several months now and haven't gotten the sense that there is alot of aggression out there in training rides and racing, but I have been warned a few times that there is a lot of that BS going on. Don't know, but you better not start bailing on the Tues ride! I have missed it two weeks in a row and can't wait to get back out there and accelerate through when it is my turn!GARY

Kimberly said...

very timely post... we all just have to remember, these are GROUP RIDES or BIKE RACES! This is not the end of the world, folks! There will be another race, another day to win a sprint, another day to show off, another day to flex the ego.

I'm really glad I haven't been to any races recently where tempers flared, and although I do go on the Tuesday/Thursday morning rides, and occasionally Sunday worlds, I seem to thankfully have missed the days when the bad stuff occurs. And just to be balanced here, I have felt quite welcomed on those rides, people are usually nice, and nothing other than an occasional bump or yell has ever happened to me, and I have a pretty thick skin these days.

Happy Riding!

TnA said...

In the immortal words of Sergeant Hulka in "Stripes":

"Lighten up, Francis!"

P.S. we don't ALL follow that silly practice of shaving legs.

Anonymous said...

Is it merely coincidence that these aggro tactics seem to happen in crits? Is there something endemic in running 100 guys around a flat 0.8 mile office park block that brings out the worst in humanity? My guess: Yes!


Marco Fanelli said...

d'Velo & Kimberly- In general you are absolutely correct that it's pretty mellow around SB, which is why just a few incidents stand out.

TnA- Yo, some of the stuff I heard was tossed toward *you* yesterday! Fugetaboutit... just keep riding hard.

TnA said...

Yeah...I know...but, it seems like some of the same people who were complaining about "surges" are the ones who, by hanging back and not rotating through, cause gaps to form in the paceline.

If someone is going to let gaps form and leave me hanging up front trading pulls with you...I'll _give_ them a GAP ;-)

Oh yeah...if someone's going to "hang back" on that Tues. ride, IMHO it should be done at the VERY back of the paceline, and not halfway up. You just get in the way of people who _could_ pull through but don't because they don't want to jump around the "hanger"...

Anonymous said...

I remember the group ride aggression as well on a few occasions. I think given that some of the guys don't race too much, the group rides are the races and results seem to matter. There's actually much more aggression, from what I've seen and experienced, in local races versus the pro racing. Perhaps it's because we cannot afford to crash and miss races and future paychecks, but the guys tend to call eachother out in droves when someone pulls a stupid stunt. If we bump into eachother, the culprit usually lifts a hand to indicate he's sorry that maybe he cut the corner a little close. Generally, it seems that as a rider gains more experience and moves up in categories, the chatter in the field drops. In cat. 4 everyone yells, "Inside!" In cat. 3 it's "Watch your line!" etc. Pro races are pretty quiet. So I hope that what riders can take from this is that shouting at your competitors and flipping them off is uncommon at the upper levels. From my perspective, when I see that stuff, I don't think you're being macho...I just think you're an idiot. Good post Fanelli
Jacob Erker

Marco Fanelli said...

Druber- Certainly not a coincidence that it's more common in the crits. More guys are together at the end (typically) and more guys can use mass to there advantage. But I think more than that, it's a crit-culture thing, and it's most definitely not just big guys. Look at Hilton Clarke--he's my size, yet he's fearless in field sprints and doesn't mind banging at all. Maybe that's an australian thing...

TnA- Yeah, I agree that if someone's not pulling through, then he/she shouldn't be going up in the line, only to pull over behind the front person pulling off. Maybe sometimes guys don't realize that can't pull through until it's too late...

Jake- You're certainly right-on about the group-ride-race mentality. Gotta win that prestigious polo fields sprint at all costs! BTW, you have always amazed me with your crit-riding prowess at the NRC level. You're a roadie, yet usually right there behind the big sprinters in the flat crits!

Anonymous said...

Poverty is a great motivator.

Anonymous said...

> Poverty is a great motivator.

ha-ha! fear of ambulance rides and emergency rooms is a pretty good motivator too!! ;-)

i guess some people have the sprinter instinct and the skills to do it, and others dont. trouble comes when the ones that dont think that they do!