Lessons in Power from Kermess Racing

Sometimes I’m amazed by the arguments people make for public investment in cycling. I’m amazed that they bother.

In high school and university we were taught to construct arguments to back our requests. But in what fora do arguments have any power? As far as I see arguments only ever have sway in the depoliticised space of the courtroom. Anywhere else, logical arguments by groups with no power are what we call bleating. I’m bleating now.

No matter how correct it is your argument will only be truth when it is backed by political power. My own learning in politics has all been done in Kermesses (multiple lap races around 5-10km courses). You do your research back in the main peloton pretending you’re a part of the mainstream, but really you’re an undercover agent finding out who will win unless you do. Who are the sprinters? Who are the time trialists? (Who relies on the world driving for their own income or wealth?)

Stage two involves swift decisions regarding alliances, and which ones (if any) would be worth joining. These will be groups of your enemy’s enemies, breaking away when he’s weak, or catching any breakaway that he is a part of.

9 times out of 10 it happens to be that all of this strategising is so darned confusing that you fall back on guiding principles. Here are some photos of their textbook application at Symmons Plains Raceway last February (I’m the one in the green jersey, sitting at the back, until the last moment when I cross the line first.)

Principle number one: you can’t have any principles—at least not if you’re hoping to win. Principled riders lend their efforts to doomed causes. Less principled riders lend their efforts to causes with hope, but spoil their own chances by doing so. Non-principled riders lend their efforts to their own cause, the lonely run to the line with no one around them. Up until that point they have scavenged, bluffed, lied, blocked etc.. Everyone who lost can tell you all about their corruption, but since there’s no courtroom all they are doing is bleating.

How I wish for corrupt cycling advocates. Deal breakers, drug lords, wolves in sheep’s clothing, Kermess riders, anyone.

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