In 1999, during the height of the tech boom when I had so many clients I couldn’t even recall their URLs, I hired a former world cycling champion as my coach and took up amateur bicycle racing for the Berkeley Bicycle Club (the BBC). Every day, rain or shine, I worked out two hours, doing intervals – short, painfully fast stretches up hills or on flats -- or endurance rides, which meant a ride of 60 to 70 miles with several thousand feet of climbing – all before lunch.
On the weekends, starting in February and ending in June, I’d wake up at 4 a.m. and travel to some desolate Central Valley town like Madera or Copperopolis (the worst!), register at 7 a.m., warm up for an hour, and then start a race from 22 to 66 miles long. I loved everything about racing: the camaraderie, the discipline, the constant improvement in power and speed, the primal competitiveness of it all like duking it out with my siblings when I was a child, and later the ability to win a bronze medal in the district time trial championships, and, in my second year, not get dropped by the lead group right out of the gate.
Even though I quit racing 12 years ago, there’s a bond I have with my former racing buddies that’s akin to what veterans feel about their wartime mates. So I could relate to Farhad Manjoo’s account in the March 29 NY Times of the trend for VCs and tech execs to bond over car racing. John Markoff wrote a similar story about the Palo Alto network of tech cyclists who ride up Sandhill Road during lunch and after work on their titanium and carbon fiber machines.
It’s all about mastery of the machine, whether it’s a computer, a car, or a bicycle. Or an airplane or sailboat. Humans do bond with machines. Manjoo brought in the sexist implication, that these are mostly men networking through car racing, and in cycle racing, it’s true that it’s mostly men as well. But there’s nothing holding women back.
Even Ellen Pao could join the race.