September 7, 2014 § 9 Comments
I rode my bike to the Milt Olin protest ride on Wednesday. It was in Calabasas, a solid two-and-a-half hour pedal from the South Bay. Milt was run over in the bike lane by a cop who was texting on his phone and typing on his mobile computer. The ride was organized to protest the decision by assistant district attorney minion Rosa Alarcon not to file misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the deputy.
Even a slap on the wrist, apparently, was too much to ask.
There was a soul-sapping headwind all the way out the bike path. At CotKU, no one was waiting to join me, understandable since most people at 2:00 PM the Wednesday after Labor Day weekend are working. Coming into Santa Monica the most frightening thing in 32 years of bicycling happened.
I was riding in the bike lane on Main Street, just north of Abbot Kinney, when a Range Rover going the other direction swerved over into my lane. Accelerating to well over 50 mph, the bearded psycho leaned out the window and spit at me. Unfortunately for him, the onrushing wind blew the spit back into his face. Nor could he hop back into his lane because he’d overtaken three cars traveling in his direction, so he went even faster.
When I turned around to shoot the bird, he jerked back into his lane so hard that he almost flipped his car. I imagined the headline: “Cyclist killed en route to memorial ride for killed cyclist.”
Farther along in Santa Monica I stopped at the Ocean Park toilets but no one was waiting there either, so I pedaled on. Ascending Topanga Canyon I was passed by Peppy, the British neo-Cat 4 who regularly drills, grills, and kills on the NPR. “I waited at the Ocean Park toilets,” he said. “Where were you?”
“I didn’t see anyone so I kept going.”
“Um,” he said, exacting his vengeance with a nasty pace all the way up the climb.
We reached the assembly point for the memorial ride. There was a helicopter, as well as news trucks from every major TV station. The assistant district attorney’s decision not to prosecute had outraged the bicycling community. “Rosa Alarcon licks balls!” said one angry cyclist.
We put on arm bands and rolled out at 4:30, heading towards downtown, a mere three hours distant, through the worst traffic in the San Fernando Valley. I only had one water bottle and it was empty. The air in the valley was wretched and loaded with marble-sized particulates. A hacking cough began and we caught every light, hundreds and thousands of them, all the way to downtown. At one point our group split in half when the leaders rolled through a yellow light.
We remnants didn’t know the route and the leaders vanished in the distance. A mad chase ensued, with me and Peppy doing a desperate time trail to bridge and alert the leaders that half the group was four stoplights and twelve light years back. The hacking cough migrated down to the lowest part of my lungs.
In Burbank we were joined by a rider who was wearing a Total Team Sky Outfit And Team Bike. He looked just like Chris Froome except for his backpack, in which he carried a portable, hi-fidelity speaker. It was connected to his iPod, and he blasted us with an endless stream of terrible music, including Elvis, the Beatles, New Age Christian, hip-hop, Frank Sinatra, and jazz fusion. The music was so loud that when it paused between songs the background noise of LA’s rush hour traffic sounded muted, silent, pastoral.
This lasted until 7:30, when we reached the LA County District Attorney’s office. The ride had swelled as we crossed the city, and a candlelight vigil was held in Milt’s honor. Marv, Don, Brendan, and JF had joined the ride after work, and these four South Bay riders, along with me and Peppy, headed back home on Venice Boulevard in the pitch black.
It might as well have been Venice-Roubaix, so cracked and scarred and chug-holed were the roads. We had lights, but speeding along in a pace line they only illuminated the ass of the rider in front. Peppy had bonked and I was dead, even as the fresh South Bay foursome laid down a grueling pace.
JF, who had been noticeably absent from the working end of the paceline, came to the fore at last and put in a mighty turn. Peppy had yet to take a single pull, and I was about to pop. Suddenly JF, forty whole seconds into his effort, shouted out “El Dolor del Estomago! The most famous taco truck in the city!”
Almost taking us all out with a might brake and swerve, JF zoomed into the packed parking lot, where fifty people stood in line for the best of El Dolor’s offerings. Half an hour later we were standing against a trash can, each polishing of a mound of chicken-and-habanero-bean tacos.
Whether it was the energy of the food or the roaring volcano in his bowels, Peppy came to life. Everyone else retreated the other way, towards death, as he dragged us at 30mph down the barely-lit, cratered asphalt of Venice Blvd. After several miles Brendan dropped off, pleading menstrual cramps. Marv spied a blinking light that said “Beer” and vanished. JF, whose idea the taco stop had been, metamorphosed into a rolling effluent pipe.
We all parted ways on the bike path, except for Marv, who had been smart enough to stop when he found an open bar. I made it to Malaga Cove at 9:30 and called my wife to pick me up. I’m sure I’ve felt worse on a bike, but it’s hard to pinpoint when. Then I thought about Milt Olin, struck down in the prime of life, father and husband, killed by a cop who was too lazy to pull over and text.
My exhaustion evaporated and I felt grateful for being alive and angry at the kangaroo court’s cowardice. What happened to this kind and gentle man could happen to any of us, and on the way to the ride, in my case it almost did. Over a 150 people showed up on bikes and crossed the entire city to register their outrage and to demand justice for Milt, justice for every other person who dares risk death simply by riding a bicycle. With only three months left before the statute of limitations tolls, time is running out for the DA to do the right thing.
Won’t you take a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard? The link is here with contact information and sample letters to email the DA. With prime time news coverage on every major news channel, District Attorney Jackie Lacey can be called to account only through the strength of your voice. Please help. Don’t give up.
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July 10, 2014 § 25 Comments
After Wednesday’s stunning reversal of fortune that saw last year’s Tour de France champion Chris Froome fall off his bicycle three separate times, the stem-gazing Man Of Something Not Quite As Hard As Steel announced that after falling and getting an “ouchie” he would not be starting Thursday’s stage. Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Chris and director David Brailsford aboard the team bus, now affectionately known as the “Froome Wagon.”
CitSB: So, what happened?
Froome: Aw, it was fuggin’ awful, mate, a bloody shit show. Rain, cobbles, traffic furniture, 190 idiots trying to squeeze onto a cow track, y’know?
CitSB: Cobbles got the best of you?
Froome: Well, it was the pre-cobbles.
Froome: Yar. I sort of hit some wanker’s wheel and fell off me bike.
CitSB: Did you break your wrist in your first pre-cobbles bike-falling-off incident, or the second?
Froome: The second. It’s not quite broken. But it’s very sore. Incredibly hurty sore. I couldn’t continue.
CitSB: What’s the current Dx?
Froome: Oh, it’s very painful and hurts. The riding and such and the rain and the other people trying to beat me and the stress made it very ouchy and hurty, eh? Tough day in the saddle for us hard men, that’s for sure.
CitSB: When did you know you wouldn’t be able to start Thursday’s stage?
Froome: Right away. I hit me hand and scratched it pretty bad like. The doctor put on three Band-Aids and a cold pack, y’know? It was super hurty ouchy. I can really relate to what Johnny Hoogerland and Tyler Hamilton went through. But it’s a tough sport and not to brag, but we’re tough guys. Hard men.
CitSB: What does this mean for the rest of your season?
Froome: It’s not too bad, actually. I plan on grabbing a couple of pints down at the pub tonight with Cav and Millar and maybe Wiggo. We’ve got a little support group going, eh. Rooney may show up, too. I get to rest all day today and all day Thursday, then I’ll pick up where I left off on Friday. It’s a stage that’s not too bad.
CitSB: Excuse me?
Froome: The Tour’s a three-week race, mate. What’s a day here or there? I’m surprised more guys don’t do it. Take a couple of days off and then come back sharper than a needle, if you know what I mean.
CitSB: So you’re going to just hop back in?
Froome: Yeah. Why wouldn’t I? I ain’t no quitter, mate.
CitSB: Have you discussed this with anyone?
Froome: Oh, sure. Brailsford’s on board with it. Right, Dave?
Brailsford: Absolutely. He’s prepared all year for this. A lot of guys would quit with a big nasty ouchie like that, but Chris is no quitter; he’s more like a pauser. He lives for the Tour. And for stems. And as he says, by Friday he’ll have recovered enough to have another go. We don’t expect him to pull on the yellow jersey until the mountains, though.
CitSB: Uh … don’t you guys know that, uh … never mind. So, have you had any second thoughts about Wiggo?
Froome: (laughs) Yeah. Our first thought was that he’s an arse. And our second thought is that he’s a hole. (guffaws)
CitSB: I mean, does your accident make you regret having left him off the team?
Froome: Not at all. Why would it?
CitSB: Well, if Wiggins had been selected he’d be able to lead the team now.
Froome: (suspiciously) What’s that supposed to mean? I told you I’m comin’ back on Friday, didn’t I? I’m the leader of this team, that’s sorted. And if I’d had me way I wouldn’t of rode today anyway. Stupid stage, like I said. I’m a bike racer, not a rock climber. I think next year we’ll do a bit more stage recon and skip the ones that ain’t a good fit.
Brailsford: We’re still planning on using Wiggins, actually.
CitSB: You are?
Brailsford: Yes. We’re saving him for a couple of key mountain stages. When everyone else is tired he’ll be fresh as a new blood bag. We’ll send him in to set pace for Chris. We figure that’s the best way to burn up Contador. Then we’ll rest him for a couple of stages and send him in again.
CitSB: Kind of like a pinch hitter in American baseball?
Froome: Yeah, exactly, without all the chewing tobacco.
CitSB: Any thoughts on the withdrawals of Andy Schleck and Mark Cavendish? They both went down in crashes, too.
Froome: (laughing) Them wankers ought to learn how to ride a bike!
June 20, 2014 § 26 Comments
Now is the summer frenzy held once every four years when British people remind us that it’s called “football,” when British people remind us that they invented the world’s most popular sport, and when British people quietly make their traditional early exit from the World Cup tournament grumbling “Wait ’til next time.”
Still, despite their national love affair with a sport they’re not very good at (something the French share with regard to cycling), after catching a few games on TV I’m convinced that World Cup soccer is way better than the Tour de France. Here’s why.
- To compete as a masters racer in cycling you need tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. To play World Cup soccer you need a pair of legs. And a ball.
- The winner of the World Cup is never determined two weeks before the tournament ends.
- The same team doesn’t win the World Cup seven times in a row and then have its victories nullified because of cheating.
- Chris Froome.
- The Tour may be the hardest sporting event in the world, but World Cup soccer displays the most athleticism — running, jumping, kicking, twisting, tackling, throwing up your arms in shock that you’ve been penalized for chopping an opposing player in the throat, and of course flopping.
- When you fly halfway around the world to watch a World Cup soccer match, you get to watch it live for more than 2 or 3 seconds.
- Soccer may not be as exciting as, say, snake tossing, but nothing is as boring as watching skinny people in their underwear pedaling bikes. Nothing.
- “Teamwork” never means “Everyone sacrifice everything for that one dude who is the only official winner.”
- You can start an argument, brawl, or minor riot in any bar in any country on earth by discussing the World Cup.
- When you talk about the World Cup winner, no one ever says “Who?”
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August 18, 2013 § 30 Comments
I am an ugly rider. I bob up and down. I weave back and forth. I make unpleasant gasping sounds when going hard. My thin arms stick out at odd angles like a praying mantis. I have been called “Twigman,” “Mantis,” “The Human Loom,” and of course plain old “Wanker.”
But you know what? I’m an amateur, and not a particularly good one. My ugly riding style is just one more check-mark in the long list of qualities that define me as a weekend hacker.
What’s more than passing strange, though, is the ugliness of the professionals. Because you know, it didn’t always used to be that way.
The most beautiful sport
If you look at any of the classic cycling videos — A Sunday in Hell, or the 1973 World Championships in Spain — it’s impossible not to be struck with the smoothness of the riders. Of course each one is idiosyncratic; funny motions and unique pedaling styles make each rider as distinct as a thumbprint. But despite each rider’s individual style, the grace and smoothness of the riding is incredible, even over the rough and ragged paving stones to Roubaix.
Then, to see how far we’ve fallen, look at the Tour of 2013.
The winner is perhaps the worst example of ugly cycling to ever appear in the pro peloton. Froome’s ungainly, awkward, uncomfortable, and erratic pedaling make his riding ugly beyond belief, and the hilarious photo essay of “Chris Froome Looking at Stems” only proves the point: The head-droop that causes experienced racers to shout, “Keep your head up, dumbshit!” is emblematic of a man who just won the Tour de France. Yet he’s hardly alone. Jerky, forced, unnatural, uncomfortable riding styles abound. How did the beauty of 1973 become the unbearable ugliness of 2013?
The biggest difference between then and now is that pro cyclists don’t race their bikes very much. In 1975, the year that Eddy Merckx lost the tour, he entered a staggering 195 races, everything from classics to grand tours to local criteriums. Nor was he the exception, because in those days pro riders made their money at the smaller events. Merckx has said that if he had been paid better, he would have raced less.
Chris Froome’s racing schedule in 2013 was comprised of the Tour of Oman (6 races), Tirreno-Adriatico (7 stages), Criterium Internationale (3 stages), Tour of Romandie (6 races), Criterium du Dauphine (8 races), and the Tour de France (21 races). His total race calendar for the year was a meager 51 races, and when you lop out the time trials and prologues it was even less.
From the perspective of developing good riding skills, the generation of racers who became professionals by racing their bikes rather than by doing specific lab, heart rate, or power-based workouts had countless more racing miles than modern Pro Tour racers. It’s my opinion that the huge number of races over so much different terrain — riders would often do track and cyclocross after the road season ended, in addition to muddy spring classics and summertime tours — made them smoother, more fluid, more skilled, and better riders.
Equipment and training miles
In addition to huge miles in training and racing, Ol’ Backintheday rode equipment that required skills. You had to reach the down tube to shift. You had fewer gears to choose from. Your bike was heavier. Your wheels were slower. Your feet weren’t very firmly bound to your pedals. Your shoe soles were soft.
Professionals had to be able to pedal and operate machinery that was more finicky than today’s push-button, wrist-flicking technology. The best example I can think of that shows how degenerate the pro peloton’s skills generally are is by comparing them with modern track racers, who still have the same bike handling limitations that they had fifty years ago.
The track is narrow and unforgiving. The speeds are high. The equipment tolerates little if any jerky, quirky, ugly riding, especially at the level of world class competition. The result? Elite track racers remain beautiful to watch, their efficient, measured, and controlled movements in complete harmony with the bike.
I’ll always ride ugly. But Chris Frooome and his cohorts could stand for a beauty makeover. It might make me forget about their volcano doping, if only for a little while.
July 23, 2013 § 55 Comments
Does anyone know Lance’s cell phone? ‘Cause we need him bad.
This Wiggins-Froome thing has gotten totally out of hand. One day we were watching a doped up superman who boinked models and actresses and rock stars, who owned ranches and mansions and private jets, who was devilishly good looking, whose ego was bigger than Dallas and twice as gnarly, who ground people up into hamburger meat on and off the bike, who beat cancer, cured cancer, sued enemies into oblivion, had an entourage of global financiers, Italian dope doctors, starlets, drug mules, presidents and scientists and who, with only one nut still had bigger balls than the entire pro peloton, and then, BAM!
We were watching Chris fucking Froome, a human insect who can’t even pedal properly, a craven little wussmeister whose doping program is “marginal gains” instead of “ram the whole 12,000 cc up my ass,” an awkward, unappetizing robot who confirms what every motorist instinctively knows: Cyclists are contemptible arthropods deserving nothing so much as the heel of a boot.
Sure, I used to bag on Dopestrong…until I saw the last two years of Dopeweak. What happened to the drug-crazed cannibals of yore, handsome, muttonchopped, steel-willed manly men who ate raw meat with their fists and swallowed their cocaine-heroin-strychnine cocktails in one-pint tumblers? How could we have banished the lying, cheating, brash and big-balled Texan who rode a chrome Harley, threw massive charity balls, charged 100k to jocksniffing millionaires for a group ride appearance, won triathlons, raced marathons, conquered Leadville, and ruled the entire UCI with the iron grip of a drug kingpin, which he was, and traded him in for the sniveling, milquetoast, dainty British softmen who drink tea, slurp warm beer, and race like simpering weenies or, what’s infinitely worse, like British people?
Where is the wrath, the insane bloodlust fueled by too many drugs in the wrong combination, the tortured beastly exhibitions of athletic porn, the Texas gunslinger who rode over the bones of his challengers and fell as mightily as he rose, in full color on a giant screen surrounded by a frothing media scrum and presided over by the queen of daytime TV? I’ll tell you where: He’s been replaced by “champions” who are no cleaner but a thousand times less entertaining to watch, the insect class, the automaton class, the zombies of the road.
Please, if you have his number, call Lance for me and beg him to either come back or to give these pasty-faced cab drivers a few lessons in how to race like the future of the galaxy depended on it. I’ll take les forcats de la route over the zombies of the road any day.
July 19, 2013 § 22 Comments
After his frightening brush with sadness on Monday’s rest day, Tour de France leader Chris Froome became very mad on Tuesday. Froome, angry about challenger Alberto Contador’s “dangerous” riding which forced him off his bike near the end of Tuesday’s 16th stage to Gap, was still stewing about the incident six hours later when he posted a tweet expressing his irritation.
“Yesterday I was really sad about all the volcano doping allegations,” said Froome. “But today I’m mad. Contador’s dangerous riding was really dangerous. It was extremely dangerous, so much so that I could have gotten really badly hurt. That just makes me mad.”
When it was pointed out that, generally speaking, two hundred cyclists crammed onto French roads no wider than a tampon while racing shoulder-to-shoulder downhill at speeds exceeding 100 kph was a fairly dangerous endeavor, Froome reacted angrily and with a lot of madness. “I have a right to be mad about this. I think Contador was taking too many risks and evidently he did go a little too fast, he couldn’t even control his own speed and crashed. That put me in danger.”
Spanish madly react to Froome’s anger
Contador rejected Froome’s concerns, appearing to be mad that Froome was mad at him. “He is, how you say in English, a big pussy? Is true, I made the crash in front of him going a little too much fast, no bueno. Now he’s crying about peligroso? It’s the bike racing. Que pussy.”
Soon-to-be-Sir David Brailsford, babysitter of Team Sky and curator of the team’s Hello Kitty collection, was also very mad, despite being sad only a day earlier. “This makes me mad. Chris could have lost the Tour. Do you know how mad he would have been then, not to mention getting very sad again? He has ridden an amazing race. The others should be giving up, not pushing the pace on the downhill and somehow trying to gain a time advantage which makes Chris awfully mad. We talked about this amongst ourselves, and the whole team was mad. Just really mad. Angry mad.”
Teammate Richie Porte, who is hardly ever mad, was hopping mad. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more,” said Porte in his thick Australian accent that sounded like a cross between English and a throat disease. “G’day mate, shrimps on the barbie and all that. Just because I’m a banana bender don’t mean these bities ‘n bludgers can act like a bounce on me mate, eh?”
Froome goes from mad to happy after Thursday’s queen stage on l’Alpe d’Huez
Despite being sad, then mad, Froome found himself feeling happy after Team Sky released his power data to Dr. Professor Jacques Tati, the respected French physiologist and comic film director. According to Tati, “Froome’s power profiles show what we would expect within the range of a human with a V02 max that is at the limit of what is possible for a human, although suspect for a gangly insect, which he may well be.”
Froome was very happy to hear Tati’s analysis. “I’m really happy to hear Dr. Tati’s findings and his take on it, and basically to back us up and say that these performances are very good and strong, clean, sporting performances. I’m not mad anymore, and I forgive Alberto. I am happy now.”
Dr. Tati pointed out that he had not concluded that the performances were clean. “I only said he was normal for someone who is completely abnormal. Whether he is clean or not, who knows?”
British cycling public slowly getting happy
As Froome’s lock on the 2013 Tour looks unshakeable, the cynical, sad, mad, and fundamentally grumpy British public has slowly shown signs of being happy about Froome’s happiness.
Nigel Rathbone, a waiter at the famed “Warm Beer and Fish” pub, was guardedly happy. “I s’pose I’m happy, yeh, if it means we beat the French at something. Yeh. Why not, eh?”
Cloretha Clammonger, a charwoman in the City’s toney central district, was also potentially happy. “I reckon I could be ‘appy, I could. I’d rather be grumpy, but you know Chris is just a South African, which isn’t really English, right? Now if he was a right good Englishman, I s’pose I’d be ‘appier than a whore at a cardinal’s convention, I would.”
July 17, 2013 § 24 Comments
Lost in the press reports of rest day haircuts and predictions for the remaining stages, it took almost twenty-four hours in the news cycle for the World Anti Doping Agency to act on Tour de France leader Chris Froome’s shocking admission during a media interview.
When asked about the credibility of his ride up Mt. Ventoux, Froome said “My team-mates and I, we’ve slept on volcanoes to get ready for this.”
WADA officers immediately charged Froome with a “non-analytical” positive, a scenario in which a rider can be accused of doping based on circumstantial evidence, written or spoken admissions, or convincing evidence other than standard urine or blood analyses.
Jean-Paul Smails, Chief Inquistor for WADA, laid out the charges. “He’s admitted to volcano doping, which is a violation of Rule 2.281(a), Subsection 12, which states that ‘No athlete may sleep on or otherwise utilize volcanoes to enhance performance.'”
Team Sky boss David Brailsford reacted angrily. “You’re kidding me, right? There’s no way he volcano doped. He misspoke. They slept on a mountain, perhaps, but no one knew it was a volcano. We thought it was a large mountain. We checked it out with the Mallorcan authorities and they assured us it was a mountain, not a volcano.”
Froome also rejected the charge. “I’ll wait for the B sample to come back. There’s no way that was a real volcano, and if it was, it’s because someone slipped it into my meat. It was tainted Mallorcan meat.”
When pressed as to why he’d referred to it as a volcano if it really wasn’t one, Froome shot back. “‘Volcano’ is slang for ‘boner’ in the UK, maybe you Yanks don’t know that, eh? I was sleeping on my mate’s boner, which is like a mini-volcano, get it? Stupid Yank reporters, go learn y’self some English.”
The Mallorcan Meat Cooperative, a national meat marketing collective, angrily rejected Froome’s claims that its meat was tainted. “We handle our meat carefully, regularly, religiously almost. When our meat leaves our hands it’s guaranteed to be fresh, firm, and free from additives such as clenbuterol or volcano. Our legal counsel is looking into filing defamation charges against Mr. Froome for claiming that we mishandle our meat.”
WADA investigation gathers steam
Officials for the French AFLD and WADA insisted that they would pursue the investigation, but the UCI remained skeptical. “We don’t believe he volcano doped,” said UCI chief Paddy McQuaid. “Although his team did buy us a new volcano testing machine to catch other lava cheats, that has had no influence on our posture in the matter. We don’t treat the stars any differently from the routiniers.”
Francois Vichy de Foiegras of the AFLD disagreed. “Ee eez vocano doping, n’cest pas? Why else he sleeping on ze volcano? Le Mt. Venoux est un volcano aussi, et we believe zat he gets un avantage avec zees volcano doping.” Later that evening the Team Sky bus was searched by the forensic unit of the French National Anti Doping SWAT Team, but no magma was found, although investigators were seen carrying large plastic bags of rocks off the “Froome Wagon” along with what appeared to be most of the team’s Hello Kitty collection.
Links to Italy?
Froome has worked with notorious volcano doping physician Michele Ferrari, although both deny that the connection involves volcanoes. “I use him for his training plans,” said Froome. “He is a good man. He’s taught me so much about how not to blow, but nothing that involved a volcano, I can assure you.”
Ferrari also denied helping athletes such as Froome volcano dope. “I don’t do such a thing, but if I did, so what? A bit of volcano is no more dangerous than a liter of orange juice. Except for when Pompeii was obliterated by Vesuvius or Krakatoa. But that is completely different.”
At press time, Froome’s team physician, Bugsy Malone, provided Tour de France officials with a prescription for volcano enemas, although it had apparently been backdated to precede Froome’s mountaintop trip to Mallorca. “Chris had terrible saddle sores and a bloody anus. I prescribed the volcano cleanse for him in order to stop the drip and reduce the swelling.”
Team Sky has scheduled a press conference for 6:00 AM tomorrow to explain its official position regarding these allegations.