Monday, June 18, 2012

Racing with the Roadmen

The Modesto Roadmen are the three riders with the vertical stripes on their jerseys to the left of the picture
I firmly believe that humor plays a crucial role in communication, allowing us to express things that are too sensitive or too nuanced to express in straight, literal language.  That is why I am a fan of Bike Snob NYC.  Not only is he funny and entertaining, but integrally mixed with his entertainment are important truths.  That is why I would like to begin this post with the following quote from Bike Snob NYC's June 4 column:
"Sure, I was never a very good racer.  In fact, I'm like a call on an iPhone, in that I get dropped pretty much every time.  Nevertheless, I have been riding bikes for awhile, and there's one thing I've learned over the years, which is this: If you're not getting results, it's because you suck.  And when you suck, you suck."

When it came to The Modesto Roadmen and racing, we sucked. If any of the surviving Roadmen wish to dispute this, more power to them, but that is my memory and I certainly sucked.  So, if we sucked, why race?  Because it is fun, even if you lose all the time.  I assume most of you know what I am talking about, and in fact are wondering why I felt it necessary to even discuss the issue, but if you don't, you will just have to trust me because it is not rational and it cannot be explained.  It's why people who have no reason to, purchase racing bikes, sometimes paying a lot to get the same model of bike that just won the Tour de France, even when it is not even vaguely practical for how they ride.  The thrill of racing to work at about 50% the speed of the Tour peloton on your racing bike fully justifies the expense, the ruined clothes, and the aching back.  What the Modesto Roadmen were brilliant at was slowly riding all day, day after day, up and down major mountain ranges, carrying everything we needed on our bikes.  What our bikes were designed for was racing.  And, besides touring on racing bikes, about once a month or so we would twist the arms of one or more of our parents to drive us to one of the Amateur Bicycle League of America sanctioned road races in Northern California.

Back in the 1960's, bicycle racing in the United States was a much smaller enterprise than it is today.  As a result, everyone had the opportunity to race against members of the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team.  Robert Tetzlaff, a member of the U.S. Olympic Road Racing Team in 1960, was also a great human being and in particular, befriended the Modesto Roadmen, helping us organize as a club and gain ABLofA certification.  We didn't actually race against Bob Tetzlaff (or against other members of the U.S. Olympic Team) because we were a young club.  We all raced in the under-18 "Junior" category.

One of our favorite races, a race still popular today, was the Tour of Nevada City.

One of the Modesto Roadmen competing in the Tour of Nevada City

Races were sponsored by local clubs who did all the organization and hit up local merchants for the prizes.  The Modesto Roadmen sponsored a criterium, "The Tour of Graceada", which was quite successful and of which we are very proud.

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