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:
- Don’t do anything.
- Sit in.
- Expend zero effort.
- Avoid the wind.
- Be patient.
- Don’t be over eager.
- Don’t get sucked into meaningless early attacks.
- Save your bullets.
- Let the race unfold.
- Be invisible.
- 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:
- Attack from the gun.
- Follow every move.
- Chase everyone.
- Attack again.
- Hit the front from the rear coming up the right-side, into the wind.
- Lead up every climb.
- Do at least a dozen max 30-second efforts.
- Scornfully stare at everyone.
- Attack some more.
- 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.
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.
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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.”
“There’s no such thing as an easy win.”
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February 15, 2016 § 17 Comments
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.
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February 14, 2016 § 16 Comments
Team Lizard Collectors rolled up to the start of the UCLA Road Race in our pimping Bonk Breaker Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van and Hotel and Restaurant. G3 and I had argued the entire 1.5 hour drive to the McDonald’s toilet about race strategy.
“The Cat 3 race is harder than the Leaky Prostate 45-plus Profamateur race,” he said.
“You are insane,” I diplomatically replied. “Our field is stacked with THOG, the desert rat brothers, Roadchamp, Capture the Flagg, Strava Jr., and a host of other mutants. They will kill it from the gun and we’ll all be dropped. We’ll never make it over the first climb.”
“Yes, we will,” said G3. “We’ll do them just like in the Cat 3’s.”
“Oh, brother,” I said. “How is that?”
“We’ll roll up to the front and ride tempo.”
“Great. Until the desert rats and Roadchamp and Strava Jr. hit the gas and drop you like Chinese egg soup.”
“Nope. I’ll chat them up and make small talk, ask about the kids and stuff. By the time they get through telling me about their new chain lube and Strava Jr.’s 1-oz. derailleur we’ll be through most of the climb and you won’t get shelled.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Works every time in the Cat 3’s.”
“This ain’t the Cat 3’s.”
The race started, G3 rolled to the front, and holding a steady tempo began chatting with the rat brothers about the carpet cleaning business, the pool cleaning business, and whether they thought it would rain in the desert anytime soon.
Even at tempo half the field was shelled, and when we made the first turn by the blowing trash and the flimsy gates that only barely restrained a rabid Rottweiler and a foaming pit bull who thought we had come to raid the meth lab, the hitters realized they’d been tricked and three of them scampered away.
“You did it!” I exulted to G3. Making it over the first climb was the hardest part of the race; even though we had four laps the remaining times around would be easy in comparison.
Since we were there to sacrifice all for our team leader G$ (easily confused with G3, at least on paper), and since we still had seven riders in the lead group, we all slunk to the back to let G$ do the hard work of reeling in the break, which he did. Once he made the catch, G3 yelled, “Come on guys, let’s get to the front and bring back the break!”
“They’re already back,” we said from the back.
Now that the hard part was over, all we had to do was continue lurking and shirking while the peloton dragged us to the finish, where we would gloriously win the first seven places, and maybe G$ would get eighth.
However, as we started the climb for the second time, the group seemed to shrink and Team Lizard Collectors suffered a major reduction of its core members, including Dr. Whaaat?, who was experimenting on a hot and hilly road race with a new homemade energy drink made of pickle juice and salt. Just as we approached the rabid dog gate, one of the pre-race favorites, Strava Jr., rode straight into the back of G$’s rear wheel and fell off his bicycle.
The leaders, realizing that one of their chief competitors was down, stomped on the pedals, shredding the group. Strava Jr. lay writhing in not really pain, and after determining that his handlebars were twisted 5-degrees he declared his day over and went home to collect some more KOM’s. In the meantime, our valiant team leader G$ had pulled over to check the wheel that Strava Jr. had smashed into. As the sole remaining member of Team Lizard Collectors near the leaders, I considered my options:
- Stop and help my team leader with his repair, give him a wheel if necessary, help him remount, get him speedily on his way, and tow my heart out so he could rejoin the leaders and win the race.
- Pretend I didn’t see him, pedal blindly by, and try to catch back onto the group I had no hope of staying with so I could possibly get 14th.
It’s not often that life presents such easy choices, so I left him at the side of the road and tried to rejoin the leaders.
However, G$ fixed his bike, remounted, and with no assistance powered across a hilly windswept stairstep to close a 30-second gap and rejoin the front group. I was soon caught by a rather hopeless and dispirited group of people who once resembled cyclists but now looked a lot like homeless desert people on bikes. They dropped me after a few miles.
One by one, everyone remaining in the race passed me except for one fellow who was afterwards declared retroactively dead. I sensed that he was a real threat to the leaders and even though we were 40 minutes back I knew it would take a lot of skill to keep him from going across to G$, who eventually attacked the lead group and won the race.
Fortunately, Mr. Corpse was unable to execute his plan and I kept him blocked safely in 39th place, just out of reach of G$, who was mostly in another county. It was a super valiant team effort and I was humbly honored to play such an important role in G$’s win.
Thanks to my hard work, I demanded that G$ buy the whole team lunch with his $80 in winnings. He agreed and we went to the Hungarian Sausage and Meat Company, located back in Pearblossom between the bail bondsman, the liquor shop, and the Baptist church. Since we had Attila the Hungarian with us, we figured he would appreciate some of his native food.
Inside the shop, he went to the counter. “Anyone here speak Hungarian?” he asked.
The young lady shook her head. “No. What makes you think they would?”
“Well,” said Attila, “the sign says Hungarian Sausage, so I thought maybe someone here was Hungarian.”
The woman made a complicated look with her face, straining muscles that seemed attached to her brain, but that hadn’t been exercised much in the last few years. “No,” she said. “We only speak American here.”
Attila looked at the menu. “I’ll have the Hungarian sausage sandwich,” he said.
The woman scowled. “That takes twenty-five minutes. You’ll have to wait twenty-five minutes. It’s a twenty-five minute wait.”
“Then I’ll have something quicker. What do you recommend?”
“The summer smoked Polish blood sausage with spicy entrails.”
“I’ll have that, then,” said Attila. We all ordered the same thing.
Twenty-five minutes later our food came. I don’t know if it was good or we were ravenous, but it was gone in seconds. At lunch we were joined by Derek the Destroyer, who had gotten second place in the much easier 35+ race against a very weak field.
“Second is okay,” I said. “But 38th in the 45+ race was a lot harder.”
“Really?” he said. “Because we had Tony Manzella, Kirk Bausch, Gary Douville, and a few other guys who go pretty good.”
“Pffft,” I said. “They would have gotten 39-41 in our race.”
“But I think we almost lapped you,” he said.
“That’s because I was blocking. We had a dead guy who was trying to bridge and if he’d gotten across G$ wouldn’t have won.”
Derek munched on his sandwich thoughtfully. “I see,” he said.
On the way back we dissected the race. “Good job, G$,” I said. “I think I could have won but I had the wrong gearing.”
“I could have won, too,” said Attila, “if the race had stopped after the first lap.”
“I could definitely have won,” said G3, “if I hadn’t ridden tempo for Wanky in the beginning. And Dr. Whaaat? was on the podium for sure if it hadn’t been for the pickle juice and salt.”
“I was really surprised that I won,” said G$, who has only won the race five times previously. “I guess I just got lucky.”
No one said anything.
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February 12, 2016 § 25 Comments
Sheikh Wahabbi al-Wasabi, the Honorable Righteous and Mostly Correct High Potentate of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, has followed up his ban of the Etixx-QuickStep pro team for “disciplinary reasons” with a concurrent ban of all women racers who, according to Sheikh Wasabi, “Are currently experiencing, have experienced, or plan to experience at some point in the future the Unmentionable Thing Of Women Not Spoken Of By The Righteous And Holy,” i.e. that which Donald Trump scientifically refers to as “coming from their whatever.”
Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Sheik al-Wasabi just after the sixteenth prayer session of the day in the High Holiest Mosque al-Wasabi of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar to talk about gender equality, the Etixx-QuickStep ban, and why anyone should give two shits about a religion that makes you wear a hat.
CitSB: First, what’s up with banning Etixx-QuickStep from the Tour of Qatar?
AW: As we said in the press release, they take too much time to change their shoes. This is rudeness to Allah.
CitSB: It is?
AW: Very much. And last year we sent a special lady to hurry them up and they talked to her not in a very nice way.
CitSB: What kind of “very special lady?” Was she wearing fishnet stockings?
AW: She was honorable fifteenth pre-pubescent wife of Secondarily Greatest Plumbing and Hotel Infrastructure Manager of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Hamachi. The riders spake rudely, most rudely.
CitSB: What did they say?
AW: She was told to cough.
CitSB: Cough? What’s rude about that?
AW: We are unclear as to this matter, however, His Excellency the Supreme Translator of English Words and Foodstuffs of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Maguro, insists it was great rudeness to insist that the special lady cough.
CitSB: Well, I’ve heard lots of insults, but “Cough!” isn’t one of them.
AW: It was preceded by the “Fuh.”
AW: Sheikh Wahabbi al-Maguro, His Excellency the Supreme Translator of English Words and Foodstuffs of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, insists that the “fuh cough” is a great rudeness. We will soon discover how this differs from other coughs and begin disciplinary proceedings and jihad and fatwah and etcetera against the infidel Belgians, but until then we shall ban them for shoe-changing slowness and the fuh cough blasphemy from participating in the Most Supreme and Challenging Display of Human Triumph in the Jewel of the Desert at the Bicycle Tour of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar.
CitSB: Moving on. I understand there are some problems with the women’s race?
AW: This matter is not mentionable by the Utmost of Holy Men.
CitSB: Could you give me a hint?
AW: As was decreed by the Holiest Imam Under The Skirts Of Allah, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Uni, first the lady racers shall be always covered of head and body with great modesty.
CitSB: Uh, I don’t know how much time you’ve spent around women bike racers, but “lady” isn’t exactly the right word here. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a lady blow a snot rocket?
AW: We are unfamiliar with such weaponry.
CitSB: No, no, a snot rocket isn’t a weapon, it’s a, uh, never mind. Anyway. So how are the women gonna race with turbans and long dresses and those facemask-garbage bag things over their heads?
AW: This matter was resolved by His Occasional Greatness Sheikh Wahabbi al-California Roll, who rules all dictates of the lady clothing especially the linen that touches the parts that the holy do not mention yet are treasured in personal collections and worn at special occasions. Sheikh al-California Roll has decreed that for the lady racers, all competition would be done in a stately and processional fashion so as not create exertion or unsightly perspiration or huffing and puffing reminiscent of unmentionable acts which the holy typically only view on select video download web sites.
CitSB: I see.
AW: When it was brought to our attention that in addition to shoe-changing rudeness of the men, many of the lady racers would potentially experience uncleanliness, we canceled their race or offered to let them race in a stately fashion but if the unmentionable occurred we would be forced to penalize them with beatings and whippings unclothed and perhaps prison and a loss of earnings.
CitSB: Which you’ll record on video with your pals, naturally.
AW: But of course.
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February 11, 2016 § 14 Comments
It’s been proven time and time again that if you want to rise to the top as a SoCal masters profamateur leaky prostate underwear racer, the best thing you can do is go full carbon with 100% carbon items made of guaranteed unadulterated carbon.
After that your best bet is a motor in the seat tube and plenty of drugs.
However, if you can’t afford a good EPO program or a secret motor, there are ways to do better without spending more money, although frankly, what fun is that?
One of the least-explored aspects of not getting killed while racing, and not getting dropped right off the bat, is positioning. Every peloton has three anatomical parts: The head, the tummy, and the butt.
The head is where the thinking occurs, where the racing occurs, and where the race gets won. This is where you want to always be, and where I never am except for those races I target because there are only one or two other participants.
The tummy is the middle of the pack, bulgy and comfy but mostly concerned with flabbing around and wondering why the belt feels so tight. Much carbon is digested in the middle of the pack, because this is most often where bicycle-falling-off-incidents occur, and expensive pieces of bicycle toy are quickly reduced to odd-shaped carbon splinters and twisted pieces of soft metal and skin chunks and howling fellows who don’t have health insurance so they refuse the ambulance ride and bleed out in the back of a buddy’s Corolla.
The butt is a necessary place because that’s where the useless bits get pooped out after having had all the nutrients and utility stripped out of them. Lots of stuff goes from the head to the butt, but nothing good ever goes the other way. So if you find yourself there, you are in the wrong place unless you’re Kent Bostic, who used to tailgun every crit until the last lap, when he would magically move up 100 places and win.
Please remember: You’re not the Bostisaurus.
There are a few simple reasons you wind up in the tummy and butt.
- You let other people get ahead of you because you are weak and fearful.
- You drift to the back because you are weak and fearful.
- You’re hanging onto the end because you’re weak, and probably fearful too.
In order to position yourself so that you’re always in the head you must push down hard on the pedals and not let others in front of you. Try sticking out your elbows, or if you have big, droopy love handles, wiggling them. If the riders you just passed get back in front of you, you must push down hard on the pedals again and get back in front of them.
After a while someone will get tired of this and move down the digestive tract and get dropped off at the pool. Don’t let it be you.
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February 8, 2016 § 21 Comments
I hate getting beat and since there were only six people in the Tuttle Creek Road Race yesterday my prospects were good to avoid the single biggest thing I wanted to avoid, which was getting second again.
I got second.
My teammate Attila picked me up at 7:00 AM pointy-sharp. The first time I ever met him I wondered, “Who the fuck names their kid ‘Attila?'” Then it turned out that he was Hungarian, and if you lopped off the “garian” he truly was Attila the Hun.
His job at Tuttle Creek was simple. “Look, fucker, you’re working for me.”
“Okay!” he said.
“I got second in this lousy stinking no-good far-ass road race last year when there were only two entrants, and this year I’m here to win.”
“Okay!” he said.
“So do what I tell you and don’t fuck up.”
“Okay!” he said happily. He didn’t sound very Hun-like for somebody with such a ferocious name.
Before the race Wide-Eyed Cat 5 Josh came up to us. “Any advice?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said sternly. “The race has so few riders that Steve will start us all together. That means we’ll begin with the P/1/2 guys, who will be disgusted at having to ride within scent of the Leaky Prostate and Wide-Eyed Wanker categories. So they will drop everyone in the first two minutes of the race.”
“How?” asked Josh.
“By pedaling harder than the rest of us.”
“Will this happen on a climb?”
“Yes. The first one, which is where the race starts. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life and within 30 seconds you’ll be buried in the red and trying to puke up your testes.”
“But I like to climb,” he protested.
“Let me put it this way: They will drop everyone in the first two minutes of the race.”
“Everyone?” he said, but what he meant was “Me, too?”
“Yes,” I said. “Everyone. You, too.”
The race began and two minutes in, the P/1/2 racers had dropped everyone. Attila and I were in the second group, if two is a group. Everyone else was alone and wondering what part of their Internet training plan had gone wrong, and why the leaders weren’t staying within what Coach had told them was their maximum prescribed heartrate for the day.
Tuttle Creek is is the hardest road race on the calendar by far. It begins with a 12-minute climb that has about 30 short, hilly, 100%-effort accelerations. After those twelve minutes there is a 3-mile false flat that is only false if you are a complete idiot, as you can see it gradually rising up beneath you and you’re pedaling in your weenie gear, unable to breathe and in great pain.
Then the course gets really hard because you turn right and go up another gradual incline whose purpose is to remind you only of this: At 5,700 feet there is no oxygen, especially in your lungs. The Hun and I shared the work evenly. I would count off three minutes for each one of his pulls and shout, “Ease up, wanker!”
Then he would swing over and I would come through at about half his speed and pull for 30 seconds. The plan was to tire him out so that he would do all the work and I could drop him on the last lap. It became apparent soon that he wasn’t properly up to speed on the plan, because he pulled so long and went so fast that he not only caught one of the Cat 1 riders who had gotten shelled out of the leading break, but my legs and vision began to fail.
The second time through the punchy (as in rabbit punch) section he never bothered to swing over while Cat 1 and I desperately clung to his wheel. Cat 1 did some work on the downhill while I shouted instructions from the back.
On the third lap Cat 1, who had recovered somewhat, ripped it so hard through Rabbit Punch Canyon that I repeatedly got dropped and had to claw back on with abnormal pedaling motions and odd sounds that you typically only hear from small animals in mortal distress. Attila sipped from his water bottle and occasionally looked back, shouting encouragement. “C’mon, Wanky,” he’d say. “Don’t drop your eyeballs out of the sockets like that.”
Having sat in the entire race and not having done a lick of work we approached the final lap and suddenly I was feeling pretty good. “Okay, Attila,” I said, sternly. “Although you owe me this win because I’m older than you and I got second last year and it’s somebody’s kid’s birthday somewhere and I came up with the winning plan and I helped you by pushing from the rear and frankly if it comes down to a sprunt you don’t have a chance, we’re gonna race this out.”
“Really? You mean like, race? You and me?” Suddenly his face went from friendly to, well, different. “I thought I was racing for you, man.”
“You tried your best, and before I crush you like a fucking gnat I want to at least give you a chance.”
“I really don’t care if you win. Especially after last year and everything. You’re my friend, man.”
“Nope,” I said. “There are no friends in bike racing. And no gifts. If you want this you’re gonna have to earn it like a man. I may have done all the work the whole race but I’m at least gonna give you a chance.”
“Okay,” he said. “If that’s what you want to do. Thanks, man.” His face then changed from friendly to, well, Hun-like. It was still a smile, but with a few brushstrokes you could easily imagine a bloody club in one hand, a battle-axe in the other, and a few dozen enemy heads stuck on a pike.
At that moment we entered Rabbit Punch Canyon. Attila stood on the pedals, hard, and the next time I saw him was at the finish. He was really happy. Wide-Eyed Cat 5 Josh, of course, won his race too.
On the plus side, I won $20. If Steve’s check doesn’t bounce, that is.
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