Cross face

November 10, 2014 § 5 Comments

It’s always a good idea to pre-ride the course if you can. I sneaked onto the dirt climb and liked it. It was long and not too steep, sure to wear people out who had to do six laps around the 1.7-mile circuit. I came to a whoopty, and rolled down and up the far side with no problem. Then there came a second whoopty, deeper and steeper. “No problem,” I confidently grinned to myself just as the front wheel smashed against the far side and came within inches of pitching me head-first into the wall.

A nice red blob oozed out of my ankle as I came out the other side, hands shaking from the nearly catastrophic falling-off-bicycle-incident.

The far side of the course had been designed to take into account each of my many inner fears. The first was a long patch of soft, downhill sand chopped in half by a gravel pit. I sailed over it, wildly veering from tape to tape but staying upright. Then the course took a hard right through a deep sand trench that dropped you off into a thick layer of mud. Beyond the mud lay the lakeshore, where a wrong turn would result in a bath. I thought about the warning signs posted alongside the lake: “No fishing! Fish Contain Mercury and Heavy Metals!”

After the mud trap there was a soft, nasty sand pit that went on for a hundred yards or so followed by two small barriers where sadists with cameras gleefully awaited my arrival. Over the barriers, you could remount if you were in your XXXXS gear, or push through more knee-deep sand to firmer ground. Oh, and there was a flyover.

Some people get nervous before races because they don’t know what awaits them. I never get nervous before a ‘cross race because I know exactly what awaits. Pain, a few bad turns, and then a solo slog in last place for 45 minutes. As I stood at the start line thinking about exactly where my first difficulty would separate me from the herd, a weird thing happened during call-ups.

“Seth Davidson,” the ref said. I looked around to see who else in the 45+ A ‘cross race could possibly be named “Seth Davidson.” No one ventured up to the front row, so I shambled up, proving that merely by appearing on race day and pinning on number miracles can happen. Whoever was behind me was going to have a serious clogstacle to overcome.

The race started and I quickly gravitated to the back, then the far back, then off the back. At the sandy barriers I’d caught the tail of the main field, which mostly consisted of a giant sausage squeezed into a too-tiny patch of lycra. The giant sausage waddled over the barriers and I hopped past him, which is where my problems began.

I tried to get back on my bike but the sand was too soft to pedal, which kind of made sense since I’d parked in the deepest section of the sand trap rather than over on the edge, where it was firmer. After providing several dozen amusing photo ops for the camera folks, most of whom have by now posted clever and amusing memes on Facebook such as “Exhorts Others to Race: Stands Forlorn in Sand,” I made the bike move. By this time the peloton had relocated to a different county. I was about to get depressed until I powered by the SPY support team headed by Tait, which had already prepared a can of quality beer for me as a hand-up.

On the hill I overtook giant sausage, who appeared close to bursting out of his skin. For a very long time I rode by myself, with sad-faced onlookers viewing me with pity, or contempt, or both. Even my friends were too embarrassed to shout,with the exception of the SPY Beer Squad. With each partial can of high octane fermented recovery drink, I felt better and better, or at least less and less fearful. Each time I came through the mud and sand and gravel pit I picked up a few seconds until another hapless sod, someone so slow and inept and devoid of ability came within my sights. We traded pulls until the barriers, at which time I heard a whirring sound.

Glancing back it was Phil Tinstman, who had started two minutes earlier in the 35+ race and had now lapped me on a 2-mile course in less than forty minutes. The beautiful thing about this was that getting lapped meant that I’d have one less lap to ride around this course from hell.

After the race I staggered over to the SPY tent, where Sam Ames was washing away huge clots of blot mixed with gravel and sand by pouring cold beer over the open wound. “That’s a waste of good blood,” I said. Then, collapsing into the beanbag chair, Todd Parks wandered over and blamed me for his terrible start. “I thought you were going to take me out!” he said.

“The fact that you were behind me speaks for itself,” I said.

Phil, who didn’t look like he’d ridden his bike yet en route to his state title, chatted with some of his peers, not that he has any. “Once I had a big enough gap, I pulled the plug,” he said. “No sense in killing myself before the pro race.”

I thought about that as a kind of reverse strategy, you know, pulling the plug once everyone had ridden off to Mexico, and saving myself for the beer competition afterwards. “It’s an old Paolinetti tactic,” Phil added. “It’s okay if you win by just enough.”

“Hmmm,” I thought, “there’s wisdom there. Maybe if you’re losing, it’s okay if you lose by a few laps, too, rather than immolate yourself to only lose by, say, a few minutes.” Then I thought about giant sausage dude and how he’d cunningly sat up once I passed him. “Wise, wise man.”

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Most amazing and incredible cycling award ceremony ever

October 28, 2014 § 19 Comments

On Saturday night we celebrated the 2nd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards. It’s not often that you get to spend an evening with your best friends, surrounded by mediocre food, great beer, and a six-foot inflatable plastic penis. But when you do, you remember it.

The planning end of things was going smoothly. Over 120 cyclists had RSVP’d, which meant that ten would show up and the other 150 would be people who hadn’t RSPV’d but who remembered about it that morning and didn’t have anything better to do. Those who had something better to do, which was pretty much everyone, did it, only to find out that what they were doing wasn’t really all that fun.

The event was held at On the Rocks, a miserable, terrible place with bad service and inept management that was a perfect match for our bizarre collection of misfits and drunks. Despite having made arrangements a month in advance, and checking up with the manager several times, we got a call on Friday night wanting to know if we were still going to have our event on “Sunday.”

“Uh, no.”

“Cancelling, huh?”

“Uh, no.”

“No?”

“No. We’ll be there on Saturday, like we told you.”

“Saturday?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.” Uncomfortable silence. “Well, there’s a football party that will be going on at the same time out there on the back patio with you but I guess it will be over by around 6:30 or so, so I guess it’s no problem.”

We arrived at 5:00, an hour beforehand to set up, start drinking early, and hang up the Wanky Bedsheet only to find that the football party was a fairly large group of LSU fans watching their beloved football team beat the other team with a miraculous array of touchdowns, touch-ups, base hits, penalty kicks, and impressive moves with their football bats. The reason that the management thought it would be “no problem” is because when we told them we’d have well over a hundred and fifty cyclists in attendance, they heard the word “cyclists” and stopped listening, just like the double-cheeseburger cagers who see cyclists and stop giving a fyling fluck.

Fortunately, we were all used to being treated like shit and being ignored, so On the Rocks was quite the natural venue. The only thing that wasn’t all right was the beer, which we’d ordered in advance.

“You have our two kegs?” I asked.

“What kegs?” asked the manager.

“The ones I ordered.”

“Oh, those. You didn’t bring them with you?” It was a novel response, really, and took a pretty clever wit to ask a guest to your bar if he’d brought his own kegs.

But I had to say, “No. I don’t usually travel with my two, 100-pound aluminum beer kegs unless I’m on my bicycle, and tonight I drove.”

Six or seven IQ points rallied across the thick forehead of the manager, who then said, “Well, I think I may have a couple in the back.” Quite a relief it was, to know that a sports bar had beer, so I paid for the kegs and got to work immediately emptying them. Since we weren’t paying a room fee, I was underwriting the cost of the kegs and the bar would make its money by charging $2 a glass — a great deal for the riders who’d get to guzzle premium Strand Brewing Co.’s 24th Street Ale for a couple of bucks, and a great deal for the bar, who would sell two kegs guaranteed and get to keep whatever didn’t get drunk.

The bar was very happy at this clever deal because as the cyclists trickled in, among them Smasher and Boozy, it was obvious that this wasn’t a crowd that could put much of a dent in two full kegs of six-percent beer. Had the manager Googled Smasher and Boozy he would have known that the only thing he’d have left in his kegs by the end of the night was oxygen.

Shortly thereafter the swag wagon from SPY Optic showed up, carting huge boxes of t-shirts, gimme caps, stickers, wristbands for the beer, and several thousand dollars’ worth of their best performance eyewear to hand out to award recipients. The t-shirts were for the entire staff of On the Rocks, including the kitchen staff, so we could fly the SPY colors throughout the bar.

One by one the classy employees at On the Rocks came over, picked up the t-shirts and caps, then went into the back and stuffed the swag into their purses. Niiiiiiiice!

Finally, New Girl arrived with a giant cake that was bigger than Dallas and decorated with a Wanky Awards motif because nothing tastes better with beer than cake. It was, after the six-foot penis and the martini glass with a plastic penis inside courtesy of Pablo, the most awesome prop of the evening, and unlike the penises, it tasted great.

As things were getting underway, the giant inflatable penis was wreaking havoc with planning, as no one could get it properly blown up. One after another, valiant cyclists with giant lungs would wrap their lips around the giant penis and blow, but to no avail. Finally a man among men, none other than A-Trav, took over, stuffed the cock into his mouth, and blew it like no cock has ever been blown (up) before. With the big dick swollen and standing tall, the party could begin.

Unlike the inaugural awards in 2013, when everything was completely made up on the spur of the moment, the level of high expectations for 2014 had meant that I’d meticulously scripted the entire event and left no detail unplanned. However, in the two hours before we started handing out the awards, I was forced to consume too many fermented recovery drinks, and forgot what I was supposed to say or do.

As I staggered to the front and the PA system was ignited, it turned out that there was nothing to worry about. The LSU fans were so busy screaming and roaring and bucking each other in the futt that nothing anyone said over the PA could be heard beyond the first row of attendees. We began by honoring the awardees from 2013, a process that involved Sausage going through the crowd and hanging a big cardboard star on Mardi Gras beads around the necks of the recipients, along with a sticker that noted their particular distinction.

Next, the Mayor of the South Bay, Iron Mike, presented the Godfather with a bottle of wine for the Godfather’s accomplishments and contributions to stuff. The bottle, a 15-year-old Opus cabernet, was worth more than the net assets of the entire assemblage of cyclists, which is to say $45.87. The Godfather gave a beautiful and moving speech that was drowned out by the LSU fig puckers, who screamed, shat themselves, and drizzled cheap beer from their armpits each time the team scored another grand slam.

According to the vague notes I could halfway make out on my damp note cards which smelled vaguely like Strand Brewing Co.’s 24th Street Ale, I gave thanks to all of those who were kind enough to help make the event happen yet smart enough to confiscate all cell phone cameras before standing next to the inflatable penis. Most concerned was one of the podium strippers, whose father is up for re-election in Kentucky in a few days, and who had said that if any of the pictures with the big dick and the judge’s daughter showed up on the Internet before November 5th, there would be some unexplained disappearances in Southern California the following week.

We thanked Joel Elliott for the beer from Strand, and we thanked SPY Optic for the recipient awards and for giving the staff at On the Rocks something to sell to their friends and/or customers to augment the night’s tips. In keeping with the spirit of too much liquor, and not enough time, Ole Smokey Mountain Moonshine had donated a custom jar of moonshine for each award recipient.

Although everyone was ordered not to drink their award on the premises, the clogged gutters around three a.m. showed that many ignored this sage advice.

Next, an old fedora was passed around to collect money for a rider. Several hundred dollars, a couple of bad checks, and whole bunch of I.O.U.’s were donated, showing the incredible generosity of the cycling community. Also in the hat was a 100 dollar bill, which must have been donated by the Mayor, since he’s the only cyclist who has a hundred dollars, much less carries it around in his pocket.

Since the rider who had hand-crafted the Wanky Awards last year — beautiful painted horseshoes on gorgeous blocks of wood with embossed nameplates — was unable to attend, the recipients were not going to get their coveted physical award. However, Manslaughter leaped into the breach, and completed all 20 plaques in a frenzy of artistry, good taste, and beer that gave each plaque an amazingly unique look, like the heads of babies who are delivered after difficult, 46-hour labors that involve forceps and lots of pulling and yanking and squashing.

In other words, they were beautiful.

Some attendees who were unfamiliar with the Wanky Awards wanted to know “what they were all about.” So I told them. These awards are about community. Friends and enemies. Fights and reconciliations. Laughing at ourselves. Saying thanks. Showing compassion when it’s hardest to show. Encouraging our friends. Supporting those who have lost a loved one, filing restraining orders, and making fun of Prez.

What we are is a family. And what is a family? It is a group of people who are more or less continually mad at each other. Yet despite being mad, we are also often on medication, which makes the madness easier to bear and sometimes even comes across as happiness. Those in our extended cycling family not on medication were in rehab, and could not be with us.

As one big dysfunctional family, the Wankys are an evening where we can reach across the aisle, even if it’s only to steal the other person’s drink when she’s not looking or get the phone number of some little cutie while our wife is drunk and hitting on some guy. Mrs. WM showed up dressed as a naughty nun, but I’m sure that was a coincidence. Most of all the Wankys are a time when we can forget our grudges for an evening, if only so that we can forge newer, stronger, more long-lasting grudges, grudges that, we can only hope, will last forever.

Speaking of grudges, no award ceremony could ever exist without disappointment. In most award ceremonies, where people are distinguished for their accomplishments, those who don’t receive the trinket or, dog forbid, even get nominated, attendees often go home feeling ashamed, angry, left out, embarrassed, and hurt. Fortunately, at this award ceremony people felt that way even if they did get an award. So, as Knoll would say, there’s that.

A note on the award selection committee: There were four members: Me, Olive, Stanley, Stella, and Spanky. Olive and Spanky (the Chihuahuas) generally voted as a block, whereas Stella and Spanky (the bulldogs), were more independent. I cast the tie-breaker when votes were evenly split. Selections were made based on nominations that people emailed in or on strange faces and names that came to me in the dead of night.

The key to the Wankys is, of course, that you must be present to win. People who begged, lied, outrageously self-promoted, offered sex, beer, money, or free tires got preference. People who let their actions speak for themselves and hoped they would be rewarded for their modesty were essentially ignored. If you weren’t selected this year, now you know why, and there’s always next year, and yes, I accept PayPal.

With the Wanky Bedsheet hung across the fence, the penis fully inflated, the podium strippers all lined up, the crowd thoroughly hammered, and the LSU fig puckers humping their empty pitchers of Miller Lite, we could finally begin. And we did.

The award categories and awardees were as follows. Sit down, or click over to your favorite clothing-optional web site; this is gonna be a long one.

Mad Dog Award for Best Advocate: Greg Seyranian for his role in “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Runners-up
Eric Bruins for his role in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”
Gary Cziko for his role in “Dr. Strangelove”

Greg was instrumental in getting the critical mass for the Big Orange weekend rides on PCH that eventually changed the entire way that the CHP and LA Sheriff’s Department enforce the law on this roadway. What was once a terrifying, glass-and-debris-filled fustercluck of a ride has now become the world’s best bike lane thanks to Greg’s leadership and advocacy. Groups of cyclists on this extraordinarily beautiful road no longer have to hug the gutter, dodge parked cars, opened doors, garbage pails, and Cher, and can instead take the lane and ride safely and legally without fear of police persecution. Greg’s leadership is one of the most impressive examples of bike advocacy ever, and it affects thousands of people every single week.

Eric Bruins was an equally instrumental advocate, but rather than duking it out with Greg in a special mud pit we had designed for the occasion, he was unable to attend due to a last-minute emergency that involved riding his bike to San Diego and having a legitimately good time.

Gary Cziko has also provide incredible support for the advocacy efforts on PCH and through his continual contributions to the CABO listserv, where he has quickly become one of California’s leading advocates on bicycle law, safety, and training. Plus, he has that awesome dress shirt with the pizza stains on it.

I Can Get it Cheaper on The Internet Award for Best Bike Shop: Peyton Cooke for his role in “Beer Goggles”
Runners-up
Ted’s Manhattan Beach Cycles for its role in “Little Shop of Horrors”
Sprocket Cycles for its role in “Saturday Night Fever”

Peyton is best known for being available any time of the day or night that doesn’t conflict with Happy Hour to help fix your bike (Happy Hour generally runs from noon to midnight, Mon – Sun). He has a private garage conveniently located behind Strand Brewing Co., where he can get your bike needs taken care of while you swill IPA at the bar.

Ted’s Manhattan Beach Cycles is owned by someone not named Ted — Manny Felix, one of the best mechanics and shop proprietors in the South Bay, is the go-to guy for people in and around Manhattan Beach for sales, service, and some of the funniest stories ever.

Sprocket Cycles, located in Redondo Beach and run by Paul Che, is another superlative bike shop where you can get all of your cycling needs taken care of as long as they’re legal.

Whippersnapper Award for Best Young Rider: Diego Binatena for his role in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”
Runners-up
Sam Warford for his role in “A Bridge Too Far”
Kristabel Doebel-Hickock (self-nominated) for her role in “Miss Bossypants”

Diego won this award in 2013, and followed up again as a Wanky Award recipient in 2014 with his fantastic race results which landed him a pro contract for 2015 with the Hagens-Berman U-23 pro cycling team. I and several others were hoping for a pro contract on their O-50 pro cycling team, but so far I’ve heard zip. Diego is also an Eagle Scout and an amazingly well-mannered young man considering how much of his life he’s spent around cyclists.

Sam Warford had a breakout year, upgrading from Cat 15 to Cat 1 in the space of two seasons. Along with impressive race results this year, the 20-year-old will be riding for the SPY Optic Pro-1-2 team in 2015. Sam is a soft-spoken and very kind young man, plus he will tear your lucking fegs off.

Kristabel, otherwise known as “Tink,” nominated herself for this award in an excellent display of shameless self-aggrandizement, for which she gets major kudos. The failure to offer sex or money eliminated her chances of winning this competition, but in her first full year as a pro she was recognized as the best young rider at some huge pro race in Philly.

Jared the Subway Dude Award for Person Most Transformed by Cycling: Jonathan Paris for his role in “Fast Food Nation”
Runners-up
Michael Barraclough for his role in “Meatballs”
Robert Efthimos for his role in “The 40 Year Old Virgin”

Jonathan used to live on cheeseburgers and in the winter he survived cold temperatures with his deep layer of blubber. Then, a couple of years ago, he became vegan and started riding his bike. Aside from a famous near-fistfight over a peanut butter sandwich after he’d gone without food for a few hours, Jonathan is a wonderful poster child for how cycling can change your life for the better. Now, instead of hanging out at McDonald’s, he hangs out at Starbucks when he’s not ripping off your lucking fegs.

Michael Barraclough is another rider who has reinvented himself and spared the lives of thousands of poor baby cheeseburgers by focusing on a healthy lifestyle and also cycling. He’s a great-natured guy who everyone loves to ride with and who encourages others to give it their best.

Robert Efthimos found cycling and in the space of a few short years went from being a normal, successful, well-adjusted man at a high-powered law firm to a guy who takes videos of sweaty men on bikes. We’re still trying to put a positive spin on it in negotiations with his lovely wife.

Potty Trained Award for Most Improved: Peta Takai for her role in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”
Runners-up
Tom Hall for his role as Taz the Tasmanian Devil in “Looney Toons’s Devil May Hare”
James Cowan for his role in “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby”

When Peta arrived in the South Bay a couple of years ago, many people thought she was “PETA,” the animal rights organization. However, when they learned how to say her name properly (rhymes with “meta”), it took two full years to understand anything she said because she spoke with that funny Kiwi accent. In addition to mastering California English, she has also become an accomplished racer and super fun person to have in the peloton.

Tom Hall rocketed up through the wanker ranks in the space of a short year, but has not lived in LA long enough for us to crack his Tasmanian code. He seems to be a nice fellow, and can certainly rip your lucking fegs off, but until we can actually understand what he’s saying, the jury’s still out.

James Cowan is yet another linguistically-challenged South Bay rider who hails from the land of bangers and rash, blood pudding, and a queen who even in her best days looked like a dishrag wearing the world’s ugliest hat collection. James has improved dramatically and is one of the NPR riders who can always be counted on to hammer at the front until he cracks. That used to be, like, immediately. Not any more.

Gang of Idiots Award for Best Cycling Club: Wonton Heavy Industries, LLC for its role in “The China Syndrome”
Runners-up
Big Orange for its role in “Police Academy”
SPY Elite Cycling Team for its role in “Bad News Bears”

This award was pretty much sewn up well in advance by Big Orange due a corrupt, incestuous relationship with the Wanky Awards’ chief organizer in which everything is decided in secret, on the down-low, and in contravention of most laws and all good morals. However, at the last minute Wonton Heavy Industries papered Wanky’s inbox with the most disgusting, blatant, self-serving, shameless slew of self-promoting shit that has ever been seen. So pathetic and groveling and lacking in even a shred of modesty were these attempts that Wonton easily beat out Big Orange and staged a come-from-behind even more dramatic than that being practiced by the LSU fig puckers across the way.

Big O had this one in the bag; their open door policy has brought in more riders and has helped make the roads safer for cyclists than any other club. They mentor, provide financial support for racers, and are the epitome of a friendly roadie club — something that is generally an oxymoron. Still, it was the Wonton come-from-behind that won the day.

SPY Elite Cycling Team was a distant third, as most of its riders didn’t even bother to show up. Oh, well! We still had a frothy time on Sunday morning when MMX and Phil Tinstman obliterated the Kettle Ride, averaging 457 watts from Temescal to Cross Creek.

Multitasker Award for Best Rider in Multiple Disciplines: Marilyne Fichante for her role in “The French Connection”
Runners-up
Jeff Bryant his role in “The Perfect Storm”
Jon Davy for his role in “Every Which Way but Loose”

Frenchy is the only Wanky recipient to be stripped of her award immediately after getting it. We screwed up the nameplate somehow, but when we figured out the problem we gave the plaque back. Frenchy’s excellence on the road, in MTB, and in cyclocross made her a natural recipient, plus her cute French accent.

Jeff Bryant was out somewhere, probably riding 100 miles at 28 miles an hour and then realizing that he’d forgotten to turn around at mile 50 so his 100-miler was now a 200-miler.

Jon Davy, who won his first national title on the track this year, couldn’t come because it was a thoroughly bad environment.

Wanker of the Year: Stathis Sakellariadsi for his role in “Zorba the Greek”
Runners-up
Brad House for his role in “Psycho”
Seth Davidson for his role in “Strange Brew”

Stathis begged for this award, and the morning of the ceremony he said that if he were given something besides Wanker of the Year then he would still give his WOTY speech. So he got it, commemorating the zillions of blown lights on the NPR, billions of “the look,” and dragging those on his wheel over to the yellow line so they can’t get a draft. Of course, he’s also one of the fastest riders around …

Brad, who won the award in 2013, was renominated on the strength of his acceptance speech in 2013, something we’re all still trying to un-hear and dis-remember.

I got the most votes for WOTY, but Spanky, Stella, Olive, and Stanley enforced the rule that “Wanky can’t get a Wanky.” So sad.

Money Down a Rathole Award for Best Promoter: SPY Optic for its role in “Inglorious Basterds”
Runners-up
Chris Lotts for his role in “Fred Claus”
Dorothy Wong for her role in “Rough Riders”

Okay, my fingers are falling off and I’m barely halfway through. SPY got this for the BWR, the SPYclocross series, the thousands it has donated in merchandise, marketing, and manpower to promote and support races, and for the countless teams it has sponsored. Most importantly, Michael Marckx is a friend among friends, and I’d have found a way to distinguish SPY no matter what.

Chris deserved an award, but he was at the phat pharm this weekend.

Dorothy was promoting a race. Plus, I’m pretty sure she’s not a drunk.

NPR Champ: Suzanne Sonye for her role in “Over the Top”
Runners-up
Eric Anderson for his role in “Raging Bull”
Cameron Khoury for his role in “Bridesmaids”

Suze is an icon, a champion, and a woman of strong opinions. She also won a Wanky in 2013 for Hard Woman of the Year. We love Suze even when she’s telling us we’re shull of fit, mostly because we are. She has mentored countless cyclists and keeps us honest. Sort of.

EA Sports, Inc., won the NPR Champ award last year, so this year he had to be satisfied with the little cardboard star.

Cameron is an up-and-coming youngster who has a great sprunt and is slowly finding his way towards the front. Occasionally.

Donut Champ: Derek Brauch for his role in “The Spy Who [didn’t] Love Me”
Runners-up
Stathis Sakellariadis for his role in “To Live and Die in LA”
Keven Sandoval for his role in “Breaking Away”

Derek is a fixture on the Donut and one of the best all-around racers in SoCal. He is canny, a great clumber, and has one of the best accelerations around, which makes him a superb leadout. On the Donut he’s always one of the last ones standing, and was one of the first to support the Great Alley Detour, which has now been more or less abandoned by wankers everywhere.

Stathis couldn’t get two Wankys in 2014 because last year he didn’t show up to collect his KOM and Donut Champ awards.

Keven is always a factor on the Donut. A prime factor, which means he can only be divided by himself.

Pin it On Bitch Award for Best Male Racer: Charon Smith for his role in “The Passion of the Christ”
Runners-up
Aaron Wimberley for his role in “The Fast and the Furious”
Robert Frank for his role in “No Country for Old Men”

Charon won a ton of races this year and did it with class. He’s a mentor, a coach, a gentle guy, and a great competitor. Kind of makes you wonder what he’s doing in cycling. Next year he is poised to inflict even more damage with an even stronger, faster team than in 2014.

Aaron is one of the best racers in SoCal, but he raced against Charon most of the year. Aaron is quick, has no equal in bike handling skills except for his teammate John Wike, and knows exactly how to read a race. Of course so does everyone else in the 35+ category. You read it like this: “Watch Charon.”

Robert Frank raced way beyond his 47 years by completing most of the elite men’s national road race championship, and absolutely slaying throughout the year.

You’ve Been Chicked Award for Best Female Racer: Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, again self-nominated, for her role in “Twiggy”
Runners-up
Lauren Mulwitz for her role in “Slaying the Badger”
Emily Georgeson for her role in “Night of the Living Carrots”

Okay, I’m totally done typing this thing and can’t imagine that anyone is still reading. If you are, my condolences. Tink is a pro and she won the queen stage at the Cascade Classic. ‘Nuff said.

Lauren has won in multiple disciplines this year and is one of the best up-and-coming racers.

Emily is incredibly talented, trains hard, and is very race savvy. She has had very good results this year; look for a break-out year in 2015.

Pay it Forward Award for Best All-Around Rider: Robert Efthimos for his role in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”
Runners-up
Joel Elliott for his role in “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”
Chris Gregory for her role in “New Girl”

Robert dedicates time and energy to make our cycling community great. He takes and posts videos, helps organize clubs and events, and is a reasoned head in a community of deadheads, hotheads, and boneheads. He makes us all look good. As good as we can be, anyway.

Joel brews beer. He shares it. What else do I need to say?

Chris is always there to help. She’s the first one to say “yes,” and never complains, even though dog knows there’s a lot to complain about. She’s also one of the best podium strippers in the business, and did a great year in 2014 as well as in 2013.

Crashtacular Fred Award: Heather Somebody for her Broken Arm

This one was weird. We weren’t going to give out the award because the winner couldn’t attend. But at the last minute some gal with a broken arm dashed up and said “Gotta be present to win, I’m present, and I’m winning!” and she flashed her arm in a cast and took the award. If we’d had bouncers we’d have called them, but instead we were so impressed by her brass balls that we relinquished the plaque along with SPY wear and Ole Smokey Mountain Moonshine. She will treasure the beautiful twisted horseshoe splashed in blood and wrapped in wound netting that was so artistically designed by Manslaughter.

KOM Award for Most of Life Wasted on Strava: Lane Reid for his role in “The Losers”

Runners-up
Brian Perkins – Lifetime Strava Achievement Award – for his role in “Wasteland”
Miko Espanol for his role in “The Longest Mile”

Lane has entered the hall of shame as a two-time loser, having won the Strava award in 2013 as well.

“Tree” Perkins was out chasing a KOM and couldn’t attend.

Miko logged 1,000,000 miles of vertical climbing on Strava, proving his eligibility for medical treatment.

Tougher than Nails and Broken Glass or HTFU Award: Phil Tinstman for his role in “The Eiger Sanction”
Runners-up
MMX for his role in “Dirty Harry”
Pete Smith for his role in “The Smurfs”

Phil won the Beverly Hills Grand Fondo, which will likely qualify him for master’s worlds in September. He also turned in amazing rides on the BWR and won a bunch of tough road races. Hard dude, for sure.

Michael Marckx, perennial tough guy, wasn’t as tough as Phil.

Pete Smith, who seems like a gentle fellow until you see him on the bike, was a close third.

Larger than Life Award: David Perez for his role in “Brokeback Mountain”
Runners-up
Tony Manzella for his role in “Godzilla”
Greg Leibert for his role in “Up”

Prez. The man. The legend. The Puerto Rican fashion stylista salsa dancer sprunter crash expert … gone this year due to a job (cyclists can look up that word on Google), Prez is back in black! And green/yellow/purple/orange, etc.

Tony Manzella. Dude. Fere the whuck were you?

Greg Leibert wins too many awards. Gotta give some oxygen to the mere mortals. One of the best people ever and a friend among friends, it brokeback my heart to see you not get another award.

For Better or Worse, Mostly Worse Award for Best Spouse/SO: Sherri Foxworthy for her role in “The Dukes of Hazzard”
Runners-up
Jami Tschetter for her role in “Trophy Wife”
Jeanette Seyranian for her role in “Gone with the Wind”

Don’t worry Sherri, no penis pictures will be posted until after the judge’s erection on November 4. Sherri is the patron saint of wankers who hang around the shop complaining about all the sand in their shorts. She puts up with more shit on a daily basis than a manure wholesaler. And always with a smile and a well-placed curse word!

Jami is the ultimate bike racer widow. She goes to the races, puts up with her hubby’s obsession, and pretends to be interested in the junior high school drama. Best of all, she loves beer and she can DANCE!

Saint Jeanette has performed various miracles related to putting up with cyclists, and the Vatican is simply awaiting confirmation of the one where she turned water into carbo replacement drink before she is officially beatified.

Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Kevin Phillips for his role in “The Natural”
Runners-up
Greg Seyranian for his role in “The Pied Piper”
David Miller for his role in “Dodgeball”

Kevin’s got it all. Natural talent, incredible work ethic, tactical wits, and the most important thing of all — a fantastic sense of humor. Kevin has been the leader of the South Bay for years and has influenced hundreds of riders with his unique brand of friendliness, skill, and decency. Plus he’s won a ton of national titles and held the hour record. Little stuff like that.

Greg has already been written about and crapcakes, I’m tired.

David Miller is going places, and prison isn’t one of them. This year he turned in amazing performances on the bike and showed himself as one of the most affable, decent people in the peloton — in addition to being a leader. Your turn is coming, wanker, but you need to focus a bit more on bribing the Chihuahuas. You had the bulldogs, but Olive and Stanley split the vote.

That’s it folks, until next year. Thank you!

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The course is only part of the course

April 25, 2014 § 20 Comments

There are three things that make a course: the route, the weather, and the riders.

The 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride offers up a route like no other. Much has been written about it, and each rider will discover the extraordinary difficulty of this 136-mile torture chamber at his leisure. The weather will likely be dry and cool with a moderate wind.

When it comes to riders, though, most of us will have only a fleeting glance of the strongest participants, as they will storm away in the first wave, never to be seen until the finish. If you are one of the people who is showing up to the BWR in order win a jersey, here’s a snapshot of a few of the people you’ll have to beat.

  1. Ryan Trebon. Pro cyclocross racer and sponsored SPY rider, former U.S. national champion.
  2. Neil Shirley. First place finisher in the Belgian Waffle Ride’s 2013 edition, and one of the best professional riders in America.
  3. Dan Cobley. Don’t let the Cat 3 fool you. He finished fourth last year behind Neil, Thurlow Rogers, and Karl Bordine.
  4. Brent Prenzlow. He’s an uncategorized “public” rider. He also made mincemeat of virtually the entire field in the inaugural 2012 BWR.
  5. Phil Tinstman. The best all-around masters racer in America. He time trials, sprints, climbs, and has exceptional off-road skills. Former sprint jersey winner in the 2012 edition. If Neil misses a pedal stroke, Phil’s my pick to win it all.
  6. Chris DeMarchi. This is Chris’s first BWR, and you can expect that he will ride it with a vengeance. Chris is also one of the best masters racers in America and is teammates with Phil. Look for a one-two combo from these two titans.
  7. John Abate. Lokalmotor from San Diego, John has the legs and the knowledge of the local roads to be there at the finish.
  8. Lars Finanger. Unhappily (for us) shipped off to Houston last year, Lars returns to his old stomping grounds where he can be expected to stomp people’s heads in if he’s on form.
  9. Michael Marckx. Will this be MMX’s year? He knows every inch of the course because he designed it. He’s riding with exceptional speed and strength. Could be awkward if the head honcho wins his own race!
  10. Ryan Dahl. Truly one of the beasts of North County and always a top finisher at the BWR, in 2013 Ryan earned the hardman jersey for toughest rider on the course.
  11. Brian Zink. The question mark here is fitness. If Brian is on form, he will storm the field, much as he did in 2012 when he won the hardman jersey, and last year when he finished sixth.
  12. David Jaeger. Winner of the inaugural BWR in 2012, DJ is currently on fire as evidenced by his podium finish in the state road race. If he carries it over to Sunday, he will be lethal.
  13. Logan Fiedler. If he hadn’t been felled by a broken elbow earlier this year, Logan would be higher on this list as he’s an excellent climber, skilled in the dirt, and has tremendous endurance.
  14. Robert Frank. Major Bob placed 16th last year with minimal training. This year he’s scorching, earning 2nd place last weekend at the state road race. Lean, fast, an excellent climber, and equally comfortable on dirt and asphalt, a podium is not out of the question.

Given the fact that over 500 riders have signed up for the 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride, there will certainly be surprises as well as strong riders who I’m simply unfamiliar with and have omitted out of ignorance. This list, however, should include at least a handful of the top finishers. Game on!

END

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I don't think I'd give you this shirt off my back.

I don’t think I’d give you this shirt off my back.

The five stages of time trial grief

March 28, 2014 § 27 Comments

Clinical psychologists have worked since the 1950’s to explain and understand the mental processes that underlie time trialling. The most famous of these, “The Five Stages of Time Trialling Grief,” was developed by Wouter Herndydoo, a Belgian time trial psychologist who observed riders as they progressed through the phases of a time trial. His research created a paradigm that we still use today to analyze, understand, and to help riders cope with the emotionally devastating consequences of finding out that in the “race of truth,” everything they’ve convinced themselves of is, sadly, a lie.

At the San Dimas Time Trial today, where I participated (vaguely) in the 4.25-mile climb up Glendora Mountain Road, I observed numerous riders attempting to cope with the mental collapse inherent in such a challenging event. What follows is a primer for wives, girlfriends, husbands, and significant others who have to live with the ruined and psychologically destroyed bicycle racer after coming home from San Dimas, tail between legs, thin crust of salt on the brow, and a bag full of excuses about why he/she “just didn’t have it today.”

By monitoring your cyclist you will be able to observe as they progress through the 5 Stages of Time Trialling Grief, and you will be able to help them adjust to the “new normal”: that state where they realize the profundity of how badly they really suck.

The stages …

Denial — As the reality of going hard, uphill, full gas, for 20 minutes or more is hard to face, one of the first reactions that occurs the moment when the rider begins to swallow his tongue is Denial. What this means is that the time triallist is trying to shut out the reality or magnitude of the situation, and begins to develop a false, idealized, completely false reality. The biggest lie the rider tells himself is this: “I’m gonna catch my minute man.” The minute man, of course has vanished forever into the haze.

Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who made me sign up for this bullshit event?” are thoughts common to this phase. Once in the second stage, the rider recognizes that denial cannot continue, and not just because the wattmeter shows an average output of 98. Due to overwhelming pain flooding the things, shortness of breath, and being passed by three fat people in granny gears who started 3, 4, and 12 minutes back, the rider is very difficult to soothe with the typical lies that supporters shout while out on the course, e.g. “You’re killing it!” and “Looking good!” The anger leads to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. “Why am I so slow?” “Why is everyone shouting at me?” “Where am I?”, etc. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. The rider can be angry with himself (extremely rare), or with others (extremely common), and especially those who are passing him like he is chained to an outhouse while taking a dump. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a rider experiencing anger from time trial grief. Pretend that his lame justifications are true, and nod sympathetically. “I know you were in the wrong gear,” “They’re all doping,” and “What a bunch of sandbaggers!” will likely defuse much of the rage, along with a baby bottle and a fresh diaper.

Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more seconds”; “I will give my life savings to buy some faster wheels”; “Time to start doping … more!” are common responses to getting shit out the back in the first kilometer up Glendora Mountain Road, or worse, averaging 31 mph for the first mile and then 7 mph for the rest of the course. This third stage involves the hope that the rider can somehow “pick it up” as the course gets progressively harder, or avoid finishing with a time that is unbearably humiliating when posted on Facebook, where his mother is usually watching. Usually, the negotiation for a faster time is made with a higher power (Dog, Buddha, THOG) in exchange for a reformed lifestyle (“I’ll never drink again!”; “I’m gonna lose 30 pounds starting TODAY!” and, most common, “I promise to start training — really!”). Other times, the flailer will use anything valuable as a bargaining chip against another human agency to extend or prolong the moment before total collapse. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I am a clogstacle-like boulder trying to roll uphill, but if I could just do something to buy more time … is it illegal to sell my children on eBay?” Riders facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example “Can I sit on your wheel for a few seconds while you pass? The ref’s not watching.” Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially in time trials, since even if the passer is willing, the fact that he’s passing means the wheelsuck will eventually get shelled anyway.

Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with pedaling?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?”; “I miss my Tuesday crit practice where I can cut the course and raise my hands in victory, so why go on?” During this fourth stage, the grieving rider begins to understand the certainty of a humiliatingly slow time that will be analyzed, pointed to, and laughed at behind is back or worse, to his face. The riders’s result will be a mid-pack finishing time for a Cat 4 beginner, a 9-year-old girl, or a fast walker on crutches. Much like the existential concept of “The Void,” the idea of riding, if not life itself, becomes pointless. Things begin to lose meaning to the rider, who no longer fantasizes about Campy electronic shifting, winning a sock prime, or moving up in the SoCal Cup standings from 79th to 77th. Because of this, the rider may become silent, refuse to talk to anyone after the ride, and spend much of the time crying and sullen. This process allows the grieving time triallist to disconnect from his teammates and sponsors possibly in an attempt to avoid further trauma in the form of having to do additional TT’s later in the season. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for this “aftermath.” It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. “I’m a slug-like bat turd, but that makes me unhappy.” It is natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage, especially when your magazine is empty at Mile 2 and Phil Tinstman or Chris DeMarchi come by so fast that their draft almost knocks you over. Feeling these emotions shows that the rider has begun to accept the situation. Often times, this is the ideal path to take, to find closure and make his way to the fifth step, Acceptance of Wankerdom.

Acceptance — “I suck like an industrial drainpipe, and that’s okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for getting my gonads stomped with spiked boots.”; “All the women are faster than me, and the men, too. And the children. Such is life.” In this last stage, riders begin to come to terms with their utter unsuitability for time trialling despite the finest equipment, the slipperiest helmet and clothing, and no matter how many times they parade around on the Parkway on a TT bike. This stage varies according to the rider’s situation. Riders who have died a particularly awful death on, say, an uphill TT like GMR, can fantasize about alternate realities such as, “I’m really a sprinter.”; “I’m more of a rouleur.”; “Actually, I’m best at recovery.” TT-dead riders can enter this stage a long time before the people who have passed them, often close friends and teammates who just think their pal is a total wanker and hungover rather than someone whose entire collection of bike paraphernalia is about to wind up on Craigslist. Years later, the rider typically accepts a calm, retrospective view, such as that often heard by Fields, who is known to say, “What a stupid sport,” and “Bike racing is such a colossal waste of time.”

Anyway, I hope this re-cap helps, because tomorrow it’s going to be even worse with the road race. Good luck.

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Two for two

February 15, 2014 § 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teamwork

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

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

Saturday helped Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clash of the titans

January 27, 2014 § 12 Comments

This weekend’s Big Bike Beatdown in Santa Barbara featured another two-day, two-wheeled brawl while grown men with nothing better to do risked life and limb on shitty roads as they dodged cracks, slammed into potholes, narrowly avoided oncoming traffic, wantonly broke sporadically enforced yellow-line rules, and shook their heads in fury while the braindead moto ref stopped the entire peloton three times for a “pee break.” After the dust settled, a few things were clear:

  1. 90% of the full-on, raging masters peloton would be completely burned out by the middle of March.
  2. 95% of the full-on, raging masters peloton had done enough races so far this year (four) to have a perfect excuse not to show up at Boulevard next weekend.
  3. You can’t make chicken salad out of …

While Facebook broke most of the Internet with repeated posts of race results (“Look! Freddy got 45th in the Cat 3’s! Good job!”), the first real race of the year revealed itself, and it’s a race that we’re going to keep seeing for the next eight months. Yes, the Fastest Legs in the West squarely beat the Best Bike Handler in the West. But it was close, and it promises to get better.

Tale of the tape

In this corner we have Charon (pronounced “faster than you”) Smith, the best crit racer in his 35+ age group. Charon wins more races in a season than most racers even enter. He combines dedicated training, natural speed, courage when things get gnarly, and a profound sense of fair play to produce winning results year in and year out on the SoCal crit scene. Despite the fact that he’s an easygoing guy, he’s a keen competitor, a leader, and great source of inspiration for a lot of people.

It wasn’t too long ago that Charon was essentially racing for himself, having to scrape out every single win singlehandedly. By racing consistently, fairly, and by always congratulating his opponents — win, lose, or draw — he has gathered a strong following of friends who gradually morphed into the best 35+ team in Southern California. No longer forced to race by himself or with one or two teammates, Charon is now backed with serious horsepower in the form of Kayle Leo Grande, John Wike, Ben Travis, Rob Kamppila, and the other first class racers who make up Surf City’s race team. More importantly, Charon’s optimistic attitude and positive message have helped create a team that firmly believes it’s on a mission to win, and win, and win.

With only a handful of races into the season in the bag, Charon’s team has far and away the most victories. Proving that it’s a team, Surf City is stacking podiums, stacking breakaways, and sharing the victories and placings among the teammates. But make no mistake about it: The team’s anchor is Charon, and when the heavy artillery starts firing in a field sprint, he’s the guy lobbing the 16-inch shells.

And in the other corner …

We have Aaron Wimberley, about as different from Charon as a cobra is from a tiger. First of all, the boy has a full head of hair, so you could say he’s won the battle right off the bat. But since it’s not a hair styling contest, we have to judge these two guys on their bikes. Where Charon is the quickest guy on two wheels, Aaron is the best bike handler. Only a few guys have Aaron’s skills — John Wike, the bike wizard who also rides for Charon, and Phil Tinstman come to mind. Aaron has rocketed up the ranks from lowly Cat 5 to getting a bronze medal at nationals on a fiendishly technical course.

He’s unbelievably quick and has off-the-chart race smarts. Scientific, methodical, and unwilling to count further down than first place, Aaron has been in the wilderness for the last couple of years riding with little support and lots of second-place finishes in a crit scene dominated by team efforts. This year, however, he’s moved over to SPY-Giant-RIDE, the best team in the galaxy. (Disclaimer: It really is.) Aaron rides like a gunslinger. Independent, self-reliant, takes no shit from anyone, and is more than happy to explain your shortcomings to you in colorful language. I will never forget the time he described my jumps as something akin to “watching a big blue bus go up a steep hill dragging a space shuttle.”

The question this year is whether Aaron’s new alliance with the best team in the galaxy will create the teamwork and support he needs to beat the Fastest Legs in the West (for an old dude). Judging from the finish at the Mothballs Crit this past Sunday, it could happen.

Roaring into the final 200 meters Charon had the help of Kayle Leo Grande, himself one of the fastest finishers in the 35’s, as a lead-out. Even against these two motors, Aaron managed a very respectable second, with Charon winning comfortably but not easily, but it’s my guess that Aaron’s not showing up in hopes of getting second. More organization and support from SPY-Giant-RIDE teammates could well prove to be the final push that Aaron needs to win against Charon in a drag race.

What to look for

SoCal has few crits that are technical enough to give Aaron a chance to use his bike handling edge. Most of the races are four-corners, wide, and they finish with a fast man throwdown. However, there are some exceptions. Look for Mike Hecker’s 805 Crit series to provide challenging courses, potentially huge crosswinds, and an arena where Charon’s flat-out speed may be offset by Aaron’s wizardry in the turns. The San Marcos Crit will also be a place to see bike handling and a slight bump take the sting out of a drag race finish.

And of course any given race has an amazing crop of first-class speedsters fully capable of winning. Danny Kam, Phil Tinstman, Mike Easter, Chris DeMarchi, Rudy Napolitano, John Abate, Michael Johnson, Randall Coxworth, Jamie Paolinetti, John Wike, Ivan Dominguez, Eric Anderson, Brian Cook, Josh Alverson, Patrick Caro, and Karl Bordine are all 35+ riders who stood on the top step in a crit in 2013. There’s no reason to think they won’t be going for the top step again this year.

Whatever happens … it’s gonna be fun to watch!

You can run (but you sure can’t hide)

July 3, 2013 § 14 Comments

My plan was simple. Our race went off at 10:35. There was a Firestone beer tent in the middle of the esplanade that opened at 11:00. I would pedal at the back for twenty-five minutes, quit, and go over to the beer tent and quaff craft brews while the other idiots pummeled each other into submission.

This race had everything that SoCal bike racers loathe. It had a turn that required some skill to negotiate. It had a howling wind for a long stretch that crushed your will to live. It had a slight incline that prevented you from gaily sucking wheel until the last lap. Worst of all, it had blistering dry heat that seared the inside of your lungs into sandpaper, and the harder you breathed the worse it hurt. As if the demanding course weren’t enough, the 45+ Elderly Gentlemen With Prostate Issues category was stacked: Thurlow, Hill, Strickler, Flores, Clare, Hatchitt, Rahm, Arellano, and a host of other tough guys toed the line, which meant that any kind of decent result would be legitimate indeed.

Fun for the whole family (if your family is wholly brainless)

No man who races bikes and doesn’t have fundamentalist Islam-type control over his wife ever shows up with his lady in tow if they’ve been married for more than six months. This is because the wife figures out after the first two races that a) All office parks are ugly, hot, nasty places to spend a day, and b) Her husband always finishes 45th or lower, or crashes out, or both.

However, the 805 Series promised to be different. It was in Santa Barbara County, a place that Angelenos love to visit on the weekend so that they can pay $10 for a cup of coffee and sit in five hours of traffic on Sunday evening on the drive back home. Santa Barbara also conjures up images of beautiful scenery and countless small wineries where, under the guise of being an oenophile, you can stagger from tasting room to tasting room so thoroughly drunk that you’d be unable to differentiate a Cabernet from a glass of the finest 2013 Pennzoil 10w/40.

Santa Barbara is one of the few places that the tight-fisted, selfish bike racer can coax his wife to visit by promising winery tours and a romantic dinner, then doing the last-minute bait-and-switch by saying, “Fuck, honey, I’m wasted from the race. Let’s go back to the Motel 6, watch some porn and drain a case of Coors Light.”

I had cornered Mrs. Wankmeister into a negotiated truce. “You’ll love it up there, honey,” I promised. “Beautiful scenery, wine tasting tours, and a change of pace.”

“Onna last trip onna Palm Springs inna summer my butt was bakin off. It’s like a Palm Springs, huh?”

“Oh, no! They don’t let meth heads into Santa Barbara County unless they’re affiliated with the university. We’ll be up by Solvang, a cute little Danish town with windmills and such. It’s so picturesque with wine tasting tours and tours where you can taste wine and wineries where you can enjoy wine tasting of wine.”

“Why’s a Denmark gonna know about making onna wine? Denmark’s a place onna codfish and porky salt and whiskey I thought. I never heard on no Danishmark wine.”

“Well, the wine’s not Danish, it’s the little town. It’s very cute with windmills and such.”

“It’s soundin like onna Palm Spring. All they had onna Palm Spring was a big Marilyn whore and a boys and men looking up onna her skirt. And you was lookin so hard onna up her skirt you got the neck strain and we drove all around tryin to find you onna aspirin.”

“It was just a statue, honey.”

“I know it was onna statute honey and you know it was a statute honey. So why you was standin onna her skirt tryin to look onna her clamparts? Alla clamparts you’re looking onna Internets, what you thinkin on seein on her clamparts? You seen one clamparts you seen a million.”

It was touch and go to get her off the clamparts discussion, but I finally prevailed. She wasn’t very happy about it, but at least she’d agreed to go.

Plan the work, then work the plan

Before the race started, we had a team meeting. Our leader, Flamethrower Flores, gathered us around. The cool thing about being part of a big team like SPY-Giant-RIDE is that everyone has a role to play. We can do things together that no one of us can do alone. When everyone is part of a bigger plan, it makes you feel worthwhile and gives you a sense of mission. That’s why I love this team.

“Andy, set the pace from the gun. Make it fierce enough to sap the will of the cannon fodder so they won’t try to follow a break.”

“Got it.”

“Hatchetman, stay towards the front and roll with any breaks. If one leaves without me, I’ll bridge and you’ll be there to help.”

“Okay.”

“T-Rex, if a break gets up the road without any of our guys, go to the front and bring it back, or at least get us close enough to bridge. Obviously, if it boils down to a bunch sprint, we’re leading you out.”

“Cool.”

“Lupus and Jimbo, cover moves and if we get someone up the road, go to the front and clog the chase. If it’s a bunch sprint, you boys are first and second in the leadout train.”

They nodded. “Okay, guys,” Flamethrower said. “Let’s roll.”

“Uh, hey, man,” I said. Everyone turned and looked. “What about me?”

“Oh, yeah, Wanky, uh, do your usual thing. You know, go to the back and don’t get near any of your teammates.”

“Oh,” I said. “What about, like, if there’s a break? Should I block?”

Hatchetman leaned over. “Let me make it real fucking clear: You get anywhere near any of us and I’m putting your ass into the barriers. Last week you damned near crashed out the entire team. If you want to help, get your ass to the back, do your usual full brake flail through the turns, swing wide, cut inside, and scare the crap out of everyone behind you. But don’t get near any of us. And that’s an order.”

“Got it, buddy!” I said, thrilled to have a clear mission and the total support of all my teammates who all agreed on my very important role.

Rubbing shoulders with the big boys

In addition to being part of such a cool team, the other great thing about racing is getting to hang with the legends of the sport. My favorite part is the warm-up around the course, where I get to shoot the breeze with the really good racers. Of course, they know who I am and we always get to share thoughts about racing, one man to another as it were, peers.

As I cruised through Turn One I came up next to Stricky. “Hey dude,” I nodded. “Good course, huh?”

“Get the fuck away from me, you goddamned kook. You almost fucking took out my front wheel on the last lap in Ladera Ranch.”

“Got it, bro. Have a good race!” Next I pulled up alongside Thurlow. “Hey, dude,” I said.

He didn’t say anything, but he wasn’t ignoring me. He’s just quiet like that. “How’re the legs, man?” I asked.

He still didn’t say anything, but I know he heard me. He’s like that, you know, even when he likes you a lot and thinks you’re a cool dude too, he sometimes just doesn’t say anything. It’s his way of saying something without really saying anything. “Have a good race, dude,” I said.

He answered by not replying, which was cool. Some people are just intense that way. As I started to pass him he glanced at me. “Don’t pass me,” he said.

“Huh?”

“You heard me.” Then he glided on through the turn. He wasn’t being hostile or anything, he actually likes me a lot and really respects my riding. There was just that thing at CBR where I accidentally almost took out four dudes in the warm-up lap and maybe he was just jittery or something.

I finished my lap knowing I had the full support of my teammates and the respect of my adversaries. We lined up. The ref read us our last rites and fired the gun, and we were off.

Experience pays

There is a moment in every bike race, if it’s any kind of bike race at all, when, after chewing the enamel off your stem, pounding so hard you want to vomit, surging and jumping with such ferocity that your knee joints ooze blood, draining the last drop of sugar goop out of your fourth bottle, and shooting every last bullet in your magazine, you realize that there are still 55 minutes left to go in the 60-minute race. For me, that moment had arrived in the town of Buellton. I knew that the smart thing to do was quit while I was behind, but if I were wedded to smart things I wouldn’t have been in a bike race to begin with.

I’d spent the first few laps careening wildly through the turns, and I knew I was doing my job because every few seconds some poor sap behind me would let out a scream, followed by the sound of a bike hitting the curb and flipping over into the barricades. It didn’t take long before I had thinned the field considerably and was the very last guy in the group.

The course was brutal, and the slight climb, the searing dry heat, and the industrial blow-drier hot wind had shredded the pack. Andy had set a nasty pace, with Lupus and Jim pounding the whimpering remnants into submission. Finally Flamethrower launched and dangled off the front for six miserable laps. When Amgen brought him back, he countered and a split formed with him, Thurlow, Hatchetman, Gentleman John Slover, and Mark Noble.

This was the moment the entire pack was waiting for: The moment when the real racers could speed off and flog their demons in the teeth of a relentless headwind and the rest of the wankoton could sit up, plan for dinner and tea, and “help the team” by “blocking.” In reality, we were all so beat to shit that it wouldn’t have mattered who was in the break. We went from a long, thin line to a fat amorphous lump as soon as the breakaway rode clear.

My mission accomplished for the day, at 11:00 sharp I sneaked out the back and rolled straight into the beer garden. I can tell you that the Firestone 805 is lighter and tastier than the Firestone DBA, but the difference isn’t really clear until you’ve had five or six apiece in order to properly tease out the flavors. From some foggy and slurred place I watched Flamethrower outsprint Thurlow and Mark Noble. Another awesome team victory that I could notch on the stock of my gun. They couldn’t have done it without me, and the only thing I really wondered was “How much will my cut be?”

Burrito love and the tattoo of death

The next shellacking on offer was the 35+ race. A handful of 45ers had lined up, wrongly thinking that they’d get in a little “extra training.” What they were really about to get was an unforgettable beating.

The temperature had soared to 105, the wind had cranked up another 5mph, and the fierce looks of fresh riders like Full Gas Phil, Vampire, and the Italian Stallion telegraphed their intent to rip it from the gun.

I wandered into the Mexican food joint that sat on the third turn, a super fast left-handed sweeper whose curb was so close to the restaurant window that you could see the spaces between the teeth of the racers as they railed the first lap mouths open, tongues lolling, and flecks of spit already clogging the corners of their mouths.

I thought momentarily about going out into the blistering heat to cheer but the waitress arrived with a four-pound verde burrito with cheese and covered in cheese on top of several layers of cheese. I sank my teeth into the cheese as two riders came through on Lap Two.

It was Full Gas Phil Tinstman on the point with Vampire on his wheel and some poor bastard trying to twist sideways and also hunch down in order to get the slightest bit of a sliver of a draft from Vampire, the only rider who can stand next to Full Gas and make him look morbidly obese.

They hit the convection oven headwind heat blast and Poor Bastard melted and dripped through the oven rack a completely destroyed piece of meat. Full Gas hit it harder and as the pack came through single file the numbers had already thinned.

The Italian Stallion tried repeatedly to get away but each effort was marked by an already wasted peloton that was strong enough to mark moves but too weak to bridge or bring back the break. After thirty minutes of the seventy-minute race had passed, the field was whittled down to thirty riders. Sixty had started.

The remaining flailers looked wild-eyed and crazed from heatstroke as Full Gas and Vampire widened their lead. From time to time I considered cheering them on, but the burrito was still mostly there and the sun’s glare looked so uninviting. By race’s end a mere twenty desperate riders were left. Full Gas dumped Vampire coming out of the last turn like a redneck emptying his ashtray out the window while blowing down the Interstate at 90. The finishers all had a whipped and ruined look that reminded me of someone with food poisoning, a bad hangover, and Montezuma’s Revenge.

I finished my burrito and walked to the beer garden.

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