I race bicycles. Most people don’t know much about that, but it’s pretty competitive. I came to bike racing from running after a knee injury (an old motorcycle injury came back to haunt me—never mix quaaludes and booze while riding a motorcycle). Running is a more individual “feel good” activity, where people can have their own personal goals and stuff. That’s great. I love that. Bike racing isn’t like that. But, I love racing bikes. I mostly race road bikes, but I also love cyclocross and the rare mountain bike event.
Because I’m old (43 racing age this year), I tend to mostly race in the “Masters” class. Unlike in running, Masters cycling is not an indication of lower levels of performance. Bike racing starts at beginning categories, and all new racers start at category 5, and hope to progress to category 4, cat 3, cat 2, and cat 1. Professionals are cat-1’s who can convince someone to pay them. Master’s racing operates somewhere around the cat-2 level. Most of the top masters guys still hold cat-1 licenses, and many were former professionals. So, if you have been beating around on a bike and want to try races, and happen to be over 40, DO NOT sign up for the Masters race.
I race for the venerable Team Mack Racing, headed by former pro Gary Doering. I love Gary. He’s widely misunderstood. He’s exceptionally competitive, and I think people sometimes take the races home with them. Gary doesn’t. He’s a great guy off the bike, and a fierce competitor on the bike. I’m fairly new to racing (I did my first cat-5 race in 1999), and didn’t really get serious until joining Team Mack in 2002. But with the help of teammates like Gary, Darrell Bratton, Robert Kron, John Fleckenstein, Mark McGeen, Jeff Williams, Tim LeRoy, Clark Priebe, and many others, I’ve learned pretty quickly.
Now, I’m a regular on the St. Louis/IL Masters scene, and it’s fun. There are some really great people on several awesome teams. Russ Murphy heads the fearsome Mesa Cycles team, Kurt Russell does the deed on Velo Force, Joe Walsh is the old guy in charge for Big Shark, Gary Dyer keeps STLCC on the map, and we bump heads with others in central and northern IL on a regular basis.
This season, Mesa has thrown down the gauntlet by picking up a serious ringer in Ethan Froese. I suspect having Ethan’s kid Nolan racing for Mesa had something to do with the switch, but also, his old Labor Power team dissolved, so he was looking. Worse yet, Mesa stalwart Tracy Smith aged back into the 40+ (it used to be that masters was 35+, but we changed the rules because of Tracy). Tracy is fucking fast (I’m working on forming a USCF committee to have the age bumped back up as soon as I’m 45). So, with Russ, Ethan, Tracy, and some very strong support riders, Mesa will be the team to match in the STL area races.
It’s going to be another great season of racing!