By Kristen Marchant, member of the 2014 Recharge With Milk Ambassador Team
So this past weekend I competed in a cycling race in Waterloo, mainly just to see what it was like. I spent the majority of my time over the winter focusing on the bike, so was curious to see how I would stack up against pure cyclists.
I was pretty nervous before the race, with my arms shaking as I waited to start. We lined up in the corral much the way a marathon or half-marathon would work, with signs for “racers”, “serious enthusiasts”, and “recreational riders.” I had signed up as a racer, so situated myself towards the front. We started with a ~2km rolling start which was pretty chill before the race officially began. To be honest, I didn’t even know when the race began, and this was pretty much how it was the entire race. With a large peloton and not any overly large hills to break it up, we remained as a large group for basically the entire race. About 50km in the pack split into two, but I made sure to remain with the front group. A few times I found myself at the front, leading the peloton, but was by no means capable of breaking away, and there didn’t seem to be any incentive from any riders to do so. This was very unusual for me- I was expecting a hard 2 hour race, instead it was a bit of a snooze-fest until we rounded the corner to the finish line with about 200m to go. I sprinted to the line and did surprisingly well, placing 2nd. The top 3 females were within a second of each other. All in all, this was a totally different experience from anything I have done before. In triathlons, swimming, and running, every athlete has to work hard the whole time, and those who work the hardest typically win, while this race seemed to be about doing as little work as possible. Indeed, the girl who won, and her teammate who came 4th, never once moved to the front of the peloton to take a turn. A similar situation occurred on the men’s side, with the men who did the most work not coming in first. I understand that not doing any work is probably considered good tactics but to me it is mind-boggling. Why would I want to chill out on my bike for two hours and have everything come down to the last few seconds? But I digress…
Last night I was thinking about how this was just totally different, the mentality of the cyclists, the culture of cycling, the race itself etc, and it strikes me as not surprising that doping is so common in the sport. As I said above, it seemed to be about who could do the least work yet still remain near the front. Drugs would certainly work well with this mentality; eg. “Take this pill, get faster without having to do anything.” I’m not looking to start arguments; this is simply what I observed. I can certainly say I prefer to race where everyone has to do their own work so that the best, fittest, and hardest working athlete comes out on top. Triathlons FTW.
Find out more about Kristen Marchant.