September 16, 2013 § 22 Comments
I was pedaling up Western Avenue with Rudy Napolitano on Saturday. I never pedal anywhere with Rudy except to the extent that he is a small speck receding, quickly, in the distance.
“What’s going on with you this weekend?”
“I’m leaving Sunday for Trento, Italy,” he said.
“Trento, Trento, Trento,” I thought to myself. The name rung a bell. “Vacation?” I asked. The road season had ended the week before at nationals in Bend, Oregon.
“No. Headed off to world’s with Mike Easter.”
“Worlds?” I asked. “World championships?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Like, rainbow jersey worlds?”
“Where if you win you’re, like, the champion of the whole world?”
He looked over and grinned. “That one. For masters racers.”
“What’s the course?”
“It’s the same one they’re using for the UCI pro worlds. We do one lap. 110 k or thereabouts, with a 20k climb at the end.”
“You’re fuggin’ kidding me, right?”
Again, the grin. “No. For real.”
“Is it like masters nationals? Any wanker with a license and an entry fee can enter?”
“Umm,” he said. “It’s a little different. You have to qualify.”
“They have a list of Grand Fondos that are qualifiers. They want to make sure you can handle Dolomite-type climbs. Grand Fondos are huge in Europe.”
“Dang. So which one did you qualify at?”
Again, the self-deprecating grin. “I didn’t, exactly.”
“So how did you qualify?”
“I got an invitation.”
The sound of my jaw hitting my top tube must have surprised him. “An invitation? Like the FB invitation I send out to my South Bay Year-End Drunkfest?”
“Yeah. Same deal.”
“Holy shit. What did it say?”
“Oh, you know, the usual. ‘We heard you were killing it every weekend on the Donut Ride and figured you could handle worlds.’” Now he was laughing. At me. A little bit. Maybe.
“So what’s the game plan?” I was already trying to figure out what my tattoo was going to say. “I rode the Donut with World Champion Rudy,” probably. The only question was whether I’d put it on my — or on my —.
“There’s a flat section where we might try to get away. It’s Europe, so the climbers are real climbers. Little dudes. 130 pounds, you know? They fly uphill. Maybe steal a march on the climbers and then have an advantage when we hit the climb.”
“And in between now and the race? What kind of training?”
“The hardest thing when you taper, you know, is not eating four bags of donuts and three pizzas every single day. Right?”
I didn’t say anything, having eaten four bags of donuts and two pizzas the day before despite not being on a taper. “Uh, right.” I thought about Mrs. WM’s daily freshly baked hot loaves of bread and the slabs of butter I slayed them with. “You gotta, uh, watch those calories.” My tummy jiggled a bit as we went over a bump.
“Yeah,” Rudy said. Then we hit Better Homes and he pedaled off, hopefully to a pizza-free taper, and even more hopefully, to a great race next weekend in Trento. When he wins, remember that it was me who gave him all that great advice about pizza and donuts. Right?
July 26, 2013 § 23 Comments
I sneaked out of bed trying not to wake Mrs. WM and not to disturb the man with the hammer and the lightning bolts, who was now also playing “Do-Re-Mi” on an out-of-tune violin. I succeeded on one count and made it into the kitchen.
“Where’s the fuggin’ oatmeal?” I muttered. ”Where’s the fuggin’ coffee?” I muttered.
With the oatmeal cooking and the coffee poured, I slumped over on the table. My temples were going to burst as the bow sawed crazily on the strings, out of synch with the lightning bolts and hammer whacks.
“You okay?” Mrs. WM was standing in the kitchen.
I looked up at her in misery.
“You don’ lookin’ okay.” She put the frying pan on the stove. “You can’t go onna Donuts Ride with that hangin’ over just eatin’ oatsmeal and coffee.”
“I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“You think you makin’ a coffee grinder like grindin’ a tree stump not gonna wake me up?”
I tried to say “Sorry” but the hammer and violin wouldn’t let me.
“You can’t be onna drinky pants like that at your age,” she said quietly. “You gettin’ onna drinky problem, you know? Drinky pants inna middle day when you oughta be onna workin’? Throwin’ out onna wall inna hallway like you was a college ager?”
“I’m so sorry,” I mumbled.
“Itsa okay, honey, I’m lovin’ you anyways.” The smell of fried eggs and sausage filled the kitchen as the great city’s pre-dawn night lights sparkled in through the window glass. “I don’ care onna wipin’ up some throwin’ up. I done worse in twenty-six years. But you keep up with the drinky pants and you gonna hurt people not just yourself.”
The only thing that could have made me feel worse than a bunch of shouting was the soothing lilt of her voice, mixed in with sausage. ”How’d I get all cleaned up last night?”
“I cleaned you all up like you was a poopy baby. But I threw away onna your socks. They was too nastiful.”
“I won’t do it again.”
“I don’ wanna hear ’bout what you gonna do and not do,” she said, putting the plate in front of me heaped with fried eggs and sausage and toast and butter and jam and oatmeal. “I just wanna see you bein’ okay because I’m lovin’ on you no matter what.” She leaned over and kissed my forehead.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
I rendezvoused with Jack from Illinois (not his real name) and Glass Hip a few minutes before the Donut Ride launched. “I’ve never done the new course,” said Jack.
“You hardly ever even did the old one.”
“Instead of stopping at the college atop the Switchbacks and comparing penises, we continue up to the radar domes. It adds a solid ten minutes to the climb and completely changes the tenor of the ride.”
“Do we get to compare penises at the domes?”
“They’re usually too shriveled for measurement by that point.”
“I’m looking forward to this,” Glass Hip piped up. “It’s the one legendary SoCal ride I’ve never done in almost twenty years. It should be fun.”
“Yes, it will be fun,” I said. “Kind of like having someone gnaw off your genitals with a rusty can opener is ‘fun.’”
Whereas Jack from Illinois was a kind, gentle, happy, smiling, pleasant, generous fellow who, deep inside, was a gnarly and steaming mess of rhubarb, bitter herbs, dog spit, old scabs, and the raw memories of a childhood spent locked in a closet while his older brother banged on the door with a hammer, firecrackers, and a loaded pistol, Glass Hip was the opposite.
Glass Hip, ugly as a fist, was, to the outer world, covered in scales, mottled with the scars and blotches of badly abused leather, and permanently emanated an aura of cruelty, viciousness, cheapness, and a full-throttled desire to mount, crush, and destroy all competitors of any kind. On the inside, however, deep down, far down in fact, way beneath all that, hidden from view and unseen by any living human, under layers and layers of protective viciousness, obscured from even the most discerning, lay a small, minute, tiny, hard-to-see, practically invisible, microscopically small kernel of warmth and kindness and generosity that burned with such brightness it could turn the hardest butter pat into a slightly less firm one.
In other words, these two heroes of the road were polar opposites, with the exception, of course, of the qualities they shared, and one of those qualities was this: They invariably thrashed me, cracked me, and rode me off their wheels whenever the pace picked up, which it did the moment we hit Malaga Cove.
Have pity on an old man
“The additional climb that’s been tacked onto the Switchbacks has completely changed the tenor of the ride,” I told Glass Hip.
“Used to be, everyone sat in until Portuguese Bend then the attacks came fast and furious, with huge accelerations at the bottom of the Switchbacks and throughout.”
“Now people cower in their own poop until the very last minute.”
“Then they attack?”
“Naw. They wet themselves. There’s a big group at the bottom and then it gradually whittles down into a small handful, which then disintegrates in the final killing ten minutes up to the domes.”
Canyon Bob, however, hadn’t gotten the memo, and fired off a pull of death as we approached Trump, shelling most of the field and leaving the remnants hanging onto his wheel in a gagging, ragged line. At the bottom of the Switchbacks, Stathis the Wily Greek and Sammy Snubbins attacked.
Hanging Chad followed, and so did I.
A thick fog covered the Hill and we were soon alone. G3 and G$ had attacked way back at Golden Cove and were far ahead. The rest of the field was in pieces. By the second turn I was in Old Man Hell. My breathing was so deep that it reached down into my colon. The stabbing pains from the hangover had been replaced with stabbing pains in my thighs, butt, arms, neck, face, and hair, especially my sideburns, which ached beyond any description.
At some point I realized the futility of it all. I am a few months shy of fifty. Hanging Chad is thirty. Stathis is twenty-six. Sammy is nineteen. Sammy and Stathis took turns, each one pulling so hard and fast that it felt like a flat interval. “I’ve never survived climbing with either one of these dwarves,” I told myself. “What makes me think I can do it today?”
Hanging Chad read my mind and folded. Stathis looked back at me and said something. “I think it’s English,” I said. “But mixed in with my breathing like that, it’s hard to tell.”
What was obvious was that Stathis was not breathing hard or even, apparently, trying. He pulled as far as Ganado and looked back, flicking me through.
“Are you crazy?” I telepathically transmitted. “I’m barely hanging onto your wheel. I’m old and slow and weak and frightened and riding far outside myself. You are young, strong, and not even sweating. This moment, when I have somehow survived this far on the Switchbacks hanging onto your wheel, will go down as the second greatest ride of my life, but you will have forgotten it by lunchtime. Have pity on an old, feeble wanker and let me suck wheel for just a few moments more.”
Stathis looked back at me again with the kindness and empathy of a great white shark about to tear its prey in half, or of a Republican contemplating a bill that included help for the poor, or for old people, or for children. With that brief glance he telepathed this: “Yes, you are old and weak, but you are on my wheel, so you are, by definition, stronger than all those who are not. Therefore you are legitimate prey. I feel no mercy or sympathy for you, as the moment I let you survive you will brag to the world, likely on your blog, about how you climbed with me all the way to the top, a half-truth that will lower me and exalt you. I feel no pity for you nor any desire to do anything other than crush you mercilessly under the heel of my jackboot. Your cries and pleas mean nothing to me, to the contrary, the louder you squeal the more I will enjoy the sound of my club against your eggshell skull.”
With that, he yawned and rode away. Sammy followed.
Cut adrift and resigned to being reeled in, I was surprised to see Hanging Chad come by at full speed. I hopped on and enjoyed the Cadillac draft of this triathlete-turned-savior. At the college he blew and I soldiered on. Stathis overhauled G$ and G3, completely consuming their three minute lead, followed by Sammy, then me.
Next up were Glass Hip and Jack. “We had you in our sights,” said Glass Hip, he whom I have never beaten on a climb.
“I got lucky.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “You did.”
“Don’t suppose it will happen again.”
“No,” he agreed. “It won’t.”
And it didn’t, as he pummeled me the rest of the ride.
With this one great feat, however, my confidence began to surge, because the following day was the MMX Birthday Ride Beatdown, a North County San Diego Fuckaganza in which many were invited to a happy celebration of cycling and fun and camaraderie in which there would be neither fun nor camaraderie but only a punishing, humiliating beatdown administered without regard to friendship or anything else.
In the back of mind, there were other things bubbling around the edges, too. I’d be heading to Houston after the birthday beatdown to be with my mom, who was scheduled for major surgery to combat a very aggressive breast cancer with which she’d been diagnosed. Sunday would involve a huge physical effort as well as a huge logistical effort. I’d have to get from North County to LAX in time to make the last flight of the day, which would put me in Houston at midnight.
I got back home and had lunch, then opened the fridge to grab a beer. “Nah,” I said. “Not today.”
July 13, 2013 § 16 Comments
The world-famous Donut Ride, despised by Jack from Illinois (not his real name) as a preening wankfest, derided by MMX as a one-trick pony that boils down to a single power climb on the Switchbacks, and loved by Wankmeister for both those reasons, has entered a new era. It happened thus.
G3: “Okay, we’re taking a survey. What do folks think of the current Donut route?”
Unison: “It blows.”
G3: “Okay, then.”
Problems with the Donut
A careful analysis revealed the following Donut flaws:
- Too much stopping.
- Too much wanking.
- Too much wheelsucking.
- Not enough climbing.
- Not enough sprunting.
The Donut’s route has changed numerous times during its illustrious history of more than thirty years. The Oldnut, which went through San Pedro and culminated in a sprunt at the Korean Bell, was a favorite until laziness took over, with large numbers of riders unable to handle the additional fifteen miles of riding. The Korean Bell sprunt was also rendered problematic when that entire side of San Pedro suffered a massive landslide and fell into the ocean.
Even the hardmen of the South Bay rebelled at having to clamber down a cliff, swim four miles, then remount for the finale.
Spicing up the Donut’s honey hole
The new route, instead of stopping at Marymount College and giving everyone a chance to flex and eye one another’s sweaty legs, continues up Crest to the radar domes. The addition of ten minutes’ hard climbing on top of the soften-em-up power climb on the Switchbacks has already changed the dynamic of the ride.
No longer do crazypants riders dash madly away at Trump National, hoping to eke out a sneakaway win on the Switchbacks. Now, the pace stays steady and measured as riders are ground up and and spit out in ones and twos all the way up the Switchbacks, with the final wreckage occurring on the first ramp going up to the radar domes. No longer does a massive attack at the bottom of the Switchbacks blow apart the group.
After some brief preening at the domes and a bit of reciprocal jocksniffing, the ride then descends all the way to PV Drive North and turns right into San Pedro. The descent, rather than being a completely insane dash to the death, is “neutral,” which means that everyone still goes full-on crazypants, but no one is allowed to claim victory.
Putting in some more climbing feet
The group takes PV Drive to Western and goes right, which remains neutral due to the deadly nature of riding a bicycle through the heart of San Pedro, where aggro soccer moms are going full-throttle in their SUV’s to finish picking up supplies at Wal-Mart before game time. At Miraleste the group turns right, the guillotine blade is again dropped, and the survivors climb up Miraleste, go left at Better Homes, and climb back up the Domes.
Whereas the old Donut route played heavily in favor of climbers, the new route is designed to eliminate all but the tiniest, most anorexic of riders. Participants still carrying around a few extra pounds from last Christmas can expect an outcome even more hopeless than usual. After regrouping at the domes, the ride continues back down PV South to Via Zumaya, where the sprunters can finally get revenge on the climbers by going straight home.
Full Donut Ride participants will, after ascending Via Zumaya, have earned their wings, not to mention a fistful of KOM’s. Critics note that the new Donut Ride has even less sprunting than the old one, which had none.
As the new organizers like to point out, all of whom are diminutive, veiny, twig-legged climbers, “Tough shit.”
July 7, 2013 § 33 Comments
Dear Fellow With The Funny Accent,
It was a pleasure meeting you this morning. I was sitting a couple of wheels behind you as we rolled past Terranea. The Velo Pasadena dude in front of you moved over to the left. You weren’t paying attention, and you swerved wildly even though at most all that was required was a gentle change of line.
The riders behind you yelled in the typically friendly way we Americans greet our buddies on densely packed, amped-up flailfests like the Donut Ride. One fellow said something like “Hey fucktard! Watch what the fuck you’re doing!”
Another friendly greeting was also sent your way, something along the lines of “Jesus Christ! You almost took me out, kooktard!”
It was our subtle way of saying that your kook maneuver had imperiled others, some of whom had jobs (okay, that’s doubtful), but all of whom had plans for later in the day that didn’t include a fractured skull. So far, so good.
But things went south when, instead of looking back sheepishly and saying “Sorry, mate, I’m a fucking kook,” you went on the offensive and began blaming your flail on the Velo Pasadena dude. Now I know you’ve only been here for a short while, and it’s likely that your former prison colony doesn’t celebrate cycling quite the way we do, but the little stars on that dude’s sleeve meant that he’s a former national champion.
Again, no big deal except that when you, a kooktard with a bad attitude and poor handling skills, blame your flail on a dude who is at least allegedly the best in the nation at his craft, then you look like an even bigger kooktard crazypants. “So fuck you!” you’re probably thinking.
How do I know this is what you’re thinking? Because when I began loudly making fun of you for almost crashing out over a very minor shift in rider position, you turned around with flecks of saliva stuck to the corners of your mouth and shouted at the person behind you, “One more word out of you and … !” It’s too bad that you didn’t realize the obvious: Threatening us with “One more word!” is a guarantee that you’ll get hundreds more words, none of them flattering.
In your eagerness to communicate how serious you were, you lost sight of what was happening in front of you (this can happen when you’re looking backwards and foaming at the mouth in the middle of a tight, fast-moving pack), and then pulled another veer, wobble, and flail.
More friendly advice ensued. I think the dominant message was “Get away from that kooktard. What fucking kookfuck.”
Where that puts us today
Unfortunately, on this, your second Donut Ride in the South Bay, you alienated at least as many people as you did on your first one. Remember last week? That was when you got into a screaming match with G3. Sadly for you, he got the whole thing on his GoPro. He comes across as reasonable. You come across as a dickhead with a Dallas-sized chip on your shoulder. That was also the same ride where your awful flailing bike weaves earned a reproof from another rider. You had the bad judgment to verbally accost him at the top of the climb, cementing your incipient reputation as a bona fide crazypants.
So after two group rides people are starting to say “Wow! Who is that kooktard?”
Others are saying “Wow! What a crazypants! Is that why they kicked him out of his own country?”
Still others are saying “Wow! For such an aggro attitude, he sure is weak on the bike. He got shelled like a bad pecan as soon as the pace got hard.”
No one is saying anything good about you. They are, to the contrary, saying bad things about you. This is not good for you or for them. Let me explain why.
No one cares who you are. They care how you are.
This bicycling thing we do is ostensibly for fun. It is also interdependent on the behavior of others. This means that bicycle riding makes us friends with people we would otherwise never associate with. Through bicycle riding I have become friends with some weird, strange, and bizarre people, and even a handful of Republicans. Through bicycle riding I have learned that even though I may not see eye to eye with a person on every issue, when it comes to shit like bike handling I had better swallow my fucking pride and let guys like Dominic Felde and Johnny Walsh do their thing.
Neither was there today, but if they had been, and you’d showed them your impish attitude, the consequences would have been dire…for you.
You see, you are now riding among some people who have serious skills. Dom is just one of several bike wizards who can thread a needle at 35 through a wet, bumpy turn six inches off the wheel in front of him and never even think about tapping the brakes. That’s very different from you, whose bike skills are more akin to mine: That is, they suck.
But back to the fun. It’s fun to yell at people who do stupid, dangerous shit. There’s the basic fun of just yelling at a kooktard crazypants, but there’s also the fun of teaching. By pointing out your ridiculous moves we are helping you get better. This reduces the chance that we will get crashed out when you swerve twelve feet to avoid hitting a dead beetle.
However, it’s not fun when the kooktard insists (is it okay if we call you KT for short?) that he was right and everyone else is the kooktard. It’s not fun because our yelling is only fun when we do it once. When it escalates into screaming we go into oxygen debt and get dropped. It’s also not fun because you are exhibiting the characteristics of someone who is not benefiting from our sage advice, and is, instead, doubling down on his kootardishness.
Why it all matters
The first reason is the simplest, KT. You are a buzzkill. That happy feeling of “I’m riding my bicycle! Yippee!” dissipates for good when you, KT, imply that you will escalate the problem into a violent confrontation.
The second reason is because when you behave like a crazypants, you will eventually feel terrible about it. Here’s what happens: You alienate lots of people. You keep riding with us. You get in a crash (hit by a car, kook out and clip a curb, run into someone while screaming at the person behind you, etc.).
Then, because you’re part of our community, we stop to help you. We follow the ambulance to the hospital. We get your worthless ass checked in. We call your mother or mental healthcare specialist. We even bring you clean underwear. We treat you with the same compassion and concern that we treat all our non-kooktard buddies.
Then, after they take the long plastic pipe out of your dick, staple your fucking head shut, and send you home with a suitcase of oxycodone (we drive you, by the way, you sorry shit), you realize that we’re actually a pretty good bunch of bastards to have at your back when shit goes sideways. Then you reflect about what a fucking sorry ass kooktard crazypants you’ve been and you feel awful. You say something like “Guys, I don’t know how to repay you,” or “Let’s put some shrimps on the barbie,” or “New Zealand actually isn’t anywhere near Canada,” but bottom line is you feel like crap.
Then, you feel worse because no one gives a shit. We were going to help you no matter how much of a kooktard you were.
The third reason it matters is that you are a representative of your former penal colony. We often have awesome foreigners join our midst, and they do much more than teach us how to speak proper English. JBT, who is from Austria, a country similar to Australia, made everyone fall in love with her and not just because she was kind, warm, athletic, and smoking hot.
We embraced her because she appeared to like us and to enjoy our company and she hammered it out on the NPR twice a week for an entire summer before going back to Sydney, the capital of Austria. We have a hard time thinking you like us, KT, when you behave like a crazypants.
In other words, you have a lot to share by teaching us about your great country. We would love to learn about it and watch you drink us all under the table like our favorite local Welshman. We would also love to learn about your culture and how your countrymen feel when they’re constantly surrounded by soft, fluffy sheep.
A word to the wise
I’m not sure where you’re from, but here in America we like to sue everybody. So when you escalate a verbal confrontation into a fistfight you can be assured that we will call the police. They will arrest you and likely file charges. You will spend $5,000 – $25,000 to get the charges dropped, depending on whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony. Oh, and it’s always possible you won’t get the charges dropped. Imagine how embarrassing it will be when you return to your native land after ten years in Corcoran with a tattoo on your butt made with a coathanger that says “Honey Hole.”
And of course, if you really do beat up one of us spindly weak people, we will sue you in civil court for damages. You could lose everything you have, including your porn collection. See? This just isn’t worth it.
Kissing and making up
On the bright side, there’s an easy way to fix all this. On your next group ride in the South Bay, approach one of the people you’ve been such a fucktard to and say “Hey, mate, I’m KT. Sorry for being such a crazypants.”
They will say “No problem dude. It’s just bicycling.” Then we’ll all go have a post-ride coffee together and make fun of your dorky kit while secretly envying your cool accent.
Just as you’ve quickly earned a reputation for being a turdball, people will start saying good things about you. They will respect you for admitting your kooktardishness and most importantly for erasing the buzzkill that now follows you around like a bad kimchi fart.
They will still yell at you when you kook out, but you’ll accept the criticism in the spirit it’s intended, and after a couple more rides you’ll feel like one of the gang.
See you soon, KT!
PS: The New Pier Ride leaves every Tuesday and Thursday from the Manhattan Beach Pier at 6:40 AM. Please stop by to apologize and enjoy some fun.
PPS: TELO crit race on Tuesdays at 6:00 PM, right around the corner from the Strand Brewery where, post-race, you can show us how to drink with a growler in each hand.
June 6, 2013 § 11 Comments
If your computer shook and blew a little smoke out the back this morning, there’s a reason. The record for the most iconic climb in SoCal fell, and not by a little. Josh Alverson took eleven seconds out of the fastest time up the 1.9-mile Palos Verdes Switchbacks.
This is a climb whose top times include monster riders like Kevin Phillips, Tony Restuccia, Derek Brauch, Evan Stade, Pete Smith, Jeff Konsmo, and one-off wankers like G3, Tri-Dork, and Stormin’ Norman who can pull some amazing stuff out of their shorts when they have to. Out of 15,567 efforts by 1,983 riders, Josh’s time reigns supreme. Hats off to this madcap, funny-talking moto hammerhead!
The first time I met Josh was on a Donut Ride. He was wearing a Bike Palace kit and hadn’t gotten the memo that you’re not supposed to attack out of Malaga Cove, attack onto Paseo del Mar, attack out of Lunada Bay, attack in Portuguese Bend, attack at the bottom of the Switchbacks and then drop the field. I would have personally delivered the memo had I not been languishing several miles in the rear.
Josh now rides for Spy-Giant-RIDE, and along with teammate Eric Anderson and Big Orange wanker Peyton Cooke, they made an assault on the Switchbacks after doing the NPR and Via del Monte. The arrangement was as follows: Peyton led from the bottom to the first left-hander. Eric took over from there until the steep section after Turn Four. Josh soloed to the finish.
News reports indicate that Peyton went so fast and so hard on his section that he almost fell over when he swung over. Eric, a fierce and unpleasant wheel to be on even in the best of times, buried it for the next three turns, fading just before the juncture with Ganado. Josh sprinted/sat/sprinted/sat/sprinted all the way to the finish. Strava link here.
Kudos, all three of you!
Now go get jobs.
May 12, 2013 § 14 Comments
…because that’s what it’s gonna take to clean these shorts after the pre-ride this morning.
Gang Boss Buell
Saturday AM “Daddy Ride”
Meets at Kelly’s Corner, climbs up from the reservoir conversationally, climbs Better Homes conversationally, climbs the Domes conversationally, ramps it up at the Glass Church, sprunts at Hawthorne, finishes with a cup of coffee at Golden Cove Starbucks just in time to watch the Donut Ride come sailing by.
Crabs tows us up the Glass Church hill, hairy legs pounding. I take an easy pull once we’re over the top, saving my legs for the beatdown that’s up next when I join the World Famous Donut Ride. Casey drags us up the first bump past Terranea. Gang Boss takes over and accelerates on the short descent, then begins to stall as we come up the second bump right before the sprunt.
Crabs, smelling a blow-from-behind sprunt victory, comes out of the saddle and lunges down on the left pedal, all 195 pounds of butter, beef, fine wine, cheap beer, hot dogs, french fries, pecan logs, pizza, sausage, banana pie, ice cream, and peanut butter concentrating on the tiny contact point on his antique cleat. Unbeknownst to Crabs, I’ve been filing my nails and checking the want ads as he and his trusty trio have been doing all the work. Prez-like I look up, note the oncoming sprunt effort, and prepare to easily take the candy from the baby and pop it in my mouth with bike lengths to spare.
At that instant, Crabs’s left foot pops out of the pedal, and his bike crazy-dances in wild discontrol over to the left, the exact place that I’m about to come around. Time becomes extremely relative as I watch the slamming door of his rear wheel move backwards, derailleur and all, and over into my spokes. I see my face, Prez-like, splattering on the pavement. I see my brain, Prez-like, swelling up into a giant bruised grapefruit. I see my attorney drafting the lawsuit against the city of RPV for negligently paving the street in such a way as to make Crabs want to sprunt and thereby crashing me out. I definitely see Slowplay Pedals as a defendant for the negligent design of a cleat and pedal that Crabs has only been riding for fifteen years. I see the long line of speakers at my funeral, each one mumbling words of praise like, “We’re sort of going to miss that wanker, maybe.”
And then I see the impossible: Crabs follows the boneheaded move of the day with a move of parallel boneheadedness…his worn cleats and shredded Slowplay pedals pop his foot out of the right pedal as well. His butt, nuts, and pubic bone slam against the top tube and drive his bike radically to the right, away from my spokes and straight towards the curb at 35+.
This is the point in a bike crash where you and I close our eyes and await the impact. In this case it’s just past the pullout on the right, so he’s going over the bars, onto the gravel, and into the cliff wall. The collision will be severe, and you and I simply clench our teeth, mutter a few religious phrases and hope that Dog hasn’t noticed the lifetime of atheism and religion-bashing, and prepare to instantaneously meet the deductible on our health insurance policy.
Nuts crushed, gut impaled on the stem, and both gout-plagued feet sailing free in the wind, he looks away from the place he doesn’t want to go (Hades) and looks towards the place he does want to go (the road). His right foot hits the gravel and he jerks the bike away from the curb just before impact, trailing his left foot like a rudder, throwing up a shower of sand, gravel, and dirt with the right. No longer a player in the drama and merely a spectator, I watch with approval as he somehow avoids death. Gang Boss is looking over his shoulder, mouth agape, and Chatty Casey has for once stopped talking.
Crabs clips back in. Chatty regains his breath. “That was the most awesome save I’ve ever seen!”
“That was the stupidest move I’ve ever seen in my entire life since Tuesday,” I added.
“I suppose it’s time to replace the pedals,” Crabs suggested.
“Yes,” I agreed, “it is.”
May 7, 2013 § 27 Comments
It is part of our bicycling delusion that we are made of the qualities we reveal “on the bike.” The power meter tells you that you’re a badass (the opposite of which is what? A goodass?) Showing up for the NPR when it’s raining toxic sludge in 40-mph sideways sheets proves that you’re a tough guy, whether or not you’re even a guy. Hanging onto Rudy Napolitano’s wheel for the first 50 yards of his acceleration on the Switchbacks makes you a fighter.
That’s who you are, right? Watt pumper, road tough, and a competitor.
Bicycling may or may not reveal character, but it sure is replete with characters. And the character of those characters, in my experience, is most often revealed not on the bike, but off it.
The cast of characters
G3: I still don’t know what “G3″ stands for, and I’ve been riding with this wanker for years.
Stathis the Wily Greek: Only smiles for money.
Little Sammy Snubbins: Baby seal pup who loves to ride his bike.
Stitchface: Cat 4 adventurer who’s already gotten 100 sutures in his face this year.
Anonymous Steve: Generic bicycle rider whose chief characteristic was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Cast of Dozens: Amalgamated Idiots, Inc., a/k/a Usual Donut Ride Crew.
Portuguese Bend is a hallowed part of the Donut Ride. It connects Palos Verdes Estates (a fancy enclave whose denizens’ shit doesn’t stink) with the Switchbacks, the epic 8-minute climb that punctuates this weekly beatdown.
Portuguese Bend is so geologically unstable that a permanent road crew is assigned to the 2-mile stretch of twisting roads, which shift and crack daily. The instability is such that sewer lines are placed above ground and re-paving the entire roadway is done multiple times each year. The crews make weekly repairs to gaping crevasses that open up overnight as this side of the slope slides relentlessly into the sea.
With steep ups and downs, cracks that appear suddenly, narrow lanes, speeding traffic, and a long downhill from the Switchbacks, of course it’s the perfect place for the weekly gaggle of idiots to charge through the area at speeds exceeding 40 mph.
What could possibly go wrong?
The delicately choreographed Dance of the Club-footed Oafs
Cold logic, or even cool reason, don’t live in a peloton (“peloton” is French for “speeding gaggle of imbeciles.”) When you drop off the Switchbacks it’s a straight plunge several miles long to the bottom of Portuguese Bend. You wind up tightly bent into a densely packed anthill of carbon and meat and wires and metal, crammed into a tiny bike lane with livid pickups passing on the left three inches from your bars, your nose jammed up the next rider’s rear end, your front wheel an inch out of the next rider’s spokes, the busted and uneven and pockmarked road rattling your wheels and your frame and your legs and the tiny pea inside your skull but instead of sitting up and braking and letting the crazies dash off to their doom you bury yourself into the heart of the swarming beehive where there’s no escape hatch and the slightest waver will slam you to the pavement or worse catapult you off your bike into the oncoming traffic where Suzie Q whose shit doesn’t stink will mow you down in her Range Rover while talking on her cell phone and sipping a latte, as she’s wholly untrained to avoid catapulting bicycles flying across the road onto her grill which is pretty much what happens in the next instant when Little Sammy Snubbins, tucked deep in the hive at tenth wheel, hits a crack and, because he’s Little Sammy Snubbins and still on the lower part of the learning curve is rocketing along the jarring bumpy roads with his hands loosely gripping the bars instead of clenching them like his life depends on it which in fact it does and the crack that he smacks full-on with his front wheel jolts his left hand off the bars and his right hand steers him t-bone style into the side of Stitchface who, at 40 mph, is hit by Generic Steve full force in the rear, taco-ing Stitchface’s rear wheel and tossing him into the air like a rag doll and hurling his bike and him into oncoming traffic but actually against all odds Suzie Q WAS expecting a flying bike and Raggedy Andy biker to come sailing airborne over into her lane from thirty feet away and she locks up the ABS and doesn’t squash Stitchface like a bug or even hit him but down goes Generic Steve and down goes Little Sammy Snubbins and the Dance of the Club-footed Oafs goes from being a sort of delicately clumsy waltz to a screeching, screaming, clattering, skittering, pandemonic mishmash of smoking rubber and hands filled with maximum brake and, miracle of miracles, no one else chews the asphalt and Little Sammy Snubbins only breaks his bike and Generic Steve barely gets a scratch and Stitchface peels his body off from the pavement and declares himself unhurt even after the shock wears off.
Unfortunately, someone has to be the grown-up
So for the moment the bicycling is over. Everyone stops; well, almost everyone. There are a handful for whom getting in their miles is more important than stopping to see if Stitchface has been gored to death or to find out if Little Sammy Snubbins needs mouth-to-brain resuscitation, and…
…there is no “and.”
It’s now, off the bike not on it, that character is revealed.
The character is revealed of G3 who swings back, gets the riders off the road, orders others to control the traffic, and swiftly calls the rescue wagon with Nurse Jeanette and Nurse Ava to come and haul back the broken bikes and thankfully unbroken bodies.
The character is revealed of Stathis the Wily Greek, who despite his stone-faced demeanor is one of the first to dismount and leap to the aid of the fallen, though he was on Generic Steve’s wheel and narrowly avoided catastrophe himself.
The character is revealed of numerous other riders whose first and only impulse was to stop and help.
And the character is revealed of those who couldn’t have cared less.
The little drama plays out again, reminding us that it’s not about the bike, it’s about what happens on the bike, and what happens off it. The unsophisticated and uninitiated might even go so far as to call it “life.”
March 31, 2013 § 9 Comments
This one had merit. Out of 14,304 times and more than 2,000 riders, he convincingly took the 1.2 mile KOM by three seconds. The segment is regularly ridden hard and the contingent yesterday, as it often does, contained continental pros, former pros, national champions, state champions, and some of the the best active racers in California.
Strava KOM-munism is mostly standing in front of a mirror admiring yourself. The rider picks a segment, hones the conditions, and repeatedly goes for it until the little crown pops up. The segments are mostly minor in terms of the number of riders and the number of times the segment has been ridden on Strava. KOM-munism is self-glory that is only rarely vindicated through actual racing.
Sometimes, though, the right rider on the right ride with the ride mix of fellow flailers pulls it all together. The result? A mass clubbing of baby seals and a new King Clubber.
That happened yesterday on the Donut. MMX came to town from North County San Diego, and the ride included Rudy Napolitano, Danny Heeley, some pro dude from Champion Systems, and a host of other hammerheads. Aaron Wimberley exploded out of Malaga Cove. MMX bridged up to him, followed by a tiny chick named Flavia. She was so small that hunch over as much as I might the only thing that got a decent draft were my knees.
Aaron kept the heat on until Flavia fried off the back, and I with her. As we rounded the bend, MMX hit the front with such power and abandon that Aaron, who had set the KOM-winning pace, was busted out the back. MMX pulled away, quickly becoming a tiny speck of churning, pounding pain levers. By the time he sat up there was nothing left of the 100+ wankoton, and he would find out at ride’s end that he was the new KOM of this segment: http://app.strava.com/segments/753144.
This, of course, is how it should be done. It should be done from the sharp end of the spear, not lollygagging in back and “making up time” by racing through the group to the front when the pace picks up. It should be done amidst a field thick with accomplished riders. It should be done convincingly and with strength, not by hanging onto the wheel of a breakaway and pushing through at the last second to snag the KOM by a wheel. Most of all, it should be done the way this one was done–not to get the KOM, but to break the legs and spirits of those behind, the KOM being a secondary reward that only came as surprise after the ride.
Hats, then, off!