The city mouse and the country mouse

August 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

Once upon a time there was a city mouse named Wanky. He was snooty, and he thought that Big City was the best place in the whole world. He was even conceited enough to think that one of his local coffee shops was the center of the known universe. He owned a fancy bicycle and only wore designer bicycle clothing.

Wanky had a poor country cousin mouse from Bakersfield named Lem, who had a cousin named Cletus. Although Lem and Cletus were cousins, like most Bakersfield mice one never inquired too closely as to the consanguinity because it often turned out that “cousin” was a euphemism for “illegal relationship in the lower 48 except Texas.”

Cultural exchange

One day Wanky called up Lem on the Twitter. “Lem, why don’t you come down and do our Donut Ride. You country mice will learn a thing or two about how to ride your bicycles.”

“Why thanky, Wanky,” said Lem the country mouse. “That’s mighty nice of you. Do you mind if I bring Cousin Cletus?”

“Cletus? Is he the one with the saggy tummy and stumpy tail?”

“That’s him,” said Lem. “But he would like to come and see what all that Big City riding is like. He don’t get out much, except for when him and me get over to Fresno ever now and agin for chain lube and clean underwear.”

“How often is that, Cousin Lem?”

“Oncet or twice a year, for sure.”

“That would be fine,” said Wanky. “Be sure to tell him that our Donut Ride is the most glorious and fame-inducing ride in Big City. All the Big City mice will be there, as well as one or two Big City rats. They will more than likely gnaw out his entrails.”

Glory or fitness? Glory.

“Will us’n get a good piece of training on your Big City donut?” asked Lem.

“No,” said Wanky. “My third cousin twice removed on Uncle Theodosius’s sister’s side, Jack from Illinois (not his real name), says that the Donut Ride is the dumbest and worst preenfest of wankers he’s ever seen. And he’s from Illinois, so he knows a thing or two about wankers.”

“Me and Cletus was hopin for some training.”

“We have lots of training in Big City,” Wanky said snootily. “You can train with Roadchamp at 3:00 AM and break every Strava record known to mice and men.”

“I kinda think we’d like to do that ride,” squeaked Lem.

“Only problem is that no one will ever see you. You’ll be invisible, eating your pre-ride cheese at Peet’s Cheeseshop in the dark. You’ll have done a hundred and ten with 8k of climbing by the time we even get started on the Donut Ride.”

“What do mean by ‘glory’?”

“Glory?” Wanky said with a condescending squeak. “When you roll out on the Donut Ride in Big City, you’ll be surrounded by rodentia royalty. The Italian Stallion might even be there.”

“Who’s that?”

“You might as well ask me ‘Who was Ratty?’ in the Wind in the Willows,” Wanky said. “Or ‘Who was Stuart Little?’ Or ‘Who was Mickey?’ Crikey, Lem, the Italian Stallion is the most famous rat in Big City. When he shows up on the Donut Ride, it’s Katie bar the door.”

All aboard for the Pussy Riot

“Katie bar the door?”

“Yep. Katie Donovan, a/k/a Razor, will slice you into thin little ribbons of mouse meat and feed you to the cats. She did the Leadville 100 walking all the descents and still finished in under four hours. She even carries around an ego bag.”

“A what?” Lem’s voice quivered on the other end of the Twitter.

“And ego bag. It’s a giant bag hooked up underneath her saddle. Bigger than Dallas, even.”

“What’s it for?”

“She fills it up with all the broken male mouse egos that get shattered on the Donut Ride. Starts the ride empty, goes home full to busting.”

“But she’s a girl mouse?”

“Not a girl mouse like you have out in the country, Lem. She’s a Big City mouse. She’s pretty, and smart, and well educated, and knows how to use a napkin, and only blows snot out of her nose when there’s no one on her wheel.”

“Holy Gouda!” squeaked Lem admiringly.

“But when the hammer comes down, she’s the one with her fingers wrapped around the handle. And it’s all the little boy mice’s testicles who get smushed.”

Lem squeaked in terror. “Are you sure she’ll be there?”

“Pretty sure. And even if she’s not, Tink will be.”

“Who’s Tink?” Lem’s squeak was so soft that Wanky could hardly hear it.

“She’s the climbingest mouse in the South Bay after Razor. Lots of big tough boy mice have tried to pin her in a trap, but the only way to get Tink’s attention is to finish with her on the top of a climb. And none of the boy mice have been able to do that yet.”

Beware of fools bearing gifts

On the day of the big ride, Lem and Cletus showed up at the Cheese Bean and Cheese Leaf in Big City. Wanky met them and introduced them to much of the Big City royalty. New Mouse was there. Sparkly Mouse was there. Polly Mouse, Douggie Mouse, Jensie Mouse, Gussy Mouse, Junkyard Mouse, Friedrich Mouse, Pilot Mouse, and a host of other rodents assembled to greet the out of towners. The only big rat missing was G$ Rat and Mighty Mouse herself.

Lem reached into his homespun carryall and pulled out a pair of pink unicorn socks. “Here y’go, Cousin Wanky. These here magic unicorn socks will give you extra special riding powers. Plus they are so loud and ugly and bright that I will be able to find you no matter how far back I am.”

Pink unicorn power for Wanky!

Wanky pulled on the magic unicorn socks and felt a special strength surge up into his incisors. “Thank you, Cousin Lem and Cousin Cletus!” His long and greasy and hairless tail quivered in anticipation.

All rats great and small rolled out, an armada of rodents more than one hundred strong. Even the evil and nasty Big City police cats and Deputy Knox cat were afraid to approach the rolling entourage of cheese eaters.

Country mice squeak strongly

On the dreaded Switchbacks, the selection occurred with the Italian Stallion, Razor, Tink, Dentist, Stathis the Wily Greek, John Mouse Hall, and Petey Mouse. Lem lasted for a while and was then fed to the cats. Cletus had his entrails gnawed out. Wanky wanked in no-mouse-land after getting his head caught in the mousetrap after the third turn.

Lem rode well through Homes and Gardens, finished mousefully on the Domes, sprunted well at Hawthorne, and dusted Wanky on the final climb up Zumaya. Cletus was honored at a roadside burial later that afternoon.

Back at the cheese shop in Big City, Lem and Wanky talked over the day’s events. “You Big City mice sure ride hard.”

“You country mice are no slouches.”

“My tail and haunches are pretty sore.”

“Wait ’til tomorrow.”

“What was that big lake thing on the left the first part of our ride? Was it the Big City sewage pond? Only body of water that big in Bakersfield is the sewage pond.”

“It’s called the Pacific Ocean, but China calls it their sewage pond.”

“Well, someday soon we hope you’ll make it up to the country so’s we can return the favor. Big City mice was shore nice to us. That John Mouse Hall feller told me where the turns was. And that Polly Mouse feller did the same thing for Cletus afore he up and died on us.”

“I’d like nothing better, Lem. When’s a good time?”

“In December it gets down to the low hundreds. Which is good because the sewage pond don’t smell so rich.”

“I’ll put it on my calendar.”

“And bring some Big City mice with you. We’d like to see if they ride as quick on our roads as they do on yours.”

Crazy little thing called “love”

August 15, 2012 § 5 Comments

High levels of molybdenum can interfere with the body’s uptake of copper, producing copper deficiency. Symptoms include diarrhea, stunted growth, anemia, and achromotrichia. On the other hand, not having enough causes high levels of sulfite and urate, and neurological damage. So it makes sense that in order to get just the right amount, you’d go to Leadville, CO for the weekend, a scenic little village known for its molybdenum production.

What makes less sense is that you’d go there for a 104-mile bike race. It’s located at 19,324 feet, which is higher than Mt. Everest, although slightly shorter than Via la Cuesta (per Nancy). Leadville is an old mining town, which is tourist-speak for “run down, polluted shit-hole that is unbearably cold in winter, too far from everything fun in summer, and populated by people who, after four generations, all look the same.”

It took a visionary like Ken Chlouber, a former mining supervisor, to revive the town on a tried-and-true concept: There’s a sucker born every minute!

The night before the race

Nothing is as nerve-wracking as the night before a big race, and our hero from the South Bay had made the trek determined to succeed. He had prepared. He knew the course backwards and forwards. He had memorized every single rest stop, poop stop, waystation, halfway house, IV drip station, and custom coffin manufacturer. There would be no surprises.

He’d prepared all year to be the best HUB at the Leadville 100, the hand-up bitch to beat all hand-up bitches. It would be a huge responsibility keeping Mighty Mouse and Tree fueled for this epic race, but he’d grown a three-foot beard. He’d bought a crumpled cowboy hat. He was wearing an orange skirt. G$ was ready.

That’s “MISTER” Hand-up Bitch to you, pal

Leadville is an out and back course and has featured some of the finest cyclists in the world, men with stuff in their veins that doesn’t qualify as blood, but can’t properly be called ice water, either. Lance, Levi, and Floyd have all taken on this legendary course, and have set course records that have yet to be struck down by an appeals court, an arbitration panel, or a post-judgment ruling.

The race begins at 10,200 feet. This is twice as high as Denver, but only about one-hundredth as high as Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver in 1985, when I saw the Dead there. Arriving a week before the race to hone her altitude fitness, Mighty Mouse remarked, “Dog, I’m out of breath just climbing the stairs!”

G$, who was there to polish his HUB skills, turned to her that first evening and said, “Honey, I’m winded just brushing my teeth.”

The dawn of the day of the damned

Mighty Mouse knew she was in select company, as she lined up with only 3,000 cyclists, a fraction of the number who’d come out on the NPR the week before to see if Prez was really going to wear a lime green jersey and purple shorts (he did).

She was parked in the third starting corral, with 800 people in front, which, though daunting, wasn’t nearly as bad as Puddsy Osterknocker, who was in the 187th corral and had 2,999 wankers he’d have to pass. Or not.

At the start of the race a wanker on a purple bike with skinny tires, a month of razor stubble, triple that amount of B.O., and a big booger stuck to his mustache turned to Mighty Mouse and said “This is going to be an epic day!” She closed her eyes and prayed that she wouldn’t fall off a cliff, and if she did, that B.O. Boy wouldn’t fall anywhere near her.

Neutral start with a twist of lemon and a slice of battery acid

Mighty Mouse stared at her front wheel, body tensed, mind focused on the task at hand as an overwhelming feeling of excitement flooded through her, tingling her extremities and making her think of…never mind…that’s in the Fifty Shades of Leadville, a sequel coming next month for which you’ll have to pay.

The starting shotgun fired, a few birds fell from the sky, and they rolled out on a neutral start through Leadville. For each neutral pedal stroke of the neutral start, neutral wankers neutrally fought for every neutral millimeter of position, neutrally clawing, bumping, rubbing, headbutting, and threading impossible non-openings to gain any neutral advantage for the first climb.

Scrambling and gasping and pounding as hard as they could, the wankoton hit St. Keivens, and the gradual pace fit perfectly with Mighty Mouse’s grand plan, which was first not to die, and second, not to fall off the cliff with B.O. Boy. After climbing a few miles, she came onto pavement only to discover that Murphy’s Law of Bike Racing applies even in Leadville: The crazy/dangerous/stinky dude you’re most desperate to avoid in the 3,000-strong peloton is the wanker you’ll be with the entire race.

B.O. Boy’s preparation had been less than ideal, and he was hanging onto Mighty Mouse’s wheel making awful moaning sounds that frightened the small children lining the route. She decided to lose the stinker with a fast descent around Turquoise Lake, then pounded up Hagerman’s Pass to Sugerloaf Mountain to the top of Powerline. The climbs were standard 6% grade with a few puddles here and there, until you realize that six percent is enough to turn you into a melted marshmallow after four or five minutes of hard effort. B.O. Boy had found his second wind and sprunted off ahead, but never so far that the awful smell didn’t drift back to the followers.

More power to the engine, Mr. Scott!

Picture a 30% grade that’s about eleventy twelve miles long. Okay, there’s something wrong with you if you can picture that. Then picture the bottom part with hard packed sand, two foot ruts, sharp turns, and no consistent line unless you’re driving a bulldozer. Oh, and the top half is covered with jagged rocks, human skulls, tiger pits, and angry motorists with rifles. You’ve just pictured the Powerline climb.

It gets its picturesque name, oddly enough, from a power line. Those Leadvillains may be dumb, but they sure are stupid.

As Mighty Mouse overtook B.O. Boy, eyes tearing up from the effort, several of her co-workers began the first series of crashes, as they would get stuck in between ruts, while at the same time more skilled riders were rocketing down, more or less out of control (usually more), on both sides of the trail.

The carnage was awful to behold. Wankers flopping on their sides. Wankers flying over the handlebars into the ruts at speed. Wankers tipping over and cracking their noggins on the rocks. It was like the biggest fred ride in the history of the universe interspersed with some of the best, fastest, most skilled MTB riders in the galaxy. It was the NPR after a gravel truck spill, on steroids. (Uh, maybe not a great analogy).

Mighty Mouse let the wankers fold, picked a great line, and pounded her way down. On the downhill she careened around fallen riders, leaped tall trees, and generally got down in one piece. The last time she saw B.O. Boy he was begging a kid spectator for a drink from the kid’s coke can while the child frantically dialed 911.

If it’s called “Pipeline” then you can surf it

Mighty Mouse hit the pavement and sat for a few minutes while the smallish wankoton looked about, each rider hoping the other would stick his nose in the wind. No one wanted to pull.

Surprise.

Putting her exceptional NPR training to good use, she Went to the Front and began stomping the snot out of the limpish appendages hanging out of various male bib shorts. This got the paceline going, and they reached Twin Lakes in roughly 3 hours. To put this in perspective, a normal person would do the same route in three days, give or take a month.

At Twin Lakes, Mighty Mouse’s hand-up bitch churned to the fore, stepping on the heads and internal organs of other, less experienced HUB’s. Blowing into the feed zone at 20 mph it was first hard to spot G$ among the hundreds of screaming people all trying to find their rider. It seemed like half of them were there for B.O. Boy, but even the Army of Stink was no match for G$ in his full-on hand-up bitch mode.

With some HUB’s clinging to his beard, others latching onto his Stetson, he shook them loose with kicks, bites, and scratches as he refueled the mighty tank of the Mighty Mouse.

The Columbine beatdown

This 10-mile, 3,000-foot ascent up the face of one of the toughest climbs in the race, summiting at 12,500 feet, was destined to bring even the hardiest wankers to their bloodied, quivering knees.

Picture a gravel-covered Fernwood for five miles, and then the climb gets really nasty. It goes from gravel to loose rock, to even looser rock, and gets steeper as you climb higher before it ends in a rusty guillotine, under which your head is placed. The blade, dulled from the rust, simply hammers your head two or thirteen times until the agony in your temples makes a migraine look like headache relief. That’s what happens when you run your body through hell with no oxygen. That’s why people die on Everest. And that’s why you and I are reading about this in the comfort of our beanbag chair, smoking a doobie and ordering more pizza.

Mighty Mouse reached down to swig from her bottle, but hardly had the oxygen to swallow. Chewing her GU rubber thingies required so much oxygen for her jaw muscles that she had to do Lamaze just to get down a bite.

Obi-wan Kenobi tells the Jedi that The Force is with them

Just as the Lamaze breathing seemed as if it would induce delivery, Mighty Mouse looked up to see the Leadville founder, the Zen master of MTB, the karmic spirit of the greatest MTB race ever, the tantric sex god who invented the “Triple-hold Reverse Battering Ram,” Ken Chlouber himself, the man who knew so much about mountain biking that he wasn’t about to do this stupid race again, at treeline yelling “Dig deep! You’re tougher than you think you are! You can do more than you think you can!”

Mighty Mouse was so inspired she would have cried had she not been trying to keep from vomiting.

With the words of Chlouber ringing in her ears, Mighty Mouse was able to ride to the goat trail about 1/2-mile from the top of Columbine where she had to get off and walk. And so the death march began. If you think riding a bike to exhaustion is awful, wait ’til you have to follow it with a ten-minute bike push up a 300% grade paved with glass and dead people.

This marked the turnaround! The survivors had their numbers recorded, thanked the volunteers, sobbed on their shoulders, asked where the taxi stand was, and upon learning that there wasn’t one, they began the epic descent down Columbine.

Easy for you to say

Incredible as it sounds to think that 3,000 wankers would ride their bikes up a mine shaft on top of Mt. Everest, it was more incredible when Mighty Mouse saw that, as she bombed down the mountain, there were thousands of people walking up.

Where were they from?

What were they doing?

Why were they doing it?

Did anyone have a stretcher?

As she blew by, the enthusiastic spectatewalkers shouted, “You’re almost at the top!” and “Keep your tires rolling!” and most terrifying of all “Rider up! I’m on your ass like buttfloss!”

After the Columbine descent, Mighty Mouse’s HUB reappeared, handing her food, drink, and a healthy helping of encouragement. She quickly grabbed more stuff, and headed back to Pipeline.

The next ten miles were into a brutal headwind. She was alone. She was tired. She was hoping that Sasquatch might show up and give her a push. She remembered that one mile on an MTB is like a thousand miles on a normal road bike with no air and square wheels.

In the out door, or up the down climb

Part of the horror of Leadville is that everything you encounter on the way out, you encounter on the way back. The nasty climbs are hairy descents, and the hairy descents are nasty climbs. Mighty Mouse climbed the first steep section of Powerline, her legs feeling like Leadville, her lungs starting to burn holes in the bottom, and strange bits of phlegm, blood, and esophogeal tissue coming out her ears

It was now Mile 80, her legs crumpled, and she dismounted.  After a respite, she hopped back on and rode the rest of the way up. A few false flats made the job easier, but like everything else in this race, as soon as something got easier it got lots harder. In this case the flats had loose rock, which made it hard to gain traction.

Down the rocky, technical, terrifying, death-defying section onto Turquoise Lake Road, then another fast descent, and then a climb up the back side of the lake. This was the point where the living were separated from the dead.

With each pedal stroke a mash of agony, Mighty Mouse couldn’t believe her luck when a young, muscular, tanned, fit young Adonis with perfectly moussed hair ran up along side her. “Hey,” he said in a baritone. “Mind if I sample the goods?”

“Smart shoppers always do,” she said as his strong, sinewy, powerful palms pressed against her aching ass. He pushed, then caught up to her, then pushed again. He was strong, and each shove sent her flying up the road, allowing precious recovery before her legs kicked back to life.

“Was it good for you?” he shouted as she pedaled off. “It was awesome for me!”

Hand-up Bitch to the rescue!

Having gnarled her way through one hundred miles of freds, ruts, crashes, hypooxygenation, mental fatigue, and physical collapse, Mighty Mouse had only a few miles to go, but her tank was so dangerously low that she didn’t see how she’d conquer the final four-mile Boulevard Climb. This vicious stinger on the end of the ride was inhuman: lined with the bones of last year’s decedents and covered with nails and soft sand, Mighty Mouse knew her race was at an end. Nothing could get her up this final hill.

In the run-up to the climb she’d hopped onto a paceline, and it was rolling fast, even though everyone knew they’d crack and quit two hundred yards into the climb. And then, there on the side was G$, armed with the Special Hand-up Bitch Bottle…but the speed! He’d never get her a hand-up at 25mph!

Trained as a track star, and the recipient of countless high-speed hand-ups, Mighty Mouse’s HUB knew exactly what to do. He spun and began sprinting as if shot out of a gun. His brief burst hit maximum speed as MM raced by, arm outstretched. She grabbed the bottle perfectly!

And no ordinary bottle was it! This was G$’s last reserve of Ruggedmaxx Endurance IV, which had the effect of slinging Mighty Mouse up the last four-mile climb like a rocket and giving all the men in a four-mile radius erections that lasted for two days.

All’s well that ends well on the Leadville 100, especially if it’s someone else doing it

As she approached the finish line children were scattering, cowbells were ringing, and babies were crying. A feeling of amazing accomplishment came over her as she rolled onto the red carpet. A Leadman himself placed a medal around her neck. She was so happy to get off her bike and be done, especially because there was a cool 85-mile trail ride she wanted to do the following day.

She started to tear up as she realized what she had accomplished, and how lucky she’d been to have the best hand-up bitch in America there when she needed him most.

For him, too, it had been an amazing day, hanging out on the trails, drinking whatever was left in castaway bottles, snacking on the numerous mashed up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and best of all, running up and down the trails with the four and five-year old kids. He was definitely the only kid with a three-foot beard.

After the race, the two champions, each successful in their own way, enjoyed a candlelight dinner over hamburgers while drunken Leadvillains played banjo love songs to their next of kin.

Until next year, all hail the Mighty Mouse!

Heeeeere’s Johnny!

August 11, 2012 § 59 Comments

Jonathan Vaughters has publicly admitted what we already knew, just in time for USADA’s supplemental briefing for Judge Sparks, which will almost certainly identify the eyewitnesses who will corroborate Lance Armstrong’s use of all kinds of nasty shit to win the TdF against dudes who were using the same nasty shit. Want to bet that JV will be on the list?

Too bad he doesn’t read my blog. I posted three form doper apology letters yesterday, and he could have sent in the “apologetic doper” form and saved himself a lot of work. He could have also saved himself some embarrassment. You know, the embarrassment from saying totally ridiculous shit that makes him look like a liar and a hypocrite, and that makes us look like tools for taking the time to read it.

Sigh.

Disclaimer: I’m not opposed to doping

Doping and drugs are fine if you want to do them. It’s a form of cheating, just like changing your line in a sprunt, cutting the course, lying on your upgrade request, entering a race while serving a suspension, racing in a category other than one stated on your license, or telling your wife that you’re not fucking your secretary.

And although I’d rather finish last (and often do) than cheat, it doesn’t bother me terribly that others break the rules any more than it bothers me that some happily married people are happiest in another woman’s bed. In fact, the hacker who beat me out for 56th thanks to his high-octane EPO protocol is probably a much nicer chap than some undoped asshole who intentionally chops my wheel and tries to take me down on a fucking training ride.

Which brings me to my next point: as Michael Creed so eloquently put it, even though doping wasn’t for him, he didn’t judge someone as a bad person for doping. There were plenty of dopers who he’d have been glad to have as neighbors, and other clean athletes who were complete douchebags.

So you’re condoning DOPING? Aaaaaaaaaahhhhgh!

No. But I’m not condemning it either. If you dope in some cheeseball masters crit and win $50, that doesn’t bother me. I wasn’t going to win it no matter what you did or didn’t take. If you dope in some big stage race and make millions as a cancer survivor while viciously destroying the lives and careers of people who call you a doper…that’s different. That’s evil.

But back to JV, and his sob-story about the evils of doping and how we must never again allow children’s souls to be killed through doping. Yes, he really said that.

I’ve bulleted his stupid anti-doping arguments, which he should have summed up by saying, “It’s cheating. Cheating is bad. So don’t cheat.” But nooooooooooooo…

  1. “Doping takes away childhood dreams.” Dude, childhood dreams die with childhood. Life is a nasty, brutish affair that ends horribly for everyone. No exceptions. It’s like the first time a young woman sees a big ol’ penis and gets told, “This is going in there.” Whoa! Major childhood dream massacre! Why should bicycle chasers be exempt from harsh reality? Answer: They shouldn’t be, and they aren’t.
  2. “Doping forces you to lie.” Whaaaat? Doping doesn’t force you to lie, being human does. Humans are liars. Batfuck, dishonest, conniving, duplicitous shits who will say anything to advance themselves. They may also tell the truth when it’s convenient, but hate to tell you, JV, people were lying long before EPO.
  3. “Doping forces young athletes to abandon their sport if they choose not to dope.” Wait a minute…that’s a negative? Trading in your stinky bibs for an Armani and a cubicle at Goldman-Sachs? Sign me up! Cycling is a cul-de-sac, and the only people in it are broken, or deluded, or drug-addled, or all of the above. The more young athletes who give up this ignoble pursuit as a profession and go get real jobs, the better. You can bicycle chase on the weekend.
  4. “Doping can make the difference in the TdF between 1st and 100th.” Not exactly. When most of the peloton’s doped, as it still is, the difference between first and one hundredth place is in your teammates, your tactics, your bike racing skills, the sophistication of your microdosing, and your ability to train far from the testers.
  5. “Riders who refused to dope, and walked away, were punished for following their moral compass.” Okay, everybody take off your stupid hats if that made sense. The whole point behind morality is to do what’s right, regardless of the consequences. In fact, it is only by taking the punishment of an unjust system that morality makes sense. You’re never punished for taking a moral stand, you’re rewarded for it because, asshole, morality is its own reward. Which is the main reason it’s so unpopular.
  6. “We’ve made huge strides. Just look at these Olympics!” No. I will not watch four Jamaican dudes run faster than the rest of the world combined and call that a celebration of clean sport. The only sport nastier than track and field is professional soccer, football, baseball, hockey, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, basketball, horse racing…etc.
  7. “Athletes only dope because they just want a fair chance, a level playing field.” That’s like those dorks who say they want to win the lottery so they can make the world a better place. Next time you see them, they’re broke, drunk in a gutter, and covered in venereal sores. Athletes hate fairness. They want an edge, a leg up, a lighter bike, faster wheels, cyanide in their opponent’s coffee, anything to get ahead of the competition. Cycling was a cheat-filled sport long before EPO, and it will be one long after.

Conclusion

What I really wanted to write about was Mighty Mouse, Tree, Katie, and the other badasses who did Leadville today, not to mention their trusty sidekicks who made sure they were well fed and watered for this grueling event. Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow.

When the cuties are in your corner

July 16, 2012 § 8 Comments

I got up from my desk on Friday and tottered. My assistant gave me a funny look. I walked as quickly as possible to the restroom without running or trying to look panicked, calmly pushed open the door, noted with thanks to Dog that the only stall was open, all the while whipping off my belt, undoing my necktie, dropping my glasses on the washbasin, and getting the last button on my collar undone just in time to release everything in my stomach straight into the toilet bowl.

You know how just before you puke, your mouth starts to drizzle spit like a rabid dog and you get that nasty feeling of “Shit I don’t want this to come up but it feels even worse staying down,” and then nature takes over and it’s a kind of relief and release at the same time, with the acid from your stomach shooting up into your nose and burning like a match…you know that feeling?

I tried to mop up the mess with the handful of paper towels I’d grabbed as I waltzed in, then washed my face in the sink, went back to my desk, finished up with the discovery I was working on, and called it a day at 2:30 PM. By 3:15 I was in bed, feverish, vomiting, swilling lemonade and counting the minutes until Mrs. WM had finished brewing up a pot of chicken soup.

My Japanese Awesome Princess

My J-A-P makes the most awesome chicken soup, and it did its magic so that by Saturday morning I was able to have a light breakfast coffee, bagels with cream cheese and lox and onions and capers, and a bowl of yogurt with fruit, and some more chicken soup with noodles, and a bacon sandwich with some ice cream on the side.

The Donut Ride was off the calendar, so I puttered around on the Internets and flossed the puke out from my back molars, and finally by 5:00 PM was able to go to the store and buy some pistachios and make a run by the bike shop to get some new tires. Two of my best friends were coming by for dinner at 7:00, but I got a text from Ms. Awesomeness that said, “We’re running late; Mr. Awesome is coiffing his nether ‘do.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I texted back “Okay!” and about 7:30 they arrived. We immediately launched into a giant back of chips and homemade salsa and guac and a bag of pistachios and before long they and Mrs. WM were good and drunk. Dinner commenced and before long things gravitated to that natural topic of dinnertime conversation, circumcision.

Mrs. WM raised her eyebrow. “Whatta you mean circum decision?”

Ms. Awesome. “No, not circum decision. Circumcision.”

“Ooooh! Like-a they do on a Jewish boy?” Mrs. WM glanced over at her son, who was staring hard at his plate.

“Yes, that’s it,” said Mr. Awesome.

“Nah, we din’t do no circum decision on our boys, that’s a trimming on the tree but not gonna grow a longer branch. Good gardener don’t trim no tree top unless it’s a gonna sprout new shoots.”

No one really knew what to say, least of all Mrs. WM’s eldest son, who everyone was now staring at his plate and not saying anything. Leaping into the awkward breach, Mr. Awesome came to the rescue. “You know, I’ll never forget the time this lady and her husband came over to our house and she said, ‘Bill has the worst anus itch!'”

The forks all clattered and WM Jr. breathed a sigh of relief. “Now I’m telling you, if your husband has anus itch, that’s just not something to go and tell the neighbors over dinner. I’ll never forget that.”

With thoughts of anus itch and circum decision in our heads, we finished dinner, and topped it off with coffee and ice cream and fruit. By 11:00 I was ready for bed, as I had racing to do on Sunday, and my preparation was complete.

Spin out the legs before the race

I got up at 5:45 and met Jack from Illinois (not his real name) down at the Malaga Cove Fountains. We did a little 25-miler around the Hill, rode up to the Domes, and then I prepped with a pre-race chocolate croissant and double latte. We climbed back up to the top of the Hill, said our good-byes, and I returned home. It was 9:15, so I took the next step in my time-proven race prep: a 2-hour nap.

Mrs. WM rousted me with strong coffee and more bagels, before sending me off to the races with a peck on the cheek. “Why you wanna waste money at a stupid bike race? Last time even Harry helpin you, you got a didn’t never finish, so this time don’t get no didn’t never finish, okay?”

I promised I wouldn’t get another didn’t never finish and drove down to the Dominguez Hills course. First race was the 45+ Richard Meeker Victory Parade. This is a pretty basic offering for all local SoCal races; it’s an event where 75-100 riders donate $35 to Rich so that he can practice his crit skills…not that he really needs the practice.

With a howling headwind on the back side of the course, several doomed breakaways were brought back by the bitter wall of wind. It became clear that in order to become the next 45+ State Criterium Champ, I would need a plan. So I made a couple of charts in my head that looked like this:

Way to Beat Rich Meeker #1
Sit in and Wait ’til the Sprint
Pros Cons
Don’t have to work Have never beaten Rich in a sprint
Surprise Have never beaten anyone in a sprint
Exciting to watch Have never been near a sprint
Can hang out at the back Don’t know how to sprint
Can chit-chat with friends Afraid of crashing
Doesn’t matter what happens in the race Don’t like to bump other riders
Poor cornering skills
Unsure of wind direction
Poor at judging distance to line
Terrible in-pack maneuvering skills
Unclear how to move up in last few
laps
Easily frightened by loud yelling
Tend to brake in all the turns
Often grind a pedal in the turns
Jump to soon
Jump too late
Don’t usually have a jump after
30 min.
Haven’t developed victory pose
yet
Way to Beat Rich Meeker #2
Breakaway victory
Pros Cons
Looks cool Have never won out of a breakaway
Can appreciate each yelling fan Have never been in a breakaway
Plays to my “diesel” style Unsure of what breakaways look like
Doesn’t require a field sprint Unsure of how they form
Unsure how you get into them
(invitation?)
They look very tiring
They look very hard
Rich is a great breakaway rider
Rich can easily bridge to any dangerous
break
Rich can easily outsprint anyone in the
break
Give up easily
Don’t like prolonged pain or discomfort
This is almost as absurd as trying to
win in a sprint

Conclusion: I should not be in this race

After reviewing my table of pros and cons, it became apparent that there was no path to victory. My chance of winning was zero. So the next obvious step was to quit. Two laps had already gone by, and I was the last rider out of about a hundred. As I whizzed through Turn One, planning my graceful exit at the upcoming driveway, I heard an unmistakeable scream: “Wanky! Go to the front!”

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had a cheering section in a bike race, but when you hear your name called out, it gives you wings. The next time ’round I peered up, and there they were were, New Girl, Sparkles, Miz Prez, and Mighty Mouse all planted in the shade at the outside of the turn, screaming in unison, “Wanky! Go to the front!”

Well, there was no quitting now. I had the cuties on my side! And since I was the very last rider in the bunch, all the other spectators could see me perfectly. Forget having to pick some doofus wearing a gray outfit out of the middle of a pack of a hundred people wearing gray. Plus, my little camera was hooked onto the front of my bars.

Now that they were cheering me each lap and telling me to go to the front, there was no way I was going to the front. Each time around I got happier and happier, and this was abetted by the fact that when you are lounging at the back of a 45+ elderly prostate crit, it’s not exactly taxing. I got caught up with KK about his recent hour record. I fiddled with my camera. I sat up and stretched. Way in front people appeared to be working, but what concern was that of mine? All I had to do was smile and wave to the cuties once a lap.

Soon enough, though, it was five to go, and “Go to the front!” became a moral imperative. I charged halfway up the pack. With four to go I advanced some more. With three to go I was in the top fifteen. My cuties were screaming madly, but I had my hands full with the idiots who were bumping my bars, crowding me in the turns, and trying to kill me.

With two to go I was in the top ten, and out of Turn 3 I blasted to the front. A small gap opened on the field (later reports had it at between sixteen and four inches), but terror had been struck into the heart of Rich Meeker, who tried to hide his fear by chuckling. The giant of the peloton was glued to my wheel as we flew through Turn 4, with the mighty Wankmeister drilling out a brutal tattoo past the finish line and straight into the screams and cries of his cuties, all bunched up in Turn 1 and certain that today was his day.

Shortly past the turn a committee of acids, mainly of the lactate party, held a caucus and chose a new candidate for the remainder of the lap. That candidate was called Mr. Anaerobic Respiration, and he was a much slower and more reluctant candidate than the earlier nominee who had so enthusiastically endorsed the Wankmeister for Champion platform, Mr. Aerobic Respiration. The lactic acid committee delivered their new candidate to each and every one of my muscles, including my brain, with a freshly painted sign painted in sharp spikes of pain that said, “Quit Pedaling Now You Asshole Before You Die!”

With the last cheers of the cuties ringing in my ears, I slipped off the front, then back to the first 20, then the first 40, then the first 50, and finally to the tail end of the bunch. There was a sprunt, far, far away. As I straggled across the line in 87th place, the announcer said, “Rich Meeker! State champion again!”

But all I could wonder was this: is the podium’s top step as wonderful as hearing your name called out each lap by adoring cuties? I suspect I’ll never find out.

The taste of bitter, Devil’s Punchbowl 2012, Part 3

April 30, 2012 § 4 Comments

By the time we hit the right-hand turn onto the stairsteps of death, Wankmeister’s golden legs from the previous week had turned to silver. Barely hanging onto the back, I noticed that Ol’ Gizzards had been shed. Fatty the Pimple, the balloon dude with the red outfit and rainbow striped sleeves that made him look like a zit about to pop, was huffing and puffing like a Code 4 cardiac patient.

At the top of the stairsteps my legs of silver had turned to bronze. Fatty the Pimple popped. On the long crazy downhill I recovered, then recovered some more on the rolling section leading to the hard right turn, where the organizers had thoughtfully placed lots of sand and gravel across the off-camber, high speed, right-angle intersection. “Careful!” they yelled, which was lots cheaper and easier than sweeping the deadly turn with a broom. Fatty had toiled his way back on, and of the forty or so riders who had toed the line, only about twenty remained.

As we began the climb up to the start-finish, we passed the giant sign pointing out the San Andreas Fault. Now at least I knew who to blame for that vaguely familiar taste in the back of my mouth. The taste of bitter.

A three-man suicide break was already up the road. Axena had attacked with Purple Parks, and Steelhead bridged to complete the threesome. Our main chase group came through the start-finish, turned left, and began rolling up what is in effect the second section of the climb that began at the sandy intersection.

DQ Louie had decided to bring back the leaders, and the moment he upped the pace my legs of bronze turned to legs of wood, then plastic, then overcooked spaghetti. This was it. The dreaded moment of droppage. The moment when the hardest, gnarliest, most painful and relentless contest in Southern California goes from being a road race to a time trail.

Fatty never came off, which made me hate him even more, and made the bitter flavor stronger still.

Oh, no, Mr. Bill!

On the descent I formed a group with Mr. Bill from Big Orange, Bill L. the Pool Guy, and some dude from Schroeder Iron. His name was probably Bill too, but I was too tired to ask, and the way he hung his head and sagging gut as he rotated through told me that he was too tired to answer. None of them was climbing worth a shit, which made it even more humiliating when they effortlessly rode away from me the third time up the big climb.

As I flailed along by myself I passed C.U. Tomorrow. “Good job, C.U.!” I said as I passed.

“Fuck you!” she waved.

The next chick I overtook was Irish Lassie. “Good job, Lassie!” I said as I passed. “Shut up and give me a push!” she yelled.

The next gal was Gangstachick, who I passed just as we began the downhill. How was it that these three teammates were spread equidistant along the climb? “Good job, Gangstachick!”

“Your advice about wheels sucked! There’s no wind at all! I should have brought my 808’s. YOU SUCK!” she called out as I passed.

By now I had formed another flail group, this time with Cat 4 Shon Holdthebroom. We lumbered on for a long way, with him occasionally moaning, “I can’t pull through. No more gas, dude.” Fortunately, his tank magically refilled after the final turn as he and his Cat 4 buddies left me in the dirt, sprunting up the final mile to the finish. I crossed the line with yet another impressive moral victory in the bag. Dropped, defeated, and spanked by a couple of Cat 4 wankers at the end, it had been another day that began with high hopes and ended in the rubble of cruel reality. I rolled my tongue around in my mouth, collecting small clumps of salt. And bitter.

The real race, for the real racers, however, had ended much differently.

[Tune in tomorrow for “How Devil’s Punchbowl 2012 Was Won Through Trickery, Treachery, and Deceit, and How Fireman Borrowed My Rear Tire but Lived to Regret It and How Mighty Mouse Learned the Importance of Checking the Race Flyer for Starting Times and Never Trusting the Most Notoriously Late Racer in the State to Tell Her When Her Race Was Supposed to Go Off and How Tink Listened to Wanky and How Roxy Almost Broke Her Hoo-Ha”]

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