September 25, 2014 § 14 Comments
“Manslaughter and I are going for a slow spin around the hill. Leaving in five minutes.”
I read the text and started changing. I caught them in downtown Redondo, flipped it, and we started around the peninsula. It was 9:30 AM on a Wednesday, and too early on-a-day-that’s-not-a-Friday to contemplate drinking. The chatter was the same as always. Derek talked about losing weight. Manslaughter giggled. I wondered what I was going to blog about.
Manslaughter began talking about Santa and Jesus, and how he didn’t believe in either. Then Derek turned and said, “That’s fine, being an atheist and all, but then what exactly is your plan for getting into heaven? You don’t cruise across the line into heaven in the middle of the pack, sucking wheel. Getting into heaven is a time trial, and Jesus better be in your support vehicle.”
“Not to mention your water bottle,” I added.
Manslaughter giggled and suggested taking a “dirt road.”
“What kind of dirt road?” I asked.
“A flat one,” he lied.
Derek and I agreed since we were on our road bikes and, hell, we had done the BWR, right? How bad could it be? Manslaughter turned off the pavement to the left of where Tink had once splatted and where Toronto’s daughter had hit the seam in the road and launched into the curb and where Little Sammy Snubbins had flipped into oncoming traffic at 30. Ah, memories.
The dirt was fine until it turned up, then up again, then massively up. Manslaughter, currently ranked #23 in the nation for mountain biking, and therefore a never-miss descender and climber, misjudged a turn, fell off his bicycle, and ended up looking like a pubic crab on its back wiggling a very tiny bike in the air. We laughed and passed him, trying and failing to run over his neck.
Derek slowed, having lost too much weight the night before, and I raced by. I kept him behind me by weaving all over the steep and narrow trail. I’m not sure why he kept saying “motherfucker,” but he did. After a while we caught a rider on horseback.
“That horse is pretty sketchy,” I thought. “If I sneak past it I bet it freaks and maybe kicks and kills Derek and I win to wherever the fuck this climb goes.” Manslaughter had been dropped a long way back, which was fine, except that he was the only one who knew the route.
I picked a tight passing lane and went to shoot through it. The horse sensed my presence and looked like it was going to turn away from me, which was fine, until I realized the pivot was actually an aiming maneuver. The last thing I saw was its rump rising up to make room for its rear legs to clear and then lash out.
The next thing I knew, I wasn’t on a hot dirt road in Palos Verdes anymore. It was cool out and cloudy, but I was above the clouds. I saw a big pair of gates. I could see through them. There was Prez, wearing a halo and what appeared to be a peacock suit made of lycra, winking at me and holding a pair of new Michelin tires over his head with no video camera. There was Erik the Red, waving. Those were the only two people I knew.
Then I saw Charon manning the gates. He had a big book in front of him. “Wanky! You signed up for the wrong race again! Better head on down to your proper category.”
I felt myself falling. Now it was hot again, really hot, but at least I saw more people I knew. Hell, I knew everyone. But there was a black river of steaming hot energy gel to cross in order to get to them. I climbed into the boat waiting on the shore as a hooded guy started to row me across. “Brad?” I asked. “Brad House? Is that you?”
“Naw,” said the oarsman. “He went to somewhere really hot and miserable and filled with sinners. He’s in Texas.”
I debarked and got into a long line. “Where do I sign up for the 50+?” I asked.
Lane, who happened to be standing next to me, said, “I don’t know. I’m here for the Strava competition.”
“Who the hell is in charge around here?” I demanded. Soon enough I got to the sign-in table.
A huge three-headed angry Marine wearing an FBI men-in-black suit and Blues Brothers SPY shades glowered at me. “What the fuck do you want, cupcake?”
“Chris?” I said. “Is that you?”
“Who were you expecting to meet? Mitt Romney? You just signing up for eternity? Only $10 for the second eternity.”
“There’s been some mistake,” I said. “Manslaughter’s the atheist. He’s the one who wanted to suck wheel on Jesus. I’m always at the front. How do I get back up to Prez and those tires?”
“Ha, ha, cupcake,” Chris laughed as he gave me my number. “You’ve just been entered in the BWR from Hell.”
I shuddered. There in the distance stood MMX with a whip and a giant purple card, beating a drum that was slightly out of tune. He sneered at me. “What’s wrong, Patsy? There’s only 8 billion miles of dirt through a live volcano this time.”
“No!” I screamed. “Noooooooooooooooo!”
Suddenly I was lying on my back and the horse lady was saying, “He didn’t give me three feet when he tried to pass. He’s lucky poor old Sukey didn’t kill him.”
Manslaughter and Derek were splitting a bag of sport beans waiting for me to wake up. “If you help me wipe up the blood,” I said to them, “I’ll have Mrs. Wankmeister pick up a case of Racer 5 and make us some quesadillas with mushrooms and salsa.”
It sounded like a good idea to Derek and Manslaughter. Suddenly it was okay to drink before noon on a not-Friday-day. And we did.
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October 16, 2012 § 16 Comments
My phone rang at 5:30 this morning. “Hello?”
“Hey, WM. Have you heard anything?”
“Who is this?”
“Thunky. Thunky Sneedles.”
“Oh, it’s you again. No, man, I haven’t heard anything since your last call two hours ago. It’s five-fucking-thirty, dude.”
“I just thought you’d maybe, you know, gotten some offers or something.”
“No, man. Crickets.” I’d agreed to act as Thunky’s agent in the off-season, and even though the trades had started in earnest, Thunky was still out in the cold, and he was nervous. “Look, let’s go over it again. I know you’re nervous, but you have to be patient. These things take time. When some of the bigger fish get their contracts, it’ll loosen up the purse strings for the domestiques like you.”
“But what if I don’t get an offer from anybody? What if I have to stay with Team D’oosh next year? My career’s too short for that, man. I’ve only got a couple of good years left, and I need to ride for a winner.”
“I know, I know. Nobody said being a professional masters racer was easy.”
“Fuck, ain’t that the truth.”
“Why are you so down on Team D’oosh? You fit right in.”
“They suck and their bro deal is so lame.”
“Really? Even with that bike and those five free kits and the travel reimbursements? And don’t they cut you in on the winnings even if you’re OTB?”
“Yeah, it sounds great. But it sucked this year. I mean, no one ever fucking wins. They suck. And the frame? It was the Specialized SL4 instead of their top of the line Venge. Charon gets the Venge on his team. How’m I supposed to take that dude on riding an SL4? It’s like bringing a full set of teeth to a dicksucking contest.”
“Are the bikes really that different?”
“Hell yeah. The Venge has this really cool paint option. It’s so fuckin’ rad.”
“Well, at least getting the whole $8,500 rig with Di2 on loan for a whole season and then swapping it out for a new one in ’13 saves you some money.”
“Dude! It’s not about the MONEY. It’s about the wins. You get the wins, the money flows. That’s how the pro scene works.”
“Even in the men’s 35+?”
“Well, what about the kits? That’s a grand right there, easy, free. You gotta be happy about that.”
“Those kits were so last year. The leg elastic band was at least 1/4 inch shorter than the pro stuff Paolinetti was wearing on Monster. Like I’m gonna take that guy on with short elastic bands? And the design was, like, puke.”
“I guess they screwed you pretty bad, huh?”
“I’ll say. The travel reimbursements only kicked in after you’d done five races. I fuckin’ told ‘em that I was gonna do a full schedule, but for me that’s four races, including our Team D’oosh club time trial in January. They have to understand that if you want results, you gotta be rested between races. Real rested. Recovery is just as important as training, prolly more so, even.”
“Look, Thunky. I’m gonna try to get you on Amgen this year. You’ll be a domo for Thurlow, Meeker, Brett, Strickie, Malcolm…the big boys. But you gotta bring something to the table. What do I tell them about you?”
“What do you tell them? Duuuuude! Aren’t you my agent? Fuckin’ tell ‘em about what we did this year! Tell ‘em how the race went down when Clunky Thunky brought the A-game and stuffed the clowns into the hurt locker! Tell ‘em that!”
“Ah, what race are you talking about, Thunks?”
“What race? San Dimas! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten San Dimas?”
“Was that the one where you launched off the road and hit that parked car? At, like three miles in or something?”
“You always gotta bring up the fuckin’ parked car. Fuck the parked car! Dude, I stretched the field like a teenage dick on its first handjob. Ask ‘em, man, any of those dudes’ll tell you about the Thunky Beatdown. Thurlow was there. Meeker was there. Worthingtons were there. Fuckin’ Leibert was beggin’ for mercy I had everybody on the rivet.”
“Okay, maybe I’ll remind them of that later, you know, like when we’re talking signing bonuses and stuff. What else happened in 2012?”
“I did that one 35+ race and laid the fuckin’ wood to Tintsman and Paolinetti.”
“Phil Tintsman? You? Really? That’s pretty awesome, cause those two guys are the real deal. Which race was it?”
“Hellz. It was at Ontario, I think. Maybe CBR. I attacked from the gun like always.”
“Then you got in a break with Phil and Jamie? Sweet!”
“Nah, I didn’t get in no fuckin’ break. I’m a sprinter kind of rouleur. You know, a puncheur climber type time trialist, all ’rounder with an emphasis on track and ‘cross.”
“So what happened?”
“It was like on the second or third lap. I was fuckin’ railin’ it, dude, 54-11, hittin’ the headwind section like a fuckin’ freight train. Field was comin’ apart at the seams, everybody strung out in the fuckin’ gutter, dudes frying off the back like fritters in a fryolator. Tintsman and Paolinetti were in the hurt locker. The pain cave. Beggin’ for fucking mercy, they were my bitches, dude. That’s what I’m talking ’bout.”
“I finished my solid half lap and then Tintsman and Paolinetti and Charon and a bunch of other dudes, I think Brauch and Wimberley, and you know, five or six other Monster dudes, and a few other guys rolled off in a break. There was like sixty of ‘em. No way we were bringing them back. But you can ask Tintsman, that shit wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t softened ‘em up.”
“Sixty dudes? In one break?”
“Yeah, man. It was fucking righteous. Me and Stimp Twitchers–you know him? Rides for Soft Longies, he’s a badass. Me and Stimp fuckin’ motored with the field on our wheel the rest of the race.”
“How many guys were left in the field?”
“About seven or eight. Coddles McGee, Woodenhead, Dorcas Johnson, Tubbs, you know. The dudes you can count on.”
“Okay, I’ll make the pitch for you. What should I tell them your goals are for 2013?”
“My goals? Do you even have to ask? Tell ‘em this: I’m comin’ for Charon if they can find me a Venge just like his. Black shorts, with the cool elastic thingy like Paolinetti and Tintsman have. And $10k in travel reimbursements. Up front, Jan. 1, like in the pros. And a cut of everything everyone wins, even if I have to miss the race because of my Saturday yoga class. And free massage sessions–and I pick the fuckin’ masseuse. Don’t give me some hairy dude named Jacques. I want a smoking babe who only works nekkid or in a thong. Happy ending for Thunky, you got that? And a 401k and a team car. That’s my starting offer. See what you can do from there.”
“And what can they expect in return?”
“I’m gonna take Charon down next year. I’m gonna ride Tintsman off my fuckin’ wheel. I’m gonna give Meeker a sprint clinic every fuckin’ weekend. You tell ‘em that, Wanky, and you tell ‘em Thunky sent you.”
The phone went dead.
A few minutes later it rang again.
“Yo, it’s me again. Any offers?”
“Not yet, buddy. But they’re comin’ any minute. Any minute.”
January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
First time I ever saw Charon I thought, “Who is that guy? What’s wrong with that crazy guy who doesn’t know how to glue on a freaking tire?”
We were barreling into the turn before the finish line at Eldo, it must have been April 2008, and this Sho-Air guy a few wheels ahead of me rolled a tubular on his fancy carbon rims. He went down quicker and harder than a hooker on a thousand-dollar trick, bounced off the tarmac and stood there in the middle of the field with bikes whizzing by, dodging, swerving, cussing, and doing everything you couldn’t imagine except slam into him, the stink from his melted carbon wheel spitting smoke and dust into the air and that rolled tire hanging off the busted rim like a twisted old dog’s tongue lolling on the pavement.
That was Charon, he of the not-real-well-glued-on-tire, soon to be he-whose-tires-were-always-glued-on-so-hard-that-you’ll-need-vicegrip-pliers-to-get-them-off.
I did a few more Eldos that year, and never saw him roll another tire. Actually, I never saw him much at all, except at the beginning of the race. No matter where I finished, he was always across the line so far ahead of me that to have really effectively congratulated him I would have needed to have sent him a letter or called him on his cell. Thing about Charon was that he was always smiling, always happy to meet people, always in a good mood.
Sure, he was happy. Sure, he was nice. Sure, everyone liked him. Sure, he was handsome. Sure, he was a rocket on a bike. None of that mattered to me, though: I saw through to the real Charon. And I’m going to introduce him to you here.
You pays your nickel and you takes your chance
If you will do me a favor, scroll down a few blog entries and you’ll see one of my posts regarding “Who’s Hot.” It lists, down at the bottom, Dan G., who celebrated his first race yesterday with a win. See? I was right. It also lists, higher up, Charon S., and gives the inside tip: he’s fully prepared and ready to rock. On Sunday at the Dominguez Hills crit put on by Chris Lotts and world-renowned California Bicycle Racing, 90+ knuckleheads showed up to blast around in a circle for an hour in the 30+ race.
I was one of them. Charon was one of the others. I finished in the churning, heaving, hopeless middle of the pack. Charon took fourth, and would have won if Bert G. hadn’t decided to lead out the sprint by digging a pedal and launching four hundred feet into the air and onto the pavement head-first. 90 guys. Fourth place. Think it’s easy? There’s another one on February 20 where you can come out and show us how it’s done.
Charon’s placing wasn’t just impressive because I labeled him an uber-hammer in my galactically-famous Form Report. It wasn’t just impressive because he beat out 86 other idiots in a mad, high speed death scramble for a moldy snack and cheap bottle of wine. It was impressive because to get to the line he had to pick his way through an earlier mass pileup, hold his position with five laps to go, bull his way onto the right wheel in the closing lap, fight off the scavengers and jackals trying to edge him out for position in the sprint, avoid a death crash in the final turn, and do all of that without expending any more energy than absolutely necessary so that when it came time to uncork the champagne bottle, it would uncork with a vengeance. It was a risky, nasty business that required a big, fat, hairy nutsack about the size of a shotput.
Will the real Charon please stand up?
Of course he won’t. That’s because, like I said earlier, he’s got a secret side. It’s soft-spoken or utterly mute, it’s hidden behind a smiling mask, and it never, ever grins. The only prisoners it ever takes are already dead. This is Charon the bike racer: dialed in and focused on winning, and in case you didn’t notice, or didn’t want to notice, or weren’t smart enough to notice, it means he’s intent on beating the snot out of the competition, all of it, including YOU.
What makes Charon the bike racer even scarier is that he doesn’t ride dirty. No nasty moves (aside from the occasional poorly glued on tire), no cheap shots, nothing mean or sleazy or low. He rides fair and he beats you fair and whips your ass with class.
So those of you who know and love Charon the nice guy are asking, “Who the hell are you? How are you pretending to know Charon? He smacks you around in bike races like a boxer beating a legless chicken. Where do you get off with all this crap?”
Where I get off with all my crap
The answer, of course, is that I don’t really know any of those things about Charon–except that he’s the nicest guy in the peloton and he really did screw up that time by not gluing on his tire. I’m just speculating from afar, as I’ve never gotten close enough to him in a finish to see how he rides; he’s just too damned fast. Mostly I’m guessing, because even old man bike racing is fast and hard and tough, and when you place that highly in a 90-man field with half the guys going for the win, you have to be hard and smart and quick and possess a big old hairy, gnarly pair.
So where I’m going is this, South Bay Cycling Prediction Number Two for the season: Charon is going to win a whole bunch of races this year. And just because he’s smiling at you and giving you training advice and inspiring you with his positive attitude doesn’t mean he isn’t going to squash you like a bug when there’s only a couple hundred meters to the bright white line.