July 6, 2013 § 8 Comments
I have been banging the drum here in L.A. for some time now regarding the great bicycle riding opportunities in North County San Diego. This is not because I want to encourage people to get to know others, have fun, and enjoy cycling. It is because I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing my friends and riding buddies suffer obliteration. Although riding in North County won’t make you faster, it will permanently devastate your self-esteem. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”
I joined my first SPY Holiday Ride yesterday. The evening before we had a team celebration at RIDE Cyclery. MMX, Slim Jim, and Brent had stocked the deck with giant coolers filled with fresh growlers of beer from Lost Abbey. None of the growlers had fancy beer names like “Working Stiff” or “Take Five” or “North County Rough Road.” No, they just had percentages of alcohol content written on the caps with a Sharpie.
This was beer for people who were serious about drinking beer. The Lost Abbey figured out how to make the beer, and apparently it was your job to figure out what to call it. The next morning I awoke with a screaming, blinding, pounding, stomach-churning hangover from hell, so in the future I will call their beer Sbpsc Hfh. Add vowels as needed.
It would be easy to blame the next day’s dismal ride performance on the hangover were it not for the fact that I have never done a hard ride in North County that didn’t either kick me out the back or reduce me to a whimpering puddle of drained legs and melted ego.
Why you should do this ride
1. There is no “B” ride. It is uncompromising. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, be kicked out the back, and forced to find your way home alone or in the company of other lost damned souls. How many things do you do in life that are uncompromising? That demand everything of you and guarantee nothing but defeat? (Don’t answer this if you’ve been married for more than five years.) That bring out the best in you even when your best is a pathetic, sniveling NOTHING? So, you should do this ride because it replicates, in the tiniest of ways, your natteringly, immeasurably insignificant place in the universe.
2. You are a chickenshit. Yes, you. You, who hide behind wheels, always take the short route home, sandbag in the easiest categories, or “compete” by “racing” exclusively against Strava and your own “personal records.” Thing is, you don’t have to just be a chickenshit. You can go on this ride and be a smashed chickenshit and earn the contempt of the august men and powerful women on the SPY Holiday Ride who will crush you like an eggshell beneath the wheel of an Antonov An-225.
3. There is order in the court. Unlike the Manhattan Beach Holiday Ride, in which 300 freds and 50 solid riders usurp the roadways of coastal L.A. in a mad, undisciplined dash to Mandeville Canyon, the SPY Holiday Ride is ordered. Yesterday about 175 riders went two-by-two for the first five miles, a sick single file for the next four, and all-hell-breaking-loose at the nine-mile mark when the peloton shattered at the base of the San Diegueno climb.
4. Prizes galore. Yesterday an entire case of The Lost Abbey’s BWR Bad-Ass Ale was awarded to the sado-masochist who spent the most time on the front. Unsurprisingly, the winner was Phil Tinstman. KOM winners got cool SPY sunglasses. OTB-wankers got as many servings of ridicule and contempt as they could swallow.
5. Natural selection. This ride rather quickly separated the wheat from the chaff, and you eventually rode with the category of your true ability. Once the pain train hit Lake Hodges, those who had pulled early, blew early. Those who had sucked wheel in hopes that a miracle would get them up the punishing rollers had to re-evaluate their faith. Those who had saved so they could punish finally “Let the Dogs Out.”
6. Variable terrain. The terrain in North County is different from much of SoCal, and punishing. It doesn’t feature many long climbs, but it continually throws rollers in your path no matter which direction you go. These variations wear you down, break your will to live, and leave you looking for a quaint coffee shop with yummy pastries, or failing that, a Starbucks, or failing that, a house with a garden hose. But there are none.
7. Heatstroke. Once you leave the coast it gets A-fucking hot. The poorly hydrated crack, crumple, and cave. The lucky ones die.
8. Benign indifference. Although close two hundred riders started, only a tiny handful finished with the lead group. The rest were ground beneath the wheel, or, as Hesse would say, “Unterm Rad.” This is of course how the universe views you: With benign indifference. Many people go to Sedona or buy crystals or use Feng Shui to align themselves with the universe’s forces when really all they need to do to discover their true quotient of universal meaninglessness is go get their balls stomped on the SPY Holiday Ride.
9. Free salt for wound-rubbing. Post-ride, one wanker said “We normally ride a bit faster going up to the first climb, but we had a pretty gentle roll over there today.” This was the section where I pulled my fucking brains out, drove the pace like a madman, then cracked and split open at the bottom of the first climb only to learn that it had been a tad on the slow side. Sorry bastard motherfuckers.
10. Lots of awesome Strava KOM’s. The SPY Holiday Ride is a great chance for you to bag some prestigious KOM’s, kind of like “The lottery is a great chance for you to get rich.” Only, the chance for you is zero.
11. Regrouping. The SPY Holiday Ride regroups a couple of times, although neither time is for your benefit. It is to allow the baby seals to rejoin so they can be re-clubbed and re-skinned. And you will be.
12. Race simulation. The pace was very much like a tough road race with a series of difficult sections, each of which caused destruction at the back of the pack. Unlike real road races, however, where you can conveniently categorize yourself according to age and gender, this ride forced you to match matches against monsters like Thurlow, Full Gas Tinstman, MMX and the SPY Train, Brett Clare, and a handful of very strong wheelsuckers who never took a pull but attacked and attacked hard.
13. Fireworks. Although illegal due to the dry conditions and high temperatures, the ride offered constant explosive detonations that occurered when riders like Zink, Hatchitt, David A., Stinger, and Tait lit the fuses of Those Who Shall Not Be Named For Now and watched as they snapped, crackled, fizzled, and popped with a whimper.
14. Del Dios KOM. This bad boy has over 6,500 riders on Strava, but yesterday Full Gas Phil whomped the snot out of the record time and set a blistering new pace of 12:38. You should do this so you can be like me, who gave it everything he had and got 98th place. 98th.
15. The 130-lb. Exemption. After the first pitch the road flattened out and this was where, if you were still there (you weren’t), various hardmen went to the front. Then some dude hit the jets, even though he had never taken one pull the whole day. His reasoning? “I don’t have to pull, dude, I’m only only 130 pounds.” So take notice: Anyone 130-lbs. or less need not bring along so much as a shred of self-respect.
16. Watch Brett sprint. On the return there was a sprint into Rancho Santa Fe. Those hoping to pass Brett, Full Gas, Thurlow, MMX, Josh, etc. brought mopeds.
17. Pity the fools. The 3 Witches ascent had the next sprint at the top, featuring three risers that topped out with a nasty sprint. For the first two witches, a couple of wankers from SDBC set tempo with Thurlow, Full Gas, and MMX sitting behind. For the third and final witch, Thurlow pulled and dropped the fools, with Full Gas Phil taking the sprint, MMX next and followed by Thurlow. Everyone else was shelled here. You were, too. Oh, wait, no you weren’t — you were shelled like an hour ago.
18. Visionary delusions. After a few more merciless beatdowns, sprunt points, and complete draining of all bodily adeonsine triphosphate, the handful of remaining riders “remarked what a great ride it had been.” Uh, sure. Whatever. Bunch of fucking liars.
19. Horrific inland heat. The weather got hotter as the ride went inland. The heat sucked the life out of the weak, the lame, and the too-many-Lost-Abbey-brews-the-night-before. I staggered into a convenience store in Del Mar and doused my head in water, then lay on the cool pavement and hoped for a gurney or for someone to run over me. No one did.
20. Making great friends. After Zink flatted I was miserably stuck on his wheel for 30 miles while he “repaid” my assistance with the tire change by dragging me up hill, down dale, periodically dropping me, sitting up and waiting, towing me for a while, dropping me again, and generally making my life a living hell while trying to help me out. Note to self: Don’t ever stop to help Zink change a flat.
– 60 miles with 3800 feet of climbing
– 4 sprint waypoints, and the KOM at Del Dios
– Held every national holiday. Next one will be on Labor day.
– Ride size: 100-200, depending on weather and time of year
October 1, 2012 § 11 Comments
“I’m really sorry, dude,” he said with an extremely apologetic and embarrassed tone of voice.
I looked at his sincere expression and was impressed with how badly he obviously felt. He was a young fellow, clearly nonplussed at the mix-up, and his first instinct was to do the right thing and apologize. I took all that into account, and with a polite nod I accepted his words in the spirit they were offered. Then I said, “Get off me you stupid fucktard,” and pushed him backwards by the throat.
With the other hand I shoved his chest, even as the cascade of idiots kept piling atop us, screaming, cursing, skidding, and clumping like a spaghetti bowl of arms, legs, helmets, bikes, cranks, chains, and wheels in a grimy sauce of sand.
First ‘cross race ever.
First technical spot on the course.
And mowed down from the rear like fresh meat in a men’s prison.
Yesterday, Karma Bitch was just getting warmed up
I banged on the bars to straighten them, put the chain on, got the brakes working, and hopped on my bike. The last of the idiots from my Sub-wanker Cat 4 “C” group had just started to scale the sand wall at the end of the sand pit.
After a few pedal strokes I saw that the front derailleur no longer worked. At the bottom of the wall I dismounted, and this occurred to me: “What kind of fucking bike ride is it where you have to get off and scale a wall made of loose sand?”
I struggled up the sand wall, and this occurred to me: “What kind of fucking bike ride is it where you have to carry your bike while running uphill in loose sand?”
I tried to remount, smashed my shin against the pedal and racked my nuts on the sharp end of the saddle (MMX had warned me against trying the jump-remount technique), and this occurred to me: “What kind of fucking bike ride is it where you bloody your shins and bust your balls on the saddle?”
Then I tuned in to the fat bald guy at the top of the wall who was screaming so hard that his pale skull throbbed with purple, swollen veins, “Puke and spit ’til you shit blood, goddammit! Puke and spit! Catch those bastards! Puke and spit!”
Next to him was an even crazier fellow who was profoundly drunk even though we’d yet to crack the hour of eleven a.m. This gentleman had a giant black megaphone and it was stuck between his legs from the rear so that it looked like it was coming out of his ass. He had bent forward and, with his head between his knees, was mouthing huge farting sounds into the megaphone.
This occurred to me: “What kind of fucking bike ride is it where you’re exhorted to puke and spit and shit blood and be faux farted on by drunks?”
The answer occurred to me, finally: “It is cyclocross.” And the race wasn’t yet five minutes old.
Success in ‘cross is nine parts preparation, one part Preparation H
I had arrived early and ridden two laps around the course. Set in the middle of a dustbowl in Costa Mesa that serves as as BMX track and breeding ground for thorns, the racecourse started with a few turns in dirt and then went through the massive sandbox, up the wall, over a cement sidewalk lip that hit your rim so hard and so deep that your skull felt like it would rattle off your neckbone, through more dirt, up and over a tight mogul that accelerated into an off-camber mogul with a tiny chute off to the left that if you missed put you in the thorns but if you nailed tried to throw you over the bars, then along more dirt to a jerk-up dirt mound also with a narrow chute that you could either nail and coast over or miss and stall out on the steep top of the mound, and then sharply down into a high-speed right with more thorns and loose sand, a brief respite of more dirt and dust along a flat section, and then into the BMX bowl with a quick drop and climb, then down a head-first elevator drop, up along the edge, 180-degree pivot and down a second elevator shaft, around a couple of turns, and a fast drop and straightaway until you hit the grass, which was partly muddy, wending past trees that all shouted “Hit me!” and through more soggy shit and around a turn and then what-the-fuck-is-this-here where someone had placed a couple of barricades and you had to jump off and either time it perfectly or rack your shins and have the people behind you run you over, and of course there are tons of people camped out next to the barricades to watch you trip and hopefully hang your bike on the lip of the barricade so that you bellyflop into the mud, and then remount from a standstill if you’ve fucked it up while the gazelles leaped back on their saddles without ever breaking stride or spearing themselves in the balls, through more grass and sharp turns and bingo–you’ve completed one fucking lap and felt like you’d run a Paul Ryan marathon with ankleweights, all the while people calling you a slacker and a sub-wanker and ringing cowbells and laughing and enjoying the shit out of watching you dis-enjoy the shit out of riding your bike with only four or five or a thousand more laps to go.
This all seemed impossible at recon speed. Once the whistle blew it was ten times faster and a thousand times worse.
Taking Karma Bitch head-on
The rest of the race was as advertised: sheer dick-stomping agony at threshold, with trees, barriers, sand, moguls, drop-offs, and briar patches at every turn. My swollen and bruised ankle banged against the crank arm every few pedal strokes until it was a bloody, throbbing mess of flesh and pink sock and pain. I chased and passed wanker after wanker, but never caught the leaders, and never so much as caught sight of Jules, who had done on the ‘cross course what he does on the Switchbacks: Show up, nod, and ride the fuck off.
After what seemed like days I saw Hines on the sidelines and shouted out, “How many laps?”
“This is it!” he said.
I sliced through a few more turns, crossed the finish line, and left the course filthy, bleeding, drained, sore, gasping, and DNF’ed as my placing never showed up on the Sub-wanker Cat 4 result sheet which was posted, appropriately, on the back of the port-o-potties.
Five minutes later I was on the start line for the 45+ A race, which was easily the second toughest field of the day, sporting hammerheads like MMX, David Anderson, Victor Sheldon, John Hatchitt, and a sprinkling of other veteran badasses. MMX had summed it up when I told him I was doing the 45+ A’s immediately after the Sub-wanker race.
“Oh,” he said. “So you’ll be completely gassed before the race even starts.”
Victor helped get my chain onto the big ring, as I’d ridden the previous race in the small one. It’s nice to start your race knowing you’ll do the whole thing in the big ring, and having your fingers covered in black grease-and-sand tar.
The whistle blew and everyone rolled away. In the BMX bowl a kindly spectator shouted out, “Yo, Wanky! You’re dead fucking last! Do you hear me? DEAD FUCKING LAST! Get your ass up there!”
So I hammered until I caught the one gasping, gaffed fish who was dangling ahead, passed him, and, no longer last, set the needle at “cruise” for the rest of the race. I got passed by the 35+ B racers. Then the 45+ B racers. Then a pack of kids. Then a flock of starlings. Then by an empty oil drum. And finally by Jules. “What’s he doing out here again?” I wondered. “He’s already raced and won three times today. Isn’t it his bedtime?”
When MMX and the leaders lapped me, I was enjoying myself thoroughly. No longer compelled to dash crazily over the barriers, I daintily dismounted, stepped over each one, dusted the crud off my shoes, and remounted. No longer afraid of the sand pit, I coasted easily through it and walked–yes, walked–at a leisurely pace up the wall. Bald Dude and Farter looked on in disgust. “Aren’t you even gonna TRY?” asked Bald Dude.
“Yep,” I answered with a smile. “But not any more today.”
August 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
Every pre-race team meeting this year by every team in Southern California began with the same question. “How’re we gonna beat Meeker?”
Everyone would then kind of stand around and draw circles in the dust with their big toe. “Uh, let’s attack him early and win out of a break.”
“He always marks those.”
“Let’s take him with us in the break, then.”
“He can outsprint anyone in the break.”
“Let’s chase all the breaks, including his, and lead our guy out for a field sprint.”
“He always wins the field sprint, remember? He’s the fastest guy in the nation for his age group in the crit.”
“Well, let’s let him dangle off the front, then run him down towards the end when he’s all tired from working in the break, and then we’ll crush him in the sprint.”
“We tried that at the states road race, remember? He was off the front for 45 miles, we brought him back, and he still won the sprint.”
“Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s send him to London for a few weeks!”
So Rich went off to London to watch the Olympics with his pal Chris Horner, and while he was gone other good riders got to shine. Then he came back.
The secret to beating Rich Meeker in a crit
Today we learned that the secret weapon in stopping Rich from winning is by getting to the guy who glues on his front tire. If you can get to that guy, you’ve suddenly got a chance.
The Brentwood Grand Prix takes place in the global center of hot chicks, fake boobs, guys in Ferraris, Schwarzeneggers, OJ Simpson (before he got life without parole), and the full on West LA vibe. Is your region’s signature event in a place called Hooterville? Is your best crit of the year in an office park?
Brentwood GP happens along a tight, technical little course with a couple of grinding bumps, fast tailwind, hard headwind, and oh-fuckit turns that test your ability to actually handle a bike. Of course, there’s always at least one guy in any crit who is so terrible, jerky, sketchy, twitchy, and unable to control his bike that I’m terrified shitless throughout the race. To make matters worse, that guy is invariably me.
John Hatchitt, our strategy guru, chaired the team pre-race planning session. “We got seven guys. Alan won San Marcos last weekend convincingly. If we play our cards right we can win this one, too.”
“What about Meeker?” I asked.
“Here’s the plan. Wanky, you will get dropped after the first couple of laps, then pulled. So we need to make maximal use of your 150-watts of incredible power. When the gun goes off, hit the front and string it out.”
“It will give you a chance to crash on the first or second turn before people have gotten too tired to avoid you. Rondash, Frias, Harry, and I will stay towards the front, cover any moves, and keep Alan in position in case Meeker rolls off.”
“How’s he gonna beat Meeker?” I asked.
Several dudes glowered at me. “Then, with two or three to go, we’ll get Taylor up into position for the finish, along with Alan if he’s not off the front.”
“But what about…”
I never finished the question, as my teammates sped off to the line.
Breaking bad. Really, really bad.
The race started at a torrid pace, with everyone hustling to get to the first turn, a 180-degree pivot that went up a little bump and then dove down through a chicane and onto a wide straightaway. As we went through the first turn I heard behind me the grinding, skidding, cursing, smashing, banging, whanging, panic-inducing sound of some wanker falling on his ass.
The sound scared me so badly I jumped hard and raced away, dragging the pack behind me for a solid forty or fifty amazing yards. As I swung over, Meeker came through breathing fire and hand grenades at a speed normally reserved for things with large internal combustion engines.
Fifteen minutes into the 50-minute event I was hauling through the start-finish with Hatchitt in hot pursuit of a $150 prime. Steve Klasna, who needed gas money just as badly as I did, powered by with a hard surge. “Fuck,” I thought. “He can have the money, because I got cheered by Christine Reilly, who distinctly yelled ‘Dig deep, Wanky!’ as I zipped through the turn before the finish.”
I had wanted to tell her that if I dug any deeper I’d be in China, but the recent shortage of oxygen in the Brentwood area made that impossible.
The peloton paused after Klasna took the prime, and I rocketed 75 slots back to check on some of my good friends and make sure they were okay. One of them was a dude in a black kit with a giant red license tag hanging from his seat rails that said “Handicapped.” Some shit even I can’t make up.
Meeker then “rolled off the front,” which is what people say when someone jacks away from the wankoton so hot and hard that you couldn’t catch them with 200-lb. test and a fishhook prime of hookers and blow. It was classic Meeker: you take the prime, I’ll take the vee.
They don’t make Yugos any more
This was the critical moment in every race where the contenders, the wannabes, the couldbeens, the oughtahaves, the shouldacouldas had to either man up, put their heads down, and close the gap in the teeth of a headwind or do what bike racers do best: look at each other and say, “You go!”
To which the other dude says, “Fuck that. You go.”
By which time the 30mph gap means you will have to go 32mph without the cozy protection of all the people whose wheels you’ve been sucking for the entirety of the race.
Alan, never a fan of the Yugo, instead hopped into his Igo, and bridged. Klasna tried, but was winded from his gas money effort. Various other riders tried, but in a flash Hatchitt and Meeker’s teammate Roger Worthington came to the front and began doing “efforts” that were just slower than the break, allowing their teammates to establish and then build on their lead, but going fast enough that no one wanted to chase.
Although the gap yo-yoed, at one point getting down to ten seconds when Frank Schroeder and his merry band of assassins tried to close the gap, the constant teamwork of SPY and Amgen, and the iron legs of Flores and Meeker, meant that the break succeeded.
With five laps to go I knew it was my turn to move to the front so I could help with a last lap lead-out. I sprinted down the straightaway as hard as I could, using my last ounce of power, and in a flash had moved up from 76th to 73rd. So much for that. The only thing that remained was for Meeker to beat Alan in the sprint and for someone else to close the field sprint clusterfuck.
When tires go bad
On the bell lap, however, a miracle happened. The closer, the state road champ, the state crit champ, the national crit champ, the badass who doesn’t just bring home the bacon but brings home the entire pig, Rich Meeker himself came red-hot into the next to last turn and rolled a tire.
Fortunately, although Rich is now five pounds lighter from skin loss, he wasn’t badly hurt. Even more fortunately for team SPY, it meant that our closer, Alan Flores, got to roll across the start-finish first, hands held high for a zillion meters.
1. Suze Sonye cracked out an impressive win in the Pro/1/2/3 race, capping her season with win number 389. Apparently all those beatdowns on the NPR are paying off. Oh, waitaminnit. She’s been one of the winningest chick bike racers in SoCal since she was in kindergarten.
2. Emily Georgeson nailed down an awesome win in the women’s Cat 3 race. What a badass. And a cuteass.
3. Shai Oved, the La Grange dude who discovered all those flying snakes in Austin, got 2nd in his Cat 4 race for two weeks in a row. Props!
4. There’s some club called FFKR Architects Racing. Like, how do they pronounce that? “Yo, we ride for fucker archictets,” or something?
5. Rider Unknown took first in the Cat 3 race. Way to go, Rider!
6. Teammate Tait Campbell got second behind Rider. Nice weekend for SPY!
7. Monster Media snagged four out of the top ten in the 35+. I watched it for a couple of laps but it made me ill to watch, they were going so fast. My buddy Aaron Wimberley got eleventh, after telling me on Thursday, “Dude, your attacks are like watching a big blue bus leave the bus stop. They’re slow as shit and everybody’s on it, including the fat guy with a walker. You need to learn how to accelerate.”
8. My other buddy, Josh Alverson, who normally rides for Bike Palace, raced the 35+ event for team Poor Number Placement. I hope they have a good bro deal or something.
9. Amy Hutner gave me an awesome hug after my race. It’s so wrong that bigamy is illegal in California.
10. Pischon Jones was one of the few big boy sprinters to gut out this tough course in the Cat 3 race. Nice job, even though you were cramping like a dog.
11. Tink learned that when you have no teammates, and the course is relatively flat, you can’t ride fifty good racers off your wheel. She did, however, put on a toughness clinic.
12. Today’s race was marked by the absence of Greg Leibert. If he’d been in the 45+ race, there’s no doubt that he or Klasna would have made the break with Rich and Alan.
13. Greg St. Johns showed up and shot photos. This is like having Picasso show up and sketch the fruitbowl on your dining room table.
14. CyclingIllustrated.com was there in force and with live HD streaming of the race. This will become a standard before long. JB is always on the cutting edge, and not happy unless it’s the best.
15. The people and machines who put on the BWGP did a phenomenal job. If every crit were like this–challenging course, beautiful little village with restaurants and shops so that people could watch the action up close while eating a hamburger gut bomb–cycling would p*wn NASCAR like pole dancing p*wns curling.