Awesome [censored] party!

July 31, 2012 § 4 Comments

Huge props to BJ Hale and the whole SoCal cycling family for bringing everyone together last Thursday night to Surf City Cyclery in Costa Mesa, where CyclingIllustrated.com lifted off, officially, into outer space.

Like any good family party it had the usual cast of characters: Crazy Uncle Hank who sits out on the porch all day drinking warm beer and shooting BB’s at stray cats; Cousin Slinky whose clothes are two sizes too small and whose [censored] keep almost bursting to freedom; Grandpa Dinkums who’ll pull you over and talk for an hour about how in his day they raced on square bicycle wheels; Brother Slick who makes a mysterious living selling a mysterious product that always keeps him in Porsches and Armanis; Brother Goat who can’t do anything right and who could [censored] up a [censored]; and most of all Daddy Warbucks, the hard-driving head of the family who makes it all happen.

We had all come together to celebrate the launch of CyclingIllustrated.com, but before we celebrated we got to eat free Mexican food, drink free tequila, and scoop up awesome gift bags loaded with quality swag.

So what the [censored] IS CyclingIllustrated.com?

In a word, it’s “the passion of cycling.” Okay, make that four words. Unlike the antiseptic voices of CyclingNews and Velonews and Bicycling, deadly dull publications written by fatass wannabe fanboys with typewriters, CyclingIllustrated is a new, vibrant, exciting voice written by fatass wannabe fanboys with typewriters who actually race, along with the voices of men and women who make up the very top of the cycling elite.

CyclingIllustrated.com’s goal is to let top racers in all age groups and cycling disciplines share their insights with us, in their own words. In fact, after a quick analysis of the last 4,982 first-person accounts of elite cyclists, a recent study concluded that every successful cyclist has the same ten insights, which I’ve reproduced for you below.

  1. “Hard race.”
  2. “Attacked and got away.”
  3. “Sketchy sprint.”
  4. “No legs.”
  5. “Not my course.”
  6. “Good legs.”
  7. “Great teammates.”
  8. “That’s bike racing.”
  9. “Bah.” (Plus shrug.)
  10. “Mechanical.”

In fact, the video interviews and columns that CyclingIllustrated.com features on its web site offer a new and interesting take on the sport, because we get to hear the strategies, plans, successes, and failures from the very people we see every weekend. Their words help break down the intricacies of a race that might have seemed like one fluid blur. Their approach to a race shows the constantly shifting nature of fortune within each race, and how the slightest vagaries of wind, distance, speed, elevation, and composition of a break can completely alter the outcome of a race. Unless Richard Meeker’s in it, in which case there’s no [censored] way you have a [censored] chance in [censored] [censored] of winning.

The power of synergy

BJ Hale’s dream of a new cycling publication that draws on the very best writing and photography is an awesome one, not least of all because one of the key movers is Danny Munson. The cycling world is filled with photographers. It has a smaller but distinguished number of fine photographers. Danny is neither. He’s an artist, and he gives color, expression, depth, and resolution to the incredible moments in each race he shoots, whether it’s a CBR crit or the pandemonium of Tulsa Tough.

What was most incredible about the launch party, though, was that it showcased how many people and entities have come together to make this project a success. Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. The success of CyclingIllustrated, though, is more like a group [censored] where everyone keeps diving in for more.

So, without more fanfare, here are the people and entities that made it happen. Props to you all, in no particular order. If I’ve left out a name, let me know. This ain’t my day job.

Shimano: Galaxy’s most awesome creator of bike chain shifter thingies so that we don’t have to shift on the down tube anymore or pedal our [censored] bikes up Alpe d’Huez on a fixed gear.

Spy Optic: Galaxy’s most awesome supporter of grass roots cycling and maker of the best eyewear anywhere. From highest quality performance wear to Rx glasses that will get you [censored] in any club on earth, SPY is the best.

IRT:  Googled “IRT” and came up with “Indiana Repertory Theatre,” “International Raquetball Tour,” and “IRT Deadliest Roads Video.” Nope, none of those. It’s Inertia Racing Technology, which is a fancy [censored] way of saying “badass cyclocross wheels that can take anything you got and more.”

Mercury Wheels: Look, I don’t know squat about wheels. I still ride 32-hole aluminum rim clinchers, for Dog’s sake. But these things look freaking awesome. Slap a couple of these onto your ride and you might finish in Jamie or Charon’s zip code. Slap them on Charon’s ride and his wheels will cross the line before he does.

SDG Saddles: Some people say the most important part of the bike is where the rubber meets the road. I say it’s where your [censored] meets the saddle. SDG saddles make sure you go your fastest without rubbing your parts into a gooey mess.

Now Energy Bars: You know how sometimes you’ll be out there hammering and suddenly you just crater? It’s usually because you’re weak and undertrained, and so you’re hosed. But occasionally you’re bonking, and the Now Energy bar, made from healthy stuff, will bring you right back to the razor’s edge.

PROLAB: This arsenal of products “delays muscle fatigue” for both weightlifters and endurance athletes. I sure could have used a case of that [censored] at the San Marcos circuit race yesterday.

H2O: Now someone’s gotta help me out with this one. Water is our sponsor? That’s rad, don’t get me wrong…

Cytomax: “Ctyo” comes from the Greek root for “wanker.” “Max” means “the most.” Cytomax will help you get the most out of your wankerish attempts on the bike, with a balanced blend of electrolytes and other stuff your body need when you feel like your [censored] lungs are about to explode out your ears.

Jenson USA: If you want to buy bike stuff and are too lazy to go to the bike shop, or you live in LA and you don’t have ten hours to spend in traffic, or you’re too pooped from your epic 5-hour training ride, you can pretty much buy it here. Online. From the comfort of your own Big Mac and large fries. It’s okay. We won’t tell.

GU Energy: This stuff isn’t, thankfully, anything like it sounds. Rather, it’s the choice of champions. Squirt a little goo down your craw and you’ll come pounding back like a jackhammer.

Axiss Sports: I Googled this baby to a fare thee well. Crickets.

CalBikeLaw.com: When you get mowed down by some [censored] idiot who’s too busy texting or drinking or snorting coke, who you gonna call? CalBikelaw.com, that’s who! Headed up by two of the best personal injury attorneys in California, Gerry Agnew and Bruce Brusavich have been representing seriously injured Californians for over 38 years.

Skull Candy: Sometimes you need the right sound to crank out that extra ten watts. Skull Candy can deliver the tunes right where you want ‘em, when you want ‘em.

Caliente Southwest Grill: These folks MADE the launch party a party, because without great food it’s just a bunch of people in a bad mood looking at each other and ready to brawl at the drop of a hat. Their food is delicious! Wankmeister certified guaranteed!

Kenda: Awesome bike tires. Slap a pair of these on and motor down the road! If you’re looking for something to go cheap on, don’t pinch pennies on your chamois or your tires. And please don’t whine to me about the high cost of race tires. If you were on a motorcycle you’d spend $600 per pair per race. Feel better, wanker?

Bahati Foundation: Supports inner city youth by providing educational, musical, and athletic equipment. Motivational outreach and giving back is the hallmark of the foundation. Oh, and it also happens to be run by one of the best road sprinters this country has ever seen!

Europa Sports Products: All kinds of rad supplements to help you bike faster, pedal longer, [censored] harder, and achieve the athletic results to which you’ve set your mind!

Surf City Cyclery: This is like the giant granddaddy of all Specialized bike stores anywhere. If you can’t find it here, you’re probably looking for goat cheese or for a rebuilt alternator. This shop is [censored] awesome, with helpful staff, bottomless inventory, and customers who include some of the best racers in SoCal.

In conclusion…

It was a wonderful evening of fun, food, bike tire changing contests, and trying to figure out why everyone acts so different in mufti from when they’re cloaked in their superman get-up, helmet, and black reflective glasses. Like, that dude who you’re scared to even say hi to on the bike is just meekly standing over in the corner looking like he’s gonna cry because no one’s talking to him. That bruiser sprinter dude who can crack your scapula with one shoulder bump is as quiet as a toad in a hole. Of course I did leave before they drained the tequila keg…

In keeping with CyclingIllustrated.com’s tradition, they did an interview of one of the greats: Kenny Fuller, world champion. And in keeping with the Crazy Uncle thing, one dude came up and started badgering BJ, “So what is this, anyway? And why are you doing it? And what makes you think anyone is interested?”

We dragged him out into the alley and poured [censored] down his throat, but not before we explained that we think people are interested because of the 200 guests, the outpouring of support for the project, and the forty billion web visits that BJ gets every ten seconds.

So there.

Next time there’s a party…hope to see you there!

Scales, fangs, and venom

July 29, 2012 § 10 Comments

There’s a simple reason people stay away from the San Marcos circuit race: it hurts like a motherfucker.

If your dream bike race rolls around in smooth circles on a flat business park course, this is your worst nightmare. The 45+ Elderly Gentlemen With Prostrate Issues Race started hard, was hard in the middle, and hard at the end, so unlike the elderly gentlemen themselves, whose wives could only wish for such sustained firmness.

Before the race, teammates Alan Flores, John Geyer, and Ted Rupp took me aside. “Look, Wankmeister. You don’t have a fucking hope in hell on this course. It’s hard; you’re soft. It’s fast; you’re slow. The hill is relentless; you have more white flags in your back pocket than the French army. So don’t feel bad when you get dropped on the second or third lap. We do, however, have a mission for you to execute on behalf of the team: When you flame out, do it in front of G$ or Klasna or someone who’s going to be a factor in the race.”

Preparation is everything

The night before, I’d done an intensive bout of training with a giant turkey, dressing, apple pie, a bag of chips, lots of sour cream and hummus dip, and buttery green beans. G$ and Mighty Mouse had been at that same training event, and G$ had fully prepped me on what to expect.

“When I was in college, the pole vaulters always kept apart from all the other guys on the track and field team. They were different, I guess because you know they were always missing the mat and falling from 20 feet onto the track, or getting the wrong angle on the vault and hitting the steel uprights, or breaking the pole and getting shards of fiberglass run through their lungs, I’m not sure why, but they were just different.

“One time we went to El Paso for the UTEP meet and the pole vaulters were gone all night in Ciudad Juarez. We saw them the next morning and they were like, ‘We saw a dead guy and ate dog meat at a donkey show.’ Plus all of the TV’s in their rooms were in the swimming pool.”

I was confused. “But, uh, what does this have to do with the race tomorrow?”

“You’re gonna be like that dead guy, you know, dead. Or you’ll be like the dog meat, you know, skinned and cooked and eaten by somebody else. Or you’ll be like those TV’s, you know, torn out of the wall and drowned. Or you’ll be like the donkey’s partner, you know…”

I cringed at the thought of being the donkey’s partner. “Come on, G$. What can I do to get a good result tomorrow?”

“Remember that episode of Gilligan’s Island, where they had an Olympics?”

“No.”

“Yeah, it was rad. They had an Olympics on the island, and everybody trained like crazy the day before. Skipper was lifting weights, and the Professor was doing push-ups, and Mrs. Howell was getting it on with Ginger, while Mary Ann was working out by shaving all the hair off Mr. Howell’s back. The only one who didn’t do anything was Gilligan. He just slept all day in his hammock. Then the next day, the day of the Olympics, he won everything because the others were so rat-crap tired and sore.”

“So what are you saying?”

“Rest up, buddy. The hay that’s in the barn tonight, that’s all the hay you’re gonna have come tomorrow.”

A short and vicious mashing

Everything they had told me about the difficulty of the course and the speed of the race had been grossly underestimated. From the starting gun, where I clipped my shoe into the neighboring guy’s front wheel and got to learn some new curse words, to the first turn where we leaned hard and jumped out of the saddle was like the final kick in a match sprint. We hurtled down the hill into a narrow chute of a turn, conveniently lined with uneven bricks and reflector thingies, and enhanced with a giant hard plastic pole about nut-height so that if you clipped it you’d never have to worry about those pesky paternity suits ever again.

The wankoton bunched at the turn then shot out onto the tailwind straightaway, whipped through Turn 2, paused for a brief moment, and charged into Turn 3 at the bottom of a bitterly steep but short wall. Turn 4 morphed into a false flat that kept falsing and not flatting all the way to the start/finish so that by the time we’d done the first lap I was desperately staring at the lap counter to see if it said “three to go” yet.

It didn’t.

Steve Klasna and David Worthington launched on the second or third lap and were joined by Doug Pomerantz. After a lap of hesitation, SPY team boss Alan Flores punched it hard on the false flat, leaving the rest of us gassed, gassy, and gapped. Before a chase could get organized, Alan had closed the 15-second deficit to the break and began towing the break around at will. Each time up the hill his efforts put more and more daylight between the break and the wankoton.

With Worthington sitting on, and Big Orange enjoying a two-man advantage for the finish, it looked like a done deal. At the bottom of the climb on the last lap, Worthington jumped away from his team mate, who was astonished. Alan followed the move, waited until the helium had all mostly leaked out from Worthington’s sagging balloon, and lit the nuclear-tipped afterburner. With Pomerantz charging hard, Alan stomped harder and took the win by something like a million bike lengths.

A “spirited discussion” ensued between the two breakaway team mates, but no one was maimed, killed, or thrown under a passing vehicle, and no arrests were made.

Although far from anything that could be considered “action,” at the bottom of the hill as we completed the next to last lap I found myself on the point, pushing rather hard on the pedals and keenly aware that no one was coming around. On the last time up, I accelerated once again only to see Brett Clare of Amgen tearing by so fast that the vacuum created by his ramp-up was almost enough to suck me to the line. Almost. He won the field sprunt in a blur, whereas I valiantly defeated every single other rider who was trying to get 29th place.

Round Two

After the vicious beating that was administered in the 45+ race, I went over to Sckubrats with team mates Erik Johnson and Ryan Dahl for a quick caffeine boost before the 35+ race. With the exception of a feeble surge five laps into the race, my total efforts consisted of hanging onto the very last slot for dear life and counting down from 20 laps. In the last position I got to see countless competitors melt and quit each time up the hill, and had the boundless pleasure of closing their gaps.

With three laps to go, a Monster Media breakaway was so far up the road that they were recalibrating their watches for the new time zone. I knew that Aaron Wimberley would be a factor in the sprunt, and chose that moment to move up from last place in an attempt to latch onto his wheel. I moved up about three wheels, past the dude with the giant saggy paunch, past the guy with the funny kneecap that was kind of on the back of his knee, and past the fellow whose backfat rippled up and down like a bowl of jelly.

The effort of passing even those three wankers was so extreme that I gave up my plan and reverted to Plan B: Finish last, but finish.

I’m pleased to say it was mission accomplished on my end, with Erik placing a very respectable 8th, and SPY/Swami’s wanker Stephen Lavery riding great considering he’d already done a race earlier in the day.

RACE NOTES:

Tinkerbell Flies
It wouldn’t be a race report without a description of Tinkerbell’s tour de force in her first circuit race. She was all aflutter about how she’d do, but needn’t have worried. They started the 1-3 race one minutes ahead of Tink’s 3-4 field…no problem. By keeping the pressure on she caught the 1-3 field, which, like the 3-4 field, had been decimated by the course. With only one rider left in her race, Tink easily took the win, leaving her to wonder if she should have raced with the 1-3 women instead. [Hint: Yes.]

Flawless Execution
The course was safe, well marshaled, and incredibly well organized. The great weather contributed to this great event, as did the numerous food trucks in the adjacent parking lot. Hats off to the organizers and officials and especially the volunteers for doing a great job.

Fukdude muffs a start, snags a vee!

July 27, 2012 § 3 Comments

In eighteen thousand USCF amateur road, crit, and track races, Kevin Phillips had never missed a start. Driving pell-mell up to the start, throwing on kit, socks, shoes, wheels, and water bottle at the last minute, no matter how close, no matter how many miles in between him and the start line with the clock only minutes from launch, he had never missed a start.

Until Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at the start of the points race in the masters national track championships at the 7-11 Velodrome in Colorado Springs.

They arrived at the track in time for Mel’s points race, which started immediately before Kevin’s. The officials weighed Mel’s bike, and that’s when the trouble started, because it was too light.

“No problem, we’ll yank the seat and fill the seat tube with some shit.” Minutes later they had pulled the saddle and dumped a handful of allen wrenches, a large crescent wrench, and part of a cheeseburger down the tube. The seatpost barely went back in. Whizzer Turdley, the official in charge of bike weight, gave it another whirl.

“No can do, man. Yer still over.”

The obvious solution was to put on Mel’s pursuit wheels, but they’d left them at the hotel. What possible reason could there have been to bring pursuit equipment to the mass start events?

The Ironfly team commenced a mad scramble to find a disc wheel. Even with the half-eaten cheeseburger, a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the handlebars, and a steel implant in her helmet, Mel couldn’t make weight. It’s not often in life that a girl begs to weigh in heavier than she really is, but this was UCI bike regulation no. A-138.23(b)(4), and unless you were prepared to donate a $100,000 doping analyzer to the UCI, this rule bent for no one.

Finally, a grizzled old dude who was already grizzled when the velodrome was built back in the 80’s came up to them. “You guys need sump’n heavy like a disc?”

Kev and Mel nodded madly as the clock ticked. “Here y’ar. This is some vintage shit.” He rolled out an early 90’s Li-Tan Wu solid wheel, so heavy that it left crack marks in the concrete as it rolled. Davy, Mel, KP, and Grizzled all heaved together to get it into the drops as Mel’s carbon frame groaned and creaked under the strain.

With seconds to spare a small crane hauled her bike up the rail, and they were off. She’d made weight with exactly two ounces to spare.

The principle of inertia

Although it took her a few laps to get going, by the time the women’s points race concluded the track officials were already wondering how they would stop Mel’s inertia bike, powered as it was by the inertia of a 400-lb. flywheel. With the aid of an emergency foaming system sprayed onto the track by a fire truck, however, the bike came to a halt.

Next up was KP and Davy’s points race. With only minutes to spare, the crew began working feverishly to change the wheel. Soon the other riders were up on the rail, and  Davy had to leave the pit or risk missing the race along with Kevin. However, he had mastered the Japanese parliamentary tactic of the cow walk, and dawdled so long getting to the rail that the officials gave him a delay of game warning, penalized him fifteen yards, and spotted the ball on the kicking team’s 25 yard line.

It was all to no avail. Kevin missed his start, the race left without him, and lacking a team mate in the 72-lap event Davy wound up with fourth, an honorable finish but far from what he might have achieved with KP at his side, though much better than the competitors who dropped out and died due to the 105-degree temperatures that had melted the glue off many of the rims.

Learning from their mistakes

The following day presented the scratch race, and the Ironfly boys and girls arrived at 4:00 AM for their 4:00 PM start in order to make sure they passed all the requisite checks. Kev brought three extra cheeseburgers just to be safe.

The men’s 35-39 10k scratch race went balls out from the gun. A couple of searing, early attacks went early, but the watchful group brought them back. The main players in the scratch race were the Ironfly team, a team from DC that Kevin had raced against last year and who had won the event, and another team from Bumfucksomewhereville. The silver medalist from the points race was in the mix as well.

Suddenly, one of the DC wankers attacked and opened up a gap on the straightaway. The group kept the pace steady without ever reeling him in, and eventually eased off the gas. Davy attacked, which is shorthand for “exploded from the group like a missile,” such that the only people who even considered following were the insane or those seated comfortably in the bleachers.

He put his head down, kept the pace steady, and chased for 6 laps before bridging to DC dude. Once he’d connected, the points race winner from the day before split away and after a short chase joined what was now a 3-man breakaway. Each rider did the obligatory timber check and concluded that this was a winner. Heads went down and full-on flail mode ensued.

The field chased, then sat up, then chased, then sat up, with the riders alternating between “Fuck, I’m bringing them back!” to “Fuck, YOU bring them back!” as is so typical of lazy bike racers who work their asses off the entire year for one race and then when the time comes dilly-dally around like a bunch of park bums.

As the laps ticked down, the fully rested, timely signed in, properly wheeled, correctly weighed, and canny killer Kevin launched from the field of flailing wankers. The boom was sonic, the spray of sweat from his face, legs and armpits was  like a tidal wave of oily salt water, and the thought of following his lead was so dispiriting and soul-destroying that three riders immediately swore off sex and liquor and joined the priesthood.

In a few short strokes Kevin caught the break, which in turn had lapped the field. Davy & Co., needing a respite from their long battle in the wind, sat up for a moment. Kevin farted once, blew his nose twice, put his fucking head down and kept the pedal mashed all the goddamned way through the floorboard, rolling through the field like shit through a goose.

There were now only three laps to go, and no one was about to jump over the rails and carjack a moped in order to chase down our dude from the South Bay, so the field waited for the sprint. Davy got nicked at the line but still earned a bronze medal at his first national championship ever. Kevin pulled on the stars and stripes jersey, reveling in the moment even as he was whisked off to doping control where a couple of hairy nurses stood guard and clinically compared his endowment to their former husbands.

His next big race is Friday, where he faces stiff competition in the individual pursuit. Hats off to Kevin for another inspiring win!

I know I really shouldn’t, but…(Part 2)

July 26, 2012 § 8 Comments

Spivey and I got the morning started off in his garage taking turns ripping our thumbs out of our palms. He had over-tightened the quick release on his front wheel, and by the fifth try we had wrapped a towel around our bleeding hands and were inventing new combinations of “motherfucker” and “shitfuck” and “goddamned cocksucker,” etc. This was the high point of our day.

We arrived in Encinitas and the SPY/Swamis participants on the Godfather’s 48th birthday celebration ride trickled in. They all had that gnarly, unpleasant, “Where’s my fucking coffee?” look that augurs ill for any bike ride.

MMX gave his customary speech, thanking everyone for coming and expressing his pleasure at the day’s route. We would do the Swamis ride through Elfin Forest to the church, then meander out up Summit to Bandy Canyon, back through Rancho, around by the lake and then home. It would be an “enjoyable” ride, according to the Godfather.

Those who knew him, which was most everyone, realized that it would be a crushing beatdown from hell. What better way to celebrate inching closer to death than with a punishing assault up and down the roads of North County?

The boys in yellow

In addition to the fifty-five riders from North County and environs, Alan Flores had made the drive down from Newport, Bill Holford from Long Beach, and Francois, Maxime, and Brieuc had rolled over from Annecy, France. They were part of the wheel engineering and marketing team for Mavic, who has just released the new C982X14.219 integrated hub-spoke-wheel-tire system. They’d come to California for the product roll-out, and also to kiss the signet ring of the Godfather. You can read about the whole thing here.

The Mavic wheel was fucking rad. The tubular and rim are seamless, so that when you rub your hand (or penis) along the rim up and over the tire there is literally no change in surface curve from the rim to the tire. It’s as if the tire and rim and molded in one piece. This reduces drag coefficient by 78.82 Å, but raises the drat coefficient by 17.8 Mofos, as changing the integrated tubular looks about as complicated as one of those charts that shows all the different parts of a woman’s reproductive organs.

When I asked Francois about changing the tire, he laughed. “It is so simple, in fact. We radio the neutral car and they simply come and replace the entire wheel.”

Of course. I’d forgotten that when you’re in charge of support for the Tour, mechanical problems are a cinch. We all got inordinate pleasure later on when Maxime needed to adjust his seat but didn’t have a wrench. I got to go around to everyone and say, “Hey, the Mavic neutral support guys need a hex wrench, 4mm. Anybody got one?” It was even more awesome when one of the guys did.

What was super cool about the Mavic guys was the way they “represented.” More than just engineers or marketing shills, these guys could ride. They took everything that the North County riders and roads could throw at them, and acquitted themselves more than honorably. It was cool to watch how smooth they were on the bike and how easily they fit into the peloton. I often got the feeling that they were taking it easy on us, in that golf-game kind of courtesy where it’s uncool to stomp the living shit out of the people you’re hoping to do business with.

Rolling with the rollers

Each time I’ve gone to North County for a ride, I’ve been crushed. The crushing hasn’t been administered solely by the heads of state, either. Chubby dudes on fixies. Girls on ‘cross bikes. Elderly gentlemen learning how to ride again after their triple bypass. No genera of rider has been unrepresented in the classification of “Stomping Wankmeister’s dick in North County.”

I’ve tried to figure out why that is, and after reviewing my past power files and carefully analyzing the Strava data, it’s pretty clear: I suck worse than they do. What else could explain getting dropped on Rancho by everyone, including that nice lady in the Seven jersey who just got into cycling in February? What else could explain having to lean up against Spivey’s car after the ride to keep from falling over after getting off my bike? What else could explain having the whole group wait half an hour for me to catch up?

Well, actually, there is a factor above and beyond my suckage. It’s the fault of the North County roads.

Unlike the South Bay, where you are either riding flat, doing huge climbs in the Santa Monica mountains, or doing steep medium-length climbs in PV, North County San Diego is just rolling. All routes. All the time.

When you roll out of Encinitas and start the Swamis loop it’s a series of short rollers. They’re hard because of the pace, but not steep. You can find a wheel and hunker down. Same for Elfin Forest–there are plenty of short zingers, but nothing to kick you out the back per se.

The problems start to accrue after about forty miles, when the incessant rollers have, like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water, gradually brought your muscles to a boil. You stand out of the saddle–perhaps on Summit, or perhaps on Bandy Canyon–and you realize that there’s nothing left. By the time the pack rolled away from me and Spivey on Rancho, even though we’d had a 20-minute break and a coke, we were at whatever level of flaildom comes after “Code 6 Wanker.”

The bikers who live and train in this shit all the time–the MMX’s, the David Andersons, the Victor Sheldons, the Erik Johnsons, the Ryan Dahls, the Stefanoviches, and all the other “gimme my fuckin’ coffee” wankers and wankettes–have no problem. For them it’s another easy or semi-challenging sixty miles in the saddle. For the Wankmeisters, Spiveys, and other poor bastards whose strength lies chiefly in their ability to imagine how great they are, it’s a total fucking beatdown.

How much of a beatdown? At the hip little breakfast joint afterwards, Spivey and I were so fucked up we couldn’t even mutter phrases of obscene admiration at the luscious cuties who brought us our oatmeal and burritos. Yep, that much of a beatdown.

Comparing apples to apples

Inquiring minds likely want to know how the North County Swamis-type ride stacks up against the local South Bay institution, the Donut Ride. Well, it doesn’t. Unlike the Donut, which lollygags all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks unless there’s a Sergio or a Rudy or some other legit rider with a bug up his ass, our route started hard, was hard in the middle, and finished hard. On the other hand, North County visitors such as MMX and Stefanovich have showed up on the NPR and after a few hard efforts quickly realized the importance of having a large group within which to find shelter and relief. The key point is that although those guys can come up to LA and hang with our rides, I certainly can’t go down south and hang with theirs.

Maybe with a bit of practice that will change. Or not. Unfortunately, as soon as I hear the phrase “Let’s go down south to ride with the SPY guys!” that old desire to join the ride wells up again, just like my third grade desire to talk out of turn. Wish I could repress it, ’cause I know it’s gonna end badly.

1:08

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Davy fuckin’ turned a 1:08.”

I didn’t know how fast that was, exactly, but I didn’t need to. Fukdude was impressed, and Fukdude is never impressed.

“Pretty fast, huh?”

“Fast? Fuck, dude, it was like the fifth time he’d ever done a kilo. Fucking unbelievable.”

A year has passed, and I still don’t know exactly how fast 1:08 is, but I know it’s pretty much unbelievably incredibly awesomely fast because of the countless people who have come up to me and said, “Did you hear about Davy? Fucking dude turned a 1:08 on like his first kilo ever.”

It’s a good thing I never got my arms around 1:08 because they had the state masters track championships in Carson a few weeks ago.

Fukdude was shaking his head. “Davy fuckin’ turned a 1:07. Fucking unbelievable.”

However unthinkably fast a 1:08 was, Davy’s 1:07 was so fast that he caught the guy who started at the same time on the other side of the track. In a four-lap race that lasts less than a minute and ten seconds, he overhauled the other guy on the third lap.

The “other” discipline

We sometimes get so caught up in reviewing the accomplishments of our local roadies that the feats of our SoCal track racers get obscured. It’s easy to understand why. Whether it’s Keith Ketterer setting a new world hour record for his age group, Kevin Phillips coming home with a national title in the team pursuit, or multi-title winners John Walsh and Dan Vogt pulling on another stars-and-stripes jersey, track racers belong to the worst of all categories with regard to their sport. They’re a niche within a cranny inside microfissure.

What Jon Davy has accomplished in the short time he’s dedicated to the kilo is amazing, only not really. It’s amazing because when you calculate the average lap speed for a 1:07 kilo, it’s about 438 miles per hour. But it’s not really amazing if you know Jon and have ever ridden with him.

He’s one of the few masters racers who comes into the sport with a legitimate pedigree. He swam for USC on a full scholarship, and looks like it. He’s about six-twelve, weighs 300 pounds, and has the body fat percentage of a large asphalt crash barrier. You might think that with that build he’s not a great road racer, but he more than holds his own in the masters road races and certainly in the crits.

Despite trying his hand at a variety of road events, though, it seems like the place he’s imminently suited to excel is the track. There just aren’t very many guys out there who can sustain eight or nine gigawatts for four laps. The best thing of all about him, though, is his character. He never shouts, yells, or gets excited. I suppose that when you’re as large as a house and chiseled out of marble you don’t exactly have to raise your voice to get people to notice.

This Saturday Jon will tackle the kilo in Colorado Springs at the national masters track championships. In addition to the points race, scratch race, team sprint, team pursuit, and madison, he’ll be doing battle with the thin Colorado air and rigors of travel. Here’s wishing him and the rest of the California track contingent the best.

I know I really shouldn’t, but… (Part 1)

July 24, 2012 § 6 Comments

Remember how when you were a kid there were things that you knew were going to get you in trouble, and the trouble was totally going to outweigh the fun, but you did it anyway?

No?

Well, I probably didn’t hang around kids like you, or rather, your parents wouldn’t let you hang around kids like me.

My bane was talking in class. There was no surer way to get in trouble than to repeatedly talk in class. Mrs. Opal Smith, my third grade teacher who I was secretly in love with, tried to shush me by giving me the nickname “Mouth.” Since I loved her though, I loved the nickname, too. It was kind of her pet little lovey name for me, I thought.

Then she got to sending me to the principal, Mrs. Riley, which was a tad harder to square with my secret love theory. Mrs. Riley was a tall kind of linebackerish woman who wore pretty pink dresses and necklaces and could beat the living fuck out of your ass with a wooden paddle. I didn’t love her quite as much as I loved Mrs. Smith, but after she got good and warmed up and started huffing, what with me caterwauling and the paddle thwacking and her grunting it was okay for me, and seeing as how often we did it together I kind of think it was okay for her, too.

After a while Mrs. Smith started getting interference from Mrs. Riley. It was that “Can’t you control your own classroom?” kind of blowback, so Mrs. Smith took matters into her own hands by moving my desk into the very back of the room (mistake) next to the windows (another mistake) and then building a giant cardboard and pegboard wall around my desk so that I was in my own isolation unit (potential career-ending mistake).

The isolation wall was higher than my head, but if I raised my hand to be called on, my hand would poke out above the top and Mrs. Smith could say, “Yes, Mouth?” and I’d answer “12!” or “Four pumpkins!” or would slowly spell out the test word. My classmates thought it was hilarious, and I had the best ol’ time tucked back against the windows where I could watch the butterflies or wave at Mr. Vallieres, the janitor with the giant riding lawnmower who would always talk with me back in his workroom and tell me funny jokes and give me a piece of licorice now and again to and from my whippings with Mrs. Riley.

Isolation from the rest of the class made me even more aggressive in my talking, so pretty soon I quit raising my hand and just talked away. The other kids would catch snatches and bits and start laughing and it drove Mrs. Smith crazy.

When the new gun came to town

Mrs. Riley retired in the middle of the school year and she was replaced by Mr. Bradford, an ex-high school basketball coach who was about 6 feet and twelve thousand inches tall. He had a bald head and a booming deep voice and was the kindest, nicest guy you’d ever want to meet unless you got sent to his office for discipline.

One day Mrs. Smith, like Mr. Gorbachev many years later, “tore that wall down” after a particularly bad spate of unlicensed talking, and sent me to Mr. Bradford for some disciplining. “Well, hello, Seth!” he said with a smile, reading the little white discipline card that Mrs. Smith had filled out. “I see you have a problem knowing when to keep your mouth shut.”

Showing a deft defense, I didn’t say a word.

“Seems all cleared up now, though,” he mused.

I shut up some more.

“Tell you what. I’m going to give you something to talk about. And I’m going to give you all the time you want to discuss it. You can talk about it as loud as you please, in fact. Sound good?”

I shook my head.

“Well you see, Seth, Mrs. Smith says you’re the most talkative student she’s ever had. I don’t know whether to believe her or not.”

Sweat poured off my forehead.

“Before we get to discussing, I want to show you something.” Mr. Bradford opened his desk drawer and pulled out the biggest wooden paddle I’d ever seen. It looked longer than my leg and thicker than my head. It made Mrs. Riley’s paddle look like the backboard for a midget’s hairbrush. “Let’s get started, okay?”

I was frozen to the couch.

“I want you to get up, turn around, and grab onto the edge of that couch. But do me a favor, will you? Hold on tight. Because if you don’t you might go straight through that wall. Which is made out of brick. And you might die.”

I instantly calculated death v. ass whipping, and assumed the position. As the paddle came down it whistled through the air, shrieking like an artillery shell. The sound was so massive and loud and accompanied by such force that my feet lifted off the ground. In the milliseconds it took for the pressure to scream “PAIN” to my brain, I remember thinking, “That was so hard it didn’t even hurt!”

Seconds later I couldn’t breathe, and the next whack lifted me so high up into the air that I lost my grip on the couch and hit the brick wall with my forehead. Mr. Bradford went back to his desk and started working on some papers. I collapsed on the couch, sobbing. He’d occasionally look up and smile. “I’m here to talk if you want to, sonny.”

I’d sob a little more and shake my head and he’d go back to work. Once I calmed down and had wiped away all the tears, he put his papers down. “Why don’t you go back to class now? If you feel like you need to talk some more, just tell Mrs. Smith and have her fill out one of these cards and we’ll have another little chat. Okay?”

I nodded and went back to class. Nothing is worse than walking back to class with raging sore ass, and as Mr. Vallieres saw me go by he hollered. “Hey, little buddy. How about some licorice?”

I went into his workroom, breathed in the smell of gasoline and grease, and took the proffered candy. He pulled his red bandana out of his pocket, ran it under the tap and wiped my face. “You get back in there and keep grinning, buddy. Ain’t nobody gotta know but you and me. Don’t let ‘em see they got to you. Don’t never give ‘em that satisfaction.”

Mr. Vallieres, raised the son of a cotton sharecropper in Louisiana, taught me more than any teacher ever did.

The trout and the mouth

Some fish scientists once did a study with wild river trout. They put them into a tank with solid sides so the fish couldn’t see out, and placed the tank outside in a yard. Most of the fish would just swim around in the tank and eventually starve to death.

But a tiny percentage of the trout would jump out of the tank, where of course they would die on the lawn. The trout knew there was a small chance that they’d be jumping from the tank into an adjacent pool of water or perhaps a stream, and they’d have beaten the odds. So they took the chance and jumped, and died. I don’t know what the scientists proved, except that scientists are a bunch of sadistic fucks. But I know what the trout proved. They proved that there are only two kinds of wild trout: jumpers and starvers.

As soon as I got back to class everyone stared at me. They knew what crying eyes looked like, and most of all they could see my whipped and chastened appearance as I went back to my desk with that big old “I ain’t hurt” fake grin plastered on my face. I sat. Painfully. Proudly. Silently. For about ten minutes.

Because no sooner did Mrs. Smith start talking, than my brain started turning again. There was my favorite pretty teacher saying things, and asking questions, and telling other kids “Good answer!” and teaching up a storm, and before I knew it I had lots to say and contribute even though I didn’t understand the subject and dogged if I was going to sit there like a trout in a tank.

I was a jumper.

Without thinking or even raising my hand I said “It’s a verb!” even though she was asking a math question, and the class started laughing and she looked needles and hand grenades my direction and there I was…I knew I had to shut up…but there was so much to say…and that whipping hurt so bad…but the talking felt so good…but the whipping felt worse than the talking felt good…

The one thing that was going to get me into the worst trouble was the one thing I wanted most to do. Dog have mercy on the souls of those teachers.

Southbound

When someone mentions “riding in San Diego” I get that same bubbling-up happy feeling that I used to get sitting in my isolation unit in third grade when I’d vaguely hear Mrs. Smith say something and have the irrepressible urge to answer.

“Hey, let’s go do the Swamis ride!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

“Hey, come on down to North County and let’s do a BWR training ride!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

“Hey, come on down to North County again and let’s do another BWR training ride!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

“Hey, let’s do the BWR!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

The reality of going to San Diego and getting thrashed is always a thousand times more horrific than the fun-ness (funnity?) of bundling up the bikes with Spivey and rolling south at 5:00 AM.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from “Pace Protection” Miller: “Hey, come on down to North County to celebrate MMX’s birthday with a Sunday ride! We’ll even do part of the BWR course! It’ll be fun!”

And me? What did I do?

I said, “Okay!”

Crown Jules

July 22, 2012 § 6 Comments

All year I’ve been hearing about Jules. It usually goes like this.

Wanker: Some little kid showed up on the Donut and kicked everyone’s ass.

WM: Huh?

Wanker: Yeah. Little 12 or 13 year-old kid. Rode everyone off his wheel.

WM: Yeah, right.

Wanker: I’m serious.

WM: Twelve years old? No way.

Wanker: That’s what we thought. No way a little kid would have the lungs for that kind of sustained effort.

WM: Not possible.

Wanker: Why don’t you come out and see for yourself?

WM: I’m busy that week.

The overture

I rolled out this morning flanked by Charon Smith and Tony Sells. The sunny weather and beautiful skies meant a huge turnout for the world famous South Bay Donut Ride, although some of the key assassins such as Miles Jr. and Tink were cavorting up the slopes of the Santa Monica mountains with Jeff Konsmo and his merry band of pain merchants. Dan Cobley, John Hall, Paul Che, Derek Brauch, and a couple of other hard hitters were there, though, so it was going to be hard.

“Hey Charon, see that kid?”

“What kid?”

Jules is so short that he was almost invisible off on the edge of the peloton. “That one up there with the national champion shorts.”

“Yeah. What about him? What’s he doing here?”

“He’s going to ride away from everyone in this hundred-man group on the Switchbacks with the exception of about seven dudes. Everyone else will be put to the sword. You, Tony, me; we’re all going to go home today and say ‘I got my ass handed to me by a 13 year-old.'”

Charon gave me that look as if to say, “You ain’t fooling me with your foolishness.”

“I know it sounds crazy, Charon. Just watch. He’s gonna run a hot poker up the middle of every tender, middle-aged ego out here. You’ll see.”

Up, down, and around the bend

I watched Jules for a couple of minutes, marveling. He navigated the pack with ease and skill. Giant men on giant bikes bounded by him, around him, and in front of him with all the kookish, wankerish bike moves that infest the Donut at every turn of the pedal once you get more than about ten wheels back. Jules expertly avoided the freds and then hit the edge of the road, rocketing up into a solid position as we climbed out of Malaga Cove.

I wondered why no one was talking to him. Here’s a kid with the confidence, skills, and proven ability to go out on a big boy’s ride and smash people’s heads in. This isn’t just precocious, it’s pre-precocious. Maybe you wankers should talk to him and get to know him now, before he starts peering out at you from magazine covers.

“Hey, man, what’s your name?” I asked.

“Jules,” he said. Totally cool. Totally grown up.

“I’m Seth. Nice to meet you.”

Brief smile. “Yeah.”

He told me about his recent trip to Trexlertown, where he scored some impressive results on the track. That explained his great bike handling. A bit of later research showed that Jules is an omnivorous cyclist: he races track, crits, road, time trials, and ‘cross…and is good in every single discipline. His long string of firsts and seconds from 2011 have been depressed as he’s moved up into the next age bracket, but his winning trajectory being what it is, that should take care of itself in the next year or two

Calm before the storm

No one wanted a hard run-up to the Switchbacks this morning, so it was one big, lummoxing group as we rolled up Lunada Bay and on to Portuguese Bend. At the beach club, where the pace is often single file, the ride continued its leisurely pace. I heard chatting behind me, a giveaway for the difficulty of the ride.

Of course, an easy run-up to the Switchbacks just means that the actual climb will be exponentially faster, as people will have fresh legs when the climb starts. A couple of attacks went just past the beach club, but it wasn’t until Paul Che opened up the throttle that the ride began in earnest.

Paul dragged a small contingent of seven riders all the way to the base of the climb, then swung over. The pack was a tiny speck. Just before cresting the first level spot, shortly after beginning the climb, I blew. The six riders in the break rolled off. As I dropped back into a rhythm, I heard the sound of an approaching bike.

It was Jules.

Do you have an ego? Are you a grown man? Do you consider yourself fit? Have you ever thought that “but for” you’d have been a pro? Is your weekly slugfest a validation of your ability and strength? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the realization that you’re hanging for dear life onto the wheel of a barely-turned-thirteen-year-old child will devastate you.

Though he provided precious little draft, it was enough to latch on, and this kid proceeded to take out his bullwhip, inspect the tip to make sure the knot was properly tied, and beat the shit out of me with it. He had his eyes glued on the break, and would periodically get out of the saddle to jam it even harder. I know that my exhalations, both the sound waves and the bursts of air, were pushing him on somewhat. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”

We overtook a dude from Big Orange, who jumped on my wheel. I blew after the first hairpin as Jules got out the saddle again and just lit it up. The other grown man and experienced racer hunkered down and let Jules pull him for quite a way until he could recover, then he attacked the kid and dropped him. Nice.

I kept Jules in sight until the final turn, and then he was just flat out gone. By the time I rounded it, he had already reached the top of the hill and I never saw him again. Of course the short tow I’d gotten from this dynamo had put me so far ahead of the chasing peloton that I’d overhauled my bottom bracket by the time the next shattered group rolled up.

So if, a few years from now, you hear the name “Jules,” and it’s spoken with a trembling voice, in fear and awe, don’t say you weren’t warned.

And for those of you who think I’m blowing smoke, here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quvjpPVv1zY

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for July, 2012 at Cycling in the South Bay.

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