Looking at these photos from my local club’s website, I’m wondering what I wonder most Saturdays, and that is: why do we do it? Hundreds gather. "The new golf", it’s been called. Between $3000 and $15000 worth of gear goes with each rider. Mid week most will ride one or two hundred kilometers in preparation. All for the joy of racing about in the shadow of industry, through coal dust and god knows what kind of industrial fallout, to maybe reclaim a few weeks’ entrance fees if they win. Some very hungry demons within us need feeding, it seems.
I just love winning though! There are race wins I play over and over, that almost surpass the birth of my sons as my greatest moments of joy. With telling, each story gets pithier and more emotionally potent, like the time I shot out of a draft and saw no-one around me, just the finish line marshals, or the time I left 70 riders all standing and went from 800m out on my own… I could go on.
Winning a race is a kind of victory we can see and understand clearly, when almost any other kind of achievement has a surreal quality. How was it I sold that property for so much more than I paid? How did I get that job, and they didn’t? What did she see in me? The vague qualitative judgments of others yield hollow, laughable victories. That hoard of men in the image above are seeking wins they can quantify, and grasp. The images below show how we look after riding in rain around the world’s busiest coal port.