Exclusive interview: Tinkov livid at “mean” race tactics

May 27, 2015 § 10 Comments

After the gripping queen stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia in which leader Alberto Contador extended his lead over a fragmented and broken peloton, team boss Oleg Tinkov vented his fury at the way the race played out. Oleg sat down with with CitSB on a pile of worthless Russian roubles to discuss.

Cycling in the South Bay: So you’re pretty upset about today’s stage?

Oleg Tinkov: Upset? I furious.

CitSB: Why is that?

OT: No respecting was shown on Alberto, they attack him when he stop for wheel change. This was mean, very much  mean and impolite on Alberto, our great leader.

CitSB: But he added to his race lead, right? Isn’t he now four minutes up on second place?

OT: Winning of thing has not meaning. Katusha bragging about putting Alberto in pain, about making him on suffer. Where is respect on great leader?

CitSB: So you’re saying that riders shouldn’t attack the leader when he has a mechanical?

OT: They should not attack him ever. He is leader, great leader. What are they trying prove on him? I tell everyone before race that Alberto was winner.

CitSB: But what if some of the other owners were telling their team leader that he was going to be the winner? Wouldn’t they have to race to find out?

OT: They say this about Russian election but is false. Russian election not need voter to decide who is great leader. Russian election always 100% voting for great leader.

CitSB: And you’ve also gone on record saying that there should be no second place finisher on the podium?

OT: No second, no third, no nothing. Only great leader.

CitSB: What about the other 189 riders?

OT: They already vote Alberto is great leader, this they all tell me in private. Now we give them each big piece black bread and shovel to build strong economy.

CitSB: I see. So what’s on the calendar for the Great Leader for the rest of the year?

OT: First we get name, all name of disrespecter and we give name to police. If innocent, get big piece black bread and shovel, if guilty each disrespecter help build strong economy in Siberia paradise vacation rental with excellent rate in January.

CitSB: Well okay, but what about the Great Leader’s race schedule? Is he going to be ready for the Tour in July?

OT: This state secret.

CitSB: Oh come on. It’s no state secret whether or not Alberto’s riding the Tour. He’s Spanish anyway.

OT: Please give name.

CitSB: My name?

OT: Yes please and living place.

CitSB: Uh, Prez. Dave Prez.

END

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Porte offers exclusive tour of motorhome on way home from Giro

May 26, 2015 § 16 Comments

Team Sky leader Richie Porte retired from the Giro d’Italia today and offered journalists a personal tour around the customized motorhome that will drive him from Italy to his home in Tasmania, where he plans to take a well deserved rest from two grueling weeks of racing. As he piloted the posh Mercedes-Benz Panzer IV Kustom around the docks of Naples, Cycling in the South Bay took a moment to talk with him.

Cycling in the South Bay: So, what are you doing here in Naples?

Richie Porte: Well, I retired from the Giro today and am headed back home to Tasmania.

CitSB: But why Naples?

RP: Oh, I’m just looking for the bridge. It’s got be around here somewhere.

CitSB: The bridge?

RP: To Tasmania, mate. This thing don’t float, y’know.

CitSB: Right. So, what happened in the Giro?

RP:  Well, this is a pretty cool motorhome, eh?

CitSB: It’s incredible. Really first class.

RP: That’s what you gotta have when you’re the team leader, mate.

CitSB: But there’s still another week left in the Giro, and the queen stage on the Motirolo is tomorrow, and, well, with the 27 minutes you lost yesterday, plus the four minutes in the TT and the two minutes with the wheel change and the other two minutes with the crash, you’re not really the team leader anymore, are you? Especially since you’ve, you know, quit.

RP: Oh, right, that. Hey check out this espresso machine. Soy out of this spigot, steamed milk here, whipped cream over here. Pretty cool, eh?

CitSB: Yes, it’s awesome. So what happened? Before the race when you were offering tours of the motorhome, there was criticism that you should be staying in a hotel like your teammates.

RP: Right? Hey, when you take a leak in the john be sure to gel your hands with that antibiotic cream. I don’t want to get sick, eh?

CitSB:  Do you think being isolated from the team hurt you?

RP:  I don’t think so, not at all. It was the team’s idea anyway, not mine.

CitSB: Really? Why did they want you to sleep out in the parking lot instead of in the hotel?

RP: Oh, it’s a little thing I’ve had since I was a wee ‘un.

CitSB: What’s that?

RP: It’s nothing really, just a bit of a bed wetting habit I’ve had for a while, since I was three, actually.

CitSB: And how did that affect the team’s decision to put you in a bus in the parking lot?

RP: Well, we sleep in bunks in the hotel, and since I’m the team leader I always get the top bunk. So y’know, the blighter down below gets rained on all night.

CitSB: That sounds pretty grim.

RP: Oh, it was. It was even worse when I rode for Saxo Bank and had to bunk with Sven Gunderhausen. He was a bedwetter too, and Bjarne was always trying to cure us of it, so one night he’d put me in the top bunk and the next night he’d put Sven in the top bunk, so one of us or the other was always getting a bit of a golden shower.

CitSB: Jeez.

RP: Yeah, finally we took to sleeping in full rain gear, but on Sky it was just me, so the team voted for the motorhome. Hey, check this out.

CitSB: What is it?

RP: It’s an automatic wet wipes dispenser with a little reservoir here for baby powder you can put on your bum after you get wet.

CitSB: These motorhomes have everything.

RP: Yeah, they really do.

CitSB: Except for a pink jersey. This one doesn’t seem to have one of those.

RP: Right?

CitSB: Right.

END

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The great handlebar doping nontroversy of 2015

May 25, 2015 § 6 Comments

The last time Mrs. WM and Jr. came to watch me race was in 2008 at the Dana Point Grand Prix. With a few laps to go in the Calcium Deficiency and Low Test Category, Matt Hahn decided not to wait until he became an octogenarian and instead broke his hip on the straightaway in a terrible bicycle-falling-off-incident .

Far from the crash and in no real danger myself, in sympathy with the carnage I flung my bike onto the tarmac as hard as I could, bounced a couple of times in front of my shocked son and wife, then limped bleeding off the course and over to the beer garden where I fortified myself with two pints of IPA before soldiering on to complete the 35+ race DFL.

Today was going to be different, and it was. The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix took off helter-skelter at 10:15 AM with 50 minutes of frolic on the menu, which frolic quickly degenerated into volleys of attacks so vicious and cruel that by the third lap a bloodthirsty pack of wolves consisting of The Hand of God a/k/a THOG, Genghis Hahn, Gorilla in the Nist, Naugahyde, and Bullet rolled up the road.

I was just coming off a hard effort and recognized through the spit and blood clots that this was probably The Move, so I stretched across the open windy Serengeti and somehow latched onto the wheels of these Titans of the Drippy Prostate. Much pain ensued, and it ensued immediately.

THOG settled into a steady breakaleg breakaway pace of mymaximumspeedever+3 mph, and that strange time-space-continuum effect snapped into place whereby your time on the front seems like an hour but your time resting seems like a subunit of a nanosecond even though from the perspective of a person standing on a train it seems quite the other way around.

Once the breakaway was established, THOG ordered us all to begin riding in earnest, and the increased speed was so severe that Bullet began taking, shall we say, slight sabbaticals at the back, and Genghis began interspersing his cupcake pulls with blistering accelerations that coincided with the ringing of a bell later identified as “cash primes.”

Through it all I failed to notice that sticking off the front of Genghis’s handlebars like a cowcatcher was an apparatus that resembled two pieces of rebar welded together by the detonation of a phosphorous bomb, twisted, out-jutting handles sloping down, short and low, that were in fact 1990’s-era vintage aero bars. We will skip over for just a moment the fact that Genghis rides a top of the line TIME bike which, even with concrete wheels, would weigh less than the rebar Spinacis that were dangling off the front of his bike.

We will also skip over the fact that he never seemed to use them.

What we will focus on is the fact that in addition to cupcake pulls and prime-snagging he burst from the break with 200 meters to go and cleanly whipped the snot out of the shattered remnants of our brokedown palace.

There aren’t many rules in cycling, but there is at least this one: Thou shalt not fuck with THOG.

He’s not the patron, the boss, the head honcho, the universally acknowledged master of the universe, he’s much more than that. He’s the final arbiter of the pig trough. What, you ask, is the pig trough? It is this, written in Book of Degenesis, Chapter One, Verse One:

Life and cycling is a pig trough. Many are the pigs who belly up to the trough and seek to snurfle out its rinds, garbage, and tasty bits of rotten things unfit for human consumption. Yet before thou shalt be allowed to stick thy greedy snout into the trough, thou must contribute to it, and the pig that seeks to swill without giving his fair share shall be excommunicated from the house of pigs and forced to sprunt with the wankers back in the field.

It is a hard law, but immutable, and when Genghis swilled all the cash primes and guzzled the victory he was ratted out to the officials, who promptly convened a Reading of the Rule Book. Once the four officials had assembled their fifteen IQ points, Genghis addressed the genitals of the jury by citing to Rule 1I1(d).

In road, track, or cyclo-cross races, handlebars with ends, features, or attachments that extend forward or upward or that provide support for other than the rider’s hands are permitted only in time trial and pursuit events (not in Team Sprint); however, attachments that point upward on the brakehoods of road bicycles are allowed if the distance between them is greater than 25 cm (9.8 inches).

According to Genghis, the first clause of this sentence allowed his aero rebar attachments because they pointed down, not upward. The prosecution’s case, adeptly argued by THOG, countered that Genghis’s reading was selective, as no attachments are permitted that provide support for other than the rider’s hands, and Genghis’s attachments clearly provided support for his wrists, forearms, and also perhaps for his forehead.

Expert witnesses testified for the defense, but on cross they appeared to have spent too much time in the beer tent and the court granted the prosecution’s Daubert challenge and excluded the expert testimony.

THOG made his concluding argument to the jury, urging them to DQ Genghis because he “rode like a prick,” and a unanimous verdict tossed out Genghis’s glorious victory and awarded it to Old Naugahyde, who was urged to use the winnings for some skincare products and a visit to the dermatologist.

Most importantly for me, my sixth-place-out-of-six in the breakaway was instantly upgraded to fifth, which only vaguely compensated for the fact that I’d ridden like a complete maroon, had smashed the pedals at the wrong time, attacked from the front, and generally made a fool out of myself.

On the bright side, Mrs. WM got some great photos of Genghis, and Jr. was proud of his dad for not crashing again.

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 11: The bed battle

May 20, 2015 § 30 Comments

Rarely, very rarely, someone will ask me a serious question about fitness or training or racing. These are terrifying moments, aware as I am that of all the people with zero value to share on such topics, I am certainly the largest negative integer in that department.

This person asked me about getting a coach. Now, I have lots of friends who are coaches, but that number will be greatly reduced after today because here is what I told my friend:

Unless someone experienced in both fields has evaluated you and advised you that you can make more money riding your bicycle than you can getting an MBA, coaching is stupid. Why?

Because the basics behind cycling improvement haven’t changed in 100 years.

  1. Eat right
  2. Lose weight
  3. Ride more
  4. Ride with those who are better than you
  5. Race

Once you’ve done these five things, and it generally takes 5-10 years to reach the right balance, you can start seeking advice. The good news is that when you’ve spent a decade doing #4 and #5, your coaches will be the people you regularly ride and race with, and they will gladly share what they know as well as point out what they think you do well and where you can improve.

Training plans, power meters, heart rate monitors, coaches … get over it. It’s a scam designed to obfuscate the harsh realities of 1-5 above, and to take your eye off the Reality Ball, which says you are old and slow and will continue getting older and slower until you die, which will be incredibly soon relative to your expectations.

In fact, when it comes to speed, your best investments are aero, carbon, diet, and winning the battle of the bed. Aero speaks for itself. Get a Sausage-approved Aero Pro Fit p/b Daniel Holloway and you will go noticeably faster.

Get as much 100% carbon stuff that is full carbon and you will go faster still, especially if it’s aero carbon, as if there were any other kind.

Diet is trickier, but in a nutshell here are the basics:

  1. Toss the radical weight loss plan. 143 pounds is not good for a six foot frame, and constant ravenous hunger is an unhappy way to live, although it sure sharpens every single faculty.
  2. Make incremental changes. Shave a bit here and there, and mostly rein in dinner. If you’re a 3-plate eater, first go from 3 servings to 2, and then from 2 to 1. Even if it’s sometimes a big serving, shoot for a norm of “enough to make me feel full but not stuffed.”
  3. USE SMALLER PLATES.
  4. Eat at home more often and put everything on a plate, except ice cream, which goes in a bowl. A small one.
  5. Chop the legs off of your enabler. He/she is the person who asks you 10 times a day “Do you want … ?” or “Do you want to go out for … ?” Cure the enabler by saying “Yes, but since you asked me, I’ll pass.” The enabler will be very angry for a while and no sex, but when you’re shedding pounds who has the energy for that anyway? Don’t waste your time telling the enabler to quit asking, just let the enabler know that no matter what it is, if the enabler recommends it, you’re refusing no matter how hungry you are. Pretty soon you’ll be back in control of what you eat and when you eat it. Plus, what hungry human can say “No” ten times a day? I can’t even say it once.
  6. Read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse. The protagonist’s only skills are “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” These are incredible qualities to develop in cycling, and in life if you have one. (I don’t.) Keep in mind that while it’s not good to be ravenous all the time, it is good to endure a few pangs during the day. It’s not normal to always be full or to sate yourself every time you feel hungry. It’s like expecting to race well without ever training hard.

The biggest fitness obstacle, however, is the bed battle. Everyone can testify to the difficulty of twisting yourself out of the clutches of the warm sheets, especially when the only thing on offer is a guaranteed 60-minute beatdown on the Flog Ride, cf. Joseph Y.

The bed battle cannot be won with multiple alarms or with pre-percolating coffee timers, and it certainly can’t be won when the person next to you is warm and cuddly and not very interested in your morning bicycle ride. The bed battle can only be won the night before, by going to bed early, airing up your tires, laying out your superhero outfit, and promising a friend that you will meet him at a time certain.

There. That’s all I know, and most of it is wrong.

END

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Celebrate

May 19, 2015 § 33 Comments

I had to choose between doing the Torrance Crit and going to my daughter’s law school graduation. She made law review, completed law school in two years, made the dean’s list, was a dean’s fellow, and received a full scholarship. So it was go and celebrate her accomplishments or hustle down to the Telo office park and see if I could win twenty bucks or not crash.

Decisions.

I didn’t tell family about the bike race. Relatives and friends had come from far away to celebrate my daughter. We went to commencement Sunday morning and it was awesome. Then it finished around noon. I still didn’t say a word about the crit. We ate lunch. Everyone was tired and wanted to go home or back to the hotel and nap.

I got home just before three. The race started at four. “Where are you going?” Mrs. WM asked.

“Just out for a little pedal.”

“Be home in time to leave for the graduation dinner at 6:10.”

“No problem,” I said, realizing that it would take a miracle to get me home in time. I sauntered out, leaped out my bike and sprinted to the office park. The leaky prostate division had drained off hours ago and the only race left was the Fakepro-1-2-3 race. I hadn’t done one of those in a couple of decades. “How hard can it be?” I asked myself. “Plus, it’s 75 minutes, which is more racing!”

I watched the racers warm up. They had smooth skin and no fat and their faces were filled with hope and no one had told them what a terrible waste of life bike racing was and they all looked younger than my kids. That’s because they were.

Still, I had been killing it on the NPR and the Donut Ride, and that’s pretty much the same as doing a Fakepro-1-2-3 race, right? Right?

Wily Greek rolled up next to me at the start. “This is gonna fuggin’ hurt.”

I blinked big watery cow eyes. I’ve never seen Wily in even mild discomfort. “Oh, no,” I thought as Robert Pellegrin blew the whistle.

The young fellows were in a big hurry. They were in such a hurry that instead of waiting until five minutes before the finish to attack like us elderly gentlemen always do, they waited four or five seconds before the first turn to attack into the chicane and into the headwind, which they followed with another faster attack into the headwind and through the right-hander which was followed by two more attacks, each attack faster than the one before.

Since I was already going as fast as I had ever gone in my life after the first attack, when we hit the tailwind stretch I got ready for a bit of relief, but that never came because the attacks in the tailwind made everything else look slow in comparison. Unlike the leaky prostate division, where there are three attacks, a break rolls off, and everyone sits up and finishes reading the paper, in the Fakepro-1-2-3 division everyone keeps attacking until no one can attack anymore except the people who haven’t yet attacked who are actually the true strongmen, and then they take turns attacking while the tired attackers are resting at the back and then when the strongmen roll off the front the rested primary attackers re-attack until they chase down the strongmen who have seen the chase coming and thus slowed a touch so that when they are reeled in they can attack the attackers who were attacking them for having attacked.

Somewhere in there the race went from being Fakepro-1-2-3 to Fakepro-1-2, and the seventy or so starters became forty or fifty gaspers and ten people actually racing to win.

Fortunately every time I whizzed through Beer Corner my trusty mechanic Boozy P., who had re-twisted my derailleur hanger a few minutes before the race with a monkey wrench and a beer can so that I could keep ‘er in the 11 and not have to worry about my chain skipping into those wussy gears, along with Hooffixerman & his hot wife, New Girl, Frenchy & Frenchymom, Canyon Bob, Strava Reid, Fintech Quant, Tyler, Mr. Rubdown, and the usual gang of Strand Brewery drunks hollered and screamed encouragement at me each time I bounced over the pavement and within inches of death up against the curb.

“You suck, Wanky!”

“Go to the front!”

“Get off the front!”

“Close the gap!”

“Get off your brakes!”

“Roll your tongue back in!”

And other helpful bits of coaching were offered each lap.

In addition to being very afraid of all the bicycle riders who whizzed by me brushing my bars and hips, I was being “that guy” who, clearly out of his league and even more out of breath, would dash towards the front, hit the turn at Mach 12, clench the brakes with max panic grab, and listen to all the Fakepro-1-2’s scream, curse, and grind to a halt behind me, then be forced to accelerate from 1 mph back up to 35 after passing me in the corner.

They all appeared very tired out from this, and also somewhat sad.

Unfortunately for them, as soon as they passed me I would “do the Derek” which is racetalk for “pass every rider once.” With this logic you eventually win. However, in order to pass anyone there were only three options. Option 1 was to thread my way through the pack while getting completely protected from the wind, but I was too afraid to do this.

Option 2 was to rocket up the gutter in the leeward draft, but I was too afraid to do this either because the gutter is just a few inches wide and filled with death.

Option 3 was to go up along the safe edge of the peloton into the wind, which takes about 1300 or a million watts to move six places. Eventually I would get up to the first few wheels and then hit another turn, come flaming in hot, burn off a few centimeters of brake pad, turn the face of the guy behind me black from carbon brake dust, lose 49 places, crash out a few hapless sods, and start all over again.

It was very tiring, but soon we were on the bell lap. I could tell this because up until then we had been going so fast that time had come to a standstill (it’s a relativity thing), but now the pack briefly bunched up. I saw my final opportunity to launch a searing attack up the side, catch the field unawares, get a gap, and win.

I punched the pedals with everything I had, just at the moment when the pack punched it with about 20% of what it had, and I found out that on the bell lap my 100% was about half of their 20%. I latched onto the end of the train and at that moment Wily came up and tapped me on the hip. “Yo, Wanky,” he said. “Better give yourself a couple of bike lengths, just to be safe. You aren’t winning today, you know.”

I looked at the 48 riders ahead of me, calculated the 1300 watts I didn’t have times eight, and eased off. We hit the straightaway and a trio of riders, locked in a death struggle for the honor of 29th place, touched wheels and hit the pavement with amazing violence and bounciness. Their bikes broke into pieces, blood and skin and helmet pieces flew everywhere, and the air was rent with moans and screams and one of my SPY teammates who wailed as I rode by, “Why do they let these fuggin’ Cat 3 idiots into these races?”

I crossed the line and realized that I only had twenty minutes to make the 35-minute ride home. Fortunately, EA Sports, Inc., was outside his house as I rode by. I explained my predicament, he tossed me into the back of his pickup, put my bike up front, and drove me home. I walked in the door at 6:09.

“How was your ride?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Uneventful, and therefore okay.”

END

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No place for old men

April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

I have to take my hat off to Sam Ames, the guy who promotes the annual district masters road race championships here in SoCal. He makes very difficult races, runs them well, and gets the predictable flak.

This year CHP advised that no follow cars would be allowed, so riders were told to pack a tube, lever, and CO2 cartridge. One rider called Sam to voice his displeasure. “No follow car? For the state championship? That’s unacceptable!”

“Look, Wankface,” said Sam. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah. What?”

“How many races have you been in where you flatted, got a timely change from the follow car, chased back on, and won?”

Pause. “Well, never.”

“So be sure to bring a spare tube, okay?”

The 50+ race had a star-studded field of used-to-be’s and wish-I’d-been’s, but the only one who mattered, it turned out, was Thurlow. After 65 miles in the skin-sizzling heat, after 7,000 feet of climbing, and after all but ten riders had been ripped like a hangnail out of the lead group, BonkBreaker’s Zimmerman attacked over the last little hump. He opened a gap and Chris Walker bridged. Seeing the looks of grim desolation on the faces of the remnants, Thurlow launched and joined the leaders.

Zimmerman dropped a kidney, Thurlow attacked and soloed in, and Walker could do naught but pedal squares to the line.

Not that I saw any of it. I had been dispensed with many miles before, discarded with the disgust and finality of a used Kleenex. But like every other bicycle race it had started full of promise and hope.

We rolled out some thirty riders strong, powering into a unique air formation that proved to be a headwind going out, a headwind coming back, and an underwind-topdown wind everywhere else, with a dose of powerful sidewind, like gonorrhea. We hit the first climb and I hewed to my mantra: “Hide, cower, suck wheel. Save me, Father Carbon.”

Midway up it was clear that the prayer and the expensive wheel purchase and the monk-like existence of fasting, celibacy, sobriety, and 8:00 PM bedtimes was working. The only thing that gave me pause was the disclaimer on the flyer that said, as it always does, “Watch out for rattlesnakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, and attack bees.”

I wondered about that because we were passing a huge clump of roadside blooming weeds and they were covered in bees. “Are they attack bees?” I wondered. “What is an attack bee?” At that instant three of them flew into the large vents in my helmet. I am allergic to bee stings.

Ever since I was a small child I have been terrified of bees and wasps.When I was eight I kicked a wasp’s nest and got 35 stings, wound up in the hospital for a week, and almost died. The following summer I doused a beehive with lighter fluid and tried to burn it, but the fire didn’t take. The bees, however, did, and what they took to was me. Fifty stings and another hospital stay and lots of injections. When I was twelve my brother and I tried to eradicate all the yellow jacket nests in our neighborhood. We had a long stick with rags soaked in gasoline, and went from nest to nest incinerating them.

All went well until the fifth one. The rags came undone and fell onto my head, aflame. My hair caught fire and the wasps attacked. This time I had to get a bit of a skin graft, which got infected, and I simultaneously almost died from what the doctor said was a record, one hundred wasp stings.

I thought about all that as the attack bees crawled around on my scalp. I hoped that they would find the anterior wind vent and exit, but as I waited the first acceleration came. Several riders didn’t come with it, but I hid and cowered and survived. We made it to the turnaround and Jeff K. punched it over each of the short stabbing climbs we had descended into the little valley and now had to come out from.

More riders chose a different, more humane pace. I struggled, and straggled, and held on. The bees continued to crawl around my head. As we hit the long 4-mile headwind to complete our first 25-mile lap, Todd P. began castigating us for our slowness and laziness. “When are you guys gonna start racing?” he snapped, attacking off the front into the wind, where he was followed by G$. They vanished.

I thought about that question, “When are you guys gonna start racing?” and realized that if we hadn’t started yet, then I didn’t want to be — and plainly wouldn’t be — around when we did. We finished the first lap and several more riders chose a different pace; a couple even decided to unilaterally shorten their race from three laps to one, mortally wounded as they were by Proximity To The Car Fever and its attendant symptom, Common Sense.

Two of the bees flew out, so I was down to one. We started up the big climb again. Todd and G$ were thirty seconds ahead. Our designated rider, DJ, was going to need some help on this one. I always love it when a team leader needs a dutiful lieutenant to go jump on several dozen grenades, because that’s always my cue to cower and hide even more. Teammates are an abstraction in bike racing, because in reality everyone is your enemy and they must all be killed in order for you to prevail.

Alan F., who had been trading places with me at the rear, moved to the point to bring back G$ and Todd. Inexplicably I was on his wheel. Was it reflex? Bad judgment? A misguided attempt to help my teammate?

No!

It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:

Throughout the race, people will behave irrationally, hopelessly, and with no clear objective other than self-defeat so that he who waits longest and does the least can pounce and win.

G$and Todd were deep in the throes of senselessness and as Alan dragged them back, my proximity to the front was wearing me out. What was I doing there? Why was I anywhere near the front? Didn’t I know that every square millimeter of wind exposure was the same as riding with a spinnaker when you are large and fat and slow and weak and tired?

When Alan sat up, Chris Walker pulled through hard, inflicting difficulty and little black spots on the weak and infirm. Alan and I tailed off. “Good work, guys,” DJ said as we imploded. We had pulled back 3.1 or perhaps 1.2929272028 seconds on G$ and Todd, who now instead of being tiny specks were more like smallish specks.

Alone again, naturally, I chased back on, got dropped again, hit the turnaround, passed the women’s field, then got passed by the women’s field, then settled into a rhythm of despair and self-loathing and full-body cramps, each racking shudder causing me to think “Wow, I didn’t know there was a muscle there.”

On the downhill I was overhauled by King Harold and Dandy. They were angry, breathing fire, and mostly intent on catching and dropping the women. I was now lodged in the Pincer Movement from Hell, having to choose between hanging onto their battering pulls into the under/top/side/headwind, or sitting up and never re-passing the women. The final lap was as terrible as childbirth when you are a human and the progeny is a grown and angry porcupine.

Dandy and King Harold pulled me around, waited for me on the climbs, and after a mere one hour and fifteen minutes of indescribable torment, their teamwork, assistance, and selfless work got us to the line, where, after resting for the entire final 25 miles, I dropped them both and sprinted for 17th place.

You know it was a difficult race when the finishers are rolling around in the dirt afterwards clenched up in various post-race cramp positions. Fortunately, the race turned out much more successfully for me than my 19th place might indicate. By spending about $1,500 on new wheels, I moved up ten places from the previous year. So with another $1,500 expenditure in 2016 I can expect a top-ten, and then a final $1,500 investment in 2017 should ensure a win. I probably won’t even have to show up and they can just mail me my medal. Right?

END

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Don’t just do it

April 17, 2015 § 25 Comments

I always wondered about that slogan. Just do what? It? Really? What if “it” is jumping off a bridge? Letting a drunk frat dude shoot an apple off my head with a compound bow? Have another one for the road? Because as we all know, the more you drink the more awesome the road becomes, especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

Don’t just do it. First, think about it, then, 99 times out of a 100, don’t do it. Then watch how time and unfolding events reward the cautious, the timid, the conservative, the frightened, the calculating, and the weak as the brave Just Doers plunge over the falls in a barrel.

When it comes to the state road race in Bakersfield tomorrow, however, you should definitely just do it. I know I’m going to. Why? Because it will be steel-smelting hot, dry as a California drought in the Central Valley — where Bakersfield actually is — and monumentally tough.

“Those are all reasons NOT to do it,” you’re saying to yourself.

Not quite. I forgot to add that it’s 75 miles long, hilly as hell, and the roadway is lined with stinging giant bees and rattlesnakes and oilfield trucks who think you would make a great piece of grill meat, right next to the mushed up grasshoppers and other bugs.

“Fuggit,” you’re saying. I can hear you. “No fuggin’ way.”

If your racing age is 50, though, maybe I can entice you because the 50+ Rather Leaky Prostate Category is going to be fun. As of today the pre-reg shows that at a minimum the race will be attended by Konsmo, Leibert, The Hand of God, Jaeger, and a bunch of other people I’ve never beaten in any bike race, ever. Day-of cameos will likely include Mark Noble, DQ Louie, The Parksie Twins, and one or two other carbon-eating bikeovores.

Since past behavior is the single best predictor of future performance, the fact that I’ve been dropped from the lead group every year since 2008 racing against essentially the same cast of crazies seems to indicate that this year will be more of the same, and since the race is 75 miles instead of 50, paying tribute to the biological reality that we get faster and stronger as we get older, I may be able to add a big fat DNF to my state road race palmares.

Delusion, however, dies hard, especially when it lives in tandem with massive infusions of cash. Fact is, I’m ready for this race. My monthly mileage is up to 150. I’ve bumped my FTP up from 185 to 189, and at 170 pounds I’m even svelter than I was when I worked as a burger chef. The cash infusion, however, will be decisive.

Since Mrs. WM doesn’t ever read this blog I can confess that three days ago I picked up a pair of FastForward back-ordered Super Ultra F-12 Full Carbon Tubular Climbing Carbon Four Spoke Heliomatrix Elevator Racing Wheels, which are full carbon with a carbon content of 100%. They are carbon and even though I got the super-down-low-don’t-tell-a-soul-this-is-just-for-you Bro Deal, my credit card started smoking when they ran it through the little card reader thingy.

Next, not worried at all about how I was going to pay the rent, okay, a little worried, I dashed over to Boozy P.’s place. Boozy P. is my ace mechanic. He lives behind a massive craft brewery and has franking privileges there like the US Congress does at the post office. I’m not making this up. It was the crack of noon, so Boozy was just getting out of floor when I banged on the garage door.

“Yo, Boozy!” I yelled. “I got some work for ya!”

There was a long silence followed by lots more silence. I banged harder and Boozy silenced harder. He eventually rolled up the garage door and blinked at the sunlight. “Sure is getting light earlier now,” he said.

“It’s noon, Boozy. It’s always light at noon.” I handed him the wheels. “Dude, Saturday is the most important race of my life. I bought these full carbon 100% carbon wheels just for the race and I need you to glue on the tires. We’ll be hitting 50 mph on the downhills so it has to be done right. A rolled tire and I’m a dead man. My life is in your hands.”

“Yeah, of course,” he said, absentmindedly reaching over for a hammer.

“Not the hammer, Boozy, the rim cement. And you need to use more than half a thimble on these puppies.”

“Yeah, sure thing, dude.” Boozy sat down on the bench and began wiping away the rivers of sweat that poured off his head and stomach. “What color bar tape did you say you wanted?”

“I didn’t say anything about bar tape. We’re talking about tubulars and how my life depends on you doing this right and how you’re gonna glue ’em on perfectly and not with that fuggin’ hammer.” Boozy was fiddling with the hammer again, and it was making me nervous.

“Sure thing, dude.” Boozy wiped away more sweat. “Hey, I think the brewery’s open now. Wanna go grab a quick one for the road?”

“I quit drinking, remember?”

Boozy looked sad. “Oh yeah, that’s right. Mind if I go get a couple IPA’s? One for me, and I’ll drink your one for the road.”

“Sure, but glue on the tires first.”

“Right,” he said. “Could you hand me that screwdriver?”

I left before the migraines began. Two days later I picked up the wheels. The fact that three quarts of rim cement were not smeared from the the rims to the tires to the spokes to the hubs meant that Boozy had either done an immaculate job or he’d used the industry-standard 1/4 thimble of glue and half a gob of spit.

I got home and put on the wheels. The were so light that my bike kept jerking up off the pavement. I floated up the Cove Climb. I dance up Via Zumaya. I jetted up Hawthorne and Monaco faster than I’d ever pedaled before. The tires were glued to perfection. My legs felt good, and suddenly the prospect of being thrown into the cage with Greg, Jeff, THOG, DJ, and the Parksie Twins didn’t seem scary, only pointless and stupid.

I was gonna do it on Saturday. Just do it.

END

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