February 27, 2015 § 16 Comments
UCI President Brian Cookson announced today that team Astana would be asked to leave the Pro Tour due to irregularities in their application. “I told them they were drinking at the Last Chance Saloon,” said Cookson. “But they went ahead and ordered the drink with the pink umbrella. Oh, well.”
When asked about the procedure, Cookson’s assistant, Marc-Yves Surle Table explained: “We sent them a letter asking them to please not come to our races. It’s a very polite letter, firm but polite. Of course in the letter we vousvoyer.”
“If that doesn’t work,” said Cookson, “we get tough. We send a second letter, full-on tutoyer. We really ask them with incredible firmness, resolve, and indiscriminate use of the informal third person pronoun and its associated verb conjugations. They will see we mean business.”
Hans Castorp, the UCI’s third undersecretary for protocol and official correspondence, explained the next steps. “Sometimes even a letter filled with ‘tu’ doesn’t do the trick. So we start all over again, this time with sietzen followed by dutzen. They pretty much get the message then.”
Alexandre Vinokourov, doper-in-chief of Team Astana, was dismissive. “They can du or tu us all they want. We’re staying in the Last Chance Saloon and we’re gonna drink the fuggin’ place dry. Then we’ll beat up the barkeep, stuff potatoes down the toilet drains, and burn the fuggin’ joint to the ground.”
Vinokourov announced that he also has a “Plan B” in the event that an all-night drunkfest followed by arson at the Last Chance Saloon doesn’t pan out. According to the team’s publicist, Mohammed Emwazi, Team Astana has already formed a breakaway cycling league led by Johan Bruyneel with tanks, troops, armored personnel carriers, and artillery support from the Russian Federation. According to Emwazi, the new league will be based in the Donetsk People’s Republic, in Eastern Ukraine.
“We already have a full roster of teams,” Emwazi said. “The Donetsk Destroyers, the Luhansk Liberators, the Debaltseve Demons, the Mariupol Marauders, and the Crimea Killers.” When it was pointed out that Mariupol was still part of Ukraine, Emwazi said, “Not for long.”
The league’s first major event will be the Breaking Away Tour, which will pass through the most scenic and challenging areas of the fledgling separatist republic. “The Donetsk Airport, for example,” said Emwazi, “is a place rife with memories of sacrifice and heroism. We will probably do a crit around the rubble and then finish it off with a volley of long-range missiles towards Kiev.”
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February 26, 2015 § 25 Comments
I can see Roger Worthington now, seated atop a golden throne which is itself perched atop a mountain of tightly bound thousand-dollar bills, staring out the giant plate glass window of his mansion in Bend.
As he casts his lonely eye upon the surrounding valley shrouded in snow, he cannot focus his attention on his immeasurable wealth, on his palatial eco-home that houses three people and has a carbon footprint the size of Beijing, or on his empire of craft beer, retail pizza establishments, and hundreds of thousands of acres of genetically modified hops.
Instead, as he scrolls through his Facebag timeline and sees the racing exploits of Charon, of G$, and of lowly Wanky himself, he can only grunt in discontent and snarl thusly on his feed: “Facebag, Facebag on the wall. Who’s the greatest masters team of all?”
In 2015, everyone seems to be vying for the title of America’s Greatest Profamateur Masters Racing Team. Is it Surf City Cyclery with its cadre of hardened killers, customized bike stands, personal masseuses and wrapped RV? Is it Monster Media with its gnarled and vicious national champions, its color-coordinated team bikes and its capacious custom canopy? Is it SPY-Giant-RIDE with its 80-man team, each rider armed with his own personal collection of fancy sunglasses, and its omnipresent armada of rolling wrapped team vehicles?
Alas and alack, it is none of these. The greatest masters racing team of all time was Labor Power. Driven by the power hungry and depraved mind of Max Kash Agro, this collection of weird, antisocial, and utterly bizarre misfits created the mold for the modern profamateur masters team and then smashed it, along with Max’s hip, irrevocably in 2006 — never to be recreated or even vaguely approached.
The story began in 1983 or 1984 as I was pedaling around the track at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, when I first met Roger. He had an orange Viner. He raced a bit but aside from being reputedly “mean as a rattlesnake” there was little to suggest that less than a decade later he would burst onto the scene as the millionaire financier of Labor Power.
By the time he had been evicted from Texas and relocated to his Shangri-La in San Juan Capistrano, he had already invented the key elements of the profamateur masters bike team: Fancy Euro car with a decal, garish team clothing, “deals” for the team members, and teamwork that even today few teams can begin to approach.
In keeping with Roger’s ethos of “winning isn’t the only thing, it’s what I pay you to do,” Labor Power put together a cadre of racers who still make themselves known as the elite of the leaky prostates. Chris Walker, Louie Amelburu, and Greg Leibert are just three of the old Labor Power crew who still dominate when they show up to race.
Others have gone on to their reward or faded from view: Chris Hipp dead, Dave Worthington retired, Mark Scott mostly retired, and Chris Hahn still racing but only when he feels like it. Among them, the stalwarts of Labor Power amassed a record that is truly beyond compare, and what’s more incredible, they did it without any real suspicion of doping.
Consider this: In 1999 the team scored 40 wins and 78 podiums, including two state crit titles and a silver medal on the road. The next year Labor Power upped their tally to 42 wins and 95 podiums including state TT and road titles, wins at the Cascade Classic, and victories in every marquee masters event in California. In 2001 the team notched 42 wins, a world masters road title in Austria, and a gold medal at the Pan-Am masters championships. In 2002 Butch Stinson alone earned 31 victories as the team rolled up a mind-boggling total of 120 wins for the year. With 103 victories in 2003, the team had nothing left to win. So, dropping down to a “mere” 37 first place finishes in 2004, Labor Power masters racer Chris Walker won the elite men’s national road race at age 42.
By 2005 the team was falling apart, and so was team leader Roger Worthington’s hip. Labor Power officially disbanded in 2006.
What possibly explains this run of dominance, stretching from roughly 1995 to 2005? First of all, Labor Power’s guiding motto was “Win.” The team would block and sacrifice if it had a rider in the break, but that rider knew that 2nd place was unacceptable. There were no glory breakaways with Labor Power, where a rider finished sixth out of six riders as his team sacrificed in the rear. If you were going to ride the break you’d better not only have a plan to win, you’d better execute it to perfection. The fear of failure was driven by the manic despotism of MKA, and it worked.
Second, Labor Power, with one or two glaring exceptions, didn’t take wankers. If you were a proven winner you might get a ride with Labor Power. There were no bro deals. If you rode on Labor Power it was because you were either a closer or you were a closer. People weren’t recruited because of their ability to help, or work, or fetch water bottles. They got a ride because they knew how to cross the line first.
Third, Labor Power intimidated. They invented the cycling blog when things were still done on paper. The created the first mad-man race reports. The fecund and off-the-reservation mind of Roger Worthington made fun of everything, lampooned the enemy, lauded himself, and backed it up with vicious-but-fair, take-no-prisoners race strategy.
Fourth, Labor Power was ugly. Their uniforms were designed by Chris Hipp, a guy who had zero artistic talent and several galaxies’ worth of racing ability. Matching Hipp’s bad art with MKA’s bad taste, Labor Power designed jerseys that are notable even today for their garish ugliness and brashly bad mixture of offending colors. Yet the ugliness had an effect: When you lined up against the twisted minds of Labor Power you not only had to deal with the yelling, the intimidation, the race savvy, the steely legs and the cunning minds, but you also had to try and un-see the awful combination of colors that makes Monster Media’s kits look almost attractive.
Fifth, Labor Power had fun. It wasn’t the fun of “we gave it our best,” it was the fun of a gang of blood-soaked Mongol warriors, dripping in gore and sated from the spoils of razing a village, beheading the elderly, and selling everyone else off into slavery.
Sixth, Labor Power had money. Roger, despite being one of the cheapest, most tight-fisted people on earth, knew that to run a masters bike team it would cost money, and to that effect he made sure that at the end of each year his racers received the tiny pittance in shared winnings that are enough to keep an elite old bike racer cozy and warm in a cardboard box. For the amount of money that masters teams spend today, Labor Power could have outfitted a small country of bike racers.
So the next time you’re feeling good about your race results, or you’re thinking that the team is on its way to a winning season, take a moment to peruse the details of what is unquestionably the weirdest, whackiest, winningest masters racing team of all time: Labor.
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February 25, 2015 § 15 Comments
My collection of cycling clothing is pitiful. A few years ago when we downsized I got rid of all the old stuff. Marco’s long-sleeved Chazal jersey that he wore in the Tour, my old Molteni jerseys (wool, of course), and the various iterations of miscellaneous club outfits. Big O, Cynergy, Ironfly, even my old SPY stuff.
Now my cycling closet has nothing in it that is more than two seasons old. However, in my chest of drawers I’ve saved three jerseys from the recycle man — my Belgian Waffle Ride jerseys from 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Unlike a lot of other jerseys I’ve worn, these three I actually earned. And if you’ve signed up for the 2015 edition, which promises to be longer, harder, dirtier, and grittier than the previous three, what follows is some advice — some real advice — about how to earn yours.
I’ve broken it down into four approaches. Pick your poison.
- The 2012 Approach a/k/a “Win it!”: The first year I trained hard and did several BWR prep rides to learn the layout of the course. I envisaged a hard day in the saddle, and somewhere over the 119-mile course I would either contend for the victory or slog it out for a top-ten finish. I got dropped on the very first dirt section. By the time we hit it I was already gassed, and I stumbled along, blind and in confusion, for the remaining hundred miles. The 2012 Approach is not recommended. I vividly remember sitting in the finish area, starving and thirsty, having forgotten to bring money for food. If Christine Marckx hadn’t bought me a hot dog I wouldn’t be here today.
- The 2013 Approach a/k/a “Survive it!”. The second year I trained even harder and did even more prep rides. Knowing the impossibility of a good finish, as my name isn’t Neil Shirley, Brent Prenzlow, or Phil Tinstman, my goal was simply to do respectably. Unfortunately I got caught up in the excitement of the first dirt section below the bike path and fell off my bicycle trying to climb the stone wall from the dirt and gravel back onto the path. By the section gravel section I was gassed. Dave Gonyer blew by me en route to Couser Canyon, and then so did a hundred other people. This 130-mile miseracordia left me crushed and destroyed at the halfway mark simply because I had given into the temptation of “go hard” so early.
- The 2014 Approach a/k/a “Enjoy it!”. The third year, although MMX insisted on placing me in the first wave, I dropped off as soon as I realized that in the “neutral” zone we were cranking out 500 watts on the rollers. I fell back with Pilot and Junkyard, determined to ride at my own pace. Junkyard got sucked into the enthusiasm of a passing group on the dirt track after Lake Hodges, and sprinted off. “Junkyard!” I said. “Don’t!” I saw him at the 80-mile mark bending weakly over his bike as he tried to make sense out of the phrase “39 miles to go, and they’re the hardest ones with the most vertical and the most dirt.” I rode steadily the whole day and finished tired but not destroyed. 131 riders finished ahead of me, but none of them looked very good. This was the only BWR I’d done that I would call a success.
- The 2015 Approach a/k/a “Share it!”. The fourth year I’ll also train hard and I’ll also ride my own ride. There will be no getting sucked into the unwinnable competition for me–I’m even less Neil Shirley than I was in 2012. But unlike last year I’ll have a small group of riders who’ve been fileted and left for dead in previous years, who now know that the BWR is not to be conquered, only to be completed. Because whether you’re second or seven hundredth, the finisher’s jerseys are all the same.
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February 24, 2015 § 15 Comments
A buddy sent me this list. The title made me laugh, and the list made me think … lots here for the cycling world, the world in general, and, ulp, me.
- Thinking that what you do or say or have is better than what others do or say or have. “Yeah, but my frame has a lower serial number.”
- Always wanting to get your way regardless of how it affects others. “My bars can fit in that quickly slamming door, and if I go down, sucks to be the guys behind me.”
- Arguing when you are not right, or, when you are, insisting stubbornly or with bad manners. “Of course those tires are 25mm, you idiot.”
- Giving your opinion without being asked for it, or when charity does not demand that you to do so. “If you want to win more races, you need to … “
- Despising the point of view of others. “Who cares what those maroons think? They’re tri-dorks.”
- Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan. “You know how come I won? Because I fuggin’ earned it!”
- Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem, of the ground you are treading on or the things you own. “Check out these killer Fakebook photos of me on the podium! Awesome, huh?”
- Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation. “When I think about great race tactics, it reminds me of the time I attacked with three to go in the Hooterville Petit-Prix.”
- Speaking badly about yourself so that others may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you with flattery. “Aw, I’m such a maroon to have won that stage race by ten minutes.”
- Making excuses when rebuked. “My fault? The guy in front crashed me out!”
- Hiding humiliating faults from someone you depend on so that he won’t lose the good opinion he has of you. “I only have one glass of wine a day. With dinner.”
- Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you. [Strikes very close to home, that one.]
- Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you. “She’s not that good. I beat her two years ago at the Hooterville Midi-Prix.”
- Refusing to carry out menial tasks. “Air up my tires, would you?”
- Seeking or wanting to be singled out. “Didja get a picture of me in the break? Didja?”
- Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige. “When I was awarded the Legion of Honor for saving everyone on the ship, I was so embarrassed–it’s not the kind of thing we brain surgeons train for.”
- Being ashamed of not having certain possessions. “We can’t invite them over, honey. They’d see how we really live.”
- Add your own!
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February 23, 2015 § 60 Comments
After the CBR crit last week I was rolling around with G$. He had fired a thousand artillery shells and I’d fired a hundred mortar rounds in our vain attempts to get away. Robb M., who had fired a dribble from his tiny squirt gun, came by as we were chatting. “Are you guys dating?” he snarked as he passed.
The following week was Rosena Ranch, a nasty, hilly, miserable little 2.7-mile circuit with two stinging climbs and two ripping downhills. I looked around at the start line. G$ was there, but Robb was apparently busy that weekend.
G$ broke away on the fourth of eleven laps with Jaycee Cary of LaGrange. I clawed onto their rear wheel as teammates Alan Flores, Harold Martinez, Dave Jaeger, Jon Edwards, and Jon Nist clogged the front like avocado pits in a garbage disposal.
After a couple of laps Jaycee sat up, brains oozing from his knees and a soft moaning sound emanating from his armpits. It was just me and Greg. I thought briefly about Coach Holloway’s two injunctions:
- Always be the second strongest guy in the break.
- Have a plan to win.
The first injunction was easy. G$ ripped through each lap like a sailor on shore leave rips through a whorehouse. I did my share of the work, and Greg did the other 99%. But the “have a plan to win” part wasn’t turning out so well.
As G$’s efforts put more and more time on the subdued and demoralized field, it was simultaneously subduing and demoralizing me. But at the beginning of our breakaway how different it all had been!
For years I had fantasized about riding a break with Greg. How good it would be, just him and me as we punched our way to victory. And now here I was, having finally taken all the clothes off that cute girl in high school I’d been dreaming about. She was right there in front of me, buck naked, offering up her soft yet firm breasts as her erect nipples stood to attention under the gentle caresses of my tongue.
I pressed myself on top of her as she spread her legs, trembling with excitement as I hovered on the verge of plunging myself into that hot and welcoming refuge of ecstasy.
But then, WHAM! She was pounding my nuts with a hammer.
Then, WHAM! She was stomping my dick with giant hob-nailed boots.
Then, WHAM! She was beating my teeth out with a brick.
Then, WHAM! She was stuffing a roll of barbed wire up my butt.
How could something that had begun so right be going so wrong? In the midst of my agony, as G$ wasn’t even breathing, he turned back to me and smiled. “Dude,” he said, “if we stick this out to the line, this win is yours.”
Anyone else would have understood this as the perfect winning plan. But I had a much worse one, so I shook my head. “Fuck you,” I said. “I don’t want any gifts. No gifts!” I had forgotten that you’re only supposed to proudly repudiate gifted wins a-la Pantani on Ventoux after you cross the line.
G$ shrugged as we hit the bottom of the climb. “If you say so.” He punched it so hard that all of the other beatings seemed like loving caresses. I fell off the back then clawed my way back to his wheel, gasping.
He looked back as we hit the turnaround and attacked again. I flailed as hard as I could and reattached to his rear wheel. “Hey, man,” I said. “You know how you were saying about me winning? Is that deal still on the table?”
He answered with another punch to the gonads, then settled into a pace that was harder than a fourth-grade word problem.
On the bell lap we crested the final climb before the roaring descent, which turned into a gentle kicker to the line. G$ looked over at me. Then he reached down and slowly took out his water bottle, smiling.
“What the fuck is he doing that for? GO NOW!” I shouted to me, and go I did. Full gas. Nothing held back. The gap was instantaneous and big, but somehow he closed it with 200m to the line.
“Sprunt!” I shrieked to myself, cranking out the massive 450-watt finishing effort that has made me a watchword the world over. “I’m winning!” I continued to yell internally. Somehow, G$ wasn’t coming around! I was beating him! I was awesome! I was the greatest! I had done it!
The line flashed by, and you know what? A picture is worth a thousand words. Oh, and a question: If his hands are off the bars, does that mean he wasn’t really sprinting?
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February 21, 2015 § 46 Comments
I have done a lot of things in my life. When I was five I sold fudge at the Bolivar Ferry Landing in Galveston for “Y” Indian Guides. I didn’t make a lot of money because I ate most of the fudge.
When I was eight I sold newspapers and mowed lawns. I also sold Christmas candles door-to-door year round, but I never made much money because I liked to keep the candles and fill up my room with them. Also, I had to stop that job when I caught the curtains on fire. “What are you doing with fifty-eight lit candles in your room?” my mother yelled as she beat out the flames with the New York Times.
Dad came up, looked at the charred remnants, and said, “Give me the business section when you’re done with it.”
I did telephone surveys for Houston Interviewing, a hole-in-the-wall place where I first heard a woman say the words “suck cock.” She was the assistant manager. I expected the god I didn’t believe in to strike her with lightning, but when he didn’t I borrowed fifty dollars from her to buy an O’Neill wetsuit.
I sacked groceries at the Kroger around the corner. I was too weird to be a checker and too prone to thievery, so I bagged groceries and pushed the mop bucket over to Aisle 9 where people always broke the ketchup bottles. Clifford Zataratus and I smoked dope out on the loading docks and tossed stuff into the dumpster that we’d retrieve after closing hours.
One night he took me to Sloopy’s Pool Hall and got in a fight. They beat him up good. I hid underneath his car. When the beating stopped the other guys walked off. They were men, actually. Clifford opened the trunk of his Monte Carlo, took out a baseball bat, and beat up all three. I heard my first leg snap and heard my first grown man beg not to be killed while blood gushed out of his mouth and he lay on the ground spitting teeth and writhing on his shattered knee.
My junior year of high school I sold subscriptions to the Houston Post over the phone. There was a punk who started after me who sold a lot of stuff. His name was Michael Dell. Even then he was a douchebag, and we hated him because he outsold the entire sales team.
I worked for the Gap and I worked for Naughty Niceties, a clothing shop at Sharpstown Mall that sold nasty underwear. That job only lasted for two weeks. These greasy looking men would come in leering at their drunken girlfriends and ask them to “model the crotchless.” I left when one of the women asked me to go into the changing room to “model the crotchless” and her skinny, pimply boyfriend asked if he could watch.
In college I typed papers because I had a Selectric. Some freak in Dobie Mall had his own fuggin’ personal computer. “Everyone will use these in five years,” he said.
“Sure,” I sneered. “And I bet they won’t use IBM Selectrics, either.”
I cooked burgers at Chili’s, worked as an oyster shucker at the Capitol Oyster Company, moved pianos, and organized books at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Later on I worked as a translator, an interpreter, an English teacher, a consultant, a birding trail mapmaker, a butterfly counter, a web site designer, a photographer, a community development advocate, a marketing director for the Cherokee Heritage Center, and a johnny-on-the-spot maker of windmill trails, rural museum tourism guides, and copywriter for a guy who transferred embryos from quarterhorses to surrogate mares by sticking his entire arm up the horse’s you-know-what.
I worked as a web site marketer, the campaign manager for a U.S. Senate campaign, an art importer, a water advocate who called T. Boone Pickens an asshole, and a lawyer. I’ve written a column in a country newspaper and I’ve been paid for writing blogs and writing books, one about cycling and the other about finding birds on the Texas Gulf Coast.
But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I hit rock bottom.
You see, every couple of days I send out a little email that has local cycling news in it. Mostly it consists of “I’m doing the x-Ride tomorrow, come if you want to.” It kind of lets people in the South Bay know what’s going on and it goes out to about 110 people.
Then two weeks ago all of the messages bounced. I trolled around on the Internet and learned that the Galactic Monitor Against Spammers, something called Spamhaus, had labeled me a global spammer. Henceforth I wouldn’t be able to send emails to people who had asked to receive them.
So I subscribed to Constant Contact, which lets you spam up to 500 people for $15/month. Now, everyone who asks to be on the list will receive a very spammy looking piece of cycling spam mail. Better than that, I can add this to my resume: GLOBAL SPAMMER.
Not just “winning.” That’s “won.”
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February 20, 2015 § 40 Comments
I often see friends post photos of their new bike/car/house/facelift and it usually makes me kind of sad, and a little jealous. There’s something about the act of saying “Look what I own!” that makes me cringe. And it’s funny because hardly anyone seems to put up photos on Fakebook of the books they read. It’s as if you can possess a nice, shiny Bulgemobile and that’s COOL, but you can’t brag about having read a book.
However, my friends who are full-on consumers, who have Porsches and Ferraris in the garage, who have palatial homes here, there, and over yonder, who have bike collections that include separate full carbon extra wheelsets made of carbon to go with each rig, these guys and gals are really just amateur materialists.
When it comes to things, no one is a more hard core materialistic bastard than I am. Just because I don’t put it on Facegag doesn’t mean I’m not the King of Consumerism.
Skeptics will argue that I’m no materialist and will point to my small apartment, my single Prius (a Smugster 4-door, 125k miles), the fact that my casual clothing lineup consists of two pairs of jeans, two hoodies, one gimme cap, and fifteen t-shirts, and they will put the nail in the coffin of their argument when they point out that I only own one bicycle.
But they’re wrong. I’m as materialistic as it gets, but unlike the amateurs with garages and homes full of the latest gewgaw they bought at the LBS or the Bentley dealer, I’ve only got about four prized possessions. What they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Let me share one of them with you.
When my Grandfather Jim Turner died, he didn’t have very much. A .38 Smith & Wesson, an old 12-gauge with a unique pump-action barrel (trust me, you’ve never seen one), and a big plastic wafer that said “Birth Control Kit for Ladies — Hold between knees and squeeze.”
The top drawer in his chest had an envelope in it. Inside was his only family heirloom, and he left it to me.
His grandfather, John Turner, fought for the rebellion in the Civil War. One of the things that every soldier carried was a powder measure because they had to measure just the right amount of gunpowder to pour into their rifle. Too little powder and the ball would plop out of the barrel. Too much powder and the breech would blow up in your face.
Great-great-grandfather Turner took the breastbone of a wild turkey, which was hollow, and cut it off so that it held just the right amount of powder. Then he drilled a hole in the bone and ran a buckskin thong through it and hung it around his neck. In battle he could crouch down on his knee, dip his powder measure into his powder bag without looking, level it off with his finger, and always get the right amount.
You can see the black gunpowder on the inside. That’s Civil War gunpowder, and the last time my great-great-grandfather used it was shortly before Appomattox, where he surrendered with Lee. When you hold it in your hand it’s light but incredibly strong. Sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep and the demons are raging and I’m soaked in sweat and being dead seems preferable to getting up in the morning I hold the powder measure and roll it between my fingers. When I do, I think about my grandfather. He had a flat-bottomed boat that he would use to take me and my brother fishing on the Lake O’ the Pines. The name of the boat was the Ian-Seth.
I think about my grandfather and how gentle he was and how much he loved us, and how that love has strengthened me more than anything in my life. Then I usually fall right to sleep.
I wonder if other people feel the same way about their carbon bikes and Italian cars?
I hope they do.
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