The unbearable heaviness of bad reporting

December 27, 2014 § 36 Comments

Coryn Rivera is America’s cycling star. Barely 22 years old, she is the reigning elite women’s crit champion. She holds sixty-eight national titles on the road, track, and in ‘cross. In 2014 she won virtually every major race she entered. Next year she has her sights set on pro success as a road racer to match her reputation as the country’s undisputed dominatrix of pro sprint finishes.

What’s more, there’s little reason to doubt that she will achieve it. In addition to a national road title as a junior, she also took a bronze medal in the road race at junior world’s. She scored sixth this year on the Champs-Elysees at La Course by Le Tour de France and won the young rider’s category. The only women to finish ahead of her were the best veteran pro roadies on the planet.

If Coryn were a man, she would be splashed all over VeloNews. Her every move would be religiously recorded on the Internet, and we’d be reading full-length feature interviews about every aspect of her life. In short, she would be like Taylor Phinney, with this difference: Phinney has nowhere near her talent.

Two years older than Rivera, Phinney may well one day win a world time trial medal. If the stars align, if he regains his health, and if he has a world-class team dedicated to delivering him and him alone to the line, he could even bring home a monument on the order of Roubaix, much less likely a win at Flanders. Otherwise, Phinney is a tremendous time trialist who’s simply too big physically to be a superstar in the hillier classics or the big tours. The days when a giant like George Hincapie could win a mountain stage of the Tour ended with his pathetic doping confession and the collapse of the Drugstrong Era.

What Phinney has, of course, is a pedigree, and it’s a pedigree that has provided him with the best connections imaginable in the world of cycling. His mother, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, is one of the best American woman road racers of all time. Her resume boasts Olympic gold in ’84, with silver and bronze medals at the world road championships in ’77 and ’81, along with twelve national cycling titles, countless wins in US road races, a successful career as a speed skater, and the distinction of being the youngest woman ever to compete in the Winter Olympics. Taylor’s father, Davis Phinney, is the winningest American bike racer of all time, with 328 wins, including two stages in the Tour and the overall at America’s premier stage race, the Coors Classic. Davis achieved all this when American cycling had no program to bring US amateurs into Europe; had he raced in his prime among the European peloton he would have been the dominant sprinter of his era.

It’s this pedigree and carefully nurtured career, along with his world class speed against the clock, that has guided Taylor along as the Chosen One among America’s professional cyclists, including a stint under the watchful eye of Lance Armstrong. Rivera, on the other hand, has had none of that. She grew up in extremely modest circumstances in urban LA, supported by her Filipino-American family where every race entry fee, every piece of equipment she had to buy, and every long distance trip was a sacrifice. She is truly a self-made woman.

From her days at the Carson velodrome training under Tim Roach, I watched her blitz any and all all comers, male and female alike. But no matter how many titles she won and no matter how brilliant her racing, she has always had to fight and scrap. When she burst onto the US pro women’s scene, collecting scalps with ease from older, “better,” and vastly more experienced racers, she received a modicum of press and nothing more.

This reflects the old boy network of cycling, where testicles matter more than results, and where the stellar athletic achievements of women are footnotes to the off-season training camp antics of men. If we want cycling to grow in recognition, we need to start recognizing the very best.

And that means starting with Coryn.

END

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Healing

December 24, 2014 § 19 Comments

The older I get, the more I appreciate people who aren’t sociopaths. Not that the SoCal Profamateur™ ranks are filled with them, but I do run across them from time to time. A sociopath, of course, is a person who reduces the entirety of human existence to “I am in the right.”

Here’s a quick quiz to find out if you are a cycling sociopath, but if you’re really a sociopath one of the key qualities is the inability to recognize it.

  1. I never caused a crash.
  2. I’ve had bad luck before, but never been beaten.
  3. I dope because everyone else dopes, so it’s not cheating.
  4. I cut the course because I had to.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with banditing a ride because the organizers plan for a certain level of banditing.

Of course cycling sociopaths, compared to the ones I run across in my day job, are pretty harmless. Whereas cycling sociopaths are trying to cheat you out of a pair of socks or a fistful of gels, litigation sociopaths are often trying to ruin a client’s life, and sometimes mine as well. But despite their relative harmlessness, their presence causes the good guys out there to shine even more brightly.

One of my favorite Old Fellow Leaky Prostate Cycling Stars is Greg Leibert, a/k/a G$ a/k/a G-Munnnnny. I can’t help rooting for him, even when he’s plucking out my legs like an evil little kid yanking off the twitching limbs of a helpless insect. I root for G$ because he rides with class, he wins graciously, and he loses with a smile and a congratulations for the winner. I root for G$ because when he wins, the good guy really does win. And of course I root for him in the hope that one day I’ll beat him, and therefore have beaten the very best.

The last two seasons G$ has had a rough go of it on the race course, so much so that it almost seemed like he might be done for good. The guy who soloed to victory at Boulevard a few years back, the guy who regularly stomped the dicks of the best leaky prostates on the toughest SoCal road courses, had been “relegated” to “only” one or two wins a season. The saddest moment of my old fellow cycling career was this year at Boulevard, when I punctured a few miles from the finish. The peloton whooshed by, and then a few minutes later along came Greg, who stopped to help change my flat.

“Are you okay?” I asked in disbelief.

Greg smiled. “I didn’t have it today. They went, and I didn’t.”

It was like learning that there is no Santa Claus, only worse, since I was raised an atheist and we kept getting Christmas swag even after figuring out that the old fat drunk in the mall was nothing more glamorous than an old fat drunk in the mall. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear through the grapevine that G$ was back on track for 2015.

I’d see him doing lonely big ring workouts on Via del Monte. I’d hear rumors about the gradually increasing fitness. Best of all — or worst — I’d pump him about his condition and he’s say with a smile, “It’s coming around.”

Last Saturday G$ showed up for the Donut Ride, which is rare because he only shows up to check his fitness. Unlike the other wankers who throw themselves headlong into their “base intensity” programs 12 months a year, G$ builds, tests, then goes back to work.

As we snaked through Portuguese Bend, there was the familiar sight of the Legs From Planet Zebulon, the slightly hunched back, the smooth cadence, and the sinewy strips of calf, ham, and quad popping out from the stretched skin. Best of all, though, was the hollering.

G$ will never pointlessly ride on the front — he’s too smart for that — but he loves it when you do, and he has a well-worn method for getting the idiots to pound themselves into oblivion. Here’s how he does it: Some maroon will take a dig, and a fellow maroon will follow through, and then the pace will slack. “Sixteen mph?” G$ will yell from five wheels back. “Are we riding our bikes or pushing a baby stroller?”

No one has the man parts to turn around and say, “Hey, wanker, if you want the speed to pick up, there’s plenty of room at the front to give us a demo.”

Instead, we hunker down, all butt-hurt and such, and then take turns killing ourselves in pointless efforts to show that WE AREN’T GONNA GO SIXTEEN. Then G$ will yell a little more until we’re totally pooped, we reach the climb, and he leaves us like we are chained to a liberal piece of legislation in the US Congress.

But on Saturday, I bided my time until we hit the Switchbacks, followed wheels, and before long had left the wankoton in the rear, latched onto the wheel of Boy Jules, who hates being shadowed by creaky old men. The impossible had happened — a fit-and-getting-fitter G$ had been shelled by Boy Jules and Creaky Wanky.

The euphoria was intense, followed by sadness (“If G$ can’t keep up with me, he really is finished,”) followed by an unspeakable beatdown. Half a mile from the end of the climb G$ hunted me down like an old tom closing in on a crippled rat. He roared by, I latched on (having shed Boy Jules at the wall), and G$ played his favorite role of train conductor. It goes like this:

G$: I see you are riding on the train.

Me: Yes, sir.

G$: May I see your ticket?

Me: I ain’t got no ticket.

G$: Well, son, no one rides for free.

Then he came out of the saddle, fired the pistons, and vanished around the bend. I deflated and crumpled as he put a couple of football fields between us in a matter of seconds. I was deflated, but elated. You know why?

Because Munnnnnnny is back.

END

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Pizza in your pocket

December 22, 2014 § 29 Comments

We had been stuffed into the box, the lid had been nailed shut, and now there was nothing left to do but suffer. As Greg and I struggled up Fortuna Ranch Road, Sam and the Wily Greek kept slowing down to wait, and it wasn’t because they liked us. It was because they needed all four guys in order to finish.

This was the SPY Joker Ride, where for ten bucks a rider you got to form a four-man team and race your bike for sixty miles on a variety of paved and unpaved North County San Diego roads. It was early in the ride and the road was decidedly unpaved. Unfortunately, as we reached the end of Fortuna, our fortunes took a turn for the worse.

The road leaped off and down into a deep muddy trench filled with rocky craters and every type of igneous obstacle. The day before I’d bought a slick new pair of FastForward full carbon clinchers. This was the first time in over thirty years that I’d ridden real carbon wheels, and the difference between these magical hoops and the concrete, 32-hole, aluminum box rim Open Pros that I finally smashed into bits a few weeks ago was amazing. In addition to floating uphill and accelerating like a juggernaut, they had another amazing quality, a quality I’d been sort of warned about. “Just be careful at first because, you know, carbon doesn’t brake so good.”

As my bike launched into the trench of death I grabbed on the rear brake. Something happened, but it didn’t feel like braking. More like a gentle love tug, or perhaps a nudge. The bike didn’t slow, and neither did the uncontrollable urge to soil myself, so I grabbed the brake even harder. The bike gradually scrubbed speed and I made a mental note to bring extra diapers when running full carbon.

Wily led us over the rocky moonscape and back to pavement, where we caught our breath and Greg continued with the truly most complicated part of the whole ride, which was navigating. The organizers had kept the route under wraps until the morning of the ride. As each team sat at the starting line, going off in one-minute intervals, you were given a playing card and a direction card, one of three that would take you to the next waystation. At each of the waystations you’d pick up another playing card to make your hand, and another direction card to get you to the next stop. At the end of the ride, the team with the best hand got a prize, and the team with the best time got a prize.

As the seconds ticked down to our start — we were the first team off out of forty — we stared frantically at the direction card. Instead of saying “PCH L to La Costa. R on La Costa, etc.” it was a riddle tucked inside a rhyme. You think I’m kidding? Try to figure this out while your heart is pounding, everyone’s yelling, and your colon is telling you that you might have some unfinished business:

photo 1

If you weren’t a local, and all but a couple of teams were, you could perhaps figure it out, but if you were a local you could simply scheme your way to the next waystation without doing nasty, unpaved climbs like Questhaven. But if you were Team Wank Special you were already lost and if you didn’t follow the directions you’d get extra lost, plus lose time, plus not get your card, plus look like a total cheating flailer when your team’s data got uploaded to Strava.

We whipped out onto Elfin Forest and made a right towards the turnoff for Questhaven. At that moment a rider came up behind us. “Hi, guys!” he shouted. “I’m not doing the Joker Ride! Which team are you?”

“We’re the first team off,” said Sam.

“Awesome,” he said. “Let’s go!”

We looked at each other. “Let’s?” said Gret.

“Where are you heading?” He was so excited to have found us.

“Questhaven,” I said.

“Perfect! I’ll take you to it!” Though Fireman and I knew where it was, having done the Belgian Waffle Ride and numerous rides in North County, we shrugged as Cliff charged ahead. Soon it became clear that he was a member of that most despicable species of rider, the Ride Bandit.

Too cheap to fork out ten dollars for an entire day’s worth of riding, food, support, and fun, and/or too much of a Delta Bravo to get anyone out of the 256,911 population of avid cyclists to ride with him and form a team (even though you actually show up, pay your ten bucks, and get paired with three other riders), Cliff was trolling the course to find someone he could ride with, getting the benefits of a fun race-ish ride without having to contribute.

Now that he had us, he was in a frenzy, asking to see our direction card and playing card and desperately behaving like he was one of our “team.” Greg had a pretty good idea of where the course went, and after finishing Questhaven we began climbing to San Elijo.

“Turn here!” Cliff shouted at a stop sign intersection. “It’s a great shortcut!”

We turned and pedaled for about a hundred yards, then all looked at each other. The guy was obviously a cheater and had already annoyed us beyond belief in less than three miles of riding. “Dude,” I said as we flipped our bikes around, “you can go wherever you want, but we’re sticking to what we think is the course. See ya.”

Cliff hurried up to us. “Okay!” he said, with the happy nonchalance that ride bandit delta bravos have when they’re called out. “No problem!”

At the next waystation Cliff sped up to the tent. “Gimme our card!” he shouted. Then he turned and looked at Greg, who was just rolling up. “Do you want a queen? I can get you a queen!”

Greg yelled to the guys manning the tent. “That kook is not with us! Don’t give him anything! He’s not on our team!”

Cliff looked crestfallen as we scooped up our cards and tried to figure out the next phase of the route, which was this:

photo 2

Cliff soon recovered, though. “Hey, guys!” he yelled. “This way!”

Wily rode up to me. “Dude,” he said. “I’m not pedaling another fucking inch with that motherfucker. Let’s hide behind a tree until he goes away.”

In a flash the four of us dragged our bikes behind a giant bush and hunkered down, peering through the branches while Cliff did circles in the parking lot, looking like an abandoned puppy. After a while another team rode up. “Hey guys!” he shouted at them. “I’m not on the Joker Ride!”

We hopped on our bikes and scampered down the road, leaving Cliff to his next set of victims.

An hour and a half later we wheeled into the SPY Happy Camp, utterly spent. We’d covered 58 miles in 3:04, four miles longer than the actual route, and a good chunk of that time had been spent soft pedaling while Greg plugged roads into his phone. The sapping climbs, the stretches of dirt, and the endless rollers of the North County byways had made it a grueling ride. Our effort hadn’t amounted to much, despite being dragged around all day by Wily and Sam, since other teams either knew the course and didn’t have to navigate, or cut the course, or were just flat out faster — although we hadn’t been passed by a single other group on the road. The winning time was 2:25, set by a threesome of pros including one ex-Cannondale rider.

Back at the SPY Happy Camp we changed into civvies and began helping ourselves to the delicious pizza and refreshments. After a while Cliff arrived. He hung up his bike and sat down on a nearby bench and began talking loudly as he piled his plate high with pizza he hadn’t paid for. “Yeah,” he crowed, not recognizing me as I was in jeans and t-shirt, dark glasses and ballcap, “I met these SPY guys from LA who were totally lost. I saved them! And those guys were so lame. They were the first ones out on the road and they’re not even back yet!”

“What was your team number?” someone asked him.

“Oh, uh, I didn’t race with a team today,” Cliff said, stuffing his face with another five square-foot slab of purloined pizza. “I just, you know, ran into them. But I finished with a couple of groups, we had a big bunch.”

Of course one of the “rules” was that 4-man teams couldn’t form a big group, but that didn’t bother Cliff at all as he got up and went over to the display table where two very nice women were handing out samples of high end fruit drinks. Cliff scooped up two big handfuls of the drink bottles, each of which looked like it retailed for five or six bucks, and crammed his rear jersey full, then pulled on his vest to hide the booty.

I watched Cliff prance throughout the exhibit area, chatting with people and scooping up so much pizza that I was pretty sure he was going to start jamming pepperoni, cheese, and tomato sauce into his jersey pockets, too. It was funny how people all seemed to know him and no one seemed to want him nearby, a kind of human being repellent. I wondered whether packaging his essence of Delta Bravo and genetically modifying it to repel mosquitoes could perhaps cure the global scourge of malaria.

Prior to the announcement of the winners, though, the real competition began: horse trading cards for a better hand. Within minutes some pretty amazing hands began appearing, and although no one was able to create four of a kind or a straight royal flush, the winning hand was an impressive ace-high full house with two kings. Much good beer from the Lost Abbey was swilled as I forlornly sipped from a bottle of craft water.

“Don’t worry, this beer tastes like shit,” Greg reassured me as he downed his fifth cup.

“Yeah,” said Mike the Cop, sitting next to me with a foamy cup in each fist. “This stuff is awful.”

Greg handed me the car keys. “But at least we have a designated driver!”

I tried to find the happiness in that, then looked around at the happy bikers, the killer venue, the good vibe, the beautiful sunshine spilling down on us, and realized that the Happy, indeed was all around us.

END

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SoCal Profamateur Rules

December 21, 2014 § 16 Comments

If you want to be a profamateur in SoCal you had better follow these rules.

  1. A week has two days: off days (1) and ride days (6).
  2. Buy full-carbon wheels for the annual fun ride.
  3. Never test, try out, or adjust trick equipment until five minutes before the race begins on race day.
  4. Always wear skinsuit, teardrop, and shoe covers on the coffee ride.
  5. Call the plumbing shop, ambulance chaser, and web designer on your jersey “my sponsors.”
  6. 5-10 minutes after getting shelled and falling into a grupetto, talk about who you think is doping.
  7. Whenever anyone suggests anything (movie, anniversary dinner, child’s talent show, free vacation to Monaco) ask yourself, “How will this affect my training plan?”
  8. Have at least one coach to analyze, critique, and fine tune the training plan of your other coach.
  9. The off season is when you train at race speeds and intensity.
  10. The race season is when you recover for the off season.
  11. Don’t ever acknowledge on or off the bike anyone you’ve ever beaten in a race.
  12. Hire a dietician.
  13. Often say, “They can test me anytime, anywhere.”
  14. Always color-coordinate.
  15. Wrap your car, or better yet, your Mercedes Sprinter van.
  16. Anything done by Prez or Charon.
  17. [Add your SoCal profamateur rule here.]END

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Wankmeister cycling clinic #26: Winter training

December 17, 2014 § 12 Comments

Dear Wankmeister,

I am hoping to get a pro contract next year and want to start the season strong, without losing fitness over the cold months. I live in Los Angeles, where it can be very hard to train during the winter. As I write this the weather has plunged to 65F, and scattered showers (20%) are predicted throughout the day. It’s been like this since Monday, and I can’t afford to lose any more fitness. I’m 37 and just upgraded to Cat 2, so this is my last shot at the big time.

Anxiously,
Andy Armpit

Dear Andy,

Your concerns are well founded. You begin losing cardio fitness after 24 hours, and muscle begins turning into beer after a week of inactivity. Southern California is a challenging place to stay fit in the winter, with anywhere from six to ten days of overcast skies and an average of 1-2 inches of rain from October – March. Winter lows can hover in the high 50’s, often for weeks at a time. Having the right equipment will make the difference between getting a ride with BMC in 2015 and having to beat me again in an upgrade crit. Get an indoor trainer like this. All the pros use them.

Perspiringly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister,

I bought that trainer like you said but after thirty minutes it was so boring that I jumped off and smashed out all the plate glass windows in my house. Is racing at the pro level really this hard? Also, I posted my trainer ride on Facebag, Strava, and emailed it to all my friends but no one has “liked” or “kudo’d” it yet. Any ideas?

Stunned,
Andy Armpit

Dear Andy,

Sorry. I forgot to tell you, you also need to buy the entire library of these. You probably didn’t send the training file to enough people. Try Twitter, Linked-In, and Pinterest. People actually really enjoy poring over trainer files, so keep sharing. And pro racing isn’t nearly as hard as riding on a trainer for thirty minutes. If you can get up to 1-2 hours you will have simulated Roubaix or a climbing week in the Tour.

Forgetfully,
Wankmeister

Hey, Wanky

I got the library and am up to 3 hours a day. My FTP has increased 20% and I am rolling like a monster. But the software on the videos compares my wattage to the actual wattage in a pro race, and there is still a gap. For example, the winner of the Ronde averaged 350 watts for seven hours, whereas I’m averaging 175 watts for my first thirty minutes and dropping off significantly after that. Thoughts?

Curiously,
Andy Armpit

Dear Andy,

You are definitely pro material. Sorry, but I forgot to mention that you need someone to help structure your workouts. There are a lot of quacks out there claiming to know how to get you to the next level, but these folks are the best of the best. Get ‘r done, buddy!

Encouragingly,
Wankmeister

Yo, Wanky!

All the floorboards in my house have rotted through due to the sweat from my indoor trainer. Also, I go through three tires a day, and at $70 a pop we’re having to cut back on electricity, water, and Rapha. I’m up to fourteen hours a day now, though. FTP is up another 5%! Getting “R” done!! Any ideas for the floorboards??

Creakingly,
Andy Armpit

Dear Andy,

I forgot to tell you that you need one of these, too. All the pros have one; it’s where Lance hangs all his yellow jerseys. Also, fourteen hours is good. You might be ready to go to the next level, details here.

Commitmentedly,
Wankmeister

Dear Mr. Wankmeister,

We have been directed to you by the wife of our client, Mr. Andy Armpit, may he rest in peace, who indicates that you will be responsible for the bills pertaining to the memorial service and hand-carved urn for his cremains. We accept all major credit cards.

Respectfully,
Green Garden Happy Lawns of Foreverness Funeral Home

END

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Slow learner

December 13, 2014 § 8 Comments

In thirty-three years of riding and racing, I’ve gotten two good pieces of advice, which makes for an average of one about every seventeen years.

The first one was from the Fireman. I was pounding my brains out on the front of some stupid group ride. A few people got unhitched, but most didn’t. Towards the end I faded and could barely struggle home, much less contest the sprunts. The fresher rides beat me like a rug on cleaning day.

“Dude,” said Fireman, “just remember. You race like you train.”

“Huh?” I said.

“Yeah. You train like an idiot, and you’re gonna race like an idiot.”

I thought about that, and he was right. Fireman trains smart, and every year he wins a couple of very hard races. The races that he targets, he almost always places in. He’s not the best climber, the best sprinter, the best breakaway rider, or the best time trialist. But he trains smart, and he races even smarter.

It was good advice, but useless, because I love to pound on training rides. “Everyone gets shelled,” is my motto, so when it’s my turn I accept my beating, almost joyfully. Almost.

The second good piece of advice I got was from three-time national crit champion and all-around hammer and good guy, Daniel Holloway. I had watched Daniel work over the Gritters brothers earlier this year on the third day of the 805 Crit series put on by Mike Hecker. It was two against one in a three-up breakaway. Daniel had to go fast enough to stave off a lightning fast pro field, but not so fast that he burned himself out when it came time for the sprunt. With one lap to go he attacked the Gritterses and soloed.

“How’d you do that?” I asked one day when we were coming back from the NPR.

“Easy,” he said. “I followed the breakaway rule.”

“The breakaway rule? As in, ‘Don’t ever be in one?'”

He laughed. “No, that’s the wankaway rule. The breakaway rule is ‘Don’t ever be the strongest guy in the break.'”

“Huh?”

“Yeah. If you feel great, don’t ever show that you’re the strongest. If you’ve got the legs to win and you’re up the road with three or four other guys, always be the second strongest guy in the break. Never the strongest.”

“What does that mean, you know, like, in reality?”

“Don’t take the hardest pull, take the second hardest pull. Don’t take the longest pull, take the second longest pull. When the ‘strongest’ guy takes a monster pull, show that it hurt you and rotate to the back, even quickly.”

“Then what?”

“You saw the 805 Crit, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s the ‘then what.’ When it’s time, you go. And the ‘strongest’ guy who’s been out there crushing it for the last hour suddenly isn’t the strongest guy anymore. You are.”

I memorized every line of this conversation and swore I would put it into practice. On a few of the Donut Rides I’ve managed not to completely spend myself in the first ten minutes and have actually done respectably on the climbs. One time I even beat Dave Jaeger. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Daniel showed up for our new Thursday AM beatdown ride on the Flog Course around the Palos Verdes golf club.

On the first lap the Wily Greek strung it out, dropped all but ten people, and stuffed the rest of us deep into the hurt locker. After hanging out for a few moments in that close, uncomfortable space without enough air, I got dropped. Then I felt a hand on my ass and a strong push. It was Daniel, grinning, and the fucker wasn’t even breathing hard. “Suffer, old man,” he laughed, easily throwing me back up to the leaders.

On the second lap he attacked and only Wily and Derek could answer. The rest of us melted into a loose coalition of hapless chasers. Forgetting everything he’d told me, I rode like a madman, the strongest guy in the four-man chase. By the sixth and last lap I was a puddle of guts. When I hit the 20% final climb up La Cuesta, my chase group companions roared past. Daniel was coming down the hill. He saw me, turned around, and rode up next to me, about to offer me some key advice.

“Don’t say it,” I said.

“Don’t say what?” he asked.

“Advice. Don’t give me any more advice.”

“How come?” he said, grinning.

“Because it’s not seventeen years yet.”

He looked at me funny and easily pedaled away.

END

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FOG’d

December 9, 2014 § 28 Comments

There is no greater fear than the Fear of Getting Dropped.

FOG’d.

I used to think it was a function of cowardice, because everyone gets dropped, and people who avoid rides because they’re afraid of droppage, well, come on. Eddy got dropped. Lance got dropped. The fastest guy on your group ride got dropped. And of course you got dropped — repeatedly. It’s the nature of the beast.

Since droppage is inherent in cycling, i.e. there is always a point where, when people are going hard enough, you will get shelled, I’ve never understood why people avoid hard rides or hilly races because of their FOG’d. On reflection, though, it’s not about cowardice. For some it’s about the humiliating nature of reality. Getting shelled every time, every climb, or coming off the back early in the ride/race means you’re not very good. The people riding away from you? They are better than you, and all of the complex emotional defense mechanisms that we generate to “attaboy” ourselves crumble when the peloton rolls away.

But that’s not the main reason for FOG’d. The main reason is primordial and lies with the herd and the tribe. Whether it’s solitary confinement or lagging behind the other zebras because of an injured leg, being culled from the group speaks to our most primitive fear of defenselessness and death. When the tribe can no longer support you, you were either put on an ice floe or taken to Obasute-yama. When you could no longer keep up with the healthy herd you fell prey to the wolves who forever shadowed the group, waiting precisely for you to stumble or lag, and then pull you down, and then sink their fangs into your throat as they sunk their bloody snouts into your gore-soaked entrails.

Starting out with the group, getting popped, and flailing home alone has all of those connotations, not to mention mile after mile of cursing the sorry bastards who didn’t even have the common courtesy to wait.

When I heard about Tony Manzella’s new  Dogtown Ride and glanced at the list of guys like Rudy Napolitano and Matt Cutler who were in attendance, I knew it would be a great ride. It would be great because, with 60 miles and 6k of climbing, it was going to be hilly and hard. I knew it would also be pitiless and therefore a small group. None of these guys were hand-holders. They might wait for a couple of minutes at the top of the first few climbs, but after a while if you couldn’t keep up you would suddenly remember a kiddie soccer game or a load of laundry or that this was December and not really part of your profamateur training plan.

The ride began at 8:00-ish at Dogtown Coffee on Main Street in Santa Monica. There were about 30 starters. After the first hour we were down to less than twenty. By the time we took our first rest stop at the bottom of Piuma there were about ten, and when we got back to Santa Monica there were perhaps eight riders left. I’m sure I’ve done harder rides with better riders, but I can’t really remember when.

And you know the funniest thing of all? At one point or another, almost everyone got dropped.

END

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