Once upon a time, there was a poor cyclist called Ali Baba. Ali Baba had a bike made from pre-loved parts that he had salvaged from his neighbourhood environmental collective. The wheels squeaked, and it had only one gear, but it was a homely bike and got him safely to the organic sustainable fair-trade childrenswear shop where he worked, and home again, every day.
One day, Ali Baba decided to go home a new way and found himself lost in the middle of a big forest as it was getting dark. Ali Baba felt scared. Suddenly, he heard the unmistakeable squeak of unlubed chains and the clap clap of cyclists clicking out of their cleats 200m away. Ali Baba hid behind a tree and waited. Sure enough, soon a tribe of 40 lycra-clad blokes wearing tiny singlet bra tops appeared in the clearing. They all had expensive featherlight bikes with bottle-cages behind their saddles and aerobars pointed toward the sky.
‘Oh no,’ thought Ali Baba. ‘Those pretty boys will see my old bike and will know I am here. I am just a poor shopkeeper and cannot afford holidays in Noosa or GPS wristwatches. They will laugh at me.’
But Ali Baba’s bike was old and pre-loved and invisible to the eyes of the 40 triathletes, who could only see bikes made after 2008. The men got off their bikes.
‘Open sesame!’ one of the triathletes cried.
Ali Baba could not believe his eyes. In front of the triathletes, a big stone rolled away to reveal a cave of riches. There were deep dish wheels, and aero helmets, and little belts with room for gel bottles. There were weighted vests, and pool buoys, and elastic laces. In the corner, there was a row of Softrides, hanging on the wall gathering dust. Ali Baba had never seen such so much carbon.
The triathletes spoke to each other in a funny code that Ali Baba could not understand. They talked of thresholds, and zones, and nutrition plans. He felt sure they were terrorists and were plotting their next hit in a land they called ‘Kona’. What the hit was, Ali Baba did not know, but he knew whatever it was would involve something called a ‘negative split’ and lots of ‘bricks’. They referred constantly to their leader, a guy called ‘Training’. All the triathletes loved this Training guy and never stopped talking about him. Ali Baba felt very scared and hoped he never met Training. He sounded very demanding and not altogether productive.
The men shared protein shakes and then left, saying that they did not want to be late for Training. Ali Baba stayed hidden until they were gone, then leapt out and cried, ‘Open sesame!’ The stone rolled away and Ali Baba ran inside. He grabbed some power bands and creatine and stuffed them in his pockets and pulled on a shiny new pair of fluoro yellow racing flats. Ali Baba pedalled home as fast as his rattly old bike would take him, his head filled with thoughts of the treasures in the cave and the strange men in lycra.
Over the next few days, Ali Baba noticed a change in his behaviour. He liked his fluoro running shoes and found himself timing his rides into work. His powerband helped him sell more childrenswear than ever before. And the creatine... well, Ali Baba grew muscles he never knew he had. Pretty soon Ali Baba had changed his ebay username to slowtwitch9999 and had posted his old singlespeed for sale.
But it wasn’t enough. Ali Baba couldn’t get that cave out of his mind. All those treasures... it was too much. He had to have more.
The next day, Ali Baba rode back to the clearing with a plan and 3kg of Rohypnol.
‘Open sesame!’ he cried. The stone rolled away. Ali Baba danced inside. He gathered some bidons and filled them with food colouring, water and roofies. Then he walked outside the cave and waited.
Soon, Ali Baba heard the sound of grunts and unclipping. The triathletes had returned.
‘Good evening gentlemen,’ Ali Baba said, ‘I am a travelling salesman and I am peddling super-elite wares. This high performance drink has eleventy million vitamins and minerals and will improve your performance by over 11%.’
The triathletes looked at Ali Baba suspiciously. ‘I’m not sure,’ one said, ‘It looks a bit carb-heavy.’
‘It smells a bit funny,’ said another. ‘Say, where did you get those fluoro shoes?’
Ali Baba took a deep breath. ‘It’s very expensive,’ he said. ‘I guess it’d only be for the more serious competitors amongst you. But because you guys look nice, I’ll give you a free sample.’
‘I’ll take it!’ they shouted.
And so Ali Baba gave all his drink away and before long they were all out like a light, curled up on the ground in their compression pants. And Ali Baba backed up the large cart and donkey he had parked nearby and loaded into it all the treasures from the cave (except the softrides).
And later, Ali Baba opened an internet-based triathlon store and never had to sell childrenswear again.