Thrill of the chase

May 25, 2016 § 11 Comments

When your face is mashed against the stem and there is a 33-mph sweep up the left side and you’re already pegged trying to close a 3-foot gap just to get up to a wobbly, about-to-detonate wheel so you can (with much prayer) leapfrog over the next gap that is going from a bike length to a football field, when the pain is shooting up your legs into your lungs and rasping like a giant file on a block of concrete, when you’re at that point in the race when you have found THE WORD and THE WORD is “QUIT!” and you’re already making up reasons why QUIT is brilliant and clever and CONTINUE is for insecure insane people because WHAT DO I HAVE TO PROVE and HOW AM I GOING TO PROVE IT OUT HERE are the dominant models in your mind’s dialectical discourse re: the philosophy of not giving up, when all that is happening it is hard to feel fun, much less see it.

That was my Telo last night, a huge turnout with mighty hammers of enraged wrath swinging in the fists of Evens Stievenart, Josh Alverson, Evan Stade, Sam Warford, Dan Cobley, Garrett Olsen, Peyton Cooke, Dave Wells, and a host of other characters who found the front for long enough to dump a bucket of boiling pain down the throats of the suffering convicts who were chained in hell to the unrelenting single-file line of pain.

But one rider stood out, even among that throng of ill-tempered criminals. He was slight, he was small, he was young, he hadn’t really learned how to ride in a straight line or how to keep his head up when sprinting full bore in the middle of a pack, but he had this: He had the magic.

This kid went with every surge, attempted every breakaway, tried to bridge to every move, bounced around in the pack like a ping-pong ball, tore at his pedals to not get dropped in the back straight, launched off the front fearlessly in the draft of the big fast men, pushed his way to the point only to get batted to the back, surged, blew, attacked, blew, followed, blew, sprinted, blew, launched, blew, blew, blew, blew, recovered, hit the gas as hard as he could and did it all over again.

Bader the Bad made his mark not only with his tenacity, but with the effect he had on the aged, the grizzled, the cynical, the broken, the jaded, and the crusty old farts trying to decide whether it was worth hanging on. In sixty minutes this kid showed us why we first raced: For the abandon and complete immersion into the moment, where age doesn’t matter, gender is irrelevant, name/rank/serial number/national origin/sexual orientation all blend into the necessity of the moment, “Can you hang, and if so can you WIN?”

Bader didn’t win, but on the last lap with the pack in tatters and even the iron-legged titans feeling the burn, he leaped, he attacked, he gave it his all for the hundredth time, and he didn’t stop pedaling until he had crossed the line.

He he gave us hope, he gave us a bike race, he made us hurt, and best of all, after the gasping was done, he made us smile.

END

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South Bay weekly round-up

May 23, 2016 § 6 Comments

Here we go …

  1. Red tide: Two more dead cyclists this week, one in Palos Verdes Estates (third cyclist death on the peninsula, second in the city of PVE), one in Playa del Rey. The car caught on surveillance tape tailgating John Bacon immediately before his death matches the description of a vehicle that has been harassing cyclists for months. If you’ve ever been harassed by this or a similar vehicle in PV, contact Detective Hellinga at the PVE police now. Oh, and then on Sunday another long-time South Bay cyclist was hit by a car in PV and transported to the hospital by ambulance. Business as usual. surveillance_tape
  2. Man-Zilla, bear catcher: Tony Manzella captured a district championship in the race of truth, the individual time trial. Rather than the truth, though, it was more like a lie of omission, because the only thing the race proved is what we already know, i.e. Tony is a human missile on a bike. What the title omitted are much more important facts. Tony’s a great guy, a wonderful son, husband, and dad, and like Greg “G$” Leibert, Tony always has a word of encouragement and praise for you as he feeds you head-first into the meatgrinder. Join Tony for his birthday Ride to Rock on May 28, leaving with the NOW Ride in Santa Monica at 7:30–free coffee at the Rock for anyone who’s still alive when they get there.
  3. All hail Cesar: Cesar Reyes, junior rider with Team Velosport Junior/RideBiker Alliance, is the junior rider of the month, courtesy of Law Office of Seth Davidson. The award comes with a $200.00 check and one heck of a big smile from Cesar! Excited to see great results from a hard working and promising young rider.
  4. cesar_reyes
  5. Bello Britannica: Local hammerhead and British import Alex Barnes put everyone to the sword on the world famous Donut Ride, winning the historic and legendary and wonderful and amazing climb to the Domes against a field of bloodthirsty killers all prepped and stretching their legs for nationals. Not bad for a beginning biker who still can’t talk well English goodly.
  6. Go forth and conquer: The South Bay sends its best road racer, Derek Brauch, off to the wilds of North Carolina to compete in the masters national championships next week. Along with Derek goes the South Bay’s best crit racer (yeah, we’re claiming him) Charon Smith in search of a national crit title. These two guys are unbelievably good bike racers and what’s more important, are incredibly good people. I’ve been trying for years to come up with dirt and rumors on them with no luck at all. Here’s hoping that they, along with my Big Orange teammate Greg “G$” Leibert, come home victorious.
  7. The end is near: CBR hosts its next-to-last crit on Memorial Day. Gitcher fast four-corner beatdown while it’s hot!
  8. It takes a village: When Velo Club La Grange Thomas Rennier lost his left thumb in a catastrophic collision at the Dana Point Grand Prix, he was asked if he planned on riding a bike again. Never mind racing. Riding. He said that there was no way he was going out like this and that he was counting the days until he could get back riding. As a super strong rider, “riding” is a euphemism for “full-blown beatdowns.” Thomas’s La Grange community sprang into motion. Within days, his teammates and friends at Santa Monica BMW concocted a plan to help him on his road back to the bike. Thanks to  Jay Wolff and Dan Weinberg at Helen’s Cycles, Mike Miranda at Cannondale, Velo Club La Grange, an anonymous donor, but most of all Thomas‘s La Grange teammates, everyone pitched in to make the new bike a reality for one of the best loved and most feared guys in the peloton. No one expected this less than Thomas, and no one is more deserving. Hats off to the La Grange community for coming together like it did. thomas_rennier

END

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Log

May 18, 2016 § 11 Comments

Jeff Fields was the older brother I never had, which is weird because I actually had an older brother. The problem with my older brother was that he got the brunt of the conflict between my parents, and in a play as old as time, he passed it down to me in the form of beatings, teasing, and ritual humiliation.

Ian could be the best guy in the world, but a mentor he wasn’t, preferring most of his lessons be delivered through fisticuffs rather than patient instruction.

Jeff was the opposite. He was stern and gruff, but patient beyond belief. He knew I adored him and he’d never had a younger brother; his sister was many years his junior. Jeff didn’t talk a lot about how to train or how to race, but when he did it was always golden, and his pile of race wins spoke for his mastery of the craft.

Unfortunately, as all of my teachers in school had quickly learned, I was a miserable student. I didn’t want to learn anything, I just wanted to mash gears and ride my bike all day because it was fun. Jeff never told me I was riding stupidly, and he certainly never yelled at me or offered me advice. As a brilliant and calculating bike racer, he enjoyed watching my hopeless pursuits, pointless attacks, and devil-may-care approach. For all that, he noted everything I ever did and never seemed to forget it. Praise from him was treasure.

Yet he didn’t tolerate dangerous riding. He was the safest, steadiest, best-positioned wheel in the bunch. You could close your eyes on Jeff’s wheel, I always used to tell myself, and he didn’t have to coach you. If you wanted to be like him, you just imitated. There weren’t any secrets, except perhaps to the riders who didn’t care to watch.

Jeff put structure into my riding and confidence into my legs. He told me I was good and that I could always be better. He took me on the most challenging rides he could find, and let the distance and the pace do the rest. Countless Austin winter days days it would be overcast, cold, maybe even drizzling, and like clockwork we’d layer up, roll out, and ride.

We had one workout called The Path of Truth, where we sat behind a 50-cc motor scooter piloted by Randy Dickson out to Webberville and back. I took the wheel going out, Jeff took it going back. In all the times we did it, I never made the full 25 miles without getting shelled. Afterwards we’d shake our heads at the pain and the difficulty and the speed and the wind.

In those days of course there were no coffee shops. We simply kept pedaling as we talked in the cold and the rain, invincible.

END

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Ready, Freddie?

May 16, 2016 § 14 Comments

Here are some travel tips when you take your bike trip to Mallorca. Not if.

  1. Don’t stay in the hostel bunk beds your last night. You are adaptable but not enough to bed down with 15 strangers, ten of whom are thieves and five of whom had beans for dinner.
  2. Rent your bike. There are Canyon, Pinarello, and Specialized shops. It won’t be as good as your bike at home but after the first ten minutes you won’t care. And you won’t be taking any of Fabian’s KOM’s regardless.
  3. Rent your bike at least six months in advance. The high end bikes are all rented up for April and May; as soon as a rental is returned it’s on the road the next day. Don’t dally, and tell the shop you want new tires and a new chain and a clean bike.
  4. Pack light, then cut your luggage in half. You’re now ready to begin packing. One medium-sized backpack and nothing more. Spain has these incredible machines that wash and dry dirty clothes, and huge markets (indoors!) that sell clothing, food, bicycles, and such.
  5. Okay, you’ve ignored #2 because, wanker. Make sure you have two (two) hours between connections or your bicycle may not make the transfer even if you do. You are going to feel stupid being on a bike vacation sans bike with nothing to wear but bibs.
  6. Travel with people you adore because by the end you will only tolerate them, especially if they blog about how they dropped you. Daily. If you travel with people you tolerate at best, by trip’s end there will be a warrant out for your arrest or theirs.
  7. Study Spanish for at least six months before you go. This will guarantee that everyone speaks to you in perfect English.
  8. Learn basic greetings in Norswanish because Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes are everywhere and it’s important to tell people how much they suck in their own language as you drop them like a boulder in a roadrunner cartoon.
  9. If you have special dietary needs you will be designated as a “pain in the ass,” or PITA. Learn how to say “gluten free,” “nothing with a face,” “I drink my own urine,” etc. in Spanish so your waiter can understand what it is he’s going to ignore.
  10. Bring a rain jacket. Bring a long-sleeve jersey. Bring two (two) undershirts, two (two) kits, two (two) pairs of socks, and one (one) pair of armwarmers. The weather varies from cool to perfect in May; think SoCal with showers. Hoodie, sweater, and cap required for apres-flail.
  11. Do not plan to sharpen your descending skills in Mallorca; plan to fully use those you have. Cars, bikes, hairpins, and sometimes wet hairpins require caution. You’ll improve simply by riding safely. The temptation to charge the descents will get you hurt or killed which is okay but none of your pals wants a body bag as their checked luggage. “Anything to declare?” “Just this corpse,” is a bad ending to any holiday.
  12. Make Day 1 a short, easy day. We did 30 miles and it was perfect.
  13. Front load your hardest couple of days. It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew so don’t do more than three hard days without a rest day. You want to finish the trip feeling great and hungry for more, not worn out like an old shoe.
  14. Eat a big breakfast every day. Twice. Eat a big lunch. Eat a big dinner. This isn’t a fat farm and if you don’t stay fueled you will collapse by trip’s end. Weight gain on the trip is much better than weight loss; the time to slim down is before the trip, not during. Plus, you will be a total buzzkill if you’re gnawing an oat after a 100-mile beatdown while everyone else is having whipped cream on their fatty pork strips.
  15. Decide what kind of trip you want. A hammerfest is very different from combining leisure with cycling. If photos and plenty of stops along the way are important to you, don’t travel with a bunch of cannibals who ate granny for dinner. This means you, Tony.
  16. Bring a GoPro if you want to document the ride and spend months editing and cataloguing a week’s worth of cycling. Even if you hate Strava, it’s worth recording these rides. #248 out of 13,000 isn’t bad!
  17. Get a big data plan. If you use AT&T, whose international plans suck, buy a phone and a data plan in Mallorca. It’s cheap and worth it, especially if you’re not going to have access to dependable Wi-Fi.
  18. Make sure you have access to dependable Wi-Fi.
  19. Check your passport. It must be valid for 90 days beyond your departure date, Jonathan.
  20. Schedule an extra day at the end for sightseeing and, if you must to say you did, bunking with thieves and serial farters. You miss a lot only cycling (but infinitely more only caging).
  21. You’ll get exponentially more out of Mallorca if you’re fit. Your training should include lots of climbing and a month out you should put in five consecutive 5-6 hour days and not feel destroyed. This is an amazing enough experience to train for a year in advance. You don’t have to, but why not? We had one member who simply couldn’t do the climbs and it was sad because he really missed out and he knew it.
  22. Along with the Spanish you won’t use, study the geography and scout all the famous routes on Strava. Twenty hours of map study isn’t too much. You’ll enjoy it exponentially more understanding where you are rather than blindly following. The island is so small you can master it quickly, yet it’s fantastically easy to get lost because no roads are straight, yet it’s impossible to stay lost because, tiny island. Also, knowledge is 9/10 of climbing because if you don’t know what’s ahead you won’t know how to meter your efforts.
  23. My preference is to ride early. If you prefer late starts or more loosey-goosey launch times like Joe Yule, make sure your group does, too. Nothing ruins a ride like Mr. Punctuality among relaxed cyclists, or a Johnny Come Late among pointy-sharpers.
  24. Life in general, and Mallorca in particular, is a terrible place to be a critic. The weather, being weather, is unpredictable. This is why you brought a rain jacket and purchased an all-weather smile at Wal-Mart. Food is really only perfect when you are humble, so since that ain’t happening because YOU ARE ROADIE, HEAR ME ROAR, just eat what you’re served, move on, and remember that this is an epic bike trip requiring food, not an epicurean trip requiring a bike.
  25. Coffee is everywhere, better than anything served in the U.S., and no one cares if you sit at a table for two hours taking micro-hits from an espresso cup, so for dog’s sake, do it.
  26. Don’t mix and match. I took binoculars and a field guide hoping to sneak in some birdwatching, but guess what? When you get your legs torn off the only bird you want to see is a chicken, and he’d better be cooked. Mallorca is so good and the cycling so challenging that you’ll have your hands full with ride, eat, sleep, repeat.
  27. Take this trip. You are old and tomorrow you might be dead. A German guy I met named Elmer was in Mallorca doing his seventh Ironman; this was his third after a heart transplant, which makes him the only person on earth whose body has done seven Ironmans but whose heart has only done three. Elmer’s 44 years old and not waiting for “later.” Neither should you.

END

All you need is love

May 14, 2016 § 19 Comments

Giant German guy with intricate tattoos on his gymbuilt arms, big swollen things that are too bound to hold a guitar or play a piano or maybe even tie his shoes, face masked with fierce terminator wraparounds and a gorgeous young mom at his elbow, the beer starting to kick in and the toddler on his left starts to cry.

He turns that assassin’s face and uncorks hands massive shovels and scoops up the infant who’s dared to spoil his sunshine and Mediterranean view of the billionaires’ boats and the child falls silent knowing even at this age what’s coming and the big man coos and pets and dandles and pulls out the tiny stuffed zebra which is already superfluous, a cherry on top of his father’s towering sundae of love.

Love isn’t where you find it, it’s where you were lucky enough to have it freely given.

Over on the small plaza in front of the church a lady kicks a soccer ball to her son. He rushes and mis-kicks with four-year-old full commitment, each boot total and punctuated with commentary, his own. When his mom misses he shouts and jumps in glee the glee that engulfs small people as it dawns on them that adults aren’t always better it’s called confidence.

A stray ball shoots over to my bench I kick and another stray wilds to another bench anchored by a huge lady but she’s on the team too and whacks it back into play until a big arcing kick sends it down the steps up against the feet of an elderly four-top basking at the cafe soaking up wine and the afternoon. An old craggy grandfather lifts the ball and hands it over gently as naturally as if a bright orange and black spinning ball belonged in a cafe where else?

Community ball where everyone pitches in a little that’s cycling too, our funky mix of Norwegians and Americans larger and smaller and faster and slower garrulous or quiet sharp-tongued or gentle on the road the flats got changed and no one got left behind and back at the ranch, you know, Leiv and Steve cooked from scratch all the dishes got washed and you can call it whatever you want but me I call it, too, love freely given.


END

Staff of life

May 14, 2016 § 31 Comments

Wound up with an extra day, somehow. Norwegians left, then the Americans. Bummed a ride to the airport. Had a cup of good coffee. Awake now. Lonely and a little sad. People going somewhere, not me. Familiar sterility of an airport. Same sneakers and backpacks and worried faces. Packed too much spent too much ate too much drank too much, that was a vacation?

Hurry home and throw your face back into the meatgrinder.

Took a taxi downtown. Kind old man, broken teeth, how do you like Mallorca? Not bad for paradise.

Central bus stop at 6:30, everything’s asleep even the stones. Ponder the bus routes and look for my hostel, twenty euros for a bunk and breakfast and wi-fi, here’s your souvenir from Spain honey I brought you some bedbugs. This one is named Jim.

Train station stairs the L351 bus leaves for Alcudia at 8:00 that might be a story or at least motion which is the same thing. Pretty girl hawking pastries and coffee why not? Bought smile better than none at all.

Kids unload streaming by. Joy and raw and pensive stuffed into skinny jeans you gotta fit in even when nothing fits. You’ll grow out of the jeans but not the mind you’re crammed into.

The pastry spills warm chocolate down my tongue and throat. Old bum sits next to me, my older version, eyes peering out into the blurring dimming world all he sees is what he smells, coffee and chocolate so we share. Thank you with the Spanish lisp, gentle and kind even when tumbling out of that broken mouth.
Muslim lady sits with a head scarf and iPhone the Stone Age and the New Age can coexist just let’s agree not to talk religion or politics or what matters.

Who sleeps in hard plastic chairs underground, tired and poor people it’s not so bad death is worse. Let me drift off a moment maybe the bum and Muslim woman aren’t thieves no bedbugs on the plastic chair anyway I’m certain I hope.

My nemesis is following me called rental bike, no escape from them, worse than liquor. Six euro bargain, all day strapped to a bright red 40-pound clunker with basket and rack. Beats walking beats carrying here’s your lock sir return by seven please as advertised in Trip Advisor. Walk on walk on.

Awake with a stiff neck, thanks plastic chair back torture rack, the pastry long incinerated in the engine and now nothing but my good friend ravenous, compelling me to stand go forth hunt gather anything but please fill the maw. Red rental bike sings sweet siren song but one light bag across my back and a duffel, mosey on before the jaws of the trap snap shut.

Up into the 9:00 light and moving aimlessly and lost with a purpose go west old man in slow shallow steps that feel the soft stone edges worn smooth by a thousand years. Narrow one-man streets, burro paths paved for people on either side walls so straight and close they might asphyxiate you except for the green shutters and planters gushing the colored fruit of water and sun.

Big rock temples to dog and his saints, slavedrivers mercenaries moneyhoarders pederasts clad in black selling salvation to the humble the simple the poor the pure. Slow old man steps cease and the bag switches palms, old shoulders old hands old eyes straining for a glimpse of what I should have paused to gaze at forty years ago but it’s all gone now even the shadows.

On a main drag lined with stalls the sweets don’t tempt me, instead a giant loaf of the blackest bread slit in half spilling out its raisin nut guts give me that and she does, half this loaf is better than all and one stall down a cup of Mallorcan oranges pulped and wrung dry then what else?

Sunshine and a bench.

The dense hard bread tears at my teeth each bite a battle so my gums turn raw from the ripping. It is all you need for a day’s life, a pound of flour and nuts and water and yeast and dried fruit washed with fresh oranges the vigor this time wells forth from your very gut. Passersby in German French Queenglish and other odd tongues wonder at the strange simplicity of black bread and a couple of weatherbeaten bags on a bench, and so do I.


END

It’s a wrap!

May 13, 2016 § 19 Comments

Final Standings 2016 Tour de Leaky Prostates

  1. Russell dB a/k/a Ol’ Grizzles: At 63 years old, Russell completed every ride, won multiple climbs, gave everyone incessant shit, and made us all hope we’ll be half as good when we’re his age. Russell was the glue that brought us all together and the glue that did its level best to gum up the works. Filled with excuses and starting each day with a shopping list of ailments and complaints, he was hands-down the champion of this year’s tour.
  2. Tore M-E a/k/a Munch: Tore organized, planned, and carefully built consensus for each ride so that he could jettison the plans at Mile One and turn even (especially) recovery rides into 8-hour death marches. Strong on the flats, strong on the climbs, and strong at the dinner table, Tore’s riding and travel planning were matched only by his kindness and good cheer.
  3. Leiv M. a/k/a Chef Leiv: There is the power of the purse and then there is the power of the pot. Leiv kept us rolling in great food, gladly shopped for the entire crew, helped the rookies cook the Rookie Dinner, and showed himself a tenacious climber and champion descender. He was the only Norwegian who showed any interest in the finer points of kit coordination.
  4. Hector G. a/k/a SITL: Up at 4:00 AM, Hector made sure the coffee pot was always full and the kitchen spotless. Friendly and funny he tore our legs off on every flat, and never complained (okay, he complained a little) when the endless climbing began. Always ready with an encouraging word and of course coffee. Did I mention coffee?
  5. Brian S.: The strongest rider on the flats, Brian tied us daily to the whipping post and got in his lashes and we returned the favor on every climb. Always ready to lend a hand, he ate almost as much oatmeal as Stig.
  6. Bruce M.: Winner of the Almost Killed in a Head-on Collision jersey, Bruce acquitted himself with valor and distinction whether uphill, downhill, or no hill. Easily the coolest and most easygoing rider in the Tour, he never skipped a pull in the paceline, laundry, or kitchen detail.
  7. Sverre H.: Thoughtful, considerate, and winner of the Best Rider with the Least Training jersey, Sverre also did a great job of helping me get lost one night when we’d been sent out to buy wine. On his rest day he did a 6-hour hike over 20km of rugged mountains, nothing at all for a Viking.
  8. Dan P.: The only recovering triathlete in the bunch, Dan was game for every torture session planned by Tore but always smart enough to cut things short when it meant surviving to fight another day. Dan won the Most Chainring Marks on His Leg jersey despite strong competition from Mega-Tron.
  9. Steve B.: Every group has one guy who gives 1,000 more than he gets, and Steve was that guy. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, running errands, and riding super tough every single day made him our most valued national asset.
  10. Jonathan L. a/k/a J-Lo: Jonathan would have placed much higher had he not missed the first three stages due to an expired passport that he didn’t check until the night before. No one helped more, cleaned more, or was more cheerfully part of the peloton than Jonathan, and he was the only American to complete the full hard day of Sa Colabra.
  11. Trond O. a/k/a Mega-Tron: Smartest guy in the room and the most allergic to lending a hand with anything except when it came to helping us dispose of food and drink. Funny, energetic, and game for all short, flat rides that started later than noon, there was no political discussion he wouldn’t start. Most laughs per minute, hands down.
  12. Stig a/k/a Stigosaurus: Huge disappointment. Quitter. Never lifted a finger but always ate his fill.
  13. Trond ? a/k/a Posi-Tron: Nicest guy and a super climber, but fell to the bottom of the leaderboard by making himself Stig’s disciple.
  14. Oystein H.: No-show for the worst reason possible, work.
  15. Seth D. a/k/a Wanky: Someone’s gotta be last.


END

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