Water the roots

November 8, 2014 § 6 Comments

This post is directed only to people in Southern California who meet one of the following requirements:

  1. You have a racing license.
  2. You have a fancy road bike, in which fancy > $1,500.
  3. You have a cyclocross bike.
  4. You have at least one Strava KOM.
  5. You troll Facebook on Sunday afternoon to find out the local race results.
  6. You follow professional race results.
  7. You have a power meter.
  8. You know what “WKO+” is.
  9. You like to “mix it up” on group rides.
  10. You have recurring fantasies of riding Merckx off your wheel high in the Alps, with your sixth consecutive Tour victory on the line.

If any of the above applies to you, please take note that on Sunday you will have 2 (two) opportunities (Möglichkeiten) to actualize your inner Walter Mitty in an actual bike race. These 2 (two) opportunities (Möglichkeiten) are outlined in detail below.

Möglichkeit A: Udo SPYclocross

In Memory of Udo Heinz

In Memory of Udo Heinz

This race has everything. If you’ve never raced cyclocross before, or if you haven’t yet gotten your feet wet this season, no race on the calendar is better than this one. In addition to fantastic organization, a challenging course, and the state’s best competition, Lake Hodges is a bottle’s throw from some of the best breweries in America. Cyclocross, because it’s bike racing, is hard. But it’s also fun — there are actual crowds, they actually cheer for (or at) you, and the only attitude is the attitude of “let’s have fun, and let’s race.”

Udo Heinz, to whom the race is dedicated, was struck and killed by a bus on Camp Pendleton almost two years ago. Udo was the epitome of a good rider. He tirelessly worked to organize and execute the best ‘cross races on the calendar, he was a safe and considerate cyclist who always looked out for the other guy, and he was the kind of person to whom others turned for help and advice.

If you have never raced ‘cross before, make November 9, 2014, your first race. It won’t be your last.

Möglichkeit B: SPY Upgrade Crit p/b CBR & Chris Lotts & Vera!

Come out and race!

Come out and race!

So let’s say that you don’t have a ‘cross bike or don’t know anyone who has one, which, frankly, is complete bullshit. But let’s say that we accept your bullshit because we’re friends and that’s what friends do. I know for a fact that you want to race your bike, deep down you really do — and there’s no safer, better place to do it than in one of Chris & Vera’s upgrade races. The race will go off on time. Bullshit dangerous riding will not be tolerated. Winners and near-winners will be glorified on a podium, and you will have the satisfaction of having actually raced your bike.

Well, there’s actually a third option for Sunday: Pull on your fancy riding outfit, wheel out your fancy racing bicycle, and pal around with your buddies at the coffee shop talking about how you wish there were more race opportunities in SoCal. See you there. At the race!

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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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A funeral dirge

March 17, 2014 § 29 Comments

There is still more than a month left before you line up for the the third SPY Belgian Waffle Ride. But it might as well be tomorrow.

You see, training and preparation aren’t going to help you this time around. If you were paying attention, the 2013 version was the most challenging one-day event on the calendar. It dragged us over unpaved roads, 120 miles of relentless riding, and 9,000 feet of elevation. The ride was so awful that people milled around in the parking lot afterwards trying to smile, and failing. There wasn’t enough strength left to raise the muscles around the corners of their mouths.

I’m exaggerating, of course. A handful of riders were tired but happy at the end. They were either genetic freaks who have nothing in common with you and me, or they were clever people who kept a steady pace from start to finish, refusing to get suckered into the accelerations of faster groups.

Everyone else was vulture meat.

How bad, was it, really? I was so devastated that I fell off the 3-year teetotaling wagon and have been drinking incessantly ever since. Only recently have the bad memories faded, but not really.

The 2013 BWR, however, was a cakewalk

The 2014 route map has been mostly finalized, and it is senseless in its difficulty. The ride is longer. Instead of a leg-snapping 120 miles, the total distance is 136. The ride is hillier. Instead of 9k feet, it is now 11k. Worst of all, instead of 10 miles of unpaved road, this year offers up more than 30 miles of sand, dirt, rocks, and gravel. That’s bad enough, as in “He put out his own eyes with a fork is bad enough.” But the thing that makes it worse is that much of the off-road portion is uphill. And then, of course, downhill.

Any one or any two of these elements could be properly trained for if, say, you were a full-time professional cyclist in your 20′s or 30′s. But all three elements together — distance, elevation, and road surface — mean that there is no realistic way to be ready for it. It will grind you up and leave you forlorn and mostly lost somewhere in North County San Diego on a fiery hot day in the middle of our first official Globally Warmed Spring.

None of this hell and misery takes into account the high likelihood of a mechanical, or two, or seven, or flats, or ripped out sidewalls or destroyed rims or cracked frames or shattered forks. In other words, if your equipment is right, it will be so heavy and sturdy that you will almost certainly never be able to get up the climbs towards the end of the course. If your equipment is wrong, you’ll DNF somewhere in the hinterlands, eyed by hungry pumas and by buzzards who circle overhead. Once you’ve collapsed at the roadside rest assured that the survivors will part out your bike and empty your pockets for extra food.

What’s a poor registrant to do who’s already paid his entry fees?

Below are my suggestions for surviving this miserable beatdown of a day, a day in which you will go through the spectrum of human emotions, from anger to rage to resignation to exhaustion to depression to fear of impending death to not caring anymore to beer. The happy end of the emotional spectrum will not manifest until months after the event, if ever. So:

  1. Do not pedal hard during the first 120 miles. That’s right. If you squander so much as a pedal stroke early on, thinking you can hang with the Bordines, the Rogerses, the Shirleys, the Cobleys, and the Dahls, you will come apart at Mile 60 or earlier. Trust me. I’ve done it.
  2. Do not be suckered in by the tasty waffle breakfast. Have your normal big ride pre-dinner and your normal big ride breakfast, whatever that is. Last year I ate 17 waffles and a pound of eggs and washed it down with a quart of coffee and paid the price beginning at Mile 5. That price was destruction.
  3. Avoid the rest stops unless you need water. If your nutritional plan is to fuel up on the Barbie food that will be available by the fistful, you’ll never make it. Carefully pack substantial, real food, like peanut butter sandwiches or a large t-bone steak.
  4. If you stop for water, get back on your bike immediately. Every minute you stop equals fifteen minutes of pedaling to exorcise the coagulated death sludge that will immediately clog your vascular system. If you’re not moving forward, you’re rocketing backwards.
  5. Carry three spare tubes and a mini-pump. Share your tubes with no one. This is not the day to help out people who are unprepared, or who showed up with threadbare tires, or who were too cheap to bring an extra tube, or who are riding on paper thin race tires and latex tubes, or who are simply unlucky. This is their day to die. So it is written.
  6. If you’re not on ‘cross or MTB tires (either of which is a suicidal choice, by the way), run 25-mm heavy-duty training tires. Run new ones, but make sure they have a hundred miles or so on them.
  7. Inflate your tires to 80 or 90 psi, max. The course will be covered with sharp stones, thorns, rough gravel, roots, glass, and dead people. The lower psi will greatly reduce the number of punctures as you roll over the teeth and bones of the dead and will add immeasurably to your comfort over the course of this 10- or 12- or 14-hour day.
  8. Go all-out with your gearing. 50 teeth max in front, 28 in back … 30 if you can make it work with your derailleur. When you hit the slopes of Double Peak and can crank it into your 36 x 30, you will love me and buy me free beer for the rest of the year. If you cheap out or lazy out and show up with real road gearing you’ll founder and die somewhere in the sandpits of backroad North County, never to be seen again.
  9. Do not have a single article of clothing or piece of equipment that you haven’t thoroughly tested and ridden in adverse conditions. This is not the day to try anything new, even that cute chick or guy you picked up at Green Flash Brewery the night before. Sample them later, after you’re dead.
  10. Ride with full-fingered gloves and a shit-ton of sunblock. The sun will drain and waste and sap your vital juices, so cover whatever you can stand as long as you don’t overheat.
  11. Max out your uninsured motorist coverage. In the unlikely event you are injured or killed on the course by a car, this will provide you with an avenue for compensation that you or your heirs will badly need.
  12. Make sure you’ve got at least one 120-mile day on your legs before the Big Day, but don’t bother trying to recon the whole route or to simulate it. You can’t, and the attempt will only destroy your will to live. Treat it like the invasion of Normandy. Prep the best you can, but leave the actual catastrophe to the day itself.
  13. Spend the night in Carlsbad or somewhere close to the start. That way we can all go pound IPA’s until the wee hours. Really. Because whether you show up with a bleeding hangover or fresh and rested, the end result will be the same.

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Good people

January 13, 2014 § 24 Comments

I rode up onto the sidewalk like I always do, made the left down the narrow little path next to the parking garage, and dismounted at the top of the four concrete steps which lead to the big locked gate. There is a hedge opposite the wall of the parking garage, and the space along the path is so slight that if they weren’t well trimmed, the branches would touch the opposing wall. It’s a busy little passageway; countless tenants come and go through this side entrance over the course of a day.

The jersey pockets of my bicycle outfit are always stuffed the same way. Gate and house key on the left, spare tube in the middle, and CO2/cash/credit card on the right. When I’m cutting out before sunrise I’ll stick my sunglasses in the left pocket, on top of the keys. It’s my “sunglass” pocket, or, when I’m coming home in the late afternoon and wearing my sunglasses, it’s the pocket in which I’ll put the Rx clear-lens biking glasses that I’d worn on the pre-dawn commute. In any event, the glasses are always on top of the gate and house key.

On Thursday afternoon I got back to the complex, dismounted, and took off my gloves before fishing out the glasses from the left pocket in order to reach the gate and house key. I walked the bike down the steps, let myself in, and walked up the staircase to our apartment. Then the evening quickly took over. There was so much to do before our big trip to Palm Springs on Friday. There were bags to be packed, bike to be cleaned, dinner to be eaten, beer to be drunk and, of course, book to be faced.

One of the last things to be packed was my actual riding gear, and nothing is double and triple-checked more often than my eyewear. This is because my vision is so terrible that without my prescription biker glasses it’s simply not possible to ride. Although I knew from our riding schedule that we wouldn’t be riding before sunup or after sundown, and I therefore wouldn’t need them, I noticed that my clear Rx glasses were missing.

“Honey,” I said, “have you seen my clear glasses?”

“No. Why? When’s the last time you wore them?”

“Today. I thought I came home with them today, actually.” A short search ensued but they didn’t turn up. “They’ll show up later,” I thought.

Rather, I hoped like hell they’d show up, because they were prescription SPY Quanta performance glasses, and they meant the difference between pre-dawn riding and not. They would also be expensive to replace.

The weekend flew by, and on Sunday night, as I unpacked my bags, I realized that the glasses had never turned up. This wasn’t surprising, since I hadn’t looked for them and since we’d been out of town. “Honey,” I asked again. “Have you seen my clear Rx riding glasses?”

She rolled her eyes. “In Palm Springs? No.”

On Monday morning I got ready to ride and faced the nasty truth. I’d lost the glasses and couldn’t remember where, and they weren’t coming back. Our apartment is small and we don’t have much in it, and the glasses would have surfaced if only because SPY provides a gray cloth carrying case with a bright orange drawstring for all its eyewear. It’s the kind of thing that you just can’t miss, bright orange strings against a slightly metallic gray bag.

I clomped down the concrete staircase and went out the gate. As I mounted the top concrete step on the walkway, I glanced to my right. There on the hedge was a gray cloth bag, hanging from a branch by its bright orange drawstring. Then it all came back to me. I’d taken out the glasses out of the back pocket in order to get the gate key, and must have dropped the glasses. They’d been there for almost four days.

Someone had picked up the bag, looked inside, realized that the glasses were prescription and fancy and important, and had thoughtfully hung them from the hedge. Over the four days countless people had stopped, opened the little bag to see what was inside, realized that they were lost glasses, and left them there. Countless little acts of observation, investigation, conclusion and … doing the nicest thing.

I smiled a big smile and tucked the glasses into my jersey pocket, the left one of course. Then I pedaled on to work, feeling like the strangers of the world were, somehow, looking out for me, and reminding me that when it came my turn, to be sure and look out for them, too.

SPY-Giant-RIDE training camp and beer sampling contest

January 12, 2014 § 16 Comments

I had really been looking forward to the weekend, that’s what I told myself as the whole fucking peloton exploded into wobbling, weaving fragments on the lower part of the Tramway climb, only I didn’t know it was the lower part because I’d never been there before or watched the finale of the Tour of California stage because if I had I would have known that the yellow sign and the modest bump-top I was sprinting for, far from being the top, was four miles from the top, and what was already the most miserable mile I’d ever spent on a bike was about to be most hellish five miles, not just one.

The leaders numbered about fifteen and I could count them, as they were plotted out in high relief against the ugly, featureless desert shitscape that spilled out like bad barf on either side of the roadway. The flailers numbered about sixty, riders who had, like me, thought they were coming to Palm Springs for a fun team bonding training camp, only to find out that as soon as they’d picked up their swag and put on their fancy kits that some sadist had planned the most miserable of afternoons for them in the high desert hell.

Slowly I moved up, latching onto the wheels of the decaying riders who, like me, were coming apart at the seams, but unlike me were coming apart slightly faster. My signature pant-gasp-hack-cough got into their heads along with the depressing reality that flashed across their minds as I sat on their wheels: “If Wankmeister has caught me and can hold my wheel, my fucking season is over. It’s like being caught by an obese child with short legs, only worse.” One by one they pounded as hard as they could, desperately trying to shake the stigma of having me ride them down, then pulled over in defeat as I soldiered on. This terribly painful, wholly unrewarding, ego-crushing climb ended with only a handful of the very best riders ahead of me. I calculated eighth place out of about seventy-five riders, with Chris Johnson, Brian Stack, John Abate, Paul Vaccari, Logan Fiedler, Dave Jaeger, and Taylor Vaccardi ahead of me.

This, of course, was a result so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined that it almost made up for the misery of the climb and the terror of the 60-mph downhill. When we all reconvened at the hotel, the consensus was general: On the very first ride of the very first day of training camp we had all destroyed ourselves so completely that we would spend the next two days sucking our thumbs, curled up in bed popping Advil and wishing we could go home.

What is a training camp?

I wondered this the sleepless night before our Spy-Giant-RIDE Second Annual Training Camp of General Awesomeness and Beer. There didn’t seem to be any tents, sleeping bags, or highjinks with the girl campers on the itinerary, so it clearly wasn’t a camp. And after wrecking all of our legs on Day One (various riders were so destroyed by the dry air and brutal climb that the following day they tucked tail 30 miles into the ride and slinked back to the hotel bar rather than complete the 103-mile death march across the desert), I couldn’t really figure out what it was we were training for, except perhaps for a graveside service.

Mrs. WM and I had in fact begun the whole thing in high spirits. We stopped in San Bernardino on the way out to get gas after the typical husband-wife car conversation, which began like this. “I gotta pee.”

“You’re fuggin’ kidding me. We’ve been in the car less than an hour.”

“I don’ care I gotta pee.”

“You can’t have to pee. There’s no way you have generated enough pee. You’ve drunk nothing. You can’t have to pee.”

“I gotta pee so let’s stop onna pee stop now.”

A few minutes later we were at a gas station. She came back to the car. “Can I get onna magazine?”

“Sure.” This was odd, because in 26 years of marriage she had read, maybe, four magazines. She returned to the car, smiling, with a copy of Cosmo. “What did you get that for? Don’t tell me you’re reading Cosmo for fashion advice?”

“It had onna cover story called ‘Fantasy Sex.’”

There was a brief silence as I calculated the possibilities. Team training camp was starting to look good.

Swag me!

When we arrived at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Golf Nirvana our awesome team bosses greeted us with an assembly line of kits, caps, eyewear, and t-shirts. It was brain numbing to think that we, a worthless bunch of prostate-challenged wannabes were being showered with so much pro stuff. Our kits came in plastic bags with our names on them, and the kits themselves had our names on the side panels of the jerseys. We gazed in wonder, not simply at the awesomeness of it, but at the realization that all the other teams would be purple with envy when they saw our rad personalized clothing. Henceforth the pro masters SoCal masters cycling circuit would, unquestionably, be demanding personalized kits even as they gnawed their livers at not having thought of it first.

After returning from our horrific Day One training ride, I realized many things, and chief among them was this: Just because I have a fancy kit doesn’t mean I’m any good. This was really depressing, as I’d been hoping, deep down, that by wearing the nicest kit I would somehow be a better rider.

SPY had reserved a giant room with a bar, restaurant, and conference area for the afternoon presentations. We began with the most important one, from SPY Optic, called “Why You Are Here.” This was important because from the moment we were showered with swag and set up for the amazing weekend, each of us wondered the same thing: “What’s a wanker like me doing to deserve all this?”

To the relief of many, the answer was NOT “Go forth and win bike races.”

Instead, the answer was something entirely different. It was, “Go forth and live a good life, and a happy one. If you win bike races as a result, good for you. If you win nothing at all, you’ve still won everything possible.” In shorthand that every bike racer can understand, we were treated to the SPY motto, “HTFU.” Yeah. Happy the Fuck Up.

A few of the new recruits may have been puzzled, but I wasn’t. Anyone who thinks that winning bike races, or winning any kind of race, is the key to a good life well lived, hasn’t read the fine print that comes Life. Crushing the souls of your competitors, or marking up their FB wall with boasts about how you’ll destroy their hopes in the Aged People With Prostate Issues Category is important, and fun, and, perhaps, fulfilling in some strange way. But the key to getting your foot onto the next stepping stone in life isn’t “winning.” It’s being the kind of person who is kind, and it’s happily accepting happiness as a completely self-fulfilling way of doing the journey.

Of course none of us bought that bullshit for even a nanosecond, and all we could think about was training harder, racing smarter, and beating the snot out of the guys and women we race against, hopefully humiliating them in front of their small children, but at a minimum making fun of them for cherry-picking crits and avoiding anything with a hill in it.

How the team was fitted

The next morning we staggered into breakfast, inhaled everything on the buffet line, and sat down to a presentation from Harmony Bars, a San Diego company that makes what is unquestionably the tastiest in-your-jersey-pocket-treat ever created. However, no one in the room was able to concentrate on the caloric and nutritive aspects of the presentation, since it was being done by Jess Cerra in a pair of mesh white tights. We had all spent the previous day having Jess ride us off our her wheel on the Tramway climb, not terribly different from the times she had ridden us off her wheel on the Swami’s Ride, on the SPY Holiday Ride, on the Belgian Waffle Ride, or, frankly, every other ride we’d ever accompanied her on.

Jess’s strength and unrelenting power on the bike, and her unparalleled ability to litter the roadside with smashed male egos, was equaled only by her presentation in the white tights. Every man in the room died a little bit that day, heaping jealousy and hatred on the shoulders of John Abate as we watchd, er, listened, to Jess’s presentation. The Harmony Bar story can be summed up thus: This shit tastes good, is locally made, and was designed by people who crush on the bike. Okay?

Next we heard from our StageOne sponsors, the dudes who designed and manufactured our kits. Joe Yule and Jon Davy had a glazed look in their eyes, and it was clear they’d put together their presentation after a detailed sketch on the back of a napkin. Davy’s every third word was “Uh,” and with good reason: StageOne had designed, manufactured, delivered, bagged, and tagged the entire team kit in less than ninety days. This had involved multiple designs and product tests, trips to the manufacturing plant in Holland, and an eye for detail and execution that no one but Davy could have ever delivered. Joe Yule’s lifelong mission to beautify the highways of California had come, yet again, to fruition, as our SPY-Giant-RIDE kit was so beautiful that grown men wept while taking selfies of themselves in the mirror and posting them to their mothers’ FB pages.

To make matters more intense, StageOne replaces SPY-Giant-RIDE’s previous kit manufacturer Squadra, and riders are nothing if not bitchy little pricks about their kits. Whatever concerns people had about leaving the top-line kits of Squadra for the as-yet-untried-new-kids-on-the-block-StageOne were dispelled after our first team pedal. Sporting innovations that include a zipper garage, back grippers on the jersey, and farmer-john straps for comfort when you’re not wearing a base layer, the StageOne design and production received rave reviews, which is good, because if anyone had dared complain they’d have had a 210-lb. Jon Davy to deal with.

Following the StageOne presentation we heard from Giant, our bike sponsor. I wish I could explain to you in detail why the new Giant Propel is the most awesome bike since someone decided to make a bicycle with a chain … but I can’t. The Giant presentation explained lots of details about the Propel and about the concept of aero road frames and about how it improved on what most already considered the most perfect bike ever made, the Giant TCR, but it was all in one ear and out the other for me as I was still stuck on the Harmony Bars and the white tights. One of the problems that Giant has with its bikes is that each new model improves on an already incredible model, and the people like me who are completely in love with the current model can’t imagine something better than what they’ve already got. But the situation appears pretty simple, in that the Propel will propel you faster.

Let my people go

Once the presentations finished we saddled up for a leisurely 103-mile ride in the desert. It was going to be a friendly, two-by-two affair until we hit a nasty sidewind going up a long grade and the young punks turned on the gas and shredded the field. Suddenly our 75-person peloton was split into multiple groups of desperately pedaling flailers who broke up into echelons as they tried to avoid getting further behind. The young punks pulled away as I sat back in the second group watching the end of the day happen at about mile twenty, because there was no way the leaders were coming back. As we toiled into the most miserable of howling sidewinds, the guy in front of me exploded into pieces and I lunged ahead in a last-ditch effort to bridge.

Leaving entrails, my soul, and copious quantities of spit and snot on the road, I somehow made it across. The only rider to go with me was, of course, Jess, who then went straight to the front and took a pull even as I hung on the back and prayed for a land mine. Happily, Andy Schmidt flatted at Dillon Road and we all stopped, giving the broken, dropped, crushed, and defeated remainder of the group time to catch up to us. People looked so ill and sad and sick and unhappy that it was clear to me the training camp was a total success.

For the remainder of the ride we rotated, hammer-tated, flail-tated, and generally gasped our way back to the hotel. Massive beerdration ensued for those of us who had not had enough water, and after an even more massive pizza feast we sat down and listened to another slew of evening presentations. The one that impressed me the most was MRI Endurance, our team’s presenting sponsor who is a manufacturer of training supplements. They impressed me not because of the presentation — I was too drunk to understand any of it and kept falling asleep on F-1 Jim’s shoulder, awakening only to wipe off the drool — but because of the following day when MRI handed out the team product.

Have you ever seen a shark feeding frenzy? People were practically gnawing each others’ arms off to get their share of the special supplements. Eyes were gouged, crotches were kneed, and medullas were rabbit-punched in the melee. Judging from the enthusiasm of the riders, this stuff works wonders.

Ending on a high note

On Sunday morning, we were so trashed from the beer, the riding, and the presentations of the night before that a few shameless wankers left early (after collecting all their swag, of course). Those who stuck around got to enjoy yet another morning of great food, camaraderie, and a series of excellent presentations from Skins, RIDE Cyclery, SRAM/Zipp, Lake cycling shoes, Razer keyboards & mice, and Clearwater Partners. Skins provided a detailed scientific review of the benefits of their full line of compression gear, but Mrs. WM had only one question: “If you compress onna chin-chin, it’s gonna make it bigger?”

I didn’t know what to say, or even what product to order. The compression tube sock, maybe, in size XXXXS?

The other sponsors helped us better understand the benefits of working with an awesome local bike shop, of racing on SRAM components and ZIPP wheels, of using Lake shoes and the Boa locking system, and of investing all of our money with Clearwater so we can retire early and race our bikes full time like true SoCal masters professionals.

We took a fine group picture  and called it a day. My 2014 season is officially a success, thanks to the excellent job I did riding around the resort looking splendid in my new outfit and (barely) beating Jess up the Tramway climb. Looking forward to lots of great racing in 2015.

The eyes have it

November 16, 2013 § 8 Comments

In a month and a half we’ll begin our third season of the SPY bicycling team. Lots of people wonder what it’s like to be an old creaky fellow with a leaky prostate and bad vision while riding for the premier old fellows racing team in California and therefore the galaxy. I’d sum it up like this:

Riding for SPY is fun.

In the first two years we  saw that there were other teams with better racers. We’ve never had the fastest  racers on our squad, but despite that our 45+ team was the winningest one in SoCal, our cyclocross masters teams are hands down the best, and our 35+ team, P/1/2 team and development riders mean that each year more and more people want to ride with us. Add into the mix that our women’s team, led by Jessica Cerra, is already primed to have a super year, and I think the reasons that people want to join the SPY cavalcade are simple : Swag and fun.

When you’re an old fellow, if you have any perspective at all, you realize that if your hobby is best measured in wins and losses, it’s probably no longer a hobby and has become what the rest of the world calls a “job.” You realize that as much as you’d like to win, even more than that you’d like to compete — and win — with people you actually like, doing things you actually enjoy, decked out in swag that makes you feel like you’re winning even when you place 78th.

SPY’s ethos is best described as having a happy disrespect for the usual way of looking at life. Put another way, “Beware of the usual!”

Living up to our mandate

We’re not told to go forth and win races, although we’re given plenty of leadership and racing and training opportunities to do so. What we are told is that once we put on the kit, we’re ambassadors for a brand. Not sales staff, or preachers, group thinkniks, but ambassadors, people who are here to deliver a message.

What message? This message.

1. Ride the front as much as you can on group rides, wherever you may train. Be a leader. Why? Because the usual way of doing things is to hide in the pack and show your face, if at all, at the coffee shop. The usual way of doing things is to use the work of others in order to benefit yourself. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to put your share of work into the group effort, and maybe even a little bit more than your share. If you’re too afraid of getting dropped or of not making the split, bite the bullet and … go to the front.

2. Take care of one another, and take care of others. The usual way of doing things is to only stop when you’re the one with the mechanical. This is your Sunday ride, right? You’ve waited all week for this, right? So if someone has a flat, well, that’s bike racing. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to recognize that there will be another Tuesday morning ride, and it’s probably not gonna kill you to help out a fellow cyclist. You’ll make a friend, you’ll energize the person you help to pass on the good karma, and you’ll go from being “all about me” to “serving others.”

3. Represent SPY and its team sponsors in the same way that you’d want them to represent YOU. Success doesn’t mean a podium in an old fellows criterium. Success is the sum of a life predicated on our collective good deeds, leadership, and the vicious clubbing of baby seals (to whom we apologize in advance and posthumously).

4. As a bike racer, or more accurately, as an elderly fellow drowning in a delusional vat of swag and beer and navel gazing, when you race your victory isn’t what matter. What matters are  your actions and how they affect your team. What matters is whether you were ready to toil in anonymity and lay it all out there for the sake of a teammate.

5. Make people HAPPY. Collective groupings of old people racing bicycles isn’t a formula for happiness. Smiling and spreading positive energy is. So go forth and happify. Now.

From the touchy-feely to the hard facts

You probably expect me to praise SPY for all the usual reasons, but what are those “usual” reasons? And aren’t we supposed to beware of the usual? Rather, my affinity for the company, begun through personal friendship and swag, has transcended those two things to reach a level of discrimination I never thought I’d reach.

Because you see, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about bike products. Of course I love nice stuff when I can get it, but I’m not now and have never been a “bike guy.” I have one road bike and one ‘cross bike. One extra wheelset for the ‘cross bike. My road hoops are the same ones I train on and race on. For me, it’s always been about being lucky enough to cycle and to be part of a cycling community. The bike and the clothes and the parts are icing on the cake.

Of course, there’s one exception to that, and it’s the unusual exception of my eyes. I began wearing glasses at age 13, bout six or seven years after I first really needed them. My vision was so bad that I could only see movies from the front row. I’m still convinced that much of my early problems in school stemmed from an inability to see the chalkboard.

Having terrible vision has affected me throughout my life. I never learned to surf above kook level despite decades of trying. Why? Because I’m horribly uncoordinated and weak. But being unable to see the wave until it was breaking on my head didn’t help. Ball sports were always impossible, and even though I could see on a bike, my eyes were constantly irritated from the wind that incessantly screamed around the edges of my Laurent Fignon frames. Wearing superb prescription eyewear from SPY enabled me to win the Tour in 2011 and was directly responsible for the winning Powerball ticket that I bought down at the corner 7-11.

In actuality, my vision transformation on the bike thanks to SPY wasn’t accidental or the result of lottery-like luck. This eyewear is authentically bound to technical performance. The prescription glasses work in an incredibly demanding range of light and weather situations, including getting bounced on my head at 40 mph and remaining intact (the glasses, not the head).

This authenticity is so much more than, “The glasses work, dude.” It’s part of the background of the product, where and why it came into being, and what drives its evolution and subsequent iterations. Plus, SPY has never sponsored Lance.

The combination of “ride at the front” and “this shit works” forms the core of the proposition when you’re thinking about buying glasses. Do you want a product made by non-cyclists for cyclists and owned by a giant Italian conglomerate that also handles leather handbags, or do you want a product that’s made by cyclists who have to live with the shit they create, and who have to answer to the product’s utility in their own races and group rides?

Putting glasses on your nose … who knew it was so complicated? Well, it is, because when you wear SPY you’re choosing between Italian luxuory monolith or a variation on ZZ Topp: “That Little Old Performance Eyewear Company from Carlsbad.” Do things like happiness, irreverence, riding at the front, helping those who need it, and buying locally make a difference to you? If they do, maybe there’s something in this story for you.

The pros who ride SPY gear are chosen in order to transcend their stereotypes as “jocks” and tap into a multicultural lifestyle based on a love of outdoors activities. Us grizzled old dudes with leaky prostates believe in that transcendence, too.

Celebrating the end of 2012 with a stomping

January 1, 2013 § 14 Comments

Tink’s mom looked at my car and wasn’t much reassured by the dented fender and legion of scrapes. “Where’s his bike rack?” she asked.

“Pretty sure he doesn’t have one.”

“How is he going to get both of your bikes down to North County?”

“I don’t know.”

They sat there and waited for me in the pitch dark. “I hope he has some way to carry your bike.”

“He said it would be no problem.”

“I really don’t want to drive you down to San Diego this morning for that bicycle ride.”

“He said there was room.”

Oh, ye of little faith

I appeared out of the 5:30 AM darkness. Tink had already unloaded her bike from her mom’s SUV. I laid my bike in the trunk, knocked down the back seats, threw down some towels, and laid Tink’s bike, wheelless, atop mine. Her bike was so small we could have tossed in a barbecue grill and still had room for the wheels.

Then we were off.

Tink has been in winter build and Strava stealth mode. Unlike the rest of the year, when it’s one epic crushing after another, she’s been quiet for months. This New Year’s Eve, SPY Optic and RIDE Cyclery were putting on an event to celebrate all the good things that had happened in 2012. Unlike the typical North County ride menu, this one was billed as “no hammering,” “anything but a race,” “good times for all” and encouraging “riders of all abilities.

What could possibly go wrong? I was already tired and needed an easy pedal to finish out my year.

What could possibly go wrong

The wise Marvin Campbell had tried to dissuade those lulled into a false sense of security by posting on FB these immortal words: “It’s a trap.”

The victim of several sorties down south, Marvin knew an ambush when he saw one. I, however, actually believed MMX. Again.

As we rolled out, there were all sorts of red flags waving–blowing–whipping–in the early morning chill. The red flags went by the names of Thurlow a/k/a The Hand of God, Tintsman, Hamasaki, Dahl, Gonyer, Johnson, Quick, Day, Pomerantz, and Shannon. In addition to these evil omens, there were another twenty to forty lean, sculpted pairs of legs that looked anything but “encouraging” or in the least bit interested in “good times.”

“Is this really going to be an easy ride?” Tink asked. She’d never ridden down south and was looking forward to a social pedal during which time she could meet this new cast of characters.

“Oh, yes,” I assured her. “MMX would never bill something as an easy ride, attract a ton of riders, and then tear their legs off. He’s just not cruel like that.”

I looked around at the estimated two hundred riders that were now swarming along the coast road and hoped I was right.

Hidden Valley, where all is revealed

At some point in the ride the throng had been reduced by half. One of the reductees was Paige DeVilbiss, who had hurried down from Fullerton, missed the pre-ride coffee chat, gotten shelled at mile four, chased back on, and then gotten kicked out the back for good at  mile eight. This was a classic North County welcome: “So glad you’re here, hope you enjoy this kick in the face and the solitary ride back to your car and the even more solitary ride back to your home.”

By the time we hit the bottom of the Hidden Valley climb, thanks to the “conversational pace” and “happy times,” Tink was the only woman left. If there were any conversations that took place the entire day, they turned out to be monosyllabic grunts and nods of the head interspersed with the random moan and plea for mercy.

Unaware of what lay ahead, Tink took an inopportune moment to start in on a candy bar just as the group hit the first climb. Her mouth full to prevent breathing and one-handed to prevent effective climbing, the road kicked up. Tink struggled at quarter power to get up the nasty climb. She wasn’t about to spit out and lose her precious riding fuel.

Those who were behind her, and there were many, were disturbed to see her easily power up the climb one-handed while chewing a mouthful of food.

A small contingent of nine riders crested the climb. I struggled over in tenth place many bike lengths between me and the leaders. After a few twists and turns, we regrouped, hit the short dirt section made famous by last year’s BWR, and climbed the back side of Summit.

This time I stayed on the wheel of The Hand of God, who cracked jokes all the way up the climb. “My coach told me not go any harder than I’m going now,” he said with laugh. Everyone else gasped and struggled and grunted.

Tink was just behind us, never in any trouble at all, easily pedaling among the leading ten or fifteen men. With the exception of me and MMX, none of the other riders knew her or had any inkling of what they were dealing with, and over the course of the morning her presence began to stand out more and more.

It slowly dawned on them. Tink wasn’t just the only woman left. She was out-riding most of the men who remained, and the men who remained were the good ones.

Going out in style

A solid 60 miles into the 67-mile ride, there were less than forty riders left. After a gradual uphill punctuated by a roller where MMX smashed the group, we got back together in time for a screaming flat, tailwind run-in to something. Not knowing the course, the only thing evident was that everyone knew what was going on except me.

The friendly “Sure, take that wheel, mate” instantly transformed into “That’s my wheel, fucker, and I’ll kill you if you try to get it.”

The survivors stretched out into one long, unbroken line of pain until whatever it was we were so desperately eager to get to was gotten to. Everyone sat up and stared at the road ahead. The back side of San Elijo marched off into the sky.

I looked at Tink. “We’re going up that bastard. Get on MMX’s wheel. Now.”

“I can’t hold his wheel!” she protested.

“Get the hell up there,” I grumbled. And she did.

Three quarters of the way up this miserable, endless, soul-crushing climb, the 40-strong pack was mostly together. MMX and The Hand of God rode tempo on the front, having commanded that “None shall pass, and neutral shall this climb remain.”

I swung over to the right-hand gutter and pushed through the front, sailing by The Hand of God and MMX.

Note to self: Never, ever, ever, simulate an acceleration or an attack in the presence of THOG.

See that slumbering bear? Why don’t you poke its eye with a stick?

The other wheelsuckers, seeing my effrontery, responded in kind. The peloton detonated and I was soon swarmed, and shortly thereafter dropped. As the heaving, gasping, grunting, groaning cadavers spiraled off the rear like a spent roman candle, one rider was having no difficulties at all.

It was Tink.

She shed the group and raced ahead to the leaders, who were being slowly roasted, then cannibalized, then dropped, by The Hand of God. As she passed me she rubbed salt in the wound by smiling. Then she rubbed arsenic into the salt by speaking. She said something that sounded like “Atalzchstsaek talk?”

But all I could respond with, and it was only in my head, was “How the fuck do you have breath to waste on talking?”

She sailed by MMX, sailed by the remaining human shrapnel, and easily crested the peak. Only a handful of the best riders in the state, and one of the greatest American bike racers of all time, were ahead of her.

That was the last climb of the day. I was toasted. She was warmed up and smiling.

“What a great climb! Are you okay?” she asked, unused as she was to seeing my bloodless lips and eyes hanging 3/4 out of the sockets.

“Tink,” I muttered, “if I keep riding with you in 2013…”

“Yes?”

“It’s going to be one long, miserable year.”

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