Froome admits to “volcano doping,” WADA launches investigation

July 17, 2013 § 24 Comments

Lost in the press reports of rest day haircuts and predictions for the remaining stages, it took almost twenty-four hours in the news cycle for the World Anti Doping Agency to act on Tour de France leader Chris Froome’s shocking admission during a media interview.

When asked about the credibility of his ride up Mt. Ventoux, Froome said “My team-mates and I, we’ve slept on volcanoes to get ready for this.”

WADA officers immediately charged Froome with a “non-analytical” positive, a scenario in which a rider can be accused of doping based on circumstantial evidence, written or spoken admissions, or convincing evidence other than standard urine or blood analyses.

Jean-Paul Smails, Chief Inquistor for WADA, laid out the charges. “He’s admitted to volcano doping, which is a violation of Rule 2.281(a), Subsection 12, which states that ‘No athlete may sleep on or otherwise utilize volcanoes to enhance performance.’”

Team Sky boss David Brailsford reacted angrily. “You’re kidding me, right? There’s no way he volcano doped. He misspoke. They slept on a mountain, perhaps, but no one knew it was a volcano. We thought it was a large mountain. We checked it out with the Mallorcan authorities and they assured us it was a mountain, not a volcano.”

Froome also rejected the charge. “I’ll wait for the B sample to come back. There’s no way that was a real volcano, and if it was, it’s because someone slipped it into my meat. It was tainted Mallorcan meat.”

When pressed as to why he’d referred to it as a volcano if it really wasn’t one, Froome shot back. “‘Volcano’ is slang for ‘boner’ in the UK, maybe you Yanks don’t know that, eh? I was sleeping on my mate’s boner, which is like a mini-volcano, get it? Stupid Yank reporters, go learn y’self some English.”

The Mallorcan Meat Cooperative, a national meat marketing collective, angrily rejected Froome’s claims that its meat was tainted. “We handle our meat carefully, regularly, religiously almost. When our meat leaves our hands it’s guaranteed to be fresh, firm, and free from additives such as clenbuterol or volcano. Our legal counsel is looking into filing defamation charges against Mr. Froome for claiming that we mishandle our meat.”

WADA investigation gathers steam

Officials for the French AFLD and WADA insisted that they would pursue the investigation, but the UCI remained skeptical. “We don’t believe he volcano doped,” said UCI chief Paddy McQuaid. “Although his team did buy us a new volcano testing machine to catch other lava cheats, that has had no influence on our posture in the matter. We don’t treat the stars any differently from the routiniers.”

Francois Vichy de Foiegras of the AFLD disagreed. “Ee eez vocano doping, n’cest pas? Why else he sleeping on ze volcano? Le Mt. Venoux est un volcano aussi, et we believe zat he gets un avantage avec zees volcano doping.” Later that evening the Team Sky bus was searched by the forensic unit of the French National Anti Doping SWAT Team, but no magma was found, although investigators were seen carrying large plastic bags of rocks off the “Froome Wagon” along with what appeared to be most of the team’s Hello Kitty collection.

Links to Italy?

Froome has worked with notorious volcano doping physician Michele Ferrari, although both deny that the connection involves volcanoes. “I use him for his training plans,” said Froome. “He is a good man. He’s taught me so much about how not to blow, but nothing that involved a volcano, I can assure you.”

Ferrari also denied helping athletes such as Froome volcano dope. “I don’t do such a thing, but if I did, so what? A bit of volcano is no more dangerous than a liter of orange juice. Except for when Pompeii was obliterated by Vesuvius or Krakatoa. But that is completely different.”

At press time, Froome’s team physician, Bugsy Malone, provided Tour de France officials with a prescription for volcano enemas, although it had apparently been backdated to precede Froome’s mountaintop trip to Mallorca. “Chris had terrible saddle sores and a bloody anus. I prescribed the volcano cleanse for him in order to stop the drip and reduce the swelling.”

Team Sky has scheduled a press conference for 6:00 AM tomorrow to explain its official position regarding these allegations.

Masters racers of the world, unite!

July 16, 2013 § 19 Comments

After a recent 60+ CBR crit the winning racer got on FB and voiced his contempt for the “cheap SOBs” who organized the race because in his race for fellows aged sixty years and over there were no cash prizes for the giants of the road in excess of age sixty who had vanquished their foes in the forty minute bicycle race around an industrial park even though they were still racing their bicycles past the age of sixty and being, as they were, 60+.

This points out a disturbing trend in local bicycle racing, and I’m sick of it. Here we have people in their sixties, more than sixty years old, dedicating their entire lives to these races. While other people in their sixties, and even some in their seventies (I’m told a handful in their eighties as well) waste their time doing volunteer work, organizing park/beach cleanups, and participating in their church or social group to improve the community, these heroes are selflessly dedicating their every spare moment to themselves as they get fitter, faster, better, and older on their bicycles.

How dare the cheap SOB’s — that’s YOU, Chris Lotts — not reward these philanthropists with the big cash payouts they deserve? This ageism is a slap in the face of these men who comprise The Almost Good Generation, people who helped bring our great nation to the amazing state it is currently in and who are willing to keep sacrificing by racing their bicycles on the weekend for money. Think about it. Without hefty bicycle race paydays, how will these folks pay the taxes on their third home? Yeah.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I’m organizing all masters racers who are fed up with this bullshit system in order to develop a new race league for 60+ masters racers only. It will be the envy of the world. Here’s how we’re gonna do it!

  1. Exciting venues. We’re going to stage our races in the heart of America’s greatest cities. Every week we’ll have an LA Crit, an NYC Crit, a Chicago Crit, a San Francisco Crit, and crits for all of our regional capitals. The courses will be technical, exciting, and crowd pleasing. Each event will have a minimum of 100,000 spectators, food and beer booths, and major rock bands will perform before and after each race.
  2. Massive payouts. Gone are the days of “points” and “coffee/wine/pistachio primes.” Each race will guarantee $75,000 in cash, paying 40 deep. Primes will be a minimum of $5,000.
  3. Stacked fields. Each field will have a minimum of one hundred racers.
  4. A full day’s worth of categories. Each event will have a 60+, 65+, 70+, 75+, 80+, 85+, 90+, 95+, 100+, and 105+ field. We will bring the cream of America’s athletic crop to the doorstep of our biggest cities so that people can see the beauty, strength, and power of human athleticism at its pinnacle.
  5. Blowout podium celebrations. After each race the heroic athletes who are vigorous enough to climb atop the podium will be feted, cheered, and will receive blowjobs by the podium women or podium men of their choice. Pre-podium Viagra will be on the house for those who need a little lift in the shorts.
  6. Traveling cup. Each mighty 60+ hero who wins one of these legendary races will have his name engraved on a traveling “Geritol Cup” made of brass and gold, encrusted with diamonds and custom designed by Tiffany.
  7. First-class airfare for leaders in the Geritol Cup. The top twenty leaders in the points placing will receive round trip, first class airfare to all race destinations with guaranteed, pre-paid reservations at a Four Seasons-grade hotel.
  8. Life-size portraits. Every participant will receive a coupon for an 85-hour sitting with renowned portraitist John Howard Sanden, who will memorialize each racer’s radiant visage and powerful physique in a full-size oil painting in the heroic style found in the main gallery of the Louvre. A modern 500,000 square-foot Racing Museum will be designed by John Geary and built (venue TBD) to house these monumental works and to enshrine forever the exploits of these great men.
  9. Vetting of all race promoters. All race promoters for league events will be required to make a security deposit in the amount of $1.5 million (nonrefundable in the event of bad jokes at the starting line like “I’m starting a new group called Christian Tingles,” etc.).
  10. TV coverage. Each race will be covered by three major national and international networks, and then packaged in a year-end 25-DVD set, with royalties paid to each racer. Exciting video game with royalties to be developed by Sony, also with royalties.

So are you with me? No more of this exploitation! We have nothing to lose but our (bicycle) chains!

Samson & Delilah

July 10, 2013 § 2 Comments

Aaron “Hair” Wimberley reached down into his shorts and pulled out a big, honking win in the Cat 2 race at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. Not bad for a guy who, a couple of years ago, told me that he was “a Cat 3-level rider in terms of threshold power.”

Whatever.

Aaron’s now been booted upstairs to Cat 1, and he won this race with style, speed, caginess, courage, and flat out skills. It’s terrible talking to Aaron after a race (or before one, for that matter) because it’s like listening to a physics professor describe why a ball drops when you let go.

“Great race, Aaron!” I innocently said.

“Thanks!”

“The other guys in the race were singing your praises.”

“Well, on the last corner you had to know the line and understand that the barriers were going to be on the lateral twice-removed plane of motion that would give you the acceleration at about ninety degrees, and given my weight and the wheels I was running and the rotation of the Earth plus those farts that the Surf City dude was blowing, you could figure that acceleration times mass plus the torque on the lateral angle of spin would put me about eighteen degrees under the first guy’s wheel, and … “

I dozed off, and woke up just at the point where he was explaining how the moon’s tidal pull had moved enough of his voluminous, luxurious hair to the inside of the curve and given him enough kick for the win.

“Wow,” I said, wondering when I could ask for five bucks to buy a beer.

There’s not a lot you need to say when someone pulls out a signature win at one of the biggest races in America, but there’s a shit-ton you need to say when they pull out (another) win at the least-known race in SoCal, the TELO training crit.

Aaron wins this thing almost every week, and he wins it after attacking into the wind, dropping the field, riding breakaways for the entire race and beating his breakaway companions or, if caught, winning the field sprint. He’s amazing.

On Saturdays, the chubby dude who used to come unhitched at Trump is not twenty pounds lighter and wins the Switchbacks, out-climbs the climbers, and pokes a stick in your eye when you’re on the rivet by saying, “Why so serious, Wanker?” On the NPR he smokes the sprint, rolls with breaks, and hits the front at speeds designed to crack your spirit, which it does.

Unlike other SoCal fastmen, Aaron doesn’t have a huge team to help him. His supporting cast usually includes one or two guys, which sounds kind of thin until you learn that his wingman is usually Derek Brauch, a canny, lethal weapon who usually makes the split or who can be counted on to excel in road races and hard, challenging crits.

I’d congratulate the bastard in person, but since he’s already pretty sure he’s awesome, why bother? Saying it here on the Interwebs is enough. You rock, wankstar.

How to do a bike race

July 9, 2013 § 20 Comments

I went to the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix yesterday to do a bike race. It’s the first time in ages that I’ve gone to a bike race to spectate, and I was shocked to see how many people had no fucking idea whatsoever about how to do a bike race. As a public service, here’s Wankmeister’s Ten or Eleven or Thereabouts Commandments on How to Do a Bike Race.

1. Thou shalt not fucking scurry around. I was amazed to see how many people, especially racers, went to the bike race just to race their bike. That’s crazypants stuff, like going to a rock concert just to listen to music. Yo, wankers! A bike race is a place to go spend the entire day, not get there ten minutes early, race around in circles, then rush back home to mow thy lawn or beat off on thy couch. The race itself, if thou art a racer, is a brief chance to punish thyself for a fee. The rest of the time thou art supposed to chill, mix, rub shoulders with the little people, and drink beer. Wives/husbands/significant others who don’t race: This is thy opportunity to find out who’s fucking thy wife/husband/significant other on the side.

2. Thou shalt fucking bring a tent. Bike races without tents are like sex without condoms. They are risky, messy, and leave thee all red and blistered. The tent protects thee from the hot sun. It also provides the little space under which thou canst sit on the grass and chat, for hours, over beer and bread. A long time ago, before iPhones, people sat around all day and chatted. That’s how they became friends, or at least learned the details about who wast fucking thy husband on the side.

3. Thou shalt not fold up thy tent after thy fucking race. Some people who think they are pro have these elaborate tent get-ups with rollers, trainers, massage tables, and other shit to help them prepare for the race. That’s fine. But after thy race, clear all thy shit out, break out thy lawn chairs, crack open thy cooler, and relax. We only got to see thy sorry ass go by ten times, and each time thou wert a tiny speck in a mob of a hundred other idiots. Now’s the time thou canst regale us with how hard it was, how much bumping there was in the turns, how thou wert fifth wheel going into the last turn except for that dude who drove thee wide and thou hadst to decide to go down or slow down and thou art too old to die for 3rd place in some master’s crit, etc.

4. Thou shalt scream like thy balls wast in a vice. Get thy sorry fucking ass up to the barriers and scream, for dog’s sake. Charon’s pretending he don’t hear thee, but he does. They all do. Scream so fucking hard thy throat starts to bleed. Why? Because the only proven way to stop a throat hemorrhage is with beer.

5. Thou shalt not bring shitty beer unless it’s for thy own cheap ass. The bike race is the perfect place to make friends, except that bike racers are a fucked up, socially awkward bunch of dorks who can’t get through a conversation without saying “carbone” or “power meter” or “Lance.” In order to obtain semi-normal convrsation, thou must have beer, and a lot of it, and it better not be cheap shit because no one ever made friends with cheap beer unless they were from Texas. (I’m from Texas, so I will drink all of thy cheap beer, and appreciatively.) Also, don’t give me that “I’m counting my calories” bullshit. Thy fucking diet sucks, so double down on the Double IPA. It will cost thee a few extra bucks at the checkout stand but thou shalt get drunk twice as quick and people will love thy tent twice as much while they make plans to get into thy boyfriend’s trousers while thou art getting sloppy drunk, after which someone will get into thine.

6. Thou shalt not get pissy when people rub up against thy bitch. Thy old lady is smokin’ hot, we can see that, and it’s not our fault thou hast brought her to the race in hotpants and no bra. So we’re going to want to sit next to her and tell funny stories and hug on her ass when she gets up, sits down, says hello, says goodbye, etc. And thou need not be such a jealous paranoid prick. We’re not fucking her. Yet.

7. Thou shalt tell every wanker they raced great. I don’t give a shit if they wound up with their ass smeared across ten feet of asphalt and their bike is a smoking piece of melted plastic. They got their ass out there, paid their fee, pinned on a fucking number, and raced. If they got hurt, or barely managed to finish, or got kicked out the back, tell ‘em they looked good and give ‘em an extra cold one.

8. Thou shalt watch the finish. Does this need explanation? Watch the fucking finish, for dog’s sake. It’s fifteen feet away and means thou hast to stand in the heat for, like, twelve seconds. Thou canst do this.

9. Thou shalt visit every fucking booth. That sadsack dude with the new invention that’s gonna revolutionize the whole bicycling industry if he can only sell ten million of them at this bike race paid money to be here. Even if he didn’t, he took the time to drive, set up his booth, and liven the place up. What, art thou so fucking busy thou hath not the time to stop by and say hello and learn about what he’s doing? Thou mightest even find something thou must needs buy, and next thing thou knowest, the vendors may increase and pretty soon thou willst be able to buy all thy PED’s at the race itself without having to import from some shady lab in China.

10. Thou shalt cheer like a crazypants equally for everyone. That fat-ass Cat 5 dude dangling off the back? Cheer thy guts out! That spindly chick who’s going through turns with both brakes locked up? Cheer thy guts out! That mid-pack hacker who’s making his one and only appearance on the front? Cheer thy guts out! The race goes to the swiftest, but the memories go to everybody, so help make the memories great.

11. Thou shalt help the broken. When some schmo chews up a yard of pavement, he’s gonna need help. Drag his bike off the course for him; if he gets taken off in the meatwagon make sure someone is with him. Some poor flailers go to these races alone and have no one to look after them if they get hurt. Be the Good Samaritan.

12. Thou shalt cross-pollinate. Just because thou art too drunk to walk straight doesn’t mean thou must needs stay under thy tent the whole fucking day. Go stagger over and collapse under someone else’s tent, and talk to some of the other teams, if for no other reason than to check out their girlfriends/wives/eligible daughters. I was amazed at how people just hung out on their own turf, as if the other teams had cooties or something. Which they probably did.

13. Thou shalt be nice to lonely people. Every race has a few people who are there because they have nothing else to do. Canst thou imagine a life so boring and lonely that the only alternative to staying inside and watching porn is to go watch a bike race? I can’t. Anyway, when thou seest someone aimlessly wandering around or leaning by himself against the fence, call him over to thy tent, offer him a beer, and give him a reason to think that bike races are worth going to. Thou couldst be the person who encourages him to bring his whole crazypants clan with their loaded gun collection to the next race.

14. Thou shalt thank the promoter. Even if it’s Crazypants Lotts, these people deserve a “thank you.” They may also deserve a swift kick in the ass, but thou canst do that later. At the race, take a second to thank them for the thankless job of getting up at 3:00 AM, setting up the race course, and generally providing a place where thou canst go spend an afternoon with thy worthless friends. Same for the officials, even the ones who make up rules as they go along, and the announcers, no matter how clueless they are about the race.

15. Thou shalt bring thy kids. Kids know how to have fun, even if thou dost not. Learn from them.

16. Thou shalt offer tired racers a beer. And asketh them about their race. And pretendeth to be interested when they explain the complexities and difficulties and crucial differences between 16th and 17th in the Cat 4 race.

17. Thou shalt hang out with thy teammates. After thy fucking race is done, and especially if thou livest in Manhattan Beach or nearby the racecourse, thou shalt fucking hang out with thy buddies who drove up from San Diego or down from Santa Barbara or even farther away, like Burbank. At a minimum, thou shalt drop off several cases of good beer and some hearty bread.

18.  Thou shalt be really fucking nice to old people.

Got it? Okay.

END.

The amazing race (805 Criterium Weekend, Part 1)

July 2, 2013 § 4 Comments

With only a handful of minutes to recap this fantastic weekend, I’m going to be succinct because there’s so much to say.

– Thanks to Mike Hecker for putting together an event that will surely grow to be the best bike racing in Southern California.

– Thanks to the City of Buellton. You have a lovely town, friendly people, and an egg-frying dry heat that will separate the wheat from the chaff in one or two laps.

– Thanks to the City of Lompoc. You too have a lovely town, friendly people, and a challenging course that is hard and safe and windy enough to blow a fleet of tall ships all the way to Japan.

– Thanks to Gordie and to Steve Hegg. You guys are a ton of fun and great announcers.

– Thanks to the Firestone Walker Brewery. You make great beer, and the beer garden added a wonderful relaxing touch that just drew people in. The location in the heart of each crit course made it spectacular.

– “Tough guy” / “Tough gal” bike racers who missed this event: You’re not that tough. This was real bike racing on brutally hard but short courses that included wind, heat, slight elevation, and something more complex than four turns around a square. The crowds were enthusiastic, the prize money amazing, the ambiance of the host towns fun beyond belief…this is what bike racing is supposed to be. Show up next year and show us what you’ve got.

– Thanks again to Mike Hecker for putting together two fast, hard, safe courses. There wasn’t a single crash in two full days of racing.

– Thanks to the myriad sponsors who kicked in cash and prizes. Legit prize list for the pros on Saturday? $7,500. Compare that to the nickels and warm spit you’ll win in Ontario’s pro race.

–Props to Alan Flores, my SPY-Giant-RIDE teammate who dismantled the field in the 45+ Old Dudes’ Race. Props to John Hatchitt for playing henchman, and to teammates Taylor Fenstermacher, Andy Schmidt, Bill Lupo, and Jimbo for coming out and busting things up.

–Hats off to Thurlow Rogers and Mark Noble, two hellacious bike racers who proved their mettle over two hard days of racing.

–Kudos to Phil Tinstman and Chris Walker who busted loose on Lap 2 of the 35+ and held it for 70 minutes. Only 20 riders finished their race, so viciously hard was the course and the competition.

–Hats off to Rudy Napolitano, general buttwhomper, winner of the 35+ race on Sunday and 3rd Place finisher on Saturday after attacking 10,000 times and generally shredding the field.

–Props to Surf City Cyclery racer John Slover who made the split and the podium on Saturday, and rode two great races on Sunday as well. Props also to Charon Smith, the man who’s not afraid to go out and compete even when the cards are stacked against him. I wish every bike racer had that guy’s guts, kindness, and good grace. He’s as honorable and friendly in defeat as he is in victory.

–Ben Jacques-Mayne thrashed the field on Saturday and won the pro race on Sunday by lapping the field. Amazing rides by Mr. Forbes from Arizona, Brandon Gritters, and a host of other pros.

–Super performance in the 35+ by Derek Brauch, the dude who does a little bit of everything. He rode off with the split and stayed with the leaders until the very end, when a devastating Rudy Napolitano Tailwind Acceleration peeled the skin off of his face and relegated him to a still-impressive 6th Place.

–Knife fight in the mud between Aaron Wimberley and Mike Easter for ascendancy in the SoCal Cup. Aaron had difficulties reading his gas gauge on the way up Saturday and ran out of fuel, thereby missing the Saturday 35+ race and ceding points to his rival. However, on Sunday he dogged Easter’s every move and wrapped it up with a slim one-point lead. Don’t think Easter is going to let it go as easily as all that…

– Big win on Sunday in the 45+ race by big German Armin Rahm. Armin got away with the elite break that included Thurlow, Brett Clare, Slover, Steve Gregarios, and another rider or two, then smoked the breakaway in the sprint.

– John Abate won the “mismatched kit and bike award,” riding now for SPY-Giant-RIDE but still pedaling the green Masi of his former team. The color clash must have added fuel to the pistons, because he finished the 35+ race on Sunday with an awesome 4th Place. He bridged the gap from hell, leaping out of the charging field to finally hook up with the loaded break that included Rudy et al.

– Chris DeMarchi showed his impeccable form and strength on Saturday and Sunday, finishing solo between the break and the field on Saturday, and riding herd on the pack as he blocked for his teammates in the break on Sunday.

– Suze Sonye…wow! Third in the pro race on Saturday, top step on Sunday. If she’s not the best racer to come out of SoCal, who is?

– Michelle Ignash scored third for Helen’s on Saturday in the women’s 3-4 and won the same event on Sunday.

– The list goes on and on of all the racers who rode hard and did well, and by failing to list them all here I’m sure I’ll offend those who performed valiant deeds of glory only to go ignored or unnoticed in this blog which, on a good day, may have as many as three readers.

– Hats off as well to the flailers and wankers who got shelled, quit, gave up, collapsed from heat stroke, or bailed out early so they could swap the pain for the good, cold beer.

Hope you’ll put this race series on your calendar next year. It’s a winner.

Our hour

June 27, 2013 § 24 Comments

I rolled into the velodrome on a flat rear tire, an empty stomach, and the beer needle buried on “Empty.” The first person I saw was Plotkin.

“Hey, Plotz, you drink beer?”

“‘Course.”

“Take me down to the supermarket so I can get a sixpack.”

“Nah. I want to stay and watch the races.”

“You’re kidding, right? The 55+ 2k ITT? Hockeystick’s the only entry anyway. Even with that ol’ beer belly, he still has to win.”

“Nah.”

“Come on, Plotz.”

Plotz is a (beer loving) devoted Christian. “I’ll do it if you say ‘I believe in God.’” He gave an impish smile, settled back in his chair, and got ready to reconcentrate on Hockeystick.

“I believe in God. There. Let’s go.”

Plotkin jumped up. “You do not!”

“Do not what?”

“Believe in God! You’re an atheist!”

“Yeah. So? Let’s go get some beer. I upheld my end of the bargain. I’ll buy the beer anyway.”

He was really upset. “You were just saying it! You don’t really believe it!”

“Hold on, pal. You didn’t say I had to believe anything. You just said I had to say it.”

“It was implied!”

“What was?”

“That you had to actually believe in God, too!”

“Well, that’s mighty Christian of you. Promise to do something in exchange for something, then crawfish on me when I uphold my end of the bargain.”

“You’re a liar!”

“So? Was it also implied I can’t be a liar?”

“I only meant I’d do it if you really believed it.”

“Okay, you win.”

Plotkin settled back, still flustered.

“Hey, Plotz.”

“Yeah?”

“I believe in God. With all my heart. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and I believe the Bible is the literal truth, even Leviticus 19:7.”

“Leviticus 19:7?”

“Yeah, the law against cutting your hair or shaving. You’re going to hell, by the way, for that Gillette look you’re sporting.”

“You do not believe any of that.”

“I don’t now, but I did a few seconds ago. C’mon, let’s go get some beer and argue about whether or not we’re going to have stone Fukdude to death during his hour record attempt for violating Leviticus 19:19.”

“Which one is that?”

“The law against wearing clothes of more than one fabric.”

Plotkin waved me off like a pesky gnat and went back to the race.

Tiptoeing on needles

I had arrived two and a half hours before Fukdude was going to try and break the U.S. national one-hour speed record for left-handed myopics with astigmatisms in the right eye under 6’3″ but taller than 5’11 1/2″ PBF-insufficient men aged 40-45 Category. As Fukdude had said earlier, “It’s a small pool but everyone in it is  fukkin insane, dude.”

Before long Fukdude himself showed up. I was incredibly respectful of the awesome pressure I knew he must feel, and stayed away at first, not wanting to unbalance his finely tuned mental condition, which was almost at fever pitch. After all, he’d invited the press, rented out the entire velodrome, paid for three USA Cycling officials, paid for the college educations of the children of his coach, his dietician, his chain-lube dude in Colorado, and the entire stateside staff of Fast Forward Wheels, USA. Plus, he’d invited his friends and family, including the Bonganator and Fireman, both of whom were guaranteed to show up with a pony keg apiece jammed down the leg of their jeans.

However, just to make the pressure absolutely unendurable, he’d also invited Greg St. Cinema and Smokin’ Hot CU Tomorrow, he a pro Hollywood cameraman and art photographer, and she a smokin’ hot babe in tight jeans with unreal skills as a sports photographer. Any possible flail on Fukdude’s part would result in photographic evidence (half-life of digital images = 3.4 trillion years), and worse, looking bad in front of an entire gallery of bike babes tricked out in tight pants and chesty t-shirts.

The fever pitch

I finally walked over to Fukdude, nervously, hoping not to disturb him. “Hey, man,” I said timidly in an obsequious voice, my eyes averted so as not to rattle him.

“Hey dude!” he said.

I jumped. “Don’t want to bother you, I know you’re getting into the zone, but…”

“What?”

“The zone, I know you’re doing the athlete visualization focus thing and…”

“What the fuk you talking about, dude? Hey, check out my chain. Rad, huh?” I was shaking out of nervousness as Fukdude threw his bike up on the rollers. What if he crashed off the rollers and broke his collarbone?

Fukdude was instantly pounding away. “So hey, dude, hope I don’t fukkin flail. That would be lame, huh?” At that instant his bike wobbled on the rollers and skittered off the edge. He laughed, yanked it back, and kept going. I almost fainted.

“How’re the legs?” I asked.

“Fuk, who knows? Doesn’t matter now, does it?” He grinned and continued his warm up. So much for the finely-tuned, highly strung athlete.

It’s a screamathon

Shortly after 4:00 PM, Fukdude left the starting gate. The velodrome, which is normally not even full for World Cup events featuring the greatest track riders on earth, wasn’t full for this, either, by a long shot. Still, the legion of Fukdude Followers had made the trip and were already pretending to be interested in watching a grown man with the shoulders of a pre-pubescent junior high school girl ride around in circles by himself, drenched in sweat and suffering like a dog for an hour.

Hockeystick was at the mike, and even though Motoman, Bonganator, and Fireman had showed up with liberal quantities of cheap beer, dispensed for free, it promised to be boring beyond belief. Every once in a while Hockeystick would chime in with an anecdote about Oscar Egg’s hour record attempt in ’29 or remind the crowd that Fukdude’s favorite singer was Doris Day, but aside from those fascinating bits of commentary, people were nodding off.

Then Hockeystick’s wife leaned over to him and said, “Tell people to come down to the rail and cheer, for goodness’s sake!”

Whatever Hockeystick thought about the suggestion, he didn’t dare gainsay it, so he began to call folks down to the balustrade. And they came. Within moments the morgue-like atmosphere of people so bored they wanted to kill themselves became a screaming, frothing, wailing, clapping, and sideboard-banging house of mayhem.

At a relentless 19-second-per-lap tempo, we began screaming ourselves hoarse and pounding our palms into swollen lumps of meat every time he came by. With half the crowd on the far side, half on the other, and the other half completely drunk, the place was electric. Down on the track G$ and MM screamed and gesticulated like people having a seizure. Brian G. had handed out several cowbells, and as Fukdude buried himself into his 28 mph+ pace the entire velodrome went from Bleak House to Fire on the Mountain.

The pain in the brain

By the time Fukdude hit the 45-minute mark his face was distorted into the look of someone who’s pulling his own teeth out with a rusty pair of pliers and doesn’t know why, but can’t stop. At one point he lost focus for a split second and shot up to the blue line, then over-corrected and clipped a foam cushion, but with that exception the electronic “beep” of the timer told us that he was right on schedule. That certainty didn’t dim the screaming and yelling one bit.

With a handful of minutes to go, Fukdude sunk an already buried needle as deeply as it could go and from some dark, unhealthy, generally-to-be-avoided place within himself he cranked it up another couple of miles an hour for the remainder of the hour. When the timer marked one hour he sat up to thundering applause, drunken screams, clattering cowbells, and the silent fantasy of Hockeystick at the mike, imagining himself as the next Hour Record Holder By The Dude With The Most Massive Beer Gut Ever.

Davy Dawg peeled Fukdude off his bike, and for an instant that sweat-soaked, frail, girlish, wispish, 145-lb. waif held barely together with a few stringy muscles and even stringier tendons, looked even frailer. We all peered into his eyes, trying to grasp, even for a second, what he’d endured in this event that Eddy Merckx swore had taken years off his career, if not his life.

Dawg thrust the mike up to Fukdude’s quivering lips. “Any words for the crowd, Kev?” he asked.

Brief pause. Long breath. Drizzle of sweat pooling on the floor. “Fuck, dude,” said Fukdude. “That was hard.”

Your house, hour house

June 16, 2013 § 26 Comments

Fukdude woke up one day with a completely crazed obsession, which was completely different from the completely crazed obsession he’d had the previous year, or the year before, or the year before.

“I gotta fukkin do the hour record,” he said to himself.

So he went down to the velodrome, hopped on his bike and did a practice hour record ride. He missed setting a new mark by 300m.

With zero preparation, coming so close to the mark on a test ride would give mere mortals cause for celebration. All it gave Fukdude was a case of raw sack.

“My fukkin left nut was out of position, pushed up against a nest of hairs on the inside of my thigh.” (FD is extremely analytical.) “Those three or four hairs rubbed up against the sack nonstop for one fukkin hour. Like scraping your balls with a wire brush. Fukkin saddle sore on my nut was the size of a small fukkin Frisbee. Couldn’t wear underwear for two weeks and had to soak my balls in an avocado-linseed oil poultice. Shit fukkin hurt.”

Why are bicycle riders insane?

This is what I was asking myself, having swung by FD’s place to pick up a copy of “The Hour” by Michael Hutchinson, an insane British bicycle rider who had misguidedly taken aim at the most holy record in sports, and predictably failed.

“You gotta fukkin read this book if you’re gonna blog about my attempt,” he said. “Then I can tell you about bearing friction and chain drag coefficients and tire thread counts and crr and Cda. Pretty cool shit, actually.”

“It is?” I asked.

“Fuk yeah, dude.” Then FD reached down onto a shelf and pulled out a bag with a chain in it. “Imported from Japan, dude,” he said with pride.

“Like my wife?”

“No, dude, this is special. Bro deal.”

I nodded. “Any other special stuff?”

“Fuk yeah. Check this shit out.” FD reached into another shelf and pulled out a box, in which was a bag, in which was a cloth sack, in which was a plastic covering, in which was a monstrous 55-tooth chainring that looked bigger than the reported Frisbee on his nutsack.

“Wow,” I said.

“Fukkin Japanese dude makes these things. Imported from Japan. Japanese. Fukkin rad shit, huh? $200 bucks, dude.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s some coin.”

“No big deal. We just dial back the hot water, gas, and electricity for six weeks, slash the food budget and drink more water. It’s healthier, actually. Good for your fukkin hour record diet too, dude.”

When the fad is bad

This whole hour record thing got started in SoCal by Keith Ketterer, otherwise known as “KK,” “Superman,” or just plain “Sir.” A quiet, unassuming guy, KK did his preparation and set the hour record in two separate age divisions.

His successful assaults were the picture of suffering, and when he finished his second record ride he was pulled off the bike looking like a corpse that was way past its expiration date. The epic nature of his ride and the unspeakable nature of what he endured lit the fire of emulation under many who saw him.

Fortunately, most of the emulators did a few trial laps at speed around the velodrome and instantly realized the folly of their fantasy, and more importantly, the unspeakable pain of riding so fast even for a lap. So they quit and went back to the events that required something less, like ice hockey, drinking beer, and of course the most popular cycling event, Talking About Cycling And Spending Money On Bike Crap.

Not Fukdude. For him, the pain and the flogging and the obsessive attention to every possible detail made the fire burn brighter. It didn’t hurt that he has long been one of the best amateur bike racers in the state, and owns a pair of national titles on the track.

I found out about it through a Facebook invitation to the event that FD had sent out.

“It’s gonna be fukkin boring beyond belief,” he enthusiastically assured me. “Some dork riding in circles for fifty minutes, dude, people will be looking at each other going ‘This is some boring shit.’”

“Yes,” I tentatively agreed.

“It’s not ’til the last ten minutes if you’re on track that the misery and agony and suffering and flogging and hell sets in. That shit’s fun to watch. Dork goes from ‘I’m kicking ass’ to ‘I’m about to get totally fukkin humiliated in front of my family and friends plus waste all that money on tires and chains and shit from Japan,’ and then he fukkin goes balls out and flogs himself and you can see the fukkin fear of failure scratched all over his face like a bad tattoo. That’s when it’s fun to watch.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I mean, bike racing is a fukkin niche sport no bigger than a termite’s ass. And track racing is a fukkin tiny crevasse in the crack of the termite’s ass, right? And the fukkin hour record is a fissure in the crack of the termite’s ass’s microniche. Like, who fukkin cares?”

“So why are you doing it?”

“I’m obsessed, dude. If I don’t have a fukkin goal I’ll be eating a dozen baked chocolate donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and drinking beer by the keg. Gotta have goals in life, right, dude?”

Preparing for the flogging

If I had done a practice run and only missed the new record by 300m and some raw skin, I would focus my training exclusively on proper nut positioning and maybe do a couple of intervals to sharpen up for the real day of reckoning.

Not FD.

He assembled a team to conquer that last 300 meters that was truly incredible. Roger Young, former Olympian and curmudgeonly genius track coach feared by all, but who is really quite talkative on Thursdays between the hours of 3:00 and 3:15 AM. Philip Goglia and his eating program in Santa Monica, who is The Man for pasty, skinny dudes like FD who want to look even sicklier without losing leg power. Thanks to Phil, FD was able to develop entire new vein displays on his abdomen and thigh.

Roger put together a training plan that included things like eight 10-minute threshold sessions with 3-minute rests between intervals; three 40-minute threshold sessions (done three times a week); two 30-minute climbing intervals on a 9% grade at 350 watts…etc. Experts agree that if simply reading through the workouts doesn’t physically exhaust you or make you sob uncontrollably, you have what it takes to attempt the record.

Phil put together an eating plan that was based on the concept of gaining strength and power while losing weight and eating everything out of a Tupperware box. No more baked choco donuts. No more entire loaves of French bread. No more buckets of ice cream. No more Five Guys. In short, no more fun.

FD, however, was quick to point out that this had nothing to do with fun. “Fukkin starving yourself on lettuce and spending the best part of your adult life on an indoor trainer, dude, that’s fucked up. Which is why we do it. Right?”

“Uh, right,” I agreed, secretly planning to swing by the donut shop on the way home.

“Okay, cool dude. Nice talkin but I have to get back on the fukkin trainer. See you next week?”

“Wouldn’t miss if for the world. Hey, one question — “

“Shoot.”

“What happens if you do the hour record in, say, 59 minutes?”

*NOTE TO READER (singular): FD attempts the hour record in the 40-44 year-old age category at the VeloCenter in Carson, CA, on June 23 at 4:00 PM, immediately after which we will celebrate his NEW hour record with lots of fermented liquid electrolytes, chocolate donuts, more fermented electrolytes and awesome tales of how awesome he is. Which, in fact, he is.

Confessions of a dirty racer

June 14, 2013 § 18 Comments

I’ve been racing dirty.

There. I said it.

The signs have been out there for a while, but I thought people wouldn’t connect the dots, especially since I’ve been such a vocal advocate for clean cycling. But the thing that pushed me to confess, aside from my conscience, was an email from a friend. “It doesn’t add up, dude. Why don’t you come clean?”

The “it” he was referring to was a series of eyebrow-raising results, starting with a CBR crit at the end of last year where I got tenth out of a break that included some pretty phenomenal competition.

Then, this year I finished Boulevard with the group. Typically I get dropped on the first lap. Next was a third place crit finish, 50+ CBR. Icing on the cake was third place last week, where I overplayed my hand by riding in every break and collecting three primes.

Now that I’ve confessed, I’m going to do what others who’ve been caught most often refuse to do: I’m going to explain how an older masters racer goes from racing clean to racing dirty. It’s not a pretty story.

The problem is, of course, rooted in my childhood

When I was a little kid, I hated taking baths. Getting me wet and soaped down was always what my mom called a “production.” After cajoling, threatening, chasing, and finally manhandling me into the tub, a process that took a solid hour and was utterly exhausting to a woman with already frayed nerves, once I was in, I was equally hard to get out.

My brother and I would have water wars, spill most of the tub water out onto the mildewy tile, and leave the large white porcelain claw-footed bath with a thick black grease ring that took a can of Ajax and a bad case of elbow tendinitis to remove. If she could get me bathed twice a month it was a good month. In the summertime the success rate was even lower.

Why was I such a filthy, dirty little kid? Because I was from Texas, because we didn’t have a TV, because I was always outside, because I was always barefoot, and because of Fletcher.

When there’s a funny smell…blame it on the dog

Fletcher was our mixed German Shepherd – Airedale – Snipsnsnails mutt who rescued us when we went to the La Marque ASPCA to get adopted by a pet. Fletcher grew up into a rather large mammal, and like every dog in Texas from his generation, that meant he had an even larger contingent of fleas.

Dogs, yes, used to have fleas. There were no magical flea collars, or special flea-icide that you rubbed into their coat, and there sure as hell weren’t any mobile on-demand mutt washers painted pink with cute names like “Poochy Pedicures” or “Scrub-a-Dub Doggie.”

In those days, the only way to kill the fleas was with a garden hose and a box of flea powder made by DuPont or Dow, a chemical so strong it would make your fingers rot off, or dissolve the enamel on your teeth when you added it to the bathub gin, but that never, ever, ever killed one single solitary flea.

Instead, the lethal flea powder made the fleas stronger, bigger, jumpier, and supercharged their flea libidos such that after the flea bath Fletcher would, within days, have twice as many as he did before the rubdown. Since Fletcher slept in my bed and on the couch, and since I laid and played with him on the floor, and in the grass, and in the mud, I, too, was covered in fleas.

Many was the lazy summer afternoon when my brother and I would sit on the white couch and catch fleas, expertly laying them on their side, up against the hard edge of our fingernails as we popped them in half for having the audacity to bite us. In sum, Fletcher was a filthy, dirty dog, and not just because of fleas.

He was also especially nasty because he was constantly licking his balls. Nowadays the first matter of business when you get a dog is to whack off his gonads, but not in 1968. Dogs in those days had balls, and big dogs had big ones. Dogs grew to maturity with their nuts intact. Fletcher’s balls were big and purple and of all his body parts, they were the one that never got bitten by a flea. He licked and slurped and kept those things scrupulously clean, and woe betide the flea who tried to suck the blood out of either of those big doggie nuts. Whatever else you could have said about Fletcher, you couldn’t question his priorities.

Of course, in addition to constantly licking his balls, Fletcher would often lick us boys as well, on the hands if we were eating something, on the face if he saw a bit of peanut butter that hadn’t made it down the gullet, or on the legs if he just needed some salt. So I grew up, I suppose, in addition to having fleas, with a protective layer of dirty dog slime that covered me from head to toe.

As a side note, and in confirmation of what recent studies suggest, suffice it to say that I never got sick.

When the boy becomes a man

I cruised through elementary school a dirty and greasy little urchin and never thought much about it. Then, in seventh grade, we were sitting in the cafeteria at Jane Long Junior High, and the guys started talking. It was 1978, and boys had long hair.

First was Danny Martin, who had long, black, shimmering, beautiful hair. “When do you shower?” he asked Steve Wilson, who had long, shiny bronze hair.

“Before school, for sure.”

“Me, too,” said Danny.

Bill White, who had long, silky, blonde hair, piped up. “I shower at night, too. But I only shampoo in the morning.”

Everybody looked at me, including Glynis Wilson, the lovely girl with the gorgeous long hair. I stammered. “Uh, only in the, uh, morning,” I said.

A fiery curtain of red started at my neck and enveloped my entire head as I realized I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d bathed. In my entire life I’d never showered. That was for girls. Then I looked at Glynis and a light went on. Maybe girls weren’t so bad…

If I could have covered my head in a bag the rest of the day, I would have. I rushed home and ran to the bathroom. There, staring out at me from the mirror was an oily face topped with a rat’s nest of long, thick, matted, greasy hair. I jumped into the shower. I washed my hair. And I never intentionally missed a morning shower for the next thirty-six years.

Racing clean

When I started racing my bicycle in 1984, I raced clean, and I believe that most of the peloton did, too. There was always the dirty racer here and there, but for most of us there were too many compelling practical reasons to stay clean.

First and foremost were the shorts. Word was that if you wore the same shorts for even two days running, you’d end up with butt boils and ass chancres and festering saddle sores the size of a fried egg. That scared us. So we washed ourselves, and we washed our shorts.

Second of all was the stink thing. We were young men, and we smelled rather badly rather quickly. Unlike the halcyon years of little boydom, when I could go unbathed for weeks and never smell much worse than a mild case of mildew, all that changed with puberty.

Any mom who’s opened the closed door of a teenage son’s room knows this smell. It’s the dank, rank, febrile, fertile smell of boymones, those chemicals that lace everything they touch with the strong smell of reproduction. Stick a young man on a bike, make him pedal around in the hot Texas sun for a few hours, and you’ll wind up with a case of the Serious Stanks, the noxious B.O. that screams “I’m in France!” or “Next we invade Rome!”

Yeah. That smell.

So between the stink and the sores, it just didn’t make sense to race dirty. And I didn’t. For over thirty years I rode clean.

When the levee breaks

I have to admit, though, that it was frustrating, especially as I got older, slower, weaker, and more stupid. People who had once begged for mercy on my mighty wheel now came around me barely cracking a sweat. Was I that slow? Had my decline in my 40′s been that rapid? Was that massive sucking sound at the end of every chain gang me?

I tried everything. Diets. Power meters. I once spoke with a coach. I even talked to a guy who knew someone who had been properly fitted on a bike. I traded in my steel for carbon. Wool for lycra. I buried myself in the physics and metrics of performance, with the singular goal of cycling success. But the only compromise I refused to make was riding dirty. I’d win clean or I’d not win at all.

But then I’d look around and see some dude who wasn’t nearly as experienced, who didn’t train nearly as hard, and he’d spank me without even trying. I knew those guys were dirty, and I finally decided, if just to prove it to myself, that if I were as dirty as they, then I could win, too.

The long descent into corruption

The first thing I learned about racing dirty is that you don’t get fried egg-sized saddle sores. That’s just a fairy tale they use to scare away the goody two-shoes and keep them from going to the dark side. I found that you could wear the same pair of shorts three, four, five times (six if you were Brad House), with no ill effects.

Riding dirty wasn’t so bad, and the money you saved on laundry could go straight to gas money and entry fees. That’s how the system works. Sad, but true.

The other big fear riders have about riding dirty is that they’ll smell bad. This is true for the young dudes, but old fellows lose that stink of youth starting about age 40, and by 45 the testosterone odor has been completely replaced by Ben Gay. You can sweat for days on end and go to bed with a salt crust encasing your entire skin and it will only barely out-duel the smell of those joint creams and diaper balms.

In short, I got on the dirty racing program, and it worked. Even though you don’t smell that bad, it’s bad enough for guys not to want to draft off you, or at least not to draft too closely. And once I knew the secret, I could immediately tell who else was riding dirty, and who was riding clean. That’s how it is when you’re on the program. And it would shock you to hear some of the names.

Anyway, I’ve tried it and I’ve had enough. It’s time for Mrs. WM to let me move back in from the porch. From now on I’m going back to riding clean. But if there’s real money or prestige on the line, you just never know…

Clogstacles don’t sprint

June 13, 2013 § 27 Comments

You, dude, are a clogstacle.

Look it up, Merriam-Webster’s New Dictionary of American Cycling: “Clogstacle: A bicycle racer who clogs the lane in a finishing sprint, then rapidly decelerates so as to become a deadly obstacle to the real sprinters who are still accelerating to reach maximum speed.”

I can hear it already. “Me? A clogstacle? No way! I’m a sprinter!”

Uh, no, dude, you’re not. Take this handy-dandy (not to be confused with Dandy Andy) quiz and you’ll see what I mean.

Key –

YANAS: You Are Not A Sprinter
YAS: You A Sprinter
YUNT: You A Sprunter
YANK: You A Wanker

Step 1: Sprinting Self-Evaluation Quiz

1. You are sitting on Jon Davy’s wheel at 35 mph with the finishing line in sight. You say to yourself:
a. “What am I doing here?” = YANAS
b. “There’s no way I can come around.” = YUNT
c. “Faster, motherfucker!” = YAS

2. You come through the final turn with 500m to go. John Wike is on Ivan Dominguez’s wheel. You want the wheel, so you muscle over onto John. Wike hooks his left elbow under your arm as you lean against him, and says to you in a voice as cold and steely as a sharp knife shoved into a warm belly, “You move one more millimeter and we’re both going down, buddy.” You say –
a. “Sorry, dude.” = YUNT
b. “Eek!” = YANK
c. “See you in hell.” = YAS

3. In a race there is first place and ______.
a. A participation ribbon = YANK
b. A hot contest for 57th = YANAS
c. Nothing else = YAS

4. The crazier the finish, _______.
a. The happier I am to make it home alive = YANAS
b. The more I prefer giving a good lead out = YUNT
c. The better = YAS

5. You’re in a two-up break. The other rider turns to you and says, “How much do you want? My wife and kids are here, this is my biggest race of the season, and I’ve never won before.” You say –
a. “And you won’t today, either, motherfucker.” = YAS
b. “$500, but we’ll have to make it look close.” = YANAS
c. “$5,000, ’cause I haven’t, either.” = YANK

6. You’re in a two-up break. You turn to the other rider and say, “How much do you want? My wife and kids and grandparents and boss are here, this is the biggest race of my life, and I’ve never won before.”

YOU ARE NOT A SPRINTER, PERIOD.

7. You’ve had closed-head and spinal injuries in previous sprint crashes. You’re the sole breadwinner and have five young children. You speed through the final, twisting turn when suddenly Twitchy MacGruder goes sideways and the domino effect starts, with the sprint train on the left starting to brake and rub tires and scream and curse. You can brake and stay upright and still get second place and $500 bucks or you can gun it through a rapidly closing, impossibly tiny window of daylight which, if it slams shut, will send you headfirst into the pavement at 40 mph. The last thing that flashes through your mind is –
a. “Nuh-uh.” = YANAS
b. “My family is too important for this nonsense.” = YANK
c. “I’ve GOT this.” = YAS

8. It’s the bell lap, there’s been a pile-up in front of you, and you’re now 75th wheel with three turns to go. A superhuman effort with balls-out risks will net you a top-ten finish, so you –
a. Give it all you’ve got because it’s a great workout. = YANK
b. Give it all you’ve got because it’s gas money to get home. = YUNT
c. Get off your bike and throw it into a pond. = YAS

9. When someone slams you hard in the middle of a full-on sprint, you –
a. Steady yourself to keep from crashing. = YANAS
b. Slam them back. = YUNT
c. No one ever fucking gets anywhere near you in a sprint and lives to tell about it. = YAS

10. The key to winning sprints is –
a. Core strength and workouts in the gym. = YANAS
b. Having a good lead out train. = YUNT
c. Being crazier than a shithouse rat. = YAS

Step 2: Textbook racing advice for clogstacles

If you took the above quiz and selected any answer other than one that led to “YAS,” you are by definition a clogstacle. And although you will never win a sprint, all is not lost for your cycling career, although, frankly, it pretty much is. Below are some rules for what to do and what not to do now that you know your chance of ever winning a sprint is zero or much less.

Cat 5 Clogstacle Tactics and Strategy

As a Cat 5, every pedalstroke of every turn of every race is fraught with potential carnage. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you do. Bull your way to the front, or hang onto the tail of the whip, the risk factor is the same. So, on the bell lap, you should go all out no matter where you are in the field. The worst that can happen is permanent debilitating injury or death.

Cat 4-3-2 / Masters Clogstacle Strategy

Now that you’ve left the 5′s, it’s evident that you will never be a sprinter. This means that on the last couple of laps of every crit, your goal is the same: Get home alive, get out of the way, and leave the bike racing to the bike racers. This means you should ease off on the pedaling, drift to the back, and put as much space as possible between yourself and the field. Quitting is fine, too. Below is a list of things you should not do under any circumstances:

1. “Lead out” your teammate. If you’re not good enough to sprint, your pathetic lead-out attempt will get you far enough forward to really gas you, make your head droop, and smash into the curb, endangering everyone else as well as yourself.

2. Go for a podium spot. This is madness. Those spots were reserved long ago by people with last names like Williams, Smith, Bahati, Wike, etc. Go to the back of the bus. Now.

3. Take a flyer. If you were too weak to ride off the front with Tinstman and DeMarchi, why would you suddenly be strong enough to hold off a field charging at 35 with Danny Kam, Tomo Hamasaki, John Slover, and Kenny Rogers driving the train? Answer: You won’t be. What will happen is you’ll get out there, blow, and then become a wobbling, weaving, rapidly decelerating lump that everyone else has to swerve around in the finishing turns.

4. Follow the wheel of anyone named “Charon” with five laps to go. Dude! 85 guys want that wheel, and sixty of them are ex-pros. What are you thinking? Aaron Wimberley will bust you off that wheel with two to go easier than taking a wallet from a corpse.

5. Join a gym. You are wasting money, son. It’s not about the strength in the core, it’s about the craziness in the head. You ever see Johnny Walsh or Aron Gadhia hanging out at a stupid gym? ‘Course not.

6. Ask Bahati for “sprinting tips.” He will tell you everything about sprinting, but you will still suck. When it’s showtime, go to the back and stay there. He’ll respect you for that lots more than crashing out thirty people in a mid-field sprunt where everyone else has sat up and you’re still charging for the line like a bull with his balls in a vise.

Any questions? Good. Now get out of my way. I’m going to win me a sprint on Sunday.

“Slover” doesn’t rhyme with “wanker”

June 1, 2013 § 22 Comments

So there I was, with a game plan. Sort of.

I had met up at 5:40 AM with Jack from Illinois (not his real name), and we did a couple thousand feet of climbing along with a couple thousand more feet of lying about our fitness, and then gave up the whole charade at the Sea Bean and Olde Larde Shoppe at Terranea. After three rounds of coffee and sugary honey buns, I checked my watch.

“Shit! I’m gonna be late for the race!”

Jack nodded sympathetically, the way people do who recognize profound mental illness in a friend but nonetheless tolerate it. “You better get going, then.”

“Yeah!” I answered, seeing the opportunity to dash off and stick him with the check, which I did.

I sped by San Pedro and its Memorial Day weekend hookers, then Torrance and its Republicans who love Medicare, and over to the race course at Dominguez Hills. My race started at 9:00, and I was just in the nick of time. “Yo, Vera!” I shouted to the organizer and money collector and Boss of the Race. “Give me a number and pin me up! I’ll pay you later!”

“You’ve got plenty of time,” she said.

“My race starts in five minutes!”

“Which race?”

“The 50+ Elderly Gentleman With Incipient Prostate Issues Race! Hurry!”

“They went off at 8:00. Slowly. You missed the start. The 45+ Not Quite So Old Gentleman Who Still Enjoy Regular Erections Race goes at 10:30, if you want to do that one.”

I didn’t really want to do that one

The 45+ race is filled with fast youngsters, and I don’t like racing against them because they always trounce me. Left with no alternative, I drew up my battle plan and lined up.

Battle Plan:

  1. Sit in.
  2. Sit in a lot.
  3. Sit in the whole race.
  4. Wait until the last lap.
  5. Flail.
  6. Get a double-double cheeseburger with bacon and extra lard at the Five Guys in Carson.
  7. Roll home. Literally.
  8. Explain to Mrs. WM how I’d almost won.

The race began and a pair of wankers got off the front. A couple of laps later they came back. The peloton slowed to a crawl as the riders thought about the Barry Wolfe crit beatdown on Sunday, the state TTT beatdown on Saturday, the uber-beatdown ITT the week before, the impending beatdown of death in Bakersfield on tap the following weekend, and about how they’d really prefer to chill for 45 minutes and sprunt at the end, all things being equal.

Stick to the plan, man

As soon as the peloton slowed, I attacked with my signature Giant Red Bus Loaded With Passengers Going Up A 25-Percent Muddy Slope attack, and caught everyone off guard. They apparently thought I had a mechanical.

A few pedal strokes later and my effort had succeeded. One passenger tagged along, a guy with as little tactical sense as me, or less, Tony from Pinnaclife.

We traded pulls, with him throwing down Fabianesque efforts that immediately put the field out of sight. “This,” I laughed to myself, “has got the smell of victory.”

Two laps later, Tony swung over. “I’m done, dude.”

I sniffed, sensing the all-too-familiar reek of total defeat. “You fucking kidding me? We’ve got forty minutes to go.”

“Sorry,” he said as giant plumes of flail poured out of his ears, nose, eyes, mouth, and butt.

“Shit,” I said. “Just sit on my wheel, rest, and come through when you can. We’re screwed.”

Keep your head up

Of all the disciplines I’m not known for, the one I’m most not known for the least is time trailing. Every couple of laps Tony would come through, but after a few pedal strokes he would do the Gasket Droop, which happens when you’ve blown a head gasket and your head starts to droop as you look stupidly at your Garmin and think “Wow this is slow but why’s it so painful?” and then your head droops some more as you stare at your thighs and think “Wow this is so painful where is all this pain coming from and why am I here?” and then your head sags so that your eyes are gazing at your navel and you hit a manhole cover at speed even though Lotts has painted it electric green and you crash out the dude behind you and flip yourself over the curb and into the blanket with the nice lady and three kids who are eating peanut butter sandwiches which is now smeared all over your face and derailleur.

“Keep your head up, stupid!” I’d shout, and Tony would jerk his head up for a few strokes, only to let it start to sag again.

There is an art to keeping your head up when you’re gassed and miserable and hopeless and mashing in a two-up flailaway that’s doomed to be caught and shelled, and Tony hadn’t mastered it, so each time he came through, and it wasn’t very often, I yelled at him to keep his head up in a cheerful and supportive way, using friendly modifiers like “fucking” and “dogdammit” and other terms of encouragement.

Save it for the end

During our doomed expedition, the announcers called two primes, one for a bucket of Cytomax Pomegranate and Liver Flavored Decovery Drink, and another for a bag of coffee. Tony let me have both primes, clearly unaware that they were the first primes I’d won in 30 years of bike racing (except for the used water bottle with mold stains that I won at a Tom Boyden race outside Dallas in ’84), and with these two primes alone I’d notched more glory than in any bike race, ever.

Bored with our slowing flailaway, and with the pack now in sight, the announcer announced a “field prime” to hurry up the chasers and put us out of our misery and them out of theirs, because in the world of stupidly, incomprehensibly, unenduringly boring things there is nothing more numbingly dull and untertaining than watching a slow breakaway in a slothlike Old Folks Crit. Coming out of Turn Three, national champion and General Hero from the Planet Zetron-X, Steve Strickler, launched an attack to bridge to our flailaway.

With him was Gary Wall, who zoomed by me in search of the field prime. What Gary didn’t know is that I had heard that this prime was for a free CBR race entry ticket, i.e. something that would actually save me money, so I stomped after Gary had sat up and pipped him for the incredible, unbelievable, almost inhuman record of collecting three primes in one race. In those few seconds I began to think about doing drugs and turning pro, or at least doing drugs.

When the force be’s with you

Our little sprunt + acceleration had gapped the field, and another Pinnaclife flailer joined us with a La Grange gentleman of the brain-dead variety. We now had a new Breakaway of the Hopeless, and we gunned it. The peloton receded again, and a quick time check after two more laps showed that we had less than ten minutes to race.

Suddenly, fourth place looked possible. As I rotated off and slid to the back, I checked over my shoulder and saw the awful sight from Hell, otherwise known as the Surf City Cyclery Bridge of Death.

Strickler was towing his minions to our flailaway. With him was Kenny Rogers, fresh off his triple platinum recording of The Gambler, and, worst of all, was Smilin’ John Slover.

They caught us, hammered through, and instantly transformed our weak and tattered flailaway into that magical, mythical thing of beauty, an actual breakaway. I now had instantly transformed a nondescript fourth place finish into seventh. Rad!

Strickler, Wall, and Rogers pounded on the front, and I stupidly got into the rotation, occasionally looking back at Smilin’ John, who refused to do a lick of work. “Why doesn’t he pull through?” I wondered. “If he sits in like that all day and lets his teammates do the work, he’s going to win. Idiot.”

Finally, exasperated, I started to whimper. “Hey, John, why don’t you take a pull? It’s fun up here! Really!”

Smilin’ John just smiled as Strickler and Rogers drilled and grilled with such fierce nastiness that now I was the only other idiot rotating through with them.

The man, the myth

Slover isn’t just one of the strongest and fastest riders in SoCal; he’s one of the most experienced and one of the best workhorses. He’s been racing for decades, and when he races in the 35+ crits he’s the go-to guy for bridging, riding the break, and leading out whips like Charon Smith. Sitting pretty in the break, with two of the biggest motors gaining more and more real estate from the field, he’d grin at me each I came through, the grin of a shark about to munch on a plump, tender little baby seal.

On the final lap, with Strickler hammering into the headwind and Slover shouting at him in third wheel, “Faster! Faster!” it was an out-of-body experience. They were going to kick my ass.

“Wait,” I told myself. “They’re already kicking my ass.”

Strickler’s pull was so long and my fourth wheel slot afforded me so much rest that when we whipped through the third turn I’d recovered, and so I dove tight into the turn and made my bid for glory. Three strokes into it, I realized that perhaps I hadn’t really recovered after all.

Kenny jumped hard far over to the right side, which was actually the longer line, and in moment of stupid decisiveness, poor judgment, and lack of confidence, I drove back to the other side of the street and latched onto Slover.

This was like latching onto a rocket just before liftoff, because when we hit Turn Four, Slover was just flat fucking gone. My legs and arms were dismembered at the joints, but I now at least had second place down cold because Kenny was fading.

Like any good thoroughbred, though, once he’d launched his teammate to victory, Kenny heard me panting, gasping, thrashing, and flailing to come by. He put his head down and gave one more huge effort, easily besting me at the line for the giant tub of Gizzard Flavored Cytomax and a $35 check.

Smilin’ John rolled over and clapped me on the back. “Good race, dude!”

I stuffed my tongue back into my head. “Thanks. Urgle. Gurp.”

He did the next race, rode the break and got on the podium.

I went to Five Guys and drowned my happiness in cow parts. Praise be to cows. Oh, and I’ve got a nice tub of Pomegranate and Liver decovery drink for sale. Cheap.

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