June 30, 2015 § 18 Comments
I attacked and got away with five laps to go. Woof-Woof came with me. I had been going pretty hard throughout the race trying to cause a split, and he started taking some really solid pulls, which hurt bad. I would come through on the downhill/crosswind section, which was tough but not as tough as the turns and the uphill section, which he was taking full throttle, intent on sticking it out to the end.
Woof-Woof started yelling at me to “work” and “not be a pussy,” thereby violating the first law of sales and bike racing: If you’re explaining, you’re losing.
I started laughing as he got angrier and angrier. His best line was “If you want to ride with the big dogs you better work, goddamn it!”
“Arf, arf!” I said.
“He is one of the funniest people alive,” I laughed to myself, so much comedy wrapped up in so much seriousness over a bicycle race being fought between grandpas.
Then when Woof-Woof’s brother, THOG, and Genghis bridged to us with my teammate tucked in neatly behind, Woof-Woof began screaming and banging his handlebars in fury and frustration. His likely first and guaranteed second had just fizzled to fifth, at best.
I began laughing so hard at Woof-Woof’s curses that THOG mistakenly thought I still had more gas in the tank. This was a fatal error because I fizzled badly in the finish, and THOG had to come around a slowly imploding Big Blue Bus rather than a clean, fast lead-out.
In the end, Woof-Woof’s brother beat him (again) and Woof-Woof barely nudged by me for fifth. Afterwards he was still so angry that he came up to me and said contemptuously, “After all that work I did you were still gonna try to beat me in the sprint, huh?” Implication: Does the mouse challenge the tiger?
I smiled and congratulated him. “Good racing,” I said. “What a schmo! And such a serious schmo!” I thought.
Of course he’d been Invisible Violet until the moment of the breakaway, and I had fired several shells too many. As we cooled down THOG humiliated him in front of everyone. “Wanky’s a classy rider,” he said, looking at Woof-Woof. “Always takes his pulls.”
Compliments like that are a rare thing from the guy with the rainbow stripes on his sleeve, compliments to be treasured, even when — or especially when — you’re last in the break.
Best day of racing, maybe ever.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog. But if you have to choose between that and good coffee, go with the coffee. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here.
June 27, 2015 § 83 Comments
If you don’t know Brad House, you should. He’s a long-time former California resident and bike racer who operates Back on Track Promotions. Back on Track puts on a couple of races each year, notably the LAX Circuit Race and the upcoming Hotter ‘n Hell Hill Climb at Mt. Baldy.
I support everyone’s right to voice their opinion. Even people who are racist or homophobic have a constitutional right to voice their opinions. Fortunately, Brad is not letting his free speech right wither on the vine, because on Facebook he voices his support for the Confederate flag as “heritage” and shares messages that disparage homosexual equality under “Christian” principles.
Although Brad has the right to voice these opinions, I think it’s healthy for the riders that race, the clubs and volunteers that support the event, and the governmental entities that grant his permits to ask whether or not this is the kind of promoter who reflects their values. And although Confederate flag-loving, anti-gay opinions are constitutional, do they represent you? Do you want to contribute money to people who support these ideas?
Brad has the right to support a flag associated with the Confederacy. The Confederacy was an illegal rebellion that tried to destroy the United States of America through violence. The rebels’ war killed over 600,000 people, and the its aim was to preserve slavery. Slavery was a system in which white people bought and sold black people for money and legally used them as property. Under this system, blacks had no human rights of any kind. Many people believe that the racial problems we have in America today are a direct result of slavery.
If you like the Confederacy and you believe in its principles, if you think that our nation would be better today split in half, part free and part slave, and if you think that the Confederate flag represents your values, I encourage you to support Brad and his races.
But if you think that the flag is a symbol of hate and that it represents a failed, violent, terrorist attempt to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and government in order to maintain slavery — if you associate the flag with the Ku Klux Klan, the lynching of blacks, and as a symbol of our ongoing racial divide — then I suggest you stay away from Brad’s races.
More than that, I hope you share with other people how you feel, as well as the fact that Brad cross-posts anti-gay “Christian” messages while seeking support from California racers and clubs. Did I mention that Brad lives most of the year in Texas?
Many of us in the SoCal racing community are gay, all of us have gay friends and family members. Do we like Brad’s brand of race promotion, a brand underlain by homophobia and promotion of the Confederate racial hate flag?
I don’t think we do–I certainly don’t.
So rather than voting on Facebook and engaging in meaningless arguments, where Brad enjoys taunting California bike racers who are either gay, black, supporters of gun control, atheist, Democrat, or liberals, vote with your race registrations and let him know that while you support his right to freedom of speech, you won’t subsidize it through bicycle racing.
Brad can develop a successful business model for bike racing here in SoCal, where he is the go-to guy for racers who are anti-gay, anti-black, pro-KKK, and who want to wear a Stars-and-Bars champion’s jersey. Brad could even make that his business emblem so people know exactly what they’re getting.
His next race on the calendar is August 15. There’s plenty of time to make sure people know that when they give money to Brad, they’re supporting his beliefs with their money.
Pass the word on, and if you’re feeling especially energetic send a letter or two to the entities that permit Brad’s races. Who knows? They may have a black person or (gasp!) a gay one on their board. But I’m sure they’ll understand.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog. Some people say you shouldn’t talk about politics and race because it’s taboo. I think they’re wrong. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3R5KGQZ
June 25, 2015 § 6 Comments
The whole team was amped up as they got ready for Day Two. Everyone was still buzzing from the victory of the first day and the fact that none of the ten thousand Tulsa drunks had staggered onto the course in the final 200m or started shooting their automatic weapons for fun and good times. Huge sweaty Tulsanians lumbered through the streets with manure shovels as they cleared out the neatly piled mounds of partially digested pizza, beer, sausage, tequila, and tenderized stomach linings.
Our hero and eventual champion Daniel Holloway sat down in the war room with his team of chieftains to plot out the plan of mayhem and slaughter. Everyone was assigned a particular and especial role for the day, which was this:
- Don’t fuggin’ crash.
- Take Holloway through the last corner at 40.
- Get the fugg’ out of the way.
The team headed over to the start of the race. As they warmed up, Holloway saw that his family had driven up from prison in Texas to watch him obliterate the field. He enjoyed seeing them not wearing orange jumpsuits and manacles and to have a quick catch-up on the status of their death row appeals before finishing his race prep.
At the neutral service tent he dialed in air pressure for the race, as the final corner would be the key to success or death on this day’s course. Rain was predicted, but this was Oklahoma, where weather forecasting is more an illusion than a science, and where you can always be right at some point in the day if you predict “withering heat, gale force winds, heat prostration, death for the elderly, and another year of failed crops and dead livestock.”
The radar showed rain for the first thirty minutes, but in Tulsa in June the ambient air temperature is so scalding that any rainfall for less than an hour turns to steam before it ever hits the ground.
The pro men’s field finally lined up to race. The roads were soaked from the twelve raindrops in the downpour that hadn’t evaporated. Holloway started on the front row due to the previous day’s win, which was a great advantage as any fool could see that wet roads, Oklahoma bike racers, and more than five cash dollars at stake would mean bodies stacked up higher than a woodpile in the first turn.
The riders who didn’t fully understand tire pressure and whose bike handling on slick roads was sub-par were about to get what is known as “on the job training,” kind of like they did in World War I when you got your first practice with live fire the first time you got shoved over the lip of a trench into the mouth of a machine gun.
On the third lap a rider slid out in front of Holloway, practicing his best ballet pointe upside down on his head. Cued by the shrieks and shattering carbon, Holloway ramped it up to thin the herd and give the medic tent something serious to work on.
A small break of seven formed formed with the acceleration, but one of the members who was racing without a team decided to “pull an Alverson” and quit working in the break. This was greeted by the other breakaway riders with the same enthusiasm as when one member of a group dying from thirst in the desert seizes the last bit of water and uses it to wash his hair.
The sit-in-wanker could have simply rotated through and kept up appearances, which would have let the smoothly functioning break lap the field. SIW, who was a good bike handler and fast sprinter, could easily have wound up on the podium. However, having washed his nasty scalp with the last cupful of water, his dying mates decided to rip out his throat and drink his blood as they eased up and let the pack devour the break.
With twelve laps to go, Holloway’s teammates Murderella and Despot adjusted the rhythm of the field so he could rest. They stayed patient, let the other teams who wanted facetime and bragtime do the work, and saved their legs. Murderella hit the wind with three to go and strung out the field for three straight laps like a good pole dancer stretches out a g-string. Despot again kept Holloway hidden from the wind until the perfect moment.
Just after the second to last corner Despot turned on the gas, giving Holloway a major panic attack as he tried to stay on Despot’s rapidly accelerating wheel. As with the day before, Despot let Holloway slide slightly inside to deter anyone from sneaking under for the win, and left the ideal and fast line just outside for his captain. Holloway had a good gap at the start of the sprint and held it until the line, with enough time to prepare a twelve-course Japanese kaiseki meal, change clothes, and overhaul his car’s transmission before second place crossed the line.
Day 3: The Day that Holloway Cried on Cry Baby Hill
Overcome with excitement and nerves as he awoke on the final day, Holloway was thrilled to be leading the race and to have had two wins. Cry Baby Hill is tough and would be made tougher by the throngs of screaming, puking, collapsing, tit-baring, grabassing, cycling-crazed fans who were lining the road like jackals on meth fighting over the entrails of a dead wildebeest.
The team’s plan was somewhat complicated, but boiled down to this:
- Don’t fuggin’ crash.
- Keep Holloway from getting shelled on the climb.
- Drag Holloway over the line dead or alive, preferably alive.
Everyone got a good spot on the starting line to control the race and keep an eye on things, “things” being Holloway, who was rapidly falling apart at the seams.
The first time up the hill he knew something wasn’t right. Was it the 250-lb. guy on Team Lasagna and Meatballs who passed him like he was tied to a stump? Was it his knee, which had swollen to the size of a grapefruit? Or was it the moan of pain he was uttering even though it was only Lap One and no one was going hard yet?
His legs were off, his body was off, and no matter how he tried, Lasagna and Meatballs Guy kept passing him in the turns. Holloway didn’t have his normal pop that he could use to move around giant clogstacles like Lasagna and Meatballs Guy. He didn’t have the ability to carry his cadence up the hill, no gear felt right, and every so often he would almost pass out as Lasagna and Meatballs Guy would reach into the back of his jersey, haul out a giant slab of cold pizza and wolf it down, spraying Holloway with day-old grease and large pieces of pepperoni.
It was going to be a very long day and he would probably gain ten pounds to boot.
Finally the grease and pepperoni and 120-degree heat and screaming drunks and tattooed breasts and piles of puke in the turns got to be too much and all he could do was pray for ice water to pour on himself. As he raced by at 12 mph he croaked out “Water! Please!” to one of the spectators. It was a last ditch effort to stay out of the ditch, and the spectator had a son in the race who Holloway often raced against. The dad didn’t have to help, but he did and the water got Holloway to the end of the race, where the generous spectator had to watch his progeny lose yet again.
After the finish and some panicked calculations, Holloway learned that despite collapsing into a puddle of grease and getting beaten by Lasagna and Meatballs Guy, he had held onto his lead and won the overall. With a sigh of relief after one of the hardest days he’d ever had on a bike, the team went out to the Tulsa Hooter’s and Pipe Fitting Supply Co. and Brewery and Super Rooter Servicing Company, LLP, Inc., and blew the entire $12 overall cash prize on a beer coaster.
The boys were tough, but Tulsa, it seems, was tougher.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and learn what happens when you “pull and Alverson.” Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 24, 2015 § 8 Comments
When you say “Tulsa Tough,” most people think of a very hard bike race, but I just think of what Tulsa spells when I read it backwards.
Fact is, Tulsa is one of the most miserable places in Oklahoma, which is like saying it’s the dirtiest port-o-let on the construction site. Tulsa is hot. Tulsa is windy. Tulsa is filled with college kids who have nothing to do except choose between studying to pass classes to get jobs that won’t make the slightest dent in their six-figure student loans, or drink nonstop for seven years or however long it takes to pass Bonehead English.
Fortunately, the things that make Tulsa a miserable hell-hole filled with drunken, redneck, bigoted bumpkins are the very things that make it the perfect venue for one of America’s best bike races. The nasty climate, the art deco architecture planted pointlessly in a shabby oil town, and most of all Crybaby Hill all combine to make bike racers ride as fast as they can to get the damned thing over with and back to infinitely better places, like Dallas.
The 2015 edition of the race is the story of Daniel Holloway, a guy who I practically taught how to ride a bike. The weekend before Tulsa Tough he’d had some very discouraging rides in bumfuck Illinois or Indiana or Iowansas. Along with sagging morale that was drooping lower than a sailor after two weeks of shore leave in Bangkok, his knee tendon had flared up again, a lingering injury from last year when Manslaughter, Surfer Dan, Pablo, A-Trav and I took him off a cliff on his road bike and watched him fall teen feet off a ledge and onto his knee.
If you can’t beat a four-time national champ, at the very least you can injure him and hopefully ruin his career.
The tendon kept him off the bike for a couple of days, made it impossible to walk, and caused massive sleep disruption and anxiety that he would not only miss Tulsa Tough but also not get to take a couple of Strava KOM’s.
Lacking transportation, and too cheap to go to a doctor, he turned to Dr. Google, and after watching the Home Surgery Channel (Note to readers: DIY Craniotomy is cool!) and ruling out mesothelioma and gout, he concluded that he probably maybe perhaps had an LCL strain. He realized that if the sixteen feet of RockTape didn’t cure the strain and fix his bad breath, he’d have to back out of Tulsa Tough and spend even more unhappy time in Iowansas. The next morning he experienced radical improvement, as he could walk five or six steps with only mild screaming.
Holloway boarded the plane for hell, and on the first day of racing he realized what a mistake he’d made. His legs felt stiffer than glaciers and the knee joint articulated like an old man with no teeth or tongue trying to speak Chinese. Before heading over to meet his team, he rehearsed his speech: “Guys, when the going gets tough, quitting is often advisable.” But somehow that didn’t sound right.
So he did the next best thing, he lied like a Christian: With a fully adjusted mindset he infused ten minutes of no b.s., no negativity, just the positive wavelength associated with winning, delivering for his team, and crushing the life out of the competition. Being the captain on the team, he had to show up and set the example, and failing that, he’d have to drink another stiff cup of coffee sludge and hope that he could make up with caffeine what he lacked in conviction.
The stragegy was simple: “Guys, let’s go smash the shit out of these wankers,” was Plan A. There was no Plan B.
They headed out onto the course and immediately sensed the energy of a crowd that had been drinking hard since February of 2011. The crowd outside Holloway’s host house showed its enthusiasm for the race by displaying large piles of vomit and what appeared to be insensate bodies lying in the gutter. He had enough time to take one lap around the course before the body bags were all zipped up and the course cleared for take-off.
The race began and Holloway started at the very back, picking lines, evaluating the field, and getting his knee to bend ever so slightly. In the first two laps three different riders got caught up in the energy of the moment by splatting on the ground like the pro crash dummies they were.
Fifteen minutes in, Holloway made a meaningless move, and for the rest of the race he sat in and watched his team control the race, covering what needed to be covered, resting when needed and working together to stay safe while the other vicious animals tried to run them into the curb, chop them in the turns, take them into the barricades, and say nasty things about their mothers. Going into the final five laps he found teammate Aldo’s wheel, a rider who commands enough room to park the space shuttle, but when the time is right can compress space and time so that there is only, like in any cheap motel, room for two.
Teammate Jim kept the pace high and the field single file, as nothing gets more sketchy than anxious sprinters and slow speeds, with the possible exception of anxious sprinters, slow speeds, and a big cash purse. Aldo hit out on the last lap to begin a leadout that went from corner one all the way to the last corner and which was accelerating the whole time. Teeth, cheek flaps, fingernails, and bleeding digits came off as riders tried to match Aldo’s speed, and failed.
Going into the last corner Aldo left the inside open for Holloway to carry maximum speed. With a quick check under his by-now-smelly-armpit at thirty meters to go, Holloway was able to post up, show off the sponsors, and not crash across the finish line like that time Danny Kam lifted his arms and fredded out in Ontario.
It was an amazing finish to an amazing day, and once off the bike Holloway could almost walk.
Tune in tomorrow for Tulsa Tough, Part 2.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and show your appreciation for something that, frankly, doesn’t deserve any. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 23, 2015 § 26 Comments
The most telling part of the SCNCA web site is its section on financials.
You go to the “About” navigation on the home page, select “Financials” from the drop-down menu, click on the link and get nothing at all. It’s succinct, and brevity is the soul of wit!
The financial opacity is fitting because SCNCA taxes the race promoters and racers fifty cents every race (if you do two crits in one day, you pay twice) and then does something with the money. Something that helps us all, doubtless.
SCNCA gets the rest of its budget (How big is the budget? How is it spent? Who spends it?) as a kickback from USA Cycling for each in-district license registration. SCNCA isn’t funded according to results, meeting stated goals, customer satisfcation, or even for wearing nicely coordinated belts and socks. Talk about incentives to improve!
So when we asked the Internet for some data about why racers race, and why licensed racers don’t, no one held their breath for help from SCNCA. Instead, Cameron Scott, Joe Camacho, and Robert Efthimos immediately stepped in and designed a survey.
Here it is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3R5KGQZ
Please take a minute to fill it out; the survey will stay open for four weeks. We’ll tabulate the results and share it with the Internet, race promoters and, of course with SCNCA. I’m sure they will put the data to excellent use in their round file or in their ongoing quest to increase race turnout while they also practice learning to walk and chew gum, but not at the same time. Baby steps.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and give your opinion which will likely be ignored or belittled by SCNCA and its minions. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 22, 2015 § 23 Comments
I attended Saturday’s Avenue of the Flags Criterium in Buellton. It was the best crit of the year by far. We can leave aside the prize money for now, which was substantial — $32,000 in cash prizes for three days of racing.
The course is the most challenging crit course in SoCal. It isn’t super technical, but it’s technical enough that you must be able to corner well or the accelerations out of the turns will devour you. The wind is a huge factor; it’s mostly a strong crosswind that ensures you will get no respite on the two long straightaways. There is also a significant finishing gradient, which guarantees that your legs will be toast when it’s time to sprint.
Buellton has resurfaced the entire course since last year so the paving is smooth, grippy, and very fast. The infield between the two straightaways is lined with booths, food vendors, and spectators. The races go off on time, and if you’ve traveled with an S/O, as soon as the race finishes you can jaunt off to any of the numerous wineries — or the legendary Firestone Brewery — that are minutes away. And if jaunting away isn’t your style, you can belly up in the beer garden right across from the announcer’s stand.
And did I mention prize money?
I got more finishing sixth place in the masters 50+ category than is on offer to win many crits. Top finishers got lots more, and those who won their category for the 3-day omnium received $1,000+ paydays. Oh, and he weather was beautiful.
You would think that with a great, safe course, huge payday, professional execution, and lots of other activities for fellow travelers, fantastic vibe, and classy central coast scenery, the fields would be full to busting. You’d think that a race like this would fill up online and waitlisted riders would be standing around on race day, trying to buy slots off racers who had pre-registered, or wheedling the promoter for a special favor.
But, well, nope.
Only 18 riders showed for the final day in the 50+, 23 riders in the 40+, and 36 riders in the P/1/2 field with thousands and thosands of dollars on offer. The promoter, Mike Hecker, was rewarded for putting on an incredible event, huge prizes, and great courses with a collective yawn from the amateur “racers” here in SoCal. Entire teams that sport about town in wrapped team vehicles and the trickest equipment were absent; other clubs that have hundreds of members showed up with one or two racers, max.
Whether Hecker will put on the event next year is open to question, and if he doesn’t all the people who didn’t bother to show up will bitch and whine about how “there aren’t any good races anymore.”
That’s right, dumbshits, BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU DON’T SHOW UP.
However, it’s easy to blame all the lazy, hypocritical, whiny, spoiled, frosted-cupcake race poodles who parade at the coffee shop but are always “otherwise engaged” on race day. And it’s easy to be sympathetic to Mike, who is a promoter’s promoter — puts his heart and soul into it, does a superlative job, and at the end of the day loses money.
What’s harder is to figure out the problem, and harder still to solve it.
The reason licensed racers don’t show up to races is because we don’t know why licensed racers don’t show up races. That’s right … we have no data. We know how many people hold licenses, we know how many events are held annually, and we know attendance numbers. But we don’t have the data that matters, i.e. the customer feedback about why they don’t race, and more specifically, why they didn’t show up for this race.
In other words, race promoters for the most part are running a business that depends on customer satisfaction without knowing what satisfies their customers. And when we do know what satisfies customers, because occasionally they tell us, we still don’t know if their answers are representative of others, and crucially, we have no idea whether they’re representative of the customers who have licenses and who never show up.
I don’t think that Toyota works that way. I think that before they roll out a new product, they find out what their potential customers think about it. Everyone with a racing license is a potential customer, but with a few exceptions we don’t know what makes them decide to race or stay home except on an anecdotal basis.
And here’s where everyone has an opinion: Some say it’s cost, or training time, equipment, the fact that it’s a dirty sport, danger, distance, time away from family, the list is endless. But until we can rank the reasons that people stay home, and as importantly, rank the reasons that they show up, superb events like the 805 Crit Series will struggle.
SCNCA of course has the resources to do this type of outreach, and of the 18 “services” they claim to provide, only two bullet points address member growth and retention, and they’re buried in the list. Can you imagine Toyota putting “customer growth and retention” in between “maintaining the web site” and “maintaining a presence on Facebook”?
I’d argue that nothing SCNCA does is even remotely as important as customer growth and retention, with the possible exception of “increasing race participation” which, of course, they don’t even bother to list as a goal. And why should they? SCNCA is primarily funded by licenses, not race participation. As long as you have a license, SCNCA gets funded.
Individual clubs could really help out here, but they won’t. All it would take is an email survey of members to find out answers to these questions:
- Do you race?
- Why or why not?
- Do you want to race?
- Why or why not?
- How many races do you do each year?
- How many have you done in the last five years?
- How many would you like to do next year if you could?
- How many years have you held a racing license?
- How important are these things to you in deciding whether or not to race:
- Distance from home
- Cost of equipment
- Hours of training required per week
- Entry fee
- Risk of crashing
- Prize money
- Course difficulty
- Course distance
- Technical nature of course
- Race reimbursements by your club
- Field size
- Type of race–crit, road, TT, SR, omnium
- Category upgrade points
- How often does your club send out race information?
- How easy is it to find another racer with whom to carpool?
- Do others on your team encourage you to race?
If ten clubs did this and aggregated the results, it would certainly be a start, and we wouldn’t be guessing quite as blindly. If the top 50 clubs did it we would be on our way to a real database. Ultimately, we desperately need promoters like Mike Hecker and events like the 805 Series. But if we can’t even be bothered to find out why our peers are staying home and why the’re making the effort to race, well, this is another great event that people will look back on fondly and say, “Remember when … ”
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and feel good about helping a poor, struggling blogger as he tries to make the world an insaner place for cycling. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 21, 2015 § 10 Comments
The last time I was fired from a job was in 1982. It was at the Sharpstown Mall in Houston, where I had taken a sales associate position with Sexy Underwear and Toys, a franchise retail establishment that offered a fine selection of clothing for the discriminating shopper. Our best seller was the “Lock him up, Jim!” which consisted of a bright blue pair of briefs with a padlock on the fly.
Fit the key,
Remove the treasure,
Add to your undressing pleasure!
That was the jingle, if I recall correctly. They fired me for failure to move enough product, so to speak.
I hadn’t planned on doing the Labor Board Complaint Crit, held each year in the picturesque town of Methylvania, located halfway between Methville and Methopolis in scenic inland Southern California. The only reason I was going to the race was to do the race promoter a favor. He’d asked me to announce the master men’s 40+ race because I’d done it the year before to great acclaim and because I was free.
Especially because I was free.
The main reason I wanted to announce wasn’t simply to get my hands on a microphone in front of an audience, it was a public service to keep people from falling asleep while watching the race. This year the announcing was provided by Puddsy McNuggets’s Professional Bicycle Race Announcing and Sump Repair Company, and Puddsy was one of the best in the business, which is to say he was pretty much the only one in the business, and he was awful.
Bike racing is boring even on a good day, and there’s never a good day. The Labor Board Complaint Crit was no exception: A blurry herd of spastically colored, interchangeable people roar by for a microsecond over intervals that seem slower than the origin of species, during which bells are rung and mysterious phrases are uttered and then at the end the tired remnants lurch across the line and the winner stands on a cardboard box in front of a dumpster and raises his hands in the air to receive a medal and hopefully some deodorant.
Puddsy had just finished announcing the junior girls’ race, which had fourteen competitors, and even that surpassed his commentating skills, which were more suited to announcing rainfall or fog than an athletic event. He’d never raced a bike and had learned the announcing trade as an auctioneer for used sumps.
“Here they come!” he’d say in a sad, bored tone, and they would come.
“There they go!” he’d add, and they would, indeed go. Who “they” were, and the mechanics of why they were coming and going remained as mysterious and impenetrable as the fur on Schrodinger’s cat.
Every few minutes Puddsy would sigh deeply, inhale, and commentate. “Looks like it’s strung out on the back side,” he’d intone, as if it someone were making a bead necklace in junior high. Since none of the town’s twelve inhabitants had seen a bike race since last year, during which time the meth and tequila and domestic violence had erased all memory of it, they would crane their necks trying to figure out what was strung out and who was showing her backside.
In between comments (“Number 261 is making a move” [Ed. note: What kind of move? Bowel?]), Puddsy would switch the PA over to his playlist of 70’s classic rock and lunge forcefully into the real object of his affections, his third double grande chili-dog burrito with extra cheese and farts. As a dringle of melted cheddar dangled off his chin he’d periodically look up and try to add some funereal color to the drab and lifeless event. “This one is going to be a bunch finish,” he’d predict when the group came back together, followed a few minutes later by “This one is going to end in a breakaway,” when one or two riders gained a second on the field.
The children’s race ended and I hopped up on the sound stage, introduced myself, grabbed a microphone, and pushed Puddsy out of the way as the masters racers mobbed the start line. The night before announcing a race I always do a quick online check to see who’s registered and then follow it up with a series of queries to various state and federal databases. This always makes announcing more fun, and I started with gusto.
“There’s Finkle Finkleston, twelve-time state champ and currently living more than two miles from all schools and playgrounds. He will be firing some heavy artillery. And folks, keep your eyes on Stubbsy Quackenbush, who just finished serving his time for murder; he’s a mean one in a knife fight or a sprint.”
I continued with my call-ups, praising the ex-porn stars, the ex-dopers, the current dopers, the national champs, the state champs, the deadbeat dads, the breakaway artists, the tattoo artists, and those who were just there for the weekend on parole. “The ones to watch, though, are the Destroyer and Gatecrasher! Destroyer’s the one who looks like he hasn’t eaten since 1984 and Gatecrasher is wearing the bright orange lid that looks like a legless cockroach!”
The audience cheered and craned their necks to get a look at each of the heroes.
As the race started, I urged the crowd to yell. “Use those lungs! Don’t act like you’re all choked up on Deep Throat!”
Puddsy grabbed my mic. “You can’t talk like that! This is a public event!”
“What’s a Deep Throat, mommy?” I heard a small child ask.
“Shut the fuck up,” I said to Puddsy and grabbed the mic back. Then I launched into a detailed discussion of race tactics, pointing out the tricky technical sections of the course, the points on the course where the wind shifted, the importance of sheltering against the barricades but not running over the metal feet, crashing, and tearing your aorta.
Puddsy spit out the business end of his fourth cheese burrito when I accidentally let drop a couple of f-bombs. At that very moment one of the peloton’s most fearsome felons was making a move up the crosswind-riddled gradient. Puddsy took a stab at announcing, clearly embarrassed at the large crowd of people who were now ganging up against the barricades to hear my awesome mix of commentating, profanity, race tactics, intimate details about arrest records, and slander.
“Number 872 is going for the prime!” Puddsy yelled in a tone almost similar to excitement.
I filled in for him. “A prime is like getting some blow along with a hooker,” I roared. “The main event is the hooker, but the blow sweetens the pot. Watch these deadbeat dads living in dumpsters endure inhuman pain and risk death for five bucks and a tub of high-performance electrolyte a/k/a sucrose!”
Puddsy was livid. “Get off this stage!” he roared. “You’re obscene! These people just want to hear music! They can’t understand anything you’re saying!”
“If there’s one thing the folks here in Methylvania CAN understand, it’s hookers and blow!” I shouted back into the mic to an appreciative pair of single-tooth housefraus with tattoos on the uncovered, upper reaches of their untethered udders. A third winked and mouthed the words “Ten bucks for you, behind the third dumpster!”
Puddsy yanked out my mic cord and switched on “Ventura Highway.” “You’re fired!” he screamed. “Get out of here!”
I hopped off the stage, watching as the Destroyer and Gatecrasher crushed the field with a full-gas, two-man breakaway, just as I’d predicted. “To hell with you, Puddsy!” I yelled back. “I’m calling my lawyer to file a complaint with the labor board!” I reached into my pocket and called myself, as I also handle labor law violations for select clients.
On the way back to my car I saw the promoter. “I thought you were announcing,” he said.
“I was,” I answered, “but old Puddsy gave me the same treatment I got when I was selling ‘Lock him up, Jim.'”
He looked at me funny and I continued on.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and learn top-flight race announcing skills. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!