May 25, 2013 § 10 Comments
I’m only three or four years younger than Thurlow, which is like comparing myself to the greatest basketball player of all time by saying, “I’m only three or four inches shorter than Michael Jordan.”
I first saw Thurlow at the Tour of Texas in 1984 at the Camp Mabry crit in Austin. He was racing for Raleigh. Nelson Vails was his teammate. Dude was old even then.
There’s no name in the peloton that is as heavy as “Thurlow.” It weighs about four thousand pounds. You can slacken a room full of bike racer boners just by whispering “Thurlow.” It’s the only word in the English language that makes grown men hunch over and start to droop. Generations of cyclists have been flogged, tortured, punished, and then dropped by “Thurlow.”
The only residue remaining in this, his fifth decade of bike racing, is the residue of pain and defeat. Yours.
“Thurlow’s not his old self”
Commentators have remarked that in 2013 there’s something missing from the arsenal of America’s winningest bike racer. He only got second in the BWR behind Neil Shirley, a pro who is young enough to be his great-grandson’s grandson.
He’s only won a couple of races so far this year, and has only gotten top three placings in about a dozen. “You should have seen him at SLR,” said one of my buddies. “He just folded. Never seen Thurlow fold like that.”
I mused. Thurlow has more national championship jerseys than my buddy has race participations for the last two years. Oh, and a rainbow jersey. And that Olympic team stuff. Then there was that season that he raced with Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond on La Vie Claire.
“Oo eez Bernard Hinault?” asked our homestay French student who comes from, of all places, Bretagne.
“Eez joos ze greatest fucking French bicycle racer ever,” I snarled.
“I don like ze sports,” said Homestay before going out onto the veranda to smoke a cigarette and wash it down with some Colt .45.
Imitation is the most pathetic form of idolatry
I’m always trying to race like Thurlow. You know, the way he always understands what’s always going on all the time. The way he rides close to the front and never misses the split. The way he rests, then attacks, then rests if they bring him back, then attacks again. The way he seems to summon the most strength at the one point in the race when everyone else is at their weakest. The way he stuffs the painburger down your throat with a red-hot poker, then beats the end of the poker with a 30-pound hammer.
Of course, I’ve never Ridden Like Thurlow, starting with the omniscience thing. Where Thurlow knows what’s going on all the time, my awareness seems to focus on stuff like that family sitting on the picnic blanket on Turn 4. “Wonder what’s in their sandwiches?” I wonder.
Boom. Break is gone and Thurlow has a 45-second gap.
Or the ride towards the front thing. Try as I might, as far forward as I get, pretty soon I’m back in 87th position, right behind Lardball with the Grand Canyon asscrack and the Serengeti grassland of hair sprouting from the waistband of his non-bib shorts.
Then there’s that attacking thing. Thurlow attacks the way an angry farmer with a pitchfork stabs the head of the king as it rolls off the guillotine’s blade. My attacks, to quote Aaron Wimberly, “Are like a huge commuter bus on four flat tires going up a mud mountain with a full load of passengers.”
And of course Thurlow rests, then goes again. I rest, and then there’s a football field between me and the peloton, a DNF, and a personal request from the family in Turn 4 to give me some of their sandwich.
But still, that doesn’t stop me from trying and experimenting. Whether it’s a fancy power meter, or nose breathing, or the water + kimchi diet, I’m always up for something new, because the difference between me and Thurlow can’t be that he’s just better…there has to be a trick, and one day I’ll find it.
Me & Prez
A couple of weeks ago Prez and I were riding back from the NPR. Prez notices everything when it comes to biking. Nothing escapes his attention, so I usually ignore him when he’s talking, but this particular day he mentioned Thurlow.
“There are guys out there whose pedaling is so efficient, it’s incredible,” Prez said.
“Uh-huh,” I answered, watching the cute nubbin in the Smart car prepare to back over the dude pushing the stroller.
“Like Thurlow, you know? That guy’s pedaling is so incredibly efficient.”
Now I was all ears. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. One reason is that he seems to pull up as much as he pushes down. He’s got that little muscle on the hams just on the inside of his thigh that you never see in cyclists. Him and Charon, they’re about the only two around here with it; it’s because they’re so efficient.”
All I had to hear was “Thurlow” followed by “Charon” and now I was hanging on every word. But I pretended to be bored and only half-interested. “Yeah?” I said.
“Yeah,” Prez said. Then he launched into a complex and insightful description of pedaling efficiency and why most of us, him included, were so inefficient. “It’s the pulling up,” he concluded.
Secrets stolen stealthily
Chuckling to myself at this new-found secret, which I had wrested from the knowledge banks of Prez without him even knowing it, I immediately began pushing and pulling up simultaneously. Then I discovered that this was impossible, because after about four strokes your legs give out. It appeared that rest was part of the pedaling equation.
Nonetheless, by the time I’d reached the office, I had figured it out. You didn’t actually pull up with your feet, you pulled up with your thigh. It was not so much a push and pull effort as much as it was extremely short intervals between the flexing of the thigh. I went noticeably faster. I was noticeably more exhausted.
“Could this be the long lost key to victory?” I wondered. “Have I finally cracked the Code of Thurlow?” I raced through the day’s work, bounding out of the office at 4:00 in order to Thighflex ® all the way back home. Preliminary plans showed that I would now be able to crush all the competition, earn every Strava KOM I desired, and sell the newly trademarked Thighflex program to coaches worldwide. I might even realize every cyclist’s dream of finally getting a pro contract and riding the Tour without too many drugs, or the Giro with way too many.
Thighflexing up the Mt. Home Commute
As I warmed up my thighs with the proprietary Tiny Muscle® Thighflex® limbering method, I felt the incredible strength and speed from this new system. Poor Prez. What a sucker. He’d revealed the most important secret of riding and I was now on the cusp of millions, huge victories, and taking a Strava KOM away from Lane Reid when he least expected it.
“Heh, heh,” I chuckled gleefully as I roared up Mt. Home and its vicious 2% grade. “Wait ’til I unleash this at the CBR Dogpoop Memorial Day Crit.”
In preparation, I showed up to contest the Lower East Side Long Beach Shopping Ride, an incredibly intense, competitive, powerful informal race disguised as a shopping excursion of 65+ elderly ladies with baskets on their mamachari bicycles. As we approached the first stop light, which was turning yellow, I Thighflexed®. The grandmothers couldn’t follow my jump, and in seconds I had opened a gap. The youngest grandmother, whose basket was filled with a 10kg bag of rice, leaned on the pedals and clawed me back.
I glanced over my shoulder and attacked again, this time putting maximum power to my Tiny Muscle® while Simulflexing® the Thighflex®. Undeterred, the granny held my wheel, forcing me to decelerate slightly, cause her wheel to overlap, and allowing me to take her to the curb.
She grabbed a handful of brakes as her front wheel caught the curb. The rice bag burst on impact as I redoubled my Thighflex®, now a solid 100-150m ahead of the hard-charging grandmothers, who weren’t about to let me get to the Costco pallet of discount diapers before them. They were no match. With a couple of more threshold efforts I pulled free and was gone.
With this independent verification of the Thighflex® system’s incredible power transer, I actually pity the fools who have signed up for Monday’s CBR Memorial Day Crit at Dominguez Hills. I’ve told Chris Lotts that he can go ahead and mail me the winner’s check, minus the entry fee to save me the inconvenience of actually having to show up and race. If he forces me to toe the line, well, all I can say to the riders out there who haven’t yet subscribed to the Tiny Muscle® and Thighflex® performance systems is this: You’ve been warned.
February 18, 2013 § 27 Comments
I pedaled over to the CRB crit this morning and it was cold. I had a cup of coffee. I bought three cookies for fifty cents. I got my number and forty-seven safety pins and began pinning it on. Armin Rahm let me sit in one of his chairs, which warmed my back. Kristy Morrow and Haldane Morris were getting ready to race instead of toting the giant cameras with which they can normally be seen.
Along with Danny Munson, BJ Hale, Brian Hodes, Greg de Guzman, PinkShorts, Christy Nicholson, and a slew of other fine race photographers, Kristy and Haldane make up the photo corps that documents the local races with such amazing quality and detail.
After I got my number pinned on I was going to go over and chat with Kristy about the photos she’d taken at the UCLA road race yesterday. At that very moment, I felt a deep and powerful rumbling in my lower gut.
A very public performance
This was unusual; although I’m a bit of a dribbler before racing, I’m hardly ever a crumper, and this was a lowdown churning sending a message to my brain saying, “Find a deep hole quick or we’re gonna need a hazmat squad!”
I clattered over to the cages, and since my 50+ Elderly Prostate race was going off in fifteen minutes there was already a solid line. Pottymouth that he is, Chris Lotts understands the importance of potties, and there were four stalls to accommodate us. As I stood in the queue it lengthened behind me. My turn came, not a second too soon, either.
I dashed in, hung my jersey on the peg (careful not to drop anything on the floor, eccch), and quickly sat down. There was action in the cage to my right and to my left. Righty was dribbling, and Lefty sounded like he was in the mop-up stages of his pre-race crump.
What happened next was astonishing. I know that it couldn’t have had anything to do with dinner the night before, which consisted of two large servings of spicy pork bulgogi, four servings of spicy kimchi, three servings of spicy cucumbers in vinegar, lots of hot herbal tea, all topped off with a big bowl of yogurt and fruit. I also know that it couldn’t have had anything to do with the fibrous breakfast I’d just eaten, the pot of hot coffee I’d just drunk, the forty-five minutes of hard pedaling to get to the race course, the extra hot cup of coffee I’d just downed, the chocolate chip cookies I’d just eaten, or the handful of dates I’d just scarfed. Nope, it couldn’t have been any of those things.
But it might have been all of them combined, because I let out an enormous braaaaaack, then a whummmmmp, then a staccato tackatackatackatacka fusillade of small arms fire, then a massive flurlurlurlurlurrrrrrp discharge of the River Ganges that sounded like a waterfall filled with raisins and dates, then a high-pitched bibibibibibiiiiii whine like a bottle rocket, then another deep whummmmmp, and then an airy, balloon-emptying blaaaaaat, terminating with a pfssssssssst.
It all happened in the clench of a sphincter, and after the racket subsided and the sounds stopped bouncing off the inside of the plastic shell, I realized that all around me there was…nothing. Righty was silent. Lefty was silent. All chatter and banter outside the cage had gone mute.
Before I had time to get embarrassed, the second movement of my public symphony commenced. This time it began with the fusillade, went straight to whump, and finished with the blaaat, which sounded like a kid trying to blow a proper note on a trumpet for the first time, and failing.
I pulled up my shorts and bravely opened the door. Thirty or so awed and very frightened bike racers stood there, all but a couple averting their gaze. No matter that they all had to go so badly that they were tap dancing in their cleats, not a single person moved towards my potty, which was now vacant.
I looked straight at Mr. Next In Line. “Might want to give that ‘un a second or two to air out,” I said.
He nodded, pale, and didn’t budge.
Oh, the race?
Since I’d already won Pro 1/2/3/4/5/Masters/Women’s/Juniors’ potty competition, the race was anticlimactic. I attacked a couple of time, chased a couple of breaks, and went for a no-hoper solo flyer on the last lap which ended the same way such boneheaded moves always do: Caught with half a lap to go, dropped by the supercharged field, and rolling across the finish DFL many seconds in arrears.
After the race I rode over to my office in Torrance to work for a few hours. “Work” of course involved checking out the photos taken by Kristy and Haldane the day before.
There were some great ones. Me quitting the race in ignominy. Mike Easter winning in his national champion’s kit. Jeff Konsmo sprinting for the win. The local Pearblossom tweeker driving around, flipping off cyclists, and telling them to “ride on the sidewalk.” [Author’s note: The nearest sidewalk is 47 miles away, in Los Angeles.]
After a few minutes, one thing became obvious. The same thing that’s obvious after every race: People were stealing the photos.
Can we call it what it is?
When a photographer takes a picture, and you take it without their permission, it’s stealing. It’s no different from taking someone’s money, or their spare wheelset, or their wallet.
Virtually all of the local race photographers have their photos in a gallery on Smugmug or some similar site. This means you can go to the gallery, PAY FOR THE PHOTO, and then download it. It often costs a whole two or three dollars.
But bike racers being bike racers, the trend is to steal the image, remove the watermark, and then use it as a profile picture or main feature on a team web site. Why don’t the thieving thieves consider this thievery? Because they have figured it out in their own minds that it’s not stealing. Here’s how they rationalize the theft:
- “I gave the photographer credit for the photo.” Nice. So you not only stole it, you rubbed his nose in it. Photo thieves think there’s this giant Photo Credit Bank in the sky, where, as long as you “give the photographer credit,” the bank rains money down on them. Guess what? There is no Photo Credit Bank. Guess what else? Just because you admit you stole something doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it.
- “I’m helping promote their work. It gets their name out.” Right. Kind of like how you promote Michael Jackson by illegally downloading his music without paying for it and then play it to “get his name out?” Or the way you promote Steven Spielberg by ripping off his movies? That kind of “promotion” is called “stealing.”
- “They don’t care. They’re just glad we appreciate their work.” Yes, they do care. And you’re not appreciating it. You’re stealing it. If you appreciated it, you’d pay for it.
- “It’s part of their cost of doing business. They sell some of those photos, which makes up for the ones they don’t sell.” Exactly. In retail it’s called “shrinkage,” or, more technically, “shoplifting.” It’s a cost of doing business all right, the cost of crime.
- “So sue me.” Glad you brought that up. Check out these links to find out the kind of hot water that can be boiled up around your tender parts for stealing pictures: Blogger sued for infringement; Company sued for photo theft; Ways you can get hosed using images without permission.
So what’s a feller to do?
When one of our local photographers takes your picture as you battle it out for 37th place in the Masters 75+ race, tags you on Facebook, and it pops up as a notification, check it out and see if you like it. If you do, go the web site and buy a copy. But don’t take it, strip the watermark, and use it as your profile picture. After you’ve bought it, it’s good form to confirm with the photographer how you plan to use it and that they approve. It’s not only polite, it could keep you out of hot water, and most importantly it will keep them coming to the races and making us the beneficiaries of their superlative work.
If you’ve got hundreds of photos on your Facebook page, take a minute to scroll through them and make sure that if they’re race photos you haven’t copied and pasted without buying or getting permission. One or two falling through the cracks might be understandable, but more than that and it’s a pattern. A bad one.
None of this is supposed to be an explanation of your legal rights, or, Dog forbid, legal counsel. Rather, it’s a plea to quit ripping off your friends, and if you’ve ripped them off by mistake, or in error…correct the mistake. You’ll find that money, timely paid, covers a multitude of sins.
If you’re ever in doubt, ask first. You’ll be glad you did, and they’ll be even more so.
And if you need a quiet place to sit down and think all this over, just don’t go into Stall No. 3.
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January 23, 2013 § 17 Comments
Otherwise known as the Most Boycotted Race in Southern California, Chris Lotts kicked off the 2013 season with the CBR Anger Management Criterium, aptly named because he appears to have angered at least 43,082.23 local racers with his various diatribes, vendettas, opinions, and kneejerk reactions to things like “That dude once told a guy who used to know a girl whose cousin was friends with my car mechanic’s uncle that a dog from the animal shelter in my neighborhood was ugly. He’ll never race CBR again!”
But no matter. He still puts on a great bike race, and the prize checks clear. That alone puts him in the top .000001% of all promoters in the history of the sport. Oh, and the races run on time, the course is immaculate, and Chris’s yin is almost wholly obliterated by the yang of Vera, Christian, and Marco (takes three of them to cancel out one of him, apparently).
Anyway, to avoid being put in the Disloyalty column, I paid the $50.00
extortion fee Loyalty Club Membership Premium and now look forward to another season of fun and frolic until I get banned, too.
So, here’s the rundown in no particular order, as most of this was culled from wire reports, Facebook, whisperings on the NPR, and from my overactive imagination.
King of the Hill: Okay, King of the Flat Course. That would be Charon Smith. This year he has a monster team riding for him…whoops…”monster” is trademarked by ANOTHER TEAM THAT DIDN’T SHOW UP, so, uh, he has a killer team instead. The race photos showed a sea of Surf City Blue up to the line, where the blue faded to black and Charon made it two for two in 2013. The guy just gets better, and so does his team. This year’s showdowns after MRI/Monster Media finish their nail and pedicure camp should be epic.
Rocketboy: Aaron Wimberley has gone on the Wankmeister Diet apparently, shedding copious amounts of baby chub and the little love handles around his armpits (according to his S.O.). The result? An already wickedly fast sprinter is even faster–he nailed down two second places in the 35+ and the P/1/2/3 race. Nor are his fitness gains limited to sprinting. I had the displeasure of riding with him on the FTR, and the Dude Who Cannot Climb put the wood to all but a handful of bona fide climbers.
Whale of a Win: Jennifer Whalen took the field sprint and won the women’s 3/4 race. She has written a race report on http://www.cyclingillustrated.com that gives a good overview of the race. The women’s field had 22 riders, a solid turnout considering the sturm and drang that occurred after Chris axed the P/1/2/3 women’s category, with more fur flying and name-calling and hollering and boycotting and threatening and near-violence than the draft riots during the Civil War. I don’t know if any of it would make good television, but it was hella fun on Facebook there for a while.
Es geht: Usually, after I have major back surgery and a brace of twins, I don’t go out and race my bike. And even if I did, I wouldn’t be winning. Or finishing. That’s just one of the differences between me and Armin Rahm, who after having his spine, pelvis, and liver replaced (in an afternoon at a Doc-in-the-Box), showed up for the 45+ beatdown and took top honors.
Cat 5 Wanker on the Rise: Local South Bay rider, neo-wanker and all-round hammerhead Jay LaPlante got second in the Cat 5A race and third in the B race. Lots of people who train with him have commented on the fact that when he pedals hard it really hurts, and his regular antics on the NPR make him a wanker to be watched. Whatever. In addition to great results in his second and third races ever, he endeared himself forever to the Wankmeister and showed his mettle when I called him a sorry shit sandbagging sonofabitch on the last lap of today’s NPR for never taking a pull. Did he hang his head? Did he apologize? Did he look cowed and embarrassed? NO WAY! “Fuck off, dude,” he said. “I’ve been grilling and drilling up here all fucking morning. Where the hell were you?” This, sports fans, is the character of a champion! Go ahead and stick some more W’s in his column. He’s going to get them whether you mark them down or not.
“Schneider” means “Cutter” in German: Ryan Schneider also made it two for two, winning first out of an eleven-man break and winning the field sprint after lapping the field. In out-dueling national champion Rudy Napolitano and out-sprinting iron man Brian Zink, Ryan confirmed that he does, indeed have religion. Bike Religion. He recounted the race in great detail for Cycling Illustrated, and it was amazing to see that out of the eleven-man breakaway, his was almost the only name he could remember. Apparently, aside from Rudy, Brian, and Stefano, the only person Ryan could remember in the eleven-man break was a dude named Ryan Schneider, thereby breaking the Golden Rule of Race Reports: Thou Shalt Not Make Thyself Seem Too Studly As Any Time You Win Out Of An Eleven-Person Break And Win The Field Sprint You Are Already Studly Enough. Ryan will be cutting and slashing the rest of the year, rest assured.
Gettin his Mojo Back: Although he didn’t win, John Wike showed that he’s coming onto form with third in the 35+ and a very solid seventh in the P/1/2. Those familiar with John’s arc of fitness know that, in addition to being one of only three wankers ever to have fallen over in the 2 mph turn on the NPR (the other two being Christine Reilly, who I hooked, and Neumann, who thought he’d dropped a peanut butter-covered slab of pecan pie and lunged for the asphalt before it could get run over), once he gets race ready he will absolutely tear your legs off. And win races. Being part of the Surf City Cyclery stable, he poses a lethal threat to teams who will be trying their hardest to put the stops on Charon.
Beatdown-ready: Ever ready to ride in the service of his team captain Charon Smith, when let loose John Slover can wreak havoc. He placed second in the 45+ race behind Armin and will be a force as the year progresses.
Will the absentees please stand up?
No one could help noticing the absence of several seismic cycling forces on Sunday:
BBL/Shroeder Iron/Long Beach Freddies: Possibly part of a permanent Lotts boycott, possibly they were all getting their hair done on Sunday. Whatever the case, I hope that they come back and that Chris lifts their lifetime ban if that’s what’s been imposed. It’s just bike racing, and they make the races better and harder. But of course the only thing harder for grown men to do than shake hands and be friends after a bitter dispute over nothing.
MRI/Monster Media: Some say they were too afraid to face down Charon again so soon after last week’s beatdown in Ontario, where he won the field sprint by a football field. Others say “Bullshit!” because dudes like DiMarchi, Tintsman, Hamasaki, Paolinetti, and Karl the Great ain’t scare of no one. They also appear to have been having their annual ballet camp last weekend, so now that they’ve all been fitted out with team tutus you can expect they’ll be showing up in force and ready to kick ass or at least do some pretty pirouettes.
Amgen/Breakaway from Cancer: If you were in the 45+ or 50+ races and Rich Meeker wasn’t there, you weren’t really racing for first. When these guys get done dialing in their bikes, kits, glasses, and Depends, they will be clogging the podium, make no mistake about it.
The year of the professional amateur masters team?
With Surf City Cyclery, MRI/Monster Media, Amgen, Helen’s, BBL/Schroeder, Jessup Chevrolet, Pinnacle, Big Orange, and SPY-Giant all having huge squads, local racing, especially the crits, have taken on a strategic character that you’d only expect to find on a professional level. This is a bummer for dolts like me who just try to pedal faster than the next guy, but a real boon to those who can understand, put together, and execute race plans. Should make things fun, as long as it means Charon doesn’t win EVERY race on the calendar.
January 19, 2013 § 27 Comments
It’s January 20, almost, which means it’s SoCal’s first “real” crit of the year. All the teams will be there in force to showcase their new kits, their new glasses (some poor sods will still be wearing Lancewear, the cool kids will be wearing SPY), and most of all their secret non-secret training.
Secret non-secret training is what everyone except the Wankmeister does all winter. Diet. Visits to the doctor. Intervals. Gym work. Specific work on sprunting, clumbing, flailing. Building power. Sending outrageous amounts of money to the coach. More visits to the doctor. Lindberg Nutrition. Fancy recovery drinks. In-ride protein drinks. More gym work.
It’s all top secret except for the posed easy days showing the happy masters professionals cruising down PCH on a sunny day with their friends. “See? I don’t train hard in the winter! Not me! No, sir! I pedal easy, quaff coffee with Knoll in Santa Monica, and crack jokes with my buddies. I whip your ass during the race season because I’m just naturally better.”
Why Wankmeister is naturally not better
I have so many things working against me that I can’t even begin pretending. Fat. Unfocused. Unmuscular. Undisciplined. Overly fond of ice cream. No sprunt. No clumbing prowess. No time trailing skills. Lack of perseverance when the going gets moderately hard, and a complete quitter when the hammer of death comes down.
Each winter I completely reinvent myself and acquire a whole new closetful of skills and abilities that are tailored to catapult me to the top of the podium. Then, after the first climb on the first lap of Boulevard, I get sent off the back with a note pinned to my collar saying “Dear Mrs. Wankmeister: He’s not ready this year, either. Please try again next season.”
Of course 2013 is no different. I’ve lost 27 pounds, then regained about 7, and am now hovering at a tininess quotient of about 151, the lightest I’ve been since I was in my twenties. My shorts are baggy and saggy and ride up my legs like a thong, they’re so loose. I’ve interpolated a bit of acceleration with a bit of big ring work, and can now drop the overweight hobby bikers in and around PV at will. Sometimes I can, anyway.
So tomorrow’s CBR crit will be the first step in a triumphant march to the podium. You can take that to the bank, although if past performance truly is the best indicator of future results, the bank will likely be Countrywide.
So what’s your excuse?
Whereas Wankmeister freely admits to big investment, nonexistent return…what’s your story going to be? You’ve done all that I have and a lot more. I’m still riding the same bike I had last year; you’re on a brand new rig. I still only have one wheelset, and it’s 32-hole aluminum; you’ve got a different carbon wheelset for every wind condition and race type. My excuse is that I’m just not very good and never will be; you still tell your significant other that you’re the “real deal.”
And since only one person is going to win your race tomorrow, it’s going to be devastating to find out that after all you’ve done you’re still pack fodder.
But don’t despair! Below are a list of handy-dandy excuses to prop up what’s guaranteed to be a sagging ego come nightfall on Sunday.
- “It’s just the first race of the season. I don’t have my race legs yet.”
- “That was just a CBR crit training race. My real target for the season is Boulevard.”
- “I’m not used to my new ride yet. It’s different in the turns from my last bike.”
- “We’re still working on our team strategy.”
- “I got 38th, which is almost top third, which is pretty good and even better when you consider all the people who never even bothered to show up because they were too scared.”
- “The guys winning now will be tired out no-shows in June.”
- “I’m one of the oldest guys in my masters category by almost three years. At my age, one year makes a huge difference.”
- “Hell, I’m racing against a bunch of ex-pros.”
- “I’ve been sick.”
- “Work has been craaaaazy.”
- “I’m taking a more relaxed approach this year.”
- “I do better in hot weather.”
- “I’m sorry, January is just too early to be racing.”
- “Nobody would work with me.”
- “The racing was just too negative.”
- “I wasn’t going to chase that break. I had a teammate who was going to bridge up to it.”
- “I never sprint in crits. Too dangerous.”
- “The course isn’t selective enough.”
- “The course was too technical.”
- “I didn’t train all winter.”
So now you really are ready for the first race of the year. Go get ’em!
October 16, 2012 § 16 Comments
My phone rang at 5:30 this morning. “Hello?”
“Hey, WM. Have you heard anything?”
“Who is this?”
“Thunky. Thunky Sneedles.”
“Oh, it’s you again. No, man, I haven’t heard anything since your last call two hours ago. It’s five-fucking-thirty, dude.”
“I just thought you’d maybe, you know, gotten some offers or something.”
“No, man. Crickets.” I’d agreed to act as Thunky’s agent in the off-season, and even though the trades had started in earnest, Thunky was still out in the cold, and he was nervous. “Look, let’s go over it again. I know you’re nervous, but you have to be patient. These things take time. When some of the bigger fish get their contracts, it’ll loosen up the purse strings for the domestiques like you.”
“But what if I don’t get an offer from anybody? What if I have to stay with Team D’oosh next year? My career’s too short for that, man. I’ve only got a couple of good years left, and I need to ride for a winner.”
“I know, I know. Nobody said being a professional masters racer was easy.”
“Fuck, ain’t that the truth.”
“Why are you so down on Team D’oosh? You fit right in.”
“They suck and their bro deal is so lame.”
“Really? Even with that bike and those five free kits and the travel reimbursements? And don’t they cut you in on the winnings even if you’re OTB?”
“Yeah, it sounds great. But it sucked this year. I mean, no one ever fucking wins. They suck. And the frame? It was the Specialized SL4 instead of their top of the line Venge. Charon gets the Venge on his team. How’m I supposed to take that dude on riding an SL4? It’s like bringing a full set of teeth to a dicksucking contest.”
“Are the bikes really that different?”
“Hell yeah. The Venge has this really cool paint option. It’s so fuckin’ rad.”
“Well, at least getting the whole $8,500 rig with Di2 on loan for a whole season and then swapping it out for a new one in ’13 saves you some money.”
“Dude! It’s not about the MONEY. It’s about the wins. You get the wins, the money flows. That’s how the pro scene works.”
“Even in the men’s 35+?”
“Well, what about the kits? That’s a grand right there, easy, free. You gotta be happy about that.”
“Those kits were so last year. The leg elastic band was at least 1/4 inch shorter than the pro stuff Paolinetti was wearing on Monster. Like I’m gonna take that guy on with short elastic bands? And the design was, like, puke.”
“I guess they screwed you pretty bad, huh?”
“I’ll say. The travel reimbursements only kicked in after you’d done five races. I fuckin’ told ’em that I was gonna do a full schedule, but for me that’s four races, including our Team D’oosh club time trial in January. They have to understand that if you want results, you gotta be rested between races. Real rested. Recovery is just as important as training, prolly more so, even.”
“Look, Thunky. I’m gonna try to get you on Amgen this year. You’ll be a domo for Thurlow, Meeker, Brett, Strickie, Malcolm…the big boys. But you gotta bring something to the table. What do I tell them about you?”
“What do you tell them? Duuuuude! Aren’t you my agent? Fuckin’ tell ’em about what we did this year! Tell ’em how the race went down when Clunky Thunky brought the A-game and stuffed the clowns into the hurt locker! Tell ’em that!”
“Ah, what race are you talking about, Thunks?”
“What race? San Dimas! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten San Dimas?”
“Was that the one where you launched off the road and hit that parked car? At, like three miles in or something?”
“You always gotta bring up the fuckin’ parked car. Fuck the parked car! Dude, I stretched the field like a teenage dick on its first handjob. Ask ’em, man, any of those dudes’ll tell you about the Thunky Beatdown. Thurlow was there. Meeker was there. Worthingtons were there. Fuckin’ Leibert was beggin’ for mercy I had everybody on the rivet.”
“Okay, maybe I’ll remind them of that later, you know, like when we’re talking signing bonuses and stuff. What else happened in 2012?”
“I did that one 35+ race and laid the fuckin’ wood to Tintsman and Paolinetti.”
“Phil Tintsman? You? Really? That’s pretty awesome, cause those two guys are the real deal. Which race was it?”
“Hellz. It was at Ontario, I think. Maybe CBR. I attacked from the gun like always.”
“Then you got in a break with Phil and Jamie? Sweet!”
“Nah, I didn’t get in no fuckin’ break. I’m a sprinter kind of rouleur. You know, a puncheur climber type time trialist, all ’rounder with an emphasis on track and ‘cross.”
“So what happened?”
“It was like on the second or third lap. I was fuckin’ railin’ it, dude, 54-11, hittin’ the headwind section like a fuckin’ freight train. Field was comin’ apart at the seams, everybody strung out in the fuckin’ gutter, dudes frying off the back like fritters in a fryolator. Tintsman and Paolinetti were in the hurt locker. The pain cave. Beggin’ for fucking mercy, they were my bitches, dude. That’s what I’m talking ’bout.”
“I finished my solid half lap and then Tintsman and Paolinetti and Charon and a bunch of other dudes, I think Brauch and Wimberley, and you know, five or six other Monster dudes, and a few other guys rolled off in a break. There was like sixty of ’em. No way we were bringing them back. But you can ask Tintsman, that shit wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t softened ’em up.”
“Sixty dudes? In one break?”
“Yeah, man. It was fucking righteous. Me and Stimp Twitchers–you know him? Rides for Soft Longies, he’s a badass. Me and Stimp fuckin’ motored with the field on our wheel the rest of the race.”
“How many guys were left in the field?”
“About seven or eight. Coddles McGee, Woodenhead, Dorcas Johnson, Tubbs, you know. The dudes you can count on.”
“Okay, I’ll make the pitch for you. What should I tell them your goals are for 2013?”
“My goals? Do you even have to ask? Tell ’em this: I’m comin’ for Charon if they can find me a Venge just like his. Black shorts, with the cool elastic thingy like Paolinetti and Tintsman have. And $10k in travel reimbursements. Up front, Jan. 1, like in the pros. And a cut of everything everyone wins, even if I have to miss the race because of my Saturday yoga class. And free massage sessions–and I pick the fuckin’ masseuse. Don’t give me some hairy dude named Jacques. I want a smoking babe who only works nekkid or in a thong. Happy ending for Thunky, you got that? And a 401k and a team car. That’s my starting offer. See what you can do from there.”
“And what can they expect in return?”
“I’m gonna take Charon down next year. I’m gonna ride Tintsman off my fuckin’ wheel. I’m gonna give Meeker a sprint clinic every fuckin’ weekend. You tell ’em that, Wanky, and you tell ’em Thunky sent you.”
The phone went dead.
A few minutes later it rang again.
“Yo, it’s me again. Any offers?”
“Not yet, buddy. But they’re comin’ any minute. Any minute.”
September 6, 2012 § 20 Comments
Yesterday night I was dragging ass through the parking garage and this dude said, “Good ride?”
“Yep. I’m pretty whipped, though.”
“Where’d you go?”
“I did the race out at Eldo.”
“Oh, a race? I used to race.”
“Yeah, back when they had the Olympic village, I was a track monster. Raced the old velodrome.”
He didn’t look very monsterish. “Ever try the new one in Carson?”
“No, I just lost interest. I used to be an animal, though.”
I couldn’t help thinking about Paul Ryan and how he, too, had been fast when he was young. Yeah.
The main two reasons people quit racing or never start
Aside from the fact that it’s pretty stupid, the main reason is fear of crashing. All it takes is one good crash to make you realize that the risk-benefit analysis is all whomperjawed over on the side of risk, and not much more than $25 or $30 in race “winnings” on the side of benefit.
Crashing and getting hurt is scary, and it’s a given that if you race, you’re going to crash. So, like, I get that.
The other reason people quit racing is because they are afraid of losing. They’ve built themselves up so much on Strava, or on their solo rides, or on their beatdowns with their fellow wankers, that it’s too intimidating to actually go toe-to-toe with people who don’t give a rat’s ass about your motor-assisted KOM and who will happily pound you into oblivion.
It’s better to stay comfortable as a coulda-been contender than a real-life lump of pack fodder.
There are a whole bunch of other reasons that people don’t race, and they’re all valid, but Fear of Crashing and Fear of Losing are far and away the top two.
My best three races of 2012
On the flip side, there is really only one significant reason that people do race: They’re idiots.
As my road racing season mercifully came to a close yesterday, I’m happy to say that it couldn’t possibly have ended any better. On Sunday I raced the 45+ Elderly Gentlemen’s Tender Prostate Category at Dominguez Hills. The field of 54 riders was greatly reduced from the first crits of the year, which were often at or near the 100-idiot limit. Many of the heaviest hitters were out replenishing the Depends, or getting their dentures refitted, but a healthy contingent including national and state champion Rich Meeker showed up to fight for the day’s honors.
In typical fashion, a few laps into the race the winning break rolled up the road. I was mid-pack, marveling at all the bicycles and how they never seemed to crash even though they were all so close together. I think about this often. All those moving parts! Each bike guided by a separate idiot of highly questionable handling skills! Yet through each turn they swoop and swerve and curve and slow and speed, always within a few inches, and hardly ever bounce along the pavement in a shower of carbon scraps and shredded skin.
It’s generally at these times, when I’m wondering if this kind of mass communication is what happens when flocks of shorebirds fly in tight formation at astounding speeds on moonlit nights, that something significant in the race happens, like a break, which it did. Of course, I had no idea, because what goes on “Up there” has nothing in common with what’s happening “Back here.”
When the lead shorebird squawks
As I was wondering about Western Sandpipers, a dude in a SPY-Blue kit came whizzing up on the left. It was my teammate, Johnny Walsh. “C’mon, Zeth!” he yelled.
“Wonder why he’s yelling at me? And ‘come on’ where? And why?” It was quite cozy back there in mid-shorebirdville, and the nasty pace at which he passed me suggested lots of un-shorebirdy pain.
Then I noted that on his wheel was Alan Flores, our team leader and Dude Who Doesn’t Do Stupid Shit in Races. I’m still unsure why, but I hopped on his wheel. The next time I looked back, we were clear of the field. “Where are we going?” I wondered. Then I looked up. Around the bend was a break. “Wow!” I thought. “I wonder if we’ll bridge?”
Johnny just went harder, and my legs just hurt more. When he sat up, we were on the back of the break. He nodded, legs blown, and drifted back to the field. “Wow!” I thought. “So that’s how you do it! What happens now?”
What’s with all these colorful sleeves?
My temporary joy at being in the break was immediately muted as I took roll. There was a dude with a stars-and-stripes thingy on his sleeve. That meant he was a national champion in something; probably not chess. There was another dude with a stars-and-stripes thingy…another non-chess national champion. There was a dude who looked a hell of a lot like Brett Clare, the dude who passed me in San Marcos like he was a Ferrari and I was a lamppost. Out of us eleven, there was only one complete flailer, and it was me. Everyone else looked pissed off and ready to go even faster.
Despite trying a series of moves that would later be described as “the silliest in the 2012 annals of SoCal crit racing,” I miraculously didn’t get dropped from the break and finished eleventh, my best placing of the year by far. Was it worth the $1,590.33 in entry fees? Yes. The $527.12 in gas? Yes. The risk to life and limb? Yes. The $15,982.12 in equipment/clothing/accessory purchases? Yes. The admission of personal failure every night when I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Self, you’re almost fifty but are still fascinated by riding a bicycle.” Ummm, well, mostly yes.
Awesome race result #2
The following morning I celebrated Labor Day with two hundred other cyclists, many of whom appeared to be be on what was at least their second or even third full day after having learned how to ride. If this ride didn’t frighten you, you were beyond hope, because it was terrifying.
Usually, in order to steer clear of the fat dude with the dangling buttcrack, or to avoid the yackety chick who thinks that the center of a fast-moving foolfest is the perfect place to turn her head to the side for minutes at a time, or to keep from getting rear-ended by the neo-neo-neo racer pro kid who’s picked today to show off the $10k wheels with lightly glued tubulars, usually, I say, in order to avoid the certain death and injury resulting from riding near these knuckleheads and their next of kin, you have to get up to the top 20 or 30 riders and stay there.
Not on Monday.
No, sir, on Monday, the crazies had all gotten the Wankmeister memo that said, “Go to the Front!” and so, like crazies, they all went to the front. At the same time. Constantly.
The wankoton looked like the beach on a huge surf day, with massive swirls of raging dorkbreak foaming up to the front, followed by another series of churning idiots pushing up behind them, but the bozos in front, unable to drift back, created a fredtide, which ripped backwards through the wankoton, sucking the unwary back with them into the deathly perilous undertow, where victims such as Old George were crashed out and run over by people who didn’t even know the thing they were rolling over was a live person.
Don’t they know they belong in back?
I got to the front, the absolute front, and ran as many lights as I could, hoping that the bait of a speeding leader would draw at least a few of the worst wankers out into the intersection where they would be crushed and mutilated by speeding cross-traffic.
It didn’t work, however, as the number of idiots careening down Mt. Chevron on Vista del Mar was so great that it clogged both lanes and spilled out into opposing traffic as well. Drivers were petrified and simply stopped, and who wouldn’t if your windshield suddenly filled with a bearded, pony-tailed idiot wearing a vomit-spray jersey, gangly hairy legs poking out at right angles from the bike, spit and snot spewing from his face, and a barely-in-control-bike swerving crazily in and out of the lane?
This, of course, is the huge difference between racing and dorking: In a race, we wankers know that we belong in back. Our chance of winning isn’t even mathematical, so the only reason to be in front is to either suffer more (not good), crash out the dudes who can actually ride (worse), or have one of the ride bosses push us into the curb (worst).
On a fredfest, without this natural policing of the weak and feeble, those who don’t belong don’t know that they don’t belong, so they charge pell-mell to the front and create unforgettable mental tableaux such as when Ponytail Boy whipped a 30mph beeline for the curb at the bridge for the Marina bike path with Eddie W. on his wheel, only to decide at the very last second that nah, that ol’ curb is too big to hop, so he veered off to the right, braking hard, and sending Eddie into one of his finest string of oaths, a string so foul that even the wankers fishing off the bridge were taken aback at the new and inventive string of expletives.
They mysteries of the universe
It was at San Vicente that Chaos Theory gave way to Hammer Theory. Somehow, the freaks and freds who laboriously pounded all the way to San Vicente began to thin out as the road, like the pace, tilted up. By the end of the first mile we had lost between fifty and a hundred idiots.
At the turn onto Mandeville, another huge contingent had vanished, and by the end of the climb it was a small group of fifty or so out of the original 200+ horde.
Where did they all go? Did they fall by the wayside, dead? Did they drag themselves, mostly lifeless, to the doors of the angry, cyclist-hating Mandeville residents, and beg for shelter or for a quick gunshot to the head to end their misery? Did they swerve into a bike shop and sell all their gear? Or were they simply vaporized by the pace?
In any event, on the non-race race to the top of Mandeville Canyon, I got fourth going up the climb, which is almost a best ever, and even managed to get it on video. Once this gets published, Jonathan Vaughters will likely be sending me my contract.
The lost city of El Dorado
After this signal accomplishment, on Tuesday I went over to Long Beach for the year’s final running of the El Dorado crit series, which was held in honor of Mark Whitehead, the legendary Olympian, keirin pro, and track coach who died last summer at nationals in Frisco. Anything done in honor of “Meathead” is required to have, whatever else is on offer, the following three items:
- Cash prizes (to fight over in the parking lot after the race)
- Beer (to quickly stimulate the fighting)
- Controversy (to justfy #1 and #2)
A four-man breakaway left early in the race and collected the $100 cash primes on offer, cleverly working a combine to work together and share the loot. It would later turn out that in the chaos of the post-race awards ceremony someone claimed the money who allegedly wasn’t in the break, a perfect controversy that Meathead would have met with both fists and a gang fistfight.
With three laps to go, Rahsaan Bahati took the reins in hand and closed down the 30-second gap in half a lap, bringing the bunch together for the finale.
Throughout the race there was a dude without a number who was constantly pissing me off with his numberlessness. He sure as hell could ride a bike, though, and each time the pack surged he easily kept the pace. The longer the race lasted, and the longer he lasted, the more pissed off I got. “Who does he think he is, crashing our race?”
Each time I thought that, he would put on another display of bike magic, squelching my urge to ride up and say something to him. “Dude can fucking ride a bike, sure enough.”
With half a lap to go, all hell broke loose, with the wheelsuckers charging freshly to the fore, the fried wankers giving it their all to keep from getting dropped, the canny sprinters slotting into position, and the handful of spectators screaming what sounded like “Ugghhgooattlexphlllmzxooooo!” as we shot by at warp speed.
The magical moment when the wheels come off the cart
It’s in these final moments of a bike race that you are living on the razor’s edge of insanity, alone, but separated from the idiots all ’round you by nothing more than chance. It’s shorebirdy, almost, with nothing making sense, yelling, grunting, hands pushing people out of the way, hunched shoulders squeezing wide bars between too-narrow gaps, narrow rubber strips of rubber slinging from side to side, and everyone thinking the same thing: “Don’t fucking crash, but for fuck’s sake hold the wheel, don’t gap out, and go faster!”
The union of opposites, where the fear of catastrophe is perfectly blended with the thirst for meaningless glory, cancels out the risk of death with the benefit of knowing you’ve gone as hard as your spindly legs will carry you.
Then it was over, like sex, and I was shuddering across the line, cruising along as my lungs and legs and brain caught up with my heart, eventually pointing my bike into the parking lot where the banter had already begun: Who did what when to whom and man, that was HARD.
The dude without the number was laughing and backslapping with Steve Hegg and Johnny Walsh and Suze Sonye and Rahsaan, and I felt pretty stupid when I realized it, and felt even happier at having kept my stupid mouth shut: Nelson Vails don’t need no fucking number.
August 31, 2012 § 2 Comments
Thanks, Chris. Thanks for being dependable. Thanks for always putting on a race that’s timely, that’s safe, that’s fun, and that’s smack dab in the middle of where so many SoCal cyclists live and train.
Thanks for not putting up with any shit, and for calling things like you see them. Thanks for caring enough about local racing to do this over and over and over, even though you sometimes sleep overnight in your car because things get underway so early.
Thanks for helping ensure that the races are properly officiated and, for the most part, drama free. Thanks for running events where the check always clears and where the primes are something a lot nicer than a cheap water bottle with a lousy nipple. Thanks for enduring the politics and for doing your best to make sure your vision prevails.
Thanks for your funny Facebook posts, and for your unflinching willingness to hold views even when it pisses off people who might otherwise scratch your back. That takes guts. Thanks for not bowing down to all the “-isms.” Thanks even more for not holding it against people whose beliefs are different, and for being a big enough man to take it just as much as you dish it out.
Thanks for caring about homeless creatures. The way a person treats animals says as much about their character as the way they treat people.
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to race our bikes. If you weren’t out there putting on these races, our calendar would be a whole lot thinner. If you could come up with a deal so that Charon, Meeker, Rudy, Justin, Jamie, and some of those dudes all had to do an extra couple of laps so that the rest of us would (mathematically) have a chance, that would be cool. Just a thought.
Pay it, don’t say it
This Sunday, September 2, 2012 at the world infamous Dominguez Hills CBR course, Chris puts on the final race of the SoCal Cup. I hope you’ll show up, pay your money, and do a race or two, even if, like me, you’ve got a snowball’s chance.
Most of all, though, I gotta say thanks to Vera, not just for all the work she does…but for putting up with Chris!