The old sly fox (jumped the lazy pack of dogs)

December 31, 2012 § 9 Comments

Yah, yesterday was hard enough so today Slim played hooky at the back, then hooky off the back as the pack rolled up the reservoir climb without him, then plowed up Homes & Domes without him, then bombed down the Switchbacks without him, then let him slide on by while they were filling up water bottles, then overhauled him again in Portuguese Bend.

Slim didn’t care. He wasn’t going to do anything except sit. Let the others suffer if that’s how they wanted to spend their Sunday morning.

At the glass church Marco, Mark, and Jay rolled off the front. Thirty or forty riders watched them go, waiting for Slim to surge from the pack and tow or bridge. But Slim sat and let their indecision fester. He knew every inch of this road and they all measured “pain.” Today, hurting was for someone else.

A few riders took turns at the front, but no one wanted to push it. The Glass Church hill is unforgiving. If you fire too hard too early, you’ll be watching your erstwhile friends recede into the distance.

Slim nestled into the center of the group. He’d found his wheel, and he wasn’t letting go. Marco & Co. were gone and not coming back anyway, not with this gang of “No, dude, YOU pull” types.

Slim had glued onto Old Fox, owner of the ugliest, nastiest pedal stroke in Southern California. It was a horrible, repulsive pedaling style, jerky, elliptical, toe on the left leg bent awkwardly in towards the crank, every spin of the legs looking like a bad piece of Aggie engineering that had been redrawn by Rube Goldberg.

Slim had first run into Old Fox on the reservoir climb six years ago. Slim had been fast and fit, and Old Fox had been clunky, chunky, and already older than most naturally occurring rock formations. Slim passed him. Old Fox hopped on. Slim upped the ante to threshold. Old Fox hung on. Slim pushed the needle into red. Old Fox started to wheeze. Slim punched once, hard. Old Fox took it on the chin and blew.

The whole thing had disturbed Slim because Old Fox was so old, so ungainly, so out of shape, but had held on for so long. Nothing grates on the ego of a cyclist like having a plainly inferior rider hang on when you’re going all out.

The next time they met, it was on Old Fox’s turf. Flat. Four corners. A big bunch. A fast finish.

Old Fox took second, coming out of nowhere, beating a dozen contenders who were twenty or thirty years his junior. Slim learned that Old Fox had gotten silver in the national crit championships as a younger racer. Those awkward, ugly strokes only looked inefficient. When you stopped staring at the ankles and the knees, you noticed the high cadence and the smoothness between the knee and hip.

In dozens of head to head encounters, Slim had taken Old Fox once, and that was with the lead-out of all lead-outs from the Fireman, uphill and after a hundred miles…and even so Slim had edged Old Fox only by the width of a tire.

Slim took stock of the group’s remnants as they crested the Glass Church hill. Maybe a dozen riders remained, even though the pace had been anemic at best. Junkyard, Pilot, Canyon Bob, Mike B., and one or two others took turns revving the downhill as they approached the first of two bumps that preceded the uphill sprint. A gang of over-excited Velo Allegro wankers had melded with the group a few miles back, and they jostled for position.

Old Fox did nothing. Slim hated the way he never worked, never took a pull, never went to the front, but he admired him, too. Old Fox’s conservation of energy was an art form. His easily spinning legs had yet to make any effort at all, even as those around him made withdrawals, some larger, some smaller, from their rapidly dwindling accounts.

Slim would beat Old Fox at his own game today. Slim hadn’t cracked a sweat. He hadn’t budged from the wheel. He let Old Fox guide him easily through the group. Old Fox’s clunky pedaling was a decoy for more than his efficient, high-cadence stroke. It also took your attention off the fact that he negotiated the cracks and crevices in the peloton with utter mastery and ease.

Halfway up the first bump Pilot moved to the outside and shot forward. Old Fox pushed the pedals hard and followed, still perfectly protected. Slim was right there. Over the first bump, down the screaming backside and approaching the second and final bump, Old Fox showed another one of his cards, the expert sprinter’s ace of spades: The card of patience.

This close to the line and Slim, if left to his own devices, would have been panicking and hitting the gas full-on. Not Old Fox. He knew it wasn’t time. It was close, but not close enough. A little more pavement, and it was still close, but not close enough. A few more yards till and it was close, closer, and then showtime.

The old man kicked the pedals so hard that his bike shot like a rearing pony, and only pure attentiveness kept Slim on his wheel. As the peloton was hesitating to see who would lead it out, Old Fox was shooting free and clear, none of the remaining riders having a snowball’s chance. He’d launched from the far outside, from a fast, strong wheel, mid-way up the pack, and with such ferocity that the only other rider who could grab his draft was Slim.

They were free, Slim could feel it without looking back. the chaos of the jostling and the whining of the wheels had been replaced by silence. No long shadow throwing forward. Just Slim and Old Fox, and Old Fox was about to get spanked.

“This is how the lion feels before it sinks its teeth into the soft, warm neck of the kicking gazelle,” Slim laughed to himself. “Now tell me how you like these fangs, fucker.”

Legs fresh, with plenty of gas in the tank, Slim kicked as the finishing sprint sign approached.

But…surprise, surprise. Old Fox had some fumes left to cook off as well. Slim came off the wheel and hit the wall of wind. At the same time, Old Fox gathered his powerful shoulders and arms, coiled his entire body, and kicked the pedals one last time. Through the sucking gasps Slim saw the old man’s legs move perfectly around in that final lunge. Nothing ugly, or ungainly, or wasted, just one last complete effort.

Old Fox by a bike length.

The panting, lazy dogs came scrambling up after, frothing and foaming with frustration and proffering the best and most practiced of excuses.

“Dude it was too squirrely back there, I just let it go,” barked one.

“I was gonna lead you out,” panted another.

“I got boxed in,” yapped a third.

Old Fox just smiled and let them roll past.

Softmen and the kittens of Flanders

April 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Early yesterday morning, California time, the hardmen were fighting for glory on the roads to Roubaix as the heir to the mantle of “Lion of Flanders” equaled Roger deVlaeminck’s four wins in the Hell of the North.

As Tom Boonen rode a star-studded field of classics specialists off his wheel in a stunning attack 50km from the finish, a different group of cyclists, still bleary from the early hour, sat around the TV at StageOne Sports World HQ in Redondo Beach. Cheeks pooching out with chewy, tender, sugary muffins, tummies expanding just a tad bit further with each swallow of the buttery croissants, we, the softmen of SoCal, represented the kittens of Flanders. At our feet bounded Zeke the Wonder Dog, snarfling up whatever scraps hit the floor, clearing the table with his 40-lb. tail, nuzzling the crotches of the embarrassed ladies, emitting periodic blasts of wonderdogfarts, and feeling generally pleased that so many people had showed up at such an early hour to scratch his back, rub his head, and titillate his olfactories.

Thoughts determine words. Words determine actions. Actions determine character.

The only thing that anyone with a brain could possibly think after watching Boonen’s tour de force was, “I’m a weak pussy.” In that vein, our small group that included Sparkles, Junkyard, Toronto, Big Bowles, Hockeystick, and VV pedaled up to Malaga Cove to hook up with the Wheatgrass Ride.

We met up with Iron Mike, Clodhopper, Wild Carrot, Ihatetherain, Mephistostaphipapadopoulous, Nimrod, Canyon Bob, Pilot, Sumo, Cutiepies, Psycho Mike, Dutchy, and Fishnchips. And although we were prepared for an epic pedal, we weren’t prepared for the tire.

By tire, I mean Big Bowles’s tire. We had started the pell-mell dash towards the glass church, with Clodhopper bulling away on the downhill like a giant load of dirt that had been dumped off a cliff. Clodhopper’s former self is a waif-like shadow of his current self, as sitting on his wheel is affectionately known as the “Cadillac draft.” The only down side is his backside, which peers out from beneath the threadbare lycra shorts whose expiration date passed in ’97 to reveal the unblinking evil eye of Mordor, so awful to look at but from which it is so impossible to avert your gaze.

Why it’s worthwhile to endure the stare of the hairy eye

In addition to the gigantic swath he cuts through the wind, Clodhopper is a great wheel because when the going gets nasty, no one can suffer like he can. Beneath the layers of walrus-ite and packed into the chest cavity of this enormous lunk are the heart and lungs of a former world record holder in the 1600m relay. You can see the video here.

Now I know that you’re really proud of that podium in the Cat 4’s, and I know that it really meant a lot when you got that colorful jersey in the masters road race, but can we please put your lameness in perspective? Clodhopper once held the fastest time over 1600 meters ever recorded by any human being who ever ran.

Unlike bicycling, which is available at the elite competitive level only for people who can afford to spend on their bicycle a sum equal to the average annual income of the average human being in 2012, running is available to everyone with two legs. Whereas the competitive pool for cycling is a tiny genre within a microscopic niche inside a practically invisible crevice, the competitive pool for runners puts the poorest on a par with the richest. Got legs? You can play the game.

So you can forgive (maybe) Clodhopper’s pennypinching on the shorts, you can forgive his slightly expanded waistline, and most of all, you can appreciate the strength, power, and ability to suffer of this pedal-mashing, hairy-assed, cupcake-snorting leviathan.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

As Clodhopper drove us through Portuguese Bend, the ragged line of desperate wheelsucks clawed and gasped as they clung to whatever vestiges of Clodhopper’s draft were still available after about sixth wheel. And as the menu always dictates, Big Bowles had found shelter against the wind nestled in behind the portly protection of Fishnchips.

This time, however, Big Bowles’s recipe for survival hit a snag. The protection afforded by Fishnchips’s posterior was so vast that it blocked out Big Bowles’s view of the road. It blocked the shoulder, the hillsides, the Pacific Ocean, and, if you had sat behind him long enough, it would have eventually caused a solar eclipse, so total, wide, and complete was the gigantitude of the Welshman’s gluteus maximus fatticus.

Somewhere near the turnoff to Artiste’s house, everyone swerved to avoid a giant piece of asphalt lying atop the tarmac. Big Bowles, blinded by the hugeormity of Fishnchips, discovered the asphalt piece by striking it at 32 mph with his front wheel. Oh, how quickly the joys of a snug draft turn to terror and destruction! He managed not to crash, and for a brief moment those who hadn’t cared enough to alert him to the asphalt voiced concern regarding his wheel. “You okay, dude?” they asked just before they accelerated over the final hump, dropping him completely.

“I’m fine,” Big Bowles wailed. “These are self-sealing tubeless tires!”

There is no such thing as a self-sealing bicycle tire

The romp up by the Glass Church resulted in a shattering of sorts, with me pedaling an itsy bit, Ihatetherain taking a dig, and Clodhopper making one massive, cetacean-like pull all the way to the next-to-last bump. Ihatetherain jumped away, followed by Iron Mike, and then all were sent packing by El Peruano, who had joined us in Portuguese Bend and decided to put the group to the sword.

I sucked wheel as long as possible before ditching El Peruano and racing first to the sign, ahead of Sumo and Mephistostaphipapadopoulous, only to find that our finish-line “No Parking” sign on a wooden post had been replaced by four “No Parking” signs on metal posts. I reached the first sign and sat up, declaring victory.

By the time Big Bowles limped up to the group, his self-sealing tire wasn’t sealing all that great. “Gimme a shot, Bobby,” he said to Canyon Bob, who always carries a hand pump so that he can bail out the other wankers who use all twelve C02 cartridges on their first flat. Canyon Bob gave him the shot, and Big Bowles’s self-sealing tire continued its leaking frenzy.

“What’s with this darned thing?” Bowles asked. “I’d better go ahead and put in a tube. These tubeless tires can be ridden with a tube if you have to. They’re pretty cool that way.”

What was with that darned thing

The next thing I knew, Big Bowles had taken off the wheel and removed the tire from the rim, and the green slime tire sealant was covering his hands, quickly spreading to his face and then even his feet so that he looked like Brer Rabbit cagefighting with the Green Tar Baby from Mars.

The green slime sealant picked up bits of glass, rock, gravel, dirt, gum wrappers, cigarette butts, used condoms, and even an old gas cap, so that by the time Big Bowles was finished with the surgery he looked like a punk rock Christmas tree. We stuck him back on his bike and continued the plod up Hawthorne.

Clodhopper and I got mostly up the climb and then pulled over next to the bus stop across from the Ralph’s to wait for the others. As we stood there, up whizzed one of those Chevy’s that they made to look like a PT Cruiser, only with better velour seats. Out jumped a fellow in a three-piece suit and red necktie, stopping his car smack in the lane of traffic, and dashed over to the trash can next to the bus stop.

After a few quick rustles and dives, he ran back to his car, hands filled with a few bottles and a couple of cans. “That’s a hard way to earn seven and a half cents,” I marveled.

“After subtracting the cost of gas he’s losing money,” mused Clod. “Massively.”

We watched as the PT Chevy zoomed up to the next bus stop and repeated his cash collection, marveling at how unbelievably cheap and poor the rich people were in RPV, and how you’d never see such a thing in PVE, as they do it late at night.

After a while we got to the Jamba Juice, where Iron Mike and Psycho Mike treated everyone to multiple rounds of wheatgrass, a foul concoction that “cleanses the blood,” which is another way of saying that your turds are bright green for the next few days.

Psycho Mike had brought along a buddy, Cap’n Jim, pilot of a San Pedro tugboat, who almost caused StageOne to have an aneurysm by wearing a pair of Bike Palace shorts and a white/green/brown jersey that had the outline of a human skeleton (front and back) with all the organs in perfect Gray’s Anatomy placement.

We savored our wheatgrass, and called it a day. Big Bowles called a cab.

Year in review’s stellar performers: Kevin Phillips

November 16, 2011 § 4 Comments

It was a pretty good year for KP. Elite track nationals? Fifth place, team pursuit. Master’s track nationals? Stars and stripes jersey in the team pursuit. Silver medal in the individual pursuit. Bronze in the points race and scratch race. State champion in the individual and team pursuits. In addition to his state and national titles, KP had some excellent results on the road as well. And he achieved all of this before he discovered the Tug-Toner, so he should really blow doors in 2012.

But who really cares about that national champion stuff?

I don’t. Because the most important result for KP in 2011 was first floated as a mere idea on Wednesday, June 8, when I received a phone call. “Hey, dude. Wanna do the state team time trial?”

“I dunno. When is it?”

“Saturday. It’ll be fuckin rad, dude.”

“Saturday? That’s three days away.”

“Yeah. You ever done one?”

“No.”

“Got an aero rig?”

“No.”

“Got some aero wheels at least?”

“Just my 404’s. But I wouldn’t use them because my PowerTap’s on my training wheels.”

“Yeah. Fuck, dude. Ever use TT bars?”

“No. Look, I don’t think I’m your guy. Who else is on the team?” I figured if he was calling me, he had three people and was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

“Canyon Bob and Hockey Stick. You’re the last choice, dude.”

“I didn’t know Bob had a TT bike.”

“He doesn’t just his old road bike he’s kind of converted over.”

“But his current road bike is, like 15 years old. He’s going to be using something older than that?”

“Yeah. We’ll look like a bunch of dorks.”

“And I thought Hockey Stick was, like, a 2k pursuiter. Since when did he start doing 40k road time trials?”

“Fuck, dude, he just wants a medal. We only have to finish with three dudes. He’ll flail for the first three or four miles and get shelled.”

“What about me? I’ll flail for the first mile and get shelled.”

“Fuck dude, you’ll do fine. You’re a hammer. You know Canyon Bob goes good. He likes pain. Long as you don’t fucking crash us out on the TT bars.”

“I don’t have any TT bars, I told you.”

“No prob, dude. You can use Mel’s. I got a couple of extenders we can screw on before the start. Just don’t fuckin crash us out.”

“Are we going to practice?”

“Bob’s got a job, dude. Hockey Stick would practice but he’s fucking hittin the beer by 2 p.m. and you have to work. I’m swamped anyway. You’ll do fine. Don’t fuckin worry. We’ll get there early so you can practice.”

“Why’s Hockey Stick so sure we’ll get a medal?”

“Fuck dude, there’s only gonna be two teams show up. Only team registered now is Big Orange.”

“Big Orange? You’re joking. Don’t tell me G$ is doing it.”

“Him and Hottie and Weninger and Rob Mesecher. Don’t fuckin worry, dude.”

“Worry? They’ll crush us.”

“So you’re in?”

“No, I’m not in. I’m not paying an entry fee to race against those guys. That’s crazy.”

“Ironfly’s paying the entry fee, dude. Hockey Stick’s got the van and a bitchin four-bike rack. Swing by my place at 5 on Saturday. I’m gonna fuckin send you a TTT how-to email. It’ll be rad.” Click.

How to do a TTT in 73 easy steps

Sure enough, that evening I had a how-to TTT email waiting for me when I got home from work. And I somewhat quote:

“Don’t worry about being a dork, you’re pretty much a dork anyway but you can still get a medal because there are only two teams. Even you guys can’t fuck this up. So here’s how you do it, don’t worry, you’ll be fine, maybe.

“Your pull is NOT over when you pull off, your pull is over when you are back on a wheel at the back of the train. How many times have you taken your pull and thought you were fucking Eddy Merckx because you pulled off without puking, then somehow by the time you got to the back of the paceline you are blown and out of the saddle sprinting like a dork to get on a wheel only to get dropped like a fuckin wanker? Keep this in mind tomorrow and don’t be a fucking dork and drop yourself. Your pull’s not over until you’re back on the train.

“We are going to ride in the following formation: Me< Canyon Bob < Hockey Stick < Wankmeister. I will lead us out and get us up to speed, fast but not too intense and then Canyon Bob will carry on, etc. If we come out of the chute too hot we’ll blow and you can’t recover, it’s a matter of pacing. So don’t be a fucking dork and act like you’re sprinting for the chance to spend a night with a hooker and a baggie full of coke, just keep it under your threshold whatever you do.

“This will allow Bob to follow me, because he’s a smooth wheel, and allow me to follow Wankmeister so I can yell at him as necessary because he will probably be hammering like an idiot and drop us and then drop himself unless he’s wobbling like a madfuck because he’s never ridden TT bars so just pray he doesn’t crash us out. Hockey Stick will get to ride behind Bob, the most steady guy, so he can save the most energy so as not to get dropped, which is fucking hopeless because he’s going to get fucking shelled no matter what but at least hang on for five miles and give us a little break.

“Everyone should use his Garmin, just tape the damn thing on your aero bar with packing tape if you need to, I will have tape with me. Don’t worry about your rig looking stupid, you’ll all look like dorks no matter what. I will set the speed of our effort, you guys will simply maintain the speed. If I have us doing 28.5 mph, then you should pull through at the same speed. Remember, the key is to get quickly up to speed without overdoing it.

“If we are going too quick/slow I will yell at you to quit being an idiot and to pick it up or slow it down. This means adjust the speed by ½ mph, do NOT sit up and jam on your brakes, just roll back the effort 5-10 watts. Going fast in a TTT is all about efficiency and spending our resources wisely, if we do this correctly we can actually not be totally embarrassed, maybe.

“Going from 29 to 30mph takes a lot more power than going from 28 to 29mph, drag is not linear. Any time spent going over the average speed of a section is wasted energy, we need to ride as steady as we can and make adjustments slowly. We are going to time our pulls using crank revolutions, so count your right leg doing a full revolution as one tick. We are each going to start off doing pulls of the following length: Me, 30; Bob, 25; Hockey Stick, 10; Wankmeister, 30. Don’t be a dork and suddenly forget how to count it’s the same fucking shit you learned in kindergarten, except Hockey Stick, who probably didn’t learn it til fifth grade.

“I want Bob to have a bit left for the final push, his physiology is pretty adapted to an end effort. Wanky and I can both go full gas from the start and suck it up at the end when Bob comes around. Hockey Stick, don’t be a flailing flogfuck, you need to make the distance, at least five miles, ten would be optimum.

“I will continually ask how you’re doing when I am falling back, just give me a quick ‘Okay’ or ‘Hurting’ or ‘I am fucked’ or whatever. I won’t fucking pay attention unless you say you’re okay, this is going to hurt, it’s a fucking time trial. Remember: WE HAVE TO FINISH WITH 3 GUYS. If we are down to three guys we can’t torch anyone. The first five minutes we will feel as if we are going too slow, this is normal. Just chill and roll into the effort, we are going to be riding for ~50 minutes. The big time losses will come in the final six-mile stretch, we need to be able to ride that part fast, like our dicks are caught in a fucking vice and somebody’s fucking beating it with a hammer.

“Exactly halfway through we have a short hill, so go big ring and aero, but it is a 25-second incline that breaks the rhythm a bit. Let’s try and keep it together if possible. Hockey Stick, I want you to take shorter pulls for the two miles before the hill, we need to be able to get you and your big fucking beer belly over the climb without losing pace, no one needs to be a hero. Pay attention to where I put us on the road and the the side I pull off on, we will adjust this on different parts of the course depending on the wind, which is going to be howling worse than a fucking Gozilla shitstorm, headwind or crosswind for 3/4 of the course.

“If you are pulling through one of the four turns on the course be aware you have three other idiots behind you, don’t attack out of it or go through it so fast someone gets gapped off and is chasing. If one person goes in the red too early they will not recover, you will be hopelessly fucked and quit. We will all be riding near the edge for the entire time, and Hockey Stick you’ll be going faster than you’ve ever gone on something two-wheeled that doesn’t have a fucking motor.

“Shorter pulls will keep our speed up, long thrashing pulls slow us down. If you are all feeling good after the first five miles then we can pick up the pace but keep short pulls. We need to average over 28mph for the race, that will put us on schedule to do 50 minutes flat, that is our goal. Remember: three guys finish, short pulls, don’t go out too hard, and don’t be a fucking dork.”

5 a.m. was not really all that rad

Canyon Bob and I got to KP’s house at 5:00 a.m. and lightly rapped on the door. Nothing. Then we knocked a bit louder. Nada. Finally we started pounding. Eventually the door opened. KP stood there in his underwear, blinking as if he’d just been rousted from R.E.M., which he had.

“Fuck, dude. I slept through the alarm. Be ready in a minute.”

Shortly he reappeared and we loaded the bikes into his van. Hockey Stick lives in Manhattan Beach, and when we got there the light in his garage was on and he was sipping on a cup of coffee. We transferred the bikes from the van to the rack, climbed in, and headed out. Hockey Stick drives crazy fast, which I guess is fine if you’re steering a high performance sports car, but a Honda van stuffed with people, gear, and dangling four bikes on the back end makes for a pretty frightful ride.

The benefit was that we got to glorious Lake Los Angeles so early that we’d have plenty of time to register, set up our bikes, and warm up. Having the extra time, we stopped in for a snack and a dump at the McDonald’s. Both took longer than planned. For some reason we all decided to stand in the registration line together, further chewing up time, although one person could have registered us all.

It turned out that there were five teams total, and with the exception of ours, they were all on badass TT rigs, team kits, aero helmets, and had obviously practiced together. Hockey Stick had a $15,000 Specialized Widowmaker TT ride with a rear disc, three spoke HED in front, internal cables, electronic shifting, custom molded aero helmet, wind-slick skinsuit with shoe covers, and a fully integrated internal power meter.

Canyon Bob’s rig was an antique Trek 5500, state of the art from 1992 but state of collapse in 2011, tricked out with TT bars. “Here, dude,” said KP, flipping me a pair of tiny, 225mm bar extensions. “These’ll fuckin make you aero.”

It took me a while to get them on. By the time they were secured, and I had my kit on, we only had fifteen minutes to our start time. “Fuck, dude, better try those fuckin things out before we start so you don’t fuckin crash us out.”

I hopped aboard, got going, and immediately ran into several mission critical issues. The first was steering. The extenders totally changed the weight and handling of the front end of the bike. The second problem was steering. Stretched out on the bars I could no longer make quick corrections to my line. The third problem, even bigger than the first two, was steering. The bars were tiny, and obviously made for someone who didn’t have 36″ inch inseams on his forearms. The midget bar ends stopped halfway down my forearm, leaving the rest of the bone and my hands to flop freely off the ends of the bars. The fourth, and biggest problem, was steering. No brakes or shift levers meant that the whole bike wobbled when my unpracticed hands moved back to the hoods.

After 100 yards of practice, I turned around, nearly crashing out into the ditch. The wind was howling. “We’re gonna fuckin miss our start!” KP shouted. “Let’s go!”

Hockey Stick hadn’t even gotten his helmet on. None of us had ridden more than 100 yards. We were the second team to go off, with Big Orange behind us. They were warmed up, fierce looking, color-coordinated, and licking their chops. The studly team in front of us roared away.

Suddenly, total panic kicked in. Through the pounding of my heart and sensation of icy cold legs I heard the ref counting down “3-2-1″ followed by the clicking and clacking of shoes into pedals and the blur of KP blasting down the road, Bob and Hockey Stick in tow.

Getting up to speed gradually, kind of like the space shuttle

Within seconds I was in full sprint mode trying to catch on to Hockey Stick. By the time I caught up we were going absolutely full fucking bore at 33mph. I hit the front, pulled for a few seconds, swung off and barely latched back on. Before I’d had time to grab my breath I was at the head again, unable to stay there for more than about five pedal revolutions. It was more pain, and more intense pain, than I’d thought possible. And we were only a minute into it.

KP had come off the line so fast that we were all completely blown less than a mile in. When I rotated back to latch on after my third pull there was nothing where Hockey Stick was supposed to be except air. He’d been blasted out the back and was a receding speck in the distance. KP and Bob were taking huge pulls, with me simply rotating through, gasping, and lunging to catch on the back. This, unfortunately, was the “easy” tailwind section.

We hit the crosswind and I was almost blown off the road. Unable to control the bike, but buffeted like a spinnaker whenever I tried to ride on the drops, all I could feel was the kind of numbing, stupid pain mixed with sharp spikes of stinging agony that comes from dental surgery, childbirth, or arguments with a bank’s customer service rep. Each time KP rotated back he’d say, “You okay?” and I’d try to nod through the snot and spit, and they would just keep battering away.

51:03 later we finished. I could barely dismount. Hockey Stick had driven the van to the finish, was nattily attired in his apres-TTT outfit and sipping on an energy drink. Incredibly, we had almost caught the team in front of us, and had avoided, if only barely, being devoured whole by Big Orange, who won the race. “We got a silver medal!” Hockey Stick chirped. All I could do was groan as my legs cramped and I lay in the back of the van. The final ten miles my legs had kind of come around, and the final three miles I’d wielded the whip and thrashed it like a madman.

“Fuckin rad, dude,” said KP as we headed home. “Not bad for a bunch of dorks, huh? You know those other guys on the tricked out rigs felt pretty stupid, huh, getting beat by a bunch of dorks like you. I sure would. Good job!”

So I can attest to it, as I was there–stellar performance in the TTT by KP, a hero among men…or at least among dorks. Best of all, I learned something important about doing a team time trail properly: Whatever you do, don’t start out hot.

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