Shaming the Badger

October 22, 2014 § 24 Comments

I just finished reading “Slaying the Badger” by Richard Moore. It is the most gripping, exciting, blah, blah, blah, blah about cycling that shows the drama, intrigue, and gritty blah, blah, blah of the human blah. Every time I finish reading a book about bicycles I smash out the windows, kick the dog, and swear that I’ll never, ever read one again. Until the next time.

Then I pass it on to a close friend as the ultimate measure of passive aggression.

Anyway, “Slaying the Badger,” which is well written and not completely uninteresting, reveals some shocking, little known facts about Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. For example:

  • Hinault was not a nice person.
  • LeMond was a whiny little bitch.
  • Winning the Tour is hard.
  • Cycling is hard.
  • Hard races are won by hard men.
  • Hardy, har, har

The book was so successful that ESPN made it into a full-length motion picture of 30 minutes, which is 29 minutes longer than the attention span of the very smartest football fan. So basically, now that it’s a video, no one will ever read the book.

My biggest criticism is that the author left out my own experiences with Hinault, which confirmed that which no one ever doubted: He is truly an asshole. However, sometimes a monstrous, self-absorbed asshole runs up against an equally monstrous, equally self-absorbed asshole, and that’s really where the fun begins.

It was at the last stage of the 1985 Coors Classic in Boulder, a crit. Since Hinault had spanked LeMond in the Tour, he agreed to ride for him at the Coors Classic. Greg had it sewn up. Before the race Greg patiently stood in front of an endless line of fans and signed autographs. I waited and he signed a piece of paper for me.

Then I watched the race. Somebody went faster than everybody else and was declared the winner. Immediately after the race, the Badger peeled off the course to head for the hotel. I was standing right next to him as he slowed to about 5 mph. “Monsieur Hinault,” I said in my best French. “Combien pour vos sous-vêtements?”

He snarled just as I realized that I’d asked him how much for his underwear. Then I corrected myself. “Puis-je avoir un autographe?”

“Non,” he snapped, and nastily pedaled away.

Five years later I was an official interpreter at the World Road Race Championships in Utsunomiya, Japan. It was Sunday, September 2, the day of the pro road race. Part of my duties were to secure the entrance to the VIP grandstand. Tanaka-san gave me explicit instructions. “Do not let anyone in here before 8:00 AM.”

“Anyone?” I asked.

“Anyone,” he confirmed.

“Okey-dokey,” I said.

About an hour later the coach of the French national team came up with a couple of other French flunkies. The coach looked suspiciously like the Badger. He was snarling something in such an angry voice that it made spoken French sound like the language of the body snatchers. Hinault barged his way up to the entrance gate, where I stood.

“Move,” he said in English.

I stared down at his tiny smallness. From far atop the mountain of my towering six-feet-two-inches of height I spied the tousle-headed little newt far below me. He craned his neck up and thrust out his chest, which had bristly spines of curly hair angrily poking out from his unbuttoned golf shirt.

“Nope,” I said in French.

“I say move!” he ordered again, this time taking a step forward, grabbing his plastic ID badge with his name on it, and pulling out the lanyard until the badge was stuck under my nose. “You know this, eh?” he snapped.

I slowly read his name out loud, taking my time while he steamed like a clam. “Bernard He-nalt,” I said, giving it my best Texas accent.

“Now you move!” he said, inching closer.

“Look buddy,” I said. “I don’t know who you are, and don’t care if you’re a five-time winner of the Tour de France. Nobody gets in before 8:00 AM. Especially no short people.”

I braced myself for the punch, certain that he’d understood enough to be thoroughly insulted. His face turned bright red and I kept looking at him with a relaxed smile on my face, thinking about that autograph and underwear sale he’d denied me five years earlier in Boulder.

Then the Badger did the unthinkable. He turned on his heel and stormed off. I almost shattered my rib cage from holding in the laughter.

Top that, ESPN.

END

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A friendly conversation

October 21, 2014 § 12 Comments

It was Friday. I decided to pedal down to the Center of the Known Universe and have a cup of coffee. The sun was shining and it was in the high 60′s. Why go on a “serious” bike ride when you could leisurely pedal along the strand, taking in the waves, the surfers, the volleyball players, and the last few thongs of fall?

I reached CotKU in a great mood, shelled out $1.75 for a bad cup of coffee, and parked my rear on the bricks as an endless stream of talent ambled by. On the far side of the street stood an old man, waiting for the signal to cross. The light changed and he began limping across the street. His face was set in a scowl, but even though the light turned red long before he reached my side of the street, the turning cars and oncoming traffic waited patiently.

He got to the bricks and scowled some more. “Can I make sitting here?” he gruffly asked.

“Sure, pal. Sitting’s free.”

He sat down and scowled for a few moments, his angry eyes darting at the blue sky, the blue ocean, and the talent. I sipped my coffee. “Hey, you fella,” he said.

“Yes?” I answered.

“I gonna question for you.”

“Shoot,” I said.

“Let’s me say I was walking on a path down by this beach.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

“And let’s me say that some dumb bastard son of bitch on bicycle hits me and I fall onto a floor.”

“Sounds very reasonable.”

“So I’m lying on floor and some dumb bastard son of bitch on bicycle runs away from me and I’m me leaving there lying on a goddamned floor.”

“That sounds reasonable, too. Bad, but reasonable.”

“I’m lying on floor with broken goddamn ribs, I have three of them. You know how much it goddamn hurt trying to sleep on broken rib?”

“How much?”

“It hurt a goddamn bastard lot, that how much. And I’m lying there on a floor hurting like goddamn bastard and a walker man walks by and you know what he say?”

“What?”

“He say to me ‘Are you okay, fellow?’ Can you believe a dumb bastard like that? And I say ‘What you think I’m okay, I’m lying on a floor with goddamn broke rib you dumb son of bitch. You can’t say anything more smart than that why don’t you keep your stupid mouth shut?”

“Then what did he do?”

“He go off and leave me there.”

“Sounds extremely reasonable.”

“So I got question for you.”

“Shoot.”

“You a riding on a bike kind of fella, eh? So if you run me over like a goddamn bastard and knock me onto a floor, how come you ride off like nothing happen? This country gone to shit because of you biker.”

“You’re asking me what I would do? Or you’re asking me if I’ve ever hit-and-run on a pedestrian?”

“I’m asking why everyone such a dumb bastard. You can’t say something makes a good sense, why don’t you keep a goddamn mouth shut?”

I thought about answering, but realized that it would probably fall into the “dumb bastard keep a goddamn mouth shut” category, so I kept browsing the talent and sipping my coffee.

“My rib hurt so goddamn much if I had a gun I shoot every goddamn bicycle in Manhattan Goddamn Beach.”

I glanced to make sure he wasn’t going to pull out a pistol and punctuate the conversation by shooting me in the head.

“And I gonna tell you something else, fella,” he said. My coffee was only half gone, but it didn’t taste good anymore.

“No, fella, you aren’t.” I pitched the cup in the trash, threw a leg over my bike, and started rolling down the hill. The bike gained momentum as it left behind the angry little black cloud sitting back there on the bricks. And then it hit me. It was still a beautiful goddamn day.

END

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Separating the wheat from the chaff

October 20, 2014 § 12 Comments

Weekend wankers often wonder, “What makes the pros special?” and its corollary, “Why is that other wanker always ahead of me?”

The first question has been tackled in this blog post; read it if you really and truly haven’t been able to figure out why pros are fast and you are slow. The only things the writer left off the list are –

  • They are young, you are old.
  • They have good genes, you have blue jeans.
  • They use drugs to enhance performance, you use drugs to perform enhancement

Along the same lines, there is a reason that the same hackers on the weekend ride keep beating you, and will always beat you.

  1. Beer. You are a drunk, and the people who beat you are not. For example, when Boozy, Smasher, and I sat down after the Donut Ride with a giant box of donuts and two cases of IPA, it was still only 10:30 AM. Ollie, who had crushed the ride and left everyone in tatters, politely declined our post-ride invitation and went home to put on his compression boots and sleep for six hours in an oxygen tent.
  2. Fatness. You are fat, and the people who beat you are skinny. For example, when Stathis the Wily Greek pedals away from you 5 mph faster going up a steep grade, the last thing you will see are the intricate vascular patterns on his calves and thighs. The last thing he will see when he passes you are several folds of a soft, white, jiggly tissue commonly found on whales.
  3. Meanness. You are nice, and the people who beat you are cruel. For example, when you are on the rivet on the SPY Thursday morning ride, hanging by a thread to MMX’s wheel, he will never ease off. Instead, he will carefully judge your state by listening to the rapidly increasing sound of your breathing, and then twist the pedals just hard enough to kick you out the back. He will really enjoy it, like plucking the legs off an insect while leisurely roasting it to death with a lighter.
  4. Goals. The people who beat you have racing/performance goals, but your goal is to beat everyone to the fridge. For example, after our first case of IPA and box of donuts for breakfast yesterday, Boozy announced that next year he would go on a diet and get motivated. However, when he woke up a few hours later, he didn’t remember it and instead asked if there was still any ice cream in the freezer.
  5. Fear. You are afraid of getting dropped, and the people who beat you are afraid of being seen in your vicinity. For example, when Rudy shows up on the ride you cower and hide from the front, fearing lots of leg-pulling-off as described in #3 above. He, however, fears that merely being around you for more than a second or two will be proof that that his career is nearly over, and he will therefore pedal quickly away.
  6. Excuses. You have many, and the people who beat you have few. For example, when Boozy, Smasher, and I were finishing our second breakfast case of IPA (but before Mrs. WM had come home from Zumba and thrown us out), we agreed that we would have totally won the Donut Ride if Boozy had used a different bike, Smasher had not bonked when he saw someone else start eating a gel, and I had been on a motorcycle.
  7. Teammates. Yours suck and theirs don’t. For example, the only people I had to help me yesterday were Olive and Stanley, two chihuahuas who occasionally provide contract work services for my law firm on complex litigation matters. They didn’t even bother to show up for the ride, much less pace me up to the leaders. The Wily Greek, on the other hand, had 72 riders blocking for him by falling off their bicycles and gumming up the chase with ambulances and police vehicles.

There’s very little you can do to change any of this, by the way, with the exception of a good 12-step program. And hey, it’s almost lunch time.

END

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Astana launches doping investigation, discovers doping

October 18, 2014 § 19 Comments

UCI Pro Tour team Astana launched an investigation into team doping practices after Maxim Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO during the fourth stage of the Tour of Belgium. Within forty-seven minutes of the announcement, Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov announced that “doping had been discovered” within the team.

“I’m very sorry to announce that doping has been discovered within Team Astana,” Vinokourov said at a press conference held at the world famous tourist resort and secret rendition destination known as Kyzylorda-sur-Waterboarding. “The dopers have confessed and been properly disposed of.”

Despite the most vigorous anti-doping program on the Pro Tour, a program that includes asking riders to report if they dope and that makes extensive use of self-graded questionnaires to root out potential drug problems, Astana has suffered a shocking number of doping positives, beginning with general manager Alexandre Vinokourov’s 2-year suspension for doping in the 2007 Tour de France.

“After getting caught for doping, I made sure that my team would have a very strict anti-doping policy,” said Vinokourov at the press conference. “People like me would no longer be welcome on the team, and after I retired it was my goal to make sure that no one like me would ever be associated with the team again.”

Vim Vandy Pants, cycling journalist and noted notary public, questioned Vinokourov regarding the team’s policy. According to Vandy Pants, “Shortly after Vino was busted, Matthias Kessler, another Astana rider, received a 2-year doping sanction. How do you explain this?” he asked at the press conference.

“Kessler was an aberration, an anomaly, a synonym for ‘one-off.’ None of his self-reported doping exams or questionnaires ever indicated drug use,” said Vinokourov.

Wham Wankypants, yet another famous cycling journalist and an even more widely noted notary public, followed up by asking Vinokourov about Eddy Mazzoleni, the former Astana rider who was banned for two years in the infamous Italian oil-for-drugs-and-old-jockstraps sting carried out by the Italian anti-doping agency, CONI-BALONEY. “You say zat no doping inna Astana, but you, Kessler, and Mazzoleni all was doping onna banana.”

“It’s true that Mazzoleni was a doper,” said Vinokourov. “But his program was very sophisticated, very clandestine, very secret. We asked him about it one night when he was very drunk, and he simply shrugged and said ‘I no doping.’ There was no way we could have known.”

Vinokourov was then asked about Andrey Kashechkin (banned for doping in the Tour of Turkey), former rider José Antonio Redondo (banned for testosterone), Vladimir Gusev (fired from team for sort-of-doping), Valentin Iglinskiy (banned for EPO), Maxim Iglinskiy (brother of Valentin, also banned for EPO), and llya Davidenok (busted for steroids and general stupidity).

Vinokourov was unapologetic. “These were isolated incidences, coincidences, outliers, random occurrences. We could never have known about such team-orchestrated doping despite our focus on self-reporting and questionnaires. However, now that we have launched a full investigation we have in fact uncovered doping. It is unacceptable and in the future we will insist that all riders on Astana refrain from doping or cheating in any way. Or else.”

END

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My associates

October 17, 2014 § 7 Comments

The alarm went off at 4:00 AM. I had barely recovered from the NPR thrashing of the day before, and hurriedly gulped my coffee in order to make the 6:30 start time of the Thursday SPY ride in Encinitas. In addition to my busy pro masters off-season  group ride schedule, which would be a big part of my resume for the coming year, I also had some serious business matters to attend to regarding a couple of employees who live and work for my firm in North County San Diego.

The ride started gently but finished like every grisly airplane accident: Body parts strewn about the asphalt, muffled groans of the survivors, and horrified looks of impending death carved into the ghoulish faces of the dead. The raging attacks of Abate, Full-Gas Phil, Dandy, Stefanovich, MMX, and Smasher reduced the 50-strong group to less than ten riders at the end.

After the ride, Abate, Smasher, and I pedaled around aimlessly until we found donuts. A fat, greasy, sugary bag of dough later we pedaled some more and said good-bye. I still had my serious business matter on my mind, and it wasn’t going to be pleasant. My associates had frankly been under-performing in some key metrics. Although we’d had a number of performance reviews, nothing changed.

Oliver would always say, “Yes, sir, I understand, I’ll start doing [ ---- ] right away,” but he never did.

Stanley, on the other hand, would want to debate things. “That’s not how it happened,” or “You need to take into consideration the fact that … “

It was very frustrating to have these guys collecting a paycheck and refusing to do what they were told. Very frustrating. And since they’d been with me for a couple of years, and I’d invested considerably in their training, it was going to be hard to let them go.

“What should I do?” I asked Smasher.

“You should have a beer.”

“It’s 8:45 AM.”

“Okay, then you should have two.”

“Only a terrible alcoholic would have beer before nine o’clock, and only a hideously terrible alcoholic would know where to find any.”

“There’s a little cafe near my place,” he said. “They serve great breakfasts and cold beer.”

We went to the cafe and ordered. The “breakfast” was a scrambled egg in a paper cup and a piece of cardboard painted to look like toast. The beer, on the other hand, was tap-fresh Stone IPA served in iced glasses. After a couple, the employee problem didn’t look so bad.

“Look,” said Smasher, who shares an apartment with my associates. “They aren’t bad, they just aren’t super motivated. Some things they do well, other things, not so much. Focus on their attributes, try to see it from their perspective.”

We had two more pints, then another two, then threw away the cardboard and eggs. “Let’s walk over to your place,” I said. “Now’s as good a time as any to have the talk.”

“Agreed,” he said. Through the fog I could see three or four other early morning customers washing down their AM beer with cardboard.

“What a bunch of drunks,” I said disgustedly to Smasher.

We reached Smasher’s place and the associates were there. They knew I meant business, but no matter how much they wagged their tails I didn’t crack so much as a smile.

We sat down on the couch. “Look, guys,” I said. Then I faltered. “I’m gonna take a quick nap and then we’re going to have to talk business.”

I stretched out on the couch and fell asleep for thirty minutes or four hours. As I lay there I could feel the warm furry little bodies of Oliver and Stanley curled up around my feet, which went from cold to toasty. They snuggled against my leg, repositioning only to increase the toasty-leg-factor.

When I awoke they opened their eyes, then came over to lick my nose. “Let’s get to work guys, shall we?” I said.

They nodded and bounded downstairs. All good.

END

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Wankmeister cycling clinic #24: How to politely dump your team

October 15, 2014 § 16 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I got a problem. It’s kind of hard to explain but basically I am sick of my team and want to tell them to fuck off without hurting their feelings but also can I keep my bike and shoes and helmet until my new team gives me my new stuff for ’15?

Conflicted,
Tommy Twoface

Dear Tommy:

Breaking up is hard to do, but there is a humane way to let people know that you don’t like them even though you like their bikes and money and stuff. First, make sure the new team will take you. It’s bad karma to jump ship without having secured a landing place, otherwise you will probably land in a pile of shit. Second, well, there is no second.

Backstabbingly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wanky Dude:

I really like my current team, but there is another team that will give me more shit than my current team. What should I do?

Confusedly,
Thorsten Tornintwo

Dear Thorsten:

Swag > Loyalty. Duh.

Youknowyouwantit,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I hate team drama. One guy on our team is mad at some other guy on our team and the other guy is mad at the people who are mad at some other people. All I want to do is race my bike and be a professional masters racer. Also, our team deal isn’t the greatest. We only get a $10k bike for $3k, and aside from the four free kits and skinsuit and shoes and discounted wheels and free nutritional supplements (all of which are pretty much legal), all we get are race reimbursements and half-off tires and free helmets, along with team t-shirts and podium hats and jackets and free socks and a full winter kit and free performance eyewear. The winter kit is bullshit because we live in SoCal. I want to be a good team member but I can’t help feeling like I’m getting screwed. I placed in the top-20 three times last year, and got a top-10 placing in the Festering Pustule Race Series as a 55+ Cat 3 Masters racer. Should I be angling for a better deal, or is this pretty much the best I can hope for? Kind of sucks, right?

Disappointedly,
Billy Bigpants

Dear Billy:

You aren’t getting screwed, you’re getting raped. Most SoCal masters racers with your pedigree command all the above plus a free TT bike and track bike and ‘cross bike along with a monthly stipend of $500 to cover beer and Uber/Lyft to and from your favorite dive bar. You should sit down with your team director and calmly go over your race resume. Remember not to shout or to call him a “fucking moron d-bag.” Also, remind him that 2015 will be your breakout year. You got this, bro.

In solidarity,
Wankmeister

END

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Who’s at fault?

October 14, 2014 § 33 Comments

My friend Brent Garrigus recently began requiring customers to sign a contract when they purchase clothing that carries his shop logo. A copy of the agreement is posted below.

RIDE'r Contract

RIDE’r Contract

The idea is pretty simple. If you’re going to ride around North County with the name of Brent’s shop on your back, you should follow the law. Why would a bike shop owner care? First, because blatant lawbreaking may correlate with unsafe riding. Second, Brent doesn’t want his shop to be associated with riders who blow through red lights, run stop signs, and commit the other myriad infractions that seem to enrage so many motorists.

Brent has a solid record of practicing what he preaches. He runs his own rides out of his shop and doesn’t tolerate repeated traffic violations. People who can’t follow the rules of the road are first asked to do so, and then, if they still can’t figure it out, are asked to leave. This kind of leadership is necessary on large rides for lots of reasons. It enhances the safety of the group since everyone is riding by the same rules. It teaches new riders proper riding etiquette. And it probably results in better cyclist-motorist interactions.

On the other hand, focusing on scofflaw cyclists, in my opinion, is focusing on the wrong segment of the population. Few if any people I know have ever been hit while breaking the law. To the contrary, they are almost always law-abiding. The most recent outrageous cyclist deaths occurred when a texting sheriff’s deputy hit a biker in the bike lane and when an underage driver with a passenger killed a fully-illuminated recumbent rider who was carefully following the law. The same holds true for Udo Heinz, who was killed by a bus while riding in plain daylight following the law.

In other words, obeying the law on your bike is a good thing in theory, but it doesn’t address the real problem of cycling in traffic, which is careless motorists. You can stop at all the stop signs you want, but running stop signs isn’t what’s killing cyclists. Cyclists get hit because drivers don’t see them, which is often a function of edge-riding behavior, where cyclists hug the curb instead of occupying the middle of the travel lane where they can be seen.

Brent’s policy of helping educate and create a friendlier class of road cyclist deserves only praise. Road riders, like motorists, can often be rude; in extreme cases they can be violent. Helping enforce a policy of better behavior helps everyone, whether it saves lives or not. Leadership in the road community is a highly desirable commodity and deserves our support and respect — people who are willing to take a stand regardless of their bottom line are few and far between these days. And if you’d rather not sign the contract because you can’t resist flying through red lights on the Coast Highway during rush hour in order to snag that precious Strava KOM, well … you may have bigger issues than which jersey you wear.

END

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