Year in review’s stellar performers: Diego Binatena

November 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Wake me in a day or two.

It was barely a year ago that Diego, at the tender age of 14, finished Day One of Team Ironfly’s MT III, the 500-mile epic slog from San Jose to Redondo Beach. We had just finished 70.3 miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing when we rolled into Santa Cruz. Diego was a tad, shall we say, tired? He checked into his hotel room, collapsed on the bed in his salty, nasty, smelly kit, and went to sleep. For fifteen hours straight.

Somewhere between curling up in a fetal ball on the floor of a cheap motel room in 2010, and the slopes of the Switchbacks in 2011, Diego found an even stronger pair of legs. It was a Saturday in March or April, and there was still a group of about five left before the third turn on the Switchbacks. Diego, who was sitting on the front, launched. We all looked at each other, and since none of us was riding a motorcycle, he continued on, gradually disappearing from sight to take the KOM without, it seemed, breaking a sweat.

As Charlie Sheen would say…Winnnnnning!!

Diego got warmed up in 2011 by nailing second in the Valley of the Sun Stage Race, third in the UCLA Road Race on the gruesome Devil’s Punchbowl course, fourth in the Callville Bay Classic’s crit and fourth in the crit at the San Dimas Stage Race. With his legs sufficiently warmed, he launched into late March by winning the crit and road race at the Madera County Stage Race. In April he stood atop the podium again at the San Diego Cyclo-Vets crit.

For the vast majority of us, any one of those results would justify a season. For Diego? Just getting started.

At the Sea Otter Classic Road Race in a stacked field containing the top junior racers on the West Coast, our boy from Playa del Rey pulled off a win that can only be described as epic. With twenty miles to the line he hit the gas, gapped the field, and pulled away with one other rider. They worked together until 3k to go, when Diego decided that company at the finish line was not going to be on the menu that particular day. He accelerated, dropped his breakaway companion like a 200-lb. bag of Redi-Crete, and put more than two minutes into second place over the final 1.8 miles.

In April, Diego beat back all challengers with a decisive win at the LA Circuit Race to claim another win for 2011. In May he nailed third place at the Barrio Logan crit, and followed it with a win at the Ontario crit in June. When he got home, he noticed a small corner on his trophy shelf that didn’t have anything on it, so he made the trip to Bakersfield for the state championship road race, won that, and is now in the process of building a new shelf.

Ik bin wielrenner

As part of the 2011 USA Cycling 15/16 European Development Camp, Diego and five other Americans hit the Belgian cobbles in August. Their race schedule included four kermesses and a stage race. The four-day West Flanders Cycling Tour was over the top in difficulty, as Diego found himself thrown into an aggressive, fast, no-holds barred style of racing. Unlike American races, where many of the riders are pack fodder from the beginning, and they know it, in Belgium it seemed as if every single guy was going for the win.

In the Heestert Kermesse, with the rain pouring down on a cold afternoon, Diego launched from the field in the 63k kermesse with 3k to go and tore victory from the teeth of 97 other disappointed competitors. Being part of the team in the West Flanders stage race meant that Diego saw action supporting his teammate Geoffrey, who won the prologue to claim the yellow jersey.

After stage two, the leader’s jersey shifted onto the back of another member of the American squad. Diego went down in a crash and flatted, but exhibited the same toughness he’d shown on MT III by chasing his way back to the peloton and finishing with the leaders.

The third stage of the tour was even more brutal. Since the U.S. riders had the leader’s jersey from the first day on the Belgians’ home turf, no one amongst the enemy had anything to lose. The attacks were constant and relentless, as each of the twenty-five European teams worked together to stymie the hopes of the Americans. By the end of the third day of racing, the hometown Euros had the jersey.

In the end, though, Team USA fought back to reclaim the yellow jersey. On the final day, an attack with 10k to go brought American Logan Owen to the finish with enough of an advantage to win the overall. The teamwork earned a first-ever victory in this tough European stage race for a U.S. National Junior Team. Diego summed it up thus: “Racing in Belgium changed me forever.”

In other words…watch him light it up in 2012.

Happy little fingers

October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

This morning was a beautiful thing. For starters, the half-clothed person nearest me wasn’t Jekyll in his raggedy t-shirt and dirty underwear. And the first thought that raced through my head (with apologies to Dom, who thinks I have a cursing problem) was, “I’m so  motherfucking glad I don’t have to ride my fucking bike another hundred fucking miles.”

Following that glorious thought was the smell of fresh coffee wafting into the bedroom. But best of all? Knowing that I wouldn’t have to tap out another 2,000-word blog on the touch pad of an iPhone. Steve Jobs, you are dead, so I won’t speak ill of you. Your sorry fucking iPhone touchpad, on the other hand, sucks ass.

You gotta keep eating if you want to keep going

In my joy at being done with MT4, though, I neglected to write up Day Five, which was a momentous day in the annals of the tour. It started with M8 gazing in horror at his breakfast burrito. “I can’t eat this. I’m not even hungry,” he moaned.

“Listen, you sniveling pussy,” I gently advised. “ManTour means food. Your body is being torn down, destroyed, beaten to shit day in day out. It’s crying for protein, fat, carbs, salt, caffeine, vitamins, minerals, beer. You gotta eat til you fucking want to puke.”

“But I already want to puke.”

“That’s because you haven’t eaten enough, dipshit. Once you finish that burrito you’ll stop wanting to puke. Then I’ll feed you a stack of flapjacks with three ice cream scoops of butter and you’ll want to barf every time you open your mouth. That’s when you’ll know you’re ready to ride.”

Breathanarian, our little 17 year-old, was sitting at the table in shock. He’d been subsisting the entire tour on paltry servings of vegetables, water, and long rides in the paddywagon alternating with violent headaches, stomach cramps, and vomiting. I looked at him. “You want to grow up and be a pussy like your old man, who can’t even nut up enough to come with you? Keep eating that shit, then. Men eat things that used to bleed. You want to ride like a man? Learn to eat like one.”

The waitress then brought him his meatless burrito (that’s kind of like a celibate hooker) and a big plate of hash browns all running wet with grease. “Were those cooked in bacon grease, honey?” I asked. She nodded. “Well, then, get to it, sonny.”

Brethanarian looked on in horror. “Shit, son, that’s good old-fashioned bacon lard. From pigs. Hate the fucking taste? That’s why God invented ketchup.” I shoved him the bottle.

He cautiously dribbled on a few glorps. “Dammit, boy, is there a war ration for ketchup going on? Gimme that fucking thing.” I splooged out half the bottle until his patty of hashbrowns looked like the morning of Saturday the 14th. “Now eat the fuck up.”

He and M8 began plodding through their meals. Their half-assed, dainty bites were painful to watch. The gal brought my bacon/sausage/chorizo double-wide burrito with a side of six blueberry pancakes and a tub of butter. I slathered the whole thing up with a container of maple syrup and washed it down with six cups of hot coffee, sopping up six large paper napkins in the process with drippings, spillings, poolings, and dribblings off my chin. Breathanarian was holding back tears. M8 quietly sobbed into his napkin.

“Gimme that, you pussies,” I said, taking what was left of M8’s burrito and the boy’s unfinished patty of potato-ketchup mush, mixing them in with my pancakes, dumping on some leftover salsa, and polishing it off with a tall glass of water. “Now, then. Let’s go ride our fucking bikes.”

Who wins the ManTour?

No one, you idiot. It’s a tour. However, ManTour does contain several discrete points, victory at which allow you infinite bragging rights–except that on ManTour it’s terrible form to brag. It doesn’t matter how you cross the line, either–you can cheatfully sneak away for the big prize at the L.A. County line on PCH like Knoll did two years ago at the Rock while everyone was stopped to change a tire and pee, or you can do it in a manly breakaway with a fierce sprint to the death as occurred in 2010.

The manner is irrelevant: only the result counts. Winning by strength, strategy, cunning, and strong legs are accorded the same respect as leaving early, sneaking off, cheating, lying, skulking, and batfucking your buddies when they expect it least.

On MT4 the first point was scored at the top of Page Mill Road on the way to Santa Cruz by Pretty Boy. The second point was scored at the Santa Cruz city limit sign by Coolhand. The third point was scored by Wankmeister in Big Sur. The fourth point was taken by Jens, who cheated his way into Ragged Point by leaving early and missing the construction stops: and what’s instructive here is that despite his low-lifing thievery, he still got the point, the sorry turd, as he beat me by a handful of seconds. The fifth point was taken by Wankmeister at the city limit sign for Morro Bay despite a long-range attack from the back launched by Bluebeard. The sixth point was likewise harvested by Wanky at the city limit sign in Lompoc. The seventh point was taken by Fireman at the Hollister exit on the 101.

But the eighth sprint point for the L.A. County line? The crowning sprint finish that the winner gets to tattoo on his forehead? The way this battle was won was one for the ages.

It ‘piers to me…

After a couple of hours’ riding, the Ironfly blue train reached Ventura Pier, we peeled off our armwarmers, Gu-ed up, drained our collective lizards, snapped some glory photos, and soaked in the beautiful morning sun. Twenty minutes later we rolled at a snail’s pace all the way to and through Oxnard. Once we hit Port Hueneme Road, the group rolled a bit more briskly, as the ag fields out past the last stoplight are the place where the attacks usually begin. From there to the county line sprint is about 15 miles.

Fireman busted away. I followed. Jekyll followed. After a couple more surges the group included Woodenhead, Hourrecord, Fireman, Jekyll, Fishnchips, Rocky, Coupe DeVille, and me. A few miles before the Rock we overtook a trio of Bicycle Bob wankers, who were thrilled to have a train. They hopped in, but after a few pulls the grease began to sizzle, and then they stopped taking pulls, and then Jekyll hit the eject button. Woodenhead was riding like a man possessed.

Jekyll took a couple of flyers, was brought back, and in the process we lost Fishnchips and Rocky. On the final roller before the flat 1k finish to the county line, Jekyll jumped, I covered and countered, and then Fireman blew past everyone. I barely latched onto his wheel and he towed me to the line, gifting me the eternal glory, money, and fame that come with such a prestigious finish.

A short time later we reached the Starbucks in Trancas, where the group, which had swollen to about 20 riders, stopped for coffee and lunch. There, sitting at a table, was M8, taking sips from an iced coffee and then upchucking bits of breakfast burrito into a plastic bag. There, lounging outside, was Tom Collins, chin sunken on his bony chest, eyes glazed over and unseeing. Somewhere even farther down PCH was Breathanarian, still fueled by the jet-fueled bacon grease.

The three hero-idiots had slunk off at the Ventura Pier and made a mad, pell-mell dash for the county line. The only problem was that they didn’t know where it was, as the sign had been stolen earlier this year and the only way to know it was by the change in pavement color. M8 and Tom Collins thought it was at Trancas, some five miles on down the road, and poor Breathanarian thought it was farther away still.

Since they hadn’t known where the line was, they couldn’t say who crossed it first–so none of the three could properly claim the win. When I asked M8 how he felt, he said “As long as I stop tasting this fucking burrito by tomorrow, I’ll be fine.”

Spoken, and eaten, like a man.

MT4: In their own words

October 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

Today we finished Chapter 4 in the Book of ManTour (Chapter 8 if you include the original unsupported editions). Here’s what the mantourists had to say along the way.

Fuckdude: “This is fuckin’ rad, dude.”
Describing the feeling of 40 guys cruising in formation, in perfect weather, along some of the most beautiful roads on earth.

Fireman: “That’s how you win races.”
Explaining why he attacked on the 101 with sufficient ferocity to drop all but one of the other tourists en route to the Hollister exit from the Gaviota rest stop.

Davy Dawg: “That hurt.”
Describing how he felt after bridging on the 101 from the chase to Fireman’s breakaway at 34mph.

Gonzo: “Where’s the local massage therapist?”
Inquiring at the front desk upon arrival at Morro Bay.

Woodenhead: “I’ll take a wheel when I need one.”
Fending off complaints that on the run-in to Pescadero he dangled off to the side of the paceline for no apparent reason.

Bluebeard: “We used to carry all our shit.”
Explaining to the jonny-come-latelies how riders on the original ManTours packed all their belongings on the back of their bikes, and rode on wooden wheels.

Randommeur: “Really?”
Expressing amazement at Woodenhead’s recounting of one of his amazing performances on the track.

StageOne: “I think I’m gonna take another Ibuprofen.”
Commenting on his anti-pain strategy after riding 450 miles with searing pain throughout his right arm after a complete elbow reconstruction, replete with plates, screws, bolts, expander joints, etc.

Hockeystick: “Looks like my record’s not unblemished.”
Commenting on the fact that he failed to earn a star in the Hall of Shame for four consecutive days, despite stopping midway through Day 4 to change out of his “dirty” cycling clothes.

Pratfall: “I’m gonna hurt ya.”
Telling Wankmeister on Day 1 about his plans for later in the tour.

Peachfuzz: “I feel pretty good.”
Rendition of his condition on Day 4, prior to scalding and searing all of the other mantourists on the climbs into Lompoc.

Hairball: “I think I can fix that.”
Evaluating Canyon Bob’s completely destroyed derailleur and absolutely shredded derailleur hanger.

Breathanarian: “I kept throwing up.”
Explaining why he crawled into the paddywagon on his hands and knees midway through Day 1.

Iron Mike: “You realize that the world gets along just fine without you.”
Observing that, when you embark on a 5-day sojourn like ManTour, it’s really worth taking off the time from work.

M8: “I think it’s a heart attack.”
Commenting on the sharp chest pains he felt on Day 5 when he, Breathanarian, and Tom Collins sneaked away at the Ventura Pier rest stop, unnoticed by the rest of the group, and rode all the way to Trancas.

Dr. Jekyll: “I’m a better climber than you.”
Informing Wankmeister of his demonstrated climbing superiority on MT4 despite failing to win a single mountaintop finish or city/county sprint.

Canyon Bob: “It’s probably not cancer.”
Diagnosing Wankmeister’s bloody stool at the lunch stop in Lompoc.

Pilot: “That’s a first.”
Commenting on the gate attendant for Southwest who asked him to “pipe down” because of all the “people who are trying to work” while waiting for their flight, virtually all of whom were asleep.

Chief: “He apparently didn’t need a wheel then, either.”
Remarking on the fact that he dropped Woodenhead on the climb up to Ragged Point.

Pretty Boy: “Do you climb in that huge gear for a reason?”
Inquiring as to Wankmeister’s penchant for holding an average cadence of 12 or 13 while Pretty Boy shells him on all the climbs.

Silenttreatment: “…”
Demonstrating what it means to be a man of few words.

Methuselah: “It don’t hurt too bad.”
Explaining how his swollen, smashed wrist feels 350 miles and 19,000 feet of climbing into MT4.

Illtrainlater: “I’ll hold your bags, dad, but I won’t hold that.”
Telling Methuselah about the limits of his filial dedication to helping his father cope with the broken hand.

Bigbowls: “It’s in the tax code.”
Analyzing the reason that big corporations are able to steal billions from the government.

Timidator: “Oh, I remember that one. Watched every game on TV.”
Reminiscing with Postal about the 1965 World Series.

Twigman: “He’s a great guy.”
Describing Anchor, his dad, and all the incredible work he does to make ManTour happen.

Rocky: “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.”
Demonstrating his Welsh bona fides when asked the longest word in the world.

Triple: “I ain’t going today.”
Telling Coupe DeVille his non-plans to go with the break on Day 5 after killing himself on every climb and making every breakaway on Days 1-4.

Coupe DeVille: “He really helped me out.”
Aw-shucksing his 3rd place at the LA County line after dropping Jekyll on the climb.

Douggie: “I’m ready to be home.”
Explaining his frame of mind to Wankmeister a couple of blocks from the Center of the Known Universe.

Coolhand: “I looked up and saw green. So I went.”
Describing how he thrashed the breakaway for the Santa Cruz city limit sprint.

Fishnchips: “That’s from a different crash.”
Explaining to his concerned wife at the end of MT4 the presence of the roughed up fabric on the side of his shorts.

Tom Collins: “Well, it was, uh, with, um, I think, well yeah, we stopped in Ventura.”
Trying to lie his way out of the fact that he sneaked off from the group in Ventura in his failed bid to win the LA County Line sprint.

Stay-Puft: “You should monetize it.”
Advising Wankmeister what to do with his blog.

Toronto: “I was a bit concerned about my endurance at first.”
Describing how, despite five days of excellent riding, he was worried–very worried–after the slugfest of Day 1.

Bigsurf: “Pull over here.”
Telling Fuckdude where the best photo op was for the group shot on Day 2. He was right, of course.

Anchor: “Glad to help.”
Graciously responding to the countless mantourists who thanked him for making the trip possible.

Artiste: “Maybe you should consider a diet.”
Responding to a grotesquely obese woman slurping a giant sodapop who yelled at him in Hermosa Beach to obey the traffic laws.

Postal: “Pretty good.”
Answering how he felt after hammering all the way from Big Sur to Ragged Point with Bluebeard, Methuselah, and Timidator.

Cadillac Draft: “I’ve heard it’s awesome.”
Commenting on drafting, a phenomenon he has never personally experienced.

ClifBar: “I’ll pass.”
Turning down the double-chocolate Sundae at the restaurant in Big Sur.

Jens: “I’m sorry I beat you, Wankmeister. You are better than me.”
Apologizing for stomping the snot out of everyone on the Day 3 beatdown from Big Sur to Ragged Point.

Wankmeister: “Thanks, guys.”
Expressing his heartfelt gratitude towards the people who made MT4 happen.

Tea and strumpets

October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

6:15 strikes early. First thought: that 25-mile hammer into Santa Cruz yesterday was a terrible idea. Second thought: that huge serving of banana cream coconut pie after dinner was even worse. Third thought: Jekyll, my roomie, doesn’t snore, stink, fart, wake up in the middle of the night and crump a hairy beet, talk in his sleep, use my toothbrush, splatter piss on the bathroom floor, sleepwalk, or sleep in a dress. He fucking rocks, such that he’s 12% forgiven for the beatdown he administered on yesterday’s climb.

It’s funny how, when forty guys wearing ManTour t-shirts walk into an airport or restaurant, some curious person will ask the magic question: “What is this man tour thing?” Last night the curious questioners were a pair of very pretty women in their 50’s.

Fuckdude helped them out. “We’re riding down to LA. Annual thing.” They were so impressed they took our names, and got the hotel we are staying at. We got their badge numbers and promised to be more quiet.

Morning of Day 2 we walk down to Zachary’s breakfast joint and get there at 6:30 to make sure we have plenty of time to eat and digest. It’s locked up tighter than a drum. We see a guy and bang the window. He ignores us. It’s cold outside so bang harder. He ignores us harder. Hockey Stick whips out his phone and we dial them up.

Dude answers the phone. “Zachary’s.” Surprised.

“Hey, man, I got forty guys shivering on the sidewalk hungry enough to eat shoe leather. Big tips all around if you’ll let us in early.”

Dude looks directly at us through the window glass. “Gotcha!” I say. Dude lets us in and we settle in for a light snack of pancakes, bacon, butter, eggs, sausage, hash browns, butter, heavy cream, migas, and a healthy sliver of fruit on top.

While waiting for the food to arrive, the conversation inevitably turns to tales of Stern-O. Someone regales a Holiday Ride story where one participant turns to the other and says, “Jesus Christ, we’re ten fucking miles into the ride and Stern-O’s already been screamed at by a cop, almost arrested, chased down by a track rider, almost beaten up, and body checked into a gutter.”

“Yeah,” the other guy says, “but the day is still young.”

We roll out for the 8:00 start promptly at 8:37. It’s ratsass cold, 42 degrees, and it doesn’t take long before Hockey Stick augments his star in the Hall of Shame from yesterday by doing a misdirection on the bike path out of Santa Cruz, missing the path and winding up on the railroad tracks. We cross the tracks farther down just in time to see him banging the holy fuck out of his frame against these giant wooden cross ties, each one big enough to crack the axle on a truck. He finally falls off, but at the last moment invokes the protection that god reserves for small children and idiots, and escapes unscathed.

It’s not long before our first casualty of the day occurs when we take a sharp left-hander at the bottom of a steep little stinger at the edge of town. Canyon Bob, who religiously replaces his Huffy-grade components every 200,000 miles whether he needs to or not, shears off his derailleur hanger and thrusts it into the spokes.

His bike explodes, he bounces off the pavement, and since it looks like he won’t be able to continue, several voice the opinion that we should do the humane thing and shoot him right there. Cooler heads fail to prevail, and he’s bundled into the paddywagon with his crippled steed.

Douggie begins calling all the bike shops in a 100-mile radius for a replacement Suntour ’82 rear dérailleur but surprisingly none are in stock. We regroup and pound out a stunning 40-mile route into Monterey. Suddenly, we look around and realize that Stahlberg’s absent this year.

The significance of his absence electrifies the group: we now all have a chance at the week-old shelf in Monterey’s Paris Bakery. Cadillac roars to the front, followed by Woodenhead, Fishnchips, and Hockey Stick. The speed hits 40 with violent, aggressive bumping as each hero knows that the honey-draped week-old bearclaw is up for grabs.

With one block to go, Cadillac makes a wrong turn and takes half the Weight Watchers crew with him. Suddenly I’m in the clear and I lunge for the finish. Alas, it’s not to be, as Hockey Stick slips through, leaps off his bike, and scoops up the old bearclaws at one dollar each.

We finish our snack and go out to the paddywagon, where Douggie has miraculously located an antique N.I.B. derailleur and hanger. Unfortunately it’s three feet long and no one knows how to put it on, and as everyone is staring at it like a pack of chimps trying to disassemble a semiconductor, Hairball comes up and saves the day.

Suddenly Fuckdude’s decision to hold up the group for Hairball’s late plane arrival seems like genius, as Hairball owns a bike shop and is an expert mechanic. In one fell swoop Hairball earns a star in the Hall of Fame, the first on on this year’s tour, for completing the most complex repair job and simultaneously saving the participation of a Man. The Karma goddess works her magic again.

Twenty more miles of unspeakably scenic beauty roll by and a man tourist remarks as we pass through Pebble Beach, “The only thing that would make this bike ride better is if we could get a blow job while we were doing it.”

Everyone nods in agreement.

At the Carmel supermarket we stop and takeon much needed calories. “Ya gotta keep eatin if ya wanna keep goin.” I have a full-sized roast beef sub and a Dr. Pepper. As everyone is sitting on the curb Bluebeard rips off a 9.7 on the MT fart scale at the very moment a woman is walking by with her cart. The bananas turn brown, the lettuce wilts, and the woman gives us the stinkeye of all stinkeyes. The children fall over laughing, and just before the police arrive we decide to roll out.

“Where’s Iron Mike?” someone says. At that moment he is waiting for the can inside the store, but he has a long wait because Fishnchips is doing stress testing on the ceramic bowl. As he’s waiting a lady comes out of the ladies’ room with a fully loaded cart.

Now it’s not often that you see someone push a fully-loaded cart into the toilet, and Iron Mine offers to help as the cart wedges in the door. Her jacket is bulging and it looks like there has been some rearrangement of the price labels. He gets her out of the toilet without being arrested as an accomplice in a shoplifting scheme, and we hit the road.

As we leave we see the sign to Big Sur: 26 miles. A photo op is staged 5 miles down the road, after which it is game on all the way to Big Sur.

We snap the group photo, jump on our bikes and blast off. Davy Dog splits the field as we pound up the first of a series of endless, windy hills exposed to the gale coming off the sea. After the first climb the group has been whittled down to Jekyll, Fuckdude, Davy Dawg, Fireman, Triple, me, and Woodenhead. Jekyll punches it up the next roller and Woodenhead explodes in a shower of toasted butter.

Mile after mile we churn on, gradually wearing ourselves down into beaten mush, and Fireman unleashes an attack from hell. Triple and Jekyll decide to go back and check their email as Fuckfude, Fireman, Dawg, and I soldier on. Fireman goes again and none follow. Dawg picks up the whip and flogs himself up to Fireman’s wheel.

I kick, everyone follows, and around the bend we shoot into a tunnel of redwoods. At the far end is the Big Sur sign. I sputter, flog, flail, and beat the dead chicken to a fare the well. Dawg hits the gas but it’s too late: the dead chicken sticks its beak across the line and 20,000 miles of training since August are rewarded with the trophy of trophies: the two-hand throw at Big Sur.

Hairball and TomCollins make up the next group, followed by Toronto and Coolhand, who had chased two-up the entire way. As part of my spoils of victory, the lady selling ugly hats and

Mexican blankets tells me to get away from her shop as I was “scaring off the customers.”

In the chase group, M8 is living through his own personal hell as Chief turns on the jets and begins to grind him into tiny little bits of pulp. The shame and pain of the flogging are enhanced by Chief reminding M8 that he’s old enough to be M8’s great-grandfather.

Finally in rolls Methuselah. We prepare to drape a star for the Hall of Fame due to the suffering he’s endured with his broken hand, but it has swollen up so much the ribbon won’t go around it. He has now completed two hundred miles and over 7,000 feet of climbing with his smashed hand.

“Jesus, Methuselah, how’s your hand?” someone asks.

“Well, it’s not any worse.” he says.

“Of course it is, you crazy fuck. It’s bigger than your goddamned head.”

“Ah well, fuck it. Gimme a beer.”

A quick shower later I go down to the Big Sur River and drink a bottle of water while Bill the Lumberjack runs a giant wood chipper to perfect the bucolic mood. Coolhand climbs into the river up to his nether parts for “hydrotherapy,” which benefits the body by freezing his nuts blue.

One by one the mantourists gravitate to the bar, and the night of revelry begins. Plus, we have an easy day after today’s 92.5-mile death match: the first 55 miles are a grueling slog to Ragged Point, followed by another 50 long miles to Morro Bay.

Elbow gloves

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I made the correct transportation choice, which was to accept Iron Mike’s offer of a limo ride to the airport. At the baggage check-in, he plops a hundred-dollar bill in front of the clerk.

“You dropped this, buddy,” he says with a smile.

The man’s eyes get big. “Why thank you, sir! I believe this bag will get personally walked onto the plane.” He picks it up and vanishes.

“I get more properly delivered bags that way. Damnedest thing.”

As we stand in the next line Iron Mike turns to an Asian couple and speaks his one word of Japanese. They stare blankly, clearly wondering why a stranger in Lycra bike tights is talking to them.

“Sorry, we’re from Malaysia,” the man finally says.

Next he chats up the TSA staffer. “How’s your morning going?”

“Aw, it was going great until the alarm went off.”

This guffaw gets him a free pass despite having a heart rate monitor strapped to his chest, a weird cycling outfit, and vegan food items in his carry-on that look like coca paste.

Farther back in line, Triple appears with Coupe Deville, and the bright minds at TSA zero in on Triple as he gets culled from the herd by the largest TSA goon.

“What in the world is this?” says the goon as he pulls a small tub labeled “Butt Butter” out of Triple’s bag.

“It’s, ah, for cycling, uh, you see…”

“Uh-huh. Step over here, please.”

Knotting his basketball-sized fists, the screener starts pulling on rubber gloves that go up to his elbow as the other two assistants tell Triple to grab his ankles. We all look the other way and pretend we don’t know him.

Trust me. I do this for a living.

Safely arriving at the gate, we sit, and a few moments later up comes Methuselah. He shows off his hand that got caught in the electric gate, and after the obligatory round of sympathetic “poor boy” and “tough bastard” we pile on without mercy.

“Fuck man, you’re a goddamn electrician. What’s up with that?”

“How many electricians does it take to get their hand caught in an electric gate?”

Etcetera.

Now everyone is scared shitless because he’s going to be descending on the bike with one hand and, what’s worse, will need someone to hold his dick when he pisses.

The lobby has filled up and the fully caffeinated mantourists begin asking Methuselah, “If your hand swells up so large after being stuck in the gate for a few minutes, why don’t you stick your pecker in it?”

Airport. Working. Uh, yeah.

At that moment the gate attendant walks over and asks everyone to please pipe down because people are “Trying to work!” The people include a gentleman slumped over with last night’s beer drool mixed with puke draining onto his sleeve and several chicks reading about orgasm enhancement techniques in the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. Being told to “shush” has the predictable effect of making all the kindergartner mantourists run around the lobby shushing each other to a fare-the-well. Pilot turns and says, “You know, I’ve been in the business for thirty years, and I’ve yet to see people at the gate get shushed because of all the people ‘working’ here.”

Just because I look crazy means I am.

One of the working passengers is dressed in a dark blue suit, gets out of his chair and approaches us, saying thus: “How can I join your ride next year?” He’s been eavesdropping on our curses and insults and enviously reading our t-shirts and wants to join the fun.

A glance at his earnest demeanor and funny combover indicate he’s batshit crazy.

“Well, first you’ll have to join Ironfly,” says Canyon Bob.

“And then you’ll have to stop being a dork,” someone adds.

Batshit then launches into a detailed lecture to Canyon Bob and Cadillac about how we can improve the route and turn a tidy profit.

“Let me get this straight,” I say. “You haven’t even stopped being a dork yet and you’re already telling us how to improve the ride? Shut the fuck up, please.”

Batshit takes the abuse with the practiced wimpy, beaten down smile of a married guy and continues his lecture. Everyone walks away as the boarding siren goes off.

A short time later we land, and it’s public toilet pandemonium as we dash into the head, strip buck naked, and pull on our kits.

The bikes are lined up outside the airport. It is rad. Fuckdude, Fireman, and M8 pulled it off despite farting each other half to death in the cab of the U-Haul for eight hours. The mantourists who drove up the day before are only slightly hungover. We take the gang photo, throw a leg over, and we’re off!

Let MT4 begin!!

Or not!! Hairball, known for his great preparation, woke up at the crack of seven for his 7:55 flight, fixed his oatmeal, made his coffee, read the paper, and then began packing for the five-day trip. Oops! The darned airplane took off without him, ensuring his star in the Hall of Shame and earning the bonus Doofus of the Day Award. After chilling at the airport we finally leave without him, but in the nick of time he arrives so we abort the ride and wait another hour while he shaves, takes a faucet shower, and changes into his kit.

The other no-show is Dr. Jekyll, who shows us the superiority of NorCal mass transit by hopping the train in Oakland and riding it until it runs into a car, chops it in half, and falls off the rails. Jekyll, who carries all his shit in a giant cardboard box, has to ride twenty miles to the airport, looking like a pack mule.

Finally we’re off. It’s a glorious sunny day and we’re happier than pigs in shit. Dr. Jekyll has assured us that the climb this year is easy, so we’re not bothered by the gradual rollers on Moody Road. After a couple of miles Davy Dawg starts killing it and we’re stretched out single file.

The road makes a sharp hairpin right up Page Mill Road and the group explodes on the steep ramp. Dr. Jekyll attacks and rides away. Davy Dawg cracks. I struggle as Triple, Pretty Boy, JC, and the Fireman go by. I latch onto the Fireman, who drags me for a few miles until I blow. The road is vicious, steep, punishing, and endless. Jekyll cracks and gets dropped by Triple and Pretty Boy, Fireman reels in JC for fourth, and I struggle in for sixth.

At the top of the climb we regroup and everyone stands around looking like shit and completely blown 24 miles into the ride. On the descent it’s the domain of the gravitationally challenged, with Bluebeard bombing the tight, deadly turns at terrifying speed. Cadillac is on his wheel, followed by Woodenhead and Jekyll, with Hockey Stick close behind. Sticks, rocks, sketchy turns, overheated brakes, and chattering front wheels get us to the bottom, where we again regroup. The drop has been amidst stunning redwoods, and the clean air invigorates us all.

Over a small bump we form a group of about 12 and start drilling it into Pescadero. Woodenhead hits the front multiple times, with Davy Dawg, Fireman, and Artiste smashing the pedals. There’s an amorphous sprint in Pescadero taken by the Fireman, and then we stop for a late lunch.

Well, some of us do. Hockey Stick doesn’t get the memo, misses the turn to Pescadero, and pedals ten miles on to the coast. Not seeing anyone for an hour, and not thinking to use his phone, he’s lost and hungry and fucked. Luckily, the Anchor has taken a wrong turn, too, and finds Hockey Stick flailing, bonked, and hopelessly lost. He bundles him into the paddy wagon and drives him to Santa Cruz.

Meanwhile, we finish lunch, hit PCH, and all hell breaks loose. The Fireman splits the flailing wankers who are still belching and farting from their double-meat sub sandwich in Pescadero. The tensing 25 miles to Santa Cruz is a death feet of attrition, with only Davy Dawg, Triple, Coupe Deville, Coolhand, Fireman, and me surviving. Coolhand takes the sprint, tying for points with Firehand.

We load up on beef, coffee, and pie at Hula’s in Santa Cruz. That’s it. Done til tomorrow.

Letter of the law

October 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Remember how your dad always used to tell you not to let people smash concrete blocks on your head with a giant hammer? Well, he never said, “And don’t stand in front of a closing, shaft-driven, motorized electric gate because it will fuck you up.” But he should have.

Eager to get the MT4 pain started early, Methuselah got his hand caught an electric fence today, and was stuck in the thing for three hours.

By the time a neighbor found him–“Hey, dumbass, what are you doing standing there with your hand in the gate?”–his hand had swollen up to the size of a catcher’s mitt. They carted him off to the hospital, but he radioed IF WHQ to let everyone know his hand wasn’t broken and he was still “in.”

Cheers went up all around–“Good ol’ Methuselah!” and “He may be old, but he’s tough!” and “Glad we won’t have to pay for his vacant spot!” The next call, of course, went to the IF Legal Department. “Hey, Wankmeister. Our riders are even crazier than I thought. Draft me up some releases.” So I did.

I MAY DIE OR GET HORRIBLY INJURED AND IT’S ALL MY FAULT BECAUSE I’M A DUMBSHIT WAIVER AND RELEASE

1. I ____________________, am a complete dumbshit, hence my participation in this ride, officially known as Man Tour 4, unofficially known as “Wives Hit the Mall and Max out the Credit Cards While Perving on the Young Guys.”

2. However, I understand that even dumbshits have legal rights, like that asshole Cleanthi Peters, who sued Universal Studios for $15,000 for suffering extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress due to visiting the Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights haunted house, which she she claimed scared her.

3. Although I’m not as big a dumbshit as Cleanthi Peters, I’m pretty close.

4. MT4 is going to cause a fuckload more mental anguish, emotional distress, extreme fear, and physical pain than any pansy-ass haunted house. It is going to kick my worthless ass, and I know it. I should have trained more, goddammit.

5. I have lots of medical conditions, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s, arthritis, balance disorders, Bell’s palsy, blepharitis, cancer, cataracts, chalazion, congestive heart failure, COPD, corneal abrasion, coronary artery disease, dementia, diabetes, emphysema, failure to thrive, falls & mobility problems, flu, glaucoma, heart attack, hearing loss, heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hip dislocation, hip fracture, loose bowels, macular degeneration, memory loss, menopause, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, prostate (enlarged), prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, toothache, and urinary incontinence.

6. Riding my bike day in, day out for 500 miles will likely make all these conditions worse.

7. I might crash my stupid bike because I am a careless, incompetent fuck, or because I have a history of crashing because I’m such a careless fucking klutz. I might also just get run over by a car or truck.

8. Some raggedy ass dog might knock me off my bike or a squirrel might hop into my chain or these trick $4,000 carbon wheels might melt on the descent and splatter me all to shit.

9. I might hit a pothole, or lose control on a downhill because I spend all my time on the bike path and once the momentum of my big, hairy ass gets going you can’t stop it with anything less than a cliff-face, a sheer drop, or a triple-meat with extra cheese and bacon.

10. All of these things, and a billion more that are too numerous to list, could kill me dead, or worse, fuck me up so badly that I spend the rest of my life eating through a tube and asking you “What time is it?” for the next 60 years while shitting in my pants and complaining because the food is too salty. Yeah, I re-read that twice.

10. No matter how badly I get fucked up, IT’S ALL MY FAULT. I WON’T BLAME ANYONE, ESPECIALLY KEV, IRONFLY LLC, MEL, SUMMER, RYDER, OR CHLOE THE DOG. THAT’S RIGHT: I WON’T BE A WHINY BACKSTABBING PUSSY WHO PRETENDS TO BE A BRO TO WEASEL HIS SORRY-ASSED WAY ONTO MT4 AND THEN SUES THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYBODY THE MINUTE HE GETS HIS FEMUR RAMMED UP INTO HIS BRAINCASE.

11. I also won’t blame any of the other idiots on this ride, even though they’re idiots, and even though some schmo crashes me out while he is riding one-handed down a sharp, wet, blind curve, and pushes me into oncoming traffic to save his own ass just so he can snap a picture with his iPhone.

12. My old lady, my deadbeat kids, and sure as fuck my hot chick on the side won’t blame anybody either. That’s why I have life insurance, so when I die the old lady and the girlfriend can finally get to meet each other over a big pot of money instead of in family court, where’s the old’s lady’s calling her a homewrecking slut and the hot piece is calling the old lady a nagging bitch.

13. Even though I’m a cycloholic-compulsive idiot and would sign anything if it meant I got to go ride for five days, I’m signing this of my own free will. I’ve read it, even the words that have more than five letters, and I mostly understand it. It means if I get hurt I’m fucked, right?

Dated: __________________

Your “X” here: ____________

Don’t forget to brush!

October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Before leaving for MT4, it is important to pack properly. This means keeping stuff to a minimum. The wussified cyclotourist travels with three large suitcases and “panniers,” which mantourists can’t even pronounce. Below is a list of the items you’ll absolutely need on MT4, in order of importance. Remember, you’re rooming for five days on a long trip with a bunch of scruffy, aging, henpecked, overweight guys.

1. Earplugs.
Chief invented sleep apnea. If the room is rocking, your ears’ll need blocking.

2. Tall white socks.
Studies prove that men ride faster, climb better, and just feel better about themselves with sparkling clean, tall, white socks.

3. Oxy-Clean.
You’ve got to clean your socks daily. Nasty white socks slow you down and make you feel dirty. Bring the Oxy-Clean stick rather than the spray. You don’t want the bottle puncturing in your Man Bag and bleaching spots all over the crotch in your spare bibs.

4. Baseball cap.
For the mantourist, a baseball cap is the ultimate in apres-ski attire. Don’t bring one that touts breast cancer awareness or some bullshit cause that will make the world a better place. The ideal cap says “Cleveland Indians” or “Caterpillar.”

5. Hoody.
You never know when you’re going to break a chain, ram into the guy in front of you and crack your fork, get bronchitis, or just have a vewy hawd day, so bring a hoody for when you get your sorry ass bundled into the paddywagon or for apres-ski. Don’t have a hoody with some stupid bike manufacturer or cycling brand on it. Football teams, cheap beer brands, or popular brothel logos are acceptable.

6. Embro.
This stuff is just bitching. Try it out at least once before MT4, though, and practice putting it on without smearing it into your chamois when you pull on your shorts unless you want Great Balls of Fire for a hundred burning miles.

7. Underwear (1 pair).
There’s a lot of scholarly debate about whether you really need any at all. Bring a pair if it will make your wife less grossed out when you leave. If you have to choose between a pair of underwear and another pair of tall white socks…no-brainer.

8. T-shirt (one).
Only acceptable type has the MT4 or MT3 logo on it. Or any t-shirt with the words “taint buster.”

9. Electrical tape.
Just a strip to wrap around 80mm stems to keep them from rattling against your carbon wheelset. Shows you care more about your bike style than wussy clothing fashion like underwear.

10. Credit card.
Minimum $20 available balance. This usually requires significant advance savings and debt paydown for most mantourists, so start early.

11. Cash.
$5. For when #10 gets declined, which it certainly will.

12. SPY sunglasses.
You need to look cool. Don’t bring Oakleys, I don’t care how much you paid, or what kind of deal you got, or how you think they’re bitching because their color matches your frame. They suck. Plus, their parent company, Luxottica, owns Prada bags and Chanel perfume, for Christ’s sake. Don’t be a handbag toting, perfume dauber. Be a man.

13. Bib shorts (1 pair).
A little bit of crust never hurt anybody, especially a man. You can scrape off all the buildup at the end of Day 3 with a stick and they’ll be fresh as new, sort of.

14. Jersey (1).
They don’t generally start to smell really bad until the end of Day 3. That means there’s only two full days of uber-stink. Any man worth his salt can stand two days of B.O. The entire country of France lives with it, for God’s sake.

15. Armwarmers (1).

16. Cycling shoes (1).
That’s one pair, numbskull. If you show up with one shoe you’ll look really stupid, and trust me, no one will have brought an extra.

17. Helmet (1).
You’re a man. You’re not afraid of multiple blows to the head. You’re pretty much addled anyway. Still, we don’t want to have to reimburse the county for damage to the road when your rocky skull chips the pavement.

18. Spare tubes (3).
Bring more if you have some weird wheelset. If you flat somewhere between Ragged Point and Big Sur and need an Italian reverse-thread 94 mm angled stem, you’re fucked, and no one will stop to help you.

19. Tire lever (1).

20. Long gloves (1).
At least one morning it will be cold and you’ll freeze your fucking fingertips off.

21. Shoe covers (1).
See #20.

22. Rain jacket (1).
If you don’t bring it, we’ll have five straight days of rain. If you have to lug it around, we’ll get nothing but sunshine. Bring it.

23. Garmin unit and charger (1).
If you can’t upload it to Strava, it never happened. And even if it did, no one will believe you.

24. Jeans (1).
Don’t bring shorts. We’ll have been looking at your sorry ass and spindly legs all day on the bike. Cover that shit up.

25. Phone (1).

ITEMS NOT TO BRING UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE BRANDED A NON-MAN AND INSTANTLY ENROLLED IN THE HALL OF SHAME.

1. Phone charger.
This is obvious. With no charger, once your phone dies no one will be able to call you to bitch about the poopy diapers, foreclosure sale, termination letter, etc.

2. Razor/Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Floss/ Nail clippers/Nose Hair trimmer, cologne, tweezers, or any other item, balm, liquid, paste, ointment or device that could in any way make you look better, smell better, taste better, be more attractive to the same or opposite sex, etc. This is Man Tour. Time to smell like shit and look like a pig, and to scratch your ass, armpits and nose all in one swipe as you return to the wild. The way nature intended.

3. Reading material of any kind.
This is also obvious. You’re here to bond, which means talking with your bros about life, swapping lies, bragging about what a stud you were before you got married, and drinking yourself into a pathetic muddle. First guy to whip out some “book he’s always wanted to read” has to sleep with Bluebeard.

4. Medicine of any kind.
Alcoholic medicine will be available at the end of each day, so no need to BYO. Painkillers, sleeping pills, antidepressants (who the fuck would even think about getting depressed around a smelly bunch of drunk bros??), heart medicine, blood pressure pills, Viagra, and any other concoction that indicates you have a mental or physical weakness will be crumbled into powder and put into Chief’s oatmeal, where the toxic alcoholic stew in his stomach will instantly neutralize the chemicals forever.

5. Personal espresso makers, coffee packets, etc.
Men drink whatever the fuck they’re served and are glad to have it. If the morning diet is gruel washed down with dirty dishwater and lukewarm spit, you’ll say, “Thanks, can I have seconds?” and count yourself lucky. Bullshit espresso drinks will also be added to Chief’s oatmeal. Offenders will have to hit the head after Chief’s morning deposit.

6. Work projects.
Don’t you fucking dare sit down at the end of the day with a laptop and fiddlefuck around with some bullshit project that’s “on deadline.” Mantourists don’t give a fuck about deadlines unless they’re the expiration date on a keg. If your boss/corporation/client can’t accept that you’re a man, and that men don’t work on vacation, have them place a collect call to Wankmeister who’ll be glad to explain.

THE FOLLOWING BEHAVIOR WILL BE DEEMED NON-MANLY AND TREATED WITH THE UTMOST CONTEMPT:

1. Not cleaning your plate.
You’re a man. Men work all day. They’re hungry. They eat everything on their plate, period. Don’t like rutabagas? Don’t worry. Men can’t even spell “rutabagas,” let alone order them off a menu.

2. Calling home.
House burn down? Fiery car crash claim a few lives? It can wait, trust me. There’ll be plenty of time to bury the bodies and file your insurance claim after you get back.

3. Refusing to drink with the bros.
Man Tour means group drinking, and none of this “craft beer” crap. Miller, Bud, Coors, etc., only. There is no acceptable excuse not to participate, with the exceptions of “I’m not old enough,” and “I had my throat removed.” No one gives a shit if you’re trying to get your life together, break a bad habit, lose weight, stay out of prison because you’re on probation with your 4th DUI, etc.

4. Going to bed early.
Everybody knows that Man Tour survival is all about recovery and sleep, which is precisely why it’s forbidden. Glory awaits those who burn the candle at both ends, in the middle, and then eat the wax. 136 miles of hell on Day 4 after an all night drunk on two hours of sleep…that’s the stuff of legends.

5. Complaining.
Too hilly? Too windy? Not enough pee-pee stops? Feeling pooped and need a shoulder to lean on? Have ideas on how to improve MT for next year? You, my friend, are a pussy. Keep your problems and helpful suggestions to yourself. It’s Man Tour, this is the fucking route, so put your sorry assed, undertrained head down and take your beating like a man. Everyone is tired, cranky, and riding with an inflamed and festering taint. Tell it to the hand.

For additional questions or concerns about appropriate man behavior, please visit our FAQ at www.imawhinybitch.com.

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