August 3, 2016 § 25 Comments
Or “PEE” as I like to call it.
A couple of months ago I ordered the new SRAM electric wireless shifter thingies from my ace mechanic, Boozy P. One day he called. “Yo, Wanky, you still want that stuff?”
“Bring it,” I said. “It’s about time for me to crack the top 10 out at Telo, and what’s a couple grand if it guarantees me a placing or two?”
A week later there was a family car crisis which led to the purchase of a Chevy Volt. It was the most awesome car in the world for seven days, but after one full week of flawlessness it quit working and it’s been in the shop ever since. “Part’s on back order,” Service Dude said.
That was July 18.
So I called Boozy P. “Dude,” I said, “I bought a new broken Chevy Volt and we have some financial issues and I have to choose between the SRAM electrothingies or food.”
He waited, wondering what the problem was. “Yeah?”
“So I’m going to have to pass on that stuff I ordered unless it puts you in a bind, in which case I’ll take it and lose that last 35 pounds.”
“Nah,” he said, “I can return it; actually I got a great deal and several people have been asking about it. No worries.”
Shortly thereafter I got 2nd or 3rd in the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016, which is the best I’ve ever done there in eight years but who’s counting? About that time Boozy P. stopped answering my phone calls and texts which was disturbing because he’s super responsive. Unbeknownst to me he had taken a five-day trip to the Sierras, going up to 12,000 feet with nothing but beer to sustain him.
I had no idea he’d gone Jeremiah Johnson on me. I thought he was mad because I’d crawfished on the PEE or perhaps somehow because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?
I interrupted Manslaughter’s vacation in Hawai’i to see if he could intervene. “Boozy P. isn’t mad,” Manslaughter assured me. “He’s never mad. Take a Xanax.”
Then I called EA Sports, Inc., who was excited to hear from me but not that excited. “Dude, it’s 2:00 AM and you woke up the whole family. What’s up?” I told him the sad story about how I’d crawfished on the PEE and Boozy was not taking my calls or texts because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?
EA Sports, Inc. advised me to get some sleep. “Boozy probably dropped his phone in the toilet. He’ll get back to you once he gets a new one.”
Finally I called Dawg. “Don’t ever call me at 3:00 AM again,” he said. “Even if you’re in jail. Especially if you’re in jail.” He hung up and I didn’t even get a chance to tell him about how I’d crawfished on the PEE and how maybe Boozy wasn’t taking my calls or texts because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?
After I’d given up all hope, Boozy P. returned from the Sierras. “Yo, Wanky,” he said. “I saw you called me 473 times and left a thousand text messages. What’s up?”
I went over to the shop and apologized for crawfishing and for the 2nd or 3rd Place Controversy (my best Telo finish ever, btw). “No worries,” he said. “You still want the SRAM wireless? I was going to take it back today.”
I thought about the Chevy Volt which was still in the shop at Martin Chevrolet and how the part was on back order indefinitely although they’d promised to speak with the subcontractor factory in Vietnam to find out when the part might be manufactured and how Mrs. WM was going to kill me when she found out I’d bought something that I couldn’t even explain what it was or what it did. That’s when I looked at the SRAM electrothingy box.
“You know,” I said, “my PEE has been grossly exceeding my dedication since I swapped a SunTour derailleur, Sugino cranks, and Dia-Compe brakes for Campy Super Record back in 1984. And I can’t possibly afford it but that box is so sweet so yeah, put that shit on.”
For all you tech heads out there, the first key performance difference between SRAM electrothingy and Dura-Ace mechanical is overwhelming, dominating, extraordinary beyond words: The second you post a picture of the cool boxes on Facegag, it breaks your fuggin’ timeline.
If you’ve always been in the running for awesome Facebag posts but have never been able to crack the podium, SRAM electro is the real deal. You gain, on average, 150 extra likes, 50-ish smiley faces, and envious posts from Ol’ Grizzles that don’t even mention guns or how our great nation was built on easy access to suicide and firearm accidents in the home.
The SRAM electro interfaces incredibly well with FB and is easily uploaded to your timeline, where it simply outperforms any other PEE, even wheelsets that are full carbon with extra carbon and photos of Charon. I’ll admit that it’s a costly Facebag upgrade but it’s worth it for the hour or two that you eclipse all of the stories about Trump until he beats up another squalling infant, calls the mother of a dead soldier a fat cow, or urinates on a TV interviewer.
When I actually got to ride the new electrothingy stuff, it was better than watching the ads in my timeline that said “Batshit Crazy Republicans So Fucking Terrified of Trump That We’re Voting for Hillary.”
Less importantly, I also got to use the electrothingies while actually riding, and got to test the PEE out at Telo last night, which kind of broke the rule of “Never try new stuff out for the first time on race day.” After 50 minutes of an amazingly brutal race, Headdown James attacked for the 25th time into the wind after Dawg had brought the break to within view. Everyone was screaming friendly advice to me.
“Pull through, you bastard!”
“You wheelsucking piece of shit!”
“Damn you, Wanky, you asshole, pull through!”
However, in addition to being really tired I am a really bad person, so I hunkered down until Headdown James launched. He is really tiny and accelerates like a gnat but I managed to latch on. He glanced back and saw that it was Sir Deadweight. He knew better than to flick his elbow, and not just because Heavy D., who was up the road in the break, had admonished me the week before.
“What is wrong with you, you nut?” he had asked.
“What do you mean?” I fake answered.
“You chased me down ten times during the race!”
“I did?” I fake said.
“Hell yes, you did. Every time I looked back you were driving the front with ten guys on your wheel!”
“Really?” I fake said. “I thought I was bridging,” I fake excusified.
“You were, with everyone else. Please don’t do that next week. It’s bad racing and bad etiquette. I’m your teammate, dude.”
“I won’t,” I fake promised. Heavy D. didn’t know that I love nothing more than chasing teammates. It’s not out of hostility, it’s because I like them and want to BE with them and if they’re up the road the only way I can be with them is to chase.
However, with my new PEE I had sworn not to chase and I didn’t. Headdown James rode like a demon and got us to the break. I was so tired and happy to see my friends that I cried. Heavy D. had been monitoring the situation and knew that I hadn’t dragged up the field. “Good work, Wanky,” he said. “For once.”
Out of the six-man break I put in an amazing effort and convincingly beat everyone in the chase group for an impressive 6th, which was three or four placings less than the 2nd or 3rd I’d gotten the week before in the Great Controversy when I was using the D/A mechanical.
“How’d you like it?” asked Boozy P. after the race, who had gotten second and scorched me on a bike and components that had, frankly, zero Facegag performance edge.
“Its Facebag game is strong,” I said. “But its on-the-road performance hasn’t translated into a Wanky training crit victory yet.” I watched as Emily pulled on the winner’s tunic, an awesome StageOne production given to the women’s weekly winner at Telo.
“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe you need some new wheels?”
My stomach rumbled as I thought about facing the next couple of weeks eating nothing but water washed down with H20. “You’re right.”
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August 1, 2016 § 17 Comments
The Telo training crit has been around for decades. It’s an informal gathering of riders that, like hundreds of similar events across the country, takes place on Tuesday when cyclists get together to test their legs against riders. Why is Tuesday such a common day for a training crit? Because we rest on Monday!
These informal gatherings come and go; there’s no promoter and no organization–sometimes the rides fade away (as Telo did two years ago), and sometimes they reform. Earlier this year, StageOne Sports came up with a winner’s jersey that was awarded each week to the first-place finisher. Since there aren’t any refs and it’s an unorganized ride, it’s all done on an honor system … which mostly works!
Telo is without question the hardest Tuesday training crit in California; nothing else even comes close and it’s all thanks to the battering 20-mph head/crosswind that springs up every afternoon and blows into your face for half of each and every lap. Where other training rides have big groups (think Eldo or NPR or MAMO) that allow any reasonably fit cyclist to sit in, Telo allows no such luxury. Large fields are halved after a few laps and as the season wears on Telo always ends in a small one, two, or three-man breakaway.
The ride is so bitter and brutal that most participants do it only a handful of times a year, even though it runs every week from the spring to the fall time change. I’ve skipped it for years at a stretch.
The only bad part about the weekly winner’s jersey is that the winner is always a man. Because it’s not a sanctioned race or event there are no categories. You show up, assume the risk, and ride. And because men are lumped with women, no woman has finished first.
That’s when StageOne donated design services and we got together to make a winner’s jersey for the women. Telo is so tough that the women who come out and do it should have the chance of pulling on a victory tunic. Here’s what StageOne came up with. It’s a beaut!
The jerseys arrive today, Monday, August 1, and the first winning woman will get to wear her gloriously awesomely beautifully comfortably designed tunic after the Tuesday, August 2 ride. If you’re a woman and you’ve avoided Telo for whatever reason, henceforth it won’t be because there isn’t a jersey for you!
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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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