What “Ultra Masters” want and deserve…
Plus helpful racing tips!
After years of cajoling or begging gravel race promoters to add an “Ultra Masters” category (60+) it appears that they have largely relented. It’s just too hard for us flying fossils to compete with 50-year olds and definitely not with 40-year olds and under. Many promoters now realized that any extra entry fees are a good thing and that racing their true peers will attract more of us old codgers as word gets out.
Ten years ago you were lucky to find three categories: Open Men, Open Women and 40 plus. Later came 50+ and in the bigger races, similar age groups for the ladies. Sixty plus is the next logical category. One promoter I know would open a 60+ category if at least 10 of us entered. Less than that and we’d be thrown in with the 50+. Not so optimal.
Ultra Masters racers have no need for cash prizes but do appreciate having a unique or silly trophy or swag from a memorable event. I’m pretty sure you could make a trophy out of dried dog poop. We’d all risk cardiac arrest for it. In addition, a unique trophy helps us remember the race. As Ultra Masters, we need all the memory jogs we can get. Did I mention I’m an Ultra Master?
Helpful hints and $hit Ultra Masters do…
- At mass start events, work the sympathy angle early by walking around with no helmet. Baldness, skull wrinkles and white hair elicit a gentle respect for us from the younger crowd. In addition, you should pantomime a stiff back, cough like you have asthma, mumble something about arthritis, and pointedly rub the liver spots on your forearms. Mention that recent studies indicate that the absence of liver spots indicates the presence of PEDs. I’m sure they are out there even with one foot in the grave.
- At line up, casually saunter to the very front and gently squirm your way in. Be shameless. Smile a lot and act all smarmy. If they glare at you show your ancient yellowing teeth or your too bright dentures and rub your forearms again. I often point to my Go Pro camera and loudly say something like…” Please let the camera through! Smile you’re on Gravel Cyclist!” If they don’t move I say “Old guy racer! I’m not in your race! Thank you!”
- Now, while JOM, Florida Cracker (aka Rusty), Dr Pain and I actually film the race I suppose a few more elder camera operators could squeeze in if not too obvious. Just get permission from JOM and share your footage with GravelCyclist.com exclusively.
- Once the race starts, stay near the front as long as possible. I learned in road racing that most crashes and log jams happen mid-pack. Those near the front can pick the best lines through sand, mud, loose gravel, and stream crossings. People will fall in front of you. Please stay calm. Do not leave chainring marks on them. Besides poor traction, riding over lycra lumps is considered uncivilized in most races.
- Never close a gap. There is always someone younger and more stupider to do this for you. If some punk objects to your shirking a turn, clutch your heard suddenly and promise to give him all you can while rapidly fading to the back. He will show remorse… unless, of course, he is a roadie (I divorced that crap years ago).
- Never go off the front solo. It is futile. Remember this is a mixed age pack. The youngsters are a lot stronger than you. Their hair is on fire. They will never let you go even if you are that 105-year old Frenchman. Your best bet is to hang on to them as long possible and hope all the other Ultra Masters will burn off before you do.
- Find a group you can draft. Mountain bikers are the best. They sit bolt upright like billboards and don’t want you to pull. Mountain bikers prefer to camp out on the front. Letting someone take over the front position is considered losing.
Evil roadie tricks. Don’t use them unless you have to…
I once won a race by yelling “Car back!” in a crit. The dude had it coming. Four of us formed the winning break but he refused to do any work so he could get all the primes. He deserved it but I still feel bad after 30 years. Gravel cyclists don’t need to do that. Unless somebody deserves it.
Don’t jinx it
If you find yourself the only Ultra Master in a younger field rejoice but never gloat to yourself that you have this race in the bag. I did that once at the second edition of Red Clay Ramble a few years back, JOM and I found ourselves in the winning break of four with a huge gap near the finish. All of us would be on a podium. “JOM”, I stupidly said. “How does it feel to own this race…we just have to hang on and the race is ours!” “Shut up K-Dogg…you’ll jinx us!” He said.
Soon after that I had three or four flats in a row, ran out of spare tubes then rode back in a truck. An hour later JOM was on the podium. I was in the back of a pickup truck. You can relive this glorious tale in great detail courtesy of JOM’s 2014 Red Clay Ramble Race Report and the accompanying video! (JOM’s editing skills have vastly improved since then).
See all y’all out there!