Big C, Part Two: The wrath is Stathis

July 26, 2013 § 23 Comments

I sneaked out of bed trying not to wake Mrs. WM and not to disturb the man with the hammer and the lightning bolts, who was now also playing “Do-Re-Mi” on an out-of-tune violin. I succeeded on one count and made it into the kitchen.

“Where’s the fuggin’ oatmeal?” I muttered. “Where’s the fuggin’ coffee?” I muttered.

With the oatmeal cooking and the coffee poured, I slumped over on the table. My temples were going to burst as the bow sawed crazily on the strings, out of synch with the lightning bolts and hammer whacks.

“You okay?” Mrs. WM was standing in the kitchen.

I looked up at her in misery.

“You don’ lookin’ okay.” She put the frying pan on the stove. “You can’t go onna Donuts Ride with that hangin’ over just eatin’ oatsmeal and coffee.”

“I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“You think you makin’ a coffee grinder like grindin’ a tree stump not gonna wake me up?”

I tried to say “Sorry” but the hammer and violin wouldn’t let me.

“You can’t be onna drinky pants like that at your age,” she said quietly. “You gettin’ onna drinky problem, you know? Drinky pants inna middle day when you oughta be onna workin’? Throwin’ out onna wall inna hallway like you was a college ager?”

“I’m so sorry,” I mumbled.

“Itsa okay, honey, I’m lovin’ you anyways.” The smell of fried eggs and sausage filled the kitchen as the great city’s pre-dawn night lights sparkled in through the window glass. “I don’ care onna wipin’ up some throwin’ up. I done worse in twenty-six years. But you keep up with the drinky pants and you gonna hurt people not just yourself.”

The only thing that could have made me feel worse than a bunch of shouting was the soothing lilt of her voice, mixed in with sausage. “How’d I get all cleaned up last night?”

“I cleaned you all up like you was a poopy baby. But I threw away onna your socks. They was too nastiful.”

“I won’t do it again.”

“I don’ wanna hear ’bout what you gonna do and not do,” she said, putting the plate in front of me heaped with fried eggs and sausage and toast and butter and jam and oatmeal. “I just wanna see you bein’ okay because I’m lovin’ on you no matter what.” She  leaned over and kissed my forehead.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

I rendezvoused with Jack from Illinois (not his real name) and Glass Hip a few minutes before the Donut Ride launched. “I’ve never done the new course,” said Jack.

“You hardly ever even did the old one.”

“That’s true.”

“Instead of stopping at the college atop the Switchbacks and comparing penises, we continue up to the radar domes. It adds a solid ten minutes to the climb and completely changes the tenor of the ride.”

“Do we get to compare penises at the domes?”

“They’re usually too shriveled for measurement by that point.”

“I’m looking forward to this,” Glass Hip piped up. “It’s the one legendary SoCal ride I’ve never done in almost twenty years. It should be fun.”

“Yes, it will be fun,” I said. “Kind of like having someone gnaw off your genitals with a rusty can opener is ‘fun.'”

Whereas Jack from Illinois was a kind, gentle, happy, smiling, pleasant, generous fellow who, deep inside, was a gnarly and steaming mess of rhubarb, bitter herbs, dog spit, old scabs, and the raw memories of a childhood spent locked in a closet while his older brother banged on the door with a hammer, firecrackers, and a loaded pistol, Glass Hip was the opposite.

Glass Hip, ugly as a fist, was, to the outer world, covered in scales, mottled with the scars and blotches of badly abused leather, and permanently emanated an aura of cruelty, viciousness, cheapness, and a full-throttled desire to mount, crush, and destroy all competitors of any kind. On the inside, however, deep down, far down in fact, way beneath all that, hidden from view and unseen by any living human, under layers and layers of protective viciousness, obscured from even the most discerning, lay a small, minute, tiny, hard-to-see, practically invisible, microscopically small kernel of warmth and kindness and generosity that burned with such brightness it could turn the hardest butter pat into a slightly less firm one.

In other words, these two heroes of the road were polar opposites, with the exception, of course, of the qualities they shared, and one of those qualities was this: They invariably thrashed me, cracked me, and rode me off their wheels whenever the pace picked up, which it did the moment we hit Malaga Cove.

Have pity on an old man

“The additional climb that’s been tacked onto the Switchbacks has completely changed the tenor of the ride,” I told Glass Hip.

“How so?”

“Used to be, everyone sat in until Portuguese Bend then the attacks came fast and furious, with huge accelerations at the bottom of the Switchbacks and throughout.”

“And now?”

“Now people cower in their own poop until the very last minute.”

“Then they attack?”

“Naw. They wet themselves. There’s a big group at the bottom and then it gradually whittles down into a small handful, which then disintegrates in the final killing ten minutes up to the domes.”

Canyon Bob, however, hadn’t gotten the memo, and fired off a pull of death as we approached Trump, shelling most of the field and leaving the remnants hanging onto his wheel in a gagging, ragged line. At the bottom of the Switchbacks, Stathis the Wily Greek and Sammy Snubbins attacked.

Hanging Chad followed, and so did I.

A thick fog covered the Hill and we were soon alone. G3 and G$ had attacked way back at Golden Cove and were far ahead. The rest of the field was in pieces. By the second turn I was in Old Man Hell. My breathing was so deep that it reached down into my colon. The stabbing pains from the hangover had been replaced with stabbing pains in my thighs, butt, arms, neck, face, and hair, especially my sideburns, which ached beyond any description.

At some point I realized the futility of it all. I am a few months shy of fifty. Hanging Chad is thirty. Stathis is twenty-six. Sammy is nineteen. Sammy and Stathis took turns, each one pulling so hard and fast that it felt like a flat interval. “I’ve never survived climbing with either one of these dwarves,” I told myself. “What makes me think I can do it today?”

Hanging Chad read my mind and folded. Stathis looked back at me and said something. “I think it’s English,” I said. “But mixed in with my breathing like that, it’s hard to tell.”

What was obvious was that Stathis was not breathing hard or even, apparently, trying. He pulled as far as Ganado and looked back, flicking me through.

“Are you crazy?” I telepathically transmitted. “I’m barely hanging onto your wheel. I’m old and slow and weak and frightened and riding far outside myself. You are young, strong, and not even sweating. This moment, when I have somehow survived this far on the Switchbacks hanging onto your wheel, will go down as the second greatest ride of my life, but you will have forgotten it by lunchtime. Have pity on an old, feeble wanker and let me suck wheel for just a few moments more.”

Stathis looked back at me again with the kindness and empathy of a great white shark about to tear its prey in half, or of a Republican contemplating a bill that included help for the poor, or for old people, or for children. With that brief glance he telepathed this: “Yes, you are old and weak, but you are on my wheel, so you are, by definition, stronger than all those who are not. Therefore you are legitimate prey. I feel no mercy or sympathy for you, as the moment I let you survive you will brag to the world, likely on your blog, about how you climbed with me all the way to the top, a half-truth that will lower me and exalt you. I feel no pity for you nor any desire to do anything other than crush you mercilessly under the heel of my jackboot. Your cries and pleas mean nothing to me, to the contrary, the louder you squeal the more I will enjoy the sound of my club against your eggshell skull.”

With that, he yawned and rode away. Sammy followed.

Cut adrift and resigned to being reeled in, I was surprised to see Hanging Chad come by at full speed. I hopped on and enjoyed the Cadillac draft of this triathlete-turned-savior. At the college he blew and I soldiered on. Stathis overhauled G$ and G3, completely consuming their three minute lead, followed by Sammy, then me.

Next up were Glass Hip and Jack. “We had you in our sights,” said Glass Hip, he whom I have never beaten on a climb.

“I got lucky.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “You did.”

“Don’t suppose it will happen again.”

“No,” he agreed. “It won’t.”

And it didn’t, as he pummeled me the rest of the ride.

With this one great feat, however, my confidence began to surge, because the following day was the MMX Birthday Ride Beatdown, a North County San Diego Fuckaganza in which many were invited to a happy celebration of cycling and fun and camaraderie in which there would be neither fun nor camaraderie but only a punishing, humiliating beatdown administered without regard to friendship or anything else.

In the back of mind, there were other things bubbling around the edges, too. I’d be heading to Houston after the birthday beatdown to be with my mom, who was scheduled for major surgery to combat a very aggressive breast cancer with which she’d been diagnosed. Sunday would involve a huge physical effort as well as a huge logistical effort. I’d have to get from North County to LAX in time to make the last flight of the day, which would put me in Houston at midnight.

I got back home and had lunch, then opened the fridge to grab a beer. “Nah,” I said. “Not today.”

UCLA Road Race and Library Asian Retreat, 2012

February 19, 2012 § 6 Comments

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. The definition of bike racing is getting beat down over and over again, and doing it over and over again.

The UCLA Road Race holds its annual road race on the Devil’s Punchbowl course, far from all those Asians in the library whose parents come and do their laundry. In fact, Punchbowl was recently rated the Least Asian-friendly Road Race Course in America, beating out Gruene, Texas, and Bakersfield, California, by a wide margin. You can listen to the UCLA Road Race Asian Theme Song here.

This was my fifth run at a race held on the infamous Devil’s Pukebowl course, a windblown, trash-strewn, barren wasteland of cactus, rusting trailer homes, sand, grit, meth incubators, and bad memories. I knew it was going to be bad this year, too, because the most famous UCLA bike racing Asian, Kwaan Lu, had graduated and wouldn’t be there to laugh as the howling wind picked up and blew away the sign-in tent. UCLA Road Race without Asians? Whaaaaa?

I also knew it was going to be bad because none of my teammates would ride to the race with me. Bike racers, in addition to their generally unscientific approach to racing (“I heard this beta carotene will stop cramps,”) are terribly superstitious. Once word gets out that you’re a bad luck racer, even your teammates will stop offering you rides. In my case it had gotten so bad that the entire Ironfly contingent refused to attend the race. “Dude, you’re fucking snakebit. The blogging shit is funny and all, but you’re fucking rat poison in the birthday cake. We’re gonna ride the track and go drink some beers.”

Tri-Dork to the rescue

Fortunately Tri-Dork knew nothing of this, and since, like most triathletes, he doesn’t do great with long words and has therefore never read this blog, he agreed to give me a ride. It was his first road race and in exchange for taking me to the race I promised to advise him on tactics.

As we got underway I began with Rule 1: Proper nutrition. “You had lunch, dude?”

“Isn’t it kind of early? It’s only ten and we don’t start until 1:30.”

“Dude, it’s probably too late. A triple cheeseburger and fries take almost four hours to properly digest.”

He laughed nervously. “You’re joking right?”

“Yeah. Two hours is plenty.”

“We never ate cheeseburgers before triathlons.”

“And how many did you win?”

“Only a couple, actually.”

“There you have it. Hey perfect timing. There’s an In-N-Out.” He still thought I might be joking. “Stop the fucking car!” I ordered. Tri-Dork swung into the parking lot. Now he was scared.

Lunch of champions

As we sat down to our triple meat with onions and large Coke, I explained. “Look, dude, you have zero chance in this race. You weigh 191 pounds, not counting the five you’re about to add. This fucking race has 6,000 feet of climbing over a 50-mile course and the next heaviest guy in the race is me at 165.

“Glass Hip is here. 150. G$. 155. Baby ‘DQ’ Louie. 125. You are going to get dropped immediately, even faster than me. You’re probably not even going to finish once you’re out their flogging by yourself up the face of a cliff in a howling sandstorm. So, knowing that it’s hopeless and that you suck, your only recourse is to drown your sorrow in greasy food. Chow down.”

Rule 2: Proper race psychology

As Tri-Dork guided the fully loaded Prius and the even more fully loaded us onto the highway, he asked me about race wheels. “These new Ksyriums are really light. I’m hoping they’ll make a difference on the climb.”

“Dude, that triple cheeseburger you just ate weighed more than your frame. If you want to do well in this race, which is impossible, you need to have the proper mental preparation.”

Tri-Dork smiled. “I’m pretty good in that area. The year I got fifth at Kona I did an entire course on race psychology.”

“Look, Kona is for pussies. It’s a fucking coffee blend, for Dog’s sake. Triathlon has all the strategy of beating off: start out easy, build up gradually, and make sure you save the final spurt for the end. Any fifteen year-old can figure that shit out.

“But you’re bike racing now, Dorky. The mental aspect is completely different.” I could tell the analogy had hit home.

“Okay. So what should I do?”

The bike-rama sutra

“If triathlon strategy is wanking, then bike racing strategy is sex. Which means a couple of simple things. First, you gotta have the right equipment. Second, what you do depends on what the other person does. Third, you have options: suck wheel, pound from the front, come from behind…it’s complicated. Takes practice. Sometimes you think you can shoot through the hole, but you have pull back and go for a different opening.

“You also need to get in the right frame of mind by distrusting everyone in the race. Just like casual sex. Assume your partner has every disease in the book.”

“Even my teammates?”

“Especially them. Your only possible role on a team is to work for the riders who are better than you. Which is all of them.”

“Okay. So then what?”

“Once you recognize that the world is your enemy you must never take a pull. Ever. Sit on wheels. Hide from the front. Save everything for the two big moments of the race.”

“What are those?”

“The first is when you get dropped. Save all your energy for making a lunge to close the gap.”

“So I can get back on?”

“No. You’ll never get back on. When they accelerate at the top of the climb physics will overcome fantasy and you will become a giant millstone heaved off into a very deep lake.”

“So why do I need to save my effort for that if I’m just going to get dropped?”

“So you can tell me after the race how close you were to hanging on. ‘I was THIS close!! Just a bike length!!’ By the way, ‘just a bike length’ when getting dropped on a climb is approximately equal to the distance that light travels in one year. Just so you know.”

“This is pretty complicated. What’s the second big moment?”

“The finish, where you put yourself through agonies unimaginable to the average 45 year-old gentleman as you risk life, limb, and fifteen thousand dollars in race equipment to beat out some other wanker for 47th place.”

Ol’ Gizzards and Comeback

We pawed the dirt at the starting line as I surveyed the competition. Glass Hip, looking relaxed, fit, and intimidating with his new death row crew-cut. The more he smiled and smalltalked with Baby ‘DQ’ Louie the more I realized how bitter this beatdown was going to be. G$ casually straddled his top tube, looking like a giant heart and lung with two long legs attached as an afterthought. Klasna sat calmly, fresh blood from the roadkill he’d just eaten still dripping from his fangs. Fatty Flagg, who at 170 pounds was the true beast of the race, looked coolly at the race official.

Then I pinched myself. These guys weren’t my competition. My competition was Bumblebee, the newt in a black and yellow-striped Halloween costume. My competition was Ol’ Gizzards, the stringy, misshapen wanker who kept falling off his bike at the start line. My competition was Comeback, the 52 year-old who’d had a run of Cat 3 wins back in ’79 and wanted to resurrect the glories of his racing career. These were the losers I’d get to know intimately over the course of the day.

Our field had 53 riders, including Skankdaddy, a twiglike specimen doomed to flail, who bulled his way up the middle of the group, elbowing Herndy-Doo in the process. I shook my head. Why would anyone try to pass Herndy-Doo in the first minute of the race? Herndy always makes the split and he benches 350.

We climbed up the first couple of miles to the right turn that leads to the infamous “Punchbowl Staircase.” This is a series of three climbs, each followed by a brief plateau. Like a staircase, you can see each section stretch endlessly off in front of you, and also like a staircase, it hurts like a motherfucker when you get thrown off it.

By the turn I was redlining, Comeback had gone back, Ol’ Gizzards was frying in the pan, and Skankdaddy was now trying to tweezle his way across the gap between him and us. Tri-Dork looked great, which was troubling.

There were less than thirty of us left at the top of the Staircase, and we pointed our bikes down the screaming crosswind descent. After the race everyone lied about how fast we went, with the biggest whopper coming from DQ Louie, who claimed he’d hit 60. Even so, it was a solid 45-50 for the entire 5-mile descent.

I almost didn’t get dropped

After the descent there’s a rolling 3-mile stretch before making a sharp right and doing the climb again. As the climb began I felt great. Thirty seconds in I felt not so great. Forty seconds in, the entire group detonated as G$, DQ Louie, Fatty Flagg, and Glass Hip crushed it. I would have stayed with them if I hadn’t gotten dropped, no question about it.

As I settled back with Gilligan, the Skipper, and the other castaways, I watched the leaders pull away. Tucked safely in their midst was Tri-Dork. All 191 pounds of him.

[Insert incredibly stupid, boring, “I”-centered recount of every dumb move, every retarded struggle, every adjective designed to impress readers with how tough it was, every reference to grit and power and climbing and hammering for every bump, climb, descent, pull, flail, and flog of the remaining 38 miles.]

At the end of the third lap we overhauled Tri-Dork, as he, Veins, and I dropped our contingent of wankers on the last time up the big climb. We hit the downhill and Tri-Dork demonstrated his mastery of the Egg. This is where you sit on the top tube, put your hands on tops of the bars, curve your spine, and tuck your head. When you’re almost 200 pounds it means that you easily go 55 mph.

It also means that your nuts are smashed flat on the top tube, a minor point, and that you lose 95% control of your bike, a major point. This is no problem when you’re a triathlete, and blunt trauma force to the head leaves the internal cement undamaged, but when you’re a nerdy bike blogger it’s kind of a different deal, and rather worrisome. All this was going through my mind as a big farm truck with a trailer full of unused IQ points flipped on its blinker and made as if to cut across our path, with Tri-Dork in full tuck, and Veins and I cowering in his draft.

Thanks to dumb luck we avoided the side of the trailer, and thanks to the Egg we caught what was left of the main field, which consisted of the saddest, fucked-overest, tiredest, beatdownest, sad-sackest bunch of wrinkled old shits you’ve ever seen. And they were the fresh ones, everyone else having quit, except for Tree, who had dropped his chain at .5 mile into the race and rode the rest of the race alone.

The race for first

We found out after the race that Glass Hip, Klasna, Baby Louie, Fatty Flagg, and G$ had shellacked the field at the turn onto the Stairstep on the second lap. You’d think that with three Big O riders represented in the group it would be an easy win, but the Orangemen were able, just in time, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Unfortunately for them, Glass Hip was on form. That means something different than it does for most people. When he rode for the U.S. Olympic team, Glass Hip was tested along with the other elite racers. In every parameter he failed miserably. His VO2 max was 19.5 ml/kg/min. His functional threshold power was 185 watts. His torso measured twice the length of his longest leg, which was six inches longer than the other one, such that neither foot could reach the ground without a short stepladder.

However, in one critical parameter, he outscored everyone ever tested at the U.S. Olympic Center, except for Hacksaw Jim Duggan, in the category of “Hammer Thumb.” This is a test where they tie your hand onto a board and the tester smacks the shit out of your biggest digit with a ball-peen hammer. Electrodes are wired to your brain to record your ability to withstand pain, but are rarely used because after the first whack the testee usually shrieks in agony, and after the second one passes out.

They not only hammered Glass Hip’s thumb, but they hammered all his fingers and toes as well, culminating with a four-minute session on the end of his pecker. The tester finally passed out from sympathetic pain sensations, kind of like guys who go into labor when their wives get pregnant. When they read the computer print-out after scanning his brain, it said, “No brain detected. No brain, no pain.”

Glass Hip ready to pounce

In short, no matter what they threw at him, and they threw it all, Glass Hip took it on the chin, shook it off, and braced himself for the next blow. Pretty soon, like the testers at the Olympic Training Center, his adversaries found themselves in a weakened and addled and terrified state. As the five heroes approached the line, Glass Hip bent over, gently took the candy from the babies, and rocketed across the line effortlessly.

Baby “DQ” Louie opened up his sprint for second close to the gutter, then came all the way across to the center line, shutting the door on Klasna and earning himself yet another yellow card, relegation to fifth, and a note that he had to take home and get his mother to sign acknowledging his bad behavior.

The race for fifteenth

Tri-Dork and I, locked in mortal combat, engaged in a battle for the ages. He, doing his first road race on a course suited for tiny bony people, was matched against me, a tiny bony person who had done about a thousand hilly road races. It was only by using every ounce of cunning, skill, strength, ability, tactics, and him throwing a chain at the bottom of the climb that I was able to claim the coveted spot of Number 15.

On the way home we re-hashed the race. “At first I thought you were bullshitting me about the hamburger and fries. But that shit really works. Thanks, Wankmeister.”

I, for once, didn’t know what to say.

Kickin’ ass, takin’ names

December 4, 2011 § 7 Comments

7:50 p.m.: Air up brand new Continental Hardshell bulletproof tires. Marvel at how beautiful and new and un-flattable they look. Fill water bottle. Charge Garmin. Lube chain.

8:28 p.m.: Go to bed.

1:00 a.m.: Wake up and wonder when it’s going to be 5:30.

5:30 a.m.: Why the fuck is it 5:30 a.m. already?

5:35 a.m.: Slather on Mad Alchemy embro. Fumes make me gag and wake up the old lady. Old lady highly unhappy. Says to “get that smelly crap out of the bedroom.” Accidentally get a dab on the chamois and dance around for a few minutes until I can wipe it off with soap and cold water. Hoo-hah. Wide awake now, yes, sir!

5:45 a.m.: First hot bolt of coffee begins coursing through Wankmeister’s veins. Oh, yeah! Where’s my testosterone gel and super-oxygenated blood bag with IV needle?

6:00 a.m.: Make list of excuses for upcoming flail. 1–Rode too far the day before (117 miles, 4k feet of vertical). 2–It’s the off season and I’m still in build mode. 3–Don’t want to whip everyone on their home turf and make enemies.

6:30 a.m.: Begin drive to Tustin Market Place. Stylin in the Prius Pimpmobile with the scarface gash on the right door so they know I’m for real and don’t give a rat’s ass about purdy. Uh-huh.

7:25 a.m.: Arrive at Tustin Market Place. “The ride starts at Tustin Market Place” is about as precise a location as “the ride starts in Texas.” This place is huge. All this asphalt just so OC bimbos can buy shoes and edible thongs. Jeez, what a waste. Well, the shoes anyway.

7:30 a.m.: Spy a few SUV’s with open rear cargo doors parked in the corner of a lot. That smells like cyclists. Drive over and confirm; it’s the Monster Media team. Goodness. Those gentlemen look fit. And tan. And ready to rumble. Feel a bit of quakey bowels.

7:35 a.m.: Hit the Panera for another cup of coffee and a deposit in their porcelain facility.

7:45 a.m.: Suit up in SPY Optic team kit. Realize it’s still fricking cold and I don’t have any shoecovers.

7:47 a.m.: KB, Labor Power legend and 2011 dominator at Dana Point and Tour de Murrieta, is fishing for a valve extender. I lend him one hoping that he’ll have mercy when the whip comes down. He thanks me. I realize my selfish altruism isn’t going to help me at all. These guys look like they had rusty nails and glass for breakfast. Try to look tough but my fucking knees keep knocking together.

8:00 a.m.: We join the 150+ idiots who have massed along Jamboree for Roger’s Cup, run concurrently with the Sunday Como Street ride out of Tustin without the inconveniences of that silly insurance, or having any of those unnecessary ambulances and EMT’s on standby.

Hello, little fish. I won't hurt you.

8:10 a.m.: Drift back through the swelling throng, feeling like a fat tasty mackerel in a school of hungry sharks. There’s Critchamp, there’s Glass Hip, there’s Thing Two, RB, MJ, RM, and about a dozen other people with stars and stripes on their sleeves or state champ jerseys. “Como Street virgin?” asks Glass Hip.

8:12 a.m.: AF comes up and says, “Hi, teammate,” because I’m wearing SPY. “What’s your name, buddy?” I have to admit I’m just a poser, wearing a gift kit, gift specs, and that although he doesn’t know me, I remember him from De Vlees Huis RR, where he towed me around for a lap before dropping me, and from Ontario in 2008, when he dragged me around in a breakway that stuck ’til the end. He shrugs like he just touched someone else’s booger and pedals off.

8:30 a.m.: Glass Hip gives me the course rundown. “Hairy descent after the neighborhood. Lots of cracks, good place to go down hard and have 200 idiots run over your dick.” Feel overwhelming urge to piss. And cry. And go home. And crawl back under my warm blanky. In no particular order.

8:45 a.m.: MJ warns me about the descent. Sit on his wheel for a way, marveling at all that muscle squeezed into those Assos shorts, and how much it’s going to hurt when they flex. All the other sharks get out of the king shark’s way when he cuts through the school. Think I will tag along for a bit.

8:53 a.m.: Group stops to hear a little speech about Roger’s Cup. Thirty bladder-bursting bikers jump off their bikes and rush to the hedge, which is only knee-high. More sausage on display for the passing cars than a pepperoni pizza cook-off in Chicago.

8:54 a.m.: Glass Hip comes pedaling by howling at the top of his lungs, “Who wants this baby? Who WANTS it?” He’s holding the massive trophy. It’s bigger than America’s Cup, although it has a tad more plastic. I’m impressed that Glass Hip doesn’t tip over.

8:55 a.m.: Chit-chat with Thing 2, who’s wearing the pink jersey of “Lider” given to the winner of the 2011 edition of the Tour of Guadalahara. He’s a fricking beast.

8:57 a.m.: Speaker speaks about the race and the cup and the felled cyclist for whom it is named. Husband of a recently killed cyclist gives a short speech but begins calling us all sinners and telling us to repent and that this should remind us that the hour of judgment is near and that we must accept Jesus as our savior. A couple of people say “I’m not a sinner!” and the Jewish/Buddhist/Muslim/Atheists among us kind of feel uncomfortable.

8:59 a.m.: We remount, and it’s game on. Quick flurry as riders shuffle to the front, and a few guys launch, including Herndy-Doo from Big Orange.

9:00 a.m.: I find a stars-and-stripes wheel and edge towards the front as we begin speeding up Santa Margarita Parkway. “Hmm…windy up here.”

9:00:30 a.m.: “Hmm…painful up here.”

9:01:00 a.m.: “Hmm…really windy and painful and fast up here.”

9:01:45 a.m.: “Holy fucking shit this fucking hurts!”

9:02 a.m.: “I’m gonna…get off…this…wheel…and go…a little farther…back…”

9:03 a.m.: Massive whack and smack as my rear wheel rolls over a small boulder. I pray for a catastrophic rear wheel failure, or at least a flat.

9:04 a.m.: Pain gets worse despite dropping back to the shelter of the group.

9:05 a.m.: 405 watts, now sustained for about a mile. Speed 16.5 mph. Pain has gone well into the intolerable zone.

9:05:14 a.m.: Realize I can’t hang on anymore.

9:05:15 a.m.: Realize this is only the first climb of the ride.

9:05:16 a.m.: Realize this isn’t even a climb.

9:05:17 a.m.: Realize how much I hate racing.

9:05:18 a.m.: Realize how much I hate cycling.

9:05:19 a.m.: Realize how much I hate Orange County.

9:06:00 a.m.: Somehow make it over the first hump.

9:06:01 a.m.: Start to think that OC isn’t so bad.

9:06:02 a.m.: Start to think cycling isn’t so bad.

9:06:03 a.m.: Start to like cycling again, a little.

9:07 a.m.: Rear tire begins to feel soft. Yes! A flat!!! I fucking love this sport!

9:07:02 a.m.: Raise right hand and slowly angle to edge of field. Entire group of 10,000 idiots comes flying by. Very awesome because they all see I have a flat tire. Ironclad excuse to claim that I woulda coulda shoulda mighta oughta was gonna if not for that darned flat.

9:08 a.m.: Stop for a leisurely tire change, planning to make sure enough time goes by that there’s no way in hell I could justify chasing. Labor Power team car stops to ask if I need help. “No, thanks! Got it! All cool here! Hurry up there where you’re needed! Have a nice day!”

9:20 a.m.: Complete tire change, but flail with CO2 cartridge so only get the tire about halfway inflated. Realize I have no fucking idea where the route goes or how to get home.

9:22 a.m.: Flag down rider from Coates Cyclery. Kindly offers me a cartridge, tells me the route. Resume riding.

9:32 a.m.: Hit the dangerous descent that Glass Hip and MJ warned me about. Learn that at the bottom, at the bridge, long after the danger had passed, some knucklehead attacked the pavement with his forehead and took down four other riders. Frame snapped in half, body flung onto the guardrail…ah, the joys of rogue racing.

9:33 a.m.: Wending my way through the beautiful oaks on Trabuco. Stop to bleed the lizard just off Hunky Dory Road. Yep, Hunky Dory road. Urinate under a tree where someone has discarded a black Halloween mask and has half-buried several beer bottles. Smells like teen spirit. Keep an eye out for used condoms. Hate to track one of those back home on the heel of my cycling shoe. Worse than toilet tissue.

9:41 a.m.: Turn off onto Santiago Canyon Rd.,and eventually overtake a wanker in a neon yellow windbreaker. Wanker sits about thirty yards off my wheel for a long time. I “practice my spin.”

10:00 a.m.: Wanker evaporates somewhere in the canyon. Far ahead I see another wanker and try to spin my way up to him.

10:10 a.m.: Wanker in the distance is fucking hammering. Or, I’m a bigger wanker than he is. I choose the former explanation.

10: 30 a.m.: I prepare to pass Irvine Lake. Am very excited to finally see a lake in Southern California.

10:31 a.m.: I pass a dirty puddle with a small dock and some sickly birds floating in the muck. This must be the wetlands before you get to the lake.

10:31:30 a.m.: I see a sign proclaiming the tiny mudpit as “Lake Irvine.”

10:36 a.m.: I catch and pass my wanker carrot on the hill leading up to the 241. He weighs 300 pounds and is going about 2 mph.

10:58 a.m.: I pull back into the Market Place parking lot. The Monster Media guys have showered, shaved, changed, and completed the last three chapters of their novel.

10:59 a.m.: “I saw you flat back there,” says KB. Yessss!!!

11:00 a.m.: I get the rundown on the race. Final group of 30-40 make it to the end. No one can escape in the canyon due to the headwind. Meeker smokes everyone in the sprint. Again.

11:05 a.m.: Head back home to L.A. County, polishing and staring fondly at my perfect, shiny little excuse for not finishing with the group.

All's well that ends with coffee.

11:06 a.m.: Reflect on this, the definition of a perfect bike race: 1) No entry fee. 2) Don’t crash. 3) Mechanical that takes me out of the race before getting dropped. 4) Minimal pain. 5) Beautiful weather. 6) Home in time to take the wife for an afternoon coffee overlooking the ocean.

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