Sunday, July 4, 2010
A Taste of Chicago
Note: The scene described in the first four paragraphs is not fiction. Additionally, the writer does not condone the throwing of D batteries through windshields, the use of bike bells on Bora shod Colnagos, or the presence of more than one powermeter per bike per unit of time.
The paceline runs smoothly. The eight riders trade pulls, accounting for the wind and undulating terrain. At the front, a rider uses his handlebar mounted bell to warn of an approaching pothole. At the rear, another rider checks his Powertap Cervo head-unit and Joule simultaneously—looking for a discrepancy, perhaps—and decides to increase his power output by a tenth of a watt in order to pull through optimally.
To his left, a PACT Team (Polish American Cycling Team Team [no, that’s not a typo]) rider checks his Zipps. His rear wheel appears to be rubbing. He, like most of the other riders, is running tubular race wheels on a training ride. In front of the PACT Team rider, an IsCorp Espoir stops pedaling. Determining that the creaking emanates from his split seat and not some other source, he continues pulling through.
As the ride slows to a double paceline, two riders discuss their thresholds. (FTP in Coggan terminology.) One has determined his to be 360 watts by doing a lone 30 second test.
"Instead of breaking a sweat and riding hard for an hour, I just did a 30 second sprint and then divided that number by .4 or something. It's science, man."
The other congratulates him on his brilliance and strength. But as the pace increases, they are—again—both dropped.
Such is the modern day Mafia Ride.
Many years ago, the Mafia Ride was the fastest, hardest and most legitimate North Shore group ride. Visiting pros, local strongmen, headstrong juniors, and mystery men would meet at the West Lake Forest train station and head north. The roughly 3hr ride had only two sprints, but they were fiercely contested and the pace was always held high.
In this nostalgic and somewhat facetious portrayal, riders were real men—they rode 32 spoke wheels, shunned heart rate monitors, threw D batteries rather than ringing bells at passing cars, and spoke about race wins and sensations, not thresholds.
To history’s student and antiquity’s survivor, the past may seem glorious and the present a hollow farce. And so it may be. But so long as you are willing to chuckle and nod disapprovingly, the present has something going for it— it's pretty damn Pro Wanker.