June 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
How many times in your life do you get to compete for a championship? I’m not talking an NFL championship, or an NBA championship, or even an NHPA or an NTL championship. Those last two are National Horseshoe Pitching Association and the National Tiddlywinks League, and no, I don’t make this shit up. I make up other shit.
The fact is, you don’t often get to scrap for a championship, especially when you’re old, gizzardy, brokedown, brokebacked, when you piss too often, crap too seldom, are creaky in the morning and wore out by mid-afternoon. Nope, championships are generally for the young and the restless.
Once a year, though, if you are a bicyclist, you can compete for a state bicycling championship, where you pedal your bicycle as quickly as you can to win a prize. Then, if you win the prize, you can buy an even more special prize, to wit, a poorly made, ill fitting jersey in someone else’s size with a bad design that, ugly though it is and fitting as a potato sack though it may be, bears the words “State Champion” and the year of your championship.
This is a prize worth fighting for.
The course of snakes, stinging insects, drunk truckers, and champions
Today is Friday, June 1, 2012. It’s two days before the 45+ Elderly Fellows’ State Championship Road Race in Bakersfield, California. The race covers three 25-mile loops around a hilly course in the desert that has one moderately long climb and numerous short, punchy climbs designed to sap your legs, drain your fluids, and crush your will to survive. As I write this, a friend has Facebooked the current temp there, a moderately warm 105 degrees.
Although you would think that a desert course like this is destined to be hideously ugly, it isn’t. The hills are beautiful, and the desert has the rugged beauty of places where rain is scarce. The visual appeal of the course, however, can only be appreciated in a fast-moving car with the window rolled up and the air conditioner cranked up to “ten.”
Once you are pitched out from the cool security of the car like a fledgling forced to make its first flight, distanced from easy reach into the cooler and its mother lode of cold water, cold soda pop, and cold beer, the desert racecourse that has been designed by the Bakersfieldians is not beautiful at all. Its lack of beauty is only partially caused by the fact that the searing heat is so intense that your corneas begin to roast off the surface of the eyeball.
The true source of the course’s hideousness is the pounding sense of terror and desperation as you flail and pedal and struggle your way out, praying that you will make it back in. This isn’t a sprinter’s special, where well oiled, handsome, kitted up Adonises leisurely pedal for 54 minutes and pedal hard for one.
This is a course where the cowering starters start slowly, knowing that most will quit halfway through, and where the group will only pedal faster when some idiot attacks, or accelerates, or behaves like he’s in a bike race. The pain and torture of the heat, compounded by stinging flies, bee swarms, and poisonous snakes along the roadway to bite those unlucky enough to collapse from heat prostration make Bakersfield truly a place for others to call home.
The field will be half-filled with Big Orange, a smattering of SPY-Blue, and onesy-twosy riders from other teams. Although the bragging rights to the winner are galactic in scope, realistically hardly anyone has a chance of winning. Better to stay home and race another crit than suffer the expense, exhaustion, and humiliation of a beatdown so far from home.
What follows is a list of contenders, beginning with the odds-on favorite.
1. Wankmeister. Let’s face it, I’m the favorite here. First off, I grew up in Texas, so 105-degree heat is nothing. Average summer temperatures where I grew up were 140. At night. It’s true that I suffered a few issues at Punchbowl and got dropped rather quickly, finishing next to last. It’s also true that I got dropped on this same course a couple of months ago, finishing next to last. It’s also true that I’ve never even come close to winning a race in more than twenty years. However, I had Chinese food last night, and after the ER doc pumped my stomach I remembered that my fortune cookie had said this: “Time is a mirror of your desire.” So, that’s pretty clear. My jersey size is small. Thanks.
Pluses: Blogability. No one out-blogs the Wankmeister in a hilly road race. Plus I’ve got a cool helmet cam.
Minuses: Kind of lacking in the speed, strength, and endurance department. But I’ve got a day to come around.
2. DQ Louie: Unless he gets dq’d, which frankly is most of the time, there’s no one who can beat him in a hilly road race. Blazing speed. Relentless attacking. Strategic wheelsucking when necessary, full-on TT mode when he’s off the front. Always has a vicious kick at the end.
Pluses: Tininess. He’s got a drag coefficient of .00000002, which is about the same as a newt or a flea. His power-to-weight ratio is 3 gigawatts per kilo. So you’re basically fucked.
Minuses: Cheatyness. The officials love to dq DQ Louie. Why? He’s from Nevada, that’s why. The races are in California. He’s the dude on the freeway doing 80 who gets pulled over when everyone else is doing 100. Sorry, dude. But not really.
3. Roadchamp: He won last year, and he won two years before that, and he had a creditable showing at Vlees Huis even though they’d removed all twelve lower teeth for implant surgery the week before the race.
Pluses: He’s so skinny that he has to safety pin his socks to his calves. He’s focused. He’s all about winning. He hasn’t had sex in months, ergo mucho ferocityness.
Minuses: Everyone will be gunning for him; carries around old trophies from previous road victories as a talisman; has been known to crumple in the extreme heat. The pressure of not having won yet this year may be too much.
4. Invincible: He’s won this race before, he’s got national crit titles to his name, he sprunts, he climbs, he time trails, and he has more wins in the 45+ this year than everyone else combined.
Pluses: Dude always fucking wins. What more of a plus could you want? Best all around tactician in the game. Knows who to work with, how to control a break, how to kick out the shirkers, how and when to pull out all the stops.
Minuses: Sneakiness. He makes DQ Louie look positively forthright. Plus, he’ll be isolated in the race. THOG is recovering from a major injury. Glasship got his fill of Bako heat at Vlees Huis and is on sabbatical to the beer capital of Deschutes County. So, he’s by himself…yeah, I know. So what?
5. G$: This is one title that’s always eluded him, either due to bad luck, or poor luck, or inferior luck, or luck that wasn’t quite right, or fuckaluck. That’s too bad, because he’s one of the top guys in any category, and built to succeed on a course like this. He has specially prepared snake stomping boots that were made just for this race. With a huge B.O. contingent, he will likely let attrition do its nasty work, and only get to stomping dicks in earnest at the end, when they’ve all gone limp and stretched out from the heat.
Pluses: Time trails. Climbs. Attacks. Makes cool interview videos. Deep and wide team support to control the race or protect a break or send guys up the road. You know he’s got to be frothingly hungry for this jersey. He’s been tapering on the local rides, and has even cut back to five burgers ‘n fries a week. Serious shit.
Minuses: He’ll be dogged by Invincible and DQ Louie. If they get up the road with him, he’s got slim chance in a sprunt. Also, his team is so strong that Roadchamp, Kalashnikov, Capture the Flagg, Thing Two, Herndy Doo, or Hottie could wind up on the podium.
6. FTR DS Jaeger: The smartest rider in the bunch, always goes with the right move. Conserves when he has to, churns out the watts when it matters, never gets dropped on the hard climbs. Missed the vee at states by the narrowest of margins a couple of years ago, this could be his year.
Pluses: Savvy. Tenacious. Experienced. The best in the peloton at making up with savvy and smarts what he lacks in the legs, which frankly isn’t much.
Minuses: Can’t sprunt. Small team, and partially weighted by the anchor teammate from hell, a/k/a Wankmeister.
7. Kalashnikov: Super strong, fast, and clearly on form, Kalashnikov has the benefit of his Big Orange teammates to further strengthen his hand. He will likely play the role of agitator, forcing the other teams to waste valuable energy chasing, a strategy that has worked like a charm in the past.
Pluses: As stated above.
Minuses: If he has to go early, the bitterness of the course could spell doom.
8. Your name here. I’m sorry I left you off. You deserved to make the list, as you’ve got the right stuff, the training miles are there, and it’s finally your year. On the other hand, it’s almost 8:00 PM on a Friday night and I’m blogging about a stupid bike race for old men out in the fucking desert, for dog’s sake. This is enough, even for me.
April 25, 2012 § 9 Comments
Incredibly, Wankmeister’s legs were golden this epic day at Vlees Huis Ronde as he pedaled madly in his Spy Blue team kit through the anus of the Central Valley. Perhaps it was the blinding heat mixed with the nasty particulates and suffocating ozone that make Bakersfield’s air the most polluted in North America, a combination of stench, pain, and discomfort that can really only be approximated by growing up in Texas or living near Amarillo, boxes that Wankmeister has ticked off his gut-bucket list with the fattest Sharpie out there.
Perhaps it was Wanky’s new “Grind Over And Thrust” climbing technique which he has begun using to compensate for the VO2 maxiness of his betters.
Perhaps it was Wankmeister’s decision to go off-grid and just begin following the advice of his coach, Captaintbag, who, after telling Wankmeister that he should give up racing, also told him that if he insists, then JUST GO HARD.
Most perhaps of all, though, it was likely the visages of misery, suffering, despair, and disbelief mixed with the expressions of failure, humiliation, and defeat that were scrawled across the faces of everyone remaining in the lead group. Wankmeister had never lasted so far forward into a hard California road race. Here he was, surrounded by the most recidivist of the forcats de la route, and they looked like shit.
Golden legs. Brutal course. Smothering heat. Everyone else all fucked up. If the legs held, with a smattering of strategy Wankmeister could be a factor in the finish. If not, smoking all this crack sure had been fun.
We will show you mercy. Then after you look at it we will put it back in the box and kill you.
As the leaders sped up the first big climb on the second lap, Flagg of No Quarter attacked and gapped the field. Knowing that my legs couldn’t possibly hold out for a 20-mile breakaway, and that cleverness mandated conservation, I chose suicide by surging from the group and bridging the gap. We worked mightily together, with Flagg taking huge, mile-long pulls up the climb, and me taking brief, four-second pulls on the descents until the field was out of sight and a distant memory.
As Flagg of No Quarter upped the pace, I muttered, “Urgh,” or perhaps it was “Gurgle.” Whatever the sound your vocal cords make when your throat has been slit and the blood mixes with the final exhalation of air…that’s the sound I made. Flagg looked at me as I took my final, puny pull. “No worries,” he said. “You did your best.”
Then Flagg of No Quarter did his best, and vanished up the climb.
The Hand of God smites the unworthy
The field, which had once been a distant memory, now became a visible, living, breathing, fast approaching mob of the undead, with the Hand of God leading the chase. Ten thousand hundred million billion years old, white-haired, bent from the weight of the universe, bedecked in the 456 million-colored sleeve stripes on his champion of the universe jersey, THOG pushed, then pulled, then thrust the group forward until, after my ten mile breakaway attempt, I was swallowed up.
A series of droppage and catchage ensued, where I came off on the climbs and chased back on the downhills, usually with the help of Darling Todd. As we made our second and final ascent up Leibert’s Corner, the Hand of God looked back and saw the cluster of unworthy dingleberry sinners still entwined in the hairs on his rear.
THOG took out his giant Paddle of Doom and carefully inspected it for giant, rusty nails protruding from the end. Finding none, he reached into his jersey pocket and inserted several of the largest and rustiest. Then, with one mighty swat of the Paddle of Doom, THOG smacked the living shit out of the dingleberries who had, ’til then, tenaciously clung to his ass.
We were pounded loose with that one whack. The fire in my stove had gone completely out, and try as I might I couldn’t even reignite the pilot light. The other dingleberries rolled slowly up the road, dislodged from the leaders, while THOG led the remnants back onto the main road, capturing the Flagg, and bringing everyone back together.
In a matter of two miles I was 3:30 down.
The Hand of God meets the steel-toed boot of Satan
With four miles to go, G$ launched an attack into the headwind. None could follow save THOG and DJ. As the large gap filled with even more real estate, some sprunter dude gave the mother of all efforts and bridged. Just as he latched on, he took a second to catch his breath. In that second, G$ unleashed a mighty kick from the steel-toed boot of Satan.
Sprunterdude panicked and threw a chain, with G$ now hitting the bottom of the 1k climb to the finish. THOG waited for DJ to bridge, apparently unaware that the only time DJ bridges is when there are three other players at the card table and it’s his bid.
THOG unleashed the thunderbolt of doom, but too late to fend off the blow to the skull by the pointy, steel-toed boot of the devil. In a reverse of the 2011 finish, it was the devil first, the Hand of God second.
I dribbled in four hours or so later to secure 19th place, the exact same result from 2010. What a difference two years of training, a $15,000 bike, and experience make!
Back at the Suburban, Roadchamp was stitching his gums together with some baling wire, wondering why, after a 12-hour surgical procedure and losing two pints of blood, he’d not had the legs to go with the leaders. “Must have been the heat,” he concluded, carefully draping a towel around the meat cleaver trophy in the hopes that no one would notice.
King Harold came in later that night and immediately called his girlfriend to sob about the heat, the misery, the thirst, the hills, and most of all the massive cramps that soon engulfed him. We changed his didey, gave him a Wankmeister pacifier made out of granite and barbed wire, and headed home.
No one told any stories of epic danger, death, and courage in the face of utter destruction, however. We’d all just lived through one.
April 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Words can’t describe the brutality of the 2012 Vlees Huis Ronde, held in Bakersfield. Oh, wait a minute. Yes, they can.
It started off the way that bike races this time of year always start off. “Hey, honey, I’m racing in Bakersfield tomorrow. Want to come and hand me up water in the feed zone?”
“Bakersfield? Is that the really hot ugly place with no shade?”
“I don’t know if I’d call it ‘ugly.'”
“I would. It’s that sandblown, windswept, terribly hot place with bad air and oil derricks everywhere. I hate that place. Aren’t the races there really long and, like, the bikes only come by once every hour or something?”
“Oh, honey, it’s not that bad. I mean, yes, you’re right, but for Vlees Huis we actually come by once every hour and a half or so.”
“Well, I hate that place and it stinks and the dry dirty air hurts my throat and it’s bitterly hot and I hate it and there’s trash everywhere and every third person is driving a pickup or has meth mouth. If Maggie hadn’t been there with me that time I would have killed myself.”
“Okay, aside from all that, is there like a REASON you won’t go. I really need water in the feed zone. They say it’s going to be in the high 90’s.”
“Since you ask, yes, there is a REASON I don’t want to go.”
“Tomorrow’s my birthday.”
[Tune in tomorrow for “Wanky Dodges a Marital Dissolution”]
February 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
“I’ve got a spare seat on my plane if you’d like to join me for the Tour de Palm Springs Century this weekend,” read Wehrlissimo’s email.
“Fuckin’-A!” I replied, still not sure, even after all these years, what the difference was between, say, a fuckin-A and a fuckin-B, or a fuckin-C for that matter. The chance to do a century ride after my recent beatdowns at Boulevard and Red Trolley would be a significant ego-building opportunity, where I could whizz by lumbering freddies and feel fast, superior, and successful. No matter that “I won the century ride” has all the street cred of “I got laid last night…by my wife.”
The last time I had flown a private plane was when I did the hop from Geraldton, in West Australia, over to the Abrolhos Islands to see a colony of Brown Noddies and to get a picture of a nesting Red-tailed Tropicbird.
It was a red two-seater crop duster with pontoons. The pilot was 80 years old and coughed the entire way like he was going to die as he smoked no-filters and spit bloody phlegm out the window. The noise had been deafening, and the water landing horrible beyond belief.
I, Triple, Polly, FTR DS, and Wehrlissimo stood on the tarmac in the dark as Levi loaded our bikes into the King Air Turboprop radmoplane. This was traveling in style. Rather than driving across the desert for two hours and then fighting four hours back through LA traffic we’d be landing in Palm Springs in thirty minutes and home by three in the afternoon.
I tried to remind myself of all these advantages as Levi turned back to us and said, “We’re going to have dip down pretty aggressively once we cross the mountains in order to hit the landing strip, as it’s just on the other side. There might be some turbulence.”
A few moments later the airplane was pointed straight down. We could see the quickly approaching ground through the windshield, and the only thing to make the picture perfect would have been a couple of gunsights through which we could have strafed the airport or the ten zillion wind turbines that littered the valley. “Just like a roller coaster,” I thought. “With no rails.”
I glanced over at Triple. His thighs were held tightly together, as if he were trying to keep something from sneaking out. At that moment we hit “some turbulence.” The entire aircraft shuddered as if it had been hit with a giant club and we plunged, hit another pocket, shuddered again, and a warning light went off with a shrill beep.
I looked at Polly, whose teeth were clenched, not even pretending to be cool. FTR DS had been okay until his engineer’s hearing had picked up the sound of the warning beep. Now he looked scared, too. I took a final glance at Triple, and could only think, “I’m glad I’m not the chamois in his shorts.”
Welcome to Hell
The game plan had been to hook up with UbeRfRed and his Long Beach Freddies, administer a thorough Southbay SPY Blue beatdown to the denizens of Cadmium City, USA, grab lunch, and jet back home. UbeRfRed had other plans.
The moment our group of twenty-six hit the edge of town it became clear why the city of Palm Springs was developed as one of the first wind farms in California: Wind turbines require winds of up to 35 miles per hour in order to achieve the optimum efficiency and profitability. As the route along North Indian Canyon Rd. left the city and exposed us to the full crosswind that was powering the wind farm, mayhem ensued.
We’d started about 7:30, and the road was clotted with thousands and thousands of freddies. So far, no problem. The 30 mph crosswind, however, was literally blowing people off the road. Every couple of hundred yards there would be bicycles lying in a huge tangle, with hapless freddies pulling and pushing and tugging and lugging on their $5,000 bikes that were now part of a giant parts bazaar.
UbeRfRed gassed it, and we clawed onto his wheel as we zoomed by the endless line of flailing freddies. Since the crosswind was so strong we had to echelon across the entire road. This meant that with each clump of freddies that we overook, UbeRfRed would roar, “Riders!”, but the freddies wouldn’t hear until we were right on their asses. Many of them, cleverly riding deep dish wheels, would jerk to the right, the wind would catch their wheels, and they’d go sailing off the road.
By mile three there were long lines of riders who’d simply given up, turned around, and headed back to Palm Springs. For us, there would be no quitting, as the Long Beach Freddies’ favorite epithet is to shout “You’re weak!” whenever someone quits, gets dropped, gets passed, turns around, swings off the front, takes a drink, stops to pee, or sucks his thumb, or cries for his mommy.
A confederacy of dunces
The whole idea of having 12,000 idiots on bicycles in a venue that it designated as “ideal for a wind farm” could not have happened by coincidence. Rather, it took the conspiracy of core stakeholders to come up with something this awful.
President of the local hospital: “Let’s do something that will fill the beds! February’s a slow month; we won’t really be rocking until Coachella in April.”
Coalition of local bike shops: “Let’s do something that will require 5,000 people to have to completely replace their bikes.”
President of the Chamber of Commerce: “We can showcase the beauty of the desert by routing the ride through all 427 stoplights and through each of the 19 bedroom communities.”
Bill Snooker, Owner, Bill & Snooker Used Auto Emporiums: “Make sure the route takes ‘em by my fourteen lots. Never know when some idiot’ll throw in the towel and want to drive home.”
Crazy Sam Throckmorton, Desert Survival Adventures, Inc.: “Put 12,000 city slickers on bikes on pothole-filled, thorn-littered, gravel-strewn desert roadways a thousand miles from nowhere, watch ‘em flat and wander off into the scrub and ocotillo looking for water, then do emergency rescues and charge $859 a head. Works ever’ time!”
Freddy Freeloader, 2012 president-elect, Palm Springs Friendly Riders’ Club: “It’ll be just like Solvang!”
It really isn’t anything at all like Solvang
After five miles of battering along in a full echelon as the howling crosswind sprayed sand and grit into our eyes and noses and teeth, with freddies flying off the road and smashing into each other, and with UbeRfRed and FTR DS drilling the pace the whole way, we turned left directly into the wind. Never in my life have I been so happy to have a headwind. For one, it meant no more leaning at a 30-degree angle to keep from being blown over. For another, it meant true shelter, not the misery of a partial draft echelon.
This respite only lasted a couple of miles before we turned right again and back into the crosswind. UbeRfRed now really hit the gas, exploding the remnants of his flailing Long Beach soulmates. I hadn’t bothered to look at the course map and had no idea how long the hell was going to last. For all I knew, it would be fifty miles out into this sandstorm and fifty miles back. My resolve began to fade and defeatism set in as the line of quitters and the clumps of the crashed flashed by.
After a mere 1.5 more miles of crosswind hell, the road turned right into a tailwind. I couldn’t believe it. UbeRfRed, after flagellating us mercilessly for the first twelve miles, held up his hand. “Let’s regroup!” he said.
I looked at FTR DS. He looked at me. We both thought the same thing: “He’s weak.”
I love you, that’s why I hate you
The next sixty miles went by quickly, a combination of straight tailwind and tail-crosswind. UbeRfRed would hammer until he’d dropped all of his best friends, and then make us stop so that they could all catch up and he could catch his breath. Repeat. By mile seventy we were well into the bowels of the poorly marked, suburban, stoplight-filled portion of the course.
At the final rest stop one of the Long Beach Freddies regaled me with the heart attack he’d had while cycling a few months back. “Yeah, I was with the guys and just keeled over.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Heart attack. Piece of plaque came off an arterial wall and chugged into the heart. Everybody has plaque on their arteries. Mine just lodged in a bad place.”
“Yeah…right,” I said, eyeing his beer belly. “Is that what the doctor said?”
“Yeah. Said everybody has it.”
“Did he graduate from a medical school in the Caribbean by any chance? Last name Sojka?”
Freddie looked at me funny. “No. But the good thing about it was, the guys were there for me.”
“Hell yeah. They waited until I’d stabilized in the ICU before they all came in and told me I was weak.”
“Well, at least you’re back on the bike,” I said, trying to make a positive out of a quadruple negative.
“Yep. I took a long time off the bike to recover, it being a heart attack and me almost dying and everything.”
“That’s good. How long were you off?”
Realizing that I was dealing with a true madman, I got back on the bike and continued pedaling.
Anybody can pedal a bike 70 miles…
“But can they drill it for the last thirty?” That was FTR DS’s question, and UbeRfRed answered it with a simple question phrased as a whimper.
“Hey guys,” he said. “Let’s just ride two by two for the rest of the way. Okay? Okay?”
FTR DS smiled a nasty smile, then went to the front and set an, um, steady pace. Alex the Poseur sidled up alongside him to match the pull, but after a couple of minutes went rocketing off to the side in the rickety wobble of someone who is blown and not coming back.
I came to the fore and was joined by Long Beach Freddy Rick. He had done the entire ride in booties, a skinsuit and full TT rig, which included Speed Racer-style bottle ejectors that caused his $40 insulated water bottles to fly out of the saddle-mounted holders and into the spokes of whomever was on his wheel. Showing the most grit of all the LBF’s with the exception of Heart Attack, who we fully expected to die at any moment, Rick matched the pace for a solid five miles.
Ultimately his head drooped, his fanny pooped, and he did the wobble-and-fade back to the ignominy of the rear wheelsuck with UbeRfRed and the Cadmium Crew. With eighteen miles to go, FTR DS came up and joined me. It was as nasty and unpleasant a finish as I can recall, with countless stoplights, and so many wrong turns that we were eventually stuck on the truck-car-senile-retiree highway to hell that is the 111.
So long, it’s been good to know ya
Wehrlissimo had reserved a spot for us at PS Wine, and we rolled up to sandwiches, water, chips, and lots of wine. As each group of finishers passed us by, from their perch on the sidewalk the LBF’s shouted “You’re weak!” to the broken, salt-encrusted, beaten down tourists.
Suddenly one of the LBF’s commanded, “Everyone! Stick your finger in your left ear!” Too drunk, frightened, tired, or confused to object, we all did as we were told. “Remove fingers!” We did. “Inspect fingers!” We looked at our fingertips, which were coated with a 1/8 inch layer of sand and grit stuck together with earwax. This, then, was our souvenir from Palm Springs, finer than any blue and yellow jersey designed by a middle schooler who “wanted to be an artist.”
We said our goodbyes, and Levi the Pilot proved again that he was the real man among men. He’d not only flown the plane and ridden a hundred hard miles, but he’d abstained from so much as a sip of alcohol and looked like he’d hardly exerted himself.
Back on the tarmac in LA, we deplaned and said our goodbyes. I thanked Wehrlissimo for his incredible generosity, and offered him $15 to help pay for gas. “Thanks,” he said, refusing my generous offer.
“So how much does a tank of airplane fuel cost for one of these, anyway?” I asked.
The other guys thanked him, too. He laughed. “All this stuff,” he said, waving at the airplane and hangar, “isn’t really worth anything if you can’t share it with your friends.”
February 7, 2012 § 4 Comments
The sun did not shine. It was too wet to ride.
So we sat in the house. And we felt like we’d died.
I sat there with Sally, we sat there we two.
And I said, “How I’d love to go biking with you!”
Too wet to go out and too cold to pedal.
So we sat there forlorn. Like Hansel and Gretel.
We stared at our bikes and thought Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!
And we did not like it. No time trial or crit.
And then something went WHAM!
And we both said, “Goddamn!”
We looked! Then we saw him roll in with a flex!
All filthy and gnarly! Big, bad MMX!
And he said to us, “What? Are your bikes total wrecks?
“I know it is wet. And the roads are all rough.
“But we can find out who’s the wimp and who’s tough!”
“My Ride, Belgian Waffles, we’ll do,” said the dude.
“And if you’re a Fred you’ll be totally screwed.”
“A lot of good roads. I will show them to you.
“There’s only one catch!” And he looked at us two.
Then Sally and I we both looked kind of dumb.
Our wheelsucking style was what we called “fun.”
But our goat said, “No! No! Make that dude go outside!
“Tell that dude in the tights you do NOT want to ride.
“He should not be here, Belgian Waffles and all!
“I’ve heard of that ride! It’s a two-fisted brawl!”
“Now! Now!” said the dude. “Have no fear. Have no fear!”
“As long as you work, we’ll swill good Belgian beer.”
“But if you’re adjudged at the back to have dawdled,
“You won’t be rewarded or fawned on or coddled.”
“In fact,” said the dude as he pushed us outside,
“You’ll flat rue the day that you learned how to ride.”
The goat by this time was astraddle my bars
As crazily fast we three weaved through the cars.
“Take me back!” said the goat. “I hate it up here!
“I do my best work sucking wheel in the rear!”
The dude simply grinned as he cut through the wind.
“Oh, goat, now’s the day for your sins you will pay
“As the wind and the rain and the cold have their sway.”
“With the bugs in your teeth! The throttle full bore!
“But that is not ALL I can do! No, there’s more!
“Look at you! Look at you now!” said the dude.
“All panting and hacking! Your brain fairly stewed!
“You see what it’s like at the tip of the spear?
“It’s not quite as easy as back in the rear.
“And look! We don’t have to stay just where it’s paved!
“The dirt and the cobbles are yet to be braved.
“Follow my wheel if you can, though it’s hard
“And not much like farting around in the yard.
“Grip the bars tight but don’t fight for control,
“Take the bumps easy and let the wheels roll.
“Feel the wheels slip as you let the wheels slide,
“And soon you Freds both will be able to ride.
“And rather than cower and quaver and quake,
“The gnarliest, bad-assedest pulls you’ll soon take.”
That is what the dude said.
Then I fell like a Fred!
My goofy maneuver damn near cleared the decks,
It knocked down poor Sally and shook MMX.
I hit with a thud and my mouth filled with crud.
I said, “Do I like this? The warm spurting blood?”
“This is not a good ride,” said our goat as I crashed.
“My horns are all blunt and my side fairly thrashed.”
“Now look what you did!” said the goat to the dude.
“His shorts are all ripped! He’s riding half nude!
“You fucked up his frame and her nice carbon rim,
“And tore the nice kit that was given to him.
“We SHOULD NOT be riding our bikes in this shit!
“You take us home now! We won’t ride one more bit!”
“But I like it out here where it’s nasty and wet,”
Said the dude on the bike to the goat he’d just met.
“I won’t take you home, or tuck tail like some pup.
“The ride has just started, so man the fuck up!
“Your sad sack maneuvers, your wheelsucking game,
“Is frankly pathetic, disgusting, and lame.
And then he looked down and he dropped it a cog,
His mighty quads flexing, I flailed like a dog.
And just as we thought we’d crack, crater, and blow,
He looked back and said “95 miles to go.”
Then he got up on top of the big, massive gear,
“I call this game RIP OFF YOUR LEGS,” did he leer.
“In this locker of pain you’re now bound up inside,
“You will find something new, from which you can’t hide.
“These things that you’ll find here are truer than true,
“A view of yourself that’s entirely new.”
And out came two things, clad in stylish SPY Blue,
As pitilessly they spun out a tattoo.
A tattoo of pain, and they rolled like a train,
And they said to us, “Watch how we sprint in the rain.”
“Would you like to match pulls with SPY One and SPY Two?”
And Sally and I did not know what to do.
So we hopped in the line with SPY One and SPY Two.
We each took a pull. But our goat said, “No! No!
“Don’t rotate like that! Your poor legs will blow!
“We should not be here in the muck or the storm!
“Let’s beat a retreat where it’s toasty and warm!”
“SPY One and SPY Two,” said the dude on the bike.
“Don’t give a goddamn what you hate or you like.”
“They are here to take names. They are here to kick ass.
“And you’re on their list, and it don’t say ‘free pass.’
“Now, here is a game that they like,” said the dude.
“They call this game ’53-12.’ In the mood?”
“Not 53-12!” said the goat in great fear.
“We’ve never held pace in so monstrous a gear!
“Oh, the speeds they will go! Oh, the pain they’ll inflict!
“How did we wind up in this mess? We’ve been tricked!”
Then Sally and I saw the big rings engage.
We shuddered in pain as they pedaled in rage.
They flew through the mud, we were covered in it,
The rain and the cold and the muck and the shit.
SPY Two and SPY One! They went faster than fast!
The hours turned to minutes so quick did time pass.
Our faces all covered with muddy spit flecks,
All grinning the while was big MMX.
Then those Things hit the gas with big bumps, thumps and whacks,
And with sprints and big jumps and all kinds of attacks.
And I said, “I’m beginning to like how they play!
“Are those balls down below that I’ve grown here today?”
Then our goat said, “Look! Look!” And our goat shook with fear.
“You’re about to get dropped! Suck wheel at the rear!
“What if you come off? What will your friends think?
“They’ll scorn you and laugh and they’ll say that you stink!
“Suck some wheel! Fast!” said the goat. “Do you hear!
“Your limit of lactate, your threshold is near!”
“As fast as you can, race back to the back!
“You’ll have to forget that you want to grow sack!”
I looked at the goat but his offer I spurned,
With heroes like this, this much had I learned.
‘Tis better to pull on the point with your crew,
Get beat down and fail, the best you can do,
Than to finish respected by no one but you.
I moved to the front and I pulled for a while,
And then through the slime and the mud did he smile.
I said to the dude, “Now, buddy, I’m done.
“‘Twas harder than nails, but its own kind of fun.”
“You pussy,” he said. “It’s not over yet.”
“The road isn’t finished, we’re still soaking wet.”
“Hop on, you poor sod, for this much I’ll say,
“In doing your best, what you’ve earned for today,
“Not sneaking or skulking or trying to steal,
“A free ride on some fellow traveler’s wheel,
“I’ll haul your ass home, so just tuck in behind
“But don’t be surprised if it’s work there you find.”
And then all the pain and the hurt heretofore,
Was as flowers in spring to the beatdown in store
For Sally and me as we clung to his rear,
Our tongues in our spokes as he shifted each gear.
And when we looked up, only sunshine remained.
Aside from our kits, you’d not know it had rained.
He dropped us off quick, with a nod of respect,
And then he was gone, but we didn’t expect
That he’d leave us with such an amazing attraction
A feeling of deep inner self-satisfaction,
The knowledge that taking’s a shiny, bright star,
But giving’s so truly much better, by far.
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