Some say “hup hup hup”, and some yell “up up up”. They both sound the same at speed through the filter of suffering. (“the filter of suffering.” You can use that if you want.) Both are incantations of encouragement, whether known by the incantator or not, to ride faster, bridge the gap, attack the climb. Personally, I think the phrase is blown wildly out of proportion and context by most users and should be removed from the cycling vernacular. It’s not encouragement these spectators are yelling, it’s not “hey, you can do it! Catch that guy!” What it really translates to, these three syllables, is “ hurry up you fucking wuss! That guy is right up ahead of you and you can’t catch him! If I was out there I’d be way ahead of you! I know nothing about the dynamics of this race or racing in general because all I ever do is ‘race’ cyclocross which, at least at my level, lacks any sort of tactics or strategy whatsoever. And by the way, I’m standing here warm and dry and reasonably drunk while you are pedaling really hard to go pretty slow!”
That’s what I hear with each “hup” that gets uttered. (This may be sarcasm). Arm chair quarterbacks spitting bits of Doritos onto their shirts while they yell at the TV during Sports Center several hours after the game happened. It’s falsely asserting dominance like the male customer who walks into the bike shop and asks for a male employee to explain how a CO2 inflator works because, clearly, a female employee would not know how to operate such a difficult and masculine device. (reaching a bit there, I know, but I needed to use that analogy somewhere).
But alas, that definition is not the reason I wish for said chant to disappear. No, my contempt stems from a decision made when I was in sixth grade way back in the early nineties. The decision found me in a surprisingly good seat in a surprisingly nice, though Amway owned, theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On stage were human felines performing Andrew Lloyd Weber’s world famous musical classic, “Cats”. Partaking in this haute couture experience lead to acquiring the soundtrack to the performance, (well, the London Performance, not the Grand Rapids version) which lead to countless replays in the car on the way Up North or Out West which lead to memorization and permanence. If I may say so, I have a knack for memorizing movie and TV quotes, so even today, 20 years on, I can still recite a good portion of the lyrics to many of the Cats’ songs. This is not a good or healthy thing. While the tough guy character in Team America: World Police was inappropriately assaulted back stage by cast members of Cats, I was psychologically tortured, if in some ways willfully, by those very cast members.At this point it’s safe to wonder where this is going and what Cats has to do with iconic cycling cheers. The hook is set, you’re leaned in, ears open and lips parted ready for reaction. Don’t worry, this is not a cliff hanger; I’ll feed you, little kittens. The phrase is “huphuphup” or “upupup” yelled in rapid succession. Now, slow the cheer down: “Up. Up. Up.” Now sing it like a trained vocalist so the “U” is powerful but the “p” crescendos downward slightly (maybe with a couple of other people, to create a nice harmony.) Now add “past the Russell Hotel. Up up up up to the Heaviside Layer.” Now you have the main theme of “Cats”, the musical. Look it up. Ask your aunt, she has the sound track and will probably try to sing “Memories” to you when you ask her about it. At this point it’s safe to judge me.
And now the connection: As we rode away from Escondido toward Palomar Mountain the climb began almost immediately. The first few miles are what Weaver would call the lower slopes; the part before the real climbing begins but the same point where the sprinters start to fall off. After a left turn off the lower slopes the switchbacks begin and thus real climbing. All told Palomar has 27 switchbacks, each one with a fantastic view of either the Ocean from afar or the mountains to the east. The sun shines, the sleeves are gone, the tanning occurs. Somewhere in the middle of this 16 mile climb, leading into a middle switchback, a fan, likely during the Tour of California in 2009, wrote “UpUpUp” on the road one above the other. At my pace I read them as Up. Up. Up. The memory kicked in and, well, you know what happened next…