My fantasy world is the mountains I live in. The Gooseneck and Mill Creek valleys, Dorn Peak, the lookout and the fire roads that connect them have been my haunt since my early explorations on my Bridgestone back in 2003. With the exception of occasional rides with Joe, Mallory and Maddie over the Holidays, I've had them pretty much to myself. Riding up the fire roads several times a week dropped 30 pounds off me, made me strong, and gave me a place where I was King of the Mountain - cheered by those I tolerated on my land. Shooters, militia, ATV riders, drunk campers, the odd horseback rider (and one inexplicable dance party at a pullout) all were amazed I was crazy enough to pedal a bicycle up thousands of feet of dirt road for no apparent reason. And as much as I might complain about their presence, I was kind of glad someone was there to see how awesome I was. What's the point of being king if nobody is there to admire your royal personage.
With this kingdom to retreat to, I have tolerated defeats in quantities that would drive others to reality television and an early death.
And my kingdom, my sanctuary, my respite from a seemingly never ending string a third from last place finishes, was swept away with a single one mile Strava segment.
Strava, for those who aren't athletically inclined or aren't raging narcissists, is a web-based tool that lets you share your rides with other Strava users by uploading GPS data from your smart phone or GPS bike computer. One of the features Strava boasts is the ability to set "segments" - timed sections of your ride - that you are King or Queen of until someone rides it faster.
I've had an account for over a year but never used it until this week. Jeff McNamee, a professor at Linfield and former pro mountain biker-now trail advocate had been riding dirt bikes around up in my mountains doing some recon for BLM who might be interested in developing trails up there. I was so caught up in the fantasy of miles of beautiful bench cut trails right outside my door, that it never occurred to me I would have to pay a price for those trails.
A terrible price.
Jeff and I talked and when I told him I had a couple solid routes over to Mill Creek from Gooseneck, he asked if I could load them up on Strava so he could see. No problem! But when I did, I gained access to the Strava dashboard and was able to see all the routes and segments in my area.
Someone had put down a segment on the fire road that climbed to the ridge. My road. The road I ride twice a week to keep in shape. I couldn't believe it. Then I saw who did it and my world crashed down around me.
Evan Plews is one of the fastest mountain bikers in America. That's not an overstatement. He has competed in the Single Speed World Championships. He's won at Sea Otter and the Whiskey 50. He did the Test of Endurance 100 mile race in the time it took me to do the 50 mile race. Evan Plews lives in Salem and apparently decided to do some training rides up here ahead of the High Cascades 100 mile race which is going on while I write this (and he's probably winning). He probably marked the segment because it's a perfect segment with a clear beginning and end. And because he's Evan Plews, he put down an unbelievably fast 1 mile climb that I will never, ever be able to beat. Now every time I do this ride Strava is going to tell me "Great! New PR! Too bad you're still not as fast as Evan Plews!". "Nope, still too slow!" "Hey Fat Boy! Guess who's still slower than Evan Plews?" I'll never be King of the Mountain again. I'll always be a pretender to the throne.
What the Hell was he doing out here? Couldn't he have gone and ruined somebody else's life? It's like having Alberto Contatdor flying to your town, finding the local hill segment that you and your buddies have been exchanging bragging rights over for the last couple years, crushing it with a blistering time, and getting back on a plane and flying back to Europe to win the Tour de France while you and your buddies just stand there shattered, knowing you will never beat his time because he's frigging Alberto Contador and this is what he does for a living.
Except I don't have any friends! It's just me and that road and that damned red line on the Strava map that I will never be King of again because Evan Plews is a sponsored pro and he spends all day training. I spend all day sitting in front of my computer looking at articles on Salon telling me that "sitting is the new smoking".
Yes, I know. I'm sponsored too. Evan is sponsored by Ibis, a bike company. He gets bikes, kit, and race fees covered. Do you know what I got for being sponsored? A pair of Tom Keller's used bib shorts. You know how I know their Tom's? He wrote his name on the label! You know how else I know? Because I can barely fit in them everywhere except in the legs where they're baggy because Tom has huge legs and might be the only person who could beat Evan Plews and if there is anything I am thankful for in this dark, dark moment of my life, it is that Tom Keller didn't leave that Strava segment because I don't think I could live with being crushed and demoralized by the nicest man I have ever met.
So thank you Evan Plews. Thank you for ruining it all for me. I hope you're happy.