May 1, 2014 § 25 Comments
The first time we shared a beer, or rather ten beers, neither of us could drink. I, because I had been on the wagon for the better part of three years. She, because she was five.
It was at a big party put on by her dad. There was the obligatory keg and more than a hundred guests. She had been fascinated by the tapping of the keg and the spew of foam. Her dad had noticed her curiosity. “Romy,” he said when she got too close to the tap, “don’t pour the beer.”
I watched the whole thing from a safe distance and said nothing, but sooner rather than later dad got pulled away by the festivities, leaving me, the teetotaler, to fill up all those red plastic cups. And fill them I did, with Romy watching shyly, but not too shyly, from the edge of the hedge. Pretty soon the drunks, I mean the guests, had as much beer as their cups could handle, and with the arrival of the taco truck they migrated down the hill to cut the bitter beer with an infusion of salt and salsa.
I looked at her and she looked at me. It was just the two of us. “Want some beer?” I said. She nicked her head and came over to the tap.
“How do I do it?” she asked.
I showed her, and we filled up a cup all the way to the top. “Okay,” I said. “Now fill up mine.” She did.
We stood there looking at each other, grinning, and nervously glancing down the hill to see if dad had noticed our shenanigans. He was holding court, though, and it was pretty far away. “Now what?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I said. “I don’t drink beer.”
“Me neither. But it’s fun squirting out from the thingy,” she said.
“Let’s dump it over here,” I suggested, and we committed the ultimate beer sin: we poured out our cups under the hedge.
“Let’s do it again!” she said.
She filled our cups with more beer, and we laughed, looking down the hill, giggling but a shade worried that we’d get discovered. After filling and tossing several more cups, a drunk came up and requested a refill. I obliged.
Much later I went down the hill to pay my respects to the godfather and say goodnight. “Thanks for the party,” I said.
“You have fun?” he asked, eyes twinkling.
“Romy seemed to enjoy herself.”
“Ah, yeah,” I said.
He grinned a knowing grin.
As the years go by
Later that year he moved to North County San Diego. Over the years I’d go down from time to time to ride bikes and drink his beer, having fallen long and hard from that impossibly unstable wagon. Romy would invariably pop in when we were drinking and would want to talk about books. She read everything, remembered everything, talked about everything. I’d call her precocious except she wasn’t “pre.” She was fully informed and alert, and ended up giving me books to read, probably to improve what she’d identified as a seriously deficient intellect.
What I always noticed, though, wasn’t simply the brilliance and the fully formed mind. I noticed her and her dad. Something very profound and warm existed between them, as strong and evident as that day when we’d poured beer on the sly, which hadn’t been on the sly after all. He was all-seeing. She was all-loving. The father and daughter were in harmony with the world and had been from the date of issue.
On Sunday I finished the Belgian Waffle Ride, riding through a puffed-up arch, the scanner notching my time at almost nine hours, and there was nothing on my mind except the thought that I could get off my bike and have a beer. Across the way I saw Romy and her dad. She’d been waiting anxiously at the finish line for him to come through, which he had done, almost two hours before me.
When he got there, the moment was captured in pixels by Kristy Morrow, one of the finest photographers around. It was more than a tired old guy crossing the finish line. It was something far more special than that. I’d tell you what it was, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll spare you the extra two thousand in verbiage and let you figure it out for yourself.
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to pouring more beer out under the hedge! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
April 25, 2014 § 20 Comments
There are three things that make a course: the route, the weather, and the riders.
The 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride offers up a route like no other. Much has been written about it, and each rider will discover the extraordinary difficulty of this 136-mile torture chamber at his leisure. The weather will likely be dry and cool with a moderate wind.
When it comes to riders, though, most of us will have only a fleeting glance of the strongest participants, as they will storm away in the first wave, never to be seen until the finish. If you are one of the people who is showing up to the BWR in order win a jersey, here’s a snapshot of a few of the people you’ll have to beat.
- Ryan Trebon. Pro cyclocross racer and sponsored SPY rider, former U.S. national champion.
- Neil Shirley. First place finisher in the Belgian Waffle Ride’s 2013 edition, and one of the best professional riders in America.
- Dan Cobley. Don’t let the Cat 3 fool you. He finished fourth last year behind Neil, Thurlow Rogers, and Karl Bordine.
- Brent Prenzlow. He’s an uncategorized “public” rider. He also made mincemeat of virtually the entire field in the inaugural 2012 BWR.
- Phil Tinstman. The best all-around masters racer in America. He time trials, sprints, climbs, and has exceptional off-road skills. Former sprint jersey winner in the 2012 edition. If Neil misses a pedal stroke, Phil’s my pick to win it all.
- Chris DeMarchi. This is Chris’s first BWR, and you can expect that he will ride it with a vengeance. Chris is also one of the best masters racers in America and is teammates with Phil. Look for a one-two combo from these two titans.
- John Abate. Lokalmotor from San Diego, John has the legs and the knowledge of the local roads to be there at the finish.
- Lars Finanger. Unhappily (for us) shipped off to Houston last year, Lars returns to his old stomping grounds where he can be expected to stomp people’s heads in if he’s on form.
- Michael Marckx. Will this be MMX’s year? He knows every inch of the course because he designed it. He’s riding with exceptional speed and strength. Could be awkward if the head honcho wins his own race!
- Ryan Dahl. Truly one of the beasts of North County and always a top finisher at the BWR, in 2013 Ryan earned the hardman jersey for toughest rider on the course.
- Brian Zink. The question mark here is fitness. If Brian is on form, he will storm the field, much as he did in 2012 when he won the hardman jersey, and last year when he finished sixth.
- David Jaeger. Winner of the inaugural BWR in 2012, DJ is currently on fire as evidenced by his podium finish in the state road race. If he carries it over to Sunday, he will be lethal.
- Logan Fiedler. If he hadn’t been felled by a broken elbow earlier this year, Logan would be higher on this list as he’s an excellent climber, skilled in the dirt, and has tremendous endurance.
- Robert Frank. Major Bob placed 16th last year with minimal training. This year he’s scorching, earning 2nd place last weekend at the state road race. Lean, fast, an excellent climber, and equally comfortable on dirt and asphalt, a podium is not out of the question.
Given the fact that over 500 riders have signed up for the 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride, there will certainly be surprises as well as strong riders who I’m simply unfamiliar with and have omitted out of ignorance. This list, however, should include at least a handful of the top finishers. Game on!
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to a masseuse fund that will help me feel better after the BWR! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
April 24, 2014 § 10 Comments
I saw that the Belgian Waffle Ride is full. I’m gonna bandit the ride anyway. How can they stop me? The roads are free, right?
There are some excellent ethical and practical reasons not to bandit the ride. First, the ride only exists because of the 500+ people who have paid. So for you to only take from others who have only given is unfair. Second, by failing to properly pay and register for the ride, you are complicating efforts to ensure that the event runs smoothly. Paid police escorts, insurance, and city/county permits depend on having an accurate head count of participants. Third, the ride has been open since February. You had plenty of time to register, and the organizers and other participants should not have to foot the bill for you because you “waffled” about doing the ride. Finally, numerous two-wheeled bouncers will be on the ride, prepared to throw you out on your ass if you try to crash it.
23’s? 25’s? 28’s? Compact, right? 28 in the rear? Or 30? 32 too extreme? ‘Cross bike? Road frame? MTB? Pre-race nutrition? Steak and eggs? Carbs? So many questions …
In a quandary,
I think Nike has a slogan about this.
I signed up for the Belgian Waffle Ride because it sounded like fun. But I’ve been really busy at work and Billy’s soccer games have chewed up my weekends plus date night with Lucille, honey-do’s etc. so I haven’t gotten in much riding hardly any at all in fact. I know that it’s only three days away but I’m thinking some hard hill intervals, try to squeeze in an 80-miler, and a compact crank, maybe a new wheelset so that I can at least finish. Thoughts?
Hard Pushin’ Poppa
There is a massively fortified coastline in Normandy with three German divisions, concertina strewn along the surf line, thousands of pill boxes, land mines, machine-gun emplacements, and heavy aerial bombardment. I’m going to storm it in my underwear with a rowboat and a pea-shooter. Thoughts?
I’m not interested in the Belgian Waffle Ride. You know why? Because you guys are a-holes. Acting like it’s such a big deal, purple jerseys, such a macho ride, only the tough guys finish, blah blah blah. What a joke. You goons will clog up the roads and make motorists hate us even more plus it’s a ripoff I’d never pay money for something I can crash for free. Can’t wait to sneak into the beer garden. HA HA HA!
The fact that the BWR does not appeal to people like you is not a coincidence.
I was gonna do the BWR and had trained like mad, crazy mad. Dude, if you could see my fitness you would be so awed. I was gonna roll with the leaders and drill & grill & totally kill. Been practicing on all the dirt around here, 450-mile weeks, some of my KOM’s are getting Neil Shirley-like fast, yeah, that fast. I was gonna put the hurt on. But I went to see my doctor yesterday and he said I can’t because of this condition I’ve had so I can’t do it. Was so looking forward to doing the thang!
No problem; hope your rash clears up. I’m sure you would have killed it.
I was all excited about the Belgian Waffle Ride until I found out I was put in the third wave, with all the slow wankers and the beginners. Balls!
Cattin’ Up Carl
The administrators provisionally placed you in the first wave as you indicated on your registration that you were a Cat 1 on the road. Before finalizing the waves, they went to USA Cycling to verify that registrants had honestly entered their real category. Under “Cattin’ Up Carl, license number 498029,” here is what they found: Pooodleville Crit, DNF [Cat 5], Snarkton RR, 67th out of 68 [Cat 5], Hocknspit TT, 10th out of 10 [Cat 5], Swampass Circuit Race, 109th out of 109 [Cat 5]. All other events (fifteen total) you were listed as either DNF or DNS. So this year you will not be placed in the first wave, along with the Continental and domestic pros, Cat 1’s, state and national champions. However, they look forward to watching you cat up in 2015.
Regretfully but not really,
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to a beer fund that makes me feel better about my terrible race results! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
March 17, 2014 § 29 Comments
There is still more than a month left before you line up for the the third SPY Belgian Waffle Ride. But it might as well be tomorrow.
You see, training and preparation aren’t going to help you this time around. If you were paying attention, the 2013 version was the most challenging one-day event on the calendar. It dragged us over unpaved roads, 120 miles of relentless riding, and 9,000 feet of elevation. The ride was so awful that people milled around in the parking lot afterwards trying to smile, and failing. There wasn’t enough strength left to raise the muscles around the corners of their mouths.
I’m exaggerating, of course. A handful of riders were tired but happy at the end. They were either genetic freaks who have nothing in common with you and me, or they were clever people who kept a steady pace from start to finish, refusing to get suckered into the accelerations of faster groups.
Everyone else was vulture meat.
How bad, was it, really? I was so devastated that I fell off the 3-year teetotaling wagon and have been drinking incessantly ever since. Only recently have the bad memories faded, but not really.
The 2013 BWR, however, was a cakewalk
The 2014 route map has been mostly finalized, and it is senseless in its difficulty. The ride is longer. Instead of a leg-snapping 120 miles, the total distance is 136. The ride is hillier. Instead of 9k feet, it is now 11k. Worst of all, instead of 10 miles of unpaved road, this year offers up more than 30 miles of sand, dirt, rocks, and gravel. That’s bad enough, as in “He put out his own eyes with a fork is bad enough.” But the thing that makes it worse is that much of the off-road portion is uphill. And then, of course, downhill.
Any one or any two of these elements could be properly trained for if, say, you were a full-time professional cyclist in your 20’s or 30’s. But all three elements together — distance, elevation, and road surface — mean that there is no realistic way to be ready for it. It will grind you up and leave you forlorn and mostly lost somewhere in North County San Diego on a fiery hot day in the middle of our first official Globally Warmed Spring.
None of this hell and misery takes into account the high likelihood of a mechanical, or two, or seven, or flats, or ripped out sidewalls or destroyed rims or cracked frames or shattered forks. In other words, if your equipment is right, it will be so heavy and sturdy that you will almost certainly never be able to get up the climbs towards the end of the course. If your equipment is wrong, you’ll DNF somewhere in the hinterlands, eyed by hungry pumas and by buzzards who circle overhead. Once you’ve collapsed at the roadside rest assured that the survivors will part out your bike and empty your pockets for extra food.
What’s a poor registrant to do who’s already paid his entry fees?
Below are my suggestions for surviving this miserable beatdown of a day, a day in which you will go through the spectrum of human emotions, from anger to rage to resignation to exhaustion to depression to fear of impending death to not caring anymore to beer. The happy end of the emotional spectrum will not manifest until months after the event, if ever. So:
- Do not pedal hard during the first 120 miles. That’s right. If you squander so much as a pedal stroke early on, thinking you can hang with the Bordines, the Rogerses, the Shirleys, the Cobleys, and the Dahls, you will come apart at Mile 60 or earlier. Trust me. I’ve done it.
- Do not be suckered in by the tasty waffle breakfast. Have your normal big ride pre-dinner and your normal big ride breakfast, whatever that is. Last year I ate 17 waffles and a pound of eggs and washed it down with a quart of coffee and paid the price beginning at Mile 5. That price was destruction.
- Avoid the rest stops unless you need water. If your nutritional plan is to fuel up on the Barbie food that will be available by the fistful, you’ll never make it. Carefully pack substantial, real food, like peanut butter sandwiches or a large t-bone steak.
- If you stop for water, get back on your bike immediately. Every minute you stop equals fifteen minutes of pedaling to exorcise the coagulated death sludge that will immediately clog your vascular system. If you’re not moving forward, you’re rocketing backwards.
- Carry three spare tubes and a mini-pump. Share your tubes with no one. This is not the day to help out people who are unprepared, or who showed up with threadbare tires, or who were too cheap to bring an extra tube, or who are riding on paper thin race tires and latex tubes, or who are simply unlucky. This is their day to die. So it is written.
- If you’re not on ‘cross or MTB tires (either of which is a suicidal choice, by the way), run 25-mm heavy-duty training tires. Run new ones, but make sure they have a hundred miles or so on them.
- Inflate your tires to 80 or 90 psi, max. The course will be covered with sharp stones, thorns, rough gravel, roots, glass, and dead people. The lower psi will greatly reduce the number of punctures as you roll over the teeth and bones of the dead and will add immeasurably to your comfort over the course of this 10- or 12- or 14-hour day.
- Go all-out with your gearing. 50 teeth max in front, 28 in back … 30 if you can make it work with your derailleur. When you hit the slopes of Double Peak and can crank it into your 36 x 30, you will love me and buy me free beer for the rest of the year. If you cheap out or lazy out and show up with real road gearing you’ll founder and die somewhere in the sandpits of backroad North County, never to be seen again.
- Do not have a single article of clothing or piece of equipment that you haven’t thoroughly tested and ridden in adverse conditions. This is not the day to try anything new, even that cute chick or guy you picked up at Green Flash Brewery the night before. Sample them later, after you’re dead.
- Ride with full-fingered gloves and a shit-ton of sunblock. The sun will drain and waste and sap your vital juices, so cover whatever you can stand as long as you don’t overheat.
- Max out your uninsured motorist coverage. In the unlikely event you are injured or killed on the course by a car, this will provide you with an avenue for compensation that you or your heirs will badly need.
- Make sure you’ve got at least one 120-mile day on your legs before the Big Day, but don’t bother trying to recon the whole route or to simulate it. You can’t, and the attempt will only destroy your will to live. Treat it like the invasion of Normandy. Prep the best you can, but leave the actual catastrophe to the day itself.
- Spend the night in Carlsbad or somewhere close to the start. That way we can all go pound IPA’s until the wee hours. Really. Because whether you show up with a bleeding hangover or fresh and rested, the end result will be the same.
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November 9, 2013 § 2 Comments
Now that you have mastered The Rule, we will move on to the finer points of BWR-ing. Although most successful BWR-ers focus on things like nutrition, training, careful selection of the appropriate equipment, prayer, and an adequate insurance policy that includes a customized graveside service, it is also crucial that your 2014 BWR campaign be adequately stocked with excuses. Please become familiar with the following, and add your own as necessary.
1. “I’m a roadie, not a ‘cross racer.” Indications: Road wanker who’s too chicken to ride dirt and needs a good reason for not signing up in the first place.
2. “There’s too much off-road dirt and shit.” Indications: Road wanker who’s too chicken to ride dirt and needs a good reason for not signing up in the first place. Also, “trackies” who are unfamiliar with gears, brakes, bicycling.
3. “I had too much bacon at the BWR pre-ride breakfast.” Indications: None. There is no such thing as “too much bacon.”
4. “I was overdressed.” Indications: You brought a pair of armwarmers.
5. “I was underdressed.” Indications: All you had was a pair of armwarmers.
6. “I flatted. Twelve times.” Indications: You got one flat and thumbed a ride home in the sag wagon.
7. “My frame snapped in half because of the rough roads.” Indications: You got scared by the first sandy section and quit.
8. “My wheels collapsed.” Indications: Same as No. 7 above.
9. “I got sand in my shorts and it rubbed my vagina/nutsack painfully raw so I had to abandon.” Indications: Riders whose vaginas/nutsacks have not yet achieved the consistency of elephant hide.
10. “There was way too much climbing.” Indications: Riders who are wider than they are tall.
11. “The selection of goodies at the sag stops wasn’t diverse enough for my rather unique dietary needs.” Indications: Vegans, breathanarians, congenital idiots.
12. “Just wait ’til next year.” Indications: 99% of finishers, 100% of quitters.
April 4, 2013 § 19 Comments
You know how your mom taught you that cheating is wrong?
Well, nothing’s changed since then.
Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines cheating as “Any activity regularly engaged in by cyclists.”
The Oxford English Dictionary is more succinct: “Cheating: A form of cycling.”
Though cycling is nothing more than cheating on wheels, it takes a special event to really bring out every cyclist’s uncontrollable urge to cheat his mates. An event, like, say, the BWR.
Name, address, and category, please
Riders doing the BWR had to fill out an application. One of the questions was “Yo, wanker, what USCF category are you, if any?”
Maybe they thought no one would read their entry application. Maybe they thought they could fake out the BWR…”Who’s gonna know if I’m a Cat 1 or a Cat 5? Shoot, I had that fake license made for Tour of Tucson so I could start in the front and that went off without a hitch.”
Or, maybe they mistakenly thought that the risk of detection was low and therefore worth the lie, as low-ranking or unlicensed riders were going to be relegated to the second wave of starters.
Drumroll, wankers! Below is the fully published list of flailers and liars who’ve hilariously listed themselves as Cat 2 and yes, even Cat 1! Wankers who get dropped going out of the parking lot! Wankers who wouldn’t know the front of a peloton if you gave them a motorcycle and a push from Bahati!
[Kidding. I would never publish that list. But it exists, so you can go ahead and squirm anyway. You know who you are, and more importantly, so do I!]
Being relegated to the second wave is apparently a mark of undistinction. Certain unnamed riders have gone out of their way to grovel, plead, and make guest appearances to ensure they leave in the first wave. You know, that’s the wave with the guys who are going to drop you forever at about Mile Six.
My advice? Lobby for Wave Two. It’s the golf cart crew. It’s where the fun will be. It’s where the only pressure will the the PSI in your tires. It’s where you can admit that you don’t have a chance in hell of winning a jersey, and you could care less! You’re here to do a tough ride, acquit yourself honorably, eat some waffles and drink some beer.
I begged to be sent off in Wave Two, but my request was denied with two words: “Sorry, no.”
Do I care? Nope. I’ll get shelled and enjoy my day regardless.
PS: The big cheat
If anything about the propensity to lie about one’s lame USA Cycling category is serious (and I’m pretty sure nothing is), it’s this: People who lie on entry forms are kinfolk to people who cheat on the course by cutting it. Last year the big story was that only a handful of riders actually did the entire route. When faced with the unpleasantry of Country Club Lane at Mile Zillion, they somehow missed the turn that had been marked with bright orange paint.
Not this year! Everyone who wants to be deemed a finisher has to join Strava and upload their ride data. No data, no jersey. Worst of all, no commemorative ale. So just do like your mother taught you: Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. And eat your vegetables. You’ll need ’em.
March 28, 2013 § 17 Comments
After the forty-seventh person sidled up to me and asked, “So, why’d you kill the blog?” I decided that an explanation was in order. Speculation and gossip always trump reality, and I heard some good faux explanations. My top three faves:
1. You’ve been sued, right?
2. Someone powerful is very angry at you, huh?
3. You ran out of [expletive] to write, didn’t you?
I did in fact run out, but not out of [expletive] to write. I ran out of time.
I had always told myself and anyone who asked that this blog only took up “An hour a day, max, and often not even that.” That much was true as far as the writing was concerned. I type quickly, and compose as I type.
But the planning and thinking that preceded each post, and the mental exhaustion that set in after each topic went live meant that the true toll was much more than an hour. I’d need multiple martinis after each posting, which was a huge problem as I’ve been sober for over three years now, give or take a couple of beers.
My work flow was disastrous. As soon as an idea occurred to me, or a funny thing happened on the road, I had to write it down and couldn’t rest ’til the job was done. That was partly practical. I have great difficulty holding onto ideas, and if I don’t sit down and whack ’em out they go away, never to be found again. Sure, there are notepads and voice recorders and all kinds of ways to memorialize ideas, but none of them worked well whistling down Latigo at 40 mph, and if I sat at the desk and began notating, the notes would turn into full-blown posts. Boom. Day shot.
I also had self-imposed deadlines. My two readers were eager for the latest burnt offering, and they would let me know it. Being the kind of guy who likes to please everyone and who can’t stand it when people are unhappy, and having a day job that is all about deadlines and time limits, I fell into the manic state of “gotta blog now,” and somehow maintained it for a very long time. Note: More than a week was a “very long time.”
As much of a relief as it has been not to blog, it’s been frustrating, too. Hundreds of great topics have slipped away never to be recaptured, things that could potentially change our lives forever, like the big group ride on PCH where countless riders were almost taken down by a gigantic, glistening, pink self-pleasuring device that had been abandoned on the side of the road.
What was the story of that device? How got it there? From whence did it come (so to speak)? Wherefore wert it cast aside?
Quality stuff, right?
Although the blog is now baaaaack, it’s not really ever coming back. I’ve limited myself to twenty minutes a day. It’s amazing how long it takes to finish something when you’ve only got twenty minutes to work on it. I’ve also instituted a new policy: Henceforth I will actually read what I’ve written before hitting “publish.” The simple act of reading something through in its completed state was a revelation, not unlike hearing your own voice on tape for the first time. “I sound like THAT?”
In this case, however, it was “I wrote THAT? What was I thinking?”
So that’s the best explanation I can give. What follows is what you’d expect: A preview of the 2013 Belgian Waffle Ride. What else?
Ignorance is bliss until April 7 rolls around
Despite the exhortations of the ride’s founder and the chirpalong “Uh-huh!” of those who have test ridden the 2013 version of the Belgian Waffle Ride’s newest course, only a handful of riders showed up two weekends ago to check out the entire route. This was a shame, because although it was a vicious and brutal day that left the handful of finishers completely shot, it was also the last opportunity before April 7 to experience the final course under fast conditions.
Here’s the take home for those who are somehow going to drag themselves to the start line (Patrick, Gerald, Ted…read carefully!):
1. A few short miles into the ride, and still in the “neutral” zone, the route takes a right off El Camino Real onto Kelly Drive. This immediately leads to a massive wall, which is short but so steep that the field will summarily be reduced from 100 or 150 to 50 riders or less. Maybe much less. There may be opportunities to regroup owing to traffic signals, but the wrong combination of stoplights will effectively separate you from the lead group forever when the pace lights up over this “neutral”-ly grueling hill.
2. Shortly after this monster there will be another wall that starts out as a moderate climb and quickly becomes a “grab for your biggest rear cog.” Panic will ensue, as those who have not pre-ridden the course realize that the ride hasn’t even begun and they’re riding at their limit. How many bullets left in the magazine with 120 miles to go?
3. At the 22-mile mark there is the first feed zone. Do you need food now? You’re doomed. This is where those who are still in the main pack of 50 or so riders will race by the feed zone and leap off the edge of the bike path. Yes, leap. All the funsies officially end here, and the first King of the Dirt segment begins. Sit back in the saddle as you plunge off the ledge or you will endo. There’s some more soft sand, a ditch, and then a long, firm, dirt/grass section where the ‘crossers will go ape. It’s inconceivable that more than twenty or thirty riders will survive this selection. The numbers will reduce further at the end of the trail, where you’ll have to dismount, throw your bike over your shoulder, and clatter up a sheer rock embankment in your roadie shoes to get atop the path again. If you haven’t crashed, flatted, been dropped, or given up, count yourself lucky, or a contender, or not very smart.
4. Covered in your first fine film of dust, you’ll get a breather on the smooth asphalt of the bike path, but it won’t last for more than a couple of minutes. You’ll next encounter some fancy 180-turns, a curb-hop, and a launch onto a really nasty gravel section. It goes on for a couple of miles, and if you don’t thread the beaten section of the gravel you’ll be out amongst the large, loose, gravelly chunks, where crashing, flats, crashing, flats, crashing, flats, and losing control will send you off onto the embankment studded with massive, sharp paving stones, and from there into the river. Make sure you’ve got good tires and girded loins and a life preserver. You’ll need ’em.
5. At the end of this section the pre-final selection has been made. It will be a small group. A little pavement, a swig from the bottle, a deep breath, and folks will be looking around to see who’s left. It will be a select group. There will be a few minutes of peace punctuated by a sprint, after which you’ll ascend the next piece of unpaved road. This is about a mile long and will be the third section in the KOD calculations. If there are any stragglers here who should have been kicked out the back earlier on, they will exit stage rear now. You’ll be thoroughly lathered.
6. At the bottom of the short descent you’ll enter what is a killingly hard part of the course. There’s a short climb followed by miles and miles of rollers. The worst ones come in a series of three, with the longest the last. It will punish you beyond belief, and will take a complete effort to stay with the group. You’ll then hit another long series of undulating ups and downs, none particularly hard, but each one will reduce your arsenal, almost unnoticeably, until you have to stand up and pedal. This is a great time to quit kidding yourself if you’re with the main bunch. Sit up and be ready to spend the rest of the day enjoying the ride and focusing on getting through it. Let the heroes go do their thing. You’re no hero; you don’t even have a thing.
7. If you’ve let your ephemeral fitness fake you into hanging with the group, you’ll eventually wind up on a long grade that goes one endless mile up Old Highway 395 to Rainbow. It will destroy you, because someone in the group will take the opportunity to attack or at least keep the pressure on. If you get over this, the only thing that awaits now is hell. Your reward for perseverance will be a huge serving of catastrophe.
8. There will be a long, undulating run-in through Rice Canyon Rd. that has a couple of short kickers but ends in a glorious, balls-out descent of almost 3.5 miles, railing through shaded, twisting turns that would be beautiful if you weren’t so terrified of clipping a wheel and going down, or cooking a turn and becoming a hood ornament to oncoming traffic. Gather yourself, don’t pedal any more than is necessary, and get ready for the end of the ride, which is much nearer than you think.
9. Couser Canyon climb isn’t very long; only about 2.8 miles with two or three really steep sections. If you’ve been play-acting on LA County climbs like Grandview or Ganado, in theory this one is a piece of cake. You’ll find, however, that this cake is laced with razor blades, which in turn are spiked with cyanide and served on a radioactive plate. All those punchy rollers you’ve been doing the past 60 miles? They come home to roost HERE. You will cross the peak utterly broken, wondering what the hell happened, and screaming at yourself that you can’t believe you wasted so much energy so early on. That’s right. The ride isn’t even halfway over, and all the hard stuff starts now. If you had given up at the very beginning and rolled at an easy pace until the top of this climb, you’d still have your work cut out for you. But you didn’t. You hammered and followed wheels and tried to fake out physics. Mother nature? She still doesn’t like it when you try to fool her.
10. A punishing series of rollers ensue. The Lilac-Wilkes-Sierra climbs take the softening up that’s been administered so far and turn it into a numbing, grinding, slogging struggle just to surmount each roller. Punctuated with terrifying, half-paved descents that require a perfect line to avoid flatting or crashing out, this next few miles will leave you drained and defeated. Which means, of course, that it will be relentless misery from here on out.
11. A quick turn takes you onto the next King of the Dirt section. It’s long, it takes the fastest and best riders three minutes minimum to complete, and it takes the flailers three times that long. Recent rains have left the dirt soft and sandy, which is shorthand for “prepare to do a lot of walking and/or tipping over.” The initial drop into the creekbed has been the site of frames splitting in half and of riders careening off into the barbed wire, where they’ve been shredded to ribbons. The road alternates between navigable and “Thank Dog I brought my 28,” as short pitches rise up almost vertically and are surfaced with loose sand interspersed with terrible potholes. The end is a steep paved climb.
12. By now you’ve been completely subdued, and the thought of finishing is the only thing on your mind. What’s left is so awful that all you need to know is this: Bandy Canyon, Lake Hodges Rock Garden, Questhaven, and Double Peak. This fearsome foursome packs the worst of the BWR into the final 30 miles, not even counting the awful climb from the rock garden back up to Del Dios: Vicious climbs, precarious dirt roads, and the numbing effect of 130 miles and close to 11,000 feet of climbing.
This year’s ride will be even harder because of the sheer number of participants. In addition to the well-known hammerheads, riders from Europe, Canada, and other far-flung hinterlands (even Texas) have registered for this epic beatdown, throwdown, and throw-up. So eat big the night before, and eat big the night before that, and eat big the night before the night before, and pack down as many eggs and waffles as you can on the morning of the big ride.
See you in the infirmary. Over and out.