All hail the king

August 12, 2014 § 19 Comments

I hadn’t raced my bike since late May. The plan was to take a month off and then pick back up in July. A solid month of rest and beer would rejuvenate my legs, refresh my mind, and restore the killer competitive spirit that had led to so many 57th and lower placings over the first part of a very successful road season.

In July, however, a strange thing happened. Instead of jumping back into racing with a vengeance, I found myself discovering ever more first-rate reasons not to race. I couldn’t do the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix because it wasn’t technical enough for a pro bike handler like me, and plus, it was too dangerous. Way too many crashes, and anyway I’m so over racing crits.

Ontario the following week was a non-starter as well. It’s not too far, but the afternoon return traffic on the 10 is just not how I plan to spend my Sunday. The prize list sucks balls too, especially once you get down into 50th place and lower. And it’s another boring crit. If I’m going to race my bike, I need a real challenge.

Sherman Pass Road Race looked good on paper, but frankly it was too far away and had too much climbing. Fifty-three miles with 8,700 feet of elevation? Are you kidding? That’s a race for pure climbers, not all-around journeymen like me. Also, road races just don’t have enough riders in my age category, so they’re more like time trials, and I’m not driving all day out to the Sierras to do a time trial.

The Carlsbad Grand Prix was a pretty solid crit, slightly technical, not too far, solid field, and one of the most important races for my team sponsor, SPY Optic. But that course is occasionally susceptible to strong headwinds on the back side of the course. I am more of a tactical rider rather than the kind of guy who can charge into the wind off the front for 45 minutes. Pass.

The CBR crit the following weekend was too close to home. I get tired of seeing the same old faces. Plus, the course is too easy and my race goes off too early, before the wind kicks up. I prefer a race that has some tough challenges, that require you to fight the elements, not just tactically sit around all day.

The following weekend I was tempted to go to the Death Valley Omnium, but at this time of year, and with global heating, it’s too hot. Plus, omniums are no good. It should be a stage race. I’m really more of a stage racer, a GC kind of rider than anything else.

Brentwood Grand Prix was one that I had circled on my calendar because it really caters to all my strengths. It’s close to home, but not too close. The course is technical but not dangerous. There are opportunities for a smart breakaway tactician like me, and it has a slight bump before the finish which really suits my powerful seated accelerations. But the morning of the race it was misty and I didn’t want to race on a course where it had been damp several hours before my event.

So now it was mid-August and there was one race left on the calendar, the San Marcos crit. Fortunately, it is the perfect course for me and one I have excelled on in the past. Last year’s 49th placing was a huge step up, and the year before I finished the 45-plus race and the 35-plus race.

The only down side was that out of 42 riders our squad only had about ten guys, so even though we were short on manpower we’d have to figure something out. Before the race Mike and I were warming up. “How’re the legs?” I asked.

“Haven’t been training too much since my injury, but I’ll do the 45+ and the 35+ for the fitness.”

“The only time I did the 45+ and the 35+ races it felt like getting circumcised with a rusty file,” I advised.

Our team strategy was simple: pedal faster than everyone else. The only problem was that “everyone else” included Thurlow Rogers a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG, and Mark Noble. Check his race results this year on the USAC web site and cringe.

The San Marcos course is a simple four-corner crit with a dogleg. On the first lap we made the first turn and flew down the long downhill, which funnels through a bottleneck turn lined with cones on the left that separate idiot bicycle racers going way too fast from idiot motorists who are also going way too fast. I watched in terror as everyone scrunched up their brakes and threaded the narrow turn.

Those of us at the back then accelerated from zero back up to 37 and whipped along the flat crosswind section in a single file until we hit turn three, another accordion turn that shunts a wide, fast moving peloton into two narrow lanes also marked with cones on the left and death on the right. Poor positioning again meant another 0-30 acceleration, but at least it was with a tailwind.

Finally we hit turn four, a wider, safer turn that goes bolt-uphill. If you’re well positioned towards the front, the momentum of the pack will carry you halfway up the incline, but if you’re flogging in the rear, decelerating at the turn due to the clogstacles in front of you, it takes a 1500-watt effort to make it up the little hill. Or a 1200-watt effort if that’s all you have. Or, yes, 750.

Then the road flattens and does a little chicane and then goes up again. This is the part where, if you’ve played it right, you still have to dig deep to roll over the top. If you’ve played it wrong, or in the key of B, it’s the worst nightmare imaginable of all sharps and flats.

Since I had felt great on the starting line, the place where I typically do my best work, I was amazed at the sensations in my legs after one measly lap, sensations that corresponded perfectly to the quit gene. “No problem,” i said to myself. “I’ll feel better on the next lap.”

I did in fact feel better, but only because I didn’t follow the guy in front of me too closely. On the downhill screamer his rear wheel hit the manhole cover and slipped. He over-corrected and shot out between the cones into traffic. If he’d been going any faster he would have high-sided into a solemn graveside service.

I looked over at Mike. “Still thinking about that 35+ race in a couple of hours?”

“No,” he said.

We finished the second lap and the quit gene hadn’t stopped screaming. On the third lap the winning breakaway went. Shockingly and against all predictions, it was THOG and Noble. Since we comprised 1/4 of the field, it was a matter of course that we had a teammate in the break.

I dashed to the front and slowed the pack to a crawl. Using my patented Chicken Little cornering technique, for two laps I went so slowly through each turn that every Garmin in the peloton began to emit “rider paused” warning beeps. Finally, confident that the invisible break had enough pavement to hold their gap, I rolled back into the field. My work was done.

King Harold came up to me. “Dude,” he said. “What the fuck were you doing?”

“Blocking,” I said, filling with satisfaction of a job well done.

“Well great fucking job, wanker. We don’t have anyone in the friggin’ break. You just gave the two fastest guys in California an additional forty-five seconds. Not like they need it.”

“Oh, yeah, tough guy?” I said. “Then maybe you should just go chase them yourself.”

King Harold shook his head and leaped out of the pack. Since it was a 23-mph headwind and we had just started up the impossible hill, no one even thought about following. With THOG and Noble going as hard as they could, King Harold donated a lung and a kidney to the crit deities, put his head down, and crossed over the forty-five second gap.

Although the timers only had the gap at 45 seconds, the person bridging had to calculate the gap based on Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which meant that, out in the wind, alone, sad, missing his mommy, and knowing that his entire team was tucked cozily on the wheel of everyone else, it felt like about twelve thousand millenia.

Somehow, bending the rules of space and time, King Harold bridged across after two-and-a-half laps of incomprehensible, childbirth-like suffering. He didn’t win (who “wins” against THOG and Noble?), but he salvaged the team’s reputation enough so that post-race we could all sit around at the team beer tent and tell him how we would have gone with him if we’d been in a better position.

“Dude,” I said. “I so wish I had been with you to help.”

“Man,” said DJ. “I was too far back to follow when you jumped. Wish I could have helped.”

“Idiots,” said a bystander. “You had ten out of 40 riders. How did you not win this race?”

“Gentlemen,” said MMX. “Have another fine brew from Lost Abbey.”

While the other teams, resplendent in victory, posed for photos on unstable Tinkertoy podium blocks, we enjoyed even more fermented farm products. They were covered in sweat and glory, but we were covered in the rosy, hops-infused glow of not giving a flying fuck. Now that is “winning.”

END

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The end is here

August 6, 2014 § 56 Comments

I deal with so many batshit crazy ideas, behaviors, and occurrences on a daily basis that it’s refreshing when I run across one that isn’t mine.

This little tempest-in-a-chamois was unearthed on Facebook, and it involved a recently upgraded Cat 3 who allegedly got his wheel chopped in a 55+ old fellows’ race. After the chopping, he did what lots of shitty bike racers before him have done, and what many more after him will do. He fell off his bicycle.

Then, the allegation goes, the outraged Cat 3 Older Fellow complained to the chief ref. So far, so good. Complaining to chief refs is standard fare when you fall off your bicycle after running into someone ahead of you because they made you not protect your front wheel. From that point on, the accusation gets murkier. Some say that the racer filed a criminal complaint with the police. Some say that the USA official told the racer that they would file a complaint with the police and that he would have to make a statement. Still others say that anyone who has read this far about an alleged kerfluffle between old fellows with leaky prostates riding bicycles in their underwear needs to invest his energy more wisely.

I reached out to the racer and asked, incredulously, whether he had actually made a statement to the cops about his bicycle-falling-off incident. He neither admitted it nor denied it, and when I asked him again he told me to go away and leave him alone.

I checked with the police department, but they won’t release or even acknowledge the filing of a complaint unless it is acted on or unless you’re the person who filed it. So as far as I’m concerned, there’s no actual proof that any of this happened, and he’s innocent of being a Delta Bravo until proven guilty. However, for the sake of cycling drama, let’s assume it did.

I’d like to assume this because when I emailed, asking him if he had filed a statement with the police regarding his crash, he came back with this gem: “If your child was hit by a stranger with a baseball bat would you make a complaint to the police?”

That’s a funny way to twist things. If someone walked up out of the blue and hit my child with a bat, I would almost certainly complain to the police. But when my youngest son played Little League, he was in fact hit with a bat by a member of the opposing team — a stranger — when the batter slung the bat. And instead of suing the child and his parents or filing a complaint with the police, I chalked it up to the risk of playing baseball.

Amazing concept, huh? Play baseball and you might get hit with a bat. Hey, this might even be a concept for cycling: If you race your bicycle you might fall off of it.

For some people, however, this is a false construct. When you fall off your bicycle in an Old Fellows Crit, the best course of action is to tell your mommy, or her surrogate, the police.

Imagine the precedent! Every time someone falls off his or her bicycle in a race, it’s potentially a criminal offense. Anything you do in the race can be trundled over to the cops by some crybaby loser and turned into a misdemeanor, or better yet a felony. Wonder how long we’ll have bike races of any kind if this approach becomes the norm?

Fortunately, there are a couple of things that stand in the way of sanctioned bicycle racing ever rising to the level of a crime, or at least to something more than a crime of bad taste, since the average masters racer looks like an overstuffed sausage in an undersized one-size-doesn’t-fit-you piece of stretch undies.

One of the things that protects our sacred sport of underwear riding is called the district attorney. They are able to look at this kind of silly shit, roll their eyes, and place your bicycle-falling-off incident in the “Billy Got Butthurt” file. The other protection is what’s called a jury. Imagine some rich-kid, whiny-ass, take-my-ball-and-go-home crybaby sitting in front of twelve normal people and explaining that even though he signed a waiver and had a rich history of falling off his bike, he nonetheless wanted an assault or battery conviction against someone because he, crybaby, ran into the person in front of him.

You know, like in a car, when the person who slams into the person ahead of him is always in the right. Oh, it’s not like that? Really? You mean in bicycle-underwear racing the person who gets smashed into is the one at fault? I see …

The jury would roll its eyes and send the crybaby home in the Whaaaambulance, albeit not before he had clogged the criminal docket with a silly case and had taken valuable resources away from prosecuting real offenses.

But even if this kind of crybaby were right, and someone intentionally crashed him out, it wouldn’t solve the problem for USA Cycling, for race promoters and sponsors, or even for the crybaby. Why? First, because he still signed a waiver. Now I know what all you legal yahoos are going to say, so let me say it for you: “That waiver doesn’t protect other racers who commit intentional crimes of assault and/or battery.”

That’s true. But in proving the offense, you still end up having to get by the prosecutor and his Butthurt File, and you still have to convince a jury — and convince them with a straight face, no less — that you’re not some whingeing wanker who can’t win on the field and is assuaging his sore rectum in a court of law. People with jobs who sit on juries may be unfamiliar and unsympathetic with underwear-clad older fellows who think that riding around in a parking lot on a bicycle and falling off of it is a noble activity worthy of vigorous law enforcement.

The other reason that crying to the police doesn’t work is because if every intentional wheel chop is a criminal act, then every bike race in the United States becomes a festival of handcuffs and Miranda warnings. Put it this way: Have you ever been in a crit and NOT had your wheel chopped? Chopping is to crit racing what tackling is to football, what flopping is to soccer, what DNF’ing is to Andy Schleck. Some of it may be intentional, but most of it is just wankers like me hitting the brakes in a turn because we aren’t very good, or wankers like Frankendave coming up hot and inside at 5 mph faster through an off-camber, wet turn because he enjoys time spent in the dentist’s chair.

Are assassins lurking out there, doing everything in their power to ensure that instead of getting 29th you get 46th in the 55+ race?

Newsflash: No. They are not. If the riders in the 55+ race are in a hurry at all, it’s to get to the bathroom to relieve their aching prostates.

Moreover, think of what an encouraging promotional tool this would create for those seeking to put on bike races. I can see the pitch to the city council now: “It’s a great way to get people to our town, have them enjoy the local flavor, and have them file criminal complaints!”

When some egregious act of bad bicycling occurs, isn’t there a procedure at every bicycle race for dealing with it? Isn’t that why we have officials? Isn’t that the purpose of lodging a formal complaint with the chief referee? And if the evidence is indisputable, isn’t the offending rider disqualified and suspended? And if the other rider does get suspended, isn’t that enough? Does every cyclist now have to worry about replacing some crybaby’s rich-kid rig and facing jail every time he races?

It’s hard enough explaining the underwear and shaved legs to your grown children. Imagine how much worse it will be having to explain this: “What happened, Dad?”

“I made a guy stop protecting his front wheel and run into me and he got a raspberry on his po-po.”

“And?”

“And now I’m going to Corcoran State Prison for five years.”

The ugly fact of bicycle crit racing is that on the last lap, when riders are trying to move up, they often dive into corners, bang bars, and try to force the weak, the infirm, the unskilled, and those with poopy shorts into inferior positions. This is the way that bike races are won, and if you don’t like it, perhaps you should blame it on the officiating that allows this type of riding, or limit racing to spin classes, or take up modern dance. Crit racing isn’t pretty and except for the winner no one else is ever happy, but is it criminal?

Add to this tasteless mix of Silly Stew a few other ingredients: Anyone who would go complain to the cops is probably someone who just wants to pin the tail on another rider rather than on the jackass to whom it belongs. It would also call for appointment of citizen-deputized Bicycle Race Rangers. I can see it now. One of our fellow cyclists wearing a leather vest, ten-gallon hat, spurs, and a badge and pedaling with a megaphone:

“Excuse me, you on the blue Colnago. Please pull over.”

Then the deputy could explain the basis of the charge (felonious wheelchopping with aggravated road rash), make the citizen’s arrest, and lead the perpetrator away in handcuffs and ankle chains.

However, in order to make sure that the criminal wheelchoppper was able to ride in the next race, we would also need a Bail Bonds tent as well as a tent for a defense attorney. “Snakey McGraw, your one-stop shop for DUI and bicycle-underwear criminal defense.”

In a bike racing environment where officials turn a blind eye to sketchy riding, where the riders have done enough racing to know what happens on the bell lap, and where you are always the one responsible for your own front wheel, filing a criminal complaint sounds like the poster child for what masters bike racing may well become: A playground for sore losers who think they can win with tearful complaints rather than with their legs.

This would set the stage for every spoiled little rich kid to run the bare-bones, broke-ass world of local bike racing out of business (not that it’s actually a business). Fall off your bike, drum up a statement to the fuggin’ police, and voila — you’ve singlehandedly “won” because in the next race other riders will fear you and give you a wide berth, not because you’re any good, but because you might call the cops and have them tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.

If this ever came to pass, I wouldn’t be surprised to see racers balance the risks and rewards, and decide to stay home. Everyone except the crybabies, of course. Their mommies would be proud.

END

In memoriam: Telo Training Crit

August 4, 2014 § 34 Comments

Born to Sam and Josephine Wannamaker sometime in the late 1980′s, and affectionately known as that “ass-pasting sorryfuk headwind beatdown in an office park,” Telo passed away peacefully on July 29, 2014 in Torrance, California at 6:00 PM when, for the first time in over 30 years, no one showed up.

Not even Brad “Elbows” House.

Telo was an incredible father to his several thousand lycra-clad children, all of whom showed up with dreams of victory and, for the most part, went home beaten and defeated. The unluckier ones went home with road rash and several thousand dollars worth of equipment damage.

Telo worked in the Tuesday Night Training Crit industry for over 30 years. He was truly a bike racer’s bike race, and left many an aspiring rider choking on his own puke, particularly after getting into an ill-advised break with Hair or Rudy. However, true to his training crit roots, Telo punished wheelsuckers just as much as those who braved the front. Every week for over thirty years countless wankers sat in the back “waiting for someone to bring back the break” only to find themselves part of a three-man flailaway, deserted by all and forced to quit early and take the shortcut home.

Telo’s greatest love was spending time with his family and friends, stomping on their genitals, and offering up a fun and rollicking 30-mph headwind on the backstretch. Telo loved nothing more than to watch a group of riders drill it on the tailwind, fantasizing that they were monsters, only to roll over and die when they hit the wall of wind half a lap later. Telo lived life to the fullest and he was always laughing and smiling at the misery of others.

Telo began to have health problems three years ago, when the already anemic South Bay racing community simply couldn’t “get it up” to go pound their brains out on Tuesday nights. Some pointed the finger at Telo’s nemesis known as NPR, a younger, more handsome and sexy group ride that took place on Tuesday mornings and seldom left any but the toughest with enough energy for Telo.

Still others claimed that Telo’s decline was the result of the Major Motion Tuesday Ride on the Parkway, which attracted bigger crowds, was slower, had lots of stop lights, and in which those who were shelled could sneak across the road and hop back in.

As Telo’s health declined, by 2014 the only people still showing up were Hair, Marco, Brad House, and one or two others. Telo leaves behind a void in our hearts that can never be filled, but he leaves us with his zest for life, spunky spirit and the ability to live life to the fullest.

Telo is survived by countless riders throughout California who left a little piece of their self-respect on Telo’s hallowed tarmac. A celebration of Telo’s life will be held wherever wankers are found and cold beer is served.

Win a chance to see Brooke Shields

August 1, 2014 § 26 Comments

This will only excite men over fifty, but last year Brooke made an appearance at the Brentwood Grand Prix. She walked around and chatted with folks, and even took in some of the racing.

This year, the race offers something even more exciting than the chance to mingle with former child stars: the Expo Ride. Roaring into the 19th Century full speed ahead, the Los Angeles metro is expanding its train stops so that you will one day be able to go up and down the west side without having to sit on the freeway or ride a bus. It’s a revolutionary and radical concept, and one day other major cities such as New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Beijing may one day follow suit. Visionaries even predict that one day the train will go from downtown to the airport.

While we’re waiting for those backwater capital cities get with the program, however, Los Angeles will be building ten new rail stops on the west side of the city, and you can sign up for the August 3 Expo Ride to take a bike tour of the planned train route. The 11-mile, leisurely paced tour starts at 9:30 AM and will show you how the new stops can be integrated with bike travel to make your west side transportation seamless and coordinated with your bicycle.

I often cringe at encouraging people to enter bike races, any bike race. This isn’t because I dislike races, it’s because sending someone off to a bike race feels like sending them off to the Battle of the Somme. But … if you’re going to do a bike race … and dog knows why you would want to … Brentwood Grand Prix is a good one.

It’s well organized, it has great prize money that most of us will never win, it’s in a fantastic location, it’s on a challenging course, and this year it’s also raising money for the Melanoma Research Alliance and for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition through the Expo Ride.

There are a couple of simple reasons to support these two organizations. The first is that MRA actually raises and donates money to research on melanoma. This is the disease that sneaked up on and almost killed west side legend Stuart Press. In a perfect world, the government would spend our tax dollars on melanoma research instead of spending $1 trillion on military aircraft that don’t work, but that’s a different rant.

LA County Bicycle Coalition is the strongest, most committed bike advocacy group in our area, and one of the best in the nation. It helps pass legislation. It helps get infrastructure implemented. It defends the legal right of cyclists to ride in the lane. It has educational programs for law enforcement and for schools. And it works to solve problems through dialogue and mediation rather than ideological broadsides. Plus, Eric Bruins is my good friend.

Some things are worth doing. The Expo Ride at Brentwood Grand Prix is one of them.

NorCal cyclists still playing catchup with SoCal

July 20, 2014 § 16 Comments

After years of lagging behind their more talented brethren in Southern California, bike racers in Northern California are finally beginning to make incremental improvements that, they hope, will eventually bring them on a par with the more accomplished southerners.

“It’s going to take years,” says top racer Johnny Metoprol “but we have to close the gap. It’s a total embarrassment, and thank goodness that Logan has stepped up.”

CitSB was able to sit down with NorCal racer Logan Loader and discuss his recent results.

CitSB: So, it’s a been whirlwind these last few days, I suppose.

LL: Yep.

CitSB: And I guess it gives new meaning to your last name.

LL: (laughs) They used to call me “loaded” in junior high, actually.

CitSB: How did this all come about?

LL: NorCal has been several steps behind SoCal for a really long time; it’s that simple. It got to the point to where we were asking ourselves practically every day, “When is USADA going to start showing us some of the love?”

CitSB: How do you feel now?

LL: I’m pretty pleased. SoCal racers aren’t the only ones who know how to get busted. My inbox has exploded with congratulations.

CitSB: Why methylhexaneamine? That’s a pretty weak drug to get popped for.

LL: I knew I’d hear criticism that it wasn’t really big time, I mean, we all know about the guys in SoCal shooting cortisone up into their superficial dorsal veins before races …

CitSB: Their what?

LL: Dorsal veins. You know, the superficial dorsal vein. It’s the one on your … you know … gee, this is kind of embarrassing.

CitSB: Yuck.

LL: Right? And frankly the guys in NorCal aren’t at that level yet. Not to mention the girls. But methylhexaneamine seemed like a good place to start. After my 8-month ban runs I’d for sure like to try some of the better stuff. One step at a time.

CitSB: Any other reasons that an aspiring doper might start off with methylhex? Do you have some advice for the youngsters out there?

LL: Sure. Best thing is that it works great with the “loose powder” defense that was used so successfully by your masters guy down in SoCal last year. You get popped, fill a container with some contaminated substance, and blame it on the manufacturer. And you smile a lot and say “I’m sorry.” Got me down from 2 years to 8 months.

CitSB: Don’t you think the manufacturers are getting a little tired of being blamed every time some hacker turns up positive?

LL: No doubt, but as long as you don’t actually name the manufacturer and just blame it on an “over-the-counter supplement,” it’s pretty much a victimless crime.

CitSB: Let’s go to your tearful confession for a minute, the one that was posted in VeloNews. Pretty funny stuff.

LL: (really laughs) Right?  My favorite line was “I will take full responsibility for my failure to properly read the manufacturer’s label and check for prohibited substances and fully understand the consequences.”

CitSB: That’s a howler, all right. Makes it sound like instead of being a douchebag drug cheat you’re just some moron with a reading problem.

LL: (really, really laughs) Right? (Guffaws, drizzles spit)

CitSB: The apology part was pretty funny, too, especially apologizing to your family.

LL: Like they give a flying fuck, right? It’s shameful enough that I’m a bike racer.

CitSB: Right. My favorite line was this one: “At no point was I attempting to enhance my performance or take part in any unethical practices or sportsmanship.” I mean, if you weren’t trying to enhance your performance why were you taking a supplement? To diminish it?

LL: Hee, hee. We talked a lot about whether to throw in the line about taking part in unethical practices or sportsmanship.

CitSB: I’m sure. What does it even mean?

LL: Nothing. It was just stupid-sounding flummery that we figured was dumb enough for VeloNews.

CitSB: How has your team responded?

LL: High fives all around. We think that with practice and getting used to handling the superficial dorsal vein and a 65-guage Tuohy needle, we can step up our game. No pain, no gain.

CitSB: Goals for 2015?

LL: I think the entire NorCal racing community is behind me when I say we can get a solid 5-year ban in the next twelve months.

CitSB: A second violation might do the trick.

LL: Right?

CitSB: Any last thoughts?

LL: My ultimate dream? A lifetime ban. That would even the score pretty darned quick.

CitSB: Good luck. You can do it.

Tumpkins leads TdF; Facebag announces news blackout

July 15, 2014 § 11 Comments

With the recent crash-abandons of Andy Schleck, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Frank Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador, and the remaining 189 riders, the lead in this year’s Tour de France passed today to unheralded Mathers Tumpkins, a little-known domestique for Team Diaper. Diaper was the last team to receive a wildcard invitation, and Tumpkins, a/k/a “Jellyroll,” was the last rider to be selected.

Tumpkins appeared astonished at being led to the podium and asked to pull on the coveted leader’s jersey. “One minute I’m the lanterne rouge and the next I’m on a stage sticking my tongue down some bimbo’s throat watching the Badger punch out some bum in a wheelchair. Dayum!”

Evgeni Mxyzptlk, director of Team Diaper, was also suprised. “That’s the shits, as we say on Team Didy. Only reason Tumpkins even got on the team was because his father owns the company.”

After Froome’s multiple bicycle-falling-off incidents and resultant boo-boo, the biggest news of the day aside from everyone giving up was Contador’s falling-off-incident. El Dopalero was eating a banana when he inadvertantly flung aside the remains and his bicycle slipped on the peel. Dramatic photos show El Dopalero’s bike frame cracked in half; bystanders said that Contador rode into a small 12-foot pothole and snapped the frame.

Specialized immediately issued a press release denying that its frame was weak, substandard, shoddily made, or in any way less than perfect. The release is printed in full below:

Specialized deeply regrets losing El Dopalero from the 2014 Tour de France. However, the catastrophic failure that appeared to occur when he slipped on a banana peel and rode off into a mine shaft had nothing to do with the integrity of the frame despite alleged eyewitness accounts.

Eyewitnesses were flown to a Specialized Rendition Center in Uzbekistan where it was determined through perfectly legal measures that they were drunk at the time of the accident. Each witness signed a full confession admitting that Specialized makes perfect bikes of uncompromising structural integrity.

Specialized fully intended to make the witnesses available to the media, but after signing their confessions they accidentally fell down some stairs and died. Moreover, in the event that El Dopalero did not fall into a volcano crater, we are prepared to offer evidence that the frame broke because it was damaged while passing the Belkin team car, or because it got run over by accident after El Dopalero fell, or because it was mauled, but not eaten, by the dog.

Race leader Tumpkins was circumspect about the crash and mass abandons as he chewed on his fourth donut and swigged from a bottle of beer. “Look, it’s all the same to me whether he rode off a cliff or is having a heavy monthly flow. Fact is, there’s no one left in the Tour except me and I intend to take my fuggin’ time.”

Mxyzptlk concurred. “There is no reason to rush anymore. Everyone else has gone home. This last 450-mile cobbled uphill headwind freezing rain and ice stage was too much, even for Jens Voigt and his pharmacist.”

When asked whether fans would stick around for a 2-week victory parade, Mxyzptlk shrugged and turned the corners of his mouth down in that funny Euro way which essentially means, “Who gives a fuck?”

Facebag issues Tour de France news blackout

In related Tour news, Mark Suckerberg, president of social media giant Facebag, issued a press release regarding the new Tour Blackout algorithm. “We have set up Facebag so that nothing can be posted on it anymore before the entire Tour concludes, thus saving sensitive members of our community from having the event spoiled for them.”

The new algorithm was apparently developed in response to the piteous cry made by Mr. Mailliw Enots, winner of the not-so-coveted 2013 Most Time on Facebag Award. Enots’s plea for help is reproduced below:

It is really terrible when blatherskite people post the Tour results before I return home from work because, juice box. Those who do this apparently have a deep seeded (sic) disorder marked by wanting to be considered important and knowing when they have done nothing to suggest they are either. This posting of spoiler things must be stopped.

Although it was later pointed out that Enots hasn’t been to work since 1974, and a study team posed the question of why he was on a web site that exists specifically to spoil everyone’s fun about sporting results while posting photos of last night’s dinner and cats, Suckerberg took pity on the orthographically challenged Savant from Hooterville.

“While it does seem strange that someone would be surfing Facebag at work (you get fired for that here at Facebag), and even stranger that they would be surprised to find out what happened in the day’s major sporting event, some people deserve pity, and if not that, at least a healthy measure of contempt, or both, and he is one.”

It is not clear how Facebag or Enots will deal with the fact that Mathers Tumpkins seems poised to win every successive stage until Paris.

 

Pay up and please go die

July 9, 2014 § 52 Comments

Ronnie Toth qualifies as a phenom. In one year he went from a beginner trying out his first race to a Cat 1. Those who know him and who have raced with him agree that he is talented, hard working, and destined for success in the bike racing world. He entered the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix on Sunday, his first Pro race.

Today he’s on the incredibly long and painful road to recovery from a horrific accident in which he hit the steel barriers face first as he sprinted for the finish. His facial and head injuries are significant, and a fund has been set up to help defray his medical costs. You can donate here.

Whether Ronnie will be able to return to racing is unknown. But what is known is this: USAC in Southern California is complicit in his injuries and in many of the bad crashes that occur here on a regular basis. Our safety record is horrific, and testimony to USAC’s failures includes the death of Chris Cono in a Pro 1/2/3 race last year.

People who race in the Pro 1/2/3 races and in the Masters 35+ races, where the speed is often higher than the pro race, recount a battleground environment in which the most aggressive racers throw elbows, dive-bomb turns, brake-check, hip-check, and engage in a whole host of shitty maneuvers that have nothing to do with bike racing and everything to do with risky, violent intimidation. The worst offenders are well known, both the masters and the pros.

However, this isn’t the fault of the racers. They only do what the USAC officials will let them get away with, and one of the state’s top masters racers, recently returned from Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin, was blown away by the chief official there, Brett Griggs, who also happens to be the 2013 USAC Official of the Year.

Unlike SoCal, where officials don’t know anything about racing and don’t care what’s going on in the peloton, Griggs (an ex pro) and his team are watching the corners and after each race are proactively quizzing the riders. “Anyone dive-bombing? Chopping?” Riders who get reported or who are seen riding unsafely get a stern talking to, or they get pulled. Unsafe behavior isn’t tolerated. Crashes happen, but not due to repeat offender-type offenses because repeat offenders are disciplined and yanked.

Compare this with SoCal, where at one very publicized race this year a masters racer chopped and brake-checked another rider in a fast turn, almost causing a horrific crash. When the two riders took their complaint to the chief official, he stood there like a tree stump while the riders shouted at each other for half an hour. The official never said a single word. The riders walked away in disgust and the races went on, even though there were numerous eyewitnesses to the egregious and dangerous chop.

USAC officials in SoCal are famous for having no racing experience and for their random, clueless officiating, and it shows with regard to their approach to safety, or lack thereof.

I’ve never had a race official in SoCal or heard of one enforcing safe behavior in a crit or quizzing riders after a race. That’s because they are on site to collect their extortion from the promoter and they don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to the riders. The promoters can’t run races and monitor racer behavior, nor should they. That’s why they pay precious entry fee money to USAC officials, who rarely do anything beyond blowing the whistle.

Ronnie Toth’s terrible accident proves it. Many riders who are incredibly gifted and who jet up through the ranks in a compressed period of time do not always have the bike handling skills to match their physical prowess. This is such a well known aspect of cycling that categories exist to separate those with skills (supposedly) from those who don’t. Although I have never raced with him, one racer in the MBGP race on Sunday reported that Ronnie was “all over the place” and discussed it with other riders after the accident.

Moreover, the nature of his crash — a single rider sprinting, perhaps with his head down, in a straight line, into side barriers, with no other riders hitting him seems to indicate that his bike handling skills were not on a par with his Cat 1 license. There was a similar into-the-barriers crash by a relatively new Cat 1 or Cat 2 rider at the first race in the 805 crit series this year as well, and it too resulted in serious injuries.

Whether an aggressive and safety-oriented official would have been aware of this during the race or at other races and would have been able to proactively deal with the problem by pulling Ronnie is open to question, but judging from the way officials like Griggs in Wisconsin monitor safety, it certainly seems like they could have. At the very least, an aggressive policy of policing the peloton during and after races would decrease the mayhem that seems to characterize racing here which, thanks very much, is already dangerous enough.

Of course, that would require officials to do more than graze through the donut boxes.

With fatalities, lots of bad crashes, and officials who stand around with their thumbs up their asses, USAC in SoCal has the burden to start taking their job seriously. Our lives (News flash!!) depend on it.

———-

7/10/2014 Update

I received an email from a person involved with the San Diego Velodrome and the aftermath of the death of rider Jackie Dunn. He criticized my article in detail. I asked him to post it as a comment, or to allow me to reproduce it anonymously, but never heard back. Since some of his criticism is valid I will summarize an edited version below. More importantly, he referred to a number of changes that have occurred since Jackie’s death which clearly show that better officiating and changing the culture at USAC can have important ramifications for riders.

1. At the time Jackie died, there was no USAC official because it was not a USAC race, therefore my attempt to link her death to bad USAC officiating was inaccurate, and it wrongly directed Internet outrage to USAC.

My response: I’ve deleted this inaccurate reference from the article.

2. The velodrome responded to Jackie’s death by:

– Harder promotions through the A/B/C/D series [not sure what this means, perhaps making it harder to move up through the categories, which is great]
–Embedded, vocal “mentor” riders in C/D [categories]
–Much more liberal use of official warnings, disqualifications in A/B [categories]
–Much more liberal use of unofficial “talks” to certain riders
–Updated emergency plan, with assigned roles
–A new role, which is in the event of any crash, no matter how insignificant, there’s a person who goes around and interviews any rider who saw the crash, and asks them what happened, and writes down the answers. This is used by the non-USAC officials to decide how to handle it, and to develop a record if there are patterns involving certain people.

My response: This shows two things. First, that whatever officiating was taking place at the velodrome when Jackie died, even though it was non-USAC, it was deemed insufficient and drastic steps were taken to improve it. That’s great and is a model for what USAC officials should be doing at SoCal crits and road races. Although my criticisms were directed at USAC, the above shows that officiating in non-USAC races as well can benefit from the kind of changes that SD Velodrome has implemented. It was my fault for calling Jackie Dunn’s race a USAC race, but the relationship between bad officiating and bad accidents still stands, no matter who’s at the switch. I wish the USAC officials would do, in the aftermath of the deaths of Chris Cono (2013) and Suzanne Rivera (2012), what SD Veldrome has done. But they haven’t.

3. There’s one official at the SD Velodrome behind a lot of the changes. She has made safety her mission. She helped implement the above changes, and joined the USAC officiating program with the mind of bringing some change to USAC. She’s now qualified to be a head USAC official, and has been head official of some of the Saturday Night races at the velodrome. She’s working to change the culture of USAC, too. She’s young, and a former racer who’s crashed bad. She’s “gets it.”

My response: This is great, and an example of how one person can make a difference. But the culture hasn’t changed yet in SoCal crits and road races, and officiating is still pretty much “anything goes,” with no follow-up on crashes, investigating why/how they happened, how they can be prevented, and identifying riders who need more hands-on help. In sum, I apologize for linking Jackie’s death to USAC, but it sounds like my premise was spot-on: Officials can make a difference, and they have an obligation to do the hard work of policing the peloton. That’s what they get paid to do.

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