October 9, 2012 § 10 Comments
I can say anything I want about Suze because we once had a big ol’ fight and talked more trash about each other than two rednecks getting divorced and arguing over who gets the half of the trailer with the leaky waterbed and broken TV, and who gets the set of false teeth.
Our spat happened like this. It was on the Pier Ride. The Old Pier Ride. Every single time I’d run the red lights going out on Admiralty, Suze would yell at me, which would make me run more lights, which would make her yell at me more. You get the picture.
This particular day, after running all the red lights and dragging the peloton along with me, we were half-pedaling up Pacific and I saw her out of the corner of my eye and gradually kind of half-chopped her wheel. Just a little bit. Enough to say, “Fuck you,” and enough so that if she hadn’t been paying attention she might have found herself in difficulty.
“Wow, what an asshole!” you might say.
“Are you fucking kidding me? You douchenozzle!” you might say.
“What a despicable, walking, talking, sack of human excrement you are!” you might say.
And you’d pretty much be right.
Save your Cat 5 tricks for the Cat 5’s
One thing about Suze is that she’s always on guard. That’s because people have been taking cheap shots at her for decades, especially lame-ass guys who are mortified at getting their dicks stomped by a biker chick.
Suze saw my cheap shot long before it got anywhere near her front wheel, and easily slid off to the side with nary a ruffled feather, but now she was pissed. For the rest of the ride she stuck to my wheel, and I got the message. “You’re never getting rid of me now, wanker.”
So when we hit the Parkway I made up my mind to get rid of her. Gave it everything I had…no luck. Hit the turnaround and drove her over to the curb…yawn. Sprunted out of the saddle to dust her on the rise…nuh-uh…there was the shadow of her little pigtail, bobbing along right in my draft.
Slow down, speed up, jump off to the left, hug the curb to the right, thread spaces that didn’t exist, open up every jet I had, scrub her off by attacking up the gutter, pull every lame move I knew short of slamming on the brakes.
Nope, nope, nope, and nope. She tailed me all the way to the finish, and made sure I knew it as she whizzed off to the right on Pershing at the end of the ride.
The Cold War
From that point on we behaved as enemies. She defriended me. I talked trash. She ignored me. I ground all the enamel off my teeth. She commented that I was a stupid lawyer. Everyone agreed (me, too, actually).
Somehow, we started talking to each other again. Then chatting. Then smiling. Then one day, when I had swung off, gassed, rocketing backwards and about to get dropped on the climb up to Trump, I felt a strong hand on my ass and heard a little “Umph” sound. It was a track throw, strong, straight, and powerful enough to sling me back onto the tail end of the snake.
I glanced back at the rider who’d pushed me, and who was now dropped from that last full-on effort to help a struggling rider.
It was Suze.
Best rider in 2012
Suzanne is the South Bay Rider of the Year for lots of reasons. First, she won the poll unanimously. I was the only voter, and frankly, she was the only candidate. It was one of those Soviet-era elections, where the winner, again by a 100% majority, is Joe Stalin, and if you don’t fucking like it, you’ll be taken out, lined up against a wall, and blogged about.
Suze isn’t a recent convert to cycling who just happens to be talented and fast. She’s been racing for 31 years and has raced against and raced for some of the greatest cyclists in the history of the sport. The pinnacle of her pro career was racing three years for Saturn, the #1 UCI-ranked team in the world.
Think about that the next time you’re polishing your third-place trophy in the Men’s 45+B cyclocross race.
At Saturn she learned from the best on the global stage. Ina-Yoko Teutenburg, Judith Arndt, Clara Hughes, Petra Rossner, Anna Wilson, Cathrine Marsal, Dede Demet, Nicole Reinhart, and Suzie Pryde were just a few of the racers with whom she trained and raced. She learned to ride out of her skin for her teammates, and found out that even though she wasn’t the most talented or deserving rider on the team, she earned her slot and she earned the right to keep it.
If you’ve ever watched Suze race, or watched her maneuver on the NPR, you’ll instantly recognize where she gets her world-class skills. Bumping and positioning among men twice her size and half her age, she’s always perfectly positioned, always knows the right wheel, and is always in the mix.
How many other 49 year-old riders, men or women, can say that?
Teaching through kicking your ass
If some people have a hard time getting along with Suze, it’s for this reason: Ask her a question, and she’ll tell you what she thinks. Or this reason: Do something stupid, and she’ll tell you what she thinks. Or this reason: Exist, and she’ll tell you what she thinks.
Suze has been with Helens Cycles for sixteen years, and 2012 is a fitting year to name her South Bay Rider of the Year because in addition to a string of impressive wins, it was her first full year running the Helen’s women’s program.
Working to achieve the goal of a strong women’s team is tough. Someone always wants to win, but in a highly individualized sport like road racing, the more competitive the race the more essential it is that riders work together.
Highlights in 2012 included winning the Brentwood Grand Prix at 49 freaking years old; placing 3rd overall at the Tour de Murrieta; watching teammate Shelby Reynolds win the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix; and most of all, being part of a team where people trust each other 100%. In 2013 the team will add Priscilla Calderon, and leg-breaker Emily Georgeson will graduate from the 3-4 team to the P/1/2 squad.
Learning through getting her own ass kicked
There are only a handful of South Bay women who can hang with the masters men racers when they’re going at speed. Suze is one of them.
In 2010, after returning to LA, Suze was dragging in the fitness and confidence departments. She didn’t believe that a return to the glory days was possible. With help and encouragement from wankers like Aaron, Victor, Rudy, Mike, Jay, Brenda, and most of all her mom, who kept asking people, “What’s wrong with her?” she found her legs again. And even though there’s the occasional lamefuck who tries to chop her wheel just to make a point, Suze will tell you that there are plenty of guys on the rides who push her to ride harder because they’re her friends.
I’ve learned first hand that underneath the toughness and the mad bike skills there’s a sweetheart of a girl. Lots of others have learned it, too.
When the ranks close
Of course it wouldn’t be cycling, and it sure wouldn’t be cycling in the South Bay, if there weren’t drama. People get mad, make up, then go off and get mad at someone else. And make up. It’s part of the scene. And it’s all good.
Except when it’s not.
One day on the Donut we were rolling up past Portuguese Bend. Some dude who no one knew was getting very attitude-ish. He was fit, fast, and had the best painted-on suntan in the peloton. As we rolled along the false flat he decided to move up. Suze was in his path. So he did what any jerkoff would do: He gave her a hard check, pushed her off her line, and told her to get out of the way.
In doing so, he broke the Rule of Davy.
This is the rule of the peloton that says “Thou shalt piss off anyone in the bunch as long as it’s not Davy.” The corollary to the Rule of Davy is the Rule of the Slowest Fuse, which says “Davy has the slowest fuse of any human alive and is therefore is almost impossible to piss off.”
Unless, of course, you fuck with Suze, with our Suze, in which case the slowest fuse in the peloton becomes a mildly excited 220-pound slab of chiseled steel. Davy never gets angry, but on this day he did get mildly excited.
Bullyprick suddenly found himself in the shadow of the man mountain, whose left arm lazily draped around Bullyprick’s shoulder. It was an arm larger than the trunk of a redwood, and adorned with a tattoo of a skull being pierced with a harpoon while being thrown to a shark in a volcano on top of a mushroom cloud.
“Dude,” Davy said. “If you do anything like that again you will not live to regret it. Because you will not live.”
Bullyprick stared several feet up at the somewhat smiling face of the man mountain and felt the forearm curling around his neck with the conviction of an iron noose. “But…ah…okay…sorry…” was all he could gurgle. And to his credit, it is awfully hard to argue your point when your trachea has been pinned shut.
We never saw Bullyprick again, and Bullyprick never saw Suze, because shortly thereafter she attacked and dropped him on the climb.
So the next time you see her, even though it’ll probably be as she recedes in the distance, take a minute to congratulate her on this coveted award. She’s earned it the hard way.
September 11, 2012 § 19 Comments
Of all the awesome awesomeness of Rudy Napolitano’s national championship ride in Bend, Oregon last week, the most awesome ego fapping part of all is that I’m now able to say, “Yeah, I train with that dude. National road champ, 35+. Uh-huh.”
I’m not the only wanker who got a woody thinking about the stars-and-stripes jerseys brought home by Rudy, Rich Meeker, Michael Easter, Jamie P., and the medals harvested by Jeff K., DeMarchi, Glass Hip Worthington, Charon Smith, Karl Bordine, and the other SoCal riders who dominated at nationals. No sooner had news of Rudy’s win hit the Cycling Illustrated newsfeed than a whole host of other bone idlers began crowing and bragging about how they train and race with these champions.
Prez even admitted what we all do but are too ashamed to confess: Calling his buddies back East to say “THOSE are my training partners, yo!”
The difference between theory and practice
In theory, I suppose it’s legit to say, for example, that I train and race with Rudy and those dudes. Most Saturdays, after all, he shows up on the Donut Ride, and I show up on the Donut Ride. Several times a year I do the Really Early Morning Ride a/k/a REMR. Jeff does the REMR. And of course numerous times I suit up and saddle up for local crits and road races, events at which Jamie, Glass Hip, Meeker, and Charon also toe the line.
Unfortunately, the extent of my “training rides” with Rudy usually ends about fifteen minutes into the ride, or whenever he makes an acceleration, whichever comes first. I mean, can I really call it “training with Rudy” when he’s not even breaking a sweat and I’ve pulled over and quit? Did we train together when he lazily pedaled away from a hundred idiots on the part of his training ride that was actually before his training ride, because if it had been his actual training ride we, like, would never have known he was there?
Same for the “racing with Rich” thing. Did I really race with him when I got shelled on the first climb? Were we really racing together when he was sprinting for first and I was sprunting for 86th? Were Charon and I in the same race when he was a tiny speck at the front and I was a flailing wanker barely hanging onto the tail end of the whip?
And if it’s that bad for me, what about the other bone idlers like Prez who are still attending esteem building classes in order to actually enter a Cat 2 or 35+ race? What about the wank fodder that gets diarrhea and breaks out in hives the night before the “big” showdown at CBR, then wets their bed so badly they catch cold and miss the race?
Cycling is a reality show, and you’re Snooki
The antics of the men and women who trundled off to Bend and whipped the snot out of the best amateurs in America, if truth be told, have nothing in common with the antics of the rest of us. It’s like having Rahsaan Bahati next to you on the New Pier Ride. He’s with you, but he’s not really with you.
The accomplishments of those who returned with jerseys and medals are incredible. They did what the rest of us wish we could do: Ride our bikes smarter and faster than anyone else in the country. Having them back in our midst is good for some ego fapping, but it’s kind of a bummer, too. If they put the wood to the best racers in America, what’s the math looking like that I’ll ever finish ahead of them?
Better dial up ol’ Russ back in Texas and let him know that my training partner just won nationals. Uh-huh. ‘Cause that’s just how I roll. Me and Prez, I mean. When we’re not crashing. Or getting dropped. Or ego fapping on the bricks.
August 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
USA Cycling has released a new and definitive set of category descriptions for road racing. These supplant the previous rulebook definitions found in Sections I(A)(ii) through (vi). USA Cycling offers these descriptions to help new cyclists understand the difference between the categories, and greatly simplifies the descriptions found in previous editions of the rulebook.
Category 5: What is this death thing of which you speak?
Category 4: Today is a good day to die.
Category 3: Today is a good day for you to die.
Category 2: Today is a good day for me to kill you.
Masters 45+: No dying today.
Masters 55+: I refuse to die in a bike race.
Masters 65+: Let’s enjoy riding our bikes wearing colorful clothing, okay?
August 14, 2012 § 11 Comments
I understand this may be a one-tweet stand, but now that you’ve tweeted a request to me, and I’ve tweeted a tweet to let you into my secure Tweeter inner sanctum, I think we need to come to an understanding.
First, I understand that you have 3.7 million followers, and I have 188. I also understand that the people who follow you are some of the most powerful and influential people in the world, whereas most of my followers are tweetbots, spammer personal injury law firms, and insane people with names like FrauFickenDammt and Scabby the Rat. Well, actually, Frau Ficken hasn’t followed me yet. I’m hoping she will soon, though, because she says the coolest shit, like today when she went into a restaurant and called the waiter a knuckle fucker.
Before granting your request, I checked out the people who you follow, and was frankly concerned. Bill Maher. Mahatma Gandhi. Lots of chicks with killer racks. People whose opinions matter on the world stage and who have the ear of those in power, not to mention totally boss pimps like Cancellara.
Which really made me think, like, why are you adding me to that select list of barely 400 people out of 3.7 million? Is it because of what I write here?
There’s no “here” here
So I thought about it and figured out why you wanted to enter the inner Wankmeister sanctum. First, you wanted to see who my associates are. Well, now you know. Funny, huh? And only a handful of them are currently incarcerated.
Second, you wanted to begin the process of seeing if there was some way to influence “the message.” The good news? You already have! The bad news? So can anyone else with a keyboard and a little flattery. Like all whores, I go to the highest bidder. Right now the going price is really cool prescription eyewear and free kits designed by Joe Yule. So make a note of that, and by the way, you should hire him as your kit designer. The Shack/Livestrong stuff needs…help.
Now that I’ve given you everything you want, it’s time for us to talk about me. My needs. My wants. My hopes. My childhood dreams and hopes for the future, except for those which have been shattered by Jonathan Vaughters.
Accept me for who I am
A loving tweetership between equals is only possible with mutual respect. You mustn’t try to change me, but rather you must accept me as I am, RuggedMaxxx2 and all. If you don’t know about and use RuggedMaxxx2, I’m not sure we can ever have a meaningful relationship, although I’m willing to try. Of course even as I write this, I fear that we may not work out. I have one small drawer that contains all my socks and underwear. You have entire dressers devoted to undergarments. I rent. You own. I’m Specialized. You’re Trek. Most perilous to our relationship, and the one thing we may never get over, is this terrible reality: You’re Oakley. I’m SPY. I feel so helpless.
Are we doomed from the outset? And then I consider other material things, like your gym and your bike shop and countless bikes and all the other possessions that make me feel small and rather poor. But there can be more to a relationship than just money and power, right? You can learn to appreciate what it’s like to be batshit poor, and I can learn to appreciate being showered with free bike swag and invites to swanky parties and free trips on your personal jet and free bike swag and invites to the Tour (well, maybe not that), right? Right?
Love me, love my friends
I know a lot of people who get involved in the heat of the moment like this and then have trouble with the other’s friends once Tweeter passions cool. Let’s take care of that now. My friends are non-negotiable (except for the ones who are, like that dude who wore the undersized all-white kit on the Holiday Ride last year and blinded several people with his hairy buttcrack).
I think the best way for you to get to know me is to spend time with me and my friends on the bike. We have a little ride here called the NPR. You would have a hard time hanging on, and I’m not saying that to be rude, but rather as a warning.
We have Prez, who just got force upgraded from Cat 3 and has the hardest abs in the wankoton, plus the weirdest kit color combos. He is a sprunter and is not afraid of you. You’ll have to get on his good side but be wary at the same time, because all those steel plates in his head are from crashing.
We have dudes like Bull, a wanker of legendary proportions, and Hair (a/k/a Shrimpy Dick), who is a badass. If you’re too scared to mix it up on the NPR, you’re welcome to join us on the Wheatgrass Ride, where Backpack George in the floppy jogging pants, saggy socks, and askew helmet can outclimb anyone for the first mile up from the reservoir.
Bring your A Game, Lance, and I’m just saying that because I want you to fit in. And even if you can hang with Backpack George, we’ve still got Tink who WILL school you, and Jules, the 13 y/o child who will put you in the pain cage and throw away the key if you dare to challenge him on the Donut Ride. Check my YouTube videos under fsethd to see what you’re signing up for. I think after a couple of tries you will be able to hang, but don’t feel bad if you get dropped in the beginning.
It’s a one-way street
Although you have to love my friends, I don’t have to love yours, although I will try to. Maybe. For a small fee. But not that Ferrari dude. I understand that you have some current legal issues arising out of the use of drugs. Now, I smoked a bunch of dope back in the day and am a reformed drunk, so I “get” the drug thing. No matter how much Nancy Reagan used to preach “just say no,” it always seemed easier to just say “Yes, the sensimilla, please.”
It was sure more fun than saying “No,” except for that time in junior high when I had failed 8th Grade life science and was taking summer school at Sharpstown High. We were taking the HouTran bus to school, stoned out of our gourds at the back of the bus, when I started hallucinating that the fucking bus had caught fire. I imagined that everyone ran off and a fire truck came.
Finally a huge firefighter rushed in and dragged me off the bus, which had actually caught fire. Being stoned for me was always like that. I just hallucinated shit that was already there, so I figured why pay all this money for weed and get kicked out of school to see what I’m already seeing?
I bring this up because drugs are that way. You kind of fall into it, and then it’s like, “Fuck, I don’t need this shit.” But hey, you probably hear about this enough in your day job, so I’ll let it slide for now.
Oh, here’s some other info. I’m a Capricorn. I love Japanese food. My favorite color is blue. I love puppies. Once upon a time I co-authored a book on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. So…TTYL!
August 13, 2012 § 35 Comments
Slated for release on September 18, Wankmeister received an advance copy of Tyler Hamilton’s tell-all illiterography, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs” As Told To Daniel Coyle In Very Simple Words And, Where Necessary, With Little Stick Figure Pictographs.
Coyle is known to seven or eight other people as the author of “Lance Armstrong’s War,” The Tale Of A Writer Who Couldn’t Come Up With A Decent Title So He Stole One From Someone Else.
I was flattered to receive the advance copy, and immediately put down the important task of tweeting salacious recipes to @mmmaiko and devoted fifteen solid minutes to reading the book, which is subtitled “My Penis” to reach the cycling demographic that also reads books like “50 Shades of Grey.” CU Tomorrow? Legit Girl? Bump’n’Grind? Yeah, YOU.
Does America really need another disgraced doper’s kiss-and-jail cyclography?
After reading “My Penis,” I phoned author Daniel Coyle to get some background material on the impetus for the book. “When Tyler and I started talking, I realized this was an historic opportunity for me to pay rent,” said Coyle. “Note the way I use ‘an’ with ‘historic.’ Isn’t that cool?”
“Uh, yeah. Go on.”
“No one’s ever had a ticket behind the wall of silence, behind locked doors, onto the team bus. I mean sure, there are books with that name, books by Kimmage, Voet, Landis, Joe Parkin, every legit book on the history of cycling ever written, TV documentaries, reams of public testimony, arbitration proceedings, detailed scientific evidence, and every kind of proof and testimonial known to man. But this is different!”
“Like, how, dude?”
“Over the past two years, in more than 200 hours of interviews and trips to key locations in Spain and France, Tyler has given me complete access to his story. Emails. Home videos of his dog. Sexts to his wife. Phone messages from his dentist. We even had a seance with his vanishing twin.”
“You don’t believe that shit, do you?”
“You bet I do. To verify and corroborate his account, I’ve also talked to numerous independent sources, including former teammates, several of whom are going on the record for the first time, immediately prior to sentencing. This is a classic tale of human ambition and the consequences of trying to win at any cost.”
“Uh, what were the consequences?”
“Well, for Tyler it resulted in an Olympic gold medal, wins in the Tour, and buttloads of cash. But in the end he was banned for life from bike racing.”
“But wasn’t his career over by then?”
“That’s not the point! It’s a classic tale of human ambition! And the consequences of trying to win at any cost!”
“Sounds like a winner’s game plan to me, dude.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth
Next I called up Tyler. “Yo, dude, this is Wankmeister. Remember me?”
“Hello? Who’s this?”
“It’s me. Wanky. From PV. You came out here three years ago and did the Donut Ride. I fucking crushed it. Remember?”
“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number.”
“No! Don’t hang up! I want to talk about ‘My Penis’!”
Having lost my source, I went to Cyclingnews.com, where I steal most of my shit from anyway. They never disappoint! Here’s the blurb they had. And I’m not making this up:
“Hamilton explained that his time in front of a grand jury during the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into Lance Armstrong’s alleged doping practices he realised that there was a story that needed to be told.
“‘I kept it all inside for way too long and I realized it was a story that needed to be told. I think when people learn how it really was – how it worked, how we did it, what it felt like – they’ll see that this story is bigger than any one individual in the sport. It’s really about making choices when you’re pushed to the edge and deciding what you’re willing to do to compete. I want to take people inside our world so they can understand the lives we lived.'”
In other words, the dude’s flat fucking broke, and rather than get a job gluing on tires or flipping burgers he’s decided to hire someone to write a book for him while they job around Europe getting drunk, riding bikes, and licking the pussy.
So these are the consequences of blind ambition? Fuck, where can I get some?
Back to My Penis
“My Penis” begins with Hamilton’s discovery that no one will take him to the prom except Jonathan Vaughters. They dress each other up (Jonathan dresses up as a boy, but it’s totally unconvincing), and afterwards they make passionate love and symbolically bury Jonathan’s bike in a field and water it with their urine. A lovely rose bush grows on the spot, and they can often be found frolicking naked around its blossoms in spring. But that’s a different story.
After getting recruited by the evil and dastardly Team Dope, Tyler loses his childhood dreams to a dirty, nasty, hairy, fat, toothless, balding, sweaty, unwashed French masseuse with long and unkempt toenails. Francois intends to inject Tyler’s stomach fat with EPO, but misses and hits his penis instead. Tyler’s twelve-day erection earns him a number of nicknames on Team Dope, none of which are printable, even in a nasty, uncouth, sophomoric blog like this one that revels in saying words like “pussy” and “cock” and “cunt.”
First the breakout, then the rash
After his breakout season with Team Dope, Tyler catches the eye of the evil and cruel dictator of the peloton, Lance Strongstrong. Strongstrong, who has just won the Turdy France after a miraculous comeback from a lobotomy, entices Tyler onto the team bus with an offer of candy and a trip to EuroDisney.
The next thing he knows, he’s sitting in Strongstrong’s lap, Johan Squatneel has forced him to sign a multi-million dollar contract, forced him to take drugs, and forced him to ride with the most famous American team in the history of completely unknown and forgettable and forgotten niche/kook/dork sporting teams.
Tyler and Strongstrong part ways upon the death of Tyler’s favorite pet newt, Newton, when Strongstrong makes disparaging remarks about salamanders, particularly the juvenile forms. “That newt was more than a son to me!” Hamilton cried.
“Only person ever liked a Newt was Callista, and she’s a two bit whore anyway,” Strongstrong shot back.
“Fine! You bad man! I’ll go ride for team Phoneycrack!”
Team Phoney Baloney
Unceremoniously kicked off the bus along with his little plastic newt cargo case, Tyler was picked up by Tubby Rihs and Doctor Evil Ochowicz, or “Doc Ock” as he was called by his clients. With his medication properly adjusted, Tyler was forced to win more big races, world championships, and gold medals. He was desperately unhappy at living the lie, and eventually couldn’t take it any more.
“The guilt became so great that after I was busted I confessed,” he says in the most moving passage of the book. “Of course it took a few years to confess, as I had to first deny everything. But that’s how badly I was hurting inside. It felt so great to finally admit the truth.”
Hamilton points out that just because you admit the truth due to running out of legal defense funds and the threat of federal prison doesn’t mean you didn’t really want to tell the truth all along.
“It was freeing,” he adds. “So much so that when I finally came back to cycling I could dope again, get busted, and get banned for life. It’s a beautiful story. The passion. The pathos. They mysteries of the human soul…it’s all right here.”
The book retails for $29.95, but will be available at Half-Priced Rubbish and Discount Records and 8-Track Tapes and Books in October for $1.99, or free on Amazon’s Kindle.
July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
As I pulled myself up into the cab next to Holmes, a chill went down my spine in that typically British, closeted homosexual way of two men pushed shoulder to shoulder and imagining how the other would look dressed in leathers, tied to a tree stump, and barking like a dog while the other spanked him with a wet baguette.
“What could have happened to him, Holmes?” I asked as the cab rattled across the cobbled streets.
“Do you suppose that’s the correct question?” Holmes riposted, and I could see his face turn towards mine in the dark.
“Dash it, Holmes, aren’t you the one who said the poor wanker had vanished without a trace?”
“I did, indeed, my dear Watson.”
“Then what else in blue blazes could the question be? He was here, now he’s gone. What on earth happened to him?”
Holmes chuckled that maddening chuckle of his, when his rapier-like mind has fastened onto its prey like a hungry mastiff, and no goading can loose its grip. I wondered if he’d ever paid to see a grown man naked. “I’ll be at your service when you need me, then,” I said, somewhat gruffly, and pained by Holmes’s sudden turn of silence.
Soon the cobbled roads of London gave way to the rutted unpaved roads leading out of that great city, and my mind drifted, then dozed, until I awoke with a start. “We’ve arrived, Watson,” said Holmes as we both exited the cab.
There before us was a quiet home, to all appearances as normal a place as you could ever hope to find. A tall hedge was in front, and a pretty garden filled with trees suggested the blissful hearth of that happiest British convention, the country home. Holmes rapped on the door, which was swiftly answered by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Dark haired, voluptuous, and radiating sorrow, she cried out, “Oh, Mr. Holmes, thank you for coming! I thought you’d never arrive! Please do come in!”
The wanker’s abode
Holmes strode across the threshold with the piercing look I have seen so often, when the genius of his mind misses no detail, and when what to others is a mass of confusion is, to him, an ordered story legible only to him.
The lovely lady stood there, uncountenanced somewhat as Holmes had not bothered to introduce us, and the awkwardness was furthered by her stare at the giant bulge in my trousers where I had placed my revolver. “Pleased to meet you, madam. John Watson.”
She blushed and held out her hand. “Mrs. Prez. It’s a pleasure, my good sir.”
Holmes turned to us, startled to realize that there was anyone in the room, so raptly had he focused on the living room. “Do you mind,” he asked, “if I have a look in the bedroom?”
“By all means,” said the lovely lady, blushing again.
“Watson, if you would,” Holmes motioned me to follow.
We entered the bedroom of the wanker and Holmes went straight to the closet. Rapha clothing of every variety, Assos bibs and jersey of every color under the rainbow, and cycling shoes in green, yellow, pink, orange, and mucous filled the closet. “Great gods,” I exclaimed. “The man’s a fashion model!”
Holmes shook his head. “As usual, Watson, you cannot see the trees for the forest. There’s nothing here.” He turned back, and took a quick look beneath the coverlet on the bed as he left the room.
“Can you find my husband, Mr. Holmes?” the distraught woman asked, her tear-streaked bosom heaving in worry and fear.
Holmes smiled at her in that comforting way a man has of reassuring a woman, as if to say “You can trust me, my dear, I’m thoroughly gay.”
We remounted the cab, and Holmes let out a short, satisfied laugh. “Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”
“Make of it? Deuce it all, Holmes, it’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle ensconced in an enigma, that’s what I make of it!”
“Come now, Watson, surely you jest? Isn’t it clear what happened to the poor man?”
“Holmes, if I didn’t rate you as my closest friend, I would be so exasperated as to refuse all further attempts at conversation! Don’t tell me you have figured this out? The poor wanker had a terrible wardrobe and even worse fashion sense! What else was there?”
“In the main, the mystery is solved, Watson. There are but two small details I should like to make certain of before we retire for the evening.”
The shanties of London
Before long our cab had brought us back to the outskirts of the city, and from the dim lights of the gas lamps I could see that we were in the slums of Chutney, London’s most notoriously impoverished shantytown, where life’s outcasts, men who had gambled all and lost, dragged themselves to die amidst the stink of filth and the reek of gin. I braced myself as we got out in front of the most wretched, dilapidated tenement I had ever seen, and did all I could to hold my breath as Holmes banged on the door with his walking stick.
A bedraggled, besotted, broken, and surly fellow came to the door, his long greasy locks covering a pock-marked face in which two red, sunken eyes stared out from his gaunt and deathlike skull, the last embers of a spirit that was all but quenched.
“Mr. Smith, I dare say?” said Holmes.
“And what is it to you if I be?” snarled the man.
“It could be nothing, or it could be this and bit more,” said Holmes with a wicked smile, carefully tucking a sovereign into the man’s curled paw.
In a flash we were over the threshold, and never have I seen a more horrid den of iniquity. Floozies lay draped in whatever position their drunkenness or opium stupor left them, while similarly stupefied patrons lounged on the couches, awaiting the dawn that would force them out again into the world they had shunned for a few brief hours of night.
“Come in ‘ere, guv’nor,” said Mr. Smith. “An’ tell ol’ USCF district rep Smithy ‘ow ‘e can be o’ service to the guv’nor.”
“Mr. Smith,” said Holmes. “It can come as no surprise that we’re here to inquire about a certain Prez. Wanker of all on two wheels.”
“Prez!” shrieked the old man, his body shivering with rage. “Prez! O, guv’nor, don’t come ‘ere an’ ask me about ‘im! It’s all I been ahearin’ these last five years, guv’nor, ‘Force upgrade the lad, Smithy!’ an’ ‘E’s winnin’ all the Category 3 races, Smithy, damn ‘is eyes, force upgrade the lad!’ ’tis all they can say from dawn to sunset, guv’nor! An’ what uz I to do, guv’nor? One minute some young lad’s father’s a’ breathin’ down me neck, ‘Force upgrade Prez or I’ll have your hide, Smithy!’ an’ the next it’s Prez ‘imself, guv’nor, writin’ letters and callin’ the higher-ups and takin’ me aside on Sundays an’ sayin’ ‘Now see here, Smithy, you keep me here a Category 3 ’til the SoCal Cup’s all said and done and see here, Smithy, I’ll make it worth your while, eh, Smithy?’ until ol’ Smithy’s been pulled and stretched like a piece of good English taffy in the Indian sun, guv’nor!”
“I’m sure you’ve done your very best, my good sir,” said Holmes in that sympathetic way he had. “But pray tell, what did you decide?”
“What did I decide, guv’nor? Odds bodkins, I force upgraded the lad! I ‘ad to, guv’nor! I ‘ad to! Oh, may the lord have mercy on me wicked soul!” With that the anguished man collapsed in a heap, sobbing inconsolably. Then he sat bolt upright. “But I didn’t do away with ‘im, guv’nor! An’ y’can’t say I did! P’raps one o’ them Cat 3 fellows did ‘im in, guv’nor, but me ‘ands are clean!”
“I thank you for your time, Mr. Smith. Here’s something for your trouble.” The old wretch’s trembling paw accepted the gift, and we left.
“Holmes!” I exclaimed. “Won’t you arrest the man? He’s the killer as plain as day. Either that, or he knows who is!”
With his maddening chuckle, he replied, “Watson, I’m surprised you don’t see it. It’s as plain as day. Let us make one last stop. I think you shall find this amusing enough to place it in that little history of my cases at which you apply yourself so assiduously.”
Palace of the lord
“Cabbie, take us to Kensington!” Holmes shouted to the man.
Before long we found ourselves in front of an iron gate, with a watchman who was none too pleased to see us pull up in our shabby hack. With all the ease of a man who had lived there his entire life, Holmes handed the man his card. “Please tell Lord Smythington that Sherlock Holmes desires the honor of a few moments of his lordship’s time.”
“You can’t be serious, Holmes!” I said. “Lord Charon Smythington? At this hour of the night, uninvited and crudely announced?”
“Let us see,” he said with a smile, “whether Lord Smythington can fit us into his busy schedule, even at such a late hour as this.”
In minutes the watchman led us to the front door of the great home, where the butler ushered us in. “Lord Smythington is taking his evening massage. If the gentlemen have no objection, milord will see them in the massage parlor.”
As we entered, the great man barely nodded his head in greeting. His massive legs, covered in massage oil, were being assiduously worked by his masseuse. “Mr. Holmes?” he said. “To what do I owe this unusual, late night visit?”
“We’ve come for Prez,” said Holmes, his steely blue eyes matched with razor thin lips that meant only business.
“Prez? The wanker? I’ve not seen him since the forced upgrade back in April. It’s a bit of a mystery, really, and I can’t imagine why you’ve come to me.”
“Lord Smythington,” said Holmes “you can either show us to him or we will request official assistance. I’m not certain that the publicity would be welcome to a man such as yourself.”
Smythington looked up. “How did you know he was here, Mr. Holmes? I thought I’d covered my tracks quite professionally.”
“Indeed, sir, you had, but you made one fatal mistake.”
“Ah, yes. And it was?”
“The coverlet, of course. Prez slept every night with pictures of Your Excellency taped to the underside of his coverlet. As soon as I saw them, I knew it was you who had kidnapped him, fearful that with an upgrade he would now become your biggest threat at the Dominguez Hills crit. I needed only a brief chat with Mr. Smith, the district rep, to confirm that Prez had received a forced upgrade, and from there to conclude that it must have been you.”
I couldn’t hold back my admiration. “But Holmes, why didn’t you suspect one of his fellow Cat 3’s? Or one of the junior riders whose parents complain after every race because their boy never gets a chance to win?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson. The 3’s had no reason to do away with him, as he’d been upgraded. From there it was child’s play. Despite his matchless string of victories, Lord Smythington was still concerned about Prez in the 35+ or Cat 2 peloton, if only because of his propensity to fall and crash everyone else out. So he brought him here.”
Lord Smythington looked at Holmes. “And how did you know he was here?”
“Prez went to bed each evening staring longingly at your pictures beneath his covers, Lord Smythingon. You sent a messenger to him, inviting him to come to Kensington to learn the ‘sprinter’s secret.’ He couldn’t resist. Once here, you placed him in the basement with ten years’ worth of cycling magazines, and told him that once he had finished reading them, he would finally win a 35+ masters race. And the poor fool believed you.”
“Yes,” Lord Smythington said, laughing, “he certainly did. I also told him that if he rode all over the peninsula in a giant gear and lifted huge weights in the gym he’d be invincible.”
Even Holmes, ever the steely investigator, broke into a smile at the thought of poor Prez, pushing a 53 x 11 up Hawthorne in the middle of December. Lord Smythington bade us adieu, and we left the great house, Prez in tow.
The following racing season, shortly after I had been apprehended while watching another gentleman through a small hole I had cut in a public lavatory, but prior to sentencing at the Old Bailey, I ran across Prez. He looked to be in the finest of fettle. “How are you, my boy?” I asked.
“Never been better!”
“Oh really? Be a good fellow and do tell.”
“I’ve won every 35+ crit of the season so far! And no crashes!”
“It appears your hard work has paid off, then.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “It certainly has.”