Summer Sunday: Athletes Just Want To Have Fun

IMG_0308The funny thing about Telluride is that after you accomplish your personal, most challenging, athletic feat, there is always someone to tell you a story about those who are way harder core than you.

You raced the Iron Horse Bike Classic from Durango to Silverton; they did it on a fixed-gear bike. You raced from Telluride to Gateway in the annual Mountains to Desert ride; they raced it then rode the 100 miles back to Telluride the next day – as a cool down. You skinned up Waterfall Canyon for a backcountry lap; they did two laps, before work.

This “hard core” Olympics plays out everyday, and keeps the majority of us humble and working hard to keep up. If you ever get cocky about your ability in this valley, you’re either hanging with a semi-soft crowd, or you’re a professional athlete.

But, what’s even funnier is the purpose of sports in this town. You’d think people ride their bikes because they’re training or they want to stay in shape. They run because they signed up for the Imogene Pass Run. Although these are valid reasons to exercise, and they may be true, they’re not the whole truth.

The truth is, much of the sadistic crew that makes up the athletic community in this town, exercise because it’s fun. That’s it, pure and simple.

And, because it’s fun, they like to throw athletic parties. These parties are interesting because they usually involve very little planning, a fairly hard-core task, costumes, an interesting location, and a secret time.  They’re also usually borderline safe and borderline legal.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to Telluride. Anywhere athletes exist, underground athletic extravaganzas occur. When I lived in the Bay Area, we were privy to a ride called the Tour De La Marin. It happened twice a year around the solstice. The Council of Elders (nobody knew exactly who they were—although speculating made for an interesting dinner conversation) met before each solstice and determined a 100-mile course. The course was made of single track and fire roads — some of which were definitely open to bicycles.

If you were in the know, you would “hear about” where to meet and you showed up at the designated place, on the designated morning, at 5 am to receive a laminated card with a fairly cryptic route description. Then you rode it. No start line, no finish line, no aid stations, no award ceremony. Just a 100-mile ride.

Why? Because they could. And, because it’s fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Telluride and the surrounding region, examples of these “athletic raves” are endless, silly, and usually involve a disco shirt. Think, Lunar Cup, 12-Hours of Mesa Verde, last day of the ski area.

The newest, and most recent rave was the Telluride Classic Townie Bike Criterium – an impromptu bike race, on single speeds and in costume (duh) three times around a designated course through downtown Telluride. No ads in the paper, no radio announcements, no signs. If you knew about it, you showed up.

About 70 cyclists knew about it and showed up. The rumored time of the event was 7 pm. As 7 came and went, no one seemed impatient. Individuals milled around, exchanging greetings and reports of recent trails and rides.

Finally, a strapping young man, dressed in a corduroy tuxedo from the ‘70’s, addressed the caped, masked, and disco-shirt clad group.

“Thanks for coming,” he said. “ Remember, there are no road closures, so obey all traffic rules.”

Chuckles came from the group as they rolled out on their one-geared bikes. They raced around town, tearing around corners, pedaling up stone alleys, and obeying all traffic rules.

In “races” like these, there are no real rules; but there are a few unwritten rules. Always show up in a ridiculous outfit and on classic equipment. You are actually allowed to race—for real — but definitely not required to. If you are going to go all out, you have to act like you don’t care and you can’t mention that you won. Most of your fellow competitors really don’t care and your friends will let anyone who does know. The rest of the field will be psyched to finish without any bodily harm.563463_10200540753186761_1607508599_n

At the criterium, all of the above happened. Somebody won, nobody died (although there was at least one spectacular crash), and nobody tarnished the character of the sport by failing a blood test, as there weren’t any anyway. The finish was as uneventful as the start; competitors continuously rolled in (some after completing two laps, some after completing three –nobody was counting) and then stuck around to exchange stories. Eventually, they dispersed into the evening as inconspicuously as they arrived.

After the race, there was no evidence it happened at all — except for the intermittent giggling echoing throughout the valley.



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