Today is my birthday. Big deal. I’m 41. According to USA Cycling, I have been 41 since Jan. 1, so it’s kind of anticlimactic. Everything has hurt all over since I turned 40. Different day, same aches.
Professional racers lasting through the grueling international circuit until their 40s are rare and something to be lauded. Christopher Horner is my age. He was a General Classification favorite in this year’s Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) and Tour de France.
Jens Voigt just turned 43 and broke the hour record after ending a season of typical aggressive attacking like he’s a hungry U23 trying to break into a pro squad.
Me? I raced 7 or 8 races at the Washington Boulevard Oval. I got as high as 7th place one night.
OK, it’s not even close. They are sponsored pros. I won a T shirt against a bunch of dentists. But the point is, I’m feeling like a young man on a bike. I could be having a mid-life crisis and buying a Corvette and growing a ponytail, but I’m riding my bike. A lot.
So what should I do? Race some more. The next big cycling event for Pittsburgh is the Dirty Dozen. Danny Chew created this monster of a bike race that has achieved a cult status. The pitch: ride a baker’s dozen of Pittsburgh’s toughest hills with 300 of your closest rivals. Sounds fun? I know it’s a painfest. Men from the boys kind of stuff. Most of the 300 don’t finish.
The roads are steep here. Last year I photographed the race with Andrew Russell on his motorcycle like real pro cycling photographers. And I thought it might be fun. I’m still looking for an excuse to not do it.
My intrepid buddy Steve and I have been reconnoitering the hills on the list and ticking them off one by one. Go to dannychew.com to see the list. The steepest is Canton Avenue in Beechview. At a 38% grade, it is the steepest hill in the country. Danny Chew would argue that it is the steepest in the world. Some sheep path in New Zealand is allegedly 39%. Whatever. Most of the other streets top out at 28-30% at their steepest. These are the roads that have steps for sidewalks.
You also ride 50 miles just to get to these monsters that take several minutes to climb. This is crazy, right? It definitely sounds like a midlife crisis to me.
Bring it. I’ll grow the ponytail. You bring the cowbell.