If you wanna get to heaven (you gotta raise a little … )

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.

END

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Is Strava killing bike racing?

May 24, 2014 § 69 Comments

I’ll be the first to admit that the patient was never particularly robust, but in 2014 there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of racers who line up on the weekend. At one of the best and toughest road races all year, Vlees Huis in Bakersfield, there was an incredibly tiny lineup despite this being one of the best organized, safest, and most challenging races on the calendar.

Plus they fuggin’ had beer. Now, when bike racers won’t show up to a bike race where it’s hotter than Beyonce doing the nasty with Heidi Klum and you get to slake your post-race heat prostration with cold, locally brewed beer, the Dogs have gone crazy.

We will leave aside for a moment the obvious: if Fields had ever heard you weren’t going to race your bike because it was “too hot” or “too cold” or “too rainy” or “too dangerous,” he would have kicked you off the team, repo’d your kit, and made you give back all the beer you had drunk. We will also leave aside for a moment that the “weather” in SoCal is the most wussified, gentle, bike-friendly weather in the continental United States.

Many factors may be at play besides the general cowardice, tenderness, and babyfication of modern SoCal bike racers, but there are only so many absentees you can blame on an angry spouse, the cost of entry fees, the fear of quadriplegia, and the general wussdom of all the riders who said they couldn’t do Vlees Huis because it was “too far to drive.” [Check the mileage sometime when you live in Houston and have signed up for the Fort Davis Stage Race for a bit of perspective on "too far to drive."]

Flapping of the gums

The other day I got into an argument about whether some guy was the best climber in the South Bay. Back in the day this would have been a relatively easy argument to resolve. The guy who had won more hilly road races, or the guy who was always at the front on the long climbs would be crowned the champ, even more beer would be drunk, and we’d find something else to argue about.

But this time my adversary pulled out a shocking counter-argument: his Strava KOM’s. A guy who’s done a handful of hilly road races and has consistently gotten shelled on the tough climbs — or who hasn’t even showed up — maintained that his sexy Strava performance on segments as short as 200 meters meant that he was somehow a really good climber.

What the hell is going on here?

It used to be that the best riders were the ones who won bike races. Rahsaan Bahati, I thought, was the best bike racer around because he’s won the most races. Charon Smith, Phil Tinstman, Thurlow Rogers, Mark Noble, and guys like them, I thought, were the best old guy bike racers around because they’ve won the most races.

It would never have occurred to me that a person might consider himself excellent in some aspect or other of competitive cycling based on his Strava KOM’s.

But you know what? Lots of riders do.

They choose three or four carefully selected races each year, they do a weekly group ride, and they do the vast bulk of their “head-to-head” competition on Strava. Will someone please tell them that if it’s on Strava and you’re by yourself, it’s not head-to-head? No matter how many times you self-dial, you’re still just doing yourself.

The race of truth

Every bike race is a race of truth because the fastest rider always wins. For many, that’s a downer because there’s only one winner. You can’t go home and tell yourself that you’re at the top of the leader board of 50+ troglodytes with a BMI of 200. Worse, when you lose a bike race you don’t get any trophies or crowns on your iPhone.

Strava perfectly satisfies the urge to achieve what I call DIP — distinction, improvement, praise — it’s an urge that resides in all of us, particularly, it seems, those of us who cycle. Bike races don’t provide much DIP for most participants, even with the dozens of age/gender categories per event. Instead, they provide proof of what we all instinctively know about ourselves but wish wasn’t true: MOP — mediocre, overweight, pudknocker.

In any contest between DIP and MOP, DIP will always win out. Ride your bike and get a trinket every time beats ride your bike and get your spirit shattered every time, especially when the shattering may also include collarbones and carbon fiber.

Don’t be a DIP-shit

This Monday Chris Lotts will put on his Memorial Day Crit in Dominguez Hills. The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix, Death Valley Stage Race, and State ITT Championships will also happen this weekend.

If you’re in SoCal, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend at least one of these races. If you’re in L.A., I really hope you’ll at least make it to the Memorial Day Crit. If you can spare 50 minutes to analyze all your weekly rides on WKO and Strava, you can lug your ass out for a one-hour race at Dominguez.

Guys like Chris promote races year in and year out. It’s a gratifying job for them in that they play an integral role in the sport that they love, and it’s a blast getting to deal with overfull port-a-potties at the end of the day. But it’s a huge amount of work and expense, and when “racers” who live in the area choose to spend their time on Strava digitally satisfying themselves rather than competing in organized events, it eventually kills off the event. The margin on bike races is tiny, to put it mildly.

Maybe as a Stravasturbator you think that’s fine, and I suppose if your idea of being an accomplished racer is 0’s and 1’s endlessly strung together to make an image on a computer that makes you look tougher than Eddy Merckx, that’s okay. I suppose if it’s more fun to wear $500 worth of kit riding $7000 worth of bike to compete against your “friends” on Strava than it is to ride against your mortal enemies in a real bike race, hey, to each his own.

But let’s not confuse sitting at your stupid computer and clicking “kudo” with racing your fuggin’ bike.

 

I’m probably not gonna make it

January 17, 2014 § 12 Comments

My excuse isn’t great, but it’s pretty damned good: 118 miles on Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride, where I’ll have to smack down young posers like Jay-Jay LaPlante, Aaron Unpronounceablelastname, Greg “I have another mortal virus” Seyranian, Dan “when does the ride start” Cobley, and one or two other flailers like King Harold and DJ himself. Yeah, I’ll bust their chops up the Lake Casitas climb, on the 101, and then with G$ I’ll time trial from Ventura to the top of Balcom while Stern-O, Bowles, Spivey, and the Long Beach freddies take turns licking each other’s open wounds.

Shorthand: I’ll be too tired for the season opening crit in Dominguez Hills, but I’ll try to make it anyway.

What’s your excuse?

The man with the plan and the white Mercedes van

When Chris Lotts kicks off the season opening SoCal crit on Sunday, January 19, lots of people will be complaining. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to complain than to race your bike. Studies show that complaining exerts a biological cost of less than .00001 homeostatic watts, whereas putting on a single bike race shortens your lifespan by roughly twelve years. Chris is now -459.7 years old, and getting younger by the week.

There are a shit-ton of reasons that you need to be at the CBR race on Sunday, and to show you why, I’ve compiled a list of whines that I’ve heard over the years. If you’ve thought or uttered more than three, I’ll call the whaambulance and have you taken (at your cost) to UCLA Harbor so that they can rub salves and ointments on that special place to relieve your butthurt.

1. “That’s a stupid fuggin’ four-corner industrial crit. That’s not bike racin’.”

Riiiiiiight. What you really want is a 100 km kermesse over wet cobblestones in 42-degree weather and spitting rain, because you’re hard like that. So what if you’ve never finished Boulevard or Punchbowl? In your Velominati fantasy life, you are a Hard Man who can’t be bothered with “easy” races like this. Fortunately, your doctor continues to renew your prescription as soon as it runs out.

2. “CBR races are too easy.”

Easy? Then why do the same handful of guys win every race, races that have 100+ entrants? Hint: Because the other 99 wankers feel strong and fast and fit until a) the winning break rolls up the road, or b) Charon opens up his sprint.

3. “Those races are way too expensive.”

Let’s see … $2,500 for your carbon tubulars … $750 for your three team kits and skin suit … $140 every other month for your training Gatorskins … $72/year for your stupid Strava Premium subscription … $3,900 for your Campy SRM power meter … tell me again about how that $35 entry fee for close to an hour of full-on racing is gonna bust your budget?

4. “Lotts annoys the shit out of me.”

Poor baby! Break out the butt salve! So you can take bumping bars, hitting the asphalt at 30 mph, and racing until your eyes pop out of your head, but you can’t take a little diversity of opinion? You crumple up and die when Chris talks about his “Christian Tingles” web site? Awww, I feel really sorry for you, and I envy the little glass bubble you live in and the inheritance that protects you from getting out and LIVING IN THE REAL FUCKING WORLD.

5. “Those races are a clusterfuck. A handful of big teams control everything.”

Guess what, limpster? The guys on those “teams who control everything” got there by racing their dogdamned bikes, not by sitting at home reading Jonathan Vaughters’s Twitter feed. What’s stopping you from making the break, sitting in, and letting the “big teams” do all the work as you cannily outsprint them to the finish line (besides the fact that you always race at the back and don’t train hard and are 30 pounds overweight)?

6. “I’m more of a stage racer than a crit rider.”

Yeah, and I’m more of a Martian than I am a New Jerseyite. Look, stupid, if you want 21-day stage races, you’re living in the wrong city, county, state, nation, and body.

7. “It’s too early in the season.”

Oh, I get it, the Interwebs coach you pay $399 per month to tell you that you’re “making great progress” has advised you to wait until, say, April? Did it ever occur to you that he wants you to wait until April in order to delay the crushing reality that’s going to batter your ego when you still finish 51st after an after-tax-dollar investment of $15k? Hint: P.T. Barnum said it.

8. “Crits are too sketchy.”

I see. Because you’re the one steady wheel out of the 100+ numbskulls, and, like the mother who watched her son in the marching band and commented “Look! Everyone else in the band is out of step!” you think that no one knows how to properly handle a bike except, of course, you?

9. “Crits are too short to give me a good workout.”

Yes, I understand completely. No one in history has ever ridden to a race, raced, then ridden home. You’re obligated to drive to the race. It’s in the bylaws.

10. “We need more road races in SoCal, like they have in NorCal.”

So you’re going to promote a road race? I didn’t think so. Or you’re going to race in NorCal? Nope — too far and hard and expensive, right? So why not shut the fuck up and support the one guy who shows up week in and week out, who has the genius of being able to put on a bike race and make money at it (okay, so the genius is Vera), and who can take your abuse and never take it (too) personally? Answer: Because you’re not very good, your ego is tender, and it’s easier to talk about bike racing than to race your bike.

See you on Sunday. Or not.

Ride like Thurlow

May 25, 2013 § 10 Comments

I’m only three or four years younger than Thurlow, which is like comparing myself to the greatest basketball player of all time by saying, “I’m only three or four inches shorter than Michael Jordan.”

Yeah. So?

I first saw Thurlow at the Tour of Texas in 1984 at the Camp Mabry crit in Austin. He was racing for Raleigh. Nelson Vails was his teammate. Dude was old even then.

There’s no name in the peloton that is as heavy as “Thurlow.” It weighs about four thousand pounds. You can slacken a room full of bike racer boners just by whispering “Thurlow.” It’s the only word in the English language that makes grown men hunch over and start to droop. Generations of cyclists have been flogged, tortured, punished, and then dropped by “Thurlow.”

The only residue remaining in this, his fifth decade of bike racing, is the residue of pain and defeat. Yours.

“Thurlow’s not his old self”

Commentators have remarked that in 2013 there’s something missing from the arsenal of America’s winningest bike racer. He only got second in the BWR behind Neil Shirley, a pro who is young enough to be his great-grandson’s grandson.

He’s only won a couple of races so far this year, and has only gotten top three placings in about a dozen. “You should have seen him at SLR,” said one of my buddies. “He just folded. Never seen Thurlow fold like that.”

I mused. Thurlow has more national championship jerseys than my buddy has race participations for the last two years. Oh, and a rainbow jersey. And that Olympic team stuff. Then there was that season that he raced with Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond on La Vie Claire.

“Oo eez Bernard Hinault?” asked our homestay French student who comes from, of all places, Bretagne.

“Eez joos ze greatest fucking French bicycle racer ever,” I snarled.

“I don like ze sports,” said Homestay before going out onto the veranda to smoke a cigarette and wash it down with some Colt .45.

Imitation is the most pathetic form of idolatry

I’m always trying to race like Thurlow. You know, the way he always understands what’s always going on all the time. The way he rides close to the front and never misses the split. The way he rests, then attacks, then rests if they bring him back, then attacks again. The way he seems to summon the most strength at the one point in the race when everyone else is at their weakest. The way he stuffs the painburger down your throat with a red-hot poker, then beats the end of the poker with a 30-pound hammer.

Of course, I’ve never Ridden Like Thurlow, starting with the omniscience thing. Where Thurlow knows what’s going on all the time, my awareness seems to focus on stuff like that family sitting on the picnic blanket on Turn 4. “Wonder what’s in their sandwiches?” I wonder.

Boom. Break is gone and Thurlow has a 45-second gap.

Or the ride towards the front thing. Try as I might, as far forward as I get, pretty soon I’m back in 87th position, right behind Lardball with the Grand Canyon asscrack and the Serengeti grassland of hair sprouting from the waistband of his non-bib shorts.

Then there’s that attacking thing. Thurlow attacks the way an angry farmer with a pitchfork stabs the head of the king as it rolls off the guillotine’s blade. My attacks, to quote Aaron Wimberly, “Are like a huge commuter bus on four flat tires going up a mud mountain with a full load of passengers.”

And of course Thurlow rests, then goes again. I rest, and then there’s a football field between me and the peloton, a DNF, and a personal request from the family in Turn 4 to give me some of their sandwich.

But still, that doesn’t stop me from trying and experimenting. Whether it’s a fancy power meter, or nose breathing, or the water + kimchi diet, I’m always up for something new, because the difference between me and Thurlow can’t be that he’s just better…there has to be a trick, and one day I’ll find it.

Me & Prez

A couple of weeks ago Prez and I were riding back from the NPR. Prez notices everything when it comes to biking. Nothing escapes his attention, so I usually ignore him when he’s talking, but this particular day he mentioned Thurlow.

“There are guys out there whose pedaling is so efficient, it’s incredible,” Prez said.

“Uh-huh,” I answered, watching the cute nubbin in the Smart car prepare to back over the dude pushing the stroller.

“Like Thurlow, you know? That guy’s pedaling is so incredibly efficient.”

Now I was all ears. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. One reason is that he seems to pull up as much as he pushes down. He’s got that little muscle on the hams just on the inside of his thigh that you never see in cyclists. Him and Charon, they’re about the only two around here with it; it’s because they’re so efficient.”

All I had to hear was “Thurlow” followed by “Charon” and now I was hanging on every word. But I pretended to be bored and only half-interested. “Yeah?” I said.

“Yeah,” Prez said. Then he launched into a complex and insightful description of pedaling efficiency and why most of us, him included, were so inefficient. “It’s the pulling up,” he concluded.

Secrets stolen stealthily

Chuckling to myself at this new-found secret, which I had wrested from the knowledge banks of Prez without him even knowing it, I immediately began pushing and pulling up simultaneously. Then I discovered that this was impossible, because after about four strokes your legs give out. It appeared that rest was part of the pedaling equation.

Nonetheless, by the time I’d reached the office, I had figured it out. You didn’t actually pull up with your feet, you pulled up with your thigh. It was not so much a push and pull effort as much as it was extremely short intervals between the flexing of the thigh. I went noticeably faster. I was noticeably more exhausted.

“Could this be the long lost key to victory?” I wondered. “Have I finally cracked the Code of Thurlow?” I raced through the day’s work, bounding out of the office at 4:00 in order to Thighflex ® all the way back home. Preliminary plans showed that I would now be able to crush all the competition, earn every Strava KOM I desired, and sell the newly trademarked Thighflex program to coaches worldwide. I might even realize every cyclist’s dream of finally getting a pro contract and riding the Tour without too many drugs, or the Giro with way too many.

Thighflexing up the Mt. Home Commute

As I warmed up my thighs with the proprietary Tiny Muscle® Thighflex® limbering method, I felt the incredible strength and speed from this new system. Poor Prez. What a sucker. He’d revealed the most important secret of riding and I was now on the cusp of millions, huge victories, and taking a Strava KOM away from Lane Reid when he least expected it.

“Heh, heh,” I chuckled gleefully as I roared up Mt. Home and its vicious 2% grade. “Wait ’til I unleash this at the CBR Dogpoop Memorial Day Crit.”

In preparation, I showed up to contest the Lower East Side Long Beach Shopping Ride, an incredibly intense, competitive, powerful informal race disguised as a shopping excursion of 65+ elderly ladies with baskets on their mamachari bicycles. As we approached the first stop light, which was turning yellow, I Thighflexed®. The grandmothers couldn’t follow my jump, and in seconds I had opened a gap. The youngest grandmother, whose basket was filled with a 10kg bag of rice, leaned on the pedals and clawed me back.

I glanced over my shoulder and attacked again, this time putting maximum power to my Tiny Muscle® while Simulflexing® the Thighflex®. Undeterred, the granny held my wheel, forcing me to decelerate slightly, cause her wheel to overlap, and allowing me to take her to the curb.

She grabbed a handful of brakes as her front wheel caught the curb. The rice bag burst on impact as I redoubled my Thighflex®, now a solid 100-150m ahead of the hard-charging grandmothers, who weren’t about to let me get to the Costco pallet of discount diapers before them. They were no match. With a couple of more threshold efforts I pulled free and was gone.

With this independent verification of the Thighflex® system’s incredible power transer, I actually pity the fools who have signed up for Monday’s CBR Memorial Day Crit at Dominguez Hills. I’ve told Chris Lotts that he can go ahead and mail me the winner’s check, minus the entry fee to save me the inconvenience of actually having to show up and race. If he forces me to toe the line, well, all I can say to the riders out there who haven’t yet subscribed to the Tiny Muscle® and Thighflex® performance systems is this: You’ve been warned.

Thieving thieves and their thieving thievery

February 18, 2013 § 27 Comments

I pedaled over to the CRB crit this morning and it was cold. I had a cup of coffee. I bought three cookies for fifty cents. I got my number and forty-seven safety pins and began pinning it on. Armin Rahm let me sit in one of his chairs, which warmed my back. Kristy Morrow and Haldane Morris were getting ready to race instead of toting the giant cameras with which they can normally be seen.

Along with Danny Munson, BJ Hale, Brian Hodes, Greg de Guzman, PinkShorts, Christy Nicholson, and a slew of other fine race photographers, Kristy and Haldane make up the photo corps that documents the local races with such amazing quality and detail.

After I got my number pinned on I was going to go over and chat with Kristy about the photos she’d taken at the UCLA road race yesterday. At that very moment, I felt a deep and powerful rumbling in my lower gut.

A very public performance

This was unusual; although I’m a bit of a dribbler before racing, I’m hardly ever a crumper, and this was a lowdown churning sending a message to my brain saying, “Find a deep hole quick or we’re gonna need a hazmat squad!”

I clattered over to the cages, and since my 50+ Elderly Prostate race was going off in fifteen minutes there was already a solid line. Pottymouth that he is, Chris Lotts understands the importance of potties, and there were four stalls to accommodate us. As I stood in the queue it lengthened behind me. My turn came, not a second too soon, either.

I dashed in, hung my jersey on the peg (careful not to drop anything on the floor, eccch), and quickly sat down. There was action in the cage to my right and to my left. Righty was dribbling, and Lefty sounded like he was in the mop-up stages of his pre-race crump.

What happened next was astonishing. I know that it couldn’t have had anything to do with dinner the night before, which consisted of two large servings of spicy pork bulgogi, four servings of spicy kimchi, three servings of spicy cucumbers in vinegar, lots of hot herbal tea, all topped off with a big bowl of yogurt and fruit. I also know that it couldn’t have had anything to do with the fibrous breakfast I’d just eaten, the pot of hot coffee I’d just drunk, the forty-five minutes of hard pedaling to get to the race course, the extra hot cup of coffee I’d just downed, the chocolate chip cookies I’d just eaten, or the handful of dates I’d just scarfed. Nope, it couldn’t have been any of those things.

But it might have been all of them combined, because I let out an enormous braaaaaack, then a whummmmmp, then a staccato tackatackatackatacka fusillade of small arms fire, then a massive flurlurlurlurlurrrrrrp discharge of the River Ganges that sounded like a waterfall filled with raisins and dates, then a high-pitched bibibibibibiiiiii whine like a bottle rocket, then another deep whummmmmp, and then an airy, balloon-emptying blaaaaaat, terminating with a pfssssssssst.

It all happened in the clench of a sphincter, and after the racket subsided and the sounds stopped bouncing off the inside of the plastic shell, I realized that all around me there was…nothing. Righty was silent. Lefty was silent. All chatter and banter outside the cage had gone mute.

Before I had time to get embarrassed, the second movement of my public symphony commenced. This time it began with the fusillade, went straight to whump, and finished with the blaaat, which sounded like a kid trying to blow a proper note on a trumpet for the first time, and failing.

More silence.

I pulled up my shorts and bravely opened the door. Thirty or so awed and very frightened bike racers stood there, all but a couple averting their gaze. No matter that they all had to go so badly that they were tap dancing in their cleats, not a single person moved towards my potty, which was now vacant.

I looked straight at Mr. Next In Line. “Might want to give that ‘un a second or two to air out,” I said.

He nodded, pale, and didn’t budge.

Oh, the race?

Since I’d already won Pro 1/2/3/4/5/Masters/Women’s/Juniors’ potty competition, the race was anticlimactic. I attacked a couple of time, chased a couple of breaks, and went for a no-hoper solo flyer on the last lap which ended the same way such boneheaded moves always do: Caught with half a lap to go, dropped by the supercharged field, and rolling across the finish DFL many seconds in arrears.

After the race I rode over to my office in Torrance to work for a few hours. “Work” of course involved checking out the photos taken by Kristy and Haldane the day before.

There were some great ones. Me quitting the race in ignominy. Mike Easter winning in his national champion’s kit. Jeff Konsmo sprinting for the win. The local Pearblossom tweeker driving around, flipping off cyclists, and telling them to “ride on the sidewalk.” [Author's note: The nearest sidewalk is 47 miles away, in Los Angeles.]

After a few minutes, one thing became obvious. The same thing that’s obvious after every race: People were stealing the photos.

Can we call it what it is?

When a photographer takes a picture, and you take it without their permission, it’s stealing. It’s no different from taking someone’s money, or their spare wheelset, or their wallet.

It’s stealing.

Virtually all of the local race photographers have their photos in a gallery on Smugmug or some similar site. This means you can go to the gallery, PAY FOR THE PHOTO, and then download it. It often costs a whole two or three dollars.

But bike racers being bike racers, the trend is to steal the image, remove the watermark, and then use it as  a profile picture or main feature on a team web site. Why don’t the thieving thieves consider this thievery? Because they have figured it out in their own minds that it’s not stealing. Here’s how they rationalize the theft:

  1. “I gave the photographer credit for the photo.” Nice. So you not only stole it, you rubbed his nose in it. Photo thieves think there’s this giant Photo Credit Bank in the sky, where, as long as you “give the photographer credit,” the bank rains money down on them. Guess what? There is no Photo Credit Bank. Guess what else? Just because you admit you stole something doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it.
  2. “I’m helping promote their work. It gets their name out.” Right. Kind of like how you promote Michael Jackson by illegally downloading his music without paying for it and then play it to “get his name out?” Or the way you promote Steven Spielberg by ripping off his movies? That kind of “promotion” is called “stealing.”
  3. “They don’t care. They’re just glad we appreciate their work.” Yes, they do care. And you’re not appreciating it. You’re stealing it. If you appreciated it, you’d pay for it.
  4. “It’s part of their cost of doing business. They sell some of those photos, which makes up for the ones they don’t sell.” Exactly. In retail it’s called “shrinkage,” or, more technically, “shoplifting.” It’s a cost of doing business all right, the cost of crime.
  5. “So sue me.” Glad you brought that up. Check out these links to find out the kind of hot water that can be boiled up around your tender parts for stealing pictures: Blogger sued for infringement; Company sued for photo theft; Ways you can get hosed using images without permission.

So what’s a feller to do?

When one of our local photographers takes your picture as you battle it out for 37th place in the Masters 75+ race, tags you on Facebook, and it pops up as a notification, check it out and see if you like it. If you do, go the web site and buy a copy. But don’t take it, strip the watermark, and use it as your profile picture. After you’ve bought it, it’s good form to confirm with the photographer how you plan to use it and that they approve. It’s not only polite, it could keep you out of hot water, and most importantly it will keep them coming to the races and making us the beneficiaries of their superlative work.

If you’ve got hundreds of photos on your Facebook page, take a minute to scroll through them and make sure that if they’re race photos you haven’t copied and pasted without buying or getting permission. One or two falling through the cracks might be understandable, but more than that and it’s a pattern. A bad one.

None of this is supposed to be an explanation of your legal rights, or, Dog forbid, legal counsel. Rather, it’s a plea to quit ripping off your friends, and if you’ve ripped them off by mistake, or in error…correct the mistake. You’ll find that money, timely paid, covers a multitude of sins.

If you’re ever in doubt, ask first. You’ll be glad you did, and they’ll be even more so.

And if you need a quiet place to sit down and think all this over, just don’t go into Stall No. 3.

END

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Just the facts: CBR recap

January 23, 2013 § 17 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the absentees please stand up?

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

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

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

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

The year of the professional amateur masters team?

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

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.

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