This really won’t be much of a race report, being that I was done for the day at mile 13 of the bike , so I’ll focus on the race briefly and then turn my attention to the stagger rule and offer my opinion on its purpose (or lack thereof).Leading up to Wildflower, training was essentially the only thing I was doing and I was doing a lot of it. You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as often. Well, that’s directly related to the amount of training I’ve been doing. Training usually isn’t that noteworthy, so I didn’t bother. I digress…

I was excited to get the swim underway, since this would be my first start in a rather large professional field (40 men in total). More pros means more competent feet to follow, so my goal was to stay in the pack and that’s exactly where I found myself until the halfway point. I was swimming near the rear of the pack and began to trust the feet I was on – mistake #1. The pack accelerated through the turns, while I focused on the feet ahead. A sizable gap opened up and I debated whether or not to push the pace and catch on or swim solo. After little deliberation, I figured it’d be best to let them go. Exiting the swim, I lost about 30 seconds to the main pack.

Heading onto the bike course, my coach told me I was in 15th position. I was passed twice within the first two miles – didn’t know the somewhat technical roads – but passed several riders on the first climb. As the roads leveled out, I continued to make progress on the athletes ahead and that’s when a motorcycle pulled alongside. At first I thought it was the TriCal TV crew. After all, the Slice with Rolf Prima wheels is a sexy combo and it’s pretty hard to miss me in my red Kiwami Amphibian. Instead, it was a referee and I was told to stand down. So much for wishful thinking.

It’s Like An Advert For Brightroom

Upon hearing I violated the stagger rule, I was bit perplexed as I was at least 30 meters behind the next rider. I argued there’s no way I was getting any benefit from the rider ahead and that the penalty was complete bullshit. She told me it was still early in the race and offered little insight to what actually comprised the rule. So, I rode on not fully understanding what I got marked for.

I kid you not, two miles later, another motorcycle pulls alongside and stands me down again. This time, I was at least 80 meters behind the next rider, but it’s two strikes and you’re out. I wasn’t quite as pleasant with the next ref, because I didn’t know why I was being DQ’d. Sensing the futility of argument, I made peace with the DQ and thoroughly discussed the rule with the ref. I thought I understood the rule – mistake #2. Well, it turns out that the if you can see the rider ahead, you cannot ride behind them. Period. Doesn’t matter if they’re 80 or 800 meters ahead, it based strictly on line of sight.

One way or the other, I had to get back to transition. I could either turn around or see the rest of the course. Being 13 miles in, I figured what’s another 43? Since I got passed by several riders with my two 2-minute penalties, plus the 5 or so minutes I spent talking with the second ref, I thought it’d be fun to try to catch those who passed me. By the time I passed the 52 mile marker, I had passed everyone who had passed me and then some. Even with standing still for 9-minutes, I was the 12th athlete or so into transition. Yay for bike fitness. Too bad running is my strength…

Overall, shame on me for not actually understanding the rule. However, the shame does not end there. Shame on Tri California and the head referee for their pathetic attempt at an Elite Meeting. They took roll, gave us raffle tickets, raffled away prizes, and then the head referee told us to make sure we had the proper sticker in our helmets. He was about to bring up the stagger rule, but said “Oh, just come see me after if you don’t understand it.” Uh, isn’t his job as head referee to explain the rules? The meeting was mandatory, going over the rules should be too.

Implementing this rule at Wildflower – or in general – is a bad decision. It’s windy and the course is not closed to traffic. So, if there’s an athlete riding on the white line, the next athlete must move to his left, and so on. At some point, an athlete is going to have to ride near the centerline and have cars buzz them from the opposite direction, all the while cars are passing from behind. I spoke to the head referee after the race inquiring about the benefits of such a rule. Well, it’s supposed to keep athletes engaged in the competition and diminish the likelihood of drafting. That’s great, because I so often day-dream and/or fall asleep in the areo position because I’m bored. Here’s something to think about, if the stagger rule decreases the likelihood of drafting by staggering athletes across the road, how does that not increase the odds of a blocking penalty? Hmm, seems like someone – or some board – didn’t really think this one through. Good job, guys. You all deserve a pat on the back for a job done poorly.

Apparently the WTC doesn’t institute the stagger rule. Hmm.

The most disappointing aspect of the weekend was not being able to truly test my fitness. I know what I could have ran there and had I not received the penalties, there would of been a four-digit check with my name on it. On the bright side, some girls told me I have really sexy legs, so I guess the weekend was a success after all.