January 29, 2013 § 20 Comments
The 2013 Poor College Kids Road Race started fast, downhill and into a crosswind. The bunch was nervous. Maybe eighty idiots rolled out; less than half would finish.
It was impossible to move up, so tightly were we packed together. Everyone felt feisty and strong and ready for the challenge at hand: Fifty-six miles of road racing in Santa Barbara County on rolling terrain with one moderate five or six-minute climb.
In the beginning, before we all hated one another so intensely, there was much pointing out of obstacles, especially the first triple set of road dots that caused lots of skittering and whoa-ing and rear wheel sliding. Then we roared through the first gravelly turn with a couple of riders going sideways but not falling down, and then the pace went full-gas into the tailwind which soon became another crosswind.
The next time someone says bike racing is “fun,” I will vomit on them personally.
We hid behind one another as much as possible until the climb approached. A mile or so out there was the familiar groaning and scraping and crunching and disharmony of Idiot A’s front wheel lurching into the rear derailleur of Idiot B and both grinding into a massive twisted morass of broken carbon frames and smashed wheels and curses and cries and blood and minced flesh and the ultimate terror (“Fuck, how’m I gonna ‘splain this to my wife?”) but the second I heard the first tiny little squeak presaging the crash I stomped on the pedals and shot ahead, never looking back to see who had fallen and caring only about saving myself.
We went up and over the climb, a few lumbering stragglers getting popped at this test-em-out, totally doable pace, and then went through the rollers and roared down into the start finish and began the second of four laps.
It slices, it dices
On this second lap the pace ratcheted up so suddenly that we were all forced into the gutter, hiding from the crosswind but too stupid to form three or four echelons. We hated each other too much to form echelons. Better to force our rims up against the edge of catastrophe and batter into the sliver of slipstream than go wide, provide a full-lane echelon, and take turns.
Echelons are for wind-savvy Flandrians. Sun-soaked saps from SoCal just ride in the gutter and suffer like idiots, drooling blood and spit onto their bars and shrieking “Fuck this hurts fuck this hurts fuck when is this gonna end fuck I’m quitting after this lap fuck why doesn’t that asshole give me another inch of pavement fuck I hate bike racing!”
Through the gravelly turn again there “warn’t near as many as there was a while ago,” and some sadist at the front began pounding again so that by the time we hit the crosswind it was almost unendurable. A break of seven or eight pinched off and rolled up the road, the guttered peloton unable to chase because the break was riding in an echelon but the group was a single file pushed up against the yellow line, smashing the BOTS dots with bone-jarring contact bam-bam-bam-bam-fuckwhenisthisgonnaend-bam-bam-bam-bam-fuckgivemejustaninchyoubastard-bam-bam-bam-bam.
MMX, stuck in the front of the chase bus, launched to join SPY-Giant-RIDE teammate Alan Flores, who had already spent the first lap in a leg stretching solo attack and was now part of what would be the day’s winning move. MMX clawed his way across the gap, mashing and battering and forcing himself onto the tail of the break as we left-behinds regrouped, with the more adventurous pushing the pace until the break was all but caught.
Don’t sit up before the catch
Team Helen’s and the handful of other poor sods who’d worn themselves out on the BOTS dots because they were too selfish and mean and stupid to echelon and who now didn’t have anyone in the break, brought the pack to within perhaps fifty yards of the breakaway, then sat up without closing the gap. At that moment we hit the climb.
The break dangled, got even closer, then crested the climb and was gone.
We never saw them again. Greg Leibert from Big Orange, Benny Parks from Jessup Chevrolet, Flores and Marckx were all there, as well as Chris Hahn the loner, back from his exile in the land of mesothelioma fundraising to the only home he ever knew: Racing bikes for $50 and a water bottle prime, sucking wheels, screaming orders, riding randomly, surging, opening gaps, and infuriating his breakaway mates.
After one outburst, Flores finally rode up to him. “Dude,” he said. “Shut your fucking mouth and ride your goddamned bike. It’s a race, not a fucking debating contest.”
The third lap was more terrible for the left-behinds than the second, if such a thing could be, and it was. The left-behinds with no one in the break gnashed their teeth and ground their gears at the front, destroying the weak of spirit, the jiggly of flesh, and the spindly of leg. We tore down the crosswind section, again stupidly in the gutter, raced through the tailwind, then guttered out against the BOTS dots, bam-bam-bam-fuckthissucks-bam-bam-bam-givemeaninchyoucock-bam-bam-bam, too stupid and cruel and mean and stingy to follow King Harold’s lead as he tried in vain to show the idiots the palliative effects of forming an echelon.
Hell ends in one more lap
The fourth lap was the easiest, as the left behinds had nothing left, the sun was going down, a bitter cold was setting in, exhaustion, bonk, hopelessness, and the dull emptiness of a lost battle in which all was sacrificed for no good reason slowly sank in. Andy Jessup flailed up the last climb, dropping the left behinds briefly, only to be reeled in a mile from the finish. In the insane downhill leadout to the line, where grown men with jobs, families, assets, and social standing flew headfirst to the finish at 40 mph, risking everything for 8th place in a 45+ older gentlemen’s prostate contest, some wanker who had a lock on 26th got chopped and landed on his head.
As he lay writhing and screaming in agony, blood everywhere, bike parts scattered like a swap meet after a tornado, flopping and moaning and crying, I pulled over to help drag his carcass out of the way so that the heroes charging in for 30th and 31st, heads down, didn’t t-bone what was left of his battered and bleeding body.
In the final tally Benny Parks took overall prostate honors, followed by someone else, followed by Chris Hahn, who had committed all manner of sins against His Leibertness in terms of wheelsuckery and other assorted violations of the Code Of Honor Among Wankers, followed by His Leibertness, followed by somebody, followed by MMX, who had destroyed the little band of brothers with a fratricidal attack in the closing kilometers, followed by He Of The Iron Nutsack Alan Flores, then a dribble and a drabble, and finally a surging field sprunt win by Aron “Gaudy” Gadhia, nipping Big Steve Gregorios at the line, who, along with Dave Gonyer, won the award for Most Gigantic Mountain of Human Flesh to Make it Over that Fucking Climb Four Times with the Field.
Mongo just pawn in game of life
Mongo Pappe and I had driven up together; he’d done the race on his ‘cross bike and I’d done the race on bile and spittle and chunks of lung. Whereas Hatchitt and Taylor and Gonyer and King Harold and the other teammates had done yeoman’s work controlling the front, Mongo and I had skulked at the back, cursing the gutter and getting as tiny as we could and trying to park behind the biggest butt we could find.
We listened briefly while DS Hatchitt debriefed the team on our combined fledgling tactics. “Wankster,” he said. “Where the fuck were you? I thought you’d been dropped.”
“I was back there, uh, conserving.”
“Conserving for what? You should have been chasing the wankers who were trying to bridge.”
“Oh. Well, I uh, was…”
“The only time you stuck your nose out in the wind was when you dashed up the hill with KK and almost dragged him up to your own teammates in the damned break.”
“Well, I was, uh, trying to sort of be a, like, you know, a decoy.”
“It was stupid. Don’t do it again.”
“And Mongo!” said the DS.
“Yeah?” Mongo answered in his tiniest voice.
“What the fuck you doing riding back there with that slacker Wankmeister?”
“I was trying to, er, help, uh, the team, you know…”
“I do fucking know. You were shirking back there with Wanky sucking wheel on the fat guys while the rest of your mates were up here busting their balls. Next time follow the First Rule of the Peloton, okay?”
“Sure,” said Mongo. “Uh, what’s that?”
“If you’re anywhere near Wanky, YOU’RE FUCKING OFF!”
Before returning to the car. Mongo looked at me. “Was that race as much fun for you as it was for me?”
I looked around to make sure no one could hear. “Hell, yeah!”
We laughed, high-fived, and headed back to the hotel.
May 15, 2012 § 3 Comments
After a very successful 7-year career as a Cat 3, I was recently force-upgraded after getting 2nd at the Long Beach crit, even though I only had 4,598,209 upgrade points. Some of the other sore loser types complained to the officials. I told them that it’s only my 75th top three placing of the year. I told them that I started out this year with the GOAL of winning the SoCal Cup as a Cat 3, and that I always reach my goals. This is a kind of robbery, having my Cat 3 taken away. What am I supposed to do now? Race the Cat 2’s? Race the 35+? That’s cray-cray.
It’s a hard lot in life when USCF officials will no longer tolerate cheating, and I sympathize with you. It’s only fair that you should be able to break the upgrade rules so that you can win money and prizes that would otherwise go to someone else. I for one am in solidarity with you.
It is even more terrible that you must now race with the Cat 2’s. What do they think you are? A full time pro? Jeez, you’ve got a wife, kids, job, mortgage. How are you going to up your miles from the current 500 per week to 650? Can’t be done. Those fuckers. And 35+? Are they joking? Like, how are you gonna beat Charon and deMarchi and Paolinetti? You couldn’t carry those guys’ jocks with a forklift. Crap. On the plus side, you can now flail around with Wankmeister and beat up on cyclotourists, triathletes, and joggers. So there’s that.
I’ve been a Cat 3 for two months now, and just got upgraded. I’m totally psyched. I hated flogging with all those wankers. It was dangerous, and frankly, not much sense of achievement to win, especially when you’re beating career hackers who are too chicken to race the hard races. I actually did a 35+ race the same day I upgraded and got fourth. It was fast and hard and I didn’t have any teammates, but I used my head, rode smart, and got a decent result. I’m looking forward to improving as a cyclist by racing with guys who are faster and better than I am. That’s the only way to improve. At anything.
This is a sad commentary on the state of cycling, when a guy can just win a few races and upgrade rather than sandbagging for years, collecting prize money, hamming it in front of the cameras, and perfecting the art of “sit & sprint.” I hope you know that you have single-handedly brought our sport into disrepute. How will we attract new riders? How will we coerce our wives and kids to come watch? You think Mrs. WM is gonna sit out in the 300-degree heat to watch Wanky get 55th in a crit? You think Wanky Jr. is gonna hang around to watch Pops get dropped on the first lap of Pukebowl? ‘Course not!
My advice to you, young man, is to forget the crazytalk. Do a couple of P/1/2 races. Maybe even crash once or twice. Then lay low for a year or two and come back as a Cat 4. Move up gradually. If you play your cards right you can get a good 5 or 6-year run of pistachio primes and prize money before they bump you up. Trust me on this one.
I’m a sandbagger. I admit it. I’m proud of it. Although I could easily upgrade to Cat 3, I like it here in the 4’s. I only race a few times a year anyway and don’t give a rat’s ass about results. My goal is to be one of the cool dudes on the South Bay rides. I want to put the screws to DJ. Make Roadchamp suffer. Drop King Harold on the flats. Heck, I already put a bunch of dudes to the sword on Saturday’s ride out to Decker Lake, including YOU. Then I made fun of Triple for getting dropped after I crashed out Polly. So why should I upgrade? I want the “cool” you can’t get in school.
Setting my sights,
Oh, boy. You are 25 years old. DJ is, like, a hundred. He’s old enough to be your grandfather’s father. Beating him, or Roadchamp, or King Harold, is like bragging about having sex with your wife. You’re SUPPOSED to, for Dog’s sake. When these guys were 25, they didn’t have their sights set on smacking down some shriveled up old weekend hobby biker. They were Cat 1 or Cat 2 or national caliber athletes racing against their peers. You can never be South Bay cool on the strength of your old geezer beatdown resume.
On the other hand, for them to ever whip up on you reduces you to ignominy. They’re NOT SUPPOSED to be able to stomp your dick in the dirt. So when they do, you lose all kind of style and respect points. And don’t ever think, even for a millisecond, that old farts don’t keep score. They’re still laughing about your epic meltdown on Fernwood and your colossal collapse on the Rock Store climb, and chasing down Wankmeister at Telo after being admonished not to by King Harold is like marrying your cousin, only worse.
However, all is not lost. It is possible to endear yourself to the South Bay royalty. Follow the easy steps below:
- Race. This means real races. With numbers, entry fees, officials, crashes, etc.
- Upgrade. This means winning, placing, or participating. Show that you hate being a Cat 4 wanker and are desperate to get out and become a Cat 3 wanker.
- Do the South Bay royalty rides in the off season, and obey proper SBRR etiquette as further described below. Remember at all times that as you shamelessly angle for an invitation to the FTR, you must ingratiate, fawn, flatter, and suck knob to a fare thee well in order to earn the approval of FTR DS Jaeger.
- Keep your mouth shut unless you’re about to do some serious knob polishing. Don’t remind Triple he just got shelled like a bad pecan. He knows it; he’s the one that had to wipe the four pounds of sheet snot off his face. Plus, he’s so old that by the time you’re his age he will have been drawing Social Security for 15 fucking years.
- Don’t crash out Polly by being a fred. South Bay royalty all have families, jobs, and shorter lifespans than you. Don’t move up the date any quicker than necessary.
- After beating the living shit out of Wankmeister, dropping him like a stone on the climbs, railing his innards into mush on PCH, and flogging him like a dead skunk all the way back up to his apartment, don’t “evaluate” his ride for him by saying, “You did pretty good today. Not too bad on the climb; good effort there. Good job on PCH, you hung in fine and were even able to do a little work, too. Boy, you sure were breathing hard when we were going up Pepperdine and you couldn’t pull through! Are you going slow now because you’re tired?”
Anyway, I hope this helps. You’re a good kid who has potential, but then again, so did most of the other convicts on death row.
May 12, 2012 § 5 Comments
For the last couple of years my right palm has been getting really callused. A series of hard lumps has formed around the base of my middle finger, lumps that are so large and hardened that they have made it impossible for me to fully open my hand.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “I bet his vision is worsening as well.”
It’s not, smartypants.
Since I spend so much time typing, it made sense that this was carpal tunnel syndrome, or probably, according to Dr. Google, “Trigger Finger.” I wouldn’t ordinarily have given much thought to it, since it never really affected me, but over the last two years it’s become harder and harder to reach the front brake lever. And when something starts jacking with my ability to ride…I pay attention.
(Not) Rushing to judgment
It usually takes me a long time to get to the doctor. For anything. The last time I had a physical was in 1997. I had a cold. The infection had traveled into my chest, and avoiding medical care allowed it to become full-fledged pneumonia in one lung. After recovering I went to the doctor, who took a chest x-ray and told me that I was in great shape.
Haven’t caught cold and haven’t seen a doctor since.
I don’t like doctors for the same reason I don’t like dentists. They hurt. When I was a little kid I had lots of bad doctor and dentist experiences. That, combined with a daily diet of beatings from my brother, didn’t make me tough. It made me weak. Weak and fearful. I remain that way today. As a result, I’ve never gone to get my trigger finger treated because Dr. Google said it would require minor surgery, and as everyone knows, surgery means needles and blood.
I don’t mind blood. Unless it’s mine. In which case I will do anything to avoid it. And when the only thing I have to do to avoid it is not call the doctor, it’s pretty simple, since I never call him anyway. Like I said, though, it has started to affect my cycling, so about a year ago I started making plans to get ready to prepare for perhaps getting in the mindset to be fixing to think about making an appointment with the hand doctor.
Yesterday I went to see him. You know how you always bust your butt to get to the doctor on time? And you know how once you get there you wait for an hour, which makes you wonder what in the world you were hurrying for? That happened. Filled out the forms (No, no STD’s. No, no heart disease. No, not allergic to any drugs. No, not currently pregnant. Last period? She was complaining about it a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t remember the date. What does her period have to do with my hand?)
And then…”Briefly describe your problem.” Wow. Briefly? I took a stab at it: “My problem is that I’m pretty fucked up because I’m from Texas.”
I turned the paper around and looked at it from different angles. Somehow it didn’t look right. So I added, “And my middle finger hurts and is callused and I can’t open my hand all the way.”
The French are watching you
If you were a cynical bike blogger who always made fun of the French and the Danes, what kind of disease would karma send your way? It would be a disease with a French name that was caused by a recessive gene among people of Scandinavian descent. Of course it would.
In came Dr. Slutsky. Yep, that’s really his name. And nope, I’m not going to make fun of it. What am I going to say that he didn’t hear every single day of his life the first 12 grades of school? Nothing, and I can’t stand not being original, unless I’m copying CapTaintBag.
Doc Sluts glanced at my palm, and said something that sounded like “De Pooter’s Contracture.”
“D-u-p-u-y-t-r-e-n-s Contracture. It’s named after the 19th Century French physician who first tried to treat it surgically, Dr. Baron Gillaume Dupuytren.”
“You kidding me? I got a French disease? How degrading is that?”
“Not exactly. The name is French, but the condition is genetic, most likely of Scandinavian origin.”
“Danish. Even worse. Dolphin-killing-inbred Viking disease named by some French dude. So you’re going to operate?”
“No. Surgery doesn’t really help. It’s incurable.”
“We have a cure for syphilis. For bad spelling. For small breasts and short penises. Don’t tell me you can’t cure this claw-hand deal.”
“Eventually your hand will contract so much that you’ll have great difficulty doing normal activities. Unfortunately, you’re right-handed, and it’s your right hand, and you’re young, which typically means a fast progression. We can do some surgical procedures later, but the problem is that the genetic defect causes uncontrolled Type 2 collagen growth. The collagen will come back even more quickly after surgery. It’s genetic. 100% rate of recurrence.”
“What does this mean for whacking off?”
“As long as it doesn’t spread to your left hand, you should be fine.”
“Left hand? I can’t use my left hand! It doesn’t even feel like me. And what do you mean ‘spread’? Don’t tell me this shit spreads.”
Dr. Slutty tells me that this shit spreads
“It can. Do you have any calluses like this on your feet?”
“I don’t know. They’re so gnarly I don’t get down there too often.”
“What do you mean, ‘gnarly’?”
“Oh, the usual. Stuff between the toes. Giant ol’ crusty yellow toenails that smell like dead eggs when you try and scrape ‘em clean underneath. Just not a real cool place to hang out, y’know? It’s one of the benefits of being tall. Your feet are a long ways off.”
“At this point all I can tell you to do is to keep an eye on it. Come back in about a year or so, or whenever your hand is so arched that you can’t lay it flat on the table.”
“I already can’t lay it flat on the table.”
“Hmmm. Yes. Well, there’s nothing for it as of now. And keep an eye on other body parts.”
“Whoaaaa—what do you mean ‘other body parts?’ You mean, aside from my left hand and my feet?”
“Yes. You want to make sure it doesn’t develop into Peyronie’s disease.”
“No! Not another French disease!”
“I’m afraid so. It’s another type of collagenic thickening.”
By now I could see the two little twins from The Shining covered in gore shouting “Redrum! Redrum! Redrum!” only it was worse than that. They were shouting “Sinep! Sinep! Sinep!”
I got faint and had to sit down, but I was already sitting down. So I lay down on his leather couch, and wondered why a hand doctor had a leather couch in his examining room. I slowly choked out the words. “So…tell…me…about…Peyronie’s thing.”
Doc Slutmaster tells me about Peyronie’s thing
“It occurs in the penis. The collagen lays down bands beneath the skin of the penis, causing it to curve.”
“This can’t be real. Anglecock? If you were doing a stand-up comedy routine I wouldn’t even laugh.”
“You don’t have it yet. It only occurs in a minority of cases of people with Dupuytren’s.”
“A minority? Dude, 49% is a minority. How many, exactly?”
“The penis develops a bend…”
“A bend? Like a river? You’re telling me my dick is going to look like a U-bolt? Good Dog, what’s gonna happen when we stop at the Ocean Park toilets on the Saturday ride? Everybody’s gonna laugh and say, ‘Don’t stand behind that dude when he whizzes!’ Can you imagine the nicknames? ‘U-Turn.’ ‘Double Joint.’ ‘Comin’ and Goin’.’ My Dog, this is the worst thing imaginable.”
“Not the worst,” Doc Sluthopper said. “The worst is that when the curvature becomes sufficiently hardened and pronounced, it can result in penile fracture during intercourse.”
By now I was softly sobbing. “Great. Fucking great. My pecker’s going to break off during sex. Then what? Call a tow truck to pull it out? And what happens to the stump? Do they put me on Dr. Phil to do a panel with that dude whose wife chopped his weenie off while he was sleeping? This isn’t happening. It’s not real. Tell me it’s not real. Please, Doc Slutbag.”
Moral of the story
There isn’t one, except for his assurance that the Peyronie’s disease thing was unlikely, and I was probably just going to have my right hand turn into a deformed claw in the next five or ten years. So I have that going for me.
I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I went to a party with King Harold, Roadchamp, DJ, Polly, Triple, and Bull. I showed them my hand and they immediately turned my deformed fingers into a gang sign…”The Claw.” And when they found out that one day I might have the dreaded U-dick, they made so many jokes and laughed so hard and came up with so many funny nicknames that I almost felt better.
And of course they all promised to take care of Mrs. WM for me if my pecker broke off. “We’ll make sure she’s taken care of,” they said.
These dear buddies helped me realize that no matter how bad off I get, they will always be there to laugh at me and steal my wife. That’s what friends are for. Cycling friends, anyway. Allez, allez.
April 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Words can’t describe the brutality of the 2012 Vlees Huis Ronde, held in Bakersfield. Oh, wait a minute. Yes, they can.
It started off the way that bike races this time of year always start off. “Hey, honey, I’m racing in Bakersfield tomorrow. Want to come and hand me up water in the feed zone?”
“Bakersfield? Is that the really hot ugly place with no shade?”
“I don’t know if I’d call it ‘ugly.'”
“I would. It’s that sandblown, windswept, terribly hot place with bad air and oil derricks everywhere. I hate that place. Aren’t the races there really long and, like, the bikes only come by once every hour or something?”
“Oh, honey, it’s not that bad. I mean, yes, you’re right, but for Vlees Huis we actually come by once every hour and a half or so.”
“Well, I hate that place and it stinks and the dry dirty air hurts my throat and it’s bitterly hot and I hate it and there’s trash everywhere and every third person is driving a pickup or has meth mouth. If Maggie hadn’t been there with me that time I would have killed myself.”
“Okay, aside from all that, is there like a REASON you won’t go. I really need water in the feed zone. They say it’s going to be in the high 90’s.”
“Since you ask, yes, there is a REASON I don’t want to go.”
“Tomorrow’s my birthday.”
[Tune in tomorrow for “Wanky Dodges a Marital Dissolution”]
January 10, 2012 § 5 Comments
It’s that time of year…in a mere four days the epic French Toast Ride will launch from sunny Camarillo, and the lucky invitees will get to enjoy the best breakfast in Southern California prepared by two of the world’s greatest parents, one of the world’s greatest wives, and two of the world’s greatest daughters. After filling up on french toast, butter, syrup, bacon, sausage, coffee, french toast, coffee, syrup, butter, sausage, bacon, and some butter, syrup, coffee, sausage, bacon, and french toast, twenty-five plump and lard-swollen pedalers will leave Camarillo for the morale-sapping, leg-breaking, spirit-crushing, 117-mile sojourn through sunny SoCal in January.
For those embarking on their first FTR, and for the hapless millions who won’t get to sample the wonders of the FTR breakfast, here are the nuts and bolts of the ride, and a stage-by-stage recounting of why it achieves the status of “epic.”
Stage One: The French Toast
In the days of the Aztecs, prior to sacrificing a victim to the god, the priests would fete the victim, feed him every delicacy, and lead him with great pomp and circumstance to the high ground atop the temple, there to remove his beating heart before the eyes of the throng below. The parents, wife, and daughters of FTR DS prepare a feast that is truly memorable. It is tasty. It is delectable. Most importantly, it is comprised almost wholly of food items that are not recommended for a 6-hour deathfest on the bike. The combination of great food, wonderful people, and being generously welcomed into their home paints a bitter and brutal contrast to the misery and pain to be meted out for the balance of the day. Each bite, each chew of the french toast reminds the participants of their mortality, of their impending doom, and of the beatdown that awaits.
Stage Two: The Happy Rollout
Remember when you used to take family car vacations as a kid? The car was loaded, everyone was excited, you had your coloring books and crayons, and the dog was on your brother’s side of the car. Everyone was happy, thrilled to be together, and looking forward to a great time spent riding brokedown nags on some rock-strewn, desolate moonscape masquerading as a working ranch while drunken “cowboys” made fun of the klutzy city kids and ogled their moms.
This is the part of the FTR when everyone is merry and bright. Like the car trip, it won’t last.
Stage Three: Make Billy Stay on His Side
At approximately 32:10 into the ride you hit the first little bump, a modest 400-foot climb that feels like your big brother’s first incursion into your side of the car. It’s a little probe, a test, a brief bump in the heart rate, and it’s the short stab that Roadchamp always takes to let you know that if you want any KOM of anything on FTR, it will go through him. You try to push Billy’s leg back onto his side of the car, but he doesn’t budge. “Dad!” you yell.
Stage Four: Billy Breaks Your Favorite Crayon
You descend for a couple of minutes and then start to climb again. This time it’s more than just Billy’s leg in your space. This time it’s about a 9-minute climb, going from 845 to 1,329 feet. The pace is steady, and this is the first time on the ride that you get a sustained bit of heavy breathing. You’re 53 minutes into the ride when you hit the top, and Billy has reached over and snapped your favorite green crayon quite in half. You’d really yell for Dad now, but you’re out of breath, and no sooner do you hit the crest than it’s a full-gas descent, replete with switchbacks and pissed off traffic. The next five miles you can’t do anything but hang on, as it’s a death battle all the way to the sprint sign in Fillmore. Billy has now taken the broken pieces, tossed one out the window and shoved the other one up your nose. He whispers in your ear: “If you tell Dad I’ll kill you you tattletale baby.” You choke back the tears as everyone regroups. If you made the mistake of getting dropped and chasing, or of hammering for the sprint win, you take note that it’s only 1:06 and 20.7 miles into the ride.
Stage Five: The Dog Starts to Fart
The next 25 minutes are rolling to downhill. You rationalize losing your favorite crayon by reminding yourself that there are still 63 other colors, including white, which isn’t really a color and which you suspect Crayola just stuck in there to fill up the box. Soon you’re at the bottom of a valley, and you begin a 35-minute climb that takes you from 300 feet up to about 1,600. The dog starts to fart. Since his nose is out Billy’s window, his butt is pointed to you. Everyone complains, except Billy, who laughs. You open your window, which draws the farts right into your face. So you tear up a little. It really stinks. You’ve been dropped on the climb by now and are flogging with Yoda, who is mumbling some shit about light sabers and Beggar’s Canyon. You tell him to shut the fuck up. From the top of the climb there’s an insane 8-mile race into Ojai. You’ll hit 45+ mph and still be nowhere near taking the sprint. You’re now 46 miles in. The car stinks like perpetual dog fart. Billy’s started kicking you. Everyone’s hungry and needs to pee. Just before the first shitstorm of the day breaks out, you pull into the convenience store in Ojai. You feel okay. Tired, a little. More tired than you thought you’d be. “How long is FTR again?” you wonder.
Stage Six: “I’m pulling the car over NOW.”
Shortly after Ojai, just as your legs have gotten good and cooled down and stiff as boards, you hit the bottom of the Casitas Lake climb. It’s a mere 25 minutes to the top, and it only goes from about 500 feet to 1200 or so. Why does it hurt so bad? Because Billy has gone from filliping the back of your head to punching you just below your kidney. Perhaps it’s Roadchamp. Perhaps it’s G$. Perhaps it’s FTR DS. Whoever it is, by the time you’re halfway up the hill it’s just you, the gradient, and a world of hurt. Consider your ass officially kicked. You moan and whine a little. Dad has finally had enough. He pulls over, grabs whichever kid is handiest (it’s always you), strips off his belt and tans your hide while you dance on the roadside. It’s the first nasty, bitter, brutal beating of the day. Billy looks on in glee. The dog gets his nose into your knapsack and eats your peanut butter sandwich. You reach the top thoroughly smashed…but that’s not all! Three miles later there’s a horrific sprint at the sign for Carpinteria. You hit 1200 watts. Not even good enough for third. Everyone regroups. You’re exhausted. You’re hungry. You didn’t just shoot a few bullets, you emptied the clip. And you’re only 66 miles in.
Stage Seven: Are we there yet?
Sixty-six miles and 3:15 into the ride you roll out onto Highway 101. If the sun, wind, and tide are aligned you’ll see the Queen of the Coast cranking out immaculate coke lines on the carpet of blue ocean. For a few seconds you’ll think, “Wow, I’m in paradise.” But only a few. Because the next thirteen miles will involve King Harold beating the pedals into a 30-mph tattoo. It will be your own personal hell as the highway clips away, all the thrill of the trip faded away, Billy asleep and drizzling spit onto your leg, the dog scratching his fleas over onto your exposed skin, and nothing left but monotony and numbing pain. “Are we there yet?” you mutter miserably. “No,” Dad says. With finality. You cry a little bit into your sleeve and try not to lose the wheel in front of you, as nothing on earth is as horrific as a solo flail on the 101 as the rest of the group recedes into the distance. Hockey Stick…you listening?
Stage Eight: How come you put oil in the motor, daddy?
“Because the oil lubricates the moving parts, reducing friction, which reduces heat, which allows the engine to run. That’s why.”
“What happens if you don’t put in any oil, daddy?”
“The engine gets overheated and seizes up.”
“What’s seizing up, daddy?”
“Seizing up is when something coagulates into a lump and stops moving like it’s supposed to.”
“What’s coagulates, daddy?”
“Coagulates is what happens when you reach Ventura after the 101 at about mile 83, and you stop at the Utotem for a piss and to fuel up and all the poison in your muscles gels, and your legs get ice cold, and the blood sinks down into your shoes, and your thighs get heavier than bad poetry, and even the thought of throwing a leg over the top tube is more painful and agonizing than you can bear, but a few minutes later you nonetheless have to remount and slog 350 feet up over the town, and then you fall into the paceline from hell and everyone batters along for the next forty minutes in utter exhaustion and despair until you reach Santa Paula. That’s ‘coagulates.”
Stage Nine: Well, gang, we’re here!
There is no way to sugar coat Balcom Canyon Road. It is steep. The two-mile approach is into a headwind. It breaks your spirit, assuming you still have any, daring you to even get up it. It jerks out of the landscape like a jagged fang, sneering at your paperboys that crisscross the asphalt as you try to stay upright. If you have anything left at all in the tank, which of course you don’t, it will be gone at the top. If you’re already running low at the bottom, which of course you are, you’ll die a thousand deaths. If you ride at the front for much of the ride and attack early while the others are remounting from their pee break you will be punished with the cramp of a thousand deaths and the garbled admonitions of an incoherent Yoda on a late-night drunk. Regardless of how you arrive…you have arrived.
Stage Ten: My, what crushed egos you have!
At mile 113.4 there is a 230-foot climb that goes for .8 mile. This is the last stretch of highway where your bladder is so full it’s already started to dribble but you’re afraid to say anything because the last whipping Dad meted out was predicated with, “If I have to stop this goddamned car again to beat your ass it’s the last beating you’ll ever get!” Your legs are ravaged by the flea bites. Your hair is singed by the dog farts. Billy has turned your legs and arms purple from the six hours of pummeling. You’re too hurt, broken, and numb to even cry. So when Big Bowles lumbers by you just grab his wheel and hold it until he shakes you off like the dew from a lily. You stagger up the final few meters, wondering why you’re in a sport that uses the Metric System, and why meters sound so much more brutal than yards.
Then, pop! You’re over the hill and done, screaming downhill to the welcoming front yard of the parents of the FTR DS, where cold cuts and cold beer await. Is there anywhere in the world better than grandmother’s house? Of course not! Never was, never will be.
November 23, 2011 § 4 Comments
Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp the Holiday Ride ride rolls out from the Center of the Known Universe. The weather forecast: perfect, so expect 150-200 knuckleheads all stuck together like a big ball of wax by the time the ride hits San Vicente. In order to ensure the perfect ride, I’ve compiled a list of strategies that should help you rise to the very top of the septic tank.
1. Be ready to roll out at 7:57. Even though the ride leaves exactly at 8:00, that’s only for G$, DJ, King Harold, and a couple of others who always get there late and have to chase like crazy the entire ten miles to Santa Monica. Everyone else gets anxious and leaves early, ignoring Roadchamp who’s always screaming at the top of his lungs, “It’s not eight yet! It’s not eight yet!”
2. That guy wearing the jersey-skirt with the four cases of donuts plastered to his stomach, neck, back, and hips? Don’t glue yourself onto his wheel and then complain when he slams on the brakes and sends you off into the bushes.
3. Choose your plan early, i.e. cower, dodge, pray, and wait (“codpaw”) or drill on the front (“drotfro”).
4. If you’re going to codpaw, prepare to be scared shitless from the moment you start turning the pedals. You’ll be penned in on all sides by people who are at every stage of learning how to instantly and without warning knock down other people. You’ll be able to let your mind run wild with all the possibilities of chain collisions from so many overlapped wheels, swerving bikes, and happily yakking yahoos who’re paying no attention at all to the road or the idiot in front of them.
5. If you’re going drotfro, prepare to be completely wrecked by the time you reach San Vicente, not least because you’ll have wanted to make G$, DJ, and King Harold suffer like dogs for the entirety of their chase.
6. Once you hit San Vicente, find a wheel toward the front and prepare to vomit as Bahati gradually brings the pace from 17mph up to 42mph over a span of about ten seconds. Uphill. If you opt for codpaw and the relative shelter of the clump at the back, you’ll need windshield wipers to clear off the snot, sludge, and barf bits from everyone who’s now wishing they’d done a different ride.
7. Pace yourself at the bottom of Mandeville. You do this by riding like a fucking maniac to get as far forward as possible, resulting in total exhaustion when you nudge in about tenth wheel. If you’re not already cracked, you’ll soon shatter because at tenth wheel it will be in a single line, in the gutter, and there will be nowhere to hide, except at the back. When you gap out and get screamed at by fifty other idiots who are also on the rivet, you’ll drift back to the back and find that there is no “back,” only onesie-twosie clumps of similarly blown wankers.
8. Whatever you do, don’t get on King Harold’s wheel theorizing that he’ll pull til he blows and then you’ll be able to launch with the remainder of the leaders as everyone else will have been put to the sword. The problems with this theory are manifold. First, you’ll be one of the very first turkeys who gets carved up when he begins flatbacking. Second, even if you did survive until his 3-mile effort ends, you’d be lucky if you still had the energy to find a ditch, lie down in it, and summon the strength to suck your thumb. Third, the pain you’ll experience will give you lifelong nightmares.
9. Don’t implement the “Follow G$ Strategy.” This misbegotten plan ferments when you’re lying in bed the night before, fantasizing about sending Stern-O an email detailing your exploits on Mandeville, and it occurs to you that all you’ll have to do is follow G$’s wheel and come around him at the end. As with the King Harold strategy, this one seems stupidly simple, when in fact it is, if possible, even dumber. First, G$ never gets more than about three wheels back, and sitting on his wheel provides the draft of a large paperclip. This means you’ll essentially be on the point, which equals early shatterage, followed by massive blowage, crackage, and terminal wankage. Second, about halfway up, sometimes earlier, G$ launches the first of a dozen of what in the cycling world is called an “attack.” You know those pet chimpanzees that like to tear off their owners’ faces and throw their bodies out the window? That’s kind of what it will feel like if you really follow through on this whackananny plan, only it will hurt lots worse and the grimaces from the pain will make your face look even uglier than the chimp owners’. Third, even if you make it with him up to the final wall (say, for example, he’s only riding with a rear wheel), he’ll still have plenty of kick left to kick your ass.
10. Whatever you do, don’t take a pull. At dinner, when you’re bragging to the old lady about how you’re going to throw down with the big boys, somewhere between the fourth beer and the bottom of the tequila bottle it may occur to you that, since you’re going to get shelled, you might as well drill it at the bottom of Mandy and make the heroes earn their pay. First, remember that your “pull,” even in the best of scenarios, is kind of like a 2 year-old towing his little red wagon. Second, remember that even though the heroes will be at a disadvantage, as they’ll be out of breath from laughing at your piddly display of impotence, they will also be drafting. Drafting = resting. Resting = incalculable pain when they finally launch.
11. Avoid the temptation to ride up to Bahati, Rudy, or any of the other pros and say, “Hey, man, how’s it going?” like they’re your friend. They’re not. They don’t even know you, although they may remember your bright yellow, two-sizes-too-small outfit and the enormous swatches of belly and butt that it doesn’t quite cover. Instead, quietly ride up behind them and tuck a $20 bill in their pocket. They’ll never know it was from you, but you can tell your friends that you paid some of the local pros to ride for you in a big SoCal almost-race.
12. After you’ve been completely wrecked on the climb, throttle it back to 4 or 5 mph and wait for the first couple of guys from the lead group to appear as they descend Mandeville. Quickly whip your bike around and follow them. You’ll reach the bottom more or less at the same time, and way before the other wankers who foolishly labored all the way to the top. They’ll have been too gassed on the climb to realize you were miles behind them, ergo “bragging rights.”
13. When you get home, post the following to Strava: “Fucking Garmin (or iPhone Strava app) quit working at the bottom of Mandy. Fucking had a course record today. Fuck.” Throw in a few extra “fucks” as needed.
Enjoy the ride!
September 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Always on the sharp end of the spear: Former South Bay rouleur and current Cat 1 ‘cross racer MMX chalks up another stellar weekend of results. Podium this week and last dominated by Spy Optic.
Putting money where pedals are: Spy Optic is beefing up the profile of cyclocross racing in Socal. Interest and participation are growing. Spy is pushing it ahead, building on the solid base of long-time promoters like Brad House.
I never thought I’d see him pin on a number: Padraig is back in the mix after a nine-year racing hiatus, laying it down…where else?…in this weekend’s ‘cross race. Welcome back, and enjoy your Zinfandel spoils of victory!
Best looking peloton in America: CG looking good in the group, surviving the Pier Ride in style and modeling those sexy legs on FB in shitkicker boots. How good is her taste? Only StageOne, thanks. KH riding fast and looking unbelievably fine in her Helen’s kit…when do we get to see that state champ jersey??? VV and all the pretty gals galore, nice!
Flatback on the Parkway: King Harold leaves everyone choking on his fumes as he dusts the group on Westchester this morning. Whiners say, “Why are you hammering? It’s the OFF-SEASON!” King Harold says, “I didn’t realize you had a pro contract,” and “Aren’t you the same ones who never make the break at Telo?”
It’s not a royal court without the King: Pier Ride feels about 10mph slower when RB isn’t there showing off his Skilz and “Can’t Beat the Meat” bib shorts.
French Toast shakedown: DJ drag races/chases down the lone break into the Marina sprint. That boy goes faster when he’s unfit than most people do with a personal coach.
Get ready to brag about who you train with: KP is fit and in the zone for elite nationals at the Home Depot Velodrome this Friday. He races the team pursuit at 7:00 p.m. with local legend JW, world champion KK, and young matador CB. Show up for some barbecue, beer, and local pride.
Ironfly lays it all on the line: Davy Dawg and Hockey Stick represent the South Bay at elite nationals as well. Look for the Dawg to burn up the boards in the kilo. However well he does, no one will have more fun at nats than Hockey Stick. Guaranteed.
Goofball alert: Every Saturday the cream of the South Bay crop has been rolling out PCH to the Rock at Point Mugu in search of MT4 fitness and general fun. 100-plus miles, steady pace, and the occasional Freddy who has to be disciplined. 10/1 at 6:00 a.m. from the center of the known universe, a/k/a MBSB. Knoll, DP, Iron Mike, and one or two others do the honors.
Trading mush for asphalt: Local hammerhead, star shaper, first-rate guitarist, and missing tooth surfer boy showed up for the Pier Ride this morning. Everyone loves Raymond, but everyone really loves Danc, furry legs and all.
Go ’til you blow: Gooseman lit it up on the Parkway for 3 minutes at 30mph trying to haul in King Harold and his erstwhile breakaway partner. The explosion was seen as far away as Riverside. That boy never met a futile effort he didn’t like!
Chief returns to happy hunting grounds: JK is back from his Boys on the Loose in Utah walkabout, where participants stagger through the sagebrush on peyote for four days until they see a vision, after which they receive their name. “Two Dogs Fucking While the Trash Blows By” was deemed unfit for a man of his stature, so we’re keeping “The Chief” until next year.