Ebb and flow

September 12, 2018 § 7 Comments

Rides come and go, they ebb and flow. The last two times I’ve done NPR I could only think, “Man, times have changed.”

NPR used to have 60+ riders even on Thursday. Tuesdays had more, everyone was fresh from Monday’s rest, and it was filled with hitters. You could expect the Tuesday NPR to be either single file for four laps, or hugely surgey with a crazy sprint.

No more, apparently.

Yesterday’s group was tiny, maybe a thirty-rider peloton that shrank over the course of the ride. Most telling was the fact that the last two rides I’ve been able to get away and stay away for four laps. Anytime you can’t catch a 54-year-old grandpa on a short ride like that, you have what is known as a very slow ride.

At the end yesterday, Frexit hunted me down and passed me at the last light, but the pack was still well more than a minute back.

NPR’s regular crashes got old, I guess, and some of the last pile-ups were huge. But more importantly, people have gotten old and quit. Or maybe I should say “older.” You still have guys in their 80’s like Jim and Tim out doing laps, but a whole generation of fast people who are now in their late 30’s and 40’s have simply quit NPR like the bad habit it is.

Gone are days when the Sausage Cam captured all the excitement, spliced and put to music.

Gone are the days when the sprunt involved Davy Dawg, Hair, Destroyer, Rahsaan, Pischon, Sausage, Cam, EA Sports, Inc., and half-a-dozen riders good enough to be there but not quite good enough to win.

Gone are the insane pulls by Dave Miller and Head Down James, the hopeless attacks by Richard Whose Last Name I Don’t Know, the shouting by Leibert … “We’re only going 28! Get off the effing front if you can only do 28!”

Gone are the guest appearances by Daniel Holloway, Justin and Cory Williams, and the regular appearance of women like Lisa, Chris, Tink, Suze, Katie D., Lolo, Michelle, Marilyne, and a whole bunch more.

And of course there are the aged ones who have simply moved into convalescent homes with Italian gentlemen. Kramer, Yule, Spalding, and dozens of others whose names I no longer even remember and whose features are kind of a blurry blot, like watching a face through a rainy window pane.

END

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“I think.”

August 29, 2018 § 8 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve done NPR. This morning I got there and was met by Denis. “Dude!” he said. “I attacked early last week and put a 2-minute gap on the field!”

“That’s awesome,” I replied. “Did you win?”

“Evens and Rudy came by me and I didn’t know to get on.”

“Yeah, I have a similar problem with those guys, too. They come by and I know to get on, but don’t know how.”

Denis nodded. “Yeah.”

“Kind of like they came by and you melted like an old wad of chewing gum on a summer pavement?”

“Yeah.”

If at first you don’t succeed

We pulled out onto Vista del Mar and Denis took off. He was on fire to win the NPR which I sympathized with despite the fact that you technically can’t win a #fakerace. Fact is, the NPR has a generally agreed upon imaginary line on lap four where everyone, whether they hopped in, cut the course, or dropped in from outer space, is trying to get to first.

Less imaginary is the hardest fact of a #fakewin at NPR: The same people win it, more or less, every time. That’s because if it’s a slower day and ends in a bunch sprunt, the bunch sprunters, of which there are a small handful, always win.

If it’s a fast day and ends in a break, the breakaway riders, of which there are a small handful, always win.

If it’s an insane day and someone #fakewins solo, well, that basically narrows it down to two people, neither of which is you.

So the great unwashed raft of NPR baby seals has zero chance of ever scoring a #fakewin, no matter how eagerly they pound off the front, and it’s this rarity that makes the glory so alluring. Think about it: There are countless baby seals who have done the ride hundreds of time, some over decades, and never scored a #fakewin. And they never will.

“If only …!” and “What if … !” and “Maybe today …!” all crumple and fold in the end, but at least at the Manhattan Beach Pier every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:40 AM pointy-sharp there is hope, and on NPR, it springs eternal.

Like today.

Calculations

I don’t know how many times I’ve #fakewon the NPR, but it isn’t many, less than ten since 2006. Once in a sprunt, three times solo, and the other times out of a collapsing break. As I get older, the returns diminish, and the probability starts to look more and more like that of getting hit on the thumb by a green asteroid.

I watched Denis disappear, saw the peloton closing, and sped up. He got hung up at the light at Imperial, I caught him, and suddenly we had a two-man #fakeaway.

I didn’t get too excited by the time we hit Dr. Cziko’s videocam on Pershing, where, instead of joining in the tomfoolery, Gary sits above us and documents the ride from the window of his duplex. Denis, though, was excited. This was where he notched his “amazing” 2-minute gap last week. I thought about telling him to quit surging, but why? It would go in one ear and out the other.

After exiting World Way ramp we saw the peloton. Our gap was not sustainable, but it wasn’t dead yet. They were chasing hard but the group only had about thirty riders. I figured we’d keep pouring on coal and see where we were at the first turnaround. On Westchester Parkway we were met by a howling headwind, which was good because it would blunt the chase, but bad because it would blunt us, too.

At the first turnaround we were only barely ahead, and Denis’s enthusiasm had given way to somewhat squarish pedaling. “We aren’t caught yet,” I thought, and picked up the pace with what seemed like ever longer pulls and ever shorter rests.

Giving the gift

I’ve let someone beat me for an NPR #fakewin exactly once, the time I gave the vee to SB Baby Seal and chronicled it here, back in 2014.

As we hit lap three and our gap had increased ever so slightly, I began thinking about how to finish this one off. Denis had the passion. He wanted it so bad he could taste it, whereas I only wanted it so bad I could smell it.

He had won Wanker of the Year at the South Bay Cycling Awards in 2016, and since then had proven a deserving recipient. There was the one time he’d taken a good pull in our break on the Donut this year before self-immolating in Lunada Bay, and most importantly there was the huge cash sponsorship that his employer ponied up every year to support the mission of Team Lizard Collectors.

At that moment I made up my mind to give him the win if we didn’t get hauled back, fully aware that it would likely change his life forever, and not in a good way, since his poor wife would have to hear about every pedal stroke from now until his next #fakewin, which would be eternity.

We reached the final turnaround and Denis’s baby pulls, which had become infant pulls, became fetus pulls, concluding with “Does life begin before conception?” pulls. Our gap was healthy as I slid back and got on his wheel.

“You’re gonna have to dig,” I said.

And dig he did. So deep, in fact, that when we got to the top of the golf course he actually whimpered. “I can’t,” he mumbled.

I giggled, towed him up the final bump, told him he was gonna win, and watched the terror on his face when I told him “They’re coming!” even though they weren’t. The rest is history, including his query regarding the location of the finish line and his near-fatal “hands-up” victory wobble.

But even better than being history, it’s on video, too. And yes, those things on his jersey are … hams.

END

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#fakenews

January 31, 2018 Comments Off on #fakenews

I haven’t done the New Pier Ride in a long time. I used to do it once or twice a week but as PoohBearATX remarked, “I only do the NPR when I’m serious about my plateauing.” Or, “The best way to kill it on the NPR is to never do the NPR.”

Today we rode over and did it. It was great to see my #fakefriends. By the way, everyone who races or does a competitive ride is a #fakefriend. They will help you and be kind to you until suddenly they drop you. Still, there is a special kind of magic rolling down the alley in the dark, lights blinking, surrounded by people you know, chatting, laughing, girding loins for the coming quake.

We kept a rather brisk pace going out Vista del Mar. This stretch of road is riddled with cracks and potholes, but is good for a group because we can easily take the entire lane and have plenty of room for cars coming by in the fast lane. On Pershing the gas stayed on and the typical group of Pershing H.I.W.’s hopped in.

When you abandon the NPR for a few months people completely forget you. One Unity Riders H.I.W. took a dainty little baby pull and when I came through for a similarly brief pull after having hit it continuously from VdM, he yelled “Stay up there!” or something silly that I ignored. It always amazes me that people have the lungs to advise you but never the lungs to attack or pull hard, like the guy at CBR last week who told me I needed to “quit moving my shoulders around and save energy” after I had launched my umpteenth failed attack. I am sure he never made it out of the caboose.

Things never relented so that mid-way through the first lap I was roasted. I slunk to the back and caught my breath, then pushed back to the fore as we began Lap 3. Rahsaan jumped, followed by Ivan Fernandez and Lauren, and I tagged onto Ivan. We made it to the bridge and slowed for the light as the pack was upon us.

Elijah yelled, “If we had kept going we would have split the group!”

“If grandma had balls she’d be grandpa,” I said, gassed and amused that he saw fit to say “we” for a group he wasn’t part of.

At that moment the light turned green and I still had a little momentum so I went again and at the top of the bridge Eric Bryan came through. He sneaked a sly grin and I hunkered down on his wheel. He is a student at UCLA and also rides for Team Subarau Santa Monica; after a few seconds my legs felt engulfed in flames. He’s not especially tall or broad so there was no draft, and he is especially fast and gnarly so it only felt like being dragged along the pavement behind a truck.

Eric opened a massive gap after his 1-mile effort, swung over, and I got my elbow working before I even made it through, swinging over immediately as sheet-snot covered my face. Next in line was Steve Kim, who smashed it as I dangled on the back. After him came Cat 5 Adam Flores, a 20-something kid who rides like a raging Cat 2.

The break didn’t have much hope of succeeding but it was better than dawdling back there with the sitters, hoping for a bunch sprunt.

At the beginning of Lap 4 we only had a couple hundred yards on the group, but traffic intervened at the turnaround and Eric threw down another incredible pull into the headwind, matched by Adam. Every time I had to come through I did what we will call “elder statesman pulls,” wrinkly and saggy and leaky in all the wrong places, leaving barely enough energy to sprint onto the back of the break.

At the final turnaround the gap was considerable and the children relaxed. “They will hunt you down and steal your toys if you let off the gas,” was my grandfatherly advice.

Eric took it to heart, too much so, unfortunately, attacking and gapping me out as the others chased on. I reattached as Adam barreled up the slight rise to the golf course. Once we were through the final light Eric attacked again, distancing us all. I was too tired and weak to do anything but follow wheels, and his wheel was sadly not on my follow list.

Steve jumped and dropped Adam, I clawed on, and Steve put in a stinking huge effort to close the gap to Eric, who was now 300 yards from the imaginary #fakefinish. With 200 to go a weird thing happened. After sitting in and sucking wheel and doing nothing and panting and flapping my elbow and sheet-snotting and sagging over the bars and evidencing a geriatric cardiac event I suddenly felt really good and it coincided with Steve and Eric feeling something off to the left of good and maybe even westerly of horrible.

I gave it the old grandpa Low-T andropause scissorkick and waltzed across the #fakefinish for what was perhaps the oldest ever geezer to rip an NPR #fakewin from the bloody talons of the young. And even if it wasn’t … it felt like it, so I went ahead and did it. I raised my hands.

wanky_win

END

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Low fidelity Podcast #1: NPR!

September 22, 2017 § 67 Comments

Click the bar above and listen to the podcast.

You can click the link in this sentence and see video of the September 19, 2017 NPR crash.

Podcast recorded from the comfort of my bed, spoken into my iPhone.

END

The thrill is not gone

July 5, 2017 § 28 Comments

One of the things about getting old is that the thrill goes away. What thrill? Every thrill.

You see it in your relatives, for example, who go batshit crazy about religion, or they become rabid racists, or they become recalcitrant conservatives who subscribe to the philosophy of “Everything for me, nothing for you.”

Whatever.

This is why I love riding my bike with other crazy people. It is flat fucking thrilling. If you don’t do it you won’t ever understand it.

Take today, Independence Day. It started with an NPR smashfest of epic proportions. Rumor had it that numerous baby seals had gotten too big for their pelts and needed a good skinning. Sure enough, on Lap 1 vast numbers of bleating pinnipeds got shucked out the back, only to play Hop-In-Wanker, reattach on the flip-flop, and get shelled again.

Rather than seventy baby seals sprunting vigorously for the win after sitting in and munching fresh sardines for four laps, at the end there was a tiny group of about fifteen, of whom only five or six had any legs at all. The clubbing and skinning were epic as Charon ended the hopes and dreams of all the sad-faced baby seals.

Then we did the Holiday Ride, 150-strong from the Center of the Known Universe, hooking up with another 100+ group in Marina del Rey, and barreling through Santa Monica to San Vicente. But today those of us who had smashed on the NPR moved the finish line from the top of Mandeville to the top of San Vicente, and the seal pups were denied the leisurely pedal to which they have become accustomed.

Instead, Cory Williams, Smasher, G3, and one or two other clubbers began crushing skulls at the bottom of San Vicente, skinning well over a hundred baby seals before we reached the top of San Vicente.

After the left-hander, a shameless group of La Grunge Hop-In-Wankers jumped into the mix and turned a 30-mile race to the bottom of Mandeville into a 1-mile downhill pedal followed by a 15-minute smash up the hill on fresh legs. They were crowned glorious winners, sweeping the imaginary podium and getting six out of the top ten fake slots, but their hop-in antics earned no approbation from the clubbers who’d been at it from the beginning of the ride.

Was that all the excitement and thrill? No!

Next was a bitter, hand-to-hand fight to the death at the annual Helen’s Cycles July 4th Sale, where cyclists poured through the doors and battled tooth and toenail to get unbelievable discounts on shoes, socks, BonkBreakers, bikes, helmets, and other useless stuff. The KOM was won by some dude from Malibu, who spent $15,000 in fifteen minutes.

Bar bumping, seal pelt skinning, vicious motoring, Mandeville uphill time trailing, it was a morning filled with adrenaline, testosterone (natural and added), and more fireworks than the Chinese New Year. But was that all? No that was not all!

We got home to find out that Mark Cavendish, sprinter extraordinaire, had been tutored by our very own James Doyle, the local wanker who squeezed through a non-existent slot and took out veteran Johnny Walsh. Unlike the UCI, however, who quickly reached a decision on the matter, USAC continues to drag its feet, twiddle its thumbs, review the tapes, and stick their thumb up a dark smelly place, paralyzed and unable to make a simple disciplinary decision about an outrageous move.

All of that and it wasn’t even noon …

The thrill? It’s alive and well and going strong. You can save your religious tirades for someone who GAF … because it ain’t me.

END

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Methods of misery: Last man lag

December 11, 2016 § 17 Comments

Suddenly you wake up one day and bam! you’re the oldest guy out there. It’s a weird feeling. Your youth is so far behind you that you don’t even need bother with a rearview mirror, and the thing is, it happens bam! and you’re flat fuggin’ old.

There are no benefits to being old, not one, except its apparently marginal superiority to the alternative.

However, back to the wake up and bam! you’re old thing. I looked around in the break on the fake racey group ride and everyone else was either young enough to be my kid or my grandkid and they were tearing my legs off. This made the bam! you’re old thing feel a thousand times worse.

Of course it may have been somewhat demoralizing to them as the fact is pretty obvious that THERE IS NO PRO CAREER FOR YOU EVER EVER EVER NOT EVEN MAYBE PERHAPS IN UNICORN FART LAND IF YOU’RE IN A BREAK WITH GRANDPA.

But even though they were demoralized, they were angry too, because when you are young and strong and fit and forced to ride tire-to-tire in a five-man break with grandpa it is like having a goatshead in your jockstrap, it really does rub you the wrong way.

So we were pounding along which means that they were doing all the work and I was sucking wheel and taking .005-second micropulls, and even that was depleting my magnesium and glucose and calcium and strontium-90 such that it became clear that our fromthegunintheneutralzone (even though there is no neutral zone) stoplightbreakaway (all successful breakaways on the parkway are stoplight breakaways) was going to make it all four laps out on Westchester Parkway but that I might not be part of it at the end.

Two and a half laps in, along came a Hop-in-Wanker. HIWs are a crucial part of the New Pier Ride; they are people who either get dropped or who don’t make the break so they cut over to the other side of the parkway and hop in with the lead group. Usually the Hop-in-Wankers are pretty easily disposed of because of The Rule of Breakaways:

  1. If you weren’t strong enough to make the break, you’re likely not strong enough to stay with it when it comes by or when you hop in.

Unfortunately, this HIW hadn’t read the rule, and he was plenty strong. We were all gassed and he started taking donkey pulls, big, nasty, snot-blowing, leg-straining, horsefly killing, drag-through-the-manure-pile pulls and since we’d been going pretty hard it hurt and broke up our smooth rotation. For me, “smooth rotation” meant “place I could do minimal work.”

A couple of my breakmates began shouting at HIW. “Get the fuck out of here,” they said.

But I didn’t say anything because one of my breakmates, teammate Bader the Bad, was only 18, and the other breakmate, Throttle, was in his early 20s and it seemed to me that this was a teaching moment.

What teaching moment?

Well, the old “how you get rid of the unwanted Hop-in-Wanker” moment. Because it happens fairly regularly that you get some dude in your winning break who is either sitting in or who has a faster finish and you need to get rid of him without taking the whole break back to the field, which is what happens when everyone sits up and starts shouting. And in the whole history of bike racing, no breakmate has ever been dislodged by shouting.

So I told my breakmates to STFU and get the rotation going again, which they grumblingly did and which made Hop-in-Wanker happy to a fare-thee-well. He was gonna do enough work to make sure we stayed away and then charge us in the imaginary sprunt for the fake victory.

My young breakmates were perplexed and kept at it. We were about a thousand yards out from the final turnaround for the last lap. As I rotated by Bader the Bad and Throttle, I whispered, “Hit it at the final turnaround and I’ll last-man-lag our unwanted visitor.”

They didn’t know what I meant but they did understand “hit it.”

We jetted through the final turn and they leapt. The other two breakmates were caught out, and Hop-in-Wanker, glued to my wheel (first mistake), thought I was going to close the gap (second mistake). As my teammates receded in the distance, he realized that it was going to be up to him, and he surged. I latched on as he manfully strove to close the massive gap.

At about the time it looked like he might close, he made a horrible screaming noise as the engine overheated prior to death, accompanied by clunking noises and oil coming out from the bottom as he threw a piston rod,  shot a small Chinese steel city’s worth of smoke out the tail pipe as his power steering and brakes went out, and he steered his 210-pound paperweight over a bit and wildly flicked his elbow for me to come through.

I sat and watched the smoking hulk go slower and slower until he dejectedly reached down for his water bottle, and I attacked him mid-sip. Somehow, perhaps with the aid of drugs, perhaps with the aid of a motor in my frame, perhaps with the aid of mirrors and a facelift, but mostly because the other two riders had caught my teammates and the break slowed for the final reconnoiter before the finish, I could reattach. Hop-in-Wanker was not seen again.

A flurry of accelerations followed, with Bader the Bad cruising to a beautiful solo imaginary victory against the three other breakmates and his grandfather, who viewed the whole thing from a galaxy far, far, away.

Afterwards the littl’uns asked me, “What happened back there at the turnaround?”

“That?” I said. “Oh, nothing.”

END

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Stolen glory

May 4, 2016 § 25 Comments

 

What I want you to know is that yesterday, which was NPR Tuesday, I launched a glorious attack in the neutral zone along Vista del Mar as soon as we turned out of the alley. I’ve done this a zillion times before and it never works because I’m too slow and everyone else is too fast.

In order for any NPR break to stick a number of miracles have to happen, all simultaneously. First, Evens Stievenart has to flat. Second, you have to sneak away fast enough and early enough that you can scoot down the hill and get mixed in with traffic so the wankoton can’t really see you, like a thief in the night rummaging through *someone’s* panty drawer.

Finally, you have to *catch* all the lights on green or *catch* them on yellow or *catch* them on dead red a-la Stathis or Cowan and pray you don’t get crushed by a truck.

And then finally finally you have to latch onto a locomotive who is a) strong enough to stay away for four laps + Vista del Mar but b) not so strong that he drops you and c) is a complete idiot when it comes to bike racing and d) who can’t sprunt, i.e. Smasher has to be on the ride.

Finally finally finally, Venus needs to be retrograde in Cassiopeia and I’ll see your five and raise you ten. Then and only then do you have a chance.

Of course today was my day, because no sooner had I sprung clear from the snoozers than I saw Smasher up ahead. Smasher never met a hopeless breakaway he didn’t like. He looked back, saw the gap, and started smashing. “We got this,” he said. “Piece of cake.” Only one Vista del Mar sneak attack breakaway has ever stuck in the storied history of the NPR. That kind of once-in-a-lifetime cake.

Smasher smashed for a long way, I took a bitsy pull, and he smashed some more. Smashed up Pershing. Smashed up World Way ramp. Smashed onto the Parkway. I stuck my nose out in the wind for a few seconds for another bitsy pull. Then Smasher smashed some more.

When we made the u-turn it took so long to see the wankoton that I thought perhaps they’d made a wrong turn. Sausage was in no-wank-land attempting a hopeless bridge, and my teammates were chasing hard and then, all golden, we saw Evens S. flatted on the side of the road.

I sighed happily as I puked up bits of oatmeal, glued as I was to the mighty glutes of Smasher Who Smashed. At the final turnaround we were so far ahead that we lazily pedaled to the finish, where Cowan was standing with a camera because he’d crashed out for the tenth time this year and was having his bike glued back together. He was pissed. “You’re chatting!” he said. “What kind of finish is that?”

“We just owned your teammates, bitch,” I said. He reluctantly snapped a video of the laziest NPR victory pose ever and awaited the bunch finish for third, which had the hoped-for result: His teammate Todd Toofs beat everyone else. Grateful for scraps, Cowan posted the third-place video and titled it “Teammate wins NPR,” one of the few instances where history was written by the loser.

I tacked on a few extra hours, pedaling up Mandeville after almost getting doored by a car parked in front of Santa Monica Peet’s and driven by a guy who looked suspiciously like Ynot Alleznam, stopped at Phil’s and observed a homeless dude dance a jig in a Batman suit, then watched a crazy lady on the way home come shrieking up the bike lane in her Yaris beside a tour bus only to find when she popped out that there was a cop in the other lane who pulled her over and wrote her a ticket and then saw some buddies splayed on the pavement in Marina after they’d been run over by another crazy lady, this one on a bicycle going the wrong way in the bike lane and they’d had to chase her down and wrestle her off her bike and call the cops while the one dude nursed what looked like a fractured wrist, then I had a Tink sighting on the bridge, ran into Major Bob, Frenchie, and ML in PV but couldn’t stop to talk because I was bonking and then I got home, scarfed leftover tomato soup, leftover fried rice, an apple, a banana, half a box of chocolates and a quart of milk, and did my best imitation of “Crampie Grampie” where you hop around on one foot howling until the other leg cramps and then you roll in a ball and moan and everyone looks away embarrassed.

Mallorca, here I come.

END

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