March 11, 2018 § 2 Comments
Surfer Dan lined up at the table, squaring off against Boozy P. and Smasher. Surfer was undefeated in ten consecutive food crits at Chez Davidson, having always left capable of eating more than he was served. Boozy P. was a Cat 2 eater and definite underdog, as his calzone sprints were going to be undermined by his propensity to beer dope, which took away valuable appetite and stomach space. Cat 4 racers Olive and Stanley were not considered a major threat.
The gun went off and Surfer came up on the inside on the appetizer laps, eating half a tub of hummus and slaughtering half a bag of helpless, mewing baby carrots. Boozy P., who was only on his fifth IPA ten minutes into the race, snagged an edamame prime as Surfer sat up to catch his breath and down another two bottles of San Pelligrino.
Olive and Stanley shuffled around at the back, spending the appetizer laps nosing around in the garbage can, dragging out paper towels sopped in olive oil and pieces of sausage, and staying generally unfocused on the race. Smasher opted to save his bullets for the calzone, and appeared unconcerned while Surfer polished off the hummus and the squalling carrot babies.
Suddenly the homemade calzone came out of the oven, next to a giant green salad with feta cheese and avocado, which appeared next to it on the table. Smasher attacked, hacking off a piece of calzone bigger than his head, and choking it down his gullet in two mighty swallows, one of which included a half-chew. Boozy P. sprinted hard for the end pieces and wolfed them down. Surfer followed Smasher’s attack, which had gapped out Boozy P., and countered Smasher by inhaling a double-slab.
The calzone’s homemade crust had been stuffed to popping with Italian sausage, pepperoni, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan, mushrooms, and basil. Stanley and Olive sniffed around the edges of the table, but were repeatedly denied by the Surfer/Smasher breakaway, and were unable to bridge up to Boozy P., who was stuck out in no-man’s land.
Just as it looked like the two-man break was going to stick, Boozy P. made a superhuman effort by stuffing his entire salad into his face with his fist, and making it across to the break. Olive and Stanley couldn’t follow his wheel, no matter how hard Stan thought about the taquitos he’d stolen off the table at the 2014 Davidson Taquito Crit in an unforgettable come from behind victory.
In the twinkling of an eye, a calzone the size of a small paper shredder had vanished. The last piece went into Boozy P.’s mouth. As the competitors eyed one another, out of the oven popped calzone number two, and Boozy P., now on his tenth IPA, suddenly found himself in difficulty despite digging deeply into his suitcase of courage, which was unfortunately filled only with dead soldiers and bottle caps.
Surfer attacked first, shearing off a calzone slab resembling the calving of an Antarctic glacier. The gap was big, but Smasher smashed the calzone with his fist, squirting copious piles of cheese and meat and crust onto his plate. In one deft move he had seen Surfer’s calzone and raised him a double slab.
Coming into the final lap both riders were cross-eyed and queasy as the cheese and meat took its ugly toll. Huge rivers of sweat poured off their faces. Everyone stank of olive oil. Surfer and Smasher began playing cat and mouse with each other, nibbling on salad, sipping on water and baby carrots, and throwing cagey edamame moves with their elbows as they jockeyed for position.
But lo! As the two experienced pros locked onto the last piece of calzone, preparing for the final lunge to the line, Stanley somehow managed to come across the gap! While Surfer and Smasher eyed each other, Stan made his patented table-grab, snatched the last piece of calzone off the table and took home the spoils, scoring another daring win for the South Bay’s champion chihuahua!
Afterwards, Stan went out onto the balcony and pooped in satisfaction.
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March 9, 2018 § 1 Comment
This Saturday and Sunday … the Tour de Murrieta! Great racing on two great courses. Break out the race machine and the race outfit and race yer fuggin’ bike!!!
March 7, 2018 § 2 Comments
One of my best friends on Planet Zebulon (not to mention earth) sent me a report from the cockpit after the UCLA Road Race this past weekend. G$ is one of the best bike racers there is. He wins time trails, hill clumbs, crit thingies, and most of all, toughballs road races. He is a nice guy but not really because what he does to other racers isn’t nice.
At first blush you might think what follows is a race report. However, I ran it through the Wanky Bike Race Report Transmogrifier in order to interpret it for us mere mortals. I’m reprinting below in segments, along with the transmogrifier’s output.
Race Report: It was supposed to be a rainy, dark and stormy morning, and in Venice at 7:00 AM, it was. I’ve gotta admit I was looking forward to a nasty weather race filled with cold, snow, wind. I knew that bad weather would thin the field, and only the stupid and the strong would bother racing, both, actually, and sometimes in the same person.
Transmogrifier Output: Twiggly Jeff K. and others with crashophobia would be home in bed.
Race Report: This year the promoter took away the 55+ category, so I was stuck racing with possibly the fastest non-pro race category, the 45+.
Transmogrifier Output: G$ was going to be racing against twiggly climbing hammers twelve years his junior. In old fart years, one year equals seven younger fart years.
Race Report: As I drove the 1.5 hours to the race it rained for the first hour, but the last 30 minutes it was dry, cloudy and threatening, but dry! And not that cold, maybe 51 degrees whereas it was supposed to be 44 and rain, with gusty winds, and huge turd squalls, hailing meatballs. It was windy, and I was pretty happy that it wasn’t cold and rainy! And so many of the guys who thought it was gonna be nasty, all stayed home! Better for me!
Transmogrifier Output: G$ is a bike racer. Many other licensed riders with very expensive equipment and fancy clothing are not.
Race Report: Tom Doung had set up a little Big Orange team campground; nice! Tom and our race committee are awesome.
Transmogrifier Output: Big Orange team genie Tom Duong is the best dude ever. Sets up the tent, prepares the traditional goulash stew, brews the Body of Beach Performance elixir, and ensures that all Big O racers are lavishly cared for. Other teams can only dream of this level of professional support.
Race Report: It was so nice weather wise, I changed my whole plan, and went with basic SoCal morning gear: Bibs, jersey, arm warmers, and I did have my clear rain jacket for an emergency meatball storm. Pro tip from a non-pro: The clear rain jacket that stows in your rear pocket is super key for rain racing, since the officials can still see your number thru the clear jacket and you can keep it on while you race, if you need to as the meatballs hail down.
Transmogrifier Output: Don’t race in your down jacket and ski goggles.
Race Report: There were a few really fast guys in the race, LaGrange hammer James Cowan, tough guy and national crit champ Matthew Carinio, and of course my nemesis, Thurlow Rogers, world road and time trial champ, Olympian, etc., and his teammate, Tony Brady, who has won the 35+ San Dimas time trial, and regularly beats us all in road races. Great …
Transmogrifier Output: This race was gonna be so fucking hard it made your legs hurt just looking at the start list. You’d be better off in a dungeon chained to a rack than trying to contest this lung-busting, leg-shredding, ego-shriveling death march.
Race Report: As we started, it was a pretty good headwind up the climb, and we all climbed pretty slowly, since everyone believed it would damage the leader more than the followers. Nevertheless, the hill is super hard at any speed and we lost most of the 25 or 30 brave souls who drove all the way out to this place to ride by themselves, so now there were only six of us.
Transmogrifier Output: Everyone got dropped in the first two miles. Out of the toughest of the tough leaky prostate racers in SoCal, all were dipped into the wood chipper ten minutes in. Now doesn’t a 48-mile windy, hilly solo TT sound funnnnn?
Race Report: The descent was fast, and cross-windy. I hit 55 mph, yikes!
Transmogrifier Output: You or I would have crashed and died.
Race Report: As we hit the bottom of the downhill, we entered a rolling section, about five miles long, which led into the 1-mile climb where there was a KOM award for the first racer up the hill to claim. So as we rounded the corner and began this section, Tony Brady accelerated, and rode away with no response from anyone. I couldn’t believe it, I was sitting fourth wheel, you could see everyone thinking, “It’s certainly not my responsibility to chase!” Unless of course, you just wanted race for second. “Guys! He’s not coming back!” I yelled, hoping that someone would hit the gas for even ten pedal strokes and bring him back, now it was more like twenty pedal strokes, and he was up the road! I should have gone but I would have just given everyone a free ride up to the leader, and I guess everyone else was thinking the same thing. I yelled again, “You guys really just wanna race for second?” I heard only one response. Thurlow said, “You mean 3rd?” Meaning that he would beat to bits everyone in our little group. Smartass!
Transmogrifier Output: G$ hesitated and everyone (four other mostly dead riders, one of whom was the leader’s teammate) waited for him to close the gap. He didn’t.
Race Report: Well, Thurlow was in the ‘ol catbird seat and that’s because, he could do the least amount of work in our group, and whatever we did, if we chased, he could sit on, and if we didn’t chase, he could sit on. Either way he would be the freshest at the end to win the bunch sprint, and if we didn’t catch his teammate, their team would win and maybe get second, too. And if we did catch his teammate, Thurlow had a great chance of winning because he is a fast finisher.
Transmogrifier Output: Bike racing arithmetic is pretty simple.
Race Report: Oh, and guess what? Nobody could work, it must have been a national holiday. “I’m too tired,” “I have a hangnail,” etc. And there was a guy in the group wearing a plain blue jersey, who I didn’t know, whose two race numbers were flapping around like open parachutes! A rookie move, using only four pins, one in each corner, creating two little parachutes on the rider’s back, and noisy in the crazy wind. Were we rationing safety pins or something? Rookie or not, he made the split and was in with the front riders, and of course he wasn’t working either.
Transmogrifier Output: A hangnail is a truly painful, bike racer career-wrecking condition. Unless you have an inhaler. Also, flappy numbers please stay home.
Race Report: So, I got in the wind and kept trying to keep the pace high, and every so often, I’d put in an attack, when the others let a gap open up behind me. But oh man, those guys were all tired as heck and had major hangnail issues preventing them from taking a turn at the front, but they could triple the watts in a flash to chase me down. That really drives me crazy. If I could have just slipped away from those bloodsuckers I would gladly have put my head down and made a real effort to catch the one-man Brady Bunch.
Transmogrifier Output: G$ made the race so fucking hard that people were barfing hairballs. If he was gonna get second, or third, it was going to cost the sitters a liver.
Race Report: Tony had one minute and twenty seconds on us as we started the main climb, and we had 3 laps and 37 miles to go. I set the pace up the climb, and then again on the stair steps, with very little help from the others. Thurlow was glued on my back wheel and I wasn’t going anywhere without him. Thurlow is a funny cat. I have beaten him year after year in the uphill San Dimas time trial, by a lot! Sometimes in the 1-minute gap area, but in a road race, he can lock onto my wheel, and I can climb my little heart out, but he will not lose my wheel! He can suffer like no other! He is also a 4th Quarter kind of racer, for instance the last two years at the Mammoth Gran Fondo, by mile 80 I was in the front group, consisting of pros and former pros, and we dropped super old ex-pro Thurlow Rogers (58), but he chased back on, and beat me both times. We’ve only raced each other for the last sixteen years.
Transmogrifier Output: Thurlow has won more bike races than the rest of the field combined had ever entered.
Race Report: Anyway, up the climbs we kept losing a guy or two, and they they would chase back on during the downhill, and we get Tony back to just under one minute, continuing our dysfunctional chase. Flappy looked strong, and he would sometimes rotate through, and take a hard pull, even up the climbs, so he really had my attention. He was mostly sitting on, but showing that he can really lay down the wood. With two laps to go, and just after the main climb, I hit the jets hard and tried to escape our small group, and I did! I thought I was free but here came Flappy, and guess what? Because he didn’t want me to be lonely he brought all his buddies with him. So, I have to admit the race was getting to me, and I was angry that these guys could smash such hard efforts to chase me but would barely lift a finger to chase the danged leader of the race. I yelled at Flappy, “What the heck was that?” and he responded, “Did I do the bad?” with some French or Russian accent, and I responded “Yes, you did the bad! Why are you wasting so much energy chasing me when you won’t even help chase the leader?” It occurred to me that he might not have had any idea what I had just said to him, but since I had been bitching to all the guys in our group for the last two hours, you’d think that he would be apprised already that I was less than pleased with everyone sitting on watching me do the work. All the while Thurlow was just laughing, and enjoying my little show, knowing that he was gonna mop us all up for second place. Meanwhile Brady Bunch was two minutes ahead. The moto official was giving us updates two times a lap, which was really cool.
Transmogrifier Output: Bike racing is hard and frustrating and miserable and nasty, which is why we do it.
Race Report: Anyway, I really can’t remember now as I’m writing this what the hell lap we were on, but I do remember that Flappy started to help! And with a lap to go, he was taking some real meaty pulls, that if you’d put tomato sauce on ’em and served up some pasta you’d have had dinner for twelve. Now there were just three of us. Thurlow, Flappy, and me, and as we hit the top of the main climb for the last time, I was getting tired. Thurlow attacked hard and got a little gap, and everything I know about Thurlow is that he doesn’t come back without a fight. Luckily, we entered that little downhill portion just before the stair step climb, and I slammed it into meatball gear, and Flappy and I caught back on. Now Flappy puts it in his meatball gear and sets a stinky hard tempo up the climb, and we dropped Thurlow! That never happens! I mean, we really lost him. You could have sent out a St. Bernard and it wouldn’t have found him. As we crested the top, I couldn’t see him. We prepared for the long downhill, and I really wanted to stay on the gas because nobody goes down a hill like Thurlow. More meatballs! We did not let him catch back up!
Transmogrifier Output: Every time you finish a bike race ahead of Thurlow, light a candle, circle the date on your calendar, and make sure you have a photo because no one is gonna believe you.
Race Report: We rolled fast down the hill, and there was no sight of Thurlow, I think we even lost the St. Bernards.
Transmogrifier Output: At the end of a hard hilly road race against top-shelf competition, Max and G$ still had enough meatballs in the pot to ride harder than they did at the start.
Race Report: When we got to the bottom, Flappy said, “I will not challenge you for the place of second, my name is Max.” Well, you could have knocked me over with a mini-meatball, mostly because I was roasted, but also, because that was a really unexpectedly cool gesture.
Transmogrifier Output: Flappy is a good dude, ergo, not really a bike racer.
Race Report: Moto guy said we were only fifty seconds from the leader, so, more meatballs!! Max and I worked together over the rollers. We got to the bottom of the last climb, both on fumes, but now we were forty seconds from Tony and there was no possible way to catch, unless he fell off of his bike, and maybe not even then. As we approached the finish line, Max fell back a bit and let me ride across ahead of him. Racing … for … second … place.
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February 25, 2018 § 3 Comments
There was a musician from the 40’s and 50’s named Joe Williams who played a nine-string guitar and who wrote really good songs. One of my favorites was “Long, Tall Woman,” and the line I liked most was “I want a big fat woman, plenty meat on them doggone bones.”
The whole thing about weight loss and improved cycling performance is of course ridiculous. James Stout, wherever he may be now, wrote a great article three years ago about eating disorders in cycling. And although he was writing about the pervasiveness of eating disorders in the pro peloton, he missed, or at least failed to dwell on, that the extreme skinniness of modern racers is one way they’ve compensated for not being able to dope as copiously as in years gone by. The extra power has to come from somewhere, right?
But the real crazy train with regard to weight and cycling isn’t among professionals and elite amateurs whose jobs and Olympic hopes depend on a win, but among the fatty old hackers at weekend races whose only skin in the game is the tender skin of ego. I know; my ego is as bloated and sensitive as the Hindenburg, and dog knows I’ve gone down the rat hole of the Wanky Diet at least once.
Still, for virtually every racer out there who is doing it for all that nonexistent fun we hear about, you’ll race better with plenty meat on them doggone bones.
Exhibit 1? Dandy Andy.
Dandy showed up fat and happy for the Rosena Ranch beatdown yesterday, gleefully gripping in his right fist a thick strip of bacon around his stomach that would have fed a camp full of hungry cowboys. “I need to lose weight!” he said, stretching out the bacon far enough that the zipper on his jersey shrieked at earsplitting decibels.
“Dude,” I said, “I hope you do. Because maybe it will slow you down. And if that zipper goes, someone’s getting hurt.”
Dandy and I rode together for years on Team Concentration Camp, where I experimented with the Kimchi Diet, consisting of salted cabbage and oxygen, and Dandy carefully weighed his oatmeal grains with a scales calibrated to micrograms. Neither of us raced worth dung.
Then a couple of years ago Dandy threw the scale in the dumpster and focused on the loves of his life, a/k/a the Three B’s, Bread Butter & Bacon. And his bike racing results went through the roof. Last year he manhandled most of the field at Rosena Ranch to get second, and this year he smashed the field in the second Ancient Duffers Category in CBR, riding a hard as nails 4-man break for 40 minutes to also climb on the podium.
Yesterday was a Dandy Tour de Force. He missed the winning two-man move, then punished the field for nine laps with repeated hammerings on the riser and into the wind on the backside of the course, then blew the field apart with two laps to go. A friend described it as “There was the break, there was Dandy’s four-man chase, and then there were bits and pieces wondering when the agony would end.”
Rolling into the headwind finish, Dandy attacked his break companions like a hungry shark and rolled in solo.
After the race he came up to me and grabbed the bacon. “Dammit Wanky, I gotta lose this stuff.”
I stared glumly, ruing the abuse he had rained down upon me for the past thirty miles. “Whatever, Dandy,” I said.
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February 19, 2018 § 1 Comment
I knew it was gonna be a great day at the CBR crit because when I peeled off my skinsuit in the port-a-dumpster, the right long sleeve slipped down behind me and dangled straight into the brown hole of death, but I was miraculously able to jerk it out before it touched any of the burrito/coffee/egg sandwich mixin’s stewing in the bottom of the tank.
It was obvious before the race started that it would end in a bunch sprunt, which was great because I’m still recovering from The Influence, and after so many years of doing this I have a sixth sense about when a race will end with a breakaway and when it will end in a mass gallop. My race plan was simple. Sit for forty minutes, race for ten.
As I rolled up to the line scanning my competition the only possible fly in my ointment was Thurlow Rogers a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG. Incredibly, there are still people, all newbies, who don’t know who Thurlow is. I explain it like this: “I first saw him destroy a pro-am race in 1983. He’s the best living active bike racer on earth.” If people don’t get that, after watching him race, they do.
Archibald & Rufus, CBR’s crack announcers, had warmed up the crowd with their unique blend of edutainment, teaching the audience about the race while also talking about their Valentine’s Day gift exchange of dead flowers, a roast dog, and several anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers naming the other as a felon. Anyone who thinks that it’s boring to watch a bunch of tired old farts in their underwear pedaling around an abandoned parking lot windswept with dirty diapers and used condoms has never listened to a race get lit up by Archie and Roof.
It’s money time
The race began rather animatedly, with Dandy Andy firing off the front. I sat comfortably in 67th place and sighed. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”
Sure enough, they brought him back.
Next went G$, stomping away from the field and opening up a healthy gap until the field realized that sitting out in the wind for 45 minutes was something that Money was not only willing to do, but that he had done countless times before … for the win. I sighed though. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”
Suddenly THOG shot out of the pack with a couple of riders in tow. This animated all the sitters, none of whom was interested in racing hard, but all of whom were interested in chasing THOG. There is a beauty in cycling because even though you may personally suck, with a little bit of effort you can ruin someone else’s day who is really good.
I sighed as I watched the hopeless move. “No break is going today.” It occurred to me that one reason I was so convinced no move was going today is because I was weak, tired, sick, and desperate to do a few parade laps then go home.
WTF? I said NO BREAK TODAY
Once the bunch was back together, G$ glanced around and kicked it. This time he opened up a small gap and three other riders bridged up, Dandy, Jaggs, and No Pull Dude. The field watched, everyone keying on THOG and waiting for him to do all the dirty work. THOG slunk to the middle of the field and the break really started to pull away.
I sighed. “Not today, wankers. No break is going today.”
I checked my watch and we were a mere 25 minutes into the 50-minute race. I still had fifteen minutes to sit, which was good, because I wasn’t feeling it. Suddenly the pack had slowed and my momentum carried me far towards the front. At about the same moment, THOG attacked.
When other people attack it’s sometimes unclear whether they’re attacking or whether they’re imitating a fully loaded city bus pulling away from the curb while dragging a building behind it. When THOG attacks it is pretty clear that the only thing worse than being a toilet roll in the CBR port-a-dumpster is being a crank or pedal on THOG’s bike. The viciousness of the smashing and the acceleration hurt to look at, and then you don’t have to look at it any more because he is gone.
After half a lap THOG was a tiny speck. For some silly reason I attacked, city bus style. The peloton yawned and hell began. I was a dangling worm on a hook, stuck between the group and THOG, which is like having your head crushed between a grand piano and a concrete wall, only worse.
Three laps passed, but after two I was a solid two hundred yards back from THOG and couldn’t make up an inch. It was a matter of minutes before I detonated and floated all the way back to the peloton. At that very moment my pals Archibald & Rufus screamed over the microphone, “Davidson is bridging to Thurlow!!”
“He is?” I thought, wondering who this Davidson guy was and watching Thurlow get smaller and smaller as smoke began issuing from the cracks of my everything.
What goes around
One thing I learned the hard way is that when you are in a break with Thurlow, you pull your fucking guts out. He is the greatest. You are shit. If you wind up on his wheel it means something epic is happening, and now isn’t the time to be clever or cutesie or calculating. It’s time to beat the pedals so fucking hard that you think your knees will come unhitched. The times I’ve been in a break with Thurlow he’s never had to say “take a pull” or “quit dicking off” or wheel-chopped me and sent me flying into the ditch.
Most importantly, when there’s prime money or a finish on the line, he has always dispatched me with the facility of a large hammer removing one’s front teeth. In other words, breakaway chum.
And when Thurlow heard the announcers say “Davidson is bridging!” he looked back, and what did he see? He saw chum. THOG chum. Tasty, fresh, bleeding THOG chum. So he eased off the pedals for a few seconds and waited. By the way, Thurlow never waits. If you are too weak to bridge, sucks to be you. But in my case, if you do bridge, then it really sucks to be you. I struggled onto his back wheel, and the beating commenced.
In a few moments I’d recovered and was able to pull, and that’s the beauty of being in a break with Thurlow. You go harder than you ever thought you could. Who cares if you get dropped, who cares if you lose, who cares if your feet fall off or you scrape a pedal and impale your head on a fire hydrant? The only thing that matters is DON’T BE A FLAILING WANKER.
With the added chum power, we pulled far away from the wankoton until they were invisible. All the while in the real race up ahead, G$ was tossing his breakmates into the paper shredder as they sat on his wheel begging for mercy. With a couple of laps to go the RuggedMAXX II kicked in and G$ left his unhappy companions to fight for scraps, but none of that mattered to me. I was covered in sheet snot and could care less about the race; I was barely even aware I was in one. All I knew is that we had two laps to go, and until the moment that Thurlow rode off I was all in.
We hit the next to last turn, uphill and into the wind, and I wound it up, sprinting from corner to corner, taking the final turn, and giving it a dozen final smashes. Then I sat up and Thurlow breezed by, hardly even pedaling, and frankly rather bored with the whole thing. Fifth for Thurlow is an embarrassment. Sixth for me is a tattoo on my forehead.
After the race my cheering section ran up. “Why did you quit sprinting?” they asked.
“That’s Thurlow,” I said. “If you’re not sprinting him for the win, you sit the fuck up and pay your respects.” Which I did.
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February 1, 2018 § 3 Comments
Another Sunday Telo World Championships took place, and although I was unable to attend, CitSB’s trusty field reporter, Corporal Fox, took on the massive job of recording comprehensive race notes and, most importantly, stocking the tent with hot pizza and cold beer. Jason Morin of Shift Mobile manned the pits to help racers who needed a last-minute tune-up, derailleur adjustment, chain lube, or fresh leg shave up in that crease where you can’t get it yourself without turning half-backwards and usually slipping in the shower and slamming your head on the tile.
Here’s how it went down:
Lap 1: Neutral. There is nothing neutral in any bike race, ever. Significant preen attacks, flex jumps, and strut pacelines occur.
Lap 2: Ivan Fernandez attacks and is off the front by four seconds, following the maxim that if you are going to immolate yourself, start early and use a big torch. Kevin Nix and Lane Reid hammer to close the gap, nearly shelling Brent Davis, who, if he ignites and melts, will gap out the rest of the peloton. The fuse however sputters and Brent lives to get dropped another day. Lap. Jon Davy and Greg Leibert swap recipes or phone numbers in the back. Stathis Sakellariadis and Abraham Mohammed are already spit out, enjoying the Telo delicacy of 58 finely seasoned minutes alone in an awful wind.
Lap 3: Junior rider Alex Mainvielle leads the group, flunking the first lesson of successful bike racing, which is “Cower & Hide,” but completely acing the Wanky Rule, the one and only Wanky Rule of “Go to the front!” Alex brings back Ivan, who still is dangling a few feet off the front. This lap appeared to be fast without the aid of a timer or an atomic clock because the group was strung out in a single line, with many people teetering, tottering, asking themselves weighty existentialist questions, and otherwise manufacturing superb reasons to gap themselves out. One Orange is dropped, after having been nicely peeled.
Lap 4: There is a major change-up as Geoff Loui smashes to the front, head down and in the drops, with Ivan right behind him. Jose is dropped like that guy in 2001 A Space Odyssey when he got kicked out of the airlock by Hal and spiraled off into space forever.
Lap 6: As they come around the west corner, Jon Davy, who either attacked into the wind or who frightened everyone by flexing a bicep, is 10 seconds off the front, with Geoff Loui chasing hard behind. This move causes Greg Leibert to start moving up. Savvy cyclists know that when Greg a/k/a G$ begins to move up, it is a good time to stand down and submit your application to dentistry school. Danelle decides that it’s time to recalibrate, and she recalibrates off the back.
Lap 7: Kevin Nix, Greg Leibert, and Ivan Fernandez catch Jon and establish a breakaway, opening a 6-second gap on the field. Brandon Sanchez leads the chase at a hammering pace that has the field wondering if there is a new solitaire app for their phone, the riders strung out and immobilized like dead coyote skins nailed to an outhouse door. At the back, Kevin Salk, Joey Cooney, and Nick Fruth observe a precarious gap begin to yawn and gape in front of them. Although some racing experts believe that races are won from behind, that falsism is not bearing itself out today. Reece Sylvester releases his grappling hooks and falls off the rampart onto the windy plain below, where he is trampled to death by sharks and giant squid and dragons.
Lap 8: Meanwhile, back at the raunch, or back at the back, or back at the waaaaay back, Stathis and Danelle join up for a steady TT around the course, each lap even less fun than the already miserable one before.
Lap 9: This is prime lap number 1 and it is scooped up by Ivan Fernandez, with Greg Leibert right behind him. “Right behind” a prime winner = “You lost, dude.” Ivan’s attack for the water bottle, or rather the bottle of water (Hint! Water) leaves the group in whatever is rattier and more tore up than tatters. Some would call it a peloton but they would be lying. At this point it is just riders sharing the same road. However, this allows Kevin Salk and Nick Fruth to make up some ground and stay in a little longer before their untimely fate is also decided by the neutral laws of physics.
Lap 10: Something happens, perhaps.
Lap 11: Ivan regains his breath, and the 4-man breakaway regains its 8-second gap. Peyton Cooke, legendary legend who seems to last longer and longer each week as he beers his way back into fitness, decides to beer his way backwards and gets punched out the back like a fresh pop-tob tab flicked by a thirsty lumberjack.
Lap 12: This is prime lap number 2, and Ivan Fernandez wins with another monster sprint as Brandon Sanchez continues to batter away on the front, perhaps counting his matches but if so in dire need of remedial arithmetic. Kevin Salk and Nick Fruth decide that sometimes it’s better to put your head down, suck it up, and get ready for MONEY TIME, but not today which is IDGAF TIME. They are dropped. Meanwhile, in the first or second fragment, Joey Cooney joins the Stathis/Danelle duo, and Stathis finds his legs stapled to a tree, then drops Danelle and rides away with Joey. Any sign of Stathis gaining fitness depresses everyone for miles around.
Lap 13: The efforts from the two prime laps prove too much for Ivan, who zips up his suitcase of courage and decides to check it and send it overland by camel, and he parachutes out of the breakaway and is now with the ragamuffin group. The breakaway has increased their lead to 15 seconds, and is doing a rotating pace line with no apparent attacks.
Lap 14: Someone does something, for sure.
Lap 15: The dwindling group of fragmentarians loses two more, Nick Fruth and Geoff Loui, as each rider decides that the better part of wisdom is to never ever racing your fuggin’ bike again. Only 10 fragmentarians remain, in addition to the breakaway.
Lap 16: This is prime lap number 3, and G$ wins it for the A group, devastating his breakmates with his tremendous power, but the prime doesn’t seem to be a priority for Nix or Davy, who are focused on achieving the incredible success and acclaim that will come from winning this most important race of their cumulative careers. Alex Mainvielle wins for the B group, with a huge gap between himself and the rider behind him, as the prime effort causes the group to accordion (out of tune and played by a drunken street vendor with a dead monkey on his shoulder) while riders sway and struggle to stay in like drunks tottering on a broken barstool placed in a minefield.
Lap 17: More very important things happen somewhere, but not here.
Lap 18: The A group looks strong, still rotating steadily, replete with heroes whose names will ever bedeck the golden halls of time, giants among men whose exploits will earn them everlasting rest in the Elyisan Fields and if not that maybe another bottle of Hint Water. The last prime effort has taken the fragmentarians in the B group and turned them into molecularians as they are about to be lapped. Robert Cisneros takes the last thrust of the harpoon into his mighty side, rolls over in the water, shoots up a spout of gore, and, dropped, sinks beneath the waves, all the way down to the pizza and beer underneath the Telo tent, where he is covered with a hot layer of pizza cheese and cooled with bubbly beer.
Bell Lap: At one lap to go, the break begins trying to figure out how to beat Davy. Nix hands G$ a set of brass knuckles and G$ shares a brace of pistols with Nix. Despite repeated blows to the spine and close-range gunshots to the head, Davy’s most important organs remain unscathed as, rounding the final corner, Nix discovers that the grenade he’s been chewing lost its pin and G$ discovers what the stars ordained many millennia ago: Davy Sprunt Good.
And of course Danelle for the women’s trophy!
Heroes who showed up and raced their fuggin’ bikes:
Andy Rodriguez, David Shaw, Connie Perez, Jose Godinez, Peyton Cooke, Stathis Sakellariadis, Carlos Ristorcelli, Brent Davis, Jason Mark, Gregory Cooke, Reese Sylvester, Courey Burkhardt, Steve Thorpe, Jon Davy, Ivan Fernandez, Brandon Sanchez, Danelle Doernbrack, Abraham Mohammed, Joey Cooney, Kevin Nix, Robert Cisneros, Greg Leibert, Jason Morin, Nick Fruth, Geoff Loui, Kevin Salk, Ken Vinson, Alex Mainvielle, Stacy Gremminger, Someone from Ironfly, Long haired guy in pictures, Eric Arentsen, Guy in tye dye kit, Lane Reid, David wells on his motorcycle who could have easily won but didn’t.
About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.
January 24, 2018 Comments Off on Bike racing lessons
I did two races on Sunday and finished mostly last in the first one and relatively last in the second. In the first race I attacked a bunch, got brought back a bunch, and sat up with a lap to go because one of the most basic bike racing lessons is “Don’t go where you don’t belong,” and I don’t belong UP THERE at the end of a crit that’s finishing in a bunch sprunt.
In the second race, being gassed from the first one, I sat at the back for forty minutes and then jumped free for a few laps in a doomed breakaway that was caught, swarmed, and discarded like so much used toilet paper. Again, it always pays to follow that most basic of bike racing lessons, “Don’t go where you don’t belong.” And by “pay” I mean “go home with all the skin you came with.”
Why does everyone sit?
During both races I watched while 90% of the field simply sat. A handful of people animated the race, and ten people placed in the top ten, but everyone else was content to go around in circles and then sprunt for placings 11-100. In case you think there’s a difference between 2nd and 100th, let me suggest that there isn’t.
But it’s more complicated than that and since I’ve witnessed the same imbecilic behavior in every crit I’ve ever been in, now seems like a good time to break down this whole bike racing thing, not so that anyone will ever do anything differently, but so that I won’t have to repeat myself the next time someone asks me about crit racing.
Bike racing lessons for the industrial park, 4-corner, crit wanker
Every race is different, and the biggest factor in how you place is who shows up, period. That’s why a local 70-year-old flailer who has never lined up in a mass start race calls himself a “world champion.” One other wanker showed up for the time trial, and the “winner” rode 2,000 meters faster than the “silver medalist.” The bronze medalist was an empty space.
For real bike racers, though, your competition is the most significant factor, and at CBR, where primes are generous, courses are wide and safe, the weather is good, and the atmosphere is fun, the riders who you cannot and will not beat, ever, are guaranteed to be there. From this we can take home the first lesson of industrial park crit racing, and the most important: YOU WILL NOT WIN, EVER.
Read that as often as you need to. Once you understand it we will move on to Lesson 2, and please don’t give me any “If!” and “But!” and “My coach says!” and “My Strava!” and “But wattage!”
I don’t GAF. You–yes, you–cannot win a CBR crit. Neither, of course can I, and please don’t remind me of that time last year when it was raining meatballs and I beat one other dude who quit midway through. That wasn’t “winning CBR,” that was “riding in the rain alone.” The reason you will never win a CBR crit is really simple. There will always be someone faster than you.
How do I know this? Because the same kinds of people have been winning this race, and races like it, for decades. You are not one of those kinds of people.
Understanding your crit racing limits
You may be wondering how I can be so certain that you aren’t ever going to win at CBR. Well, there are two reasons. One, you are too slow. “But my wattage!” you cry. Okay, perhaps you have the wattage. Perhaps you really do have enough power in the last 300m to win at CBR. But there’s a second reason you will never win, which is way more important than your power: You don’t know how to get in the right position, and stay there, on the last lap.
These two limitations, your speed and your position, can never both be overcome. This is because you are a fraidy cat slowpoke, and because at CBR there are at least a dozen riders who are consummately skilled at positioning, and who have a better sprint. And you could race and train and pay coach until the heavens go black forever, but you will still never come around Cory Williams, or Justin Williams, or Charon Smith, or Steve Gregorios, or Tommy Robles, etc. etc. etc.
I can’t overestimate the importance of understanding how hopeless your outlook is. It’s like walking on the surface of the sun, or breaking the two-minute mile, or chewing with your mouth closed. It will never happen, and it’s not until you accept that fact that we can proceed. By the way, if you think I might be talking about you, I AM.
Understanding everyone else’s crit racing limits
Once you accept defeat it’s time to study another of the important bike racing lessons, which is that none of the other racers can win, either. All those people around you? They are as hopeless as you are. You and they are one, together, joined at the hip. They, like you, have spent all that money and time on Facebook but they will be going home with something other than first place. This is called losing. You and they will lose.
Now don’t get me wrong. Coach will find something to praise you about and your numbers will be a navel for infinite gazing. Someone may have a photo of you charging around a corner and you will one day win a prime, or at least know someone who did. But you and they will still have lost and be losers. Remember this when you observe the field. “We are losers.” Repeat this as often as you need to.
However, sprinkled in among the losers are potential winners. You are not one of them and it’s pointless to speculate who they might be. It doesn’t matter; they are not you and you are not they. And since this kind of thing goes better with real names, I will give you a few from my own club. Ryan Dorris, Dave Holland, Anthony Freeman, Scott Torrence …
These racers can potentially win at CBR because they have top-end speed and the ability to position themselves on the last lap. There are other racers like them who can also win, but again, none of those racers is you, and never will be. It’s important to recognize that your team may have one or two potential winners in a bunch sprint and that you will never be one because this is the beginning of the process through which you can answer the key question about bike race participation: What the fuck are you doing out there if you’re not there to win?
To sum up: You’re in a bike race and your chance of winning is zero. Why are you there?
Breaking down purposeful racing
Leaving aside the only explanation for every junior racer ever, “My dad made me do this,” there are only four reasons for any human being to ever join a four-corner industrial park crit that is going to end in a bunch sprunt. Here they are:
- I’m here to win (this doesn’t apply to you, ever).
- I’m here for the training.
- I’m here to help my teammate win.
- I’m here to entertain the spectators.
There is no fifth reason to be in a four-corner industrial bunch sprunt crit. If you can’t peg yourself to #2, #3, or #4, it’s time for you to go into therapy. But first, go home because you don’t belong here, ever, and the pavement hurts.
I’m here for the training
This is actually a great reason to sit in the middle of a big pack, do nothing, and pedal hard the last lap so that you can get 58th. Bike races with lots of racers go fast, and speedwork is speedwork. Joining the bike race to improve your cornering, get used to racing in proximity with other imbeciles, and learning to bunnyhop body parts is all part of the skill set you will need if you plan to continue racing, which, by the way, is a bad plan.
However, in order to get much of a training benefit from crit racing where you ride around in the pack like a broken potato, you need to do more than one race. You need to do three, four if you can stand it. The additional races cost a measly fifteen bucks, and you will be absolutely frazzled if you put in three hours of crit racing, even if you just sit there like a wart.
The corollary is that if you only do one or two races you are not getting much training benefit from imitating a toenail. So once you accept that you will never win, if you decide that your goal is training, then do three races and make sure when you get home you can barely inject a steroid. That’s how tired you should be.
I’m here to help my teammate win
While this sounds like a good reason to do a four-corner industrial park bunch sprint, it’s usually not. Why? Because if your teammate is Ryan Dorris or Dave Holland or Anthony Freeman, they don’t need your help. At all. Not even a little bit. That fantasy you have of driving the pace on the final lap and dropping them off gift-wrapped with 200m to go is like the Tooth Fairy. Nuh-uh.
The most obvious reason this won’t ever happen is because if you had that kind of speed and that kind of positioning, you’d be capable of winning yourself, but as we’ve seen you have one or neither but not both. The less obvious reason and the sad one that your teammates won’t tell you is that they don’t need or want you anywhere near them on the last lap.
Your teammates are looking for a good wheel to latch onto, not yours, and you are violating that most crucial of bike racing lessons, “Don’t go where you don’t belong.”
It is painful to realize that you are worthless when it comes to helping others, but like gravity it is also a fact. You are a clogstacle, an object that gets in the way at precisely the wrong time, leading to crashes, bumps, shrieks of terror, and having thirty people pass you in the last hundred meters. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a wide-eyed new racer tell me how he was getting fit so he could “help the team” by “leading out Ol’ Grizzles,” and me never having the heart to say “Ol’ Grizzles wants you as far back as you can get without being in Montana.”
So now is a great time to take that fantasy of you driving the leadout train behind the woodshed and shoot it. Actually, you don’t even have to shoot it because it is already dead.
But don’t despair! There is a way that you, a loser, can help your teammates, who might be winners. It’s not glamorous or glorious and you may well DNF, but since you’ve accepted that you will never win, and have decided that you don’t just want to ride around in circles like a greasy donut doing nothing, you can be a helper.
Your sprinter dude teammates at CBR are waiting for the end. That’s it. They know who they have to beat and how they have to beat them. What they are hoping is that their competition is just slightly more tired at the end than they are because unless you’re sprinting against Charon Smith the differential is often not that great. This is where you, lowly wanker, can actually attack.
Attacking is simple. You wait until the pack bunches up, then squirt up the side pedaling as if you are being chased by facial herpes. The pack has bunched up because it is going slow; you are squirting up the side because you are going fast. When you hit the front you will keep going and they will watch you go, in amazement, perhaps sprinkled with a few giggles at your awkward pedaling syle (pull your left knee in, please).
“Who is that wanker?” they will all wonder, but you won’t care because you will be off the front and pretty soon instead of wondering, they will have to chase. Don’t ever think, even for a moment, that they will not chase and you will somehow solo to glorious victory. They will, and you won’t.
Key point: This attack helps your sprinter/potential winner. You will get caught of course and there will likely be a counter and you could well get punched out the back of the field, dropped for good, pulled by the ref, and forced to tell your wife that you DNF’d a stupid crit, but you will have done something far more interesting and useful and bike-racerish than going around in circles like a turd swirling the drain. What’s more important is that if you have teammates who are also doing the toilet swirl thing, they can do these attacks, too.
Each attack, though weak and doomed to failure and instigated by a complete flailer (you), results in someone having to expend energy chasing you down. That is often one of the potential winners and your teammate will be back there chortling. Make a note of this: DOOMED ATTACKS ARE GREAT TEAMWORK AND HELP YOUR SPRUNTER. Even more incredibly, you are not limited to one of these attacks. You can do two, three, or even seventy, as many as your legs can stand. And another bonus is that it is good training. So the next time you are in a crit simply going around in circles waiting for your inevitable 58th placing, for fuck’s sake make an effort, and then another, and then another.
Here’s another fact. If the 90% who never do anything all did one hard effort, the races wouldn’t end in a field sprunt. They would break apart and an actual bike race would occur. However, this is impossible.
I’m here to entertain the spectators
It is easy to understand why you wouldn’t want to attack repeatedly to help your teammate. Most teammates aren’t worth helping at all, even a little. In fact, most teammates are best served by being chased down like scurvy dogs. There are few feelings in life as enjoyable as watching a teammate in a successful break, and then helping the enemy bring him back. Betrayal and treachery rule.
So it’s not necessary to carry out senseless attacks so your superior teammate can bring home yet another winner’s mug and $50 check while you have to show up at the water cooler on Monday and explain that you “helped by losing.” No one will understand. The only thing they will understand is “I won,” which you will never get to say, and even if you do, they will immediately forget because it is a ridiculous thing that causes their brains to stop the minute you say “criterium.” No matter what they say they are all thinking “What the fuck is a criterium?”
The final and only sane reason to be at the bike race, since you can’t win and you don’t want to train and you wouldn’t help your teammates on a bet is to entertain the spectators.
Keep in mind that although for you bike racing is a mortally serious event contested between serious adults displaying the ultimate in mental acuity, reflexes, endurance, fitness, and speed, to the rest of Planet Earth you are a middle-aged man slowly and anonymously riding a plastic toy in circles in his underwear clownsuit while his pot belly sags over the top tube and a few bored family members eat tacos and hope you don’t get killed or, depending on your insurance policy, that you do.
Although studies have shown that some activities shut down the brain more completely than watching a bike race, such as being dead, for the most part industrial park crit racing is the worst. Fortunately, at least at CBR, Kris and Jeff Prinz had the foresight to hire Archibald & Rufus to do the race announcing. These two guys are funny, witty, insightful, experienced racers and pro commentators.
Something has to happen in the race. Even Archibald & Rufus can’t make chicken salad out of chickenshit, and it’s up to you to bring the chicken. A well timed attack, a badly timed attack, a hopeless surge for a lost prime, a mad dash for a pair of socks or some nutritional supplement that you don’t need, anything that is dynamic and noticeable and that distinguishes you from the other sods stuck in the middle of the peloton counting down to 58th place is exciting! And the announcers will either say your name or, less thrilling, your race number.
“Here comes Number 607 on a hopeless attack destined for failure!” Rufus will roar.
The crowd will wake up. They will look. They’ll note your determination, your focused drive, your matchy-matchy socks, and they will admire your effort, because no matter how silly you look, punching off the front in a solo move is hard and looks impressive, especially to the ignorant and ill-informed, and especially with Archibald & Rufus comparing your daring to Eddy Merckx.
In other words, if all else fails, at least put on a show. You got this.
Conclusion: Bike racing lessons that work
I hope you’ve been able to identify yourself. I know I have. Industrial park crit racing can be gratifying but you have to get out of the blob. Everyone can’t be a winner; it’s not a lottery ticket where the chances are equal. But there’s more to life than winning. Just ask Charlie Sheen.
About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.