Sunday, February 07, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Prank Entry And Registration Madness: Part 5

  "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Today I continue the sub-series concerning registration, post cards, and what led to a big change in registration after T.I.v11. But first- a simple prank meant to be a poke to my side turns into a big debate about doping in cycling and how that relates to Trans Iowa. 

Late post cards for T.I.v11. Note the bottom center one as that one is today's subject.
I have a rather harsh maxim which I use to help me when navigating instructions for events, or when I am trying to manage expectations. Is it a 'dim view of humanity', just being realistic, or a bit of both? You be the judge. All I know is that it worked for running Trans Iowa. Here it is:

"Never under-estimate the stupidity of Mankind."

Actually, truth be known, this was more to manage my expectations than it was to mange anyone else's. It was a saying I used to help me not be disappointed in reactions to what I was trying to do. When it came to registration, this was always something that tested me and the saying. An example would be that no matter how much I stressed that post cards had to have legible writing, I would always get multiple cards from various entrants which I could not read. (sigh) So, having that low bar of expectations for 'humanity' kept me from losing my mind at times. 

Another issue where this came into play was with late post cards. I know that this wasn't always the fault of the sender. There were times, I am sure, where the postal system failed people, but I gave folks a week to ten day window to send cards in, so...... I figured that would be enough, yet I would sometimes get Trans Iowa post card entries up to a month after registration closed with post marks after the deadline. Yeah.....I don't know...could be a Postal thing, could be, you know.....humanity. 

Then there was one particular postcard sent in for Trans Iowa v11 which was meant to be an inside joke, a personal jab at me in regard to a conversation online about anti-doping stances some folks were espousing at that time. Ironically one of the protagonists of the prank was Jeremy Fry, my partner in recon. The card arrived and, if I am not mistaken, I posted the image on Facebook with some snarky comment about not getting the rules of registration correct and that even though the entry was from a former Pro, I wasn't letting that slide. (See, I never figured it was a prank!)

The back of the 'prank entry' with a forgery of Levi Leipheimer's name.
This seemingly innocuous prank, meant to give me a little grief and a laugh, then turned out to be a big, blown up discussion of doping in cycling, how I shouldn't even entertain such a request to enter Trans Iowa, and that these sorts of offenders of the rules of Pro Cycling should be "banned forever" from having access to any competitive events on two wheels. It got pretty heated, and I finally responded with this blog post in which I stated why I thought the notion of banning a doper from Trans Iowa was wrong thinking. 

Of course, I now have several years of perspective to my credit to view this situation with now, but that said, what I wrote in the linked post still stands today for me. Now, I do not run an event anymore, so that part doesn't apply now, but the concepts and the overall meaning of that post most certainly applies to today more than ever.  

See, we have what we now call 'cancel culture', and if you think about it, the anti-doping movement in the era of the late 00's to about 2018 was really a form of cancel culture. These offenders of some people's sensibilities were to be forever banned, or 'cancelled out' from ever being a part of 'cycling' as some would define it. It's rubbish. Nonsense. It is not helping those who made bad decisions to become better people, it is a way of making those who are 'offended' feel good about themselves, and that's what was happening with this whole Levi thing and Trans Iowa v11. 

Well, go read the post I linked. I don't think I have to say anything more about that. What I will add here is that this firestorm, which blew up during the registration period for v11, was only the beginnings of what turned out to be a very sour experience for me and some other folks concerning the events surrounding the end of the registration for Trans Iowa v11. It was a huge, unexpected energy drain, this doping stuff, and having to deal with that was another thorn in my side. But what that all led into, only days later, would make the doping thing look like nothing. 

There was a LOT of pent-up energy in the gravel scene back then. People wanting to get into all the classic events like Trans Iowa, Dirty Kanza, and the Almanzo 100. 2015 was the 'peak popularity' point for the gravel scene and it was on the cusp of becoming a huge trend in cycling. Not just from an events standpoint, but from an industry and cycling media viewpoint. I think coming into T.I.v11 we were seeing a cross-over from where this idea of riding gravel and gravel events was now not an oddball undertaking, but it was now becoming the aspiring cyclists must-do activity. Events like these classics were becoming 'bucket-list' events, events that if attended, were a 'feather in one's cap', and the ethos of the original grassroots pioneering gravel riders was overwhelmed by a new influx of riders seeking....... What? Social media notoriety? 

Definitely that was part of it. There was also the facet of gravel being 'the cool new thing', and popularity breeds contempt from original adopters of a movement or activity. So, now there was a growing animosity amongst those who thought they had a better hold on what gravel riding was all about. The "gravel has jumped the shark" mentality which is still prevalent to this day. It was against this backdrop that the registration ended for Trans Iowa v11 in a blur of chaos and anger.

Next: A Prank Entry And Registration Madness: Part 6 - The final event in the registration for Trans Iowa v11, the filling of the Rookie Class, was fraught with problems, controversies, and concerns.

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