by Scott Martin
What’s a better cycling experience – road race or organized ride? We finally have the answer to this age-old question, thanks to a recent weekend when I did one of each on subsequent days. You be the judge.
Race: Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, California
Ride: Tierra Bella Century, Gilroy, California
Race: 53 miles (85 kilometers)
Ride: 35, 63, 100 or 120 miles (60, 100, 160 or 200 kilometers)
Race: $49 plus mystery $10 refundable payment to USA Cycling
Race: Get up at 5 a.m., inhale oatmeal, drive to venue, park in bumpy faraway field. Stand in line waiting for registration to open at 7 a.m. for 8 a.m. start. Stand in line to get number. Stand in line to get mystery $10 refund from USA Cycling. Stand in line to get goodie bag containing inner tube, tiny sample of chamois lube and 3-month-old cycling magazine. Stand in line at porta-potty. Do 3-minute warm-up. Listen to announcer’s AARP jokes. Go.
Ride: Get up 7-ish, savor eggs, toast and coffee. Use own bathroom with reliable toilet paper supply. Put on ride wristband that organizer mailed the previous week, drive to venue. Go.
Race: Water or energy drinks in feedzone at base of steepest climb, where 2 riders topple over trying to grab bottles while in oxygen debt.
Ride: Rest stops every 10 to 15 miles containing water, energy drinks, sandwiches, cookies, grapes, orange wedges, trail mix and baked red potatoes seasoned with rosemary.
Race: Manzanita bushes and barbed wire fencing, for 7 laps.
Ride: Green hills, hot springs, rivers, reservoirs, farmland, falcons, deer, wildflowers.
Race: Medals to top 3. Everyone else: “Hey! Keep the road clear!”
Ride: Live music, ride patch for everybody, all-you-can-eat pasta dinner plus ice cream and 3 kinds of pie.
Scott Martin has been writing about cycling for more than 15 years. He worked as an editor for Bicycling magazine for 10 of them and wrote the “Scott’s Spin” column for RBR from which this is republished. He has also covered cycling for several national magazines.