This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you

February 8, 2016 § 17 Comments

I hate getting beat and since there were only six people in the Tuttle Creek Road Race yesterday my prospects were good to avoid the single biggest thing I wanted to avoid, which was getting second again.

I got second.

My teammate Attila picked me up at 7:00 AM pointy-sharp. The first time I ever met him I wondered, “Who the fuck names their kid ‘Attila?'” Then it turned out that he was Hungarian, and if you lopped off the “garian” he truly was Attila the Hun.

His job at Tuttle Creek was simple. “Look, fucker, you’re working for me.”

“Okay!” he said.

“I got second in this lousy stinking no-good far-ass road race last year when there were only two entrants, and this year I’m here to win.”

“Okay!” he said.

“So do what I tell you and don’t fuck up.”

“Okay!” he said happily. He didn’t sound very Hun-like for somebody with such a ferocious name.

Before the race Wide-Eyed Cat 5 Josh came up to us. “Any advice?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said sternly. “The race has so few riders that Steve will start us all together. That means we’ll begin with the P/1/2 guys, who will be disgusted at having to ride within scent of the Leaky Prostate and Wide-Eyed Wanker categories. So they will drop everyone in the first two minutes of the race.”

“How?” asked Josh.

“By pedaling harder than the rest of us.”

“Will this happen on a climb?”

“Yes. The first one, which is where the race starts. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life and within 30 seconds you’ll be buried in the red and trying to puke up your testes.”

“But I like to climb,” he protested.

“Let me put it this way: They will drop everyone in the first two minutes of the race.”

“Everyone?” he said, but what he meant was “Me, too?”

“Yes,” I said. “Everyone. You, too.”

The race began and two minutes in, the P/1/2 racers had dropped everyone. Attila and I were in the second group, if two is a group. Everyone else was alone and wondering what part of their Internet training plan had gone wrong, and why the leaders weren’t staying within what Coach had told them was their maximum prescribed heartrate for the day.

Tuttle Creek is is the hardest road race on the calendar by far. It begins with a 12-minute climb that has about 30 short, hilly, 100%-effort accelerations. After those twelve minutes there is a 3-mile false flat that is only false if you are a complete idiot, as you can see it gradually rising up beneath you and you’re pedaling in your weenie gear, unable to breathe and in great pain.

Then the course gets really hard because you turn right and go up another gradual incline whose purpose is to remind you only of this: At 5,700 feet there is no oxygen, especially in your lungs. The Hun and I shared the work evenly. I would count off three minutes for each one of his pulls and shout, “Ease up, wanker!”

Then he would swing over and I would come through at about half his speed and pull for 30 seconds. The plan was to tire him out so that he would do all the work and I could drop him on the last lap. It became apparent soon that he wasn’t properly up to speed on the plan, because he pulled so long and went so fast that he not only caught one of the Cat 1 riders who had gotten shelled out of the leading break, but my legs and vision began to fail.

The second time through the punchy (as in rabbit punch) section he never bothered to swing over while Cat 1 and I desperately clung to his wheel. Cat 1 did some work on the downhill while I shouted instructions from the back.

On the third lap Cat 1, who had recovered somewhat, ripped it so hard through Rabbit Punch Canyon that I repeatedly got dropped and had to claw back on with abnormal pedaling motions and odd sounds that you typically only hear from small animals in mortal distress. Attila sipped from his water bottle and occasionally looked back, shouting encouragement. “C’mon, Wanky,” he’d say. “Don’t drop your eyeballs out of the sockets like that.”

Having sat in the entire race and not having done a lick of work we approached the final lap and suddenly I was feeling pretty good. “Okay, Attila,” I said, sternly. “Although you owe me this win because I’m older than you and I got second last year and it’s somebody’s kid’s birthday somewhere and I came up with the winning plan and I helped you by pushing from the rear and frankly if it comes down to a sprunt you don’t have a chance, we’re gonna race this out.”

“Really? You mean like, race? You and me?” Suddenly his face went from friendly to, well, different. “I thought I was racing for you, man.”

“You tried your best, and before I crush you like a fucking gnat I want to at least give you a chance.”

“I really don’t care if you win. Especially after last year and everything. You’re my friend, man.”

“Nope,” I said. “There are no friends in bike racing. And no gifts. If you want this you’re gonna have to earn it like a man. I may have done all the work the whole race but I’m at least gonna give you a chance.”

“Okay,” he said. “If that’s what you want to do. Thanks, man.” His face then changed from friendly to, well, Hun-like. It was still a smile, but with a few brushstrokes you could easily imagine a bloody club in one hand, a battle-axe in the other, and a few dozen enemy heads stuck on a pike.

At that moment we entered Rabbit Punch Canyon. Attila stood on the pedals, hard, and the next time I saw him was at the finish. He was really happy. Wide-Eyed Cat 5 Josh, of course, won his race too.

On the plus side, I won $20. If Steve’s check doesn’t bounce, that is.

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Yes, that’s a rock podium.

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Team Lizard Collector!

END

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Can I ask you a question?

February 6, 2016 § 39 Comments

When I am getting off my bike at a coffee shop or lounging around at a coffee shop or standing in line in a coffee shop no one ever asks me anything. My scruffy facial mold and salt-caked dark glasses seem stand-offish, if not downright contagious.

Derek the Destroyer, however, always gets chatted up. He is always clean and clean-shaven. His kit is never caked with salt. He looks like the upstanding member of society that he is, amiable, professional, approachable. In other words, he attracts the nutjobs like patriots to a bird-watching refuge.

Today we had put in some huge hours, about four, doing a total of thirty miles. This is harder than it looks and always involves coffee stops. As we entered our fourth hour we decided to do something I’ve never done in the middle of a bike ride, and neither has he. We swung by the Baskin-Robbins for a double-dip in a fat waffle cone.

As Derek was tying up his horse this lady came up. We were at the PV Mall, where none of the customers work, and most are only vaguely aware of the mechanism by which their bank accounts are regularly replenished.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Can I ask you a question?”

Now the only appropriate answer to such a question is “No.” Firmly. Then you spin on your heel (hard to do in cleats but still necessary) and clip-clop into the ice cream store.

But not Derek. “Sure,” he said.

“Now I don’t mean this to you personally,” she began, which is the passive-aggressive intro to saying something very personal, “but why is it that you cyclists all ride out in the middle of the street?”

I was halfway into the shop but turned around. This was going to be good. “That’s a good question,” Derek said in what appeared to be his opening gambit for a Nobel Peace Prize.

I, on the other hand, was more in search of a Sauron Medallion of War. “It’s a terrible question,” I interjected.

The lady looked at me, concerned that the moldy-faced salty one had chosen her over the peanut butter-chocolate double dip. “A better question would be, ‘Why don’t all you cyclists just go kill yourselves or go get cars because you’re slowing us down for our hot yoga and orgasm workouts.'”

“Don’t mind him,” said Derek, “he’s harmless. Mostly.”

“Or an even better question would be, ‘Why is it that all of you cagers are ignorant of the vehicle code sections that allow us to occupy the lane?'”

“Cyclists really get in the way,” she said plaintively, “and I’m a cyclist, too. I ride my Motobiccany, when I ride it, on the sidewalk or in the bike lane. Why can’t you?”

I thought about giving her an Academie Francaise award for her pronunciation of “Motobecane,” but didn’t think I could spit that far. “Well,” said the diplomat, “it’s often safer in the lane, which is perfectly legal, than on the edge, where cars try to squeeze by on the way to yoga and accidentally kill or maim you by mistake. Those ‘oops’ moments can be really inconvenient when you spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair. And of course they scratch up the vehicle’s clearcoat.”

“Hey, can I ask you a question?” I said.

“Okay,” she said.

“This isn’t personally directed at you, but why is it that middle-aged women at the PV mall look like they’re … ”

Derek grabbed me by the elbow. “C’mon Wanky,” he said. “The ice cream is that way.” He turned to the lady, who was imagining the awful ending to my unfinished question. “Have a nice day, ma’am. And share the road.”

END

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How to beat the best

February 5, 2016 § 22 Comments

You’ve done your intervals and you’ve dieted and you’ve tacked on another $5k in aero stuff to the Visa card and you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep and you’ve consulted with your coach on strategy and you’ve reviewed the course and paid particular attention to the wind and you’re going pretty darn good, until the next morning, which is race day.

Yep, you’re going super extra champion good until you get to the parking lot, whip in, and see defeat painted on the sign of another team’s van–maybe it says “Surf City Cyclery” (you’re not beating Charon in a crit today, sorry) or maybe it says “Monster Media” (you’re not beating Phil Tinstman in a road race today, sorry) but whatever it says, it’s the end of your race before it even begins.

Why?

Because bike racing is like WWII air-to-air combat. There are aces and turkeys, only, and the turkeys outnumber the aces by a hundred to one. And you’re a turkey.

In other words, my coach always tells me that if I really want to win, I need to make sure that no one who can beat me shows up. “How the hell am I supposed to arrange that?”

“You can’t.”

The absence of competition is the surest avenue to victory, and the presence of competition is the surest guarantee of defeat, and if you doubt me I point only to Brad House, who has more California state road titles than anyone in history.

If you’ve seen Brad get dropped on the climbs, dropped on the flats, outsprunted by dead people, run over by trucks in Portuguese Bend, and generally give up when the going is still hundreds of miles from “tough,” you may wonder how he got all those titles. Answer: He raced in events that were so sparsely attended that he could beat everyone, even when everyone was only one other person, or none at all.

When I first started following advice from strangers on the Internet, my mentor was Coach Cap Taintbag. Coach Cap Taintbag gave me a winning strategy, which I refused to follow. “Go to a race where you’re guaranteed victory. Somewhere far, inconvenient, in a district with hardly any racers. Go there. Sign up. Beat the other guy. Win.”

“That’s fucked up,” I said. “Why would I want to beat one other person? That’s not racing.”

“Of course it is,” said Taintbag. “And it’s winning. The only way to learn to win is to be number one. Until you’ve won you’ll never learn how to win.”

“That seems like a Catch-22,” I said.

“No, because there are races out there you can win. The mixed-man-woman-tandem-6km-TT-combined-age-150-and-over. On the track.”

I never took his advice and of course never won a race. But I started looking around and noticed that he was right. You can’t beat the aces if you’re a turkey. When you hit the parking lot, most of the time your race is done. Even Derek the Destroyer only got his amazing victory at Boulevard last year because Tinstman was sick and decided not to ride.

But I have too much pride for seeking out cupcake events, or I used to until last year when I got second place at the Tuttle Creek Road Race in the eastern Sierras. It is far away and the weather is horrible and it is hilly and brutal and lonely and filled with pain.

I got second because there were only two of us in the masters race. It’s not often you get a podium spot and a DFL in the same race.

And it gave me hope. Hope that at Tuttle Creek in 2016, where morning temps are in the 20’s and freezing rain is likely, I could do a tiny little bit better, even if it’s just one small placing up.

END

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What a tool

February 3, 2016 § 31 Comments

snapon1

Old No. 72

When I was a kid my dad had a toolbox that lived in the garage. It was gray with a red tray inside. It was made of steel. Inside there was a big hammer, two screwdrivers, a crescent wrench, some pliers, and a big steel file.

I learned early that tools were the enemy. When something broke you had a problem, but once you put a tool to it, you suddenly became the 100% owner of the problem in fee simple with no remainderman, like the time our record player stopped working and we took it apart. We got a whipping for that. “What the hell are you taking it apart with a hammer for?” my dad had yelled.

The hammer was my tool of choice. I would take it out to the gutter and pound away at the cement curb, sometimes for hours at a time. Occasionally I would use the wrenches for bike repair but the bike always ended up lots worse than when I started, so eventually I quit trying to fix anything. I was the kid whose handlebars were always crooked and whose banana seat was missing a couple of screws.

When I started cycling I really learned to never work on anything, ever. The bike was a mysterious black box, where the ankle-bone was connected to the eye-bone and only Ph.D.’s in bikeology were competent to repair them. It got to the point that I was afraid to even carry tools with me. Better for the bike to explode than for me to have to adjust my saddle.

I was living in Japan when one day a Snap-On truck drove by my house. I remembered Snap-On from Texas, where you’d see their little trucks driving around. I thought they were cheap-o tools because of the name, “Snap-On.” It made me think of “snap-off.” I flagged down the driver and we started talking. He was a really nice dude and showed me inside his truck, which was filled with tools. I didn’t recognize any of them except the screwdrivers and the crescent wrenches, so I bought a couple. They were really expensive, but I chalked it up to buying U.S. products in Japan.

Next week he came by again and I bought a couple more tools. After a couple of years I had a big red box about two feet long by three feet high filled with Snap-On tools. I didn’t know what any of them did, but there were a couple that I could use around the house when something got loose. “Here, let me tighten that screw with this $150 screwdriver.”

Also, I had an old Bridgestone commuter bike with bolts instead of quick releases, so I used the socket driver to change flats. I bought the socket driver because it had an orange handle and because when you snapped on the socket you could grab it with your hand and twirl the driver, which made the coolest whizzing sound.

When I got back to America a buddy saw my tools and his eyes bulged. “Damn!” he said. “Is that all Snap-On?”

“Yes. Why?”

“That’s the best stuff there is.”

Over the years I lost various pieces or they got corroded from being left outdoors for months at a time and stopped working so I threw them away. Plus, the tool box was heavy and we moved around a lot. Finally I was down to a couple of dozen tools so I gave most of them away on Facebook. You never saw anything get snapped up so quickly.

Still, I kept a few screwdrivers and wrenches, especially the Old No. 72. Old No. 72 was the biggest crescent wrench in that guy’s truck and it cost like $400. It wasn’t good for anything but I used it to loosen the lock ring on my cassettes. The wrench was so heavy that when you tightened the lock ring you’d strip it instantly if you weren’t careful. I went through a lot of lock rings.

One day Smasher came over and saw my Snap-On stuff laying all over the balcony in various stages of rust. “Dude,” he said, “WTF?”

Smasher is a pro motorcycle mechanic and his shop floor is clean enough to build microchips on. I’ve seen his tools and they are cleaner than a woman’s wedding day underwear. Smasher came back a few days later with a bag. “You know that stuff is all Snap-On, right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“How about I give you some cheap Chinese tools that will last you a hundred years since you’ll never use them, and you give me those?”

“Okay,” I said.

He put them all into the bag and left. A couple of weeks went by and the replacements never arrived. Pretty soon I got a hankering to go strip a couple of lock rings so I called him up. “Where’s the cheap-ass Chinese tools you promised?” I asked.

“I’m out of town, dude. Susan will drop them off.”

“Okay,” I said. “But hurry. I’ve got some lock rings that need stripping.”

Susan came by while I was gone. Mrs. WM put them on the couch. They were in a little soft black case.

I got home and saw the case, laying face down on the couch. My urge to go ruin a few hundred dollars’ worth of bike equipment had faded so I just left them there for a couple of days. Then Smasher called. “Hey, dude,” he said. “What did you think about the tools?”

“Hang on and I’ll tell you,” I said.

I went over to the couch and grabbed the bag. I flipped it over and saw it was quite immaculate and had “Snap-On” embroidered in bright red lettering. I unzipped it.

Smasher had lovingly reconditioned every single tool, even down to my one socket. “Dude!” I said. “You polished it all up! Even my socket!”

“You idiot,” he said. “I showed it to everyone at the shop. No one’s ever seen a Snap-On socket driver with just one socket. How come you only have one socket?”

“I only have one bolt.”

“And why three adjustable wrenches?”

“It reminds me of my childhood.”

Smasher had also cut out perfectly formed shapes for each of my random tools so that they would nestle in the case’s foam backing.

“This is pretty rad,” I said, “but I can already see a few problems.”

“Problems? What problems, you nut job? They’re nicer than when you bought them.”

“I’m afraid to use them. They’re too beautiful. I suppose I can season them out on the balcony for a few months, though.”

“Don’t you fuggin’ dare.”

“Okay,” I said, taking out Old No. 72. Its jaws purred open and shut, begging to wrap their shimmering edges around the tender aluminum of a slim lock ring. “I won’t.”

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Blame the customer

February 2, 2016 § 28 Comments

I went to a road race on Saturday with a barely-mended cracked pelvis. It was pouring when we arrived, and raining when the race started. The field had 70 riders, the roads were slick with mud, the race started with two fast downhills, and the back side of the course was on badly paved road that sported lots of potholes.

And, I was scared.

Let me repeat that: I was scared.

And lest anyone misunderstand, I am scared pretty much every time I race my bike. Why? Because bike racing is scary.

It is fun and exhilarating and challenging, but especially it is scary.

Some people aren’t scared by bike racing. They are easily categorized:

  1. Monumental idiots.
  2. Young people (often same as #1).
  3. People with no dependents and seasonal employment (often same as #1 and #2).

Everyone else finds the act of getting on a bike and scrumming, bar-to-bar, with highly excitable people possessing questionable skills at high speeds, frightening. In fact, most people find it so frightening that they never race. Others only toe the lie after great internal struggles and psychological battles of the worst sort. No one races, year in and year out, without repeatedly questioning whether it’s worth the risk, and upon concluding “No way,” shrugging and racing anyway.

I say all of this because after Saturday’s fright fest there was a crit on Sunday. The weather forecast was a 100% chance of rain. The TV weather maps showed an angry red colossus sweeping everything in its path. If you raced on Sunday you were going to get wet.

This caused a lot of people to stay home because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? Because when you race 100% of the time in sunny Southern California on dry roads, going really fast on wet ones that are often coated with oil takes the normal amount of anxiety and ramps it up to “unbearable” on the Scare-dee-Meter. In other words, it’s not fun.

There’s another reason people stayed home. Bicycles nowadays are rather expensive. One fall that busts your wheels is an easy $2k. Frame, $3-4k. Helmet, $250. Most racers don’t like to trash their equipment, and even if you don’t crash it, filthy wet races leave you with a nasty, dreckish bike that takes time and effort to clean. What a fun way to spend Sunday evening after sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 101 …

So I was a bit surprised to read a nasty takedown on Facegag today by a guy in the 65+ category (really), sneering at all the masters pansies and weaklings who got scared off by a little rain. Several other idiots chimed in, lamenting how weak and cowardly the profamateur SoCal masters racers are. And then of course there was the criticism about “not supporting the promoter,” because everyone who chose to stay home was somehow an enemy of amateur bike racing.

Of course this particular critic was also saying “Look at me and how tough I am.” And I kind of disagree. If you’re 65 years old and still trying to prove that you’re tough, you’re about as weak and insecure as they come. The schoolyard taunt of “chicken” loses its jab for most people by about age 15. Any time some wrinkled “master” in his underwear is calling a bunch of other wrinkled masters in their underwear “cowards,” well, we have the subject of a funny SNL skit.

The fact is that the older you get the more carefully you weigh risk and count nickels. For a lot of people, especially those who slogged through Saturday’s shit fest, a Sunday spent pretending that we’re all 20-something Belgian pros just didn’t match up against the risk of spending a Sunday afternoon in the ER getting a new roll of Tegaderm and neck x-rays from three angles.

You may not like it, but masters racers are customers. If you think that calling them names and abusing them and treating them like shit will make them want to show up and race the next go ’round when the weather is nicer, you may be in for a surprise.

END

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UCI discovers honest pro cyclist

February 1, 2016 § 28 Comments

This weekend the cycling world was stunned to learn that what for years was simply a rumor, is in fact true. According to an investigation launched by the UCI, there is now proof of mechanical doping in the pro peloton. However, the UCI revealed an even more stunning discovery just a few hours later.

After three years of intensive investigation that spanned six continents and involved background checks of thousands of riders, “We have found an unimpeachably honest pro cyclist,” announced president Brian Cookson.

The rider, Stanley Olive, was found living in a small apartment in Ghent. Olive rides for the Continental IV mostly-professional-except-Mondays-through-Fridays-level team of Sam’s Pantry Meats and Lawn Furniture. “He’s really honest,” enthused Cookson, “and has never been known by anyone to lie, cheat, OR steal. He’s a real find.”

Olive, who was raised in East Framington, has lived in Belgium for twelve years pursuing his dream of racing professionally full time. “I’ve done a bit of everything,” said Olive when contacted by CitSB, “except drugs, mechanical doping, trading victories for cash payoff agreements, fixing local crits with the combine, cutting the course when the commissars aren’t watching, using illegal equipment, hanging onto team cars, and lying about my whereabouts to the doping authorities.”

When asked how that was working out for him, Olive replied, “It’s been rough.”

END

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Swallow the manure

January 31, 2016 § 11 Comments

The Hungarian picked me up at 5:15 AM. We drove over to the Ex-Military, who wasn’t offended at all by my previous rantings about the USMC’s asinine confiscation of bikes at Air Station Miramar.

Next we picked up Fireman.

Then we had to pick up Sandy Bagger. “Where are we getting him?” asked Major, who was driving the new Mercedes Sprinter van with leather captain’s seats that he’d just bought.

I checked my phone. “Says to pick him up at the Culver exit off the 405.”

“Yeah, but where? He’s not gonna be standing at the fuggin’ exit ramp.”

“Well, no. It says here he’ll be standing at the entrance ramp.”

There were no further directions so we got on the world’s gnarliest freeway and exited at Culver Blvd. Sure enough, there stood Sandy Bagger with his bike and his knapsack and his steel cup of coffee and his Spanish bible, perched on the curb, mere inches away from the 18-wheelers, drunks, and insane people entering the freeway quickly.

“What’s with the fuggin’ bible?” I asked. “The only foreign language you understand is British.”

“It’s from my bike mechanic.”

“He fixes your bike with prayers? Remind me to never get behind you.”

“No, he repairs bikes in that tent behind that shack next to the entrance ramp and his wife sells Spanish language bibles. I buy a couple a week to help them out.”

“What do you do with the bibles?”

“Leave ’em in the Starbucks.”

“Kind of a Gideon’s Bible program for Spanish-speaking coffee addicts?”

“You could say that.”

Four hours later we reached Santa Maria, which is an agricultural town in Santa Barbara County, not to be confused with any of the nice places in Santa Barbara County such as Santa Barbara.

Santa Maria’s chief feature is the cow shit that gets dropped out of the cow shit trucks which ply the various ag fields. The other chief feature for today was rain. It was pouring. The rain mixed with the oil on the road and the cow shit so that Major’s new white Mercedes was soon covered with a thick layer of shit sludge.

Thankfully we had all cleaned our bikes the night before. We parked by registration, covered the soles of our shoes with mud and cowshit, then lined up for the port-o-potty and covered our soles again with human excrement and fresh urine and toilet paper all of which we tracked into Major’s new van which formerly had white leather seats.

As we waited in the rain at the starting line, the women’s Cat 4 race finished with a huge crash. Bodies and bikes flew everywhere and women bounced and slid through the cowshit, peeling off prodigious amounts of skin but no one died even though they bled a lot and howled in pain and said, “Is my bike okay?”

Our race started and there were 70 riders and we were all terrified. No one’s carbon brakes worked on the 100% carbon wheels made all of carbon and the race started with two screaming descents and the rear tires were machine gunning shit spray until we were covered in it and blind and gagging. Three riders attacked about four miles in and that was the winning break.

We hit the back side of the course which was filled with more liquid shit and giant crevasses and chug holes. People flatted and skidded but no one fell off his bicycle. I sat at the back and quivered in fear, adding my own blend of shit to the mix. We hit the first and only real climb which was only a few minutes long.

The strong guys at the front were stretching their legs but at the back it was mayhem. Big fat dudes and tall dudes and dudes with all the wrong muscles and dudes who had drunk one mouthful too much of shit spray were lunging for wheels and choking and swerving and roaring backwards. Andy Jessup was there, making a return after a bad crash three years ago at Redlands where he had severed a femoral artery and almost bled out. The moral of that story is that after you almost die racing your bike it’s best to make your comeback in a wet shitstorm with screaming downhills and no brakes.

We crested the climb and a bunch of people were shelled for good. The break was a hundred yards ahead and three riders went across. I straggled at the back and watched the action as if it were a different race on a different planet, which it sort of was.

So far I’d completely fucked up my coach’s instructions, which were simple: 1) Stay in the first eight or ten wheels to mark any dangerous moves or bridges. 2) Start the climb forward so if the pace is hard you can float back.

Instead I’d missed the break, missed the bridge, and almost gotten shelled behind the Chee-toh riders.

The next lap was better because the shit had dried out a bit and wasn’t as slick. More people flatted in the Valley of Cracks, and the second time up the climb more people contemplated the evils of snack foods in lieu of asceticism and hard training.

On the third lap we hit the back side and the terrible pavement and I rolled up to my teammate, Chuck. My legs felt good despite the fractured pelvis and shooting pains up and down my nutsack and hands. “Hey, man,” I said. “Want to roll to the front and try to bring back the break?”

It was *only* three minutes up the road, but before he could say, “You’re insane,” I hit a gash in the asphalt and flatted. Everyone rode away. I reflected that this was better than my finish in 2015, when my saddle fell off and I had to ride five miles to the finish with a carbon post stuck up my butt.

I pulled over to the side of the road and tried to flag a vehicle. No one stopped but lots of drivers did scowl at me. The wind picked up and I shivered inside my soaking wet clothing. Finally a pickup stopped. I explained my plight and the driver had that “I don’t want that soaking wet bundle of shit-sopped rags in my cab” look.

“No hablo Ingles,” he said.

So I busted out my Grade-A Spanish and begged for a ride. “Sorry, man,” he said in perfect English. “I’m late for work.”

A sag wagon eventually came and took me back to the start/finish, where I learned that Major had flatted, Fireman had flatted, teammate Robert Itoh had flatted, and those who didn’t flat had finished as 94% lean ground pack meat.

We drove home and spent four hours discussing and critiquing everything that happened, including why our team jerseys were so ugly even without the patina of cow shit, oil, and mud. Some of the most insightful comments were:

  1. You guys are a bunch of idiots.
  2. I’ve never seen such a crappy bunch of racing.
  3. You missed the break. You missed the bridge. You were too weak to chase. You suck.
  4. It’s not a win just because you didn’t crash.
  5. Please wipe the shit off of my new seats.

In other words, it was a great start to the road race season. Especially if you like shit.

END

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