July 27, 2012 § 3 Comments
In eighteen thousand USCF amateur road, crit, and track races, Kevin Phillips had never missed a start. Driving pell-mell up to the start, throwing on kit, socks, shoes, wheels, and water bottle at the last minute, no matter how close, no matter how many miles in between him and the start line with the clock only minutes from launch, he had never missed a start.
Until Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at the start of the points race in the masters national track championships at the 7-11 Velodrome in Colorado Springs.
They arrived at the track in time for Mel’s points race, which started immediately before Kevin’s. The officials weighed Mel’s bike, and that’s when the trouble started, because it was too light.
“No problem, we’ll yank the seat and fill the seat tube with some shit.” Minutes later they had pulled the saddle and dumped a handful of allen wrenches, a large crescent wrench, and part of a cheeseburger down the tube. The seatpost barely went back in. Whizzer Turdley, the official in charge of bike weight, gave it another whirl.
“No can do, man. Yer still over.”
The obvious solution was to put on Mel’s pursuit wheels, but they’d left them at the hotel. What possible reason could there have been to bring pursuit equipment to the mass start events?
The Ironfly team commenced a mad scramble to find a disc wheel. Even with the half-eaten cheeseburger, a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the handlebars, and a steel implant in her helmet, Mel couldn’t make weight. It’s not often in life that a girl begs to weigh in heavier than she really is, but this was UCI bike regulation no. A-138.23(b)(4), and unless you were prepared to donate a $100,000 doping analyzer to the UCI, this rule bent for no one.
Finally, a grizzled old dude who was already grizzled when the velodrome was built back in the 80’s came up to them. “You guys need sump’n heavy like a disc?”
Kev and Mel nodded madly as the clock ticked. “Here y’ar. This is some vintage shit.” He rolled out an early 90’s Li-Tan Wu solid wheel, so heavy that it left crack marks in the concrete as it rolled. Davy, Mel, KP, and Grizzled all heaved together to get it into the drops as Mel’s carbon frame groaned and creaked under the strain.
With seconds to spare a small crane hauled her bike up the rail, and they were off. She’d made weight with exactly two ounces to spare.
The principle of inertia
Although it took her a few laps to get going, by the time the women’s points race concluded the track officials were already wondering how they would stop Mel’s inertia bike, powered as it was by the inertia of a 400-lb. flywheel. With the aid of an emergency foaming system sprayed onto the track by a fire truck, however, the bike came to a halt.
Next up was KP and Davy’s points race. With only minutes to spare, the crew began working feverishly to change the wheel. Soon the other riders were up on the rail, and Davy had to leave the pit or risk missing the race along with Kevin. However, he had mastered the Japanese parliamentary tactic of the cow walk, and dawdled so long getting to the rail that the officials gave him a delay of game warning, penalized him fifteen yards, and spotted the ball on the kicking team’s 25 yard line.
It was all to no avail. Kevin missed his start, the race left without him, and lacking a team mate in the 72-lap event Davy wound up with fourth, an honorable finish but far from what he might have achieved with KP at his side, though much better than the competitors who dropped out and died due to the 105-degree temperatures that had melted the glue off many of the rims.
Learning from their mistakes
The following day presented the scratch race, and the Ironfly boys and girls arrived at 4:00 AM for their 4:00 PM start in order to make sure they passed all the requisite checks. Kev brought three extra cheeseburgers just to be safe.
The men’s 35-39 10k scratch race went balls out from the gun. A couple of searing, early attacks went early, but the watchful group brought them back. The main players in the scratch race were the Ironfly team, a team from DC that Kevin had raced against last year and who had won the event, and another team from Bumfucksomewhereville. The silver medalist from the points race was in the mix as well.
Suddenly, one of the DC wankers attacked and opened up a gap on the straightaway. The group kept the pace steady without ever reeling him in, and eventually eased off the gas. Davy attacked, which is shorthand for “exploded from the group like a missile,” such that the only people who even considered following were the insane or those seated comfortably in the bleachers.
He put his head down, kept the pace steady, and chased for 6 laps before bridging to DC dude. Once he’d connected, the points race winner from the day before split away and after a short chase joined what was now a 3-man breakaway. Each rider did the obligatory timber check and concluded that this was a winner. Heads went down and full-on flail mode ensued.
The field chased, then sat up, then chased, then sat up, with the riders alternating between “Fuck, I’m bringing them back!” to “Fuck, YOU bring them back!” as is so typical of lazy bike racers who work their asses off the entire year for one race and then when the time comes dilly-dally around like a bunch of park bums.
As the laps ticked down, the fully rested, timely signed in, properly wheeled, correctly weighed, and canny killer Kevin launched from the field of flailing wankers. The boom was sonic, the spray of sweat from his face, legs and armpits was like a tidal wave of oily salt water, and the thought of following his lead was so dispiriting and soul-destroying that three riders immediately swore off sex and liquor and joined the priesthood.
In a few short strokes Kevin caught the break, which in turn had lapped the field. Davy & Co., needing a respite from their long battle in the wind, sat up for a moment. Kevin farted once, blew his nose twice, put his fucking head down and kept the pedal mashed all the goddamned way through the floorboard, rolling through the field like shit through a goose.
There were now only three laps to go, and no one was about to jump over the rails and carjack a moped in order to chase down our dude from the South Bay, so the field waited for the sprint. Davy got nicked at the line but still earned a bronze medal at his first national championship ever. Kevin pulled on the stars and stripes jersey, reveling in the moment even as he was whisked off to doping control where a couple of hairy nurses stood guard and clinically compared his endowment to their former husbands.
His next big race is Friday, where he faces stiff competition in the individual pursuit. Hats off to Kevin for another inspiring win!
April 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
I really love you a lot. I hope you know that. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be what I am today. Well, I guess it’s not all your fault. Anyway, just wanted to take a sec and tell you you’re the best mom ever, and it’s been good times being your son. Just remember, anyone can be a father, but only a mother can be a mommy!
So, anyway, I had some details I wanted to go over with you for the “post-BWR me” if that’s cool and if now is not a good time that’s cool too. My first choice is the solid cherry. Its got a patented locking mechanism that’s so no one can get inside I guess. I want to have my SPY kits with me and once people know where I am they will probably try to swipe them so the locking mechanism would shut that down cold. I reckon it would.
Then I’d like the satin finish, which is very classy and sort of says “This dude was rad” which is pretty cool to be said about I reckon. That is what they will be saying on BWR when I kick their dicks in. Next its got wood bars instead of those aluminum ones so my buds will have something natural to grip when they carry it plus it’s has a safety bottom. I don’t know what that’s for exactly but I reckon its so you don’t fall out of the bottom once you get all mushy but even if you fall through the bottom like so what? Its just dirt.
Then the most rad part is it has a adjustable bed and mattress that is rad. It will be cozy after the BWR beatdown and feel good to. You could adjust your position if you wanted to or if they had to dig you up for to check to make sure you were dead the first time they could readjust all the goop on the mattress which is rad. Now get this it also has swing bar hardware and mom I dont cuss to much but what the fuck is that? And its got a reversible pillow and overthrow I reckon thats for if the pillow gets smelly which it woould after about an hour cuz your fucking dead and they can reverse it so it’s not so smelly. But I’m thinking if youre dead what the fuck do you care what the pillow smells like you know. The overthrow is cool to. That’s like a throwover they just throw it over you just make sure it dont cover up my Sidis which are rad.
Its only $3795 which is cheaper than the all copper one which is rad too and to make it uber rad could you get it with the Wilberts Bronze Triune thanks mom! That’s like the overcase that the solid cherry goes into, kind of like a double bagger on your dingdong when you think the first rubber might bust. But the triune costs $3895 extra (ouch) I love you mom but im not worth that much, I mean unless you really love me.
Now then it prolly sounds like a lot of money and I know that you have been struggling and living is tough in that tarp and cardboard thing they made for you down at the Occupy place but still for only $3795 the solid cherry is a deal its cheaper than my Specialized Scratch frame which I want put in with me too. I know I cant ride it when I’m dead but theres no freaking way I’m gonna let Hockeystick get it. No on that and I mean no. And he dont get my BWR finisher jersey either because he quit early with Miller and Mazer and Junkyard and Toronto and Arkansas Traveler and they was all just thongwatching and beating off down at the beach while I was paying the ultimate price sacrifice. “All gave some (except those wankers), some gave all.”
NOw there is also a thing on the same internet weg site I found as the solid cherry called “An inexpensive alternative for families. Cloth covered caskets are moderately priced as a result of the construction materials used in their manufacturing process.” and it says it’s made out of hemp cloth. Now thats cool because hemp is dope I’m pretty sure being stoned to fuck for eternity is rad but I don’t want to be rolled like a joint and stuck in the ground fuck no mom. Cherry wood, solid, please. If you want to toss in one of your bongs and an ounce of the good shit thats cool to but again keep an eye on Hockeystick back in the day they called him “Bogart.”
So next lets work on my obiterary notice which should be in the major newspapers like Velonews NYCBikeSnob and Twitter. I already no what it should say so you wont hve to haggle with the funeral director. Those guys are dicks sometimes and you would be too if everytime a dead body came over you were like “Oh maam thats so terrible I’m so sorry what a tragic loss you must be devastated,” but inside your really going “Rock on, another stiff, cha-ching!!” That’s fucked up.
I want the obiterary to be same as my headstone and to say exactly like these words: “Wankmeister was a badass motherfucker. He didnt take nofucking prisoners and didn’t ask for any, either. He was a real badass. He knew the BWR was gonna kill his fukkin ass but he didn’t give a fuck I reckon he didn’t no sir. He fucking drilled it as long as he could until he blew a cork and fucking died and all his socalled buddies ran over his dick. Then he was dead. And all the pussies who said BWR is for pussies and sent him links to that UltraPlanet bullshit stuff for pussies well they are a bunch of pussies. RIP. Born a long fucking time ago and died young making a good-lookin corpse. Plus he was coached by Captaintbag who is rad.”
Now my ballbearers are gonna be my best buds I want Hockeystick not cuz hes my best bud but so everyone can keep an eye on him from swiping the Scratch he’s got his eyes on it I’m telling you and no I’m not paranoid. And I want G3 because he will be crcking jokes and peeing on the fake flowers for laughs that will be rad. And I want Zeke because he is Dog. And I want New Girl and LEgit Girl and Sparkles and Mel and Mighty Mouse and Tink and Trixie and Dara and VV and all the other smokin hot broads put them in bikinis please little tiny ones. And I want MMX so we can serve him with the lawsuit papers for killing me on the BWR in the first place that fukker. And I dont care that hes drunk and in Milwaukee I want Filds and the Amsterdam Hammer and Unkl Phil to. If Glasship shows up witch he won’t he still owes me for firing me just before Christmas that douche and not severancing me any money.
For my clergy they should be Catholic-Jewish-Baptist and do the regular thing with the goat but keep the blood off my cherry solid. I will leave it to you mom to figure out what they say but make sure it includes this: “Oh Dog [this is wehre Zeke will wag his fukkin tail and knock over the vase and stick his nose up the girsl crotches] he was a badass send his fukkin ass to heaven and if you cant do that because he was an atheist send him to hell but in no event to Lubbock. He kicked in a lot of dicks in his time and he always gave a lot of you sorry fukkers in the audience his wheel even though you didn’t deserve it. Bless us this day our heavenly bread in the valley of evil though we may walk to radness amen, in Dog’s name, dudes.”
Don’t worry about decorating the grave just my old Garmin and printouts of my Strava KOM’s is enough especially that badass on the downhill of VDM nobody’s ever gonna crack that beatch. Bull is so far in second place he’ll never beat that KOM. You can give away my Capo socks too. But not my BWR finisher’s tee-shirt although Hockeystick will offer you money for it tell him to fuck off and he still owes me five bucks.
Now then you will have to pick a funeral director which is also the same as the embalmer. If more than 24 hours goes by between the end of the BWR and interment, the law hereabouts says that the remains got to be refrigerated or embalmed so dont put me in the fridge please. I don’t want somebody reaching in for a cold one and hauling out my frozen dick.
You can skimp on the embalming too if you just go straight to burial and save the money mom. Don’t get too freaked out the embalmer washes the body with spermicidal soap and replaces the blood with embalming fluid to preserve the body but I won’t have much blood it will all have drained out on Bandy Canyon, sure, mostly through my eyes and ears and nose. They may reshape and reconstruct disfigurements using materials, such as clay, cotton, plaster of Paris, and wax because frankly I’m gonna look all fukked over after BWR and there’s no point in open-casket gawking if my fukkin elbow is coming out my ass.
They also may slather on the cosmetics to make me look more naturally colorful pinkish rather than gray and yellow, and cut-n-glue to get rid of the grimaces. Then dress the body and place it in a casket but SPY kit all the way baby. Put some of my Ironfly shit in there to so Fukdude isn’t too pissed but how pissed can he be he never invited me on his pursuit team and theres nobody in the fuckin 45+ to race with anyway and so Fireman doesnt go ballistic. Ironfly sox would be rad.
Although I want burial in a casket, cremation might be fun too, which is where they burn the shit out of you in a special giant deal like a barbecue cooker, it can be more convenient and cheaper. AFterward you can be easily ship the bones and ashes and shit around to friends and shit or keep them at home in your tent, or even scatter them over the ocean which is weird because I cant swim. Mom, if you put my cremains in some kind of receptacle dont make it in the kitty litter box because they will get shat on and cat poop is way worse than dog poop except for Zeke. You can get something rad at the Container Store
IF you end up going with this place I’m sending you to, “Bill’s Family Funerals, A Place for the Whole Family,” which is a family-run business kind of like a bike shop, its in Carlsbad so they’ll be able to get my cadaver straight from the BWR finish to the funerary, you have to treat them like a bike shop. Don’t fucking take the first price and always get the team discount. Thats NOT 15 percent which is the FRED discount. Always get 30% that is for the HAMMERS. fucking Stern-O never fucking pays retail dont you either mom. Thirty percent.
You can also get some great deals on the internet better than Bill’s but like at a bike shop go to Bills first and get all the info and even test drive the cherry solid to make sure its rad then order it online lots cheaper. Bill will still service the body and do al the shitwork just like a LBS. Not your fucking problem mom if they dont make any money and go bankrupt you didnt’ tell them to be a funeral shop . Dont sign up for any bullshit post-death support group activities bullshit either. Do you really want to sit around on Friday evenings with some douchebag crying over how daddy got plucked away in the flower of his youth and he was only on his fith DUI? course not.
You can get a rad hearse like the one in the picture and the driver is pretty rad because he’s badass enough to keep Hockeystick from stealing the Scratch and the bong but I’d rather go in Surfer Dan’s vanagon which is old and rusted to fuck but highly rad. G$ can make some bitching rad logo with purple and green and orange and shit and some big ass angry orange on the front and fly it like a flag off the vanagon.
And one last hing, mom. If they try to pin that fucking purple jersey on my dead body don’t you let them. Don’t you fucking dare.
April 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
Sometimes even an important cycling blog like this doesn’t have anything interesting to say. So I will be concise and do this like rabbit droppings, you know, a little poop nugget here, a little poop nugget there.
Poop nugget one: Major Bob was a beast on Thursday’s NPR. He towed me all the way to the line in our trademark last-lap suicidal breakaway of death but I blew up, got caught by the pack, and finished behind the fat walrus guy with the backpack. Prez sank back to his usual wheelsuck and win-the-sprint M.O., but don’t laugh, as practice makes perfect and he won Sunday’s San Diego Cat 3 crit to ensure that he will remain aloft in the SoCal Sandbagger of the Year Competition.
Poop nugget two: Jack from Illinois( not his real name) joined Howard Hughes of the South Bay and me and the Chief, former master of all he surveyed, now confined to the miserable reservation of Saturday kiddie soccer games and delayed Sunday pedals so that his significant other gets in her Lululemon workout first, for a glorious coffee cruise. Chief began his comeback in earnest, which included pedaling the entire 250 yards from his house to CotKU, drinking a cup of coffee, and pedaling all the way back.
Poop nugget three: Friday night the world was in an addled state of consti-ticipation as each of the 125 million ticket holders gloriously made plans for spending his/her/its share of the Mega-Millions pot of gold.
“I’ll help ol’ Aunt Sukey by getting her a new house and a car and a 24-hour assisted care home nurse to pay her back for all those times she kept me out of juvenile prison.”
“I’ll start a foundation to provide a home for all the cats!”
“I’ll live quietly and modestly, keeping my wealth secret, while anonymously becoming an incredible donor to worthy causes everywhere!”
“I’ll fund a multi-million dollar ‘cross series to make it the biggest sport in America!!!”
“I’ll create trust funds for all of my cousins and nieces and nephews but set it up so that even though they’re rich they won’t be spoiled.”
“I’ll buy more hookers and blow than there are ‘fuggs’ in a captaintbag blog post.”
Frenziedly huddled around the computer screen, those same people who fall into the category of “voluntary taxpayers who don’t understand statistics or probability” looked grimly at the first few digits in the winning number, quickly scanning through each combination on their 73 separate tickets, numbly and dumbly acknowledging, gradually, that it really was true: Let’s say you know a Canadian. Then the names of every Canadian in Canada are put into a hat. You draw the name of the one person you know. There. Those were your odds of winning the lottery.
As the cold, hard numericity of statisticality and probabilityness sunk through the hardened outer core of almost impenetrable delusion, depression was quickly followed by beer, then tequila, then hatred for both Kentucky and Louisville, with the odd curse heaped on the heads of Tim Tebow and Kyle Busch. “Fucking stupid ass bullshit lottery fuckshit waste of money bullcrap shit. At least I’m still going riding tomorrow.”
Poop nugget four: “Tomorrow’s ride” was a semi-planned pedal arranged by Clodhopper, and joined in by Iron Mike, Jack from Illinois (not his real name), Howard Hughes of the South Bay (first group ride since 2006), New Girl, Pilot, Fussy, Hockeystick, Nancy, Guns, Knoll, Trixie, Junkyard, Tri-Dork, Toronto, Tumbleweed, Arkansas Traveler, Abercrombie & Fritch, and a bunch of other people who quit early because the day was a cold, rainy, miserable, nasty, cloudy, shitsoaked perfectly typical cycling day in Northern California, except we were in paradisiacal Southern California, where everyone is weak, spoiled, “soft around the edges and in the center,” and smart enough to choose hot coffee and a morning throw with the S.O. rather than six hours of slogging through shit on a bike.
By the time we reached Cross Creek all the riders with IQ’s higher than the ambient air temperature had packed it in, and our small cadre of idiots soldiered on towards Latigo. Nancy had kept going when we stopped at the Union 76 in order to get a head start on the inevitable droppage that awaited, and sure enough, even though I plowed so slowly up the infinite hell that is Latigo Canyon Rd., so slow in fact that Arkansas Traveler easily kept the pace and told me all the details of hairdressing in Appalachia during the days that it was still a hanging offense for men to be engaged in such occupations, we nevertheless caught and dropped Nancy as he crawled up the endless grade.
Upon arriving at the summit, we abandoned our “all for one, one for all” motto in favor of “all for one, one for all, except Nancy,” and bolted back home down Kanan Dume, a road favored by Junkyard so that he could get into a descender’s tuck and bomb the downhill in blinding rain and fog at 50 mph. I got home with 95 miles, more or less, and no Strava upload or WKO+ analysis to stand between me, the hot shower, the mountain of flapjacks, and bed.
Poop nugget five: While @mmaiko swooned over Fabs Cancellara and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the most amazing Twitter twaddle ever, and while thousands more cycle fans followed the whole sorry mess of racing over the cobbled climbs of Flanders, MMX, Stormin Norman, I, and a small cadre of idiots joined up at CotKU for the Sunday Kettle ride. It was uneventful except for the brutal beatdown along PCH, and we returned to Catalina Coffee in Redondo Beach for a hearty breakfast. Fireman was lounging in one of the chairs and we all sat around and made fun of people who have turtle tattoos on their legs, generally agreeing that if you’re going to tattoo your legs it should be with a death’s head or a giant cock or lightning bolts or a spread-eagled nude…anything but a turtle.
Poop nugget six: With 80 solid miles of hard riding on our legs we pedaled over to the Torrance Crit, where I raced the 45+ in the team SPY colors, proving myself a douchebag traitor to the noble Ironfly brigade with whom I’d raced all year. As we rolled out, Johnny and Alan gave me my instructions, which went something like this: “Look, you suck and are a traitorous vermin and are of no benefit to anyone plus we don’t like you. However, if, at the end of the race, there’s a chance to sneak up the road, do that hopeless crazyfuck suicide move you always do that fails and make the pack chase. We’ll chill if you’ve got the legs to hold out for the vee, which no one in their right mind believes you do, and if they pull you back, which is a mathematical certainty, we’ll be fresh for the finish.” With three laps to go I hit the gas, flogged like a harpooned goat for what seemed like forever, got reeled in with half a lap to go, and watched as teammate Jimmy M. skidded across the asphalt on the next-to-last-turn, grating off more butt flesh than an angry dominatrix in a spanking video. Not that I’ve ever watched one of those. Johnny got third, T. Rex got fifth, and Alan got seventh.
Then, the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me in over 30 years of cycling happened: T. Rex came over and stuck a $20 bill in my jersey. “That’s your share, dude. Good work.” I fainted, of course, and when I came to, numerous people patted my hand and explained that, yes, it did happen that even worthless wankers received a part of the take in a well-run team combine. “Holy fuck,” I yelled. “If you subtract that from the $50 entry fee, I only lost thirty U.S. dollah!!!” Then I fainted again.
March 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
It was a fast and vicious NPR. Records broken, strong men reduced to tears, badass biker chicks flipping they elbows in the face of the sausage strokers, Wankmeister riding with the strategy of Custer’s Last Stand, and Pillsbury stomping the dicks off of all comers. A few whiners longed for the good ol’ days of Admiralty, where every twenty yards the pack would stop and let the wankers catch back on, but the sick, the twisted, the depraved, and the downright addled loved every minute of it.
So…here’s who did what!
Bucks–after the turn on the last lap he came up to me with his front wheel just behind mine and said, “See, I’m at the front.” “Like fuck you are, dude, you need another five inches. Your girlfriends used to say that, too.” He jumped out of the saddle, put it in drive, and took a monster pull, cranking all the way up the rise after the turnaround. Nice!
PShon–took a way legit pull westbound on lap one. Big ol’ sprinter boy can pull it and bull it. You listening, Big Steve?
Wehrlissimo–flailed and flogged like a madman, as usual. Multiple minions of the SBW persuasion followed Wehrlissimo’s lead, but a couple were downright wankers. Talk to your troops, general!
Prez–flawlessly attired in black and white Castelli tights with little brown spots near his, um…and a lovely white and black Assos jersey with matching white Assos shoe covers, an integrated white LAS helmet, a pretty white iPod earbud cord stylishly draped into his back pocket, all perfectly coordinated with a matching black and white bicycle frame. Major style point deductions for the blue brakeset (yuck!) and the yellow stripe on the water bottle (gauche!). Additional deductions for taking one solitary pull the entire fucking time and still only pulling 3rd place out of his ass in the sprunt.
John Tomlinson–couple of good rages, pulled away but reeled in. No problem, just went again. And again. Bastard. Ouch!
SBW dude–little SBW Hispanic dude laid down some serious smackdown westbound. Ouch! And eastbound. Ouch!
Kristabel–totally shamed all the sausage strokers. On lap 3 after the turn there was a big lump of sausages and a thin hard line of about seven dudes driving at the front. Kristabel was in eighth wheel, jamming it while most of the mansplainers with all that good advice about gears and training and wattage were cowering on her fucking wheel. Then she held wheel towards the front westbound on the rise where it was fierce and nasty and snot-filled and groaning under the sweat and agony of a hundred flailing limbs. Mansplainers in the rear whimpered and sucked their thumbs, imagining all the technical mansplanations they’d compose for her and post on her Strava file, which would be 4mph faster than theirs. Yo, sausages! She NEVER CAME OFF. And she, like, only weighs 30 pounds. Time for another mansplanation? I don’t think so.
Davy Dawg–lit it up on lap one when I told him about the hookers and blow at the turnaround, then big hoss’d it at the end, but rumor has it he settled for second in the sprunt. **NEWSFLASH** This just in!! Davy Dawg actually took the sprunt for first. FedEx tracking #111111111hookers&blow for overnight victory package.
Beammeup Scotty–this Ironfly dog can pull the fucking sled! Lap three up the hill westbound he crushed it, kept it at maximum effort the entire way, nothing left to come around him after he swung over but a bunch of limp, dirty dishrags. Fuck that hurt.
Pratfall–least fit guy in North America, rides his fucking bike twice a year, was not afraid to feel the pain by taking multiple hurtful hits at the front. Why can’t you other wankers take a page out of his playbook? It’s only pain, wanksters!! No shame in flaming, just don’t cower and quiver like a CPOS.
Pillsbury Raging Red Bull Doughboy–Wike slapped out some good stuff on the bike path, exploded with a huge attack on lap one up the hill, and followed with a rocket launch after the turnaround on lap 2. Took 400 people working together and a bus to reel him in. Ouchies! Coiled like a venomous snake, the Doughboy popped Davy Dawg in the sprunt. Like a gentleman stud, he denied winning. **NEWSFLASH** This just in! Eyewitness accounts confirm that Doughboy did NOT, repeat NOT, win the sprunt. Untrustworthy, unreliable, news source will no longer be paid under the table for last-minute finish result information.
Terrible Teddy–Going with the Green Rock Racing look today, he attacked just before the turn on lap one by swinging way out into the right lane, maybe trying to replicate that move of two weeks ago when he did a u-ey in front of a fast moving, pissed off bitch who almost t-boned him. But you know what? AT LEAST HE SAW THE FRONT.
Hockeystick–last lap on the rise after the light at the turnaround made a major suicidal move by following me and Somo in our trademarked “Flail & Blow” getaway gambit. Note to all wankers: He who follows a Wanky attack is doomed to fail! Hockeystick pulled like a champ, blew like a bad light bulb, but gave it his all, and watched as we got caught, compacted, and incinerated by the group. (Note: Them red shoe covers is ’bout plumb wore out, pardner. For $6.95 you might could get a new pair.)
Backpack Eric–usually, ah, the, um, big backpack thing isn’t an indicator of, uh, cycling seriosity. Unless you’re Backpack Eric, who flails and flogs with his 46-pound rock collection and three-piece suit stuffed into a backpack. Very nice attack up the rise on one of the laps.
*Notes from underground
Gooseman down! Manny G. got picked off by a douchebag in an SUV on the way to NPR, and he’s now strapped down at UCLA with a busted elbow, snorting morphine and getting ready to go under the knife on Friday morning. Major suckage, as the boy was going well and bringing the pain the last few editions of NPR. Heal up, buddy! Email Boneyard Yule for tips on how to rehab an elbow (or spine, shoulder, back, leg, jaw, wrist…contact Prez for rehabbing multiple bruisings of the brain…chat up Stern-O for toof replacements).
Dave L. busted up on the Switchbacks! Possible tire failure on the Switchbacks downhill into the fast turn sent Dave off his bike at speed and into the ditch and then into the hospital with a broken hip, broken collarbone, broken ribs, and broken shoulder. You can’t use the word “fortunately” in a case like this, but fortunately he didn’t go into the opposite lane, didn’t have a head injury, and none of his buddies went down with him. Heal up!
G3 in jet coolant phase! In response to my inquiry re: G3’s attendance at Thursday’s NPR, I was advised that this is a “rest week,” hence his absence from the flailfest. The use of this phrase can only mean one thing…he’s training with Elron!! Which means, a la Roadchamp, G$, and others who have enrolled in Elron’s School of Pud Knocks, that G3 will soon be translating his tremendous ability and little orange fuzzy thing into huge RR wins.
Roadchamp post-REMR sighting!! Spied our hero returning from the REMR at 7:59 sharp, looking lean and dapper and fierce and fast, as usual. Oh, Little Town of Painlehem a/k/a San Dimas SR, coming up.
January 29, 2012 § 17 Comments
The phone rang. It was Fukdude. “You wanna do the 35+ race on Saturday? 87 miles. 5,000 feet of climbing.”
“Where is it?”
“Santa Barbara. It’s an easy race, but it’ll be a beatdown for you. Probably won’t finish. Four hours in the saddle. Davy Dawg’s going.”
“What about Fireman?”
“Nah. He got dropped on the first climb last year. It’s not even a climb.”
“Santa Barbara? That’s all day. Plus gas money, food, entry fee, coffee, more food, Advil. Almost a hundred bucks to go get my head staved in?”
“Fuck yeah, dude. You in?”
Fukdude only speaks the truth
I showed up at his place at 7:15. He ushered me in, poured me a cup of coffee and seated me at the breakfast table. Chloe jumped up, landed on my nuts, and shed four coats of fur in my lap. “Get down Chloe, fucking dog. Hey dude, something unfucking believably good is going to happen to you today.”
I perked up. I’ve been training hard and my legs are starting to come around. “Yeah?” I tried not to look too eager.
“Fuck yeah, dude. Homemade baked chocolate donuts. The fucking bomb.” He pulled a fresh donut out of the oven and slathered it with a 2-inch layer of chocolate frosting. “Fucking eat that, dude. Best thing that’s going to happen to you today. Unless you have another one. It’s all fucking downhill from there.”
I ate the donut. Then another. We polished off an even dozen and emptied the can of frosting. “Fucking rad shit, huh? Okay dude, let’s go fucking race.”
Race with your legs, win with your head
“This race is a fucking joke,” Fukdude said after we’d picked up his dad, who was going to recover from last week’s major surgery by standing in the 90-degree heat for four hours to hand us up water bottles. “The break goes in the first five miles. Then the pack just stands on its dick at 13mph the rest of the day. Same thing every fucking year.”
Dawg nodded. “It’s pretty easy. The lane is super narrow and the centerline rule is enforced, so after the break goes the lane clogs and you can’t advance. It’s a clusterfuck. Super lame layout. Last year it finished in a huge downhill that guaranteed mass crashes. What do you expect from something designed by college kids?”
“So here’s the fucking plan, dude. There’s only three Ironfly so we’re like total non-factors. The break will go pretty quick. Cover the first break, and when it comes back the second guy goes with the counter. If that comes back, the third guy goes with that counter. Just don’t tard out and miss the fucking break. Stage up front and stay up front. Ride aggressive and hammer but don’t be a dork and pull the whole field up with you. It’s like this every year, dude.”
“Wasn’t it shorter last year?” I asked.
“Yeah, it was only 58 miles last year. And this year Thurlow, Meeker, Glasship, a couple of other national champions and ex-pros will be racing it. So it could be a beatdown for you. Probably will be, I mean.”
Timing is everything
“How much farther?” asked Dawg, after we’d been in the car for a very long time.
“40 miles it looks like.”
“But our race starts in an hour and we’re only going 50.”
“Fuck dude, I’ve never missed a race start in twenty years. Came close, though. Me and Vince and Fireman and some other dude wound up at the wrong place one time, twenty miles away, and we all had to piss like crazy but we didn’t have time so we just passed around an empty plastic jug and Vince was the last pisser, fucking jug was sloshing with a half gallon of warm piss and this old guy steps off the curb in front of the van just when Vince is in full dam release mode and I hit the fucking brakes and he drops the jug and the fucking van is bam! Filled with piss and it was just fucking nasty. I had to pull over I was laughing so fucking hard. Plus our kits and shoes and helmets all got soaked. But we made the fucking start.”
We got there, signed in, got our numbers, and lined up. Ten minutes to spare.
I looked at the starters and realized that of the ones I recognized, they all had something in common: I’d never beaten any of them in a race.
I also realized the difference between a road race and a crit. In a crit you have the illusion that you have a chance of winning. Everyone finishes together, and you can’t get dropped unless you try to really hard. Even Chris Lotts could finish a crit when he was pushing 300, and once he slimmed down to 250 he was winning.
At a long, hot road race with hills there is no illusion. If you are a fat sprinter you will get dropped. Once you get dropped you will flail by yourself until you quit or you experience systemic organ failure. Your chance of winning is zero. Zero. This is the reason that lots of hacker road racers do crits, sucked in by the false illusion that they might somehow win, but the vast majority of crit fodder–and a good number of crit champs–never pin on a number at a hard, hilly road race: there is no chance of winning, and worse, not even the illusion that it’s possible. And worstest, they tack on DNF next to your name.
Few of the tender egos that populate crit racing can contend with coming home to the wife and kids by confessing, “I was such a pussy I couldn’t even finish.”
Blessed as I am with an overly active fantasy life, I can imagine victory in even the most completely hopeless situations, which this would quickly turn out to be. Moreover, I don’t have to come home and explain anything, because it always goes like this.
“Hi, honey, I’m home.”
“You look awful. Get beaten again and give up?”
“You never learn. Take a shower and I’ll have your dinner ready in a few minutes. The pacifier is in its usual place.”
Executing the strategy
Three minutes into the 87-mile deathfest, a LaGrange wanker attacked. Fukdude went with him. I was in the front row while the field led a steady tempo chase. As we crested the first non-hill that had shredded Fireman and Vince the year before, I was at 600 watts and seeing triple. This was the easy part.
We bombed the descent and the peloton reeled in the Fukbreak. A couple of counterattacks followed. I went with each one and tasted the howling headwind and stabbing leg pains that accompanied each for the handful of seconds we were free. My legs felt great…but this didn’t really seem much like the race Fukdude had described. I’d already hit 1041 watts following one counterattack. No break had stuck for more than a few minutes, and we were fifteen miles into the race.
Since the race was out and back on Foxen Canyon Road, every couple of minutes we were buffeted by a huge clump of racers going the opposite direction, many of whom were often over the centerline with their heads down, which created lots of excitement with our cyclists who were over the centerline with their heads down.
In addition, the road was packed with regular car traffic going to and from the various wineries in the area, so half of them were drunk, and the remaining vehicles were farm trucks or duallies hauling extra wide trailers filled with pipes that projected over the sides.
The turnaround was a super tight u-turn in the already narrow road that funnels 75 flailing racers into a tiny chute, so unless you were in the top five you had to unclip or risk tipping over or whacking into the bike in front.
After the u-turn there came a mad acceleration back up to speed and a furious flurry of attacks that launched the winning break. What with the jumps and the wind and the fighting for position, by the time we hit the only Fukdude Certified Climb, my legs were shot.
Time for Plan B (as in “beatdown”)
As the real racers stretched their legs on the short but steep climb, the detritus in the rear looked like it was being mowed down by a perfectly positioned marksman with a Gatling gun. Riders flailed off to the edge of the road. Shoulders heaved. Heads slumped. Strange body positions erupted as wankers with redlined heart rates found new contorted ways to thrash and beat and flog the pedals.
I got shelled, let my wattage drop back down to 320, crested the top, and then chased like a madman. A huge group of Harleys had come up from the rear along with several farm trucks, and I flew along at 45, weaving and dodging and drafting my way back up to the lead group, choking on diesel and gasoline exhaust as my bike skittered on the loose gravel and my body shook from the jarring hits on the potholes and cracked pavement. I thanked Dog that this was an easy race.
At the feed zone, which the dumb college kids had put right at the new uphill finish, I slowed to get water and then got dropped by the accelerating pack. I chased on just in time to go up the Fukdude Certified Nonhill, barely making it over with the pack. Having given up any hope of placing or being a factor, and recalibrating my goal to “just fucking finish,” I slid to the back and tried to sit in.
Until that point I’d been fighting to hold position and fighting to advance through the bar-to-bar knot, and in addition to being stuck on the edge of the group, I was always catching wind, my hands aching from the constant braking, and I was at wit’s end from the exhaustion of trying to advance.
Once at the rear it was peaceful. The pace had dropped considerably, and it had fallen to a leisurely crawl except for the horrific moment when we overtook the entire 45+ field (imagine two beginner marching bands, one composed of nothing but tubas, and the other composed of extension ladders and grappling hooks, overtaking each other at full tilt).
I thought of Fukdude’s contempt for this lame pace, and could only disagree with him. This was awesome. Unfortunately, as we slowed down, the overtaken 45+ field ramped it up, and the tuba-ladder band thing happened again, with a couple of our tubas mixing with their ladders and splattering riders all over the pavement.
As the 45+ field shattered and passed, Brad House came lummoxing by, flailing, alone, for what looked like was going to be a very solo effort. Perhaps he was trying to redeem himself for having crossed the centerline in the mass gallop last year and getting DQ’d. Or perhaps he was just being Brad.
Different strokes for different folks
Just before the turnaround midway through the second lap, Glasship floated to the back. “Hey, Wankmeister,” he said with a grin. “How’s it going?”
Before I could answer, he said, “Is this a lameass race or what? If it were any easier I’d have brought my grandmother along.”
At that exact moment I felt like I was at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, with ten thousand tons of deep-sea manganese nodules pressing down on my head, legs, and balls. “Uh, I’m wrecked, dude. I don’t know if I’m going to finish.”
He laughed. “Ever the the comedian!” and easily pedaled back up to the front.
On the second time up the steep hill, the Gatling gunner had been replaced by men with large clubs. Every few riders they would select a victim, bash in his head and leave him where he fell without even the courtesy of a common grave and a sack of quick lime. The carnage was unbelievable.
Team Helen’s, which had shown up in full force with their A Team, fully equipped with new rigs and Di2 shifters, lost riders left and right. As I came unhitched again I dropped into the 320’s and passed CJ. I’ve never passed CJ. He looked like he’d just finished a bad Scientology session with Tom Cruise. He’s not on my team, but he’s a great guy and I’ll never forget the time we broke away at Lunada Bay on the Donut and he towed me to the college, waving me ahead in the last few meters for the win.
“Get on my wheel, buddy,” I urged.
He gurgled something, latched on, and I dragged him over the top. Then it was a repeat of lap one: full-on chase. This time we overtook Davy Dawg, who was flailing like a lost puppy on the descent. He hopped on, took a deep breath, and then singlehandedly dragged us the remaining three miles back up to the main group.
When we hit the feed zone, CJ crumbled like a cookie baked with too much flour and not enough milk, wobbling off the course and out of the race. It looked like a perfect move, and the group had dropped me again in the feed zone, so I too made a beeline for the Give Up and Shamelessly Quit Zone.
Just as I tried to exit, Walshy, who was sitting on the side of the road, yelled at me. “C’mon, Wanky! You can catch them!”
Too embarrassed to quit, I made the u-turn and chased. And chased. And chased.
The charge of the Wanker Brigade
After several thousand hours I overhauled Davy Dawg, who had gotten shelled again, and we picked up the stragglers, the wounded, the beaten, the dropped and the Left Behinds, and formed a rag-tag wanker brigade. Two miles up the road there was the lead group of perhaps thirty riders, followed by six of us and one droppee from the 45+ Elderly Gentlemen’s race.
When we hit the bottom of the hill for the last time everyone was fried. Granted, we were the Wanker Brigade. Granted, we were now fighting for the best of the final six, which is to say the worst of everyone else. Granted, no one cared. Granted, the only thing anyone wanted was to finish.
When you’re the Wankmeister, though, and you’ve paid a bunch of money, and you’ve traveled all day, and you’re dehydrated, and you have a pounding headache, and you’re fifteen years older than the next youngest guy, and you’re used to getting dropped and riding by yourself, and you’re in the incredible position of actually, possibly finishing a 35+ leg-breaking road race…it matters.
So I attacked at the bottom of the hill and gloriously soloed in for my close-to-bottom-of-the-barrel-placing. Hardest race I can remember having finished. Best placing I can reasonably expect in this lifetime.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
The kidneys serve essential regulatory roles in the urinary system and also serve homeostatic functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, regulation of blood pressure filtration of the blood, removal of wastes, and the reabsorption of water, glucose, and amino acids.
Symptoms of renal failure, which results in death, include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, weight loss, dark colored urine, blood in the urine, difficulty urinating, itching, bone damage, muscle cramps, hypocalcaemia, abnormal heart rhythms, muscle paralysis, swelling of the extremities, shortness of breath, as well as pain in the back and sides.
When I got off my bike I experienced all of these symptoms, plus a grinding headache so intense that I would have done anything to make it go away, including another lap around the course.
Fukdude and Davy Dawg, although tired, were jocular. “You’re looking kind of pale, Wanky. Let’s get you a cheeseburger and some beer.”
Soon enough we were at at the Firestone Brewery, seated with G$ and his lovely parents from North Carolina. I introduced myself with a brief story about my great-great grandfather from Wilmington and the mule he was given by Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, then collapsed with my face in the patty melt.
Mrs. G$ looked at her son. “Does he do this often?”
“Talk about his great-grandfather? Nope, that’s the first time I’ve heard that story. But he does tend to look like this after most bike races.”
Dawg chimed in. “This is actually pretty perky for him.” He snapped a photo and posted it on Facebook. “He usually collapses before we get to the restaurant.”
Back in the van I napped for a couple of hours and nursed a couple of gels given to me by G$. In time, I rallied.
“Dude, that was a fucking hard race,” said Fukdude.
“Yeah, that was a fucking beatdown,” added Dawg.
I thought about the morning’s baked donuts. “You were right, Kev.” A long pause. “We doing Boulevard?”
January 16, 2012 § 3 Comments
The pain, almost unendurable. The stabbing throbs, radiating out from my core and spreading throughout my entire body. Everything stretched to its absolute limit, feeling as if the tissue would tear apart and spill my innards.
This is what the FTR 2012 felt like, and that was just my stomach after pounding down the twelve pieces of French toast and matching sausage logs. It was destined to become a day in infamy, but hours before the first slab of syrup-coated, egg-battered toast slithered down my throat, I had to make some important decisions, and none more important than this: What should I wear?
The choice of clothing was crucial. FTR 2012 was contested by five major teams, and two odd, all-black fashion mistakes from Santa Fe and from Manhattan Beach. The teams were SPY Optic, Big Orange, Ironfly, Helen’s, and the we-can’t-afford-a-final-coat-so-we’re-stopping-with-the-primer-gray outfits of Team LBF (Long Beach Freddies).
I stared hard at my cycling fall fashion collection. If I chose SPY, I would be honoring my comrade-in-arms from FTR 2011’s heroic pee-stop breakaway, MMX. However, a SPY kit would mark me as a teammate of FTR DS Jaeger, King Harold, Dogg, T-Rex, and that outcast homewrecker, Toronto–all foes I had sworn to destroy. Moreover, I had flown the SPY colors the previous week at the Nichols Canyon beatdown, despite being surrounded by my Ironfly teammates.
On the other hand, if I wore my Ironfly kit, word would eventually get back to the Fireman, who would berate me for my non-Fly attire. But if I failed to wear the SPY kit I wouldn’t have a Red Kite’s prayer of ever being able to face MMX again. It would be as traitorous as if I were to write a positive review of Assos Zeghole cycling glasses.
Caught in the dilemma, I resolved it the usual way: grabbed what was closest, and said, “Fuggit.”
Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who had the SPY Optic/Ironfly clothing dilemma. Unbeknownst to me, Toronto had been tormented by the choice and had called StageOne at 3:00 a.m. in a frenzy before the ride. “Dude, what should I wear?”
“Huh? Who is this?”
“It’s me, Toronto. I can’t decide which kit to wear!”
“What the fuck are you talking about? Wear whatever’s been washed. That’ll sure narrow it down. It’s fucking three a.m.”
“I want to wear my SPY kit, but what if Fukdude gets pissed?”
“Fukdude is asleep. He’s not doing the ride. He wouldn’t care even if he was.”
“I’m going with SPY then.” Toronto plunged immediately to sleep, while StageOne had to toss and turn, as he’d been mercilessly ripped from REM and couldn’t get back.
I had agreed to meet StageOne at the corporate world HQ in Redondo, where we would be picked up by T-Rex and Toronto. My initial plan had been to simply ride there, but a little angel on my right shoulder said, “Are you fucking out of your mind? After FTR you’ll be too tired to lift your weenie, much less pull yourself back up to the top of PV.” So I chose the less green alternative, loaded up the Scratch, and drove to the HQ.
T-Rex picked us up and we made a beeline for the Starbucks, where we re-rendezvoused with Stern-O and Major Bob. Stern-O and StageOne had gone through a bitter divorce in 2011, and although there hadn’t been any children, and although Stern-O had kept all the assets, and although no spousal support had been ordered, there was still the lingering bitterness from the end of a long and loving relationship. Stern-O ignored StageOne, but, ever the gentleman, StageOne said, “How you doing?”
“I’ve got shingles, that’s how!” snapped Stern-O. “Which comes from stress!”
We parted them with a crowbar and got back into the truck. As Major Bob raced ahead, we noticed his bike on the rack, while Stern-O’s $44,929.19 Look full-carbon, monococque Triumph with internal disc brakes and hybrid transmission (hasn’t been released in the US yet; Serial No. 000001) was carefully stowed in a bike bag and placed inside the car.
Ride with your legs, win with your head
As we rolled out to the cheering of six wildly enthusiastic supporters, I knew that this FTR would be different. No more pointless hammering at the front. No bait-taking on the descent and run-in to Fillmore. No stroke-for-stroke shows of strength on the climb into Ojai. I would chill at the back and save the only two bullets I had: one for Casitas Lake, and one for Balcom.
The amazement rippled through the peloton as I took up my seat at the back of the bus. Where was Wanky? We’d already done 1.2 miles and he hadn’t attacked, or gone to the front for a senseless pull, or scampered up some slight rise. Looks of amazement shot my way as various riders dropped back to compliment me on my restraint.
On the first climb Roadchamp strung it out and sprinted away for the KOM. I happily chilled in the GdW (Grupetto de Wank) and advised Hockeystick of the sharp downhill turn coming up. We reattached and the group split again on the next rise. Mystery Rider rolled off the point and began the long climb before the descent into Fillmore. FTR DS marshaled his SPY unit and chased, but to no avail: MR nailed the KOM and was far down the descent before our chase group crested the top. I’d been doing 350 watts just sitting on a wheel for much of the climb, and was thrilled that FTR DS was willing to fire the bullets in his clip.
On the descent I got stuck behind Roadchamp and Dogg, both of whom are massively chicken descenders. UbeRfRed sped away and at the bottom it was just me sitting on Roadchamp’s wheel. He turned on the muscle once we hit the flats, and over the course of the next mile brought us to within 200m of the lead chase. MR was in sight. He flicked his elbow for me to close the final gap, but I did the unthinkable: laughed and refused.
Unfortunately, my teammate Polly had latched on, and rather than forcing Roadchamp to do a little extra work, he launched and dragged us up to the breakaway, which contained King Harold and Hair, and now Roadchamp. We overhauled MR, and one of the day’s many revelations began to make itself known: G3 attacked, taking UbeRfRed with him. They flailed valiantly in the vicious headwind for a few minutes as the gas slowly escaped from their egos with each pedal stroke.
Here, however, was a new G3: gone was the wheelsucking, cautious, gas-saving, calculating viper of sneakdom, replaced by the G3 I feared more than any other–the attacking, risk-taking hammer who was now blending panache into his well polished arsenal of strategic conservation. Although this attempt failed, it marked the beginning of a very ugly and ultimately successful pattern.
With three hundred meters to go before the Fillmore sprint, Hair hit the jets. It was a nice little clinic on the difference between road racers and road sprinters. He cleared the sign by so much that it took the light several seconds to travel the distance from his rear wheel to our retinas. Score: Roadchamp 1, Hair 1, Wankers 0.
Don’t poke the gorilla
Our gap on the GdW was immense, and I pulled over in a driveway off the main road to relieve myself. As I fumbled with my parts a group of chickens dashed out from the bushes, surprised at the early morning shower. Unfortunately, they were accompanied by a rooster, who was prepared to defend his hens. He had giant spurs and was advancing menacingly towards me. You may not think chickens are scary, but when you’ve got one leg still over your top tube, the other leg awkwardly balanced in loose gravel, your hand on your dick and the other hand trying to keep your bike from sliding out from under you, and a big ass rooster with a huge beak and spurs sharp enough to cut sheet metal, well, it’s unnerving at best.
At the same time, I heard commotion in the little rental cottages behind me, and realized with a glance that whoever was looking out the kitchen window was likely wondering why the skinny guy was peeing on their chickens. My Spanish isn’t great, but I heard something that sounded like, “I think I can shoot it off from here,” and then the familiar noise of shells spilling out on the kitchen counter.
It was going to be hard to explain to the guys how I’d been neutered from 200 yards and then scratched up by an angry rooster, and even though it would easily top the Balcom flail from 2011 for its bloggability, I holstered up and scampered back to the roadway.
We regrouped; StageOne had flatted, and as we got going McRibs lost his iPod Shuffle at 35mph. It was unthinkable that he could complete the ride without listening to the endless loop of Chrissy Hines and “Back on the Chain Gang,” so we stopped while he collected his hardware. A few minutes later, Turtle got what would the second and last flat of the day.
As we churned towards Santa Paula with a whipping tailwind, Roadchamp decided to take the sprint, a move that poked Hair right in the eye. As Roadchamp raised his arms just before crossing the line, Hair pipped him at the finish. Erik Zabel knows about this, I think. So as we turned onto the road towards Ojai, it was Road champ 1, Hair 2, Wankers 0.
Up the bump, then hit “thrust”
We began the climb that lies between Santa Paula and Ojai. The leaders quickly pulled away as I sat patiently in the GdW. The road rolls by several small goat and llama ranches, and the cute little lambs there all shouted at us as we rolled by, chorusing “Meee-meee-meee” as they vied for our attention.
MR took the KOM with ease, and two miles before the Ojai sprint, G3 again showed his “new man” colors and took a flyer. This time, instead of being chased down by his own teammates, he rolled freely up the road, not to be seen again until the first official rest stop. Although the SPY chase was fast and furious, it failed to bring back the valiant charge of the man in orange. Ironfly blue was nowhere in the hunt, flailing, flogging, and wanking at maximum capacity. We gassed up, and soldiered on. It was now Roadchamp 1, Hair 2, G3 1, MR 1.
Firing the first bullet
As we began the climb up from Lake Casitas, I chambered the first round and pointed it squarely at the heads of Roadchamp, MR, FTR DS, and G3. The road tilted up, they pushed the pace, and then out of the group leaped King Harold at the very moment a motorcycle was passing on the left. He grabbed onto the seat of the motor and was gone, and all the screams and curses couldn’t bring him back.
After a few more moments it was a select group of six, also including Yoda of the Long Beach crew. I pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. Expecting a huge recoil from the massive slug I’d fired, I was surprised at the tiny dribbling BB that plooked out the end of the barrel. However, I glanced down at my watt meter, which read “480.” That was an unusually high number, and it corresponded with a searing, frying burn accompanied by a lacerating pop, huge black spots in front of my eyes, a wavering front wheel, and the receding figures of the leading five.
Until you’ve been sitting on Roadchamp’s wheel and had him accelerate away from you on a long climb at over 500 watts, you don’t know helplessness or despair. But that’s what he did. Now it was back to my usual Plan B, which was “Don’t get caught by the wankers in the rear!” I got a few fistfuls of air and spun for a few seconds, and then shifted into my big chain ring.
Here came King Harold, finally dislodged from his motorbike. Next came Yoda, with a strange, twisted look of un-wisdom plastered across his face. Just ahead of me was G3, but his rapidly pumping legs telegraphed “Give up, Wanky. I’m much faster than you. Quit now while you’re behind.” Just ahead I could see the fireworks as Roadchamp crushed the life out of FTR DS, who was now unhitched and flailing in between the leaders and G3.
I slogged over the first peak and pedaled hard. At less than halfway the effort had already initiated miniature, pre-cramp twinges in my legs. This far from Balcom and cramps already setting in? It was ugly and about to get uglier. G3 stayed in my sights all the way to the second Casitas peak, and I could even see the threesome of Roadchamp, MR, and FTR DS, and just before the top I had closed to within 200 meters of G3, but the second he hit the downhill it was game over. He literally vanished, so hard and fast did he hit the downhill.
In the real race ahead, Roadhchamp and FTR DS dropped Mystery Rider on the second peak, leaving him to flail and chase all the way to the next huge sprint at the Santa Barbara County Line. Just as the leaders were sure they had buried their best friend, beloved teammate, and person they’d do anything for, he appeared out of nowhere, chasing down the leaders and blazing for the sign. FTR DS was having none of it, and opened up with the sprint for which he’s not really famous, in fact, for which he’s not really ever been known to have, a sprint so tiny and small and hard to observe that you generally need a large magnifying glass to see it.
Not so today! FTR DS, raging at the Casitas climb debacle, blew by Roadchamp even as MR turned on the Come-Around-From-Dog jets to no avail. Shortly after flailing by the sign on my own I was overtaken by the charging paceline of T-Rex, Polly, and Yoda, confirming several other key points of this year’s FTR: 1) Polly had climbing legs 2) Yoda had only cracked the lid of his can of whupass 3) T-Rex was in for the long haul.
New adjusted score: Roadchamp 2, Hair 2, G3 1, MR 1, FTR DS 1. Everyone else: flail and flog.
It’s a long way (to Tipperary), It’s a long way (to home)
As we regrouped several other truths became self evident, among them Hockeystick’s serious road skills. After all the jokes and hilarity and rude comments about his eminent unsuitability for this particular hammerfest, he looked fresh as a daisy and was riding like a champ. And despite all the love and support heaped upon the head of StageOne, he looked like he’d been forced to swallow a grenade and then chase it with a bunker buster. “Dude,” King Harold said. “You okay?”
“Urrble gmelszx prrp,” was all StageOne could answer. Which was too bad. Because the second we hit the 101, King Harold twisted the throttle clean off the handlebar. The acceleration was nasty beyond belief, so sudden did it rain down upon our heads. Sitting second wheel as the pavement flashed by, so many thoughts went through my head.
1. Wow, my legs feel great. I should save it for Balcom.
2. Man, now is the time to show how much I’ve learned. Just chill and save it for Balcom.
3. We’re barely halfway. Let King Harold administer the beatdown. Save it for Balcom.
4. You’ve only got one bullet left. Save it for Balcom.
5. Tuck in. Save it for Balcom.
Harry swung over, and Turtle matched the pull with a monster effort. A quick glance back saw the group strung out in a thin, long, narrow line of grimacing pain. The siren called. Turtle swung over. The siren called louder. I flung myself willingly into her waiting arms.
I can’t tell you much about the next six or seven miles except that our group got a lot smaller. Everyone stopped pulling except for MR. Hockeystick stuck his nose up into the wind for two solid pulls, Turtle took another hit or two, but everyone else just cowered or cracked. Roadchamp rocketed off the back to “help StageOne,” and presumably to also help his own legs avoid the brutal battering on the point.
At one point Hair rotated through and advised me to “stop surging,” which we all know is bikespeak for “please slow down because I’m cracking like a whimpering cur,” and which we also know does nothing but encourage the surger. Which it did. By the time we’d whittled down to a small group I swung off as we approached a heretofore unknown “sprint” at Faria Beach. King Harold zinged by, raised his hands, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief–rather than pound out the remaining six miles until everyone was hamburger meat, we sat up and were rejoined by the flotsam and jetsam created by King H.
Iron Mike had closed one particularly nasty gap, and everyone had a survival story to tell, particularly StageOne, who had devoted an entire Biblical psalm to Roadchamp for dropping back to help. The new score was Roadchamp 2, Hair 2, G3 1, MR 1, FTR DS 1, and King Harold 1.
The joy of sugar-covered donuts, Dr. Pepper, and a handful of nuts
At the Circle K in Ventura we ate, sneaked into the off-limits bathroom, and sat on the curb while our legs stiffened like quick-curing concrete. Several riders looked remarkably fresh. There was Toronto, who’d been following wheels and riding smart. There was UbeRfrEd, who’d done not a lick of work since his attack into Fillmore and looked like he could retrace the route, twice. There was Stern-O, older than dirt and looking fresh as a daisy. There was Douggie, hardly covered with more than an inch of crusty salt. Hockeystick? Looking great. Becker Bob? Looking like a cadaver. Dogg? What long bike ride? Major Bob? Peaked, but surviving. Elron? Flogging but happy. McRibs? Refused to get off his bike at the Circle K and rode around in circles to stave off the Balcom cramps. Iron Mike? Refused to even stop, and soldiered on with StageOne, fearing that once off his bike he’d never remount. Yoda? Scary good. Big Bowles? Fine ‘n dandy.
As I stood in line with my Dr. Pepper, a roll of powdered sugar donuts called sweetly to me, proving an axiom of long hammerfests: the harder you ride, the worse your nutrition becomes. I couldn’t resist, and bought the pretty little package. Out on the curb, the donuts were so sweet that they made the DP taste less than sugary. Before I’d had so much as an opportunity to nap, FTR DS was herding us back onto our bikes.
“Want some of these?” MR asked. He held out a giant bag of nuts.
“Fuck yeah. Sugar donuts, espresso GU, Dr. Pepper, a bonk breaker, and salty nuts. What could possibly go wrong?”
Two minutes later, as we began struggling up the sharp climb out of Ventura, everything went wrong. Legs refused to work. Brain began sending distress signals to heart and lungs. Bowels tried to void.
The only remaining bullet I’d had was fired pointlessly on the 101. Everyone now looked terrible, the brave facades from a few minutes before erased like a blow to the face with a hammer. We still had 38 horrific miles until we could collapse in the Jaegers’ front yard. So there was only one rational choice, and I made it.
A few quick jolts on the pedals and I was gone. A look back, and they were gone. A second look back, and I had company. Mystery Rider. The one guy above all others you want in a breakaway. Stronger than fifteen draft horses. The heart of a thousand warriors. Legs of steel. Perpetually burning inside with the fire to crush and destroy. Lover of attacks, initiator of breaks, climber of legend, relentless machine…so off we went.
The gap grew and grew until even the impossible began to look like it could happen–if we made Santa Paula we’d be able to take advantage of traffic and spring out onto the road leading to Balcom with a huge, perhaps insurmountable advantage. Cramps and collapse be damned, we were all in. Until, of course, we weren’t.
As we hit the big sweeping left I looked down at my watt meter. We’d gone from a steady 290-300 watts to 230. “I’m unraveling, dude,” MR muttered.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ve already unraveled.”
And there to reel in the yarn was the steady, tempo-pounding beasts from SPY, hauling us gradually back into the fold. “Nice try,” said UbeRfrEd, “but really pointless.”
The tamer of beasts
When we turned off onto Death Alley, a few guys stopped to pee and Stern-O, StageOne, and Major Bob dashed off ahead in a replay of last year’s infamous pee attack. The rest of us pedaled slowly, feeling every muscle tense as we awaited Balcom. I’d spoken with Iron Mike before the ride and he’d asked, “Is it as hard as Santa Cruz?” referring to the wall we’d had to climb in 2010’s leg of death on the Man Tour. “It’s about the same,” I’d said.
He would later gently chide me. “Balcom Canyon Road and the climb to Santa Cruz,” he would say, “are not the same.”
And indeed they are not. We made the fatal right hand turn and passed by the Guardrail d’Cramp. FTR DS hollered out from the front, “Wankmeister! There’s your guardrail!” A few riders chuckled, but not too many and not too loudly, because about that time the giant thorn of Balcom came into view, gashing the skyline with an ugliness and ferocity that made the prospect of cramping on a guardrail seem very, very real.
We hit the bottom and Hockeystick rode away from me. Stern-O, defying every truth known to carbon dating, flew up the hill. I focused on the pavement three inches before my front wheel and refused to look one inch further. I knew what was coming.
Roadchamp raced to the top, beating out the sensational and impressive G3, followed by FTR DS. And then, propelled by smart riding, extensive wheelsucking, great base miles, and the advantages of being one tough sonofabitch, Douggie crossed the line fourth, followed by Yoda. UbeRfrEd flew his colors and raced in shortly after MR, with Dogg and Polly in hot pursuit.
Inch by inch I overtook Hockystick, who nonetheless put in the ride of all rides, and I even got to enjoy the misery of Stern-O as he suffered the worst possible mechanical at the worst possible time: his $7,599 brand new Campy Electro gruppo (Serial No. 00001) didn’t function with quite the same precision as our cheapass mechanical Dura-Ace, and his chain slipped catastrophically off his 25-tooth cog onto his 23.
Going from a 25 to a 23 on the steepest part of Balcom is kind of like having your triple-wrap condom tear while you’re in a Calcutta brothel. Aside from the physical implications, mentally it just takes all the wind out of your sails (I’m told). Moreover, I’d done Balcom with a 23 the previous two years, and how Stern-O didn’t tilt over and fall I’ll never know. Wait a minute, I do know…he’s tough as a boot, that’s how. I passed him, and then Turtle, and then Toronto, and finally Hair, and it was over.
Except it wasn’t.
At the base of the climb StageOne had simply done what any intelligent person would have done when faced with that monstrosity of a climb. He had gotten off his bike and walked, and in the beginning he was walking faster than Iron Mike and Major Bob were climbing. But that didn’t last.
Just as things looked bleakest, a small white pickup filled with laborers, tools, ladders, chickens, a banty rooster, and one small goat came by. “You okay, man?” the driver asked.
“No, not really.”
“We give you a pull up this hill? This is one steep hill, man.”
“Yes,” StageOne agreed. “It is.”
“How long you been riding your bike, man?”
“I’m not really sure.”
“Where you going?”
“Uh, I think to…no, it’s…uh…up there?”
“All right, man, just hang on. We’ll give you a tow.”
So from atop Balcom we watched the little white engine that could, loaded down with the goat, chickens, the banty rooster, the leaf blowers, the mower, the ladder, the rakes, the gas can, and the one flat-ass, tired-ass, whupped-ass, beat down, run down, smacked down, knocked down but not out, one and only StageOne. He made it to the top and we all cheered. He staggered over to the guardrail. Several hours later, in the ride home, he looked over at me. “Where the hell am I? What just happened? And who the fuck are you?” We tucked him into bed with Zeke as he gave praise to dog, but that’s another story.
The score (not that anyone’s keeping it): Roadchamp 3, Hair 2, G3 1, MR 1, FTR DS 1, King Harold 1,
Meanwhile back at the ranch
We returned triumphantly to Camarillo, with Roadchamp mashing up golf course hill first, followed by Douggie and MR, and Big Bowles doing his best to dust me and flailing. Final score: Roadchamp 4, Hair 2, G3 1, MR 1, FTR DS 1, and King Harold 1.
The Jaegers had mountains of sandwiches, chips, salsa, and cold beer, but before we started eating there was a fight to the death between Douggie and Stern-O to see who would get to shower first. Stern-O won out, having successfully clogged the Jaeger family plumbing the year before, as his theory is that no asshole can be properly dubbed “clean” until you’ve scrubbed it with a full roll of toilet paper and clogged your host’s pipes for a month.
A person with those standards isn’t about to step into a shower that’s been defiled by the sweat of Douggie, and Douggie wasn’t about to take a shower after Hockeystick. I couldn’t have cared less, and was happy to sit in my stinking muck and dried sweat for the next few hours, if only to remind me of how lucky I was to be off the bike.
When I entered the bedroom where my street clothes were, UbeRfrEd was just getting out of the shower. Now I’m not the kind of guy who just sits around and stares at naked men, but the thing UbeRfrEd had hanging down to his ankles looked like a prop from G3’s video collection. At first I thought I was hallucinating due to the beatdown and exhaustion of the ride, but a second look convinced me that I was in the presence of Dog. And the more I thought about it, the more awed I became: he had hauled that 47-pound fire hose all the way up Balcom? Impressed as I had been with Roadchamp’s exploits on Casitas and the climb of death, they paled in comparison to this. It was like marching over Everest with a pet giant anaconda tied to your waist.
I staggered back out into the front yard, partially blinded by what I’d seen, and stumbled upon Roadchamp’s bib shorts, which he’d left out to dry. Unfortunately, in his anxiety on the 101 about holding onto my fiery tempo, he’d suffered from a bit of nerves, and the result, photographed here by Toronto, was, er, toxic.
T-Rex, Toronto, StageOne and I bundled ourselves into T-Rex’s truck after enjoying the lunch and the incomparable Miss Jaegers’ cupcakes. For the awards presentation, SPY Optic had donated an awesome pair of performance wear to the person who suffered the most, displayed the greatest courage, did most of the work, and exhibited the truest qualities of determination, fitness, strategic thinking, teamwork, strength, endurance, and overall attitude. Of course they could therefore be awarded to no one but FTR DS’s wife, Lynn, for putting up with all this nonsense for so many years…so they were.
As we sat in the truck, comfortably cruising home with T-Rex at the helm, a message came in from MMX over the Internets: something was in the offing…SPY Optic was on the verge of doing something so extraordinary as to make all that had come before it pale in comparison. What in the name of Dog? We looked at each other in fear and disbelief at the mysterious closing: “On Tuesday, all will be revealed.”
The day of reckoning was almost at hand.
January 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
“You up for the La Grange ride? It’s fuckin rad, dude. You’ll fuckin love it. It’ll be your new favorite ride.” Fukdude was amped and up as we massed at the Center of the Known Universe for the Sunday Kettle Ride.
“I feel like shit. I’m still trashed from yesterday. I’m flailing. FTR is next Saturday and I’m already overtrained and cracked.”
“So you’re coming, right?”
The choices were bad and awful. I could go with Fukdude and the mixed-Ironfly contingent of Toronto, JDawg, Vegemite, Newlywed, Gonzo, M8, Danc, and Becker Bob, and get thrashed into a pulp on the La Grange Ride, or I could roll north with Roadchamp, G$, McRibs, and TF, and get squished and smeared along the roadway up Latigo.
I ended up going with my team, as I suppose it’s better to get your beatdown surrounded by friends, and the La Grange Ride is one of the most famous rides I’ve never done. As usual, Fukdude had a plan. “You’re going to get on my fuckin wheel, dude, and I’m going to drag you over the wall. Once you’re over the wall just grit your teeth and hang on. It’s all mental after the wall.
“You’ll be rolling out looking at all these fuckin dudes and thinking ‘Fuck, who are all these fuckin dudes ’cause you won’t fuckin know any of them because they don’t race but they’re strong as shit and this is their race. It’s a fuckin beatdown, dude. You’l love it. Just hang on.”
From paradise to Tin Pan Alley
We sheared off from the Kettle Ride at Marina del Rey and headed to West L.A. It was nasty and gnarly, and went down roads that, six and 3/4 days out of seven, were choked with cars. At the rendezvous point, the corner of Westwood and La Grange Avenue, riders began showing up in dribs and drabs until there were about eighty of us. The La Grange cycling club has a description of the ride on its web site which is a masterful expression of understatement and non-disclosure.
The first part of the ride is described as “purely conversational” as we started off by slogging through what seem like dozens of traffic signals, and continue navigating potholes, avoiding treacherous splits in the asphalt that run parallel with your tire, and staying far enough forward that the guys flaunting hairy buttcracks were behind us, not in front. The “conversation” is a variety of “fucks,” “shits,” “whatthehells,” and “oh-oh-oh-oh-heyfuckitHOLE!” as the menagerie bumps, whacks, brakes, stops-and-starts its way to the throwdown.
I turn to JDawg. “When does this fucking ride get hard?”
He looks and grins. “Oh, about…now.”
We begin rolling up Nichols Canyon, the road kicks straight up, Danc spins off the front, and I’m fifth wheel, tucked behind Fukdude per the plan. A few minutes into the climb I’m laughing to myself. “This is nothing.” The group is strung out single file, I’ve got my high cadence on, and Danc is playing rabbit just up the road. The climb continues. What could be easier than this?
We hit a couple of turns and the guy on the front pulls back Danc and it’s full throttle. The easy climb that was perfectly suited to my cadence goes from totally doable to on-the-fucking-rivet-holy-mother-of-Dog-I’m-gonna vomit. Danc latches on, I struggle for another minute, the oxygen debt becomes an oxygen Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, all power to the engines is instantaneously lost, and it’s Teblow Time.
Flail and flog
JDawg whips by me. “Spin, buddy,” he says. I try to focus on the blur as it races past, and try even harder to decipher his words. “Spin.” I know that word. “Buddy.” I’ve heard that before. What can he mean? Who is he talking to? Where am I? What am I doing? What is this hand grenade that has detonated in my chest?
Then there’s a hand on my left leg as Danc gives me a huge push. “Just a couple more minutes, buddy,” he urges. “Minutes.” I know what those are. One minute on Nichols Canyon at full throttle is a time interval equivalent to a billion years. Two minutes is twelve billion years. I gasp, choke, drop my head, and shoot off the back.
The second group comes by. I struggle on as the road continues up, up, up. A few seconds’ rest and we hit the Wall. This is the part of the ride that Fukdude described thus: “We’re gonna hit this fuckin wall, dude, it’s like straight fuckin up and you’re gonna already be on the fuckin rivet and you’ll come off a little but you’ll have to give just that extra bit beyond what you’ve got and then you’ll hitch back on and can just suffer the rest of the way. It’ll just be a few dudes and if you don’t hook on there you’ll be flailing by yourself the rest of the ride.”
He was right about the “on the rivet” part, but he was way wrong about that “extra bit” part. I would have needed a new set of legs and a hoist to close the 50 or 60 yards that now separated Group Flail from Group One. They crested and were gone.
My group of wankers included Newlywed and Vegemite, the 17 year-old team vegan who, like me, was doing the ride for the first time. The other six guys were La Grange, and they punished us mercilessly until Newlywed curled up in a fetal ball and launched back to the next chase group. Vegemite put in one good attack, then melted down into a puddle, but manfully hung on.
Adding to the fun of having your heart up in your throat for about 40 solid minutes with zero recovery was the thrill of trying to hang onto the wheels of the guys who knew the route, a fair chunk of which involved shooting through stone red lights, drilling through narrow corridors of cars at 40 mph, blasting into the middle of high speed intersections, and my personal favorite, doing it all while navigating massive potholes big enough to swallow you whole, jumping giant road cracks, edging through piled up rocks and gravel in the gutter, and stomping full power on the pedals with each punishing roller.
I flogged and flailed as two of the Mexican La Grange guys discussed the sprint finish strategy. “Hay un semaforo, y despues, los mailboxes y el sprint finish.” From my college Spanish, I knew that “semaforo” meant “fat older sister,” and “despues” meant sitting. So the one guy’s sister was sitting on the mailboxes to cheer us for the sprint finish. I was onto their strategy now.
Ahead of us, Fukdude, JDawg, and Danc had three Grangerites in their breakaway. In a well-timed urination on La Grange’s home fire hydrant, Fukdude nailed the sprint, with JDawg taking second. In Group Flail, I waited until the slight rise that presaged the mailboxes atop which the sister would be sitting. I saw the mailboxes, but no sister–and by the time I realized my error the Grangerites had sneaked by, narrowly beating me to the line by a hundred yards or so. Vegemite crept in slightly OTB, and Group Flog, containing Toronto and Newlywed, arrived in the next wave looking quite fresh, strong, healthy, fit, and fast. Had we done the same ride? I staggered over to the bushes at the Skirball and assisted with some emergency shrubbery hydration while all the Grangerites stood around and looked daggers at Fukdude, JDawg, and Danc.
Pedals of love
After fueling up at the CotKU with coffee and a chicken sandwich, I headed for the Hill and for home. In Redondo I was passed by Don and Dustin Webb. Dustin sits in the front of his dad’s customized rig, carefully belted in and wearing a very cool Livestrong helmet as Don does the tough work of pedaling the bike and his 115-lb. son up and around the hills of the peninsula.
As we hit the steep part of the pitch coming out of Redondo, Dustin looked back at his dad in pure happiness as Don cranked the bike up the hill. “He loves it when I suffer,” Don laughed. The customized fairing kept the headwind from chilling Dustin, who was warmly dressed in long-sleeved jersey and tights. As we crested the hill, Don took out Dustin’s water bottle and helped his son have a drink.
We chatted about gearing and about upcoming plans to convert the sturdy but heavy rig into a carbon fiber frame, all the while enjoying the sunlight and the beautiful view as we rolled out atop the Cove. Watching Don’s smooth, almost effortless power as he propelled his customized assistive cycle up the slope, I reflected for a moment on the morning I’d just spent smashing and bashing up Nichols Canyon, and compared that effort to the lifetime that Don has devoted to caring for, and enjoying the time with his son Dustin. My efforts felt small compared to their companionship and love.
We parted at Coronel, and I hit the climb up Via Zurita with a vigor and strength and freshness and happiness that I hadn’t had before.