Anatomy of a donut

July 24, 2016 § 23 Comments

I’m a regular on the Donut Ride but hardly very good at it. Eventually the pace picks up and I get shelled. However it occurred to me that there are dozens and dozens of riders who have never even seen the front on the climb, much less struggled for a top-five placing.

So armed with a hand-me-down GoPro from Robert Efthimos, I shot yesterday’s ride so that everyone who’s only imagined what it’s like can see what they haven’t been missing.

Yesterday’s Donut Ride was small, probably 40 or 50 riders. Eighty or more aren’t uncommon. Small groups make it harder because there are fewer places to hide. A number of big progatonists were absent, but the presence of Diego Binatena (pro), Rudy Napolitano (ex-pro), and Dan Cobley (coulda been pro) meant that it would be plenty hard.

People actually get dropped on the first climb out of Malaga Cove, then a few more when we make the run through Lunada Bay. Below is a shot of Lane Reid, pushing the pace. Lane has more KOMs on Strava than pretty much anyone in the South Bay, but he always gets shelled early, which goes to show that being a champion on Strava and beating actual people are two wholly different endeavors. He’s plenty strong, though, but is displaying a key mistake of Donut Ride shellees: Spending energy early. It took me years to learn that every pedal stroke early in the ride will come back to haunt you when the ride tilts up.

He’s got forty riders strung out on his wheel. This is definitely a glory pull, because he’s going to get obliterated.

Now we’ve pedaled for a ways and are approaching the turn up the Switchbacks, the first climb of the day after several miles of undulating rollers that have taken the pop out your popper. In front are all the key players: Rudy, Diego, Dave Jaeger, Dan, and Garrett Bailey. Here’s another place that people make the big mistake of being too far back. The pace will increase on the Switchbacks and people will blow up, forcing you to close gaps.

Only a couple of such efforts and even though you’re with the leaders you will be in the red and unable to respond to their accelerations. I always tell people to pick a good wheel and follow it all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks. Positioning isn’t that hard as there are lots of flailers, but if you’re inattentive you’ll be too far back at exactly the wrong time.

Here, I roll ahead of the group and actually lead out the climb. This is always unwise, but I’m just keeping momentum, not pushing the pedals. No matter how good you feel at the bottom, you will feel worse towards the top, so no matter how slow you have to go to get other riders to pass you, do so. Some people like to take a quick glance back here but I never do because it’s guaranteed that the hitters are still there and they are NOT pedaling hard. I roll for a little along the fog line giving the next rider plenty of room to come through.

In this case it’s Garrett Bailey, a super strong rider who doesn’t do the Donut often. He typically rides with the Dave Jaeger Morning Crew, but for some reason has decided to come do the Donut today. He’s a fantastic wheel for me. He’s about my height, about my size, and is a former Olympic rower from Georgetown, so he has a mighty engine. Part of surviving on the Donut when you are old and feeble as I am is to pick the right wheel.

Garrett is also a good wheel because he holds a perfectly straight line and when he blows he easily swings over; no crazy death wobbles or scary head-droops. He’s like a mule, steady and strong and I love his draft because I know he’ll never attack from the front, a move that always breaks my confidence.

Garrett has tired, or perhaps he’s realized that everyone is keyed on his wheel and it would be wiser to save energy. In any case, there’s a mini-swarm as all of the hitters push by. I haven’t looked back but there can’t be many riders left. Garret has kept the tempo pretty high so you know that anyone who was too far back is now done for the day. The mini-swarm provokes anxiety because the hitters are accelerating but they haven’t attacked yet. Here’s where you will regret having glory-pulled before the climb.

This is also a good point to take stock of who’s there because it’s essentially how your epitaph is going to be written. With Diego you know he will attack and drop you. With Rudy you know he will attack and probably drop you. If not he will sit up, attack again and certainly drop you. Cobley is a question mark. Sometimes he gives up and is nowhere to be seen, so even though he doesn’t have a super fast attack, which means you can sometimes latch on when he chases, you can’t always count on him to drag you back up to the leaders.

Jaeger has little acceleration on a climb, so he won’t go with the big attacks. But he has a massive motor and a high top end so if you plan on sitting on his wheel you need to be super tiny and be able to endure endless misery. He is relentless. You can also see that in a matter of minutes the entire group has been whittled down to six riders and no one has even attacked yet. Dave is now at the front and it’s punishing. Diego is queued up behind him and I’m on Diego’s wheel. This is problematic because Diego can easily attack from the front and Rudy, who’s behind me, can easily follow. The only thing I can easily do at this point is quit.

This next section is funny because even though he’s not the strongest rider, DJ hits the front hard and really pushes the pace. He is probably trying to get rid of me and Garrett, and maybe he’s testing Cobley to see if Dan is “on” or “off.” In any event, after an effort like that so early in the climb I would have been completely done for the day. Another difference between me and Dave … one of many …

Unexpectedly, Dan now attacks. No one responds in the first few seconds and he races away. For me it’s a no-brainer. Chasing will mean droppage, and it’s unlikely I can go with Diego or Rudy, the only two guys strong enough to chase him down. So I have to wait and see what my fate will be, like a lobster in a tank trying to figure out whether the customer has chosen me or my buddy.

These attacks don’t look like much, but in real life they happen more quickly than lightning. You’re already totally on the rivet, and a speed differential of even a couple of pedal strokes feels like the difference between strolling and running a 100m dash against Usain Bolt. Everyone struggles here, and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that no matter how fit Dan is, he’s going to ease off soon. “Soon” being a relative term, unfortunately.

As expected, Diego counters and this isn’t one I can even think about following. It’s also disheartening. I know I’m pegged. I know that he’s light years better than I am. And he waltzes away with what seems like effortlessness. My momentum keeps me going, though, and suddenly I’m out ahead of the others; Diego’s acceleration has splintered the group.

This is utter hell because now I’m off a wheel. I’m not strong enough to ride by myself and mentally I’m too weak to push on and try to cover Diego. So I have to wait and play lobster again. Unfortunately the others are way back now, so I calculate that in a few seconds Rudy will come rocketing by (uncatchable) and then Dan/DJ/Garrett. My only hope is to soft pedal until they catch me and suck wheel some more. We’re not even halfway up the climb.

In a few seconds Rudy punches through and bridges to Diego. This is unthinkable and demoralizing. I watch them turn into pinpoints. My breath is pretty heavy about now.

About now is when you have to have a mental trick box. These are the tricks you use to fake your body into doing what it wouldn’t otherwise do. All your adrenaline has subsided and there’s nothing left but lactic acid and searing pain. “Why am I doing this?” “This is stupid.” “I’m too old,” etc.

Sure enough Garrett comes by and I latch on. My mental trick is simple. I call it “One equals ten.” This means I tell myself that for every pedal stroke I can hang on, the fuckers chasing have to do ten. It may not be true, but it works for me.

Garrett is steady and strong and although I don’t exactly get any recovery, my heart rate drops a couple of beats so that I can at least hear myself crying and convince myself that the worst is past even though I know that it’s really only just getting started.

Cobley is intent on catching Rudy and comes through hard, then attacks from the front. Diego has pulled over somewhere and is no longer in the picture, and Dan knows how demoralizing it is to attack someone from the front. He’s also under a little pressure here because he’s riding with the Depends contingent. Cobley is 35, DJ is 55, and Garrett is in his 40’s. I’m 52, so there’s no honor for Dan in smacking around a gang of geezers. He can’t just beat us, he has to leave us in tatters.

This is his second monster effort and I can’t imagine how he can do another one, which is okay because after towing us around like a ski boat hauling an inner tube we’re going to hit the wall on Crest and I won’t have to imagine how he’s going to conjure up another attack because he’s going show me.

A lot of the time I will see people pull this move on the wall and I’ve done it a zillion times myself. It almost always fails because it takes so much effort to go fast enough to drop your companions that when it flattens out you have to slow down and catch your breath. The droppees, however, not having gone completely into the red, peg you back and then with a slight counter they can dust you off. So 99% of the time it’s a bad move to attack hard here, unless of course you’re Dan, in which case you can punch it and then keep the gas on while the droppees wonder who switched out the lights.

I’ve run out of ways to describe pain by now, but we all stood up and nothing happened. In a little bit Dan had bridged to Rudy and we were fighting for old man scraps. I don’t have a lot of options here. I’m not strong enough to attack Garret and I’m sure as hell not strong enough to attack Dave, so I cast about for another wheel to suck. Happily, Garrett obliges for a bit and I get over the worst part of the wall and the subsequent gradient.

Somewhere along the way DJ gets it into his head that Garrett and I really suck and that what he wants to do is catch Dan and Rudy. This is a problem for me because if I follow Dave’s wheel I’m not going to get much of a draft, but if I follow Garrett’s wheel he’s going to blow and I’m going to have to close a nasty gap.

Choosing expediency over strategy, I hunker down behind Garrett and await the inevitable. Garrett works like a Trojan to stay on Dave’s wheel, but like Hector getting slain by Achilles, he’s no match for the Argonaut.

Garrett explodes gracefully, head bowed, hand waving me through, and I have to go bathyscaphe-deep to claw my way onto Jaeger’s wheel. Dave could drop me anytime now, but he settles in and begins banging away at every nerve in my body with a steady, relentless drilling. The thing that’s so awful about this is that even though I’m on his wheel and getting the benefit from his draft, mentally it is horrible to think that I’m completely pegged out and haven’t done a lick of work all day. DJ has attacked, covered, accelerated, and pulled, and he’s not done yet, while I’m younger, slower, weaker, and hanging on like one of those baby teeth about to come out but for a tiny string of fleshy pulp still holding it into the gum.

DJ also sees Dan and Rudy up ahead and they’re riding side by side, chatting. We’re all in simply to keep them in the viewfinder as they chattily discuss gear ratios and the silliness of old farts trying to keep up with young men. Then Cobley accelerates and they vanish.

Now my goal is simple: Don’t quit and let DJ drag me to the end. What could be easier? The hardest part is over! All I have to do is dig deeper and hold on! He’s older than I am! I’ve done nothing all day! I CAN DO THIS!

Except no, I can’t.

See? The Donut is the same for everyone, after all.

END

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Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl.

February 23, 2015 § 60 Comments

After the CBR crit last week I was rolling around with G$. He had fired a thousand artillery shells and I’d fired a hundred mortar rounds in our vain attempts to get away. Robb M., who had fired a dribble from his tiny squirt gun, came by as we were chatting. “Are you guys dating?” he snarked as he passed.

The following week was Rosena Ranch, a nasty, hilly, miserable little 2.7-mile circuit with two stinging climbs and two ripping downhills. I looked around at the start line. G$ was there, but Robb was apparently busy that weekend.

G$ broke away on the fourth of eleven laps with Jaycee Cary of LaGrange. I clawed onto their rear wheel as teammates Alan Flores, Harold Martinez, Dave Jaeger, Jon Edwards, and Jon Nist clogged the front like avocado pits in a garbage disposal.

After a couple of laps Jaycee sat up, brains oozing from his knees and a soft moaning sound emanating from his armpits. It was just me and Greg. I thought briefly about Coach Holloway’s two injunctions:

  1. Always be the second strongest guy in the break.
  2. Have a plan to win.

The first injunction was easy. G$ ripped through each lap like a sailor on shore leave rips through a whorehouse. I did my share of the work, and Greg did the other 99%. But the “have a plan to win” part wasn’t turning out so well.

As G$’s efforts put more and more time on the subdued and demoralized field, it was simultaneously subduing and demoralizing me. But at the beginning of our breakaway how different it all had been!

For years I had fantasized about riding a break with Greg. How good it would be, just him and me as we punched our way to victory. And now here I was, having finally taken all the clothes off that cute girl in high school I’d been dreaming about. She was right there in front of me, buck naked, offering up her soft yet firm breasts as her erect nipples stood to attention under the gentle caresses of my tongue.

I pressed myself on top of her as she spread her legs, trembling with excitement as I hovered on the verge of plunging myself into that hot and welcoming refuge of ecstasy.

But then, WHAM! She was pounding my nuts with a hammer.

Then, WHAM! She was stomping my dick with giant hob-nailed boots.

Then, WHAM! She was beating my teeth out with a brick.

Then, WHAM! She was stuffing a roll of barbed wire up my butt.

How could something that had begun so right be going so wrong? In the midst of my agony, as G$ wasn’t even breathing, he turned back to me and smiled. “Dude,” he said, “if we stick this out to the line, this win is yours.”

Anyone else would have understood this as the perfect winning plan. But I had a much worse one, so I shook my head. “Fuck you,” I said. “I don’t want any gifts. No gifts!” I had forgotten that you’re only supposed to proudly repudiate gifted wins a-la Pantani on Ventoux after you cross the line.

G$ shrugged as we hit the bottom of the climb. “If you say so.” He punched it so hard that all of the other beatings seemed like loving caresses. I fell off the back then clawed my way back to his wheel, gasping.

He looked back as we hit the turnaround and attacked again. I flailed as hard as I could and reattached to his rear wheel. “Hey, man,” I said. “You know how you were saying about me winning? Is that deal still on the table?”

He answered with another punch to the gonads, then settled into a pace that was harder than a fourth-grade word problem.

On the bell lap we crested the final climb before the roaring descent, which turned into a gentle kicker to the line. G$ looked over at me. Then he reached down and slowly took out his water bottle, smiling.

“What the fuck is he doing that for? GO NOW!” I shouted to me, and go I did. Full gas. Nothing held back. The gap was instantaneous and big, but somehow he closed it with 200m to the line.

“Sprunt!” I shrieked to myself, cranking out the massive 450-watt finishing effort that has made me a watchword the world over. “I’m winning!” I continued to yell internally. Somehow, G$ wasn’t coming around! I was beating him! I was awesome! I was the greatest! I had done it!

The line flashed by, and you know what? A picture is worth a thousand words. Oh, and a question: If his hands are off the bars, does that mean he wasn’t really sprinting?

Friends let friends think they're actually sprinting for a win. Photo courtesy of Lauren Mulwitz, 2015, used with permission.

Friends let friends think they’re actually sprinting for a win. Photo courtesy of Lauren Mulwitz, 2015, used with permission.

END

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Where the wild things are

March 23, 2014 § 14 Comments

Wankmeister awoke with a vicious hangover. The inside of his mouth was dried to a crackly paste of spit from the massive order of pork bulgogi he’d eaten the night before to try and dilute the effect of the four pints of Dirty Virgin double IPA. As he smacked his parched lips, trying to unstick his tongue from the bottom of his mouth, he realized that the pork bulgogi anti-hangover method had failed. He should have drunk more water and less beer instead.

Quickly slamming a cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast, Wanky pedaled to the office, got the van, and drove over to Jaeger’s place. Jaeger hadn’t won a race in ten long years, and decided that today he’d do the 50+ senior veteran’s old people’s race rather than duke it out with the youngsters in the 45+.

They got to the Lake Castaic road race course. The wind was howling and Wankmeister thought about the various reports that had come in via Facebag from the riders who’d reconned the ride the previous week. They were all in agreement, and their thoughts are summarized below:

  1. Brutal course.
  2. Windy, long climbs.
  3. Awful temperatures.
  4. Dry as hangover mouth.
  5. Difficulty amplified by small fields.
  6. Bring survival gear.

Proper nutrition is always key

Aside from the piece of toast that he’d had for breakfast, Wanky’s stomach was empty. After signing in he saw Canyon Bob kitting up. “Got food, dude?” he asked.

“Sure, pal,” Bob said, and handed over a mostly-eaten miniature chicken sandwich.

Wanky scarfed it down, but it only made him hungrier. Numbers pinned on, he rode to the start/finish with teammates Jaeger and Randy to watch the various finishing races.

The end of the race was atop a long, grinding 1k finishing hill. The 45+ field was coming in, and G$ had kicked it from pretty far out. Thurlow was closing fast, but it looked like G$ would hold him off. In the last 50 meters, which was the equivalent of the last twelve miles of a normal road race, Thurlow came by for the win.

While everyone cheered the conquering heroes, the only thing Wankmeister really noticed was the salt sheets staining their faces and jerseys and the twisted looks of pain and misery on the face of every single person who crossed the line. Jess Cerra, who had won the women’s Pro/1/2 race and was watching the finishers, handed Wanky a Harmony Bar. “You might need this for later,” she said.

Wankmeister unwrapped the energy bar and scarfed it down. “To hell with that, Jess. I need it now.”

“Are two water bottles going to be enough?” she asked. “Your race is 55 miles, right?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Wanky answered. “I don’t ever drink much water in races anyway.”

“It’s hot and dry, though,” she said.

Wanky looked again at the finishers straggling in, all of whom had a strangely desiccated, dehydrated, salt-covered, dying-of-thirst look. “Nah,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”

Is there a race here today?

As Jaeger, Wanky, Randy, Canyon Bob, and Hoofixerman stood waiting for the race to begin, they noticed that the field was … them. “Where is everybody?” asked Jaeger.

“We are everybody,” said Hoofixerman.

“But there were 16 pre-regs,” said Canyon Bob.

Jess walked back over. “Aren’t you guys racing?”

“Yeah, we go off, like, now.”

“Why aren’t you at the staging area, then?” she asked.

“What staging area?” Wanky said, panicking.

“You have to stage a mile or so back that way. The race doesn’t start here.”

The five idiots leaped on their bikes and sprinted back to the staging area, an all-out time trial that would cost Wanky dearly later in the race somewhere about Mile 2.

Sure enough, it was a minuscule field of sixteen riders, and they pedaled off with the enthusiasm of children going to the dentist. Wanky eyed Hoofixerman, who was doing his first big race with the tough and experienced and battle-hardened 50+ giants of the road. “That wanker’s gonna get shelled quick,” he surmised as Hoofixerman went to the front and picked up the pace. “Hey, dude,” Wanky said. “Better take it easy. This is a long hilly race. Don’t shoot your bullets in the first five miles.”

Hoofixerman ignored him, and took turns into the teeth of the wind with Jaeger.

“This isn’t so bad,” Wanky thought. “Kind of like a training ride with your pals.” The course was rolling with a couple of small, easily surmounted walls.

Then they hit the first big climb and Wanky realized that these weren’t his pals, they were mortal enemies who hated him and wanted to kill him quickly and without mercy. Canyon Bob rolled to the front and Wanky was soon on the rivet. It was an endless 2-mile charge up an 8% grade, and the four or five people cheering at the top meant only one thing: the next time up the spectators were expecting to see the riders drop like flies. This was the praise before the last rites.

Alone again, naturally

Once over the big climb the riders descended forever, which was a terrible thing because the out-and-back course meant that they’d have to come back up this beast. A couple of miles before the turnaround Chris Hahn began chasing the four-man breakaway that had rolled off, and this effort kicked Wanky out the back without so much as a second thought. Hoofixerman, who had squandered precious energy and ridden like a complete idiot in the first part of the race, was, of course, with the leaders in the breakaway.

The break was caught and Wankmeister somehow latched back onto the leaders after the turnaround. The tiny field meant that people were already tired and fearing the climb on the return, while Jaeger, disgusted at the slow pace, got off his bike, took a leisurely piss, overhauled his bottom bracket, and easily caught back on.

A short way into the big climb, Wanky got kicked out the back for good, and up in the distance he could see that Hoofixerman was finally paying for his early excesses. Slogging up to the Big Orange farrier, they pounded through the rollers to the start/finish, where they were ignominiously passed by the 35+ 4/5 riders, who had started five or ten minutes behind them.

The moto ref came by and grinned at Wanky. “At least you’re not getting passed by the Cat 5’s!” he said.

The leaders in the 50+ Really Old and Slow and Have to Pissalot Category had eased up and Hoofixerman was determined to catch back on.

With the aid of a timely neutralization to allow the 35+ 4/5’s to pass the 50+ riders, Wanky & Co. reattached. He was elated. “We made it!” he said to Hoofixerman. “Now all we have to do is hang on and let these other knuckleheads do all the work!” Wanky slinked to the back, got behind the tallest and widest rider, and made himself as tiny as possible.

A few minutes later they were back at the Big Climb. Wanky chortled with pleasure, knowing that the leaders were now thoroughly tired and all he had to endure was a brief seven or eight-minute interval. As fate would have it, he only had a 30-second interval left in his legs, about thirty less than Hoofixerman. Everyone and everything vanished from sight.

You know your day is done in a bike race when …

… you start noticing the scenery. Wanky appreciated the beautiful canyon, the trees growing along the edge of the creek down in the valley, and the cooling late-afternoon temperatures. This was about the time he ran completely out of water. At the turnaround a kind elderly fellow shouted, “Water? Need some water?” Miracles, apparently, were still occurring even in this late day and age.

Teammate Randy, who had been dropped from the leaders due to a mechanical and, since he didn’t have any tools, was forced to carefully repair his damaged $4,000 drivetrain by pounding the shit out of it with a rock, closed a five-minute gap and caught back up to Wankmeister. “C’mon, Wanky, let’s go!”

This was like a physicist with a large chalkboard saying, “C’mon, Wanky, let’s do some calculus!”

Wankmeister, who had only barely passed Algebra II with Miss Morcom in 11th Grade, did no better hanging onto Randy’s wheel than he would have solving for x. In a flash the teammate was gone. Now there were only eleven and a half miles left, including the giant climb. At the bottom, riders began to swarm by, first the remnants of the 35+ 4/5 race, and then the Cat 5 leaders, and then the bits and pieces of the entire Cat 5 field.

The moto came by again. “Bet you’re glad there’s no Cat 6,” he said before gunning the motor and driving off.

No matter how slowly the Cat 5’s went, Wanky went slower, until eventually, like a bad case of gonorrheal drip that has finally run its course, the race ended. Out of sixteen starters in the 50+ race, twelve finished, two of whom were actually slower than he was. “Top 10,” he said to himself, “doesn’t sound nearly as bad as ‘3rd from dead fucking last.'”

The race at the front

Jaeger had waited until the bottom of the big hill on the return leg, and then attacked the six riders who remained with him. He soloed in the final eight miles to collect his first victory since 2004. “Wasn’t that a hard race?” Wanky asked him back at the van.

Jaeger tried to be diplomatic, aware that his friend Wankmeister had been in difficulty long before there was really any difficulty. “Yeah it was hard,” he said. “I mean, it was hard for you.”

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The Naked and the Wished-I-were-dead

June 3, 2012 § 14 Comments

When Norman Mailer wrote the WW II novel that catapulted him to fame as a serious writer, thereby ensuring that no one outside of a college English class would ever read his work, he was criticized for the long, slogging, endless, mired-in-mud style that characterized long parts of the book.

Mailer replied: “Yes, those passages are long, hard to get through, miserable, and they leave you with a feeling of having given much to accomplish nothing. That’s what it was like in the infantry.”

Okay, he never said that, but this blog post is gonna be exactly like the Bakersfield state championship road race. Long. Miserable. Not fun. Not funny. And most of you will quit long before it finishes.

Chester Karrass ain’t got nothin’ on Mrs. WM

Mrs. WM accompanied me to the race as my watergirl. “Oh, you have such a great wife,” you’re thinking. “Mine would never do that.”

Neither would Mrs. WM. This was the result of a hard fought negotiation in which Mrs. WM extracted maximum value for the sacrifice she was about to make. “Okay, I will go and do a terrible bike race that is no fun and I hate it but you have to take me somewhere nice.”

“Okay. Lunch in Oildale after the race?”

“Somewhere with a hotel and a spa where we can stay overnight with a nice pool and no bicycle and a nice restaurant with shopping.”

“Del Amo Mall and the Hybrid Hotel in Torrance?”

“No. I want Palm Springs and you have to get a new car. I hate your car with the ugly bump in the rear.”

In negotiating, this is called “tossing in the hookers,” and is a ploy where you put something in play that will ultimately get stricken from the deal while still leaving you with what you really want. So I signed the 12-page contract for the Palm Springs weekend, and off we went to Bakersfield.

That poop is too nasty for my butthole to look at

Ms. WM’s race day got off to a bad start when she had to visit the port-o-potties. I was pinning on my number when she returned, looking kind of green.

“Are you okay?”

“That was awful!”

“What? The toilets? They’re pretty good actually. Kind of that rose-and-pinesol-with-chemical-strawberry-car-freshener scent. It’s almost stronger than the poop. Of course it’s early in the day. By noon they’ll have to haul those things off with a hazmat team.”

“It was gross!”

“Gross? It’s a friggin’ port-o-potty, not an aromatherapy boutique.”

“I’ve been to many public events before. People don’t usually poop so much! It’s the bike racers! They are extra poopers!”

She did have a point. How many times do you go to a Dodgers game and get things started off by unloading a four-pound, corn-studded bowl breaker? At a bike race, by the time you’ve driven from the hotel to the sign-in, the Denny’s Grand Slam and quart of hot coffee have pretty much raced through the tunnel and are peeking at the door, which explains the ratio of solids to liquids at a bike race port-o-potty and that funny dance everyone’s doing as they wait for a vacant seat.

“Can’t you just breathe through your mouth and get your business done? It’s not like you have to carry out an inspection or anything.”

“It was too disgusting for my butt!”

“What?”

“It was so nasty I couldn’t sit down on the seat and have my butt facing all that stuff.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Mrs. WM never kids when it comes to poop.

“No I am not kidding!”

“So what’d you do?”

“I took many of the paper seat covers and dropped them down in there to make a paper cover for the poop so my butt wouldn’t have to look at it.”

That detail taken care of, I went off to race.

It is better to try and fail than fail to try

This applies to everything in life except bike racing. With bike racing, most of the time it’s much better to fail to try. I’ve put together a little graph that helps explain.

FAIL TO TRY TRY AND FAIL
Barbie Food during race: $0.00 Barbie Food during race: $17.72
Gas: $0.00 Gas: $49.82 [$132.90 in Konsmo’s Blingmobile]
Dinner in Bako: $0.00 Dinner in Bako at Padre Hotel: $141.29
Doubletree Bako: $0.00 Doubletree Bako: $77.00 [w/Family Discount]
Condoms: $0.00 Condoms: $7.32
Case of water: $0.00 Case of water: $4.68
Breakfast at Denny’s: $0.00 Breakfast at Denny’s: $17.29
Entry fee: $0.00 Entry fee: $35.00
Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $0.00 Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $12.22
Weekend in Palm Springs: $0.00 Weekend in Palm Springs: $500.00 MINIMUM
Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $0.00 Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $25,892.12
TOTAL: $0.00 TOTAL: $26,754.46

Even though I was a history major, it seems clear that fail to try is definitely the way to go on this one.

Even though fail to try is a winner, you still don’t get to call yourself a bike racer by bailing on this event

The Bakersfield race is one of the few real bike races in Southern California. The vast majority of bike races here are circle jerks. You go round for 55 minutes and the best sprinter wins. Don’t get me wrong. Winning these events takes balls of steel and the speed of a rocket. I couldn’t win one on a Vespa. But they lack the key elements that are required for bike racing.

Those elements are:

  1. Weather. If you’re not fighting the elements, you’re not bike racing. Heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, hail, ice, etc. are prerequisites.
  2. Hills. If you don’t have elevation changes of some sort, you’re not bike racing.
  3. Distance. If your body doesn’t have to go into reserves that test your endurance, you’re not bike racing.
  4. Varied terrain. If you don’t have to use a variety of bike handling techniques, you’re not bike racing.
  5. Tactics. If the conclusion is virtually always determined by a bunch sprint, you’re not bike racing.

It is a sad testament to the lameness of the SoCal cycling scene that the 45+ field, a group that can easily pull in 100 riders in an early season crit, barely had thirty racers toe the line. As far as I know, not a single field came anywhere close to reaching its limit, and the majority of them appeared to have half or less of the number of racers who show up to preen and primp and strut and flex at the crits.

What’s up with that?

What’s up with that

Bakersfield has put on a phenomenal race, slightly different from De Vleeshuis Ronde in that there is less climbing with more distance, but identical in its challenging nature and superb organization. A giant tent with chairs and bike racks was erected at the start/finish so riders could stage without frying their brains out, and so that they could sit in the shade and relax after the race while eating the excellent food prepared on site.

The difference between this race and the innumerable local crits, though, is this: you’re going suffer like a motherfucker if you finish this race. Today never got above the low 90’s, but Saturday’s events approached 100 degrees. The wind blew hot and hard both days. The long climb was shortened, but the three loops around the shorter, punchy climbs were devastating.

This was a race where you had to hydrate properly, have the right nutrition, ride smart, and meter your efforts in order to get shelled out the back and spend the rest of the fucking day battering into a merciless hot headwind by yourself. If you wanted to actually finish with the group, or dog forbid, in a breakaway, you needed all of the above plus you needed to be one hard, tough, fit, canny bastard [in the interest of equal treatment, the word “bastard” refers to men and to women].

This is another way of saying that many of the soft, marshmallowy wankers who comprise the cannon fodder–and often the podium–of the local crit scene didn’t stand a chance in hell of placing in this race. Rather than coming out to Bako, having their balls beaten with a tire iron, getting crushed on the climbs, and flailing in a wanketto for a couple of hours, they chose to stay home and do something else. [See graph above for financial analysis of that choice.]

There’s more to it than money, honey

Nothing comes close to approaching the satisfaction of finishing a hardass beatdown in a challenging road race. If you’re too scared of failure and pain to show up and race, you’ll never know how good it feels to cross the line. I’d also argue that you’ve never raced your bike.

In our race, I got kicked out the back on the second lap, one punchy climb before we hit the long highway downhill. I never got back on, and was eventually shelled from my five-man chase group. Before coming off, though, I got to witness selfless heroics on the part of teammate Harold Martinez, a flatland crit dude, who singlehandedly pulled back a deadly break that was almost a minute up the road by stringing the whole field out into the gutter for the better part of five miles.

That’s the kind of stuff that earns respect from friends and adversaries alike. It’s the kind of stuff that real bike racing consists of: people with varying talents using those abilities to try and benefit the team rather than sitting home and cherry-picking the next race that you think is most “suited” to your talents.

I got to watch non-teammates like Bart Clifford, new addition to Big Orange, follow a break and fry himself to make sure a teammate had some help in an early move. I got to watch the power, speed, and athleticism of guys like Dave Jaeger, John Hatchitt, Jeff Konsmo, Richard Meeker, Todd Parks, Greg Leibert, Steve Klasna, Louie Amelburu, Mark Noble, Jon Flagg, and several others as they manhandled a brutal course and reduced the already small field to a handful of survivors.

More importantly, even though I flailed, a number of people proved themselves worthy of this challenging course. They did more than prove themselves worthy: they raced their bikes.

Great stories

Our own South Bay rider Kristabel Doebel-Hickock won her women’s race yesterday with the 3/4’s, and placed seventh today with the 1/2’s. Her performance deserves a write-up of its own. She’s amazing.

Richard Meeker won the 45+ race, displaying all the skills that make him the best all around road racer in Southern California and one of the best in the nation.

Jeff Konsmo pulled a huge second place out of his hat, taking second to Richard in a reversal of 2011. Jeff rode strongly and tactically for every bit of the race, forcing the pace on lap two and finishing with his signature kick.

Kevin Phillips got fourth in the 35+ despite being swarmed by Monster Media, even though most of his training lately has been on the track. Kevin pulled some astounding numbers: 1-minute power 748 watts. 10-minute power 366 watts. All in a day’s work for this South Bay phenom.

Trudi Schindler got 2nd in the women’s Cat 4, and 5th overall in the Cat 3/4. Great job!

Strongman Phil Tintsman showed his versatility–again–with a silver medal in the tough, tough 35+ race. Great work, Phil.

See you next year?

If for no other reason than to show your support for the people in Bakersfield who’ve done so much to create a fantastic venue for bike racing, you should put this race and De Vleeshuis Ronde on your calendar for 2013. Come on out and get your dick stomped into a flatworm. You’ll be glad you did.

Really.

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