December 30, 2018 § 5 Comments
I was talking to a guy at a post-Donut Ride pancake party. Pancakes after donuts are pretty hard to beat, especially when I didn’t even do the ride and therefore skipped the beatdown and went straight to the gluttony.
“This was my first Donut,” he said.
“Cool,” I said.
“Yeah, it is an awesome ride.”
“When did you get dropped?”
He was a bit taken aback, and almost, just a tiny bit insulted. “What do you mean?”
“At what part of the ride did you get dropped?”
He looked perplexed, as people do when they are trying to cram the squre peg of what they imagine into the round hole of reality. “I didn’t get dropped,” he finally decided.
“That’s cool. So you were first up all the climbs?”
“So when did you get dropped?”
“I was never really dropppppped,” he said, laying heavy accent on the “pppppp” syllable to distinguish it from the blunt, brutal, awful, lonely, humiliating variant, which is simply the curt word “dropped.”
Jaycee stepped into the conversation to help interpret. “What he means is, were you ahead of Pornstache? Or was he ahead of you?”
“Pornstache? He was ahead of everybody. I mean, he was by himself, way up there.”
“Okay,” said Jaycee. “So where did he drop you?”
“There were a bunch of people in small groups,” the guy said, struggling.
Jaycee and I looked at him. A couple of other riders came up and watched. Then he threw in the towel. “I got dropped the minute we hit the Switchbacks. I went backwards, man.”
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good place to get dropped.”
“But not dropppppped,” he hastened to add. “I never got dropppppped.”
“Of course not,” I said. “No one is ever droppppped. But everyone on the Donut except guys like Pornstache eventually get dropped.”
“Right,” he said.
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August 15, 2018 § 25 Comments
The other morning I was out riding around the Hill with a bunch of people in a hurry. In the other direction came a small group of riders who didn’t look like they were in a hurry. They looked like they were out for a pleasant ride. I glanced twice and recognized most of them. They were people I used to ride with all the time.
Donut beatdown? They never missed it. Five-day smashfests from San Francisco to LA? Present and accounted for. Piuma-Stunt from PV and head north after that? Sure! NPR? Twice weekly, baby. Telo? Yaaaah. Then go long to the Rock on Sunday, dragging the peloton behind ’em for 120 miles? Uh-huh.
I only read Moby Dick a couple of times but the thing I remember most about it is that there are no women in it, anywhere. Maybe there was a woman in the church scene, or something. Other than that, it’s 400,000 pages of guys doing guy things like sailing to the South Pacific and spearing whales bare-handed.
The best part in the whole book is the description of life in the sperm whale pod. It was simply the best life ever. When I get run over by a chubby Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch, I hope to be reincarnated as a sperm whale in the South Seas 10,000 years ago. Those whales had it good.
But kind of like bike racing, they only had it really good until they didn’t. And the didn’t part came when a young bull would take on the boss of the pod and run him out of office. Once you got run away from the pod and all your cows got taken away, life pretty much sucked. You swam alone by yourself, grazing on plankton or whatever sperm whales eat, and you lived forever being miserable.
The whales of the Hill
Now don’t get me wrong. These dudes aren’t sperm whales cast out from the pod. They are old whales who have their own old whale rides and they ride along at old whale speeds and chat about old whale things. It’s wholly unobjectionable.
But I wonder what it is that triggers them to turn away from the mayhem of the full-gas Saturday and decide to ride around having slowpoke fun? They used to crave the adrenaline and enjoy the beatdown. They used to turn their noses up at hobby bikers. What happens in a whale to make him say, “Done with that nonsense. I’m going to do this nonsense instead.”
Part of it is probably always getting dropped. You reach a point where you get tired of starting with the group and saying “adios” after fifteen minutes or less. What was the point of that?
Another part of it is probably exhaustion. You can’t do those big efforts and recover like you used to.
And I guess it sucks being surround by young whales who are better than you even though they don’t even train and were up until 3:00 AM drinking cigars and smoking tequila.
Risk has got to be part of the equation as well. The older you get the greedier you get for the few years that are left, even if hanging on means poking around. Better to poke on the pavement than rot under it? Is that it?
Likely, boredom is a factor. When you’ve done the Donut 500 times you know how it’s going to end. You were getting dropped in ’97, you were getting dropped in ’07, come on, already. And beatdown rides aren’t much for conversation, either, when you’re just staring at some dude’s sweaty ass and skinny tire and trying to blot out the pain, unsuccessfully.
Whatever the reasons, and they’re all good ones I’m sure, it makes me sad. I’ll be talking to some whippersnapper and we’ll pass a whale. “See that whale?” I’ll point. “He used to wait until we got halfway up the Switchbacks, start from the rear, and ride everyone off his wheel.”
“That old fart?”
“Yep. That one.”
The whippersnapper will shake his head, not buying any of it.
I look around now and I’m not the oldest guy lining up to get his weekly dose of humiliation, but I’m close to it. I miss those old whales and wish they’d come back. Or I wish I didn’t feel compelled to go do that which I’m clearly unfit for, kind of like those geezers in the 70’s who tried to horn in on the disco craze and just looked silly, polyester shirts unbuttoned to their navels, white chest hair spilling out like somebody tumped over the can of Comet.
Maybe the whale life isn’t so bad. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe.
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June 23, 2018 Comments Off on The Quitnut Ride
The best thing about the Donut Ride is that like all group ride #fakeraces it is a brand new day. The sun shines. People mill around in front of the coffee shop commenting on each others’ new appliances.
“Hey, Wanky, is that a new frame?”
“When did you get it?
“I thought you rode a Cannondale.”
But more than wondering about frames and wheels, most of all everyone wonders, “When will I get dropped?”
The Donut is pretty easy for me to figure out. If riders show up who I’ve never dropped before and who have always dropped me, then it is a certainty they will drop me again. I think all group #fakeraces are this way. For some reason, though, because today is by definition a new day, hope copulates with delusion giving birth to the fantasy child that the same thing that happened the last hundred times maybe won’t happen this time, too.
In addition to the boundless optimism of the Saturday Ride, the Donut has a tradition of new old people showing up. New old people are riders who used to ride the Donut and then quit. Some of them got jobs, some of them lost jobs, some of them had too many birthdays, some of them stopped having birthdays, some of them had a particularly memorable bicycle-falling-off-incident, some of them graduated from high school, some of them graduated from single life and some of them got promoted to single life, but for the most part they got tired of Donut comas.
The Donut coma is what you are left with after the Donut. It is only 48 miles and 5,000k of climbing but when you get home you have the thousand-Donut stare, the Donut droop, and you can’t do anything except stare at the tv, or in my case, if you don’t have a tv, at the wall.
Anyway, new old people continually pop up on the Donut. They are in town for a few days, or they dusted off their ’95 Colnago, or they decided to get in shape again, or they never got out of shape but have been living in Biloxi and are back in the South Bay on business/vacation/visiting family, and for whatever bad set of reasons they decide to come have a bite of Donut.
It is very bittersweet seeing these new old riders, like today when the Irish brothers showed up. On the one hand it makes you happy to renew acquaintances and see old friends. On the other hand it makes you sad to know you are going to rip their legs off or, in the alternative, that they are going to rip off yours.
Would you like the blood glaze or the puke glaze?
This morning it looked bad and got worse. Frexit was there, Alx Bns was there, Rudy was there, Fukdude was there, Hop-in was there, Surfer was there, and so were a bunch of other Donut aspirants. Lately the Donut has become so punishing that there is even a group of pre-Nutters, riders who used to always mix it up at the front who have decided that life is too short and there are too few Saturdays left to spend them drooling on a stem while gazing into the barely-covered butthole of some dude six inches in front of your nose for three hours.
I think we started a bit hot, as I was later told that we hit 37 mph launching through Malaga Cove Plaza to the base of the climb up to Pregnant Point, and Surfer, my partner in crime, set the fifth fastest time ever up to Bluff Cove, a 3-minute something effort.
A bunch of other things happened, none of which mattered, except that when push came to shove came to smash came to crush came to blow came to flail came to gasp came to drop, I watched Rudy attack our front group on the Switchbacks as Alx Bns, Strava Jr., and Fukdude pedaled away on the chase and everyone else self-immolated, me especially.
At the college preen point (you know, the part in every #fakerace group ride where people stand around and preen and flex and fluff), the 60-strong peloton was much depleted. I shrugged because it had been a tad sporty and there was for sure more sportiness to come, so I descended ahead of the group, something I like to do because bombing a 45 mph descent on a narrow, twisty, two-lane road with forty people barely in control of their bikes doesn’t seem like the rational move it seemed ten years ago, when you could literally watch your life flash before your eyes in slow motion as Prez took the final turn at 50.
I made the right-hander at the bottom of the descent and pedaled super slowly, waiting for the group to catch so we could throw another bundle of matchboxes into the furnace going through San Pedro.
The boys of summer had already gone
Unhappily for me, the group never caught. That’s because with the exception of Frexit, Joe, John, Chris, Luke, and Kristie, everyone else quit and went home, which is the first time that an entire Donut Ride has simply folded its cards and quit.
The seven of us finished the ride, and when I got back I texted a few friends, not that I have any. “WTF happened?”
“That shit was too hard.”
“I got a flat.”
“I am too full of beer and sloth to hang these days.”
“Only one climb in me today.”
“I went pop early.”
Evens and John van Gilder took turns smashing our faces in for the rest of the ride. In other words, another Donut fried and glazed to perfection.
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June 17, 2018 § 7 Comments
I always love it when people talk about the health benefits of cycling, as if punishing your internal organs to the brink of failure is somehow good for you.
Yesterday’s Donut was filled with about as much cholesterol, fat, sugar, enzymes, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, karaya gum, wheat starch, cornstarch, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, sodium propionate, and food dyes Yellow No. 5 and 6 as the finest Dolly Madison Little Gem.
Before we started, Destroyer looked around. “You can win today, Wanky,” he said.
“Yes. But you can’t attack at Kilometer 1.”
“In the race to the radar domes, every single pedal stroke counts. But there’s no one here today who can beat you. With cunning and wheelsuckery you’ve got this.”
“What about Sausage? He’s ripping legs at the Flog Ride.”
“One-off. He has peaked for the state ITT and won’t be a factor.”
“Ivan the Terrible? He is so fit right now.”
“Yes but he’s focused on crits and honing his sprunt. The climb to the domes will be a bridge too far.”
“But look over there. Medium Banana has brought his wrecking crew from D.C. They are lean and look like they just had a bucket of chum for breakfast.”
“D.C. is flat. They won’t digest their first Donut very well.”
“What about Goggle? He’s in razor sharp form.”
“He’s competition, but smart riding from you and you could collect your first Donut victory since that last one you fake lied about in your blog.”
I spied Tinkerbell as she rode up, resplendent in her pro outfit. My heart sank. “There’s Tink,” I said.
“Conserve every stroke. Do not attack. Wait until the climb. Today is your day.”
Conservation and wheelsuckery
We bit into the Donut at 8:00 AM pointy-sharp, an 80-strong phalanx of ill-tempered cyclists dreaming of glory, savoring that first taste of sugar and soy lecithin as our mouths watered from wrapping our tongues around the glory hole of fresh donut.
As we approached the starting gate in Malaga Cove at Kilometer 1, I reflected on the wisdom of Destroyer’s words. To eat this Donut I would need to nibble around the edges and only chomp when the final ramp was in view. Restraint was the key. Cold calculation. The young man is strong, but the old man is wise.
I thought of the countless years that Surfer Dan and I had attacked at Kilometer 1 and even earlier, out of the parking lot, and of the futility in which virtually all such moves had ended. I reflected on my recent Km 1 accelerations and how they always flamed out early, a soggy lump of donut clogging my windpipe and arteries as I went down in paroxysms of indigestion.
This time would be different.
As we rolled past Km 1 an uncontrollable urge surged over me and I attacked, exactly as Destroyer had enjoined.
“This is futile,” I told myself.
“Don’t do it,” I told myself.
“Ease off,” I told myself.
So I pedaled harder and didn’t look back until I had passed Pregnant Point a couple of miles later. The wankoton was invisible, and my passengers were three: Dennis, Tinkerbell, and Goggle.
Tink and Dennis had no appetite for any more Donut at that point and were steadfastly chewing; only Goggle crammed more donuts between his teeth and began sharing the load.
I figured we’d get caught soon but that perhaps we could at least make it to Golden Cove. Dennis took a couple of pulls but Tink declined the invitation, masticating her chunk of Donut into smaller and smaller easily digested bits while Goggle and I stuffed ever larger pieces into our maws.
Dennis tailed off and then it was us three. Tink took a couple of token pulls, seemingly amused at our faces, which were covered in white donut powdered sugar.
We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and Tink accelerated with the ferocity of a rider who had won the QOM at last year’s Tour of California, which she had. “Rest day,” she smiled as we struggled back to her wheel. She slid to the back and we pushed on, littering the way with crumbs and the gummy spew that lines your arteries and creates artheriosclerosis of the aorta.
Goggle and I took turns, passed the flat spot on Crest, and began to get that feeling like maybe we shouldn’t have downed the whole sleeve at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have punched it at Km 1. Maybe this was a bad idea.
At exactly that moment Tink jumped us like a schoolyard bully, her rear wheel waving wildly from side to side like a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. Goggle conveniently had a flat tire, or so he claimed, and I was left to respond with two flats of my own, a right one and a left one.
Somehow I latched on. Tink relented once she saw my shadow. We were only a hundred meters from the final turn, and she took a quick look back to check my temperature.
What she saw was the twisted rictus of a gasping, heaving, choking, shuddering, worn out old shoe, and she stood once more on the pedals, gleefully chewing her Donut and leaving me to twist in the wind, choking on mine.
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