July 21, 2012 § 8 Comments
This dude I’m not friends with on FB posted the results of the USCF national individual time trial championships from 1982. I was eighteen, had not yet started college, and had not yet bought my first road bike.
Scanning down the list was awesome. Names from the present were right up near the top–Thurlow Rogers, Steve Hegg–and other, less famous names of people I knew well and/or raced against stared were there as well. Texans Stan Blanton, Terry Wittenberg, and Lone Star transplants Bob Lowe and Andy Coggan were all on the list. Each one of those guys was tough, and fast, and tough. Did I mention they were all really fucking tough?
It didn’t take long for my eye to wander over to the winning time, 55:10.52. In 2012 the USA Cycling national ITT winning ride was by Dave Zabriskie, 40:41.44 over a shorter 35k distance in a race that was contested by US professionals racing for UCI trade teams. Those 1982 guys included the top US amateurs, but no UCI professionals.
In thirty years the races couldn’t have become more different. That event in 1982 looked nothing like the one in 2012 in virtually any respect.
Compare that to the 10k distance in track. In 1982 Alberto Salazar held the American record in the 10k at 27:42. Today, the American record is held by Galen Rupp, at 26:48, a thirty-year improvement of less than four percent. Those apples can easily be compared to the apples of 1982.
My first contre-le-montre
In 1984 I did the Texas state ITT west of Houston, and turned a 1:04. I flew out into the tailwind, blew up after the first ten miles, then slogged back into the headwind, a textbook case of how not to ride a time trial. Even so, there were plenty of people who went a lot slower than that. I still remember the guys who could break an hour were demi-gods. A time trial bike meant one without water bottles in the cages, or 32 spokes instead of 36.
In 2005 I did another 40k ITT, this one also outside Houston, in Katy. I still had the same bike configuration from 1985, but everyone else rode full TT everything. I turned a 1:05 or maybe it was a 1:04. Compared to the people I was racing against this was so slow as to merit incredulity. It didn’t make any difference that in twenty years I’d not lost much, perhaps because there hadn’t been a lot to begin with.
I’m afraid it’s mostly about the bike
A winning state TT time over 40k these days can be expected to break 56 minutes. Although drugs unquestionably play a role, what remains to explain the newfound speed is aero technology. The cumulative effects of disc wheels, slippery clothing, helmets, shoe covers, tire technology, aerodynamic frames, and radically improved body position mean that people go faster today because they have, quite literally, purchased the speed to do so.
Of course the people who win still have to suffer like dogs.
Looking at those results from 1982 made me think that there is something more impressive about a 40k ITT with minimally aerodynamic equipment than going ten minutes faster with all the trick stuff. Andy Paulin smashing into the wind, all six feet five inches of him, without a helmet or disc to help with the effort…something about that makes you admire the man and covet his ability rather than making you want to purchase his rig and his wheelset.
Which, frankly, is how it ought to be.
July 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
The New Pier Ride unofficial team kit is officially here!
You have seven days left to order! Click below to order now!
In 1987, a hardened group of dedicated triathletes including Marc Spivey began “The Morning Ride” in Hermosa Beach, leaving at 6:00 AM from Fleet Feet on Pier Avenue. The original course went out to Playa del Rey, through the Marina, and back again. As the ride gained popularity, cyclists began to comprise the majority of riders, and the triathletes went back to their solitary goofball ways, pushed aside by the true heroes of the road.
When Westchester Parkway was built, the ride added a lap on the Parkway, climbing up from Pershing, with a finishing sprint somewhere near the third traffic island on the return to Pershing. The ride retained this configuration for many years. At some point along the way the start time changed to 6:40 AM, most likely due to the laziness of the riders and the darkness during winter. Also, as the universe continued to pull all things towards its center, the starting place became the Manhattan Beach Pier. It picked up the moniker “The Pier Ride” as a result. Stubby McGee, the world renowned cosmologist has recently identified the Manhattan Beach Starbucks just up from the pier as the Center of the Known Universe, or CotKU, for short.
The Old Pier Ride has long been an LA institution, but it has also had a long list of drawbacks. The first drawback was the stoplights, which are numerous. The second was the narrow roadway along Admiralty and Washington. The third was the condition of the road surface, which was often atrocious. For lots of riders, i.e. the geri-wankers, the start and stop nature of the ride was perfect because it provided lots of chances to catch your breath, and there was rarely any fear of getting dropped…at least for more than a couple hundred yards.
Riders who were racing, or who wanted a more intense worked, or who lived in that sad dystopic netherworld of thinking they would one day race professionally in Europe, typically avoided the Old Pier Ride for the same reasons that other riders liked it: too many stops, too much wankage. No one ever joined the Old Pier Ride to get fit, or at least no one ever admitted it. Sometime in early 2011, the situation became dire. Long segments of Admiralty were torn up and covered with giant steel plates. Often, the fast stretches were a deadly mix of gravel, steel plates, and badly cracked asphalt. Even battle-tested LA riders, accustomed to bad streets, hairy traffic, hair-of-the-dog drivers, and soupy summer smog were starting to have nightmares about the ride.
In October or November 2011, long-time South Bay cyclists and Pier Ride wankers Doug Peterson and Trey Smith took matters into their own hands and proposed a new route, cutting out the marina altogether and concentrating the ride on Westchester Parkway, where the peloton would do four laps instead of one, with a single loop from Pershing up and over World Way at LAX. Everyone seemed willing to try it out, as Admiralty had become untenable for even the most die-hard OPR fans.
From its very first running, the new route was a success. The roads were wider, better paved, and had fewer traffic signal interruptions. The ride was smoother and the average speed was higher. Instead of being a marshmallow fest, the New Pier Ride became a dickstomp par excellence, with each edition of the ride resulting in citations for littering due to the dickage left in ruins along the Parkway.
The finishing sprint, which had been part of the ride for years, was safer because the four laps tended to tire riders out, leaving fewer people in contention. As word spread, more and more people began doing the ride, finding it to be a more consistent and better workout than the previous version. The New Pier Ride has become the de facto morning ride now for many riders in the South Bay.
The NPR Kit: Your Fashion Statement of Belonging
Order Here, Now! shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR
Joe Yule, Yule Design, StageOne Sports, and several dozen other major corporate entities operating underneath the Yuletide umbrella of cycling fashiondom, in conjunction with Wankmeister Industries, a global conglomerate of interlocking directorates that controls virtually every aspect of international finance and commodities, and which lurks behind most elections in the free world, have teamed up to create a cycling kit that supersedes, updates, modifies, replaces, and improves upon every other NPR kit that has ever before been conceived or produced.
Just in time for fall, you now have the chance to place an order for a limited time—seven days only—so that you can be one of the few, the proud, the unmistakable wankers of the LA cycling scene.
The features of this extraordinary StageOne kit, handcrafted in Italy, are outlined below:
1) Double-helix orgasmatron fiber weave: These kits are made from a unique, space-age fiber guaranteed to increase the length and intensity of your sexual climaxes, on the bike or off.
2) Sponsor highlights: The rear pockets of your NPR jersey will highlight the following companies who have done so much to make this ride a legend.
a) Sckubrats: The post-coital meeting place for every NPR, where the marginally employed will stave off bankruptcy for a few more days. Maybe. “Fuque Worque!” says the Sckubrats mermaid with her cycling helmet and middle finger pointed skyward.
b) RuggedMAXXX2: The world’s leading producer of herbal male enhancement pills, RuggedMAXXX2 has long helped NPR men, and their lucky women, enjoy the enhanced benefits that only come from a python-like organ.
c) Justim Stomp Boots: Each NPR combatant puts on his or her own pair of custom stomp boots prior to the CotKU meet-up, and Justim’s boots have special grooves in the sole to allow for extra stompage. Get your stomp on!
d) SPY Optic: The best eyewear on planet earth, allowing you to see each grinding blow as you crush the wheelsucks with your tremendous power.
Order Here, Now! shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR
This amazing kit’s components are as follows:
Incredibly amazing NPR short-sleeve jersey: This is rad and bitchin’. StageOne PRO cut slim and sleek to fight the wind and to encourage you not to have that third donut.
Incredibly unbelievable NPR bib shorts: No asscrack cycling shorts on the NPR, no sirree! You’ll pedal with your hairy bunghole covered up nice good with bib shorts, StageOne’s top of the line PRO bib.
Incredibly astounding NPR armwarmers: No more shuffling through your sock drawer trying to find a pair that match your kit. These match from the get-go!
Incredibly mindblowing NPR socks: When the wanker on your wheel is barely able to hang on, the last thing he’ll see is the cruel admonition on your socks for him to Go to the Front! Socks are white, and rad. Get a handful of these puppies, for sure!
Incredibly astonishing NPR tee-shirt: Apres-NPR, you’ll need this to wander around the house in, legs all buttery from the beatdown, even as you imagine your next heroic pull on Thursday. Made by Active-T, run by local Dutch dude Marcel Hoksbergen.
Order Here, Now! shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR
Please don’t fucking ask me about sizing, unless you’re going to get something for me. I wear a small jersey, medium bibs. Your size, and how StageOne correlates to your arms, ass, chest, breasts, thighs, pecker, etc. is a complete mystery to me, and always will be. That’s a good thing, unless we’re beneath the sheets together and trying to fit the round peg into the vertical slot. There’s a StageOne sizing chart on our ordering site, but if you’ve ever been able to shop using a sizing chart, you’ve probably also been able to assemble something from Ikea by reading the directions. Chapeau.
For those of you who want to actually come and try the stuff on to make sure that it fits you in all the right places, sample fitting kits will be available at the StageOne World Headquarters in Redondo Beach.
Please do your due diligence on this, but whatever you do, don’t ask me about it. I’ll shrug. If the stuff doesn’t fit, you’re hosed. I won’t take it back, offer you an exchange, help you change your baby’s poopy diapers, or listen to your rant. Go ahead and call me a cocksucking thief now, while we’re both in a good mood, and get it out of the way. Maybe you can pawn it off on some newbie sucker who’s doing the ride for the first time.
Order Here, Now! shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR
When you buy a really expensive new car, it comes with a warranty. In fact, you even get a warranty with virtually any bullshit appliance, even those rotary nose-hair clipper dealies. So if you want a warranty, go buy one of those items. This shit is bike clothing. Although I’ve worn the crap out of my StageOne pro stuff, love it, and have talked to numerous riders and racers who also wear it and love it, I can’t guarantee that this run of clothing will be any good. It may fall apart the minute you put it on, for all I know. So when the colors run, and the thread melts, and the fabric turns to linseed oil, don’t come running to me asking for a refund. I will tell you that you are hopelessly fucked and the money has already been sent to UPenn for my son’s sophomore year tuition.
On the other hand, I personally have huge faith in StageOne’s clothing products. They’ve stood up to bitter abuse and thousands of hard miles, and they remain as solid, well made, and comfortable as the day I first pulled them on. That’s the kind of quality you get out of Italian sweatshops that you just can’t get here in the good old U.S. of A. paying a humane wage to Americans. The 7-day workweek, child exploitation, and no minimum wage of the early 20th Century did have its benefits.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Wankmeister Industries and StageOne operate out of the smallest corner of a dimly lit basement, and they aren’t making squat off this deal, other than spare coffee money, the pride of seeing NPR worn by the LA wankoton, and the estimated $5.6 million in profits that we will reap from this incredible cash cow. We’ve already calculated that if we sell 2.3 million kits we will be able to break even, and with sales of 1.5 billion kits we will be able to retire by 2045. You’ll say you knew us when.
This is all a not-so-nice way of saying that you’ve bought bike shit before and been burned, or not liked it, or wanted your money back. Do yourself a favor if you’re really concerned about product quality and fit, talk to some of the riders who wear it, or better yet, don’t order anything. The riders you talk to will be brutally honest, at least in regard to those matters about which they’re not lying through their teeth. It goes without saying that if you change your mind after you’ve ordered, you’re hosed. No refunds, no changes, no exchanges, nil, zip, nada, nope, no way. Our tiny basement corner is going to be overflowing with shit in a few weeks, and I’ll be dogdamned if I’m going to crawl through the mountain of crap trying to see if I can swap out your male xxl bibs for an xxs ladies’ chamois. No can do.
Order Here, Now! shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR
How can a couple of marginally employed deadbeats like us offer you such an incredible deal? Simple, we put the risk on someone else, namely you. For a limited 7-day period you can go to shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR and place your order, paying up front for something you’ll have to wait two months to receive. After that ordering time elapses, it doesn’t matter how much you come running to me with your sob story about how you just found out, or your alimony check just cleared, or you thought you’d ordered it but when the peyote wore off you were naked, in jail, and couldn’t get to a computer…doesn’t matter.
I will tell you that the ordering period is closed, and I will make no exceptions. None. Ever. For anyone. Except a few people. This means you’ll have to watch all your happy friends pedal around the Parkway nattily attired in the coolest kit ever to hit the South Bay, and your only recourse will be to wait for the next ordering period, which could come as soon as September or as soon as never.
Once your order has been placed, and the order period has closed, you will have to wait. It will seem like forever or eight weeks, whichever is longer. You’ll be so tempted to email and text and call. “When will the kits be here?” “I paid like six months ago. Where’s my shit?”
Your inquiries will be placed in a small asbestos wastebasket and burned. I will not answer them unless accompanied by a service of process. This stuff will be ready in about eight weeks from the closing date, with “about” being the key word. We’re talking bike kits, folks, the one thing that no cyclist ever has been able to do on time except for Kevin Phillips. I’m not Kevin.
I know it’s hard to wait for something this awesome, this good, this incredible, when you’re used to getting your vibrator next-day-delivery from Amazon, but we’re cyclists. We are lazy. We’re only punctual for the NPR because it won’t wait. So you’ll have to suck it up and wait. We’re doing our best in between bike rides, coffee, and sleep, so instead of riding our asses for shit being late, buy us a free iced coffee and thank us for trying to make a quick buck off you, our friends.
Order Here, Now! shop.kitorder.com/StageOneNPR
If your life is like everyone else’s you have priorities. A priority is defined as that which you do before all else. The alternate definition is that which you’re supposed to do before all else, but in fact relegate until you’ve finished updating FB, checking the Tour results, and eating lunch. If you’re going to order one of these kick-ass kits, make it the first kind of priority. Do it now.
July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
As I pulled myself up into the cab next to Holmes, a chill went down my spine in that typically British, closeted homosexual way of two men pushed shoulder to shoulder and imagining how the other would look dressed in leathers, tied to a tree stump, and barking like a dog while the other spanked him with a wet baguette.
“What could have happened to him, Holmes?” I asked as the cab rattled across the cobbled streets.
“Do you suppose that’s the correct question?” Holmes riposted, and I could see his face turn towards mine in the dark.
“Dash it, Holmes, aren’t you the one who said the poor wanker had vanished without a trace?”
“I did, indeed, my dear Watson.”
“Then what else in blue blazes could the question be? He was here, now he’s gone. What on earth happened to him?”
Holmes chuckled that maddening chuckle of his, when his rapier-like mind has fastened onto its prey like a hungry mastiff, and no goading can loose its grip. I wondered if he’d ever paid to see a grown man naked. “I’ll be at your service when you need me, then,” I said, somewhat gruffly, and pained by Holmes’s sudden turn of silence.
Soon the cobbled roads of London gave way to the rutted unpaved roads leading out of that great city, and my mind drifted, then dozed, until I awoke with a start. “We’ve arrived, Watson,” said Holmes as we both exited the cab.
There before us was a quiet home, to all appearances as normal a place as you could ever hope to find. A tall hedge was in front, and a pretty garden filled with trees suggested the blissful hearth of that happiest British convention, the country home. Holmes rapped on the door, which was swiftly answered by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Dark haired, voluptuous, and radiating sorrow, she cried out, “Oh, Mr. Holmes, thank you for coming! I thought you’d never arrive! Please do come in!”
The wanker’s abode
Holmes strode across the threshold with the piercing look I have seen so often, when the genius of his mind misses no detail, and when what to others is a mass of confusion is, to him, an ordered story legible only to him.
The lovely lady stood there, uncountenanced somewhat as Holmes had not bothered to introduce us, and the awkwardness was furthered by her stare at the giant bulge in my trousers where I had placed my revolver. “Pleased to meet you, madam. John Watson.”
She blushed and held out her hand. “Mrs. Prez. It’s a pleasure, my good sir.”
Holmes turned to us, startled to realize that there was anyone in the room, so raptly had he focused on the living room. “Do you mind,” he asked, “if I have a look in the bedroom?”
“By all means,” said the lovely lady, blushing again.
“Watson, if you would,” Holmes motioned me to follow.
We entered the bedroom of the wanker and Holmes went straight to the closet. Rapha clothing of every variety, Assos bibs and jersey of every color under the rainbow, and cycling shoes in green, yellow, pink, orange, and mucous filled the closet. “Great gods,” I exclaimed. “The man’s a fashion model!”
Holmes shook his head. “As usual, Watson, you cannot see the trees for the forest. There’s nothing here.” He turned back, and took a quick look beneath the coverlet on the bed as he left the room.
“Can you find my husband, Mr. Holmes?” the distraught woman asked, her tear-streaked bosom heaving in worry and fear.
Holmes smiled at her in that comforting way a man has of reassuring a woman, as if to say “You can trust me, my dear, I’m thoroughly gay.”
We remounted the cab, and Holmes let out a short, satisfied laugh. “Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”
“Make of it? Deuce it all, Holmes, it’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle ensconced in an enigma, that’s what I make of it!”
“Come now, Watson, surely you jest? Isn’t it clear what happened to the poor man?”
“Holmes, if I didn’t rate you as my closest friend, I would be so exasperated as to refuse all further attempts at conversation! Don’t tell me you have figured this out? The poor wanker had a terrible wardrobe and even worse fashion sense! What else was there?”
“In the main, the mystery is solved, Watson. There are but two small details I should like to make certain of before we retire for the evening.”
The shanties of London
Before long our cab had brought us back to the outskirts of the city, and from the dim lights of the gas lamps I could see that we were in the slums of Chutney, London’s most notoriously impoverished shantytown, where life’s outcasts, men who had gambled all and lost, dragged themselves to die amidst the stink of filth and the reek of gin. I braced myself as we got out in front of the most wretched, dilapidated tenement I had ever seen, and did all I could to hold my breath as Holmes banged on the door with his walking stick.
A bedraggled, besotted, broken, and surly fellow came to the door, his long greasy locks covering a pock-marked face in which two red, sunken eyes stared out from his gaunt and deathlike skull, the last embers of a spirit that was all but quenched.
“Mr. Smith, I dare say?” said Holmes.
“And what is it to you if I be?” snarled the man.
“It could be nothing, or it could be this and bit more,” said Holmes with a wicked smile, carefully tucking a sovereign into the man’s curled paw.
In a flash we were over the threshold, and never have I seen a more horrid den of iniquity. Floozies lay draped in whatever position their drunkenness or opium stupor left them, while similarly stupefied patrons lounged on the couches, awaiting the dawn that would force them out again into the world they had shunned for a few brief hours of night.
“Come in ‘ere, guv’nor,” said Mr. Smith. “An’ tell ol’ USCF district rep Smithy ‘ow ‘e can be o’ service to the guv’nor.”
“Mr. Smith,” said Holmes. “It can come as no surprise that we’re here to inquire about a certain Prez. Wanker of all on two wheels.”
“Prez!” shrieked the old man, his body shivering with rage. “Prez! O, guv’nor, don’t come ‘ere an’ ask me about ‘im! It’s all I been ahearin’ these last five years, guv’nor, ‘Force upgrade the lad, Smithy!’ an’ ‘E’s winnin’ all the Category 3 races, Smithy, damn ‘is eyes, force upgrade the lad!’ ’tis all they can say from dawn to sunset, guv’nor! An’ what uz I to do, guv’nor? One minute some young lad’s father’s a’ breathin’ down me neck, ‘Force upgrade Prez or I’ll have your hide, Smithy!’ an’ the next it’s Prez ‘imself, guv’nor, writin’ letters and callin’ the higher-ups and takin’ me aside on Sundays an’ sayin’ ‘Now see here, Smithy, you keep me here a Category 3 ’til the SoCal Cup’s all said and done and see here, Smithy, I’ll make it worth your while, eh, Smithy?’ until ol’ Smithy’s been pulled and stretched like a piece of good English taffy in the Indian sun, guv’nor!”
“I’m sure you’ve done your very best, my good sir,” said Holmes in that sympathetic way he had. “But pray tell, what did you decide?”
“What did I decide, guv’nor? Odds bodkins, I force upgraded the lad! I ‘ad to, guv’nor! I ‘ad to! Oh, may the lord have mercy on me wicked soul!” With that the anguished man collapsed in a heap, sobbing inconsolably. Then he sat bolt upright. “But I didn’t do away with ‘im, guv’nor! An’ y’can’t say I did! P’raps one o’ them Cat 3 fellows did ‘im in, guv’nor, but me ‘ands are clean!”
“I thank you for your time, Mr. Smith. Here’s something for your trouble.” The old wretch’s trembling paw accepted the gift, and we left.
“Holmes!” I exclaimed. “Won’t you arrest the man? He’s the killer as plain as day. Either that, or he knows who is!”
With his maddening chuckle, he replied, “Watson, I’m surprised you don’t see it. It’s as plain as day. Let us make one last stop. I think you shall find this amusing enough to place it in that little history of my cases at which you apply yourself so assiduously.”
Palace of the lord
“Cabbie, take us to Kensington!” Holmes shouted to the man.
Before long we found ourselves in front of an iron gate, with a watchman who was none too pleased to see us pull up in our shabby hack. With all the ease of a man who had lived there his entire life, Holmes handed the man his card. “Please tell Lord Smythington that Sherlock Holmes desires the honor of a few moments of his lordship’s time.”
“You can’t be serious, Holmes!” I said. “Lord Charon Smythington? At this hour of the night, uninvited and crudely announced?”
“Let us see,” he said with a smile, “whether Lord Smythington can fit us into his busy schedule, even at such a late hour as this.”
In minutes the watchman led us to the front door of the great home, where the butler ushered us in. “Lord Smythington is taking his evening massage. If the gentlemen have no objection, milord will see them in the massage parlor.”
As we entered, the great man barely nodded his head in greeting. His massive legs, covered in massage oil, were being assiduously worked by his masseuse. “Mr. Holmes?” he said. “To what do I owe this unusual, late night visit?”
“We’ve come for Prez,” said Holmes, his steely blue eyes matched with razor thin lips that meant only business.
“Prez? The wanker? I’ve not seen him since the forced upgrade back in April. It’s a bit of a mystery, really, and I can’t imagine why you’ve come to me.”
“Lord Smythington,” said Holmes “you can either show us to him or we will request official assistance. I’m not certain that the publicity would be welcome to a man such as yourself.”
Smythington looked up. “How did you know he was here, Mr. Holmes? I thought I’d covered my tracks quite professionally.”
“Indeed, sir, you had, but you made one fatal mistake.”
“Ah, yes. And it was?”
“The coverlet, of course. Prez slept every night with pictures of Your Excellency taped to the underside of his coverlet. As soon as I saw them, I knew it was you who had kidnapped him, fearful that with an upgrade he would now become your biggest threat at the Dominguez Hills crit. I needed only a brief chat with Mr. Smith, the district rep, to confirm that Prez had received a forced upgrade, and from there to conclude that it must have been you.”
I couldn’t hold back my admiration. “But Holmes, why didn’t you suspect one of his fellow Cat 3’s? Or one of the junior riders whose parents complain after every race because their boy never gets a chance to win?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson. The 3’s had no reason to do away with him, as he’d been upgraded. From there it was child’s play. Despite his matchless string of victories, Lord Smythington was still concerned about Prez in the 35+ or Cat 2 peloton, if only because of his propensity to fall and crash everyone else out. So he brought him here.”
Lord Smythington looked at Holmes. “And how did you know he was here?”
“Prez went to bed each evening staring longingly at your pictures beneath his covers, Lord Smythingon. You sent a messenger to him, inviting him to come to Kensington to learn the ‘sprinter’s secret.’ He couldn’t resist. Once here, you placed him in the basement with ten years’ worth of cycling magazines, and told him that once he had finished reading them, he would finally win a 35+ masters race. And the poor fool believed you.”
“Yes,” Lord Smythington said, laughing, “he certainly did. I also told him that if he rode all over the peninsula in a giant gear and lifted huge weights in the gym he’d be invincible.”
Even Holmes, ever the steely investigator, broke into a smile at the thought of poor Prez, pushing a 53 x 11 up Hawthorne in the middle of December. Lord Smythington bade us adieu, and we left the great house, Prez in tow.
The following racing season, shortly after I had been apprehended while watching another gentleman through a small hole I had cut in a public lavatory, but prior to sentencing at the Old Bailey, I ran across Prez. He looked to be in the finest of fettle. “How are you, my boy?” I asked.
“Never been better!”
“Oh really? Be a good fellow and do tell.”
“I’ve won every 35+ crit of the season so far! And no crashes!”
“It appears your hard work has paid off, then.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “It certainly has.”
July 18, 2012 § 7 Comments
When I reached 221B Baker Street, I was highly agitated. Holmes had sent me a message through the street urchin Stathis the Wily Greek, and he had intercepted me on the way to dinner.
“‘Scuse me, sir, message from Mr. ‘Olmes,” he’d said, in that impertinent way of urchins everywhere, one hand thrusting the message and the other grasping for a few pence.
I had unfolded the paper immediately, and quickly scanned the note written in his long, spidery hand: “Watson, come quick. I’m in a spot of bother and need your immediate assistance.” Holmes never requested my presence unless it was a matter of quite some urgency.
As I went up the stairs at Baker Street, two at a time, I wondered what could be so pressing. It was only two weeks ago that he’d solved the Case of the Wheelsucking Wanker, a matter of international intrigue and diplomatic delicacy that, had matters turned out otherwise, might have implicated the very highest levels of Her Majesty’s government.
Almost as recently, he’d found the culprit in the Matter of the Wheelchopping Wanker, just before the criminal had taken down an entire peloton’s worth of the very finest men and women in the South Bay. And of course, Scotland Yard was still covering itself in glory after Holmes had uncovered the chain of events that led to the Dropping of the Sag-bellied Wanker, a matter about which Lestrade would be marveling for the rest of his days.
Liquor in front, poker in rear
I burst into Holmes’s flat and was taken aback to see him lethargically staring at the ceiling, a monogram of some sort open on his lap, amidst the telltale signs that he was deep in throes of his beloved opium.
“Dash it all, Holmes!” I said. “You can’t have had me cross London like a madman just to watch you smoke that devilish drug! What is it, man?”
In that languid and sexy way he had just before taking off his clothes and exposing himself to the neighborhood toughs, Holmes slowly turned his head. “Good of you to come, Watson. Pray have a seat. I’ll be with you presently.”
Fidgeting at the ridiculous prospect of watching him in his drug addled state, but secretly pleased that he’d needed my services, I settled down in my habitual chair, unfolded the paper I’d brought with me, and settled into reading the latest front page news. Soon enough, I surmised, Holmes would finish dreaming about prison showers and turn his attention to me. My patience was soon rewarded, as he came out of the drug’s fog with an alacrity that can only be described as astonishing.
“My dear Watson,” he beamed. “Why on earth did you give the cabbie such an absurdly generous tip after he argued with you so about the fare? Surely his joke about the carpenter wasn’t as humorous as all that?”
If amazement had a price on it, mine would have been ten thousand sovereigns. “What on earth, Holmes!” I exclaimed. “Surely you watched me from the window as I alit from the cab! But how would you know about the argument and the jest? They happened before I ever arrived!”
“It’s quite elementary, actually, my dear Watson. You’re a careful fellow who pays particular attention to his boots. Yet your boots are covered in mud, which has only partially dried. You’ve obviously been standing in mud, quite uncharacteristic of you, particularly when riding a cab, and particularly when interrupted by my urchin on the way to dinner at the club–a place you’d hardly appear at looking like you’d taken a tramp through a public latrine.”
“It’s true I abhor a filthy boot.”
“Of course you do, my good fellow. And that’s why you stand on the curb and positively never step in a puddle when mounting a carriage. I’ve seen you protect the shine on your boots this way a thousand times. Yet you did so today, as the mud is not yet dry.”
“That’s plain enough, I suppose.”
“Plain if you observe, my dear Watson. So the question becomes, why did Watson stand in the mud prior to mounting the carriage when it’s plainly not his custom? Obviously, just as he prepared to mount, or shortly thereafter, the cabbie said something to him that made him reconsider. So he stepped back down, missed the curb, and landed in the mud. Quite simple, really.”
“Dash it all, Holmes, it may be just as you say, but it hardly explains how you knew I’d argued with the cabman about the fare, though he was in fact a blackguard and a thief!”
“Aren’t they all, Watson? But what else would have caused you to dismount? Perhaps he could have offended you, but you’re a thick-skinned fellow and well accustomed to dealing with cabbies. More to the point, you’re tight with a pound, Watson, and it’s likely the chap changed his fare once you took a seat.”
“That’s exactly what happened, Holmes! It all sounds so simple to hear you explain it.”
“It sounds simple, Watson, because it is. One only has to look at what’s in front of his nose, rule out the impossible, and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
I was now enjoying his little game. “But you’ve still not explained how you knew about the large gratuity or the jest. You must have watched me from the window, Holmes. That’s too easy.”
“Not at all, Watson. I’ve not moved from this chair for the last three hours. You dashed into the room and your right pocket was unbuttoned.”
“So it is!” I said with surprise.
“A man such as yourself never keeps small change in a capacious pocket like that. For such things he uses a change purse. No, in his right pocket, aside from the sheepskin condoms he uses to protect himself from the microbes in the prostitutes he frequents, a proper English gentleman would keep only a pound note or two.”
“I do, indeed,” I chortled, seeing the way the game would end.
“Why remove a pound note unless you were pleased with the fellow and intended to give him something extra for his troubles?”
“I did indeed!”
“And what could have pleased you about a filthy, boorish, argumentative hackney driver other than a jest? Surely he wasn’t giving you advice on the finer points of brain surgery.”
“Right again, Holmes!”
“Well, then, the rest is mere child’s play. The newspaper that you brought with you has a bold headline about Sir Timothy Carpenter, the banker who now stands accused of fraud. The cabbie, in an attempt to jolly you up after your spat over the fare, made some silly jest about Sir Timothy. Unlike the cabbie, however, I know how greatly you detest Sir Carpenter, and how pleased you are to see him brought to justice. You laughed roundly at the joke, let bygones be bygones, and left the man with a tidy little sum.”
“By Jove, Holmes, when you explain it like that it seems like only a fool wouldn’t have seen it. But I confess that your powers, without the explanation, are astounding.”
“You’re too kind, Watson, but they’re nothing of the sort. I’ve not brought you here to banter about cabbies, however, as you must know.”
“I assumed not.”
“To the contrary, I stand on the verge of the most devilishly confounding mystery I’ve ever encountered. It’s a small thing in its own way, as it concerns a wanker who most agree is a generally disgraceful chap when it comes to cycle racing, somewhat prone to hitting his head on the paving stones, that sort of thing. But the chief difficulty of the thing is that he’s vanished without a trace. And Watson…”
“What is it, Holmes?”
“No ever vanishes without a trace.”
He stood up, threw on his trench coat, pressed his hat against his head, took one last draw from his pipe, and bade me follow. “Do you have your service revolver, Watson?”
“I never travel without it, Holmes.”
“Then let us see what we can find.”
July 17, 2012 § 5 Comments
Notes from the Bay
Will he bring it home?
Last year’s 45+ state road champ and this year’s runner up, Jeff Konsmo, is gunning for national glory in Bend this year. Spotted atop Via del Monte this morning at 6:00 AM, he’s in climbing mode and looking for a stars-and-stripes jersey to join his Vlees Huis butcher knife on the mantel. We’ve got our fingers crossed!
Will HE bring it home?
Charon Smith celebrated his 12th win on Sunday, handily smacking the shit out of a stacked field of contenders. Is there anyone in the country who can beat him? We’ll find out at nationals, when Charon heads north to put together all the moving parts of what has so far been a fantastic 2012 campaign.
Emissary from the Clan of the Swamis
Stephen Lavery got up in San Marcos at 4:00 AM, left at 4:30, and joined us for this morning’s NPR at 6:40 sharp. He promised to take word back south confirming that our little morning beatdown is in fact a beatdown. He made an honorable showing on behalf of the smurfs–noted! He also extended an invitation for a cultural exchange program, whereby emissaries from the South Bay travel to North County to partake of their Tues/Thurs rites. The offer has been accepted. Details to follow.
The pros are different from you and me
Jelly Belly pro Sergio Hernandez has been in town this week, and in addition to stomping dicks at the P/1/2/3 race in Carson on Sunday, he showed up on the NPR and blistered everyone’s balls, even the girls’. Then, because he is a cool dude, he hung out on the bricks, drank coffee, and signed autographs. Wish you’d come back to the South Bay, Sergio!
Heal up, guys!
Local tough guy Mike Davis, Sr., down in a crit when a wanker who wasn’t even supposed to be in the race smashed into him from the rear (head down sprint style), leaving Mike with road rash and a busted frame. Heal up! Rahsaan Bahati, recovering from a procedure that sounded gnarly in the extreme. Heal up! Heal up! Dave W., recovering from tough neck surgery that’s going to have him back at 100% and Going to the Front!
Super tough gal of the week
Suze Sonye throws down with the P/1/2 race in Carson on Sunday, all 80 minutes of it. How impressive is that? She never missed a beat, except for the couple of times she drifted back to the rear to encourage me. Same props to the other couple of chicks in that race. Guys were frying and popping off the back right and left…not Suze! Oh, and to the douchebag who told her to “get out of the way”: you are a douchebag. Just sayin’.
Rich Meeker won another state title on Sunday, another crit, and put on another clinic of “how to ride against 100 wankers and win.” I need to FB him and find out how many races he’s won this year. He’s a lock for nationals, crit, or the road. You heard here first what everyone already knows. Oh, and Rich was very cool when I mixed up him and Malcolm Hill in a photo caption, but hey, it’s not my fault. I’ve never actually seen either of those guys, or anyone from Amgen, from the front.
Hero in our midst
Chilling at the back of the 45+ wankoton I got to work on my taxes and chat with Keith Ketterer. If you’re in SoCal you probably know that he recently set the hour record for his age category. The hour record…incredible. But he’s still modest and nice enough to chat with a wanker who mistakenly called him “Roger.” Story coming soon on this amazing athlete and all-round good guy.
July 16, 2012 § 8 Comments
I got up from my desk on Friday and tottered. My assistant gave me a funny look. I walked as quickly as possible to the restroom without running or trying to look panicked, calmly pushed open the door, noted with thanks to Dog that the only stall was open, all the while whipping off my belt, undoing my necktie, dropping my glasses on the washbasin, and getting the last button on my collar undone just in time to release everything in my stomach straight into the toilet bowl.
You know how just before you puke, your mouth starts to drizzle spit like a rabid dog and you get that nasty feeling of “Shit I don’t want this to come up but it feels even worse staying down,” and then nature takes over and it’s a kind of relief and release at the same time, with the acid from your stomach shooting up into your nose and burning like a match…you know that feeling?
I tried to mop up the mess with the handful of paper towels I’d grabbed as I waltzed in, then washed my face in the sink, went back to my desk, finished up with the discovery I was working on, and called it a day at 2:30 PM. By 3:15 I was in bed, feverish, vomiting, swilling lemonade and counting the minutes until Mrs. WM had finished brewing up a pot of chicken soup.
My Japanese Awesome Princess
My J-A-P makes the most awesome chicken soup, and it did its magic so that by Saturday morning I was able to have a light breakfast coffee, bagels with cream cheese and lox and onions and capers, and a bowl of yogurt with fruit, and some more chicken soup with noodles, and a bacon sandwich with some ice cream on the side.
The Donut Ride was off the calendar, so I puttered around on the Internets and flossed the puke out from my back molars, and finally by 5:00 PM was able to go to the store and buy some pistachios and make a run by the bike shop to get some new tires. Two of my best friends were coming by for dinner at 7:00, but I got a text from Ms. Awesomeness that said, “We’re running late; Mr. Awesome is coiffing his nether ‘do.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I texted back “Okay!” and about 7:30 they arrived. We immediately launched into a giant back of chips and homemade salsa and guac and a bag of pistachios and before long they and Mrs. WM were good and drunk. Dinner commenced and before long things gravitated to that natural topic of dinnertime conversation, circumcision.
Mrs. WM raised her eyebrow. “Whatta you mean circum decision?”
Ms. Awesome. “No, not circum decision. Circumcision.”
“Ooooh! Like-a they do on a Jewish boy?” Mrs. WM glanced over at her son, who was staring hard at his plate.
“Yes, that’s it,” said Mr. Awesome.
“Nah, we din’t do no circum decision on our boys, that’s a trimming on the tree but not gonna grow a longer branch. Good gardener don’t trim no tree top unless it’s a gonna sprout new shoots.”
No one really knew what to say, least of all Mrs. WM’s eldest son, who everyone was now staring at his plate and not saying anything. Leaping into the awkward breach, Mr. Awesome came to the rescue. “You know, I’ll never forget the time this lady and her husband came over to our house and she said, ‘Bill has the worst anus itch!'”
The forks all clattered and WM Jr. breathed a sigh of relief. “Now I’m telling you, if your husband has anus itch, that’s just not something to go and tell the neighbors over dinner. I’ll never forget that.”
With thoughts of anus itch and circum decision in our heads, we finished dinner, and topped it off with coffee and ice cream and fruit. By 11:00 I was ready for bed, as I had racing to do on Sunday, and my preparation was complete.
Spin out the legs before the race
I got up at 5:45 and met Jack from Illinois (not his real name) down at the Malaga Cove Fountains. We did a little 25-miler around the Hill, rode up to the Domes, and then I prepped with a pre-race chocolate croissant and double latte. We climbed back up to the top of the Hill, said our good-byes, and I returned home. It was 9:15, so I took the next step in my time-proven race prep: a 2-hour nap.
Mrs. WM rousted me with strong coffee and more bagels, before sending me off to the races with a peck on the cheek. “Why you wanna waste money at a stupid bike race? Last time even Harry helpin you, you got a didn’t never finish, so this time don’t get no didn’t never finish, okay?”
I promised I wouldn’t get another didn’t never finish and drove down to the Dominguez Hills course. First race was the 45+ Richard Meeker Victory Parade. This is a pretty basic offering for all local SoCal races; it’s an event where 75-100 riders donate $35 to Rich so that he can practice his crit skills…not that he really needs the practice.
With a howling headwind on the back side of the course, several doomed breakaways were brought back by the bitter wall of wind. It became clear that in order to become the next 45+ State Criterium Champ, I would need a plan. So I made a couple of charts in my head that looked like this:
|Way to Beat Rich Meeker #1|
|Sit in and Wait ’til the Sprint|
|Don’t have to work||Have never beaten Rich in a sprint|
|Surprise||Have never beaten anyone in a sprint|
|Exciting to watch||Have never been near a sprint|
|Can hang out at the back||Don’t know how to sprint|
|Can chit-chat with friends||Afraid of crashing|
|Doesn’t matter what happens in the race||Don’t like to bump other riders|
|Poor cornering skills|
|Unsure of wind direction|
|Poor at judging distance to line|
|Terrible in-pack maneuvering skills|
|Unclear how to move up in last few
|Easily frightened by loud yelling|
|Tend to brake in all the turns|
|Often grind a pedal in the turns|
|Jump to soon|
|Jump too late|
|Don’t usually have a jump after
|Haven’t developed victory pose
|Way to Beat Rich Meeker #2|
|Looks cool||Have never won out of a breakaway|
|Can appreciate each yelling fan||Have never been in a breakaway|
|Plays to my “diesel” style||Unsure of what breakaways look like|
|Doesn’t require a field sprint||Unsure of how they form|
|Unsure how you get into them
|They look very tiring|
|They look very hard|
|Rich is a great breakaway rider|
|Rich can easily bridge to any dangerous
|Rich can easily outsprint anyone in the
|Give up easily|
|Don’t like prolonged pain or discomfort|
|This is almost as absurd as trying to
win in a sprint
Conclusion: I should not be in this race
After reviewing my table of pros and cons, it became apparent that there was no path to victory. My chance of winning was zero. So the next obvious step was to quit. Two laps had already gone by, and I was the last rider out of about a hundred. As I whizzed through Turn One, planning my graceful exit at the upcoming driveway, I heard an unmistakeable scream: “Wanky! Go to the front!”
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had a cheering section in a bike race, but when you hear your name called out, it gives you wings. The next time ’round I peered up, and there they were were, New Girl, Sparkles, Miz Prez, and Mighty Mouse all planted in the shade at the outside of the turn, screaming in unison, “Wanky! Go to the front!”
Well, there was no quitting now. I had the cuties on my side! And since I was the very last rider in the bunch, all the other spectators could see me perfectly. Forget having to pick some doofus wearing a gray outfit out of the middle of a pack of a hundred people wearing gray. Plus, my little camera was hooked onto the front of my bars.
Now that they were cheering me each lap and telling me to go to the front, there was no way I was going to the front. Each time around I got happier and happier, and this was abetted by the fact that when you are lounging at the back of a 45+ elderly prostate crit, it’s not exactly taxing. I got caught up with KK about his recent hour record. I fiddled with my camera. I sat up and stretched. Way in front people appeared to be working, but what concern was that of mine? All I had to do was smile and wave to the cuties once a lap.
Soon enough, though, it was five to go, and “Go to the front!” became a moral imperative. I charged halfway up the pack. With four to go I advanced some more. With three to go I was in the top fifteen. My cuties were screaming madly, but I had my hands full with the idiots who were bumping my bars, crowding me in the turns, and trying to kill me.
With two to go I was in the top ten, and out of Turn 3 I blasted to the front. A small gap opened on the field (later reports had it at between sixteen and four inches), but terror had been struck into the heart of Rich Meeker, who tried to hide his fear by chuckling. The giant of the peloton was glued to my wheel as we flew through Turn 4, with the mighty Wankmeister drilling out a brutal tattoo past the finish line and straight into the screams and cries of his cuties, all bunched up in Turn 1 and certain that today was his day.
Shortly past the turn a committee of acids, mainly of the lactate party, held a caucus and chose a new candidate for the remainder of the lap. That candidate was called Mr. Anaerobic Respiration, and he was a much slower and more reluctant candidate than the earlier nominee who had so enthusiastically endorsed the Wankmeister for Champion platform, Mr. Aerobic Respiration. The lactic acid committee delivered their new candidate to each and every one of my muscles, including my brain, with a freshly painted sign painted in sharp spikes of pain that said, “Quit Pedaling Now You Asshole Before You Die!”
With the last cheers of the cuties ringing in my ears, I slipped off the front, then back to the first 20, then the first 40, then the first 50, and finally to the tail end of the bunch. There was a sprunt, far, far away. As I straggled across the line in 87th place, the announcer said, “Rich Meeker! State champion again!”
But all I could wonder was this: is the podium’s top step as wonderful as hearing your name called out each lap by adoring cuties? I suspect I’ll never find out.
July 15, 2012 § 16 Comments
Dorky Sock Dude didn’t know his socks were dorky. What he did know as he raced along the bike path was that he loved the neon yellow jersey with bright purple sleeves that went flashing by in the opposite direction.
“That,” said Dorky Sock Dude to himself, “is the raddest thing I have ever seen. Where can I get one?”
DSD had been cycling for about a year and he was pretty proud of himself. He had a brand new Cannondale. It was bright silver. He had some super rad shifter stuff, Shimano 105 it was called. He had an ultra rad helmet with a little plastic visor that jutted out from it, very pro. And to make it all hang together he had gone out shopping for the best pair of socks he could find, until he found them.
The green and red slashing thunderbolts with orange flames had a black and purple background with some yellow asteroids raining down from the top of the cuff. They made him happy every time he pulled them on. They were tall, they were comfy, they were rad, and they were very, very pro.
Welcome to the friendly cycling community
DSD found out that this rad and uber-hip neon yellow, purple sleeved jersey was worn by a certain South Bay cycling club. It was the biggest club. It was the oldest club. It was the legit-est club. DSD didn’t know or care about any of that, though. He just wanted the jersey, and he wanted to be teammates with the dudes and chicks who wore that cool jersey.
Why? Because biking was fun, because he’d been doing it for a year now and thought he was getting pretty fit, and because anybody who had a jersey that rad must be a pretty cool anybody.
DSD sent in his membership application and before long he got his jersey. He was one happy dude. He laid it out on the bed next to his shorts and socks and gloves and shoes and helmet, with his bike off to the side, and admired the ensemble. Dorky Sock Dude had done sports in college, and he missed being on a team. He felt lucky to have discovered cycling, and even luckier to have learned that there were teams where people could get together to ride and have a good time, and, luckiest of all, that anybody could join.
The next morning he got up, ate breakfast, and put on his biking duds. He looked at himself in the mirror. He didn’t shave his legs like lots of the other bikers he saw, but that’s because he didn’t really understand why shaved legs had anything to do with riding a bike.
DSD had learned that there was a club ride that morning, meeting at 6:30 AM at the Pier. He left his house extra early so he wouldn’t be late. It was a great feeling, and exciting, too. He’d get to meet all of his new teammates and they would show him some cool biking stuff and workout tips and answer some questions that had been bouncing around in his head about cycling and training and fitness and stuff. Mostly stuff.
Nice to see you. Not.
When DSD rolled up to the Pier, there were five or six of his teammates draped nonchalantly on their top tubes, chatting with each other. Dorky Sock Dude was so happy he didn’t know what to do. They looked like they were talking in earnest, so he figured he’d just circle around and then introduce himself. He was wearing the team jersey, and there was no one else in sight, so any minute now they’d nod to him and he’d get to meet his mates.
Nobody said a word to him or even made eye contact. “Wow,” thought DSD “they must be talking about some serious cycling stuff.”
Then, without a word, they clicked in and rolled out. DSD hopped on behind the group, hoping someone would say something, but not knowing how to introduce himself he just sat awkwardly on the back. They were now rolling at a good clip, and occasionally one of the other riders would glance back to see if he was still there.
An unspoken signal was passed, and the riders dropped into single file. Dorky Sock Dude was at the end, and the pace became brutally hard. He knew it was brutally hard because the other guys were breathing loudly, and their bikes seemed to wobble. “This is cool!” thought DSD to himself. “I guess we’re doing intervals now! This is kind of like what we did on the track team in college!”
DSD moved up in the paceline, and when it was his turn he thought, “I better do my turn so they don’t think I’m slacking!” Within seconds the following riders swarmed around him, saying nothing, panting hard, beating furiously at the pedals.
“Wow!” thought DSD. “This is hard! This is great!” He hopped on the end of the train, which only had three of the original six riders left. With each surge DSD came through, got swarmed, sat on, then came through again. Soon there was no one left but DSD and one other guy, lathered in sweat and gagging on his own tongue.
Dorky Sock Dude took one final pull. “I’m pretty darn whipped, but I’ll do this last one if I can.” When he pulled over there was no one behind him. A very small group of five riders was far back in the distance, working together as hard as they could even while DSD continued to pull away. “Shoot!” he said to himself. “I lost my buddies! NOT COOL!”
Your buddies will be happy you waited
The group caught up to Dorky Sock Dude, but no one said a word. Thinking he’d tired, they began the paceline anew. Within minutes DSD was off by himself. “Crap!” he said to himself, doubly angry because he didn’t like to curse, even silently, “I lost my buddies! NOT COOL!”
By the third act in this often-seen play, the teammates gave up. Dorky Sock Dude had legs of steel, and was easily the match, and then some, of their combined efforts. The head rider came up to him. “That Shimano 105 stuff is total crap,” he said.
DSD didn’t know what to say. The next rider pedaled by. “And those socks are dork city. Get some new socks, dude.”
It washed over him. These weren’t his buddies. They’d been trying to ride away from him, but they couldn’t. So now the best they could do was to make fun of his socks and his bike.
To the extent that any of this ever happened, and I can assure that all of the true parts really did, it all took place in the late 1990’s. And if you’ve ridden at all in the South Bay, you’ve met Dorky Sock Dude, otherwise known as Greg Leibert. He’s the one who greets every newcomer with a smile, who encourages every rider regardless of ability, who stops to help you change your flat, who paces you back up to the group, and who, if you race against, almost always finishes in front of you. He’s the guy that everyone else wants to be like, even while he’s tearing you a new asshole.
He’s also the guy who wears tall white socks with the horizontal blue stripes. And the only thing people ask about his footwear nowadays is “Hey, Greg, where can I get a rad pair of socks like that?”