On the rivet: Interview with Rahsaan Bahati

January 26, 2015 § 28 Comments

Rahsaan Bahati has been winning bike races since he was a kid. Including a national elite men’s criterium championship in 2008, he has won some of the biggest crits in America, including the Athens Twilight Criterium (2008). Rahsaan turns thirty-three this year, and after feeling the pain from a couple of his leg-searing efforts out on Westchester Parkway, I called him to find out what’s in store for 2015.

CitSB: What are your racing goals for 2015?

RB: I’ve put together a schedule of twenty-one races and would like to win five of them. There are no particular ones I’ve targeted, but of course Manhattan Beach Grand Prix and Dana Point Grand Prix I normally go pretty hard at because those are local races and I’m a hometown rider.

CitSB: What’s on your non-racing radar?

RB: In 2011 I began a business that has really developed. With my partner Anthony Reguero, we’ve put together a project similar to Costco; customers buy a membership and get bicycling products at a significant discount. We offer nutritional products, apparel, and bike products that you’d find in a bike shop. The web site is http://www.bahatiracing.com.

CitSB: What are you doing differently this year for training?

RB: First off, I’m cross training at the gym or at the park with a personal trainer. I’m doing pliometrics, box jumps, resistance training. I’m doing it for two months until March, it’s very similar to circuit training; I can already feel a big difference. I hit it hard, it’s a hour workout and feels like I’ve finished a hard bike race when I’m done.

CitSB: What particular aspect of your racing are you trying to improve?

RB: I’m trying to improve my snap in the sprint. The first 5-second burst is what you start to lose as you get older. It’s that high explosive kick that you need in crits because of those short, explosive sprints.

CitSB: Where are you in your career now?

RB: From an outside perspective it may look like I have a lot of career left, in terms of age and ability I’m still there. But after twenty years of racing at a certain point there aren’t many big crits that I haven’t either won or finished in the top five. And even with the prestige of nationals, perhaps it’s possible to win again, but then what? A big contract from a pro team? The reality is that I’m promoting my own brand and a sponsor is thinking “How do I get this guy’s efforts if he’s got his own business?” I’m in a good spot right now. I get to ride, my business is growing, I need to think about the future — I’ve got a wife and three kids.

CitSB: It’s pretty unusual that a guy of your caliber takes the time and makes the effort to ride with beginners and weekend hackers. What’s the motivation for that?

RB: I don’t take myself too seriously. I’ve been around, and I can ride with anyone, it doesn’t matter to me if they’re just starting out. When I was young and you did something wrong there was a lot of yelling and pushing, people told you you were screwing up but didn’t tell you what you were doing or how to correct it, they just called you an idiot. I may yell too sometimes, but I try to educate and help riders work on their skills. It makes it safer for them, safer for me, safer for everyone.

CitSB: What was it like to be the first African-American cyclist of a national caliber since Nelson Vails?

RB: When I was young I didn’t realize the impact. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized it was a big deal, and maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t realize it earlier. When I raced for Saturn my job was to represent my sponsors and race my bike. Realizing that I represented other people who looked like me, and that that could help people who, like me, had also come from tough circumstances, it changed the way I look at things.

CitSB: Is cycling more diverse now than when you started racing?

RB: Racing isn’t, but there are more cyclists. At the highest level down to the local level there are about the same number of riders who look like me, but there’s not one black female racer I can think of. There were a few on the track; we have a long way to go, but kids will eventually get into the sport and get hooked. I want those kids to have that support so they can succeed, the money, the mentoring.

CitSB: What was your first pro race?

RB: I think it was in 1998, the Merced Road Race. It was held in the pouring rain. I was a junior, but they let me ride it.

CitSB: How has the sport changed since you started racing?

RB: There’s less money in the sport, and there’s only one giant team — UHC — dumping money into it. They hire riders who race full time, that’s their only job and that makes it difficult for the guy making $12k from his team and holding down a part time job to make ends meet. When I started there were six or seven teams, Saturn, Mercury, Navigators, all with the same budget. Anyone could win. Now it’s lopsided; UHC is guaranteed to be on the podium, or to sweep it. You have guys like Holloway who can break up their train and win from time to time, but it’s just different.

CitSB: I watched your video from the 2014 Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. That was hairy beyond belief.

RB: Last year I was just going through the motions, racing on five or six hours of training a week. I was doing it just to do it. This year I’m going to put the effort into it. Maybe if I’d been a little more trained I could have been in the top three or even first place. That was a turning point race for me last year, getting fourth at an NRC race, realizing I can still go pretty well. I’ll be a lot more focused this year. I won’t be putting in the 18-20 hours that my competitors will, but 15 hours a week should be enough for a 90-minute criterium.

CitSB: What’s the hardest thing about winning an NRC crit?

RB: UHC is a well-oiled train. If you’re not in the exact right position you will miss out. They have it down to a science, and it will be interesting to see this year if other teams try other tactics from 2014. Smart Stop and Champion Systems have good teams but they tend to sit back and let UHC do their thing. Will they try to disrupt the UHC leadout in 2015? I’m a one-man band and I depend on other teams to disrupt the UHC leadout. My first race this year is in Florida, we’ll see how teams react to the blue train. It will be interesting.

CitSB: What’s the difference between racing at a masters level and at the NRC level?

RB: There’s a huge drop-off in talent and ability. The differences are graphic in the pro peloton. It may be the same ten or fifteen guys fighting for the win, but their teammates make the races so hard. Masters racing is very good and very fast, but the ability to maintain intensity drops off compared to the younger guys, the energy level is just different. Look at a guy like Holloway — he’s in his 20’s, bouncing off the walls, filled with energy. Ultimately it’s about top speed and how long you can hold it that differentiates the NRC from masters racing, and the same is true comparing the European peloton to the US peloton.

CitSB: What are the differences in cycling skills between domestic pros and masters racers?

RB: Domestic pros have no fear, bigger will, and they can control their bikes at faster speeds. They have better skills cornering, maneuvering. A lot of masters racers don’t like Brentwood Grand Prix because it’s a hard course in that it’s more technical than a four-corner crit and you have to sprint out of the turns.

CitSB: Is contact a part of pro racing?

RB: Absolutely. The spaces are a lot more narrow and there’s a lot of contact.

CitSB: Does it scare you when people slam into you?

RB: In 2014 I over-thought crashing, and that focus overcame what I wanted to do in races. Once it’s in your mind it holds you back. You can’t fear crashing and losing skin.

CitSB: Is there a pecking order in the pro peloton?

RB: Hell, yes! There’s a pecking order on the local rides, so just imagine at the advanced level. Looking back I wonder why no one ever explained it to me, but there’s definitely an old boy network. Hilton Clarke and I can go at it pretty fiercely but we respect each other and he’ll give me a push if I need it, and vice versa.

CitSB: How do you move up in the pecking order?

RB: Results. You have to earn it. You can’t talk your way into it or buy your way into it. It’s what you do on the bike.

CitSB: Are there riders who take unnecessary risks while racing?

RB: Yes, there are guys like that, but you know, I’ve taken plenty of risks. Corey Williams posted a video that showed a guy coming up from the inside, and you know some things you don’t do, but this guy was from a BMX background so maybe it’s okay in BMX, and sometimes you have to take risks. There’s a very fine line between a necessary risk and an unnecessary one, and at the time it’s not always easy to say which is which.

CitSB: What aspects of your cycling have improved with age?

RB: Endurance. And I suppose you may think too much, but on the other hand that can also mean being a little bit wiser and more strategic with your efforts. That helps when there’s a lack of training, which explains how I won four races last year.

CitSB: What aspects have diminished with age?

RB: My snap and my sprint. It’s that first five to ten seconds of acceleration. I can still hit 40-42 mph in the sprint but it takes a tad longer to get there.

CitSB: Who are the riders you’ll have to beat in 2015 to achieve your goals?

RB: Hansen, Keough, Myerson, Holloway — the usual suspects. I can give them a run for their money if I don’t make any mistakes. To beat guys like that, things really have to fall into place.

CitSB: Good luck this year, Rahsaan.

RB: Thanks!

END

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What friends aren’t for

January 25, 2015 § 29 Comments

Imagine someone you hate. Imagine someone you so deeply despise that the mere sight of their face or sound of their voice sets off something so primal within you that, were it not for orange jumpsuits and all that unprotected anal sex, you would gladly push them off a cliff and consider it the perfect start to a day.

Now imagine that this person you detest is a cowardly, sniveling, weak, unathletic simp who folds under duress like outdoor lawn furniture.

Next, imagine that you are able to perform the most astounding acts of athletic amazingness, and then, to complete the picture, imagine that this person who you loathe above all others suddenly falls completely within your power for two hours.

How would you this worthless consumer of oxygen suffer the most hideous torture possible? What would you make him endure to crush, abuse, and humiliate him before finally snuffing out his miserable life?

Okay, I know it’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: You’d take him mountain biking.

Manslaughter had been trying for years to get me on a mountain bike, but I had always refused. At age 51, I know mostly what I like, and I know definitively what I detest. I detest television, I detest religion, I detest war, and most of all I detest mountain biking.

One time I bought a mountain bike. It was in 1988. I lived in Austin, and I rode it along a trail called the Greenbelt. On a scale of MTB difficulty from 1 to 12 million, it rated a 2 or a 3. It was flat, it had some grass, it had some rocks, it had a creek, and it had a hill. My hatred of mountain biking coalesced on my first ride, when I fell off my bicycle and got a scratch.

The next day I was talking with the guys at the shop and they asked how my ride had gone. I told them that I had fallen off and gotten a scratch. I showed them the scratch and they all shrugged. “It’s not a good mountain bike ride if you don’t fall off and bleed,” they said. They were serious.

By 1988 I had already been riding a bicycle for most of my life, having started at age four or five, and the one thing I knew, if I knew anything, was that falling off a bicycle and bleeding was bad. If I’d had two columns in my life, one for “good” and one for “bad,” falling off and bleeding would have been at the top of the “bad” column.

On successive rides I learned that MTB people are all liars. Many of them fell off their bikes, bled, and went to the hospital, at which point even they admitted that shattered femurs were not “good.” I also discovered they were lying when they said “speed is your friend” every time I slowed, put down a foot, or sobbed. Speed is your enemy and it will kill you.

They tried to blame the “bad” on trees, giant stones, and sheer drop-offs. “The speed doesn’t hurt you, it’s the sudden stop,” they said, as if the two weren’t integrally linked, kind of like looking at 2+2=4 and saying it’s not the 2+2 that kills you, it’s the 4.

Twenty-eight years after what I swore was my last MTB ride, there was a knock on my door. It was Manslaughter, who had come by for our morning ride. I was ready to go, and when I opened the door he was standing there with two mountain bikes. The cheap one cost more than all of the cars in my apartment complex, together. He gave me the nice one.

“What is this?” I asked, staring with loathing at the bikes.

“We’re going mountain biking.”

“Okay,” I said. “Let me go wake up Mrs. WM. I didn’t know she rode.”

“No, wanker,” he said. “It’s for you. I’m taking you out on a cupcake trail. I’m going to show you what mountain biking is really like.”

“Why do you hate me?”

“I don’t hate you. You have a bunch of fucked up opinions about something you don’t know anything about. This will be fun, and easy, and safe.”

“Why are you such a liar? And not even a very good one?”

“I’m not lying. Now shut up and put on these shoes. I borrowed them from Tri-Dork.”

I looked at the shoes. “I’m not touching anything that Tri-Dork has sweated in.” The shoes were mauled beyond recognition, and I reflected on the countless mornings that I’d been leaving for a ride only to happen upon Tri-Dork, Manslaughter, Toy Boy, Dutchie, and Natty Yuck emerging from a trail, covered in filth from head to toe, blood caked or freshly oozing out of their legs, their faces plastered with the stupid, satisfied grins of Mongol warriors returning from having just butchered a village of women and children.

“Put on the fuggin’ shoes,” Manslaughter commanded. I did.

“Look, fucker,” I said. “This better be a fire road big enough to land an aircraft carrier on.”

“I think you mean ‘wide as an aircraft carrier to land a plane on.’ Aircraft carriers don’t land on things.”

“I think you better listen to me more carefully because I said what I meant the first time.”

“Don’t be such a sniveling little turd. I love you, I would never hurt you, and I’m going to take you on the most fun and bucolic bike ride of your life.”

“You are a piece of shit liar and you hate me.”

Manslaughter began showing me the fiddle sticks on the handlebars. “This is to lower your seat,” he explained.

“The seat height is fine.”

“No, stupid, it’s for when you’re going downhill, this lowers the seat.”

I had no idea what he was talking about so ignored him. We set off. It was amazing what a soft, spongy ride it was. “This sucks,” I said. “It’s like riding in an old Cadillac with more springs than a broken bed in a bad whorehouse.”

“We’re on asphalt.”

“So?”

“You’ll see.” As we left the road and entered the soft grassy path that led to the trail I immediately felt the bike absorb what should have been a rough surface.

“Wow!” I said. “This sure is smooth!”

“It’s grass. It’s supposed to be smooth.”

At that moment a bike appeared at the trailhead. It was Jon F., covered in dust, his tongue hanging out, and sporting the stupid smile of a mass murderer that all MTB’ers seem to have. “Hey guys!” he chirped. “Have a good ride!” Then he recognized me. “Wanky! I didn’t know you did dirt!”

I was going to say something, but couldn’t. The grass gave way to a narrow trail that plunged off the side of a cliff. I’m not kidding. Manslaughter was already two hundred yards away, and with Dog as my copilot I realized that Gravity was the pilot, and he was insane and trying to kill me.

The bike absorbed everything on the trail except my abject terror and I got to the bottom alive. Manslaughter had been there for some time, say half an hour. “The worst is over!” he said, noting my white face and knuckles. “You can relax from here!” Then he fell off another precipice where I was expected to follow.

That was the precise moment, in fact, that my mountain bike ride became a mountain bike walk. “Fuck you,” I muttered, dismounting. “You aren’t going to kill me today.” Then I learned that walking isn’t much of an alternative in MTB shoes. The grade was so steep that I slipped and fell, rolling off the edge of the trail with the bike on top of me. The chain ring punched into my calf and out spurted the blood. Manslaughter came back to inspect.

“I guess it’s a good ride now?” I asked.

He shook his head. “It doesn’t really count since you didn’t actually fall off,” he advised. “But I won’t tell anyone that you fell down while walking.” He helped me remount at the bottom of a ravine that started at the bottom of a 20% wall.

Once I had hiked to the top, carrying the bike, we got ready to continue. “That really was the worst part,” he said. “It’s all pancake flat from here.” I’m glad I’ve never had one of his pancakes. The road plunged some more, went up some more steep walls, and branched off into more mountain bike hiking singletrack.

The high point of the ride was having Manslaughter scream, “Go faster!” as I madly braked for a turn and then flipped over the bars into a thorn bush. “That’s where Gussy fell the other day!” he crowed, as if falling with Gussy, a guy who I have never seen even wobble on his road bike, was a mark of distinction.

An hour later we reached the fire road, which was wide, yes, but straight up for the next four miles. We got to the top after being run off the road by a horse, a county Jeep, the game warden in a pickup, and several old people who glared at us as their pit bulls snarled and strained at the leash.

“Pretty peaceful up here, huh?” said Manslaughter.

“No. It isn’t peaceful.”

“Well, now you see what an easy pedal with someone who knows what he’s doing is like. What do you think?”

“Fuck you,” I said, stanching the blood with my lycra beanie.

“We’re going again on Thursday,” he said. “The guys would love to have you come along. You didn’t do completely terribly,” he said.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t have to.

END

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On the rivet: Interview with “Hollywood” Daniel Holloway

January 23, 2015 § 25 Comments

I never do interviews for a simple reason: They require you to stick to the facts. Facts are fun, of course, but only as a stepping stone to the world of fake-believe. On the other hand, there are cyclists in our midst who deserve to have their exploits reviewed in a respected cycling publication, but since that’s hard to come by they will sometimes settle for this blog.

Daniel Holloway is the reigning U.S. elite men’s crit champion. In 2014 he won his fourth title, so it’s hard to blame it all on luck or good looks. Easily the most dominant crit racer in the U.S., Holloway’s 2014 season was a tour de force that saw him win 21 times, a massive victory haul by any standard. Tactically savvy and possessing a lethal finishing kick, Holloway is also feared for his ability to ride — and win out of — the break. He’s also a veteran rider of the European six-day circuit, and this week he lines up with some of the best madison racers in the world to contest the 104th Berlin Six-Day. Here’s the interview his mom has been waiting for.

CitSB: When is the race?

Hollywood: Thursday, January 22 through Tuesday, January 27.

CitSB: How’s your form?

Hollywood: Form is good. The race last Saturday at Rosena Ranch was a good test. I’m still not super sharp yet, though, don’t have those super supple track legs. [Note: Holloway attacked on the first lap of a windy, hilly course and rode a three-man break for 19 laps before dropping his companions on the last lap for the win.]

CitSB: What will be a good result for you in Berlin?

Hollywood: Obviously, to break into the higher results. A top six would be great. It’s my partner’s first Euro six-day [Jake Duehring of Tallahassee], so getting in the upper half of the group would be super.

CitSB: Who are your biggest threats?

Hollywood: The 2014 madison world champion David Muntaner, obviously. Bobby Lea and Christian Grasmann; Bobby’s got super form now.

CitSB: What’s the hardest thing about madison racing?

Hollywood: Staying alert and not making mistakes; one mistake affects your partner so you have to minimize them. Every night is a new night and there’s no course profile! A lot depends on what the top teams are doing. It can be the hardest night of racing you’ve ever done if the top teams are slugging it out.

CitSB: What are the key mistakes to avoid?

Hollywood: The big one is missing exchanges [note: missing an exchange occurs when the tired rider is supposed to exchange places with the fresh rider who has been resting at the top of the track, and they fail to exchange, forcing the tired rider to continue racing]. When you miss the exchange one of us has to do a double turn and when they’re going hard you can’t recover and you can quickly lose a lap which hurts your overall standing.

CitSB: What’s the difference between racing madison in Germany and the USA?

Hollywood: Six-day racing in Berlin will bring in ten, fifteen thousand spectators in one night. Trexlertown doesn’t get that in five races. People in Germany are passionate and the level of riders is two steps above anything the US could put together on its best day.

CitSB: Are you known in Berlin?

Hollywood: No. It’s only my second time here.

CitSB: As an unknown American, what are the promoter’s expectations?

Hollywood: Can we race? Be at the front? Be a part of the event?

CitSB: Why did the promoter invite you?

Hollywood: His name’s Dieter Stein, he’s seen I’m capable from my previous six-day races. I’m a little bit of a perosnality, something of a character, maybe? Anything could happen, right?

CitSB: How important is showmanship at a six-day?

Hollywood: It’s a little more difficult to put on a show and get away with it than it used to be. Things are a bit more serious now, it seems.

CitSB: What technical skills are most important for madison racing?

Hollywood: Situational awareness. Your teammate, you, other teams, order of riders on the track and off the track. That awareness is key so you can save energy, not cause a crash, set up an attack at 170 bpm for an hour! There’s a lot of decisionmaking and you’re doing it on the rivet in heavy traffic.

CitSB: What are the difficulties of racing in Germany?

Hollywood: There aren’t many. Racing is our common language and lots of people speak English. They’re very accepting and have taught me and helped me. Dieter knows we’re traveling and works hard to make sure we’re comfortable so we can do well at the event.

CitSB: What are the biggest difference between six-day and crit racing?

Hollywood: The constant hard accelerations and decelerations. Also, it’s extremely technical racing. The velodrome is very tight, only 200 meters and 12-15 feet wide. In a crit by comparison it’s like slow motion, wide open, easy to read, and six-day racing helps you get super sharp so that you feel like you’re almost over-prepared for crit racing when you come back to the States.

CitSB: How many hours per day do you race?

Hollywood: Berlin and Copenhagen six-days are two hours on the track per night at 47-52 kph while you’re on the boards.

CitSB: Does six-day racing have any potential here in the USA?

Hollywood: Yes. USA fans are ready for a good six-day promoter, but it has to be more than just a bike race. You need a diverse crowd, not just bike racers; you’re not only selling bikes, you need good music, good food, and an atmosphere. Put that together and it will sell itself. The Internet would explode with the live feeds.

CitSB: Do you project your data to the crowd while you race?

Hollywood: I’ve had it done in the past. The event provides the connection so that you can connect your powermeter to a huge screen and project it live.

CitSB: How does six-day racing affect your fitness?

Hollywood: It will sharpen me for the road season back home. No matter how good I feel when I get back, after twelve days of racing in thirteen days I need time to recover. Fitness doesn’t go away overnight; I have to listen to myself and follow the plan that I know works.

CitSB: Are you pretty regimented in your training?

Hollywood: Well, I know what works for me, and I don’t really have a daily plan. I listen to my body and if I feel good but it’s a rest day, I’ll use those good sensations to put in quality work. If it’s a five-hour ride on the schedule and I feel tired then I know I won’t be putting in a good effort to produce a beneficial training effect, so on a day like that I will curtail my training accordingly.

CitSB: Do you have problems with making food adaptations while on the road?

Hollywood: Not so much. Even when I’m at home I don’t cook from scratch every day, and when I travel stateside I have to be ready to occasionally eat Taco Bell and Subway and not let that bring me down. The races here provide really good food before and after racing and we have a really solid hotel breakfast.

CitSB: Do you do any road riding while you’re in Europe?

Hollywood: No, it’s too cold. There’ll be snow on the ground and the extra equipment is a huge hassle. We have access to the velodrome and get in a good 45-minute to one-hour ride every day on the track.

CitSB: Anything else?

Hollywood: Wanky is my hero.

CitSB: I’m sorry to hear that.

[Editor’s note: Update on Daniel’s first night of racing — “Night 1 here at the Berlin Six was a solid start. Jake and I made minimal mistakes and put our faces in the wind. The night started off with a series of five sprints straight into a team elimination. We were the eighth team out, which put us in the middle of the field while the top teams were fighting it out. The first chase of 30 minutes was solid. We finished two laps down tied for tenth with four other teams, five points from seventh place. In the last chase, 45 minutes of fun and circles, we wanted to move up a couple of spots. We took our first lap early with two other teams, our second lap solo (that was a long one), and a third one with a couple of teams. Again finishing in the middle of the group, we had a solid start considering that this was only the fifth time my partner and I had raced together, including the Four Days of Burnaby.”]

END

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Just say “No.” And if you have to, “Hell, no.”

January 22, 2015 § 24 Comments

I go to bike races because they are weird. Daily life for most people isn’t very weird, unless of course you’re The Sherri Foxworthy. For some reason weird follows her around like bad tattoos at a meth convention, but for everyone else life is generally ordinary.

You get up, have some coffee, watch something stupid on TV, check Facebag, brush your teeth unless you’re from Texas, drive to work, come home, watch some more TV-Facebag, eat dinner, go to bed. Then on weekends from August to February you watch the football game thingy they play with the bats and saucers.

Bike races, though, are like a grand buffet of weird. This past Sunday, after getting stomped in a three-man breakaway by Frank Schroeder and Steve Gregarios, I was standing around marveling at being on the podium twice in two days. Then up came my buddy and said, “Hey, could you help out a fellow racer?”

Of course the answer to that is always “No,” or “Fuck, no.” It’s a good answer for life in general, and it’s why I go out of my way to be selfish, stingy, and unwilling to lend a hand unless it’s someone else’s. Being nice is its own kind of hell, and once people find out that you’re a soft touch you might as well give them your credit card, checkbook, key to the house and exact hours that your wife is home in bed alone.

The way I keep from ever being asked to help is by scowling. I’ve learned that if you scowl all the time people will leave you alone, especially when they need money. Problem is that a few people know the scowl is a ruse, and I’m not very good at turning down requests once they’re actually asked.

So when my pal asked if I could help a fellow racer, I wanted to say, “Fuck, no, I hate bike racers,” but instead I said, “What’s up?” hoping that in a few seconds I’d gather the confidence to utter the “Fuck, no” I really wanted to say.

“Pooky McGillicuddy fell in Turn 4.”

“What happened?”

“He was sprunting for 45th place in the Cat 5 race with his head down and he fell off his bicycle.”

“Is he hurt?” I tried to look like I cared.

“Yeah, the meatwagon has already taken him off.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, marveling that everyone in the Cat 5 race hadn’t been carted away.

“Anyway, he came here alone and he’s not on a team and we’re trying to find someone who can drive his truck and bike back to his house for him and since you rode your bike to the race maybe you could … ”

“Drive his car home for him?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure, I’d be glad to,” I said, feeling something very opposite to glad and very close to miserable. “Where does he live?”

“Pedro. It’s not too far from your place.”

“Okay.”

My buddy handed me the keys and a scrap of paper with Pooky’s address and phone number. “You can just park it outside his house and give him a call when you get there to let him know you’ve dropped it off.”

“No prob,” I said, thinking “Major prob because I don’t have my phone.”

His truck had a rack in the bed. Someone had mounted his bike on the rack and locked it with a very flimsy locking thingy. I took off my new rad FastForward full carbon front wheel which is made of full carbon and leaned it against the truck. Then I put my bike in the rack and hopped in.

I hate driving other people’s cars. It is like fucking someone else’s wife. The seat feels different, the knobs are different, it moves different, it sounds different when it’s running hot, it even feels different when you put your key in the hole and have to jiggle it.

I backed up and ran over my brand new FastForward full carbon front wheel which is made of full carbon and has incredible lateral stiffness except not as much as a 2,000-pound truck. Now I know that in addition to making a really cool “whoosh, whoosh” sound when they are flying downhill, they also make a really horrible “crunch, crunch” sound when you run over them with a truck. I will, however, return it with a request for a full warranty.

Inside Pooky’s truck were the accoutrements of someone who lived in a high crime area; locks and bolts and security thingies everywhere. As I started driving I knew I had made a mistake. I didn’t know if the car was insured but was afraid to open the glove box because it was probably filled with heroin and when I got pulled over I’d get busted for that, too. Then I started worrying about dropping off the car with its 10k of bike in the back, secured with a padlock you could bust off with a strong bean fart.

If I left the rig on the street in Pedro it would be stripped cleaner than a pole dancer’s ass at ten minutes before closing, and then Pooky would file a police report and name me as the suspect. Great. So now I was going to have to sit outside his house until he got back from the hospital around midnight.

As I cruised through his neighborhood, a miracle happened. He lived in a gated compound with security guards who wouldn’t even let me in.

“Am I glad to see you,” I said, realizing that it wasn’t mutual. “This is gonna sound weird but this isn’t my truck or bike, well one of ‘em is, and I need to drop this off but I’ll leave it here so you guys can watch it.”

They looked at me suspiciously. “We recognize the truck. Where’s Mr. McGillicuddy?”

“Hospital. Long story.” I flipped them the keys and started to take out my bike. Then I realized that I didn’t have a front wheel, but no problem. I could borrow Pooky’s. He wouldn’t be riding for a while anyway, and he had a pretty fancy wheelset with new tires to boot.

I scribbled a note and left it on the dash: “Yo, Pooky, I took your wheel but will return it. Wanky.”

I pedaled home, a mere hour away. It was, as they say, win-win. And when you count Saturday’s race, it was win-win-win.

END

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You can’t say that, No. 5

January 21, 2015 § 14 Comments

So does the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“At the end of the day I know what I did and didn’t do.” Sad-faced Stuart O’Grady, explaining why he’s not bothered by accusations that he doped throughout his career rather than the “just a few times” to which he confessed. Cycling News, January 18, 2015.

He thought that the only cheating douchebag in the pro peloton was, you know, him.

“I had no idea. I didn’t want to think that the men I was racing against were cheating.” Disappointed with broken childhood dreams doper Stuart O’Grady explaining that throughout the “dark era of cycling” he thought that he was the only rider who had ever used drugs. Cycling News, February 26, 2014.

Except that an isosceles triangle has two equal sides. But that’s it.

“I didn’t know anything at all.” Doped up doper Stuart O’Grady’s former team boss Roger Legeay, who managed him for eight years, who was himself busted for doping in 1974, and who oversaw Jonathan Vaughters at Credit Agricole — the ambassador for clean cycling who admitted to systematically doping while on the team. Cycling News, July 26, 2013.

END

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A pox on Knox

January 20, 2015 § 41 Comments

I had been living on the peninsula for a month. The weather was spotless, polished, and shiny like Prez’s cherry ’62 Camaro that he refuses to drive except for that time he almost ran over a skateboarder and three pumps at the Chevron over by the old CBR course when he was showing off with a big ol’ peel out that almost turned into felony manslaughter.

I will never forget that beautiful day, sailing along PV Drive, headed out to the Switchbacks, 65 degrees in February, and not a care in the world, not even that bright red stoplight at Hawthorne, which was nowhere near changing to green at the moment that I whizzed through it. “Heck,” I thought, “there aren’t any cars coming.”

Officer Knox proved me wrong. There was a car coming, and it was his. Flashers going full twirl, he pulled me over, made me sit down on the curb, and wrote me a $350 ticket for my blatant moving violation. It was so unjust, being forced to obey the law and stuff, but one look at Knox and I knew that I’d better shut up, and when I got through shutting up I should probably shut up some more.

He stank of cop.

As the years went by, I learned that LA Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Knox was the biggest delta bravo on the peninsula. In addition to writing tickets to bicycle scofflaws, he wrote tickets to law-abiding cyclists as well. He wrote tickets everywhere, to everyone, all the time. One time he even stuffed and cuffed Roadchamp for having had the temerity to complain while being written up for a non-violation. He wasn’t just a mean bastard, he was a sadistic bully.

So when I read in our local Daily Breeze — a cycling-hating rag that is Motordom’s answer to Fox News — that Knox in Socks was retiring from his duties as hall monitor on the Peninsula, I was euphoric. Of course I’ve forgiven Knox for ticketing me after I ran that red light, but the reason the guy was such a plague is because he was either too stupid to understand the vehicle code as it relates to cyclists (possible), or was an asshole who intentionally harassed cyclists for the fun of it (highly likely).

As recently as November he was still citing cyclists for violating CVC 21202(a) on the Switchbacks because they were not riding as far to the right as practicable even though the law allows them to move over into the lane in order to avoid road debris, hazards, or the dangers of a substandard lane width. For any cyclist who ever got wrongly cited by this boneheaded cretin, his self-congratulatory line in the Daily Sleaze article about being “passionate about traffic safety because I don’t like going to crashes and seeing people that are injured or killed” is complete horseshit.

How do I know?

Because I know what an asshole looks like. Assholes are generally people who justify fucking with other people because they believe in “public safety” or “protecting people from themselves.” Good law enforcement doesn’t involve indiscriminate ticketing, and Knox’s career of writing an average of 14 tickets a day for 31 years proves what cyclists on the Hill knew: If this knuckledragger hadn’t written his quota and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you were getting a ticket. What other kind of person than an asshole would handcuff an angry, tiny little cyclist who was protesting a bogus ticket?

Knox’s incompetence and venal harassment of cyclists wasn’t limited to tickets, though. His hatred of bicycles made itself known in a much more offensive and harmful way: The Knox traffic investigation. This clown was known to twist the facts when investigating a car-bike collision to pin the tail on the cyclist whenever possible. I recall one case where a cyclist had been right-hooked on Hawthorne and Deppity Doofus still managed to find the rider at fault.

This type of bungling and prejudicial investigation made it much harder, time consuming, and costly for injured cyclists to obtain compensation, and reinforced what appeared to be Knox’s own personal world view, that might makes right.

Of course Knox always had plenty of stories with him playing the hero, and I got to see him toot his horn at an RPV traffic committee meeting once. He loved to talk about how he’d chased down someone “doing 120 in a 40,” and in truth he probably did ticket thousands of speeders who deserved it.

But like every other little mini-dictator, he lacked discretion, he misapplied the law, and he justified his crazy zeal for ticketing with indiscriminate enforcement of the law. How badly was he hated? Other police officers in Hermosa have confided to me that the guy was regarded by his peers as a 14-carat asshole. “He’s the only cop out there,” one guy said, “who enjoys ticketing other cops.”

Knox’s boss, Captain Blaine Bolin, was of course extremely proud of his henchman’s work, and called the general hatred and fear people had of this deputy “The Knox Effect.” Of course it’s true that as a result of bad police work and illegal ticketing people were afraid of him, and they probably did drive more carefully. But this shows the incompetent mentality at the top, which thinks that the ends justify the means. With Captain Bolin’s logic, we could get even better results by simply shooting people on the spot. And there’s a reason that Bolin and Knox prefer the “ticket everyone” approach: It’s easy.

What’s hard is to learn the law and apply it properly. What’s hard is to impartially deal with people you may not like. What’s hard is to realize that even though you carry a gun you’re still a public servant, and you work for us. What’s hard is to be a peace officer instead of a chest-thumping bully.

Of course there are excellent deputies out there, and the recent absence of Knox has been noticed. Police work is hard work, but not nearly as hard as mowing lawns, mining coal, or working in a meat packing plant. Plus, if you’re a cop it’s because you signed up for it, so do us all a favor and know the laws you’re paid to fairly apply.

So while RPV and the Lomita substation mourns the loss of a guy who gave other cops a bad name, of an unpleasant jerk who equated harassment with police work, of a pathetic, lonely, mean sonofabitch who instilled fear and loathing instead of respect and appreciation, I can say only this: Good fucking riddance, and I hope that in your retirement you take up bicycling. Because there are a whole lot of people who would love to take you for a little pedal around the Hill.

END

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When hell froze over

January 19, 2015 § 93 Comments

I was struggling with a terrible addiction that almost destroyed my life and that had reduced me to an inhuman, contemptible, despicable pile of dung. With the encouragement of friends, caring family, and fellow addicts who have successfully kicked the habit, last November I was able to sell my knobby-tire bike and forever abandon the horrid lifestyle of a cyclocross addict.

At the same time, I also gave up the much less destructive habit of drinking, and embarked on a lifetime commitment to road bikes and the consumption of craft water.

Last night I went to a thank-you party for national champion Daniel Holloway, held at the South Bay dive bar of Naja’s. As Mrs. WM and I stood at the counter waiting to order our cheeseburgers, my eyes gazed lovingly at the giant menu and fastened on Russian River Blind Pig, my all time favorite beer. “I think I’ll have one of those!” I told myself. “But not until after I’ve had my cheeseburger.”

The party got going, people started getting hammered, and I found myself in the unusual position of being the guy with the cup of water. A very pretty woman was saying, “So my friend Bitsy claims she had a nine-minute orgasm. Do you think that’s possible?”

I couldn’t understand why she was asking the guys, and neither could they. “Well,” I said, “certainly not with her husband.”

“Maybe it wasn’t really an orgasm,” offered Bubba.

“What was it, then?” asked the pretty woman.

“Studies show that the female orgasm doesn’t really exist,” said Bubba. “It’s a made up event.”

Everyone was now so drunk that the opinions really began to fly. I looked at my cup of craft water when the pro-orgasmers raised the issue of squirters as irrefutable evidence. “Time to go get that pint of Blind Pig,” I said to myself. “Just as soon as I finish this water.”

Steady on the craft water!

Steady on the craft water!

Holloway looked over at me. “Isn’t it your bedtime, cowboy? You have a race tomorrow.”

It was already ten o’clock, and he was right. We had ridden together earlier in the day and he had laid out a path to victory for me, one that didn’t include Blind Pig or squirters. “Look, dude,” he said. “You gotta show up planning to win.”

“But I never win,” I protested.

“Never?”

“Okay, I haven’t won in a while.”

“How long?”

I thought for a minute. “1985. Tour de Georgetown, just north of Austin. I was a Cat 2 then.”

“Hmmm,” he said. “Two years before I was born. Okay, so it has been a while. Still, you won. How did you do it?”

“It was a stage race. I got 7th in the time trial and put a bunch of time on everyone in a break in the road race, where I moved into third overall. Then the last day I attacked and lapped the field in the crit and the two guys ahead of me on GC were caught out.”

“Think back to how awesome that felt. Can you visualize it?”

“What I can visualize is my burned balls. I didn’t even know I had won. I was sitting in the back of Matt McSuccess’s Suburban putting on my underwear after the race and he came running up, ‘Dude, you won!’ I dropped my undies and my nuts dropped down onto the bumper, which had been sitting out in the 107-degree sun all day. It wasn’t exciting at all, just searing pain followed by scalded sack. I didn’t really get excited until I got home, put some aloe on my nuts, and opened my prize winnings — a brand new water bottle and package of socks.”

Holloway shook his head. “Look. You gotta show up planning to win, and you gotta have a plan to win. So here’s what you do.”

“Yeah?”

“First, don’t attack from the gun. That is stupid. Only stupid people do that. Are you stupid?”

“Well, actually, yes.”

“No. You’re not stupid. You’re stubborn. There’s a difference.”

“What is it?”

He ignored me. “Next: after you don’t attack from the gun, implement Phase II.”

“What’s Phase II?”

“It’s where you don’t attack some more. A lot more.”

“So, the game plan is to first not attack and then not attack again?”

“Right.”

“How hard should I not attack?”

“With everything you don’t have. Give it everything except your all.”

“I can do that.”

“Good. Then, Phase III.”

“I attack?”

“Almost.”

“I don’t attack?”

“Right.”

“Same intensity?”

“Same.”

“Check. Then what?”

“You wait until the end of the fourth lap. That’s the halfway mark.”

“And I attack?”

“No. The laps begin on a climb, where there’s a gnarly headwind. You can’t get away there.”

“So I don’t attack again?”

“Right.”

“This is pretty boring.”

“Just wait. You hit the turnaround, which is a downhill tailwind. And you … ”

“Sit in because there’s no way I can get away from the field on a fast downhill?”

“No. You attack. The field will do two things. First, they will sit up because they’re tired from the hill and the headwind. Second, they will see it’s you and say, ‘That wanker couldn’t break away from a crippled goat.’ They will let you go.”

“Then I ride as hard as I can to victory?”

“No. You establish a gap, back off, and see if anyone is stupid enough to bridge. If they are you work with them. If no one bridges you drift back because you are too weak to hold off a herd of stampeding bison by yourself.”

“Then what?”

“There is no ‘then what.’ If you even accomplish Phase I it will be the greatest achievement of your career since 1985.”

“It doesn’t sound like a plan to win. More like a plan to get 34th.”

“Be patient, grasshopper,” he said with a smile.

Feels like Money

G$ wheeled up to the curb the next morning at 7:30 sharp, tossed my bike on the back of the Prius, and off we sped. An hour and a half later we were at the Rosena Ranch race course. “I think it’s windy,” Money said. The flags were whipping so violently at the subdivision’s sales office that the lawn crew had started taking them down. One guy’s lawmower blew over.

I cracked my window and a gust of wind blasted in so hard that it ripped my hat off my head. “Dude,” I said, “the wind blew off my hat inside the fuggin’ car. I’m doomed.”

“Now look,” said Money, who has won over 4,989.23 races in his career, most of them solo into the teeth of 100-mph winds or greater. “That’s loser talk. You’re here today to win. And I’m gonna help you.”

“Money,” I said, “that’s nice of you to say, but there’s no way I can win here today. It’s not possible.”

He got angry. “It is too possible.”

“Fine,” I said. “Give me three situations in which I could win today.”

He thought for a minute, which stretched into a half hour of silence. Then his face brightened. “Okay,” he said, “I’ve got it.”

“Shoot.”

“First scenario: there’s a terrorist attack and everyone is killed except you and the official responsible for certifying the results.”

“Okay. Next?”

“Second scenario: African sleeping sickness. Everyone gets trypanosomiasis and they all become too frail to finish and you out-sprint them.”

“Less likely, but okay, it’s possible, even though I’m not sure where the tsetse flies would come from. Last scenario?”

“Third scenario: aliens. Aliens come down from outer space and declare you the winner. Or zombies. Who’s gonna argue with alien zombies?”

“Not me.”

“Fuggin’-A. So, let’s do this!”

The Rocky theme song began playing in the background as we pinned on our numbers and ran to pick up our bikes, which had been blown a few hundred yards by the gale force wind out into a pile of ash, creosote bush, sand, and the uranium mill tailings which make up the more scenic aspects of Riverside County.

You gotta be warm not to be cold

“Okay,” said Money, who knows a lot about winning races. “We gotta warm up.”

“We do? Won’t it make us tired?”

“Nah. I mean, yeah, but you need to have a little effort pre-race to open up your legs.”

We turned onto Lytle Canyon Road directly into the howling headwind. I decelerated to 4 mph as the wind pushed us off the road, off the shoulder, and into a sand bog. We pedaled for another twenty minutes at threshold, and managed to get a hundred yards up the road. “Okay,” said Money, “see that big thing about 200 yards off that looks like a giant horse carcass?”

“Yeah,” I gasped as the wind tore the words out of my mouth.

“We’re gonna do a hard surge and let up there. Don’t go all out.”

I had already gone all out, and when Money “surged” it felt like having my teeth pulled through hyperspace while the rest of me stayed home. We got to the giant lump, which was in fact a large horse carcass, and it stank.

Money caught his breath and I caught mine plus about a hundred others. “Okay, see that shack that looks like a meth lab? This time we’ll surge until halfway there and then sprint to that other lump.”

“The one that looks like a pile of radioactive waste?”

“Yep.” We finished the effort. “Now your legs should be good and opened up,” he said. “Let’s go race.”

Something was opened up, but it felt like my intestines. This wasn’t going to end well.

Guppy in a shark tank

At the line I looked around at the killers, murderers, felons, thugs, and merciless assassins who constituted the 45+ race. There was Tommy Robles, 46 years old and not even at male menopause, a guy who can sprunt, ride a break, climb, leap tall buildings in a single bound, and crack prison rockpiles with his teeth. He was the captain of Team Amgen, and his two loyal henchmen, Gentleman John and Dogg were salivating at the start. Next to them was Shreddumup Schroeder, the man who made scrap iron out of opponents and then sold their remains at a healthy profit.

Team Escaped Felons from Las Vegas had brought a full squad. I didn’t know any of the riders but it didn’t matter. They were covered with badly healed knife wounds and ugly tattoos made out of chickenwire and Sharpie ink.

My own teammates, who I was planning to work for by making sure the back of the peloton was well protected, sat manfully at the line: King Harold of the monstrous flatback, and Jumpin’ Jon Nist, who had the most neatly trimmed goatee in the bunch. The referee read us our last rites and we were off.

Money had not gotten Holloway’s “do not attack memo” and he leaped away with a vicious surge, following Marvin Gunwales who was even ahead of him.

The course started uphill into a fierce 58-mph headwind, with a small pillbox at the top strafing the bunch with heavy .50-mm machine-gun fire and mortars. “Over the top!” roared Money as the hapless new recruits followed him to the summit, only to be mowed down by an oxygen-depleting device that weirdly sucked away all their breath.

We went through the u-turn and whipped down the high-speed crosswind descent that forced everyone against the edge of the road, where the enemy had spiked the gutter with rocks, thorns, gravel, IED’s, IUD’s, and old condoms that got stuck in your spokes and make that flapping sound like baseball cards. At the bottom the road kicked up again, this time into an even more bitter crosswind. Money attacked and broke the field as howitzers lobbed 8-inch shells into our midst.

The rider next to me suffered a direct it and his head was torn from his neck. Behind me a luckless rider caught a mortar in his gut and was smeared across the road. We hit the other course turnaround and found ourselves in another cross-tailwind downhill. Money attacked again, along with Tommy and one of the giant baby lummoxes from Las Vegas. The field chased like mad on the uphill. Medics were dragging the dead and wounded off the battlefield in heaps, and at the end of the first lap the lead group was reduced to about twenty riders.

Money looked around and fished into his jersey. He had already used the iron maiden, the thumbscrews, the rack, the Chinese water torture plank, and the eyelid peelers. Then he filched out the NPR penis pounder, a well-worn and time-honored tool used to castrate and skin baby seals. With another series of expert whacks, penises throughout the peloton shriveled and were stomped to a gruesome mush.

The entire time I put in non-attack after non-attack. It was un-exhausting beyond belief. At the first turnaround on Lap 5, one of the giant baby lummoxes from Las Vegas attacked on the downhill, exactly where Holloway had told me to go. I bridged up to him, barely.

His name was Terry, and he was the most incredible specimen of Baby Lummox I had ever seen. Massively chiseled legs, the best chickenwire tattoo ever, and the strength of a thousand angry ovulating hippos. It was like sitting behind Jim Kjar, only wider, and 30-mph faster.

Baby Lummox towed me around as I remembered Holloway’s command: “Never be the strongest guy in the break. Be the second strongest, but never the strongest.” As Baby Lummox continued to hammer and pound, it became clear that out of the two of us I was clearly going to be the third strongest one in the break. I peeked out and took a couple of weak pulls that only slowed us down.

At each turnaround I could see the wankoton getting closer, and this was going to have the same ending as all my other hopeless breakaways: Bitter defeat, a crushed dream, and a 40-minute explanation with a chart, pictures, and Facebag posts to explain to Mrs. WM why I’d spent $60 to go get annihilated.

Then three miracles happened.

Miracle One: the sympathy Oscar

At each turnaround it became obvious that despite the huge pulls of Baby Lummox and my constant refining of Coach Holloway’s advice so that I had become the fourth, fifth, and finally sixth-strongest man in the two-man break, the peloton was still gaining.

I could see King Harold and Jumpin’ Jon clogging the chase like phlegm in the movement of a fine Swiss watch, but there was too much horsepower for them to singlehandedly stop the pursuers. The key to the race was Money, and each time he came to the front, instead of pulling out the dick stomper and bridging to our group, he swung over. Robles was not happy. “Dude!” he said. “Let’s go! You don’t have any teammates off the front!”

Money turned and grinned. “No, I don’t,” he said. “But that scraggly bearded, hairy legged, shoulder weaving wanker up there is my boy. And the Money Train don’t stop at his station.”

Robles then turned to his two mighty henchmen, Gentleman John and Dogg. “Get your furry asses up here!” he roared. “That creaky old turd is on his last legs! He’s only ten seconds up! Let’s go, men!”

Gentleman John, who has beaten me in the last forty races we’ve done together, drew circles in the sand with his big toe. “Uh, I can’t, Captain Robles,” he said.

“Why the fuck not?” roared the chief.

“I, uh, have a toothache.”

“Dogg!” shouted the commander. “Let’s go!”

Dogg, who still had tons of ammo left in his clip, shook his head. “Can’t, boss. My, uh, front anterior cruciate anhydrous dimers are broken.”

Shreddumup Schroeder, who has brought back more breaks by himself more times than Prez has fallen off his bicycle, also shook his head. “It’s Wanky,” he said. “I ain’t chasin’.”

In short, the sentimental Oscar favorite, though easily reeled back in by the field, was given a pass to fight it out to the end with Baby Lummox. And Baby Lummox was a cage fighter with brace of pistols, a blackjack, and legs of steel.

Miracle Two: the confused Baby Lummox

As soon as I had hitched onto Baby Lummox’s comfy wheel, he looked back. “Man, am I glad to see one of you SPY guys. You’re Phil Tinstman, right?”

“Uh, right,” I said.

He looked again. “You’re a friggin’ legend in Nevada. But somehow I thought you had more tattoos?”

“Oh, yeah, they’re, uh, mostly on my scrotum.”

Baby Lummox shrugged. “Right on. So anyway, what’s the game plan? I’ve never been in a winning break before.”

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had not only escaped at the right time on the right course, but my breakaway partner was the only person in the field who was dumber than me. “Well, last year when I won Tulsa Tough and the district road race and about forty other races, the winning strategy was simple.”

“Yeah?” said Baby Lummox.

“Yeah. The winning strategy for the other guy, I mean.”

“Oh. What is it?”

“See, you gotta hammer really hard. Then at the end I will give you a little tow up the last hill and then help you get to the finish.”

“Cool, dude. But don’t you want to win?”

“Nah,” I said. “You can have this one. I win all the time anyway.”

As we crossed the line with one lap to go I stood on the pedals and helped Baby Lummox as hard as I could. I helped him so hard I thought my head was going to explode. Pretty soon his shadow was gone, and my helping was complete. I flipped the turnaround and started to hammer. “If Baby Lummox catches me now he’s gonna die a thousand deaths.”

Then I settled into the hurt locker. However, the Wanky Hurt Locker isn’t quite as tiny and uncomfortable as your typical hurt locker. Mine had a big sofa, a plasma TV, a box of cigars, and room service. It was more like a mildly uncomfortable lounge than a pain cave.

No human has ever gone so fast on a bike, and I laughed to myself thinking about how Baby Lummox had been put to the sword. He couldn’t even catch me on a motorcycle, that’s how fast I went.

Then, just as the road kicked up, I saw the fatal shadow again on my wheel. Baby Lummox had battled back.

“Now what do I do?” I wondered. Coach Holloway had said to have a plan to win, but hadn’t bothered to give me one. Then I thought about Money’s three scenarios. I glanced around, wildly hoping to see a group of terrorists, or a swarm of tsetse flies, or some alien zombies. No luck.

Then I asked myself, “What would Money do?” With each passing second Baby Lummox was recovering from his hard chase. Then it hit me! I didn’t have to think of what Money “would” do, all I had to do was remember what he had already done! The three times on training rides that I had clawed my way back to his wheel, what had he done?

He’d stood on the pedals and dingleberried me.

So I stood on the pedals. Baby Lummox swayed. He heaved. He groaned. And then, as the cold bite of the harpoon’s steel tip sank pitilessly through his heart, gore spewing forth upon the seas, Baby Lummox rolled over, shuddered, and died. I hit the final turnaround and sped to victory.

Wanky victory slump

Wanky victory slump

Miracle Three: the tire that wouldn’t flat

A crushing swarm of two people ran up to congratulate me, but one of them wasn’t Baby Lummox. Instead, he rolled up with a funny look. “Hey, you’re not Phil Tinstman, are you?”

“Uh, well, you see … no.”

“You’re that blogger dude aren’t you?”

“Uh, well, I mean, uh … yes.”

“So I just got beat by the worst bicycle racer in the history of the sport? You’re a lying, conniving, dishonest sack of shit.”

“Aw, thanks,” I said, unaccustomed to such praise.

Then another guy came up. “Hey, are you Wanky?”

“Um, yes.”

He stuck out his hand. “I just want to shake your hand. It was amazing to watch you out there, buddy. You’re proof that people can win a masters race in SoCal without doping.”

I drew back, appalled. “You don’t even know me, man. How do you know I’m not doping? Dude, do you have any idea how many years I’ve worked hard at this sport to finally be in a position where people can call me a doper? And you’re going to ruin it just like that? Get away from me. Next thing you’ll be asking me to wear a ‘Dopers Suck’ jersey or some bullshit like that.”

At that moment I looked down and saw my front tire was flat. It had waited until three minutes after the race to expire, giving me a perfect excuse to ride away before Baby Lummox and my former fan made creamed hash out of my face.

Proper Wanky pose with arms demurely at one's side.

Proper Wanky pose with arms demurely at one’s side.

Lessons learned

Coach Holloway was waiting for me at his truck. He didn’t say anything besides, “Where’s my cut of the payday?” I counted out his fourteen dollars and forked it over. “So,” he said, “what did you learn about winning?”

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Quit cyclocross.
  2. Sell your ‘cross bike.
  3. Drink craft water instead of craft beer.
  4. Always get in a breakaway with Baby Lummox.
  5. Get coached by the 4-time elite men’s national champion.
  6. Follow his advice.
  7. Have all your teammates sacrifice for you.
  8. Have all your non-teammates sacrifice for you.
  9. Tell people you’re Phil Tinstman.
  10. Stab your opponent in the back when he least expects it.

So there you have it, folks. Since I only have to win once every 30 years, I’ll see you again in 2045.

END

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