Where the wild things are

March 23, 2014 § 14 Comments

Wankmeister awoke with a vicious hangover. The inside of his mouth was dried to a crackly paste of spit from the massive order of pork bulgogi he’d eaten the night before to try and dilute the effect of the four pints of Dirty Virgin double IPA. As he smacked his parched lips, trying to unstick his tongue from the bottom of his mouth, he realized that the pork bulgogi anti-hangover method had failed. He should have drunk more water and less beer instead.

Quickly slamming a cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast, Wanky pedaled to the office, got the van, and drove over to Jaeger’s place. Jaeger hadn’t won a race in ten long years, and decided that today he’d do the 50+ senior veteran’s old people’s race rather than duke it out with the youngsters in the 45+.

They got to the Lake Castaic road race course. The wind was howling and Wankmeister thought about the various reports that had come in via Facebag from the riders who’d reconned the ride the previous week. They were all in agreement, and their thoughts are summarized below:

  1. Brutal course.
  2. Windy, long climbs.
  3. Awful temperatures.
  4. Dry as hangover mouth.
  5. Difficulty amplified by small fields.
  6. Bring survival gear.

Proper nutrition is always key

Aside from the piece of toast that he’d had for breakfast, Wanky’s stomach was empty. After signing in he saw Canyon Bob kitting up. “Got food, dude?” he asked.

“Sure, pal,” Bob said, and handed over a mostly-eaten miniature chicken sandwich.

Wanky scarfed it down, but it only made him hungrier. Numbers pinned on, he rode to the start/finish with teammates Jaeger and Randy to watch the various finishing races.

The end of the race was atop a long, grinding 1k finishing hill. The 45+ field was coming in, and G$ had kicked it from pretty far out. Thurlow was closing fast, but it looked like G$ would hold him off. In the last 50 meters, which was the equivalent of the last twelve miles of a normal road race, Thurlow came by for the win.

While everyone cheered the conquering heroes, the only thing Wankmeister really noticed was the salt sheets staining their faces and jerseys and the twisted looks of pain and misery on the face of every single person who crossed the line. Jess Cerra, who had won the women’s Pro/1/2 race and was watching the finishers, handed Wanky a Harmony Bar. “You might need this for later,” she said.

Wankmeister unwrapped the energy bar and scarfed it down. “To hell with that, Jess. I need it now.”

“Are two water bottles going to be enough?” she asked. “Your race is 55 miles, right?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Wanky answered. “I don’t ever drink much water in races anyway.”

“It’s hot and dry, though,” she said.

Wanky looked again at the finishers straggling in, all of whom had a strangely desiccated, dehydrated, salt-covered, dying-of-thirst look. “Nah,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”

Is there a race here today?

As Jaeger, Wanky, Randy, Canyon Bob, and Hoofixerman stood waiting for the race to begin, they noticed that the field was … them. “Where is everybody?” asked Jaeger.

“We are everybody,” said Hoofixerman.

“But there were 16 pre-regs,” said Canyon Bob.

Jess walked back over. “Aren’t you guys racing?”

“Yeah, we go off, like, now.”

“Why aren’t you at the staging area, then?” she asked.

“What staging area?” Wanky said, panicking.

“You have to stage a mile or so back that way. The race doesn’t start here.”

The five idiots leaped on their bikes and sprinted back to the staging area, an all-out time trial that would cost Wanky dearly later in the race somewhere about Mile 2.

Sure enough, it was a minuscule field of sixteen riders, and they pedaled off with the enthusiasm of children going to the dentist. Wanky eyed Hoofixerman, who was doing his first big race with the tough and experienced and battle-hardened 50+ giants of the road. “That wanker’s gonna get shelled quick,” he surmised as Hoofixerman went to the front and picked up the pace. “Hey, dude,” Wanky said. “Better take it easy. This is a long hilly race. Don’t shoot your bullets in the first five miles.”

Hoofixerman ignored him, and took turns into the teeth of the wind with Jaeger.

“This isn’t so bad,” Wanky thought. “Kind of like a training ride with your pals.” The course was rolling with a couple of small, easily surmounted walls.

Then they hit the first big climb and Wanky realized that these weren’t his pals, they were mortal enemies who hated him and wanted to kill him quickly and without mercy. Canyon Bob rolled to the front and Wanky was soon on the rivet. It was an endless 2-mile charge up an 8% grade, and the four or five people cheering at the top meant only one thing: the next time up the spectators were expecting to see the riders drop like flies. This was the praise before the last rites.

Alone again, naturally

Once over the big climb the riders descended forever, which was a terrible thing because the out-and-back course meant that they’d have to come back up this beast. A couple of miles before the turnaround Chris Hahn began chasing the four-man breakaway that had rolled off, and this effort kicked Wanky out the back without so much as a second thought. Hoofixerman, who had squandered precious energy and ridden like a complete idiot in the first part of the race, was, of course, with the leaders in the breakaway.

The break was caught and Wankmeister somehow latched back onto the leaders after the turnaround. The tiny field meant that people were already tired and fearing the climb on the return, while Jaeger, disgusted at the slow pace, got off his bike, took a leisurely piss, overhauled his bottom bracket, and easily caught back on.

A short way into the big climb, Wanky got kicked out the back for good, and up in the distance he could see that Hoofixerman was finally paying for his early excesses. Slogging up to the Big Orange farrier, they pounded through the rollers to the start/finish, where they were ignominiously passed by the 35+ 4/5 riders, who had started five or ten minutes behind them.

The moto ref came by and grinned at Wanky. “At least you’re not getting passed by the Cat 5’s!” he said.

The leaders in the 50+ Really Old and Slow and Have to Pissalot Category had eased up and Hoofixerman was determined to catch back on.

With the aid of a timely neutralization to allow the 35+ 4/5’s to pass the 50+ riders, Wanky & Co. reattached. He was elated. “We made it!” he said to Hoofixerman. “Now all we have to do is hang on and let these other knuckleheads do all the work!” Wanky slinked to the back, got behind the tallest and widest rider, and made himself as tiny as possible.

A few minutes later they were back at the Big Climb. Wanky chortled with pleasure, knowing that the leaders were now thoroughly tired and all he had to endure was a brief seven or eight-minute interval. As fate would have it, he only had a 30-second interval left in his legs, about thirty less than Hoofixerman. Everyone and everything vanished from sight.

You know your day is done in a bike race when …

… you start noticing the scenery. Wanky appreciated the beautiful canyon, the trees growing along the edge of the creek down in the valley, and the cooling late-afternoon temperatures. This was about the time he ran completely out of water. At the turnaround a kind elderly fellow shouted, “Water? Need some water?” Miracles, apparently, were still occurring even in this late day and age.

Teammate Randy, who had been dropped from the leaders due to a mechanical and, since he didn’t have any tools, was forced to carefully repair his damaged $4,000 drivetrain by pounding the shit out of it with a rock, closed a five-minute gap and caught back up to Wankmeister. “C’mon, Wanky, let’s go!”

This was like a physicist with a large chalkboard saying, “C’mon, Wanky, let’s do some calculus!”

Wankmeister, who had only barely passed Algebra II with Miss Morcom in 11th Grade, did no better hanging onto Randy’s wheel than he would have solving for x. In a flash the teammate was gone. Now there were only eleven and a half miles left, including the giant climb. At the bottom, riders began to swarm by, first the remnants of the 35+ 4/5 race, and then the Cat 5 leaders, and then the bits and pieces of the entire Cat 5 field.

The moto came by again. “Bet you’re glad there’s no Cat 6,” he said before gunning the motor and driving off.

No matter how slowly the Cat 5’s went, Wanky went slower, until eventually, like a bad case of gonorrheal drip that has finally run its course, the race ended. Out of sixteen starters in the 50+ race, twelve finished, two of whom were actually slower than he was. “Top 10,” he said to himself, “doesn’t sound nearly as bad as ‘3rd from dead fucking last.'”

The race at the front

Jaeger had waited until the bottom of the big hill on the return leg, and then attacked the six riders who remained with him. He soloed in the final eight miles to collect his first victory since 2004. “Wasn’t that a hard race?” Wanky asked him back at the van.

Jaeger tried to be diplomatic, aware that his friend Wankmeister had been in difficulty long before there was really any difficulty. “Yeah it was hard,” he said. “I mean, it was hard for you.”

———————————

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The Naked and the Wished-I-were-dead

June 3, 2012 § 14 Comments

When Norman Mailer wrote the WW II novel that catapulted him to fame as a serious writer, thereby ensuring that no one outside of a college English class would ever read his work, he was criticized for the long, slogging, endless, mired-in-mud style that characterized long parts of the book.

Mailer replied: “Yes, those passages are long, hard to get through, miserable, and they leave you with a feeling of having given much to accomplish nothing. That’s what it was like in the infantry.”

Okay, he never said that, but this blog post is gonna be exactly like the Bakersfield state championship road race. Long. Miserable. Not fun. Not funny. And most of you will quit long before it finishes.

Chester Karrass ain’t got nothin’ on Mrs. WM

Mrs. WM accompanied me to the race as my watergirl. “Oh, you have such a great wife,” you’re thinking. “Mine would never do that.”

Neither would Mrs. WM. This was the result of a hard fought negotiation in which Mrs. WM extracted maximum value for the sacrifice she was about to make. “Okay, I will go and do a terrible bike race that is no fun and I hate it but you have to take me somewhere nice.”

“Okay. Lunch in Oildale after the race?”

“Somewhere with a hotel and a spa where we can stay overnight with a nice pool and no bicycle and a nice restaurant with shopping.”

“Del Amo Mall and the Hybrid Hotel in Torrance?”

“No. I want Palm Springs and you have to get a new car. I hate your car with the ugly bump in the rear.”

In negotiating, this is called “tossing in the hookers,” and is a ploy where you put something in play that will ultimately get stricken from the deal while still leaving you with what you really want. So I signed the 12-page contract for the Palm Springs weekend, and off we went to Bakersfield.

That poop is too nasty for my butthole to look at

Ms. WM’s race day got off to a bad start when she had to visit the port-o-potties. I was pinning on my number when she returned, looking kind of green.

“Are you okay?”

“That was awful!”

“What? The toilets? They’re pretty good actually. Kind of that rose-and-pinesol-with-chemical-strawberry-car-freshener scent. It’s almost stronger than the poop. Of course it’s early in the day. By noon they’ll have to haul those things off with a hazmat team.”

“It was gross!”

“Gross? It’s a friggin’ port-o-potty, not an aromatherapy boutique.”

“I’ve been to many public events before. People don’t usually poop so much! It’s the bike racers! They are extra poopers!”

She did have a point. How many times do you go to a Dodgers game and get things started off by unloading a four-pound, corn-studded bowl breaker? At a bike race, by the time you’ve driven from the hotel to the sign-in, the Denny’s Grand Slam and quart of hot coffee have pretty much raced through the tunnel and are peeking at the door, which explains the ratio of solids to liquids at a bike race port-o-potty and that funny dance everyone’s doing as they wait for a vacant seat.

“Can’t you just breathe through your mouth and get your business done? It’s not like you have to carry out an inspection or anything.”

“It was too disgusting for my butt!”

“What?”

“It was so nasty I couldn’t sit down on the seat and have my butt facing all that stuff.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Mrs. WM never kids when it comes to poop.

“No I am not kidding!”

“So what’d you do?”

“I took many of the paper seat covers and dropped them down in there to make a paper cover for the poop so my butt wouldn’t have to look at it.”

That detail taken care of, I went off to race.

It is better to try and fail than fail to try

This applies to everything in life except bike racing. With bike racing, most of the time it’s much better to fail to try. I’ve put together a little graph that helps explain.

FAIL TO TRY TRY AND FAIL
Barbie Food during race: $0.00 Barbie Food during race: $17.72
Gas: $0.00 Gas: $49.82 [$132.90 in Konsmo’s Blingmobile]
Dinner in Bako: $0.00 Dinner in Bako at Padre Hotel: $141.29
Doubletree Bako: $0.00 Doubletree Bako: $77.00 [w/Family Discount]
Condoms: $0.00 Condoms: $7.32
Case of water: $0.00 Case of water: $4.68
Breakfast at Denny’s: $0.00 Breakfast at Denny’s: $17.29
Entry fee: $0.00 Entry fee: $35.00
Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $0.00 Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $12.22
Weekend in Palm Springs: $0.00 Weekend in Palm Springs: $500.00 MINIMUM
Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $0.00 Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $25,892.12
TOTAL: $0.00 TOTAL: $26,754.46

Even though I was a history major, it seems clear that fail to try is definitely the way to go on this one.

Even though fail to try is a winner, you still don’t get to call yourself a bike racer by bailing on this event

The Bakersfield race is one of the few real bike races in Southern California. The vast majority of bike races here are circle jerks. You go round for 55 minutes and the best sprinter wins. Don’t get me wrong. Winning these events takes balls of steel and the speed of a rocket. I couldn’t win one on a Vespa. But they lack the key elements that are required for bike racing.

Those elements are:

  1. Weather. If you’re not fighting the elements, you’re not bike racing. Heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, hail, ice, etc. are prerequisites.
  2. Hills. If you don’t have elevation changes of some sort, you’re not bike racing.
  3. Distance. If your body doesn’t have to go into reserves that test your endurance, you’re not bike racing.
  4. Varied terrain. If you don’t have to use a variety of bike handling techniques, you’re not bike racing.
  5. Tactics. If the conclusion is virtually always determined by a bunch sprint, you’re not bike racing.

It is a sad testament to the lameness of the SoCal cycling scene that the 45+ field, a group that can easily pull in 100 riders in an early season crit, barely had thirty racers toe the line. As far as I know, not a single field came anywhere close to reaching its limit, and the majority of them appeared to have half or less of the number of racers who show up to preen and primp and strut and flex at the crits.

What’s up with that?

What’s up with that

Bakersfield has put on a phenomenal race, slightly different from De Vleeshuis Ronde in that there is less climbing with more distance, but identical in its challenging nature and superb organization. A giant tent with chairs and bike racks was erected at the start/finish so riders could stage without frying their brains out, and so that they could sit in the shade and relax after the race while eating the excellent food prepared on site.

The difference between this race and the innumerable local crits, though, is this: you’re going suffer like a motherfucker if you finish this race. Today never got above the low 90’s, but Saturday’s events approached 100 degrees. The wind blew hot and hard both days. The long climb was shortened, but the three loops around the shorter, punchy climbs were devastating.

This was a race where you had to hydrate properly, have the right nutrition, ride smart, and meter your efforts in order to get shelled out the back and spend the rest of the fucking day battering into a merciless hot headwind by yourself. If you wanted to actually finish with the group, or dog forbid, in a breakaway, you needed all of the above plus you needed to be one hard, tough, fit, canny bastard [in the interest of equal treatment, the word “bastard” refers to men and to women].

This is another way of saying that many of the soft, marshmallowy wankers who comprise the cannon fodder–and often the podium–of the local crit scene didn’t stand a chance in hell of placing in this race. Rather than coming out to Bako, having their balls beaten with a tire iron, getting crushed on the climbs, and flailing in a wanketto for a couple of hours, they chose to stay home and do something else. [See graph above for financial analysis of that choice.]

There’s more to it than money, honey

Nothing comes close to approaching the satisfaction of finishing a hardass beatdown in a challenging road race. If you’re too scared of failure and pain to show up and race, you’ll never know how good it feels to cross the line. I’d also argue that you’ve never raced your bike.

In our race, I got kicked out the back on the second lap, one punchy climb before we hit the long highway downhill. I never got back on, and was eventually shelled from my five-man chase group. Before coming off, though, I got to witness selfless heroics on the part of teammate Harold Martinez, a flatland crit dude, who singlehandedly pulled back a deadly break that was almost a minute up the road by stringing the whole field out into the gutter for the better part of five miles.

That’s the kind of stuff that earns respect from friends and adversaries alike. It’s the kind of stuff that real bike racing consists of: people with varying talents using those abilities to try and benefit the team rather than sitting home and cherry-picking the next race that you think is most “suited” to your talents.

I got to watch non-teammates like Bart Clifford, new addition to Big Orange, follow a break and fry himself to make sure a teammate had some help in an early move. I got to watch the power, speed, and athleticism of guys like Dave Jaeger, John Hatchitt, Jeff Konsmo, Richard Meeker, Todd Parks, Greg Leibert, Steve Klasna, Louie Amelburu, Mark Noble, Jon Flagg, and several others as they manhandled a brutal course and reduced the already small field to a handful of survivors.

More importantly, even though I flailed, a number of people proved themselves worthy of this challenging course. They did more than prove themselves worthy: they raced their bikes.

Great stories

Our own South Bay rider Kristabel Doebel-Hickock won her women’s race yesterday with the 3/4’s, and placed seventh today with the 1/2’s. Her performance deserves a write-up of its own. She’s amazing.

Richard Meeker won the 45+ race, displaying all the skills that make him the best all around road racer in Southern California and one of the best in the nation.

Jeff Konsmo pulled a huge second place out of his hat, taking second to Richard in a reversal of 2011. Jeff rode strongly and tactically for every bit of the race, forcing the pace on lap two and finishing with his signature kick.

Kevin Phillips got fourth in the 35+ despite being swarmed by Monster Media, even though most of his training lately has been on the track. Kevin pulled some astounding numbers: 1-minute power 748 watts. 10-minute power 366 watts. All in a day’s work for this South Bay phenom.

Trudi Schindler got 2nd in the women’s Cat 4, and 5th overall in the Cat 3/4. Great job!

Strongman Phil Tintsman showed his versatility–again–with a silver medal in the tough, tough 35+ race. Great work, Phil.

See you next year?

If for no other reason than to show your support for the people in Bakersfield who’ve done so much to create a fantastic venue for bike racing, you should put this race and De Vleeshuis Ronde on your calendar for 2013. Come on out and get your dick stomped into a flatworm. You’ll be glad you did.

Really.

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