“Perky” Lea

December 18, 2015 § 37 Comments

Bobby “Perky” Lea tested positive for metabolites of oxycodone shortly after winning the national points race championship and his sanction was announced today by USADA. The best part of the sanction press release is the generic language that specifically talks about how USADA works with athletes to keep them from doing exactly what Lea claims to have done, i.e. used a drug without checking to see if it’s prohibited.

Below are his two exculpatory messages, with annotations in italics by Cycling in the South Bay to assist readers unfamiliar with the self-serving language used by drug cheats. The first message is an email that “Perky” sent out a few hours before the anti-doping violation and suspension were announced by USADA. The second is a contritely defiant letter posted on his web site.

Dear Friends and Family,

I am writing to you tonight because I have some very important and time sensitive news I have to share with you. And I need to share this with you tonight because it will be public in the next 48 hours and I want you to get this from me directly.

Uh-fucking-oh.

And I also need to apologize for hiding this from you for so long.

Otherwise known as lying.

Over the last few months I’ve had more than a few conversations with many of you and I have had to either dodge questions or just outright lie about by (sic) coming plans.

I have been lying for a long time because I’m a liar who lies.

For that I’m sorry.

But, as you’ll find out if you keep reading, I’m really only sorry because I got caught, I plan to appeal, and if you are a careful reader you’ll see that I never admit to being a cheater. More of a mistake-prone fellow, and I’m sorry for that.

At first it killed me, and then either I started to believe my own story or it just came to (sic) easily, which was also scary.

I am so pathological that I believe my own lies. I’m a habitual liar; so much so that my lies come to me “easily.” This isn’t morally reprehensible or indicative of profound pathology. It is just “scary.”

And not (sic) it’s been eating me up again.

We call this a Freudian slip, Bobby. Soooo revealing considering the number of times you must have proofread this missive.

So on one hand it’s nice to finally be able to put this out there so I can be open and honest but on the other hand I hate to have to say it at all.

It’s nice to be able to come clean 48 hours before USADA issues a press release that will be distributed worldwide. Honesty is nice for a change. Kind of like a different pair of shoes. You wear the liar shoes for a few years, they get a bit scuffed, and then you put on the truthy shoes, at least until the CAS hearing.

So without further ado, here it is.

Pull on the fuggin’ hip waders.

Thanks for reading.

Suckers.

What follows is from “Perky” Lea’s web site. Enjoy. The annotations are mine.

Cycling has been a part of my family, and who I am, for my whole life.

So this is the most amazing and profound betrayal that can be imagined as I shaft everyone at once.

I can say from the bottom of my heart that I love this sport.

So much that I cheat at it.

I would never intentionally do anything to harm the sport or intentionally jeopardize my own ability to compete.

Despite being a habitual liar, dodging, dissembling, and outright lying, I would never lie.

On the night of August 7th, in a state of post-race exhaustion and having run out of my normal sleep aid, I made the poor choice to take my prescription Percocet hoping it would help me rest.

Everyone takes Percocet when they are tired, especially when they are out of their normal sleep aid. You’re probably wondering what my normal sleep aid is. It’s green tea, that’s what. Percocet though is a narcotic, and it is as addicting as heroin. Narcotics are the most widely abused prescription drug in America and because they have gotten harder to obtain they have driven addicts to heroin. In other words, it is something that everyone takes after a race when they are tired. Some of you may have read this article that says opiates are a sleep inhibitor that disrupt sleep architecture but that is bulldonkeys. Shit will knock you OUT. I would never have taken the Percocet in order to numb the pain so that I could win the points race. That would be crazy, for sure. Instead, I took a sleep inhibitor so I could sleep before the big race.

This medication had been prescribed by a doctor to help me manage pain and sleep while traveling for competition, especially in the event of a crash.

It is a known fact that doctors give you prescriptions for Percocet, a DEA Class II drug, not for actual pain, but “just in case” you crash and to help you sleep even though it’s a sleep inhibitor. Just walk into your doctor’s office, explain that you have sleeping problems and are often tired as a bike racer, plus that you might crash, and they will prescribe Percocet for you. Sure, it’s addicting and disrupts sleep architecture, but who’s an architect? I ain’t building shit, I’m racing bikes. And even if you don’t crash, it’s okay to take it when you are tired. I would be happy to show you the prescription and give you the name of the doctor but I forgot it and the dog ate it plus I think I got it in Bangkok. Narcotics, i.e. morphine, methadone, and oxycodone have never been used in cycling to mask pain from injury or discomfort from illness and I have no idea what “pot Belge” is. Narcotics would never raise an athlete’s pain threshold so they can continue competing through the pain. Because that would be cheating and cheating would be a betrayal of everything, especially all the things that I have betrayed.

Because it was late at night, and I was trying to sleep, I failed to check my prescribed medication against the prohibited list, an action I have correctly executed hundreds of times over the years.

I had the prescription from my doctor and never checked it against the prohibited list. Even though I carried it around for sleeping and pre-crash pain and post-race exhaustion, it never occurred to me to check whether a powerful narcotic that comes with a long list of side effects and warnings might possibly be prohibited. After all, lots of other narcotics are not prohibited like heroin, opium, and stuff. I think. Are they? Anyway, I was tired and it was late at night. When it’s late I just take stuff. If you were a pro you would understand. Plus, I have checked my drugs hundreds of times over the years. Now this doesn’t mean I’ve taken hundreds of prescription drugs, it means I have checked prescription drugs hundreds of times. I’ve actually only taken some aspirin once. And Alleve. But I’ve checked those two drugs hundreds of times because rules can change. So now you’re wondering what kind of drugs was I checking for those hundreds of times. I know. Sounds weird, but it was just aspirin and Alleve. And once I smoked a joint. But I didn’t inhale.

Had I done that I would have seen that Percocet is not banned when used out of competition, but is banned in-competition.

And if Grandma had balls she’d be Grandpa.

Had I done that simple check, the same simple check I’ve done in pharmacies all over the world, I would have reached for another beer or two and I would not find myself here today.

You see, I’ve been in pharmacies all over the world. Haven’t you? When you travel you want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and French pharmacies. When you’re in Mexico you want to see pyramids in the Yucatan and pharmacies. And in China you’d be insane to see the Great Wall and miss out on the pharmacies. Anyway, it’s a simple check and I’ve done it in a zillion pharmacies, checking everything I ever buy there, and then I’ve checked my prescriptions hundreds of times. But I never checked whether a prescription narcotic might be banned. My bad! Sometimes I am a silly fellow!!! (Sad face!)

Nearly 24 hours later, after winning the Points Race at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships, I was notified that I had been selected for drug testing and reported to USADA to provide a sample.

WHO KNEW???

The sample I provided showed trace amounts of noroxycodone, the metabolite of oxycodone, which is the active ingredient in Percocet. As a result of that finding I was given a 16-month suspension from September 10th, 2015.

I didn’t cheat. I didn’t lie. I didn’t do anything wrong. I simply was suspended as the result of a finding, kind of like having to wear a cast as a result of falling off a ladder and breaking your arm. Shit happens, right? Nowhere did the suspension call me a doper or a cheater or a douchebag, by the way. So I got that going for me.

As I write those words, 16 months, even though I have spoken them out loud, it’s difficult to wrap my head around what they really mean.

Does it, like, mean sixteen calendar months? Or does it mean “hire an attorney and appeal because I wuz framed!”

It’s even more difficult to accept that meaning. As an elite athlete, I think it’s only natural to spend a lot of time thinking about how best to wind down your career.

And how to wind it “up,” heh heh.

I think its only natural to want to craft the storybook ending; the ending where you walk off the track after the biggest success of your career.

Story crafting, making stuff up, fairy tales, it’s only natural to want to make stuff up when you lie all the time. And with the right “stuff” you don’t even have to make it up. You can make it real. You picking up what I’m laying down?

Or maybe you want to return to your roots, to the place where it all began, and say goodbye one last time. I think it’s only natural to want to end it on your own terms.

Which is totally different from crafting a storybook ending, and more like returning to the womb. And ending it on your own terms means, well, how do I say this? Here’s how: “CAS.”

Now that I’ve lost the ability to write my own ending, I’m left to answer some very hard questions.

“Why did I cheat?” however, is not one of them. Neither is, “Why did I lie?” And of course I’ve never asked, “How can I possibly write any of this crap with a straight face?”

When I look back at my career, how do I feel about what I’ve done knowing that I may have raced my last race?

How do I feel about having lied and covered up and dodged questions and traveled the world’s pharmacies and taken prescription narcotics as sleeping medication? How? I’ll tell you how: CAS.

Can I walk away from the sport today and feel content with what I’ve done?

Especially when I haven’t done anything wrong? When I’m basically being victimized because unlike what I did at all the world’s pharmacies I accidentally on purpose took some narcotics? Can I be content with using oxycodone as a sleep aid?

Have I accomplished what I set out to do?

Can I get the suspension lifted? The market for forcibly retired drug cheat US trackies is not too hot these days.

Does the ending change the body of work?

Although most people associate “body of work” with literature, science, music, or other intellectual endeavors, isn’t bicycle racing like that? Aren’t races a “body of work” like Einstein, Beethoven, etc?

I like to think that I know the answer to some of these but I think the reality is somewhere between knowing and hoping.

In other words, I know I’ve been busted but I sure as fuck hope I can beat this rap in CAS.

At the end of the day, I made a mistake and that was wrong.

I didn’t cheat. I made a mistake, like when you put on mismatched socks or when you drop an egg on the kitchen floor. Now you’re probably wondering what is wrong about making a mistake, and I’d agree with you. Mistakes aren’t right or wrong, unlike cheating and lying and deceiving. Those things are wrong but I didn’t do those things except for where in that earlier message I admitted to all that outright lying. I just took some narcotics to go to sleep instead of doing what I do at all the other pharmacies I visit and what I did the hundreds of other times I had prescription drugs.

I know that as an athlete, I am accountable for everything that I ingest, regardless of the source.

This doesn’t mean I cheated or that I accept my sanction or that I will ‘fess up, sit the fuck down, and take my beating like a man. Rather, I mistaked. I accidented. And if I’d been at, say, the pharmacy in TJ that I like to hit when I’m in Cali, I would have checked. That’s what I’m guilty of: Not checking.

I live with my mistake and I accept full responsibility for it.

However, not “full responsibility” as in “I accept the sanctions.” That’s different. What I accept is the responsibility of not checking. And I think we’ve all not checked stuff before. So in a way we’re all the same. Plus, it’s hard to check stuff when you’re tired.

To my family, friends, coach, fans, sponsors, and the sport that I love: I am deeply sorry.

You may be wondering “Sorry for what?” since I haven’t spelled it out and to that I can only say I’m sorry for not doing what I do when I’m at the pharmacy in Beijing: checking. But since I didn’t cheat I’m not sorry for cheating.

I remain committed to the strict rules and ethics that govern track cycling and Olympic Sport and I support any and all anti-doping efforts that help better it.

For other people.

However, because I want to end my career on the track and not in a lawyer’s conference room, I will appeal this sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

What in the fuck do I have to lose?

Thank you for reading.

Suckers.

Bobby

END

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Benedict Smasher Arnold

December 15, 2015 § 23 Comments

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other people named Benedict Arnold, see Benedict Arnold (disambiguation).

Benedict Smasher Arnold
traitor2

Engraving of Arnold, by H.B. Hall, after John Trumbull
Born January 14, 1741
Traitorsville, U.K.
Died (to me) December 13, 2015
Backstabbington, CA, USA
Buried at Huntington Beach, CA, USA
Allegiance  Peninsula CC
 SPY-Giant-RIDE
 Big Orange
jolly_roger Surf City Cyclery
Service
  • Beginning Wanker
  • Perfect season, 2015
  • Star Big O recruit
  • Treacherous traitor, SCCC
Years of service
  • Peninsula CC: 1 Year
  • SPY-Giant-Ride: 3 Years
  • Big Orange: 3 weeks
  • SCCC: ?????
Rank
  • Wanker
  • Stud
  • Star Recruit
  • Perfidious traitor
Equipment
  • Cannondale CAAD
  • New POC helmet liner
Battles/wars
  • Torrance Crit, 5th
  • Nationals, 11th
  • Red Trolley, 1st
  • Donut Ride, always smashing
  • Telo, smashing even more
  • NPR, smash all fuggin’ day
Awards Perfect season, 2015
Signature Benedict Arnold Signature.svg

Benedict Smasher Arnold (January 14, 1741  – December 13, 2015) was a bike racer on the SoCal masters circuit who originally joined Big Orange as its star recruit but defected to the orcs of Surf City Cyclery after a particularly good showing on the Donut Ride. While a rider on Big Orange, he obtained command of the masters 35+ team and planned to surrender it to the SCCC orcs. After the plan was exposed on December 12, 2015, when Smasher dropped Tatty-poo on the first time up to the Domes, he was commissioned into Surf City Cyclery as yet another treacherous traitor who betrayed his friends, following the equally treacherous path of his mentor, Faithle S. Destroyer.

Born in Traitorsville, U.K., Smasher was a lost and lonely motorcycle mechanic when he was discovered by W. Meister, a local SoCal mentor and philanthropist and superb bike racer who was great. After joining the ragtag Peninsula CC army outside San Pedro, Smasher distinguished himself through acts of intelligence and bravery, but mostly bravery. Actually, exclusively bravery. His actions included the weekly smashing of the NPR wankers, smashing of the weekly Donut, and smashing at Telo, where he became a watchword for smashing followed by beer. In 2013 Smasher was offered a spot on the SPY-Giant-RIDE elite masters cycling team thanks to lobbying by his good friend W. Meister, which he repaid with treachery.

Despite Smasher’s successes, he was passed over for promotion on the squad while weaker, less handsome, and more cowardly riders claimed choice spots on the podium. Wholly inadequate riders claimed credit for some of Smasher’s accomplishments and also wanted a cut of his $20 in winnings. Adversaries on other teams brought charges of corruption or other malfeasance, but most often he was acquitted in formal inquiries. W. Meister investigated his accounts and found that Smasher had gone into debt after spending much of his own money on races rather than billing his club for events he never attended, as was the norm. Some of Smasher’s accounting irregularities were blamed on Olive and Stanley, his two associates.

Frustrated and bitter at this, as well as at the lack of camaraderie he had enjoyed while riding in the South Bay, Smasher joined Big Orange at the end of the 2015 season. Enamored of their lizard collector-like team atmosphere and vomitus-inspired kit design, he was the star recruit for the team and was showered with free socks and a spare tire, which he promptly sold on eBay.

However, secretly believing that he was better than Chucky and Dr. Whaaaat? and W. Meister, Smasher decided to change teams and opened secret negotiations with Surf City’s undercover, teammate-stealing, stealth operative, Faithle S. Destroyer. On December 12, 2015, he was offered, and secretly accepted, a slot on the Surf City team.

Smasher’s scheme to sneak away from Big O under cover of darkness with all his new socks and the proprietary Big O asphalt magnet was exposed when W. Meister, temporarily lame from a bicycle-falling-off-incident, stopped by at the end of the Wheatgrass Ride to say hello to his friends and Prez. There, Prez made suspicious comments about “Who was Smasher riding for?” when all knew that Smasher was the star lizard recruit for Big O. Once confronted by W. Meister with his perfidy, Smasher tried to pretend that he felt terrible and that he had been about to confess. W. Meister congratulated him on having joined a team loaded with legit bike racers and Prez.

Smasher received a commission as lead-out fodder in the Surf City Army, an annual salary of £360, and a set of new wheels made of carbon and a carbon frame made of 100% pure carbon that he was able to purchase at a 25% markup above retail. He led out Surf forces in numerous crits for several years, occasionally placing in the top fifty while Charon and Tatty-poo won all the money, glory, chicks, podium spots, and bibles. As a token of appreciation for his service, Tatty-poo inked a tramp stamp on his buttocks when he left the team.

In the winter of 2019, Smasher left Surf and returned to Big Orange, a broken man who no longer even liked lizards. He was well received by his former teammates and given a cardboard box, but was frowned upon by those who knew the details of his sordid betrayal. His relationship with his mentor, idol, hero, friend, bosom buddy, pal, helper, right hand man, guy who always had his back, supporter, defender, advocate, and admirer, W. Meister, was never the same.

Because of the way he changed sides, Smasher’s name quickly became a byword in cycling for treason or betrayal. His conflicting legacy is recalled in the ambiguous nature of some of the memorials that have been placed in his honor.

END

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More boring robots, please

November 28, 2015 § 25 Comments

Claudio Chiapucci, the retired doper and Francesco Conconi protege, recently raged against the pro peloton, claiming that only Peter Sagan has character, and that the rest of the riders are “dull machines.” One of the peloton’s dull machines, Phil Gaimon, showed his dullness by penning a riposte  that displayed humor, humility, and a sharp fucking pen–but I guess having a brain doesn’t cut it for Claudio, who claims that the lack of exciting, dynamic, aggressive, attacking riders (i.e., Claudio) is a big reason why the public is no longer enamored with the sport.

This raises an important point, however: The public isn’t enamored with Pro Tour cycling because it is beyond boring to watch. It’s the only event where hours pass and nothing ever happens, at least nothing that anyone would care about who wasn’t in the race. The phrase “He’s taking a dig now” says it all. A dig. He’s taking one. Kind of like what that woman behind me in her SUV was taking out of her nostril when I checked my rear-view mirror.

And then of course there is the “thrilling” sprint finish. Well, it is thrilling … but only if you’re in it. How many times has this happened with your S/O as she’s staring bleary-eyed at the television at 6:30 AM?

“Okay, here comes the sprint!”

“Where?”

“There! All those guys bunched up! See? There’s the red kite! Patrick Brady’s nowhere near! Now they’re stringing it out! The lead-out trains are forming!!”

“The what?”

“The lead-out trains! There’s Team Pooky hitting the front!”

“Who?”

“Team Pooky in the orange-black-red-green-purple-hexagon kits with the brown stripe down the back and the lightning bolts! Their guy McDingleberry has the green jersey and he’s fighting for sprint points with Van der Anus, who is seven points down in the sprint classification!”

“Which one is that? They’re all clumped up. It looks like a big mess.”

“That’s because they’re sprinting! Oh my dog, look! Look! Here comes McDingleberry up the left-hand side!”

“Which one is he? Everyone’s on the left side. And why is everyone falling down?”

“Oh shit! Van der Anus has crashed and taken out half the peloton!”

“What is going on?”

“Seamus Uff wins it! Holy cow! Not Uff! Here, honey, let me replay that for you. Wow, that was the most exciting sprint ever. Oh, man.”

“Is it over?”

“Yes. I mean, no. There are still eighteen more stages.”

“Wake me up in August, okay?” S/O says as she staggers back to bed.

Maybe Claudio is right. Maybe what cycling really does need is more guys like him, guys with multiple doping positives, guys with no tactical brains, and guys who only made the big time under the tutelage of the godfather of EPO doping. Maybe dullards like Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, and Tom Boonen have killed the sport with their thrilling and tactical racing. Maybe we just need to get Tommy D. one more season back in the pro ranks.

But I don’t think so.

END

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Missin’ you

November 20, 2015 § 9 Comments

Dear E.A.:

I miss you. Remember the first time we met, on the NPR? You were wearing a backpack and I called you “Backpack Boy.” You were one of three people then who would hammer like a fuggin’ monster, then still bake everyone in the sprunt.

Then a few weeks later you shed the backpack and started showing up in that ugly OTR kit. Only I couldn’t make fun of it because I couldn’t talk hanging onto your wheel.

After a few months I learned your name. Dude, you were the best addition to cycling in the South Bay since coffee. It wasn’t long after that that you started showing up for Cat 4 races, all of which you won, and then Cat 3 races, and the epic rivalry with Prez began.

Except you smeared him like a bug on the windshield of a Ferrari and catted up to 2, then 1. Dude, everybody wanted to be your friend then. Even though you doubled in fitness and speed every month you still talked to me. Remember how we became friends? Or rather, how I tried to be friends with you and you tolerated me?

Then when we were teammates it was super awesome. We never raced together because I was still a Cat 5 after thirty years, but we wore the same jersey and I told everyone I knew you and that we were teammates.

And that doesn’t even begin to get into that epic ride to Mandeville where you called your wife at the top and left a message except your phone wasn’t working and you didn’t know that and you bonked on the way home and I had to carry you across the handlebars and when we got home it was dark and your wife was, um, how shall we say this, “displeased,” and I hurried home and pretended it wasn’t my fault.

Man! The awesome times we had! Remember when I borrowed your truck that morning for an hour or so and returned it at midnight with that little character ding in the grill and the thing with the axle? (I have no idea how it happened.) Then there was the time I showed up on the way home from work and you gave me a ride home that sixteen or eighteen times or so and fed me dinner, too, and beer.

And what about the good times with Smasher? And Boozy P.? And how we’d spend most of your savings for your daughter’s college fund at bike races? And that epic trip to Bend where you drove for 30 hours in the F-1 Prius while Smasher and I drank beer and slept? You are an awesome driver!!

So it’s with heavy heart that I think about your absence. I know you have a family and a job and all that junk and you’re rebuilding your house from the slab and work is really busy and you don’t have a bike anymore and the team folded but think of all the great times!!

Anyway, Smasher has pretty much moved back to the South Bay and Boozy P. went on a bike ride last Saturday and I need to borrow fifty bucks. Whattya say? Flog ride next week, or NPR?

Miss you like the sister I never had!

END

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One from the vaults

November 13, 2015 § 24 Comments

I received this most excellent email from Ira Schaffer on Wednesday, and had to share–with his permission of course!

Thank you for your great writing and thanks for helping me to stay connected to cycling in the South Bay!

I grew up in Palos Verdes and lived there from 1958 to 1976. One day in 1972 I walked from my house to the Peninsula Center, I was fourteen at the time, and noticed a bunch of commotion that was ununusal for an early Sunday morning around Hawthorne and Indian Peak.

I walked up to the corner and at that moment a huge pack of racing cyclists came screaming down Hawthorne and made the turn onto Indian Peak at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour! It turned out to be an Olympic qualifying road race, won by John Howard.

I watched in amazement and knew that I wanted to do the same thing. I began to ride my bike everywhere and joined a local club, the Lomita Bicycle Peddalers, run by Bob Roach in Lomita. His son Tim Roach, one of the top track coaches in American today, was my best friend at Rolling Hills High School. I trained in the hills of PV in the 70’s along with the few other cyclists like Paul Deem, and raced whenever I could.

Back then, as it is now, SoCal was known mostly for crits. I traveled to Encino twice a week to hone my bike handling skills, with Bob Roach usually driving us until Tim and I got our driving licenses, and we raced on Saturday nights at the velodrome and on Sunday. I raced crits mostly, and “competed” as a Junior against guys like the Whitehead brothers, Dave and Mark and of course Gibby Hatton, who had just won the Junior World Championships. The fields on crit raceday for juniors, which was a category aged 14-18, typically had 75-100 racers, and events like the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix drew up to 125 entrants for the Junior field alone.

I raced through the early 80’s and won the Junior State Road Championship in 1976. I attended UCLA and lived with a guy that worked at a shop and with whom I raced. The shop was on Wilshire and called, appropriately enough, Wilshire West Bicycle Shop.

Since the shop was in West LA, the clientele included a bunch of “movie folks.” One day a producer or director or other important person walked into the shop and asked my roommate if he knew anyone who could help a couple of actors learn the ins and outs of how to ride a bike. My roommate agreed. For the next month, Dennis Christopher and Hart Bochner of Breaking Away met us at our apartment in Santa Monica and we helped teach them some of the “ins and outs” of riding. They invited us to continue the training in Indiana, but I would have had to drop out of school, something I didn’t even consider.

I have great memories of riding and racing my bike in Palos Verdes and your writing helps me to connect. My folks still live in PV (89 years old) and I still ride a bit. I raced masters a few years ago in SoCal. I recently moved to the Bay Area and enjoy the riding up here as well. Thanks for your writing and thanks for helping me stay connected.

Ira Schaffer

[Note from Wanky: Actually, Ira, it is we who should thank you for sharing this great piece of SoCal cycling history and, most especially, for your $2.99 monthly subscription! A round of craft water for everyone!]

END

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Nega-Strava

November 11, 2015 § 12 Comments

I was riding with my Internet cycling coach and psychologist and financial adviser and child-rearing counselor yesterday and he told me all about saving watts.

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah, watts,” he answered. “It’s not simply about gaining watts, but saving watts.”

“What?”

“Watts. Watts.”

“Oh … ” and then I mumbled something and the wind howled for a second.

“What?” he asked.

“I thought you said ‘watts.'”

“But I couldn’t hear what you said,” he said. “So I said ‘what.'”

We went along like that, who’s-on-firsting it until we got back on topic. “I know you hate Strava,” he said.

“True.”

“But you should use it to do a few Nega-Stravas.”

“What’s a Nega-Strava?”

“It’s where you measure how few watts you can use instead of how many. It’s an efficiency test. The best climbing happens when you get to the base having used less energy than anyone else.”

This made sense, so the next morning when I got ready to leave for NPR I downloaded the Strava app for my iPhone 2. “I’m gonna ride the NPR with maximal Vince di Meglio wheelsucking efficiency, avoiding the wind at all costs and following the most robust ass I can find.”

On the way out, when it was still neutral, I saw Hank Stengenbladdammit from Scottsdale who had shown up on the Donut last Saturday and flayed us all. I’d been hoping he would go home, but alas.

“Hi, Hank. I know this is your first NPR, but since it’s the off-season it will be really slow. You can go hard if you want but I’ll be chilling at the back.”

“Okay,” said Hank as we started up Pershing. We weren’t going very fast so I figured I would stay at the front until the Hop In Wankers at the top of the hill hopped in, and then I would slink to the back.

We passed the H.I.W.’s and I swung over and Hank came past like shit through a goose. “I’d better hop on his wheel so he doesn’t get lost as it’s his first time, plus, I’m on a wheel so it’s not that much effort.”

Hank ended up going really fast and I had to huff and puff a bit. “No problem. As soon as those H.I.W.’s pull through I will pull over and sit for the rest of the ride.”

It was a super windy morning and we hit the parkway hard. I was farther to the front than I wanted to be, and when Toronto swung off the point I was on the front. But I didn’t go too hard until Hank battered by again and I had to go a tad harder than I wanted.

Over the next three laps I masterfully sat on Hank’s wheel, but it seemed like we were always in these little three-or-four-man-plus-Katie-Wilson breakaways, then we’d get caught at a light because I never run red lights anymore and then we’d start off again and I’d head for the back but suddenly there would be a good opportunity to punch it with Hank going balls out but not punching too hard but probably harder than, say, sitting at the back.

At the start of the fourth lap everyone looked funny so I decided to sneak to the back for good this time but first I figured I should jump a little bit and test the waters. Then I was accidentally off by myself but I wasn’t going too hard except for a bit when I had to push it to keep my gap, which kept getting bigger but I don’t think it was too hard because I wasn’t going all that hard as much as it was they were letting me go. (All my pals are on the NPR and they like to help me a lot.)

At the final turnaround I had a very red light but since I’d stopped at all the other ones and the peloton was pretty close it made sense to keep going since there were 60 of them and 1 of me and they’d catch the green by the time they came around or at worst would have to stop for a few seconds so I started pedaling kind of hard. It was harder than if I’d been sitting in but hopefully not much except for the bits of oatmeal and almonds and blood from breakfast that kept coming up.

They must have all stopped and taken a nap and gotten caught by a bunch of lights and been concerned about the off-season and have wanted to let the old feller have one because I won the imaginary sprunt with lots of time to spare and when they caught up to me only Toronto and my Internet coach said “Good job.” Everyone else glowered, but they were happy glowers.

At coffee I checked my phone and said to Coach, “I averaged 352 watts.”

“What?” he said.

“Watts.”

END

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The three pieces of the performance pie

November 6, 2015 § 12 Comments

I decided to write down everything I know about performance cycling.

There. That sure was quick.

Then I decided to write down the things that, although inappropriate for others or unorthodox, have helped me achieve competitive success on the bike.

Okay, done.

So that leaves me with my observations, and the problem with those is that they’re filtered through a brain that is politely described as “eccentric” and clinically described as “in need of strong medication.” But I regress.

The performance cycling pie has three equally sized slices. Well, they should be equally sized but they aren’t.

I. The training slice.

This is the one that in most pies covers  90% of the plate. I won’t tell you about training because you already know everything there is to know about it, which is why you won Paris-Roubaix last year. But I will tell you about my training slice for 2016 because it meets the only two criteria for a training plan that matter: It’s simple and I can do it.

  1. Don’t tire myself out. For decades I slogged and flogged, never passing up a long ride, never refusing an offer to take an interminable, stupid pull, never hesitating to follow up one hard workout with another, and then after that, another. But no mas. My new rule? If my legs feel flat I’m not riding. Why? Because I am old and wear out quickly, and if you’re over 40, so do you. You know how steel will wear out eventually? We’re not steel.
  2. Two hard efforts a week. Or less.
  3. Avoid any training regimen that involves data, or worse, social media, or worst, data and social media.
  4. Keep my weight at 150.
  5. Study Chinese more.
  6. Continue to finish each day with several tall, cold glasses of un-drunk beer. Recently I’ve been super enjoying not drinking Racer 6 IPA.

II. The aero slice.

This is the piece that some people focus on, but typically only as it concerns equipment.  The current battle for “Most Aero” is being viciously fought between Strava Jr. and Sausage. The one ground down his carbon stem (full carbon, that is) so that the bolts no longer protrude. The other booked a room in the Specialized wind tunnel for his tenth wedding anniversary.

Fully 1/3 of your performance pie should be devoted to aerodynamics. The easy part is buying shit and loading up on 100% carbon components that are full carbon and taking your wife to the wind tunnel. The hard part is riding aero (and ever getting laid again).

Riding aero differs from buying aero, and as an inveterate cheapskate I’ve failed at both. In addition to a lifetime devoted to poor training habits, I’ve also developed bad positioning into an art form. The idiot out on the edge of the peloton, catching all the wind? Me.

The dolt riding three bike lengths behind the last rider? Me.

The clod who’s always on the wrong side of the echelon? Me again.

Unsurprisingly, stupid training and bad positioning go together. The bulk of your aero efforts should be comprised of wheelsucking, something that most cyclists gravitate towards naturally, and selective drafting, something that few riders excel at. None, it should be noted, surpass Vinny D.

Selective drafting is like having to sample fifteen wines before you pick one to drink. You don’t guzzle the whole tasting glass, just like you don’t commit to Twitch Thudpucker’s wheel for half the race. You put a little in your mouth, swish it around, then spit it out. Same with drafting. The wheel you suck should itself be well positioned. It should be ridden by someone who typically makes the split. And it should feature a big old ass, one that is wide and with overtones of blackberry, perhaps even including a tart yet buttery finish that goes well with fish. The rear panel should not be beyond its expiration date a-la-Brad House. And if Kjar isn’t around, you must learn to never follow riders who are smaller than you.

This can be a challenge, because little people are often the best racers. No matter. Spit them out and ride behind the bigger butt.

One difficulty I have always had in wheel selection is the delusion that I am small. Because I sometimes end up with the climbers, I mistakenly assume that I’m like them. I’m not. They are tiny and delicate and cute and you want to cuddle them and hook them up to a cheeseburger I.V. bag. But I am not. I am long and stretched out and a kind of elongated wind sail. So sitting behind tiny people doesn’t work for me, and henceforth I will not sit behind them. You shouldn’t either. What you will find, however, is that tiny people are constantly sitting on YOU. Use this to your advantage by throwing back your rear wheel, veering unpredictably, or stopping for no reason. Think PREZ.

The final piece of aero riding is navigating within the pack. This isn’t that hard (I’m told), but it is terrifying. The lugs who occupy the middle of the pack are using 78.3% less energy than I am as I slog over on the side in the wind, but they are scary because they have head tattoos, pierced teeth, facial scars, jangling ear dangles made of brass that play jingle bells against their top tubes, and they don’t cry when their bars bump. If you can develop the steel nerves to sit in this viper’s den of angry killers, you will arrive at the finish fresh and rested. Good luck with that.

III. The strategy slice.

For a very few riders, this is 90% of the pie, and they always win a few races a year. Do you know Gibby Hatton? He shows up to races with no teammates, not very fit, and always wins a few. Why? Because he has perfected aero pack riding and because he knows exactly when to pedal hard–once, in the last 200 meters, sitting fourth or fifth wheel in the last turn.

The rest of us had strategiotomies at an early age and are more or less profoundly stupid and incapable of thinking during a race. That’s too bad (for us, not Gibby) because it means that at no time in the race do we actually try to answer this question: “How am I going to win today?” [Note: “Go from the gun and solo the whole race” is not a strategy, just like “Be president of the United States” is not a career plan.]

Why are we so stupid? Because strategy involves constantly evaluating your “plan to win” against what’s happening on the ground. It’s a great idea to attack on the final climb unless there’s already a break three minutes up the road. It’s a great idea to come around Charon at the finish but 30 other people have the exact same plan and most of them believe in open carry. It’s a great idea to splat on your face in the last ten meters but Prez already has that sewn up. Plus, it’s not really a good idea.

Although dynamically strategic thinking is impossible for me, it is possible to pick one concept and stick to it. For example, “Don’t be the strongest one in the break.” Or “Don’t lead out the sprunt.” Or “Pay off the best rider.” That last one generally works very well.

So that’s it. Go forth and win. And remember who taught you how.

END

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