Mostly unrelated, shameless plug here: BUY IT.
But also, my real point is this: naked = dead. So dress warm. Let's just start there.
We're two days out from Il Pantani, and here at Pantani HQ, preparations are well underway. Preparation H that is. It's not like I'm actually out marking the route, or training, or making myself a pair of DIY electronic heated underoos, or doing anything that might actually be useful.
No, indeed, I'm committed full-stop to the very basics of peak endurance performance: carb loading, denying reality, and tying orange pieces of tape to the loose parts of my bike so if they happen to fall off they'll be easier to find.
And panicking. Because it's never too late for that. I should have just paid the big bucks and gotten a hardass, insult-slinging coach.
And it would seem that I'm not the only one. No, indeed, the seedy underworld of seedy underworld races (Facebook) is abuzz with questions that I have no answers for, which in turn get re-directed to my email where I have successfully continued to be unable to clear them up. Fortunately, most of what you want to know has already been addressed in years past. And I'll link you to that sort of thing here, here, here, and also over there once upon a time.
But for the sake of adding an additional layer of murkiness to what's already not been said, let's dig into the questions as I see them here at this moment, Feb 11th, in this icy cold year of our Lawd, 2016.
Is the event moving forward despite the chilly weather?
To me, when I see the word "chilly" I think "light jacket." I see what you've done there, and I applaud your obfuscation of the truth. But let's be clear about this: the forecasted high on Saturday is 27 degrees here at the Rancho Relaxo, which is probably somewhere in the upper teens out there atop the pop. And windy. This is no-bullshit, leave your kids at home, divorce-making cold, and you should take the appropriate precautions if you choose to ride your bike in those temperatures. If you don't know what those precautions actually are, then you probably shouldn't wing it. Potentially helpful youtubage from yesteryear:
But also, yes, we're still rolling at 11. Actually, the high of 27 happens right around that time, and then it'll just sort of crack a beer and hang out for the day. I like that about this cold front. A steady 27 degrees that you can sort of count on is way, way better than a starting temp of 27 that proceeds to abandon you when you step in the creek while trying to pee and you really need it.
Gravelocity was 27 and puking snow for the first hour. Can you guys hang?
Oh hell no. Gravelocity in its first year pulled like a gazillion people to push their bikes in the snow. In the first year of Pantani we had exactly 2 attendees, and I didn't even bring a bike. So no, Gravelocity is clearly off and running in a legit, event-like direction, while Il Pantani can hardly decide on a name for itself. Perhaps we'll copy it, and name ourselves Gravelopolis or something like that, and just hope that people confuse us for them in the future and show up.
Is it better to burn out or to fade away?
What you're witnessing here, as I understand it, is a custom, DIY electronic heated insole handcrafted with rush-delivery Kazakh heater tape and some other mail order shit in his basement by Sam Lindblom, Human Fireball. I love ingenuity. The mark of a man is the ability to fend for himself, and really Sam, I dig that about you. But I'll take "burn out" for $1000, Alex.
Hey, bro, I heard this ride has some steep climbs. I'm thinking about swapping out my 9 speed 11-32 for a 10 speed 11-36 and just using a campy shifter and some rubber bands to get the spring tension right, and also dousing the whole thing with hot glue. Will that work?
Look, I'm no Leonard Zinn. You can surf up a fair amount of cross-compatibility shit over there, if you're into that sort of thing. My advice though is that now is not the time to get creative with your drivetrain. You might need it once or twice for this ride. No, indeed, wait until Saturday morning, show up at Shawn's house with your rush-delivery UPS package straight from Bikeparts.com, and see if he can put it together for you lickety-split. Trust me here, he LOVES that. And conveniently, you can take a dump in his sock drawer while he pulls the whole experience together for you.
Singlespeed gearing? Talk to me.
I can't and I won't. Typically, when confronted with this kind of question, I link people to Kev29ers much-heralded internet pillar of knowledge, The Gear Doc, and that confuses them long enough for me to escape before they realize I lack the math skills to be a legit singlespeeder. But in this case, I'll come clean, admit that's not my bag baby, and hopefully Kev29er will chime in with a real, based-in-science recommendation about what single gear could possibly be rewarding enough to ride for 47 miles in a row. Wilson too? Others? By all means, talk amongst yourselves, you simpletons.
Do I need shoe covers to ride in the cold?
You see, this is what I'm talking about. Seriously, be responsible people. And do this.
Will there be reliable neutral support for nutrition on course?
I'm actually having trouble responding to this one because, quite obviously, the world that you live in is so different than my own. I can tell you this: we've got a van, and a half-way committed veteran of bonks of all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells that may or may not be cruising around out there with the sort of medicine to fix what ails you. That's not to say that he will be in any way reliable. Nor is he actually all that neutral - he's a foof local, after all. So if you're up there behind someone wearing pink, you'll have to wait your turn. I can't actually say he's necessarily all that supportive, and the food that he may or may not be providing isn't what the FDA considers nutritious or safe for consumption in any way. And for that matter, there's not actually a course anyway- this is just a bike ride with recommended routes and a grossly overstated notion of glory. So, the short answer is no, there will not be whatever it was you wondered about. Just a guy in a van who might be able to help. But maybe not.
What's the start location? Where should I poop?
Parking, pre-game shit talk, the start line, and all of the space you could possibly wish for to set up your trainer and your cooler of High Life will be right here:
5420 Markwood Rd, Earlysville,
Where to poop though. Where, indeed. We're way, way below the applicable temperature to use a port-a-potty, and it's much too late to get one ordered anyway. What I usually do is just pull up to Shawn's house, let myself right in, go upstairs, find his bedroom, open his sock drawer, and let 'er rip. Then, I close it tightly, reverse course, and try to act normal. That's not necessarily what you should do, of course, but you read it here so at least you can claim genuine confusion if you get busted. Or just track me down at the start, explain your desperation in fragmented sentences and grunts, and I'll point you to the shovel or my house.
Yeah, we've gotten that question a lot. It would seem that the cold has people in the mood for a ride where they might be able to simply jump back in their car and start it if the reality of riding sub-zero temps on Saturday turns out to be different than the very funny idea of doing so that you have on Friday afternoon on your couch. So yes, you can do that. It isn't marked, but it's pretty much dialed, and if you put in 9 laps or whatever like Petrylak did 4 months ago, you'll probably be able to follow it by memory.
Also worth noting, extra hard woman points if you can muster a Paranormal Loop PLUS a Pantani Loop. I've done that only once, and I had to take a break at mile 50 or so to cook a steak.
It's a hard ride. Not, like, a Mark Smith sort of "I rode here from Kentucky and did the Paranormal and then ate all the food in your house and rode home" kind of a hard ride, but hard nonetheless.
How will the course be marked?
Technically, there is no course. That's because a course requires a race, which requires entrance fees, insurance, and a general sense of accountability, which quite obviously I don't have. So there's no tape either. What there is, though, is a route.
Not such a bad idea to print that, put it in a little plastic tupperware that your tears can't penetrate and ruin, and tuck it away in case things go awry.
What do I win when I win?
knitted Pantani breeches. Metro usually brings some dad-booze to award the first finisher who has kids. The SS winner gets to stick their mangled, blistered feet into some sweet, pink socks. And in the spirit of equal pay out for mens and women's fields, the coveted Maillot Pistachio will this year be awarded to the first lady to cross the line. Not that there's actually a line, but you know what I mean. The downside of this is that you'll have to track down Qwadsworth to claim what is rightly yours - a task that even Chaz Michaels has yet to successfully complete. But I promise you, it'll be worth it when you do.
If you had to guess where I'm going to get lost, where would that be, and what should I do about it?
There are two really common wrong turns, both coming late in the ride. That would be #17 and #20 on this here queue sheet. Go right on the first one and left at the second. If you fail to do that, the first thing I recommend you do is fucking panic, drop everything you have, and get in the river. But hopefully our reliable, neutral, supportive, nutrition-providing, bong hitting van of good will manages to roll by before you do that. Otherwise, consult the map.
Can I cheat?
One word: Motors. I'd be disappointed if you had one and didn't use it. For $4,000, if I had one you better believe I'm cheating even if I'm just riding to the bar. And if you lack the $4k to be truly loathsome, there's always the cheaper journeyman options for cheating, including but not limited to shortcutting the course, taking a tow from a team car, EPO, etc.
Dude, don't you have syphilis? How are you going to ride Pantani with syphilis?
Shingles. I came down with Shingles in late January. Not quite as dirty as syphilis, but more painful. There were a few days there when it was pretty much all-consuming. My policy on the matter: stay up to date with all of your vaccinations, and try not to touch me with your genitals. But that's my policy on everything, actually, so just stay the course. As for me, I'm on the mend, and I actually have ridden every day this week, and I feel surprisingly OK. I'm hoping for the best.
And I'm hoping for the best for you too, but really, that is quite enough of all of this. Prepare yourself for greatness, and dress like you mean it.
Up, up, up.