May 20, 2013 posted by

Racing vs Surviving

Racing vs Surviving

I had a Nepal post ready for today when I ran across Robert Millar’s blog on the Giro d’Italia called “It’s become survival training.” This year’s Giro has suffered from insane weather conditions. Both last year’s Giro and Tour de France winner have quit and there are still many more mountains to climb. Seems like a good prelude to the Yak Attack.

This Giro d’ Italia is not really bike racing any more, it’s become survival training. When it ought to be about who has the physical ability to still race after a fortnight, on the road the cold and the rain have turned proceedings into a bit of a farce. And I can’t imagine anyone connected to the race is finding it funny or remotely enjoyable.

Millar has some perspective. He was the U.K.’s iconic cyclist during the 80s, having won many of the mountain stages he’s writing about (I believe he was here), so he knows a thing or two about how truly awful these conditions are. Most of us have forced to deal with bad weather, at some point, but not many can say our jobs forced us into it, day after day, to perform at our highest level. I feel their pain.

It does, however, make the sport what it is. It’s a big part of why the fans turn up. And while I get why the racers dread it—they get paid the same when the weather’s perfect–some embrace it, and for those who do, legends are made. Who can forget stories like this?

“Twenty-five kilometers,” Roll told himself. “I can do anything for 25 kilometers. But after 500 meters I was a block of ice.” A knifing crosswind blew snow nearly horizontal. Navigating the switchbacks with compromised vision and brakes proved not just challenging but dangerous, with one missed turn sending riders off steep pitches. Phinney frequently resorted to pulling his foot out of the pedal and slowing himself “Fred Flintstone-style.”

Around him was misery on a scale rarely seen even in this suffering-intensive sport. Shivering, unable to continue, Van der Velde had made it two clicks down the mountain before he had to be helped to a team car, where he sat sipping cognac and hot tea. He lost 47 minutes to the leaders.

Still others actually seek it out. Whom are they psychos, you might ask? The type who sign on for something like the Yak Attack. Me, in other words, and the crazies I raced with. So along with being an excellent update on this year’s Giro, it serves as an almost perfect preamble to my Yak Attack race reports.

more awesome giro photos at uk road cycling here

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