Bye-bye, biker

September 2, 2015 § 41 Comments

When my eldest son Hans went off to college a few years ago I wasn’t sad. I was happy. He was embarking on adulthood and you could tell from the way he dashed up the escalator at the airport to board the plane that he couldn’t get to college a minute too soon.

We didn’t go out there with him and move him in or check to make sure he knew how to do his laundry, eat his dinner, wipe his ass, or put on condoms. We just waved goodbye and watched him go. My wife was sad but I wasn’t. I knew what kind of great time he was going to have, and how much better, infinitely better, it was going to be than it would be staying.

And it was.

I visited him in Philly twice, once during his freshman year and again when he graduated. We weren’t exactly helicopter parents. More like deep space probes.

When he returned to California after three years with an infinitely valuable degree in philosophy, he moved back home, got a job tutoring high school kids, and began saving money to retire his share of the college debt. He worked eight hours a day, often six days a week. He paid $300 a month in rent and slept on the living room floor on an old futon.

He never complained, but he never waxed exactly eloquent about sleeping on the floor and having one corner of the couch as “his” hang out space. He commuted to work on his brother’s too-small bike and learned just how fucking deadly it is trying to “share the road” when the other sharers want you dead.

He got harassed by the PV cops for being a shade too tan and looking poor with an old backpack pedaling that too-small bike, he rode in the rain and he rode in the heat. Every month he got stronger going up Hawthorne, and many was the night he came home lathered in sweat but grinning.

All the while he was plotting his escape, of course, a teaching stint through the Fulbright Commission at a public high school in Austria. He got waitlisted for the program, causing me to wonder this: How can a kid named “Hans” with great grades from a great school who studied a semester in Berlin NOT get the first job on offer in a country where they speak German? Answer: That’s how the world is.

When the call came he was ready, but the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Postal Service were not. His paperwork only barely arriving in time thanks to the ineptitude of bureaucrats who truly, deeply, and profoundly do not care, he packed up his thing, singular, and I drove him to the airport.

In a year’s time we had talked, walked, laughed, listened, hugged, disagreed, drunk our morning coffee together, eaten home cooked meals of varying quality, hustled down to Baskin-Robbins for late night ice cream, and even had a couple of slugfests on the bike. I had so much I was going to tell him on the way to the airport, but suddenly we were there and it was all unsaid.

An angry limo driver crowded us as a scowling cop motioned him to get his bags and me to move the hell on. Hans reached over and gave me a hug. “Love you, Dad,” he said, and hustled away from the car, across the island, and towards the terminal’s doors.

The strapping, loping, graceful, beautiful man glanced back over his shoulder and smiled. I warmed from the inside out in a giant pulsating wave, then had to bite my lip hard to fight back the tears, which, like all good rivers, flowed anyway.

The guns of August, the pea-shooters of September

September 1, 2015 § 16 Comments


Photo Credit: Danny Munson, copyright 2015.

Although I generally despise the “off season” let me say that I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, which is the first day of September, which in turn marks the first day of my off season.

I need a break. For the first time in more than 30 years I didn’t flame out in early April, to which I can only credit having finally learned that you can’t keep training hard once race season starts, and to this little pearl of wisdom: The older you get, the less you recover.

It was an exciting year of racing even though I only fell off my bicycle once, at the BWR going around a turn with my head down into a cactus. A smattering of top-ten placings hint at even more mediocrity to come, which is encouraging. Best of all, I have no idea how many miles I rode this year, but it was at least 500, maybe even more.

In addition to the euphoria of not having to lace up my cycling jockstrap for a while, there was the sad news about my sobriety. “What sad news?” you ask. “The sobriety,” I answer. “That’s the sad news.”

But every sad occurrence is balanced by something not totally awful, and in this case for the first time in four years I won’t be entering September with the awful, heavy, painful dread of cyclocross hanging around my balls. I sold my ‘cross bike and won’t be buying it back. Thank you Major Bob for cutting the seat post so low that I couldn’t ride it even if I wanted to.

Will I miss not racing for a few months? Probably. What joy compares with having “Payday” Johnny Walsh, alleged teammate, chase me down in a breakaway with two laps to go so that he can score a $20 prime? Johnny, next time just come up to me after the race. I will give you the twenty dollars and a spare inner tube.

What thrill compares with bridging to the monsters of the crit peloton, Pat Bos, Derek Brauch, and Thurlow Rogers, with two laps to go in the 40+ race, only to get mown down and discarded by the hungry peloton and finishing so far back that they didn’t even put me on the results sheet?

What joy compares with getting dropped at Boulevard, dropped at Punchbowl, dropped at Lake Castaic, and dropped at Bakersfield? I know! It’s the joy of having my saddle fall off with one lap to go at the Poor College Kids RR and the super, super, super joy of having pro photographers like Danny Munson and Phil Beckman take exciting photos of me whizzing around a corner looking fast when actually I’m in 78th place with one lap to go.

And of course 2015 is ending with a sort of sputter, as all years in profamateur cycling end. The great SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b GQ6 team is merging with Monster Media to form … what? SPY Monster? Media SPY? Team Blurge? And then the best of all reasons to take a break in September is so that I can properly evaluate the high dollar offers pouring in from masters teams around the state who want my services. Perhaps I’ll hire an agent.



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It takes a village (idiot)

August 29, 2015 § 10 Comments


The South Bay Cycling Awards are fast approaching, and a number of questions are begging to be answered.

Question: Where do I vote?

Who said anything about voting?

Question: What are the rules for selection of finalists?

All questions regarding all procedures can be found by clicking on this link, which takes you to the South Bay Cycling Awards Rule Book.

Question: There were, like, a zillion nominees. Are they all contenders for a Wanky in their category?

No. Three finalists have been selected from each category.

Question: How will we find out who the finalists are?

Check your mailbox every three hours. Notifications were mailed out today.

Question: I am pretty sure I am a finalist and am going to win but I have my second cousin’s wedding in Lancaster that’s on the same day as the awards. I’ll still get my Wanky, right?


Question: By riding 30,000 feet up Scheuren Rd. today in 17:45:56 hours, is Head Down James going to get some special kind of award?

That depends on what you mean by “award.”

Question: I heard that there is a secret committee comprised of Brauch, Martin, and Spivey. What kind of bullshit is that?

Complete, fresh, stinking, steaming bullshit. With flies on top.

Question: I crashed all year plus I’m the best male racer and the most fun to ride with and I’m a great advocate. There’s not a limit to how many Wankys I can win, is there?

One Wanky per wanker.

Question: That’s total bullshit. Where is that in the rules?

In the Rule Book.

Question: I told all my friends and club members and FB friends and Twitterati to email you votes for me and my club and tell you cool shit about me so I can win, plus I’ve been giving you hints and making suggestions to you on rides and on Facebag. Does that help or hurt my chances?

A billion times zero is still zero.

Question: Who’s paying for all this?

Have you ever wondered who’s responsible for all those Nigerian prince emails?

Question: Will there be food?

There will be food trucks, with a $5 discount for the first 500 guests.

Question: Will there be beer?

At the Strand Brewing Co.’s new 34,000 square-foot brewery? No, definitely not.

Question: Who is Steve Tilford, why is he the guest speaker, and why should I give a shit?

He is a curmudgeon, Eddy Merckx was busy, Google him.

Question: I’m not a bike racer. Can I still come?


Question: I hate bicycles and drive everywhere but I like beer. Can I still come?

Yes. But you might want to Uber home.

Question: I heard there is also going to a South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame. WTF is that?

Ask Brauch. It was his idea.

Question: Who’s going to be inducted into the Hall?

Nelson Vails, Marilyn Sonye, Ted Ernst, and Tony Cruz.

Question: Who are those wankers?


Question: Is Martin making those incredible, bad-ass horseshit trophies again?

They are horseshoes, not horseshit. And yes, they’re bad-ass, and yes, he’s making them again.

Question: I heard there was going to be a really crazy, off-the-hook trophy for the Crashtacular Fred trophy. Is that true?

Let’s just say, “J. Marvin Campbell” and that should answer your question.

Question: Can I get one of those cool Wanky Awards t-shirts designed by Joe Yule?


Question: Can I get one for free because we’re pals?


Question: What is a fucking jar?

You’ll find out on October 17.



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Women’s lib

August 27, 2015 § 44 Comments

When I decided to contribute some cash primes to our backyard CBR crit, I figured that the first week I’d donate to the P123 men’s race and the master’s 40+ category, and then the following weekend I’d donate to the P123 men’s race and the P123 women’s race. It made sense to donate equal amounts to the men’s and women’s races because I’m an old school feminist.

But everyone didn’t see it that way. A few people suggested to me, privately of course, that it was silly to give equal amounts to men and women. “Women won’t show up, you’ll see.”

A variation on this theme was, “Prizes should be awarded in proportion to participation. The men’s field will have 120 racers and the women’s field, if you’re lucky, forty. Prizes should reflect that.”

This is the way prizes are apportioned throughout cycling. ‘Cross Vegas puts up half the prize money for women that it does for men.


Aside from the participation “issue,” people — almost always men — will tell you that women’s racing is boring, that it’s slower, that it’s less tactical, less exciting, less EVERYTHING than men’s racing. This attitude is entrenched on the pro level and it is a given on the amateur level, where women are lucky to have a category in many races. And since it’s so “less” everything, the implication is that it deserves less money.

I’ve often wondered how people would react if you substituted the word “women” for the words “African-American” or “Hispanics.”

My take on women racing is different. Women deserve the same opportunity as men to compete regardless of the numbers who show up. This is such a basic principle that if you are a university and you don’t offer equal opportunity in athletic dollars to women pursuant to Title IX, which was passed in 1972, you will lose all of your federal funding and essentially be forced to close up shop. Universities long ago dispensed with the canard that women don’t want to compete in sports and focused on doing the one thing that matters most in increasing women’s participation: Funding.

Naturally, as the funding ballooned, so did participation at the college level of women athletes across virtually every sport. In other words, you can’t use participation to justify low funding because it’s the funding that holds back the participation. It would be like going to a country where women don’t receive an education and denying them funding for schools because they don’t go to the school. This is the kind of circular reasoning at which cycling excels, not limited to women’s racing.

Cycling hasn’t yet caught up with August 26, 1920, when U.S. women got the right to vote, so of course cycling still thinks that participation can be addressed without providing equal opportunity. They are wrong. One elite woman racer told me that when she sees a flyer offering half the men’s purse to the pro women, she crosses that event off her list. Her list must be covered in black marks.

Truly equal opportunity means that funding isn’t contingent on equal participation. If there is $1,000 in cash primes on offer and only four women show up, the small turnout doesn’t diminish the opportunity or mean that the people who raced got more than they deserved or justify excluding equal prizes from future races. To the contrary, it emphasizes that people who make the effort to race are treated the same regardless of gender.

As Title IX proved, over time equal opportunity in terms of funding means that participation will grow exponentially. It will be nice when cycling graduates to the early 20th Century, but even better when it reaches the modern era of 1972.



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Some people

August 26, 2015 § 20 Comments

About a month ago I stopped to help a fellow flailer change his flat. By “help” I mean “stand there and watch.” It was an amazing flat. As he was stuffing the new tube into the tire, I looked at the one that had flatted. It had been patched at least twenty-five times. “Waste not, want not,” I thought, looking also at the tire with the threads showing. “Wonder how long that’s gonna last?”

He aired up the tire and then pfffffffffft.

“Crap,” he said. “That was my only spare tube.”

“No prob,” I said, handing him my spanking new one. I hardly ever get flats because I always replace my tires when they start to wear. It’s expensive and I’m cheap, but the tiny little strip of rubber holding you in a precariously delicate balance on just this side of oblivion, that’s a place worth spending a few extra bucks. The main use to which my tubes get put, it seems, is on other people’s bikes, which is cool. Pay it forward, right?

I grabbed his second tube that had flatted as he was airing up the tire with my new one. This tube, too, had about twenty patches on it and looked like it had been used as slingshot rubber back in the 50’s. He finally got going, and that was that. When I saw him the next day he never said anything or offered me a replacement tube, which I shrugged off because even though I’m a petty bastard, I’m not that petty. But it’s not like he was one of those people you never see. He’s around all the time.

It started to get under my skin after a few weeks every time I saw him I’d yell out, “Where’s my tube?” He’d pretend not to hear and would always dash off, which guarantees that I will never, ever, ever stop asking about that tube. In fact, if he tried to give me one I’d refuse it so I could keep up the heckling.

About two months ago I was going down a hill on a coffee ride and a gal who gets everyone’s share of flats double flatted. She is a flat magnet; two giant thorns, one in each tire. Her tires are always new, and so are her tubes, but she only had one spare. I gave her mine and we continued on. That was a Sunday, and I usually see her on the Thursday Flog Ride.

That Thursday she wasn’t there, but a few hours after the ride she sent me a message. “Did you get it?”

“Get what?”

“The coffee and the tube!”

“What coffee? What tube!”

“No way!” she wrote. “I put a pound of good coffee beans and a new inner tube at the top of Via la Cuesta this morning with a note for you; left it there about 6:20 and rushed home because I couldn’t make the ride because I had to take my daughter to lifeguard camp.”

“There was nothing. Just a bunch of broke down old farts coughing up spit, blood, teeth, and shards of broken ego.”

“Some bastard stole it,” she wrote. “It had your name on it.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” I wrote back, smiling, not only because she’s such a good person but because she cared so much that the one small favor get repaid.

Today when I went out to get the mail there was a package for me, and inside the package, this. And there weren’t any patches on that inner tube, believe you me.


Then I thought about the guy I see every weekend who’s madly pedaling away from a six-dollar inner tube. One person pedaling away, another eagerly pedaling towards.



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Mr. Leadout

August 25, 2015 § 9 Comments

We used to call him “Prez.” Or “Frankendave.” Or “Wanker.” Or just plain “Get the fuck away from me for fuck’s sake!”

But not any more.

After his stellar, superhuman performance at the CBR Crit and Fake Wanky Monopoly Money Primefest, our very own South Bay bomber from Puerto Rico redefined human performance on a bike.

Henceforth he shall always be referred to simply as “Leadout.”

It all started like it always does. When Leadout asked his team the race plan, they gave the usual answer: “Don’t get near me or I’ll fucking kill you.”

“Hang out at the back until one to go, then hang out there for two more laps.”

“Who are you and why are you wearing our team kit?”

But Leadout wasn’t deterred because he never is. It was late August, when most racers, having begun in January, had already hung it up for the year, but not Leadout. He was peaking for the last two parking lot crits of the year and he was going to deliver Team Boss, the fastest human in America not seated in an airplane, to victory.

Here is the video of this crushing, devastating performance by Leadout which gifted Team Boss with the win. Since it is one of the most complex and amazing sprint performances in cycling history, it requires detailed narration. The genius of Leadout isn’t always clear without a roadmap.

00:18 Terrible music coming into Turn 4 with one lap to go. Red Socks is the first designated man in Team Boss’s leadout train.

00:22 Scrum tightens into and out of Turn 4. Everyone wants to be near the front but not on it. Red Socks begins to assume the position.

00:23 Leadout is on the left of your screen, squeezed between bright green bike on the right and black kit on the left. Overlapped wheels don’t scare Leadout. Leadout’s teammate Orange Bike, on right of green bike, is the No. 2 designated pilot fish in Team Boss’s leadout train.

00:27 Still kind of scrum-ish as the sharp end of the peloton approaches the start/finish and the bell signals one lap to go.

00:32 Red Socks to the right, and 300-year-old Bustemup Bart in the bright green bike on the left, with a giant, swollen blue whale in the slot that looks suspiciously like a race promoter we all know and love.

00:44 Red Socks punches through on the outside. It’s showtime, and Orange Bike slots in behind him, assuming the position for real.

00:47 Just off Orange Bike and slightly to the right, Team Boss slots in. The trifecta is now complete. Red Socks will accelerate to terminal velocity, Orange Bike will drag the Team Boss grenade through the final corner, and it will detonate across the line leaving vitrified dreams of glory in its wake.

1:07 They’re approaching Turn 3. Team Boss is on the right, tucked in behind Orange Bike. The cameraman, Sausage, is wondering what Debbie’s going to say when he breaks the same shoulder on the same course on the same Turn 3 in the first race back since his surgery.

1:09 Red Socks explodes as they approach Turn 3, about to jam through the turn and deposit Orange Bike for the final glory pull.


1:19 Leadout explodes up the right hand side coming into Turn 3 with Team Boss on his wheel! Well, Team Boss isn’t technically on Leadout’s wheel, it’s Sausage, the guy with the camera. But it’s the thought that counts.

1:21 Team Boss is off to the right. “WTF?”

1:22 Leadout has blasted up the side and created a perfect, wide-open alley for Sausage and a handful of other fresh riders, all glued up to Leadout’s rear wheel.

1:24 Coming through Turn 4 Leadout is fourth wheel and Sausage is now neatly tucked in behind him. Too bad ol’ Team Boss missed his own train, heh, heh. Shoulda checked the fuggin’ schedule!

1:45 Orange Bike is approaching Turn 4 at warp speed. The victory train has derailed. Leadout has led out five fresh riders and Team Boss is nowhere in sight.

1:53 But wait! Team Boss isn’t done! After the fantastic setup by Leadout, he’s not about to waste his chance! Team Boss, despite being boxed in, punches a hole through the concrete wall with his fist! Time to thank Leadout for all his hard work bringing those five, no six, fresh guys through the last turn and getting rid of pesky teammates Red Socks and Orange Bike.

1:54 Five riders, including camera-ready Sausage, gallop to the line! It’s only three hundred yards away! Bustemup Bart is going to win for the first time since they invented the seed drill! All of Leadout’s great work leading out other team’s riders is paying off! Sucks to be you, Team Boss!

1:57 Out of gas, out of real estate, out of cards, and out of luck, Team Boss decides, with only two hundred yards left to catch five fresh riders who have almost crossed the line, that it’s time to pedal his bike because even with a super pro leadout like the one he got from Leadout, it ain’t over, baby, ’til it’s over.

2:01 Team Boss nails it at the line, and after the race throws his arms around Leadout in a big friendly hug that looks like a punch to the face. Couldn’t have done it without Leadout!



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Everyone wants a Wanky

August 23, 2015 § 18 Comments

The nomination period for the fantabulous 2015 South Bay Cycling Awards closed last week, but some folks who felt that they’d been wrongly left out or who had been nominated for the wrong category weren’t going to take it lying down.

Okay, some of them were.

Am I doing this right?

I want my Wanky!

South Bay phenom and pro Kristabel Doebel-Hickock won a Wanky in 2013 for QOM, and another in 2014 for Best Female Racer, so it was no surprise that she found herself again on the short list for best racer after posting impressive results on the domestic and international road racing circuit.

What was shocking to me is that she felt so displeased with her nomination for Best Female Racer of 2015 that she decided to make a full-blown run at the 2015 Crashtacular Fred category despite an already strong field and despite the fact that the nominating period had closed. Keep in mind that this year’s nominees include some of the biggest crash dummies in SoCal cycling, to wit:

  • Front-runner and heretofore shoo-in Jay Laplante, a/k/a Manslaughter. The nickname alone tells you that this is a legit contender, and over the years he has proven that he is a threat to crash every time he rolls out of the driveway. What’s so impressive about his crashtacularity is that far from being a poor bike handler, he’s practically a magician when it comes to threading needles on a bike. So why all the crashes? Obviously, he’s just nuts.
  • Super heavyweight contender Chris Gregory. Chris never met a crash she didn’t like. Different from boring nominees who’ve tried to eke out a Wanky with broken collarbones, shoulders, hands, and traumatic head injuries, Chris took crash anatomy to a whole ‘nother level in 2015 when she fell on the bike path going 12-mph (10 points), flopped off into the sand (10 points), still doesn’t know why she crashed (10 points), and shattered her humerus in three places, a bone that, in more than 30 years of riding and racing, I’ve never heard of anyone ever breaking, even when hit by a car.

With this kind of competition it’s hard to see how Kristabel could have thought she had a chance, even though she also has a rich history of amazing fred-like bike falls, like the time this year she mowed down a pedestrian (10 points) while practicing her TT bike on the bike path (10 points) and cracked her femur (8 points).

Still, “Tink” as she’s known far and wide, wasn’t about to cede the field, as she still had something in her back jersey pocket: In 2014 she went from icon to legend when she actually crashed at the start of a time trial coming out of the starting house. No one had ever heard of such a thing and when the story broke many refused to believe it.

Starting behind the 8-ball in the 2015 Wankies, however, Tink showed up three days ago at America’s premier stage race ready to do battle with the world’s best women racers, but more importantly to announce that she wanted a Wanky. As the video link above shows, it will be hard for anyone to beat her:

  • No one to blame for taking her out or causing the crash (10 points)
  • Crashed in America’s biggest pro race (100 points)
  • Video proof (300 points)
  • Crashed in the safest part of the race (400 points)
  • Pulled an ultra-Fred move as an elite pro (500 points)
  • Crashed by running into a sign that says “Healthcare” (12,000 points)
  • Crashed while her start was being commentated by Phil Liggett (1,000,000 points)
  • Got up, finished the TT, and the next day almost won the road race (1 billion points)

So although I don’t recommend this kind of extra-curricular lobbying and politicking just to get a Wanky, sometimes it works.



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