Serious fun with Serious Cycling at Barry Wolfe crit

May 30, 2016 § 6 Comments

I don’t listen to music very much any more because of mind control. The last listening binge I went on was Beethoven and there I was being forced to listen to paeans to Napoleon. I hate Napoleon.

But my cousin Josh had just released a new CD and it had arrived in the mail the day before so I put it in the player as I headed off for the races. It’s called “Love in a Hurricane,” and contains some of the best of his astonishing body of work — powerful blues rock, ballads, and re-works of iconic songs like Son House’s “Death Letter.” All of it is built upon incredible mastery of the guitar, and finished with an attention to lyrics that reflects his obvious love of poetry.

Napoleon I can’t dig, but Son House, well, uh, hell yes.


I got to the race and went over to sign-in. On the way there I watched the race that was in progress, the super old man’s category where Thurlow Rogers was mercilessly flogging the shit out of the field, then the break, then he rode off and won. Next I saw my friend Bart Clifford. Bart has only been racing for a few years but he’s one of the best old guy riders out there. He has a blazing fast sprint and if he winds up in your break he busts his balls to make the break stick, and still cans you in the finish. He was talking about the recent crash-fest at Old Fellows’ Fake Nationals in North Carolina. “Worse than a fucking off-season training crit in Ontario,” he said, which sums it up.

I put on my orange-and-black clown suit. Keith Ketterer, hour record holder, world champion, and phenomenal coach, came by to give me some advice. “Wanky,” he said, “just ride in a straight line.”

The 45+ race began and I stuck to my plan. On the way up I’d realized that there are only five moves in cycling:

  1. Sit.
  2. Surge.
  3. Attack.
  4. Sprint.
  5. Quit.

Since I can’t sprint, and my attack is kind of like a Big Blue Bus moving away from the curb after taking on 150 Cheeseburger Conventioneers, I had made up my mind to sit the entire race and surge to follow anything that looked like a promising break. Then, with ten minutes to go I would attack. Once. Devil take the hindmost.

Two hundred yards into the race I had forgotten all that nonsense and was back to my incorrigible ways, squandering energy, jumping around like a bunny, and making sure that if a legit move ever happened I’d be too tired to respond. Pretty soon the race finished, but in the final lap I ran out of talent and finished third-from-last. Bart won handily, although as a professional actor he had to add some drama by lying down on the grass and panting as if he’d been shot in the liver with a javelin. John Slover got second and my teammate Dave Holland got third.

While deciding whether or not to do the 35+ race I ate six spicy pork tacos with guacamole, figuring a little extra energy couldn’t hurt. The taco euphoria caused me to foolishly sign up for the young person’s race, which was not smart.

In the 35+ race it was the Everyone Do Nothing And Watch While Kayle And Charon Win Show. Although the first few laps were pretty quick, they weren’t nearly as quick as the taco sludge that kept sprinting up my throat, threatening to overflow the drainpipe at any minute. About halfway into the race I turned to the dude next to me and said, “What are all these motherfuckers doing sitting in like this?”

He looked at me and smiled. “They’re watching Kayle race Charon.”

We puttered around for 45 minutes and then Kogut rolled and Charon followed him. “I ain’t doing nothing until you establish the break,” Charon said, which made sense because Charon had 38 Surf City teammates back in the field, which only had 32 riders. Kogut busted a gut to make the break stick, Charon whipping him like he was a dog. “Come on man, we got this,” Charon said, urging Kogut to take the battering pulls into the headwind, but not bothering to explain that “we” meant “Charon,” since in a two-up sprint Kogut had as much chance of beating Charon as I have of growing a third arm.

After that race I watched Megan Jastrab and Summer Moak, aged 14 and 17 respectively, smash the elite women’s field for first and second. I drove back and listened to more Love in a Hurricane, and as soon as I got home I went immediately to work.




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Crown jewel

September 10, 2015 § 14 Comments

This Friday at 5:30 PM in downtown Ogden, Utah, the next-to-last day of the 2015 Old People’s Vanity Strut will take place, when the 40-44 age category lines up to decide who among them has most thoroughly avoided advancement at work (or any employment at all), skipped out on family obligations for at least one full year, hired the best Internet coach, spent the most money on equipment and supplements of every kind, lied about how “it’s only a hobby,” and, finally, crossed the finish line of a 75-minute crit ahead of everyone else.

Unlike some categories in the annual Old People’s Vanity Strut, where national champions are crowned despite lining up against exactly zero other riders, and despite the shaky and physiologically random assignment of riders into 5-year groupings (why not 3-year? 19.4-months? 25-year?), the 40-44 race, otherwise known as DON’T LET IT BOIL DOWN TO A SPRINT FINISH AGAINST CHARON SMITH, has the potential to be one of the best old person crits ever.

Consider this. At 75 minutes long, the riders won’t have fresh legs at the finish. More importantly, the BEAT CHARON strategy can only work with aggressive racing. Negative racing that leaves everyone together with 300 yards to the line will put Charon so far ahead in the final sprunt that the winning gap will be measured in aircraft carrier lengths.

The strategy will be to split the field, form a non-Charon break, and let the breakaway riders duke it out for the meaningless jersey that means everything. How it’s being strategized:

  1. Phil Tinstman, the strongest all around rider and the Next Fastest Sprinter Who Isn’t Charon, brings teammate Karl Bordine (just picked up silver in the ITT yesterday, thanks) to shred the field and power the non-Charon breakaway. He’s also rumored to have formed a midnight blood pact with Chris DiMarchi and Mike Easter, former teammates at Monster Media and future teammates for 2016. Chris and Mike, also former national champions in something bicycle related, may be there to work for Phil against Team Charon. If so, no break will roll or remain established without Phil.
  2. Charon is bringing teammates to help for the first time in his quest for a national championship. With super motor Pat Bos he’ll be able to keep tabs on all but the strongest breakaways, and with consummate teammate Derek Brauch nothing will go up the road without Surf City in it. Derek will also fire everything he’s got to bring back a break and, more importantly, to give Charon the leadout he won’t need if it boils down to a sprint.
  3. Matt Carinio, last year’s victor, got third in the ITT yesterday so it’s pretty safe to say he’s showing up fit. He won’t have the team firepower of Charon/Phil, but he may not need it. He’s a fine breakaway rider and no slouch in a sprint, though in a head-to-head against Tinstman it’s hard to see him winning. Still, he’ll be all in for the BEAT CHARON breakaway plan.
  4. Rudy Napolitano will have little or no team support, but guess what, folks, he doesn’t need it. With Rudy in the race there’s virtually no chance it will boil down to a field sprint, and Rudy has shown time and time again that he can establish a break, ride a break, and then attack the break to win solo. He will save his efforts for laser-like precision, and when he unleashes them they will count.

Of course these are simply the favorites that I know of; lots of butt-hurt riders on the East Coast and in Wyoming will wonder why they’re not listed here. Answer: Because I make this shit up at 5:00 AM.

In any event it will be an epic race. The winner will of course look forward to spending one full year trying to explain the world shaking importance to non-cyclists that he’s the 2015 masters national champion of 40-44-year-old males in criterium racing. I’ll give you a nickel for every person whose eyes don’t glaze over after the word “masters.”



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September 7, 2015 § 5 Comments

We dropped down off the Switchbacks in a line. Sweeping through the right-hander onto PV Drive South all of the familiar figures fell into place.

Charon, Rudy, Derek, Leadout, Michael, Cuttler, Stathis, X-Man, and Undercover formed the point while the rest of us jostled for protection on the screaming downhill followed by the punchy rollers through Portuguese Bend. Everyone knew what was coming and it was gonna fuggin’ hurt.

The scene of so much misery is called The Glass Church because, amazingly, it is a gradual roller that starts at the bottom of … guess what … a glass church. It’s not very long and it’s not very steep so it’s just the right distance for everyone to get in over his head.

Undercover pounded off the front in a hopeless kick destined for immolation and, always the one to pick the worst wheel at the worst time, I went with him. Chunks of sputum, toe jam, and tooth enamel began to bleed out of his eyes and after a couple hundred yards he began doing the Brad House arm flap. When he slowed to a pace that I could pass and maintain, I jumped past. The wankoton was well behind. I ground it halfway up the grade until I heard the telltale “whoosh, whoosh” of approaching carbon doom made of 100% full carbon.

It was Rudy. I grabbed on, then held on as he accelerated all the way up the roller and over the top. Derek was with him and we had a gap. I took something that looked like a pull, only it wasn’t. After a few rotations we were at the bottom of the little hill past Terranea. Rudy launched. Davy had bridged, somehow. Three-quarters of the way up the bump I punched it coming up the right-side gutter.

We flew down the short grade to the final uphill before the sprunt. Davy charged with X-Man, who had also come across, on his wheel. I faded backwards like the burnt out stage of a Saturn rocket.

We regrouped at the light and Rudy was grinning. “You hung on,” he said.

“Barely. There was that one point on the Glass Church when you came through and I had to bite down hard.”

“Those are always the moments when you either make the split or you don’t.”

“It felt like I was slowly chewing off my own tongue.”

“But then it lets up and you’ve made the split. Because everyone else backs off.”

“The taste of your own tongue isn’t very good,” I mused.

“I work with a lot of riders who are just starting out. They have that great ‘new’ fitness but the depth isn’t there yet, where they can max out and still bring their heart rate back down. They hit top gear and stay elevated.”

“There’s so much out there about how to train,” I said, “but I’m still waiting for someone to write a book about how to win.”

He laughed. “Yeah. Same as in poker. Cycling appears to be about training and fitness, or in poker it appears to be about luck, but in the final round it’s always the same five guys sitting at the table.”

“Because the guys who win have a playbook.”

He nodded. “And they follow it.”

“When are you publishing yours?”

We had hit the bottom of Via Zumaya and he glided away. “Someday!” he said.



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Not sloppy at all

September 5, 2015 § 10 Comments

Astounding image (c) 2015 by Danny Munson

Astounding image (c) 2015 by Danny Munson

“Here’s your dinner,” I said to Woodrow.

He stared at the plate in fear. “What is it?”

“It’s a sloppy Joe.”

“What’s that?”

It hit me like a stubbed toe: My kids have never eaten a sloppy Joe. “You’re kidding, right?”

He angled away from the plate. “No. It sure looks sloppy, though.”

“Wait ’til you taste it,” I said, having already sampled it and confident that it was probably the best sloppy Joe ever made in the history of poor people.

“Can’t you tell me what it is first?”

“What, you’ve been going to Chester Karras negotiating seminars? It’s a fuggin’ sloppy Joe, the finest cuisine known to redneckdom. It’s cheap hamburger meat grilled in a pan and mixed with onion, green pepper, garlic, cayenne pepper, some more garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, a bit of garlic, and tomato sauce.”

“That sounds nasty.” He sniffed the plate. “How do I eat it?”

“With a fuggin’ fork, for fuck’s sake! Sloppy Joe days used to be the best day on the school lunch menu back at ol’ Jane Long Junior High. That is some good eatin’!” I cut off a slab of toasted wheat hamburger bun that was groaning under the weight of the sloppy and jammed it in my mouth. “MMMMM, mmmm!” I said. And it was awesome. There is nothing like the rubberized gnawing on cheap ground beef to take you back to your childhood.

He cut off a tiny corner and placed it on his fork, then he sniffed it and carefully put it into his mouth. I waited for him to swallow and got ready to enjoy the explosion of satisfaction on his skeptical face. He swallowed. “Well?” I said triumphantly.

He cut off a slightly larger piece and ate it. “It’s okay,” he said.

“Okay? That’s it? Here you’re eating dog’s gift to American poor folks cuisine, loaded with ketchup and cheap fatty gristle meat smothered in ketchup with extra ketchup and the best you can say is ‘It’s okay’?”

He ate some more. “It’s not bad, Dad. Really.”

“Let me tell you something, Mr. It’s Not Bad Dad Really. I got a friend who is a fuggin’ expert at taking sloppy, messed up shit and turning it into filet mignon.”

“Really?” He knew what filet mignon was = I’ve failed as a parent.

“Yeah, really.”

“What’s his name?”

“Charon. Charon Smith.”

“That’s a funny name.”

“He’s a funny guy.”

“How so?”

“You throw him into a nasty, messy, sloppy, fucked up shark tank of idiots and supercharged bad bike handlers and he pounds the motherfuckers into a smooth slurry of fine cuisine and slices through them like a sharp knife through a soft eyeball.”

“Gross,” he said, polishing off the sloppy and getting up to make himself a second one.

“And I’ll tell you something else,” I said. “Ol’ Charon doesn’t let it get him down when someone says It’s Not Bad Dad Really, no sir, he does not.”

“How’s that?”

“People been telling Charon that he’s a fast old fart crit finisher but he can’t road race and he can’t outsprint the pros.”

“Can he?”

“You should have seen him on Sunday. He skipped the leaky prostate race because he knew his teammate Leadout would be with him and he did the pro race. Talk about sloppy fuggin’ Joe. There were 122 sloppy-assed idiots on the line who were messy and aggro enough to eat nails and broken glass.”


“Hundred dollar primes, also known a biker chum. But Charon didn’t give a damn.”

“He didn’t?”

“Nope. He hung on for ninety minutes while the shrapnel flew, the body parts banged, the shit stains squirted, and everyone threw a Hail Mary pass every five minutes.”

“Then what?” The second sloppy Joe was much reduced.

“He took all that sloppy shit and cleaned it up with one whisk of his snot rag. Blew through the youngsters so fast that instead of cash primes, next time they’ll be offering those tykes diaper primes. He won by a country mile, clean as a whistle.”

Woodrow scraped up the last of the sloppy and licked his fork. Twice. “Sounds like an awesome dude.”

“Damn straight,” I said. The plate, it sparkled.



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Up against the wall

August 19, 2015 § 16 Comments


Mark was one of the best elite amateur bike racers Southern California has ever seen. Today he has a particularly nasty form of leukemia.

I remember the state road race a few years back in Bakersfield. Mark, who dominated in every discipline in the sport, had been injured and was far from fit, but he decided to do this grueling race to help out his teammates. He attacked on the first lap and stayed away until the final lap, when the other teams had to throw all their weapons into the fray to reel him in.

The moment he got caught, teammate Roger Worthington went with a counterattack and finished third if memory serves. That was pure Mark — thrilled to sacrifice everything he had for his buddies.

Mark’s friends and erstwhile teammates from Labor Power have rallied ’round, but no matter the support and love, it’s ultimately a battle that Mark has to fight alone. To no one’s surprise, he’s giving it everything he’s got, which is ten times more than anyone else.

Here are some thoughts from three of his closest friends.

From Roger Worthington, teammate, team boss, friend:

Few riders typified the combination of Labor generally abhorred prettiness. Our mantra was “Gritty Not Pritty.” Then came G-Spot. G-Spot did use cocoa butter. He did shave his arms. He did refuse to wear his Labor Stars and Bars because it was the wrong shade of blue. So why did Labor rally around this erstwhile Pritty Boy with the boyish smile and monster legs? Because he may have been pretty but even more so he was gritty. We’re talking all caps GRITTY. He’d go off the front. He’d bang with the baddest. He protected his mates. He feared no one. When nutjobs all about were losing their mind, he’d keep his cool. And no matter how hard, or cold, or hot, or nasty, he wouldn’t complain. This is the character trait that’s serving him now as he’s battling cancer. Just as my money was on G-Spot coming out of that last corner, it’s on G-spot now as he takes on a force a thousand times nastier than a bar-banging scrum. He’s focused. He’s resilient, and in his words, “It’s all good.” We believe him, and we believe in him.

From Charon Smith, friend and understudy:

Mark Scott … I’m not sure where to begin because he has been such a big part of my development as a rider and racer. I have raced with so many talented guys and have had the pleasure of being teammates with talented racers, too. Mark in my eyes stands at the top of the mountain simply because he was the guy who wasn’t afraid to reach out like a father leading his child through the valley and pointing out all the small details that a child would overlook or couldn’t see simply due to lack of experience and knowledge. He taught me how to stay calm, relaxed, and how to always stay in the moment. He would say read the race, monitor the situation, and that everything you do as a racer should have a purpose. Over the years I have stored these things in my hard drive, you will rarely see me doing something just to do it in a race to look good, because it is never about the look but always the process and the finish. Often I see guys doing things in a race that don’t benefit the team or themselves, but they do it because they like to show their strength. Mark would never do that. “Everything, all the time, has to have a purpose.”

In our race meetings Mark would always lay out the plan and he did it with such calmness it made you feel like everything was going to be fine and so often it was; he could control and dictate a race single-handedly when he put his mind to it. I recall him doing things in a race to cause a reaction so he could get the field to react so he could set up the situation he wanted or needed to give our team an advantage. Over time I learned to sit back and watch him work his magic and I was always smiling because I knew that what he was doing was to set us up for the win.

He would often grab me and say “Get on my wheel!” It was like I was out on a leisure ride and not in a race. It’s a hard and delicate job towing a sprinter around, very few riders can actually do it well. Some guys just speak your language on the bike and words are not needed. Mark and I were this way off the top but this simply came from his gift and his huge heart. He could win races but he was not interested in that, he was more interested in molding me and shaping me because he saw something that I could not see.

I recall speaking with Dave Worthington after Mark became ill and he said “You know here’s something I never shared with you. When you started winning I told Mark, ‘Charon is there,’ and Mark replied “No, he’s not there yet there are still some things he has to learn.’ This moment made me smile because while he was teaching and showing me the way he had a bigger plan and vision for me and I never knew it.

That’s he was like a father leading his son through the valley. I recall the first race I did with Mark and he told me out of the blue “I am going to sit this one out.” I couldn’t figure out what he meant, but he wanted to slowly let me fly on my own, and whatever magic he had, it worked because I crossed the line first that day. Over the last four years I have averaged 10+ wins per year all while my teammates are winning as well. This was Mark’s teaching: always give and share the success. The good things that have happened to me and my team all come from the foundation laid by Mark. In our meetings, my ideas come from the plans and visions Mark embedded in me years ago. He also taught me to never allow anyone to try to break you. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. He may not know it but I think of him almost every day because I am on my bike almost every day and that is where we became so tightly connected.

Thanks for allowing me to share my feelings and words about my friend and Captain Mark Scott AKA G-Spot! GB

From David Worthington, former Labor teammate and friend:

Early on I was impressed how Mark could get his workouts in and still have the balance to give back and enjoy Life. So much resolve and charisma in this man. When he worked for my firm he lived blocks away so we rode together constantly. Even though I was in great shape and though I thought I was Bad to the Bone, I didn’t last three weeks on his training program.

I felt no shame sitting on his hip for 15-mile pulls in the headwind on Coast Highway. We forged a tight bond there, a trust that never flinched and always rolled over to race day. We raced as teammates from here to Wisconsin to Mexico, and made a lot of friends on the way with whom we still share laughs and unpurgeable memories.

I remember:

“Here’s a cycling champion motor pacing me, the climber.”

“I knew at an early stage in our brotherhood, that the diva Mark Scott was a closer with the bite of a tiger shark and and the patience of Abraham and the generosity of a saint.”

“Many people have never seen ‘Brian’s Song,’ but I love Pic in that movie. Mark is a is a cinematic giant like the James Caan character, or that genuine earth shaker and world beater Cool Hand Luke.”

“Mark is oh so silky on the bike.”

“He’s generous and he has the secret, like a CSN song, his message is to love the one you’re with.”

“He doesn’t give a fuck about credit and relishes the hard work, the sweat the grit required to deliver optimal performance.”

“Work is his religion.”

“He’s not a cheater he’s a grinder with a sapphire smile, and if yf you moan about the burdens, the superficial loads of crap that everybody steps in, and you get too wordy about it all making no sense he may sorta brush the dander off the airspace and simply suggest, ‘Davie, you think ya might be over-thinking this thing?’ To which we pause and know … He’s right.”

labor_lives01MA20432713-0003 DSC01274 photo 2 photo 1



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Race ready

June 15, 2015 § 14 Comments

When people sniffing around the edges of competitive cycling ask me about bike racing, I always tell them this: Preparation is key.

Not, of course, that there are any such people, but if there were that is what I would tell them.

And of all the critical preparations, none is more important than nutrition. Since Mrs. WM abandoned me for a 3-month orgy of Japanese food and home cooking courtesy of her mom, the world’s best cook in a nation of great cooks, I have been making do admirably because nutritional preparation is key to major races like the CBR crit #6.

This is a major race even though, despite diligently promoting the hell out of it and shaking the crust off my teammates to get them to show up, CHRIS LOTTS STILL HASN’T COMPED A SINGLE FUGGIN’ RACE ENTRY.

Anyway, I wanted to do well at this race and so I prepared nutritionally for it. However, the day before the race we were running low on food, well, actually we’ve been running low on food for a long time now since I’ve decided to boycott the supermarket until we eat through the stores that MRS. WM HAD LAID UP IN ANTICIPATION OF THREE NUCLEAR WINTERS.

This isn’t a contradiction; we are running low on fresh foods but not on flour, for example. You can’t have enough flour, and we don’t not have enough.

A flour for all seasons.

A flour for all seasons.

So sure, it’s going to be hard to eat all that flour, but not as hard as it will be to eat the twelve large cans of salt. So getting ready for the race meant preparing some flour and salt. Fortunately, the one thing Mrs. WM had left an ample supply of was Nestle chocolate chips. She bakes cookies once every three years, so we had twelve bags of chocolate chips in case someone needed to get diabetes over the weekend.

“Honey,” I said before she left, “please don’t go to the store and buy anything. Whatever it is, we have enough.”

“Okay,” she said.

Later that afternoon she came in, loaded down with grocery bags. “Did you just go grocery shopping?” I asked.


“I thought I asked you not to.”

“I didn’t buy any ‘food’ food.”

“What did you buy?”

“Toilet paper and chocolate chips.”

“But we already have twelve bags and I’m on a diet.”

She smiled and unloaded the bags.

The night before the race I took out the flour and butter and sugar and salt and baking soda and vanilla extract and chocolate chips and pecans, and I made a giant bowl of cookie dough for dinner. It was getting late and I didn’t feel like cooking because I wasn’t sure how the oven worked so I took out the peanut butter and Nutella jars and the remainder of the ice cream and put it all on top of the cookie dough and ate a couple of big bowls and drank some milk and a lot of coffee and then I went to bed.

The next morning I didn’t feel very good but I felt worse after breakfast, which was more cookie dough. For vegetables I sauteed an onion and some garlic and mixed it with Cheerios because I’d drunk all the milk the night before.

At the bike race I saw Prez, the most well prepared bike racer in history. He always gets to the race early to warm up, and this time was no exception. He’d arrived eight whole minutes before the race started, which is a long time for him. He was in a great mood. “Hey, Wanky,” he said. “Guess what?”


“I forgot my bike bag and don’t have any shoes. And my bike.”

Pretty soon twelve people were scurrying around to find him a pair of shoes. No one would loan him any because his foot fungus is pretty infamous, but a Cat 5 who didn’t know any better offered up a pair of New Bongasnoop Xtra Race Shoes. They were four sizes too big but Prez didn’t care.

“Hey,” he shouted to no one in particular, “does anyone have a helmet I can borrow?”

Someone did, but they knew that no helmet on Prez’s head is safe, so we ended up going up and down the line of parked cars trying to find one that was unlocked. We did and borrowed a really nice $400 POC aero helmet. “I’ll put it back as soon as I’m finished,” Prez said as we checked to make sure the sheriff patrol wasn’t around.

Back at the starting line with one minute to go Prez yelled to the onlookers. “Does anyone have a bike? I forgot my bike.”

He was in fact the only fully kitted out, aero-helmeted guy on the line without a bike. The same Cat 5 guy who just wanted to be nice gave Prez his $10,000 carbon bike with full carbon wheels and 100% carbon. “Be careful!” he said.

“That’s my middle name!” Prez said, pleased that he’d be able to wreck someone else’s machine this weekend.

With two laps to go Prez, who is the key lead-out man for Surf City’s train, roared up through the pack to take control of the lead-out and give his boss, Charon Smith, another lightning bolt pull to victory. “Dammit, Prez!” Charon shouted, “you’re doing it again!”

Prez had boxed in his boss, forced him into the curb, and was about to take out his front wheel. “Sorry!” he said, but not before the sound of screaming, cursing, and twelve broken bikes rent the air. A loose wheel arced overhead, temporarily blotting out the sun. Prez stepped on the gas, took out four people, ran over a pylon, hit a small child on the sidewalk, bounced off a tree, and flipped into a tent. The poor Cat 5’s bike shattered into a billion pieces at the poor kid’s feet.

Prez staggered to his feet, shading his eyes to watch Charon hit the jets and win his 67th victory of the season. As the poor Cat 5 cried inconsolably, sobbing about the five years it had taken him to save up for his bike, Prez stripped off the fungal shoes and patted him on the back. “Don’t worry sonny,” he said, “next time you just need to be a a little bit better prepared.”



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True grit

March 31, 2015 § 17 Comments

The first time I saw Charon Smith in a race he was sitting down in the middle of the asphalt with a hundred bikes flying by, his shorts torn and his wheel ground down from where he’d rolled his tire.

“What a wanker,” I thought.

That was back in 2007, I think, at the El Dorado Tuesday night crit, and since then he’s won countless races, state titles, stood on the podium at nationals, and I’ve pretty much won nothing. So, we know who the wanker is.

This past weekend at San Dimas, however, Charon really and truly took it to a whole ‘nother level. The rap has always been “Yeah, but he’s just a sprinter,” as if beating out a hundred crazy people in a death rush to the line is, you know, a piece of cake. Funny thing about that rap, it’s been wrong from the beginning.

While it’s true that over the years Charon established himself as the fastest masters finisher in SoCal, he’s worked hard each and every year to add new weaponry to his arsenal. Last year saw him tackle the San Dimas stage race where he snagged the green jersey in a hilly, tough road race and then said “Adios” to all comers in the final day’s crit.

With another off season of focus and preparation on the non-sprinting aspects of his race game, Charon showed up to play consummate teammate at the hilly Boulevard RR, where his team efforts resulted in victory for their designated road guy, and he showed up again at San Dimas. This time, however, he raced with the kind of toughness and smarts that you only find in the most hardened of road racers.

When the winning break in the road race rolled up the road, Charon bridged solo to a field that included the Who’s Who of masters racing: Phil Tinstman, Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, Derek Brauch, and Mark Noble, to name a few. When the break came back, Charon continually found himself OTB on the climb, only to repeatedly claw his way back on.

With everyone melted from the speed and the day’s withering heat, the remains of the peloton hit the finishing stretch wrung out and beaten to a pulp. Charon reached down deep and kicked hard, so hard that with “only” 900 watts he cleared the line first. So much for the “He’s only a sprinter” thing.

True grit is more than what happens on the bike, though. A mentor to junior racers, Charon is vitally concerned with what happens to those coming up in the ranks. Showing young riders how to obtain good, credible results through hard work and dedication is something that he does as a matter of course.

And in cycling, as in life, it’s the little things that reveal the bigger ones. Charon’s inclusive — he brought Prez onto the team, for dog’s sake — he shares what he loves, and he’s got time for anyone who has time for him. Stands up when people introduce their wives or parents, and opens the door for you. Those little things, which really aren’t so little after all.

No wonder that he’s built a team of devoted and dedicated followers who are making competition miserable for everyone else.



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