February 12, 2016 § 22 Comments
Sheikh Wahabbi al-Wasabi, the Honorable Righteous and Mostly Correct High Potentate of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, has followed up his ban of the Etixx-QuickStep pro team for “disciplinary reasons” with a concurrent ban of all women racers who, according to Sheikh Wasabi, “Are currently experiencing, have experienced, or plan to experience at some point in the future the Unmentionable Thing Of Women Not Spoken Of By The Righteous And Holy,” i.e. that which Donald Trump scientifically refers to as “coming from their whatever.”
Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Sheik al-Wasabi just after the sixteenth prayer session of the day in the High Holiest Mosque al-Wasabi of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar to talk about gender equality, the Etixx-QuickStep ban, and why anyone should give two shits about a religion that makes you wear a hat.
CitSB: First, what’s up with banning Etixx-QuickStep from the Tour of Qatar?
AW: As we said in the press release, they take too much time to change their shoes. This is rudeness to Allah.
CitSB: It is?
AW: Very much. And last year we sent a special lady to hurry them up and they talked to her not in a very nice way.
CitSB: What kind of “very special lady?” Was she wearing fishnet stockings?
AW: She was honorable fifteenth pre-pubescent wife of Secondarily Greatest Plumbing and Hotel Infrastructure Manager of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Hamachi. The riders spake rudely, most rudely.
CitSB: What did they say?
AW: She was told to cough.
CitSB: Cough? What’s rude about that?
AW: We are unclear as to this matter, however, His Excellency the Supreme Translator of English Words and Foodstuffs of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Maguro, insists it was great rudeness to insist that the special lady cough.
CitSB: Well, I’ve heard lots of insults, but “Cough!” isn’t one of them.
AW: It was preceded by the “Fuh.”
AW: Sheikh Wahabbi al-Maguro, His Excellency the Supreme Translator of English Words and Foodstuffs of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, insists that the “fuh cough” is a great rudeness. We will soon discover how this differs from other coughs and begin disciplinary proceedings and jihad and fatwah and etcetera against the infidel Belgians, but until then we shall ban them for shoe-changing slowness and the fuh cough blasphemy from participating in the Most Supreme and Challenging Display of Human Triumph in the Jewel of the Desert at the Bicycle Tour of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar.
CitSB: Moving on. I understand there are some problems with the women’s race?
AW: This matter is not mentionable by the Utmost of Holy Men.
CitSB: Could you give me a hint?
AW: As was decreed by the Holiest Imam Under The Skirts Of Allah, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Uni, first the lady racers shall be always covered of head and body with great modesty.
CitSB: Uh, I don’t know how much time you’ve spent around women bike racers, but “lady” isn’t exactly the right word here. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a lady blow a snot rocket?
AW: We are unfamiliar with such weaponry.
CitSB: No, no, a snot rocket isn’t a weapon, it’s a, uh, never mind. Anyway. So how are the women gonna race with turbans and long dresses and those facemask-garbage bag things over their heads?
AW: This matter was resolved by His Occasional Greatness Sheikh Wahabbi al-California Roll, who rules all dictates of the lady clothing especially the linen that touches the parts that the holy do not mention yet are treasured in personal collections and worn at special occasions. Sheikh al-California Roll has decreed that for the lady racers, all competition would be done in a stately and processional fashion so as not create exertion or unsightly perspiration or huffing and puffing reminiscent of unmentionable acts which the holy typically only view on select video download web sites.
CitSB: I see.
AW: When it was brought to our attention that in addition to shoe-changing rudeness of the men, many of the lady racers would potentially experience uncleanliness, we canceled their race or offered to let them race in a stately fashion but if the unmentionable occurred we would be forced to penalize them with beatings and whippings unclothed and perhaps prison and a loss of earnings.
CitSB: Which you’ll record on video with your pals, naturally.
AW: But of course.
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February 11, 2016 § 14 Comments
It’s been proven time and time again that if you want to rise to the top as a SoCal masters profamateur leaky prostate underwear racer, the best thing you can do is go full carbon with 100% carbon items made of guaranteed unadulterated carbon.
After that your best bet is a motor in the seat tube and plenty of drugs.
However, if you can’t afford a good EPO program or a secret motor, there are ways to do better without spending more money, although frankly, what fun is that?
One of the least-explored aspects of not getting killed while racing, and not getting dropped right off the bat, is positioning. Every peloton has three anatomical parts: The head, the tummy, and the butt.
The head is where the thinking occurs, where the racing occurs, and where the race gets won. This is where you want to always be, and where I never am except for those races I target because there are only one or two other participants.
The tummy is the middle of the pack, bulgy and comfy but mostly concerned with flabbing around and wondering why the belt feels so tight. Much carbon is digested in the middle of the pack, because this is most often where bicycle-falling-off-incidents occur, and expensive pieces of bicycle toy are quickly reduced to odd-shaped carbon splinters and twisted pieces of soft metal and skin chunks and howling fellows who don’t have health insurance so they refuse the ambulance ride and bleed out in the back of a buddy’s Corolla.
The butt is a necessary place because that’s where the useless bits get pooped out after having had all the nutrients and utility stripped out of them. Lots of stuff goes from the head to the butt, but nothing good ever goes the other way. So if you find yourself there, you are in the wrong place unless you’re Kent Bostic, who used to tailgun every crit until the last lap, when he would magically move up 100 places and win.
Please remember: You’re not the Bostisaurus.
There are a few simple reasons you wind up in the tummy and butt.
- You let other people get ahead of you because you are weak and fearful.
- You drift to the back because you are weak and fearful.
- You’re hanging onto the end because you’re weak, and probably fearful too.
In order to position yourself so that you’re always in the head you must push down hard on the pedals and not let others in front of you. Try sticking out your elbows, or if you have big, droopy love handles, wiggling them. If the riders you just passed get back in front of you, you must push down hard on the pedals again and get back in front of them.
After a while someone will get tired of this and move down the digestive tract and get dropped off at the pool. Don’t let it be you.
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February 10, 2016 § 62 Comments
What a sanctimonious blowhard. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske wrote this smoking heap of dung for the bicycle rag factory mag VeloNews, admonishing us to obey the law and be model, upstanding bicycle citizens.
The basic premise is that by riding like scofflaws we make cagers hate us and do the greater cycling community a disservice. Then Miss Manners Mionske admonishes us that the madcap, out of control group ride “creates an enormous public-relations problem for us with the general public and with their legislative representatives.”
Bob then reminds us that, “We have a constitutional right to the road, as I established in my book ‘Bicycling & the Law.'” Founding Father Robert Mionske. Who knew?
Finally, we learn that adrenaline-soaked early season group rides in which someone gets hurt can result in *horrors* lawsuits. Having fallen asleep in his torts class for forty years, Professor Mionske belts us with this legal bugaboo: “Individual riders on group rides that have injured pedestrians, other cyclists or caused a motor vehicles to lose control have personally been sued. Because the injured party in these actions can rarely specify who caused their injuries they will name, in their suit, any riders they can identify from the group. Under a different theory of law lawsuits in these cases will also seek to attach legal liability to clubs, shops and even racing teams that are, in some way, affiliated with the group ride.”
In other words, just being the tongue-in-spokes wanker on the tail of the whip can send you to lawsuit hell where the aggrieved plaintiff will take everything you own.
Which leads to a reasonable question: Whose side is this asshole on?
It’s true, bicyclists shouldn’t break the law. Neither, Bob, should cagers. Or anyone, for that matter. That’s why they are called “laws” instead of “personal directives ordained by the Great Dictator.”
It’s not true that cagers hate us because we break the law. If that were true, cagers would hate each other, gun owners, and motorcyclists a million times more. Cagers mow us down with impunity because law enforcement treats dead cyclists as the price of doing business, cf. Milton Olin and hundreds of others.
Cyclists are hated because laws are arbitrarily enforced against us, and cagers know that they can abuse us and harm us and face little in the way of consequences. Mionske’s wholesale distribution of the canard that we are our own worst enemy is like the apologists who used to explain away the evils of segregation by telling people to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
As for the crazed group ride in which every participant is a potential defendant, that is simply untrue. While it’s true that anyone can sue any other person any time for any reason, prevailing is a different matter. And what’s the solution? Stop riding in groups just because one or two yahoos ride like idiots? Newsflash: Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines a group ride as “A conglomeration of idiots on wheels.”
The real solution to bad group behavior is the one that Lawyer Mionske refuses to consider because he himself is so afraid of lawsuits–starting each group ride with a little speech. I’ve seen the guys at BCCC do it every ride. They go over the route, introduce any newcomers, and let people know what’s expected of them. Eventually people get the message and the rides acquire a certain discipline.
The down side is that the person who steps up and gives the speech really does become a potential target, as he could be sued as a “promoter” of the ride. But so what? Are you going to live your life in fear of lawsuits, Bob? And aren’t you a lawyer? And don’t you feel personally responsible for the people you ride with? Are you such a chicken-ass that you can’t do what Mike Norris of our local Wheatgrass Ride does–give a talk each week to warn people about going slow in certain areas and riding with safety in mind?
If every group ride started with a little speech, yes, there would be some incremental increase in litigation risk for the speaker (greatly reduced when the speaker reminds everyone that this is an informal ride, that the speaker isn’t the promoter, and that everyone there voluntarily assumes the risk of catastrophic injury and death), but overall the rides would be much safer. The Nichols Ride in L.A. cries out for this kind of leadership, as do many others.
Instead of blaming cyclists for being victims and exhorting responsible people to avoid group rides because of the risk of litigation, Bob needs to go to Oz, get a pair of courages, and be a leader. Maybe then his status as a former 7-11 rider in the 80’s might actually be something more than a marketing hook.
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February 9, 2016 § 36 Comments
Road riding has a deserved reputation for unfriendliness. I’ve been to so many places where the group rides are filled with jerks. There was a group of people in Sugarland, west of Houston, I used to ride with who made a point of being assholes. They didn’t like you from the day you showed up until the day you left.
SoCal has many places that are just like that. I’ve heard awful stories about group rides in LA, Orange County, and San Diego–and participated in many–where the ethos is best described as “Sure, you belong … but not here.”
The first time I showed up in LA on my steel bike and in my fuzzy wool outfit, the local bully yelled at me for daring to mix it up in the sprint on the Old Pier Ride.
We know that as interest in competitive road racing dwindles, something has to change. The biggest thing, in my opinion, is ameliorating the tendency to be a jerk just because someone is new.
The last club I rode for was pretty elitist. It was set up on an invitation only basis. If you didn’t know the right people and couldn’t do the right handshake and couldn’t put up the right numbers, it didn’t matter how nice a person you were.
My current club is Team Lizard Collectors. It is a motley crew. But the thing that makes it a great club is that everyone is welcomed, and welcomed heartily. The only rule is “Don’t be a dick.” In its many years of existence only two people have been booted for dickishness.
Team Lizard Collectors has set the bar high in terms of not simply accepting people, but actively asking them to join. One of the reasons I was thrilled to join TLC is because I could ask people to join. This good vibration has spread to other clubs in the area.
Thanks in part to the relentless efforts of Team Lizard Collectors and their bossmen Greg Seyranian and Greg Leibert, the good vibration has spread to other clubs. Under the leadership of “El President” Robert Efthimos, the west side icon of Velo Club L’Argent has also become one of the most open door, welcoming clubs anywhere. And as clubs have gotten friendlier, the area’s vibe has gotten friendlier. Suddenly, instead of being a competition to treat people like that brown thing that’s been in the back of the freezer since ’09, there has developed a spirit of “Who can be the friendliest?”
Okay, so it’s a competition. These are cyclists we’re talking about.
I was pleased to see a dude on the NPR last week who was wearing a nondescript kit that said “Abbeville” on it. He went pretty good. I chatted him up, gave him my card, and asked him to join Team Lizard Collectors. He’d been in town for a few months and was getting to know the local rides.
“Sure,” he said. “Thank you.”
So the dude joined TLC. Turns out he is a two-time French national champion and has 47 road wins under his belt. He showed up on the Flog Ride on Thursday and put everyone to the sword without breaking a sweat. Best of all, his wife owns an awesome coffee shop with authentic French pastries that melt in your mouth, or in the back of your jersey if you stick a couple there to take home.
Next time you see someone riding down the road, take a minute to say hi. You never know who you’ll run across. And it doesn’t cost you one red cent.
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February 8, 2016 § 21 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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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.”
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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.
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?”
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.
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