Imagine this: You awake one morning to find a man standing next to your bed. Maybe he looks like Don Cheadle, and calls himself Cash. He offers you something—a glimpse, but even better. He tells you to pick a bike race—any bike race—to ride in. And not only that, but he promises that as part of the deal, you’ll win that race. You look at him incredulously. He insists he is serious. Your skeptical, until he says “Hey, it worked with Nick Cage…”
What race do you pick?
Listed below are some of my considerations—in no particular order:
The Giro d’Italia: I love the absurdity of some of the Giro stages. The switchbacks in the mountains seem extra tight and twisty, the mountains taller, and covered in more snow (it is a month earlier than the Tour), and the crowds more dense and vocal. Of course, that may all simply be perception. But of the Grand Tours, I think the Giro is the most challenging, exciting, and more fan-friendly. And as a bonus… I’m 50% Italian. In what other race will you see an American ride to victory in a storm, and wearing ski goggles?
Paris-Roubaix: Any race that Bernard Hinault calls “bullsh*t” is a race I’m interested in. Why’d he say that? Because the cobbles are ridiculous, difficult, and dangerous. Perfect. There may not be more iconic imagery in cycling than the mud and cobbles of this race. It is the Spring Classic, and has been for nearly 110 years. To win Paris-Roubaix would be a career defining moment, especially if the conditions were especially epic—as they seem to be each and every year. But just to add to the spectacle, I’d ride it—and win—on my mountain bike.
The Colorado Trail Race: The CTR is on my list. The Tick List. I am going to ride it one day. And soon I hope. At 470 miles and over 65,000 vertical, the CTR defines the self-supported mountain bike movement. It climbs and contours through some of the Rocky Mountain West’s most rugged and remote and inspiring country. It’s beautiful and terrible. To finish—let alone win—that race would be something I’d shamelessly talk about forever. I’d begin every other conversation with “The year I won the CTR… ” And unlike the examples above, the CTR is a race I can actually participate in. For free. I have a hard time thinking of anything better than 4-6 days of high altitude singletrack.
The Thursday Night Race: World fame and fortune are nice. But ‘aint nothing better than local bragging rights. I want the belt. But between me and it, are several of the fastest mountain bikers I’ve ever seen. If I’m ever going to claim the prize, it’s going to take supernatural intervention. But don’t worry guys, If that happens, I’ll send Don over to your place when he’s finished with me. And at least I’ll always have Village Inn afterwards. However, if I do win the belt, I’ll be wearing it every day.
But here’s the truth: I’d be happy to win any race. Any race at all. Which is, I suppose, the reason I continue to line up week after week after week. The mere possibility of winning—however remote—keeps me, and probably you, coming back for more. In fact, each race is a glimpse. A brief window into an alternate reality wherein we are Andy Hampsten, George Hincapie, John Stamstead or Cru Jones. And in the end, maybe that glimpse is enough. But even if it is, I’m not going to stop trying to win.
Now, it’s your turn. What race do you pick? Why?