July 20, 2016 § 21 Comments
There is a new poison in the herbicide arsenal, stronger than Roundup, Banish, Barren, and TK-10 all lumped together, one so nasty and lethal that where it is poured nothing will thrive, nothing will grow, nothing will live.
We started Telo last night with our eyes glued to the fancy winner’s jersey plastered on the back of Smasher, knowing that whatever else happened, it was going to hurt us more than it hurt him, and it would be unendurable. Smasher’s race plan was simple: Smash.
His ultimate goal? Get the winner’s jersey for his teammate Derek the Destroyer, who a couple of weeks ago had officially retired as a profamateur, gained ten pounds, quit training, and places top-five now in every race he enters.
My plan was simple. Follow Smasher’s wheel, also known as Belling the Cat. Destroyer opened Lap 3 with a fierce attack, which I easily followed. All I had to do was go harder than I’ve ever gone in my life, then add ten percent. We were quickly reabsorbed. After following Destroyer around for another lap or so it seemed wise to slip farther back.
We had a large field of broken and hopeless wankers, none of whom had the slightest chance of surviving the carnage that was about to be unleashed. In a flash, just as I had settled back to check my phone and see how much money I’d lost for the day on Chinese real estate stocks, Destroyer went again and took six riders with him.
Being at the back when the winning break rolls is the stupidest feeling in the world. You watch it happen from afar, slack-jawed at your bad judgment, while all of the idiots around you either don’t know what’s happening, don’t care what’s happening, or, like me, pray to dog that someone will take the bit between his teeth and do all of the nasty work dragging you up to the split.
Then I spied Smasher, who was cheerily pedaling along, not the least concerned. “That wanker,” I said to myself. “He totally missed the split.” So I got on his wheel while a few panicked riders took turns trying to organize a chase.
[*Note to non-racers: “Organize a chase” is a fantasy concept that exists in the minds of people who think that a group of people who hate each other will work together for a common cause, cf. Republican National Convention in Cleveland.]
As we rounded Turn 4, I saw Smasher, who is British, arch his lower back slightly, tighten his grip on the drops, and push down harder on the pedals. “This is it, here comes Brexit!” I laughed to myself, jumping hard on the pedals so that I’d already have a head of steam when Smasher launched his bridge.
When Brexit came I was already accelerating, already committed, already fully prepared to follow Nigel Farrage in his destruction of the common European weal–except that I wasn’t. Smasher opened up a bike length, then two, then five, then ten, and then he was a tiny speck far, far ahead as I sagged in no-person’s-land. I don’t know how many watts he expended, but Strava says I was at my max of 253 watts, so he was putting out at least 14,000 or so.
There is a moment in every race that is decisive, which is another way of saying there is a moment in every race when everyone gives up hope, digs into their suitcase of excuses, tries several on until finding one that fits, and then takes comfort in finishing with the other losers in the fourth chase group. I slunk to the back and congratulated myself on having had the wisdom to miss the split and to choose the Wheel That Shall Not Be Followed.
However, the Brexit plot thickened. The other losers back in the EU chase group were unwilling to be losers just yet, and the breakaway lost steam as Scotland insisted it would Screxit from the UK and Scrontinue with the EU. After an eternity of riding at ridiculous speeds through cracks in turns, lapping gassed riders who would jump in, gap me out, then re-explode, after battering into the headwind where each pedal stroke felt like algebra, the incredible happened: Smasher and Boozy P. came back. Brexit was going to be put to a re-vote.
The losers took heart; the remnants of Destroyer’s break were a mere 200 yards away! They had been caught!
Except, since they were still 200 hundred yards away, they hadn’t been.
They shed a couple more riders.
They were just within reach, kind of like good interest rates in someone else’s mythical portfolio.
Then, at the key moment in the race, I did what I’m known far and wide for: I cowered and hoped someone else would do for me what I was too lazy to do for myself.
No one did, and the 200 turned to 300. Fortunately, Smasher was still with us, until, of course, he wasn’t. He leaped across the windy gap in Brexit II, caught Destroyer and Steinhafel, and the three of them immediately put an entire half-lap on the twenty remaining losers, all of whom lost.
There was some sprunting for scraps, but I couldn’t be bothered to watch Destroyer pull on his first ever victory tunic, which of course he’d won in retirement. With the Union shattered and the cycling grass roots poisoned with buckets of all-kill herbicide, it was a great way to end the day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been having my new Leather Volt break down, which happily it did.
At least I’m not bitter.
Photos courtesy of Joe Yule!
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July 3, 2016 § 27 Comments
I gave up about thirty years ago trying to make people feel better about my 68th place in the parking lot crit. Now I don’t even tell anyone I’m racing, and my family knows better than to ask, “How’d it go?” Still, every now and then a friend of a friend or a friend of a family member gets a whiff of the bike race, and in kindness and curiosity and ignorance they peg me with “How was your race?”
This happened last night at the table. Some friends of the kids had come over for dinner and they had brought their dogs. I love dogs. We were talking about the grandbaby and about how he hadn’t shit for the last couple of days. I’d forgotten how dinner table talk changes with an infant, and a two-day shit hiatus was quite relevant to everyone’s existence because now it was just a matter of when, how much, and who was going to be holding him cooing “He’s SOOOO adorable!” at the moment he uncorked a diaper buster.
In between shit speculation I kept an eye on the dogs, one of whom was doing the Itchy Ass Butt Scoot on our carpet. That’s the thing where the dog drags its butthole over every square inch of the floor with a happy look on its face and dares you to stop him. Of course we lie on the carpet along with the baby, and it was great to see that we were going to have a whole new intestinal biota to build baby’s immune system. I was less thrilled about my own immune system, which was already pretty strong and didn’t need another dog-ass inoculation, but oh, well. Guests and their pets.
About the time the butt scoot wrapped up, the other dog did the Pink Wet Dick Couch Drag. You know this one, it is so cute. The dog lets his giant pink penis flop out on the couch and it just hangs there, leaving a snail trail as he waggles it from side to side. As a man it’s hard not to envy anyone who can simply show the world his engorged sloppy dick and, with a stupid smile, say, “See? That’s my glistening wet dick. How do you like it?”
Of course the guests were total butt-scoot & dick-drag pros, so we all laughed it off with “Aren’t they cute?” and “What a nice penis!” and “Dogshit on my clothes is so DTLA!” and we all pretended that it was totally cool and we continued with dinner. That’s when the guest, who had heard I had been to a bike race, asked The Question That Shall Not Be Asked.
“How was your bike race? I heard you went to a bike race?”
I put down my fork. “It went great, thanks.”
And then The Question That Shall Not Be Asked Even More Than The Other Unaskable One: “Did you win?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. How’d you do?”
“I got next to last, I think.”
“Oh, that’s terrible. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. I often get that.”
Now the awkwardness really set in. Dog asses on your host’s carpet, no prob. Wet pink dick on the leather couch? Cool, man. But next to last in a bike race? AWKWARD because, now sitting at dinner with a loser.
I tried to explain. “I’ve been losing at bike races for almost forty years.”
That made it even worse. The guests were inconsolable. Even the dog pulled his dick back in. So I explained.
“Look, you know how in football there are two teams?” They perked up at the mention of a real sport.
“Well in football there is one winner and one loser, right?”
“In bicycle racing there are 119 dribbling prostates, kind of like your dog there, but only one winner.”
“So everyone loses except that one guy. Bike racers are losers. That’s all they do is lose. A .500 season in football usually won’t get you into the playoffs. A .300 winning record in bicycling makes you the winningest bike racer of all time.”
“Oh,” they said, their glum responses confirming what they already knew, which is that bicycle racing was really stupid.
“Yeah. So when you win a bike race it’s a big deal, even though it’s some stupid old farts’ race in Compton. There were 119 other idiots who lost and who all have to go home and explain to the guests at the dinner table why they’re losers.”
They stared into the gourmet dinner bowl of beans and rice. “So why do you do it if you never win?” The woman was patting the grandbaby, who had been transferred over to her lap so she could experience the joy of feeding a tiny child. It was the perfect transition from delusional old man loser to bright-future-adorable-little-thing.
“He’s sooooo adorable!” she said.
And on cue, he delivered.
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June 23, 2016 § 16 Comments
It’s not because you don’t put out enough power, or don’t have a good enough bike, or don’t have the right coach, or aren’t on the right drugs.
It’s not because you have a job, because this is just a hobby, because you take your family obligations seriously, or because you can’t leave work early or start work late.
It’s not because your legs are too short, your tummy’s too round, your neck’s too stiff, or your body is better at “endurance” than “short” events.
It’s not because you drank too much beer the night before, or you had to service someone, or they served you gluten pancakes by mistake, or the ectrolytes in your bottle were frazzy raspberry instead of chunky chocolate.
It’s not because you’re mostly a climber, or mostly a rouleur, or mostly a time-trailer, or mostly a lead-out rider, or mostly a sprunter but only from 100-yards with a lead-out train.
It’s not because your FTP is low, your HR is high, your VO2 is average, or your prostate is prolapsed.
It’s none of those things.
It’s because you aren’t Aaron Fucking Wimberley. And guess what? You never will be.
Aaron is of course a metaphor, but he’s a metaphor writ large. He’s been off the bike since last summer, logs a hundred miles a week if that, works 50 hours a week, has an actual personal life, and when stuff gets busy, as it has for the last year, his bike sits in the corner and gathers dust.
But on race day, which yesterday was, when Aaron came out to the Telo crit, the famed crit that now offers a champion’s custom jersey and SEVEN WHOLE DAYS of undisputed bragging rights, when he showed up along with Jules Gilliam, Rudy Napolitano, David Wells, Josh Alverson, Jon Davy, Francis Hardiman (omit the “i” and you’ll know all you never need to know about that dude), Alex Barnes, James Doyle, Chainbreak, Casey Macguire, and an entire throng of pack fodder, with every single rider planning on getting that jersey, and Rudy launching artillery rounds every lap and Josh countering with bunker busters and Jules slashing everyone with a machete and the group gradually reducing to its barest essence like a fine French consomme, and the pace so torrid most of the time all you could do was grit your fuggin’ teeth and curse blood, and Aaron, the guy with the least miles and the least fitness, hiding, thinking, suffering, thinking, following, thinking, waiting, and thinking until all the body blows had been landed and all the howitzer shells had been spent and the machete blades had broken off and the last lap was tear-your-cheeks-off-fast and people crumpled and folded like bad origami and with a thousand long yards to go whenJules sprang free, he had it he had it he had it he had it until he didn’t, which was about the time that Aaron gave it one perfectly planned and immaculately thought out hard kick, the only kick he’d given all day because it was the only kick he had, and he’d been saving it like North Korea with its one functioning nuke, and the timing was perfect and the power was perfect and the line was perfect and the acceleration was perfect and all everyone else could do was slump and sigh and groan as their jersey dreams went up in a puff of smoke and bad bong water.
Because winning bike races takes legs, but what it really takes is brains.
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June 15, 2016 § 16 Comments
We had six laps to go at Telo last night, which has evolved from a skull-splitting massacre by the strong of the weak into something even worse thanks to the introduction of the now-famed Telo World Championship jersey.
The rules are unclear as to whether you have to turn over your jersey if you lose, or whether former winners can wear their jersey during the race, but if you win the race you get the jersey, designed by StageOne Sports with curlicue flourishes to remind everyone that whatever else Telo is, it’s nastily windy.I showed up last night for the first time since the jersey was introduced and noticed that not only were all the hitters present and accounted for, but a Velo Club La Grange squad comprised of Austin Powers, Sausage, and Surfer Dan had shown up with the specific intent to rip the jersey off of David’s back and take it back to the west side, preferably with a few heads mounted on pikes to serve as warnings or as appetizers for Patrick Barret’s legendary barbecue.
The plan to keep my powder dry for the first thirty minutes didn’t survive first contact with the enemy, or the second, or the third, and in fact after five minutes my powder was soaking wet. The second 2:20 lap shed half the field and the third lap split the field again. Simple math suggested that if the field continued its torrid process of mitosis there would soon be no one left.
Stuck in the chase group I chased hard, which is another way of saying I sat on Davy’s wheel while he chased hard, then sat on Sausage’s wheel while he chased sort of hard, then sat on Carlos’s wheel while he didn’t chase hard at all, then sat on Patrick’s wheel while he sat on other people’s wheel, and then barely stuck my nose into the wind, realized it was blowing hard and directly into my face, and crawled back into my hole.
Soon the entire school of remoras were firmly attached to Davy’s mighty thighs, and after much sturm, much drang, and extreme discomfort, Davy dragged us back to the leaders.
Smasher and Derek attacked repeatedly and were repeatedly brought back. Then with six laps to go and everyone starting to calculate just exactly how they were going to get that pretty new jersey, I cruised into the headwind section and gradually pulled away.
I looked back and saw a huge gap which was bad. When you are old and weak and alone and in a headwind, the only possible outcomes are bad, worse, and worst. In this case of course it turned out being worst, because Smasher, Rico Swervy, and Austin Powers bridged up. Imagine being a guppy swimming happily with your other guppy tankmates and then suddenly some idiot dumps a catfish into the aquarium.
The first thing that the bridgers did, of course, is ride past me so that I had to swim extra hard to latch on. After a lap they began riding even faster. Then they began screaming at me. I wasn’t sure what they said due to the wind and my breathing but piecing each of the shouts together it sounded like this:
Smasher: …. through … catch … !
Austin Powers: Pull … you … the … gonna … you …!
Rico Swervy: … field … us … sake!
I marveled at the air from their lungs they were able to spare in order to repeatedly shout and spit at me; having none myself I endured the singularly horrible combination of verbal and physical abuse. At one point on the tailwind straightaway Austin Powers went so fast that my field of vision became a tiny dot of wheeze, not a speck wider than the 23mm of his rear tire.
Did they not know that I was 52 years old? Did they not understand that 52 is no match for 20, 30, and 40? Did they not understand that I had sprinters back in the field? Did they not understand that I wasn’t pulling through because I was totally pinned? Were they frustrated at my presence, which seemed to indicate that none of them were really all that good if they couldn’t ride away from a grandfather?
Smasher urged some more and then attacked and rode away and won.
Austin and Rico screamed and attacked but didn’t ride away, perhaps because they couldn’t. As we approached the finish they looked back in a panic. “You sprinting?” Austin begged, unaware that of all my bad qualities, sitting in a break at a training race and sprinting for second wasn’t one of them.
I said more nothing, as I’d been saying for the last six laps.
After the race Smasher was awarded the jersey as all of the dead, near-dead, and going-to-be-dead-later riders stood around and imagined themselves in that natty Lycra pullover. He smiled. He mugged. Then he singled me out: “Why didn’t you pull through?”
Everyone looked at me. “Congratulations, Josh,” I said.
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June 12, 2016 § 23 Comments
Tomorrow there is a championship bicycle race for old flaccid fellows with leaky prostates and I intend to win it.
Please advise the promoter that I wear a size small champion’s jersey.
Before you roll your eyes so far up into your head that the optic nerve shows, consider that this is a detailed victory plan built upon the three B’s: Wax, Wheels, and Bread.
Prior to assembling the perfect game plan I carefully analyzed my results on the CBR Flaccid Fellows race course over the last few years:
2015: 4th, 3rd
We will ignore for a moment that those are the cherry-picked results from the ten thousand times I’ve done this race. What we will not ignore is that of all the racing I’ve done, this is the only one with even the faintest, remotest tint of possibility with regard to a win. In other words, it may be completely hopeless, but it’s infinitely less hopeless than winning UCLA Punchbowl for example, where my results have been 38th, 24th, 29th, DNF, 15th, DNF, and 32nd.
Having run the statistical analysis and concluded that tomorrow is unquestionably my day to win, a number of problems presented themselves, in order of importance:
- Why are you such a delusional old fool?
- How are going to beat Bart Clifford?
- How are you going to beat Craig Miller?
- How are you going to beat Ted Rupp?
- How are you going to beat James Wiznura?
- How are you going to beat Marvin Hall?
- How are you going to beat Kenny Rogers?
- How are you going to beat Steve Gregorios?
- You are going to beat Anthony Reguero.
- How are you going to beat Josh Gruenberg?
- How are you going to beat all the other people you’ve never beaten before who will be in the race and who will be primed and ready for the kill?
Fortunately, my battle plan effectively resolves each of the above problems with scientific efficiency by applying the three B’s: Wax, Wheels, and Bread.
The first B, of course, is Wend Wax. By proper application of this space age technology which dates back to the Qin Dynasty, 221–206 BC, which was actually several years before carbon frames and wireless shifting, I am able to ensure that my bike gains an estimated 2,305 gigawatts in power at the decisive moment in the race.
Unfortunately for No. 1-11 above, it’s too late for them to get a Brazilian chain wax job before tomorrow as I ordered three containers of all existing Wend product and they won’t have more until Monday. Sucks to be you, suckahs.
The first step in plan B is of course to properly prep the surgical field, a trick I learned from Dr. Sherri Foxworthy, an expert in prepped fields. With the Qin Dynasty Wend chain cleaner-upper I carefully remove all unsightly hairs along the bikini line as follows:
Next I sealed the victory deal with careful application of the roll-on waxy stick which ensures crisp shifting, minimal friction between the chain and the toothy thingies, and also smells good and you should slap on a roll or two under your arms when you’re teeing up for that special first date with Ms. Swipe Left.
Now that I’m all waxed up and feeling smooth and sexy and happily well-scented in prepration for being on the top step, even though I WON’T be raising my arms like some clown on a trampoline, it’s time for the second B: Wheels.
Nothing is more critical to my race plan than the lethal acceleration of the FastForward F2R Wheelset Unpaid Advertorial Except for Those Two Pairs of Free Bib Shorts ($500 retail value, thanks JD). The FFWD F2R wheel is simply the finest 100% carbon full carbon wheel that accelerates very fast in a forward kind of way. It is highly superior to the Mercury/Zipp/Enve/Mavic Fast Backward models, which are made of only 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% not-quite-full carbon and have been laboratory and wind tunnel tested to deliver more speed when going in reverse but less speed than FFWD when traveling forward. So ask yourself: “Would I rather go fast backward or fast forward?” Duh.
While Problem Numbers 1-11 will all be using a deeper profile 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% not-quite-full carbon wheelset, the F2R will prove decisive in my victory bid because although slightly less aero than the deeper dish wheelsets, the unbearable lightness of being compared to heavier wheels allows for much quicker acceleration out of the turns, and more importantly, when I make my winning move which is designed to break the others with my tremendous power.
FFWD F2R, in addition to lots of capital letters, comes with an ass-kicking thing that lets you put air in and let air out to your desired specifications. And no, don’t bother asking my ace mechanic Boozy P. to glue on your fuggin’ tubulars. He’s busy today if you’re in my race.
The final part of my victory Plan B trifecta is of course bread, and that means none other than Mrs. WM’s homemade staff of life, hot out of the oven, finished on a cooling board, and slathered in heaps of soft butter the mere sight of which will cause Surfer Dan and MMX to break out into a cold sweat.
By carbo and fat and yeast loading on a full loaf of Mrs. WM’s wonder bread and a full stick of butter my muscles and tummy will be supercharged with the power needed to unleash my tremendous power just as everyone else gets flabby, flaccid, and weak at the knees, while at the same time the extra bread power will go straight to my brain and unlock amazing powers of on-the-fly race analysis and canny strategic placement that guarantees victory.
The fourth and final prong of my Three B’s plan is of course “Speedsuit.” Each race, people get more and more envious of my StageOne speedsuit with its speedy dimples and its cool product placement of sponsor names like Beachbody Performance, which supplies me with excellent recovery chocolate milk that I can drink after races to recover from the bread and butter. With its speedy look, form fitting clingy-ness and slinky girlish fit just above my hairy and bony knees this outfit adds a dozen watts to any effort and doubles as gorgeous evening attire for any kinky party with leather-clad people who have names like Chester, Malvolio, Sir Pain, and Prissy Bitchyface.
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June 4, 2016 § 6 Comments
In Italy they are describing Vincenzo Nibali’s comeback and Giro d’Italia victory as one of the greatest comebacks in professional cycling. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Nibs to get the skinny on this most incredible, amazing, unbelievable, hard-to-swallow, astonishing, fact-defying, physiologically impossible, doubtful, suspicious, believable if you’re a complete fool, impressive and astounding victory
CitSB: How’d you do it?
Nibs: It was a miracle, a holy gift from above.
CitSB: A week to go in the race and you had crumbled, your bid was in ruins after losing 37 seconds on the big Dolomite stage to Corvara, and then you collapsed quicker than a Trump quote run through Fact-Check, losing close to two minutes in the mountain time trial to Alpe di Siusi.
Nibs: It was the depth of defeat, I had lost everything, the Holy Father was up all night praying in the sadness.
CitSB: Then you pulled a wanker move of the highest order, losing a further 1:47 on the relatively easy mountain stage to Andalo, a stage that, frankly, my grandmother could have beaten you on.
Nibs: It was zero, nothing, niente, everyone was stepping on my testicles. To bed every night, crying like the baby with dry teat.
CitSB: You seemed close to throwing in the towel and quitting the race. What was going on?
Nibs: I had the problem with my forma, everyt’ing in destitution, length of crank, motivazione, but it was over for me.
CitSB: So what happened?
Nibs: My team manager Alexander Vinokourov told me to pray to the Baby Jesus and only do the pan y agua and he go to Kazakhstan on special overnight trip and come back with special vitamin drink made from root of lubbertink.
CitSB: Root of lubbertink?
Nibs: Special Kazakhstan magic herb to replenish precious bodily fluids.
Nibs: Comes in special Kazakh plastic bag with I.V. drip.
CitSB: I see. That “magic herb.”
Nibs: I know what you t’inking. I have the two giant stages in the Alps and am out of the gasoline. How Nibali he can win? Dat’s what you t’inking. Nibali he doping shit-ass. Dat’s what you t’inking. Nibali cheat-ass doping cheat-ass bici lying volcano-doping shit-ball, dat’s what you t’inking.
CitSB: Well, yes.
Nibs: Itsa root of lubbertink and Sicilian pride and instinct, and destiny child when Kruijswijk fall off his bici onto head, putting Dutchman in trouble and bandage. I believe in my resurrection and complete masterpiece by dropping Chaves on the Colle della Lombarda like smelly sack of turd off tall cliff.
CitSB: Physiologically it doesn’t add up. One week you can’t pedal, then in the hardest week of the race you grow wings.
Nibs: Itsa look funny but I gotta trust Vino. He know how to pull the pepper outta the sausage.
CitSB: Anything else?
Nibs: Pan y agua and Sicilian pride.
CitSB: And root of lubbertink.
Nibs: And root of lubbertink.
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