Elder abuse

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.

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David Wells, two-time jersey winner.

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.

END

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Who’s the flaccidest of them all?

June 12, 2016 § 23 Comments

Tomorrow there is a championship bicycle race for old flaccid fellows with leaky prostates and I intend to win it.

Please advise the promoter that I wear a size small champion’s jersey.

Before you roll your eyes so far up into your head that the optic nerve shows, consider that this is a detailed victory plan built upon the three B’s: Wax, Wheels, and Bread.

Prior to assembling the perfect game plan I carefully analyzed my results on the CBR Flaccid Fellows race course over the last few years:

2016: 2nd
2015: 4th, 3rd
2014: 4th
2013: 3rd

We will ignore for a moment that those are the cherry-picked results from the ten thousand times I’ve done this race. What we will not ignore is that of all the racing I’ve done, this is the only one with even the faintest, remotest tint of possibility with regard to a win. In other words, it may be completely hopeless, but it’s infinitely less hopeless than winning UCLA Punchbowl for example, where my results have been 38th, 24th, 29th, DNF, 15th, DNF, and 32nd.

Having run the statistical analysis and concluded that tomorrow is unquestionably my day to win, a number of problems presented themselves, in order of importance:

  1. Why are you such a delusional old fool?
  2. How are going to beat Bart Clifford?
  3. How are you going to beat Craig Miller?
  4. How are you going to beat Ted Rupp?
  5. How are you going to beat James Wiznura?
  6. How are you going to beat Marvin Hall?
  7. How are you going to beat Kenny Rogers?
  8. How are you going to beat Steve Gregorios?
  9. You are going to beat Anthony Reguero.
  10. How are you going to beat Josh Gruenberg?
  11. How are you going to beat all the other people you’ve never beaten before who will be in the race and who will be primed and ready for the kill?

Fortunately, my battle plan effectively resolves each of the above problems with scientific efficiency by applying the three B’s: Wax, Wheels, and Bread.

The first B, of course, is Wend Wax. By proper application of this space age technology which dates back to the  Qin Dynasty, 221–206 BC, which was actually several years before carbon frames and wireless shifting, I am able to ensure that my bike gains an estimated 2,305 gigawatts in power at the decisive moment in the race.

Unfortunately for No. 1-11 above, it’s too late for them to get a Brazilian chain wax job before tomorrow as I ordered three containers of all existing Wend product and they won’t have more until Monday. Sucks to be you, suckahs.

wend1

Note the ultra-boss podium hat I will be wearing on the top step of the podium as I look down in pity on Bart, Brett, Craig, and the other unhappy wankers who will be gnawing their livers in angry defeat while spouses and small children cry in disappointment.

The first step in plan B is of course to properly prep the surgical field, a trick I learned from Dr. Sherri Foxworthy, an expert in prepped fields. With the Qin Dynasty Wend chain cleaner-upper I carefully remove all unsightly hairs along the bikini line as follows:

wend2

Old bikini hair removal with Wend Wax-Off is critical to maximal smoothness of chain penetrating into hot maw of spinning gear teeth.

Next I sealed the victory deal with careful application of the roll-on waxy stick which ensures crisp shifting, minimal friction between the chain and the toothy thingies, and also smells good and you should slap on a roll or two under your arms when you’re teeing up for that special first date with Ms. Swipe Left.

wend3

Comes in three refreshing scents: Hunky Surfer, Studly Tall Man in 3-Piece Suit Who Opens Doors for Ladies, and Mouth Foaming Aged Bike Racer.

Now that I’m all waxed up and feeling smooth and sexy and happily well-scented in prepration for being on the top step, even though I WON’T be raising my arms like some clown on a trampoline, it’s time for the second B: Wheels.

Nothing is more critical to my race plan than the lethal acceleration of the FastForward F2R Wheelset Unpaid Advertorial Except for Those Two Pairs of Free Bib Shorts ($500 retail value, thanks JD). The FFWD F2R wheel is simply the finest 100% carbon full carbon wheel that accelerates very fast in a forward kind of way. It is highly superior to the Mercury/Zipp/Enve/Mavic Fast Backward models, which are made of only 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% not-quite-full carbon and have been laboratory and wind tunnel tested to deliver more speed when going in reverse but less speed than FFWD when traveling forward. So ask yourself: “Would I rather go fast backward or fast forward?” Duh.

ffwd1

Sexy FastForward Wheelbag which doubles as a Cat 2 apartment bag. Baby swimmy pool thing and potted dwarf stone pine we use every Christmas because I’m too cheap to buy a tree not included.

While Problem Numbers 1-11 will all be using a deeper profile 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% not-quite-full carbon wheelset, the F2R will prove decisive in my victory bid because although slightly less aero than the deeper dish wheelsets, the unbearable lightness of being compared to heavier wheels allows for much quicker acceleration out of the turns, and more importantly, when I make my winning move which is designed to break the others with my tremendous power.

FFWD F2R, in addition to lots of capital letters, comes with an ass-kicking thing that lets you put air in and let air out to your desired specifications. And no, don’t bother asking my ace mechanic Boozy P. to glue on your fuggin’ tubulars. He’s busy today if you’re in my race.

ffwd2

These things are sick light; racers start your hidden seat tube engines ’cause your gonna fuggin’ need ’em when these F2R’s start to roll.

The final part of my victory Plan B trifecta is of course bread, and that means none other than Mrs. WM’s homemade staff of life, hot out of the oven, finished on a cooling board, and slathered in heaps of soft butter the mere sight of which will cause Surfer Dan and MMX to break out into a cold sweat.

By carbo and fat and yeast loading on a full loaf of Mrs. WM’s wonder bread and a full stick of butter my muscles and tummy will be supercharged with the power needed to unleash my tremendous power just as everyone else gets flabby, flaccid, and weak at the knees, while at the same time the extra bread power will go straight to my brain and unlock amazing powers of on-the-fly race analysis and canny strategic placement that guarantees victory.

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No, you can’t have any. Yes, I’ll have two buttered slices in my water bottle.

The fourth and final prong of my Three B’s plan is of course “Speedsuit.” Each race, people get more and more envious of my StageOne speedsuit with its speedy dimples and its cool product placement of sponsor names like Beachbody Performance, which supplies me with excellent recovery chocolate milk that I can drink after races to recover from the bread and butter. With its speedy look, form fitting clingy-ness and slinky girlish fit just above my hairy and bony knees this outfit adds a dozen watts to any effort and doubles as gorgeous evening attire for any kinky party with leather-clad people who have names like Chester, Malvolio, Sir Pain, and Prissy Bitchyface.

stageone1

When you click on the Beachbody link, ignore the hairy ape in the Borat uni-thong. No matter how much recovery drink you consume, you won’t turn into him.

END

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I believe in miracles (you sexy thang)

June 4, 2016 § 6 Comments

In Italy they are describing Vincenzo Nibali’s comeback and Giro d’Italia victory as one of the greatest comebacks in professional cycling. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Nibs to get the skinny on this most incredible, amazing, unbelievable, hard-to-swallow, astonishing, fact-defying, physiologically impossible, doubtful, suspicious, believable if you’re a complete fool, impressive and astounding victory

CitSB: How’d you do it?

Nibs: It was a miracle, a holy gift from above.

CitSB: A week to go in the race and you had crumbled, your bid was in ruins after losing 37 seconds on the big Dolomite stage to Corvara, and then you collapsed quicker than a Trump quote run through Fact-Check, losing close to two minutes in the mountain time trial to Alpe di Siusi.

Nibs: It was the depth of defeat, I had lost everything, the Holy Father was up all night praying in the sadness.

CitSB: Then you pulled a wanker move of the highest order, losing a further 1:47 on the relatively easy mountain stage to Andalo, a stage that, frankly, my grandmother could have beaten you on.

Nibs: It was zero, nothing, niente, everyone was stepping on my testicles. To bed every night, crying like the baby with dry teat.

CitSB: You seemed close to throwing in the towel and quitting the race. What was going on?

Nibs: I had the problem with my forma, everyt’ing in destitution, length of crank, motivazione, but it was over for me.

CitSB: So what happened?

Nibs: My team manager Alexander Vinokourov told me to pray to the Baby Jesus and only do the pan y agua and he go to Kazakhstan on special overnight trip and come back with special vitamin drink made from root of lubbertink.

CitSB: Root of lubbertink?

Nibs: Special Kazakhstan magic herb to replenish precious bodily fluids.

CitSB: Wow.

Nibs: Comes in special Kazakh plastic bag with I.V. drip.

CitSB: I see. That “magic herb.”

Nibs: I know what you t’inking. I have the two giant stages in the Alps and am out of the gasoline. How Nibali he can win? Dat’s what you t’inking. Nibali he doping shit-ass. Dat’s what you t’inking. Nibali cheat-ass doping cheat-ass bici lying volcano-doping shit-ball, dat’s what you t’inking.

CitSB: Well, yes.

Nibs: Itsa root of lubbertink and Sicilian pride and instinct, and destiny child when Kruijswijk fall off his bici onto head, putting Dutchman in trouble and bandage. I believe in my resurrection and complete masterpiece by dropping Chaves on the Colle della Lombarda like smelly sack of turd off tall cliff.

CitSB: Physiologically it doesn’t add up. One week you can’t pedal, then in the hardest week of the race you grow wings.

Nibs: Itsa look funny but I gotta trust Vino. He know how to pull the pepper outta the sausage.

CitSB: Anything else?

Nibs: Pan y agua and Sicilian pride.

CitSB: And root of lubbertink.

Nibs: And root of lubbertink.

END

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Quitting for good

May 31, 2016 § 13 Comments

The great thing about quitting bike racing once and for all is racing again. It’s a freshener-upper, like ditching a girlfriend who you’re absolutely done with and can’t stand ANY MORE EVER until later that night when you get hungry.

I woke up this morning, the day after I’d competed in two races at the Old Fellows Droopy Sack Race in Thousand Oaks, and two races at the Same Old Droopy Sack Fellows Race in Compton. All I could think of was Brett Clare. It was his fault I felt this way.

“This way” was unable to stand properly, with shooting pains up and down my spine and legs. Worst of all, I stood on the Monday scales and realized that I’d gained five pounds in 48 hours. Apparently the math of a few hours racing + 49,000 calories = stretchy pants morning.

I hobbled into the kitchen to make coffee, wondering how it had ended this way. On Memorial Day, our nation’s greatest celebration of sending off young people to die and spend a trillion dollars in Iraq so that we can shop at Wal-Mart, I had made a clever race plan for the CBR Memorial Day crit to compensate for my tiredness from the previous day’s racing:

  1. Sit for 40 minutes.
  2. Attack at the 41st minute.
  3. Break the field with my tremendous power.

There were some obvious problems with this strategy, but the most obvious one (aside from the well-proven absence of tremendous power) was the promise I made to teammates FXH and Dave Holland, who had shaken their heads in disbelief at the idea that I’d wait even four minutes, much less 40, before making a pointless move.

“Guys,” I swore on a handy bible that I pulled out of my skinsuit, “if I do anything other than sit last wheel for the first forty minutes of the race I’ll buy you each a new bicycle.”

“Thanks,” said FXH, “but we don’t have any more room in the garage for a junker pulled out from the dumpster.”

“No, no,” I said. “Full carbon made of 100% Taiwanese carbon with fancy Italian name decals and all carbon. Di3 wireless with Transformer functionality so it also folds into an aircraft carrier.”

David shrugged. “Whatever you do, we’ll try to help.” He patted his cell phone which he had thoughtfully opened to 911-instant-send on my behalf.

At that moment Patrick, my beloved Texas compatriot who had disproven everything we knew about Aggies and who had brought his BBQ smoker to the race, was on his bell lap in the Cat 3 race. We watched him pull the slickest move in the book, the old “jump off your bike mid-pack and create a bit of confusion so your teammates can sprint to glory.” Video here.

Of course Patrick wasn’t only working for his teammates with this slick move. He was also shearing off a few choice cuts of skin and lean beef to add to the cooker so that we could feast afterwards on some incredibly tender cuts of bikerloin. And it was outstanding!

But back to the story …

The race began and I drifted to my allotted slot, #65. I watched far up ahead as Brett Clare, Brett Clare, and Brett Clare began whaling the living snot out of each and every droopy sack. In between Brett’s savagery, Thurlow Rogers would launch punishing counter after punishing counter, and off in the distance I could see my loyal teammates FXH, Dave Holland, Attila Fruttus, Chuck Huang, and Steven Ehasz closing gaps, attacking, and doing things of a various nature.

Each lap was made more interesting by the checkling of David Worthington, who, seated on a rusty bicycle, pedaled counter-clockwise and checkled everyone with bits of wisdom such as “Go faster!” and “Pedal harder!” and “The ’94 Rockets are better than your punk ass Warriors!”

It was surprising how un-tired I became sitting at the back doing nothing, and it appeared that the fellows doing all of the animating were not animating quite as hard fifteen minutes in as they had animated at the beginning, and after thirty minutes of animating their animating was much less animated, until, at forty minutes, there was a noted absence of much animation at all. A few laps prior Thurlow and another legend of the road had attacked and escaped.

I watched my watch to make sure I wouldn’t end up owing anyone a new bike or 100% carbon, coasted forward and did the Daniel-Holloway-accelerate-from-midpack so that when you hit the front you’re going 75 MPH and no one can even think about getting on your wheel. In my case, that has never worked because by the time I hit the front after my massive acceleration I’m only going about 25 and there are 60 other people on my wheel checking texts and emails.

This time, however, what with all the animation having evaporated into the ether, I hit the front and then hit the off-the-front and then hit the howling-fucking-headwind-on-the-uphill and then hit the breakaway and then hit the breakaway-chasing-to-get-on and then we rode around for a couple of laps and I noted:

  1. One bullet early equals two bullets late.
  2. If you’ve only got one match but the other dudes have none, you’re the only one who can light the fire.
  3. The pack loves to chase Wanky.

So we got caught and the pack sat up about ten yards before rolling up to my rear wheel. Which was when I noted something else:

  1. Go.
  2. Again.
  3. Now.

So I did and the pack sat up and Brett Clare, Steven Strickler, and Rigo Cruz bridged and I buried it and attacked the break after Turn 3 and they hollered at each other while I pedaled furiously away. My Big Orange teammates had been masterfully controlling the field with expert blocking, shouting, weaving, bobbing, threats, firebombs, and plentiful garlic farts.

With victory secured and my congestive heart failure doing its thing I noticed with two turns to go that Brett Clare was gaining on me, filling my field of vision more and more like an alien in a horror film until he opened his jaws and snapped me in half a hundred yards before the line. (Moral: Riding away from a time trial champion is harder than it looks, and it already looks really fucking hard.)

They carried me from the oxygen tent to the podium and set me gently upon it, where I demurely kept my arms at my side and tried not to breathe beneath the raised arms of the great.

END

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Serious fun with Serious Cycling at Barry Wolfe crit

May 30, 2016 § 6 Comments

I don’t listen to music very much any more because of mind control. The last listening binge I went on was Beethoven and there I was being forced to listen to paeans to Napoleon. I hate Napoleon.

But my cousin Josh had just released a new CD and it had arrived in the mail the day before so I put it in the player as I headed off for the races. It’s called “Love in a Hurricane,” and contains some of the best of his astonishing body of work — powerful blues rock, ballads, and re-works of iconic songs like Son House’s “Death Letter.” All of it is built upon incredible mastery of the guitar, and finished with an attention to lyrics that reflects his obvious love of poetry.

Napoleon I can’t dig, but Son House, well, uh, hell yes.

21

I got to the race and went over to sign-in. On the way there I watched the race that was in progress, the super old man’s category where Thurlow Rogers was mercilessly flogging the shit out of the field, then the break, then he rode off and won. Next I saw my friend Bart Clifford. Bart has only been racing for a few years but he’s one of the best old guy riders out there. He has a blazing fast sprint and if he winds up in your break he busts his balls to make the break stick, and still cans you in the finish. He was talking about the recent crash-fest at Old Fellows’ Fake Nationals in North Carolina. “Worse than a fucking off-season training crit in Ontario,” he said, which sums it up.

I put on my orange-and-black clown suit. Keith Ketterer, hour record holder, world champion, and phenomenal coach, came by to give me some advice. “Wanky,” he said, “just ride in a straight line.”

The 45+ race began and I stuck to my plan. On the way up I’d realized that there are only five moves in cycling:

  1. Sit.
  2. Surge.
  3. Attack.
  4. Sprint.
  5. Quit.

Since I can’t sprint, and my attack is kind of like a Big Blue Bus moving away from the curb after taking on 150 Cheeseburger Conventioneers, I had made up my mind to sit the entire race and surge to follow anything that looked like a promising break. Then, with ten minutes to go I would attack. Once. Devil take the hindmost.

Two hundred yards into the race I had forgotten all that nonsense and was back to my incorrigible ways, squandering energy, jumping around like a bunny, and making sure that if a legit move ever happened I’d be too tired to respond. Pretty soon the race finished, but in the final lap I ran out of talent and finished third-from-last. Bart won handily, although as a professional actor he had to add some drama by lying down on the grass and panting as if he’d been shot in the liver with a javelin. John Slover got second and my teammate Dave Holland got third.

While deciding whether or not to do the 35+ race I ate six spicy pork tacos with guacamole, figuring a little extra energy couldn’t hurt. The taco euphoria caused me to foolishly sign up for the young person’s race, which was not smart.

In the 35+ race it was the Everyone Do Nothing And Watch While Kayle And Charon Win Show. Although the first few laps were pretty quick, they weren’t nearly as quick as the taco sludge that kept sprinting up my throat, threatening to overflow the drainpipe at any minute. About halfway into the race I turned to the dude next to me and said, “What are all these motherfuckers doing sitting in like this?”

He looked at me and smiled. “They’re watching Kayle race Charon.”

We puttered around for 45 minutes and then Kogut rolled and Charon followed him. “I ain’t doing nothing until you establish the break,” Charon said, which made sense because Charon had 38 Surf City teammates back in the field, which only had 32 riders. Kogut busted a gut to make the break stick, Charon whipping him like he was a dog. “Come on man, we got this,” Charon said, urging Kogut to take the battering pulls into the headwind, but not bothering to explain that “we” meant “Charon,” since in a two-up sprint Kogut had as much chance of beating Charon as I have of growing a third arm.

After that race I watched Megan Jastrab and Summer Moak, aged 14 and 17 respectively, smash the elite women’s field for first and second. I drove back and listened to more Love in a Hurricane, and as soon as I got home I went immediately to work.

bottle_time

END

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Bikes or books?

May 28, 2016 § 20 Comments

I went to a banquet last night for my youngest son’s high school speech and debate team. I haven’t been to a banquet in years and was surprised at the format. After a brief series of introductions by one of the teachers, the incoming president of the club invited each of the twenty graduating seniors to the lectern and they all made a speech.

Most had no idea they were going to give a talk in front of about eighty peers and adults, but if they were nervous they didn’t show it. And speech/debaters or not, they proved this bit of wisdom: Mark Twain, who recovered from his frequent financial disasters with speaking tours, and who was the funniest and most skilled public speaker of his time, was once interviewed about the art of speaking in public.

“How long does it take you to prepare for a five-minute speech?” the journalist asked.

“About four hours,” Twain said.

“That’s incredible,” the journalist remarked, awestruck. “And then how long does it take to prepare for a two-hour speech?”

“I can do that right now.”

Brevity, according to one who knew, isn’t merely the soul of wit, it’s the most challenging form of it. Some of the speeches involved direct or indirect bragging about college acceptances, some mentioned how their minds had been formed by debate, most talked about the mental beatdowns they’d been exposed to at debate tournaments, all expressed thanks, one evoked tears. None of the students mentioned their devotion to bike racing.

I’ve seen a lot of young people fall off into the abyss of competitive cycling at a young age. With help from their parents, friends, and coaches, they have foregone things like debate in order to race a bicycle. Whereas the intellectual residue from debate, like music and art, stays with you for life, little remains once you quit riding around in circles for trinkets. In fact, people who quit cycling at any age are often aghast as they gaze around the garage at the bikes, the wheels, the clothing, the racks, the trainers, and the endless pile of gadgets that now have no meaning, no use, no application to anything, and no value except what they can claw back on e-Bay.

So ever since I ran across a kid fully soaked in the Kool-Aid who seems to be at the right age to make all the wrong decisions, I have thought about pulling him aside and saying, “Get off the bike. It won’t take you anywhere. You’ll never make a livelihood at it and it will derail every other meaningful opportunity currently in front of you. If you want to race something, race your mind, and race it with books.”

But I didn’t.

Instead, I’ve thought about the kids at the debate banquet and what they have ahead of them–four years at some of the best colleges and a “bright future.” But how bright? I graduated from one of the best debate programs in the history of the NFL — which was christened the National Forensic League decades before the pro football merger — and I don’t think any of the people I went to high school with have better lives than some of the young people I’ve seen grow up as bike racers. And if they do have better lives, I don’t think you can pin it on their experiences in debate.

Moreover, what is a better life? More money? Bigger house? More bragworthy college for you or your children? And unlike youth, which is the only time window that you can reach for the stars as an athlete, aren’t books and education available throughout your life?

And what about that small handful of kids who are filled, consumed, obsessed, absorbed with passion? Sure, it’s sad to see kids pushed and prodded through cycling by vicarious-thrill-seeking parents who themselves don’t/won’t ever pin on a number, but what about the ones who do it in spite of their families, the ones who you can tell from a mile away that they live to ride their bikes? Isn’t that pursuit worth the weight of every book ever written?

I think it is.

END

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Thrill of the chase

May 25, 2016 § 11 Comments

When your face is mashed against the stem and there is a 33-mph sweep up the left side and you’re already pegged trying to close a 3-foot gap just to get up to a wobbly, about-to-detonate wheel so you can (with much prayer) leapfrog over the next gap that is going from a bike length to a football field, when the pain is shooting up your legs into your lungs and rasping like a giant file on a block of concrete, when you’re at that point in the race when you have found THE WORD and THE WORD is “QUIT!” and you’re already making up reasons why QUIT is brilliant and clever and CONTINUE is for insecure insane people because WHAT DO I HAVE TO PROVE and HOW AM I GOING TO PROVE IT OUT HERE are the dominant models in your mind’s dialectical discourse re: the philosophy of not giving up, when all that is happening it is hard to feel fun, much less see it.

That was my Telo last night, a huge turnout with mighty hammers of enraged wrath swinging in the fists of Evens Stievenart, Josh Alverson, Evan Stade, Sam Warford, Dan Cobley, Garrett Olsen, Peyton Cooke, Dave Wells, and a host of other characters who found the front for long enough to dump a bucket of boiling pain down the throats of the suffering convicts who were chained in hell to the unrelenting single-file line of pain.

But one rider stood out, even among that throng of ill-tempered criminals. He was slight, he was small, he was young, he hadn’t really learned how to ride in a straight line or how to keep his head up when sprinting full bore in the middle of a pack, but he had this: He had the magic.

This kid went with every surge, attempted every breakaway, tried to bridge to every move, bounced around in the pack like a ping-pong ball, tore at his pedals to not get dropped in the back straight, launched off the front fearlessly in the draft of the big fast men, pushed his way to the point only to get batted to the back, surged, blew, attacked, blew, followed, blew, sprinted, blew, launched, blew, blew, blew, blew, recovered, hit the gas as hard as he could and did it all over again.

Bader the Bad made his mark not only with his tenacity, but with the effect he had on the aged, the grizzled, the cynical, the broken, the jaded, and the crusty old farts trying to decide whether it was worth hanging on. In sixty minutes this kid showed us why we first raced: For the abandon and complete immersion into the moment, where age doesn’t matter, gender is irrelevant, name/rank/serial number/national origin/sexual orientation all blend into the necessity of the moment, “Can you hang, and if so can you WIN?”

Bader didn’t win, but on the last lap with the pack in tatters and even the iron-legged titans feeling the burn, he leaped, he attacked, he gave it his all for the hundredth time, and he didn’t stop pedaling until he had crossed the line.

He he gave us hope, he gave us a bike race, he made us hurt, and best of all, after the gasping was done, he made us smile.

END

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