Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Biking with the Bellas

A while ago I trekked with VeloBella Nikki to the Pennsylvania Keystone State Cat race.
Cat racing is competitive cycling. It's a world ripe for spoofing in a "Dog Show" type of movie ("But you picked the one that looks the least like a bee ..."), or a bud light Real men of Genius commercial (We salute you spandex wearing tube sock cycling guy, you may weigh in excess of 250 pounds, but you still sport your areo helmet. Does that remind you of something? You shave your time by a whopping tenth of a second. I'm only 14 minutes and 59 seconds behind the next guy now ...)

Anyways, I had emailed the race director to ask if it would be okay to race since I had no experience with CAT racing, or really with group cycling. This was an all ladies race and a pretty small one, I was thinking this would be a good one to cut my teeth on.

Emails modified to make them more entertaining:

Dear Race Director,
I was wondering if this would be a good race to try for my first. I come from my triathlon background but I'm not a freak. I have a road bike and am not a squirrelly a-hole. Can I handle your race and sit with the cool kids at lunch?

Iron Panda

Yo IP,
CAT cycling is the real deal and requires skilz. If you even think about coming to my race, I'll take you to skool.

Cycling rulz, tri geeks drool!


So, aptly frightened off by the race director who told me there would be hills aplenty and technical riding, I decided to tag along as a spectator. Nikki was racing, so I got up at o'dark thirty to get to Nikki's by the butt crack of dawn. Then we and her bike drove up to PA. We got there with a good couple of hours to spare. We were the first Bellas there, and among the first racers there at all. It was freezing cold and I was working on about four hours of sleep, so I took a nap in the car while Nikki warmed up, I am the best sherpa ever.

Slowly the Bellas trickled in, but the race still looked pretty empty. Turns out there was a major accident on 81 which meant half the race was stuck in trafic. They ended up delaying the Cat 4 race almost an hour during which I learned all about Cat racing. Such as: roadies hate triathletes, drafting is not only legal but encouraged, you are REQUIRED to wear the dreaded bike jersy, you are not allowed to ride a tri bike or any bike with aerobars, time is irrelevant- only relative place matters, there aren't volunteers on the course unless you bring you own, and finally roadies hate triathletes. It's some weird West Side Story jets vs. sharks, Redskins vs. Cowboys inane hatred. Which brings me to the next point, the course wasn't cake, but it was totally doable, and nothing like what the race director was making it out to be. And with only 14 women in the Cat 4 race, I could have scored points. Cheap points, but points nonetheless.

Nikki and Hilary set off to the start and Hilary's husband, her little boy, and I headed to the feeding zone. The Velobellas are sponsored by Kona bikes, so the cheering has an Aloha theme, decked out in a Hawaiin skirt and lei, I listened while Hilary's husband explained the art of the feeding zone. Holding out the water bottle such that the athete can grab it while riding without running into you or ripping your arm off. All while cultivating the best sock tan known to man.

All in all I'm excited to check this out next season and might make an appearance at a She Got Bike this season. Nikki and Hilary were all hot for the cyclocross season. That looks hardcore and like a lot of fun, but I like big races and not being cold and wet. And I'm more than capable of injuring myself without the assistance of trees.