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.

Ride in Peace

June 23, 2013 § 14 Comments

I joined the Montrose Ride yesterday morning with local legend and German import Armin Rahm. He guided me along the route, providing the world’s steadiest wheel in a sea of swervy riders. Coming into the big sprint in front of the school crossing, Frank Schroder provided a 1-kilometer lead out at Warp 7 that popped and frazzled all but a handful of riders who were strong enough to come around him at the end. After the ride Armin and I enjoyed a knockout cup of coffee in the picturesque town of Sierra Madre.

Even though it’s all L.A., and even though the distance isn’t very far, the South Bay’s separation from Pasadena by the Great Ocean of Unmoving Traffic means that there’s not nearly as much cross-pollination of the two cycling communities as there should be. Still, it was great to see friends like Tony Sells, David MacNeal, and Ed Engay on the ride.

Afterwards I swapped out Lycra for wool and headed over to the Chris Cono Contreras memorial service at the Pasadena Civic Center. I’m not sure how many people the room held, but it was easily three hundred if not a lot more. Death has a way of cross pollinating, the same way bike rides can. It brings together different groups of people with nothing in common except the person who has died, only to find out that they really have a lot in common, after all.

Chris’s cycling friends got to meet his friends from other parts of his life that didn’t revolve around two wheels. Family got to meet people who had only known him on the bike. The outpouring of grief, and its attendant sense of loss and regret, were intense.

After the service everyone migrated over to a wonderful outdoor reception, where we ate, talked about Chris and his life, and got to do the thing that he most likely would have been doing: Drinking a few beers and talking bikes and bike racing.

It’s a proven fact that after death no one has ever come back to life, myths and fables notwithstanding. The idea of “rest in peace,” then, is a funny one for me, because from a factual standpoint, you’re not “resting” at all. You’re just gone, and the web of life reflexively and instantaneously mends over the tiny tear you’ve left in the giant skein. Death is so painful and shocking and dramatic, but life rolls on like a giant wave, smoothing everything in its path, indifferent, benign.

Still, one of the people who stood up and reminisced about Chris said this: “Ride in peace.” He said it with tears streaming down his face and it was moving. I think it’s a beautiful sentiment for those of us who are still here, so I’ll pass it on as a new motto, in memory of Chris: Ride in peace.

Just the facts: CBR recap

January 23, 2013 § 17 Comments

Otherwise known as the Most Boycotted Race in Southern California, Chris Lotts kicked off the 2013 season with the CBR Anger Management Criterium, aptly named because he appears to have angered at least 43,082.23 local racers with his various diatribes, vendettas, opinions, and kneejerk reactions to things like “That dude once told a guy who used to know a girl whose cousin was friends with my car mechanic’s uncle that a dog from the animal shelter in my neighborhood was ugly. He’ll never race CBR again!”

But no matter. He still puts on a great bike race, and the prize checks clear. That alone puts him in the top .000001% of all promoters in the history of the sport. Oh, and the races run on time, the course is immaculate, and Chris’s yin is almost wholly obliterated by the yang of Vera, Christian, and Marco (takes three of them to cancel out one of him, apparently).

Anyway, to avoid being put in the Disloyalty column, I paid the $50.00 extortion fee Loyalty Club Membership Premium and now look forward to another season of fun and frolic until I get banned, too.

So, here’s the rundown in no particular order, as most of this was culled from wire reports, Facebook, whisperings on the NPR, and from my overactive imagination.

King of the Hill: Okay, King of the Flat Course. That would be Charon Smith. This year he has a monster team riding for him…whoops…”monster” is trademarked by ANOTHER TEAM THAT DIDN’T SHOW UP, so, uh, he has a killer team instead. The race photos showed a sea of Surf City Blue up to the line, where the blue faded to black and Charon made it two for two in 2013. The guy just gets better, and so does his team. This year’s showdowns after MRI/Monster Media finish their nail and pedicure camp should be epic.

Rocketboy: Aaron Wimberley has gone on the Wankmeister Diet apparently, shedding copious amounts of baby chub and the little love handles around his armpits (according to his S.O.). The result? An already wickedly fast sprinter is even faster–he nailed down two second places in the 35+ and the P/1/2/3 race. Nor are his fitness gains limited to sprinting. I had the displeasure of riding with him on the FTR, and the Dude Who Cannot Climb put the wood to all but a handful of bona fide climbers.

Whale of a Win: Jennifer Whalen took the field sprint and won the women’s 3/4 race. She has written a race report on http://www.cyclingillustrated.com that gives a good overview of the race. The women’s field had 22 riders, a solid turnout considering the sturm and drang that occurred after Chris axed the P/1/2/3 women’s category, with more fur flying and name-calling and hollering and boycotting and threatening and near-violence than the draft riots during the Civil War. I don’t know if any of it would make good television, but it was hella fun on Facebook there for a while.

Es geht: Usually, after I have major back surgery and a brace of twins, I don’t go out and race my bike. And even if I did, I wouldn’t be winning. Or finishing. That’s just one of the differences between me and Armin Rahm, who after having his spine, pelvis, and liver replaced (in an afternoon at a Doc-in-the-Box), showed up for the 45+ beatdown and took top honors.

Cat 5 Wanker on the Rise: Local South Bay rider, neo-wanker and all-round hammerhead Jay LaPlante got second in the Cat 5A race and third in the B race. Lots of people who train with him have commented on the fact that when he pedals hard it really hurts, and his regular antics on the NPR make him a wanker to be watched. Whatever. In addition to great results in his second and third races ever, he endeared himself forever to the Wankmeister and showed his mettle when I called him a sorry shit sandbagging sonofabitch on the last lap of today’s NPR for never taking a pull. Did he hang his head? Did he apologize? Did he look cowed and embarrassed? NO WAY! “Fuck off, dude,” he said. “I’ve been grilling and drilling up here all fucking morning. Where the hell were you?” This, sports fans, is the character of a champion! Go ahead and stick some more W’s in his column. He’s going to get them whether you mark them down or not.

“Schneider” means “Cutter” in German: Ryan Schneider also made it two for two, winning first out of an eleven-man break and winning the field sprint after lapping the field. In out-dueling national champion Rudy Napolitano and out-sprinting iron man Brian Zink, Ryan confirmed that he does, indeed have religion. Bike Religion. He recounted the race in great detail for Cycling Illustrated, and it was amazing to see that out of the eleven-man breakaway, his was almost the only name he could remember. Apparently, aside from Rudy, Brian, and Stefano, the only person Ryan could remember in the eleven-man break was a dude named Ryan Schneider, thereby breaking the Golden Rule of Race Reports: Thou Shalt Not Make Thyself Seem Too Studly As Any Time You Win Out Of An Eleven-Person Break And Win The Field Sprint You Are Already Studly Enough. Ryan will be cutting and slashing the rest of the year, rest assured.

Gettin his Mojo Back: Although he didn’t win, John Wike showed that he’s coming onto form with third in the 35+ and a very solid seventh in the P/1/2. Those familiar with John’s arc of fitness know that, in addition to being one of only three wankers ever to have fallen over in the 2 mph turn on the NPR (the other two being Christine Reilly, who I hooked, and Neumann, who thought he’d dropped a peanut butter-covered slab of pecan pie and lunged for the asphalt before it could get run over), once he gets race ready he will absolutely tear your legs off. And win races. Being part of the Surf City Cyclery stable, he poses a lethal threat to teams who will be trying their hardest to put the stops on Charon.

Beatdown-ready: Ever ready to ride in the service of his team captain Charon Smith, when let loose John Slover can wreak havoc. He placed second in the 45+ race behind Armin and will be a force as the year progresses.

Will the absentees please stand up?

No one could help noticing the absence of several seismic cycling forces on Sunday:

BBL/Shroeder Iron/Long Beach Freddies: Possibly part of a permanent Lotts boycott, possibly they were all getting their hair done on Sunday. Whatever the case, I hope that they come back and that Chris lifts their lifetime ban if that’s what’s been imposed. It’s just bike racing, and they make the races better and harder. But of course the only thing harder for grown men to do than shake hands and be friends after a bitter dispute over nothing.

MRI/Monster Media: Some say they were too afraid to face down Charon again so soon after last week’s beatdown in Ontario, where he won the field sprint by a football field. Others say “Bullshit!” because dudes like DiMarchi, Tintsman, Hamasaki, Paolinetti, and Karl the Great ain’t scare of no one. They also appear to have been having their annual ballet camp last weekend, so now that they’ve all been fitted out with team tutus you can expect they’ll be showing up in force and ready to kick ass or at least do some pretty pirouettes.

Amgen/Breakaway from Cancer: If you were in the 45+ or 50+ races and Rich Meeker wasn’t there, you weren’t really racing for first. When these guys get done dialing in their bikes, kits, glasses, and Depends, they will be clogging the podium, make no mistake about it.

The year of the professional amateur masters team?

With Surf City Cyclery, MRI/Monster Media, Amgen, Helen’s, BBL/Schroeder, Jessup Chevrolet, Pinnacle, Big Orange, and SPY-Giant all having huge squads, local racing, especially the crits, have taken on a strategic character that you’d only expect to find on a professional level. This is a bummer for dolts like me who just try to pedal faster than the next guy, but a real boon to those who can understand, put together, and execute race plans. Should make things fun, as long as it means Charon doesn’t win EVERY race on the calendar.

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