Internet for Knowledge / Not for Skills

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I use the Internet all the time for information on how to do things.  How to reset automatic locks with a new key fob for one of my cars, to how to polish granite countertop edges, wet or dry.  It is amazing the extent people will go to give their experience or expertise to others.  And most of the time it is for nothing, just knowing they helped the next guy out so he doesn’t have to go through the learning process that they did.

There is a Youtube video for just about anything you can think of.  It might take a while sorting through them all to get to the one that has the true knowledge, but that is how all learning goes. Sometimes the guy that is the most inexperienced comes up with the best way of doing things it seems.  That is what is really cool about critical thinking.

Learning bicycle racing from the Internet probably wouldn’t work very well.  I think you could learn how to rebuild an STI lever on you bike pretty good, but the actually racing tactics would be nearly impossible.  Or techniques for being a better bike handler, etc. would be very hard to attain through just reading/watching them.  Or course you could read that you should put your all you weight on your outside pedal when cornering in a criterium, but that doesn’t mean it will become 2nd nature when you are doing it.

Becoming super confident on a bicycle, with the ability to handle most situations a race, or even training for hours on the road, throw at you, takes repetition.  It takes tons of times experiencing different situations and reacting instantly.  It isn’t like you consciously think about what you are doing, you are just doing.

At Joe Martin last week, I watched a rider a couple different stages.  This guy was killing it up Mt. Gaylor on Friday, pretty much killing it nearly the whole way up the climb.  He was super strong.  Then on Sunday, in the criterium, I got behind the same rider early in the race and couldn’t believe that he had no ability to turn a corner.  Like he was losing 2 or 3 bike lengths each and every corner.  I only followed him for a couple corners before I realized that I didn’t want him anywhere near me the rest of the race, which would have been nearly impossible for him anyway.  I’m sure the rider will be fine eventually, be he was so far over his head in the criterium, that it will take years for him to be adequate, in my opinion.

I guess that is why I really enjoy the sport so much, and why it never becomes monotonous. There is always something to learn, always places to improve.  Or learn what you already once knew, but were rusty at.

Compare these two videos of Peter Sagan.  It is amazing that he didn’t crash into Fabian Cancellara in Pari-Roubaix.  One legged bunny hop over Fabian.  His skills are crazy good.  Then in the 2nd one, his MTB return in Austria, he looks like a beginning MTB racer.  What a contrast. But, that is the sport. Repetitions or the skills fade.



Tucker is getting more agile by the day.  He is super fast and very quick, even compared to last week.

Tucker is getting more agile by the day. He is super fast and very quick, even compared to last week.

10 thoughts on “Internet for Knowledge / Not for Skills

  1. Barb

    In all fairness to Sagan, we didn’t see his crash, and even the pros who mountain bike and compete regularly can crash, (and road and cross racers do also) and there are crashes in almost every race, due to more than one reason. I mountain bike a lot have decent skills, and being completely unfamiliar with a new course, or even riding a new trail for the first time and not knowing what to expect around the next turn always puts me at risk. So in that respect “repetition” of riding a course over and over might apply, but realistically, in any race, how many of the competitors have a chance to ride that route over and over?” How did you break your thumb? I thought it was mainly due to being unfamiliar with that route and the resulting error in judgment? Sagan doesn’t race mountain bikes now, he races road bikes, but I’ve seen videos of him mountain biking that were shot well past his 2008 Junior Worlds victory, so it’s not like he hasn’t ridden a mountain bike in 8 years, he just hasn’t raced a mountain bike in 8 years. I don’t see how it’s fair to say he looks like “a beginning mountain bike racer” on a couple easy sections – could have been he was just having an off day at Graz, he didn’t look like he was into it from the beginning, so I don’t think using his DNF due to a crash as an example for lack of “repetition” is reasonable. As for the guy in the criterium, fear can override any kind of “repetition”. I know when I’ve crashed and had to recover (for months) my fearlessness is always diminished incrementally for some time afterwards. But then we might say, “don’t race if you’re afraid”, but people like to race, and what does it hurt? It just allows the better riders to beat them.

  2. Dog

    Have to agree with Barb on that one. Her film showed a few more skills than yours did Steve. It didn’t look like he was in the redline the race shots you had of him. The dude has mad skills. We won’t talk about broken bones cause most riders get a few no matter how their skills work out. I am guessing he has been down fewer times than you have in the last five years and you have probably 30 more years of racing under your belt than he has.
    I do agree if you don’t practice your stuff you get rusty. Every time I get on the track I feel like a complete new guy, I don’t even think about mtb moves ten years ago would have been no problem. Haven’t been in a crit in a couple years, but the last one wasn’t pretty for sure. I am pretty careful who I ride with these days as I can not think that I was ever as bad of a rider as I see out there every day on the road. The “old guard” would have put me in the weeds when I was a Jr. if I would have ridden like I see people out on the course today. Some stuff you just didn’t do more than once in the old school. If I had half Peter’s skills I would be a happy man.

  3. shano92107

    wow, thats pretty shocking (at least to me) that even with a motor like Sagan has he still got destroyed!
    Good way to sum up how fast pro MTBs go when it gets technical which underlines Steves point – that the skills dont necessarily translate across these 2 vocations. (I’d bet if it had been a non-technical course like many of those here in SoCal the race could have had a very different outcome!)

    I would think that the same would hold true for road vs CX but look at how Zdenek Stybar got back on the cross bike (2014?) and blasted Nys for the rainbow stripes. On any given day and the right parcours somebody can jump and slaughter the field (but you gotta have the engine no matter what.)

  4. mech9

    By no means am I discrediting Sagan’s skills, the guy is awesome! However, everyone keeps posting how amazing his skills were to “bunny hop” Fabian. If you watch the video again, he got lucky. At no point does he pull up on the bars to do an actual bunny hop. He straight up ran over FC while semi getting unclipped to possibly bail. It was monster truck style with 1 leg out, not a skilled bunny hop or an attempt at a bunny hop. Regardless, a lot of people would have wrecked at that point, but sagan rode it out.

    About his return to mtb’ing. Hehe Steve you know how that is. It’s a tough sport. It’s not like he was going to come back and beat Nino or something. I am glad to see him out there a long with everyone else. He looks like he’s just suffering in general. He could have wrecked somewhere else on the course and is feeling the pain of that. Its not like he’s going to come back to mtb and all the sudden be able to spank Nino and Kulhavy.

    Steve. I am curious of how a rider makes it into a cat1/2 race and still doesn’t know how to corner. Seems like at some point between cat5-2 they would have learned?

  5. old and slow

    “Seems like at some point between cat5-2 they would have learned?”

    I bet that if you look into it he was a Cat 4 this time a year ago and before that maybe a rower or if this had been somewhere up north maybe a nordic ski stud instead. Perhaps from a weaker district as well and judging from the description above he almost certainly got his upgrade points in the hills like I did. (On a bike from 1971 with nearly a 41 inch wheelbase where I was always terrified of L shaped crit courses because I couldn’t take all the corners on the outside.)

    I raced against the last US national road champion who didn’t shave his legs and in my ancient experience this phenomenon was not uncommon, not even in highly competitive districts like Colorado or NorCal that far back. Although I’ll grant you that thirty years ago there were a whole lot more people out there with bike handling skills that were way behind their wattage. I guess the flip side of this phenomenon is those Belgian guys over age forty with the big beer guts who can still hold their own in the kermesses?

    Without naming names one guy who ended up as an extra in “American Flyers” crashed so often right after he made it past Cat 3 (in his first full season) that people started to suspect that he was doing it deliberately as opposed to getting spit out the back instead. His own teammates asked the officials to do something about it! In the mid 1980s in Colorado people would kindly lecture you all about why you shouldn’t upgrade until after mid-August when all the heavies left town. Sometimes the same guys would would voluntarily downgrade themselves the next year.

    The one time I ever got bitched out for inept cornering (on a newer tighter bike) by a national class rider it was the legendary Bus Stop training race and I had just slipped on my spare tubular tire over the existing glue job five minutes before the start. I decided not to tell him why I was cornering like a 1964 Rambler American nor ask why I still got to tow him right back into position ten times in a row anyway if I sucked so bad?

  6. paul

    Actually Youtube is pretty good for checking out and remembering a mtb race course you haven’t done in a few years. Doing that now for the Whiskey 50 out her in AZ…

  7. Steve Tilford Post author

    Barb-I agree somewhat. But I can’t sign off on how bad he looks on his MTB last week. The bike doesn’t look like it fits very well and he looks like he is uncomfortable climbing and descending. I assumed he would have been on that bike quite a bit to attempt to do a major race. I’m sure if he rode a few races, he would get back up to speed pretty quickly. But Peter now races 6 hour road races, not 1:15 MTB races. These guys are going to be much quicker than him. He isn’t trained for it. The video you show is just him messin’ around on a MTB, not in a full on race situation. Like Dog says below, when you are redlined is when you have to have the skills, not when you are fooling around. It is much harder then.

    I just returned from pre-riding a very technical MTB race course for 3 hours. I am beat. I’m not used to it. Peter hasn’t paid his dues recently. I’m just saying even a super talented guy like Peter Sagan can’t retain all his previous abilities and have access to them at will.

  8. Aki

    Regarding “Cat 5 to Cat 2″… For an example of people who got up there but still didn’t know how to corner, I’d look at some videos of the following riders descending: Michael Rasmussen, Levi Leipheimer, and Andy Schleck. I find it tough to watch those awkward embarrassing moments in movies, when people make a fool of themselves. I have the same reaction when I see those riders descend (and descending is, for me, a good test of cornering skills). Even when following other riders they seem to gap themselves off because they simply don’t understand cornering lines.

    Cornering is free, in terms of doping/training. I suppose it takes practice, but I think some karting or track days or even an ear piece and a coach on a motorcycle following down a switchback descent…

    It’s the Peter Principle. If your motor is big enough you can go to the next level, even if your skills aren’t quite up to snuff. For freakishly strong riders (regardless of how they got freakishly strong), it’s quite easy to significantly outpace their own skillset.


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