The Top Ten of Eleven

Now that my New Year’s Eve hangover has subsided to a dull throb, it’s time to reflect on the past year and issue forth a completely self-serving and arbitrarily categorized list of my top tens of 2011. In no particular order:

1. Top Ride – Mount Lemmon
It’s always nice to add something to your bucket list after you did it. Climbing Mount Lemmon in Arizona wasn’t something I had ever really pined to do, and yet in March I found myself doing exactly that. Going uphill is one of the harder and slower things you can do on a bike, and if I’m going to put in that kind of big effort, I would prefer to go fast in return. But the ridiculously awesome descent made the three hour climb a worthwhile effort indeed. Thanks to Ben for waiting for me at the top.

2. Top Bike – My new Trek Madone 6.9
I don’t know what the 6.9 stands for, and I don’t really care. All I know is that this bike still makes me melt at the sight of it, and makes everything else I ride feel like a shopping cart. A friend once said riding a good bike feels almost like cheating. He was right.

3. Top Badass – Johnny Hoogerland
After being forced off the road by a French news car on Stage 9 of the Tour de France, Johnny Hoogerland became intimately acquainted with a barbed wire fence. In the aftermath, the whole world became intimately acquainted with graphic images of his shredded bottom. He took out a wooden fence post in the crash, and the barbed wire tore into him – his lacerations requiring 33 stitches to repair. But what really elevated Hoogerland to Top Badass status was the fact that he not only finished the stage within the time limit, but also defended the polka dot jersey that day. Honey Badger better watch his back.

4. Top Douchebag – Rob Ford

Perhaps Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would find himself more in favour of bicycles if they looked more like a couch or a family-size bag of Doritos. Winnipeg may not be the best place on earth to live, but every night before I go to bed I thank all the angels and saints I don’t live in Toronto any more.

5. Top Local Race – DarkCross
To say DarkCross was awesome would be an understatement of considerable proportion. My only regrets are that they wouldn’t let us jump over any cars or set any oil barrels on fire. Next year. Other than that, it was truly The Shit.

6. Top Playlist
Inside or outside, here are the top ten songs that make me feel way more awesome than I actually am.
1. Timebomb – Beck
2. Monarchy of Roses – Red Hot Chili Peppers
3. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
4. Keep On – DJ Champion
5. Cobrastyle – Teddybears
6. Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver – Primus
7. Pepper – Butthole Surfers
8. Carolina Blues – Blues Traveller
9. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
10. Island in the Sun – Weezer

7. Top Gym – First Choice Fitness
Until a few years ago, the only possible reason I would be up at 5:30am was that someone had brought a bottle of Sambuca and a blowtorch to the party. Last year I traded in the cold sweats for ones of the lululemon variety and joined First Choice Fitness for some bike specific strength training. I love this gym because of its sensible yet no-nonsense approach to training the whole body, and focus on functional strength rather than showy man muscles (not that I mind those either). And you could certainly do worse than waking up to owner and trainer Blake Wood, who – in addition to being a bike racer himself – runs his gym like a well-oiled six pack… I mean machine.

8. Top Male Rider – Mark Cavendish
You call him Cav, Boy Racer, the Manx Missile… I simply call him My Boyfriend. And he is fucking spectacular. Sure, there are better riders, nicer (and taller) people, but there is no one who gets me more excited about bike racing. He had a spectacular year – capturing stage after stage as well as the Maillot Vert at the Tour de France, AND won the World Champion jersey. Must make it hard to decide what to wear in the morning. (but put on the damn white shorts already).

9. Top Female Rider – Clara Hughes
I am ashamed to say that, like the majority of cycling fans, I do not follow women’s cycling nearly as much as I should. But in my defence, cycling represents approximately 1% of sports on TV – and about 1% of that 1% is women’s cycling. The one race I did catch was the women’s World Championship road race in September. I tuned in just as my home girl Clara Hughes attacked with three laps to go. She gained a full minute on the peloton and had me on the edge of my chair until the damned Dutch finally reeled her in 3km from the finish. She didn’t win, but she showed some amazing courage and strength in a race that had otherwise been a bit of a snoozer. Must be tough to sit down with balls that big.

10. Top Bike Shop – Bisbee Bicycle Brothel
This was a tough one to award. I visited lots of cool bike shops this year: La Bicicletta in Toronto, One on One and Angry Catfish in Minneapolis, The Cyclery in Ottawa, just to name a few. Not to mention the continuing and exceptional favouritism I enjoy at my own LBS, Alter Ego. But the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel in Southern Arizona stood out for two reasons. Firstly, it is really more a museum than a shop, and full of enough cycling memorabilia to choke a culturally inappropriate sombrero-wearing mule. Secondly, the owner spent half an hour digging through said memorabilia to find me a pair of slightly used Look cleats after mine broke on the potentially neck-breaking descent into town. I like to think they were once worn by the great Eddy Merckx. I bet they were.

2011 was a heck of a ride. It was a bit bumpy in spots and lots of hard uphill sections. There were a few scrapes and bruises, and plenty of hard lessons. But compared to the laughs, the fun and the sheer joy of riding a bike, none of that really mattered. It’s just all part of the ride.