The Race Team You Need

With the right squad, ev­ery event will be great, no mat­ter how you fin­ish

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - NOTES FROM THE GRUPPETTO - by Bart Eg­nal

As win­ter turns to spring, Cana­dian bike rac­ers look for­ward to the end of e-rac­ing and the trainer and to the up­com­ing race sea­son. You may be plan­ning a di­verse sea­son of road rac­ing, track rac­ing, cri­teri­ums, XC moun­tain bike races, long-dis­tance gravel smash­ers or any other man­ner of event. It may be your first year in the bunch and you’re hop­ing to fin­ish a crit with the field, or you may be a griz­zled vet­eran tar­get­ing that big win that has long eluded you. But what­ever your year will look like, let me give you one piece of ad­vice: build your per­sonal race team and you’ll have more fun dur­ing your sea­son.

When I say race team, I’m not de­scrib­ing an ac­tual team, com­plete with team lead­ers, peo­ple you train with and well-de­fined roles you’ll all play to achieve max­i­mum out­put. No, I’m talk­ing about the friends who will make ev­ery race worth do­ing, no mat­ter what re­sult you get.

Rac­ing is stress­ful. It in­volves risk, fi­nan­cial out­lay and time cost. If you’re in a re­la­tion­ship or have kids, there are con­stant ex­pla­na­tions of why spend­ing an en­tire day to drive two hours to race in a cir­cle for an hour while risk­ing life and limb, and then to drive the two hours back home is a won­der­ful use of time, which your part­ner should sup­port with full­ness of soul.

That’s why win or lose (and even the best lose most of the time), what is re­ally mem­o­rable are the re­la­tion­ships you have. I once asked a re­tired Cana­dian Forces of­fi­cer I know if he missed the Forces. His reply: “I don’t miss the cir­cus, but I miss the per­form­ers.”

There’s some­thing spe­cial about the peo­ple you race with. On the long drives to races, you get to know one an­other. Dur­ing the end­less wait­ing for starts, you help each other calm nerves in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the ac­tion. In post-race de­briefs, you sup­port each other. If it’s a gravel event, there are beers after­ward.

A re­cent re­port by Univer­sity of Kansas pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Hall found that it takes 50 hours to­gether to make a ca­sual friend, and then 90 more to be­come a close friend. By my cal­cu­la­tion, that means it takes one sea­son of bike rac­ing to be ca­sual friends and then one or two more to de­velop deep ties.

You re­ally learn things about peo­ple in bike rac­ing. You learn who is gra­cious in sup­port­ing you when your team­mate’s day sucked. You learn who will wait around for you hap­pily when the rider dropped out on Lap 2. You learn who will give you a spare gel mid-race when your team­mate might need it later on. You learn who will lead you out just be­cause your friend wants you to do well.

I am for­tu­nate to have made some life­long friends through bike rac­ing. They – not the events – are now the draw. Late last year I hadn’t done a race, tend­ing to my new six-mon­thold soigneur, my two older kids and my stressed out DS (read: part­ner). Then I got a mes­sage that five of my friends were do­ing the Scrappy Bad­ger gravel race east of the city. Un­der­trained, over­weight and to­tally un­pre­pared, I nev­er­the­less se­cured the sup­port of the DS to reg­is­ter. I had an amaz­ing day, driv­ing to and from the event with a friend and hang­ing with the crew. Although our grand plans to ride a team time trial were un­done 10 km in by my in­abil­ity to hold the wheel, the post-event party was well worth it.

So this year, get your race bud­dies on speed dial. Co-or­di­nate your cal­en­dars. Drive each other to the events. Al­ways stay for their ap­pear­ances on the podium. The races may fade but the friend­ships never will.

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