The 2012 S.O.B. Invitational Gravel Race

After a recent post about my compulsion to do things I’m told not to do, an email arrived in my inbox that simply read:

“I dare you not to do my race.”

It was from the S.O.B. himself, so of course refusal was not an option. I also took this as my formal invitation to a race where one was actually required. It was an off-the-grid 70km road race on a mix of gravel and paved roads on the North-East edge of the city, followed by a dog-fest of epic proportions, complete with beer and chips. I love chips.

The first order of business was choosing the right bike for the job. I was told that in the absence of any rain it was totally doable on a road bike, which is my natural weapon of choice. Subsequently, the heavens opened and produced shitloads of rain. So instead I opted for my trusty cross bike with skinnyish tyres (700×25) and prepared to get dirty. And lost.

The course was well mapped out and provided in advance, which was of no consequence to me because of my terrible sense of direction and inherent inability to navigate. Ask Ben. Heck, ask anyone. I get lost in my own house sometimes. I was not leaving anything to chance.There was a good chance I would need Colin.There were about 22 racers, each, it seemed, with a different kind of bike. There were road bikes, cross bikes, fat bikes, mountain bikes, and one very, very large bike for Lyle.

Everyone arrived a half hour early to get their shit together, sign waivers, and engage in the pre-race ritual of doling out the reasons they are going to suck. Popular excuses include lack of training, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, the likelihood of mechanical failures, and navigational ineptitude. I tried to incorporate all of them in one form or another.Pre-race mechanical? Well played, sir. Well played.

I tried to absorb the pre-race route instructions. But paying attention is hard.So my primary goal for the race was to stay with someone who knew where they were going. After winding up in the no-man’s land between the lead and second group after about 10km, I put the pedal to the metal to catch other people in front of me. Fear, as it turns out, is a powerful motivator.

Like most road races, it went from glorious to shitty, and back again several times. After hitting a pothole the size of a Mr. Turtle pool (or, if you prefer, one of Lyle’s footprints), my saddle was knocked into a very unfortunate angle, pointing up at the nose. Whenever this happens to a female rider, they immediately become pregnant with Mario Cipollini’s love child.

It was nice to see The Sweeterest Jersey in the World in action and appropriately splattered with mud and gravel – as modelled here by the Hipster at the finish line. Sweet.

No race is complete without the customary presentation of the trophy to the winner by a carefully selected and regionally appropriate podium girl.Terry won not only the race, but also the pre-race excuse-fest, convincing most of us he was in the worst shape of his life. Bravo Terry! Bravo!

The post-race dog-fest was, of course, the best part, complete with a roaring fire:

Erm… roaring fire:

The supply of chips was bountiful, including some lightly salted ones brought by someone (KK) who’s lovely wife is obviously concerned about our health, even if we are not. There were also fancy flavoured chips chock-full of salt and other exotic spices.

There were mechanical issues with one of the beer kegs, but after much tampering it was rendered partially operational. The hatchet was not required. Order was restored, torches and pitchforks were set aside.

Off-the-grid races like this are a hell of a lot of fun. Just a load of yahoos riding their bikes in the same direction, all trying to make it back to the beer supply first. Or at the very least, not last. Somehow the usual pressure of racing is diminished in the pursuit of fun, fitness and chips.

I am glad the S.O.B. threw down the gauntlet. And I am gladder still I didn’t decide not to pick it up.