Why Lance matters a lot and not at all

June 15, 2012 § 30 Comments

The lines split clearly: Leave the guy alone vs. Hang him from the neck until dead. Great arguments exist on both sides, and not because Lance is “polarizing,” as the media love to say. The lines split because The Lance Problem is really two problems. The camp you fall into depends on which question you’re trying to answer.

The sporting question

Cycling has rules for two reasons. The first is so that everyone knows how the game is supposed to be played. The second is so that people who deviate from how the game is supposed to be played can be punished. When a cyclist breaks the rules, his punishment will generally be determined in large part on whether or not he intended to break the rules or didn’t intend to break the rules. Hence, André Mahé lost his 1949 victory and was ruled a “co-winner” of Paris-Roubaix with Serse Coppi because Mahé had gotten off course in the last kilometer and had to enter the velodrome from the press box’s back door. At the other end of the spectrum, Riccardo Riccò and Tyler Hamilton were kicked out of the sport for the next 10,000 years for repeated intentional doping.

The sporting question has little to do with doping, and has everything to do with getting caught. You can cheat and break every rule in the book in order to win, and as long as you don’t get caught, you’re the winner. Sports like NBA basketball institutionalize intentional rule breaking as a key strategy. If a good scorer happens to be a poor free throw shooter, you foul him often to limit his effectiveness. In the early days of cycling, classics were won when the victor hopped in a motor car for a few miles over the roughest patches of road. It’s not cheating if you’re never caught.

People who think Lance should be left alone believe that for purposes of the bike race he was never caught cheating. He never tested positive according to the rules in place at the time. After-the-fact accusations about cover-ups and forged TUE’s and pressure from high places and eyewitnesses to team doping will never overcome the fact that during the window of time to protest his performance in the race, he cleared all the hurdles.

Whatever rules he did or didn’t break, your time to catch him is over. The game clock has expired, dumbshit. Move on. If you’re so fucking concerned about the sanctity of clean sport, why don’t you run a few tests at the local USA Cycling masters races? You’ll catch a lot more cheats and inspire a lot more confidence among participants that there’s an even playing field.

The justice question

People in the other camp view this as a matter of justice. If Lance cheated, then he defrauded a lot more than a few bike racers and their fans. He built an empire of philanthropy on a lie. He exemplifies the morality espoused by the most evil people in history, that the end justifies the means. He is a tyrant, and the things he has done on and off the bike strike at our most deeply held convictions of justice and truth.

For these people, Lance’s Tour victories and the way he achieved them are beside the point. The way he has relentlessly attacked, defended, bullied, vilified, and ruined the lives of his accusers makes him one of the truly despicable fraudsters of the 21st Century, especially since he has done all of these things under cover of being a cancer warrior while amassing a personal fortune and cult following in the process. If his actions were part of a conspiracy, so much the worse for us who were wronged, and for him who broke the rules with impunity.

These people can never lay down arms. A fraud and injustice this great goes to the core of who we are. Those who would lie and cheat on a global stage deserve a global noose.

Can we please stop talking about Lance now? Please?

If you’re a sporting type, you stopped caring long ago. You stopped caring because as soon as we began declaring non-winners and putting second-place Pereiros and Schlecks into the yellow jersey long after the race ended, the silliness of system was exposed. We’re supposed to follow the Tour on the edge of our seats for three weeks, celebrate the victor, and then wait for a year or so to see if he gets stripped of his jersey, and if he does, we’re supposed to laud the dude who got dropped on all the climbs and finished second?

You also stopped caring because at this point doping is factored into your view of the pro peloton. You know some people are doing it. You know that extraordinary results from ordinary people are suspicious. You know that just like in every other sport, some people will cheat and get away with it. And you know what? Who cares? Catch them if you can, but please let me sit back and enjoy the freak show and don’t remind me every ten minutes that it’s professional wrestling on bikes. And grab me another beer while you’re up.

Can we please pursue Lance to the ends of the earth? Please?

If you’re a justice type, or, Dog forbid, one of the people named Simeoni or Basson or Betsy or any other of a long list of people who’ve wound up in the Armstrong crosshairs, you’ll keep turning over stones and reading the news with glee and dissecting the battling legal memoranda forever. Someday you’ll write a book. You’ll never watch another bike race again, let alone enter one. You’ll die bitter and angry, even after Lance is sentenced to death by stoning, as you reflect on how he snatched the best years from you, when you were in your prime.

Let Wankmeister help

I believe that we can have the best of both worlds. We can keep following the sport that fascinates us and we can keep acknowledging that some of the feats performed by professionals are truly remarkable. We can pay some homage to the freaks, and sniff the occasional jock when the opportunity presents itself. We can also laugh at the athletes a little bit, knowing that, like you and me, they’ll cheat from time to time.

I also believe that we can recognize that the Lance Affair is something that has taken on a life of its own. Its scale and scope, the sheer number of people affected, and the arenas of sport, policy, healthcare, law, and politics that are involved mean that it has transcended the small, insignificant, and inbred world of competitive cycling from whence it came. The Lance Affair is now about the grand movements of the legal armies, the USADA armies, the cancer survivor armies, the political armies, the media armies, and the army of public opinion.

Life has finally gotten around to imitating fiction: Lance’s story is truly not about the bike, and hasn’t been for a long time. Long live the greatest Tour rider ever, RIP Lance.

The extraordinary, incredible, amazing story of today’s NPR

June 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

Your morning begins like this, his morning begins like this, her morning begins like this, and my morning begins like this: “Fuck. Is it time to get up already?”

Shortly after the get-up-now-you-fucker ringtone, I got a text buzz from Hair, who had planned to meet me at the top of VdM, from whence we would pedal to the ride. I didn’t even have to look at the screen. The only reason a riding buddy texts you at 5:20 AM is to say, “I’m a lazyfuk and not coming. See you at the Pier,” which is exactly what it said.

Strap it on, bitch

I got up. I put on my undershirt. I put on my bibs. I put on my jersey. I put on my armwarmers and socks and gloves and helmet. I put my tire lever thingy and spare tube and plastic wallet and shit into my back pocket. I aired up my tars and I filled my water bottle, the one that says CalBikeLaw.com just in case some fucker runs me over and I need to dial up my lawyer’s website while I’m bleeding out in the gutter.

I opened the hall closet and rummaged through the shoes that were all dumped on top of each other, looking for my stomp boots. The big red ones with gnarly ridges on the soles so that when I get to stomping on somebody’s dick and it gets caught in the soles the ridges hook onto it good. The big red ones with 47 eyeholes for lacing it up with thick leather laces. The big red ones with the left foot pointy steel toed for drawing blood, and the right steel toed one for just kicking the shit out of something until it’s blunt too.

I laced up those motherfucking stomp boots good and tight.

Then I got my GoAmateur camera and bolted that motherfucker onto the rails of my bike seat using a mos-def K-Edge GoAmateur Seatcam Rail Clamp. It sounds like an antivenin for venereal disease, but it isn’t.

I strapped that bitch onto my bike seat good and tight.

This hero sandwich ain’t got no beef

We got to Pershing and I hit the jets up the little riser. Then I fizzled at the little bend and Hair came stomping by and gapped everyone. Then G$ came stomping by and gapped everyone. Then I drifted back into the wankoton and sucked wheel. I had flat legs and was going to have to sit in and hide from the front like all the other wankers on the NPR usually do.

And you know what I learned? It’s ridiculously easy. I barely cracked a sweat. What a fucking joke. No wonder everyone’s always smiling and chatty and catching up on the news and complimenting each other’s thick, luscious eyelashes and shit.

So then I went and took a pull and felt really terrible, so I stopped doing that. There was a passel of wankers who had steel in their eyes and fire in their bellies and they were determined to get up to the front and lay it down. But they were having difficulty finding the front. I overheard ‘em.

“Hey, Wanker #3491, where’s that there front?”

“I was gonna ask you the same thing!”

“Is that it up there?”

“I think so!”

“Let’s go up there, then!”

And off they went and I followed for a way, but sure enough, they got lost and couldn’t find it. I felt sorry for them and tried to help. “Hey, you pussy motherfuckers! The front’s up there! Where all that open space is! And where there’s ten guys in a single line! And where the wind is blowing that steel flagpole double! Get up there and take a pull you lazy motherfuckers!”

They doubled up their efforts and charged up towards the front, but just where the double-wide draft of Pischon and the triple-wide draft of Big Steve and the quadruple-wide draft of Fr8 Train stopped, that’s where they got lost again and drifted back to the back.

Save your bullets, especially when they’re BB’s

On the beginning of the third lap Paul Che attacked into the headwind. Stathis the Wily Greek and Ryan Begley and some other Big Orange dude went with him, and I struggled up to the rear. We had a good gap but got stopped at the light. Just when we put our feet down the pack caught us and the light turned green and there I was in the thick of the wankoton again.

Everybody was so darned happy and the pace was so damned slow, the pack spread out five or six people wide. What a wankfest. It strung out a little with the tailwind, but if you cowered behind Big Steve you got up the little climb without hardly turning your legs, much less hurting. On my right was Hockeystick. On my left was Gooseman. What more proof did I need that it was easy?

Please momma, I promise I’ll stop wetting the bed

On the beginning of the fourth lap I attacked into the headwind. G$ and Don the Referee Dude went with me. We flailed along for a while until the wankoton sort of gave up. G$ took a big pull. Don the Referee Dude came through and flailed, then cracked. I saw he was hurting, and he really seemed like a good guy and I liked him and respected his effort, so I put the knife in his nuts and turned up the pace a couple mph when I came through. He fell out through the bomb bay doors and was gone.

G$ hunkered down and adjusted the “kill” setting on his stomp boots and began to kick the shit out of his pedals like they were made of dicks. It was all I could do to hang on. The wankoton had gotten a big ol’ mouthful of headwind and was choking on it like a dog trying to swallow peanut butter, and we had a gap of 40 or 200 nautical miles. At the turnaround we were about twenty seconds up.

G$ sat up. “I’m going back there, Wanky. You got this one. Get it!”

This was like when my mom used to drop me off at the Harmon School in Houston, before she got my my stuffed tiger, Georgey. I wanted to cry. “Please don’t leave me, mom! I promise I’ll stop peeing in my bed! I promise I’ll stop chewing the liners in your dress shoes! I promise I’ll quit feeding ammonia and aspirin to the dog!”

But it was all to no avail. G$ left me to my own devices, just like at the Harmon School when I had to walk through the gate, sobbing bitter tears as the evil pack of cruel bullies gleefully waited their turn to rip me to shreds. So I wiped my eyes and put my head down and kept stomping the pedals. Pretty soon I was up the riser and had crossed the bridge.

No one in the history of anything has ever been chased down by Prez

You know how when you meet a nice girl and in the first few seconds you kind of hit it off and you both get that good vibe without having to say anything, and then before you’ve even had a chance to introduce yourself she says, “Look, I don’t do anal unless we’re married”?

Well, that’s how it is with Prez. Prez don’t do chasing (not sure about the premarital anal). So you can damn well bet I was chagrined to get caught 100 meters before the finish line, which is the start of the third traffic island, and to have Hair pass me at 40mph, followed by Erik the Vicious, followed in turn by Prez. I checked my post-ride video and there was Prez, leading the chase and leading out Hair and Erik to pimp me after a five-mile breakaway.

I could tell you that I stopped at the stoplight because it was red and because there was a cop there and because I’m a noble and honest dude who doesn’t believe in cheating to win something as silly as a group ride that you can’t even win anyway, but you’d call bullshit and say I was a lying, cheating, underhanded fuck who would stop at nothing to win, including spiking my water bottle with RuggedMAXXX2 and running all the lights, because that’s the kind of bastard I am.

And you’d be mostly right.

The unbearable heaviness of racing

June 13, 2012 § 35 Comments

Fukdude was musing about the high cost of elderly gent bike racing. “I’m gonna need a fuckin second job to pay my fuckin entry fees.”

Richard Sachs says less, using more words. “What incentive is there to continue? The costs escalate. The prizes don’t cover anything at all. You have to be committed to a training program to even approach being competitive enough to get a place.”

And finally, from the crack whores at VeloNews, on the orgasm that is the new Dura-Ace 11-speed group, there’s this. “Yes, the new Dura-Ace is lighter, yes it has another cog, yes it’s more expensive…”

More expensive.

Not less expensive.

More expensive.

How much more expensive? Does it even matter? I mean, it’s more than the $3,100 price tag of the “old” Di2 10-speed, so how much more expensive could it be?

How much more expensive it could be

The crack whores tell us that the new 11-speed is going to be in the neighborhood of $4,200. Dollars. And if that seems like a lot of money to spend on an extra cog, you can comfort yourself that the hemorrhage is just getting started, because the 11-speed stuff won’t work with any of your wheels. Chuck the $2,700 Zipps and any other wheels you have in your quiver. You’ll need new ones.

Don’t bother adding any of this up. It will be too painful. Just do some touchy-feely accounting, though, and ballpark the frame, the group, the wheels, the coach, the analytical software, the power meter, the shoes, the clothes, the drugs, the gas, the food, the race entry fee, the Barbie food you need for long rides, the sugar drinks you need for every ride, the gym membership, the spare bike, the tubes ($15), the tires ($70), the license, and you’ll easily hit 25k for one year of serious racing.

That’s assuming you don’t crash, upgrade components, replace worn parts, or drop your bike off at the shop for a tune-up or overhaul.

Not doing cocaine isn’t a real good justification

We’ve all heard this one. “Yeah, I spend a lot racing my bike, but at least I’m not screwing hookers and doing cocaine.”

So those are your choices in life? Bike racing, or hookers and cocaine?

The fact is that cycling at all levels has gone far beyond what most people can afford to pay. The shrinking pool of bike racers, despite the explosion in the number of cyclists, is a result of this technological free-for-all, in which only the rich can compete. If you don’t think 25k a year in disposable bike income makes you rich, you’re proving my point.

Yachting solved the problem by developing races in which the equipment was standardized. One-Design class races feature boats that are essentially the same, and in which the race isn’t decided by the person who spends the most. Cycling is desperately in need of this. When Cat 5 racers are forced through ignorance, peer pressure, bad judgment, or necessity to purchase thousands of dollars in equipment just to do a stupid 4-corner crit and crash on the third lap, there’s something terribly wrong.

Wankmeister’s One-Design bike racing solution

Always eager to get his hands dirty with the poopy, corn-studded problems that others won’t touch, Wankmeister has devised a system that will equalize the competition, make bike racing affordable, and allow him to stop siphoning off college tuition money to pay for Charon’s next crit win. Regulate race equipment as follows:

1. Frame: steel or chromoly only
2. Group: mechanical down-tube shifters only
3. Wheels: aluminum rim, 32 or 36-spoke only
4. Tires: clinchers only
5. Analytics: no speedometers, power meters, GPS devices of any kind
6. Drugs: RuggedMAXXX2 only
7. Coaching: Cap’n Taintbag’s free online coaching only
8. Helmet: DOT-approved motorcycle helmets only
9. Drinks: water only
10. Food: bananas, peanut butter, bread only

An idea whose time has come? Probably not. Just don’t send me a nastygram about how important technology is to safe and competitive bike racing. They raced the fucking Tour for the first thirty-one years with no derailleurs. Want to go uphill? Get off your fucking bike, yank the rear wheel and change gears. So don’t go whining about how you can’t race without 11-speed electro-shifting bullshit.

And remember this: As race fields dwindle, fewer young people get involved in the sport, and the only market growth is among 40+ men and women with a professional career and lots of disposable income, it might be time to level the playing field where it matters most–in the pocketbook.

CBR Dominguez Hills Sunday crit and flailfest

June 11, 2012 § 9 Comments

Monday, the day after a hugely successful day at the races, is so depressing. The office still looks the same. The pile of shit that was on your desk, the pile from which you so joyfully fled at 4:59 PM on Friday, is still there, towering, leaning, and reeking of procrastination babies that have been sitting at the bottom of the pile for so long they’ve sprouted chest hair and developed deep voices.

You try as hard as you can to do the thing that you’ve done every other Monday in 2012: shove the hard shit further down the stack and cherry pick the easy shit that can be knocked out in a minute or two. Check your email. Refill your coffee. Peek again at the bottom of the pile to see if the procrastination babies have grown fangs yet. It’s when they’re at the fanged stage that you’re fucked and will have to wrestle with them as they spring free from the pile, scattering everything else to the four winds as you battle what was once an easily solved problem but what has now grown into a fire breathing monster sprung from the gates of hell.

Fortunately, the biggest procrastination baby hasn’t fanged yet and only has tiny little bumps on its gums, which means a few more reams of shit can be heaped atop the pile to weigh him down for another brace or two of Mondays until he’s strong enough to claw his way out and ruin your week for real.

Race notes

Rich Meeker: Dude won the 45+ category in a sprint, which doesn’t need saying because he showed up. The last time I was in a race with Rich I never saw him, so this was cool because I got within 30 or 40 yards and gawked good and proper. THOG-like, he notices everything that happens in the race. He’s always towards the front, but never at it unless attacking or bridging or smoking the field for the win. Bastard. At least my helmet cam makes his butt look fat.

Charon Smith: Dude won the 35+ category in a sprint, which doesn’t need saying because he showed up. Some guy in second place almost nipped him at the line except that he was forty-seven bike lengths back. A bunch of people I don’t know won the other races, so fuck them. Then Charon went and did some ridiculous shit in the P/1/2 race, winning the field sprint or some shit like that. At least he got smoked on the climb by a girl on the Saturday ride, even though he busted a gut trying to catch her.

Eric Anderson: Second race after upgrading to Cat 2, he nails fourth in the 35+ and 12th in the P/1/2. Eric is the only sprinter I know with the Bahati-esque quality of pulling so fucking hard that your entire body trembles and shudders from the pain. How long before Eric makes Charon quit sitting up with 300m to go and actually pedal to the line?

David Perez: The reason DP is always praying so hard is because of all those demons inside. The big hairy one with four tails, twelve eyes, and a rusty pike with skulls on it is called “Upgrade Demon.” It’s the demon that he coughed up at the starting line after linking hands with the atheistic antichrist spawn of satan otherwise known as HoverHawk. Once the demon was out in the open, DP rode a hell of a race, tossing the demon back into the eternal lake of fire and nailing down 13th place in a star-studded field of legitimate crazies. This is a great result for our local South Bay boy, and here’s hoping that more are on the way!

Chris Lotts: Seeing Chris come bombing by me in the crit was like watching a giant bowl of jello being flung from a fast-moving car. You keep watching to see if it’s going to come apart, but the only thing that came apart was Wankmeister. Chris showed again that no matter how much of a strain he puts on the 500-lb. test line that holds his clothing together, he CAN STILL KICK YOUR ASS IN A CRIT.

Wankmeister self-evaluation: Attacking with Gary Walls and John Nist 10 minutes into the race was really stupid. Chasing down David Worthington was awesome, as he flipped me off for the camera. Rad!! Chilling at the front with Greg Leibert while our teammates rode in the breakaway was interesting. What’s with all those lazyfucks who go to all that trouble to get in a break and then won’t work together? Are they related to Jack from Illinois? Or do they think they’re going to beat Rich Meeker in the sprint? Or do they just not know they’re in a break? Props to teammate Alan Flores, even though he was herding frogs, for getting up the road with those doofuses. My attack on the incline with just over one lap to go was meaningless, but better than doing nothing. Maybe. Although I finished next-to-DFL, it was my next-to-best race ever, thanks to my GoAmateur helmet cam, which captured all of the spitting, snot-blowing, bad cornering, time spent out in the wind instead of intelligently drafting, and cries of fear from the hapless schmoes stuck behind me.

Next up on WM’s race schedule: The Castaic Jailhouse Crit, an awesome 3.75-mile circuit race with a hill, providing a rare alternative to the typical four-corner crit that makes racing in SoCal so boring. Ooops…recent update by the promoter: Due to zillions of new rapists, child molesters, killers, and marijuana smokers being incarcerated at the same time that the state budget’s being cut, the Castaic jail grounds have canceled the circuit race. However, a race will still go on, only as a (surprise) four-cornered crit, .75 mile in length. Nice work, felons.

In Pursuit of Glory

June 9, 2012 § 12 Comments

This stinker sits at #46 of Cycle Sport magazine’s listing of the greatest cycling books of all time. It’s the “as told to” autobiography of Bradley Wiggins. The whole point of the book, which came out in 2008, was to make a quick buck on his medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Why else summarize your life and accomplishments when you’re still in the middle of a prodigiously successful career?

To say this book was thrown together does a huge injustice to all of the things in life that are thrown together and work out remarkably well: last minute suppers, clingy little negligee ensembles, and shotgun weddings that end up producing good kids and successful marriages. “In Pursuit of Glory” wasn’t thrown together. It was pooped out.

The theme

Ninety-nine percent of all the sentences in this book include first person references to Brad. It reads like this. “I, while doing the me for myself, our on the we, and myself on the I gave another chance for me to I and us to we our mine, against all my. That’s why I we, was for me. Brad Wiggins, the I and myself, did it me.”

Someone forgot to tell Brad that autobiography should reveal the surrounding stories, influences, and experiences of others that combined to create the life of the subject. The narcissistic, self-satisfied, preachy tone of the book is made more grating by the spelling errors, grammatical errors, sentences without subjects, bad organization, and absence of a coherent story.

On the plus side, the book allows you to pithily sum up Mr. Wiggins’s life and personality.

  1. His father was a successful track racer in the 80’s, an alcoholic, and a deadbeat dad.
  2. Brad is a successful track racer, a functional alcoholic, and a loving, responsible dad.
  3. Brad’s success is the result of the people who have managed him.
  4. Brad is an anxiety ridden, somewhat depressed narcissist.
  5. Brad is one of the greatest British athletes of all time.

No coal miner’s daughter here

You know those stories about some poor Belgian farmer who dies? He’s got five sons and the widow is ill. The eldest son gathers the family under the flickering lone light bulb hanging over the bare kitchen table. “Well, Mum, the only way I can pay the mortgage on the farm is if I turn pro and win the Ronde in April.”

He trains throughout the harsh Belgian winter, throughout the brutal spring, going better and better as the grim howl of the wolf at the door and horrible abyss of failure are counterbalanced only by his indomitable will to win. The big day arrives and he crosses the line first, securing a future for his family and having his name writ large among the immortals of the road.

Brad Wiggins’s story is, uh, not quite like that. His mom turned him on to track cycling at an early age, influenced by the career of his runaway dad. Immediately he began to win. Soon he was under the tutelage of Chris Boardman. A natural athlete with a track pedigree, he was coddled, nurtured, shaped, and pushed all the way to his first Olympic gold medal at Athens in the individual pursuit in 2004.

Except for the occasional up and down as befits a clinically depressed functional alcoholic, Wiggins’s story is about as sexy as a white lab coat. In 2008 his medal haul in Beijing made him the second most decorated British Olympian of all time. In 2012 he stands to become the greatest ever. Like British food, it’s really exciting.

A few gems for cyclists

Wankmeister digs through the shit to find the pearls so you don’t have to. So even though this book is a series of “I’m incredibly talented and my dad was a deadbeat” vignettes calibrated on high “whine,” there are a few passages of interest to cyclists.

First is Wiggins’s description of the team pursuit. Wiggins is one of the all time great pursuiters, and his explanation of how the four-man team rode at the world’s in Manchester and at Beijing is matchless. When he bothers to talk about track cycling, he is a savant. The clumsiness of the writing can’t begin to dull the brilliance with which he explains the mechanics of this event. Unfortunately, it’s brief–just a few pages long.

Second is his attitude toward doping. Though he mouths the standard “I hate dopers” line, and though his early road career shows the bottom-of-the-barrel results one would expect from a non-doper in the age of rocket fueled cyclists, numerous of his comments are strange, such as when he refers to track cycling as “pure” in reference to its supposed absence of doping. Track cycling? Are you fucking kidding me?

This blind eye to doping continues when he dismisses Rob Hayles’s exclusion from the worlds and Olympic pursuit squads due to an elevated hematocrit. Wiggins asserts that there is no way it could have been from doping, which is interesting, because the one thing that an elevated hematocrit always indicates in a professional cyclist is the possibility of just that. Another completely bizarre comment is his remark that he always suspected Cofidis teammate and busted doper Christian Moreni to have been a cheater because he was older and at the end of his career. Old + End of Career = Doper. If that’s true, Brad’s got a lot of explaining to do about himself.

Must be the cheese he’s eating

Most interesting, however, is Wiggins’s analysis in his autobiography of what the future holds in store for him as a cyclist: In 2008 he wrote that would never win the Tour, but hoped to close out his career with perhaps a stage win, singular. A few short years later, after spending time with Columbia/HTC, then some time with Garmin/Slipstream, Wiggins has emerged with team SKY as the preeminent favorite to not simply win a stage in the Tour, but to win the entire race in dominating fashion.

Far from experiencing the typical Tour progression of exceptional road racer to Tour contender, Wiggins has gone from 124th in 2006, DNF in 2007, skipped the race entirely in 2008, rocketed to 4th in 2009, tumbled to 24th in 2010, crashed out in 2011, and reemerged after destroying this year’s Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie, and Dauphine to be head and shoulders above the competition. Here’s a pursuit rider winning the field sprint in La Chaux-de-Fonds at the Tour of Romandie? Effortlessly protecting his own lead at the Dauphiné as he single-handedly leads the chase and reels in the breakaway at Morzine – Châtel?

The 4km track specialist who could barely finish a grand tour (123rd in the 05 Giro, 134th in the 08 Giro, 71st in the 09 Giro, 40th in the 10 Giro) now climbs better than Evans, time trails like Tainted Meat, and sprunts like Cav? Aw, go fuck yourself in the ass you lying, cheating sonofabitch.

No Tour champion in history has this trajectory, or anything remotely like it, capping a career of mostly nondescript grand tour failures with an overwhelming lock on the favorites’ list for the very first time at the age of thirty-two. What happened?

Wiggins chalks it up to training like a swimmer. “My coach has not been in cycling for long, he’s come from swimming, so I’ve pretty much been training like the swimmers train,” Wiggins said a few days ago. He also claims that training in Tenerife, with its acidic air and high altitude, provides the missing toughness that he could never get in the UK. The final piece to his secret plan? Isolation and no distractions.

This sounds really familiar. Haven’t we heard from other great cyclists who produced incredible results, completely transforming themselves from “not even close” into TdF contenders that it was due to “new training methods” and “hard work”? Wasn’t there even an ad for that…something like “I’m on my bike. What are you on?”

The old saw that “I’m training harder than the other guys, that’s why I beat them by minutes” has been so thoroughly discredited that it’s amazing people still listen to it. The idea that the pro peloton is filled with riders who are lazy, or who don’t put in the hours, is ludicrous, with the possible exception of Abandy Schleck. “People just don’t understand he is a fantastic athlete,” purrs mouthpiece Sean Yates, former water carrier for Lance Armstrong.

Right. We’re too stupid to get that the greatest Olympian in British history is a fantastic athlete, kind of like how we didn’t understand what a phenom Lance or Jan were. It’s not that Wiggins’s performance is eyebrow raising, it’s that we’re too stupid to realize that he’s so good our eyebrows shouldn’t even raise.

Unfortunately, Yates can’t stay on the same page for long, immediately promising there’s loads more to come even after all this hard, grueling, mind bending work, and massive stage race victories. Hard as it all seems, and hard as Wiggins says it all is, “He’s not trained so hard [that] he’s exhausted, he’s just trained normally that he’s getting better and better,” explains Yates. Right. The more you train, the better you get. It’s that simple, which is why RAAM participants are so heavily recruited to ride the Tour.

Skeptics like me would instead say that Wiggins is part of the “new” new cycling, where doping quantities are reduced, and sophisticated programs are only available to the richest, most well-funded teams. The abandonment of the UCI’s biological passport, among other disturbing facts, points to a rider who’s finally gotten on a program that can turn him from a doormat to a champion.

Pursuit of glory, indeed.

2012 Barn Burner and Sausage Fry

June 9, 2012 § 9 Comments

Lauren Mulwitz is a woman. She’s attractive. She’s friendly. She enjoys sunsets, reading, quiet evenings, and filling your body with unimaginable pain as she rips your legs off, grinds you up, and leaves you heaving and spent in the gutter.

In other words, she’s a perfect candidate for the Leadville qualifying race known as Barn Burner. There’s not a lot to say about this epic 104-mile race that is done on fat tire bikes up and down fire roads that were hewn through a rock field with over 8,000 feet of climbing, except this: It’s very hard.

A couple of days ago I pretended to sit down with Lauren and imagined interviewing her about her third-place finish at this extraordinary beatdown of a bike race. Here’s what she would have said, maybe:

WM: Lauren, you’re best known in the South Bay for sausage stomping and kicking people’s dicks off, especially on the NPR. How did you get into SMESFCP?

LM: Uh, what’s that?

WM: Sado/Masochistic Extreme Sports For Crazy People.

LM: Oh! Well, I’ve always been good at endurance events, and I like triathlons, so it was kind of a natural. I’ve done Leadville, and as selection gets more competitive each year I decided to target Barn Burner to qualify for 2012.

WM: Got it. What was the hardest part of the race?

LM: Hmmm…probably the drive to Arizona along the 40. Have you ever had a root canal?

WM: No.

LM: It’s about as much fun as that. Unless you like wide-open landscapes filled with dirt and occasional markers for “alien landing sites.”

WM: Alien landing sites? Oh, those. Yeah, it’s hard to find a clean toilet in Arizona. So you got to Flagstaff, and then what?

LM: We headed to the race venue. The drive to the start was crazy scary, with two-way traffic trying to occupy a single lane of fire road, and dust so thick you think you’re at a Judas Priest concert. It looked like Burningman meets mountain biking race meets HempCon, so I felt right at home. I parked, unloaded my bike, and was instantly greeted by Bryson Perry, a two-time Leadville winner. We got to pre-ride the course with Dave Wiens, the six-time Leadville winner, and in addition to the great company I got some great advice for the race.

WM: Like what?

LM: “Watch out for the sausages.” That was the main thing. I mean it’s a selective race, but as a qualifier it attracts 500 entrants, and there’s a lot of sausage in that factory.

WM: Can you tell my reader how the race began?

LM: Sure. It has a Le Mans start, which means that all five hundred idiots run a ¼-mile footrace to the bikes, mount them, and begin the first loop.

WM: What’s the purpose of that?

LM: Mostly to watch the sausages trip and fall. It also staggers the start. Racers who can walk and chew gum at the same time get out on course first, sausages out later.

WM: So then you rode off into the sunset for 104 miles?

LM: No. There were four 26.2-mile loops, and you got tagged after each lap. The gun fired and everyone dashed to the bike racks. I ran carefully, avoiding the basketball-sized rocks. Lots of sausages were impaled on the granite and never even got to the rack. We sold off their shit after the race and used it for prize money, which paid 299 deep as a result.

WM: So except for the sausages who died, it was just hammer and go? Time trial mode?

LM: Actually, there was a monstrous bottleneck on the first part of the course, because the riders kicked up so much dirt and created clouds of dust. I couldn’t really go anywhere or see anything until about three miles in, when we turned onto a larger fire road, and the dust cloud cleared up. I hopped onto moderately fast pacelines and conserved energy throughout that first lap.

WM: I call bullshit. I’ve never seen you sit on a paceline at NPR. You’re always frying sausages and stomping dicks. Come on. I may be Texas dumb, but I’m not Texas Aggie dumb.

LM: Not to take anything away from your super greatness, WM, but Barn Burner is, well, a bit harder than NPR. I mean, NPR is hard, and you’re really good, great actually, don’t get me wrong.

WM: Okay, so you’re sitting in and conserving, riding smart, not stomping sausages on the first lap. I’m skeptical, but go ahead.

LM: Towards the end of the first lap, I saw a dude in a gorilla suit. He was bumping techno music, and doing some weird gyrations with his hips. It was weird.

WM: Hmmm. Really does sound like a Judas Priest concert.

LM: I completed the first lap, ran through the barn, came into the transition area, lubed my chain, ate some food, drank some water, brushed off some dust, talked to some people, and then took off for Lap 2. I probably wasted ten minutes.

WM: Why? I mean, it’s a race, right?

LM: I just got caught up in the fun.

WM: Yeah, like in junior high. One minute you’re passing a group of kids, next minute you’re smoking meth and holding up liquor stores. Good times! Okay, what happened on Lap Two?

LM: I was less conservative, and hopped on a freight train traveling at warp speed to make time on the flats. I felt really good, and hit both climbs slowly, but descended fast, and found some great wheels to follow.

WM: Sausage count?

LM: They were all over the place. I kind of felt bad for them.

WM: I don’t. What happened next?

LM: On Lap Three I stayed consistent, found some good groups to ride with and we worked together. Great rotations from a couple of guys and bing, next thing you know I’d qualified for Leadville.

WM: “Bing”? What does that mean? How’d you place?

LM: Third.

WM: Honey, that ain’t no fucking “bing.” “Bing” is what Wankmeister does when he flails off the back or gets canned in the sprunt. Third place isn’t “bing.” It’s fucking awesome. What memories stand out?

LM: From a technical perspective, the course has two climbs, both of which are gradual. After the first climb there’s a descent named “the rock garden,” and it’s so technical and rocky that you really have to pick the right path, or slow your roll a lot! If you don’t, you’re going to endo.

WM: I’m surprised the sausages in your rotation let you suck wheel.

LM: They didn’t!! I’ve never been asked to take so many pulls. They looked back at me several times, and said, “Okay honey, it’s your turn!” I took a few pulls, but decided to be conservative and save it for the last lap. I stayed with a group that was slower than my natural pace to conserve energy, and ended up losing time. In hindsight, I should have charged ahead, and maybe made up some time.

After the third descent through the rock garden, my forearms and biceps were starting to cramp and really hurt, and I could barely grip my brakes. I managed to finish the lap in a consistent time, and was stoked to be on my last lap!

WM: Yep, you can’t neglect your arms. That’s why Wankmeister is a legend at the gym. [Flexes]

LM: [Looks like she’s biting her tongue] Ah, okay. I came into the transition area after the third lap, drank half a coke, and grabbed my last food and water. It was instant energy! I headed out like a bullet and began the final lap. I was so happy, and had so much adrenaline to be on the last lap, I was flying up the climbs and down the descents. But since the race was so spread out at this point, I couldn’t draft on the flats and had to put it in the big gear and motor.

WM: I guess that’s where doing all those NPR rides with Wankmeister really paid off, huh? There’s probably no way you could have done it otherwise, eh?

LM: Ah, ummm, well…

WM: It’s okay. You’ don’t have to praise me. [Winks.] So then what?

LM: After eight hours of riding on the rivet I was getting disoriented. My head felt like it had swollen up into an 18th Century Russian novel. My legs felt like they’d had forms built around them and been concreted in. I couldn’t see from the filth. My hands were losing their grip. At one point things were so awful and fucked up and grisly looking that I thought I was in Temecula.

WM: Wow! That’s epic! Did you die?

LM: No. Thankfully, I saw the gorilla dude, and knew I was almost done! I bombed down the last chute, came into the barn, and was introduced as the third place woman racer! I was covered in dirt and exhausted, but after 8 hours and 19 minutes, I gotta say, I had a blast! Only wish the course had more single track, and was more scenic. I’m really looking forward to Leadville, and know it’s only going to get better!

WM: Well, you’re clearly insane. Any last words before I call the authorities?

LM: Big shout out to “Tree” Perkins, who also qualified for Leadville.

WM: That wanker? He freaking never goes to the front on the NPR.

LM: Wankmeister?

WM: Yes?

LM: There are more things in the world of cycling than the NPR.

WM: [Crestfallen at being reproached by his hero] Oh.

LM: But we love you anyway! [Pats his scrawny bicep]

WM: [Happy smile on his face] See you out there next Tuesday, and best of luck to you in Leadville!

The end of independence

June 8, 2012 § 16 Comments

This blog represents my life’s work. Of all the things that make it stand out, none shines more brightly than my fierce journalistic independence. I hope it goes without saying that from the very beginning, when these essays began to make their mark on the cycling world, I have been bombarded with requests to advertise.

I’m not talking about ads for Donnie’s Spoke Nipple Fabricators, or for punk-ass dilettante basement beer brewers. I’m talking about the corporate names that made America famous. The big deals. The big wheels. After a lot of soul searching, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and accept corporate money.

Before you go condemning me and accusing me of becoming a sellout, consider this: Without the substantial revenue provided by a major advertiser, there’s no way I can keep this shit up. It takes a fair amount of time and a huge amount of energy to keep blogging about you wankers. I’m all for charity and good works, but there’s a limit, especially when it comes to cycling riffraff.

Journalistic independence

There’s a long tradition of cycling bloggers who start off working in their bathroom and graduate to the scullery by virtue of advertising sales. My buddy Patrick Brady’s Red Kite Prayer comes to mind, a publication that is regularly voted by insane people as the best cycling blog on the internets.

Wankmeister is no different, except that he is better.

Rather than accepting advertising from any old cycling douchebag company that can cough up the fees on his admittedly steep rate card, Wankmeister has carefully reviewed the countless companies clamoring for his Good Housekeeping seal of approval and selected one company, and one alone, that represents the ideals, principles, maxims, high moral ground, proper behavior, and social responsibility epitomized by this blog.

Despite accepting money from this honorable and esteemed company, Wankmeister promises to his loyal reader that these opinions, viewpoints, research, investigation, and writing will never, ever, ever be colored by filthy lucre, not one tiny bit. Parts of the cycling news that is fit to print, and much of it that isn’t, will always be available here.

Let me introduce to you my new patron and sponsor…RuggedMAXXX

Before I give you the details about the world’s number one herbal male enhancement formula (check out www.ruggedmaxxx.com if you can’t wait), I wanted to share with you the way that my relationship began with this huge and swollen global partner.

I’ve always had a really tiny penis. Before I got married, the one woman who saw me naked (I was water skiing and my drawers came unhitched) said to me, “You’re never going to get a girlfriend, let alone a wife. That thing you call a penis can’t be more than eleven inches long. Shrimp!”

From that day on I’ve suffered from the shame of diminished dangle dysfunction. Mrs. WM has repeatedly tried to reassure me that it’s okay to be small. “Don’t a you worry about little inchy thingy. You gotta good personality on Thursday.”

Like all male cyclists and especially Hair, I’ve tried everything to grow my root. I’ve tried implants, “Dr. Bill’s Amazing Penis Potion,” root extenders, and Brazilian wax jobs with little reflective aluminum pasties around the base to make the tree look taller. I’ve even tried to get Mrs. WM to wear special reverse distortion glasses like they use on car mirrors so that “objects may look larger than they feel.”

But nothing has worked. The implants got infected and the corrective surgery reduced me to a shriveled and virtually invisible nine-and-a-half inches. The penis potion had some hormone in it that got me banned for two years by USA Cycling. Life has been a living hell.

My road to a new tomorrow

So there I was, sorting through advertising requests from General Motors, Pillsbury, Amgen, and Coke, when this email caught my eye. I’M NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP.

Dear  Wankmeister,

Mega Men Global introduces our all natural, 100% herbal supplement  Rugged Maxxx 2Rugged Maxxx has changed the lives of over 40,000+ customers in 2009, and being the confident, perfecitonist that we are, we hope to change the lives of triple those numbers in 2012. Customers have already started to rave on how much they love our Rugged Maxxx 2, but we still need your review to get our brand further out to the world. Would you be interested in reviewing Rugged Maxxx 2? I would be happy to send you a shipment. Please reply to this email with a name and address that you would like your discretely packaged shipment sent-to. Allow us to help you introduce fun, and excitement into the bedroom of a friend, family-member, or your own. Thank you for your time and opportunity.

P.S.
We love to show-off our testimonials to the world, which we have done with out #rmstories on soundcloud, please email us your testimonials, separately, to test@ruggedmaxxx.com. Hope you enjoy.
Respectfully Submitted,
Mikel Mittal, Admin
m.mittal@ruggedmaxxx.com
B: (800)691-2551
C: (954)815-3349
www.RuggedMaxxx.com
twitter.com/RuggedMaxxx

facebook.com/RuggedMaxx
“Go Hard, Go Natural, Go Rugged to the MAXXX”

The thing that most attracted me was their promise to ship it “discretely.” I suppose that’s opposed to shipping it “joined, combined, or attached.” I was also enthralled at getting to use a product make by a “perfecitonist.” It sounded so sexy, even though I wasn’t sure what it meant. Of course, I was a little worried about introducing fun excitement into the bedroom of a family member, since that’s illegal in the Lower 48 except Tennessee. But I’m a risk taker, so I went all in.

I ordered three cases of RuggedMAXXX2, and let me tell you the results were flat fucking incredible. After the first week my tiny little wiener went from a shrimpy 9.5″ to a barely visible 11″. After the second week it sprouted up to 14.82″, almost enough to register with my long suffering wife of 25 years. By the end of week three it sprouted to a whopping 72 inches long.

Do you know how big 72 inches is? It’s big enough to satisfy the largest animal to ever roam the earth, the now extinct Jeespotticus Rexasauruas, a 400-foot tall reptile whose orgasms were so huge that they eventually heated up the atmosphere and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Anyway, I’m not going to say any more as it would embarrass my wife, who is now completely satisfied with her man, and with me, too. I owe it all to RuggedMAXXX2, and I’m urging you to give it a try, especially Prez, who should probably go on the 52-case, one-year program if you know what I mean.

Thanks for your support

I hope you’ll appreciate that even though I’m now accepting advertising, you can still expect the high quality, unbiased product reviews and incisive analysis you’ve come to expect from Wankmeister. And the next time your Ms. or Mr. Special politely suggests that you’d  be able to hammer longer and stronger with some extra rake in your fork, call up the good penis enhancement people at RuggedMAXXX, and tell ‘em Wankmeister sent you. You’ll be glad you did.

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