Where the wild things are

March 23, 2014 § 14 Comments

Wankmeister awoke with a vicious hangover. The inside of his mouth was dried to a crackly paste of spit from the massive order of pork bulgogi he’d eaten the night before to try and dilute the effect of the four pints of Dirty Virgin double IPA. As he smacked his parched lips, trying to unstick his tongue from the bottom of his mouth, he realized that the pork bulgogi anti-hangover method had failed. He should have drunk more water and less beer instead.

Quickly slamming a cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast, Wanky pedaled to the office, got the van, and drove over to Jaeger’s place. Jaeger hadn’t won a race in ten long years, and decided that today he’d do the 50+ senior veteran’s old people’s race rather than duke it out with the youngsters in the 45+.

They got to the Lake Castaic road race course. The wind was howling and Wankmeister thought about the various reports that had come in via Facebag from the riders who’d reconned the ride the previous week. They were all in agreement, and their thoughts are summarized below:

  1. Brutal course.
  2. Windy, long climbs.
  3. Awful temperatures.
  4. Dry as hangover mouth.
  5. Difficulty amplified by small fields.
  6. Bring survival gear.

Proper nutrition is always key

Aside from the piece of toast that he’d had for breakfast, Wanky’s stomach was empty. After signing in he saw Canyon Bob kitting up. “Got food, dude?” he asked.

“Sure, pal,” Bob said, and handed over a mostly-eaten miniature chicken sandwich.

Wanky scarfed it down, but it only made him hungrier. Numbers pinned on, he rode to the start/finish with teammates Jaeger and Randy to watch the various finishing races.

The end of the race was atop a long, grinding 1k finishing hill. The 45+ field was coming in, and G$ had kicked it from pretty far out. Thurlow was closing fast, but it looked like G$ would hold him off. In the last 50 meters, which was the equivalent of the last twelve miles of a normal road race, Thurlow came by for the win.

While everyone cheered the conquering heroes, the only thing Wankmeister really noticed was the salt sheets staining their faces and jerseys and the twisted looks of pain and misery on the face of every single person who crossed the line. Jess Cerra, who had won the women’s Pro/1/2 race and was watching the finishers, handed Wanky a Harmony Bar. “You might need this for later,” she said.

Wankmeister unwrapped the energy bar and scarfed it down. “To hell with that, Jess. I need it now.”

“Are two water bottles going to be enough?” she asked. “Your race is 55 miles, right?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Wanky answered. “I don’t ever drink much water in races anyway.”

“It’s hot and dry, though,” she said.

Wanky looked again at the finishers straggling in, all of whom had a strangely desiccated, dehydrated, salt-covered, dying-of-thirst look. “Nah,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”

Is there a race here today?

As Jaeger, Wanky, Randy, Canyon Bob, and Hoofixerman stood waiting for the race to begin, they noticed that the field was … them. “Where is everybody?” asked Jaeger.

“We are everybody,” said Hoofixerman.

“But there were 16 pre-regs,” said Canyon Bob.

Jess walked back over. “Aren’t you guys racing?”

“Yeah, we go off, like, now.”

“Why aren’t you at the staging area, then?” she asked.

“What staging area?” Wanky said, panicking.

“You have to stage a mile or so back that way. The race doesn’t start here.”

The five idiots leaped on their bikes and sprinted back to the staging area, an all-out time trial that would cost Wanky dearly later in the race somewhere about Mile 2.

Sure enough, it was a minuscule field of sixteen riders, and they pedaled off with the enthusiasm of children going to the dentist. Wanky eyed Hoofixerman, who was doing his first big race with the tough and experienced and battle-hardened 50+ giants of the road. “That wanker’s gonna get shelled quick,” he surmised as Hoofixerman went to the front and picked up the pace. “Hey, dude,” Wanky said. “Better take it easy. This is a long hilly race. Don’t shoot your bullets in the first five miles.”

Hoofixerman ignored him, and took turns into the teeth of the wind with Jaeger.

“This isn’t so bad,” Wanky thought. “Kind of like a training ride with your pals.” The course was rolling with a couple of small, easily surmounted walls.

Then they hit the first big climb and Wanky realized that these weren’t his pals, they were mortal enemies who hated him and wanted to kill him quickly and without mercy. Canyon Bob rolled to the front and Wanky was soon on the rivet. It was an endless 2-mile charge up an 8% grade, and the four or five people cheering at the top meant only one thing: the next time up the spectators were expecting to see the riders drop like flies. This was the praise before the last rites.

Alone again, naturally

Once over the big climb the riders descended forever, which was a terrible thing because the out-and-back course meant that they’d have to come back up this beast. A couple of miles before the turnaround Chris Hahn began chasing the four-man breakaway that had rolled off, and this effort kicked Wanky out the back without so much as a second thought. Hoofixerman, who had squandered precious energy and ridden like a complete idiot in the first part of the race, was, of course, with the leaders in the breakaway.

The break was caught and Wankmeister somehow latched back onto the leaders after the turnaround. The tiny field meant that people were already tired and fearing the climb on the return, while Jaeger, disgusted at the slow pace, got off his bike, took a leisurely piss, overhauled his bottom bracket, and easily caught back on.

A short way into the big climb, Wanky got kicked out the back for good, and up in the distance he could see that Hoofixerman was finally paying for his early excesses. Slogging up to the Big Orange farrier, they pounded through the rollers to the start/finish, where they were ignominiously passed by the 35+ 4/5 riders, who had started five or ten minutes behind them.

The moto ref came by and grinned at Wanky. “At least you’re not getting passed by the Cat 5’s!” he said.

The leaders in the 50+ Really Old and Slow and Have to Pissalot Category had eased up and Hoofixerman was determined to catch back on.

With the aid of a timely neutralization to allow the 35+ 4/5’s to pass the 50+ riders, Wanky & Co. reattached. He was elated. “We made it!” he said to Hoofixerman. “Now all we have to do is hang on and let these other knuckleheads do all the work!” Wanky slinked to the back, got behind the tallest and widest rider, and made himself as tiny as possible.

A few minutes later they were back at the Big Climb. Wanky chortled with pleasure, knowing that the leaders were now thoroughly tired and all he had to endure was a brief seven or eight-minute interval. As fate would have it, he only had a 30-second interval left in his legs, about thirty less than Hoofixerman. Everyone and everything vanished from sight.

You know your day is done in a bike race when …

… you start noticing the scenery. Wanky appreciated the beautiful canyon, the trees growing along the edge of the creek down in the valley, and the cooling late-afternoon temperatures. This was about the time he ran completely out of water. At the turnaround a kind elderly fellow shouted, “Water? Need some water?” Miracles, apparently, were still occurring even in this late day and age.

Teammate Randy, who had been dropped from the leaders due to a mechanical and, since he didn’t have any tools, was forced to carefully repair his damaged $4,000 drivetrain by pounding the shit out of it with a rock, closed a five-minute gap and caught back up to Wankmeister. “C’mon, Wanky, let’s go!”

This was like a physicist with a large chalkboard saying, “C’mon, Wanky, let’s do some calculus!”

Wankmeister, who had only barely passed Algebra II with Miss Morcom in 11th Grade, did no better hanging onto Randy’s wheel than he would have solving for x. In a flash the teammate was gone. Now there were only eleven and a half miles left, including the giant climb. At the bottom, riders began to swarm by, first the remnants of the 35+ 4/5 race, and then the Cat 5 leaders, and then the bits and pieces of the entire Cat 5 field.

The moto came by again. “Bet you’re glad there’s no Cat 6,” he said before gunning the motor and driving off.

No matter how slowly the Cat 5’s went, Wanky went slower, until eventually, like a bad case of gonorrheal drip that has finally run its course, the race ended. Out of sixteen starters in the 50+ race, twelve finished, two of whom were actually slower than he was. “Top 10,” he said to himself, “doesn’t sound nearly as bad as ‘3rd from dead fucking last.'”

The race at the front

Jaeger had waited until the bottom of the big hill on the return leg, and then attacked the six riders who remained with him. He soloed in the final eight miles to collect his first victory since 2004. “Wasn’t that a hard race?” Wanky asked him back at the van.

Jaeger tried to be diplomatic, aware that his friend Wankmeister had been in difficulty long before there was really any difficulty. “Yeah it was hard,” he said. “I mean, it was hard for you.”

———————————

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The Pull

October 17, 2013 § 39 Comments

I get angry often, despite the beer, but then I remember:  Every person has to learn all of human history anew. So, here is an explanation of that most complicated, subtle, and elusive act of cycling, the pull. Commit this shit to memory, yo.

The pull is the essence of cycling. It reveals your character. It defines your ride. It makes you a person or a non-entity. It defines you. So here is what you need to know about the pull. What is it? When to do it? How to do it? Would you like fries with that?

  1. The Tri-Dork Pull: The Tri-Dork Pull is done at 35 mph until everyone on your wheel melts into a puddle of goo. To paraphrase Yoda, “There is no ‘why.'” There is no reason or rhyme to this pull; Tri-Dork pulls at the front, forever, because he can. Tactics don’t matter. Races don’t matter. Physics don’t matter. You sure as fug don’t matter. Whether it’s five miles or five days, the Tri-Dork Pull is the immaculate conception of pulling. It happens, purely, because it can. It is the Sir Edmund Hillary of pulls: “Because it is there. And because those behind you will quit.” The Tri-Dork Pull plots a declining IQ to infinity on the x-axis, and time on the front on the y-axis. Current practitioner: There is only one Tri-Dork.
  2. The Thurlow Pull: This pull is done to split the field, to crack the will of the feeble, to demonstrate physical and mental superiority over the herd. It is repeated and relentless. In the words of the Black Knight, “None shall pass.” And none ever do. This pull is only done by the truly cruel. It is knowing, conscious, and designed to ruin. Most often, it is employed on rides like the NPR and Swami’s in order to crush the barking seals and watch them choke on fresh sardines as the split rides away on Lap One. Current practitioners: Rudy, MMX, Ryan Dahl, Brian Zink, Phil Tinstman.
  3. The Racer Pull: This is calculated time on the front, just enough to make the wanker on your wheel spit up a lung, but not so hard that you can’t catch back on. Do this pull when you’ve been ordered to the front to keep the enemy’s balls in a vise, or when you’re in a break and trying to stay away, or when you’re on the NPR and you’ve been ordered to club a brace of seals before the World Way Ramp. Current practitioners: Josh Alverson, Eric Anderson, Dave Jaeger.
  4. The Fireman Pull: This is the most noble and complex and difficult pull of all, because it combines ability to go fast with ability to hurt with loyalty to the team in the face of certain extermination. This is the pull that drags a teammate across the infinite empty space to the break, and, once accomplished, you fall to the wayside like the spent undercarriage of a three-stage rocket. This pull is pain with a purpose, perfectly executed. The executioner is held in eternal awe by all who sit on his wheel. Current practitioners: John Wike, Greg Lonergan, Harry Martinez.
  5. The Self-Immolation Pull: This is the top o’ the heap in the world of wanker pulls. The self-immolator knows not why he pulls and blows, and cares not. He only grits his teeth into the wind, the rain, the muck, or the hopelessness of defeat, and makes those behind him wish they were having their livers gnawed out by cannibals. The self-immolator’s single goal is that someone out there hurt as badly as he hurts. Current practitioners: Bull Seivert, Dave Miller, James Cowan, Sven that Dude from Norway Who Has Thankfully Gone Home.
  6. The Faux Pull: This pathetic effort is barely worthy of mention, except that its practitioners are far better than those human dregs who never even reach the front. The faux pull is a cheap, weak, worthless, infinitely fake “effort” at the front designed only to act as a placeholder while earning some kind of equally faux respect from those who actually pull the train. It is typically done 2-3 mph slower than the rider who swings over. Usually only happens after you’ve been shouted at, cursed, or repeatedly yelled at for doing #8 below. Current masters of the genre: Spivey, Wankmeister.
  7. The Glory Pull: This piece of shit effort only occurs when there’s a camera, video, or finish line somewhere in the offing. It consists of a feeble, fake, weak, worthless half-second at the front that is designed to garner a few clicks of the camera shutter and perhaps a photo by Danny Munson or Phil Beckman or Kristy Morrow. Current master practitioner: Brad House.
  8. The Gap Pull: This is possibly the lamest pull of all time. To do it properly you rotate up to the guy who is on the point, then, when he swings over, YOU swing over. This pusillanimous, sniveling, shitass pull puts the person behind you in the hellish position of having to pass two wankers to get to the point, weakens him, and costs you nothing other than the pride you were obviously never born with. You’d be ashamed, but you’re shameless. The only possible redeeming aspect of this awful pull is that, sitting second wheel on a fast ride, you’re at least doing more work than the wankers behind you. Current practitioners: Hockeystick, others.
  9. The Top 10 Pull: Now we’re getting down into the real shit-pit of wankerdom, and you know who you are. The Top 10 Pull is where you keep yourself in the top ten, usually ninth or tenth, and never move up in the rotation, constantly gapping out, swinging over to catch the wheel rotating back after a real rider has done a hard hit, then sneaking back up again. The benefit to this is that it keeps you out of the Freddy scrum, where tires rub, shoulders and bars bump, and clogstacles tump over at turnarounds and stop lights. It also gives you a pretty sweet draft and, depending on the ride, allows you to pedal with the good riders. The down side is that, done repeatedly, this tags you as one of the worst riders in the group — happy to live off the efforts of others, never willing to contribute, yet refusing to make room for those who are actually trying to move up in the line. Current practitioners: Multiple.
  10. The Glance Pull: Although this is usually a function of weakness, and therefore not worthy of much scorn, the glance pull is effected by swinging over to the edge of the pack (you’re in the middle), and glancing up the road to see who’s up front. You should be so far back that you can’t see, and this distance justifies your decision to slink back into the scrum, as it would be altogether too much work to pedal all the way up to the point and actually do some work. Current practitioners: Lots and lots.
  11. The Neverpull: The neverpull is practiced so much by so many that it requires little elaboration. What’s interesting is that people go for years and years never taking a pull. These welfare leeches are often the same folks who vote Republican and who can’t stand it when people in the real world get something for nothing. Yet they hide in the group, day in and day out, refusing to even try to share the work. They always have an excuse for shirking, but no one cares what it is. Current practitioners: Zillions.
  12. The FB Pull: If there’s anything lamer than the neverpull, and trust me, there isn’t, it’s the Facebag Pull. You execute this move when you’ve been caught out on video or when someone complains about your wheelsuckery on social media. Simply go to your keyboard and tell people how hard you pulled that one time on Lap Three.

Okay, kids, any questions? No? Good. Class dismissed.

Cycling in the South Bay becomes major motion picture!

August 3, 2013 § 33 Comments

Okay, not a movie actually, more like a book.

Actually, an e-book.

Self-published.

But with your help it MAY one day become the best selling book since Dream of the Red Chamber.

Why a book?

I need the money.

How did it come about?

I printed out all of my blog excreta through December, 2012. It came out to 1,238 single-spaced 8 x 11 pages in 10-point type. After taking a look at the pile I got a huge headache, drank a lot of beer and then forgot about it.

Then what happened?

My good friend Barbara told me to email her the whole clump. She said she would read it and separate the wheat from the chaff. “If there’s no wheat, I’ll at least grade the chaff for you,” she may have said.

So that’s how you came out with a polished diamond?

No. That’s how I came out with 882 pages of “not completely awful” chaff.

Wankmeister, if you think anyone’s going to read 800-plus pages of anything, you’re crazy.

Right. So I whittled it down to about 200 pages, big font, double spaced, with photos of hot naked cyclists in the middle. The cover photo is from the San Pedro GP by Danny Munson.

Just like that?

No, I had more help from Barbara. Then Derek B. gave it a read and a critique. Finally, once it was all polished up and I’d read it another four times for typos, I sent it off to my favorite bicycling editor, Lesli Cohen. Once she finishes it I’ll call it good and publish it.

Which publisher are you using?

Smashwords.

That’s a joke, right?

No.

So what’s it about?

It’s about cycling in the South Bay, so I decided to call it “Cycling in the South Bay.”

Ah-hah. When is it coming out?

Two weeks, give or take a day.

Where can I buy it?

Amazon/Apple/Barnes & Noble.

How much will it cost?

$6.99.

Will there be a “bro deal”?

Yes. My bros will buy extra copies. And they will give it super favorable reviews on Amazon.

Aren’t you worried that it will be a POS?

No. I can blame it on Barbara, Derek, and Lesli. And Chris, who encouraged me to do this in the first place.

Is it going to be fiction or nonfiction?

Yes.

No, no, no. I mean, which one will it be? Fiction or nonfiction?

It’s all 100% true except for the parts I made up.

What if your local buddies get pissed off at what you say about them?

None of them can read, actually. And the ones who can will go straight to the nude photos.

And what about the ones who get left out, like Chris Lotts? They’ll be really pissed.

As long as they buy the book to find out, who cares? Look, the damned thing was 1,200 pages long. In order to get it down to size I had to dump more shit than a manure truck. Anyway, Chris loves me. Mostly. And I’ve had plenty of people ride up to me and offer cash not to be mentioned. Which I’ve accepted, by the way.

Okay. Well, I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks!

Big C, Part Two: The wrath is Stathis

July 26, 2013 § 23 Comments

I sneaked out of bed trying not to wake Mrs. WM and not to disturb the man with the hammer and the lightning bolts, who was now also playing “Do-Re-Mi” on an out-of-tune violin. I succeeded on one count and made it into the kitchen.

“Where’s the fuggin’ oatmeal?” I muttered. “Where’s the fuggin’ coffee?” I muttered.

With the oatmeal cooking and the coffee poured, I slumped over on the table. My temples were going to burst as the bow sawed crazily on the strings, out of synch with the lightning bolts and hammer whacks.

“You okay?” Mrs. WM was standing in the kitchen.

I looked up at her in misery.

“You don’ lookin’ okay.” She put the frying pan on the stove. “You can’t go onna Donuts Ride with that hangin’ over just eatin’ oatsmeal and coffee.”

“I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“You think you makin’ a coffee grinder like grindin’ a tree stump not gonna wake me up?”

I tried to say “Sorry” but the hammer and violin wouldn’t let me.

“You can’t be onna drinky pants like that at your age,” she said quietly. “You gettin’ onna drinky problem, you know? Drinky pants inna middle day when you oughta be onna workin’? Throwin’ out onna wall inna hallway like you was a college ager?”

“I’m so sorry,” I mumbled.

“Itsa okay, honey, I’m lovin’ you anyways.” The smell of fried eggs and sausage filled the kitchen as the great city’s pre-dawn night lights sparkled in through the window glass. “I don’ care onna wipin’ up some throwin’ up. I done worse in twenty-six years. But you keep up with the drinky pants and you gonna hurt people not just yourself.”

The only thing that could have made me feel worse than a bunch of shouting was the soothing lilt of her voice, mixed in with sausage. “How’d I get all cleaned up last night?”

“I cleaned you all up like you was a poopy baby. But I threw away onna your socks. They was too nastiful.”

“I won’t do it again.”

“I don’ wanna hear ’bout what you gonna do and not do,” she said, putting the plate in front of me heaped with fried eggs and sausage and toast and butter and jam and oatmeal. “I just wanna see you bein’ okay because I’m lovin’ on you no matter what.” She  leaned over and kissed my forehead.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

I rendezvoused with Jack from Illinois (not his real name) and Glass Hip a few minutes before the Donut Ride launched. “I’ve never done the new course,” said Jack.

“You hardly ever even did the old one.”

“That’s true.”

“Instead of stopping at the college atop the Switchbacks and comparing penises, we continue up to the radar domes. It adds a solid ten minutes to the climb and completely changes the tenor of the ride.”

“Do we get to compare penises at the domes?”

“They’re usually too shriveled for measurement by that point.”

“I’m looking forward to this,” Glass Hip piped up. “It’s the one legendary SoCal ride I’ve never done in almost twenty years. It should be fun.”

“Yes, it will be fun,” I said. “Kind of like having someone gnaw off your genitals with a rusty can opener is ‘fun.'”

Whereas Jack from Illinois was a kind, gentle, happy, smiling, pleasant, generous fellow who, deep inside, was a gnarly and steaming mess of rhubarb, bitter herbs, dog spit, old scabs, and the raw memories of a childhood spent locked in a closet while his older brother banged on the door with a hammer, firecrackers, and a loaded pistol, Glass Hip was the opposite.

Glass Hip, ugly as a fist, was, to the outer world, covered in scales, mottled with the scars and blotches of badly abused leather, and permanently emanated an aura of cruelty, viciousness, cheapness, and a full-throttled desire to mount, crush, and destroy all competitors of any kind. On the inside, however, deep down, far down in fact, way beneath all that, hidden from view and unseen by any living human, under layers and layers of protective viciousness, obscured from even the most discerning, lay a small, minute, tiny, hard-to-see, practically invisible, microscopically small kernel of warmth and kindness and generosity that burned with such brightness it could turn the hardest butter pat into a slightly less firm one.

In other words, these two heroes of the road were polar opposites, with the exception, of course, of the qualities they shared, and one of those qualities was this: They invariably thrashed me, cracked me, and rode me off their wheels whenever the pace picked up, which it did the moment we hit Malaga Cove.

Have pity on an old man

“The additional climb that’s been tacked onto the Switchbacks has completely changed the tenor of the ride,” I told Glass Hip.

“How so?”

“Used to be, everyone sat in until Portuguese Bend then the attacks came fast and furious, with huge accelerations at the bottom of the Switchbacks and throughout.”

“And now?”

“Now people cower in their own poop until the very last minute.”

“Then they attack?”

“Naw. They wet themselves. There’s a big group at the bottom and then it gradually whittles down into a small handful, which then disintegrates in the final killing ten minutes up to the domes.”

Canyon Bob, however, hadn’t gotten the memo, and fired off a pull of death as we approached Trump, shelling most of the field and leaving the remnants hanging onto his wheel in a gagging, ragged line. At the bottom of the Switchbacks, Stathis the Wily Greek and Sammy Snubbins attacked.

Hanging Chad followed, and so did I.

A thick fog covered the Hill and we were soon alone. G3 and G$ had attacked way back at Golden Cove and were far ahead. The rest of the field was in pieces. By the second turn I was in Old Man Hell. My breathing was so deep that it reached down into my colon. The stabbing pains from the hangover had been replaced with stabbing pains in my thighs, butt, arms, neck, face, and hair, especially my sideburns, which ached beyond any description.

At some point I realized the futility of it all. I am a few months shy of fifty. Hanging Chad is thirty. Stathis is twenty-six. Sammy is nineteen. Sammy and Stathis took turns, each one pulling so hard and fast that it felt like a flat interval. “I’ve never survived climbing with either one of these dwarves,” I told myself. “What makes me think I can do it today?”

Hanging Chad read my mind and folded. Stathis looked back at me and said something. “I think it’s English,” I said. “But mixed in with my breathing like that, it’s hard to tell.”

What was obvious was that Stathis was not breathing hard or even, apparently, trying. He pulled as far as Ganado and looked back, flicking me through.

“Are you crazy?” I telepathically transmitted. “I’m barely hanging onto your wheel. I’m old and slow and weak and frightened and riding far outside myself. You are young, strong, and not even sweating. This moment, when I have somehow survived this far on the Switchbacks hanging onto your wheel, will go down as the second greatest ride of my life, but you will have forgotten it by lunchtime. Have pity on an old, feeble wanker and let me suck wheel for just a few moments more.”

Stathis looked back at me again with the kindness and empathy of a great white shark about to tear its prey in half, or of a Republican contemplating a bill that included help for the poor, or for old people, or for children. With that brief glance he telepathed this: “Yes, you are old and weak, but you are on my wheel, so you are, by definition, stronger than all those who are not. Therefore you are legitimate prey. I feel no mercy or sympathy for you, as the moment I let you survive you will brag to the world, likely on your blog, about how you climbed with me all the way to the top, a half-truth that will lower me and exalt you. I feel no pity for you nor any desire to do anything other than crush you mercilessly under the heel of my jackboot. Your cries and pleas mean nothing to me, to the contrary, the louder you squeal the more I will enjoy the sound of my club against your eggshell skull.”

With that, he yawned and rode away. Sammy followed.

Cut adrift and resigned to being reeled in, I was surprised to see Hanging Chad come by at full speed. I hopped on and enjoyed the Cadillac draft of this triathlete-turned-savior. At the college he blew and I soldiered on. Stathis overhauled G$ and G3, completely consuming their three minute lead, followed by Sammy, then me.

Next up were Glass Hip and Jack. “We had you in our sights,” said Glass Hip, he whom I have never beaten on a climb.

“I got lucky.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “You did.”

“Don’t suppose it will happen again.”

“No,” he agreed. “It won’t.”

And it didn’t, as he pummeled me the rest of the ride.

With this one great feat, however, my confidence began to surge, because the following day was the MMX Birthday Ride Beatdown, a North County San Diego Fuckaganza in which many were invited to a happy celebration of cycling and fun and camaraderie in which there would be neither fun nor camaraderie but only a punishing, humiliating beatdown administered without regard to friendship or anything else.

In the back of mind, there were other things bubbling around the edges, too. I’d be heading to Houston after the birthday beatdown to be with my mom, who was scheduled for major surgery to combat a very aggressive breast cancer with which she’d been diagnosed. Sunday would involve a huge physical effort as well as a huge logistical effort. I’d have to get from North County to LAX in time to make the last flight of the day, which would put me in Houston at midnight.

I got back home and had lunch, then opened the fridge to grab a beer. “Nah,” I said. “Not today.”

Oh, no you don’t!

January 20, 2013 § 46 Comments

The dude in the black uniform with the badge and the gun and the handcuffs and the radio and the mace and the Taser was banging on my door. I looked at him through the keyhole, wondering whether I should wait, or ask for a warrant through the closed door, or dash out onto the balcony, hop down to the first floor and make my getaway.

“Who is it?” I asked in my best falsetto.

“Wanker Police! Open up! I’ve got a warrant!”

I cracked the door. “Show it to me.”

He thrust the paper through the crack. Sure enough, it was a wanker warrant, and it had my name on it. I opened the door and the cop strode inside.

“Are you Wankmeister?” He stared at my pink unicorn socks. “Never mind.” Then he took out his pen and looked at me officiously. “You know why I’m here?”

“No. I haven’t the faintest.”

“I’m Officer Smedley, Wanker Police Bureau, Licensing Division. I’m here to confiscate your license.”

“My what?”

“Your license. Your wanker license has been revoked. Here.” He shoved a piece of paper in my face. “Read that.”

“What about it? It’s a copy of the 50+ race results from the CBR crit this morning. So what?”

“That’s your name in third place. You got third place in a qualifying event, which means automatic revocation of your wanker license.”

“What do you mean, ‘qualifying event’?”

“There were a minimum of 60 racers. Held under USAC permit. 40-minute crit. It even says here in the notes ‘Placed after riding second half of the race in a three-man breakaway.’ That seals it. You can file an appeal, but for now you’ll have to turn over your wanker certification. Sorry.”

“Dude,” I said, “you’ve got to be kidding. You can’t de-wankify me based on one stupid race. I had no idea I was putting my wankerdom in jeopardy. If I had, I’d have sat at the back and sprunted with the field.”

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. By signing your wanker license you’re agreeing to abide by the rules. A top-three placing provisionally revokes your license. A three-man placing from a breakaway is automatic. Sorry.”

“That was no breakaway!” I protested.

“Of course it was. Says right here in the notes: ‘three-man breakaway with Wankmeister, Pinkle Dude, and Furbag.'”

“No, no, no, that wasn’t a real breakaway. You had to be there. Really.”

“What was it, then?”

“It was, uh, a wankaway. Pure wankaway from start to finish.”

“What’s a wankaway?” He looked perplexed and a bit confused.

“Dude, you’re coming here to yank my wank and you don’t know what a wankaway is?”

“It’s my first season,” he apologized.

“Ignorance of the law…”

“Is no excuse,” he finished, sheepishly.

“Exactly. First of all it was a 50+ race, and it’s almost impossible to decertify a wanker in one of those. Didn’t you know that?”

He shook his head. “Really?”

“Fact. I mean there we were, standing at the start, and there was more last-minute diaper changing, and Geritol popping, and prostate pad adjusting, and bifocal fiddling, and tiny pee dribbling than you’d see after yelling ‘Fire!’ at a nursing home. Just the creaking noise from all the legs getting thrown over the top tubes was enough to make you think an elephant was walking on antique wooden floorboards.”

“I see what you’re getting at. Wanker City, huh? But what about the breakaway, er, the wankaway?”

“Well, it all happened randomly and according to no plan at all, which is the hallmark of wankdom. A break went early and got caught. Then a second break went and got brought back.”

“This doesn’t sound wankerish to me. Sounds like a hard bike race.”

“Oh, but the second break had my own teammate in it.”

“So?”

“I helped bring it back.”

“Ahhh,” he nodded. “That’s pretty lame. That’s Cat 5 lame, in fact.”

“And what’s another word for Cat 5?”

“Wanker!” he said emphatically.

“Exactly.”

“What happened next?”

“Well, they called a prime.”

“That sounds legit.”

“But it was for Cialis and denture cream.”

“Wanker.”

“Yep. So King Harold strings it out in the gutter as all sixty-six wankers put their lives on the line for an OTC product they already have at home in the medicine cabinet.”

“Wankers, for sure.”

“Hellz. Then Big Steve blasts around for the prime. Everyone’s roasted.”

“And?”

“And I attack.”

“That sounds like real tactics, not wankerish at all. Attacking after the prime? How much more legit can you get?” He started to scowl.

“I look back and Pinkle Dude and Furbag are on my wheel. I go for a little longer and swing over. Pinkle pulls through. I look back and the whole Pinkle team is clogging the chase. They’ve got ten guys in the race with enough guts and butts to clog an industrial toilet.”

Officer Smedley furrowed his brow. “Yes, but they’re still blocking, and that’s a legit race tactic. Sounds like a breakaway supported by sound team tactics to me.”

“Yeah, it may sound like that, but you had to be in the wankaway.”

“Why’s that?”

“To see the antics of the three wankers in it. You’ve got Pinkle Dude pulling only in the tailwind, if ‘pulling’ is what you call whizzling along in your compact at 123 rpm.”

“And the other guy? This ‘Furbag’ individual?”

“Well, for starters, he’s wearing a mix-n-match outfit. The jersey says ‘Bill’s Sausage Emporium,’ and it’s light blue with green lettering, and the shorts say ‘Team Vegan p/b Mind-Earth-Body Anti-Aging Institute of East Murrieta.'”

“Wow,” he says. “Pretty wankish.”

“Yeah. And Furbag has more hair on his legs than Sasquatch.”

“Well, you can’t call someone a wanker because they have hairy legs. It says so in the rulebook.”

“Exactly. But Furbag hardly ever pulled. I mean, these lousy, slow, lame, fakish little half-efforts for five or ten seconds followed by the Brad House chicken elbow salute and panting and that sadsack ‘Sorry guys I’m too weak to pull but plenty strong to suck wheel in the break all day’ look.”

Officer Smedley shook his head. “Not wankish at all. That’s smart breakaway riding if you’re the weakest in the break and saving for the sprunt.”

“Not him, Officer, us. Me and Pinkle were too lame and slow and weak to drop him. And we tried.”

Smedley nodded. “That’s lame, all right. Wankish lame.”

“Exactly.”

“Well, what about you? You’ve established that your partners were thoroughbred wankers, but how about you? You initiated the break and you powered it to the end, it sounds like. That’s for sure grounds to decertify you on the spot.”

“No, sir, that’s not what happened. First of all, I took all the pulls into the headwind.”

“Oh,” he said. “Wanker.”

“And then with two laps to go instead of easing up I went harder even though Team Pinkle was blocking like the Steel Curtain, and my teammates, King Harold and Ted ‘the Wall’ were covering every move like a blanket.”

“Stupid. Just stupid. How long have you been doing this, anyway?”

“Over 30 years, Officer.”

“Wow. What a wanker.”

“Yep. And then with one lap to go Furbag stopped taking even his fakish pulls and Pinkle Dude refused to come through at all.”

“So you eased up and got ready for them to attack you?”

“Nah, that would have been clever. I just went harder.”

“Oh, Jeez. What a wanker.”

“See?”

“Don’t tell me they sprunted around you in the last 200 meters?”

“No way! They dusted me off with more than half a lap to go. I almost got caught by the field.”

“Yeah,” he nodded his head sympathetically. “There’s no way we can take your license for a performance like that. Those are some pretty hard core wanker moves.”

“Yup.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” he said, looking over his warrant. “It says here you also won a prime in the break, uh, the wankaway. Is that true?”

“You could hardly call it a prime. It was a half-dozen Depends.”

“Ah, yeah, right. Okay. Well, sorry to have bothered you. We’ll let it slide this time. But don’t be showing up on any more results sheets in the top three if you know what’s good for you.”

“Don’t worry, Officer,” I said. “I won’t!”

Everybody’s secret non-secret debut

January 19, 2013 § 27 Comments

It’s January 20, almost, which means it’s SoCal’s first “real” crit of the year. All the teams will be there in force to showcase their new kits, their new glasses (some poor sods will still be wearing Lancewear, the cool kids will be wearing SPY), and most of all their secret non-secret training.

Secret non-secret training is what everyone except the Wankmeister does all winter. Diet. Visits to the doctor. Intervals. Gym work. Specific work on sprunting, clumbing, flailing. Building power. Sending outrageous amounts of money to the coach. More visits to the doctor. Lindberg Nutrition. Fancy recovery drinks. In-ride protein drinks. More gym work.

It’s all top secret except for the posed easy days showing the happy masters professionals cruising down PCH on a sunny day with their friends. “See? I don’t train hard in the winter! Not me! No, sir! I pedal easy, quaff coffee with Knoll in Santa Monica, and crack jokes with my buddies. I whip your ass during the race season because I’m just naturally better.”

Why Wankmeister is naturally not better

I have so many things working against me that I can’t even begin pretending. Fat. Unfocused. Unmuscular. Undisciplined. Overly fond of ice cream. No sprunt. No clumbing prowess. No time trailing skills. Lack of perseverance when the going gets moderately hard, and a complete quitter when the hammer of death comes down.

Each winter I completely reinvent myself and acquire a whole new closetful of skills and abilities that are tailored to catapult me to the top of the podium. Then, after the first climb on the first lap of Boulevard, I get sent off the back with a note pinned to my collar saying “Dear Mrs. Wankmeister: He’s not ready this year, either. Please try again next season.”

Of course 2013 is no different. I’ve lost 27 pounds, then regained about 7, and am now hovering at a tininess quotient of about 151, the lightest I’ve been since I was in my twenties. My shorts are baggy and saggy and ride up my legs like a thong, they’re so loose. I’ve interpolated a bit of acceleration with a bit of big ring work, and can now drop the overweight hobby bikers in and around PV at will. Sometimes I can, anyway.

So tomorrow’s CBR crit will be the first step in a triumphant march to the podium. You can take that to the bank, although if past performance truly is the best indicator of future results, the bank will likely be Countrywide.

So what’s your excuse?

Whereas Wankmeister freely admits to big investment, nonexistent return…what’s your story going to be? You’ve done all that I have and a lot more. I’m still riding the same bike I had last year; you’re on a brand new rig. I still only have one wheelset, and it’s 32-hole aluminum; you’ve got a different carbon wheelset for every wind condition and race type. My excuse is that I’m just not very good and never will be; you still tell your significant other that you’re the “real deal.”

And since only one person is going to win your race tomorrow, it’s going to be devastating to find out that after all you’ve done you’re still pack fodder.

But don’t despair! Below are a list of handy-dandy excuses to prop up what’s guaranteed to be a sagging ego come nightfall on Sunday.

  1. “It’s just the first race of the season. I don’t have my race legs yet.”
  2. “That was just a CBR crit training race. My real target for the season is Boulevard.”
  3. “I’m not used to my new ride yet. It’s different in the turns from my last bike.”
  4. “We’re still working on our team strategy.”
  5. “I got 38th, which is almost top third, which is pretty good and even better when you consider all the people who never even bothered to show up because they were too scared.”
  6. “The guys winning now will be tired out no-shows in June.”
  7. “I’m one of the oldest guys in my masters category by almost three years. At my age, one year makes a huge difference.”
  8. “Hell, I’m racing against a bunch of ex-pros.”
  9. “I’ve been sick.”
  10. “Work has been craaaaazy.”
  11. “I’m taking a more relaxed approach this year.”
  12. “I do better in hot weather.”
  13. “I’m sorry, January is just too early to be racing.”
  14. “Nobody would work with me.”
  15. “The racing was just too negative.”
  16. “I wasn’t going to chase that break. I had a teammate who was going to bridge up to it.”
  17. “I never sprint in crits. Too dangerous.”
  18. “The course isn’t selective enough.”
  19. “The course was too technical.”
  20. “I didn’t train all winter.”

So now you really are ready for the first race of the year. Go get ‘em!

Burnt toast

January 13, 2013 § 15 Comments

I’m too tired and hungry and dehyrdated and dessicated to do anything besides report the facts regarding yesterday’s 117-mile beatdown, otherwise known as the 2013 edition of Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride.

First, a few stats:

Door to door: 7 hours, 8 minutes
Starting temperature: 40 degrees
Finishing temperature: 55 degrees
Skies: Beautifully clear and sunny. Perfect SoCal winter weather.
Wind: None to speak of
Distance: 117 miles
Total Climbing: +7,500 ft
Steepest gradient: 20%, Balcom Canyon Rd. (at mile 100; thanks, Jaeger)
Pieces of French toast consumed: 4
Slices of bacon eaten: 6
In-ride hydration: 1/2 a water bottle, 2 cups of convenience store coffee
In-ride nutrition: PBS, almonds, medjool dates, totaling 2,072 kcal
Calories burned: 4,200 kcal
Number of wankers who swore a blood oath that they’d start: 25
Number of wankers who actually started: 21
KOM: Jeff Konsmo
Green Jersey: Aaron Wimberley
Overall winners: James and Nancy Jaeger (got the most swag and didn’t have to ride a single mile!)

Individual Results (in order of free association)

Yuletide: Widely predicted to crash, burn, melt, and strew nuts, bolts, plates, and assorted surgical hardware all over Ventura County, Yuletide a/k/a Junkyard a/k/a Van Gogh pulled the ride of the decade out of his ass. Riding within his limits he got shelled on every climb, recovered on the descents, and ended up towing various wankers whose names shall not be mentioned, Jim Bowles, to various resting spots. Redemption is too weak a word for the gut-up, full-on, HTFU ride produced by the man whose logo is emblazoned on ten thousand sweaty butts across Southern California. Unlike last year when he was pulled the last half-mile up Balcom Canyon by a rusted out Chevy Luv filled with thirty lawnmowers and twelve yard workers that just happened to be passing at the right speed (2.4 mph), this year Yuletide brought the blood, sweat, and tears and stomped his way up under his own steam and ahead of various notables whose names shall not ever be mentioned, Jim Bowles. Ultimate proof of Yuletide’s rising tide was his appearance at the Wheatgrass Ride the following day, where he danced on the pedals (albeit a clog dance) and quaffed wheatgrass with the best of ‘em.

Fussy: Coming back from a terrible ten-year injury that debilitated him so much he could scarcely complete a lap on the Donut without assistance from an EMS crew, Fussy overcame the awful disease of Put Extra Whip Cream On Everything Please by enrolling in the Wankmeister Diet Plan. After reducing his daily caloric intake from 15,000 to about 65, he shed the better part of four coats of winter bear grease and showed up at FTR ready to ride wheelies all the way up Balcom. For a first timer, he acquitted himself with honor and with the immortal Baylesian good cheer, better humor, and extra-wide butt for the rest of us to draft off. In fact, Fussy fought, hammered, grabbed wheels when he could, pounded alone into the wind when he had to, and produced a ride guarantees an invite for 2014, to the extent that invites are ever guaranteed, which they aren’t.

Becker Bob: Bob put in his usual 10,000 miles of preparation for FTR spread out over the last 25 years, and for the most part didn’t finish last, except for the times he did. On Country Club Climb the rest of the crew had time to put the finishing touches on a 35,000-piece jigsaw puzzle before he crested the top, but until that point he rode well enough to justify the 14 pieces of French toast he’d scarfed before rolling out. Some people may have ridden faster, but no one had a better ratio of food-to-miles than Becker Bob. And of course he brought the trademark good humor and camaraderie that has made him a fixture on this annual death march. “Next year,” he says “I will train. Really.”

MMX: Pulled the most. Pulled the hardest. Drew the fiercest opposition. Left to dangle with no teammates. Perhaps won the sprunt into Ojai (more on that later). Awesome fourth on Balcom behind 42-lb. Alex, 51-lb. Konsmo, and The Lung a/k/a G$ a/k/a Leibert. Next closest rider was still at the Circle K in Ventura. MMX split the field into 300 smaller parts on the 101. Punished the bad boys and girls with a 30-minute smashmouth pull from Ventura to Santa Paula, where only a handful could do anything other than grab a wheel and vomit up the Barbie food they’d eaten at the Circle K along with their dreams and self esteem and delusions of glory. MMX slashed and burned up the Lake Casitas climb, cresting in fourth behind Zombo, Roadchamp, and G$, and hung in on the climb into Ojai despite the dastardly four-man combo of G3, G$, Roadchamp, and Zombo who all worked together to work him over. Never looked tired, and got the Repartee of the Day Award when someone complained, “We can’t spend too long here at the Circle K because all the lactic acid will build up.” MMX’s retort: “You don’t get lactic acid unless you ride hard.” Showered the host and hostess, their son and daughter and grandchildren with chic SPY-ware gift certificates, and gave WM another pair of cool-beyond-cool shoes so that I can now step outdoors in something that was designed (and made) later than 1987. Ripped off a handful of Strava KOM’s on the ride, and never drifted more than a couple of wheels off the front for the entire 7-hour odyssey. Bad news: He’s just starting to build for BWR. Good news: Most of the FTR wankers won’t have to deal with him again until 2014.

Punkster: After years of quitting, getting dropped, flailing, and generally behaving like a kid who trains in a basement in Indiana, Punkster brought his A Game to the 2013 FTR, or at least someone else’s. He challenged for every sprunt, made the first or second split on every climb, and beat Konsmo on the Balcom Climb except for a technicality: In the event of a tie on Balcom, the vee goes to the older guy, or the guy who has won it more, or the guy who first claims that it was a “tie.” Unlike others who rode well at key strategic points, Punkster shared huge miles with MMX on the front, never shirked, and unleashed a number of solid, battering pulls. On the run-in to Ojai, he claimed a shared sprunt victory with MMX, however, that is disputed by G$ and Wankmeister. More below. If Punkster continues this upward trajectory (and it should, as he now appears to have reached puberty), next year no one will hold his wheel anywhere.

DJ: Like a fine old wine that’s gone sour from sitting too long in the dumpster, Dave Jaeger, founder of the FTR, racer extraordinaire, vanquisher of the inaugural BWR in 2012, icon of the South Bay and Dude Who Thinks He’s Getting Paid To Remodel His Home, produced yet another astounding ride. Why astounding? Because despite doubling his mileage for the last six months in a single day, DJ hammered, placed respectably on every climb, made the split going over Ojai, and mother-henned all the brokedown wankers spread from Camarillo to Ventura and back. Moreover, he produced yet another version of the often-copied, never imitated French Toast Ride, the prime ingredients being 22 oz. of Beatdown mixed with 1 cup of Cajoling, then adding a lightly battered 899 grams of Encouragement to 149 lbs. of Taking Care of Everyone Else. Dave, we love you, and especially love the FTR because it’s the only time you go slow enough for us to get ahead of you, even if it’s only for a mile or two.

Zombo: Remember Columbo? Looked like a doofus? Tricked everybody into thinking that he was a clueless knucklehead who you could easily fool? Then in the end he’d turn out to have had the upper hand the whole time, was playing the bad guy for a fool, and would nail the sorry flailer’s ass to the floor? Okay, and you’re familiar with zombies, right? The ones you kill and smash and obliterate and wreck and throw into the meatgrinder and shoot through the heart and push off a cliff and burn into ashes and make watch Oprah and then they just get up and come right back at you, strong as they ever were? Your worst fucking nightmare on the FTR is a blend between a zombie and Columbo, a/k/a Zombo, f/k/a Surfer Dan. This was Zombo’s first FTR and he ate so much living flesh off his victims that there was nothing but a scattered, tattered pile of stinky shorts at the end (zombies don’t like poopy bike shorts). Hairy legged, grinning goofily, faux clueless about where to attack and where to rest, Zombo made the strongest and scariest FTR debut in recent memory. That’s all well and good–turning on the screws early, keeping the pressure high, being game for the hammerhead tactics of MMX, showing that he was worthy…but where he earned his keep forever was on the 101. This was one of those things that’s life and death, where a rider is more than a rider, where your life is in someone else’s hands and they keep you from getting ground under the wheels of a tractor-trailer moving at 80 mph at huge risk to their own life. We were in single file, with MMX absolutely stuffing our entrails back down our throats with each mash of the pedals, rolling up a slight rise, freeway traffic blowing by at 80+, and all I could do was grimace, choke back the bile and the mostly gone French toast and date juice and earwax and latch onto Konsmo’s rear wheel with a bitter prayer, who in turn was trying to pedal through a wall of sweat and snot while latched onto Zombo’s wheel, who like the rest of us was hunkered down and praying to Dog that this hell would end. With no warning, Zombo’s left hand shot off the bars and made a huge, wild sweeping motion that only meant one thing: Look out for DEATH! His bike moved a centimeter to the right. By taking his hand off the bars and flailing wildly to warn Konsmo he’d risked losing control of his own bike and therefore his life, as the “obstacle” was a manhole-sized gash in the pavement that was about a foot deep and two feet long. I’ve seen some fancy bike moves before, but to have the presence of mind to avoid the uncalled-out hole, quickly warn the guy behind you, and steer without swerving was unbelievable. Zombo’s trust factor was high; Konsmo acted with total instinct, the buddy-in-a-foxhole kind of trust move that you blindly make when you know the wheel in front of you and depend on it. Konsmo saw the wild sweep and knew that whatever it was, it was bad. He didn’t know if I was echeloned, so he couldn’t veer. Instead, he followed Zombo’s slight deviation from the line in a controlled and instantaneous reaction and as I followed Konsmo I saw his wheel graze the edge of that black pit of death by a margin so slim you could have put a pencil lead between the edge of Konsmo’s tire and the gaping crevasse. Of course by the time I reached it I was safe; my eyes had been able to follow the arm-sweep to the pavement and move accordingly. Had Zombo plunged us all into that hole, someone would have flown out onto the 101 and met the fate of G3’s Go-Pro…more about that disaster later. In short, it was the unsung hero move of the day. Konsmo was shaking afterwards, well, after MMX had cracked the group and ridden away, leaving us to lick our wounds and do a Kum-Ba-Ya around Zombo.

Überfred: Long-hailed by himself as one of the greatest national team members of the 1980’s, and one of the dudes still riding who can regale us with that same awesome story of how he beat Greg Lemond in a race once (it was the Hooterville Crit, where Lemond flatted in the final turn and crashed into the barriers), Überfred turned in one of the most impressive and amazing FTR performances in his storied career. After telling DJ that he’d be there, and taking up a valuable starting spot (thousands of South Bay wankers, and a contingent of LB Freddies including Checkerbutt had tried every means possible to obtain one of the coveted slots), Überfred emailed the night before the big event to say he’d gotten a boo-boo on his hoo-ha and wouldn’t be able to make the ride. There has never been an FTR night-before cancellation, and some noted that it was more than mere coincidence that Überfred’s boo-boo happened about one hour after WM sent out the Final FTR Email Warning of Death, in which all were reminded that their hour of judgment was nigh, and there was naught left but to suffer the beatdown and tow up Balcom by the passing gardener’s truck, if they were so lucky. Subsequent investigation revealed that Überfred had been in NYC the previous week, hanging out with cheerleaders and practicing his arabesques and assemblés.

BJones: BJ showed up in a decidedly non-ugly kit and suffered like the LB Freddie dog that he was. Fresh and keen in the first few stabs on the way to Fillmore, and game for the finish at the bridge, BJ found a spot in the back third of the wankoton and pounded all 117 miles of misery back to the ranch house in Camarillo. Then, unlike the mere mortals who changed clothes, wolfed sandwiches, then drove home, where they fell asleep in their jeans, BJ left without eating and drove back to Brea where he watched his daughter play in three consecutive soccer matches. A more awesome FTR performance is scarce to be imagined. On Balcom, he was the final corpse that I passed, and watching him paperboy up the slope in tandem with Bull reminded me of two pilot whales doing a synchronized swimming routine on a trampoline. It wasn’t pretty, but it got them up the damned thing. BJ also stood and kicked hard twice at the top of the climb, so hard in fact that I had to cough up a lung to pass him.

Brokeback: Without question the least fit, least prepared, most woefully undertrained wanker on the entire ride, Brokeback was not only suffering from the combined effects of his Reise nach Italien, a prolonged courtship which has included all manner of lard, foie gras, crème brûlée, chocolate eclair, Napoleon, apple tarte tatin, lemon meringue, chocolate fondue, and Teste-Cubières, but also in constant agony from severe lower back pain which he had been treating with the above-mentioned desserts on an almost hourly basis. In short, Brokeback knew that from Mile One he would be in hell, that no savior or sag would come to his aid, and that the only way he’d get through FTR 2013 was with grit and a suitcase of courage the size of Dallas. Unlike certain unnamed Long Beach no-shows, rather than betraying the Brotherhood of the Toast, Brokeback strapped on his strap-on, threw a leg over, and didn’t finish last on every single climb. I’m not sure whether he deserves credit for starting this odyssey on an empty tank and finishing it on willpower, or whether he deserves contempt for not making some minimal preparation for it, but I do know this: I could never have done what he did. That amount of guts and determination do not exist in my family tree.

Hair: Generally considered a Cat 3 sprunter, Hair set fire to this year’s FTR. He won’t admit it, but he doesn’t have to because we all have eyes: He’s trimmed off all the baby fat and, thanks to Wankmeister’s diet advice, has dropped a solid 10-15 pounds. Gone is the Hair who had rolls of neck fat. Gone is the Hair whose size tiny jersey had an extra front pocket for his hairy tummy. Gone is the Hair who had little grab-aholds under his armpits…and in his place is a lean, hard, badass bike racer. He took the Fillmore sprunt by several football fields even after starting on fourth-and-400 yards back. But then he showed some serious cards, hanging with the leaders on the climb into Ojai, sticking his nose into the wind all day long, and consistently being the only rider besides Zombo who could play ball with MMX doing the hard work on the front. Hair flew up Casitas and then hit the downhill with such speed that all I could do when it was my turn to pull through was not pull through and whimper. He got outfoxed on the Ojai sprunt, but closed the gap to MMX and Punkster singlehandedly. Most incredibly, he was among the top finishers on Balcom, a place where no pure sprunter dares show his mettle. Then, in addition to all that, he did it with his usual smack talk, good humor, and encouraging words to those of us who could do nothing but drool in his nonexistent slipstream. With no teammates, no natural climbing talent, and no performances in previous years on the FTR’s hardest sections that were anything other than flail-worthy, this year garnered him the award of Dude Who Is Flat Fucking Badass. I can’t take credit for doing anything other than unsuccessfully hanging onto his shadow, but he owes me 25% of 2013’s race winnings thanks to my diet advice, even though he pretends to be doing it on Jenny Craig.

Wankomodo: Every once in a while you trash talk a person, say bad things about him, drag his name through the mud, and bash him to a fare-thee-well, only to learn that he’s a first rate, stand-up guy, and then, feeling awful about the terrible things you said, you apologize. Well, that ain’t gonna happen. But I will say this: If one person made the 2013 FTR an over-the-top success, it was Wankomodo, who showed up with his brand new Lambo, $873,000 in Canon bodies and lenses, and did the most incredible job of sag + custom photography that FTR has ever had, or even dreamed of having, since most of us drive rusted out cars with more than 200k in mileage, and our “camera equipment” uses film. He picked great vantage points, got super photos of everyone, had them edited and posted less than 24 hours after the ride, and asked for nothing in return. So many good things were said about you during and after the ride, Wankomodo, and a whole bunch of them by me, that your ears must have burned down at least three sizes. Thanks for making it a special day and for giving us lots of fodder with which to waste our entire weekend, and for giving us stuff we can use to holler, “Hey, honey! Come look at this!” while our bored wives trundle into the room to look at another photo of G3 or MMX or some shattered wanker struggling up a pockmarked road with his tongue dragging in the gutter. You’re the man!

Stern-O: Older than dirt, but never having let any stay on his bike for more than twelve seconds, Stern-O represented the tough guys of New Mexico with a bravado, power, strength, and courage that we have come to expect from a state where there are more children born in wedlock to their immediate relatives than there are meth houses per square mile…if only barely. Stern-O, the guy who never turns down a dare, whose reputation was carved on the hard roads of LA County, legend among myths, an unsolved problem on par with P versus NP, with the Hodge conjecture or the Riemann hypothesis, a complex mess of contradictions, confusions and bewilderment built on a base of dyspepsia and flatulence, Sterno-O The One And Only played his last FTR card. It was a dark and stormy night (in New Mexico). A band of fathers and children all born within the first degree of consanguinity sat around the campfire bright. “Ain’t the FTR tomorrer, Pappy?” asked one. “I reckon it is,” said Stern-O. “But I ain’t a goin’.” A gasp went up. “How come, Pappy? You ain’t never skunked on at ‘ere rat race afore.” “This here year’s differnt,” said Stern-O. “I’m fattern a Greek bride. Slowern a New Mexico University perfesser of addition and subtraction. Legs is spindliern the spokes on my racin wheels. They’s gonna be layin fer me over there in Californey. They’s gonna whup me good. Even ol’ Yulester’s gonna whup me. Bowles. Brokeback. All them fellers is gonna mash mah dick into the dirt and call me ‘Ol Grizzles,’ an’ ‘Softy,’ an’ I ain’t gonna stand for it. I’m a bailin.'” “But Pappy,” said his children, “you cain’t just quit the night afore the rat race. They’s done turned others away so’s you could do that there rat race. ‘Tain’t rat.” But Pappy would not be dissuaded. “I’ve done made fun a more wankers in my day than us New Mexicans have chillun who we’ve done married up to once they got over the age of twelve,” he said. “And I ain’t a gonna let ‘em call me a wanker. No sir, I ain’t a gonna.” And with that, Stern-O fired off an email to DJ and bailed. Just. Like. That.

G3: The week before FTR, G3 had spent each day nestled up close to the toilet, pooping like mad in an attempt to dislodge the gastrointestinal bug he’d picked up from licking too many doorknobs. Faint, thin, covered in a Jeremiah Johnson beard, rickety at the knees, and begging to be excused for frailness even before he finished his sixteenth piece of French toast, G3 led out the FTR by attacking early and taking the first KOM on the climb into Fillmore. Then the sorry fuck landed the first blow in a four-man orchestrated project beating going up the climb into Ojai which was designed to, and which did, dislodge MMX from the wheel of G$ and Roadchamp. No matter that G3 exploded into a mass of poopy bibs…he knew his part and played it well, including his sneak attack on DJ going up Balcom, where he pounded the ride leader to cross the legendary Balcom threshold a few bike lengths ahead. If this was a weakened, broken, poop-covered G3, thank Dog we didn’t see him at full force. With his orange froo-froo talisman dangling from his saddle he rode smart, he rode hard, and he punished all who thought they’d smack him while he was down (that was mostly me). However, the one part of the ride where his wheels were coming off as MMX exacted revenge on the 101, with G3 blown off the back and buffeted by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, his brand new Go-Pro bar mount snapped and the camera flew off onto the highway. The timing was perfect, because he could now legitimately do what the rest of us were praying we could do: Stop and shudder and gasp until the big black spots vanished and the guy in the white robe surrounded by the shimmering white light receded into the distance a bit. As he went back to collect his camera, composing in his head the angry letter he’d dash off to Go-Pro demanding a refund for a product he hadn’t paid for, as it had been a Christmas gift, he was faced with a major decision: Should he reach down and pick up the camera, or get the fuck out of the way of the 18-wheeler that was listing over into the bike lane and headed straight for the camera. “Lunge for the $300 camera and likely die? Or get out of the way and dash off that nasty letter?” It was a tough decision since he had so much good footage of MMX and others riding him off their wheel, but smarts won out over thrift. He jumped back just in time for the big front wheel to hit the camera, explode it into a million pieces, and plow onward with the driver laughing in the mirror.

G$: Raging. Roaring. Full throttle. Destruction on the climb into Ojai. Beatdown on the climb up Lake Casitas. 1-2 finish at the Santa Barbara County Line. Punishing beatdown on the 101. Third-place finish on Balcom. Brilliant orange socks blazing, G$ checked the oil level, found it full, checked the gas gauge, found it full, and turned in another awesome FTR ride. Of all his impressive moves, none matched his 1-2 finish at the Imaginary Sprunt Finish in Ojai, duking it out with Wankmeister for imaginary victory. MMX and Punkster had already crossed what they thought was the finish line, but the Ojai sign had been taken down, so in our opinion they finished too soon. Hair then jumped, but he, too went too soon. In our opinion. This meant that the true sprunt line was just ahead of where the others sat up. G$ jumped once, jumped twice, and with Wankmeister on his wheel, then battling into the wind, these two titans of the big ring, both known far and wide for the sprunting ability, took an imaginary first and imaginary second at the imaginary line. Or so we imagined.

Roadchamp: It gets really boring trying to say something new about Roadchamp. He took the climbs at will. He had no peer on this FTR, or any other. Punkster will beat him in a year or two, but for now he’s the King of All Mountains. Will his abject terror and fear of bad roads scare him away from the Belgian Waffle Ride again this year? Probably. But rest assured that when the road tilts up in 2013, he’ll be a force and the only assured way of beating him will be with a moped.

Dlrmpl: Would have easily gotten the Newbie Award if it hadn’t been for Zombo. Dude rode strong, smoked it up Balcom, climbed great on Casitas, and only really got shelled on the climb into Ojai. Never showed weakness in the form of sobbing, calling out his mother’s name, or offering Wankomodo money for a ride in the Lambo. Dlrmpl will only get stronger, faster, and more intent on whipping up on the old dudes as time goes by. Plus he’s already DM’d all his wanker buddies, rubbing their nose into the fact that he got to ride and they didn’t.

Turtle: Realized that the 101 was going to be  even more unforgiving than it was last year. Night before bailer and quitter.

Bull: Go and blow. For 117 miles. Bull hit the front, popped, recovered, and hit the front again so many times we all lost count. He and BJ’s synchronized paperboy on Balcom was poetry in motion, especially if you like bad poetry. Tough, resilient, always grinning despite the sheet snot hanging off his face like icicles, he asked for no mercy, not because he didn’t want any, but because he knew he’d get none.

Taylor: Gritted it out. Gutted it out. Showed up for FTR with no illusions, and left it with even fewer. It was a hard, miserable, lonely beatdown in Ventura County for Big T., and he took his beating like a man. No whimpering or whining, just slogging through the miles grimly and without complaint, lugging himself up Balcom and coming to rest in front of the food buffet Chez Jaeger, where he got all the reward he ever expected.

Bowles: Taking the part of Stern-O as Oldest Gentleman To Ride The FTR And Not Require Medical Intervention, Bowles pounded, hammered, got dropped, latched back on, and achieved the ultimate goal in his storied FTR career: Dropped Yuletide again on Golf Course Hill. Always glad to be part of the circus, and never the last elephant in the parade, he acquitted himself honorably again, and it was with an honorableness that will only increase as he keeps showing up.

Gil: Showing up…showing up…rings a bell…Even Superman has to show up when he signs on the dotted line. We were all disappointed and surprised that you joined the LB contingent of night before bailer and quitter. Damn.

Major Bob: You and Frias are the lucky ones. I’m too dogdamned tired to write anymore, and can’t imagine that anyone is still reading, except Harold and Leonard, who are wondering when I’m going to sing the praises of King Harry. Major Bob wrote his name large again in the storied history of the FTR. He came. He saw. He ate four helpings of French toast and enough bacon to make a Denny’s patron blush. And he charged all the climbs, bombed all the descents, spent time on the front, and was cracking jokes and grinning up to the bitter end.

Frias: Frias ground out yet another FTR. He wasn’t the first, but was by no means the last. Dude, I’m all typed out.

King Harold: Won the Best Pre-Ride Smacktalk Email Award of 2013. Whereas other smacktalking greats like Uberfred and Bull were strangely silent, King Harold unleashed a pair of disses that were truly wankworthy. Our time together on this year’s FTR was limited to the second bump, when Harry threw a chain and I made the horrible mistake of dropping back to help, like I know anything about chains other than “Don’t wrap them around the outside of the pulley-wheel cage,” and like I could help him bridge in the middle of a climb when the main group was sprinting away. What was I thinking? I know what I was thinking: King Harold is one of the best guys with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met, and I figured I’d rather flail alone into the wind with Harry for 100 miles than spend the next six hours curled up in a fetal ball of pain trying to follow MMX or G$. This of course was a terrible decision as we wound up in another OTB two-man flail of death, where Harry’s effort to get us back to the group was so ugly that neither of us had the legs to do anything besides pant and pray for the rest of the climb. Incredibly, he didn’t crush and drop me on the climbs. Perhaps it was his fear of the kimchee gas? We’ll never know…

Wankmeister: I sucked. Surprised? And it had nothing to do with the fact that I did the ride on two cups of gas station coffee, half a bottle of water, some dates, almonds, and a PBS.

Get your application in for 2014!

With the fame of the FTR having spread far and wide, and numerous friendships having been sundered due to one person getting in and the other not getting invited, and with much mystery surrounding the selection process, I’ve posted the guidelines below so that you can be guaranteed a spot in 2014.

  1. Receive an invitation from the previous year. This is the simplest, quickest, most generally successful way to get invited. Oh…you’ve never been invited? Hmmm, you might be hosed. But read on.
  2. Meet up with the early morning Manhattan Beach crew on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at CotKU for the better part of a year. Become friends with DJ, ingratiate yourself with him, demonstrate your prowess on the bike, be generous and safe, don’t act like a prick, and know your place in the group, which is above that of a germ but below that of a dingleberry, and listen to his same twelve stories over and over but pretend that it’s the first time every time. They leave at 5:30 AM. Oh…you don’t like riding that early? You live too far away? Hmmmm, you might be hosed. But read on.
  3. Ride somewhat regularly with DJ throughout the year at the NPR or Donut Ride, or race against him. Demonstrate your skills without being a tool. At the same time, ingratiate yourself with an FTR multi-year participant. Then, a couple of weeks before the ride, whose date is kept secret, find out through the grapevine if there have been any cancellations. On pain of permanent rejection til the end of days, never ever ever ask DJ directly if you can do the ride. Have your “connection” ask for you. The answer will always be “Hell no.” However, the following year the answer will be “No way.” Third year, “Maybe.” Fourth year “I’ll think about it if we have mass cancellations by the Long Beach Freddies.” Fifth year (reluctantly), “Okay, that wanker’s in.” Oh…you don’t want to wait five years? Hmmmm, have you considered the Solvang Century? No? Okay, read on.
  4. Send DJ a large suitcase stuffed with cash. You’re in like Flynn.

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