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Michael Marckx, race creator and eventual Hardman winner, holds up the Purple Card and explains the Freddy Freeloader Distinction to the 160 racers prior to the 8:30am start. Hardman award was the opposite of the Purple Freddy Distinction. It meant you did the most amount of work. Photo courtesy of Todd Glaser
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Cyclists with poor sportsmanship draw dreaded ‘Purple Card’

CARLSBAD — Cycling races demand that competitors have a team spirit. The windbreak that lead riders give the group and opportunities to sprint ahead of the pack follow a code of fairness. To underline the importance of good sportsmanship in cycling, the Spy Optics Belgian Waffle Ride held in April gave a “Wawful Freddy” distinction to the three cyclists who demonstrated the worst in sportsmanship.

Purple Card image, with the greatest cyclist of all-time, Eddy Merckx (a Belgian). Photo Courtesy of Todd Glaser

This is the first race in which this type of distinction has been given.

To rank those who were not following the rules, close to a dozen secret judges rode with the 150 racers.

It was the job of the undercover judges to hand out purple cards when they came across a rider committing a race infraction. The rider with the most purple cards took home the “Wawful Freddy.”

“The idea is the most selfish, uncooperative, inconsiderate and weakest rider ends up earning the ‘Wawful Freddy,’” Michael Marckx, Spy Optics CEO, said. “It’s the opposite of the spirit of the event.”

Marckx explained that cyclists need to work as a team while they’re competing.

“When you’re riding in the front of the group you’re breaking wind for those behind you,” he said. “Those sitting behind have it 30 percent easier than (those) sitting in front. If you take turns everyone gets the benefit of the group working together. A few people didn’t live by that.”

The “Wawful Freddy” distinction calls out any riders who take advantage of the group effort or cheat and encourages fair competition.

“We wanted everyone to work for everyone,” Marckx said. “That way the strong separate themselves, so there’s no team tactics involved. It’s man on man.”

The final findings were cyclists who jumped the pack at rest stops, hung on to the back of race support vehicles for a tow, and took shortcuts to shave off miles.

While names of specific offenders were not given, details of offenses were described.

“One person hung on to one of the support vechicles numerous times,” Marckx said. “Another guy at the first feed zone jump attacked everyone instead of waiting. Later on he didn’t do any work within the group.”

Some recipients accepted the award with a good sense of humor. Others argued the judges’ findings.

“Andrew Lee, owner of Adams Avenue Bicycles in San Diego, admitted he cheated,” Marckx said. “Todd Parks, of Oceanside, didn’t do any work in the group he was in. A third guy cut off portions of the course and finished far ahead of everyone else. He doesn’t want to be named.”

Lee took his purple jersey with pride. The motto of his bike shop is (tongue in cheek) “We are for cheating and fighting. Which one are you?”

“I cheated,” Lee said. “I hung on to three different cars going up three different climbs.”

Andrew Lee, owner of Adams Avenue Bicycles, accepts the dubious Freddy Freeloader award with style and the support of his team riders. Andrew was caught several times holding onto the back of various support vehicles being pulled up myriad hills. Photo courtesy of Todd Glaser

Lee said that while other recipients were ashamed of the distinction, he was elated.

He added that he sees the distinction as an award for the most infamous or most notorious.

“Any time there is an opportunity to be anti heroic I’m ready for the challenge,” Lee said.

Marckx originally planned that those who won the distinction would be barred from ever participating in the Belgian Waffle Ride again, but softened his stand after a strong reaction from the unnamed recipient.

“It’s an integral part of the spirit of the event,” Marckx said. “I’ve given them the opportunity to come back next year and prove they don’t have that distinction.”

As far as any of the “Wawful Freddy” recipients coming back next year, Lee for one said he would return to reclaim the purple jersey.

“They’re going to have to wrestle it off my back,” Lee said. “Once you get me in purple, you can’t get me out.”

Despite his humor, Lee said he is all for good sportsmanship.

“Good sportsmanship is everything,” Lee said. “It’s a group effort. We all look out for each other. At times we’re fierce competitors, but at the end of day we’re all very respectful and hold each other in highest regard.”