Words and Photos by Danielle Baker
Everyone has a friend like Jessica; whenever you are together chaos and adventure ensue. One minute you are meeting up for a drink and the next thing you know you are passed out on an inflatable dolphin in Mexico. There is a reason why Jessica and I do not hang out all that often: self-preservation. We ran into each other at a barbeque last week and today we crossed the finish line at the Tour de Victoria in the little-known-because-it-does-not-exist category of “Fixed Fifty.” Our victory came with Chuck Taylors so full of water that fish could have lived in them and two fixed gear bikes that didn't quite fit in. Saying that we were unprepared for this epic event would be an understatement.
We looked out of our hotel room window this morning and saw the rain. Only then did we realize that between us we only had two pieces of technical gear. Everything else was death cloth ( cotton). We spent most of the morning flailing, missing our shuttle in favor of watching the World Cup, losing wallets and cranking the theme from “Rocky.” We layered our flannel and ironic shirts over our tights and headed out into the cold and wet to face our destiny.
Arriving at the start line we found a smiling and cheerful crew, despite the fact that they had already been out in the cold and wet for roughly four hours, as the 100-kilometer and 140-kilometer events were already underway. We bashfully made our way through the spandex and carbon to the back of the start chute, awkwardly trying to hide our fixies in plain sight.
"An ideal ride for those who want to experience cycling for the first time" is the description of the 50-kilometer Tour de Victoria course. "The course is relatively flat and beginner friendly.” It was this line that Jessica would later admit led her to picture us riding around in circles in a Walmart parking lot, rather than swearing under our breath at our choice of flat pedals over clipless on the climbs.
The race had not even started before people began pointing and staring, Jess protested at their comments about our bikes, pointing out what was hopefully painfully obvious, "We are not taking this seriously." The race started and despite some wobbling and stalling around us, we made it safely across the start line. Within the first few pedal strokes my front fender started making the sound of a dolphin trying to tell me that the answer is 42. I squealed alongside Jessica as we settled in for the next 50km of headwinds, pelting rain and pumpkin patches.
Beautiful stretches by the ocean proved that while it may not have been a perfect day for a road ride, it was a perfect day for kite surfing. Sections of pavement through the trees provided some protection from the wind, but also offered giant soggy slaps from falling maple leaves, like earthy pies to the face. Police and traffic crews who smiled and cheered us on controlled every intersection. Roadies pinned passed us using language that we did not understand and synchronized hand signals that confused us. They yelled "car back" and we thought 'car where?' Our minor victories included passing a recumbent, not urinating in public and not crying. I did however try to coast at one point and almost died as my bike hiccupped, nearly sending me up and over the bars. Our spirits, and those of the cyclist around us (probably not really) were lifted when an accidental spout of water shooting off the highway caused us to break into the chorus of TLC's “Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls.” The karaoke nights are finally paying off.
We stopped a little too long at the aid station just under half way where we were warmed by familiar faces, bootlegged donuts and high winds that threatened to take the tents away. Eventually we were urged along by a caring crewmember that suggested, "You girls should get going. You have been here for a while now.” For the second half of the ride Jessica tucked in for some sneaky drafting with her stealthy bike and quiet breathing, unfortunately whenever I tried to draft my aquatic mammal of a fender gave me away, riders would look confused and often pull over to check what was wrong with their bikes.
I gave up and tried to tag along with Jess but the spray off her fender made me feel like Stevie Smith during his beer shower/post-Leogang interview, minus the mustache. The short, and not so short, punchy hill climbs both made us regret our choices in life and gave us confidence as we passed people dropping gears. If you are going to bring a knife to a gunfight, you better not have to walk it up a hill. The cheering volunteers and cowbells got us to the top every time. Even in the rain the volunteers and spectators were amazing, lining the roads and shouting encouragement for hours. But as we crested each hill we were ultimately passed by coasting riders draped in technical clothing that flapped like wizard sleeves in the wind.
When we rounded the last corner we saw the finish line and it was sunny! People lined the course and cheered, volunteers gave us medals and swag and amazing baked potatoes and fresh barbequed salmon. Although Jessica and I, throughout the ride, looked at each other and without even speaking communicated, "What the f*#k are we doing?" we could not help but feel proud of our accomplishment. Every volunteer and spectator who sat in the rain all day and cheered for us gave us the warmth that we needed to finish, especially two guys offering encouragement and drinking beer at the bus stop at 11 a.m.
This was type-two fun, as Jessica would put it, the kind of fun where you are really happy when it is done, really happy that you did it, and that type of fun most likely to make you purchase a road bike before next year. We already have our sights set on the 140-kilometer option, although we have agreed that we may require gears and possibly a team manager (we are currently taking applications). Until then we will avoid eye contact and hopefully any inflatable dolphins as a result.