Turdy France predictions for Stage 3

July 2, 2012 § 9 Comments

Stage Three of the 2012 Turdy France is shaping up to be the most interesting one since Stage Two, which was stupid and boring beyond belief unless you enjoy watching colorwheel puree roll in a big sausage clump until the last ten minutes, when it strings out into a line of testosterone and EPO and the lazyfucks who’ve done nothing for twelve hours dash to the line, cop a pose, and pretend that their win is somehow similar to anything ever done by Merckx or Gimondi or Coppi or Anquetil or Hinault or Lemond.

About the stage

The race begins in Orchies, a French city better known for its two cobbled roads that are used in Paris-Roubaix, the “Path of Prayers” and the “Slaughterhouse Road.” Orchies comes from the Latin word for “testicle,” as the rough roads, paved with giant cobbled flagstones from the days of the Roman Empire, would result in a punishing beating to every man’s testicles who crossed these roads in a wooden cart.

With the advent of Paris-Roubaix, early participants suffered severe testicular torsion from the battering atop the cobbles, and it was not uncommon for physicians traveling with the race to perform lateral “orchiectomies” in the field, often without anesthetic, before putting the hardmen back on their bikes to continue on to Roubaix. Thus the town of Orchies has contributed much to medical terminology and to the lore of the sport.

The stage finishes in Boulogne-sur-Mer (“Baloney on Toast” in English), where the riders will face a series of tough finishing climbs designed to weed out Horseface and Humpty Ugly, while still giving a chance to gritty workmen like Fabs and Jensy.

Note to douchebag wheelsucker Sagan: Don’t even fucking think about it.

The Badger’s picks and pans

This stage won’t win the Tour for anyone, but it will be the death knell for several, as the time gaps at the end will show who’s on form and riding smart and who’s a pudgy wanker now paying for all those donuts. This page of the official Tour site has an excellent analysis by Bernard Hinault. My translation is below:

Riders nowadays are pussies. This stage will strip away the pretensions of the manorexic little body-waxers and beat them into submission. Look for Monsieur Mullet to do something stupid here and miss the break or crash out. The narrow roads and succession of hard climbs at the end while much of the wankoton is still fresh will test not only his ability to follow complex drugs protocol, but his ability to maneuver in tight places. I fully expect him to deflate or miss the key move. If I were still racing, this is the stage where I would attack, take the jersey, and then beat up a few socialist women protesting for equal pay.

Wankmeister calls ‘em

Horseface will cling tough like a dingleberry, but ultimately be wiped off when the toughest climbs stare him in the face. Humpty Ugly? Hopeless.

Darkhorse whose day has arrived: Few people other than his mother and aunt Sophie know the name of Jean-Christophe Peraud, the routinier from Ag2R La Mondiale, and indeed, we have to go back to 2010 for his best result, a case of septicemia that developed after a crash. Tomorrow Peraud will inflame the peloton like his very own bacterial blood infection and lay waste to the weak and the infirm. Watch for a solo glory finish. And yes, I guarantee it.

Odds on fave you all wish would win: Fabs has everything in place to win this sage. He has the fitness. The experience. The cute mangled English tweets on Twitter that keep @mmmmaiko all hot, bothered, and sleepless in Seattle. But you know what? He’s gonna lose. Peraud will follow Fabs after he accelerates away from the field. They will trade pulls to the end, when Peraud drops him with 3k to go. Now shut the fuck up. It’s gonna happen, I’m telling you.

Best of the rest: Sagan, followed by Yauheni Hutarovich of FJD-Big Mat. Why Hutarovich? Because of how much fun it’s gonna be watching Phil Liggett try to pronounce his name.

Finally, a good book!

June 25, 2012 § 10 Comments

“A Century of Paris-Roubaix” by Pascal Sergent has all the makings of a wankerbook. The format is coffee table. The original French has been translated by Joe the Plumber and copy edited by his sister in between jar-shaking sessions while cooking meth. Worst of all, at the outset at least, is the approach to rendering Paris-Roubaix’s history into words, which is done like the race itself, beginning at the beginning and slogging through every cobbled, rutted, nasty, miserable year from 1896 to 1995, listing the palmares of every winner and listing the top ten finishers of every race with detailed descriptions of what happened to whom at which juncture.

But what looks bad out the outset turns into a very solid read.

Paris-Roubaix is really simple

The whole fucking century of races could be summarized thus: Legit contenders, plausible hopefuls, and what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-heres line up to race. Everyone bonks, gets worn out, crashes, punctures, or breaks some weird part of the bike like the handlebars or the pedal or some other part that never fucking ever breaks even when you get hit by a car.

Six racers or less remain with 20-km to go. Some Belgian dude named “–inck” or “–ooy” or “–erckx” wins. Like all great French races, the last time a Frenchman won was back in 1766.

Strategy

Winning Paris-Roubaix is even simpler than describing it. 1) Stay towards the front but not at the front. 2) Don’t crash more than four times. 3) Attack with 40-km to go. 4) Solo in or win the sprint. ) Be Flemish. There. Now you too can win at Roubaix.

The devil is in the details

The real treasure in reading this book lies in the details. Sergent’s annual recaps bring life to the small things that make the race a monument. The dude who first rode the course to see if it was suitable for a race found it ghastly, nightmarish, and undoable, while the man who came up with the idea in the first place thought it would be “child’s play” for any worthwhile racer.

In 1904 they held a second Paris-Roubaix in the same year, only the entire 265-km were ridden on the Roubaix velodrome. What a bunch of nuts…hunh?

In the early days there were controls where the riders had to get off their bikes and sign in; they likewise dismounted at feeding stations. For many years the first big split in the race occurred at a hill in Doullens, and the split there was often the deciding move of the race. It wasn’t until 1968 that the Arenberg Trench made its first appearance. These and numerous other fine points show how the race has fluctuated and shifted over the years.

The human element is as detailed and fascinating. When the first Italian, Jules Rossi, won in 1937, the flummoxed band at the velodrome didn’t know the Italian national anthem, used as they were to dominance by the Belgians and the occasional French winner, so they played a soft, stylish tune that sounded suspiciously like the Marseillaise.

Honey bait

The awesome thing about the coffee table book format is that it’s filled with pictures; fantastic ones. So even though everyone in your family yawns and walks away when you start talking about cycling, and especially when you mention Belgians with unpronounceable names, this book will absolutely attract interest. Before long, they’ll be asking you questions, and allowing you to play to your strong suit, which is making shit up.

“Hey, Dad, who is this?”

“That’s Toady Wampers, 12-time winner of the Tour. He won P-R that year in a 300-km solo break.”

“And what’s this?”

“That’s the finish line in Helsinki. One year they raced from Madrid to Helsinki, all on cobbles. Everyone died. It was very sad.”

Finally, you can appreciate this book by reading this review, as it’s no longer in print and is hard to find, and when you can find it (I got this from Alibris) it’s a whopping $25. Compared to some of the other dreck in the Cycle Sport reading list, though, it’s worth every penny.

Why Lance matters a lot and not at all

June 15, 2012 § 30 Comments

The lines split clearly: Leave the guy alone vs. Hang him from the neck until dead. Great arguments exist on both sides, and not because Lance is “polarizing,” as the media love to say. The lines split because The Lance Problem is really two problems. The camp you fall into depends on which question you’re trying to answer.

The sporting question

Cycling has rules for two reasons. The first is so that everyone knows how the game is supposed to be played. The second is so that people who deviate from how the game is supposed to be played can be punished. When a cyclist breaks the rules, his punishment will generally be determined in large part on whether or not he intended to break the rules or didn’t intend to break the rules. Hence, André Mahé lost his 1949 victory and was ruled a “co-winner” of Paris-Roubaix with Serse Coppi because Mahé had gotten off course in the last kilometer and had to enter the velodrome from the press box’s back door. At the other end of the spectrum, Riccardo Riccò and Tyler Hamilton were kicked out of the sport for the next 10,000 years for repeated intentional doping.

The sporting question has little to do with doping, and has everything to do with getting caught. You can cheat and break every rule in the book in order to win, and as long as you don’t get caught, you’re the winner. Sports like NBA basketball institutionalize intentional rule breaking as a key strategy. If a good scorer happens to be a poor free throw shooter, you foul him often to limit his effectiveness. In the early days of cycling, classics were won when the victor hopped in a motor car for a few miles over the roughest patches of road. It’s not cheating if you’re never caught.

People who think Lance should be left alone believe that for purposes of the bike race he was never caught cheating. He never tested positive according to the rules in place at the time. After-the-fact accusations about cover-ups and forged TUE’s and pressure from high places and eyewitnesses to team doping will never overcome the fact that during the window of time to protest his performance in the race, he cleared all the hurdles.

Whatever rules he did or didn’t break, your time to catch him is over. The game clock has expired, dumbshit. Move on. If you’re so fucking concerned about the sanctity of clean sport, why don’t you run a few tests at the local USA Cycling masters races? You’ll catch a lot more cheats and inspire a lot more confidence among participants that there’s an even playing field.

The justice question

People in the other camp view this as a matter of justice. If Lance cheated, then he defrauded a lot more than a few bike racers and their fans. He built an empire of philanthropy on a lie. He exemplifies the morality espoused by the most evil people in history, that the end justifies the means. He is a tyrant, and the things he has done on and off the bike strike at our most deeply held convictions of justice and truth.

For these people, Lance’s Tour victories and the way he achieved them are beside the point. The way he has relentlessly attacked, defended, bullied, vilified, and ruined the lives of his accusers makes him one of the truly despicable fraudsters of the 21st Century, especially since he has done all of these things under cover of being a cancer warrior while amassing a personal fortune and cult following in the process. If his actions were part of a conspiracy, so much the worse for us who were wronged, and for him who broke the rules with impunity.

These people can never lay down arms. A fraud and injustice this great goes to the core of who we are. Those who would lie and cheat on a global stage deserve a global noose.

Can we please stop talking about Lance now? Please?

If you’re a sporting type, you stopped caring long ago. You stopped caring because as soon as we began declaring non-winners and putting second-place Pereiros and Schlecks into the yellow jersey long after the race ended, the silliness of system was exposed. We’re supposed to follow the Tour on the edge of our seats for three weeks, celebrate the victor, and then wait for a year or so to see if he gets stripped of his jersey, and if he does, we’re supposed to laud the dude who got dropped on all the climbs and finished second?

You also stopped caring because at this point doping is factored into your view of the pro peloton. You know some people are doing it. You know that extraordinary results from ordinary people are suspicious. You know that just like in every other sport, some people will cheat and get away with it. And you know what? Who cares? Catch them if you can, but please let me sit back and enjoy the freak show and don’t remind me every ten minutes that it’s professional wrestling on bikes. And grab me another beer while you’re up.

Can we please pursue Lance to the ends of the earth? Please?

If you’re a justice type, or, Dog forbid, one of the people named Simeoni or Basson or Betsy or any other of a long list of people who’ve wound up in the Armstrong crosshairs, you’ll keep turning over stones and reading the news with glee and dissecting the battling legal memoranda forever. Someday you’ll write a book. You’ll never watch another bike race again, let alone enter one. You’ll die bitter and angry, even after Lance is sentenced to death by stoning, as you reflect on how he snatched the best years from you, when you were in your prime.

Let Wankmeister help

I believe that we can have the best of both worlds. We can keep following the sport that fascinates us and we can keep acknowledging that some of the feats performed by professionals are truly remarkable. We can pay some homage to the freaks, and sniff the occasional jock when the opportunity presents itself. We can also laugh at the athletes a little bit, knowing that, like you and me, they’ll cheat from time to time.

I also believe that we can recognize that the Lance Affair is something that has taken on a life of its own. Its scale and scope, the sheer number of people affected, and the arenas of sport, policy, healthcare, law, and politics that are involved mean that it has transcended the small, insignificant, and inbred world of competitive cycling from whence it came. The Lance Affair is now about the grand movements of the legal armies, the USADA armies, the cancer survivor armies, the political armies, the media armies, and the army of public opinion.

Life has finally gotten around to imitating fiction: Lance’s story is truly not about the bike, and hasn’t been for a long time. Long live the greatest Tour rider ever, RIP Lance.

Your bike outfit looks like dogshit. Other than that, it’s fine.

May 17, 2012 § 13 Comments

Okay, so when people want to know what to wear, Wankmeister isn’t on speed dial. I get that. But I do know a thing or two about fashion. Just because I always wear that black t-shirt, ratty jeans, and those Vans with the holes in the back doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s what.

What’s What

For example there’s a difference between chick fashion and dude fashion. Chick fashion follows “TPO,” which means “Take my Panties Off.” Dude fashion follows “FOMI,” or “Focus On My Income.”

In other words, chick fashion is sexy, whereas dude fashion is all about brand recognition and money. Cycling fashion, however, is a unique blend. Tight, slinky, revealing stuff that is also designed to make you remember names and buy shit while hopefully not drawing too much attention that your junk is really tiny. Cycling clothes were gay before gay was the new straight.

Got that? Good.

A brief history of cycling fashion

A long time ago, cycling fashionistas wore wool shorts with real leather pads that scrunched up around your groin and acted as involuntary butt wiping rash inducers. You’d pull off the shorts along with a pound or two of brown crud. Yeccch.

Shorts were black. Shoes were black. Socks were white. Jerseys had a couple of sponsors’ names in big letters. Primary colors all the way, except for the occasional gay Italian ice cream sponsor who liked lime green and purple.

And that was pretty much fuckin’ it.

Modern cycling fashion

Then someone realized that plastic fabric was better than wool. It tore up easier. It was less comfortable. It didn’t breathe at all. And the synthetic chamois was originally a variant of sandpaper. But unlike wool, when you sweated it didn’t smell like an old tampon. So it prevailed.

The other thing that happened with cycling fashion is Adobe Illustrator. Every moron with a computer now had a 56-million color palette and the template for a bike outfit. At about the same time, local clubs realized that they could defray some of their beer money by selling ad space on their kits.

Real estate became scarce. Good taste became scarcer. Legit fashion and design skills became extinct. Pro and amateur teams alike wore whatever vomit some junior high school pre-accounting major with a laptop threw together. Design wasn’t an afterthought. It was an afterbirth.

Rewarding ugliness

Bicycling magazine recently posted a list of the best cycling kit designs in the Amgen Tour of California. It’s a shame that so little thought went into the piece, which could have shed light on some of the mechanisms behind the grotesquely ugly kits that generally blotify the pro and amateur pelotons, not to mention the “ride jerseys” and club outfits that litter our beautiful California landscape.

As a public service announcement, I’ve decided to review their list and comment on it. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I can sum it up thus: Get Joe Yule and StageOne to design your stuff. It’s really that simple.

1. Black proves you can’t design

“These lads know how to dress. Black jersey, black shorts, and stealthy black bikes—it’s all so punk-rock.” Uh, are you fucking kidding me? Black is the ultimate non-test of design. ANYTHING looks good in black. It’s the default color for slimming a double-wide butt, for repositioning curves that are in the wrong places, and for lifting saggy belly lumps that belong above the belt line…Black is such an addicting and easy color to design and dress with that once you get used to it, it’s hard to wear anything else, kind of like a vampire. But the problem isn’t that it’s “punk rock,” it’s psychotically depressing. It’s what people wear to funerals. It’s the color of religious clothing, judges’ robes, executioners’ masks, Ozzie Osbourne. Worst of all, it demonstrates zero design skill, because it goes with anything. Black bike. Black helmet. Black jersey. Black tires. Black deep dish rims. An occasional red highlight if you like the police car look, or a yellow one if you fancy bumblebees. Boom. You’re done. For cycling, as a design motif black sucks because it’s a slow and boring color. That’s bad, because for spectators, cycling is already a slow and boring sport. You want excitement on two wheels? Watch a fucking formula motorcycle race or some dirt bike action. Manorexic weenies with spindly arms who are clad head to toe in slow black women’s clothing? I’d almost take NASCAR. Almost.

2. If you’re even thinking about Orange, you’d better be nicknamed “G$”

“Those orange stripes! So swoopy! Swoopy is good, in case you were wondering. An orange and black pairing often evokes thoughts of Halloween, but on these Optum Orbeas, orange and black mean fast and stylish” Wow. Someone really wrote that, someone who supposedly wasn’t smoking a crack pipe. Her name is Jen See. Jen, the orange stripes aren’t “swoopy, swoopy.” They’re buttlicking ugly, especially with the lightened orange squares and slashes blended in with the regular orange. The other problem with this nasty looking kit is that you can hardly read the sponsors’ names even in a still photo. Are we really supposed to tell what this says at 35mph? Which brings us to the “money and brand” part of the design package. On a pro bike kit, you sure as shit better be able to read the sponsors’ names. And what brand of LSD was it that suggested the black/white/orange combo would look good with…green lettering…yellow shoes…bright red bottle? Kill the mutant now, doctor, before it spreads.

3. Everything looks good on a winner, right? Wrong.

“Does it matter what color a four-time Paris-Roubaix winner wears? The sea-foam and white jerseys are paired with black shorts—never a bad choice.” Actually, Jen, sea-foam is always a bad choice, unless you’re in a Jello marketing focus group or unless you happen to actually be an ocean. This color is so fucking ugly that it wasn’t even popular during the 70’s disco boom. The idea that winning makes everything pretty is doubtlessly true if your objective is to give Tornado Tom a fangirl fucking, but all the pave trophies piled up in a heap don’t make sea-foam green anything other than fugly. The epaulettes, arguably the most valuable real estate on the kit, have a tiny-ish red “S” for Specialized and a completely illegible scrawl for “innergetic,” along with some squiggly shit on the world champion sleeve striping. Poisonest of all, the sea-foam is really similar to the Astana “Blood Doping Blue” made famous by Vino, Tainted Meat, and a whole host of crooked drug cheats. When all you’ve got is a nasty coke habit like Tom, you don’t want to wear colors associated with dopers.

4. Garmacuda was styling when Jen See was still calling pale orange “swoopy”

“But with this year’s kit, the Garmin-Barracuda boys have hopped on the style train.” Jen has dealt out a true left-handed compliment, but at least she gets that the Garmacuda kit designed by Joe Yule is badass. In fact, Garmacuda has been on the “style train” from its inception. The last two years in particular have seen forceful, noticeable color combinations that do an extraordinary job of highlighting sponsors’ names and looking fantastic. This is shit you’d wear to a job interview. To a first date with a rich girl. To your fucking wedding. And it’s not “swoopy.” It’s “leg rip-offy,” Jen.

5. Your kit is boring and blah, but I love your Pinarello.

“How did Bissell get on the most stylish list? Two words, my friends: Pinarello and Campagnolo.” At first I thought, “Shit, this girl is funny.” Then I realized she was serious. Yep. Your kit is stylish because of your bike frame and your Campy gruppo. So, like, you could just ride naked. Jen, honey, your LinkedIn profile says you fucking went to Claremont College, Georgetown University, UCSB, you have a Ph.D., you speak French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch…and your critical analysis calls the Bissell kit stylish because of the BIKE FRAME? Our country is so fucking doomed it’s not even funny. Note to the computer programmer who designed the Bissell kit: That red and white swooshy thing on the ass that looks like a tuning fork or a toothless barracuda’s jaws…drop me a line when you finally figure out what the fuck it’s supposed to be. Thanks.

6. Just because it’s a color doesn’t mean it looks good

“Quite simply, this team oozes style from head to toe…Liquigas is all about color, lime green to be exact. The color isn’t for everyone, but the men of Liquigas totally own it.” No, Jen. The men of Liquigas don’t “own it.” They are contractually obligated to wear it. There’s a difference. You are sort of right when you say lime green isn’t for everyone, but to get it exactly right you should probably say “lime green isn’t for anyone.” For starters, it’s a total JOC, or “junk outline color” as we say in the trade. This means that it totally highlights each dip and curve of your package. For bike racers, who are scrawny little fellows with scrawny little toolboxes, that’s bad. Lime green doesn’t go with anything, but it especially doesn’t go with blue. Now I know what you’d say, Jen: “Does it matter what a four-consecutive-stage winner of the ATOC wears?” And again, we’d say, uh, yeah, it matters. Like, it really matters. And if you don’t believe me, try googling images for something called “Mapei.”

And when you get around to looking at the rest of the peloton, check out Spider-Tech. Shoulda been number two, after Garmacuda. Ciao, baby.

Softmen and the kittens of Flanders

April 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Early yesterday morning, California time, the hardmen were fighting for glory on the roads to Roubaix as the heir to the mantle of “Lion of Flanders” equaled Roger deVlaeminck’s four wins in the Hell of the North.

As Tom Boonen rode a star-studded field of classics specialists off his wheel in a stunning attack 50km from the finish, a different group of cyclists, still bleary from the early hour, sat around the TV at StageOne Sports World HQ in Redondo Beach. Cheeks pooching out with chewy, tender, sugary muffins, tummies expanding just a tad bit further with each swallow of the buttery croissants, we, the softmen of SoCal, represented the kittens of Flanders. At our feet bounded Zeke the Wonder Dog, snarfling up whatever scraps hit the floor, clearing the table with his 40-lb. tail, nuzzling the crotches of the embarrassed ladies, emitting periodic blasts of wonderdogfarts, and feeling generally pleased that so many people had showed up at such an early hour to scratch his back, rub his head, and titillate his olfactories.

Thoughts determine words. Words determine actions. Actions determine character.

The only thing that anyone with a brain could possibly think after watching Boonen’s tour de force was, “I’m a weak pussy.” In that vein, our small group that included Sparkles, Junkyard, Toronto, Big Bowles, Hockeystick, and VV pedaled up to Malaga Cove to hook up with the Wheatgrass Ride.

We met up with Iron Mike, Clodhopper, Wild Carrot, Ihatetherain, Mephistostaphipapadopoulous, Nimrod, Canyon Bob, Pilot, Sumo, Cutiepies, Psycho Mike, Dutchy, and Fishnchips. And although we were prepared for an epic pedal, we weren’t prepared for the tire.

By tire, I mean Big Bowles’s tire. We had started the pell-mell dash towards the glass church, with Clodhopper bulling away on the downhill like a giant load of dirt that had been dumped off a cliff. Clodhopper’s former self is a waif-like shadow of his current self, as sitting on his wheel is affectionately known as the “Cadillac draft.” The only down side is his backside, which peers out from beneath the threadbare lycra shorts whose expiration date passed in ’97 to reveal the unblinking evil eye of Mordor, so awful to look at but from which it is so impossible to avert your gaze.

Why it’s worthwhile to endure the stare of the hairy eye

In addition to the gigantic swath he cuts through the wind, Clodhopper is a great wheel because when the going gets nasty, no one can suffer like he can. Beneath the layers of walrus-ite and packed into the chest cavity of this enormous lunk are the heart and lungs of a former world record holder in the 1600m relay. You can see the video here.

Now I know that you’re really proud of that podium in the Cat 4’s, and I know that it really meant a lot when you got that colorful jersey in the masters road race, but can we please put your lameness in perspective? Clodhopper once held the fastest time over 1600 meters ever recorded by any human being who ever ran.

Unlike bicycling, which is available at the elite competitive level only for people who can afford to spend on their bicycle a sum equal to the average annual income of the average human being in 2012, running is available to everyone with two legs. Whereas the competitive pool for cycling is a tiny genre within a microscopic niche inside a practically invisible crevice, the competitive pool for runners puts the poorest on a par with the richest. Got legs? You can play the game.

So you can forgive (maybe) Clodhopper’s pennypinching on the shorts, you can forgive his slightly expanded waistline, and most of all, you can appreciate the strength, power, and ability to suffer of this pedal-mashing, hairy-assed, cupcake-snorting leviathan.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

As Clodhopper drove us through Portuguese Bend, the ragged line of desperate wheelsucks clawed and gasped as they clung to whatever vestiges of Clodhopper’s draft were still available after about sixth wheel. And as the menu always dictates, Big Bowles had found shelter against the wind nestled in behind the portly protection of Fishnchips.

This time, however, Big Bowles’s recipe for survival hit a snag. The protection afforded by Fishnchips’s posterior was so vast that it blocked out Big Bowles’s view of the road. It blocked the shoulder, the hillsides, the Pacific Ocean, and, if you had sat behind him long enough, it would have eventually caused a solar eclipse, so total, wide, and complete was the gigantitude of the Welshman’s gluteus maximus fatticus.

Somewhere near the turnoff to Artiste’s house, everyone swerved to avoid a giant piece of asphalt lying atop the tarmac. Big Bowles, blinded by the hugeormity of Fishnchips, discovered the asphalt piece by striking it at 32 mph with his front wheel. Oh, how quickly the joys of a snug draft turn to terror and destruction! He managed not to crash, and for a brief moment those who hadn’t cared enough to alert him to the asphalt voiced concern regarding his wheel. “You okay, dude?” they asked just before they accelerated over the final hump, dropping him completely.

“I’m fine,” Big Bowles wailed. “These are self-sealing tubeless tires!”

There is no such thing as a self-sealing bicycle tire

The romp up by the Glass Church resulted in a shattering of sorts, with me pedaling an itsy bit, Ihatetherain taking a dig, and Clodhopper making one massive, cetacean-like pull all the way to the next-to-last bump. Ihatetherain jumped away, followed by Iron Mike, and then all were sent packing by El Peruano, who had joined us in Portuguese Bend and decided to put the group to the sword.

I sucked wheel as long as possible before ditching El Peruano and racing first to the sign, ahead of Sumo and Mephistostaphipapadopoulous, only to find that our finish-line “No Parking” sign on a wooden post had been replaced by four “No Parking” signs on metal posts. I reached the first sign and sat up, declaring victory.

By the time Big Bowles limped up to the group, his self-sealing tire wasn’t sealing all that great. “Gimme a shot, Bobby,” he said to Canyon Bob, who always carries a hand pump so that he can bail out the other wankers who use all twelve C02 cartridges on their first flat. Canyon Bob gave him the shot, and Big Bowles’s self-sealing tire continued its leaking frenzy.

“What’s with this darned thing?” Bowles asked. “I’d better go ahead and put in a tube. These tubeless tires can be ridden with a tube if you have to. They’re pretty cool that way.”

What was with that darned thing

The next thing I knew, Big Bowles had taken off the wheel and removed the tire from the rim, and the green slime tire sealant was covering his hands, quickly spreading to his face and then even his feet so that he looked like Brer Rabbit cagefighting with the Green Tar Baby from Mars.

The green slime sealant picked up bits of glass, rock, gravel, dirt, gum wrappers, cigarette butts, used condoms, and even an old gas cap, so that by the time Big Bowles was finished with the surgery he looked like a punk rock Christmas tree. We stuck him back on his bike and continued the plod up Hawthorne.

Clodhopper and I got mostly up the climb and then pulled over next to the bus stop across from the Ralph’s to wait for the others. As we stood there, up whizzed one of those Chevy’s that they made to look like a PT Cruiser, only with better velour seats. Out jumped a fellow in a three-piece suit and red necktie, stopping his car smack in the lane of traffic, and dashed over to the trash can next to the bus stop.

After a few quick rustles and dives, he ran back to his car, hands filled with a few bottles and a couple of cans. “That’s a hard way to earn seven and a half cents,” I marveled.

“After subtracting the cost of gas he’s losing money,” mused Clod. “Massively.”

We watched as the PT Chevy zoomed up to the next bus stop and repeated his cash collection, marveling at how unbelievably cheap and poor the rich people were in RPV, and how you’d never see such a thing in PVE, as they do it late at night.

After a while we got to the Jamba Juice, where Iron Mike and Psycho Mike treated everyone to multiple rounds of wheatgrass, a foul concoction that “cleanses the blood,” which is another way of saying that your turds are bright green for the next few days.

Psycho Mike had brought along a buddy, Cap’n Jim, pilot of a San Pedro tugboat, who almost caused StageOne to have an aneurysm by wearing a pair of Bike Palace shorts and a white/green/brown jersey that had the outline of a human skeleton (front and back) with all the organs in perfect Gray’s Anatomy placement.

We savored our wheatgrass, and called it a day. Big Bowles called a cab.

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