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.”

The off-season transfer scrum

October 16, 2012 § 16 Comments

My phone rang at 5:30 this morning. “Hello?”

“Hey, WM. Have you heard anything?”

“Who is this?”

“Thunky. Thunky Sneedles.”

“Oh, it’s you again. No, man, I haven’t heard anything since your last call two hours ago. It’s five-fucking-thirty, dude.”

“I just thought you’d maybe, you know, gotten some offers or something.”

“No, man. Crickets.” I’d agreed to act as Thunky’s agent in the off-season, and even though the trades had started in earnest, Thunky was still out in the cold, and he was nervous. “Look, let’s go over it again. I know you’re nervous, but you have to be patient. These things take time. When some of the bigger fish get their contracts, it’ll loosen up the purse strings for the domestiques like you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“But what if I don’t get an offer from anybody? What if I have to stay with Team D’oosh next year? My career’s too short for that, man. I’ve only got a couple of good years left, and I need to ride for a winner.”

“I know, I know. Nobody said being a professional masters racer was easy.”

“Fuck, ain’t that the truth.”

“Why are you so down on Team D’oosh? You fit right in.”

“They suck and their bro deal is so lame.”

“Really? Even with that bike and those five free kits and the travel reimbursements? And don’t they cut you in on the winnings even if you’re OTB?”

“Yeah, it sounds great. But it sucked this year. I mean, no one ever fucking wins. They suck. And the frame? It was the Specialized SL4 instead of their top of the line Venge. Charon gets the Venge on his team. How’m I supposed to take that dude on riding an SL4? It’s like bringing a full set of teeth to a dicksucking contest.”

“Are the bikes really that different?”

“Hell yeah. The Venge has this really cool paint option. It’s so fuckin’ rad.”

“Well, at least getting the whole $8,500 rig with Di2 on loan for a whole season and then swapping it out for a new one in ’13 saves you some money.”

“Dude! It’s not about the MONEY. It’s about the wins. You get the wins, the money flows. That’s how the pro scene works.”

“Even in the men’s 35+?”

“Duhhhhhh.”

“Well, what about the kits? That’s a grand right there, easy, free. You gotta be happy about that.”

“Those kits were so last year. The leg elastic band was at least 1/4 inch shorter than the pro stuff Paolinetti was wearing on Monster. Like I’m gonna take that guy on with short elastic bands? And the design was, like, puke.”

“I guess they screwed you pretty bad, huh?”

“I’ll say. The travel reimbursements only kicked in after you’d done five races. I fuckin’ told ‘em that I was gonna do a full schedule, but for me that’s four races, including our Team D’oosh club time trial in January. They have to understand that if you want results, you gotta be rested between races. Real rested. Recovery is just as important as training, prolly more so, even.”

“Look, Thunky. I’m gonna try to get you on Amgen this year. You’ll be a domo for Thurlow, Meeker, Brett, Strickie, Malcolm…the big boys. But you gotta bring something to the table. What do I tell them about you?”

“What do you tell them? Duuuuude! Aren’t you my agent? Fuckin’ tell ‘em about what we did this year! Tell ‘em how the race went down when Clunky Thunky brought the A-game and stuffed the clowns into the hurt locker! Tell ‘em that!”

“Ah, what race are you talking about, Thunks?”

“What race? San Dimas! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten San Dimas?”

“Was that the one where you launched off the road and hit that parked car? At, like three miles in or something?”

“You always gotta bring up the fuckin’ parked car. Fuck the parked car! Dude, I stretched the field like a teenage dick on its first handjob. Ask ‘em, man, any of those dudes’ll tell you about the Thunky Beatdown. Thurlow was there. Meeker was there. Worthingtons were there. Fuckin’ Leibert was beggin’ for mercy I had everybody on the rivet.”

“Okay, maybe I’ll remind them of that later, you know, like when we’re talking signing bonuses and stuff. What else happened in 2012?”

“I did that one 35+ race and laid the fuckin’ wood to Tintsman and Paolinetti.”

“Phil Tintsman? You? Really? That’s pretty awesome, cause those two guys are the real deal. Which race was it?”

“Hellz. It was at Ontario, I think. Maybe CBR. I attacked from the gun like always.”

“Then you got in a break with Phil and Jamie? Sweet!”

“Nah, I didn’t get in no fuckin’ break. I’m a sprinter kind of rouleur. You know, a puncheur climber type time trialist, all ’rounder with an emphasis on track and ‘cross.”

“So what happened?”

“It was like on the second or third lap. I was fuckin’ railin’ it, dude, 54-11, hittin’ the headwind section like a fuckin’ freight train. Field was comin’ apart at the seams, everybody strung out in the fuckin’ gutter, dudes frying off the back like fritters in a fryolator. Tintsman and Paolinetti were in the hurt locker. The pain cave. Beggin’ for fucking mercy, they were my bitches, dude. That’s what I’m talking ’bout.”

“Then what?”

“I finished my solid half lap and then Tintsman and Paolinetti and Charon and a bunch of other dudes, I think Brauch and Wimberley, and you know, five or six other Monster dudes, and a few other guys rolled off in a break. There was like sixty of ‘em. No way we were bringing them back. But you can ask Tintsman, that shit wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t softened ‘em up.”

“Sixty dudes? In one break?”

“Yeah, man. It was fucking righteous. Me and Stimp Twitchers–you know him? Rides for Soft Longies, he’s a badass. Me and Stimp fuckin’ motored with the field on our wheel the rest of the race.”

“How many guys were left in the field?”

“About seven or eight. Coddles McGee, Woodenhead, Dorcas Johnson, Tubbs, you know. The dudes you can count on.”

“Okay, I’ll make the pitch for you. What should I tell them your goals are for 2013?”

“My goals? Do you even have to ask? Tell ‘em this: I’m comin’ for Charon if they can find me a Venge just like his. Black shorts, with the cool elastic thingy like Paolinetti and Tintsman have. And $10k in travel reimbursements. Up front, Jan. 1, like in the pros. And a cut of everything everyone wins, even if I have to miss the race because of my Saturday yoga class. And free massage sessions–and I pick the fuckin’ masseuse. Don’t give me some hairy dude named Jacques. I want a smoking babe who only works nekkid or in a thong. Happy ending for Thunky, you got that? And a 401k and a team car. That’s my starting offer. See what you can do from there.”

“And what can they expect in return?”

“I’m gonna take Charon down next year. I’m gonna ride Tintsman off my fuckin’ wheel. I’m gonna give Meeker a sprint clinic every fuckin’ weekend. You tell ‘em that, Wanky, and you tell ‘em Thunky sent you.”

The phone went dead.

A few minutes later it rang again.

“Hello?”

“Yo, it’s me again. Any offers?”

“Not yet, buddy. But they’re comin’ any minute. Any minute.”

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