Wankmeister cycling clinic #23: Last-minute advice for the SPY Belgian Waffle Ride

April 24, 2014 § 10 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I saw that the Belgian Waffle Ride is full. I’m gonna bandit the ride anyway. How can they stop me? The roads are free, right?

Defiantly,
Frito Bandito

Dear Frito:

There are some excellent ethical and practical reasons not to bandit the ride. First, the ride only exists because of the 500+ people who have paid. So for you to only take from others who have only given is unfair. Second, by failing to properly pay and register for the ride, you are complicating efforts to ensure that the event runs smoothly. Paid police escorts, insurance, and city/county permits depend on having an accurate head count of participants. Third, the ride has been open since February. You had plenty of time to register, and the organizers and other participants should not have to foot the bill for you because you “waffled” about doing the ride. Finally, numerous two-wheeled bouncers will be on the ride, prepared to throw you out on your ass if you try to crash it.

Counter-defiantly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

23′s? 25′s? 28′s? Compact, right? 28 in the rear? Or 30? 32 too extreme? ‘Cross bike? Road frame? MTB? Pre-race nutrition? Steak and eggs? Carbs? So many questions …

In a quandary,
Dazedan Confused

Dear Dazedan:

I think Nike has a slogan about this.

Advertorially,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I signed up for the Belgian Waffle Ride because it sounded like fun. But I’ve been really busy at work and Billy’s soccer games have chewed up my weekends plus date night with Lucille, honey-do’s etc. so I haven’t gotten in much riding hardly any at all in fact. I know that it’s only three days away but I’m thinking some hard hill intervals, try to squeeze in an 80-miler, and a compact crank, maybe a new wheelset so that I can at least finish. Thoughts?

Dedicatedly,
Hard Pushin’ Poppa

Dear Hard:

There is a massively fortified coastline in Normandy with three German divisions, concertina strewn along the surf line, thousands of pill boxes, land mines, machine-gun  emplacements, and heavy aerial bombardment. I’m going to storm it in my underwear with a rowboat and a pea-shooter. Thoughts?

Invasively,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I’m not interested in the Belgian Waffle Ride. You know why? Because you guys are a-holes. Acting like it’s such a big deal, purple jerseys, such a macho ride, only the tough guys finish, blah blah blah. What a joke. You goons will clog up the roads and make motorists hate us even more plus it’s a ripoff I’d never pay money for something I can crash for free. Can’t wait to sneak into the beer garden. HA HA HA!

Hilariously,
Da Joker

Dear Da:

The fact that the BWR does not appeal to people like you is not a coincidence.

Designedly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I was gonna do the BWR and had trained like mad, crazy mad. Dude, if you could see my fitness you would be so awed. I was gonna roll with the leaders and drill & grill & totally kill. Been practicing on all the dirt around here, 450-mile weeks, some of my KOM’s are getting Neil Shirley-like fast, yeah, that fast. I was gonna put the hurt on. But I went to see my doctor yesterday and he said I can’t because of this condition I’ve had so I can’t do it. Was so looking forward to doing the thang!

Bummedly,
Bummsy Bummser

Dear Bummsy,

No problem; hope your rash clears up. I’m sure you would have killed it.

Antibiotically,
Wankmeister

 Dear Wankmeister:

I was all excited about the Belgian Waffle Ride until I found out I was put in the third wave, with all the slow wankers and the beginners. Balls!

Disappointedly,
Cattin’ Up Carl

Dear Cattin’:

The administrators provisionally placed you in the first wave as you indicated on your registration that you were a Cat 1 on the road. Before finalizing the waves, they went to USA Cycling to verify that registrants had honestly entered their real category. Under “Cattin’ Up Carl, license number 498029,” here is what they found: Pooodleville Crit, DNF [Cat 5], Snarkton RR, 67th out of 68 [Cat 5], Hocknspit TT, 10th out of 10 [Cat 5], Swampass Circuit Race, 109th out of 109 [Cat 5]. All other events (fifteen total) you were listed as either DNF or DNS. So this year you will not be placed in the first wave, along with the Continental and domestic pros, Cat 1′s, state and national champions. However, they look forward to watching you cat up in 2015.

Regretfully but not really,
Wankmeister

END

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Drippy when wet!

Drippy when wet!

 

Amstel Gold exceeds Schleck’s “wildest expectations”

April 22, 2014 § 25 Comments

Andy Schleck returned to the classics with a vengeance, hitting his knee on a pole in the Amstel Gold Race and retiring with more than 100km of racing to go. “I couldn’t have asked for more,” an ebullient Schleck told reporters outside the Trek Factory Team bus.

“It’s getting harder and harder to come up with plausible excuses for my terrible riding,” he said with a smile. “The contusions on my knee are palpable, real. No one can deny these boo-boos. Check it out.” Schleck extended his right knee, which sported a large, 2-inch scrape partially covered by two Band-Aids.

“This hurts!” added Schleck. “Ow!”

Team manager Louis Pasteur was equally pleased with the performance. “You can’t underestimate the power of an actual physical injury for purposes of extending his contract another year or two without him actually having to finish a race. We were on pins and needles during his emotional phase of the last two years, you know, having to convince our sponsors that he was riding poorly because he couldn’t be with his brother, he was ‘feeling poopy,’ etc. But now that we have an actual physical injury, everyone can understand that as a reason for not winning.

“We believe that with this race Andy will be completely back on top of his game of not being on top of his game,” added Pasteur when asked about Schleck’s participation in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two races that are regarded as among the most difficult in which to properly place the French accent grave.

“It’s even possible that he will ride neither race, yet still manage to collect his paycheck. This is a dream come true, even in a country like Luxembourg, where it is a basic human right to have everything given to you whether you deserve it or not.

“Our only concern,” added Pasteur, “is his brother Fränk. We were disturbed to see him actually finish Amstel in the top thirty. His 24th placing could lead to expectations that without drugs he can perform well, and more ominously, that after several million dollars’ in contract fees, he is capable of finishing a major race. This would be catastrophic for Andy’s recovery to the pinnacle of not recovering.”

When it was pointed out that the younger Schleck had not finished a major race since 2011, Pasteur agreed. “We all know he has the potential to never again finish a big race. He showed us a glimpse of that quitterish spirit in 2011 and has confirmed it every single year since. With some patience and a bit of luck, 2014 will be another strong year for him in terms of abject failure despite doing everything he was told not to do.”

Shleck was heard to howl “Ouchie!” and “Yowie!” and to ask for another Puffy Luvvy tissue as reporters moved on to another team bus.

 

END

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Strawberry fields forever

April 20, 2014 § 36 Comments

The night had started off slowly. I was sitting next to a couple of dudes at the bar and they were discussing beer. “I like the slightly fruity finish, almost strawberryish,” one said of his light-colored ale.

“Yeah. And it’s amazing the way it starts with a full nose, almost chocolatey, then transforms into something airy and almost, like you said, a fruity aromatic.”

I looked at my 32-oz. glass of suds. “Are you guys talking about beer or edible underwear?” I asked.

They laughed nervously. “Ha, ha. Good one. What are you drinking?”

“Racer 5.”

“Oh, that’s a good beer,” approved Fruity Finish.

“Yes, very workmanlike, solid,” added Chocolatey Nose. “For sure it’s a biggie and has those strong citrus notes. Kind of muted compared to others but still lots of orange rind and piney notes. It’s a big beer, for sure.”

“It is?” I asked, wondering if they were talking about the big mug.

“Oh, yes,” chimed in Fruity Finish. “I’d add that, you know, it’s a well-balanced bitey IPA, right?” He eyed my giant mug. “You’ll get a better nose from a tulip glass, it’ll let the smell travel and pull out the high notes on that classic mix of piney, mango, citrus, resin, dankness. There’s enough bitterness, nicely mixes with the fruity, citrusy, fresh finish.”

I looked at them as if they were trying take upskirt photos of my wife. “You think so?” I asked.

Fruity Finish and Chocolatey Nose nodded. “How would you describe it?” asked Chocolately Nose.

I took another swallow from the giant mug as the bitter liquid charged down my throat. I savored it for a moment. “Hmmm,” I said. “Tastes like ass.”

The two connoisseurs winced. “Ass?”

“Yep,” I said, taking another swig. “A big old nasty swallow of ass. And that’s what beer’s supposed to taste like, by the way.”

They didn’t know what to say, so I continued. “Beer is one of the nastiest things ever invented, worse than kimchi. It’s rotted inedible offal stewed in a pot and left in a bucket to rot some more. If it doesn’t taste like shit you’re doing it wrong.”

Fruity Nose protested. “Good craft beer …”

“Fuck good craft beer. Beer tastes foul when you start and gets fouler with each successive swallow. That’s why by your tenth beer you’re cross-eyed trying to choke the shit down. That’s why men drink it after a long day digging ditches or clear cutting virgin old growth. If you’re going to fructify and chocolatify it, might as well soak a pair of flavored edible panties in ethanol and eat that.”

Convo saver

The two experts politely turned away, which was perfect timing because up came the Godfather. He sat down at the bar next to me and ordered a beer. Like a man, he pointed to my glass and said to the bartender, “I’ll have what he’s having.” Like a man, he didn’t bother to ask what it was, he just assumed that it was strong and bitter and there was a lot of it.

“How’d you get into cycling, Godfather?” I asked him.

The barkeep plopped the huge cold mug in front of him and he paused to take a deep, manly draft after we clinked the shit out of those 12-lb. mugs. “Fatty tuna,” he said.

I thought about that for a second, hoping like hell he wasn’t about to pronounce that there was a finishing note of raw fish. “Not saying I’m drunk, Godfather, but you’re gonna have to help me out with that one.”

“Fatty tuna,” he repeated. “And strawberries.” Then, like a man, he sucked down a full quarter of his glass and dissected it the only way any man worth his salt would ever evaluate a beer. “That shit is good,” he said.

“Damn straight,” I said, adding the only man-approved comment to another man’s approval of a cold beer. “But I’m still not understanding the berries and tuna thing and what it has to do with bikes.”

Godfather lives up on top of the Hill and runs the global energy consulting arm of IBM. He is always nicely dressed and seems like the perfect product of Southern California suburbia. But he isn’t. “You know, I grew up in Pedro,” he said, referring to San Pedro, the impoverished little armpit at the southernmost tail of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. “We were fishermen, and our family had fished the peninsula since they emigrated from a little village in Sicily in the early 1900′s. All of Pedro was fishermen, mostly Italians and Portuguese, and Croats, too.”

“Pedro?” I asked, incredulously. “You mean the place that’s now crawling with gangs and drunk longshoremen and street people who live in shopping carts?”

“The same,” he said. “We had three boats, the biggest was the Giuseppe, a hundred-footer. When I got big enough to work the boat, I was seven, they took me on my first run. We left in the wee hours and sailed up by Abalone Cove, shining lights on the surface to bring up the squid. Once we had a full load of squid, we sailed farther out to the bait barge and cashed in our bait for money that we used to fuel up the Giuseppe and the chaser boat.”

“What’s a chaser boat?”

“We had a little motorboat hanging on the back of the Giuseppe, my dad ran that.”

I tried to envision all of this happening right here on the coast of Southern California in the late 1960′s, a family fishing operation off a peninsula that’s now slathered in tract housing, faux Mediterranean designs, and filled with people whose only conception of beer is fruity finishes and chocolatey noses.

“I bet your old man liked beer,” I said.

“Damn straight he did. But we were a big Italian family, so he loved wine, too. Anyway, we fueled up the boat and headed out because we knew the tuna were running up from Baja, and if we could land a decent catch we’d be able to keep a roof over our heads for the next three months or so. It was a big deal. Grandpa climbed up into the crow’s nest and started scanning the water for dolphin fins because the tuna ran beneath the dolphin schools. Sure enough, he spotted ‘em. He had eyes like a hawk, just like the whalers back in the day.

“He shouted down to dad, and we rolled the chaser boat into the water, and dad cranked the motor and set out after those tuna with grandpa coming up under a full head of steam. Dad got to the school, and started to turn it with the chaser boat, bringing the dolphins back to the Giuseppe, where we had the nets. It was exciting stuff, yelling and the crew doing everything just exactly at the right time and then bam, those nets were filled with tuna and all hell broke loose. We wound up with three tons of tuna that run.”

“So what does that have to do with cycling and strawberries?” I’d managed to hang onto that thread despite the boat chase and the tuna catch and the squid and the old Italians drinking beer.

“I’d ridden my bike down to the harbor that morning at dark-thirty. Dad filleted a 30-lb. cut of fatty tuna, wrapped it in some newspaper, and put it in my basket. Now mind you, the bike and the tuna weighed almost as much as I did. ‘Go get us some berries, Gerald,’ he said. So I had to crank that big steel bicycle loaded down with fresh fish all the way up the wall on 25th Street and out PV Drive South out to what is now Trump National Golf Course. It wasn’t a golf course then, I can assure you.”

“What was it?”

“Strawberry fields. And corn fields. Paolo and Maria Pugliese farmed strawberries all along the coast along with a couple of other families.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I am not. Where you now see multi-million dollar McMansions and a golf course there used to be strawberry fields and old Italians with sunburnt faces. It took me forever to get there, lugging that fish on that heavy bike. Remember, I was only seven. Finally I got there, and old Paolo took my fish and handed me two big wicker baskets. ‘Go pick your berries, Gerald,’ he said. So for the next two hours I bent over in the fields picking those fresh strawberries, then I rode home.”

“And that is how you got into cycling?” I asked.

Gerald finished off his beer in a one long manly pull. “Yes,” he said. “It is.”

END

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Last rites and such: final BWR advisement

April 18, 2014 § 28 Comments

The big day for the 3rd SPY Belgian Waffle Ride is almost upon us. I did a final recon ride on Tuesday with MMX, who is not used to waiting for slow people, but since he was stuck with me for the balance of the day he ended up having to do a lot of waiting. Usually by the time I crested a climb he would be answering work emails or putting the finishing touches on a complex annual report, but at one point in the ride he got so far ahead that when I passed him he was sound asleep underneath a shade tree. I’ve now done the entire course, and he’s slept through most of it, and I can confirm that it’s doable. Sort of. Here are some details that I hope you will find useful if you’re lining up simply to enjoy the day and be able to brag that you finished. If you’re racing it, or trying to win one of the jerseys, dog help you. I can’t.

  1. Despite its rugged profile and challenging route, this, the toughest edition yet of the BWR, is completely doable. But you have to avoid going out hard, and you have to avoid pushing it on the climbs, and then, once you hit the midway point, you have to really start saving energy. A good rule of thumb that you can use throughout the ride is to ask yourself, “Am I pushing myself?” If the answer is “Yes,” then throttle back, although by then it’s probably too late.
  2. If you keep a steady, never-uncomfortable pace, you can expect this to take 8.5 – 9.5 hours. The beer may be gone by the time you finish, and the award ceremony which is scheduled for 5:30 will certainly have concluded, but it will have been worth it because the alternative is a catastrophic collapse somewhere around Black Canyon and perhaps a search-and-rescue party as well. More about that below.
  3. You won’t have a good idea of how you’re feeling until you summit Black Canyon. It’s a 3-mile dirt climb followed by a 2- or 3-mile dirt descent followed by a 1- or 2-mile dirt climb up to Sutherland Dam followed by another two miles or so of climbing on an asphalt road. This road really is a mother. If you’re in the pack fill category along with me, don’t dare push it up this thing, because even though it’s long and hard, it only marks the halfway point in the ride.
  4. The worst has been saved for last. After Black Canyon there’s a long easy descent all the way to the Bandyweg sand section. Bandyweg is about five miles long and saps the hell out of you. It’s not technical, just soft enough and narrow enough to keep draining away your precious bodily fluids. Once off the Bandyweg trail you have to climb Bandy Canyon, which is not long or very steep, but at this point in the ride everything feels harder, steeper, tougher.
  5. The final run-in is where you will have to fire off everything you’ve been hoarding the entire day. You’ll do the Mule Trail in reverse, you’ll climb the Rock Garden in reverse, you’ll climb up out of Lake Hodges, you’ll climb dirt Questhaven, you’ll climb San Elijo, and you’ll really, really, really climb Double Peak with its 20% pitches up to the top of North County San Diego. Putting this much dirt and elevation in the final 30 miles will be the test of whether you husbanded your awesome sauce or squandered it early on, say, in the first 5 miles out along PCH.
  6. For my final practice run I again set out with three PB&J halves on dense wheat bread. Barbie food won’t get you through this ride. Bring something substantial — ham hocks, for example. Eat steadily and stay hydrated. Chances are it will be hot on the 27th and you don’t want to run out of water halfway up Black Canyon. Another Black Canyon note: TURN RIGHT AT THE BRIDGE. If you bear to the left you will be lost forever in the scorching, desolate hills on a dirt track that goes all the way to Zihuatanejo, or to Saskatchewan. Likewise for Bandyweg, watch for the left turn back up onto the main road or you will descend off into an endless network of dirt horse trails that are patrolled by hungry cougars. Not the lipstick-wearing kind, either.
  7. Lots of people have asked about tires, and my final setup will be on 28mm Continental touring tires at about 80psi. These performed beautifully. The were thick enough and had enough tread on the sides to grip the sand, and they had a smooth enough center so that it didn’t feel like I was riding on tank tread. There’s no question that a road bike can handle this route, and a sturdy 25mm tire will probably work fine. Where my ‘cross bike made the difference was comfort.
  8. Celebrate the night before, but don’t over celebrate … unless you want to have a really, really interesting day.

END

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If the (bathroom) walls had ears, and sometimes they do

April 16, 2014 § 31 Comments

We used to joke that his feet didn’t touch the floor until he was four years old. Friends have wondered where his happiness and smile came from, and most have traced it to his mother, but I put it squarely on the shoulders of his Japanese grandma, because that’s where he was raised.

The day he came home from the hospital she fashioned a kind of sling that fit underneath a loose quilted jacket, and she bound him to it, with his tiny head peeking out from above her shoulder. His consciousness developed between long and loving sessions at his mother’s overflowing breasts, followed by sleep, a diaper change, and an awakening world seen from the back of his grandmother. His first conversations were with her.

Each child is loved differently no matter what you tell yourself, and he was loved by his grandmother as the first son, a tradition baked in the kiln of prehistory, a man who she would serve in a long line of men including her father, her own younger brother who was the eldest son, an arranged husband, the father-in-law with whom she lived for decades and cared for in his floor-ridden, gradual, cancerous demise, the unpalatable brothers of the arranged husband, and of course the husband of her only daughter. That would be me.

The tiny one bound up on her back and carried to the market, to the butcher, and to the fish shop as she pedaled her old red mamachari, however, was different from the other males in her life because him she served without complaint, him she carried on her back with the quiet confidence that although she had never had a son she now had him.

So many times I would hear them talking, him marshaling the first thoughts into words, her listening to the infinite warble on her back with endless patience as she cooked or cleaned and then answered, sometimes just as lengthy, a call-and-response from the fields of time.

The new century

Last Saturday I was returning from a memorial ride for Eli Ritchbourg, a young father who had died of an aneurysm. I had run out of water and decided to refill at the toilets in Santa Monica. The big, clean, spacious stalls are more like small apartments than public toilets, and are much prized by the homeless for that very reason. As I pedaled up I noticed a Middle Eastern grandmother, her head covered in a dark scarf and her body wrapped in a dark, loose-fitting dress that covered the tops of her shoes.

She was holding the hand of her grandson, who looked like he was somewhere between two and three. She had slowed her pace to match his, and he had that funny hitched walk of a kid with a diaper full-to-busting with the overflow of digestion. He was talking, perhaps in Arabic, and it was a lengthy little speech indeed. His grandmother said nothing, but she listened attentively as they headed for the toilets.

In their path was a group of three or four Santa Monica moms, each with a Mercedes-Benz’s worth of kiddy stroller, and each stroller hung with bags, toys, juice carriers, and oversized cup-holders for the the venti triple shot soy mocha latte. The Arab woman carried nothing but a nondescript canvas bag. Where the old grandmother listened, the young mothers snapped and carped and nagged at their children: “Vicent! VINCENT!” along with my favorite verbal torture as a child, “Suzy! Share! I told you to SHARE!”

The children brawled and bawled back, a staccato exchange of brats and their brat-minders, of angry parents and whiny children. The mothers had lovely skimpy outfits that revealed just enough to be sexy and not quite enough to be tawdry, and their hair was pulled back in that casual babysitting mode that takes a solid hour of careful work and makeup to achieve.

The Old World crossed the path of the New World and each was aware of the other. One mother raised an eyebrow, and it spelled out contempt, before she quickly resumed scolding her child for unreasonably wanting to shove a fistful of sand down the other child’s throat.

The stall next door

I pushed my bike into a stall and locked the door. As I zipped up my jersey I realized that the old woman and her grandson were in the stall next to mine; the stalls were completely separate compartments whose walls reach to the ground on all sides. The tops of the stalls opened up about seven feet above the ground so there was circulation of the cool ocean breeze, and what was said next door was perfectly audible.

I paused to listen as the little boy continued speaking, unhurriedly, to his grandmother. After a while he stopped. His question or his story, the one that had been going on since they crossed the open space outside, had ended with nary an interruption by his grandmother. Now it was her turn, and she answered with the same patient, loving tone that I had heard so many years ago in Japan.

What had he been saying? Was he telling her about whales, or about the dead fish he’s seen washed up on the shore, or had he been asking her where the ocean came from, or why the sky was blue?

And what was she answering? Was she telling him about the first time she had been to the sea, or about her grandfather who used to cross the ocean’s desert in a caravan of camels, or about whales and fish and why they couldn’t walk but had to live in the water?

Whatever she was saying, it was patient and long, and it drowned out the cacophony of scolds and whines and sharp rebukes from outside.

I thought about another little boy, my eldest son, who long ago would listen to just such an explanation and then, on the back of his Japanese grandmother, would launch off into another eternal question as she pedaled the bike to the tea shop. Something of the happiness that she had given to him, she now gave to me through this brief eavesdropping, and it powered me in its own way as I rode joyfully home.

END

If you’ve been hurt in an accident click here for legal assistance.

Terpstra stripped of 2014 Paris – Roubaix win

April 14, 2014 § 27 Comments

Less than 24 hours after soloing to victory out of an elite group of the world’s best cobblestone specialists, 2014 Paris – Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (HOL, OmegaPharma – Quickstep) was stripped of his victory by race organizer ASO Sports. At a hastily convened press conference in Paris, ASO president Antoine de Saint-Exupéry issued the following press release, which is reproduced below:

ASO regrets to inform M. Niki Terpstra that he has received a disqualification in the 2014 edition of Paris – Roubaix 2014 because of his unpopularity, or to be more precise, because no one knows exactly who he is. By finishing ahead of MM. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, M. Terpstra has taken away an important marketing and sales opportunity for global cycling and ASO, which has been poised for several months now to profit handsomely from the victory of either M. Cancellara or M. Boonen at Paris – Roubaix. M. Terpstra will be allowed to race the 2015 edition of the race, but only if he agrees to finish no higher than second. The official winner of the 2014 edition of the race is hereby designated as M. Fabian Cancellara, the third place finisher. This now places M. Cancellara in the ranks of the greatest riders ever, with four Roubaix victories to his name, and promises an incredible showdown in 2015 between him and M. Boonen to see which one will be the first ever rider to win this monument five times in his career.

Terpstra stunned

Terpstra was stunned to learn that he had already been stripped of his victory, and he immediately broke down. “It is true my first name is that of a girl and my last name sounds like a kind of turtle, and it is true that few people know who I am, and worse, that I am Dutch, but I won Paris – Roubaix honestly. How can they take it away just like that?”

Other riders were sympathetic, but understanding of the difficult position in which ASO was placed with Terpstra’s win. Second place finisher John Degengolb agreed that “It’s a shame to strip him of the win, but it’s even more of a shame for a great race like this to be won by a nobody with a girl’s name. Would the NBA tolerate a championship by the Rockets or the Bucks? Of course not. It’s bad business.”

Tom Boonen concurred. “Either I or Fabian should have won today, everyone said so, including me and Fabian, so it’s only fair that Niki got DQ’d. You have to remember that unlike the premier European soccer leagues, in cycling we don’t have refs who can make sure that the fix is in. Niki had the ride of his life, but with Fabian being declared the winner it really sets up a more dynamic spring classics season for 2015.”

CAS appeal possible

Although Terpstra has promised to appeal his disqualification to CAS, a long line of precedent suggests that a successful appeal is unlikely. According to attorney Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “ASO will be able to prove without question that no one has any idea who Terpstra is. He’s less than unknown. He’s a mote of irrelevance in a niche sport within a micro-fissure of anonymity.”

Others are less sure. According to one sports lawyer, Terpstra may have a chance on appeal. “While it’s true that famous races in general must be won by famous racers, there are exceptions such as Van Summeren’s win in 2011, Guesdon’s in 1997, and the forgettable Servais Knaven in 2001. If these non-entitites can have their names engraved at the velodrome in Roubaix, why not Terpstra as well?”

The answer appears to lie in the historic clash between Boonen and Cancellara, according to Rousseau. “If this were a normal year it would perhaps be acceptable to throw a bone to a nobody. But this year is far from normal. We must ensure that the results comport with the marketing opportunities.”

END

If you’ve been hurt in an accident click here for legal assistance.

 

 

The things we teach

April 12, 2014 § 19 Comments

Many years ago we lived in a one-room home. The whole interior was a little more than ten tatami mats, or about 178 square feet. That probably sounds small until I tell you that six of us lived there, including one squalling infant. We were building a house on the other side of Utsunomiya, and my wife’s grandfather had allowed us to stay in one of his rental units until the house was finished. Our furnishings consisted of a small TV and low table. We lived there for eight months, but I don’t remember ever being cramped.

What I remember is the morning ride to kindergarten.

I had the biggest Bridgestone commuter bike that they sold at the local bike shop, a 55cm monster that, even with the seat jacked all the way up, was much too small. It had fenders, 30mm all-beef commuting tires, and a kickstand, but the piece of resistance was the add-on that they installed at the time of purchase: a kiddy seat.

The kiddy seat was a wire basket contraption with two flimsy cushions, foot pegs, and leg guards to keep the passenger’s legs out of the spokes. It mounted onto the rear bike rack and had a fixed handlebar so that the kiddy could grip in the event that circumstances became rough or unstable. There was no seatbelt of any kind.

Rough and unstable circumstances

My eldest daughter was in kindergarten, and due to our temporary location I had to pedal her across town every morning, a solid 20-minute commute in heavy traffic. They say that a child’s personality is formed at birth, and whether that’s true or not, it’s definitely formed after your first trip to kindergarten in a wire basket on the back of my commuter bike.

Ours was no normal commute, either, because of the Tobu Hill. This was a very short, steep, 200m downhill that swooped under the Tobu train line and flattened out at the traffic light on Heisei Dori. The road was narrow and even had a segregated bike path, but you couldn’t get any speed on the bike path so my daughter and I always opted for the lane. Well, she never opted for anything. She just hunkered low in the basket and gripped the bars survival tight.

The beauty of that little drop was that you could get a good head of steam, and if you got lucky and hit the traffic light green or mostly yellow and there was no oncoming traffic you could take the wide slightly cambered right-hander out into a clean 4-lane road. A full-speed sprint down the hill and a lucky light meant that we could sweep through the turn at a solid 35+, the bike in full lean, the tires at the limit of their grip, and the taste of fear dry and exhilarating and bitter roiling at the back of my tongue.

My daughter never complained, never cried, and never asked me not to do it, although upon reflection she never asked me to do it, either. She wore the cutest of kindergarten outfits, Japanese cute, a cuteness that only generations skilled in the art of tiny and cute could ever produce, and part of the uniform was a hat with a drawstring. At 35mph in full lean, the drawstring wasn’t strong enough to keep the hat on her head, of course. The times I looked back at her, usually after reaching terminal velocity but before hitting the hopefully green light, she always looked the same.

She would be staring calmly ahead, tilted in the seat so that she could see around me, a faint smile on her face, with one hand holding the handlebar in a vicegrip and the other mashing her hat onto her head so that the wind didn’t carry it away. If there was fear in her eyes as she pondered the onrushing and immediate future, it never showed.

Neither of us, of course, wore a helmet.

The  great Utsunomiya World Championship Road Race

One morning we were sitting in traffic. As the light turned green and we began to move, a fancy road rider whizzed by. “Good morning!” I said, but he ignored us.

I looked back at my daughter. “That rude bastard,” I said. “Let’s catch him!”

She didn’t agree, but she didn’t disagree, either. She only peered around me to get a better look at our quarry, casually took one hand off the handlebar and clamped her palm to her hat. She knew that whatever was going to happen next it would involve high winds and turbulence.

The Bridgestone was a solid 30 pounds and Sakura was another 35 or 40, and I happened to only be wearing flip flops, so the bike wasn’t exactly quick off the line. However, once you got that giant lump of chromoly up to speed, it had momentum, and lots of it.

Packed in the middle of tight traffic I was able use the cars to draft my way up to about 30mph. Inches off the bumpers of car death I went faster and faster until my legs really started to burn and my breathing became painful and my body had to viciously sway from side to side to beat the pedals hard enough to keep up the speed. I could feel her weight shifting behind me as the bike rocked side to side.

The speed picked up and I hunkered down in the draft. Through the car’s windshield I could see the roadie up ahead as well as the car’s speedometer. We were over 35mph and the bike was starting to shimmy. My legs tore at the pedals and I was buried in the red. We approached a giant traffic intersection, and our draft was the last car that was going to make the light, which had turned yellow. The roadie had already come to a stop.

The Toyota I was drafting gunned it and got me up to forty before he pulled away. The bike was in full shimmy. Braking was not an option as I prepared to sail out into the intersection. I turned my head and stopped pedaling in preparation for the moment we’d shoot past the stopped roadie. Buzzing as close to him as I could, I said, “Good morning again!” and we rocketed by as if we’d been discharged from a Soviet work camp.

Judging from his gape, he’d never been passed by a dude in flip flops on a bike with a kickstand hauling a kid in a basket. At forty miles an hour. I’m sure the fact that I wasn’t pedaling added to the mysterious nature of the public humiliation.

My daughter is twenty-five and she still rides a bicycle, though her smile is wider and, you know, she wears a helmet.

END

If you’ve been hurt in an accident click here for legal assistance.

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