November 12, 2018 § 28 Comments
The worst thing about masters doping scandals is that there is nothing even vaguely scandalous about them. Outrage? At what? Some narcissistic, saggy old fart stealing money from other narcissistic, saggy old farts?
In the case of Steven Strickler, the latest in a hoary line of SoCal masters “athletes” to get busted for doping, there is not much I can add. I’ve raced with Strychnine for about ten years and have never beaten him when it mattered. He couldn’t climb but like Meeker the Beaker and Tatty-Poo LeoGrande, he could sure race an old farts’ crit.
The last few years I always wondered how a guy who looked well into his third trimester could consistently get on the podium. “Experience. Savvy. A lifetime of bike racing,” I always thought as I eyed his prodigious gut. It never occurred to me that aw-shucks, Gomer Pyle Strickler was a drug cheat, which is my way of saying “I am a complete fucking moron.”
This past year he stood on the podium a bunch, often on the top step. I was always impressed when he showed up with his monster gut, fit as a beach ball, and still somehow made the split. “Talent and a lifetime of bike racing,” It didn’t occur to me to add, “and a whole bunch of banned drugs.”
Although I always assume the very worst about anyone who races a bike, not limited to doping, Strychnine never seemed like a doper. First, my theory has always been that the vast majority of dopers are in the middle and end of the field. Second, the people who invariably get on my radar are the donkeys who grow the legs of a racehorse, like this wanker who I wrote about a while ago and is still just killing it. You know, the guy who can barely hang on one year and is dragging the field around like a tin can a few months later.
Strychnine was also disarmingly aw-shucks. Unlike The Beaker, who made you want to take a shower after talking with him, or like Tatty-Poo, who had the silent churn of a guy thinking about how to immediately exercise his 2nd Amendment rights, Strychnine was a grinning goofy dude who was savvy and quick.
Now I’m waiting for the team’s statement. Something along the lines of “Steve is a complete fuckhead for tainting all of us, ripping off promoters and competitors, and doing it in our team colors.” Uh, yeah. Ain’t gonna happen. Just like when The Beaker got the boot and everyone over at Amgen kind of mumbled and then went on about their business. “Rich who? Oh, the guy we’ve been racing with for ten years? Him? Uh, I dunno, man. I had noooo idea.”
What team is Steve on, you may be wondering? None other than the G3 Foundation, a non-profit that allegedly supports clean groundwater projects in poor countries. I say “alleged” because here’s the organization’s info on Guidestar. Oh, and super cozily, Strickler is also CEO of the company that shares the non-profit’s name. Lots of transparency here, folks.
As you cruise through G3 Foundation and Strickler’s FB page, they are simply carrying on as usual. No comment about Steve’s cheating, no comment about Steve tainting the entire team, zip. Why? Because no one on the team feels tainted? Racing with, sponsored by, and buddies with a drug cheat is no big deal? Huh.
But don’t get too bothered by this “business as usual” approach because it’s simply business as usual. Doping so thoroughly part of the SoCal masters racing scene that if it is ever eradicated, the fields will be thin, indeed. Oh, what I am I saying? THEY ALREADY ARE. As the threat of having to pee in a cup gets more real, gran fondos and The Stravver look lots better. Strickie is a cheat, a dude who would gladly dope for the thrill of a win, but what does it say about all the people who simply mumble and carry on?
Hint: Nothing good.
A brief history of SoCal Masters Doping
The illustrious list of masters cheats includes Rich Meeker, Nick Brandt-Sorenson, Kayle LeoGrande, and now Steve Strickler. With the exception of Brandt-Sorenson, whose “about” section on his clothing web site says that he “stopped racing 14 years later after competing against some of the world’s top professional cyclists” (AND WHY WAS THAT, NICKY?), these guys have won a whole bunch of races.
On the bright side, Strychnine’s demise may hasten one worthy goal, which is the total collapse of masters racing. Although I’m not hopeful enough to think it will spill over to the aged track cheaters competing for a “world champion” jersey as they out-dope two other feeble riders for their “world champion” title, perhaps this bust will add one more nail to the coffin of USAC-sanctioned masters cheating, uh, I mean, racing.
Chris Lotts, one of most offensive people to ever promote a bike race and therefore perfect for the job, had it right when he identified masters racing as the sport’s predominant cancer. Mast-holes suck time, attention, and money from the only area that can possibly sustain competitive cycling–juniors and Cat 5/4 racer recruitment and development.
Was I the only person who noted the sick contrast of having the #fakeworld #masterstrackchampionships at the same time that America’s underfunded, largely ignored elite track program was in town? The same program gunning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with #3 in the world omnium racer Daniel Holloway? Is there any incongruity there? Guess not … better hit the boards hard to get my rainbow jersey as I beat that other 70-year-old.
Witness the absurd lengths to which mast-hole road racing has metastasized, even as events vanish and new rider numbers implode. Mast-hole teams demand and get bikes, clothing, and equipment discounts when college clubs are groveling for $500 sponsorships to defray gas costs. National road champions like Justin Williams have to compete for resources with guys who “race” in the 55+ category.
But you can feel good about your membership on G3 because they are helping poor people get clean drinking water. They say. And what’s a few injectables when we are saving lives over in Africa? Africa is a country right? Well, they’re saving people somewhere.
If anything, everyone with a USAC license who is over the age of 40, if not 35, should shred his/her license and donate the money to a junior or a Cat 5/4 rider. Why? Because you can’t possibly have any reasonable doubt left that old fart races are rife with cheaters.
Probably would have lost anyway
The fact is that the winning dopers, without drugs, wouldn’t have won as much. But they still would have won. Bike racing is too much a combination of smarts and strength for a few injections to put you over the top. Look at Icarus Wankarus, the documentary that exposed the Russian Sochi doping program, if you want to understand the old adage that you can’t make a donkey into a racehorse.
Filmmaker and super donkey Brian Fogel did everything right in his quest to dope to victory and he still sucked. Why? Because he fucking sucked, and people who fucking suck can’t buy the podium with a syringe.
Strychnine, The Beaker, Tatty Poo, and Thorfinn-Assquat were good bike racers. If they had stayed off the juice they wouldn’t have won as much, and some of the glory would have been spread around a bit more, if glory is what you call winning $50 while standing atop a wooden box and being buffeted by a sandstorm in the desert as absolutely NO ONE looks on or gives two broken fucks.
Every year ya gotta re-up
No matter what anyone says, after a certain number of years #fakeracing bikes, you find yourself asking the hard questions as you contemplate forking over money for yet another overpriced USAC racing license. Questions like this:
- Why am I such a moron?
- What is wrong with me?
- What normal person could possibly enjoy this?
- Why can’t I quit?
- Would someone shoot me now?
As the circle of douchebag cheaters gets bigger and bigger, what possible reason is there to continue? The scenery at the brokedown bizpark crit?
For this worn out old shoe, there is no reason. At least I can thank Steve Strickler for finally showing me the door.
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October 15, 2018 § 2 Comments
It was a sad day for bike racing in SoCal when Robert Efthimos stepped down as president of Velo Club La Grange, but probably not a sad day for President Sausage. After four years of handling the grit, the nit, and the shit that comes with being the figurehead of the biggest racing club in the U.S. and the one with the oldest pedigree on the West Coast, there is no way on earth he can possibly regret not having to deal with emails like this:
Yo, Sausage. My kit that I got two years ago and only have 20,000 miles on has a thread loose on the left inside lower leg panel. Can I get these defective bib shorts replaced?
How do I know he got emails like that? Easy. Because that’s a copy of one I sent.
Of course it’s not true that being El Presidente is thankless. Everyone who knows what the job entails thanks their lucky stars that it was he, not they, who was on a firing line where every shit pistol was loaded, cocked, and aimed at your inbox.
Different people will appreciate different aspects of what Robert brought to the job. Some will praise his diplomacy, pointing out that in four years he never shouted, screamed, pulled hair (his own or others), or tossed anyone out of a window.
A different executive would have had heads on platters if someone had tanked up the bitchin’ Mercedes-Benz Sprinter customized race van with gasoline instead of diesel, but not President Sausage. He realized that to err is human, but to colossally fuck up is simply in the nature of bike racers borrowing someone else’s car/bike/race wheels/spouse/etc.
Others will point to President Sausage’s skillful ability to manage and organize teams. Under his watch VCLG’s racing results skyrocketed and race participation blossomed. The women’s racing squad got every bit as much attention as the men’s, and more when it was called for.
Robert always knew how and when to say “thank you,” how to give credit to others, how to leverage the goodwill and dollars of sponsors, how to make sure that the club contributed to broader social and cycling advocacy issues, how to integrate safety and education into the know-it-all culture of competitive cycling, how to have opinions without being judgmental, how to pump up club events like the legendary La Grange Cup, how to accommodate non-racers in a racing club, and how to show respect and appreciation to every member regardless of how fast they rode or what kind of rig they pedaled. Oh, and he was a kick-ass herder of cats.
That’s all well and good. So thank you, President Sausage.
But for my part I appreciated something else.
Watt’s it all about, Alfie?
Robert Efthimos was — and is — a fuggin’ bike racer.
He is a nice guy, sure. Diplomatic, yes. Sharper than any razor. Hell, yes.
But in the competitive sphere he always brought his very best, and as president of a racing club, that is what made the difference. Whether on NPR, Amalfi, the NOW ride, sojourns to the South Bay’s Donut Ride, Telo, or racing the weekend crits, Robert was a fuggin’ bike racer, and a good one.
My best recent memory of him was this year when he magically appeared on the Flog Ride after a 2-year absence. Unbeknownst to me, he was a week away from a state TT attempt and wanted to put the final edge on his blade. He shredded the course (and us) and set a top-10 overall time on a segment that has been raced full gas by national champions.
Not sure how he did in the TT, but I don’t care. He never hesitated to do the hard rides and do his cutthroat best to win.
In my opinion this is part of why he had such credibility and respect among racers and non-racers alike. Ultimately if you are the head of a racing club and you don’t race, everything you say will be heard with an asterisk.
When President Sausage spoke–always in a normal tone of voice, with patience and perspective, there was invariably an exclamation mark at the end, the explanation mark that you can only write with your legs.
Maybe now he’ll have more time to race. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 30, 2018 § 7 Comments
Here’s the USAC bike racing value proposition:
Day of the week: Saturday/Sunday
Wake up time: 5:00 AM
Departure time: 7:00 AM
Drive time: 1.5 hours
Entry fee: $40.00 (“service fee” if you pre-reg, late fee if you sign up day-of)
Drive time: 2-3 hours on LA freeway weekend traffic
Return time: 3:00/4:00 PM
For all this you get:
45 minutes of bike racing
Some things are deals. Others, not so much. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 21, 2018 § 24 Comments
Anyway, FOR SALE: Less than one year old Fuji SL1 frame with e-Tap and new FFWD F3 all carbon clinchers, mostly new Conti 25 mm front/rear with tubes, along with 12 size S jerseys, most of the jerseys are the last two years of Team Lizard Collectors, great condition, a couple of La Grange jerseys, 12 size M bibs (TLC/La Grange/plain black), 3 TLC skinsuits, 3 Wend Wax combo short/bib one-piece size M, 2 long-sleeve TLC jackets, 3 Pearl Izumi tights one of which is old and ratty, 1 pair Giro Empire road lace-ups (white), 1 pair Giro Empire (cross), 1 spare set of new Shimano cleats, 32 pairs of CitSB socks, 1 Giant TCX 2017 (size L) with FFWD disc wheels, SRAM Force,, 4 pairs long-fingered Giro gloves, assorted bike tools (lightly used, you can bet), assorted arm and leg warmers, 3 pairs of shoe covers, 2 rain jackets, one Stage 1 and one Specialized, two vests (one Rapha, size S, one TLC size M), full light set including Diablo 1300-lumen headlights x 2, ApaceVision rear lights x 2, Cygolite 150 rear x 1, 2 wheel bags, 6 tubes, 6 tires (25 mm, Conti and Vredestein), 3 Wend Wax sets with wax and cleaner, Cask Proton helmet size M, G3 tripod bike stand, 1 gallon of Simple Green, 3 rolls of shop towels, 25 shop rags, 1 Lezyne steel floor pump, assorted water bottles, 5 CO2 cartridges.
Yours for one dollar.
Getting into golf now, nothing left to achieve. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 16, 2018 § 20 Comments
There is a guy in our community who used to regularly tell me, apropos of nothing, “I don’t read your blog.”
I always applauded his discriminating literary taste, although he did strike me as a person whose lifetime exposure to long sentences and big words was a bit on the thin side, just as I was struck when he recently advised me that a particular (unread?) post here was “garbage.”
It is quite a phenomenon in the South Bay, where hardly anyone reads this lowbrow, badly written blog, yet somehow its contents are known by all as soon as I hit the “publish” button. I am researching how this occurs without resort to the technique known as “reading” and will let you know what I find when O.J. learns the identity of the real killer.
In addition to the aforementioned discriminating reader of the Great Books and Twitter, it is rumored that another presumed assiduous non-reader of this ratty publication copied and posted photos from here onto his Instabrag account. Perhaps he skipped the text and went straight to photos?
As another example of non-readership, I predict it will instantly be known and howled about when I remark on the absurdity of a four-man TTT at districts today reportedly putting about nine minutes on second place and recording the fastest time of the day among all categories by six minutes, when all of the riders on the winning team were over 50, and two were closer to 60.
One sad and plainly unfit rider averaged a measly 421 watts for 53 minutes, good for third place.
Please move along, folks. It is a scientific fact that the older you get, the faster you go. That is why 80% of the field in this year’s Giro was over the age of fifty, and a quarter of the field was over sixty-five.
Non-reading readers can always post comments anonymously, of course.
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June 15, 2018 § 2 Comments
We were all leaning on our bikes in the Flog parking lot, having just completed a breathless loop around the golf course when Goggle said, “Wanky, you’re the biggest wheelsucker in the South Bay.”
This really hurt my feelings. On Lap 1 I had only sucked wheel the whole way until I got dropped.
On Lap 2 I had only sucked the lead-out goat’s wheel, then sucked Goggle’s wheel, then sucked Medium Banana’s wheel, and just as I was about to win the sprunt Ol’ Father Time, who had been sucking my wheel the whole way, dusted me like a mop. I thought there was honor among thieves, er, wheelsucks, but I guess not.
On Lap 3 I sucked Goggle’s wheel until he faded and then sat on Medium Banana the whole way and sneaked around him for the win, only being in the wind for those last few seconds. Except for that I had hardly done any wheelsucking.
The remaining three laps I sat in a lot more and sucked Goggle’s wheel all the way to about 1/4 of the way up La Cuesta, when he shed me pretty good, like a snake leaving behind its worthless old skin. Aside from all that, I hadn’t sucked wheel at all.
Back in the day
“Before I was old I didn’t used to suck wheel hardly at all,” I told Goggle.
“Like, what mythical era was this?”
“Back when I was, you know, 50 or 51. I never sucked wheel then.”
Goggle rolled his eyes. “I rode with you then. You were an inveterate wheelsucker. Less finesse than now, but I sure never saw you from the behind. You’d be stuck to whoever was in front of you like a piece of toilet paper on a lady’s high heel walking out of the shitter.”
“Maybe I did suck wheel once or twice, but when I was in my 40’s I was always on the front.”
Goggle hadn’t started riding a bike back then because he was only four, so he didn’t say anything but he looked pretty skeptical, and with good cause. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I was a pretty awful wheelsuck, and always had been. The only times I ever found the front were either by mistake or because I made the wrong move at the wrong time or I had quit or flatted or all of the above.
Wheelsucking for fun and profit
Of course my proclivity to hide has never correlated with success, but there aren’t any riders who’ve ever done well in the sport at the elite level who haven’t mastered the art of hiding for as long as possible. The strongest rider never wins, it’s always the smartest strong rider, or the strongest smart rider, and “smart” almost always means hiding until you absolutely can’t any more.
As G3 once told me after he had dropped me going up to the Domes, “This, Wanky, is a sport of conservation.” Apparently I hadn’t properly conserved.
The more I thought about it, the really good riders suck wheel all the suckin’ time. Destroyer is a fuggin’ ninja wheelsuck, until he isn’t and you are by yourself, going backwards as he vanishes on the horizon. Strava Jr. sucks wheel like a baby on a bottle until it’s Go Time, and then he’s usually alone. Same for G$. Even Daniel Holloway generally hides and hides and hides so that you forget he’s there, then suddenly he crosses the line first. Whazzup with thaaaat?
Eddy Merckx? He had a whole team of disposables who he would burn through until the time was ripe to hit the jets. Salbutafroome? A veritable wheel leech except for those last few kilometers, which, I’m told, are when it matters. Lance Drugstrong? Never hit the wind if he didn’t have to, and he made sure he hardly ever had to.
And please don’t tell me about Jacky Durand or those other epic conquerors who soloed from Kilometer 1. They’re the exception that proves the effectiveness of good pharmaceuticals, and they are outliers. Most of the time if you want to survive among your peers you had better scurry like a rat to the fattest, widest wheel you can find.
Oh, the shame of it all
Yet, it is shameful to cower and hide, abusing the person in front of you for his or her girth and superior wattage, only to dump him later or simply to tag along like a tick stuck in a damp, awkward crack, free riding the whole dang way. There is something noble about being the dumb loser who pushes the wind endlessly only to get swarmed at the end, the tough rider who shoulders the load while others make themselves tiny at the back.
“Go to the front!” we used to say in the South Bay, something that we said a lot more often than we did, except perhaps for Head Down James.
In fact, Destroyer once told me I was ruining an entire generation of racers by telling them to go to the front. “If you want to win, pounding the front is the last place you should be,” he said. “Towards the front, for sure, but grinding on the front? Dude, that’s how you lose races.”
“Yeah,” I’d say, “but we aren’t racing.”
“Wanky,” he said with a fatherly smile even though he was ten years younger, “you race like you train.”
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June 13, 2018 § 9 Comments
At the world famous Telo training race every Tuesday night, there is huge variety with the same outcome. The variety lies in the the various breakaways that get established, the antics of the riders careening through the turns as they avoid steel plates, loose gravel, orange warning cones, oncoming traffic, and the wobbly person ahead of them, all things that seem like they might lead to a different outcome but almost never do.
The outcome is like this: Frexit, EA Sports, Inc., or Hair win the sprint.
Every blue moon or so it turns out otherwise, like last week when Medium Banana ganged up with Team Lizard Collectors and stuck it to The Man, but the exception proves the rule: You can’t sprint, you ain’t hardly ever gonna win.
That’s what happened this week, too. EA Sports, Inc. banged open the door about three or four laps in, waltzed away with Medium Banana, was joined by Surfer and Ivan the Terrible, put 40 seconds on the field, cat-and-moused towards the end, then led it out and won by a gazillion bike lengths.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Hair, who was still recovering from bubonic plague, kicked it hard from the front out of the last turn and booted Sockman out the back with the ease of a FedEx dude dumping a clunky box off at the curb. He finished so far ahead he looked like Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes.
After the race one of guys who got pureed asked Hair, who should know, “How do you sprint?”
Hair shrugged. “It’s pretty simple,” he said. “Pick good parents.”
Reading this blog is like having your own personal bike racing coach, you know, the dude who follows the maxim “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!