We racing types sure do a lot for the honor of ‘bragging rights’.
I’ve seen men dig deeper to get to the top of a hill first than they would to open a pickle jar for their beloved. The pickles aren’t important – it’s the right to go on and on about beating your friends that is. Phrases like: ‘Just a tire’s width!‘ and ‘I almost had him!’ pepper our pre and post ride conversations. Legends are made and reputations are put on the line for something as simple as a town sign. It’s madness to outsiders, but for the select few who know the route better than the back of their hand, it may as well be a matter of life or death. My prized possession is a tiny bottle of hot sauce with the words ‘Summit KOM’ inscribed with a blue ball point pen. That Tobasco Sauce will never flavor any omelet of mine – that task is for lesser vessels.
That tiny, red and green bottle was given to me by Mike – a former teammate of mine on Birchwood. Every Wednesday from when it’s prudent till when it’s not we take part in the finest hills St. Paul has to offer. I couldn’t mark it down on a map (well, maybe with some hard thinking on my part) but I know every turn and crack that ride has to offer. From the kick-off up Edgecomb to the insidious Snelling, I’ve felt every inch of pain those elevations have to offer. And I continue to do it, without any sort of physical incentive. Then one day, Mike changed the game.
He brought the bottles. I don’t know where he got so many, or why they were so tiny, but on each one in ball point were the names of the Hills we all knew and loved. Now it was no longer about the pat on the back at the top. No longer about getting to rest longer than all the others. Now it was about those little bottles. That night I rode harder than I had any other. Summit was never my forte, but that’s where I finally pushed hard enough to get that little bottle. When Mike took it out of his back pocket and handed it to me I made sure to put it in my wallet, not just the pocket. If it were to fall out on a descent before it had a chance to grace my mantle I would be crushed. The little guy made it home in one piece.
And maybe that’s all it takes to liven things up a little bit. Tradition is awesome, it is the fabric we base so many of our activities as cyclists on. But sometimes throwing a monkey wrench into things lets people look at themselves in a whole new way.
Sure, it’s kinda stupid, but that’s what makes it fun. The stupid parts, that is.