This year I’ve been facing the coinciding twin evils of a steady decline in raw ENDURO pace, and a rhythmic countdown to a significant Birthday milestone in 10 months time that will allow me the faux luxury of sliding into the Masters class because my age will start with a ‘4’ for the first time. Granted the beard already makes me look more Unabomber in age, but I shall soon officially join the pantheon of so-called ‘old cunts’.
I say this is a faux luxury because in the world of cycling these things can be as deceptive as a team doctor and as misleading as a ‘PR Spokesperson’. But this is a topic that for me has its musing’s gestation period traced all the way back to EWS La Thuile in July 2016. You know; ENDUROgasmic backdrops, great Vino Rosa, fresh mountain air, excellent chairlift and stages that keep rectal reconstruction surgeons so busy they can pretty much plan their next Porsche purchase around a race there:
I don’t like making excuses, even if I’m fucking good at doing so, but there came an awkward moment mid race when I had to catch the chairlift with an Irish riding Terminator called ‘Ian’. I couldn’t understand a fucking word Ian was saying, but I did surmise he may sound like Greg Callaghan if Greg was too drunk to actually speak.
Ian found himself starting 20 seconds behind me all weekend, in a classic case of me starting too far up the field and him starting waaaaay the fuck too far back. Its one of those romantic ENDURO honeymoon situations that happen from time to time at EWS and one or both of you gets to spend the weekend getting fucked with alarming regularity. In the case of Ian, on some stages it felt like he was making up those 20 seconds in less than 20 seconds… I know from a science perspective that’s un-fucking-likely, but I swear Herr Doktor it really happened #fluxcapacatorcunt.
So, here I found myself on the La Thuile chairlift with Ian, barely comprehending him as he Irishsplained to me how he shredded stage 2. As you do, I felt a pang of embarrassment that he must have thought I was the sweeper and tried to force down the lamest of lame responses that was creeping its way up my throat.
No cunt – Don’t say it… Its fucking lame and makes you sound like a total cock… NOOOO… Shut it… Don’t try and manufacture an excuse based on…
“Not long to go now until I’m in Masters any way, only a year or so to go”
Fuckbag. Before we delve into what a ghastly pathetic, ass covering, head exploding defence that is for getting slayed stage after stage, let’s hand it back to Ian as he sends the shank deep into the ribcage of my pisspoor explanation for my riding, much to my horror as you can imagine:
“Fooken Ell, me too! Are ye Turty Ate then eh?”
Shrivel… Like, total shrivel… In an attempt to pretend my perceived elder statesmen position was an excuse, my battleship was well and truly sunk when the person I was trying to justify myself in front of using age as a terrible defence turned out to not only not be in his 20’s, but actually pretty much be older than me. Total cunt.
But this face slapping encounter about how bad & irrelevant it is to try and use ageism to explain ones lack of pace did serve to reinforce to me the reality of what awaits when moving into the ENDURO retirement village, namely: No fucking retirement at all.
I was reminded of this again earlier this year after three days of trying and largely failing to A) Keep JC Superstar at the limits of my vision and B) Doing the same with the Rodfather… Who may or may not have a ‘5’ somewhere in his age, as we pounded Wairoa Gorge until my arms went into submission. I kept waiting on that trip for the ‘distinguished gentlemen’ to fatigue and perhaps slow down, but in the perverse universe that is 2017, the opposite happened. Never has getting older suddenly become so terrifying… Fuck worrying about losing my marbles, I’m now panicking about losing the wheel.
And then of course, we cum full circle back to the EWS slaughterhouse of dreams & ego’s to the 40+ grade and the not inconsequential matter of it being populated by someone like Coach Karim who as luck has it, happens to have raced significantly more World Cup DH rounds Vs my big fat hairy zero:
But let’s leave emotion out of this for a moment and focus on data… That will better paint the picture about the privilege that awaits those of us graduating upwards. Based on data that I may or may not have obsessively plugged into an Excel spreadsheet like some sort of demented corporate fuckbag middle manager, we can see I’m consistently 46 seconds per Kilometre slower than Santa Cruz PRO Mark Scott in EWS race stages.
Before we start to enjoy pouring lighter fluid on me, how about the same stat for Karim? The newly minted Masters World Champ. Surely I could catch some champagne on my gogs in podium glory? Ahhh, fuck no: On average its a 39 second per KM gap. Fuck my ENDURO Lyfe. Suddenly breaking into the top 200 in Elite doesn’t sound as futile as it once did.
And what’s going on over at Road HQ?
But this fear isn’t just confined to the world of ENDURO, this Masters mayhem is actually a vastly more destructive force for the Road crew. With the technical fear factor slightly removed from the equation and the more discerning gentlemen’s increased stamina, its really the amateur road scene the epitomises the myth that your cycling sodomy will decrease as you enter the second half of life.
Indeed, to illustrate this point I will often find my road brethren huddled in the corner of a hipster cafe trying to wipe their eyes dry with a Rapha handkerchief… I naturally run through the usual check list of FWP’s to see what could be causing such consternation:
Had someone washed their Mapp socks with a load of towels? Had someone used soy milk instead of almond milk in their post ride coffee? Was the apple not grated to the correct coarseness for their artisanal bircher? Did someone refer to their Gilet as a ‘Vest’? Had they got into another fight about whether or not Spartacus was clean? Did someone say ‘expresso’ instead of ‘espresso’?!
After some coaxing, and with my check list exhausted, they will eventually relent and whimper in hushed tones what’s really ruined their upcoming race season:
“I have to go up to Master 2… They’re going to yell at me about taking turns… And have you seen what they do in cross winds?!”
As opposed to arriving in a higher age bracket of master racing with the enthusiasm and excitement of being the Donnie W of New Kids on the Block, the reality is you’re stepping into the shark tank of hardened vets who view you more as a fresh intake at Shawshank prison as opposed to a legitimate threat… Cue usual references to fresh meat and grinders.
There’s also the added dimension that, oh oh, we’re starting to see with eyebrow raising regularity now about amateur Masters riders (who have potentially forgotten the ‘amateur’ part) getting busted for chemical enhancements that extend far beyond the Viagra boundaries that you’d potentially expect to be the main drug of this club.
If you’ve seen Icarus and muttered “Holy fuck” about 75 times, then you now get to ride around in peloton’s where the law of averages indicates that perhaps someone in there has a different definition of “Juice Bar” than what you may expect. Suddenly old people are scarier than Grandma armed with a rolling pin finding your porn collection, which for fucks sake you’d actually stolen from Grandpa.
But fuck that, there’s a much larger issue to contend with when joining the Masters moshpit and its one that’s essentially impossible to unfuck – The Fashion. Given they’ve reached a stage in life where no further potential embarrassments await them, the Master’s racer is more than happy to roll out the front door in deliciously mismatched kit, a classic roadie favourite, or for the Dirt crew the horror of seeing a motherfucking football jersey at the trailhead is like being stabbed in the eyes with a cheap pen from Mar-a-lardo. Its fully into Zero fucks given territory here, much like their ability to actually clean a bike – A million OCD’s regularly cry out in pain.
As if having to witness two different arm warmers and mismatched bib and jersey wasn’t bad enough, there’s the inevitable moment where said Technicoloured dreamcoat Master turns out to be a fucking monster, and as you vomit on your Rapha jersey while being dropped you’re suddenly reminded what a fucking myth it is to look forward to Masters racing.
Happy… Fucking… Birthday!