Phil Wikoff of the Super Squadra presented by Eliel cycling team has been at this bike racing game a long time. He’s chased collegiate titles and stood atop elite national podiums, snuck in sweaty interval sessions on his lunch break, and helped mold future generations of rippers (including his own pint-sized, two-wheeled terrors). This week, in Winston-Salem, Phil lined up at his first Masters National Championships. He survived the rolling 72-mile race, reconnected with old friends, and eventually placed 12th in the road race. He also left with the following impressions from his first Masters Nationals.
1) We get older, we stay the same age (relative to each other)
At Master's Nats, it's natural to review the start list and get a little anxious reading the names. This guy has won that, rode for that team, and so on. The thing is, most of the accomplishments you know your competition for happened 5 to 10 years ago. It's not ancient history but most everyone's peak era has passed. You still have to beat 'em though.
2) The older you get, the harder it gets
The biggest demographic for this event is the decade that covers the 'mid-life', age groups 40-44 and 45-49. If your particular midlife crisis calls for winning National championships, good luck. In good news, you're not alone. In bad news, if you're gonna pull on the stars and stripes, there's a big field and all of its respective risks and challenges to overcome.
3) Safety first, and last
Safety, like the ability to pee freely and skip the trip to your proctologist, comes much more easily in your 30s than your 40s. The 35-39 race featured exactly 0 crashes. The 40-44 and 45-49 race reports were replete with crashes. Happily, guaze-wrapped limbs do blend in more favorably with the salt n pepper manes with which they are more frequently paired.
4) Bragging rights on steroids (not literally! right?)
There's no money in these events so the rewards and motivations become much sharper in resolution. It's all about pushing yourself, beating your buddies, and maybe winning the ultimate training jersey. Frankly, this is a welcome change from racing for money. The win is zero sum and the tactics around it reflect as much. You win or you go home thinking about next year. Bonus: next year may not feature your arch rival if they happen to have aged up before you.
5) What else do you have going on?It's obvious there are a thousand things that most masters racers could and should be doing instead of racing their bikes out of town during the middle of the week. That's the point too. If you're fortunate enough to line up for your Masters Nats event of choice, be grateful and happy to be there. Make a trip out of it and see another part of the US you haven't seen yet. You're already halfway through the ultimate race--life.