January 17, 2017 § 18 Comments
A lot of people have a lot of explanations about why road racing is declining. They are probably right in varying degrees.
My explanation is that there is no money in it for the racers. By “racers” I don’t mean the winners, although there’s precious little money for them, either. I’m talking about the pack fill, the cannon fodder. You know, us racers who pay the entry fees that make the event possible. For the pack fill, if you race you don’t have much of a chance to win money.
Pack fill like me doesn’t care. But other pack fillers do. Instead of judging them, it seemed like it was worth giving it a try by giving the customers what they want. This is a revolutionary concept in bike racing.
This year I’ve committed $15,000.00 in cash primes to Jeff Prinz’s 2017 CBR crit series. That means there are $2,500 in cash primes on offer every race, split up between categories so that there are plenty of chances to win. If turnout justifies it, I’m willing to consider more.
We tried this in the last three upgrade races of 2016 to the tune of about $5k, and the results were amazing. It turns out that racers like showing up, sprinting their guts out for prime cash, then doing it all over again. Who knew? The races were full gas as well; every time a prime was offered, which happened over and over each race, it went super hard, and the “easy” parts were still hard as nails and broken glass.
Jeff had turnout in December that was better than CBR’s spring races in 2016.
It’s weird to me that people will spend five grand to sponsor a team but not to put cash in the hands of racers. Racers remember it when you give them cash. They don’t always remember the fine print on their kit, or the water bottle they won.
The first CBR of 2017 is this Sunday, on January 22. Here’s the flyer.
Racing for primes means that other people have a shot at the glory, and it means they’re more than willing to pay entry fees and do multiple races. As one racer told me, “I calculated that I had eighteen chances to win fifty bucks. How can I turn that down?” He didn’t, and went home with $350, which paid for lunch and a spare tube.
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:
- 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.”
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November 14, 2016 § 18 Comments
November 13 would be deep into the off season, if there were an off season in SoCal, which there isn’t.
Thanks to marginal gains, old people with tons of time, global warming, Thorfinn Sassquatch, and lots of complete all-carbon that is 100% pure carbon, there are so many bikers rolling around this time of year who are race-fit that it’s scary.
Of course everyone, almost, pays lip service to the off season, but for the most part those are people who are smart enough not to have racing licenses. The only racer who told me on a particularly brutal off season seal clubbing, a 17-year-old kid, that there was no need to do a hard effort because it was the “off season,” got a serious talking to. More about Bader Aqil later.
Anyway, hats off to Jeff Prinz and his wife, who recently bought the CBR race series and got things going with three kick-butt, off-season upgrade races.
Yesterday was the second race, and over 250 racers showed up, paid entry fees, and battled for points and … cash. Yes, cash. There was $2,500.00 in cash primes on offer for off-fucking-season upgrade races, and the racers swarmed like bees to honey or pigs to, uh, mud.
Priscilla Calderon drove home with $300 in cash. Kristie Fox claimed another $200 and her first ever win. Look for her to smash the fields next year, her second year as a bike racer. Shaun Bagley and his assassin-in-crime from Ventura hauled home another $500 or so. And in what I think was a historic first in the HISTORY OF BIKE RACING, a Cat 4 got $100 in cash primes in a Cat 4 race.
I don’t know what it was like when you were a Cat 4, but these racers, who are by definition the future of the sport, typically get the worst treatment of any category. So it was amazing to watch beginning racers get rewarded with gas money, lunch money, and most importantly, this line that they could take home to their boyfriends/girlfriends/wives/husbands when asked “How’d the race go?”
Which brings me to my Monday point.
I can’t fix the problems with bike racing. They are complex and they go deep. I can’t fix the problems with misogyny and discrimination in bike racing. They are complex and they go deep.
But I can tell you this, after a few hundred bike races since 1984: Bike racers like money and will race for it. And I can tell you something else: If you put money into the hands of the racers–not just the same five guys and gals who win every week–you will get more people to show up. In tune with a great vibe at this past weekend’s race, there were numerous vendors including Richard Hiraga’s GQ6, Augie Ortega and JL Velo, Bike Shift mobile bike repair, and several others.
So far in 2016 I’ve donated $20,000.00 in cash to CBR, Vlees Huis, Adrenaline Promotions, and Carlsbad GP. The only condition has been that the money be given out as primes and that it be given directly to bike racers. It’s not a lot of money … but it is for me, and when doled out in $50 or $100 increments, it is significant for the racers who take the time to show up and race. Imagine what bike racing in SoCal will be like when there is $200,000 on offer every season in cash primes.
Jeff Prinz has put something in place now that focuses on what has to happen if bike racing is going to survive:
- A safe, convenient, reasonably-priced race.
- A fun environment where people are happy to show up.
- The possibility that everyone can go home with cash.
I know that there are other problems with the sport, but I also know I can’t fix them. What is certain is that without some financial incentive to race, cycling will continue to dwindle–last year there was a 30% drop in race entries, a cratering that no normal business could withstand. Without riders showing up, promoters won’t promote. And without sanctioned racing, the sport will be a shell of grand fondues, Strava fantasy competitions, and group rides where everyone’s a winner except they’re not.
There’s one more race on the calendar for 2016, on December 11. There will be the standard $2,500.00 in cash primes on offer for those who show up. Hope you can make it, and if you can’t, feel free to bitch and complain, just make sure you show up when the “real” race season gets started in January!
Oh, and remember Bader Aqil, the kid who told me it was time to “rest his legs” and “not go hard”?
Well, he won two primes, won the field sprint, and did three entire races, including his first Cat2/3.
So maybe it’s not quite the off-season … yet.
October 17, 2016 § 12 Comments
If you haven’t noticed, you will soon: The iconic grass roots race series affectionately known as “CBR” or “California Bicycle Racing” or “Pain in USA Cycling’s Ass” is being run by Jeff Prinz.
That’s right, and you heard it here second if you already noticed Jeff’s name on the latest CBR race flyers. Chris Lotts is no longer the promoter for CBR.
When you look up the word “controversial” in the dictionary, there’s a long entry, about twenty lines long, and at the end it says, “for a complete and thorough definition of the word in all its permutations, see ‘Christopher Lotts.'”
Some of Chris’s dust-ups were epic beyond epic, like the time he took on the entirety of women’s racing, or the time he got into a years-long battle with the Schroeder Iron/BBI riders, or the civil war that erupted when he lost control of the Tuesday racing in Eldorado Park. If you wanted to get into hand-to-hand combat, all you had to do was send him an email or, better yet, a Facebook message giving him advice about how to run his races. Add in a dash of complaining about prize money or the start time for your event and you would quickly upgrade from civil war to nuclear.
But Chris’s most epic act was the slow, drawn-out, 20-year consistent promotion of local bike races right here in our backyard. Like him or hate him, and I always liked him, Chris could be counted on to deliver what he promised, when he promised it, at the agreed-upon price. And to do that he had to fight USA Cycling, the local SCNCA organization supposedly dedicated to helping promoters, the disarray of local bike clubs, the petty bullshit of butt-hurt racers, the risk of bad weather wiping out an entire day’s event, and That Which Defines Every Bike Racer Who Has Ever Lived, i.e. “Gimme Something For Nothing.”
Chris could have made things easier, and he could have made his races more successful, but then he would have had to have been a different person, and a different person wouldn’t have persevered through thick and thin for the better part of twenty years to put on hundreds of fast, fun, local races. As people quickly found when dealing with Chris, save your advice for when you’re the one whose ass is on the line.
Whatever else Chris was, he wasn’t a philanthropist. His races had to turn a buck, and this past year not only revealed the writing on the wall, it was revealed in ten-foot, blood-red letters: Road racing in Southern California is on life support and the ICU nurses are out doing shots and meth in the alley behind the hospital.
SCNCA had a 30 percent drop in race entries for 2016. For any legitimate business, you’d fire the CEO and everyone else, you’d board up the storefront, sell the inventory, and get into a new line of work. It’s easy to point the finger, but it proves what Chris has said for decades. Our organizing body is killing the sport, and the people in charge of developing new racers and helping promoters have failed, because in tandem with the death-spiral of race entries we are also losing races on the calendar.
And what promoter would want to continue in this environment?
Answer: An experienced optimist with a new plan. Folks, I give you Jeff Prinz. He has his work cut out for him, but if yesterday’s CBR Upgrade Races are any indication, there’s life in the ol’ gal yet. He drew 200 entrants and has plans for two more races before year’s end. Not having any of Chris’s baggage, and being open to new approaches, being a proven relationship builder and an experienced bike racer who understands what cyclists want out of an event, Jeff is taking on a huge task but he’s taking it on with the tools to succeed.
I for one plan to support him 100% in his efforts with time, resources, and cash on the barrelhead. I hope you will make the “effort” to make sure he succeeds, if only because, you know, if you’re going to call yourself a bike racer, you really do have to actually race your bike.
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September 23, 2016 § 19 Comments
The most fertile or febrile part of your year is here. It’s the time when you can do other things than cycle. You can explore new activities and develop new skills, strengthen your weaknesses and strengthen your strengthiness. You can give your legs, and most importantly, your feeble mind a rest. You can relax a little bit and even try out sports that you’ve always been a bit interested in but have never had the time or energy to squeeze in between your 3-a-day interval workouts.
You can do all of that and more. Don’t.
Specifically, don’t do the following:
- Tell me about how you’ve started running. Running is for runners. You are an old worn out shoe of a fake bike racer doper who dribbles pee at night. Running will improve none of that and only hurt your knee. Plus, you will never be a runner. You are a jogger. If you can say, “I’ve taken up jogging in the off season!” with a straight face, okay, go ahead.
- Post gym selfies. The gym is a place where insane cycling delusions go to get pumped up on steroids. Lifting weights only improves your ability to lift weights. Doing squats only helps you squat down better with a chest of drawers on your back. You are not a lifter, you are a weight-obsessed worn out old shoe and lifting even a carton of milk gains useless muscles and hints to your S/O that you might be able to do something useful around the house. Strava Jr. tosses his water bottles, cell phone, and socks at the base of the Switchbacks and whips you like a pissed off wench in a dominatrix show, and he ain’t lifting no weights.
- Sign up for yoga. Yoga will help you live a better more fulfilling life, ergo it’s stupid as fuck. Mindfulness is the enemy of the crafty, shrewd, back-stabbing instincts that will allow you dominate the 55+ mid-pack position in every crit finish. And shut up yesterday about flexibility. You should look the same way off the bike as on: hunched, bowbacked, goofy-kneed, crany-necked, and as unsteady on your pegs as a drunken sailor. The more permanently hunched you are in real life, the more aero when they pry apart your arms and legs to set you on the bike.
- Hit the pool. You know how many people drowned in pools between 2004 and 2014? 3,536. You know how many people drowned on bikes since the beginning of time? One. And it was a triathlete (of course) who got the order mixed up and biked off into the ocean at Kona.
- Base miles. The only thing you had better be doing with the word “base” in it is “freebase.” Bike miles are for hammering. If you don’t hurt, why are you even alive? Rest when you’re dead.
- Training camp. If your clubteam has a training camp, change clubteams. Training camp implies a) You haven’t been training and b) You think roasting marshmallows over a burning tire and crapping in a trench is fun. If a), get the hell out of the yoga gym pool, slap it in the big dog and go knock out six consecutive 700-mile weeks that are heavy on sprints, 20-minute threshold efforts, 1-hour time trials, standing starts, and hill repeats. If b), sell your bike and become a scoutmaster.
- Cyclocross. Cylocross will leave you exhausted, injured, slow, and in the possession of a bike that’s so bad for riding you have to carry it. The only thing ‘cross has going for it is that it’s fun, and nothing ruins a road season, a road racing mentality, or life in general as thoroughly as fun.
- Group rides. These will wreck your season because you will get to know, like, and appreciate your clubteam mates. Nothing sucks away your ability to lie, cheat, betray and crush a person like friendship and empathy. The only acceptable group rides are ones you advertise as “no drop, beginners welcome” and begin at 32 mph into a stiff headwind.
That’s all for now. Gotta go do some intervals. It’s already Sepfuckingtember.
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August 27, 2016 § 4 Comments
I haven’t done Eldo in several years because it’s too far away in Los Angeles County miles. A Los Angeles County mile is unrelated to the standard English measurement of 5,280 feet. An LAC mile is measured not in distance but by the hour of the day.
For example, a Texas Panhandle Mile measured between Pampa and Canadian (this unit is kind of like West Texas Intermediate Crude, the world yardstick for oil), which is also 5,280 feet (the mile, not the oil), takes roughly one minute if you are traveling 60 miles per hour. There is some math here but I can’t explain it. Ask your father.
However, the same “mile” in Los Angeles County, although theoretically the same distance as a Texas Panhandle mile, changes drastically based on the hour of the day. An LA County mile between Palos Verdes and Long Beach on Tuesday around 5:00 PM has a time value of about 10 minutes rather than one.
I can’t explain that math either but I can explain this: I haven’t done Eldo in Long Beach in years because even though it’s only 20 minutes away measured in standard Texas Panhandle miles, it take about 300 years in LA County miles. Plus, here in the South Bay every Tuesday at exactly the same time we have the Telo crit which, I’m real sorry to inform you, is a lot fucking harder than Eldo. You can laugh all you want, but that just means you’ve never done both.
Eldo has gone through some changes in ownership, but what has continued without interruption is a first-rate bike race that stretches back decades. The difference in the new management and the old management is that unlike old management, there’s no screaming and cursing and hollering and berating, and more importantly it’s a USAC-sanctioned race where you can get upgrade points and huge bragging rights, and most importantly it attracts some of the best crit racers in SoCal like Charon Smith and Dave Koesel, and most-most importantly it has categories for Cat 4’s who can have their own forum for massive braggage and victory salutage and Facebag postage. Cf. Ivan Fernandez.
But most-most-most importantly, the Eldo Under New Management has, for the last three years, provided a forum for the development of junior bike racers, for which we have two people to thank.
One of them is Gil Dodson, a very old marine who is old enough to be your grandfather’s grandfather. He’s so old that when he takes off his helmet you wonder if he remembers the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But then he puts his helmet back on and drops about half the riders who are one-fifth of his age and you STFU. Gil’s foxhole buddy has been Steve Hegg, gold and silver medalist at the 1984 Olympics and current holder of the Genuinely Nicest Guy in Long Beach Award.
Gil has poured money into Eldo by paying for every single junior rider’s entry fee for three years and ending each season with a free bike frame giveaway to the junior at the top of the standings. It’s been a huge investment and it has paid huge dividends. Eldo provides the only regular venue for young riders to compete, earn upgrade points, and sharpen their skills before being tossed into the shark pit. Thanks to Gil, or rather no thanks to Gil, we now have a crop of young riders who show up at other group rides and smash their elders with glee.
The other person who has made Eldo a success is David Wehrly. Like Gil, he has provided significant financial support, without which the race simply couldn’t continue. Unlike Gil, Dave is so far in the background that you might think he’s with the Israel cyber ops NSO Group. But like all of the good works that David does, although he himself may be deep cover, the results and the beneficiaries are out in the open for all to see.
I’d better stop here. This is starting to sound way too happy.
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August 10, 2016 § 10 Comments
The IOC announced this morning that after conducting a total of over 15,000 doping tests leading up to and during the first week of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the first athlete to fail a doping test was a woman track cyclist from Team USA, whose name is being withheld pending confirmation of her B sample.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” said Slovic Bracentz, IOC spokesman for doping protocols, the official liaison between the game’s organizers and the World Anti-Doping Agency, which conducts the tests. “We’ve tested thousands and thousands of samples, and for us even one failed test is a black mark. We hope it’s the last one.”
The athlete spoke on condition of anonymity pending testing of the B sample. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I did everything right. There’s no way I failed that test. The B sample will absolutely vindicate me and I can put this nightmare behind me.”
According to confidential sources who contacted CitSB via email late last night, the athlete who failed the test was seen shopping in a pharmacy nearby the Olympic village the night before the test. “She knew she was in trouble,” said the source, “and was trying to find doping products that would allow her to pass the test. She’d obviously been tipped off that she was going to be tested and was terrified that they wouldn’t find anything. Whatever she took, it was too late to show up in her urine. When they analyzed her sample she was clean as a whistle. Her only hope now is the B sample.”
IOC President Thomas Bach immediately took to Twitter to defend the integrity of the Games. “One failed test does not a clean Olympics make,” he tweeted, adding “IOC testing will always catch the cheats.”
Given the thorough testing before and during the Games, analysts are scratching their heads how the clean athlete made it through, especially in a drug-riddled event such as track cycling. “We don’t know how she could have failed the test. Clean athletes never make it out of regional competitions. We’re that rigorous.”
The athlete agreed. “The B sample will vindicate me. I’ve taken every drug offered by the team, the coaches, even that bald guy in the gym with the ball-bearing testicles. There’s no way my sample was drug-free. No way.”
Movement for Credible Cycling immediately applauded the IOC’s announcement in a press release. “People have said for years that you can’t catch the clean riders, but this shows you can. Each one of these cheats takes away from the hard-purchased results of young men and women who dedicate their entire lives to finding the right pharmacological enhancements that will allow them to compete with Russia. We support lifetime bans for athletes caught competing clean.”
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