The taste of bitter, Devil’s Punchbowl 2012, Part 1

April 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

Humans receive tastes through sensory organs called taste buds, concentrated on the top of the tongue. There are about 100,000 of

them. According to Wikipedia, the sensation of taste can be categorized into five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. “Umami” is originally the Japanese word for “meaty” or “savory,” or more commonly, “vagina.”

Cycling in general, and bike racing in particular, are filled from top to bottom with bitter. Occasionally, after a hard race in some godforsaken shithole that is strewn with blowing trash and meth whores, a rider will describe the event as “bittersweet.” This is because he got second when he could have won, or almost didn’t get dropped on the climb when he got dropped on the climb, etc. However, mostly all the time it’s just plain old bitter.

“How’d you do?” “Bitter.”

“How was the Bakersfield course?” “Bitter.”

“What does your wife think about all the time and money you spend training that supposedly makes you fit but in reality makes you too tired to have sex on the rare occasions when she wants it?” “Bitter.”

Sometimes, but not often, cycling actually tastes like “umami,” or “vagina”

My buddy Filds once went to race in Belgium for a while. His Iowan parents didn’t quite understand. When the locals back in Tipton asked “So what’s Filds up to?” his mom would say, “Oh, he’s riding his bicycle around Europe.”

Yeah, he was just riding his bike around good ol’ Europe on little ol’ group rides like Het Volk.

What’s more to the point, though, is that before doing the Spring classics, he spent the winter training with locals who rode out of Ghent, characters such as Johann van der Velde and Jan Raas. Whatever you do, pretend you know who they are.

The winter Filds spent in Ghent he was accompanied by his girlfriend, who stayed back in the flat during the long hours that Filds rode in the cold, wet, Belgium winter. The Belgians and Dutch thought it was funny that a guy would bring his girlfriend to Europe while he trained to race. It was a sign of weakness, as if Filds couldn’t endure the hardness without having a woman back home so that he could “lick de pussy” as they said in their broken, laughing, heckling English.

When the whip comes down

One day in early January Filds met up with his training partners, including Raas. It was just above freezing. A hard rain was pelting down. The cobbled roads were treacherously slick. The wind was blowing at gale force. No one said a thing as they rode out of Ghent. As they completed a loop back into Ghent, a loop containing 80 of the hardest, coldest, wettest, most miserable miles that Filds had ever endured, all he could think of was his heated flat, something hot to drink, hot food, warm clothes, and the hours it was going to take to thaw out his broken and frozen body.

Filds was counting the pedal strokes until he could turn down his street. He moved over to the left as he saw his turn up ahead. “Wat you doing?” asked Raas.

Filds looked over. “I live over there. My apartment is over there.”

“I know dat,” said Raas. “So wat? We going make anudder loop.”

“Another loop? Are you kidding?” No sooner had he said it than he saw that no one was kidding. The hard part hadn’t even begun.

“Ja, you wanna ride bike in Belgie or you wanna go back to de house to lick de pussy?”

The other guys started to laugh. “I can’t, Jan. I’m completely done. Completely. I can’t go any farther.”

Raas turned to the bunch. “He’s going back to de house to lick de pussy!” They all howled. “American boy going back to de house to lick de pussy!”

Filds slunk home in shame. He was broken, frozen, exhausted, defeated, and crushed by the knowledge that the outer limit of his physical and mental endurance was barely half that of the men against whom he would have to race in a few weeks’ time. Whether or not he went home and licked de pussy is unknown. But it is certain that the aftertaste of the ride was bitter mixed with umami.

[Tune in tomorrow for “Wanky Eats Sand and Thinks It’s Bitter, but Not As Bitter As Drinking from the Pukebowl”]

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