BWR 2013 tune-up and teardown

March 3, 2013 § 20 Comments

The 2013 Belgian Waffle Ride will be harder than the 2012 inaugural edition. I’m sharing this post to help you prepare for it. After riding the entire course yesterday, it drove home what a monumental day in the saddle the actual ride promises to be.

Lots of my friends are posting their mileage on Strava and doing big days in order to prep for the BWR. This is good. What follows is some sound advice on how to make sure you arrive on April 7 in the best condition possible.

It’s more than miles and climbs

The course covers about 130 miles and has about 12,000 feet of climbing. You would think that by doing 120-mile training rides with 8,000-9,000 feet of climbing you were preparing adequately.

However, the difficulties of the BWR are greater than distance and elevation. The ride is made exponentially harder by the dirt climbs, the unpaved descents, the grueling 2-mile section of soft sand on Country Club Road, and the longer (but firmer) dirt and rock section along Lake Hodges.

The elevation numbers are also deceptive because they don’t come in long sustained climbs like Piuma or Latigo. Rather, they accumulate in dozens and dozens and dozens of stabbing rollers that sap your strength and endurance.

This difficulty is increased because all of the hard dirt sections occur well past the halfway mark. The Lake Hodges dirt and rock trail happens with less than 20 miles to go, and the soft sand steep climb of Questhaven happens towards the very end. After all your resources have been plundered, you’re then faced with the unthinkable: Getting to the top of San Elijo and then climbing Double Peak.

The ride will be harder because more people will have prepared for it, more people will know the course, at least two UCI pros will be toeing the line along with some of the best amateur racers in SoCal, and therefore the nation.

There’s only one way to prepare

That way is to ride the course. Whatever excuses, reasons, obligations, or conflicts you think you have, if you’ve signed up for the 2013 BWR you must ride the course at least once before April 7. You can pick up the entire route by looking at my Strava map for 3/2/2013 (begin at the Bonsall River trail; the first part of the ride was a true stop-and-start in cul-de-sac hell reconnaissance).

There’s also a full recon ride on 3/17/13. Anyone can come, but you should have a buddy who knows the course or have a map because there will be no waiting or regrouping.

Pick your goals beforehand

Even pre-riding the race won’t help all that much if you haven’t selected a goal prior to the ride. Here are the goals you should choose from. Don’t be greedy.

  1. I just want to get the finisher’s jersey and complete the ride without it being a living hell.
  2. I want to ride as long as I can with the leaders.
  3. I want one of the special jerseys: Sprint, Hardman, KOM, KOD.
  4. I want to win.

If you’ve selected 2, 3, or 4, I can’t help you, except to say that you are one of the top racers in the nation in your category, or you are hopelessly deluded and need a good therapist. My friend Noel O’Malley is currently accepting referrals.

Finishing strong

I categorize #1 as “finishing strong.” The ride will be hard. You will be challenged. You will be exhausted. But 95% of the ride will feel well within your limits, and 5% will take you outside your comfort zone. In short, at the end you’ll have a lot of great stories and will still be able to stand, talk, and carry on semi-normal functions.

None of the alternatives to finishing strong are good ones. They are all nightmare scenarios, and I’ve lived through them all both on my two recon rides last year, my one recon ride so far in 2013, and my numerous unhappy road cycling encounters in North County San Diego riding with my “friends” on “tempo rides.”

So, here’s what I’ve gleaned. It can help you if you let it.

  1. Pre-ride the course at least once. Do it twice and you’re 80% of the way to being golden.
  2. Run your tires at 80 psi. This will be sufficiently hard to roll well on the pavement, and soft enough to get you through the dirt and sand without tipping over, skidding out, or puncturing on the rocks.
  3. Run new, heavy duty tires. I used Hutchinson Intensive2’s yesterday and they worked like a charm.
  4. Leave your diet at home. The day before the ride, eat a big, substantial meal. The day of the ride, no matter how nervous and loose-boweled you feel, eat big at the waffle and sausage and egg breakfast. You cannot finish strong on Barbie food and candy bars.
  5. The group will accelerate once it comes off the Bonsall bike path, then shatter on the first dirt climb. Let the leaders go. You may be strong enough to follow, but they will drain you and drop you around mile 40 or before, leaving you with the entire ride and all its hard sections to do on gassed legs.
  6. Don’t fall in with a small grupetto of hammerheads. Choose your companions wisely, and don’t put yourself in a position where you’re taking glory pulls or pulling hard for mile after mile.
  7. Take advantage of every rest stop, but don’t dismount for more than five minutes. Fill your bottle, eat if you need to, and get right back on.
  8. Whenever you start feeling good or strong, remind yourself that it’s a trick and a trap. Unless you’re ten miles from Double Peak or less, any “good” sensations are meaningless. In fact, you’ll feel wondrous up to Couser Canyon; it’s after this climb that most people realize they’ve gone too hard too early, they’re totally blown, and they’re only halfway in.
  9. You’ve got to get some dirt practice on your road bike, so go get some dirt practice on your road bike. Not your mountain bike. Your road bike, unless you plan to do the BWR on your MTB.
  10. Take a minute to review the BWR rides by me and by Michael Marckx a/k/a MMX on 3/2/2013. It’s a good comparison between what one of the leaders will look like and what a flailer looks like when the wheels come off the wagon at the end of the dirt section at Lake Hodges.
  11. Do the route at least once. The full route, no matter how awful. You will thank me later. Effusively.

Finally, start taking measurements for that beautiful Joe Yule/StageOne finisher’s jersey that you’ll wear with pride and satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment for the rest of your life!

END

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This is gonna hurt: BWR preview 2013

February 10, 2013 § 17 Comments

Last night Spivey and I prepped for our first BWR recon ride of 2013 by eating sausage, noodles, cooked intestines, gristle, rice broth, kimchi, strips of fatty beef, cabbage, and miso. Yes, there was dessert. Yes, it involved ice cream. Yes, we shouldn’t have. No, we did. The result? 4:00 AM today came real fucking early.

We got to Encinitas a little after seven. It was cold. We had coffee at the Lofty Bean. Spivey had a triple organic chocolate fudge brownie cake croissant tart. “My lady love has me on a new healthy diet,” he said. “So I have to cheat like hell whenever I can. Want to grab a double-cheese stuffed pizza with sausage after the ride?”

“No,” I said. I was concentrating on a growler of oatmeal and coffee, topped off by more coffee with extra coffee on top.

The plan was to do the SPY slugfest from RIDE Cyclery, then regroup and tack on 50-60 miles of the Belgian Waffle Ride in order to review some of the new dirt/mud/water crossing sections that have been added for 2013. Spivey and I got to RIDE Cyclery and were joined by the usual collection of misfits, lardkettles, and doomed-to-a-nasty-shelling wankers who habitually show up for this weekly beatdown only to get, of course, beaten down.

In addition to the thick and sagging cannon fodder, there was a mighty contingent of heroes, listed below, with the tail-dragging, weakest wanker listed last.

  1. Thurlow Rogers a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG
  2. Michael Marckx a/k/a MMX a/k/a “Yes, sir.”
  3. Brian Zink
  4. Lars Finanger
  5. Erik Johnson
  6. Steven Davis
  7. David Anderson
  8. Ryan Dahl
  9. Caitlin Laroche
  10. Harold Martinez a/k/a King Harold
  11. Josh Alverson a/k/a Gearhead
  12. Kelsey Mullen
  13. Dave Gonyer
  14. Michael Williams
  15. Katja the Awesomeness
  16. Josh Goldman
  17. Anthony Vasilas
  18. Andy Schmidt
  19. Tait Campbell
  20. Brent Garrigus
  21. Paul Douville
  22. Jim Miller
  23. Jimmy, Dude in DDS Kit
  24. Marc Spivey
  25. Wind
  26. Road
  27. Mud
  28. Dirt
  29. Stabbing Rollers
  30. Wankmeister

Coming in hot

It seemed like a terrible idea, mostly for me, to start the recon with the weekly SPY Saturday beatdown ride. The reason? It’s really hard to have a good 50-60 mile recon ride after you’ve been shelled and shattered and mutilated and ground into powder on a 20-mile “warm up.”

We came up the first stabbing climb in the neighborhood so hard that about one-third of the wankoton evaporated in the first 300 yards. Spivey’s chocolate tart decided to lock horns with the pig intestines and the forty or so pounds of “cheating” that were still “hanging around,” and he kicked things in high reverse with the next acceleration of the group, not to be seen again for a few zip codes.

I’ve done this stupid ride several times now, and it always hurts worse than the time before, and I always swear I’ll never to it again. Today I faced the reality of getting dropped for good on the neighborhood climb, and just as I started explaining to myself how awesome it would be to grab Spivey, do a u-turn, fuck this stupid bicycle stuff, and go back to Lofty Bean for a second (and third) round of chocolate tarts, up came Caitlin.

“Hey, Wankster! Glad to see you!”

I cursed her silently. She wasn’t even breathing hard. Bitch. “Uh. Ugggh. Ahh,” I said.

“Glad you’re here to show me where the turns are! I don’t know the route!”

I wanted to tell her that I’d be happy to act as tour guide but she’d be doing it off the back, but at that moment the torrid pace relented, I caught my breath, then caught my legs, and somehow made it to the top of the climb. The group had crumbled into less than half of the eighty or so who rolled out.

Spivey caught us at the light, but the next push up Rancho Santa Fe spit him out the back again to do battle with the chocolate/intestine/noodle/Haagen-Dasz mixture that had become so toxic to the up-and-down motion of his legs.

Full gas ’til midnight

MMX, THOG, Lars, Brian, Ryan, and Erik kept pushing the pace up San Elijo to Elfin Forest Rd., with more little fritters wrapped in soft and chewy dough frying and popping in the heated oil, then bounding off the back where they were gobbled up and quickly digested by the twelve-headed beast known as Ego Devouring Reality.

I kept staring down at my legs, which did nothing but turn slowly and burn as if they were roasting on a spit, and then stare up at Caitlin and Katja, and curse them silently as they went easily with each and every hard surge. When we finally got onto Elfin Forest Rd. I sat up and drifted to the back for some additional wheelsucking and rest, when I discovered that I already was the back, “back” meaning “last fucking wanker in the slaughterhouse,” and it was only with great mashing of panicky pedals that I reattached.

Spivey was so far back now that he’d radioed ahead for coffee and donuts at the church a few miles up the road.

When we did reach the church I’d learned several secrets of the ride, the most important being that if you wanted to meet and greet and learn the names of the Swami’s dudes, you had to go to the back. Those wankers had such an allergy to the point that I thought they’d been imitating me. I mean, the back end of the peloton was pure Swami’s blue, with one lone SPY jersey (mine) to dishonor the otherwise manly and womanly work of the team.

At the church we regrouped and waited for the detritus while taking turns urinating in the parking lot, urinating by the dumpster, urinating in the bushes, urinating in plain view, urinating by the fence, and urinating over by the swingset, which was vacant, otherwise certain riders would now be wearing orange jumpsuits and frantically calling 1-800-BAIL-BND.

Spivey limped in ten minutes later looking like he’d finally come to terms with the chocolate and the intestines, but still had an outstanding issue or two with the noodles and the ice cream. His face was an odd shade of gray, somewhere between near-death and a two week-old corpse.

“Where’s the donut shop?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Back in Encinitas, maybe.”

Running on empty

I could tell from the minute we left the church parking lot that my ride was over. My legs stung with that leaden sensation on every little riser, and we were going slow. Brent came up to me. “That was fast. PR fast.”

I felt a little bit better about having been on the rivet from the beginning to the end, but worse as I contemplated doing the rest of the ride completely gassed.

We picked up the BWR route on Summit, which hurt beyond belief. It hurt me, anyway. Chris Williams laughed when he heard me wheezing. “Easy, hoss!” he said.

King Harold, who hadn’t cracked a sweat yet, tried to make small talk. “So you and Spivey had a big meal last night?”

I ignored him as we turned down the little dirt section before the climb up Bandy Canyon. Just the tiny undulations of the dirt sapped what little I had left. I sat up. Dave Gonyer slipped back to take my pulse.

“I’m done. Don’t wait for me,” I deja-vu’d him.

“Nah, I’m waiting.” Gonyer never leaves the corpse of a teammate on the field of battle.

I got surly. “No, dude, really, I’m done. Go on.” My speed had dropped to a few mph. He could see the prow of the bony ship settling beneath the waves.

“You know the way home?”

“Sort of. But I’m in my own private hell. Thanks for waiting, but get up there. I’m done.”

He nodded and rejoined the group as they pulled away. Spivey looked back, gleefully, then receded with the group. Revenge, as he well knew, is best served at the bottom of a steep canyon climb on blown legs miles and miles from home in a cold headwind on unknown roads.

New dirt, old dirt, new hell, old hell

The group proceeded to do the new dirt section at Little Dieguito River, and conquered the old dirt at Questhaven, with a few intrepid souls (including that bastard Spivey) manfully charging all the way up Double Peak as the others wisely opted to finish the ride without swallowing that final live scorpion in the tequila bottle.

But they did it all without me. I limped back to Encinitas as broken and slow and beatdown and crushed as I’ve been since…the last time I did a BWR recon ride. As I tried to determine the source of my collapse, I identified all the likely causes:

  1. Still hadn’t recovered from Boulevard the week before.
  2. I’m weak.
  3. Pace on the first part of the ride was too brutal.
  4. I’m slow.
  5. Night before gluttony had sapped me of the will to do battle.
  6. I’m not very good.
  7. Three hours of sleep had deprived me of recovery.
  8. I really suck.
  9. Etc.

Back at the car I rendezvoused with Paul and then Marc. Paul had been towed home by Tait. Marc had been shepherded by Jim, and was euphoric at my epic collapse. In the car ride back to LA he gloriously recounted his conquests to Dan Cobley, neglecting to mention any of the difficulties he’d encountered when the sledgehammer was applied to his nuts at the beginning of the ride

“That was kind of a one-sided recounting,” I said.

He grinned. “Everybody has an angle, buddy, and I have mine.”

“Is our next stop gonna involve a double-stuffed cheese pizza with sausage and Canadian bacon?” I asked.

“You know it!” he said.

And it did.

Summon the demon

January 24, 2013 § 15 Comments

On April 7, 2013, we embark on the second edition of the now-infamous Belgian Waffle Ride.

It leaves the SPY Optic headquarters in Carlsbad at 8:30 AM after stuffing you full of, uh, Belgian waffles, eggs, and coffee.

Then you go out and ride your bike for 118 miles. Some of the roads are paved. One or two of them are flat (but not for long). The kicker comes at the end, when you climb Double Peak after 113 miles of misery.

Unlike last year, where there was a super exclusive vetting list that only let absolutely proven experts like Stern-O and Marvin participate, this year it’s pretty much open to anyone with two legs and a death wish. There are already over 400 idiots who think it’s going to be “fun.”

It won’t be “fun.”

What will it be, then?

It will be the only ride on your calendar where you’re pitted against other riders but where the test will not be against the other riders. The test will be against the road. Then, if you can somehow come to terms with the road (you can’t) you’ll get to worry about whether you’re ahead of or behind the hairy guy on the singlespeed whose wife yelled at you at the CBR crit because you made fun of her husband.

Like 99.9% of the people who do this, you won’t bother to recon the course. You’ll do a few off-road trails on your ‘cross or MTB and call it good. Maybe you’ll toss in a hundred-mile day to “get your legs ready.”

This will prepare you for the rigors of the BWR about as well as a sail around the park pond prepares you for the Antarctic Crossing.

The whole thing will be recorded on your Strava account. Unlike 2012, when virtually everyone failed to complete the entire course, this year riders will have their effort monitored on Strava. Complete the whole thing and you get a jersey and some craft beer. Cut a few climbs, avoid a mudpit because of the crazy old woman with a shotgun, and you’ll go home empty-handed.

Finishing tips

In the heartfelt conviction that no one will actually do any of this, and knowing that therefore the awfulness of the event will be preserved, I’m going to share with you some tips I gleaned from 2012.

1. Recon the course at least twice. The full course.

2. Recon the course at least two times. The full course.

3. Ride the entire course twice, at least.

4. Don’t bother trying to keep up with the leaders, or with anyone. Set a comfortable tempo at the beginning. If you have to exert any serious effort in the first 50 miles, you’ll come apart no later than Bandy Canyon, after which the ride gets hard beyond belief even if you’ve properly conserved.

5. Stop at every rest stop. Today’s not the day to diet.

6. If you’re in a group, do not shirk the work. Of the three winners of the purple jersey last year, two were indelibly scarred by the humiliation. The purple jersey is awarded to the biggest wanker of the day, and there’s more than one to go around.

7. Do not tell yourself, or anyone, that it’s going to be “fun.” This will mislead all parties concerned, especially you.

8. Have ample ID on your person for proper identification of the corpse.

9. If you can’t recon the course, go do the Swami’s A ride with some extra credit. Then abandon your plans to do the BWR.

10. Run the beefiest set of road tires you have.

News from around the Empire

January 18, 2013 § 11 Comments

As of today I’m free at last, free at last, thank Dog almighty I’m free at last. “Why?” you ask. Because henceforth when I get asked The Question(s) about The Cyclist I get to say, after thoughtfully furrowing my brow, this: “Well, it’s a good question. I suggest you go out and ride your bicycle in order to answer it.”

Elbow testing: Junkyard thwacked his rebuilt elbow yesterday at the start of the NPR, right where the electronic circuitry connected to the shoulder bone, which was connected to the brain bone, which was connected to the new PV Kit bone, which got shredded and tore a hole bigger than Dallas. The ‘bow, however, is rock solid minus a touch of cosmetic road wear. They DID build him better than he was before.

Bellyflop: Neumann/aka Hockeystick/now known as “Belly” did a track stand at the turnaround on the NPR, had his wheel chopped, and tumbled off his bicycle. No harm done, and he was quickly helped by Rahsaan. He did, however, bounce when he hit. I’ve never seen that before. Belly, time to try the South Bay Wanker Diet. It’s painful, but it works and it’s free. PS: Track stands in the middle of swirling roadie packs = Numbskullish.

First blood: Charon Smith scored his first win of the year at Ontario last week, finishing so far ahead of the field that he had time to completely recover from his sprint effort and shave his head by the time he crossed the line. The finish photo shows everyone with teeth gritted, faces twisted, bodies hunched over the bars looking like they’re running from a zombie army, and Charon with arms raised, mouth closed, and no visible signs of exertion as he cruises to the win. I’m pretty sure there were some intense post-race team huddles at MRI/Monster Media, and they went like this:

“Don’t ever let it finish in a bunch sprint again, dogdammit!”

“I told you we’re going to have to break away to win! Only way to outsprint Charon is by making him do the 1/2 races, where he belongs.”

“We can’t have him in a break, ever!”

“At CBR we’ll attack the entire race until we get away!”

“If we work together with the other 99 riders in the race, we might have a chance!”

Etc.

By the way, good luck with that plan!

Get ready for CBR: The first South Bay crit of the year happens on Sunday when Chris Lotts puts on the Dominguez Hills Anger Crit Thingy. Please show up to support local road racing in SoCal. Yes, you’ll be pack meat, just like last year. So what?

Winter’s over: The South Bay endured seven (some say eight) days of brutal winter this month, where early temperatures got down to 39, and the highs never crested 65. Thankfully, the bitter temperatures are over, and we’re slowly returning to lows in the high 40’s, highs in the high 70’s. Don’t put away your heavy winter clothing yet, but for sure rotate it to the back of the closet.

Bad wind news: G$ is in Scottsdale testing his bike position in a wind tunnel. Great. A faster G$. Just what those of us in the Elderly Fellows category need.

Gitcher waffle on: The Belgian Waffle Ride is set for April 7, 2013. It will be the hardest one-day ride of the year, where chicken tactics, wheelsucking, and letting others do all the work will earn you nothing more than infamy and a purple card. This will be first and foremost a contest between you and the road. Finish it and you’ll know satisfaction!

Mad props to Dorothy: The 2012 cyclocross season has ended in SoCal, and it couldn’t have gone better or been done without the extraordinary efforts and work and innovation and enthusiasm of Dorothy Wong. I bailed after about ten races. That shit is hard. Next year, which I suppose would be this year, I’ll be in for the whole season now that I know what I’m in for. Thanks to Dorothy for making ‘cross such a success.

Equipment flail: After dissing on my Night Rider lighting system and replacing it with the tube-shaped Serfas light, I can happily report that the Serfas is far superior except that it shuts off every time I hit a bump, and after about four or five bumps it won’t restart without a 1-minute pause or longer. That’s a long-ass time when you’re bombing down VdM on Bull’s wheel at dark-thirty. For $150.00 you’d almost expect something that would work, but then you remember, “It’s an elite cycling product, so of course it’s a pile of shit unless you spend at least $500.00.”

Smooth looking skin: Since incorporating kimchi into my diet, Mrs. Wankmeister has advised me that my skin is softer, more lustrous, and gradually shedding the leathery, scaly, rough, scabbed-over look that comes with road cycling. Though I don’t give a rat’s ass about the  beauty aspect, I do believe that healthier skin will stave off the skin cancer in my future for at least a year or two, and Professor Google confirms that kimchi is the wonderfood for healthy skin. The downside of course are the kimchi farts. Those things are vicious, however, they too have a beneficial effect on skin, as anyone on your wheel gets an instant facial dermal peel when one of those suckers rips into their face. You have to be careful, though, because they can also melt the polarizing slits on your expensive cycling glasses.

Like the old days

December 30, 2012 § 18 Comments

I like today and its brake lever shifters, plastic bikes, Facebook-Twitter-Blogging-Email meet ups, and of course old wanker dude racing teams with better, slicker, more uber-pro outfits and gear than any Tour de France star in the 70’s or 80’s ever dreamed of having.

But I like yesterday, too, and today was a yesterday kind of day.

Back during yesterday, you trained with one or two regular buddies, or by yourself. They had names like Kent, Fields, or Callaway, or Vermeij, or Dickson, and the day’s workout was always the same: You were going to go hard, go long, and be very tired at the end.

Back during yesterday, you and Fields would roll out and it wouldn’t matter if it was raining, or colding, or hotting, or if the wind was howling, or if you were tired, or if you had a sniffle. You rolled out. You warmed up. And for the next three or four hours you suffered like a dog stuck to his rear wheel while he towed and battered and hauled you all over the Texas Hill Country.

The “group ride” on Saturday and Sunday started with a huge turnout of maybe thirty people, whittled down to half by the time you got to Webberville, and finished with three or four a long time later. No GU. No BonkBreaker. No energy drink.

It was simple. Meet, ride, suffer.

Empire State Express

Coming home from the North County Swami’s Ride today, I tuned into the jazz/blues radio station. Today is okay in the world of blues, too. There are lots of good musicians who innovate. Who wizardize on their guitars. Who make trumpets and electronic keyboards and other instruments sound like they belong in the blues.

But I grew up listening to yesterday’s locked down twelve bar blues. Plastic discs spinning names like Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson, one voice, one guitar, one dude. That was it.

Cruising through Oceanside the radio hit me like a hammer. The DJ had decided to play Son House’s Empire State Express from his 1965 recording sessions. Son was old then and “rediscovered” by the hippie blues revivalists. His voice was cracked and rough and broken; no honey or silk left on the raw, smoked out vocal cords.

His guitar playing was stiff and banging, the glide on his National steel was all jerky and hard, like his brain knew where the sound should be but his fingers couldn’t make the notes right enough. Like a worn out pair of shoes those recordings were, capturing a historical figure and his historical music for embalming in some piece of amber, to be fixed for all time and gawked at in a museum.

But oh! Even with all that, Son’s music had the grind, the power, the punch, the ungilded emotion that rose up from the field hollers of the chain gang, from the depths of Parchman Penitentiary, from the life and servitude of the Mississipi Delta.

I listened to Empire State Express with my hands clenched on the steering wheel, skin tightened up into goosebumps, the sounds I heard growing up as a boy in Texas re-floated to me on the Interstate back to Los Angeles.

A little time warp had opened up, and I’d slipped into it.

Do it ’til you get the hang of it

Every beatdown ride has its own unique pain profile. The first few times I did the North County Swami’s ride I thought the pain profile was this: Extreme pain from start to finish, with no rest or relief.

Now that I’ve learned to cower, avoid the front, and treat the thing like an exercise in survival, I’ve come to appreciate its true nature. The ride has a series of four or five pain spikes followed by recovery sections. Each pain spike clears out some chaff until you reach the church sprunt, where the reduced group lunges for an imaginary line.

Today I cowered, and even got a shove from Andy Schmidt as we crested Rancho Santa Fe. By gritting my teeth through the pain spikes, which soon ended, I reached the church sprunt unscathed.

Not so for those behind me. As I rolled into the church parking lot, Steve Hegg came up. “Dude, your kit stinks beyond belief. Wash it. Or better yet, burn it.”

It dawned on me that the repeated farts I’d been blasting in the middle of the peloton had wreaked havoc on those behind me. “Sorry, dude. Kimchee, green beans, and pinto beans for dinner last night. Toxic combo.”

Other riders pedaled by. “Was that you? Damn, that stank and I was twenty wheels back. That shit lingered, too. It was like a floating cloud of turd over your head the whole way out.” Their faces had that green-around-the-gills look.

Secretly pleased at the stealth weapon that had caused such destruction in the group, I apologized, sort of. “I guess you could have gotten in front of me…”

Those teeth all look pretty sharp to me

After the church, most of the group turned right to return home. A smaller group turned left to get in a longer ride. The group’s composition did not look inviting. It included Thurlow Rogers a/k/a THOG a/k/a The Hand of God. It included some very tough, fit looking riders. Worst of all, it included three or four national team members, none of whom was over twenty and none of whom weighed more than a hundred pounds. One of the riders had gotten fifth in the UCI U-23 World Championships in 2012.

Fifth.

And they were headed for the Lake Wolford climb, which, for a lamb like me, is akin to saying they were headed for the executioner’s pen. I looked at MMX, who had turned with me. “We going with these mass murderers?” I asked.

“Sure. Unless you’re not up for it.”

“I know a shark tank when I see one. What happens when we hit the climb?”

He mused, briefly. “Shrapnel. You’ll be dropped instantaneously. Everyone will be destroyed except those tiny youngsters and Thurlow.”

“How about we turn off and do our own ride?”

“If you want to, sure.”

I wanted to.

Don’t twosome with the guy who owns 257 Strava KOM’s

The sharks swam away, and the two of us turned off and began our own ride. If I’d been expecting a leisurely, conversational pace, I was soon disappointed. MMX bent over his handlebars and pushed the pace up to where it was just unpleasant enough to seek refuge on his wheel.

Over the next hour we eased off and chatted a bit. The weather was warm. The back roads were uncluttered with cars. The North County rollers that typically exacted such a high price from my legs seemed to be minor obstacles at best. With the exception of Bandy Canyon, where I came unhitched and he had to wait, we pedaled in unison along the scenic roads.

Then his phone rang. “Yes, honey. Yes, dear. Okay, honey. No, I didn’t forget, honey. It’s just me and Seth. We’re right around the corner from the house. We’ll be home shortly, honey. Okay, dear. Love you, too.”

“You’re in deep shit, huh?”

He nodded. “Yup.” He clipped back in. “We’re going to take a more direct route back.”

“Are we really right around the corner?” I was always lost in North County and had no idea where we were.

“No.” Then his face got a funny look. “But we soon will be.”

Tugging on Superman’s cape

He pointed his bike onto a bike path that paralleled some freeway. I tucked in behind him. 16. 15. 14. 13. 12. Then 11. The last cog. And it was turning quickly.

MMX is the perfect draft for me. He’s about my height and slightly wider. When he gets going it creates the ultimate cocoon of draft. As he roared along I snuggled up against his rear wheel, blasting along without having to do a lick of work. The only nagging doubt I had was that at some point he would tire and I’d have to pull. At this speed, any effort on the front would completely do me in.

He just went faster.

After about ten minutes my little twinge of shoplifter’s delight began to fade a bit. Yes, I was stealing a wheel. Yes, it was a great wheel. No, he wasn’t flicking me to pull through.

But…it was starting to hurt like hell.

At each roller he came out of the saddle, driving it harder to maintain the hellish pace. I’d flail to hold the wheel, then settle back into the cocoon. After about twenty minutes I was in a world of hurt. All I could see were the pounding pistons of his legs where the calf separates from the soleus, and the variations of his chain: Now the 11, up to the 12, back to the 11, repeat.

Occasionally the strain would show as his shoulders rocked, but the pace never dropped, and still he never waved me through. The only consolation was that no matter how tired I was, he must have been at the very end of his tether.

We finally slowed at the end of the bikeway and he looked back. His eyes were narrowed and his mouth was set. That’s when I realized it. He wasn’t racing to get home. He was tackling a segment on Strava. For me to pull through would have meant that it didn’t count.

“When we hit PCH I’m going to drop you. But don’t worry. I’ll circle back and pick you up.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I laughed silently. “I’ve been sitting on your wheel and not doing a lick of work. You’ve been carving it up hill and down dale into the teeth of a nasty crosswind. You’re tired. You may be stronger than me, but you’re not strong enough to drop me after an effort like that.”

But I said something slightly more diplomatic. “I’ll be fine. I’m riding well on these rollers for the first time ever. Tucked here behind you, I won’t come off so easily. My legs are really coming around.”

He nodded. “I’ll circle back.”

The Little Engine that Couldn’t

We rolled underneath the Interstate and he began accelerating. Soon we were on a long roller leading up to Del Mar. I could see the ocean and knew that all I had to do was hold his wheel up the climb; after that we’d descend and be on PCH and I’d be home free. He was tired. He’d been drilling it relentlessly for miles. I’d been hunkered down in his draft. This was a gimme.

Midway up the climb I was fine. Three-quarters of the way I’d redlined. A few hundred meters from the top MMX stood on the pedals and shook me off, effortlessly. My engine blew completely, and he disappeared.

Glad he was going to circle back.

A few miles from Encinitas he came back to get me. We rolled into town and had a cup of coffee. I felt awful, wrecked, broken, and demoralized, but consoled myself with the fact that it was North County. I always felt destroyed post-ride in North County.

MMX checked his iPhone. “Cool. Ten new KOM’s.”

“Go to hell,” I said.

“You rode well. But you look pretty beaten.”

“Yes,” I said. “I am.”

And I was. And it felt absolutely great. Just like old times.

Red, white, and blue

August 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

I got all prepared to do a story about masters road nationals in Bend, Oregon. I was gonna get a list of all the SoCal men and women who are going up north to vie for a star spangled jersey. I was gonna give ‘em all a cool bio. I was gonna do a rousing send off blog for the whole crew. I was gonna fill it with facts. Figures. Race results. Predictions. I was gonna really do some serious journalizing reportage stuff.

I was also gonna help out with the laundry and wash the dishes.

Old habits are old habits for a reason

The main reason they are old habits is because you like having ‘em more than you like breaking ‘em. My old habit is, rather than doing serious writing, to just slap shit together at the last minute and call it good. There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.

Plus, I got to thinking, “How many of these dudes and chicks do I actually know? How many have I raced with? How many have I ridden with? How many have ever laughed at one of my jokes?”

It’s a pretty short list.

So now I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m going to leave a lot of people off my “Rousing Send Off to Nationals List,” and that’s just how it’s gonna be. If you’re really offended, send me a quick synopsis of who you are and what you’re gonna do, and I’ll make up some grand ol’ crap and slap you onto the tail of the list.

The Roll of Heroes

Jeff Konsmo: Jeff is racing the biggest, and therefore the hardest field at masters nats, the 45-49 road race. It has 88 dudes registered, which proves that this is the age when men truly lose all judgment and common sense in the vain attempt to recapture the glory of their youth. Jeff’s made a run at this race for the last few years and has never gotten the jersey, although he is, without a doubt, one of a handful of old dudes capable of wearing it. His preparation this year has been off the charts. He’s gone into double secret probation hiding. The only people who can finish his training rides use mopeds. Large ones. He’s putting the finishing edge on his razor by training at altitude near Lake Tahoe. He’s dropped all that excess weight he’s so famous for and is now down to 112 pounds, fully clothed and carrying a pair of dumbbells. Mostly, I want him to win because he’s gritty, dedicated, and a class act. Plus, he’s the only dude I’ve ever known who takes trophies from former wins to races, and isn’t afraid to do the hardest road race of the year the day after having half his jaw replaced.

Rich Meeker: Rich is coming off the winningest year in cycling since Merckx was a junior. It’s amazing that one man could have a home and garage large enough to hold all the hardware that Rich has won. It’s gotten so bad that he’s had to rent his third storage unit just for the trophies he’s won since July. His pistachio primes alone fill up a small dump truck. Whether it’s against the clock, against a field full of nutheaded whackadoodles, against the heat, against the wind, against the hills, or against anything except The Hand of God himself, Rich has proven himself, without question, the finest racer in any category. I want to see him win the 50+ RR and crit because the rest of the country’s top riders need to experience the hopelessness, the despair, and the crushing feeling of defeat that we all get just watching him put on his cleats. Take that, America! Once Rich rolls up to the line, you’d better hone your strategy for nailing down second.

Charon Smith: This is the guy who, week in and week out, does the most with the least. He’s never got more than a couple of teammates, it seems, and he’s constantly doing battle against Monster Media and their stacked fields of ten, twelve, or more riders. And they’re not just good riders, some are flat out great. With every eye glued to his flashy orange shoes, and with every sprinter keying on him in the final lap, he’s managed to bring home at least eight big wins this year that I know of…maybe more, and sometimes it’s just him and Slover. Talk about David whipping up on Goliath. I really hope he wins because he’s always willing to ride with us wankers, laugh at our jokes (some of them), and be a part of the community rather than above it. He’s a role model to a lot of people, and always focuses on the positive. So nobody’s perfect. He’s got his work cut out for him in Bend in the 35+ crit, but it won’t be the first time he’s been down for the count and come up on top.

Karl Bordine: I don’t really know Karl, but he said “hello” to me in the parking lot the only time I did Como. I rode with him a couple of weeks ago on the Swami’s ride. Well, in his vicinity. No one really rides “with” Karl, as he’s in a league of his own. He’s going for the 35+ ITT and the road race. If he’s half as good as all the stories I’ve heard, and half as nice as he seems to be, he’ll not only win the time trial but get Gentleman of the Year as well.

Phil Tintsman: This dude is just over the top awesome. Family man, easy going, and bloody hammer of death when the whip comes down. Slathered up one side and down the other with tattoos, he is truly a complete road racer, able to bust your chops in a breakaway, beat you in a sprint, ride away from you on a hilly road course, and of course smash the snot out of all comers on the Belgian Waffle Ride. I don’t have the time to check USA Cycling and make sure which events he’s doing, but whichever ones he does, I expect he’ll do a phenomenal job representing SoCal, and maybe bring home a jersey as well.

Jamie Paolinetti: This is another dude I don’t really know, except to the extent that I see him every race in a break, or winning out of a break, or chasing down a break, or bridging up to a break, or initiating a break. The other way I know him is by the name “Fuckin’ Paolinetti.” As in, “I had the race in the bag but at the last minute you know who came around me? Fuckin’ Paolinetti!” or “We had a minute on the field, but Fuckin’ Paolinetti bridged and dropped us.” If he wins a championship he’ll do it in aggressive, full-on style.

Roger Worthington: He’s the inventor of beer, curer of cancer, and toughest curmudgeon on two wheels, and despite our checkered history and the time he kicked me out on my ass right before Christmas, with bills to pay and three hungry kids and never so much as a “Thanks, buddy,” I can’t not hope that he comes up aces just because he’s so damned good. Of all the things that differentiate RGW, Legal Beagle, Max Kash Agro, Hoppy Rog, and Crafty Beerboy (pick a personality) from the herd, aside from his indescribable wealth nothing differentiates him more than this: He’s the toughest bike racer out there. He’s got more grit in his belly than a hominy factory. He’s done it all, and is quite literally the progenitor of the professional masters bike racer: Before it was any of the current masters pro teams, it was Labor Power. Like whores and bad architecture, even bike racers can eventually become respectable, or close to it. Seeing him bring home a hard-won jersey would mean that the best racer really did win.

Brett Clare: He’s another dude I don’t know too well except from his ass and his shoulder. His ass I got to meet at the San Marcos race when he blew by the field with half a lap to go in a display of speed and power that reminded me, once again, why I should be knitting instead of bike racing. I also know him from his shoulder at the Brentwood GP, where he took a hard fall, separated his shoulder, finished the race, and is still registered for nationals. That’s just incredible stuff. Anybody that tough has a jersey in him. Plus, he friended me on Facebook.

Alan Flores: Alan’s my teammate, and I could tell you about how great he’s been riding, how he won Brentwood, and how he won San Marcos, and how he got second or third at Ladera, and how he’s on form, and how he’s canny and always picks the right move, and how he bridges, and how he attacks, and how he sprints, and how he’s a really good guy to be around…but I’m not going to tell you any of that shit. I’m going to tell you about the only time I finished a race with him, at Ontario several years ago. We were in a break and I got last. Moving right along, although he’ll be battling it out with Roger, Rich, and the other badasses of SoCal, Alan’s got the right stuff. Here’s hoping he brings it home!

John Geyer: John’s another teammate, but he’s going to have to forgive me for the short entry. I’m beat to crap, it’s dinnertime, and BJ is drumming his fingers wondering where the Tuesday installment is. With the right combination of luck and smart moves, John could prove instrumental in getting Alan into the break. He’s been the consummate teammate all year and played a big role in San Marcos. Like they say, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,'” although, unfortunately, there’s no “beer,” either. Safe to say that after nationals, held as it is in the craft beer capital of the universe, that will be remedied and a few glasses will be drained. Here’s hoping that someone from SoCal is draining a glass in victory.

Fear and loathing in North County

April 18, 2012 § 14 Comments

When our small pack of starving, drought-ravaged, beatdown wankers hit the second rest stop at mile 65.4, it was pandemonium. Fistwads of BonkBreakers, heads doused in cold Coke, unpeeled bananas devoured whole, and all the while smokin’ hot SPY babes making hashmark soup of our numbers to ensure we were credited for reaching the checkpoint, and me boring straight for the water, refilling my bottle, and jumping back aboard while most of the others were still gobbling PowerBars, sticking a finger down their shorts to see how egregiously their stinky diapers needed changing, or just rolling in the dirt and softly moaning.

A hundred yards past the transfusion station it hit me: whenever your ride involves a half-naked woman in her 80’s wielding a broom and threatening to kill you with it, you’ve just crossed the threshold from epic and wandered over into the batshit crazy realm of the surreal.

In fact, my last encounter with a crazy octogenarian woman during a bike ride didn’t involve one who was half-naked or carrying a broom, it involved one who was completely naked and barefoot, and ten miles from the nearest farmhouse.

Spit and Spanky Muffins

Spit&spankymuffins, or Clanghorn Leghorn as he was also known, had been whooping it up on the side with this little package from Granger, the only town in Texas that still had a Czech newspaper, and as far as I know, the only one that ever did, or for that matter, wanted to have one.

I don’t remember her name because I always just called her Czechmate, and that particular morning in July of 1984 as I rolled up the frontage road along I-35 to pick Clanghorn up at his house for a ride, I could tell from a distance something was amiss. For one, in front of his little white rental shack there was a silver Z-car, and the only person I knew who drove a silver Z-car was his fiancee, the little ballerina, who I always called “Bally.”

For another, from the distance and angle I could see a maroon Ford pickup parked out on the back lot, obscured by the mesquite and the brokedown storage shed. Clanghorn didn’t own a car, and the only person I knew with a maroon pickup was Czechmate.

For a third, I could see the side window that abutted Spit&spankymuffins’s bedroom, and it looked like a head was sticking out, a head with long brown hair, which was odd because Clanghorn always had a crew cut. For a fourth, even from that distance I could hear the godawful pounding on his screen door and see a highly agitated Bally making more racket than a 92-lb. ballerina ought to be able to make.

The only thing that meant we weren’t going to need a homicide detective was that Bally had approached from the north and thus couldn’t see the truck out behind the house, and that Bally didn’t carry a handgun. Most days.

By the time I got up to the fence Spit&spankymuffins was slowly opening the screen door, in tandem with Czechmate falling clumsily out of the window in her panties and hopping like a crazy woman through the goatheads and fire ant mounds to the safety of the thorny mesquite and her pickup, where she carried a handgun every single day of the year.

Bally jumped inside the house and was yelling so loud that she never heard Czechmate drive away. I played dumb and added a little more to the distraction while Clanghorn did a disappearing act with Czechmate’s clothes that would have made Houdini blush.

No country for old women

Clanghorn finally convinced Bally that nothing was amiss, and she was never the wiser until the big shindig the night before their wedding, when I raised my glass and made a toast that more or less wandered off onto the topic of Czechmate and how glad I had been that Bally had left her .45 at home that morning. That, along with their subsequent divorce after the world’s shortest marriage, is another story.

THIS story is about how Spit&spankymuffins and I decided that Bally was going to be laying in wait for most of the day, so the only way to throw her off the scent was to go do a nice long 120-miler, the only problem being that it was now 8:00 AM and the temperature was already 104, and if we waited much longer it was going to get hot.

Clanghorn thought he knew a couple of routes that would at least take us near a convenience store where we could get water, so off we went. By mile 90 we were both delirious. The temperature was well over 110, and the ambient air temperature four or five feet off the asphalt was easily 130. Clanghorn got turned around and we missed the convenience store, so we now had to either get something to drink or die.

By some miracle we hit a low water crossing that was mostly filled with nasty green stuff from a dairy farm upstream, but we were pretty sure we didn’t have to worry about brain damage, as no one would notice, and so we filled our bellies and bottles on that nasty green sludge, which, if I say so myself, was the sweetest and best tasting water I’ve ever had in my life, notwithstanding the cramps that night followed by the vomiting and diarrhea that ensued for the next three weeks.

As we rode out of the shade from the water crossing, ten miles from the nearest farmhouse, we saw a figure approaching us in the distance. As we got closer, we saw it was a woman. A very, very old woman. Naked. Barefoot. Walking on that frying pan asphalt looking as starry-eyed batshit crazy as we felt.

At first neither of us could believe it. “You see that?” I asked Spanky.

“Uh-huh.”

We pedaled slowly by. “Hi, ma’am,” I said.

She never looked to the right or the left, and I couldn’t help noticing that her body was perfectly brown all over, with nary a tan line anywhere. “Hey, Wankmeister,” Clanghorn said after we passed.

“Yeah?”

“Why don’t we just pretend that never happened?”

“Deal.”

No country for lycra-clad whackjobs on the BWR

While I’d been downing plasma and EPO tabs at the transfusion station, a group of about twenty riders had taken the hard right turn down the dirt road that led to the quagmire of mud and water and slop and hell known by the bitterly ironic name of Country Club Road. As I made the right turn in their wake, I was surprised to see them all coming back again, pedaling pell-mell and screaming at the top of their lungs: “Turn back! There’s a crazy lady with no teeth and a broom barring the way!”

Well, all the motivation I needed to go full steam ahead was the chance encounter with a crazy toothless broom Hilda. Within seconds the SPY broom wagon came up, shouting the same thing. On I went until there in the distance I could see her, hopping up and down in a blue fury, one-piece burlap sack jostling about her skinny frame, three-foot breasts slinging thisaway and that like two bad dancers, one of whom wants to tango and the other of whom wants to do crossword puzzles.

“No blog,” I thought as I got closer, “will ever top this.” Then, as I saw her making some pretty fair batting cage slices with the broom, cuts that, if they connected, would at least be good for a ground rule double, it hit me: Crazy half-naked lady with three-foot breasts doing major league swings with a broom can only mean that her son, who is probably also her husband and the father of her grandchildren, has finally pulled on his burlap bag, loaded the guns, and drained the rest of the turpentine bottle prior to going out on the porch to see which raccoon or possum or skunk or crow or lizard or trespasser he’s going to have to shoot the legs off of.

“Fuck blogalistic integrity,” I thought. “I’m outta here.”

The surrealistic hell of the North County

After a mad dash I connected with the pack that had flown from broom Hilda, a completely different amalgamation of wankers than the dead and dying who I’d left at the doping station. The inaugural Belgian Waffle Ride was already an unmitigated nightmare of British proportions. The last thing I could clearly remember was the sight of MMX churning away at the front on Green Canyon Road, with zombie The Bone battering away, and freakish K. Strychnine grinding up each roller with the nasty efficiency of an industrial food processor.

As I struggled at the back, bladder almost bursting, I could only think enviously about the pee stop at mile 20, when MMX had urinated while riding his bike, splashing a fine, 12-foot film of hot piss along the public bike path and most of his hand. “Why can’t I do that?” I wondered. Several miles later, when I watched him absentmindedly wipe his nose and mouth, I wasn’t quite as envious.

By mile 39 the lead group had less than fifty riders, many of whom were already gassed from the 100mph run-up to the first sprint followed by the inhuman attack up the mile-long gravel road that looked like it had been paved with artillery shells.

The schmoes who had showed up uninvited to bandit the ride had long ago been crushed and shat out the back, and those who had shown up with minimal preparation were already well into the most miserable day of their lives, including the first time they ever rode an aluminum road bike.

During the neutral portion I had found myself next to a giant dude in a purple jersey. “Name’s Fred,” he said, with a perfectly straight face. “I’m a track racer from back in the day. Mounting my comeback.”

I looked at him to see if this was part of an elaborate joke. It was and it wasn’t. “I don’t think there’s a velodrome on the route today,” I offered.

“Yeah,” he muttered. I never saw him again.

The crazies come out when it’s muddy

My next companion was the guy who would have won the psychedelic batshit jersey if one had been on offer. In preparation for the 124-mile deathfest and its 9,400 feet of climbing, he had shown up with his hairiest legs and his best single-speed bicycle. “I’m a ‘cross dude, dude,” he said.

“Really?” I thought. “I mistook you for a retard.” He turned out to be very much the badass.

But the most amazing person of all was the rider from Los Angeles who had shown up to bandit the ride and shamelessly help himself to all the goodies. He too was quickly shed.

Legs burning as I hung on the back, I realized that I could either force myself to hang for another fifteen or twenty miles and then be completely wrecked, or I could drop off the back and pee so that my bladder didn’t rupture. It’s amazing how easy a hard ride becomes when you get off your bike.

After remounting, I settled into my own pace, and the remnant grupettos from the wanker rear guard began to pass me, first in ones and twos, and then in small groups. Like the old sailor in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I tried to warn them of what awaited.

“Yo, Swami’s dork! Have you done this course before?”

“Nah. Why?”

“Because you’re going too hard. You will implode at mile 80, or before, and have to cheat to finish. Ease up now, while you’re still behind.”

They nodded and zoomed off. I saw them all again, of course, many miles later, in varying states of collapse and disarray.

The end of reality bleeds over into the impossible and false

Keeping my own steady pace I hit the bottom of Couser Canyon, and three quarters of the way up the climb realized my bottles were empty. With less than a quarter mile to go to the top, I spied a blue support pickup parked on the side of the road. “Got any water?” I called out.

“Sure do!”

I hesitated because I was carrying my rad CalBikeLaw.com bottles. I didn’t want to give them up, but I didn’t want to carry them empty, and I didn’t want to collapse from heat prostration. As I slowly rolled by I reluctantly handed the guy my bottle. He thrust the replacement in my hand. It was icy cold. I glanced at the logo. It said CalBikeLaw.com.

Before I could fling the bottle away like some talisman from the Twilight Zone, the two dudes were giving me a mighty push to restart me on the climb. The water was life giving. The bottle was brand fucking new. I never saw them again. I recounted the story to Junkyard, who smiled, rolled his eyes, and made the loopy finger motion around his ear.

Fast forwarding to the post-broom Hilda faux turn, the grupetto turned left onto DIRT ROAD at mile 66.98. With the exception of the lead group and a few other individuals, most of the BWR victims missed this turn. They were easy to spot because their bikes, legs, and shoes were devoid of thickly caked mud and slime at ride’s end, and because the first words out of their mouths on completion wasn’t “Oh my fucking Dog, that dirt road with the 18% sandy wall and the narrow, deep river crossing with a rock ledge drop off and trench mud embankment on the other side followed by 1.5 miles of the nastiest, bitterest, slidingest, badassedest unpaved mud pit known to man was AWESOME!!!”

Instead, they would say in a very purple jersey sort of way, “Oh, yeah…I, uh, did that. It was the wide water thingy, huh?” or “I dunno I just followed everyone else.”

I just followed everyone else

Problem is, my everyone made the turn. We launched down the mud to the rock ledge and mayhem ensued. People slid to a halt, fell off their bikes, toppled over, yelled, cursed, and rode exactly like you’d expect roadies to behave when greeted by wet mud.

Except for Singlespeed Nutter and Purple Jersey Andy. These two dirt dogs flung themselves into the water, hammered up the other side, and quickly gapped everyone else by a hundred yards. As I hurtled down the embankment, unable to see the water, I only thought one thing, back from the day that Filds tried make me a ‘crosser going around the golf course, and me trembling every pedalstroke of the way: “Just go fast!!!”

So, fast I went. So fast, in fact, that the only thing I heard when I launched into the river was “Holy fuck!” from some wanker who was lying in the mud and whose head I almost took off with my rear wheel. I landed full force on my front wheel in the water, and to my shock the bike of its own accord rocketed up the other side. I pedaled. The bike went faster.

There aren’t many times in your life when everything around you stops except you. It happened that day. The wankers up ahead just froze. I picked their perfect line and as my bike jumped and jolted up behind them I muttered, “Coming through!”

Purple Jersey Andy looked back in terror. “Holy shit!” he yelled “That’s his breathing!”

The noise coming from my lungs was so deep, so racking, so nasty, so fraught with spit and snot and spray and flecks of flesh that I fully expected to have to get off and poke my lungs back down my throat. But I didn’t. Wankers 1 and 2 vanished. I hit the wall and just went harder. Before I could even vomit it was over, and the crippled, broken remnants that were still wiping the mud off their asses might as well have been in Waco.

It’s the only badass thing I have ever done on a bike. It’s certainly the only badass thing I did on the BWR, because the rest of it was a nasty slog to the finish, overtaking one shattered rider after another until I hooked up with Mad Stan and Daffy Dave from the Wolfpack. They worked me over for miles, their shiny bikes proof that they’d avoided the muddy test of mettle, and despite shellacking them on Questhaven, they rode me down after Double Peak and we finished with A Day in the Life of Ivan Stefanovich, the long-haired Swami’s dude who had knocked over twelve bikes and three helpers at the last feed station as he fought off the LA Bandit Cheapass Fuckstick for the last swig of Coke and the last fistful of pretzels. He had passed me on Double Peak like a man on a mission.

Only the strong survived

The BWR got its inspiration from Dave Jaeger and his annual French Toast Ride, a 118-mile death march held every January before Boulevard RR. No one in the SoCal peloton exemplifies the qualities of toughness, fairness, good humor, and great perspective as well as Dave. So it’s fitting that when The Bone, Lars Boom, and Shirley Temple crushed everyone into fine bits of powder and then, like Cat 5’s getting lost on a square office park crit, wandered off course and failed to complete the entire route, it left Jaeger et al. to claim the winner’s jersey.

Nonetheless, the way The Bone, Lars, and Shirley dispatched everyone else who even pretended to contend, and the fact that their deviation was completely unintentional, earned them all the coveted King of the Waffle jersey and matching SPY waffle shades.

Rules still being rules, this meant that the next group of three finishers were the actual wieners of the event. That Dave was able to pull on StageOne’s incredibly beautiful yellow jersey, a jersey nicer than anything you’ve ever seen at the TdF, was proof that there’s a force for transcendental fairness and goodness in the universe. Nice guys sometimes rip your nuts off by the roots, stuff them down your throat, and, yes win.

Steve Klasna and Brent Prezlow joined with yellow jersey wiener honors, Phil Tintsman took the points jersey, and the hardman jersey was shared by MMX, Tintsman, and Zinc Oxide.

The color purple

The Belgian Waffle Ride started with a basic tenet: There will be winners, losers, finishers, and non-finishers, and they will be determined by relying on each rider’s honesty, sportsmanship, and personal integrity. After the laughter subsided at the ridiculous notion that a bunch of scuzzball cyclists would do anything other than lie, cheat, and steal when swag was at stake, it was emphasized that the concept of “It’s okay if it’s MY dog” doesn’t apply. Follow this link for the instructional video. This was of course ignored.

The Belgian Waffle Ride was also unique because on the one hand it was billed as a true hardman event, but on the other it counted Stern-O as a participant. Those who have ridden with this softman of cycling know that despite having been banished from California and sent to live with the horse people of Santa Fe, a city whose cycling community has in turn banished him and forced him to ride in the desolate wasteland of Albuquerque, no cycling event exists at which Stern-O cannot garner the lion’s share of the attention. Worse, his time spent trawling the tumbleweeds, saguaro, and meth shacks between Lower New Mexico and the cultural epiphany that is Tucson mean that when he shows up he’s in particularly fine form.

Whether by chasing down beginning cyclists and berating them for their choice of bicycle/color of jersey/pretensions to athleticism, by instigating a confrontation with a violent motorist and then leaving the mayhem for others to deal with, or by simply whining about his back surgery/broken teeth/brain replacement therapy/AARP membership status as the reason he flailed and got dropped, when Stern-O rides, people take notice.

The BWR was no different. In an event designed to rely on the integrity of the participants, the Man in Purple floated to the top like the very biggest and smelliest chunk, while the participants could only stare in shock like a hapless economy class passenger stuck next to the toilet door on a 13-hour flight. Some observers noted that Stern-O had been strangely absent along the muddy road of death. Others remarked that although he rode manfully through the water after the third water crossing, he fell into the mud after crossing it in the manner of a complete dirt noob, resulting in a boo-boo to his knee. Stern-O’s reported comment? “That ought to get me the hardman jersey!” Still others noted the fact that he actually rode up on G$’s wheel later in the ride was proof positive that he’d shorn at least a hundred and twenty-four miles off the125-mile route, as the day that Stern-O chases down the Gazelle of SoCal is the day that a one-legged sloth outruns a Secret Service agent to a Colombian whorehouse.

While wildly claiming to have completed the course ahead of his betters as he swooped in to snare his finisher’s tee-shirt, his finisher’s bottle of commemorative ale, and his finisher’s BWR jersey, Stern-O failed to produce his number with the proper hash marks, and, what was worse, claimed to have assaulted Double Peak when he was seen sneaking past the turnoff to this bitterest of climbs while glued to the wheel of…oh shame!…a triathlete. In a later document entitled, “Affidavit and Declaration under Penalty of Perjury Regarding the Performance of Stern-O on the Belgian Waffle Ride,” he was even audacious enough to claim that after slinking away from the finish area before being awarded the ignominious purple jersey in absentia, he went off in search of Double Peak in order to find it and climb it.

Unfortunately, he was unable to locate this mysterious hidden landmark, as it’s only the highest point in San Diego County and looms 1,666 feet over the city of Carlsbad like a single rotten tooth jutting out from the sunken gum off an ogre. Plus, he had to hurry back to New Mexico in order to spend time with his family.

As a result, Stern-O received the dreaded purple jersey, an item of clothing reserved for the lamest rider of the entire BWR. On the plus side, it comes with a matching pair of purple sunglasses. If you ever want to see the whole ensemble in action, though, you’ll have to head out to the byways of America’s desert meth labs, as rumor has it that Purple Freddy Gregg will not be invited back.

So how hard was it, really?

Compared to the recon ride, which was shorter, which I failed to complete, and which had no unpaved roads, the BWR was oddly enough a piece of cake. Had I just failed to adequately nourish that fateful day back in March? Had my legs been unprepared for the rigors of the course that fateful day? Had it been a terrible mistake to match efforts with the likes of MMX, Victor, and Purple Parks? Yes, yes, and yes.

The real secret to finishing this grueling course turned out to be simple: Eat lots of cheeseburgers and fries the day before, and realize that I was a wanker amongst men with no hope of following the leaders, and ride accordingly by never going into the red. Towards the end, after the last heart and lung transplant station, I fell in with a guy named Scott who, with the exception of the purple-clad Wawansea wankers, had the ugliest jersey in the peloton. We stayed together through Bandy Canyon, the place of my earlier undoing, and Via Rancho, the place of my spiritual death, and through most of Elfin Canyon, where the battering of the Wolfpack duo finally kicked him out the back. I would have felt a shred of sympathy had he not drilled nails into my head the last forty yards up Bandy.

More than the difficulty, this ride was memorable for its striking natural beauty, for its snow-encrusted mountain peaks, for its leafy green Spring foliage, for its streams, its chiseled rock faces, its piercing blue sky, and most of all for the mob at the last aid station that frantically fought for food as their last ebb of strength and morale failed them before the longest, hardest, most brutal and unforgiving part of the ride was to pitilessly crush them into broken and whimpering fools.

To SPY and the people who made this great event happen, including the wearers of the yellow, green, blue, polkawaffle, and hideous purple jerseys, I’d say thank you. Once the tubes have been removed and I’m well enough to get out of bed.

For further reference:

Nicole Duke’s BWR blog post

Complete results (I’m #131 and not at all bitter about all the cheaters who cut the course and finished ahead of me).

Official recap by MMX (prepare to be scolded by Dad, who is disappointed that you cut the course, took the swag you weren’t entitled to, and in general proved yourself to be a lying, cheating, thieving little turd).

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