Burning down the house

March 15, 2016 § 14 Comments

People used to ask me directly to promote their stuff. “Could you do a story about …” they would say.

“Sure,” I’d say. Then they’d tell me the topic with their slant on how they wanted me to publicize it and puff it up and I’d go home, sit down on the computer, and do the exact opposite.

It’s not that I was trying to be mean, it’s that I am, like Herr Settembrini in Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg,” a contrarian. If you tell me to go to the front I will slink to be back and shirk. If you tell me to sit in and wait I will dash to the fore and shove all the timber in the fire in the first five minutes of the race. “Go up!” and I’ll go down. “Go down!” and I’ll go up. Etc.

Being perverse in this way meets very basic dictates of evolution. I once read a study, or perhaps I just imagined it, about how if you left a certain kind of trout in a tank he would eventually try to jump out of it. That never ended well for the trout in the experiment because outside the tank was dry ground.

“Why did the trout always try to jump out?” the researchers wondered as they penned another grant application for $5 million dollars. The answer seemed to be that in the wild, a trout stuck in a river pool could only escape by jumping out. There was a chance he’d jump onto dry rocks or dry land, but as often as not he’d flop onto a rock, flop some more, and flop his way back into a neighboring rivulet and then swim happily on his way to spawn more trout babies.

Contrarianism is this way. It will often land you in hot water in the artificial world of marketing and blogging, but in reality, flopping out of the tank into parts unknown is the only way anything good has ever happened or been invented. A committee didn’t invent the light bulb.

Bike racing at the professional level in the USA simply doesn’t exist, if by “professional” you mean “steady job and steady paycheck that you can live on.” If you are a pro racer in America you are living with your parents or girlfriend-boyfriend or slumming on a couch. There’s no way you can make ends meet racing your bike unless the ends are very, very, very, very close together. Which they never are.

So this weekend, March 18-19, there’s the first iteration in the modern era of a US pro track racing series. It’s being held at the Carson/Home Depot/Velo Center/Velodrome and it’s going to showcase some of the country’s best track racers in a race series. Details here.

Whether or not this will work is a very open question because it depends on people caring about something that no one in America has cared about for a hundred years: Bicycles going around in circles on a track. There are all kinds of explanations as to why no one cares, but my favorite is this: People grow up watching pass-ball on TV and watching their parents go apeshit over pass-ball and listening to hours and hours of blather about pass-ball and so they, too like pass-ball. People don’t grow up watching track racing on TV (or curling or badminton or ping-pong or toenail shaving) and they don’t grow up watching their parents go apeshit over track racing and listening to hours and hours of blather about track racing and so they, do, don’t give a crap about track racing.

You certainly can’t fault the mechanics of the sport. Racers speeding by inches from your face dressed in colorful underwear as they sprint for money and glory while bumping and gliding and occasionally falling off their bicycles in thrilling smashemups is about 10 billion times more exciting than watching grown men standing on Astroturf chewing tobacco waiting hours for someone with a stick to whack a tiny ball.

Nor can you fault the sport’s complexity. Unlike stick-ball and pass-ball, which require advanced degrees to even begin to understand what’s happening, bike racing is simple. Fastest guy pretty much always wins. Sure there are points and stuff to clog your brain from time to time, but after a few beers who cares anyway? Keep your eyes glued on your favorite colorful underwear and watch ’em go.

And this is the main point. At a velodrome like the one in Carson you can hang out with friends, have a drink and a bite, and watch some pretty thrilling stuff, and at $25 a ticket it’s slightly cheaper than the $123.40 average ticket price for watching the New York Giants lose another game of pass-ball while drinking a $15.00 cup of beer and eating a $9.00 hot dog and paying $30.00 to park your cage.

I plan on going to the races this Saturday and hope you do, too. We can watch these guys and gals flop out of the tank together.

END

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Snake and scorpion festival

March 3, 2016 § 18 Comments

I hope you sign up for the Vlees Huis road race that takes place in Bakersfield this Saturday, even though none of us can pronounce it.

Here is the sign-up link. Just do it.

Why should you do this race?

  1. If you win you get a meat cleaver trophy. The only thing cooler would be a piece of pave. Or maybe a severed head.
  2. My law firm is offering $1,000 in road primes, $100 each, with primes in almost every category. You can be “one and done” and still go home with cash in your pocket.
  3. It is a hard and hilly road race. Crits are fine, but every once in a while you owe it to yourself to show up and get humiliated, sent home with your tail between your legs, smacked around, ridden into the ground. Why? Because you’re a road racer, not a track racer.
  4. Your participation is crucial to the race’s continuity. My club, Big Orange, has 50% more race entries this year than any other club. Imagine how vibrant the racing scene would be if every club provided similar levels of cannon fodder. This means you.
  5. The race is in Bakersfield, a port-o-potty of a town filled with rednecks, pickups, and guns. Oops! Triple redundancy. Anyway, the Bakersfieldians need to be exposed to bicycle culture somewhere besides the hood of their F-350 diesel.
  6. Simply finishing will be a huge accomplishment. What else are you going to accomplish this weekend? Another group ride where everyone gets to declare himself the winner? A PR on Strava?
  7. The promoter, Sam Ames, puts on the very best events. This one comes with free Belgian fries and a free beer to everyone of drinking age who shows up, racer or spectator.
  8. The course has little traffic and the road is in very good condition. Mostly.
  9. There’s a 4-corner CBR crit on Sunday in Compton if you simply must get your industrial park fix for the weekend.
  10. You’ll be part of the solution, not part of the social media chorus who complains about the lack of good races but is somehow always busy on “that” weekend.

END

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Murder on the Boulevard Express

February 29, 2016 § 19 Comments

The 2016 Boulevard Road Race was very, very, very hard, but for me it was only very hard. It was a windy day and on the 55+ mph downhill with the twist that often sends the unwary hurtling off into the barbed wire fence on the far side of the road, we were only going about half that speed.

As we got near the turn to the Green Road of Vomitus and Death on La Posta, we passed a rustic meth house whose sofa-and-junker infested yard was filled with cop cars. A woman had been knifed to death an hour or so earlier and the meth house was the scene of a “guns drawn” Q&A session that included a helicopter.

We pedaled on because it was a bike race and we ain’t got time for that.

On the Green Road of Vomitus and Death there were attacks and various old fellows had their internal organs rearranged as we fought to the death not to get dropped at such an early point in the race even as most of us realized that we were going to get dropped eventually and that no one cares one way or another so several people just whimpered off the back, perhaps searching for the murder weapon so they could turn it on themselves.

We hit the climb on Highway 80 and reality ripped off her mask and revealed that there is nothing new under the sun, what happens every year to the old fellows at Boulevard will continue to happen, i.e. the fitter and faster and meaner and better riders rode away from the weaker and slower and kinder and worse ones, all of whom shared this thought in common: “What am I doing here?”

The answer was obvious to the handful of spectators: “You are losing.”

boulevard_dropped

You’ll catch them! Not!

I watched the race leave without me in the feed zone, where Jan and Dean were calling my name but it wasn’t having the effect they hoped it would. They thought that by encouraging me my legs would magically absorb 1,000 watts of power and sprint up the road, catch the leaders and do heroic things, but instead their words only reminded me of the futility of life, the hopelessness of hope, and the meaningless of leaky prostate bicycle racing where the same old slow people get abused by the same old fast people week in and week out, like Groundhog Day with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead of an afternoon in Punxsutawney.

Anyway, the race was very, very, very hard for the old fellows who had to do three laps, but it was just very hard for me because I quit after one. Then I sat on the roadside in a comfy lawn chair and marveled at the similarity between old fellow racing and old fellow sex. Finish before the end; those who came to support you are disappointed and unsatisfied; lots of anticipation for not much excitement; and the vague boredom of trying to conjure 20-something fireworks out of a 50-something damp wool sock.

On the plus side, I hadn’t been stabbed to death.

On the way home, Attila the Hun, who had actually finished, and G3, who had also finished, did their best not to remind me that I had given up and quit.

“Quitting isn’t as bad as not starting,” said Attila.

“Right,” said G3. “When you quit it’s like giving up after having done your best.”

With many hours left to go, and lots of traffic on the 405, Attila asked us if we wanted to learn Hungarian.

“Sure!” we said in unison.

“That’s what I like to hear,” he said. “What do you wanna learn?”

“Nasty words!” we shouted.

“Even better,” he said.

So we practiced really hard for a couple of hours until we could describe the basic acts of reproduction and the utensils-extensions involved.

The next morning my son and I went fishing. I am the worst fisherman in the world and he is the second worst. “Hmmm,” he said after we got to the pier. “I don’t have any bait.”

We tossed the hook in to see if any fish would jump on it but they didn’t, so we engaged the Second Rule of Fishing: When You Can’t Catch a Fish, Screw with Your Pole and Tackle and Stuff.

Pretty soon we were both wearing a fishing line suit, having somehow managed to transfer all of the 10,000 yards of fishing line from the reel onto us. It is very hard to put all that line back on the reel once it has come off. Thankfully, I had brought my binoculars so I could birdwatch off the pier while my son tied himself into a running bowline with a double half-hitch.

Right below us were a trio of surf scoters, and the pier was chock full of western gulls, adults, juvenals, and young birds of various winter plumage. Off on the rocky jetty I even found a small mystery gull, gray-backed, white head, black legs, red bill. Out beyond the surf scoters was a buoy with a pair of fat harbor seals on it. A baby harbor seal kept trying to clamber aboard but he couldn’t get onto it. His mom watched patiently as he scrambled, fell, scrambled, fell, then gave up and swam away.

“He’ll make a good masters bike racer,” I thought.

There was something so peaceful about being there in the early morning, watching my son wrap himself up like a fishing line mummy as the seals cavorted, the brown pelicans skimmed the surface of the gently rolling water, the scoters dove and popped up again like little brown corks, and the cormorants stood on the rocks holding their wings open to dry in the early morning sun.

My son eventually cut the Gordian fishing knot and packed his things, and we drove to a diner and had pancakes, eggs, sausage, and lots of hot coffee.

“Thanks for coming fishing with me, Dad,” he said. “Next Sunday lets ditch the fishing and go birding, okay?”

“Yep,” I said.

“Oh,” he hesitated. “Do you have a bike race that day?”

“Not anymore,” I said.

END

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There is no try

February 27, 2016 § 25 Comments

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

This was recently lectured at me and it sounded way too fancy for this particular person to have dreamed up, so I Googled it and found that, of course, it came from a movie and, of course, from Star Wars which means, of course, that everyone knows about it except me.

I saw Star Wars once in 1977, thought it was a pleasantly funny movie, and haven’t thought about it since.

Apparently, I don’t know the “there is no try” thingy because it comes from the Yoda movie, which I never saw, but which was alleged to be more philosophically deep than Plato. Not bad for a muppet.

The context of my buddy’s comment was, of course, bike racing. “Why do something that you’re not gonna win?” he asked. “No one gives a shit if you try. Trying’s for losers. Either win it or don’t.”

“Yeah!” I said, and dashed off to the race next morning all prepared to fuck trying and get on with DOING, i.e. WINNING. BECAUSE TRYING IS FOR LOSERS AND I’M TIRED OF TRYING.

Unfortunately, instead of doing, I wound up with another 19-placed try.

To rub salt in the wound, the friend texted me that afternoon. “Did you DO?” he asked.

“Fuck off, you petersnizzle,” I almost texted. Then, remembering that Manslaughter is a subscriber, I refrained, and figured I’d respond in my blog, which he never reads past the first paragraph to see if he’s mentioned in it.

I think a lot of people subscribe to the Muppet Philosophy of It’s Better to Stay Home Than to Fail, and not just in bike racing. This is why couches keep getting bigger: They have accommodate ever-widening asses.

It’s very different from how things used to be when I went to Japan in 1987.

Of all the things that struck me most, aside from the squat toilets, the strikingest was the notion of “ganbaru,” or “try your hardest.” There wasn’t a word for “talented” in the way we use it to explain success. No one ever said, “He’s a talented athlete” as an explanation for a victory. But you couldn’t get through ten seconds of an interview with an athlete without him saying he was gonna “ganbaru” and he “hoped to ganbaru” and his analysis of the race was that he was gonna “ganbaru his ass off.”

The problem with getting your life lessons from a muppet in a bad movie, aside from the obvious, is that in order to win something you had to try at it. And since no one always wins, it means that sometimes you gave it your best shot and fell short, and instead of a trophy and the top step all you got was fifteenth place and a “try.” And since you never know whether this particular try is going to result in victory or defeat, and since all victories require the try, if you want any hope of winning you have to try.

It doesn’t make for warm couches with big, permanent ass-indentations.

And in bike racing, where the winningest pro of all time *only* won a third of his races, and where winning a single monument among a career of losses makes you a giant of the sport, it seems like not only is there try, but try is pretty much all there is. Servais Knaven tried really hard one day, like he’d been trying his whole life, and wound up kissing and hoisting the pave on the velodrome at Roubaix.

I’m heading out to the Boulevard RR shortly, Manslaughter. I may do. I will definitely try. And thank you for subscribing!

END

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Yeah, but did you have fun?

February 22, 2016 § 5 Comments

“Dude,” G3’s text read. “Can you give me a ride to the church?”

“Sure,” I wrote back. “I’ll snag you at the curb in front of your house.”

Ms. WM needed the car that day, so she drove me over to G3’s in the Prius. He was standing on the curb with his bike, a set of wheels, the team tent, and his race bag, which weighed 80 lbs. and was five feet long, stocked with everything he’d need for 50 minutes of racing and six months in the wilderness and a complete bike overhaul.

“Uh, how’m I fitting my stuff in that?” he asked.

“In what?” I replied.

“Your midget Prius. There are already two people in it and a bike, and the back seats are folded down. Where am I going to sit?”

“Are you blind? In the front seat.”

“But Mrs. WM is already sitting in the front seat.”

“Are you calling her fat?”

G3 sputtered. “Dude, no one’s calling anyone ‘fat.’ That’s a tiny Prius passenger seat and a full grown adult is already sitting in it.”

“You just called my wife fat.”

“I did not!”

“You sorry turd,” I said. “She is not fat.”

“I never said she was fat!”

“She has a very narrow ass.”

“Look, Wanky, I’m sure she has a very narrow and a very firm and nice ass. There’s no dispute about that. But I have a somewhat wider ass and our two asses won’t fit in that single seat. Plus, there’s only one seat belt.”

“There you just called her fat again. And now you said she’s too fat to wear a seat belt.”

“I did not!”

“We’re going to be late  for the race.”

“My stuff won’t even fit in the back. This is crazy.”

I sighed, popped the hatch, and showed him how to surgically insert his bike atop mine, then wedge the tent along the side, then cram his massive pack on top of his full carbon rear wheel, which groaned.

Mrs. WM opened the door. “Get in. There’s plenty of room!”

G3 exhaled and squeezed in next to her. Half of his right haunch hung out of the car. “Now what?” he said. “The door won’t close.”

“If we were on the Marunouchi Line at rush hour, here’s what the little man in the uniform and white gloves would do,” I answered, gently pushing the door against his dangling buttock and then mashing it as hard as I could.

“Ouch!” he said.

“That’s just your fat being pinched,” I said. “It’ll grow back.”

We hurried over to the megachurch on PCH where the Hun and Major Bob were waiting for us in his rad Mercedes van with leather captain’s chairs. “Where’s Dr. Whaaat?” I asked.

“We’re going to get him at the usual pick-up spot,” said Major Bob.

A few minutes later we got on America’s busiest and most dangerous freeway and exited at Culver Boulevard. Crossing Culver, we prepared to re-enter the freeway. Dr. Whaaat? was standing on the entrance ramp with his bike. The only thing missing was a big piece of cardboard that said, “Full-time Employed Teacher: Broke! Dog Bless!” and a tin cup for donations.

We bundled him into the van, almost getting smeared by the whizzing traffic, and hustled off to the Rosena Ranch circuit race, which is located at the hypotenuse of the Meth Triangle that comprises Palmdale, Riverside, and San Bernardino. All the way there we plotted strategy.

“It’s simple,” said G3. “We will have eight guys and Major Bob, so we attack every lap.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“Eventually we’ll tire everyone out and then Money can hit the gas and ride off in a break. We’ll have three or maybe even four guys in the move who can either act as clogstacles so that Money escapes on the last lap, or we can activate the Team Lizard Collectors’ asphalt magnets, which will pull a few of us to the ground and impede the others while Money dashes to victory.”

It seemed like a great plan until we got to the starting line, where we were greeted by Meatballs. “Oh, fuck,” I said. “Are you 45 now?”

Meatballs grinned. “In fact, I am.”

Meatballs is kind of a bummer to race with, because he always wins. He clumbs, he sprunts, he time trails, and he attacks. Especially, he attacks. Like, over and over and over until your legs turn to mush and your eyeballs droop and your gonads swelter and you decide that today wasn’t meant to be your day anyway as he goes from being a massive meatball in your viewfinder to a tiny speck up the road to invisible to a massive meatball standing on the top step of the podium taking your gas money and case of Clif bars.

On the plus side, my coach had given me some winning advice:

  1. Don’t do anything.
  2. Rest.
  3. Sit in.
  4. Expend zero effort.
  5. Avoid the wind.
  6. Be patient.
  7. Wait.
  8. Don’t be over eager.
  9. Don’t get sucked into meaningless early attacks.
  10. Save your bullets.
  11. Conserve.
  12. Let the race unfold.
  13. Hide.
  14. Cower.
  15. Duck.
  16. Be invisible.
  17. Then, after doing 1-16, while positioned in the 15th slot or so, wait for the hard, decisive attack that is certain to come, follow it, and you’ll have made the winning split.

However, I slightly modified coach’s plan so that after the 3rd lap my race plan looked like this:

  1. Attack from the gun.
  2. Follow every move.
  3. Chase everyone.
  4. Attack again.
  5. Hit the front from the rear coming up the right-side, into the wind.
  6. Lead up every climb.
  7. Flex.
  8. Do at least a dozen max 30-second efforts.
  9. Scornfully stare at everyone.
  10. Attack some more.
  11. Then, after doing 1-10, while positioned at the very front after a futile acceleration and while exhausted and gasping for air on the hardest part of the false flat, I waited for the hard, decisive attack that was certain to come and did, tried vainly to follow it, failed to latch on, and watched the winning split go up the road.

Sure enough, Money had made the split, which was created by Meatballs, who had attacked from the back in the draft of the group before sling-shotting off to the far left side of the road, forcing chasers into the gutter, at a speed that was horrible to even think about following.

No one on Team Lizard Collectors could do anything other than check to make sure their asphalt magnets hadn’t been switched on by mistake and pray for a typoon or swarm of mosquitoes carrying the Zika plague or other natural disaster that would somehow stop the breakaway. At one point in the race, TLC organized a chase, determined to bring back our team leader since it was clear there was no way he could win the sprint.

However, the chief problem with bringing him back so that we could counter and get another breakaway going with perhaps a better composition, was that he was going a lot faster than we were and in order to catch him we’d have to go faster than he was going, which proved difficult since, as mentioned earlier, he was going faster, and as it turned out, a lot faster, really an extra super whole lot faster.

Another problem was that even though Money isn’t known for sprunting, the rest of TLC isn’t known for winning, and even if we had been able to re-shuffle the deck, it would still have included Meatballs (unbeatable) and Fireman (unbeatable by anyone except Meatballs). So instead we attacked each other, with Dr. Whaaat? rocketing away and finishing a glorious ninth.

In the end, Meatballs ground up the breakaway into little pieces of gristle and shit by accelerating every time out of the u-turn, crushing it up the climb, then shattering the group into a few manageable morsels of charred flesh at the very end and handily winning the sprunt.

Back in the van we all hung our heads, cursed our fate, and yelled at each other.

“Douchebag!”

“Asshole!”

“Sandbagger!”

“Republican!”

Finally, as we were about to all get kicked out of the van by Major Bob and be forced to walk the seventy miles home, Surfer Dan from Team La Grunge stuck his head in the side door.

“How was the race?” he inquired with his trademark smile.

As we all scrambled to get in our version of how our teammates had ruined it for us, he held up his hand. “Guys,” he said. “Did you have fun?”

We looked at each other and released our fingers from each other’s throats. Because in fact, yes, we did.

END

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How hard WAS it?

February 19, 2016 § 11 Comments

I was talking with Major Bob about road racing the other day. “It’s funny,” I said. “The races that we profamateurs admire the most are the really hard races. Flanders. Roubaix. The Tour. But when it comes to actually doing hard races, people flock to crits and avoid the monsters like UCLA, Boulevard, Tuttle Creek, and anything that says ‘NorCal’ … why?”

“Because people,” said Major without missing a beat “don’t like to work.”

“Really? Like Congress?”

“Look at the peloton. Same old faces taking the hard hits, making things happen, riding the breaks, while everyone else kind of hangs around towards the back hoping they get lucky.”

That reminded me of a day-long argument I had with G3, followed by several terabytes of email discussion in which we fought tooth and kneecap over whether the leaky prostate 45+ category at UCLA was harder than the Cat 3 race.

“Dude,” I said. “The fuggin’ old farts’ race had a faster overall time, ergo harder. Plus, THOG.”

“Nope,” he said, after analyzing various sections of the course for different racers who’d won their category. “The Cat 3’s climbed faster on two of the laps. Old farts were faster overall, but Cat 3’s suffered more, ergo harder.”

“How can you say they suffered more? They are all young and stupid and recover in 30 seconds and can enjoy conjugal relations the night after the race. That’s not suffering. Suffering is being a worn out shoe, getting stuffed in the box, staying there for 2.5 hours, then drinking Alleve six times a day for the next week until you can get out of bed without groaning.”

The argument was put to rest by Leibert, the guy who actually won the race, and his logic was impeccable. “Would you two please shut up?”

It is kind of odd when you think about it. Road races, especially hilly ones, may be harder to finish in terms of watts and carbon and weight weenies and 100% carbon wheels and Chris T. doing a 50-mile race on half a water bottle to save a few grams.

But crits are more difficult to win because they require actual bicycling skills like cornering, positioning, maneuvering in tight places, timing, fakery, coordination with teammates except for Prez, preening, fist-pumping, and cauterized nerves in the finale. So you could argue that as a complete package, crit racing is actually harder.

Then I got a great idea. Why not call up Filds? It was 2:00 AM, which meant it was only 4:00 AM in Milwaukee. With any luck he’d still be on the third bottle of Cutty.

“Hey, man, it’s me, Seth.”

“What do you want?”

“Is it harder to win road races or crits?” Filds had won them all.

“You called me at four in the morning to ask me that?”

“It’s for the blog, dude.”

He chewed his cud for a second. “Listen up.”

I listened.

“There’s no such thing as an easy win.”

END

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People first, stars later

February 15, 2016 § 17 Comments

Postdanmark Mini 6-days,

Copyright 2016 by Anne Juel

Ryder Phillips and Wulfgang Lochmiller completed the Copenhagen Six-day Mini in 6th place overall. It is the premier under-15 six-day event in the world, and the only six-day that offers a full six days of racing for the under-15 riders. The event has been going on for thirty-six years.

Ryder and Wulfgang won Stage Five, taking a lap on the field and winning the mid-race prime. This is the first time any Americans have won an under 15 six-day stage, or even scored any points. Wulfgang wiped out the week before while racing in Germany, so he was a bit torn up and he struggled the first few nights. They both came good on the fifth night and picked up what can only be described as a historic win.

The best part of this entire experience was the prep. The boys started doing weekly Madison workouts a year ago February. Ryder was pumping out five-hour, sixty-mile track workouts a few times a week for nearly eight weeks straight, and the boys were ripping the pedals off their bikes by the time he was ready to head out.

The progress that Ryder made prepping for the trip, and the passion he developed for cycling was incredible. It went from a nagging old man saying, “Dude, get your ass ready and turn off the x-box, we need to get to the track,” to the fired up kid saying, “Dad we have to go, we’re gonna be late! And we’re staying late for the intervals right?”

By the time they left for Copenhagen it was already a success, according to Ryder’s dad, Kevin.
“If he crashed out the first night we could still call the entire process a success just because of the personal growth he got preparing for it. He’s gone from the kid trying to hang with the adults to the kid that is hammering most of the adults, and it happened in a single off season.”

Daniel Holloway was also in Copenhagen racing the pro race and couldn’t have been more supportive, going out of his way to come down and say hello to the boys during warmup and offer them advice, although as 13-year-olds who already knew everything, it’s questionable how much of it they absorbed!

The benefits the kids got out of their first Euro tour will last them forever. They know how to travel on an international flight, how to exchange currency, how to order food from someone that does not speak English, ride a metro and get lost on a train and still figure out how to get back to their hotels. This doesn’t even include the fact that they can show up at an international race, find the promoter, mingle with twenty-six other kids that don’t speak much English, race in their heads while some Euro dude is babbling Danish on the PA system, AND race for the win.

Wulfgang hit the Berlin Six-Day before going to Copenhagen and meeting up with Ryder. He was nervous because of the size and reputation of the juniors there; there were some 14-year-olds who looked like they were prepping for the NFL combine. After the first heat Wulfgang snagged second place with points for the omnium and knew he was right at home, following it with fifth in the finals.

The next day he got second in the points race, which gave him yet more omnium points and put him in third place overall going into the final. He was having a great final and gunning for the podium when two other boys crashed; Wulfang went down as collateral damage. His bike was ruined, he had a bruised knee, and track rash on his leg.

Coach Tim Roach scrambled for a loaner bike so Wulfgang could race the final day, but after finding a bike and showing up to race the kid was simply to banged up to go. In Copenhagen the promoter and Danish club came up with a beautiful, perfectly fitting bicycle for Wulfang, saving $600 to overnight ship Wulfgang’s back-up bike. That and the amount of hospitality they give the American contingent left everyone feeling appreciative, humble, and embarrassed that the US doesn’t do the same for its foreign guests.

Most importantly, the success of these two boys was the result of the dedication shown by numerous track racers and coaches who gave untold hours of their time to coach, teach, show, and encourage Ryder and Wulfgang every step of the way.

This is what is so incredible about track racing, a level of personal caring and mentorship that is all but absent in the other cycling disciplines. Dave Grylls, two time Olympic silver medalist, donated hundreds of hours of coaching every Thursday.

Nelson Vails, John Walsh, Guy East, Matthew Chambers, and at least a dozen other expert track racers all came to the Carson velodrome and shared their passion, their expertise, and their decades of experience with these two young kids. Most juniors would be lucky to have a single pro roadie come to a junior road camp; forget having them donate endless hours to the kids’ success. Of course being coached by Tim Roach and Roger Young, two of the best in the business, didn’t hurt.

The fact that there are so many talented cyclists who want to give their time to the sport at no cost all, while USAC does little to take advantage of this and instead cries broke and wants parents to spend thousands on “talent camps” to “ID the stars of the future” is utter crap. Why? Because stars aren’t “ID’d.” They are made—made with time, patience, love, compassion, expertise, support, encouragement, and calculated risks.

It’s an amazing thing that the sport has people like Tim Roach whose response to USAC is “Nuts!” Tim puts his cards on the table and says go big, race in Europe, and see how good you really are. In addition, the kids get a global experience so when they’re at junior world’s they aren’t overwhelmed. For Tim to take these two kids to Europe along with his other racers was an amazing act of kindness and a demonstration of being a coach in the purest sense of the word.

The kicker? It didn’t cost much more than going to a USAC cycling camp, thanks to grants from the Foundation for American Track Cycling. Of course as a parent it’s not about making stars anyway. It’s about making good people.

END

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