Cycling, TOOLBOX | No comments yet.
Source: Bicycling portal, by: CAITLIN GIDDINGS
The Best Part of Coming In Dead F*cking Last
When your worst-case scenario — finishing last in a race, is the best thing that could happen…
The first time I tried a sanctioned bike race, I only had one goal: Try not to finish last. That might sound like setting the bar pretty low — after all, with 50 people racing, how hard is it to beat just one person? But something tells me a lot of people treat their first race like being chased by a bear. You don’t have to outride the bear. You just have to outride one other guy.
The sad truth is that fear of coming in last keeps some people from ever trying bike races. After all, who wants to be sitting on an elaborate DFL saga when someone asks, ‘How did your race go?’ But sometimes the most fun and the best stories can be found at the back of the pack. Plus, there’s no other way to get better than by showing up, getting a little experience cornering and climbing under your belt, and keeping at it.
Here are four true stories that prove a DFL beats a DNF and especially a DNS — every time.
Finding the Right Race Style for You
Sarah R. of Missoula, Montana, finished last in her first and only road race, but still managed to snag a prize. The experience ultimately had another positive outcome — it taught her that cyclocross racing was a better fit.
‘When the gun went off, I had no idea that everyone would go so quickly from the gate,’ she says. ‘The other women zoomed off, leaving me and my ‘cross bike in the dust for 60 miles. I was so far behind that the corner marshals didn’t even know I was in the race and didn’t tell me to turn when I was supposed to, because they thought I was just out for a jaunt. I rode off-course for a while, figured it out, and then rode back on. I think I finished like an hour or so back from everyone.
‘I did win a prize, though: I was the only Cat 4 woman, so I won first place in my category and was awarded some sweet Time pedals, which I had for quite awhile. The whole thing made me pretty mortified, though, and I haven’t been in a road race since. Everyone says that you get dropped off the back in your first road race but somehow you never think it will happen to you. At least in cyclocross, nobody can tell where you are!’
Being Last, Together
Hazel Gross, of Portland, Oregon, found that sometimes the back of the pack is where the best riding company can be found.
‘There was a new circuit race on the calendar this year so I figured I would go try it out,’ she says. ‘Turns out there was a grueling climb each lap—one of those stair-step ones where you plateau and then it kicks back up and gets steeper. Climbing isn’t my strong suit, so I was only able to hang on the pack for two of the seven-mile laps. I was out there by myself hoping I could somehow catch back on, and I caught up to a friend who was also off the back.
‘At first I was gung-ho that we could work together and get back on, but it became clear that that wasn’t happening. She and I hadn’t seen each other in a while so we rode along at a good pace and chatted about what we had been up to lately, punk rock, and community activism. The laps were still hard and she wanted to give up, but I convinced her to keep going with me and we finished super-DFL but had a good time doing it.’
Enjoying the Process and Thinking Long-Term
Ryan Smolko of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, is now an experienced racer, but when he first started, he came in dead last for three straight races. Sticking with it is how he got to be a Cat 2 today.
‘My first mountain bike race was at Bear Creek in 2000,’ he says. ‘It was my first summer on the bike and I had no idea what I was getting into. I even put auto tire shine on my sidewalls thinking it would help me slide off rocks easier. Needless to say, I got housed pretty hard. My grandfather joked that a cyclist who was riding with a prosthetic leg beat me.
‘That summer, I finished DFL in each of the three mountain bike races I did, but I was hooked from then on. And I was mostly able to laugh it off. I was always such a terrible athlete that I never expected myself to get better. But by Race Three, even though I was still DFL, I was starting to feel more comfortable in technical sections and stronger overall.’
Taking Pride in the Struggle
And then there are bike messenger races, where DFL is a time-honored tradition and often something to strive for. It sometimes even comes with a pretty decent prize, and usually means you had a pretty good—if circuitous—time during the race. Todd Danger of Portland, Oregon tells this story.
‘I was going for DFL in a race in Mexico City, and I thought I had it because I only went to one stop, but some jerk went to one less. I even went and rode roller coasters during the race. We have a golden toilet seat at our house inherited from someone else’s DFL finish prize. I don’t know why messenger races started giving out prizes for DFL, but it does seem like a good idea. My theory is people probably got sick of hearing all the excuses — like, whatever, you flatted twice and so-and-so didn’t stamp your manifest, here’s a cinderblock with a bowling trophy duct-taped to it!’ Kind of makes you want to sign up for your first race, right? After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Most importantly, don’t let age slow you down. Get out there, have fun, and enjoy your bike! And in the meantime, hurry spring!
Hope to see you on the road.
Follow Zdenko’s Corner on Facebook !