The preamble to most cycling events is like the saddest cocktail party you've ever attended. First, there are no cocktails, and second, the discussion is rife with enough pestilence and calamity to make the Old Testament look like the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. Whether setting the stage for a potentially dismal performance or providing a suitable epilogue after the fact, there is a fine art to making excuses. These 10 suggestions will help guide your performance.
In term of plausibility, minor health issues are a slam dunk—but pick your illness carefully. You probably want to avoid something like, say, lice, which while completely plausible (especially if you have school-aged kids), probably wouldn't affect your performance in any tangible way. Plus, nobody will want to carpool with you ever again. Your imaginary illness should be serious enough to slow you down but not so serious that people start to get suspicious when you don't die.
The Medical Disaster
I did a race once with a guy who had been involved in a crash on a training ride the day before. He mentioned it at the start line, adding he was a little sore but would know more when they got the results of the X-ray. At that point, even finishing the race would garner him the admiration of everyone there. He finished top five and found out the next day his collarbone was broken in five places. Well played my friend... Well played.
At some point, almost everyone has been stuck on a plane behind a two-year-old with an ear infection, so this excuse scores high points in the empathy category. Travel fatigue can seriously affect athletic performance, so whether you just flew in from Bangkok or had a minor delay at the drive-through, as long as nobody can neither verify nor refute your travel, your excuse is clear for lift-off.
There is no denying that the presence of children can be a major disruption to your sporting life. Perhaps you were up until 5 a.m. with colicky triplets or got sacked so hard while playing tag that you vomited. Maybe you DNF-d on the second lap so you could drive little Tyler to baton practice. Children are the holy grail of excuses. You made them and pay to keep them alive, so go ahead and collect on that investment.
Despite the fact that we pay more for our bikes than the security systems in our homes, the frequency of bike mechanicals is, if you will excuse the pun, alarming. This reality can easily be used to your advantage after the fact. Who's to say both of your tires didn't spontaneously flat on the hardest part of the course or that a squirrel didn't launch itself into your drivetrain? Only you (and your bike mechanic) need to know the truth.
In most cases, your excuse doesn't need to be a complete fabrication as much as an embellishment. Not feeling your best? Failure to have your nutrition properly dialed in can have a huge effect on your performance. Everybody knows that. What they don't need to know is that the real cause of your nutritional failure was three plates of Indian Buffet and half a bottle of Jägermeister.
Some of the most common and inventive excuses you'll hear on the start line involve either a) too much training or b) not enough. We've all seen the guy who shows up to a race 50 miles out of town—on his bike. Or the keener who shows up to a peppy group ride the day after she ran a marathon. Conversely, you are just as likely to run across the poor sod who claims to have been nowhere near a bike since Nixon was in office. Used effectively, these excuses will make your performance completely irrelevant.
First things first. Nobody does a race "just for fun." It may turn out to be fun, but that fact would merely be a happy coincidence or the happy result of landing on the podium. Racing without the intention to exert effort or endure any physical discomfort makes no sense whatsoever, so nobody is going to buy it. If your strategy is nonchalance, telling people it's a "training race" or a "B race" implies that the race just isn't terribly important. After that, all you need to do to accomplish your mission is proudly bring home the Lanterne Rouge.
Unless racing bikes is your day job, chances are your "free time" is comprised of various mundane household tasks that range from cleaning the litter box to building a two-story addition on the the house. The former will get you no attention from anyone other than the cat, but the latter will garner plenty of respect and admiration, especially from those of us who think weeping tiles are just tiles who need to get over it. Be careful what you say though—that "pool" you put in last weekend might mean you can never invite people to your house again.
We've heard it all before—from the stomach flu to the (yawn) broken chain. If you're going to make something up, why not pull out all the stops and get creative. Imagine the looks you'll get when you nonchalantly announce you were up until 4 a.m. partying with Nickelback or were kidnapped by a cult of sexual deviants. OK, maybe someone cooler than Nickelback, but you get the idea. Sacrificing plausibility for notoriousness is worth it just for the sheer entertainment value.