Two for two

February 15, 2014 § 2 Comments

The 35+ race at Boulevard was relatively uneventful unless you were one of the riders who got shelled on the very first lap. Or the second lap. Or the third.

It was the first tough road race with all the major players except for Chris DeMarchi, who’s still recovering from a broken femur that he sustained in an MTB accident. Without Chris the race would be slightly different, as his trademark “bring the pain and thin the herd” brand of killing accelerations would be absent.

The riders didn’t know where they stood fitness wise, so there was a lot of watching and waiting, but only up to a point. It was Boulevard after all, a race of attrition that eventually was going to wear you down whether you waited or not. The general pattern in the 35+ race is this:  If the race stays together, only shedding the lame and infirm, the big explosion happens halfway through the last lap. The start of the race was freezing and two minutes into the race it began to snow. There were also a couple of new faces, which is always a troubling question mark. It’s the new faces that can completely screw up a well-planned race.

The 2014 edition played according to formula, with Mike Sayers and Marco Arocha putting in huge attacks that did damage but failed to shatter the group. Marco launched halfway into the race, but that’s a long, lonely distance to hold off a super field like this one over such a demanding course. He was  brought back on the downhill, where a solo rider has difficulty keeping ahead of a peloton that can easily hit 50 mph.

While Marco was away Monster Media strongman Karl Bordine set tempo up the big climb and made sure Arocha’s advantage didn’t extend too far. By keeping the gap in check on the second lap, Bordine’s solid tempo prevented the dangerous move by Arocha from suddenly turning into a  3 or 4 minute breakaway. That would have forced the Monster Media team to organize a chase, waste valuable energy, and take away their ability to keep team boss Tinstman safe and out of the wind. It was Bordine’s tempo that allowed the group to bring Arocha back and then set up Gary Douville for the big move on the last lap.

When the remnants of the field turned onto La Posta, Gary Douville and Phil Tinstman went to the front, attacking just over the railroad tracks and whittling it down to five riders, later joined by two others.  Tony Restuccia, Tinstman, Douville, Derek Brauch, Sayers, Paul Vaccari, and Randall Coxworth made up the final selection. The two who bridged, Vaccari and Coxworth, made it across at just the time the break briefly slowed.

From that point the break drilled up La Posta and put a big gap on the field, a gap that no one would be able to close once the breakaway hit the frontage road and began the final three-mile climb to the finish line. Sayers was the biggest threat to the Monster Media machine, which had four of the seven riders in the break. Sayers coaches the USA U-23 team and in addition to being a great coach is also a beast of a rider. Sayers attacked the break a couple of times but was countered by Tinstman and Douville.

This is the point in Boulevard where things come unraveled. The break was on the rivet and Tinstman was still feeling good. With teammates Restuccia, Douville, and Coxworth covering the SPY-Giant-RIDE duo of Brauch and Vaccari, Sayers put in a huge attack and, taking Tinstman with him, opened up a 20-second gap on the chasers. With Sayers urging Tinstman to pull through, the Monster Media rider declined the invitation. The math was simple: Better to get pulled back to the group, where there was a 4-to-7 advantage and where Tinstman was confident of winning the field sprint, than to trade pulls with Sayers and lower his chance of winning to 50 percent.

Once the Sayers-Tinstman duo was back with the chasers, Coxworth unleashed a flurry of attacks, swinging off with 250 meters to the line. Sayers was now out in the wind and had no choice but to go, and he gave it everything he had, but 250 meters out at Boulevard is like a kilometer anywhere else because the race finishes on a hard pitch after a long climb. With Sayers firing his final volley too early, Vaccari then jumped with Tinstman on his wheel. At the last minute Tinstman hit the wind and passed the SPY rider with room to spare. Vaccari got second and Brauch got third, making a good podium haul for the SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b MRI team, especially considering the quality and quantity of Monster Media riders at the finish.

Teamwork

This was a classic example of a road race going according to plan. It was simple in theory: Keep Tinstman out of the wind as much as possible and save it for the end. Although he was feeling good, the fact that his teammates were doing such a great job increased his pressure to close the deal as they sacrificed everything to put him in position for the win. Having raced together for a couple of seasons the Monster Media team has reached a point where the riders can communicate in key moments without talking because they know what the other guy’s thinking and what they’re going to do. This is the kind of clockwork teamwork that only comes from lots of races.

Tinstman’s secret? There are none, other than the things that all successful athletes have in common, such as maximal preparation. Spare wheels in the car, food, bottles, clothing, then double check everything. Reassured that the prep was done, the victory was going to depend on using the least amount of energy and conserving until the end. By being alert and continually reading the race, Tinstman made sure that every second in the race he had a reason for what he was doing doing. Whether watching a guy, resting, or chasing, it was the continual mental alertness and rational planning that brought the victory to bear.

Saturday helped Sunday

Tinstman followed up his hardman win at Boulevard with an equally impressive win the following day at the SPY Red Trolley Crit in San Diego. Much of Sunday’s victory was the result of how well the team kept him fresh on Saturday. He wasn’t wrecked on Sunday because he hadn’t had to do the lion’s share of the work the day before.

Unlike the other dominant SoCal 35+ crit team, Surf City Cyclery, the Monster Media team never wants the race to end in a field sprint. 2013 was an extended clinic of breakaway crit victories by DeMarchi and Tinstman, and although SCC was absent from this year’s edition of Red Trolley, the plan was still to avoid a field sprint.

On the other hand, with accomplished finishers like Coxworth, Tinstman, and Danny Kam, if it came down to a sprint, there were options there as well. Coxworth had just finished second in the 45+ race after getting nipped at the line due to a premature victory salute, and felt like the snap was gone from his legs. He therefore volunteered to be the guy who would position Tinstman if it came down to a field sprint. In the last two laps he placed his team leader into position with laser precision.

With a tailwind on the climb and a headwind on the downhill it was going to be a hard course on which to establish a winning break because it was easy for the swollen pack to sit and then charge full bore up he hill. The Monster Media team attacked repeatedly with the SPY riders, trying to make things happen, but the field wouldn’t split. In the final laps SPY went to the front, with Tinstman on Coxworth’s wheel. A couple of intense efforts towards the very end even looked like they might create a winning move.

Everything came back together for the finale, however, so with Coxworth on the SPY train and Tinstman slotted in behind his pilot fish, the two Monster Media riders came around SPY’s Eric Anderson and locked in first and second place.

On February 15, Tinstman and the Monster Media tribe will have a go at the second hardman event on the SoCal calendar, the UCLA Punchbowl road race. If Boulevard and Red Trolley are any indication, they will be tough to beat. Very, very tough.

On second thought, I don’t really train with Rudy

September 11, 2012 § 19 Comments

Of all the awesome awesomeness of Rudy Napolitano’s national championship ride in Bend, Oregon last week, the most awesome ego fapping part of all is that I’m now able to say, “Yeah, I train with that dude. National road champ, 35+. Uh-huh.”

I’m not the only wanker who got a woody thinking about the stars-and-stripes jerseys brought home by Rudy, Rich Meeker, Michael Easter, Jamie P., and the medals harvested by Jeff K., DeMarchi, Glass Hip Worthington, Charon Smith, Karl Bordine, and the other SoCal riders who dominated at nationals. No sooner had news of Rudy’s win hit the Cycling Illustrated newsfeed than a whole host of other bone idlers began crowing and bragging about how they train and race with these champions.

Prez even admitted what we all do but are too ashamed to confess: Calling his buddies back East to say “THOSE are my training partners, yo!”

The difference between theory and practice

In theory, I suppose it’s legit to say, for example, that I train and race with Rudy and those dudes. Most Saturdays, after all, he shows up on the Donut Ride, and I show up on the Donut Ride. Several times a year I do the Really Early Morning Ride a/k/a REMR. Jeff does the REMR. And of course numerous times I suit up and saddle up for local crits and road races, events at which Jamie, Glass Hip, Meeker, and Charon also toe the line.

Unfortunately, the extent of my “training rides” with Rudy usually ends about fifteen minutes into the ride, or whenever he makes an acceleration, whichever comes first. I mean, can I really call it “training with Rudy” when he’s not even breaking a sweat and I’ve pulled over and quit? Did we train together when he lazily pedaled away from a hundred idiots on the part of his training ride that was actually before his training ride, because if it had been his actual training ride we, like, would never have known he was there?

Same for the “racing with Rich” thing. Did I really race with him when I got shelled on the first climb? Were we really racing together when he was sprinting for first and I was sprunting for 86th? Were Charon and I in the same race when he was a tiny speck at the front and I was a flailing wanker barely hanging onto the tail end of the whip?

And if it’s that bad for me, what about the other bone idlers like Prez who are still attending esteem building classes in order to actually enter a Cat 2 or 35+ race? What about the wank fodder that gets diarrhea and breaks out in hives the night before the “big” showdown at CBR, then wets their bed so badly they catch cold and miss the race?

Cycling is a reality show, and you’re Snooki

The antics of the men and women who trundled off to Bend and whipped the snot out of the best amateurs in America, if truth be told, have nothing in common with the antics of the rest of us. It’s like having Rahsaan Bahati next to you on the New Pier Ride. He’s with you, but he’s not really with you.

The accomplishments of those who returned with jerseys and medals are incredible. They did what the rest of us wish we could do: Ride our bikes smarter and faster than anyone else in the country. Having them back in our midst is good for some ego fapping, but it’s kind of a bummer, too. If they put the wood to the best racers in America, what’s the math looking like that I’ll ever finish ahead of them?

Right.

Better dial up ol’ Russ back in Texas and let him know that my training partner just won nationals. Uh-huh. ‘Cause that’s just how I roll. Me and Prez, I mean. When we’re not crashing. Or getting dropped. Or ego fapping on the bricks.

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.

Yeah, but they were double overhead yesterday. And hollower.

August 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

Over the course of today’s visitation to the Swamis Ride insane asylum in Encinitas, I experienced three full body shudders. These occur just prior to getting dropped. My entire body shakes, my eyes fill with giant black flying saucers, and the bike shimmies uncontrollably. Once I was shoved back up to the tail of the peloton, the second time I was “attaboyed” just in time to reconnect, and the third time, a quarter mile before the final sprunt, I exhaled with the death rattle and shuddered backwards to the chase group.

When we hit the coast highway at ride’s end, MMX was there waiting. He’d made a brief stop at the church and continued ahead of us on his own. “How was it?” he asked.

“It was hard beyond belief. I can’t believe I didn’t get shelled on Elfin Forest.”

He shook his head. “Nah. That wasn’t hard. You oughta be here when Bordine’s really throwing down. That’s when it’s hard.”

“Oh,” I meekly answered.

Nature abhors a monoculture

Cross-pollination and the wide dispersal of seed is a fundamental biological concept that ensures diversity, which in turn assists survival of the species. Biking’s no different. Getting out of your normal group ride and sampling what others have to offer is about as intense as it gets.

When you roll out the first few times on their turf, you have all the cards stacked against you. They know every intricacy of the route, the sprint points, the rest points, the places where, if you go too hard, you’ll pop, the places where, if you go too easy, you’ll get caught out and shelled.

The locals smell fresh blood when you show up, and use their tactical knowledge to your disadvantage. Plus, they want you to go home and show your mates the gaping wounds and smashed ego that you got at the hands of your betters. The best legends are created by visitors.

Most troubling when you’ve gone to sample someone else’s wares is the uncertainly of who’s who. You don’t know the riders, their tendencies, their strengths, and where particular riders like to put in an effort.

In the beginning it puts you completely on the defensive, but as you fall into the routine, realizing that you’ll be lucky just to hang on, it becomes thrilling beyond belief. Kind of like using your left hand, but, like, way more awesome than that. Even after a week of beating the Facebook drum, the only people who wanted to venture out of their usual stomping grounds were Bill Holford from Long Beach, Gerald Iacono, I, and Marc Spivey, who had driven the battle wagon.

Go South, young man

I advise you to go south and try this ride. We started with a big group of about sixty, including a whole host of folks who seemed as if they were built more for comfort than for speed, and by the time we reached the church for our first rest stop, public urination, and collection of discarded lungs, there were only about thirty riders left. At 22 minutes we were strung out into a nasty, single line of pain going up Levante. By the time I got close enough to the front to see who was there, at 24:29, I saw Todd Parks drilling it on the point. He swung over, an Elbowz dude took a ten second pull, and I hit it as hard as I could for thirty-two seconds. Elbows came through again followed by MMX, who ripped it for the remaining 24 seconds to the top.

By this point you’re barely 25 minutes into the ride and completely gassed. It is a nasty, murderous power climb that the riders ramp up on so quickly you will pop off the back unless you give it 100%.

When we turned left on Rancho Santa Fe, Elbowz and a CashCall dude sprinted off. Parks went back to the front and began lashing the whip, stringing it out and sending people off the back in droves. CashCall and Elbowz came back, we regrouped, and turned right onto San Elijo.

Would you please quit doing that horse thing?

By now I was flatter than a day-old bottle of beer, and breathing like a draft horse pulling a locomotive. Todd went again, MMX followed, Scott Holland attacked them both, Steven Davis followed Scott, while Andy, David, Kelsey, Victor, MMX and I huddled and pedaled. Scott detonated, and then it was Steven flogging the wankers. Everyone swarmed as we approached the final kick before turning off onto Elfin Forest, and by now I was ten or fifteen wheels back and had no idea who was doing what. All I knew is that it really, really hurt, and then came full body shudder No. 1.

Some saint heard my panting and saw my shuddering, grabbed my ass, and gave me a hard push. How’s that for friendly? Without it, I’d have been done.

Onto Elfin Forest Rd. it was a thin, grueling line up to the first bump, a downhill, and then Monster Media John took the controls in hand and switched the dial to “fry.” At 41 minutes in, people were lunging for John’s wheel like drunks after a G-string, bikes swaying, shoulders hunching, necks craning, and wheels bouncing over the poorly shod road surface that was pitted with cracks, holes, bumps, lumps, sand, rocks, birthday cakes, tutus, and tire irons.

Towards the front, but never actually at it

We hit a long 3-4 minute downhill and numerous riders swarmed towards the front as if they were going to finally stick their noses out into the wind and start swinging, but each would ease off just at about fourth or fifth wheel, leaving the same guys who’d been doing all the work to keep doing all the work. Some things are the same in every group ride, everywhere!

I nosed back up towards the front and found one of the hitters, a guy with a bright red Isle of Man jersey, rotating through with Todd, Monster John, and CashCall.  I rolled through for a 30-second hit that seemed like an eternity, followed by CashCall and a dude in a B+L kit with blue and white shoes. No one behind him, so I grabbed his wheel and got back into the three-man rotation. Pretty soon it was my turn again, and after a few seconds Isle of Man and Thor the Teen Wanker came blowing by. They were reeled in, and then Isle of Man dude strung it out.

A surge followed, and just before I popped Steven said, “We’re almost at the top!’ even as my second full body shudder wracked me from head to toe.

From that point on I was stuck in the middle of the swirling wankoton, needle gone far beyond red and buried deep in the purple. When we hit the sprunt 7 or 8 minutes later I had no idea who won or even who had been driving the train. I got smattering views of Todd, Monster John, CashCall, Isle of Man, Erik, Steven, MMX, B+L, and some dude in gray and red, but it all blended together into a miasma of blurred vision and gasping breath until, shortly after the sprunt, some wanker clipped a wheel and tumped over at about 3 mph.

I stopped to help the poor schmo, who was unhurt but feeling pretty stupid.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

The rest of the ride was more of the same. Before leaving, I’d turned on the Strava app on my phone. Over coffee and oatmeal, I checked to see how the ride had stacked up. Hmmm…MMX had set a new course record.

“You should have been here yesterday,” indeed.

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