October 30, 2012 § 14 Comments
Some things are simple, like manners. Biking makes these simple things even simpler.
Clawing my way up Latigo yesterday I passed a woman and her boyfriend. “Hey, guys,” I said.
“Hey,” said the dude.
“Nice socks!” said the chick, admiring my pink unicorn Gnarlube calf-high stockings.
A couple of minutes later the dude had caught up to me. “You didn’t think I was going to let you just ride away as easy as that, did you?” he said, rudely, challenging.
“I’m just riding tempo by myself today,” was what I said.
What I thought was, “Fuck you, asshole.” Predictably, things went from tempo to threshold. Then I was by myself again.
What kind of dude drops his girlfriend to chase down a pair of chickenlegs in pink socks? Answer: Someone with very bad manners.
What happens to rude cyclists? Answer: They get shelled. Unceremoniously.
Mind if I leech?
After Latigo I headed north on PCH and met up with the Big Orange contingent a few miles after the Ventura County line. They were coming back from the Rock at Point Mugu. I u-turned and sat in for a few miles, chatting with Ron and Tink until a mechanical caused the group to stop.
I continued on with Robert Ephthamos, a dude with a terribly hard name to pronounce, much less spell, all dressed up in a Garmin kit. “I gotta get home,” he half-apologized as he picked up the pace. I could tell after a few moments that he was a relatively new rider, but game and ready to work.
We rode a hard tempo, easing up while passing under Cher’s compound in Malibu Colony. At Cross Creek we lifted the pace again after the stoplight. A group of four or five wankers saw this as their opportunity for a free ride, and hitched on.
Robert was lathered up, and so was I. After four miles the leeches hadn’t made the slightest effort to come through. “Robert,” I said as he rotated off of a particularly long pull, “make the fuckers pull through.”
My next pull was brief, and Robert had gone all the way to the back. The next guy in line put his hands on the tops as I slowed and swung over. “I can’t pull through!” he shouted.
–Next Line Is Absolutely True–
“I’m not strong enough!” he wailed.
–End Of Absolutely True Line–
I thought he was going to cry, like the time I told my dad “I can’t do word problems!” while struggling over Fourth Grade math.
“I don’t give a fuck,” I said. “If you’re strong enough to suck wheel, you’re strong enough to pull through. This isn’t a charity ride with you as the beneficiary. Get your saggy ass up here and take a pull.”
By now I’d slowed down so much that he could have easily come through, but the belief in his own mind that he couldn’t was so great that he just stopped pedaling. Robert roared by and I followed.
One of the wankers stayed with us, and after Robert and I took our turns he eased up next to me. “Do you want me to take a pull?”
“When you go to someone’s house for dinner, do you ask if they want you to refrain from pissing all over the toilet seat?” I asked. “Hell yes I want you to take a fucking pull!”
He pulled through. Rather large, and rather offended, and very well rested, he began winding up the speed until we were going well over thirty. Robert and I tucked behind the Cadillac draft as I counted strokes. At pedal stroke sixty, his shoulders started to sag and wobble a little bit. Then the speed started to drop. Then his pedal strokes changed from circles to squares to raggedy triangles.
This, of course, was the teachable moment. He’d overcome his inclination to suck wheel and, with a little prodding, had done the right thing, obeying the imperative of the paceline: He’d gone to the front.
Moreover, he’d put in a big effort. He’d behaved in a way worthy of redemption and forgiveness, such that if I now came through steadily and not too fast he could latch on, recover, and perhaps help out a few miles later. He would learn a valuable lesson about sharing the work, and more importantly, about the bonds of friendship that are built between strangers as they toil into the wind at their physical limits, sharing the work each according to his ability.
So I did the only respectable thing that I could do, both as a representative of cycling in the South Bay, as an older and experienced rider, and as someone who understands and profoundly respects what road cycling is all about, which is to say I attacked him so fucking hard that I thought I’d puke.
When my eyes refocused, Robert was pulling through at full throttle, a long string of drool splattered along his face. I jumped on his wheel and glanced back to confirm that our good friend was dropped and a receding speck in the distance.
Just before we settled back into a rhythm of dull, aching pain, Robert asked “Were you trying to teach that guy a lesson?”
“No,” I said. “The lesson was for you.”
He grinned and let the big meat sing.
October 17, 2012 § 6 Comments
I knew the NPR was going to be a smashfest this morning when, before we’d done half a lap on the Parkway, someone groused “We’re going as fast as if it were January.”
But this isn’t about Prez’s amazing jam 400m from the line, or about Erik the Red’s devastating smackdown in the sprunt, or about Davy Dawg’s pain-laced wind-up, or about USC John’s bitchslap pull up to the bridge on the last lap.
Nope. It’s about the clash of the new kits.
Bull and I had just dropped down off the Hill, joining with G$ and Mighty Mouse as we pedaled from Redondo to Manhattan Beach. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, Roadchamp appeared.
“Check it out!” he said, maw gaping like a bass going after a worm.
“Check what out?” I asked.
“Teeth, dude! I got teeth!”
Indeed he did. The half-year process of ripping out his corroded teeth and nailing posts into his jaw was now complete. Roadchamp would no longer talk or look like a biker from a Red State. But Roadchamp’s new teeth weren’t the only new thing on the NPR.
Young bucks from Trojan U. model their new StageOne kit
Once we were joined by the mob on Pershing, one thing stood out: The kids from USC were sporting their new kit, just as the ride’s regulars had unveiled their new NPR kits the week before. Although both were stylishly designed by Joe Yule, it became obvious after a few pedal strokes that it would be a contest of fashion on today’s ride.
No quarter would be given as wearers of the new kits dared each other to outstyle the other. A flurry of NPR kit attacks came early, even as last-year’s-kit-wearers from Big Orange and SPY vainly tried to keep up with the torrid pace. With each powerful surge of the Euro-cool outfit, the pack got thinner.
On the second lap, after biding their time, the attractive USC kits made their move with a series of searing fashion attacks. John Tomlinson’s perfectly tailored fit, followed by Ben Rudolph’s snappy thigh panels, laid waste to the peloton. Even the USC wanker dude who always makes a valiant stab before getting clubbed like a baby seal was pushed far forward, almost to the front, by the natty design of his new outfit.
Sterno-O flails with the all-black get-up
Down from the goat shacks of New Mexico to enjoy some SoCal sunshine, Stern-O, the one and only Stern-O, the legendary Stern-O, the man, the myth, the goatshack refugee, Stern-O himself showed up for his inaugural NPR.
Twice, or in some cases three times the age of other riders, Stern-O immediately showed that even though he was older than the hills, older than dirt, older than DOS even, he wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out in the back. Pounding off the front a couple of times and never hesitating to test his legs in the wind, Stern-O embarrassed all the wankers who, after more than a year of NPR’s have never made it to the front one single time.
Unfortunately, his escapades were accomplished wearing an all-black kit, and this year’s cycling fashion ensemble, although heavy on the black, requires certain bright colors in order to really contend for the fashion sprunt.
The bitter fashion pace sheared away a chasing wankoton composed of riders wearing clothing from 2011, 2010, and the few hapless sods whose gloves and socks didn’t have the same logo. Phlegmy O’Donnell, who, in the morning rush, had put a Big Orange jersey over an SBW pair of bibs, was pushed into a curb and left for dead.
The one fashion design you never can beat
In the end, the NPR kits ruled the day, even though the official sprunt finish was taken by Erik in a very last-year SPY kit. Davy Dawg’s wind-up was greatly hampered by his last-season Ironfly ensemble, and Big Steve, fresh from major back surgery, simply couldn’t contend with the amazing design sensibilities expressed by the NPR kit.
Several riders could be seen banging their bars in frustration at the slowness of their clothing, and Gimpy Sloots went so far as to dial up his team’s designer after the finish. “Mostly black with a dash of color, you hear me, dogdammit!” he screamed into his dumbphone.
Even though the USC outfit rode strong, in the end all were vanquished by the one quality of the new NPR kits that blew away the field: Their incredible tummy and butt-slimming effect. Numerous NPR regulars who had heretofore been known as “Cadillac draft,” “Barn door,” “Vacuum party,” and “Dallas-sized Ass” appeared, simply by pulling on an NPR kit, to be svelte, narrow hipped, and 30 pounds lighter.
NPR riders who were already narrow across the gunwales looked Schleck-thin. Roadchamp was barred from donning an NPR kit because of the general fear that its slimming properties would make him disappear altogether.
Unfortunately, Joe has saved his most devastating fashion release for last: The 2013 SPY-Giant kit, recently modeled by MMX on Facebook. Possessing roughly double the thinning properties of the NPR kit, and splashed with just enough color to make it stand out in the crowd, this is the outfit that could lay fashion waste to the field for the entirety of 2013.
Tune in next Tuesday to find out how the Battle of the Bike Kits goes down!
July 22, 2012 § 6 Comments
All year I’ve been hearing about Jules. It usually goes like this.
Wanker: Some little kid showed up on the Donut and kicked everyone’s ass.
Wanker: Yeah. Little 12 or 13 year-old kid. Rode everyone off his wheel.
WM: Yeah, right.
Wanker: I’m serious.
WM: Twelve years old? No way.
Wanker: That’s what we thought. No way a little kid would have the lungs for that kind of sustained effort.
WM: Not possible.
Wanker: Why don’t you come out and see for yourself?
WM: I’m busy that week.
I rolled out this morning flanked by Charon Smith and Tony Sells. The sunny weather and beautiful skies meant a huge turnout for the world famous South Bay Donut Ride, although some of the key assassins such as Miles Jr. and Tink were cavorting up the slopes of the Santa Monica mountains with Jeff Konsmo and his merry band of pain merchants. Dan Cobley, John Hall, Paul Che, Derek Brauch, and a couple of other hard hitters were there, though, so it was going to be hard.
“Hey Charon, see that kid?”
Jules is so short that he was almost invisible off on the edge of the peloton. “That one up there with the national champion shorts.”
“Yeah. What about him? What’s he doing here?”
“He’s going to ride away from everyone in this hundred-man group on the Switchbacks with the exception of about seven dudes. Everyone else will be put to the sword. You, Tony, me; we’re all going to go home today and say ‘I got my ass handed to me by a 13 year-old.'”
Charon gave me that look as if to say, “You ain’t fooling me with your foolishness.”
“I know it sounds crazy, Charon. Just watch. He’s gonna run a hot poker up the middle of every tender, middle-aged ego out here. You’ll see.”
Up, down, and around the bend
I watched Jules for a couple of minutes, marveling. He navigated the pack with ease and skill. Giant men on giant bikes bounded by him, around him, and in front of him with all the kookish, wankerish bike moves that infest the Donut at every turn of the pedal once you get more than about ten wheels back. Jules expertly avoided the freds and then hit the edge of the road, rocketing up into a solid position as we climbed out of Malaga Cove.
I wondered why no one was talking to him. Here’s a kid with the confidence, skills, and proven ability to go out on a big boy’s ride and smash people’s heads in. This isn’t just precocious, it’s pre-precocious. Maybe you wankers should talk to him and get to know him now, before he starts peering out at you from magazine covers.
“Hey, man, what’s your name?” I asked.
“Jules,” he said. Totally cool. Totally grown up.
“I’m Seth. Nice to meet you.”
Brief smile. “Yeah.”
He told me about his recent trip to Trexlertown, where he scored some impressive results on the track. That explained his great bike handling. A bit of later research showed that Jules is an omnivorous cyclist: he races track, crits, road, time trials, and ‘cross…and is good in every single discipline. His long string of firsts and seconds from 2011 have been depressed as he’s moved up into the next age bracket, but his winning trajectory being what it is, that should take care of itself in the next year or two
Calm before the storm
No one wanted a hard run-up to the Switchbacks this morning, so it was one big, lummoxing group as we rolled up Lunada Bay and on to Portuguese Bend. At the beach club, where the pace is often single file, the ride continued its leisurely pace. I heard chatting behind me, a giveaway for the difficulty of the ride.
Of course, an easy run-up to the Switchbacks just means that the actual climb will be exponentially faster, as people will have fresh legs when the climb starts. A couple of attacks went just past the beach club, but it wasn’t until Paul Che opened up the throttle that the ride began in earnest.
Paul dragged a small contingent of seven riders all the way to the base of the climb, then swung over. The pack was a tiny speck. Just before cresting the first level spot, shortly after beginning the climb, I blew. The six riders in the break rolled off. As I dropped back into a rhythm, I heard the sound of an approaching bike.
It was Jules.
Do you have an ego? Are you a grown man? Do you consider yourself fit? Have you ever thought that “but for” you’d have been a pro? Is your weekly slugfest a validation of your ability and strength? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the realization that you’re hanging for dear life onto the wheel of a barely-turned-thirteen-year-old child will devastate you.
Though he provided precious little draft, it was enough to latch on, and this kid proceeded to take out his bullwhip, inspect the tip to make sure the knot was properly tied, and beat the shit out of me with it. He had his eyes glued on the break, and would periodically get out of the saddle to jam it even harder. I know that my exhalations, both the sound waves and the bursts of air, were pushing him on somewhat. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”
We overtook a dude from Big Orange, who jumped on my wheel. I blew after the first hairpin as Jules got out the saddle again and just lit it up. The other grown man and experienced racer hunkered down and let Jules pull him for quite a way until he could recover, then he attacked the kid and dropped him. Nice.
I kept Jules in sight until the final turn, and then he was just flat out gone. By the time I rounded it, he had already reached the top of the hill and I never saw him again. Of course the short tow I’d gotten from this dynamo had put me so far ahead of the chasing peloton that I’d overhauled my bottom bracket by the time the next shattered group rolled up.
So if, a few years from now, you hear the name “Jules,” and it’s spoken with a trembling voice, in fear and awe, don’t say you weren’t warned.
And for those of you who think I’m blowing smoke, here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quvjpPVv1zY
June 6, 2012 § 9 Comments
For those of you who’ve yet to go climbing with Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, all I can say is…don’t. Unless, of course, you want to have your ego smushed into a gooey paste and force-fed down your throat. Kristabel represented her Big Orange team with a successful foray at the Bakersfieldstate road championships a/k/a district road race, picking up her first jersey in her first try with the Cat 3/4 women, and then getting 7th in the 1/2/3 group the following day. If she’d been a better descender she would have won. That day is not far off.
Kristabel kindly sent me a race report, which I’ve chopped up and then translated for you.
KDH: “Objective: learn from the top ladies, see what goes down in a Cat 1/2/3 race and what I need to work on, stay upright, have fun.”
Translation: Tink is gonna rip the legs off these bitches, enjoy it, and make it the most miserable fucking day of their lives.
KDH: “Looking at the start list and knowing very few of the riders, it seemed like there were at least 7 ladies that would be really strong and in any lead pack. So, I figured if the race split up, I wanted to attempt to go with the lead group…I was here to watch, play, and learn.”
Translation: Have you ever seen seasoned killer whales hunt sea lion pups? That’s what Tink means by ‘watch, play, and learn.’
KDH: “[After yesterday’s hard race]…I decided goal #1 was to stay upright and this meant my main plan was to sit in and take the descents slow and steady.”
Translation: Bitches don’t get rid of Tink on the descent she’s going to make them wish they’d never been born.
KDH: “[Lap One] I too am dropped. After the short descent, we both fight to get back on and happily rejoin the pack. [At the turnaround] the girls form a single file line. What???? What is this single file business about? …and they attack. Crap. So I fight to get back on and on the next little climb we are again one happy group.”
Translation: Bitches are working might and main to shell Tink from the group because they’re scared out of their minds. They dump her on the descent but she just mashes the pedals a bit harder and, easy as falling off a log, she’s back on. Bitches are pissed. ‘How we’re gonna dump that skinny little bitch?’ they’re wondering.
KDH: “And then more descending, more getting dropped, more climbing, and more catching back on…and so goes Lap One. Oh, the puncher climb at the end of Lap One sucked because they attacked coming out of it and again after the u-turn…and I slowed a lot to get my bottles and to make the turn. ”
Translation: Bitches so desperate they’re drilling Tink at every opportunity. Every time she gets dropped she just mashes the pedals and gets back on, easy as spitting. Know how fucking hard that is? I do. Bitches know she’s sketchy on the turnaround because she does that dorky thing where she unclips, so they drill her there, too. NBD. She just reloads with water and a 12-calorie snack to get her through the next 25 miles and 3k feet of climbing and hops back on, after all, it’s only a quarter-mile gap to close going into a 30-mph headwind.
KDH: “Eventually about five girls start a rotating paceline [and] for some reason that I still can’t come up with [I] decide to take part in while the whole rest of the field sits on the back of us…they yell at me to take steady pulls…[then] I heard someone in the pack sitting on us say ‘Just sit on them.’ I thought they were using us…can’t really remember what she said, but I think she was encouraging me to keep pulling.”
Translation: Even after getting dropped and chasing on repeatedly for 25 miles she’s frisky as shit. Bitches try to crack her in a rotation, so she just matches pulls until their eyes start to bug out of their heads. They change their tune pretty fucking quick, as she’s busting through hard enough to put them on the rivet and keep ’em stuck there with superglue. Bitches start whining that ‘steady pull’ bullshit like the sausages who Tink regularly works over on PCH. Bitches throw in the towel and start sucking wheel.
KDH: “Anyways, we get to the main climb and I am at the front…I think I am being nice going up front, but she kindly tells me to ease up on the pace…so I do, don’t feel like pissing off any of these girls who I am still certain could crush me at any moment.”
Translation: Tink’s pulling so fucking hard, bitches’ sports bras are coming off. Bitches start begging for mercy, so she eases off. For now.
KDH: “We all climb together and catch the two that had taken off earlier in the lap. Descent, this is never good…dropped, climb and get back on, more riders falling off and fewer joining back on…corkscrew descent headed back I get dropped really bad from what is now a group of nine and I don’t want to take any risks on the turns so the gap gets really big…It takes a long time to catch them, and I am into a strong headwind, and I am dehydrated, and my legs hurt…I catch them totally exhausted, get semi-dropped again on a little descent and catch back on to climb with them up to the second feedzone.”
Translation: Tink just rode the equivalent of this race twice. Bitches doing everything they can to dump her. She’s descending like a fred at 12mph with one foot down in the turns and still able to reel them back in. But she’s finally a little tired. Only nine bitches left and they all have that rat-with-its-head-in-the-trap look.
KDH: “I am at the back of the pack, know I need more water, know they like to attack coming out of the feed zone, and my dad is at the end of the zone, so when I see a Cynergy guy with an extra water bottle I am like ‘Water!’ and grab it…Thanks Cynergy dude!”
Translation: You know how you had twelve blueberry pancakes, three eggs, a pound of bacon, and grits for breakfast? Tink did this whole fucking race on two water bottles and a diet Gu.
KDH: “[I] and a couple others get gapped as the pack takes off….crap…I go, and [when we catch back on] we are again one group of eight (one rider got a solo breakaway on a little climb and held it to the end)…we start a rotating paceline and I actually am feeling pretty good and taking my full pulls…I end up 6th out of our group of eight and 7th overall, totally honored to be in with those ladies…So much to learn, so happy.”
Translation: Bitches did everything they could working together to beat her and they did beat her because she can’t descend and because she tired her ass out from chasing back on a zillion times, which meant she let the one bitch get away for the win, and then it came down to a fucking sprunt and she’s totally lame at that, but, bitches all looked like they’d just come off a vacation holiday from the Bataan Death March and it was Tink’s second race in two days and next time she finishes this fucking race, when she crosses the line there won’t be anyone else in the photograph, I can guaranfuckingtee you that.
June 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
How many times in your life do you get to compete for a championship? I’m not talking an NFL championship, or an NBA championship, or even an NHPA or an NTL championship. Those last two are National Horseshoe Pitching Association and the National Tiddlywinks League, and no, I don’t make this shit up. I make up other shit.
The fact is, you don’t often get to scrap for a championship, especially when you’re old, gizzardy, brokedown, brokebacked, when you piss too often, crap too seldom, are creaky in the morning and wore out by mid-afternoon. Nope, championships are generally for the young and the restless.
Once a year, though, if you are a bicyclist, you can compete for a state bicycling championship, where you pedal your bicycle as quickly as you can to win a prize. Then, if you win the prize, you can buy an even more special prize, to wit, a poorly made, ill fitting jersey in someone else’s size with a bad design that, ugly though it is and fitting as a potato sack though it may be, bears the words “State Champion” and the year of your championship.
This is a prize worth fighting for.
The course of snakes, stinging insects, drunk truckers, and champions
Today is Friday, June 1, 2012. It’s two days before the 45+ Elderly Fellows’ State Championship Road Race in Bakersfield, California. The race covers three 25-mile loops around a hilly course in the desert that has one moderately long climb and numerous short, punchy climbs designed to sap your legs, drain your fluids, and crush your will to survive. As I write this, a friend has Facebooked the current temp there, a moderately warm 105 degrees.
Although you would think that a desert course like this is destined to be hideously ugly, it isn’t. The hills are beautiful, and the desert has the rugged beauty of places where rain is scarce. The visual appeal of the course, however, can only be appreciated in a fast-moving car with the window rolled up and the air conditioner cranked up to “ten.”
Once you are pitched out from the cool security of the car like a fledgling forced to make its first flight, distanced from easy reach into the cooler and its mother lode of cold water, cold soda pop, and cold beer, the desert racecourse that has been designed by the Bakersfieldians is not beautiful at all. Its lack of beauty is only partially caused by the fact that the searing heat is so intense that your corneas begin to roast off the surface of the eyeball.
The true source of the course’s hideousness is the pounding sense of terror and desperation as you flail and pedal and struggle your way out, praying that you will make it back in. This isn’t a sprinter’s special, where well oiled, handsome, kitted up Adonises leisurely pedal for 54 minutes and pedal hard for one.
This is a course where the cowering starters start slowly, knowing that most will quit halfway through, and where the group will only pedal faster when some idiot attacks, or accelerates, or behaves like he’s in a bike race. The pain and torture of the heat, compounded by stinging flies, bee swarms, and poisonous snakes along the roadway to bite those unlucky enough to collapse from heat prostration make Bakersfield truly a place for others to call home.
The field will be half-filled with Big Orange, a smattering of SPY-Blue, and onesy-twosy riders from other teams. Although the bragging rights to the winner are galactic in scope, realistically hardly anyone has a chance of winning. Better to stay home and race another crit than suffer the expense, exhaustion, and humiliation of a beatdown so far from home.
What follows is a list of contenders, beginning with the odds-on favorite.
1. Wankmeister. Let’s face it, I’m the favorite here. First off, I grew up in Texas, so 105-degree heat is nothing. Average summer temperatures where I grew up were 140. At night. It’s true that I suffered a few issues at Punchbowl and got dropped rather quickly, finishing next to last. It’s also true that I got dropped on this same course a couple of months ago, finishing next to last. It’s also true that I’ve never even come close to winning a race in more than twenty years. However, I had Chinese food last night, and after the ER doc pumped my stomach I remembered that my fortune cookie had said this: “Time is a mirror of your desire.” So, that’s pretty clear. My jersey size is small. Thanks.
Pluses: Blogability. No one out-blogs the Wankmeister in a hilly road race. Plus I’ve got a cool helmet cam.
Minuses: Kind of lacking in the speed, strength, and endurance department. But I’ve got a day to come around.
2. DQ Louie: Unless he gets dq’d, which frankly is most of the time, there’s no one who can beat him in a hilly road race. Blazing speed. Relentless attacking. Strategic wheelsucking when necessary, full-on TT mode when he’s off the front. Always has a vicious kick at the end.
Pluses: Tininess. He’s got a drag coefficient of .00000002, which is about the same as a newt or a flea. His power-to-weight ratio is 3 gigawatts per kilo. So you’re basically fucked.
Minuses: Cheatyness. The officials love to dq DQ Louie. Why? He’s from Nevada, that’s why. The races are in California. He’s the dude on the freeway doing 80 who gets pulled over when everyone else is doing 100. Sorry, dude. But not really.
3. Roadchamp: He won last year, and he won two years before that, and he had a creditable showing at Vlees Huis even though they’d removed all twelve lower teeth for implant surgery the week before the race.
Pluses: He’s so skinny that he has to safety pin his socks to his calves. He’s focused. He’s all about winning. He hasn’t had sex in months, ergo mucho ferocityness.
Minuses: Everyone will be gunning for him; carries around old trophies from previous road victories as a talisman; has been known to crumple in the extreme heat. The pressure of not having won yet this year may be too much.
4. Invincible: He’s won this race before, he’s got national crit titles to his name, he sprunts, he climbs, he time trails, and he has more wins in the 45+ this year than everyone else combined.
Pluses: Dude always fucking wins. What more of a plus could you want? Best all around tactician in the game. Knows who to work with, how to control a break, how to kick out the shirkers, how and when to pull out all the stops.
Minuses: Sneakiness. He makes DQ Louie look positively forthright. Plus, he’ll be isolated in the race. THOG is recovering from a major injury. Glasship got his fill of Bako heat at Vlees Huis and is on sabbatical to the beer capital of Deschutes County. So, he’s by himself…yeah, I know. So what?
5. G$: This is one title that’s always eluded him, either due to bad luck, or poor luck, or inferior luck, or luck that wasn’t quite right, or fuckaluck. That’s too bad, because he’s one of the top guys in any category, and built to succeed on a course like this. He has specially prepared snake stomping boots that were made just for this race. With a huge B.O. contingent, he will likely let attrition do its nasty work, and only get to stomping dicks in earnest at the end, when they’ve all gone limp and stretched out from the heat.
Pluses: Time trails. Climbs. Attacks. Makes cool interview videos. Deep and wide team support to control the race or protect a break or send guys up the road. You know he’s got to be frothingly hungry for this jersey. He’s been tapering on the local rides, and has even cut back to five burgers ‘n fries a week. Serious shit.
Minuses: He’ll be dogged by Invincible and DQ Louie. If they get up the road with him, he’s got slim chance in a sprunt. Also, his team is so strong that Roadchamp, Kalashnikov, Capture the Flagg, Thing Two, Herndy Doo, or Hottie could wind up on the podium.
6. FTR DS Jaeger: The smartest rider in the bunch, always goes with the right move. Conserves when he has to, churns out the watts when it matters, never gets dropped on the hard climbs. Missed the vee at states by the narrowest of margins a couple of years ago, this could be his year.
Pluses: Savvy. Tenacious. Experienced. The best in the peloton at making up with savvy and smarts what he lacks in the legs, which frankly isn’t much.
Minuses: Can’t sprunt. Small team, and partially weighted by the anchor teammate from hell, a/k/a Wankmeister.
7. Kalashnikov: Super strong, fast, and clearly on form, Kalashnikov has the benefit of his Big Orange teammates to further strengthen his hand. He will likely play the role of agitator, forcing the other teams to waste valuable energy chasing, a strategy that has worked like a charm in the past.
Pluses: As stated above.
Minuses: If he has to go early, the bitterness of the course could spell doom.
8. Your name here. I’m sorry I left you off. You deserved to make the list, as you’ve got the right stuff, the training miles are there, and it’s finally your year. On the other hand, it’s almost 8:00 PM on a Friday night and I’m blogging about a stupid bike race for old men out in the fucking desert, for dog’s sake. This is enough, even for me.
May 31, 2012 § 29 Comments
The state road race championship is on Sunday, so now’s the time to begin properly building your foundation for excuses as to why you got dropped and quit. Don’t wait ’til race day to trot out your lame reason for imploding before the race got hard. Begin today with a series of well-placed and well-timed comments to let everyone know that except for * and *, or * and *, you would be standing on the top step.
1. Illness. “I’ve had something in my chest the last couple of weeks that I can’t shake. Gonna give it my best shot, but my power’s down 30-40w. That’s the margin of victory.”
2. Weather. “Fuckin’ Bakersfield. It’s too hot there to race. We prepare the whole year in reasonable temperatures, and then they do the biggest race of the year in a fuckin’ sauna. That’s bullshit. I’m just not good in the heat.” [Be ready to steer quickly away from questions about why you didn’t do the states race in NorCal.]
3. Gear. “I’m just not adapted to this new Specialized Wankster. The seat tube angle is a little off, fucks up my body geometry when I climb.” [Don’t mention that you still have your old frame which was such a “perfect” fit that you got dropped on lap one of Punchbowl, etc.]
4. Nutrition. “I ran out of the Uber-Goo Triple Espresso with Spirochetes. They’re on back order. There’s no way I can do well in a hot race without that stuff. The spirochetes are the bomb.”
5. Hydration. “I can’t get anyone to give me hand-ups. The deck’s stacked against you in that race without hand-ups.”
6. Low quality help. “I’ve got someone for hand-ups, but he/she sucks at it. If I miss my hand-up I’m done.”
7. Training cycles. “Fuck! I peaked last Thursday! 450w FTP! Now I can barely get out of fuckin’ bed.”
8. Team tactics: “It’s going to be total bullshit. Big Orange has thirty guys entered. It will just be negative racing.”
9. Individual tactics: “My whole team worked against me, gave it away to the opportunists who didn’t even have any teammates in the race.”
10. Time. “Ah, fuck, there was no way I could log the training miles for that race. I’ve got a real job and a family, dude.”
11. Doping. “Those other 87 dudes in the 55+? ‘Course they beat me. They all dope.”
12. Misjudgment. “I was so on form, best of my life. Then like an idiot I went out and hammered on the Pier Ride. Totally blew my form.”
13. Kids. “Hey, I spent last week helping Billy on his algebra. Priorities.”
14. Wife. “Cowbella won’t let me train. Total bullshit. If I could just bump it up from 350 to 450 a week I’d have won in a solo breakaway.”
15. Priorities. “It’s a stupid fucking bike race, okay? Who gives a shit?”
April 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
This is a re-print from the UCLA 45+ Road Race in 2010. I had an archive of stories on FB and WordPress before deleting them all in a mad frenzy. My buddies on Big Orange posted this to their page in 2010, where it remains.
Feed the beast
The most important part of a bike race is pre-race nutrition. Before we arrived at the race course, Mrs. Wankmeister wanted to stop and sample the barbecue at Charlie Brown’s in Littlerock. It was only 10:30, but we went in. The thought of barbecue was appealing, though eating it in combination with a tough, hilly, windy road race was not. But the flesh is weak, and the smell of barbecue was strong. We both ordered brisket sandwiches with beans and cole slaw.
My sandwich was heaped with slabs of greasy meat and giant slivers of pure fat. The whole thing dripped sugary, oily barbecue sauce, and the chunks of meat and fat were so tender they slid down my throat without even needing a chew. After each bite I tried to stop, telling myself that the race would be unforgiving, but I couldn’t. There was so much grease around my mouth after finishing that it took two napkins to mop up; both looked like they’d been dipped in a deep fryer after I was done.
The gnome’s revenge
The snarling, amped up gang of elderly racers toed the line at the infamous Punchbowl race course, primed for a slugfest that would pit the entire Big Orange road crew against DQ Louie. The laps had been shortened so that we would be climbing the big hill four times rather than three.
I was already traumatized by my experience at Punchbowl two years ago, when I was shelled like a bad pecan on the first lap of the first climb, and spent the entire race crawling and cramping with Polly for what seemed like a month. Whereas others in the relatively small field of about 30 dreamed of victory, my goal was simple and carved in stark relief: don’t get blasted out the back on the first lap.
We started at a reasonable pace, nothing like the Punchbowl of 2008, where the pack had split in two before the left turn, and into shards and fragments by the first hill, and into a final winning group by the end of the stairstep. Nonetheless, it was plenty hard, and I concentrated on staying low and staying out of the wind.
We hit the downhill section and immediately got blown from side to side by a howling crosswind that blew my tightly cinched helmet onto the back of my head. We reached the bottom and turned right, when DQ Louie drove to the center and strung everyone out into a single line, unable to echelon because of the center line rule. I didn’t see a single rider cross the yellow line, with the exception of DQ.
After about a mile he rolled off the front with G$, and before they’d gone fifty yards the ref’s follow car came roaring up with a tiny, bearded gnome screeching and screaming in such a hysterical panic that I could only think, “My God, the Japanese must have bombed Pearl Harbor again.”
Then the unthinkable happened. Mr. Gnomes commanded the entire peloton to stop and dismount. He got out of the car, pulled on a shiny pair of knee-high jackboots, adjusted his armband and Obersturmfuehrer cap, took out his riding crop, and went on a rant that left us all slackjawed.
“Ve haf ways of making you talk!” he screeched.
“Talk about what?” we asked.
“Ze yellow line! You haf all crossed ze yellow line!” He whacked one of the poor Cal Pools guys with his riding crop and made him clean the lint off his boot. “If you cross ze yellow line again, all riders vill be kaputt! Disqualifiziert!”
“Yo, numbnuts!” said one of the Big Orange heroes. “Are you going to admonish the breakaway? There are two guys up the road who have been pedaling full bore while we’ve been sitting here listening to your screed.”
Mr. Gnomes looked nonplussed, then hopped in the car and sped off. “You are all being vatched!” he hissed. Needless to say, we never saw G$ or DQ Louie again, and Mr. Gnomes’s antics had neutralized our best weapon, which was having the break in striking range for Thing 2, who could have bridged and combined with G$ to put DQ in difficulty. In theory, anyway.
In fact, though, we got going again with Steve, Bill, Todd, and other Big Orange riders patrolling the front to make sure that no chase effort developed. This controlled pace was the only way I made it over the hill on the second lap. Towards the top, however, the first big surge of Charlie Brown’s barbecue fought its way up to the lower reaches of my throat. Brisket doesn’t taste better the second time around.
Midway through the stairstep, Thing 2 hit the gas with a guy in the ugliest kit of the day, a green concoction that must have been modeled after a late night sidewalk splat found outside of a bar in Hermosa Beach. They pedaled off.
You can’t have your brisket and eat it, too
Thing 2 and Fugly Jersey couldn’t hold off the chasing pack on the descent, as they were hitting speeds of well over 50mph, and by the turn they had been brought back. As we turned onto the gentle up-tilt towards the finish line, a thick worm of fat chugged up into the back of my mouth, all rubbery and greasy and eager to be free. I swallowed hard just as we began climbing the big hill for the third time.
Either the race was really slow, or there really is a god, or barbecue is the secret food of champions, because I somehow made it up a third time. DQ Louie and G$ were so far ahead that no matter what happened, they would have had time to complete a coif, cuticle treatment, and pedicure by the time the pack crossed the line. We turned right after the downhill and I rolled away from the pack with a Cal Pools guy. Thing 2 bridged up to us and pretty soon the baked beans kicked in.
Cal Pools began to whimper and apologize for not pulling through, which only invited the eleven. The break established, I was totally psyched. The worst I could do was fifth. My secret barbecue weapon, which had been tweaked with a mug of thick coffee sludge fifteen minutes before the gun, had turned out to be the perfect race nutrition.
We turned again onto the road leading to the start finish, and as I swung off, the cole slaw blindsided me with a vicious attack. My right leg shot straight out and went into rigor mortis. Thing 2 and Cal Pools looked at me, and were gone. The pack came by, I struggled on the back, and we began our last time up the big hill.
A few hundred yards before the turn to the stairstep, the cole slaw attacked again, crushing the beans and overpowering the last chunks of grease. Purple Parks and I came unhitched. As we watched the pack roll away on the stairstep, he grinned and let loose with a one-liner that almost made me fall of my bike. “You think they’ll wait for us?” he cracked.
It’s not over till the fat lady cramps
We turned onto the stairstep, I put my head down and somehow bridged back up to the group. What seemed like a good idea at the time seemed like a bad idea a few moments later, as Veins began drilling it into the brutal wind all along the stairstep. It was nastier than a dirty movie with a hairy woman. At the top, Veins sat up, my beans and brisket counterattacked the cole slaw, and I readied for the finale.
At about that time one of the guys in our group who must have been at least a hundred, and who had spent big chunks of the race on the point, attacked on the downhill. In addition to being older than dirt, he was big. He passed us like we were standing still, seated on the top tube and ready to risk death and destruction. No one had the legs to follow.
We turned right at the bottom of the descent and echeloned as Veins strung it out in an attempt to bring back Methuselah. He swung over for me to pull through, and the cole slaw, which had made a secret deal with the one remaining chunk of pure fat, came roaring up the side of the brisket in the form of two simultaneous, full leg cramps. I dropped off and got off my bike, a feat in itself because neither leg would bend.
Crying and moaning and promising not to eat any more brisket sandwiches finally did the trick. I remounted just in time for Purple Parks to come blazing by. I labored in for thirteenth. You might think this sucks, and you’re probably right, but I’m pretty pleased just the same.
Thing 2 crushed the two riders who had bridged up to him for third. G$ was outkicked by DQ Louie, earning another great placing for a year that has so far been packed with palmares for Big Orange, and proving the wisdom of Mr. Gnomes’s canny bit of officiating wisdom: if you can’t beat `em, cheat `em. Had Thing 2 been at G$’s side, one of them would surely have put DQ in second, or, as they like to say in Texas, “If grandma had balls she’d be grandpa.”
Punchbowl’s only three weeks away. I’m already preparing my excuse for why I won’t be racing it.