By Mike Dayton
"Don't drink wine, eat meat, or smoke-at least during the ride."
-Commandment #5 of French cycling pioneer Paul de Vivie. From "Velocio's Wise Words of Advice" in the RUSA Members' Handbook I'm not one to break commandments because bad things happen when you do. Plagues. Locusts. Flat tires. That's why I felt a twinge of conscience as I read through RUSA's handbook-and came face-to-face with Monsieur Vivie's Commandment #5.
I've been pondering it ever since. Because in Vivie's book, I'm a sinner.
No, I'm not a wine drinker. Don't smoke either. But the fact is, the good old American hamburger, that simple slab of meat on a bun, has been my salvation on a long ride or two.
Much of our 300k and 400k brevets track across North Carolina's rural outback, a landscape of rolling pastures, towering oaks, farmhouses with fleet-footed dogs. Occasionally, there's a desolate crossroad, anchored by a convenience store, its shelves lightly stocked with Slim Jims and Little Debbie snack cakes. Restaurants are a rarity.
Luckily, our control in Seagrove is a combination mini-mart and burger joint-the one that made a national splash with its "MONSTER THICK BURGER" ("Weighing in at two-thirds of a pound, this 100 percent Angus beef burger is a monument to decadence!" reads the company's press release. Sinful indeed.)
On a recent 400k, I rolled into Seagrove about a pedal stroke away from a full-blown bonk. The gels weren't cutting it. I stepped up to the counter, ordered the little thick burger (a mere half-pound of monumental decadence) fries, a Coke. That proved to be the winning trifecta of sugar, salt and fat. Suddenly, life had a new direction. I could see my future rolled out like a red-carpet: Only 160 more miles to go.
I had a similar experience on the 600k. My riding buddy Rich had been pulling me for, say, 155 miles. Not one of my better efforts. Our route passed through Angier, an Eastern North Carolina town with a local reputation for exceptionally clear and potent moonshine. Angier also has one of those burger restaurants with the clown out front, and usually a couple more behind the register.
Rich and I wheeled in and I ordered the burger, fries and a drink. Not exactly what I'd call "eating high on the hog," but it got the job done, putting fuel in the tank for the final 40-mile push to the finish.
Speaking of hog, North Carolina is famous for its pork barbecue. Chopped. Sliced. Eastern style. Western style. But that's one meat I've religiously avoided on long rides. I saw two riders turn green after eating BBQ sandwiches in the baked-clay summer heat. Green's not a good color at the 300-kilometer mark.
Don't get me wrong. The burger option is not for everyone. I saw a cheeseburger sucker-punch my buddy Dan right in the belly. It didn't work for him, and it may not work for you.
The point of all this rambling is that Monsieur Vivie's Fifth Commandment should be taken with a grain of salt, and perhaps a dash of pepper. Like everything else in the RUSA members' handbook, it's based on somebody else's personal experience. Your results may vary.
The bottom line: Some of Paul de Vivie's commandments should be carved in stone. "Never rush things. Ride within yourself…" or "Put on extra clothing before you're cold and take it off before you're hot." Hard to argue with that level of direct and utter simplicity.
But sometimes you've got to trust your instincts. Or in the case of food, your gut.
I recently stumbled upon what must be Hamburger Heaven. It's the Central Café on Church Street in Rocky Mount. Dan and I found it during Cycle North Carolina, our annual week-long, cross-state ride (www.cyclenorthcarolina.org). Central Café has things boiled, and fried, down to their essence. The chefs focus on the holy trinity of fast food: burgers, dogs and fries. Before you can say "Oscar Meyer," the burger arrives on nothing more than a sheet of waxy paper, the true benchmark of North Carolina's haute cuisine.
I'm thinking Central Café would make a good control for a permanent.
So Viva Monsieur Vivie. And pass me another hamburger. On wax paper.