October 17, 2014 § 7 Comments
The alarm went off at 4:00 AM. I had barely recovered from the NPR thrashing of the day before, and hurriedly gulped my coffee in order to make the 6:30 start time of the Thursday SPY ride in Encinitas. In addition to my busy pro masters off-season group ride schedule, which would be a big part of my resume for the coming year, I also had some serious business matters to attend to regarding a couple of employees who live and work for my firm in North County San Diego.
The ride started gently but finished like every grisly airplane accident: Body parts strewn about the asphalt, muffled groans of the survivors, and horrified looks of impending death carved into the ghoulish faces of the dead. The raging attacks of Abate, Full-Gas Phil, Dandy, Stefanovich, MMX, and Smasher reduced the 50-strong group to less than ten riders at the end.
After the ride, Abate, Smasher, and I pedaled around aimlessly until we found donuts. A fat, greasy, sugary bag of dough later we pedaled some more and said good-bye. I still had my serious business matter on my mind, and it wasn’t going to be pleasant. My associates had frankly been under-performing in some key metrics. Although we’d had a number of performance reviews, nothing changed.
Oliver would always say, “Yes, sir, I understand, I’ll start doing [ ---- ] right away,” but he never did.
Stanley, on the other hand, would want to debate things. “That’s not how it happened,” or “You need to take into consideration the fact that … “
It was very frustrating to have these guys collecting a paycheck and refusing to do what they were told. Very frustrating. And since they’d been with me for a couple of years, and I’d invested considerably in their training, it was going to be hard to let them go.
“What should I do?” I asked Smasher.
“You should have a beer.”
“It’s 8:45 AM.”
“Okay, then you should have two.”
“Only a terrible alcoholic would have beer before nine o’clock, and only a hideously terrible alcoholic would know where to find any.”
“There’s a little cafe near my place,” he said. “They serve great breakfasts and cold beer.”
We went to the cafe and ordered. The “breakfast” was a scrambled egg in a paper cup and a piece of cardboard painted to look like toast. The beer, on the other hand, was tap-fresh Stone IPA served in iced glasses. After a couple, the employee problem didn’t look so bad.
“Look,” said Smasher, who shares an apartment with my associates. “They aren’t bad, they just aren’t super motivated. Some things they do well, other things, not so much. Focus on their attributes, try to see it from their perspective.”
We had two more pints, then another two, then threw away the cardboard and eggs. “Let’s walk over to your place,” I said. “Now’s as good a time as any to have the talk.”
“Agreed,” he said. Through the fog I could see three or four other early morning customers washing down their AM beer with cardboard.
“What a bunch of drunks,” I said disgustedly to Smasher.
We reached Smasher’s place and the associates were there. They knew I meant business, but no matter how much they wagged their tails I didn’t crack so much as a smile.
We sat down on the couch. “Look, guys,” I said. Then I faltered. “I’m gonna take a quick nap and then we’re going to have to talk business.”
I stretched out on the couch and fell asleep for thirty minutes or four hours. As I lay there I could feel the warm furry little bodies of Oliver and Stanley curled up around my feet, which went from cold to toasty. They snuggled against my leg, repositioning only to increase the toasty-leg-factor.
When I awoke they opened their eyes, then came over to lick my nose. “Let’s get to work guys, shall we?” I said.
They nodded and bounded downstairs. All good.
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April 18, 2014 § 28 Comments
The big day for the 3rd SPY Belgian Waffle Ride is almost upon us. I did a final recon ride on Tuesday with MMX, who is not used to waiting for slow people, but since he was stuck with me for the balance of the day he ended up having to do a lot of waiting. Usually by the time I crested a climb he would be answering work emails or putting the finishing touches on a complex annual report, but at one point in the ride he got so far ahead that when I passed him he was sound asleep underneath a shade tree. I’ve now done the entire course, and he’s slept through most of it, and I can confirm that it’s doable. Sort of. Here are some details that I hope you will find useful if you’re lining up simply to enjoy the day and be able to brag that you finished. If you’re racing it, or trying to win one of the jerseys, dog help you. I can’t.
- Despite its rugged profile and challenging route, this, the toughest edition yet of the BWR, is completely doable. But you have to avoid going out hard, and you have to avoid pushing it on the climbs, and then, once you hit the midway point, you have to really start saving energy. A good rule of thumb that you can use throughout the ride is to ask yourself, “Am I pushing myself?” If the answer is “Yes,” then throttle back, although by then it’s probably too late.
- If you keep a steady, never-uncomfortable pace, you can expect this to take 8.5 – 9.5 hours. The beer may be gone by the time you finish, and the award ceremony which is scheduled for 5:30 will certainly have concluded, but it will have been worth it because the alternative is a catastrophic collapse somewhere around Black Canyon and perhaps a search-and-rescue party as well. More about that below.
- You won’t have a good idea of how you’re feeling until you summit Black Canyon. It’s a 3-mile dirt climb followed by a 2- or 3-mile dirt descent followed by a 1- or 2-mile dirt climb up to Sutherland Dam followed by another two miles or so of climbing on an asphalt road. This road really is a mother. If you’re in the pack fill category along with me, don’t dare push it up this thing, because even though it’s long and hard, it only marks the halfway point in the ride.
- The worst has been saved for last. After Black Canyon there’s a long easy descent all the way to the Bandyweg sand section. Bandyweg is about five miles long and saps the hell out of you. It’s not technical, just soft enough and narrow enough to keep draining away your precious bodily fluids. Once off the Bandyweg trail you have to climb Bandy Canyon, which is not long or very steep, but at this point in the ride everything feels harder, steeper, tougher.
- The final run-in is where you will have to fire off everything you’ve been hoarding the entire day. You’ll do the Mule Trail in reverse, you’ll climb the Rock Garden in reverse, you’ll climb up out of Lake Hodges, you’ll climb dirt Questhaven, you’ll climb San Elijo, and you’ll really, really, really climb Double Peak with its 20% pitches up to the top of North County San Diego. Putting this much dirt and elevation in the final 30 miles will be the test of whether you husbanded your awesome sauce or squandered it early on, say, in the first 5 miles out along PCH.
- For my final practice run I again set out with three PB&J halves on dense wheat bread. Barbie food won’t get you through this ride. Bring something substantial — ham hocks, for example. Eat steadily and stay hydrated. Chances are it will be hot on the 27th and you don’t want to run out of water halfway up Black Canyon. Another Black Canyon note: TURN RIGHT AT THE BRIDGE. If you bear to the left you will be lost forever in the scorching, desolate hills on a dirt track that goes all the way to Zihuatanejo, or to Saskatchewan. Likewise for Bandyweg, watch for the left turn back up onto the main road or you will descend off into an endless network of dirt horse trails that are patrolled by hungry cougars. Not the lipstick-wearing kind, either.
- Lots of people have asked about tires, and my final setup will be on 28mm Continental touring tires at about 80psi. These performed beautifully. The were thick enough and had enough tread on the sides to grip the sand, and they had a smooth enough center so that it didn’t feel like I was riding on tank tread. There’s no question that a road bike can handle this route, and a sturdy 25mm tire will probably work fine. Where my ‘cross bike made the difference was comfort.
- Celebrate the night before, but don’t over celebrate … unless you want to have a really, really interesting day.
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August 10, 2013 § 4 Comments
You can’t be a pro masters racer in SoCal without sponsors. You know, they’re the people who spend money on you for no obvious reason. The people who donate clothes, equipment, and services so that you can live the dream, and boy, is it ever a dream, if not a full-blown fantasy psychosis.
Our team, SPY-Giant-RIDE, bends over backwards to make us think we’re special and to treat us like we matter, even though I’ve shown at 35 races this year that I’m not and I don’t. It has made for a tremendous couple of years as we’ve benefited from the perfect formula for happiness, which is: Swag + Bikes + Racing + Fun + Friends = Happiness.
Here’s what some of the SPY-Giant-RIDE athletes have to say about the gear and services they use.
- Ryan Dahl: I can’t thank MMX and SPY-Giant-RIDE enough for all that they have done for the team. It really is a privilege to be a member. Every rider on the team is an exceptional athlete and person, and I’m proud to be able to call each and everyone of them my friend. On top of the great friendships, we have been fortunate enough to wear and ride the best equipment made. Of course, MMX has good taste and a focus on quality products, and we all reap the benefit of that. SPY: They really are the best eyewear company out there. The designs are fresh, the optics are crisp, and the SPY brand is one that I am so proud to represent. GIANT: You know you have a good bike when you polish it to a shine every night. I love this bike. BONT: I’ve always known Bonts were the best so when I found out they were going to be sponsoring us I was really stoked. They are raw performance; nothing else compares. ZIPP: I polish these every night, too. These wheels are so fast, and perfect in every way. But everyone knows that, too!
- Garnet Vertican: When I think back to last CX season, one of the products that stands out as having helped me land on the podium twelves times was my GIRO helmet. It performed flawlessly in every condition and situation, it weighs almost nothing, and stays in position no matter how rough the course is. The comfort and style of this helmet was top notch. Lots of riders focus on bikes and other components, which are really important, but the comfort and stability of your helmet is important as well. Giro fits perfectly, super, super product. SPY: Love my glasses, especially when the mud and dirt get flying!
- Steven Davis: GIANT: I have been fortunate enough to have ridden some of what the industry might consider the best bike frames on the market, but I’m certain that there is only one “best” of anything. That for me is the Giant TCR road frame. When racing and training, my enjoyment comes during the climbing phases. My excitement and appreciation comes from the way the Giant responds. Stiff, light, aero, and compact would be a few key descriptions of what it provides for me. The Giant is uber responsive to those fast accelerations or attacks on steep grades, then once unattached and free to fly, my Giant allows me the speed necessary to stay away via its aero-prowess. One of a kind technology! BRL Nutrition: I have been traveling on the road, racing since the first of June at multiple stage races across the U.S., and what BRL has provided me with is the ability to recover and maintain optimal health, and to keep my immune system strong so that I don’t succumb to illness. With travel, six-day stage races, different time zones, altitude, and everything else that comes with racing the circuit, stress can saturate your system. With BRL supplements and performance-oriented nutrition, I have been able to push my physical limits and maintain my health. BRL allows me to continue moving forward by taking care of a huge aspect of this sport–health via nutrition. SPY: The frames are light, compact, and so easy to wear. The lenses are crisp, sleek, and most certainly stylish. The company and its employees are irreverent badasses and technological innovators. I am lucky to be an ambassador for such a gnarly group of against-the-grain, unsatisfied with the status-quo, avant-garde trendsetters! BONT: “Performance machine” is how I would describe their shoes. The technology is in place for a cycling shoe that is created for one reason and one reason only: Optimum performance at the highest level of the sport. STAGE ONE APPAREL: Joe Yule, the designer for our team kits, has an eye for the fashionably sensible yet eye-catching in a crowded peloton filled with flashy colors. He’s just got a nose for what will look good, an ear for staying on top of the industry’s needs, a feel that makes the user comfortable, and a taste for what works.
- Damian Stevens: The support from SPY has been tremendous. They’re the key sponsor and everyone they’ve put together from their internal operations to fellow partners/sponsors has been insane. There is nothing but support. No egos, and no BS, except for Seth, but that’s because he’s mostly drunk. Straight-up, solid people who offer the best gear known to any cyclist out there. We’re eternally fortunate and beyond. I’ve never had this kind of experience on a team. To sum it up? Gratitude, and peace.
- Logan Fiedler: This has been an amazing year full of happy moments that have been shared with some of the nicest/strongest guys I know. The bar is set high when you’re representing the lightest, stiffest bike on the market, and if you don’t believe me, test ride one. I had my last “race” bike sold within two weeks of riding my Giant. Having the SPY logo on your jersey has been something to be proud of. No one puts on an event like the Belgian Waffle Ride, no one supports the sport of cycling more than SPY, no one cares more about their racers than SPY and NO other company has a CEO who will make you ride home with your tail between your legs after he rides you off his wheel. Notes from the year: Our SQUADRA kits are badass and better than those worn by most pro teams. Our BONT shoes make our legs an extension that connects to the pedal with the stiffness and lightness of our bikes. They are molded and they fit like a glove. SRAM is just badass and hasn’t mis-shifted or jumped a gear all year.
- Erick Sobey: GIANT: This bike just feels “tight.” When I mount up, the SLR becomes a part of me. ZIPP: My new ZIPP gear bag is my new life bag. BONT: A great way to surgically attach your legs to your pedals. I don’t even remember which sunglasses I used to wear, and now, I don’t even remember that I’m wearing sunglasses because SPY are the lightest, most secure, and most advanced lenses I’ve ever experienced. No sweat marks EVER!! Oh, and they will make you look great!
- Josh Goldman: GIANT: The TCR has been a simply amazing frame. Coming off a Specialized S-Works SL4 in 2012, I was skeptical after being very satisfied with that bike, but the TCR did not disappoint. It is extremely light, dives into corners with ease and confidence, climbs better than any bike I’ve ever ridden, and makes the rider feel very connected to the road by way of the integrated seat post. Thanks for a great season Giant! SPY: Are there any other glasses on the market, seriously? I cannot say enough about the amazing people, products, and community support from SPY. SPY is truly a world class organization committed to its customers and to being the best. After many years with a competitor, I was truly blown away, I was HAPPY with the perfect lens combinations and performance of the SPY Screw! Their lifestyle optics are second to none and everyone in my family loves them! BRL: I am very picky about my nutrition, its ingredients and quality. Endurafuel was there for me every hard ride, race, and final effort, efforts that were so hard almost everyone got shelled. I experienced a substantial advantage with Endurafuel in my bottle and am confident my performance could not have been what it was without it!
- Eric Anderson: SPY: The Cutters are by far the coolest and yes most functional performance glasses I have ever worn. I’ve never worn another pair of glass that have generated so much attention. “Wow, those are cool,” “Wow, those look like my grandpa’s glasses,” and “Those don’t look like other cycling glasses!” To which I respond, “Yes they are cool, yes your grandpa is cool, and these really are great performance glasses.” To be honest, my Screws and Quantas have been collecting lately, that’s how much I love the Cutters. BONT/GIANT: This combination is the sprinter’s delight. I can’t imagine a stiffer combination of frame and shoe. Without any actual data to verify this claim I’ll go out on a limb and say 99.9% of your effort gets transferred to the pavement when you clip into a Giant TCR Advanced SL with Bont Vaypors. One note about Bont sizing, if you use their online measurement method they come in exactly as they say!
- Oliver Stanley: Let’s crush some motherfuckers on Sunday! This is our course! I know we can do this, WM, even though you’re a flailing wanker! SPY: Sweet styles, multiple lens options, and perfectly clear vision with these things. My biggest problem with the SPY glasses is deciding which ones to wear! Favorite right now? Black Cutters with the Happy Lens. They make me happy, as advertised! GIANT: Where do I start? This TCR Advanced SL is an absolute weapon. Compact, light, aero, and responsive. This bike will make any wheel sucking tosser feel like a pro. I climb onto the TCR and I’m ready to smash the pedals like a hammer on a nailhead. It just feels right, every time. BONT: Yup, these are the shoes for me. Little bit of heat forming in the old kitchen oven and they fit like ass-kicking slippers. I came over to Bont from another high end shoe company, and there’s no going back for me. These Bonts are solid; they’re lightweight, super stiff, and mad stylish. I could wear my Bonts all the time. Maybe I’ll get another pair for lounging around the house and heading out to the bars. The chicks dig them. ZIPP: Speed weaponry, indeed. I’m rolling on a set of 404 tubular Zipp wheels and they just work! Great ride quality, super light, yet stiff and responsive. A set of Zipp wheels will give any bicycle that badass look. Don’t believe me? (I’m talking to you here, Wanky!) Pop some 303’s into your bike, stand back, and feel like a badass. Even YOU will go faster. Okay, maybe not you, WM. These tubular 404 Zipp wheels have given me the confidence to get out there and make the break, or jump across that gap and chase down the leaders. I’m not much of a sprunter, but with my 404’s I’m ready to go head-to-head with anyone. The product line doesn’t stop at wheels and tires. My carbon Zipp handlebars are the best I have ever ridden. Great ergonomics, light as a feather and zero flex. GIRO: I love my Giro helmet. Ventilation is second to none. Stylish, yet fully functional design. I really can’t tell that I’m even wearing a helmet most of the time because it’s so light and comfortable, but I’m glad it’s there to keep me safe and hold my SPY sunglasses in place! SQUADRA: All cycling kits are the same, UNTIL you’ve worn Squadra. Oh my, what a difference. The SPY-Giant-RIDE Pro Issue bib is perfect. The cut is supreme, holding everything in place without being too smothering. I’m not just talking about the business parts, either. The relatively low waist band allows free breathing and stays cool in warmer conditions. The pad/chamois offers a comfortable ride for hours and hours, and those long leg bands keep a firm but even pressure on the quads. The Pro Issue jersey is the best jersey in the business. Slightly longer sleeves keep my arms just that little bit more protected and stop the dreaded sleeve roll into the armpit. The material breathes and contours to the body. On race day I bust out the aerodynamic Squadra Speed Suit. It fits like nothing else except maybe a great condom, gives me that all important aero advantage and to be quite honest, it makes me feel like a bad bitch. I would wear it every day, but I don’t think I could quite pull that one off. I’m not Stathis. STAGE ONE: I don’t know how these guys do it, but oh wait, that’s because IT’S JUST ONE GUY AND HE’S A GENIUS. Every season, when you think you have the coolest looking gear, the new Stage One kits just blow the old stuff out of the water. It just doesn’t make sense. I was so stoked on my 2012 SPY kit, hand washing it instantly after each ride so I could wear it again. Until…BOOM! The 2013 kit arrives and I’m all 2013 clad. Poor old 2012, he never stood a chance. Thanks to every sponsor and every single person that has a hand in building and supporting our racing team. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such a positive and friendly crew. To those I have met, and more importantly, the folks behind the scenes that I have not yet had a chance to meet, thank you so very much!
- Jim Miller: RIDE Cyclery: The best bike shop I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing. Service is done quickly, accurately and with a smile by Blaize, the best damn mechanic anywhere. Aside from being a cool kid, Dillon is super friendly and exceedingly knowledgeable about the products in the store, and he’s always willing to help you find something or explain the finer technical details. Of course it all starts at the top with Brent! He’s put his heart and soul into his business and it shows in everything this amazing crew does. GIANT: The best bike I have ever ridden. Period. The experience is made even better by getting to work with the Giant team, which has gone out of its way to get us their great bikes and help us promote the team in a way that leaves a big impact. GIRO: They have been amazingly generous in providing us with the best fitting helmet on the market. BRL Labs: Their products, EPO Boost and Endurafuel, work very well. Bob Gentile is a great ambassador for their brand and I’ve enjoyed working with him. SPY: Hey, we make the best eyewear anywhere, and we’re not owned by some big Italian conglomerate. Okay?
- Chris Nesbitt: As soon as I could start riding again, RIDE had my GIANT bike ready to go. My TCR had only suffered a few scuffs and scratches despite a wreck at speed north of 35 mph with multiple rollovers, a testament to this bike’s build quality. Furthermore, SPY had already arranged a replacement kit, helmet and shades, as all had been destroyed, so I could resume training immediately! While I missed the balance of the 2013 season recovering physically, I am excited to enter 2014 and begin to contribute. With this kind of support and equipment behind me, it’s humbling to say the least. I am proud to represent SPY-Giant-RIDE on the road!
- Harold Martinez a/k/a Critboss a/k/a King Harold: SPY: Best casual and sport eyewear I have ever worn. I’ve never looked cooler in a race or at a rave. Put these bad puppies on when me and the missus get down and it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. BHL: EPO Boost is an amazing product. Not only does the powdered drink mix taste good but it keeps me riding stronger with less fatigue and a shorter recovery. RIDE Cyclery: What can I say? First Class Operation. Excellent support, great prices, top team of mechanics, and that’s coming from a wanker engineer. STAGE ONE APPAREL: Designer of the finest cycling kits in North America, okay, the galaxy. If your kit is not being designed by Stage One, stay home or hide in the pack because chances are it was designed by some junior high school punk with a pirated copy of Photoshop. StageOne is pro from top to bottom, and Joe Yule is the world’s foremost cycling kit designer, which is kind of like being the world’s most famous snake charmer. SQUADRA: Most comfortable chamois I have ever saddled up in, and after 30 years of racing, the twins have been rubbed and chafed by more chamois than I care to remember. I can ride for days in Squadra bibs. The twins love them, and when I peel them off, the missus is ready for a whole new ballgame. GIANT Bicycles: Hands down the best bicycle in the world, okay, the universe. It’s like cheating a little bit every pedal stroke. When I hop off this bad boy after a hard ride and the missus sees me all covered in sweat, well, it’s a whole new ballgame. SOCK GUY: Best cycling socks for my feet! Cool and comfy all day long. I even wear them off the bike, but not in bed. Usually. GIRO: Lightest and best looking helmet on the market. Fits my melon just right!
- Derek Oldfield: For 2013, I’ll be entering into my second year as a SPY-Giant-RIDE cyclocross rider. My 2012 and 2013 experience with SPY-Giant-RIDE has been nothing but frills and good times with strong athletes who push my limits and make me a better cyclist. I really appreciate having the opportunity to be part of this grassroots team and am excited to see the ‘cross season approaching! It feels great when you have the backing of companies that are really involved in competitive cycling. The equipment is the best! Awesome SPY eyewear, killer kits from STAGE ONE and a fast GIANT TCX bike that has made a world of difference at my races! RIDE Cyclery has been amazing as well! Thanks to Brent, Blaize, and Dillon, as they all contributed to helping me figure out the logistics to building the right bike for me! RIDE has great customer service and it’s been awesome working with them!
- Lars Finanger: The one piece of equipment I never leave the house without are my SPY shades. Whether it’s an early morning triathlon (yup, I’m a tri- geek) or a late afternoon crit, their lineup has an excellent variety of frames and lenses that keep my eyes protected and happy. My favorite model is the Daft, in large part because I ride my time-trial bike three days each week. It’s the lightest pair of sunglasses I’ve ever used and the biggest advantage is not having to get disoriented from staring at a frame like you end up doing with other manufacturers’ so-called offerings.
- David Anderson: Last year had so many highlights, but the thing that stood out the most was capturing the Bear. Our equipment makes a difference in performance. If you don’t have it, you don’t win.The EPO Boost by BHL had me floating around the state championship course for 45 minutes and it felt like a mere ten. Performance eyewear rarely works well for racing ‘cross, and I’ve tossed quite a few optics off my face just so I could see what was happening around me. Then came along the SPY Screw (under lens). No fogging, no sweat streaks, no glasses bouncing off my face, just pure clarity. If you don’t think seeing makes a difference between winning and losing on a ‘cross course, well … Wearing SPY was one less thing to worry about, plus they look so damn good. I praise my GIANT bike to anybody that will listen. I always lay out that I’ve ridden quite a few ‘cross bikes in my day and my Giant is by far the best bike I’ve ever ridden. The confidence that I have when lining up for a race took me to a number of podiums this year. The stability and tracking is what slows things down in a very fast and hectic environment. I was taught years ago that you need to go slower to go faster in this discipline. When you;re stomping the pedals after the hundredth hairpin the bike just jumps with every pedal turn. What a joy. Thank you sponsors for all that you’ve given!!!
- Andy Schmidt: I have an extremely flat foot that prevents me from wearing shoes with any type of arch support. In the past I have relied on shoes with zero arch and zero support for riding. Most of the time it felt like I was standing directly on an oversized pedal. My foot would basically slide around if I left the top straps too loose, or they would cramp and go numb from over-tightened straps. Every ride would end in sore tired feet. BONT Vaypors are amazing because of the Super Mold Technology. Stick the shoe in the oven for 20 minutes, then put your foot into the warm shoe and feel it mold. The instructions are simple, and I was a little skeptical of the promised outcome. I followed the instructions and spent extra time pushing the arch down, and didn’t pay attention to the molding that was going on around the rest of my foot. So, off I go on my first significant ride in the Bont Vaypors. What I immediately noticed was that my foot was a single unit with the pedal. I rode and didn’t feel my foot sliding around inside the shoe and I didn’t even have to crank the top straps. More importantly, it felt like my foot was a part of the bike rather than two separate units. In one single ride the Bont took me one hundred miles and 10,000 vertical feet. For the first time ever, I didn’t experience any cramps, soreness, or fatigue in my feet. The shoe has perfect power transfer. That is what makes the Bont so fabulous. SPY: Best eyewear ever. You gotta see if you want to ride well, and SPY lets you see and it protects your eyes. SPY put the other eyewear companies to shame. The quality is the best and the grassroots support for our support makes you appreciate the company even more.
- Wankmeister: Fuggit, I love all this shit. This team is so awesome, and the attitude of “strength through destruction” comes from the top down. My SPY eyewear never leaves my face. Ever. Think about that for a minute. My Giant bikes, I sleep with. Yeah, I got grease marks in funny places. My Squadra kit fits like a tailored tuxedo. StageOne makes me look like a gigolo on a bike. RIDE Cyclery makes sure my bikes and wheels are running perfectly. Lost Abbey keeps me drunk. But most of all, it’s the people. A better group of wankers I’ve never run across, nor hope to.
- Alan Flores: It goes without saying that SPY eyewear is the best I’ve ever worn. Not much to add except that their glasses are great on the bike or off. I was starstruck the first time I threw a leg over my GIANT Advanced TCR ISP. The balance of stiffness, from the 1 ¼ – inch steer tube and massive carbon stem was matched by the smooth transfer of power to the drivetrain, so that all my energy was used to push the bike forward. I raced my new GIANT that following weekend, winning easily. I am not a strong time trial rider, but by taking a long shot attack off the front of the race I was able to maintain a large gap on the field for much longer than I ever have before. That move drew out the best riders in the field to join me the breakaway. The conclusion of the race came down to a six-man sprint finish, in which my GIANT proved superior by taking me to victory. Simply put, the GIANT Advanced TCR is “superbly responsive.”
- David McNeal: Two years ago when I was new to California and to the race scene, and not knowing a sou,l I approached MMX during ‘cross season about racing on the Masters 35+ SPY team with the promise to put the best eyewear in the world on the podium in CX. With an open heart and an open mind, MMX threw me a kit and some SPY Alpha’s without any questions, and thanks to the team’s support I was able to get 3rd in the Master 35+ overall series, as well as win in the Masters 35+ SoCal CX series. I couldn’t have done it without the awesome support from SPY, GIANT, and RIDE Cyclery. Of course, getting to pedal in the SQUADRA kits designed by Joe Yule at STAGE ONE SPORTS made a difference as well. Light-as-air GIRO helmets, BHL supplements, and the best ‘cross footwear on the market made by BONT made me feel like I was a UCI pro racing in Europe. Most of all, though, I’m profoundly grateful to the SPY-GIANT-RIDE team that has helped me make Southern California my new home, and to my teammates who have made me part of their SGR family. And thanks as well to Seth for his write-ups and most of all for the post-race beer hand-ups. I couldn’t be prouder to be an ambassador for this team.
- John Hatchitt: It’s impossible to single one of our amazing sponsors as the best. They’ve all had a huge impact on my racing this year. My SPY performance eyewear has come through again and again, helping me see better, protecting my eyes, and helping me look good on the bike! The first time I used my ZIPP 303’s, I was rolling down the hill from my house and thought, “Wow! These are the real deal!” They are fast, light, and amazingly smooth. I got them with the intention of using them only for ‘cross, and rode them to numerous podiums as well as my biggest ‘cross victory to date, the top step in the “UCI Cross After Dark.” Once the road season started I pulled off the knobbies and glued on road tires. They have been my go-to race wheels all season, with never a creak or an out-of-true wheel to date. My GIANT TCX ‘cross bike was incredible, and of course I love my STAGE ONE kits. Most of all, I love the team. It’s been a blast, and the only thing that’s going to be better is 2014!
August 7, 2013 § 15 Comments
That’s what I was thinking as Punkin moved aggressively to take Zink’s wheel. Punkin had been pedaling madly and never spent a second at the front. Now, just before the launch up the first nasty roller, he had decided that what he wanted was the Cadillac draft: Zink, he figured, was big, strong, and able to tow him to the promised land.
I let him in. “You want Zink’s wheel, Punkin?” I thought. “Okay. Let me know how that works out for you.”
Punkin grabbed The Wheel, and The Wheel surged up the hill with the ferocity that only Zink seems to have in these situations. Punkin pedaled hard, then harder, then started trying to find the right gear, something in between an 18 and a 19, say, an 18-1/2 or perhaps an 18-3/4.
Smoke began pouring out of his ass. His head drooped. Zink beat the pedals even harder and Punkin rolled out of the formation, his left engine hit, his right engine in flames, and the nose already pointing downwards as he began spiraling out of control. We didn’t see him again.
This day had started like every other Big Ride Day. The night before I’d laid everything out, packed my bag, ground the coffee, charged my lights, and set the alarm for 3:45 and then again for 4:00 AM to make sure I would be able to wake up and be out the door on time at five.
And like every other cyclist since the beginning of time who has prepared the night before, I was late. I continually woke up all night, anxiously awaiting the alarm, but it wasn’t until 3:30 that I fell into the sleep of the dead so that when the clock went off fifteen minutes later I was in the profound REM sleep of someone who’s been up all night.
I snoozed the alarm until four, staggered up, fixed the coffee, put on my kit, drank my coffee, and checked email. The next time I looked up I only had five minutes before departure. No problem. I got up and remembered I hadn’t aired up my tires. No problem. Aired ‘em up. Then I noticed my taillight wasn’t affixed. Ran into the bedroom. Couldn’t find it. Began hollering. Woke up the household. Finally found it, amazingly, where I’d left it the night before.
Went to put it on. The velcro strap came loose. Dashed back into the bedroom. Wife now livid. Turned on the light. Wife started throwing ashtrays. Ran to the drawer where I kept random bike shit that doesn’t go in the toolbox but can’t be tossed because you might need it someday. Dumped out the drawer and began feverishly looking through spare helmet pads, extra GoPro sticky pad thingies, spare bolts and washers, extra tire levers, and a stack of decals. Where was the fucking extra velcro strap?
Now my five minutes were long gone. Ran to the bike. Strapped on the velcro. Hooked on the light. Stumbled out to the car. Forgot my coffee. Ran back up three flights of stairs. Got the coffee. Ran back to the car. Got the bike and bag into the car. Now I was fifteen minutes down. The drive to North County would be insane, and it was.
First, my son, ye shall have communion at the holy Leucadia Donut Shoppe
I got to Leucadia with fifteen minutes to spare and hit the donut shop. Then I sped over to the Starbucks where the ride started. I scarfed the donuts, drained a coffee mug, and hopped on my bike just as the ride rolled out.
All of the other riders had ridden there and were warmed up. I was colder than a math teacher.
We set a wonderful, leisurely pace for the first hundred yards. Then Lars the Viking gently increased the speed to thirty-five. Zink came through at 36. Nails came through at 37. Ryan came through at 37.5. Everyone else got kicked out the back, reducing our starting group of forty to about five riders.
We regrouped at a light, if “regrouped” is what you call a gaggle of gagging, gasping bicycle riders whose tongues are stuck in their forks. Zink whipped it up again on PCH as he, Dahl, Viking, Sobey, and a handful of other SPY riders pushed it all the way to Carlsbad. The ragtag group of wheelsucks wouldn’t, or couldn’t take a pull, with the exceptions of Stefanovich and Jim, who both found the front just long enough to remember why they’d been in the back.
“Gee, I’d love to, but … “
As we hit the first nasty roller I thought about all the people who had told me how much they’d “love” to come do this ride. None had made it. I appreciated their wisdom.
One flailer who appeared to be on life support rolled up and patted me condescendingly on the head. “You’re doing better!” he said. Zink kicked it up another gear, I followed, and Headpat disappeared into oblivion. I love riding people off my wheel after they compliment me.
After the endless series of rollers, each of which permanently shed another fistful of gasping wheelsucks, we finally eased off. “This one’s tempo,” said MMX.
Viking, Zink, Dahl, and Sobey didn’t get the email, though, as they stomped off with the enthusiasm of a newly licensed executioner trying out a new Zwilling blade. MMX, Dandy Andy and I were gapped out. MMX mashed away for as long as he could, doing 23 rpm in his trademark meatgrinder pedalstroke, then ceded the front to Dandy Andy. Dandy flogged it like a monkey trying to write kanji and somehow closed the gap. I spit up an appendix and part of my shoe, then caught my breath with a 7/0 treble hook on 400-lb. test line and a Daiwa Dendoh Marine power assist reel.
Thanks to the “tempo” climb and the robotic thumping of MMX, Zink and Viking, MMX closed out the day with thirteen KOM’s and a new course record. I finished with a migraine and a sense of astonishment that on a 29-mile ride there could be over three hundred Strava segments. Dahl gave me a funny look at the end.
“Dude,” he said. “When you were eating the kimchi diet and the vegan thing and no gluten and no beer and only masturbating biannually you were slower than an IRS refund. Now that you’ve switched to beer and donuts you’re actually keeping up. What’s that all about?”
“I dunno,” I said. Then I hopped into my car, dashed onto the freeway, drove like mad to the McDonald’s in San Clemente, inhaled a Big Mac, and fell asleep in the parking lot.
Go big or go home? I had gone big AND was going home. And the next time you get a hankering to find out how tough your local Tuesday morning ride actually is, give me a call. The passenger seat’s always empty.
July 29, 2013 § 4 Comments
How did I get into this? I’m already at Part Five and haven’t even finished boring you with the group ride. It’s Sunday at 8:40 PM. I spent the entire day at the San Marcos crit getting dragged around the windy, hilly course by sadists. Now I have no idea how I will finish this stupid blog. Oh, I know! Bullets! Or better yet, finish the group ride saga with a numbered list!
- Dropped on the climb up Lake Hodges.
- Flailed with Dandy Andy and Hatchetman.
- Laughed at by Surfer Dan as we hit the sand trail because I veered off the trail a bit.
- Laughed at Surfer Dan a few miles later when he launched off the sand trail and into the bushes.
- Obliterated by Stinger, Lars, Ryan, MMX, Zink, THOG, and everyone on the rock garden trail.
- Obliterated by same up sandy wall Questhaven climb.
- Obliterated by Josh, Alan, Lars et al. on the run-in to Encinitas.
- Swore to never return to North County ever again.
Make it to the church on time
My LAX flight left at 4:30. It was a long way from San Diego County but doable unless the traffic was bad. The weekend traffic in the afternoon from San Diego to LA is always bad.
We got back to Encinitas at 12:30. My bike was covered in dirt and sand and gunk and filth. So was I. There was no time or place to bathe before I had to swap out my kit for jeans and a t-shirt so that I could go straight to boarding when I got to the airport.
I stripped on the sidewalk wrapped in a towel. I grimaced at the thought of how the sand and dirt were going to feel trapped inside my jeans on a 2-hour drive and 6-hour flight.
Then I noticed gushing rivers of sweat pouring off my body. I slipped on my underwear. I took off the towel. I used the streaming rivulets of sweat to wet the towel and scrubbed.
Sweat is a great cleaner. It kept pouring off my skin until the towel was a soaked sweat rag. Pretty soon I’d wiped off all the grime so that I was sparkly clean with a twinkly shiny layer of sparkly sweat. There was a clot of sand between my toes that I couldn’t clean with the sweat, so I worked up a good gob of spit and drooled on my foot. Then I toweled the hell out of it.
I suppose the nice families sitting outdoors at the Lofty Bean coffee shop didn’t often see a grown man standing on the sidewalk in his underwear spitting on his feet. Perhaps that is why they stared, but I left before the police arrived.
Next issue: Surfer Dan and Wankmeister swear a pact to never eat any junk food ever again, not even if they happen to pass by a 5 Guys burger joint while ravenously hungry after the hardest bike ride of their lives, and they especially swear not to do such a thing if it would make them miss a very important flight that they were already cutting way too close anyway.
July 28, 2013 § 24 Comments
The great thing about cutting your teeth with Austin’s Violet Crown Sports Association in the early 1980’s was the way you learned how to ride your bike while profoundly high. Although I never inhaled, every Sunday ride featured numerous dirt road detours. Each time a detour passed through a low water crossing — and oddly, they all did — someone would shout “Low water crossing!” and the whole crew would come skidding to a halt.
Out would come the sacred hemp, and these hardened bike racers would puff and suck hard enough to send smoke signals to Oklahoma. It was these rides that made me wonder why pot was considered a performance enhancing drug, because I noted that once everyone was completely high, they would leap on their bikes and ride with a speed and intensity that was, uh, mind blowing. Incredible feats of speed, power, jumping, sprinting, and crazy mad high-speed bike skills were displayed such as I’d never seen before or since.
Problem was that it was pot, which meant the amazing displays only lasted about three minutes and sometimes less, after which the pace would crater down to thirteen mph, lazy conversations would ensue, much commentary would be had on the beauty and unusual shapes of the clouds, and everyone would begin to think exclusively about pizza. Want to ride the Tour on ganja? Really? Go for it, dude.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it sure is fun
Sometimes we would take so many dirt roads that the seemingly inexhaustible supply of drugs would run out, which meant that instead of stopping at each low water crossing we would blast through them. They were frequently covered with water, and when roads were paved it could get tricky because the entire pavement was underwater and the edges were often covered with mud and moss and algae.
It only took a couple of falls to learn that generally the safest line through a low water crossing was the center because that’s where the water was moving fastest and the chance of hitting snot-slick mud or moss was lowest.
We were now more than an hour into the MMX Deathday Celebration. It had started horribly enough.
“Just up here there’s a climb,” MMX had said.
“Oh yeah?” I was riding next to him on the front to show everybody that I wasn’t afraid to go up where the wind was strong and the pace was bitter (it was later pointed out that I was only there for five minutes and it was the beginning of the ride when we were mostly stopped at stop lights).
“Yeah. About half the field will get dropped and quit here.”
I waited for him to say, “Except you, of course.” But he didn’t.
“So, uh, what about me?”
He stared stonily ahead.
The problem with MMX was that for all his soft and fuzzy qualities, exaggeration wasn’t one of them. To the contrary, whenever he spoke he considered his words for their precision before uttering them. The down side of this exactitude was that when he said something would be “hard” or “everyone would quit” or “many would die,” it always turned out that way. But the good side was that, well, I suppose there wasn’t a good side.
We hit the first climb and everyone except Stinger, MMX, and Olivery Stanle got shelled. I somehow chased back on even as the donuts and McBreakfast were chasing up my esophagus. I got kicked out the back on the next roller and flailed by myself for a few minutes until I reached the regroup spot.
The next thing I knew, MMX, David, and I were barreling down a narrow country lane a hundred yards or so ahead of the lynch mob. The road went through a low water crossing. MMX took the middle line at full speed, as did David and I.
Surfer Dan, back in the chase mob, had not spent enough of his early life stoned on a bicycle going full gas through muddy water crossings while choking on donuts, so he took the line along the right edge. A few pedal strokes in, he noticed that he was in the air, moving sideways, with the pavement coming up towards his face at a rather dramatic pace.
Before conking his noggin on the ground he whacked his neighbor’s thigh with his head. Filled as it was with dense and clever and high-quality brain matter, the weight of his skull thumped the neighbor’s leg with such viciousness that it knocked the neighbor’s bike out from under him as surely as a stick in the spokes.
Surfer Dan, dropping into the slime at a ridiculous angle as he set up for the bottom turn, slashed hard to the left and came up with a perfect drop wallet Larry layback. Just as his rear derailleur started to purl, he yanked on the left rail and stuck his head into the cascading wall of mud, getting totally covered for several full seconds. Unfortunately, he failed to make the full barrel as the door closed on his head, jacking his fork up under the mud lip and sending him sprawling into the foam.
Neighbor, who he’d dropped in on, tried valiantly to pigdog the vertical face but ended up, like Surfer Dan, flat on his ass and getting dragged over the reef.
We stopped to count the dead and wounded. Two riders down, one trashed wheel and one mortally wounded derailleur hanger.
Dan had landed on his hip and slid thirty feet through the slime, so naturally he was laughing. “That was fun! I toldja this was gonna be a fun ride!”
“You are clinically insane,” I advised.
Neighbor’s wheel had lost four spokes and was more out of true than a speech on the floor of the Senate. “Are you gonna continue?” MMX asked, and it wasn’t a question.
“Sure,” said Neighbor. “Worst thing that could happen is the wheel could explode and kill me.”
Everyone agreed this was a minor issue and unworthy of further discussion. “What’s the rest of the route?” asked Neighbor.
“The usual route, plus three miles of sand and five miles of off-road rock garden mud climb plus sandy wall of death up vertical face,” MMX advised him. “You’ll be fine. Or not.”
As we applied pressure to Surfer Dan’s severed iliac artery and stanched the blood with a strip of tube, a boot, and a Clif bar wrapper, the gang of jagged-toothed barracudas remounted. Now that hardly anyone was left but the certifiable crazies, the ride could begin in earnest.
July 27, 2013 § 16 Comments
Only one person gets up for me at 4:30 AM. It’s not my wife and certainly not my kids. On Sunday morning, legs still aching from the Donut thrashing the day before, I drove over to rendezvous with Surfer Dan.
He was standing on the street corner, bike and knapsack at the ready.
“You want coffee?” I asked.
“No, I’m good.”
“I’ve already eaten.”
We jammed our two bikes into the Prius and headed south. “Any predictions for MMX’s birthday ride?”
“Let’s hear ‘em.”
“Only one, actually. It’s going to hurt. A lot.”
After half an hour on the deserted freeway I noticed that Dan’s hands were shaking. “You sure you don’t want any coffee?”
“No, I’m fine. Thanks.”
“You gotta be hungry.”
“No, I’m not. What about you? If you want to stop, it’s fine with me.”
“Oh, no. I’m fine. I had coffee and yogurt and oatmeal and fruit before I left. I’m full as a tick. Couldn’t eat another bite.”
I was getting more nervous about the ride. “So how bad do you think it will be?”
Dan reflected for a moment. “I’m guessing that on a scale of one to ten, it will be on a different scale.”
No doom impends like the doom of a horrific beating on the bike. “What’s with these fucking North County rides? Why are they so hard? And why do we keep going down to them?”
One thing I liked about Dan is that he thought bike riding was fun no matter what. One thing I hated about Dan is that he thought bike riding was fun no matter what. “What’s fun about getting your head staved in?”
“Oh, it’s not just that. There’ll be a big group. The ride will start so fast that half will quit in the first hour. Then we’ll get pummeled up hill and down dale for the next three hours. It’ll be a blast.”
We drove a little longer. “You sure you don’t want any coffee or food?”
“Me, either. Plus I hate fast food. That stuff is nasty.”
“Yeah, I hate it too.”
“All those chemicals.”
“Did you know they put arsenic in McChicken?” I said, outraged.
“Can’t even believe people eat that shit. It’s so bad for you.”
“Yep. And their breakfasts are just as nasty. Stuff is made in a trash compactor, spray painted, and doused in chemical smells to make you think you’re eating real food.”
“It’s a pretty messed up society we live in, eating industrialized food like that,” Dan agreed.
We drove a little longer.
“You need to take a leak?” I asked.
“I need to take a leak. Let’s pull into this McDonald’s.”
“There’s no Mac here.”
“Sure there is. Exit Pico and it’s about a quarter mile down on the right.”
“How’d you know that?”
“I, uh, have to take a leak a lot on the way back from San Diego.” We pulled into the parking lot and went in. “Man, that sure smells good,” I said. “I mean, it smells good for nasty industrial chemical shit.”
“Does, doesn’t it?”
“Let’s get something to eat,” I said.
“Might as well. It’s gonna be a long day.”
We each ordered two sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddles (550 kcal x 2), hash browns (150 kcal), a sausage burrito (300 kcal), a small nonfat yogurt to keep it healthy, and we split a tub of cinnamon McMelts. We washed it all down with a large coffee and then ambled off to the toilets where whole sections of bathroom tile were blown off the walls.
Welcome to Leucadia Donut Shoppe
We got to Encinitas way early and had nothing to do. “You ready for some more coffee?” I asked.
“No, I’m good.”
“Me, too. Do you like donuts?” I asked.
“Love ‘em. But I’m stuffed.”
“Me, too. Leucadia has the best donuts in SoCal.”
“Really. They’re sold out by eight o’clock. But I’m stuffed.”
“Yeah, if I eat another bite I’ll bust. Where is it?” Dan was curious and we had nothing else to do.
“Just up the road. We can swing by so you’ll know it for next time.”
We drove by. The windows were down and fresh donut smells wafted into the car. “I’m fucking stuffed, Dan.”
“You should check the inside of this place out, though. It’s awesome.”
“Sure. Let’s do it.”
We went in just as the fellow who ran the place was bringing out a fresh tray of golden glazed donuts. “How may I help you?” he asked.
“One glazed for me. And one for him. And a couple of cinnamon, and two chocolate old fashioneds.”
“And an apple fritter!” Dan added, with a little fleck of drool coming out of the corner of his mouth.
“And an apple fritter.”
We sat out on the patio and ate the donuts. “I feel sick,” I said.
“Me, too,” said Dan.
“What were we thinking?”
“I’m not sure we were.”
“Looks like it’s about time to ride.”
We drove over to RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas. There were about sixty warriors milling around. They all looked ill-tempered, as if they’d been forced to get up early and the only thing that would make them feel better was to smush a pair of weak and overfed L.A. cyclists into a bloody pulp.
“Hi, guys!” I said cheerily. “Gonna be a fun day, huh?”
Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Brent stuck his head out of the shop. “There’s bagels and cream cheese and coffee if you guys are hungry.”
I looked at Dan. Dan looked at me. “I’m fricking sick from those donuts,” I said.
“But let’s at least go in to be polite.”
Inside the shop was a big platter of poppy seed bagels and cream cheese with jam and coffee. We each had a bagel.
“All right,” we heard MMX say outside. “Time to ride.”
Things were suddenly not looking very good.