Red, white, and blue

August 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

I got all prepared to do a story about masters road nationals in Bend, Oregon. I was gonna get a list of all the SoCal men and women who are going up north to vie for a star spangled jersey. I was gonna give ‘em all a cool bio. I was gonna do a rousing send off blog for the whole crew. I was gonna fill it with facts. Figures. Race results. Predictions. I was gonna really do some serious journalizing reportage stuff.

I was also gonna help out with the laundry and wash the dishes.

Old habits are old habits for a reason

The main reason they are old habits is because you like having ‘em more than you like breaking ‘em. My old habit is, rather than doing serious writing, to just slap shit together at the last minute and call it good. There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.

Plus, I got to thinking, “How many of these dudes and chicks do I actually know? How many have I raced with? How many have I ridden with? How many have ever laughed at one of my jokes?”

It’s a pretty short list.

So now I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m going to leave a lot of people off my “Rousing Send Off to Nationals List,” and that’s just how it’s gonna be. If you’re really offended, send me a quick synopsis of who you are and what you’re gonna do, and I’ll make up some grand ol’ crap and slap you onto the tail of the list.

The Roll of Heroes

Jeff Konsmo: Jeff is racing the biggest, and therefore the hardest field at masters nats, the 45-49 road race. It has 88 dudes registered, which proves that this is the age when men truly lose all judgment and common sense in the vain attempt to recapture the glory of their youth. Jeff’s made a run at this race for the last few years and has never gotten the jersey, although he is, without a doubt, one of a handful of old dudes capable of wearing it. His preparation this year has been off the charts. He’s gone into double secret probation hiding. The only people who can finish his training rides use mopeds. Large ones. He’s putting the finishing edge on his razor by training at altitude near Lake Tahoe. He’s dropped all that excess weight he’s so famous for and is now down to 112 pounds, fully clothed and carrying a pair of dumbbells. Mostly, I want him to win because he’s gritty, dedicated, and a class act. Plus, he’s the only dude I’ve ever known who takes trophies from former wins to races, and isn’t afraid to do the hardest road race of the year the day after having half his jaw replaced.

Rich Meeker: Rich is coming off the winningest year in cycling since Merckx was a junior. It’s amazing that one man could have a home and garage large enough to hold all the hardware that Rich has won. It’s gotten so bad that he’s had to rent his third storage unit just for the trophies he’s won since July. His pistachio primes alone fill up a small dump truck. Whether it’s against the clock, against a field full of nutheaded whackadoodles, against the heat, against the wind, against the hills, or against anything except The Hand of God himself, Rich has proven himself, without question, the finest racer in any category. I want to see him win the 50+ RR and crit because the rest of the country’s top riders need to experience the hopelessness, the despair, and the crushing feeling of defeat that we all get just watching him put on his cleats. Take that, America! Once Rich rolls up to the line, you’d better hone your strategy for nailing down second.

Charon Smith: This is the guy who, week in and week out, does the most with the least. He’s never got more than a couple of teammates, it seems, and he’s constantly doing battle against Monster Media and their stacked fields of ten, twelve, or more riders. And they’re not just good riders, some are flat out great. With every eye glued to his flashy orange shoes, and with every sprinter keying on him in the final lap, he’s managed to bring home at least eight big wins this year that I know of…maybe more, and sometimes it’s just him and Slover. Talk about David whipping up on Goliath. I really hope he wins because he’s always willing to ride with us wankers, laugh at our jokes (some of them), and be a part of the community rather than above it. He’s a role model to a lot of people, and always focuses on the positive. So nobody’s perfect. He’s got his work cut out for him in Bend in the 35+ crit, but it won’t be the first time he’s been down for the count and come up on top.

Karl Bordine: I don’t really know Karl, but he said “hello” to me in the parking lot the only time I did Como. I rode with him a couple of weeks ago on the Swami’s ride. Well, in his vicinity. No one really rides “with” Karl, as he’s in a league of his own. He’s going for the 35+ ITT and the road race. If he’s half as good as all the stories I’ve heard, and half as nice as he seems to be, he’ll not only win the time trial but get Gentleman of the Year as well.

Phil Tintsman: This dude is just over the top awesome. Family man, easy going, and bloody hammer of death when the whip comes down. Slathered up one side and down the other with tattoos, he is truly a complete road racer, able to bust your chops in a breakaway, beat you in a sprint, ride away from you on a hilly road course, and of course smash the snot out of all comers on the Belgian Waffle Ride. I don’t have the time to check USA Cycling and make sure which events he’s doing, but whichever ones he does, I expect he’ll do a phenomenal job representing SoCal, and maybe bring home a jersey as well.

Jamie Paolinetti: This is another dude I don’t really know, except to the extent that I see him every race in a break, or winning out of a break, or chasing down a break, or bridging up to a break, or initiating a break. The other way I know him is by the name “Fuckin’ Paolinetti.” As in, “I had the race in the bag but at the last minute you know who came around me? Fuckin’ Paolinetti!” or “We had a minute on the field, but Fuckin’ Paolinetti bridged and dropped us.” If he wins a championship he’ll do it in aggressive, full-on style.

Roger Worthington: He’s the inventor of beer, curer of cancer, and toughest curmudgeon on two wheels, and despite our checkered history and the time he kicked me out on my ass right before Christmas, with bills to pay and three hungry kids and never so much as a “Thanks, buddy,” I can’t not hope that he comes up aces just because he’s so damned good. Of all the things that differentiate RGW, Legal Beagle, Max Kash Agro, Hoppy Rog, and Crafty Beerboy (pick a personality) from the herd, aside from his indescribable wealth nothing differentiates him more than this: He’s the toughest bike racer out there. He’s got more grit in his belly than a hominy factory. He’s done it all, and is quite literally the progenitor of the professional masters bike racer: Before it was any of the current masters pro teams, it was Labor Power. Like whores and bad architecture, even bike racers can eventually become respectable, or close to it. Seeing him bring home a hard-won jersey would mean that the best racer really did win.

Brett Clare: He’s another dude I don’t know too well except from his ass and his shoulder. His ass I got to meet at the San Marcos race when he blew by the field with half a lap to go in a display of speed and power that reminded me, once again, why I should be knitting instead of bike racing. I also know him from his shoulder at the Brentwood GP, where he took a hard fall, separated his shoulder, finished the race, and is still registered for nationals. That’s just incredible stuff. Anybody that tough has a jersey in him. Plus, he friended me on Facebook.

Alan Flores: Alan’s my teammate, and I could tell you about how great he’s been riding, how he won Brentwood, and how he won San Marcos, and how he got second or third at Ladera, and how he’s on form, and how he’s canny and always picks the right move, and how he bridges, and how he attacks, and how he sprints, and how he’s a really good guy to be around…but I’m not going to tell you any of that shit. I’m going to tell you about the only time I finished a race with him, at Ontario several years ago. We were in a break and I got last. Moving right along, although he’ll be battling it out with Roger, Rich, and the other badasses of SoCal, Alan’s got the right stuff. Here’s hoping he brings it home!

John Geyer: John’s another teammate, but he’s going to have to forgive me for the short entry. I’m beat to crap, it’s dinnertime, and BJ is drumming his fingers wondering where the Tuesday installment is. With the right combination of luck and smart moves, John could prove instrumental in getting Alan into the break. He’s been the consummate teammate all year and played a big role in San Marcos. Like they say, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,'” although, unfortunately, there’s no “beer,” either. Safe to say that after nationals, held as it is in the craft beer capital of the universe, that will be remedied and a few glasses will be drained. Here’s hoping that someone from SoCal is draining a glass in victory.

Scales, fangs, and venom

July 29, 2012 § 10 Comments

There’s a simple reason people stay away from the San Marcos circuit race: it hurts like a motherfucker.

If your dream bike race rolls around in smooth circles on a flat business park course, this is your worst nightmare. The 45+ Elderly Gentlemen With Prostrate Issues Race started hard, was hard in the middle, and hard at the end, so unlike the elderly gentlemen themselves, whose wives could only wish for such sustained firmness.

Before the race, teammates Alan Flores, John Geyer, and Ted Rupp took me aside. “Look, Wankmeister. You don’t have a fucking hope in hell on this course. It’s hard; you’re soft. It’s fast; you’re slow. The hill is relentless; you have more white flags in your back pocket than the French army. So don’t feel bad when you get dropped on the second or third lap. We do, however, have a mission for you to execute on behalf of the team: When you flame out, do it in front of G$ or Klasna or someone who’s going to be a factor in the race.”

Preparation is everything

The night before, I’d done an intensive bout of training with a giant turkey, dressing, apple pie, a bag of chips, lots of sour cream and hummus dip, and buttery green beans. G$ and Mighty Mouse had been at that same training event, and G$ had fully prepped me on what to expect.

“When I was in college, the pole vaulters always kept apart from all the other guys on the track and field team. They were different, I guess because you know they were always missing the mat and falling from 20 feet onto the track, or getting the wrong angle on the vault and hitting the steel uprights, or breaking the pole and getting shards of fiberglass run through their lungs, I’m not sure why, but they were just different.

“One time we went to El Paso for the UTEP meet and the pole vaulters were gone all night in Ciudad Juarez. We saw them the next morning and they were like, ‘We saw a dead guy and ate dog meat at a donkey show.’ Plus all of the TV’s in their rooms were in the swimming pool.”

I was confused. “But, uh, what does this have to do with the race tomorrow?”

“You’re gonna be like that dead guy, you know, dead. Or you’ll be like the dog meat, you know, skinned and cooked and eaten by somebody else. Or you’ll be like those TV’s, you know, torn out of the wall and drowned. Or you’ll be like the donkey’s partner, you know…”

I cringed at the thought of being the donkey’s partner. “Come on, G$. What can I do to get a good result tomorrow?”

“Remember that episode of Gilligan’s Island, where they had an Olympics?”

“No.”

“Yeah, it was rad. They had an Olympics on the island, and everybody trained like crazy the day before. Skipper was lifting weights, and the Professor was doing push-ups, and Mrs. Howell was getting it on with Ginger, while Mary Ann was working out by shaving all the hair off Mr. Howell’s back. The only one who didn’t do anything was Gilligan. He just slept all day in his hammock. Then the next day, the day of the Olympics, he won everything because the others were so rat-crap tired and sore.”

“So what are you saying?”

“Rest up, buddy. The hay that’s in the barn tonight, that’s all the hay you’re gonna have come tomorrow.”

A short and vicious mashing

Everything they had told me about the difficulty of the course and the speed of the race had been grossly underestimated. From the starting gun, where I clipped my shoe into the neighboring guy’s front wheel and got to learn some new curse words, to the first turn where we leaned hard and jumped out of the saddle was like the final kick in a match sprint. We hurtled down the hill into a narrow chute of a turn, conveniently lined with uneven bricks and reflector thingies, and enhanced with a giant hard plastic pole about nut-height so that if you clipped it you’d never have to worry about those pesky paternity suits ever again.

The wankoton bunched at the turn then shot out onto the tailwind straightaway, whipped through Turn 2, paused for a brief moment, and charged into Turn 3 at the bottom of a bitterly steep but short wall. Turn 4 morphed into a false flat that kept falsing and not flatting all the way to the start/finish so that by the time we’d done the first lap I was desperately staring at the lap counter to see if it said “three to go” yet.

It didn’t.

Steve Klasna and David Worthington launched on the second or third lap and were joined by Doug Pomerantz. After a lap of hesitation, SPY team boss Alan Flores punched it hard on the false flat, leaving the rest of us gassed, gassy, and gapped. Before a chase could get organized, Alan had closed the 15-second deficit to the break and began towing the break around at will. Each time up the hill his efforts put more and more daylight between the break and the wankoton.

With Worthington sitting on, and Big Orange enjoying a two-man advantage for the finish, it looked like a done deal. At the bottom of the climb on the last lap, Worthington jumped away from his team mate, who was astonished. Alan followed the move, waited until the helium had all mostly leaked out from Worthington’s sagging balloon, and lit the nuclear-tipped afterburner. With Pomerantz charging hard, Alan stomped harder and took the win by something like a million bike lengths.

A “spirited discussion” ensued between the two breakaway team mates, but no one was maimed, killed, or thrown under a passing vehicle, and no arrests were made.

Although far from anything that could be considered “action,” at the bottom of the hill as we completed the next to last lap I found myself on the point, pushing rather hard on the pedals and keenly aware that no one was coming around. On the last time up, I accelerated once again only to see Brett Clare of Amgen tearing by so fast that the vacuum created by his ramp-up was almost enough to suck me to the line. Almost. He won the field sprunt in a blur, whereas I valiantly defeated every single other rider who was trying to get 29th place.

Round Two

After the vicious beating that was administered in the 45+ race, I went over to Sckubrats with team mates Erik Johnson and Ryan Dahl for a quick caffeine boost before the 35+ race. With the exception of a feeble surge five laps into the race, my total efforts consisted of hanging onto the very last slot for dear life and counting down from 20 laps. In the last position I got to see countless competitors melt and quit each time up the hill, and had the boundless pleasure of closing their gaps.

With three laps to go, a Monster Media breakaway was so far up the road that they were recalibrating their watches for the new time zone. I knew that Aaron Wimberley would be a factor in the sprunt, and chose that moment to move up from last place in an attempt to latch onto his wheel. I moved up about three wheels, past the dude with the giant saggy paunch, past the guy with the funny kneecap that was kind of on the back of his knee, and past the fellow whose backfat rippled up and down like a bowl of jelly.

The effort of passing even those three wankers was so extreme that I gave up my plan and reverted to Plan B: Finish last, but finish.

I’m pleased to say it was mission accomplished on my end, with Erik placing a very respectable 8th, and SPY/Swami’s wanker Stephen Lavery riding great considering he’d already done a race earlier in the day.

RACE NOTES:

Tinkerbell Flies
It wouldn’t be a race report without a description of Tinkerbell’s tour de force in her first circuit race. She was all aflutter about how she’d do, but needn’t have worried. They started the 1-3 race one minutes ahead of Tink’s 3-4 field…no problem. By keeping the pressure on she caught the 1-3 field, which, like the 3-4 field, had been decimated by the course. With only one rider left in her race, Tink easily took the win, leaving her to wonder if she should have raced with the 1-3 women instead. [Hint: Yes.]

Flawless Execution
The course was safe, well marshaled, and incredibly well organized. The great weather contributed to this great event, as did the numerous food trucks in the adjacent parking lot. Hats off to the organizers and officials and especially the volunteers for doing a great job.

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