Wanky Fever

February 10, 2015 § 20 Comments

This past weekend saw me rise to my loftiest heights ever: With first, second, and third place finishes in SoCal road races, I am now the top racer on SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b GQ-6. As a result, after consultation with my agent and my attorney, I have decided to tender a request that SGR renegotiate my contract to reflect my significantly increased value to the team.

I’ve retained a forensic economist to formally evaluate the financial impact that my results have brought to my team and sponsors. In sum:

  1. After my win at Rosena Ranch, “Wanky Fever” has overtaken the SoCal, NorCal, and crappy-little-towns-in-DesertCal cycling scene.
  2. Facebag posts mentioning “Wanky Fever,” “leaky prostate,” and “he must be doping,” all affiliated with team SGR, have increased 2,504,882% over this time last year.
  3. The Twitter hashtag #wankyfever has appeared on cross-platform marketing campaigns as diverse as Pepsi, McDonald’s, and RuggedMaxx 2 organic male enhancement supplements.
  4. Share prices of SPY Optic rose 5.6% after Rosena Ranch, 3.4% after CBR Crit #1, and 2.9% after Tuttle Creek Road Race.

Although my success has resulted in some intra-squad strife, with other higher profile team riders somewhat perturbed at having their thunder stolen and replaced by Wanky Fever and its occasionally uncomfortable rash (red spots with occasionally open sores in embarrassing places), it makes sense that management carefully consider my demands. Competing teams have already begun to make inquiries as to my availability — Wanky Fever yellow wristbands have begun popping up on training rides.

The only real issue in my contract demand concerns the events at the Tuttle Creek Road Race this past Saturday. Although it was a decisive, powerful, emphatic second place podium spot, detractors are characterizing it as “totally fuggin’ lame” and a “last place finish” simply because there was only one other rider in my category.

In fact, here’s how it all played out:

Manslaughter and I made the 3-hour drive to Lone Pine, a cozy community located at the foot of Mt. Whitney, in about an hour and a half. We got to the parking lot and asked a question you normally don’t have to ask at bike races. “Where are the racers?” followed by “Where is race registration?” followed by “Is there a race today?” followed by “Goddammit Wanky, are you sure it’s the right day?”

After a while Motoman drove up in his white van and took out a card table. The bitterly cold wind mixed with freezing rain was sweeping down from Mt. Whitney, which at 14,000 feet was still covered in snow. Motoman disappeared and a couple of other cars with bikes on top drove into the parking lot.

One of them parked next to us and out jumped a rotund fellow wearing a yellow flappy rain jacket. “You here for the race?” Manslaughter asked.

“Yep,” said Flappy. “I’m doing the 35+.”

“You’ll murder that porker,” I snickered to Manslaughter as Flappy hopped on his bike to check out the 12-mile course.

About that time a rider dressed head to toe in Rapha, and obviously a rank beginner, began prancing around in the parking lot. “Oh, jeez,” I said. “That poor dork is gonna get destroyed. He should be trying to upgrade from Cat 5 at a crit, not out on a man’s course like this.”

I had preregistered earlier in the week, and as of the night before I was the only rider in the 45+ category who had signed up. So the odds of “there’s no way you can lose” were looking good, even for me. Motoman walked over to the car. “Hey, Wanky,” he said, sticking a number into the window. “Just put your number in your back pocket. I know who you are.”

“Is this race actually going to happen?” asked Manslaughter.

“Oh, hell yes,” said Motoman.

“I’m doing the 35+,” Manslaughter continued. “How many riders are you expecting?”

Motoman paused and thought. “About 15.”

“Twelve riders in the 35+? Are you kidding? That’s nothing.”

“Who said anything about the 35+?” asked Motoman. “I’m talking about the whole race.”

“How many in the 35+?” asked Manslaughter.

“About three, maybe four.”

“How can you run a race with only four people in it?”

“Easy. All the categories race together. Better get warmed up. Race starts in thirty minutes.”

We assembled our bikes and got changed, but decided against warming up because the weather was so miserable, so instead we got back into the car, turned the heater onto “steel smelter” and ate a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. Then we were still hungry so we had a couple of Harmony Bars, some fruit, and bunch of energy drink. Pretty soon we had to get out of the car because of the farts.

At the starting line Motoman gave a rambling speech, telling us about each curve, each turn, each cattle guard, and each pothole on the course. “And for everyone who finishes, we’re getting together across the street at Bubba’s Pizza — and the pizza’s on me.”

There appeared to be no one in my category, which meant all that I had to do was finish and I’d win. But at the last minute a craggy, wrinkly, haggard, spindly, broken down old man rolled up to the line. “What the hell is that?” I wondered. “An entry in the 100+ category?”

“Hey, man,” I said, sticking out my hand. “You doing the 45+?”

“Yep,” he said with a friendly smile. “Sure am.”

“Great,” I said. “Me, too.” What I didn’t say is that I intended to break him in half like a matchstick, kick him out the back on the first climb and leave him for dead. “Have a good race,” I said.

“You, too,” he said as Motoman blew the whistle.

Manslaughter was riding next to me as our peloton of fifteen idiots pedaled off at a pace that would barely have kept up with a Friday coffee cruise. Flappy had returned from his reconnaissance mission and was hanging at the back. A group of Black Star racers in the P/1/2 field were at the front, chatting.

I looked at Manslaughter. “This is the stupidest joke race ever.” He nodded. “I guess we’ll do a couple of laps and then maybe heat things up a bit. No need to do anything ’til then. If these wankers want to hold hands and pedal like grannies that’s fine with me.”

After about five minutes we came to a slight rise. It was very short, only a couple of hundred feet, and the road twisted away behind a rock wall so you couldn’t see where it went. The scenery was spectacular, the most beautiful backdrop I’ve ever seen at a bike race and the road was perfectly free of cars.

We went up the little rise, twisted off to the right and went up a little more, and then a little more, and then suddenly it wasn’t very little any more. The hand-holders got out of the saddle and punched it as the road climbed; in seconds I had gone from comfy to gasping.

The climb turned out to be the hardest one I’ve ever done in a bike race. It was three miles long and constantly switched between a moderate gradient and short, steep pitches. By the time we were halfway up there were only seven riders left, and then as I massively cracked, only six.

One of the six was, of course, Great Grandpa a/k/a Scott McAfee a/k/a Antivirus. Manslaughter developed a terrible pain in his hamstring, which spread to his muscles, arms, back, lungs, heart, and brain, and quit the race. As I struggled alone, Rapha Boy, who was indeed a Cat 5, came charging by. I jumped on his wheel and he viciously towed me back up to Great Grandpa, who had been shelled along with one of the Cat 2’s from the leading group.

“Now all I have to do is hang onto Great Grandpa,” I muttered, “and crush him at the end, preferably by driving a wooden stake through hit head.”

Rapha Boy never swung over, bulling his way up to the top of the climb, then turning onto the next three miles of rolling climb, then turning onto a final nasty half-mile headwind uphill pitch, then turning onto another endless series of rollers to the long 55-mph downhill that gave us an entire two or three minutes of rest before hitting the beginning of the loop and starting the entire miserable thing all over again.

Rapha Boy had obviously misunderstood the whole category thing, because he was in a fury and riding faster than anyone in the race except for the P/1/2 leaders, who had vanished long ago. As we approached the beginning of the climb he jumped hard. Great Grandpa and I followed. He jumped again, rested, jumped again, rested, and jumped again like a poisonous jack-in-the-box being wound up by a sadistic child.

Halfway up he jumped again, and I de-jumped. Great Grandpa went with him, breaking me in half like a matchstick, kicking me out the back leaving me for dead as he crushed my by driving a wooden stake through my head. With two and a half laps of utter misery to go, the freezing rain seeping into my crevices, the thin air shredding my throat and lungs like sandpaper, and the hellish climb making every stroke worse than declining German nouns, I soldiered on knowing that it would still be second place if I finished.

As I slogged through the finish at the end of Lap 2, Motoman yelled at me encouragingly. “Go to the front!”

At the bottom of the climb on Lap 3, a hairy Cat 2 dude with a beard like a Russian Tsar’s charged by and didn’t even say “hello.” A minute later I was caught by Tristan, another Cat 2 who was a tad large to be contesting such a bitter climber’s course, and Flappy, who was so happy to catch me he couldn’t contain himself.

He looked over at Tristan. “That’s the benefit of being an experienced time trialist,” he said. “I really know how to pace myself.”

It was bad enough to get shelled by Great Grandpa. It was worse to get abused by Cat 5 Rapha Boy. But to be chided by Flappy was more than I could take, so when Tristan upped the pace I went with him. Flappy ended up pacing himself backwards for the rest of the race and we didn’t see him again.

Tristan then hunkered down, creating a massive draft, and towed me around for the remainder of the race. We finally caught and dropped Tsarbeard, too. I angrily reflected that if I’d registered for the 35+ I would have won, and considered asking Motoman to retroactively change my category. But unlike me he’s a guy with integrity, so I didn’t bother. Great Grandpa had beaten me by well over five minutes.

In sum, the race was challenging beyond belief. The scenery gorgeous. The roads devoid of traffic. It was one of the best races I’ve ever done, and certainly the hardest. So I think my sponsors will understand it when my agent demands more money, a fluffer, and hotel rooms that always look east. It’s the least they can do for me.

END

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Catgate

February 9, 2015 § 50 Comments

Before the first waffle has been eaten, the first sausage scarfed, or the first ale quaffed, the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride has its first bona fide controversy: Catgate.

On the online entry form, riders were asked to list their USAC racing category. Mistakenly thinking that their starting position would be determined by their racing category, some registrants took the opportunity to misstate their category and thereby get placed ahead of the lowly Cat 5’s, public, and “unranked” riders, not a few of whom are absolute beasts. Unfortunately for the sneaks, each registrant was checked against USAC records, and several riders were caught red-fingerboarded.

Since the “ride” will go off in three waves, some riders apparently believed that there was an advantage to going in the first wave even though it’s a timed event, with each wave starting at 0:00:00. A lively discussion of Catgate ensued on Facebag, where various punishments were discussed. Although I offered to do the beheadings, that option was not selected, and the fate of the would-be cheaters remains undecided.

Choices on the table include public shaming, relegation to the last wave, being banned from the ride, and having a note sent to your mother.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing about bikers you can count on, it’s the certainty that given the chance they will cheat. Actually, they will cheat even when they aren’t given the chance. Why?

Because cheating is fun.

The whole concept of the bike race is little more than organized cheating. You hunker behind the rider with the biggest butt to cheat the wind; you descend pell-mell or bang bars in the sprunt to cheat death; the winner of the race is the one who forces everyone else to work more while he hides like a thief in the night, waiting to slit the throats of those who ride with courage and honor. What could be more natural for a cyclist than cheating on a registration form, or cheating your way to the finish of a fun ride?

Moreover, the Belgian Waffle Ride was quite literally born amidst the pangs and throes of cheating cheaters who love to cheat. I will never forget the inaugural 2012 BWR, when a certain South Bay rider showed up and pirated it from beginning to end, eating the free breakfast, stopping at each aid station to gobble the food and drink, and enjoying the post-ride festivities to a fare-thee-well.

I caught up with him the following week and said, “Don’t you feel bad for being such a thieving, cheating, Delta Bravo, and generally worthless POS?”

“Nope!” he happily smiled. And he meant it.

Other infamous characters stamped the first BWR with a miscellany of misbehavior. One wanker held onto a truck for miles at a pop over the deathly dirt section of Country Club Road. Another cut the course. Another infamous cheater whose mendacious misdeeds were rewarded with the dreaded purple card not only cut the course but sneaked past Double Peak at the end of the ride, zoomed into the start-finish area, changed into his bicycling lounge suit, and displayed an “I got here first!” grin while those who had manfully done the ride struggled in beaten and exhausted wondering “How did that brokedown wanker beat me here?” — then he topped it off by disappearing with his finisher’s swag once people got suspicious and started asking to see the stamp that every honest rider received for passing the checkpoint atop Double Peak.

Your cheatin' heart!

Your cheatin’ heart!

The invention of the purple card, in fact, was an acknowledgment before the ride ever started that bicyclists are some of the scurviest, cheatingest, least reliable mendicants known to man. Before the first BWR ever rolled out, a series of Freddie Freeloader cards were printed and handed out to the ride’s “Secret Police,” who were ordered to patrol the peloton and punish the perpetrators for their purplish pecadilloes.

In the second edition, even though there were no purple cards awarded, numerous riders who claimed to have completed the entire course failed to upload their required Strava data to confirm that they did in fact finish the route. You would think that having GPS data would be sufficient to deter the cheats, but no — if forced to choose between cheating and not, cheating wins out every time.

Last year the noose tightened a bit, with timing chips making it impossible for veteran course-cutters to ply their trade, and wholly eliminating the ride pirates, but misdeeds abounded. The most egregious included vehicle assistance at critical points in the ride.

Short of sailing a cargo ship bound for the Horn of Africa to smoke out the pirates, there’s no way to run a cheat-free event. And that’s a good thing.

For 99.9% of participants, the ride is so hard that whatever advantage you might eke out from marginal gains cheating is nullified somewhere around Mile 80, if not far sooner. And while it’s patently untrue that cheaters never win, especially in cycling, no cheater has ever won the BWR. To the contrary: In the inaugural event the leaders went off course, which couldn’t be detected because there were no chips being used, and rather than hop back on course they retraced their route to the point where they left the course, got back on, and finished — even though it cost them the win as Dave Jaeger, who had made all the right turns, beat them to the line and claimed the yellow jersey.

Neil Shirley, two-time winner of the non-race, is regarded as one of the cleanest, most honorable guys in the sport. No matter how many places in line you try to jump, you still have to pass Neil. Good luck with that.

The BWR is beautiful because it showcases the best and also the worst. You get to ride with champions and chumps, heroes and whores.

And at the end, if you’ve done it right, you finish with a satisfaction unlike any other. So go ahead and cheat your little heart out. If you dare.

END

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The chase

February 9, 2015 § 23 Comments

I showed up for the Sunday Wheatgrass Ride. There were a lot of people, and I was tired. When we hit the bottom of the reservoir climb Dutchie attacked and then shelled himself. Chatty Cathy took a hard pull. Uglyfoot took a hard pull. Aston Martin took a hard pull. I sucked wheel and suffered.

We crested the climb and not many people were left. We descended and then started the Better Homes climb. Aston Martin hit it again, followed by Uglyfoot, who was raging. I sucked some more wheel, along with Strava Jr., who’d also been sucking wheel the whole time, but unlike me he was waiting to pounce.

He did and shed everyone except for me and Uglyfoot. They took turns beating me up, then flicking me to come through, but I refused. Before the final bend up to the Domes I cracked. My legs really hurt.

Instead of waiting for the wankoton I descended and headed home. I was too tired for coffee and it was a cold, overcast morning, very humid and gray.

Up the bump past Terranea a tri-dork sprunted by me, then melted. I passed him out of pride, pedaling harder than I wanted to pedal. I turned right at Hawthorne, hoping he wouldn’t follow me. The last thing I wanted was a 2-mile uphill battle. I wanted to go easy and finish the ride.

Hawthorne is long but not too steep except for a brief bump at the beginning, after which it becomes a false flat, and then a steep wall section. After the short wall it turns into an easier grade, but you’ve been climbing for a long way so it doesn’t seem that much easier.

As I hit the false flat I saw a guy some way up ahead. “I won’t even have to speed up to catch him,” I told myself as I slightly sped up. I admit I was going slow and I was tired.

He got closer, but after a while I realized that he was going at a pretty fast pace, so I upped it a bit. And sure, it was not very fast. But still … About a hundred yards or so before we hit the wall he had ten seconds on me. Not like I was timing him or anything.

Ahead of him was a rider in a blue jersey, flappy pants, and tri-bars. The guy I was chasing — Andrew was his name as I found out later — pulled away from me as the road kicked up. I couldn’t believe it.

Then, he overtook Flappy Pants and blew by him. My jaw was scraping the pavement.

I got out of the saddle and started pushing it. He had eighteen seconds on me now, and at the next checkpoint he had twenty-five. He’d opened the gap easier than a can of beer. Sure, I was tired, and sure, I wasn’t going very fast, but still … are you kidding me?

I flew by Flappy Pants and rounded the curve, stomped the pedals over the last part of the little wall and hit the rolling section. Now that I had a head of steam going and the wall was past there was no way that Andrew would hold me off. I slammed it into the big ring and chased him down, chewing up the gap in no time at all.

I pulled up next to him, breathing hard. “Dude,” I said, “that’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve been chasing you for over a mile.”

He smiled. “Practice, he said.” He was breathing hard, his arms swinging easily and efficiently by his side, but he never slowed his powerful stride as his running shoes kept up their relentless tattoo on the asphalt.

END

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Down that path lies madness

February 8, 2015 § 18 Comments

The 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride is full. It took four days. Riders who didn’t get one of the coveted 700 slots are now on the waiting list, which will have 200+ names on it by the time the event goes off.

When the ride was announced, a big hoo-hah of publicity went out, which was awesome. However, not all of it was particularly beneficial. Especially disturbing were the “Top 10 Tips to Finish with Dignity” by Neil Shirley, and the “SPY Belgian Waffle Ride Tips” by some foreigner named Hupthur. If either one of these tip sheets comes across your inbox, please delete ASAP as they will lead you to ruin.

Shirley’s list should be ignored simply upon seeing the title. There is no dignity left when and if you finish the BWR. In fact, there’s not much of anything left. Spit, sweat, mucous, blood glucose, pride, dreams, hope … everything will have been torn from your chest, beheaded, and left wriggling on the roadside back around, say, Mile 100. If you’re lucky. Many will have suffered the Junkyard Implosion much earlier. Others will have simply quit. Still others will have abandoned before the race even started.

When Shirley talks about “finishing with dignity,” he’s referring to about ten people, and you will never see them except perhaps, briefly, at the start. Everyone else will finish with desperation. Exhaustion. A sense of bodily collapse and mental defeat. But not dignity. No fuggin’ way.

You are also advised to ignore everything Shirley says because he’s a two-time winner. Right. We have nothing in common with him. If he’s talking about the BWR, go ahead and turn up your iPod. As one of the best and most accomplished riders in SoCal, a guy who is devastatingly good no matter the discipline, he simply has nothing to offer the rank and file, not to mention the file shavings like you and me.

So here’s my reality tip sheet for the 2015 BWR. It won’t help you do better, but that’s because there is no “better.” To crumple and fold like bad origami is your destination. Trust me on this.

  1. Blab & Brag: Tell everyone you’re going to crush the BWR. This is the only pleasure you will get from competing in the event. Everything else will be a reduction of your humanity into a quivering puddle of failure and defeat.
  2. Polish & Purchase: Have your bike polished, cleaned, overhauled, and detailed. Then add the trick shit you’ve always wanted — Di2, full carbon wheels made of carbon, and lots of carbon. Plus carbon. The only chance you have of looking good and making next year’s video is either in the Preen Area at the start finish, or with your guts torn out after crashing along Lake Hodges. Also, lots of lightweight trick shit ups your chance of a ride-ending mechanical, which will get you back to the celebratory sausages and beer that much more quickly.
  3. Stamp Your Authority: True, the BWR is a 140-mile long odyssey that demands almost perfect resource management and conservation of energy simply to finish. But you don’t care about that. Those sausages are calling your name and Sam Ames has extra ice cream for the waffles left over from breakfast. Finagle your way into the first starting wave and drill it. If you’re not pushing 450+ watts on the rollers out of town, you’re losing. Plus, this is a great way to maybe get into one of those cool photos that has you riding next to all those hammerheads at the front.
  4. Ink up: The Preen Area will be filled with the legends of SoCal. They will be doing last minute equipment checks, reviewing the course map for changes, and making sure everything is ready. Take the time to interrupt them and request autographs, preferably onto obscure body parts. “Hey, Phil, I’ve always been a fan of yours. Would you autograph my scrotum?” is always a winner. Plus, you’ll have a unique memento to show your wife as she wraps you in a huge sheet of Tegaderm.
  5. Cower and Hide: If you really are planning on finishing the BWR, don’t ever take a pull. Ever. Not even one. My best moment in 2014 was drafting for 20 miles behind Hines, Chatty Cathy, Junkyard, and a string of South Bay wankers all the way into Ramona from Black Canyon, then sprunting by them as they stopped for drinks and organ transplants.
  6. Use Up Others: When you get shelled, immediately soft pedal until you’re overtaken by the next group. Slink to the back and occasionally yell encouragement to the people doing all the work. When they collapse and fall of the back, just remember, “Sucks to be them.”
  7. Cheat Where You Can: The BWR has a long and illustrious history of people who cheat, cut the course, hang onto follow vehicles, and take advantage of the fact that there are no race commissars or firing squads. Have your S/O wait for you at the 25, 75, 50, and 100-mile marks with her Prius and give you little 5-mile tows. If your conscience is a bit squeamish, just remember the BWR Wanker Motto: Rules are for losers!
  8. Dope: This one is obvious, but with no doping controls you should be loaded up with your favorite brand of cortisol, HGH, EPO, and steroid inhalers for your “asthma.” The joy of destroying some hairy-legged Fred to secure your 286th place is something you will cherish forever.

END

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Low-hanging fruit

February 7, 2015 § 27 Comments

When I started junior high it was much, much too far to walk to school. “How’m I supposed to get to school?” I asked my dad.

“Ride your bike,”  he said.

I had an old gray Murray 10-speed with lazy brakes and stem shifters. It had been brand new two years before, in 1974, so by that time it was merely new, as we hadn’t discovered disposable bicycles yet. I saved up five dollars mowing the lawn and squirreling away my weekly fifty-cent allowance, then went down to the Eagle Supermarket on Bissonnet and bought a bike lock in the hardware section.

The problem with riding to Jane Long Junior High School was that I had to go the other way down the street from the way I had gone to get to Braeburn Elementary, which meant that every morning I’d have to ride by Mrs. Dargabble’s house. Because school was such a long way off I had to leave early, which was an even bigger problem because it was usually in the early morning that Mrs. Dargabble would be up in the big oak tree, although sometimes she was up there late at night.

In the mornings, unlike the night, she didn’t cry or sing or howl. Instead, she would shinny up the bole of that ancient post oak and trot out onto the biggest limb, a limb so big and fat and thick and long that it stretched halfway across the street. It was pretty scary having to start your morning pedaling underneath that crazy old scowling owl looking down at you with her long, stringy hair and her shabby nightgown over which she’d thrown a sweater or a long-sleeved shirt, socks up to her knees and a baseball cap or a wool hat or a big floppy thing with a straw brim jammed down on her head.

Mrs. Dargabble was fifty or so and that was so old to a 12-year-old boy that she might as well have been dead. You would have thought her children, who were grown, would do something about her tree-climbing, actually it was more like tree-perching, or that her husband, Mr. Dargabble, would forbid her from sitting out on that limb, but no one ever did anything.

All I can tell you is that it scared the hell out me.

She lived two houses down and the first day I had to ride to school I looked down the street and sure enough, there she was, those long stockinged legs draped over the bough. She saw me, too, as I pushed that big Murray down the drive — I got on it like a man did in those days, left foot on the left pedal, pushing off with the right foot and then throwing the right leg over the saddle.

Our driveway was long and had a steep drop down to the street so that you always had a good head of steam going when you hit the street, leaned hard right, and sprinted away, using every ounce of momentum to carry you pell-mell under that branch with crazy old Mrs. Dargabble dangling up there in the tree glaring furiously at the world.

Of course it was the South and I was a little kid, and crazy or not she was an adult so as I pumped those pedals, my knapsack jumping all over my back like it was plugged into an electrical socket I’d still have to look up and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Dargabble!” as I slammed the pedals like hell to get past. She never said a word, just glowered at me.

This went on for the first week of school. Then on the Monday of the second week of school as I roared past, shouting my greeting, I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a hat, or a cap, or even the old dishrag she sometimes tied around her head.

On Tuesday I sprinted by. She wasn’t wearing a shirt or a sweater, just the old threadbare nightgown and of course no bra, and with the hot and sticky Houston weather you could see her droopy breasts pointed down so straight they looked like the would bore into the center of the earth.

On Wednesday she had dispensed with the stockings and I had to grit my teeth as I looked up, because sure enough her legs splayed on that branch showing her thick cotton granny panties all bunched up and her nightgown raised up to her knees.

I got up on Thursday and knew what was coming. “Hey, dad,” I said.

“What?” He put down the paper.

“Would you give me a ride to school?”

“What for?”

“I’m feeling kind of sick. It’s such a long way. I think I’m gonna throw up.”

Dad put down his paper. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “When I was your age I lived on a ranch. It was a two-mile walk from the house to the front gate. And you know what I had waiting for me when I got to the front gate?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. It was one of those old, much hated stories that every kid despises every time he hears it, but eventually cherishes when he’s old enough that he doesn’t get to hear it anymore.

“I had another three miles to get to the schoolhouse. And you know what I did when it rained?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I walked. And you know what I did when it snowed?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I walked. And you know what I did when it hailed, or when it was 105 degrees, or when it was flooding, or when the snow had turned to ice, or when the road was churned up into a mud pit two feet deep, or when I was sick, or when I didn’t feel like going to school, or when I’d forgotten my homework, or when I knew that Gus Tumpkins was laying for me past the creek?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I did the same damn thing. I walked.”

“Yes, sir.”

He picked up his newspaper and went back to it. “You don’t look sick anyhow,” he added for punctuation.

“Yes, sir.” I wondered if he’d ever had to walk underneath a crazy lady who didn’t have any shorts on.

My heart was pounding as I rolled the Murray out of the garage. I couldn’t bear to check down the street; I didn’t have to. I knew she was there. I shoved off with my right foot like I was trying to push off an aircraft carrier, and I got the biggest head of steam I ever had. The rubber whined as I careened into the quiet suburban street, the sun barely up, and I mashed the pedals with the power spawned by fear.

I looked up. She was perched on the branch, stark naked, legs spread open, the tuft of red hair thick and wiry looking and glorious, and she was smiling at me. It was the first time in the seven years I’d lived on the street that I’d ever seen her smile.

On Friday morning dad put down his paper. “You want a ride today?”

“No, sir,” I said.

He looked surprised. “Okay.”

I casually rolled the bike out and cruised slowly down the drive. I looked up, but she wasn’t there. And she never was again.

One day, some thirty-five years later, I returned to that street. Most of the old houses had been torn down and replaced by McMansions. The giant oaks that formed a massive arbor over the street remained, having grown more beautiful with time. Our old house was still there, and so was Mrs. Dargabble’s, the only two on the block that were left from my childhood.

Starting at my driveway, I drove the entire route from my house to my old junior high school. I was surprised at how near it was.

END

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Belgian Waffle Ride 2015 — DO NOT REGISTER!!!!!

February 6, 2015 § 25 Comments

The 2015 edition of the galactically famous Belgian Waffle Ride opened yesterday, filling 528 of the available 700 slots in less than thirty-six hours. Although the ride always fills up long before the event, this year the registrations have been off the charts. Maybe it’s because of all the media. Maybe it’s because of this killer video. Or maybe it’s just because you’re still trembling after watching Jen strut around in her panties, and the thought that she’s going to be at the BWR has caused the servers over at BikeReg.com to break. The remaining 172 slots will be gone in the coming days, but that’s no reason for you to register. In fact, you shouldn’t. Don’t even think about it.

Why?

Because based on the last three years I’ve compiled an awesome set of emails and/or Facebag messages you can send to the staff at SPY Optic after the deadline passes. The ideal timing is late at night one or two days before the event, long after the event has closed and everyone is in overdrive putting the last touches on the course, the venue, and the countywide infrastructure that something like this requires.

So DO NOT REGISTER NOW. Wait and send one (or all) of these messages instead. You’ll be in like Flynn, and you can tell ‘em that Wanky sent ya.

  1. The Ol’ Buddy Ol’ Pal Grovel: Yo, MMX, what up? Dooshy McGillicuddy here — we rode together on the Swami’s Ride two years ago, it was in August. You probably don’t remember me but I said hi just before you guys hit the jets at PCH and Encinitas Blvd. Ennyhoo … been planning on the BWR all year, did some BIG MILEZ over the winter (check my Strava, I friended you and kudos on ripping that dirt section last week, BADASS) but dude I completely forgot to register. Can you help a buddy out? Gonna be bummed here in PARADISE if I don’t get to ride, bro. Also, can you comp my entry?
  2. The Beggar Blogger: Hi, Michael and team. Really looking forward to covering the BWR this year on my blog, Shitheads in the South Bay and my sister publication, Red Kite Bore. We’re hitting some pretty good numbers — site stats are up to 15 views and 3 unique readers per week. Our event coverage is saturation bombing, and I’m glad to do it because I love what you do and want to help grow the sport. By the way, I somehow missed the registration. Did you forget to notify me? Stuff slips through the cracks, and I’m sure you have a lot on your plate. If you could squeeze me in I’d be deeply appreciative, and trust me, you’ll get a big media bump when I turn on the spigot. Also, can you comp my entry and a BWR kit?
  3. The Cat 2 UCI Pro Proposal: Hey, MMX! Good racing against the SPY guys last weekend. You guys have come a long way, props. I had Anderson and Alverson in the box on that last turn, but decided to sit up after I hit the cones and went off-course and I let them take the one-two. I’ve been on the podium enough this year and don’t mind spreading the glory around, plus it helps your brand. Hey, I was meaning to register for the BWR this year. I have done a ton of miles (no dirt but that’s NBD) and am expecting my Cat 1 upgrade and then the call-up to the pros later this year. Might be nice to have me rocking the SPY shades over in Europe (for a fee! Just kidding!). Anyway, shoot me the pro entry promo code when you get a chance. Also, can you comp my entry and a BWR kit and give me a couple of extra beer tickets?
  4. The Aged Profamateur Living in a Car: Pretty disappointing to have missed the registration for this ride. Thought you might help. Lots of my life given to the sport. Taught you a few things if I remember correctly. Glad for your success. Doubtless room for one more bike. Out of cat food so need comped entry. Also need comped BWR kit and couple cases of beer, and tell Ames to let me have trash bags with half-eaten waffles and melted ice cream. Calories are calories.
  5. Greedy Team Leech: Hi, MMX! Sucky McSuckwater here! Team camp was awesome; love the new kits and shades (shoot me a couple of extra skinsuits and maybe another Daft when you get a sec, need it by next Tuesday). I’ve got big racing plans this year after taking a sabbatical in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Can you believe I waited til the last minute to register and now it’s fuggin’ full? The bikereg site is a pain. Maybe use someone else next year for online signups? Be sure to register me. Team guys ride free I’m assuming. I know there are four waves this year, so put me in the first wave. Shirley, Trebon, Prenzlow, and Tinstman are gonna feel my burn this year. Also, aren’t the fees kind of high? I’m not really down with that, for other people, I mean.

END

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On the rivet: Interview with Jessica Cerra

February 5, 2015 § 20 Comments

Jessica Cerra is one of those riders who has earned her spot in the peloton through skill, toughness, resilience, and force of will. She came to road racing via triathlon and MTB, and burst onto the local North County San Diego scene a couple of years ago as she was recovering from surgery to correct a severe case of iliac artery compression syndrome in her right leg.

By the time she had healed, she was thrashing men on the group rides, and from there it was a short hop to dominating the local road races, riding as the marquee women’s racer for SPY-Giant-RIDE. With powerful performances on the national stage, notably at Redlands in 2014, Jess was picked up for the 2015 season by Twenty16 p/b ShoAir.

It will be her first full year with a professional women’s team, and although she had calendared an ambitious season, a few weeks ago she learned that she was also suffering from iliac compression syndrome in her left leg. She’s had the surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, though she’ll have an obviously different racing schedule. Jess was kind enough to talk with me about a whole host of topics related to racing. Enjoy!

CitSB: What are your goals for 2015?

Jessica Cerra: My biggest goal was a stage win at Redlands and a top-3 GC finish. I don’t know that that’s a reality anymore [due to surgery — ed.]. An NRC stage win, a podium at nationals, definitely a podium at Winston-Salem or in Philly. Qualifying for the road world championship team, I guess that’s the biggest goal that I have overall.

CitSB: What kind of mental prep goes into a shot at making the road team for worlds?

JC: The more I try to hold back expectations the worse things go. The more I go in relaxed, remembering that I’m here because I like to race my bike, then the more instinctual decisions I make and things turn out better. This year I planned to go in being the strongest, most durable, fittest person out there because in those situations you can think more clearly; you’re not hanging on, you’re affecting the race. That’s how I want to race this year. I put in a huge base this year, 2,000 miles just in December, and I took good care of my body, got consistent massages, and have been working with a coach now, documenting sleep and weight, and taking a more professional approach. But my coach also likes me just being me; I like numbers and knowing my power but I also like doing the group ride with Thurlow on the front just killing it, and putting myself on the front, in the wind, so I know what my body can do in those super tough scenarios and then I can rely on those things to get me ready for racing, where those super hard moments happen all over again. Since I don’t have a lot of experience as a racer, the group rides are a huge part of my training.

CitSB: How does it feel to be the only woman in the first 25 wheels or on the entire ride when Thurlow and company are drilling it?

JC: It’s my favorite part about riding my bike. It’s pretty cool! After a while I don’t even feel any different from anyone else. I compare myself exactly to the peers I’m riding with. I’m hard on myself, too, I only see my weaknesses.

CitSB: What’s the hardest thing for women throwing their hat in the ring on the hard group rides?

JC: A lot of women are intimidated. There’s the fear of getting dropped, that everyone will notice, and it’s so embarrassing. I always try to encourage other women and make sure to compliment them when they do well or make it to certain points in the ride. I remember being nervous going to the Swami’s Ride, feeling exactly like I was going to a race! It’s intimidating and you don’t want to do something goofy and be “that person,” and you’re obsessed about training and don’t want to ruin your training by getting dropped. I encourage every woman to get out there. It’s the reason I’ve gotten as strong as I am; I’ve put myself in situations that are harder than what I have the strength for. You learn so much about racing and handling when you’re over your limit. It’s true, too, guys have better bike handling skills. You learn so much by racing with guys in a crit, about the lines that they take, and you start to see things, like how they can squeak through the inside of corners. It’s faster and more aggressive so there’s less time to think about what you’re doing. Most of the riders have the fitness to race but a lot of it is, “Why am I getting dropped when there’s five laps to go?” The more you do it, you realize it’s not fitness, it’s efficiency and awareness. You keep putting yourself in those situations, and it’s scary and you just do it. That’s how I learned.

CitSB: Now you’re a fixture on the North County rides and guys know that you can grind them up into little chunks of meat and they fear you. How does that feel?

JC: I don’t know if I look at it like that. I’m so focused on my own internal fears of what’s going to happen when I get to the power climb, and I know the women’s pro field is so strong and they know what they’re doing and are so good. NRC races are so different from local ones. I was supposed to go with the national team to do the spring classics which I’m not doing now, but I think of those situations on the local rides getting me prepared to be in those types of pelotons. When you don’t have a ton of experience in these races but you live in a place where there are 150 people on a group ride, you can apply the same things you know are going to happen in a race. If you want to be part of a race, then I go into a group ride practicing rotating through in the first 10 or 15 positions, gauging the effort to pull through, really what I’m doing is preparing myself to have to do those things in the peloton. It’s nice to ride with the guys; it used to be fun but now it’s more about completing a job. I expect them to make it hard and I expect them to look at me like I’m one of the people up there where it’s windy and not to make it easy because I’m a girl.

CitSB: Do you feel guys cut you slack? Or do they try to slaughter you like everyone else?

JC: They treat me like everyone else.

CitSB: How do you make the jump from racing Boulevard to the national or international level?

JC: Without my mountain biking background it would have been harder. I have lots of natural positional awareness and muscle memory where things happen in a race and I can read where to be, how to navigate through tricky situations, and how to feel confident about how I ride my bike. That’s huge. The second you don’t have confidence it’s going to be the worst day. When you’re riding scared nothing goes smooth.  You bobble and crash, and it’s the same in the peloton. Confidence is so huge. You take control and put yourself where you need to be. Combined with my fitness, I was lucky. I went into pro racing and figured I can handle a bike and am one of the best descenders, I’m fit enough to see what’s going on, to read how the lead-out will go, so in a lot of races I could freelance and observe and notice, and you know, I could also be focused on what I was bad at–I tried to practice those situations to get better because I didn’t have a lot of racing experience. I think the biggest thing about the transition was positioning and being efficient, and that same transition happens going from the national to the international peloton. It’s a whole different level. The courses are harder, the conditions are worse, the fight for position is constant, you have to keep putting yourself in position over and over and over again. I also learned that every time at end of a race when I decided to think through what was happening, I got my face kicked in, zero results. When I just “did” it rather than think it, something inside told me what to do and it seemed to work. It takes time to trust that inner feeling. I also didn’t feel I belonged. I was stoked with a top 20 at Redlands, and had no idea about my potential. I figured out that I was more prepped than I thought I was. It’s a hard balance, though. You can’t let it go to your head but you still have to be confident enough to trust your instincts to put yourself where you need to be.

CitSB: How are things going with Harmony Bar?

JC: We had a setback with the name. We filed for a trademark and then a couple of other companies filed for the same name and our application was denied. So now we’ve filed for a new name and have been in a year of a holding pattern because we can’t make our packaging and take the next step; without the name and the brand it’s hard to move forward. The good news is that we’re still consistently selling all of our inventory online and in the bike shops we work with. There’s no marketing except word of mouth. People say it’s the best they’ve ever had and they tell our story. The next couple of months will be quiet because we’re sorting out the name. We also signed up with SmartStop, which is a big opportunity for us. By Tour of California time we’ll be with SmartStop and ready with our new name, branding, and packaging.

CitSB: For someone not familiar with Harmony Bar, how is it different from the zillions of other energy foods out there?

JC: It’s unique because I never made it to market and sell. I made it because I have a master’s degree in exercise physiology, I was in the kitchen with ingredients, paper, and pen, and mixed them a hundred times over, over, and over until I got a bar that tasted like a cookie and had all the macro nutrients that I wanted for my training. This was something I was making for myself. I knew the research was there showing that bars higher in fat were good for endurance athletes. So basically, I wanted to eat cookies on the bike! I love food and eat a ton of calories on the bike and wanted to eat things that tasted good and were like real food. Everyone said “Holy crap, this tastes like a cookie and works so well and can I buy some?” It got popular on its own because, you know, athletes out there like cookies and like to eat!

CitSB: Do you see yourself as a role model for other cyclists?

JC: I’m starting to. Unfortunately, as much as we’re trying to grow the sport of women’s cycling, coming from triathlon and MTB, I can say that road racing is by far the most intimidating to get into. Its very clique-ish, the teams and their kits and the people keep to themselves. I remember feeling like “Whoa! This isn’t like mountain biking where we finish a race and all have a beer together!” It’s hard to feel like you have a place in it. For me it’s important to change that atmosphere and for women to feel like the sport is approachable, the people are approachable, that I’m approachable. People come up after a race and they’re intimidated and I don’t like that. I’m open to talking to everyone. Lots of people are continually asking for advice about food and particular race courses and I spend lots of time answering questions on Facebook and getting to know people. I’m genuinely interested in people and their goals. After having my setbacks, the biggest joy for me is seeing others succeed. I gave a girl my racing clothes from SPY because she didn’t have any; the team kits weren’t ready yet. There’s more I can do than just racing and trying to win.

CitSB: How do you help people break into the secret society of road racing? How do you get them to take the step to enter a race?

JC: Maybe it’s different for women? I just go up to women and tell them how well they’re riding. For women it’s different. A lot of people wlll approach me and say, “My friend said you’d be on the ride,” and it’s someone new or who’s not in a club and I’ll be cool and tell them to keep coming out, and find out what they like, do they like climbing or sprinting, and the more you start hanging around the more you’ll learn. It’s in my nature to help. When I started cycling in grad school I was a a Fred, or a Frieda, I didn’t have any money for equipment and cool, nice people helped and supported and gave me pedals, for example, and had that never happened I would have never gotten to the point I’m at now. I want cycling to grow, and rides to grow, and races to grow, and people who complain about prize money or promoters are missing the fun–it’s about knowing people and being excited about seeing people you know, not avoiding the race because you don’t fit in and aren’t going to beat Monster Media and Surf City and SPY and not get a result. I try to imagine if I were a Cat 5 dude how tough that would be and how intimidating. But there are enough people who are cool and who have the same perspective that I do, who want to help. We want local racing and good group rides and an atmosphere of mutual respect. There are a lot of really good people on SPY, the team I rode with last year, people who are great riders and humble and who want to help. Without the opportunities given me by SPY and Michael Marckx I wouldn’t have ever gotten to race Redlands and then gotten the call-up to the pro ranks. MMX knew I wouldn’t be at SPY in the long run but he saw the potential and the opportunity to help grow and launch an athlete. He really put his faith in me and I couldn’t have done it without him and the support–the financial support, the logistical support of getting to races, and just a group of people who were always so cool and who believed in me.

CitSB: Tell me about your new team.

JC: The new team is amazing! It’s called Twenty16 p/b ShoAir, and we’re a UCI team this year. The director is Mari Holden and the GM/owner is Nicola Cranmer. They appraoched me and had watched my racing earlier and saw something they liked and it seemed like a great match. We’re a unique team. We have a lot of team goals and do a lot of big races but we also emphasize individual goals like doing ‘cross or track or the national team and racing in Europe. The theme of the team is “Women that race with continued education.” They encourage college and want us to have things off the bike to contribute and bring to the team as well. I’m 32, I did the reverse — went to school first and then found pro cycling!

CitSB: How many teammates live in SD?

JC: Only me. A couple live in Orange County, but we’re from all over the place.

CitSB: Has the team targeted any races this year?

JC: Redlands, which is big for women, and this year TTT nationals is a good one for us because it will be good prep for TTT worlds, which is in the USA in Richmond. One of the big sponsors is SRAM so having them support the TOC women’s race is a huge addition to our calendar and something we’ll focus on. Tour of the Gila is UCI for women this year, so it’s a focus for all of the teams, as well as Winston-Salem and the Philly race, and Philly is a world cup event. All the races are around the same time as nationals, which will be key racing for our team.

CitSB: Anything you want to add?

JC: The team has been really supportive so it’s scary being the new person on the team and I’ve been waking up every morning with photos and texts from team camp. It’s a pretty good feeling to not have really met teammates and already be included. They truly have my best interests at heart! I know that it’s going to be a good season this year–a bunch of bad-ass women with a lot of horsepower on this team!

END

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