Rider of the year: Suze Sonye

October 9, 2012 § 10 Comments

I can say anything I want about Suze because we once had a big ol’ fight and talked more trash about each other than two rednecks getting divorced and arguing over who gets the half of the trailer with the leaky waterbed and broken TV, and who gets the set of false teeth.

Our spat happened like this. It was on the Pier Ride. The Old Pier Ride. Every single time I’d run the red lights going out on Admiralty, Suze would yell at me, which would make me run more lights, which would make her yell at me more. You get the picture.

This particular day, after running all the red lights and dragging the peloton along with me, we were half-pedaling up Pacific and I saw her out of the corner of my eye and gradually kind of half-chopped her wheel. Just a little bit. Enough to say, “Fuck you,” and enough so that if she hadn’t been paying attention she might have found herself in difficulty.

“Wow, what an asshole!” you might say.

“Are you fucking kidding me? You douchenozzle!” you might say.

“What a despicable, walking, talking, sack of human excrement you are!” you might say.

And you’d pretty much be right.

Save your Cat 5 tricks for the Cat 5’s

One thing about Suze is that she’s always on guard. That’s because people have been taking cheap shots at her for decades, especially lame-ass guys who are mortified at getting their dicks stomped by a biker chick.

Suze saw my cheap shot long before it got anywhere near her front wheel, and easily slid off to the side with nary a ruffled feather, but now she was pissed. For the rest of the ride she stuck to my wheel, and I got the message. “You’re never getting rid of me now, wanker.”

So when we hit the Parkway I made up my mind to get rid of her. Gave it everything I had…no luck. Hit the turnaround and drove her over to the curb…yawn. Sprunted out of the saddle to dust her on the rise…nuh-uh…there was the shadow of her little pigtail, bobbing along right in my draft.

Slow down, speed up, jump off to the left, hug the curb to the right, thread spaces that didn’t exist, open up every jet I had, scrub her off by attacking up the gutter, pull every lame move I knew short of slamming on the brakes.

Nope, nope, nope, and nope. She tailed me all the way to the finish, and made sure I knew it as she whizzed off to the right on Pershing at the end of the ride.

The Cold War

From that point on we behaved as enemies. She defriended me. I talked trash. She ignored me. I ground all the enamel off my teeth. She commented that I was a stupid lawyer. Everyone agreed (me, too, actually).

Arab Spring

Somehow, we started talking to each other again. Then chatting. Then smiling. Then one day, when I had swung off, gassed, rocketing backwards and about to get dropped on the climb up to Trump, I felt a strong hand on my ass and heard a little “Umph” sound. It was a track throw, strong, straight, and powerful enough to sling me back onto the tail end of the snake.

I glanced back at the rider who’d pushed me, and who was now dropped from that last full-on effort to help a struggling rider.

It was Suze.

Best rider in 2012

Suzanne is the South Bay Rider of the Year for lots of reasons. First, she won the poll unanimously. I was the only voter, and frankly, she was the only candidate. It was one of those Soviet-era elections, where the winner, again by a 100% majority, is Joe Stalin, and if you don’t fucking like it, you’ll be taken out, lined up against a wall, and blogged about.

Suze isn’t a recent convert to cycling who just happens to be talented and fast. She’s been racing for 31 years and has raced against and raced for some of the greatest cyclists in the history of the sport. The pinnacle of her pro career was racing three years for Saturn, the #1 UCI-ranked team in the world.

Think about that the next time you’re polishing your third-place trophy in the Men’s 45+B cyclocross race.

At Saturn she learned from the best on the global stage. Ina-Yoko Teutenburg, Judith Arndt, Clara Hughes, Petra Rossner, Anna Wilson, Cathrine Marsal, Dede Demet, Nicole Reinhart, and Suzie Pryde were just a few of the racers with whom she trained and raced. She learned to ride out of her skin for her teammates, and found out that even though she wasn’t the most talented or deserving rider on the team, she earned her slot and she earned the right to keep it.

If you’ve ever watched Suze race, or watched her maneuver on the NPR, you’ll instantly recognize where she gets her world-class skills. Bumping and positioning among men twice her size and half her age, she’s always perfectly positioned, always knows the right wheel, and is always in the mix.

How many other 49 year-old riders, men or women, can say that?

Teaching through kicking your ass

If some people have a hard time getting along with Suze, it’s for this reason: Ask her a question, and she’ll tell you what she thinks. Or this reason: Do something stupid, and she’ll tell you what she thinks. Or this reason: Exist, and she’ll tell you what she thinks.

Suze has been with Helens Cycles for sixteen years, and  2012 is a fitting year to name her South Bay Rider of the Year because in addition to a string of impressive wins, it was her first full year running the Helen’s women’s program.

Working to achieve the goal of a strong women’s team is tough. Someone always wants to win, but in a highly individualized sport like road racing, the more competitive the race the more essential it is that riders work together.

Highlights in 2012 included winning the Brentwood Grand Prix at 49 freaking years old; placing 3rd overall at the Tour de Murrieta; watching teammate Shelby Reynolds win the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix; and most of all, being part of a team where people trust each other 100%. In 2013 the team will add Priscilla Calderon, and leg-breaker Emily Georgeson will graduate from the 3-4 team to the P/1/2 squad.

Learning through getting her own ass kicked

There are only a handful of South Bay women who can hang with the masters men racers when they’re going at speed. Suze is one of them.

In 2010, after returning to LA, Suze was dragging in the fitness and confidence departments. She didn’t believe that a return to the glory days was possible. With help and encouragement from wankers like Aaron, Victor, Rudy, Mike, Jay, Brenda, and most of all her mom, who kept asking people, “What’s wrong with her?” she found her legs again. And even though there’s the occasional lamefuck who tries to chop her wheel just to make a point, Suze will tell you that there are plenty of guys on the rides who push her to ride harder because they’re her friends.

I’ve learned first hand that underneath the toughness and the mad bike skills there’s a sweetheart of a girl. Lots of others have learned it, too.

When the ranks close

Of course it wouldn’t be cycling, and it sure wouldn’t be cycling in the South Bay, if there weren’t drama. People get mad, make up, then go off and get mad at someone else. And make up. It’s part of the scene. And it’s all good.

Except when it’s not.

One day on the Donut we were rolling up past Portuguese Bend. Some dude who no one knew was getting very attitude-ish. He was fit, fast, and had the best painted-on suntan in the peloton. As we rolled along the false flat he decided to move up. Suze was in his path. So he did what any jerkoff would do: He gave her a hard check, pushed her off her line, and told her to get out of the way.

In doing so, he broke the Rule of Davy.

This is the rule of the peloton that says “Thou shalt piss off anyone in the bunch as long as it’s not Davy.” The corollary to the Rule of Davy is the Rule of the Slowest Fuse, which says “Davy has the slowest fuse of any human alive and is therefore is almost impossible to piss off.”

Unless, of course, you fuck with Suze, with our Suze, in which case the slowest fuse in the peloton becomes a mildly excited 220-pound slab of chiseled steel. Davy never gets angry, but on this day he did get mildly excited.

Bullyprick suddenly found himself in the shadow of the man mountain, whose left arm lazily draped around Bullyprick’s shoulder. It was an arm larger than the trunk of a redwood, and adorned with a tattoo of a skull being pierced with a harpoon while being thrown to a shark in a volcano on top of a mushroom cloud.

“Dude,” Davy said. “If you do anything like that again you will not live to regret it. Because you will not live.”

Bullyprick stared several feet up at the somewhat smiling face of the man mountain and felt the forearm curling around his neck with the conviction of an iron noose. “But…ah…okay…sorry…” was all he could gurgle. And to his credit, it is awfully hard to argue your point when your trachea has been pinned shut.

We never saw Bullyprick again, and Bullyprick never saw Suze, because shortly thereafter she attacked and dropped him on the climb.

So the next time you see her, even though it’ll probably be as she recedes in the distance, take a minute to congratulate her on this coveted award. She’s earned it the hard way.

South Bay weekend roll call

September 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

Let’s start with the big stuff…

Mighty Mouse: Brought her NPR-honed dick stomping skills to the Nautica Malibu Tri and left a trail of shattered members all up and down PCH. CalTrans garbage truck overheated and broke down on Zuma Hill due to overloading with broken dicks. Wore her Big O tee on the podium’s second step.

Wankomodo: Got a public tongue lashing, laughed it off in the spirit it was intended, gave thanks for his new nickname, and refused to take the Wankmeister seriously. You are now officially part of the gang!

Italian Stallion: Came out for the Donut, rode off into the sunset in a marvelous pink outfit after telling G3 to shut-the-fuck-up about the crazy old lady trying to kill us in Portuguese Bend. Tony almost fell off his bike laughing, just as some wanker touched a wheel and flopped down in the middle of the road. Italian Stallion gives us a great write-up of his national championship road race here.

Crown Jules: Stomped everyone except Stathis the Wily Greek and the Italian Stallion on the Switchbacks, outsprinted John “Dillinger” Hall, who kicked me out the back like a pro roadie’s under-the-armpit snotblow.

Rico Suave: Got badly shredded on the Switchbacks, roared back on Wheatgrass to smash everyone up to the Domes, busted up the field on the Glass Church, towed WM to the line, beat him with a bike throw. I hope Rico never discovers drugs.

Erik the Red: Dropped all but a handful on Better Homes, took the sprunt at Hawthorne by a country mile after bridging with JLR. Formally announced his engagement to SPY Elite Team for 2013…yee-haw!

Tink: Returned to the mix, but was under coach’s orders not to engage in any nonsense for a couple more weeks. The sun shone in happiness at her return!

New Girl: Ignored flu symptoms, West Nile virus, superbug, and early onset pneumonia to lace up and ride to the Rock and then Wheatgrass before coming undone at the seams. Dr. Wanky has ordered bed rest until further notice.

Crit Champ: Showed up on the Donut after bringing home a silver medal from nationals, attacked the field on Paseo del Mar, followed all the moves until gravity took over. Also, wrote a fantastic piece about his season vs. the national championships. Read it here.

Surfer Dan: Displayed fine form that comes with his recent 899-mile weeks in preparation for the Everest Challenge, where he and a few other hardy souls will climb the highest mountains in California on a dog sled. Did three repeats up Crenshaw prior to showing up on Wheatgrass and smacking the snot out of us.

Ms. Abs: Was spied sunning herself on the strand in RB this morning, so we got to chat about life and Pen CX; she also updated me on Steve B.’s 198-mile, 11k of climbing ride that he did immediately prior to the Life Flight and coma resuscitation team.

Suze: Pushed several struggling wankers up through Portuguese Bend, and got a nice push on the tush by the Italian Stallion just past Terranea. Like the eye of Mordor, Wankmeister sees it all!

G3: Out for an easy noodle ride, set the fifth best overall time on the short Donut Loop. Ouch. Glad he wasn’t riding in earnest. Toured with WM along the Esplanade on his boss cruiser, with world’s cutest Ava in tow. When you see a kid that cute riding with G3, it makes you sure of this much: She takes after her mother.

Pilot: Noticed my general bonkishness and loaded me up with a full tankard of iced coffee atop the Hill. I owe you one; actually, I owe you several.

Lake(r): New inter-galactic rep for Lake Cycling showed up to taste the Donut despite being HQ’d in San Diego. Give him a welcome the next time he comes around. If there is a next time, as he sat with Wankmeister out at CotKU and learned that the South Bay is essentially an insane asylum without proper walls.

Iron Mike: Treated another passel of ingrates to $400 worth of nasty, foul-smelling, barely potable wheat grass, which made my front two teeth fall out and turned the others deep green. So at least they all match.

Junkyard: Spent Saturday in the 200-degree heat climbing Latigo, Piuma, Crownview, Anchovy, Deer Creek, Decker, and Questhaven, then couldn’t figure out why his legs were flat on the Wheatgrass Ride. I promised to draw him a diagram to explain it, as he’s a visual person.

Sparkles and VV: Rode the Wheatgrass in halter tops due to predictions of high heat, causing several neck strains in the field and aggressive fighting in the wankoton to ride next to them.

Casey Stengel: While he was noodling up to the Domes and I was chasing Rico Suave with all my might, he hopped out of the saddle and gave me a massive tow to within spitting distance of my quarry. The spit didn’t carry, though, and I never closed the gap.

Dude in Antique Sidis: I don’t know if you remember the Sidi Revolution, the first cycling shoe to use velcro, but Dude was wearing a pair and it looked like he hadn’t taken them off since 1986, including his hike across the Himalayas and the year he spent marching across a field of cow manure. We made him sit downwind at the Jamba Juice, where he killed a small flock of starlings with the smell.

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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