Thursday, October 8, 2015

An open letter to Jay Petervary.

To those that check in here from time to time and are unsure what to make of what follows: Sorry.  I'm speaking to a subject that is close to my heart, and that has been festering for almost a decade.  If you don't recognize the name in the title, simply move along and don't concern yourself for a second.  I'll be back to a more upbeat theme in a few days, promise.

+ + + + +

Hey Jay-

Long time.  Seems you stopped responding right when it became obvious to more than just me that you were not playing by the same rules as everyone else.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about cheating, Jay.  Disregarding race rules to gain an advantage over those that use the rules as they were intended: As a framework to work within, to ensure that the best, most prepared rider wins, not just the most unscrupulous one.

Cheating.  You.

Which cheating am I talking about?

Let's start with the 2006 Kokopelli Trail Race.  A racer reported drafting happening on the course, and since I was Race Director I followed up on it by driving to a different place on the course: a place where I could see a long ways along the route without being seen myself.  Sure enough, when you came into view you were trading pulls with another racer, even though the rules expressly forbade it.  This had been discussed ad nauseum both online and at the pre-race meeting, such that *everyone* knew not just that it was verboten, but why.  And yet there you were, drafting, and when you crossed the finish line in Loma you signed off the course as a finisher.

There is nothing compelling you to show up to these events if you don't like or agree with the rules.  You can ride the courses under whatever set of rules suits you, whenever you like.  You know that, right?  However, implicit in showing up to race any of these events is the understanding that the rules as set apply to all.  Even you.  

Another example?  Sure.  In 2007 you used a sail to blister your way across the Great Divide Basin on your first attempt at the divide race.  When confronted you laughed about it, said that if it wasn't expressly forbidden then it wasn't against the rules.

Lots of things weren't expressly forbidden then, Jay, but then in those early days we didn't suspect that anyone entering a race where the only prize is self satisfaction would need to be told not to cheat.  Why bother showing up when you're only cheating yourself?  Who does that?

Need another?  In 2008 you took a ride in a truck in Ruby, Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Invitational.  Gas engines aren't human powered, Jay.  Sure, you had the company of another racer to help assuage your conscience, but that doesn't make it any less despicable.

The rules do specify that these are human powered events, right?  I'll answer that for you: Yes, yes they do.

And then there was the 2010 Iditarod Trail Invitational--when you took a snowmachine ride in Nulato, Alaska.  You denied it but the driver confirmed it, right there in front of you.  Potentially more damning than the transgression was the fact that you tried to lie your way out of it.

Meanwhile, your fellow racers were slogging it out in bad conditions--cold temps, soft snow--by putting their backs into it, not hunkering out of the wind while hauling ass uphill on the back of a sled.

What we have here is a pattern--witnessed and confirmed by many of your racing peers--of willful disobedience of race rules.

It's bad enough that you've succumbed to the need to cheat.  You've made it worse by repeatedly getting caught in the act and putting the witnesses into a quandary, making them feel like snitches when their only fault was possession of integrity.  Making a mistake is one thing, forcing that burden onto innocent bystanders is quite another.   I'll take flack for writing this letter, when the only thing I've done wrong is to take issue with someone--you--whom flaunts their lack of integrity.

If our tiny little niche had a governing body to impose sanctions I would simply present the above evidence to them and you'd be gone--poof--erased from the sport, no longer a problem.  It occurs to me that this is part of the allure for you--without a governing body you can do as you please without fear of repercussions, all while collecting a paycheck.  Handy.

Cutting corners is not the same as playing by the rules, Jay.  Can you really not see the difference?  Because last time we discussed this you seemed hell bent on trying to deny it, then when presented with evidence you tried to spin it.

C'mon man--stop the bullshit and own up.

A decade ago you really were only cheating yourself out of the experience, the achievement of overcoming adversity with good old perseverance.  Nowadays the game has changed because money and publicity are involved, so bending the rules to gain an advantage has come to mean that you're cheating your past, present, and future competitors too.  Not just yourself now: All of us.

Among other things, you're stealing: Prize money, endorsements, equipment, even a salary--those could all be enabling the new generation that's out there busting their asses and doing it right, without cutting corners.

In trying to understand what could motivate someone to cheat in an on-your-honor event, my best guess is that somewhere along the way you lost sight of the fact that "winning" doesn't simply mean finishing in first place: Beating others is irrelevant if you have to take shortcuts to do it, Jay.  Winning an ultra-endurance race is about overcoming--yourself, your fears, your past failures, your current weaknesses.  Tell me, please, how does cheating satisfy any of that?

That question isn't rhetorical, but the simple fact is that it's all water under the bridge: You can't change it now.  What you can do is to own your mistakes, come clean: Admit that you fucked up, confess to the wrongdoing.  It'll sting a bit, no doubt, b
ut you know what?  You'll get to leave the sport with some shred of integrity ("doing the right thing, even when no one is watching"), which is more than you've got right now.  

I'm not naive enough to believe that we live in a world where no one makes mistakes.  But I do believe in forgiveness, especially when it is humbly sought.  I encourage you to come clean, and to do it completely.  In time, some in our community might even stop referring to you as Cheatervary.


Mike Curiak

* * * * * 

10/22 Post Script

I am not on Facebook, thus I haven't been privy to where this has gone nor how it has been received there.  However, a good friend shared Jay's response to this post, which read exactly like this:

"What an insecure, jealous, coward."

Insecure and jealous don't even merit a response.

And coward?  Tell me, please, how standing up for what you believe in *and* putting it out there for public scrutiny is akin to cowardice?

I'll answer that for you: It isn't.  

Cowardice is taking the low road time after time, lying to cover your tracks, then dodging and weaving when it all catches up to you.  Like right now.

Methinks y'ought point the finger at yourself more often, Jay.  Or at least once.


  1. Comments are enabled. Keep it civil, please.

  2. Another effect is to the reputations of other competitors who are unlucky enough to be close to a known cheat. If they beat them, were they also cheating? In a race like the Divide - is anyone riding close to a cheater also suspected of drafting? Guilty until proven innocent is a nice concept but I have found it does not stand up to rumors and doubt.

  3. Mike, I'm not on the inside of endurance racing by any means but I know who the players are and have followed from a distance for years.
    I was once schooled on the concept of : "doing the wrong thing for the right reason". In my view this post is just that. To me this post seems to be more about you than cheatervary or whatever you choose to call him. To me reality will always be has been for my 65 years at least. I used to struggle with making my abstraction of it black and white and *reasonable*. No longer...makes me "heart" sick.

    You referenced you 'belief' there at the end. Not good. Subjective-objective. A never ending struggle with duality.

    Take this down. It makes me feel sick inside. I'm pretty sure others too. Probably some who love and respect you.

    You opened comments so here you have one.


  4. Mike, you don't know me, but I hope that at some point in my life and yours, I have the honor of buying you a drink. I doff my hat to you.

  5. What's ambiguous about drafting? What's ambiguous about getting a lift on a snow machine during the race? I'm told this kind of stuff is all too common during endurance races, but that doesn't make rule violations any less real or more ambiguous.

    1. David, You were 'told'. It's like a myth then? In Mike's case he actually saw it. He believes he saw it. Because we respect Mikes integrity, ethics and honesty, we believe Mike. Every step of that process moves us forward in time and farther from any alleged rules violation. Perhaps Jay will go down in history as a cheater and then we can *say* he got what he deserved. Oh boy! Maybe he will apologize and we can absolve him of his sins. Oh boy!

      If you were a young fan of Jay's and you followed his blog you might believe and respect him too. What bothers me is the potential for collateral damage in the name of rules and racing and ethics. Like our fearless leader talking about democracy in front of the United Nations. What's a few hundred wedding guests or doctors and nurses or child sheepherders along the way to the exceptional American version of Democracy?

      Spectating an endurance race is difficult. For me it's more about my respect for the individual and his or her personal odyssey in that event. Winning is about ego. Surviving is about adapting, enduring and resourcefulness.

      I raced for years, I get the purpose of the rules. We raced with cheaters, guys with money that could buy the newest parts, afford the development and brain trust. The guys that the rules were endlessly changing for in order to *level* the playing field. But for my team just getting the car down the track was the biggest reward.

      I could give a shit about Jay what's his name. I care about Mike and his personal odyssey for my personal reasons.

    2. So if you can ' buy the newest parts and afford the development ' your a cheater???? WTF? Don't have a problem with the rest of what you said but that's out of order. Sorry I worked hard at school and have a good job.

    3. Money and buying the latest parts don't make a cheater. Or does it in your eyes?

  6. Does this need a blog post? Broken rules in races should be dealt with by the officials, or if there's no officials, a handy letter with evidence to whomever pays this guys way. Heck, I know I have a tendency to want to air dirty laundry as well, but I think (and try, and often fail) that stuff like this should be dealt with in other more official ways.

    1. I actually tried going down that road. Seems that those that pay his way are more interested in marketing than ethics -- they did nothing.

  7. In the Iditarod Trail Invitational, did they always have a rule saying something to the effect that any transport was forbidden? I know it was always "against the spirt" of the rules, but was it actually forbidden at the time..

    The current rule says : "No outside assistance is permitted to transport a racer on or off the trail (no snow machine or airplane rides)."

    Just a note, in case others are questioning if the events that MC sites actually happened, Rocky R mentioned the ride in Ruby in his race writeup for 2008 -> .

    1. I witnessed Jay and Rocky go blasting around Ruby in the back of a truck looking for a place to stay the night while myself and another racer pushed our bikes up the big hill in town to the school. Following this incident, the rules were further clarified, but as stated here, the same thing reportedly happened a year or two later in Nulato.

  8. Ah, ´em days, long ago it seems, when partaking at a race was an honour. I don´t know who the guy is. I am not quite sure if I would have made a blog post out of it, either. I understand, however, that racing has changed. When in the 90´s, it was a kind of honour to finish even if your saddle, handlebar or frame broke or you got a flat. I have pushed home several times myself or limped home with a torn derailleur. Nothing fancy, however, just some crappy local races, and I wasn´t in for the win, so to say.

    What I have observed since 2004 or so that people get ever more nervous around races. Mountainbiking is no longer a niche sport and we are no longer but a kind of "family". While it is a good thing that all kinds of people now do this for a sport, but when you get a broad audience, chance is, there will be quite a few morons in it also. What makes me wonder is what people do for a mid-100 finish at a crappy local race, however. They´d do anything from shortcuts to whacking fellow riders out of the line. Taking drugs is common, even if it does not help any with the mid-place ranking (which in itself would not be a catastrophe-or maybe I just lack the right kind of racing attitude ). That haggard guy on the beaten up hardtail at the races is sneered at, and respect is scarce. I have quit racing out of this reason.

    What we do here, to be quite honest, is a surrogate activity. We don´t have to chase after a wooly mammoth 10 hours a day in order to survive any more (and I am glad for´t), so we look to get some play in to make up for it. It furthers our creativity and could contribute to make us all better persons. Enter the ratrace. Everything´s fouled up.

    Now there is no such thing as that dreamworld perfect wonderland we all lived in. It was an ivory tower.

    But in order to keep the morons at bay, we agreed on rules. We can stick to them. They must be followed, trespassing shall be prosecuted by the law. Cheating is the same as fraud and should be prosecuted that way by the law. I don´t believe in good will and honour and "things one simply does not do" when the mountainbike scene is concerned anymore.

    I do not race anymore. But the mountains and creeks and the wilderness are still the same, and that´s the reason I ride. I`d say meet you on the trail, but that´s a bit unlikely ;-). What I want to say is that the morons ruin it for themselves and bear the consequences. I just hope they stay out of the wild. There is no profit to be made there anyway.

  9. I haven't raced these races.
    I don't know Jay. Likely never will.

    I know Mike. Have for some time. Feel lucky when our rides can occasionally overlap.

    From my perspective, Mike never goes with the herds.
    He doesn't proclaim much until he can support his beliefs.
    He studies things and is willing to test opinions, even his own.
    Truth is more important to him than right.

    I do like when people are willing to stand up, loud and proud, for what they believe in.
    I like it more when they can support these beliefs.

    I will not take Jay's silence on this as a guilty conscience.

    I will keep checking to see if he finds a voice on this topic.

    And, I will keep riding with friends, even as the snows get closer and deeper.
    Even if we disagree on chainstay length.

  10. Thank you Mike. I wholeheartedly agree, personal integrity is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL in endurance events.

  11. Hey Mike, a belated thanks. If you haven’t already, please check out the discussion about the 2019 Tour Divide...and the ‘backstory’ that happens to involve a protagonist by the name of Jay Petervary:

  12. Hey Mike, a belated thanks. If you haven’t already, please check out the discussion about the 2019 Tour Divide...and the ‘backstory’ that happens to involve a protagonist by the name of Jay Petervary: