FOG’d

December 9, 2014 § 28 Comments

There is no greater fear than the Fear of Getting Dropped.

FOG’d.

I used to think it was a function of cowardice, because everyone gets dropped, and people who avoid rides because they’re afraid of droppage, well, come on. Eddy got dropped. Lance got dropped. The fastest guy on your group ride got dropped. And of course you got dropped — repeatedly. It’s the nature of the beast.

Since droppage is inherent in cycling, i.e. there is always a point where, when people are going hard enough, you will get shelled, I’ve never understood why people avoid hard rides or hilly races because of their FOG’d. On reflection, though, it’s not about cowardice. For some it’s about the humiliating nature of reality. Getting shelled every time, every climb, or coming off the back early in the ride/race means you’re not very good. The people riding away from you? They are better than you, and all of the complex emotional defense mechanisms that we generate to “attaboy” ourselves crumble when the peloton rolls away.

But that’s not the main reason for FOG’d. The main reason is primordial and lies with the herd and the tribe. Whether it’s solitary confinement or lagging behind the other zebras because of an injured leg, being culled from the group speaks to our most primitive fear of defenselessness and death. When the tribe can no longer support you, you were either put on an ice floe or taken to Obasute-yama. When you could no longer keep up with the healthy herd you fell prey to the wolves who forever shadowed the group, waiting precisely for you to stumble or lag, and then pull you down, and then sink their fangs into your throat as they sunk their bloody snouts into your gore-soaked entrails.

Starting out with the group, getting popped, and flailing home alone has all of those connotations, not to mention mile after mile of cursing the sorry bastards who didn’t even have the common courtesy to wait.

When I heard about Tony Manzella’s new  Dogtown Ride and glanced at the list of guys like Rudy Napolitano and Matt Cutler who were in attendance, I knew it would be a great ride. It would be great because, with 60 miles and 6k of climbing, it was going to be hilly and hard. I knew it would also be pitiless and therefore a small group. None of these guys were hand-holders. They might wait for a couple of minutes at the top of the first few climbs, but after a while if you couldn’t keep up you would suddenly remember a kiddie soccer game or a load of laundry or that this was December and not really part of your profamateur training plan.

The ride began at 8:00-ish at Dogtown Coffee on Main Street in Santa Monica. There were about 30 starters. After the first hour we were down to less than twenty. By the time we took our first rest stop at the bottom of Piuma there were about ten, and when we got back to Santa Monica there were perhaps eight riders left. I’m sure I’ve done harder rides with better riders, but I can’t really remember when.

And you know the funniest thing of all? At one point or another, almost everyone got dropped.

END

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Shadow riders

November 26, 2013 § 11 Comments

Whenever I get bummed out about all the douchebaggery in Old Foks Racing a/k/a “masters,” I think about the shadow riders. The shadow riders, you know, they perk me up.

They are the men and women who ride in the shadows of the d-bags. They often don’t race, or if they do, it’s occasional, and whenever they show up on a ride — if they show up on a ride — they remind you what legs, lungs, and unfettered ferocity mean on a bike. The shadow riders didn’t get the “fast riders are assholes” memo. They smile and go hard and beat you up the hill because they’re just plain old faster.

Craig Hummer is one of my favorite shadow riders. He doesn’t race at all. In between his crazy-busy schedule as a national TV sports commentator, he throws on a light, rolls out at 5:00 AM, and charges around the PV Peninsula.

The first time I met Craig, I didn’t even meet him. We were going up to the Domes and he was going down. “That’s Craig Hummer,” someone said.

“Who?”

“Craig Hummer. The TdF announcer.”

“Whatever.” I didn’t have a TV and wasn’t interested in people who talked about the Tour de France.

“He’ll rip your fucking legs off.”

Now … I was interested. I looked him up on Strava, and he had some mythical times on some mythical segments. “Ah, so what. Anyone can chalk up times on Strava.” So I thought.

A few years later I did my first ride with Craig. He ripped my legs off, which was bad, but he crushed my fragile ego, which was worse. All the way up VdM he was chatting. All the way to the Domes he was gabbing. I never got a word in edgewise, not because he talked too much, but because I was coughing up a kidney.

Wanting to make sure it wasn’t a mistake, I rode with him again, this time with Tri-Dork and Ol’ Scabies, who is 70 going on 95. Ol’ Scabies rode better at 70 than I ride at 49, and it was only through the combined half-wheeling of Tri-Dork and Craig that we shed him. If I can ride 1/10 as well as Ol’ Scabies when I’m his age, I’ll surrender my AARP card and take up Elite road racing.

Craig dusted my broom again, hairy legs and all, chatting the whole way like we were at a quilting bee. Then he honored me by saying he looked forward to our next ride. The sun was up by then, but it was only 7:30 AM. The next time we talked, by message, he was jetting his way to NYC, out of the shadows and into the limelight.

Damn ugly jersey dude

The first time I got ground up into gristle and pooped out the back by Tony Manzella, he was wearing a terribly ugly jersey emblazoned with the names of famous bike racers. He had come down to the South Bay to sample the Donut Ride, and the bite he took was big enough to eat the whole damn thing.

Tony was obviously too big to climb well, so when he dropped the whole fuggin’ wankoton and soloed to the college, the problem was simply that he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to do what he did. Fucker.

The handful of times we rode Mandeville together on the Holiday Ride, my goal was simple: Stay with Tony until I gave birth to a small vomitus. Then quit. Each time I achieved this goal.

Tony’s the guy who decides to race ‘cross, shows up, does the most competitive races and places in the top four his first race. Then the top two. Etcetera. He’s the guy you fucking hate, except, you can’t possibly hate someone that good, that honest, that friendly, that fair, and that willing to take a pull. Then, to really make you feel like a POS, he’s the guy who can chat you with you before the ride about … art.

Tony’s a shadow rider par excellence. He loves to ride, but his integrity and decency and perspective show you, by example, that the master’s racing scene doesn’t have to be what it is. There are people out there who have that rarest thing of all, common sense, common decency, perspective.

So what if he ground me up and spit me out on Seven Minute Canyon? So what?

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