September 21, 2014 § 31 Comments
With the changes to the UCI’s rules for the hour record attempt firmly in place, Jens Voigt stormed to a new mark in the legendary event, setting a fastest-ever pace in the event, a time that was faster than anyone has ever gone before in this distance, except for eight other riders, all of whom went faster, but who, under new rules are now technically slower, making Voigt the fastest ever rider not to have used certain modifications under the old rules that allowed the “superman” position. Voigt’s new status as the fastest ever rider for the hour except for the riders who have actually gone faster created a wave of happiness and hysteria at the UCI, and Cycling in the South Bay was lucky to catch this brief interview with chief Brian Cookson in between lunchtime martinis.
CitSB: You must be really happy about this.
Brian Cookson: Oh indeed, indeed. This rule change is going to see a wave of riders attempting to break the hour record.
CitSB: Can you explain it to the folks back in Peoria? It’s kind of confusing.
BC: Of course. Under the old rules, which were instituted to replaced the former rules before that, and which in turn had been liberalized over the previous rules, a rider couldn’t set an hour record unless he did it under the same technical constraints as Eddy Merckx’s 1972 ride in Mexico City.
CitSB: And why was that so hard?
BC: There just weren’t very many more pairs of wool shorts left anymore. Except for the guys over at Velominati. And reproducing the open-shit sewers of Mexico City in ’72 was a major technical hurdle, not to mention getting old-school pepper-upper combos like Deca, heroin, strychnine, and cocaine.
CitSB: So then what happened?
BC: We changed the rule so that it mirrors the existing rules for the pursuit. If you can use it in the pursuit, you can use it in the hour record.
CitSB: Even those stupid looking smooth helmets that make you look like a speeding penis?
BC: (Slams another martini, rubs self). Especially those.
CitSB: Back to Ma and Pa in Peoria. Jens Voigt has the new hour record, but there are still eight riders who have set UCI-approved hour records faster than him. How can you be the record holder in 9th place?
BC: Again, as with most things in cycling, you have to be steeped in the history and the regulations to appreciate the effort. It is true that the fastest hour records of Boardman and Rominger will never be broken, but those records were set due to technical specifications that allowed them to use bike positions that we will never allow again.
CitSB: Why is that?
BC: The hour record should be pure. It should be man against time.
CitSB: Or woman.
CitSB: Never mind.
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October 11, 2013 § 12 Comments
First KK set the hour record, then Fukdude set the hour record, and suddenly everybody was “training for the hour record.” But I wasn’t, because the only thing I know about it is that Eddy considered it the hardest thing he’d ever done. When I saw Fukdude get off his bike after an entire season of starving, training, intervaling, waxing his chain, and boring out his hair follicles for extra lightness, I knew the hour record wasn’t even in my imagination, forget actually doing it.
However, there are others who dare to dream big dreams, and no one dreams bigger than Hockeystick. Caught up in the excitement of watching a drained, depleted, dazed Fukdude get peeled off his bike, Hockeystick declared that he was going after KK’s hour record, as it was in his age group. This was shocking.
KK is only vaguely human. He’s one of a handful of people who can crawl into the pain box, shut the lid, and throw away the key. He’s got the perfect mix of athleticism, discipline, ability, and work ethic to take on cycling’s biggest test. But Hockeystick? Our dear, beloved Hockeystick? He of the happy-go-lucky smile, last to a fight, first to a feast, belly up the the bar and devil take the hindmost, when the going gets tough Hockeystick gets a note from his mom, why train when you can talk about it, I don’t like road riding because the sun is bad for my complexion, THAT HOCKEYSTICK? THAT HOUR RECORD?
No fuggin’ way.
I ran across Hockeystick on the way home from a race a couple of months ago. “‘Sup, Hockeystick?”
“Training for the hour,” he said.
“You? You’re kidding.”
“Nope. Man’s gotta dream big. Have challenges. Never give in to aging..”
“Never give in to aging? Dude, you look ten years older than you are. Your gut sags lower than your pecker. You’ll never set the hour record — KK has that.”
“I’m on a program. I’ve got a coach. My way, like the song says.”
“So tell me about the plan.”
“Long miles on the weekend. Steady cadence. Defined interval work on the velodrome.”
“What about diet? You still look like you’re hung over from Christmas.”
“Anquetil was a hard partier.”
“Anquetil was a multiple winner of the Tour, classics winner, hour record holder, the greatest time trialist the world had ever seen. What does that have to do with you?”
“Ya gotta dream big to stay young.”
“Dude, you can’t stay young. Everyone gets old. And some get older than others, quicker.”
“My way, baby.”
We parted ways.
An hour record hopeful walks into a bar …
A few weeks ago I was in a bar for a party, and who should I see on the high stool but Hockeystick. “Yo, Hockeystick. What the fuck you doing here?”
“Having a little snack.”
“Snack? That’s three plates of tacos in front of you. And a pitcher of beer. How many pitchers so far?”
“Dude! What happened to the hour record?”
“Nothin’. I’m going for it.”
“Impossible. You look like the Pillsbury doughboy’s fat grandmother. With his hour record attempt eight weeks out, Fukdude looked like a coathanger on a diet. KK was down to tendons and gristle. You look like an elephant seal getting ready for an Arctic winter.”
“I got this.”
“Got what? The bill?”
“The record. I got this.”
“Talk to me, bro. The only thing you got so far is arteriosclerosis.”
“I decided not to go after KK’s record.”
“Well, that’s a fuggin’ relief.”
“But I’m still goin’ after an hour record.”
“Which one? 210-lb. plus category? I didn’t know there was one.”
“Naw, I’m goin’ for the Eddy Merckx hour record, age 50+.”
“Merckx style. No aero. Just me, drop bars, spoked aluminum box rims. Mano a mano.”
“You’re fuggin’ kidding me.”
“Nope. I figured I couldn’t beat KK, so I looked it up and there’s this Merckx category that no one’s done in the US before in my 50+ category.”
“So all you fuggin’ have to do is ride around the track for an hour?”
“And no matter how slow you go, you set the record?”
“Like, you could pull a taco out of your skinsuit and drink beer out of your water bottle?”
“And still get to tell people you set the hour record?”
“Hockeystick?” I said.
“You’re a fuggin’ genius.”
He shoved the last giant taco into his mouth as a burst of sour cream and salsa drizzled down his chin. Then he drained his one-pint tumbler and smacked his lips. “Yeah,” he said. “I know.”
June 27, 2013 § 24 Comments
I rolled into the velodrome on a flat rear tire, an empty stomach, and the beer needle buried on “Empty.” The first person I saw was Plotkin.
“Hey, Plotz, you drink beer?”
“Take me down to the supermarket so I can get a sixpack.”
“Nah. I want to stay and watch the races.”
“You’re kidding, right? The 55+ 2k ITT? Hockeystick’s the only entry anyway. Even with that ol’ beer belly, he still has to win.”
“Come on, Plotz.”
Plotz is a (beer loving) devoted Christian. “I’ll do it if you say ‘I believe in God.'” He gave an impish smile, settled back in his chair, and got ready to reconcentrate on Hockeystick.
“I believe in God. There. Let’s go.”
Plotkin jumped up. “You do not!”
“Do not what?”
“Believe in God! You’re an atheist!”
“Yeah. So? Let’s go get some beer. I upheld my end of the bargain. I’ll buy the beer anyway.”
He was really upset. “You were just saying it! You don’t really believe it!”
“Hold on, pal. You didn’t say I had to believe anything. You just said I had to say it.”
“It was implied!”
“That you had to actually believe in God, too!”
“Well, that’s mighty Christian of you. Promise to do something in exchange for something, then crawfish on me when I uphold my end of the bargain.”
“You’re a liar!”
“So? Was it also implied I can’t be a liar?”
“I only meant I’d do it if you really believed it.”
“Okay, you win.”
Plotkin settled back, still flustered.
“I believe in God. With all my heart. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and I believe the Bible is the literal truth, even Leviticus 19:7.”
“Yeah, the law against cutting your hair or shaving. You’re going to hell, by the way, for that Gillette look you’re sporting.”
“You do not believe any of that.”
“I don’t now, but I did a few seconds ago. C’mon, let’s go get some beer and argue about whether or not we’re going to have stone Fukdude to death during his hour record attempt for violating Leviticus 19:19.”
“Which one is that?”
“The law against wearing clothes of more than one fabric.”
Plotkin waved me off like a pesky gnat and went back to the race.
Tiptoeing on needles
I had arrived two and a half hours before Fukdude was going to try and break the U.S. national one-hour speed record for left-handed myopics with astigmatisms in the right eye under 6’3″ but taller than 5’11 1/2″ PBF-insufficient men aged 40-45 Category. As Fukdude had said earlier, “It’s a small pool but everyone in it is fukkin insane, dude.”
Before long Fukdude himself showed up. I was incredibly respectful of the awesome pressure I knew he must feel, and stayed away at first, not wanting to unbalance his finely tuned mental condition, which was almost at fever pitch. After all, he’d invited the press, rented out the entire velodrome, paid for three USA Cycling officials, paid for the college educations of the children of his coach, his dietician, his chain-lube dude in Colorado, and the entire stateside staff of Fast Forward Wheels, USA. Plus, he’d invited his friends and family, including the Bonganator and Fireman, both of whom were guaranteed to show up with a pony keg apiece jammed down the leg of their jeans.
However, just to make the pressure absolutely unendurable, he’d also invited Greg St. Cinema and Smokin’ Hot CU Tomorrow, he a pro Hollywood cameraman and art photographer, and she a smokin’ hot babe in tight jeans with unreal skills as a sports photographer. Any possible flail on Fukdude’s part would result in photographic evidence (half-life of digital images = 3.4 trillion years), and worse, looking bad in front of an entire gallery of bike babes tricked out in tight pants and chesty t-shirts.
The fever pitch
I finally walked over to Fukdude, nervously, hoping not to disturb him. “Hey, man,” I said timidly in an obsequious voice, my eyes averted so as not to rattle him.
“Hey dude!” he said.
I jumped. “Don’t want to bother you, I know you’re getting into the zone, but…”
“The zone, I know you’re doing the athlete visualization focus thing and…”
“What the fuk you talking about, dude? Hey, check out my chain. Rad, huh?” I was shaking out of nervousness as Fukdude threw his bike up on the rollers. What if he crashed off the rollers and broke his collarbone?
Fukdude was instantly pounding away. “So hey, dude, hope I don’t fukkin flail. That would be lame, huh?” At that instant his bike wobbled on the rollers and skittered off the edge. He laughed, yanked it back, and kept going. I almost fainted.
“How’re the legs?” I asked.
“Fuk, who knows? Doesn’t matter now, does it?” He grinned and continued his warm up. So much for the finely-tuned, highly strung athlete.
It’s a screamathon
Shortly after 4:00 PM, Fukdude left the starting gate. The velodrome, which is normally not even full for World Cup events featuring the greatest track riders on earth, wasn’t full for this, either, by a long shot. Still, the legion of Fukdude Followers had made the trip and were already pretending to be interested in watching a grown man with the shoulders of a pre-pubescent junior high school girl ride around in circles by himself, drenched in sweat and suffering like a dog for an hour.
Hockeystick was at the mike, and even though Motoman, Bonganator, and Fireman had showed up with liberal quantities of cheap beer, dispensed for free, it promised to be boring beyond belief. Every once in a while Hockeystick would chime in with an anecdote about Oscar Egg’s hour record attempt in ’29 or remind the crowd that Fukdude’s favorite singer was Doris Day, but aside from those fascinating bits of commentary, people were nodding off.
Then Hockeystick’s wife leaned over to him and said, “Tell people to come down to the rail and cheer, for goodness’s sake!”
Whatever Hockeystick thought about the suggestion, he didn’t dare gainsay it, so he began to call folks down to the balustrade. And they came. Within moments the morgue-like atmosphere of people so bored they wanted to kill themselves became a screaming, frothing, wailing, clapping, and sideboard-banging house of mayhem.
At a relentless 19-second-per-lap tempo, we began screaming ourselves hoarse and pounding our palms into swollen lumps of meat every time he came by. With half the crowd on the far side, half on the other, and the other half completely drunk, the place was electric. Down on the track G$ and MM screamed and gesticulated like people having a seizure. Brian G. had handed out several cowbells, and as Fukdude buried himself into his 28 mph+ pace the entire velodrome went from Bleak House to Fire on the Mountain.
The pain in the brain
By the time Fukdude hit the 45-minute mark his face was distorted into the look of someone who’s pulling his own teeth out with a rusty pair of pliers and doesn’t know why, but can’t stop. At one point he lost focus for a split second and shot up to the blue line, then over-corrected and clipped a foam cushion, but with that exception the electronic “beep” of the timer told us that he was right on schedule. That certainty didn’t dim the screaming and yelling one bit.
With a handful of minutes to go, Fukdude sunk an already buried needle as deeply as it could go and from some dark, unhealthy, generally-to-be-avoided place within himself he cranked it up another couple of miles an hour for the remainder of the hour. When the timer marked one hour he sat up to thundering applause, drunken screams, clattering cowbells, and the silent fantasy of Hockeystick at the mike, imagining himself as the next Hour Record Holder By The Dude With The Most Massive Beer Gut Ever.
Davy Dawg peeled Fukdude off his bike, and for an instant that sweat-soaked, frail, girlish, wispish, 145-lb. waif held barely together with a few stringy muscles and even stringier tendons, looked even frailer. We all peered into his eyes, trying to grasp, even for a second, what he’d endured in this event that Eddy Merckx swore had taken years off his career, if not his life.
Dawg thrust the mike up to Fukdude’s quivering lips. “Any words for the crowd, Kev?” he asked.
Brief pause. Long breath. Drizzle of sweat pooling on the floor. “Fuck, dude,” said Fukdude. “That was hard.”
June 16, 2013 § 26 Comments
Fukdude woke up one day with a completely crazed obsession, which was completely different from the completely crazed obsession he’d had the previous year, or the year before, or the year before.
“I gotta fukkin do the hour record,” he said to himself.
So he went down to the velodrome, hopped on his bike and did a practice hour record ride. He missed setting a new mark by 300m.
With zero preparation, coming so close to the mark on a test ride would give mere mortals cause for celebration. All it gave Fukdude was a case of raw sack.
“My fukkin left nut was out of position, pushed up against a nest of hairs on the inside of my thigh.” (FD is extremely analytical.) “Those three or four hairs rubbed up against the sack nonstop for one fukkin hour. Like scraping your balls with a wire brush. Fukkin saddle sore on my nut was the size of a small fukkin Frisbee. Couldn’t wear underwear for two weeks and had to soak my balls in an avocado-linseed oil poultice. Shit fukkin hurt.”
Why are bicycle riders insane?
This is what I was asking myself, having swung by FD’s place to pick up a copy of “The Hour” by Michael Hutchinson, an insane British bicycle rider who had misguidedly taken aim at the most holy record in sports, and predictably failed.
“You gotta fukkin read this book if you’re gonna blog about my attempt,” he said. “Then I can tell you about bearing friction and chain drag coefficients and tire thread counts and crr and Cda. Pretty cool shit, actually.”
“It is?” I asked.
“Fuk yeah, dude.” Then FD reached down onto a shelf and pulled out a bag with a chain in it. “Imported from Japan, dude,” he said with pride.
“Like my wife?”
“No, dude, this is special. Bro deal.”
I nodded. “Any other special stuff?”
“Fuk yeah. Check this shit out.” FD reached into another shelf and pulled out a box, in which was a bag, in which was a cloth sack, in which was a plastic covering, in which was a monstrous 55-tooth chainring that looked bigger than the reported Frisbee on his nutsack.
“Wow,” I said.
“Fukkin Japanese dude makes these things. Imported from Japan. Japanese. Fukkin rad shit, huh? $200 bucks, dude.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s some coin.”
“No big deal. We just dial back the hot water, gas, and electricity for six weeks, slash the food budget and drink more water. It’s healthier, actually. Good for your fukkin hour record diet too, dude.”
When the fad is bad
This whole hour record thing got started in SoCal by Keith Ketterer, otherwise known as “KK,” “Superman,” or just plain “Sir.” A quiet, unassuming guy, KK did his preparation and set the hour record in two separate age divisions.
His successful assaults were the picture of suffering, and when he finished his second record ride he was pulled off the bike looking like a corpse that was way past its expiration date. The epic nature of his ride and the unspeakable nature of what he endured lit the fire of emulation under many who saw him.
Fortunately, most of the emulators did a few trial laps at speed around the velodrome and instantly realized the folly of their fantasy, and more importantly, the unspeakable pain of riding so fast even for a lap. So they quit and went back to the events that required something less, like ice hockey, drinking beer, and of course the most popular cycling event, Talking About Cycling And Spending Money On Bike Crap.
Not Fukdude. For him, the pain and the flogging and the obsessive attention to every possible detail made the fire burn brighter. It didn’t hurt that he has long been one of the best amateur bike racers in the state, and owns a pair of national titles on the track.
I found out about it through a Facebook invitation to the event that FD had sent out.
“It’s gonna be fukkin boring beyond belief,” he enthusiastically assured me. “Some dork riding in circles for fifty minutes, dude, people will be looking at each other going ‘This is some boring shit.'”
“Yes,” I tentatively agreed.
“It’s not ’til the last ten minutes if you’re on track that the misery and agony and suffering and flogging and hell sets in. That shit’s fun to watch. Dork goes from ‘I’m kicking ass’ to ‘I’m about to get totally fukkin humiliated in front of my family and friends plus waste all that money on tires and chains and shit from Japan,’ and then he fukkin goes balls out and flogs himself and you can see the fukkin fear of failure scratched all over his face like a bad tattoo. That’s when it’s fun to watch.”
“Oh,” I said.
“I mean, bike racing is a fukkin niche sport no bigger than a termite’s ass. And track racing is a fukkin tiny crevasse in the crack of the termite’s ass, right? And the fukkin hour record is a fissure in the crack of the termite’s ass’s microniche. Like, who fukkin cares?”
“So why are you doing it?”
“I’m obsessed, dude. If I don’t have a fukkin goal I’ll be eating a dozen baked chocolate donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and drinking beer by the keg. Gotta have goals in life, right, dude?”
Preparing for the flogging
If I had done a practice run and only missed the new record by 300m and some raw skin, I would focus my training exclusively on proper nut positioning and maybe do a couple of intervals to sharpen up for the real day of reckoning.
He assembled a team to conquer that last 300 meters that was truly incredible. Roger Young, former Olympian and curmudgeonly genius track coach feared by all, but who is really quite talkative on Thursdays between the hours of 3:00 and 3:15 AM. Philip Goglia and his eating program in Santa Monica, who is The Man for pasty, skinny dudes like FD who want to look even sicklier without losing leg power. Thanks to Phil, FD was able to develop entire new vein displays on his abdomen and thigh.
Roger put together a training plan that included things like eight 10-minute threshold sessions with 3-minute rests between intervals; three 40-minute threshold sessions (done three times a week); two 30-minute climbing intervals on a 9% grade at 350 watts…etc. Experts agree that if simply reading through the workouts doesn’t physically exhaust you or make you sob uncontrollably, you have what it takes to attempt the record.
Phil put together an eating plan that was based on the concept of gaining strength and power while losing weight and eating everything out of a Tupperware box. No more baked choco donuts. No more entire loaves of French bread. No more buckets of ice cream. No more Five Guys. In short, no more fun.
FD, however, was quick to point out that this had nothing to do with fun. “Fukkin starving yourself on lettuce and spending the best part of your adult life on an indoor trainer, dude, that’s fucked up. Which is why we do it. Right?”
“Uh, right,” I agreed, secretly planning to swing by the donut shop on the way home.
“Okay, cool dude. Nice talkin but I have to get back on the fukkin trainer. See you next week?”
“Wouldn’t miss if for the world. Hey, one question — “
“What happens if you do the hour record in, say, 59 minutes?”
*NOTE TO READER (singular): FD attempts the hour record in the 40-44 year-old age category at the VeloCenter in Carson, CA, on June 23 at 4:00 PM, immediately after which we will celebrate his NEW hour record with lots of fermented liquid electrolytes, chocolate donuts, more fermented electrolytes and awesome tales of how awesome he is. Which, in fact, he is.