August 23, 2016 § 14 Comments
That’s on a Saturday. At 6:00 PM. In the brewhouse at Strand Brewing Co.
After that night at Naja’s where we stormed the bar during the Worthless Series, hung up Toronto’s spray-painted bedsheet and declared victory, we never thought there would be a second one. And then after the second one where the bar manager ripped us off and filled “our” patio with Ohio State and LSU fans and “someone” showed up with a 7-foot inflatable, uh, sausage (which was later seen dancing down the otherwise respectable streets of Manhattan Beach), we knew there would never be a third. Finally, after the inaugural South Bay Hall of Fame and star inductions of Tony Cruz, Nelson Vails, Marilyn Sonye, and Ted Ernst, we knew we’d never be able to top it.
And what do you know?
Now it’s Number Four.
The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, a/k/a the “Wankies” is coming to a brewery near you. As usual, we’ll offend the shit out of three or four people. And we’ll make a dozen or so people pinkly happy when they waltz off the stage with their Wanky Award. A couple hundred others will vaguely remember having had a good time and not being arrested, all in the same night.
In any event, this is THE event. Seals will be clubbed. Wankers will be anointed. Friends will get to see each other for the first time since last year with clothes on. All grudges will be checked in at the door except for one or two I’ve been nursing and which are now full-fledged and able to eat on their own.
As usual it will be free. We’ll celebrate another year of not being @heathevans44, of not being @si_peterking, of not being @jennyvrentas, and mostly of not doing this …
… and calling it fun. (Yes, that’s the lovely physique of @heathevans44, dude who wants to run over cyclists in his car. Can you say ‘roid rage?)
This year the South Bay Cycling Awards will also serve as the launching pad for the SCNCA’s various racing honors. So after we’ve handed out all the Wanky Awards and all the SCNCA prizes, everyone will literally have gotten a ribbon. There will be no losers.
Except for @heathevans44.
See you there!
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August 20, 2016 § 29 Comments
I miss Stathis the Wily Greek, and I’m not the only one.
Stathis was like a roman candle. He rose quickly, surpassed everyone, blew up, and then moved on to something else. As strong as he was as a rider, he was a terrible racer, at least to the extent that his results never really aligned with his prodigious physical strength.
I still remember a photo from the Nosco Ride a couple of years ago. Stathis was cresting Deer Creek ahead of some of America’s top pros. He made everything look easy, especially the uphill stuff. By the time he was breathing hard or struggling, you had long been shelled and kicked to the curb.
The best thing about Stathis was the way he took the fun out of it for everyone else. Cycling, unlike running, has a massive delusional component. You can endlessly manipulate the goal posts to feel good about the fact that you suck. This is in fact the business model of Strava.
Not with Stathis. With him, you always sucked. My second-fondest memory of riding a bicycle happened with Stathis. He had dropped the entire Donut Ride and had attacked me at the bottom of Crest. I’d hung on.
We got about a hundred yards past the wall and he drove over to the double yellow line, cutting off any hope of staying out of the crosswind. He looked back and saw I was still there and attacked. I struggled onto his rear wheel. He looked back and attacked again.
It was a look of amusement mixed with contempt. No quarter, no mercy, no adjustment for our age disparity, no respect for effort, just an icy calculation of “Now.”
It was the most deliberate, cool, piercing jettison job I’d ever experienced. He easily rode away. At the top of the radar domes he nodded, barely acknowledging that I was on a bike, and proceeded to crush the rest of the ride.
I savored that flaying for over a year. It’s rare that someone who is both a friend and a cyclist will destroy you so casually and so intentionally. If he’d been a Greek warrior he would have been Achilles.
And Stathis did that to everyone. One friend confided that he had given up the Flog Ride because there was, mathematically, no chance of ever beating Stathis. When the Wily Greek showed up, dreams took flight, the way investments in penny stocks take flight. Away. Forever.
This angered a lot of people because we cyclists cherish our delusions, kind of like Costco shoppers who think they’re superior to Wal-Mart because their conglomerate pays a higher hourly wage to its slaves or because their luxury eyeglass brands are 15% cheaper than at Lenscrafters, as if Wal-Mart, Costco, and Luxottica aren’t different versions of the same terrible thing.
Stathis didn’t allow you those delusions, and for me, reality, always obscured, enhances life the clearer it gets. Embrace death. Embrace the absence of an afterlife. Embrace crazy. Embrace the fact that you will never be good enough to even see Stathis finish. Embrace suckage.
My best day on a bike also involved Stathis, because I beat him on the same stretch of climb about a year later. Maybe he was sick, or tired, or more likely, he wasn’t even awake. Didn’t matter. By destroying and tattering my illusions hundreds of times, my one tiny “first” meant everything. It was stripped of everything except fact. I savor it still.
Now that Stathis has taken up something else, I’ve been riding up to the top of his cul-de-sac street, which I now know is the steepest and longest climb on the peninsula. I keep hoping that one day I’ll get to the end of the road and see him putting on his running shoes or oiling his pogo stick or adjusting the harness on his hang glider, but I never do.
But that’s the benefit of having good memories. They stick around long after the person who gifted them.
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August 19, 2016 § 13 Comments
In addition to being born in the foreign nation of Kenya and/or Hawai’i and being therefore an ineligible and illegitimate president, in addition to perpetuating the hoax that global warming is caused by humans, in addition to causing 9/11 when he was a state legislator in the Illinois Senate, in addition to being a founding member of ISIS, and in addition to repealing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Consution, I blame Obama for beating me at the Telo training crit, him and Head Down James.
“Surely, Wanky, you don’t mean that.”
“No, no, no. What you mean is that Obama put in place the policies, procedures, funding, and geopolitical landscape that caused you to lose at Telo last Tuesday. That’s what you mean, isn’t it?”
“No. I mean what I said. I blame Obama for beating me at Telo. Him and Head Down James. And Pegleg Barrett for hosting the conspiracy on his private server and sending out classified emails to all of Velo Club La Grange to incite them to pile into the team van, drive down to Telo, and smash us into bits.”
“How is that Obama’s fault?”
“Glad you asked!”
It happened like this: There I was, giving a polite and courteous and harmonious speech to the raving NIMBY lunatics in RPV who want to promote bike safety by banning cyclists from public roads, and I was covered in dried spit and snot and sweat and smelled like an old hunks and was shaking from exhaustion and on the verge of collapse because I’d driven straight from Telo to the city council meeting.
Everyone was looking at my slobber in awe and a bit fearful of Zika and etc., but I couldn’t collect my thoughts because of Obama and Head Down James.
Right before the race began, Destroyer had sidled up to me. “You want to win?”
“Of course,” I said, reflecting on my Chevy Volt and therefore a bit suspicious of his as-yet unuttered advice.
“Follow Head Down James.”
“Okay,” I said, having no intention of doing it and fulfilling the first law of bike racing strategy, which is Lie At All Times. I mean, there was no way Head Down James and Obama could stay away from the beginning, and if there’s one thing more certain than that we need to make America great again, it’s that Head Down James was going to attack from the gun, which he did, so why should I follow him in a hopeless attempt?
“Go!” said Destroyer as Head Down James attacked at the beginning.
“Okay!” I said and drifted back.
Head Down James pounded away and won but not before Obama completely messed up the chase. All I really remember is that there was some poor schmo in a Texas Aggies pair of pants and another dude with a green jersey and Texas flag and they got completely shelled and lapped along with all but about seven people, welcome to California and Obama and socialism.
I followed wheels and did zero anything until I found myself in a break with Destroyer and Frenchy Jr. They almost dislocated their elbows trying to get me to take a pull, but with Obama working against me, and Frenchy Jr. being 22, and Destroyer being the champion sprunter, I didn’t see what sense it made for me to do a lick of work plus I’m lazy that way.
Although Big Orange started out with five guys we were Little Orange by the end with everyone but me and Skinny Dave having been shelled and lapped, and Velo Club La Grange only had Surfer Dan left but since Head Down James was up the road all he had to do was wheelsurf, which he did, plus pull me up the group the one time I got dropped which was around the time that Bahati literally tore off a crank arm he was pedaling so hard to bring back Head Down James.
But Obama carried the day with ISIS, and Head Down James closed the deal and got his first Brexit Winner’s Tunic. I can’t wait until Trump is president and implements Making Wanky Great Again and I finally have a chance.
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August 18, 2016 § 40 Comments
Some people think that professional athletes are heroes. I don’t. My heroes are people who possess courage. Courage means giving up your personal time to fight for what’s right. The more that’s at stake, the fiercer your opposition, and the more time you give up — time that you’ll never reclaim — the greater the courage.
My heroes are diverse and funny and flawed. They’re battling inner demons that are often a far bigger struggle than the external things they’re fighting for. My heroes don’t wear capes, but lots of them wear Spandex. And my heroes are often tired, rough around the edges, and a few hours shy of a good night’s sleep.
They show up on bicycles, on scooters, in crappy cars. Sometimes their makeup is crooked or their pants sag. But you know what?
My heroes show up.
They showed up on Tuesday night, just like they’ve been showing up for months. Their faces sometimes change, sometimes they’re out of town and another hero stands in, but they keep showing up. When you need them, heroes always show up.
Last night’s heroes were–
They showed up and sat through almost three hours of testimony on behalf of something so non-controversial that it could only be opposed by really tiny people: The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council was voting on a traffic safety committee recommendation to “Explore the creation of a bike safety master plan.”
I guess the idea of exploration frightened a few people. Of the 36 people who spoke on the issue, about ten were anti-cycling RPV residents brimming with anger at bicyclists in general and Big Orange in particular. Some of them screeched that it was a conflict of interest that transportation safety committee member Dave Kramer was an avowed cyclist and Big Orange member. Apparently anyone who cycles has a conflict of interest when it comes to … cycling. Whereas most people would consider that something called “expertise,” it escaped the tiny craniums of the well-groomed trogolodyte who muttered vague threats of lawsuits.
By that reasoning, we kept waiting for for them to declare that transportation committee members who drove cars should also recuse themselves for any matter that dealt with automobiles …
What was strangest of all was that they had come together to ostensibly beseech the council to address “bike safety,” yet not a single NIMBY had ever inquired what an actual bicyclist wanted or recommended, and not a single NIMBY voiced support for a plan that would explore bike safety issues.
They were for “bike safety” in the same way that Western ranchers favor “wolf safety,” i.e. “get rid of the dogdamned things.” The most empathetic speaker of all talked about how an RPV motorist had had to replace her windshield after it was damaged by a cyclist’s body and head. Tragic stuff.
The NIMBY display of anger and entitlement and ignorance of the law was an amazing contrast to the demeanor of the heroes. Here’s the video of the council meeting. Check out the What Do You Mean My Time’s Up Lady at 1:27:30, and the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats at 1:35:37. Then compare it with the tenor of the cyclists. The dude in the Wend Wax Works cap and Big O kit and droopy shorts is obviously sketch.
It was impressive to see how angry and demanding the NIMBYs were to the council members, volunteer officials who got nary a thank-you from the livid residents.
Fortunately, after everyone spoke, the city council voted on the revolutionary step of “exploring the creation of a plan” and unanimously approved it. You could tell that there were people on the council who didn’t think much of bikes, and there was one member who’s a confessed cyclist. But regardless of their individual opinions, the city council put its best foot forward and voted to explore bike safety. Not as gutsy as exploring the Amazon, but given the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats it did take some resolve simply because one of these days he could show up and start yelling at YOUR cat.
This makes two victories for cycling in two communities that have long resisted acknowledging the rights of bicyclists. It takes courage to change, but even more than that, it takes courage to demand it.
I hope these citizen advocates inspire you like they inspire me. As long as we keep showing up, we’ll be heard. Rancho Palos Verdes isn’t anti-cycling, it’s like any community: Anti-change. Most residents don’t mind bicycles and many residents ride them. A lot of the conflict stems from the sad fact that the NIMBYs simply don’t know the law.
The next series of meetings are just around the corner. Hope to see you heroes there.
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August 16, 2016 § 27 Comments
Here’s a quick rundown of things that have happened in the last couple of months:
- Three cyclists killed in PV
- Crazy road rager assaulted a man and his kid for riding their bikes
- Friend #1 got run over on PCH in Malibu
- Friend #2 got terribly injured by hit-and-run in San Diego
- Friend #3 got run over in PV
- Entire club ride narrowly avoided being taken out by road-raging Tesla
- Group of angry NIMBYs tried to ban cyclists from public roads
- Surfer gang member advocated death for cyclists who break traffic laws
- Wealthy citizen compared cyclists to “dog shit”
It’s easy to think that the world has gone crazy. When bicycles are the enemy and cars are the hero, we’ve literally turned the Imperial Stormtroopers into underdogs.
Except, we haven’t.
These same last few months I’ve been riding almost exclusively in PV, ground zero for the bike wars, and I’ve been sticking to some of the most controversial residential areas where opposition to cyclists is supposedly fiercest. What I’ve found is surprising, and it’s this: Most people are friendly.
I make a point of waving and saying hello to everyone I run across. Except for a couple of incredibly sour people for whom death will be a huge relief (for them and for us), people invariably wave back and smile. I’ve stopped and chatted with Mark the Dude with the Two Giant Poodles, and Bob the 80-Year-Old Dude Who Has Run Across America Twice.
What’s more interesting is that I’ve had zero car-bike incidents. This doesn’t mean they aren’t happening; video from other cyclists proves otherwise. But by and large, people in PV are fine with bikes, especially when the cyclist is highly visible.
Since I began riding with super powerful daytime front-and-rear lights, I’ve become visible at all times. A 1200-lumen flashing headlamp gets your attention no matter how distracted you are, and a 100-lumen red taillight does the same.
What’s more interesting is that some very low-grade detective work has revealed that the “horde” of bike haters in PV is actually one guy using multiple fake aliases on social media to create the impression that many in the community share his views. The police know his identity, and although he’s noxious, crude, and wants to incite trouble, he’s nothing more than a harmless crank afraid to show his face in public, not to mention a terribly inept surfer.
At their worst, people may be slightly bothered by having to slow down for bikes. But the 99.9% hardly get enraged, and they certainly don’t wish for death and catastrophic injury as the penalty for pedaling a bike. Of course the .1% that do can do incredible damage, and they have.
But most people are on our side, and recently, so are the police. And 99%? The odds could be a lot worse.
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August 15, 2016 § 27 Comments
One of my teammates is named Anthony Freeman. He was national champion in BMX several times. Coming from the inner city and competing in a mainly white sport, he had a lot of experiences that might make some people bitter.
Anthony’s not bitter. He’s positive, optimistic, and always looking on the bright side of things.
A few days ago he posted about getting a new aero bike and what a difference it made, how cheating the wind, even a little bit, can affect your placing in a race. It’s true, too. Bike equipment really does make a difference in everything from commuting to competition.
Having a bike with an electric motor can make the difference between being able to commute to a job 35 miles away or not having a job. Having the right aero rig can make the difference between winning and losing a time trial. Even small things like tires or electronic shifting can make the tiny difference between reaching your goal and failure.
Slippery clothing, helmets, tires … virtually every facet of the human-bicycle combination can affect outcomes, and of course they all cost money. It’s not called an arms race for nothing.
Anthony made this point and then he took it somewhere I’ve never been before. He related technical advantages in a bike race to social, economic, and healthcare advantages in society.
Think about it. If a few hidden cables and a better profile helmet make the difference between victory and success, what kind of difference does it make to a kid trying to make it in school whether he starts the day with food in his belly or not?
Whether he has eyeglasses so that he can see the board?
Whether he has a computer at home so that he can do his homework?
What cyclist can be focused on squeezing the last little dialed-in detail out of their bike but also oppose the most vulnerable people in our society from getting the huge leg up they need at the earliest, most formative times of their lives, especially when that leg up is as basic as food, healthcare, and education?
It’s an arms race, all right. But the weapons aren’t bikes. They’re bread, medicine, and books.
August 14, 2016 § 12 Comments
That’s an easy question for me to answer around 11:00 after I get back from the Donut Ride. Every muscle aches and I hobble from couch to bed to table and back again. The exhaustion is complete, and anecdotally the other riders who go through the full Donut ringer are likewise shattered.
I don’t know of many other regular Saturday rides that feature 5,000 feet of climbing in 50 miles, but I’m sure they’re out there. And the difficulty of a ride also has to be measured by who shows up. Although Mike Friedman, Tyler Hamilton, and any number of Olympians and Tour riders have cameoed on the Donut Ride, and although there are always a handful of really good riders leading the charge, I’d think that a place like Boulder or Colorado Springs would have a much bigger regular roster of elite riders on its Saturday ride.
One Saturday ride that is harder than the Donut is the Swami’s Ride in San Diego, but only the first part, which ends when you go up that miserable climb to Elfin Forest. After that, it’s mostly rolling and the ride seems to break up as people go different directions, and it doesn’t have any sustained climbing. Maybe another criterion is how badly the group shatters? The Donut Ride always finishes the three major climbs with a tiny handful of people, and one isn’t uncommon.
The Simi Ride is supposed to be the hardest Saturday ride in the galaxy. I’ve done it only once, but a buddy flatted so I ended up cutting the course. It certainly attracts a consistently higher caliber of rider and it’s longer, but it only runs for a few months a year and I don’t recall any sustained climbing. I remember there also being a huge group so at least the parts I did seemed to have plenty of places to cower and hide and shirk and suck wheel, which are kind of my specialties.
Yesterday’s Donut Ride went very fast from the start. David Holland posted a great video of U.S. pro Kathryn Donovan as she manhandled all but the three guys who split off early and stayed away on the first climb. Here’s his video of Katie hitting the bottom of the Switchbacks and basically riding the entire field of guys–and one surviving super tough woman, Kristie Fox–off her wheel.
Katie is currently ranked 8th among pro women in the U.S., and it shows. She’s best in road races, although last weekend she pulled off a podium spot at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, a fast and furious crit, by sticking a 3-rider breakaway on a super high speed sprinter’s course that rarely features successful breakaways. Katie has an attacking style of climbing; you can see her take stock, attack, rest, and attack, until there’s not much left but stomped dicks and broken egos.
This second clip shows the early move by A., who attacks long before the Switchbacks clip above. He’s immediately followed by Matt Cuttler, and then Diego Binatena. Diego comes back to us on the Switchbacks, then ditches us again towards the end, but Matt and A. stay away. Jean-Louis Bourdevaire launches in Portuguese bend and stays in between Matt & A., and my group, to the end, which is some tough riding because nowhere is worse than no-person’s-land, especially on a climb.
This final clip shows the second climb, Homes to Domes. It starts chill until Matt gooses it hard. Everyone not paying attention gets instantaneously dropped. Those paying attention follow for a while, then get dropped. There’s an oh-so-brief respite at the top of Via Colinita as we check for traffic, then Matt and A. take turns riding everyone off their wheel. I get popped just after the wall on Crest, but by that time there’s no one even close.
I’m sure there are harder Saturday group rides, but I hope I don’t ever have to do them.
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