February 9, 2015 § 50 Comments
Before the first waffle has been eaten, the first sausage scarfed, or the first ale quaffed, the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride has its first bona fide controversy: Catgate.
On the online entry form, riders were asked to list their USAC racing category. Mistakenly thinking that their starting position would be determined by their racing category, some registrants took the opportunity to misstate their category and thereby get placed ahead of the lowly Cat 5’s, public, and “unranked” riders, not a few of whom are absolute beasts. Unfortunately for the sneaks, each registrant was checked against USAC records, and several riders were caught red-fingerboarded.
Since the “ride” will go off in three waves, some riders apparently believed that there was an advantage to going in the first wave even though it’s a timed event, with each wave starting at 0:00:00. A lively discussion of Catgate ensued on Facebag, where various punishments were discussed. Although I offered to do the beheadings, that option was not selected, and the fate of the would-be cheaters remains undecided.
Choices on the table include public shaming, relegation to the last wave, being banned from the ride, and having a note sent to your mother.
On the other hand, if there’s one thing about bikers you can count on, it’s the certainty that given the chance they will cheat. Actually, they will cheat even when they aren’t given the chance. Why?
Because cheating is fun.
The whole concept of the bike race is little more than organized cheating. You hunker behind the rider with the biggest butt to cheat the wind; you descend pell-mell or bang bars in the sprunt to cheat death; the winner of the race is the one who forces everyone else to work more while he hides like a thief in the night, waiting to slit the throats of those who ride with courage and honor. What could be more natural for a cyclist than cheating on a registration form, or cheating your way to the finish of a fun ride?
Moreover, the Belgian Waffle Ride was quite literally born amidst the pangs and throes of cheating cheaters who love to cheat. I will never forget the inaugural 2012 BWR, when a certain South Bay rider showed up and pirated it from beginning to end, eating the free breakfast, stopping at each aid station to gobble the food and drink, and enjoying the post-ride festivities to a fare-thee-well.
I caught up with him the following week and said, “Don’t you feel bad for being such a thieving, cheating, Delta Bravo, and generally worthless POS?”
“Nope!” he happily smiled. And he meant it.
Other infamous characters stamped the first BWR with a miscellany of misbehavior. One wanker held onto a truck for miles at a pop over the deathly dirt section of Country Club Road. Another cut the course. Another infamous cheater whose mendacious misdeeds were rewarded with the dreaded purple card not only cut the course but sneaked past Double Peak at the end of the ride, zoomed into the start-finish area, changed into his bicycling lounge suit, and displayed an “I got here first!” grin while those who had manfully done the ride struggled in beaten and exhausted wondering “How did that brokedown wanker beat me here?” — then he topped it off by disappearing with his finisher’s swag once people got suspicious and started asking to see the stamp that every honest rider received for passing the checkpoint atop Double Peak.
The invention of the purple card, in fact, was an acknowledgment before the ride ever started that bicyclists are some of the scurviest, cheatingest, least reliable mendicants known to man. Before the first BWR ever rolled out, a series of Freddie Freeloader cards were printed and handed out to the ride’s “Secret Police,” who were ordered to patrol the peloton and punish the perpetrators for their purplish pecadilloes.
In the second edition, even though there were no purple cards awarded, numerous riders who claimed to have completed the entire course failed to upload their required Strava data to confirm that they did in fact finish the route. You would think that having GPS data would be sufficient to deter the cheats, but no — if forced to choose between cheating and not, cheating wins out every time.
Last year the noose tightened a bit, with timing chips making it impossible for veteran course-cutters to ply their trade, and wholly eliminating the ride pirates, but misdeeds abounded. The most egregious included vehicle assistance at critical points in the ride.
Short of sailing a cargo ship bound for the Horn of Africa to smoke out the pirates, there’s no way to run a cheat-free event. And that’s a good thing.
For 99.9% of participants, the ride is so hard that whatever advantage you might eke out from marginal gains cheating is nullified somewhere around Mile 80, if not far sooner. And while it’s patently untrue that cheaters never win, especially in cycling, no cheater has ever won the BWR. To the contrary: In the inaugural event the leaders went off course, which couldn’t be detected because there were no chips being used, and rather than hop back on course they retraced their route to the point where they left the course, got back on, and finished — even though it cost them the win as Dave Jaeger, who had made all the right turns, beat them to the line and claimed the yellow jersey.
Neil Shirley, two-time winner of the non-race, is regarded as one of the cleanest, most honorable guys in the sport. No matter how many places in line you try to jump, you still have to pass Neil. Good luck with that.
The BWR is beautiful because it showcases the best and also the worst. You get to ride with champions and chumps, heroes and whores.
And at the end, if you’ve done it right, you finish with a satisfaction unlike any other. So go ahead and cheat your little heart out. If you dare.
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May 2, 2012 § 8 Comments
My Tuesday morning FB page began with a trickle of “Oh, noes! It’s waining!” and crescendoed into a flood of “Sleepin’ in, hot coffee and cuddles with babes!” as one after another the soft men and women of the South Bay elected wussdom over pointless suffering and bronchitis.
The folks coming from the West Side, where it was dry, weren’t expecting the eventual wet roads and light drizzle, i.e. they were expecting the usual wheelsuck in an 80-man field where they could tweedle, twaddle, and watch others Go To The Front while they caught up on little league scores. Unhappily for them, the pack would be tiny and the roads therefore windy, because most of the South Bay contingent had opted for, in the words of Prez, “Hot white chocolate mocha with my sweetie and to celebrate the completion of our new kitchen.”
Can’t make that shit up.
So the Westsiders met up with a greatly diminished group, which meant a total field of no more than forty. In other words…nowhere to hide! No big, fat, soft, loving envelope of suckage. To make matters worse, we had a cameo appearance by none other than MMX, up from the wilds of San Diego with his North County dickstomping boots. To make matters worster, Backpack Eric a/k/a Motorhead also showed, fresh from a brace of Cat 3 wins at Sea Otter and Chuck Pontius.
Show me your dick. There. Now it’s broken.
MMX’s first order of business as we drilled it along Pershing was to go down the line and break a bunch of dicks. Then, Motorhead ran over what was left of the bleeding ballsacks, so that by the time we hit Westchester there were only six people left, including the day’s Purple Freddy Freeloader, a Sho-Air Wanker on a black Specialized Rouwank with an electric orange stripe.
I found my way to the front once or twice and stepped on the few dicks that were still squirming around on the shoulder after having been badly broken by MMX and Motorhead. Every time the wankers sat up to catch their breath (which had escaped long ago, barn door still wide open), MMX and Motorhead would string them out into a gnarly, nasty, filth-encrusted, single file line of snotty faces washed by rooster tails and spattered with broken dreams.
The freeloaders were learning that it’s a whole different deal without a big fat, cozy envelope to drag you along, and even harder when every few seconds or so someone’s breaking your dick again. By lap four people were gassed beyond repair, with endless, extra hard efforts having been taken by USC John, and a pair of hard pulls by Freeman. MMX and Motorhead lit it up on the final bump, and it was like that moment in the kitchen when the whole fucking pan of Jiffy Pop goes off at once, kernels flying and jumping and burning and charring to a fare thee well.
I’ve never seen so many mucosal faces at the end of a ride, as the survivors’ chins dripped sheets of snot mixed with bubbling spit and chunks of road tar. It was such a pretty, happy sight that MMX and I celebrated with a nice hot cup of coffee and oatmeal at CotKU back in Manhattan Beach, after scraping all the broken dicks off the bottom of our stomp boots.
Yellow jersey: Freeloader wanker Sho-Air dude, who never did shit the entire ride, tried to sneak away on the last climb to the bridge, got caught, refused to pull through in our three-man break, and sprunted for the vee. You’re half the age of the dudes you’re sprunting against. Have you no self-respect? Do you think no one notices? Racing is about winning. Training ride NPR bullshit is about doing your share, sharpening your game, and earning the respect of the people you ride with…then winning if you’ve still got the legs. If we wanted another wheelsuck to wait ’til the finish after doing nothing the entire ride, we’d have airlifted in Prez. You’re the winner, but you’re a wanker!
Hardman: Motorhead. His first pull off the overpass broke so many dicks that the dickwagon got overloaded and had to make a run to the dump, empty the bed, and come back for more. Motorhead delivered repeated dickbreaking smackdowns, and terminated with an honorable second place finish behind purple Sho-Air wanker. Motorhead is a joy to watch. Hits the front with Hair-like viciousness, holds it forever, makes every pull so nasty and unpleasant that you hate his fucking guts. His only plan on the NPR is to go so hard that he can’t go any harder, then recover and do it again or get dropped. He never gets dropped and he’s always got an ugly kick at the end. What’s so hard about this formula, wankers? Be like Motorhead. Go To The Front! [Note: USC John Tomlinson dished out mega dickstompings the entire ride, as per, then showed up at TELO and stomped the shit out of whatever dicks hadn’t shown up to be stomped for NPR. You got a hardman award coming your way, sonny.]
Purple Freddy Freeloader: Sho-Air dude. Does your team know that you do this shit? When Charon raced for Sho-Air, I never saw him pull any of that crap. In a race, it’s smart and savvy. On a training ride at the Parkway, it’s lame.
Alternate Purple Freddy Freeloader: Hairy-legged wanker in the powder-puff blue “Strachimachi Racing” jersey. What the fuck is a “Strachimachi”? A scented douche? Sat like a sinker on a trotline for four laps, then glued up to MMX, who was on Motorhead. Motorhead lines it out at 40 mph, MMX follows through with the dickstomp of death, and Strachiwhacky gaps out, his head drooping, his legs shuddering, his shoulders heaving, his dick breaking, and the engine mechanics throwing their entire toolbox in the dumpster as he swings over for me to close the gap. “That’s so lame, dude,” I say. “Hunh?” he answers. “I was making space for you to come by.” Nice. Making space for me to come by…and close the other space that you made.
March 13, 2012 § 5 Comments
By now you’ve committed to the Belgian Waffle Ride. There’s still time to turn back, but not really, because you’ve gravely overestimated your fitness and ability to suffer, and no number of sanctimonious, finger-pointing blog posts will ever penetrate the concrete cast of fantasy surrounding your cycling psyche. The other reason it’s too late is because, even though you know deep down that this will end badly, you’ve told too many people about having earned one of the coveted Hardman invites, and rather than swallow your pride now you’ve elected to have it violently shoved down your throat later.
Several people, a handful, actually, have kept up with the emails and blog posts and concluded that despite having been honored with an invitation, this simply isn’t the ride for them. They aren’t tough enough. They’re the ones who, after being invited to the king’s ball, realize they own no tuxedo and have never eaten with a salad fork, so instead of showing up in jeans and flipflops with a big wooden spoon, they’ve politely declined. They are to be respected, for they, above all others, know and respect the truth.
Everyone else will be a finisher or a quitter.
Out of the estimated 150 riders who will toe the line, most will sit precariously on the border between quitter and finisher. Some few are certain finishers. The rest? Touch-and-goers. What follows is for the touch-and-goers; those who have a chance of finishing but will need every bit of luck, strategy, common sense, multiple diaper changes and divine intervention to do so. DJ, I’m talking to you.
Unlike other hard rides, wanking at the back will not get you to the finish. Not only will freddy freeloading earn you the opprobrium of a purple card, but after a while there will be no more back at which to wank. No one will tow you. You’ll either be doing your share in a beaten down grupetto or you’ll be on your own.
Here are some basic rules you should memorize and follow if you’re a potential quitter. I know I am.
Rules of Survivorship
1. Let the fast people go the moment the hammer drops. Shortly after the neutral zone there will be a massive acceleration, followed by a sprint, followed by a bone jarring, gut-wrenching climb over gravel and dirt. Now is your time to say “good-bye” to these folks. Many of these idiots you will see later, babbling incoherently as they sit on the roadside, sopped in their own sweat, urine, and bloody stool as they mumble pre-recorded phrases like “HTFU” and “Shut up, legs.” Your goal is to finish and to do so without poopy drawers. That will be glory aplenty for this day, or for any day.
2. Play to your weaknesses. If you’re better on the uphills, go easy on the climbs, because the course has mile after mile of rolling terrain. If you’re better on the rollers, don’t make huge efforts there, because the course has over 9,000 feet of climbing, much of it on dirt.
3. Don’t put more than 90 psi in your tires. Steep unpaved climbs and long roads in soft dirt will fuck you up if your tires are too hard. You’ll roll just fine on the asphalt at 90 psi, and still get enough traction in the soft stuff so that you can power through without dismounting. If you are seen pushing your bike, or clumsily tipping over in the sand, you will be the subject of heckling, catcalls, and embarrassing YouTube video posts.
Corollary to #3: Run new tires. This is not the day to try and get an extra 122 miles out of those fucked over, worn out, multi-booted, threadbare pieces of shit that you got third-hand from Adrian. Slap on a pair of heavy duty training tires, use cloth Velox liner, and ride them several times to make sure everything’s copacetic.
4. Start eating on Thursday. The ride is too grueling to be completed with a big dinner the night before, waffles for breakfast the morning of the ride, and a pocketful of candy bars. Eat and eat big. Doesn’t matter what.
5. Do not sit in. If you don’t know what this means, you’re good to go. If you do, pull through when it’s your turn. And it’s always your turn.
6. Don’t take hero pulls. Not even one. If you simply rotate through for eight hours you will still be absolutely crisped. If your M.O. is “macho,” now’s the day to learn moderation. Your finisher’s jersey depends on it.
7. Eat and drink throughout the ride. Ingest food every hour. Drink liberally.
8. Prepare for the 90-mile collapse. At the 90-mile mark there is a nasty, steep little wall called Bandy Canyon. It’s the gateway to the true toughness, technical difficulty, and ball-breaking ascents of the BWR. Continually ask yourself as you try to pace your efforts, “How am I going to feel when all hell breaks loose at 90 miles?” Unless the answer is, “Like Superman,” ease off. Then ease off some more, as there are vicious climbs again at miles 100, 107, 109, and 112.
9. Don’t dream of glory. Dream of honor. The big prizes are for someone else. The coveted King of the Waffle jersey? You don’t have a prayer. Hardman? You’re the jellied donut, he’s the marble slab. Sprint champion? Green has never been your color. All you want is to acquit yourself with honor, which is to say you rode every inch of the ride and you DID YOUR SHARE. That is everything. That is all.
10. Remember that cycling is all about degradation and defeat. When Magic Johnson said, “The goal is winning, of course you want to have fun but we compete to win,” he wasn’t talking about you. He was talking about champions. Ring-wearers. Bearers of the rainbow stripes. Those with the indomitable will to conquer and hoist themselves atop the bloody mound of the vanquished and the dead. You are not Magic Johnson. You couldn’t even carry his peewee jockstrap from elementary school. At best, you’re a marginally successful masters wanker who wins the occasional race against old people. At worst, you can’t even do that. Knowing this, you will be better prepared for the bottomless chasm of hellish agony into which you are about to plunge.
11. Review the ride map over and over. When you’re done, review it again. Imagine it’s the detailed product description for the newest Zipp rim on CompetitiveCyclist.com, or some other cycling blathersite on which you gladly waste hours of your time. Know the course intimately. If you’re unsure, reach out to other victims for information. If you don’t know any of the other riders, give up now.
1. Life insurance premiums current?
2. Next-of-kin information left at the ride sign-in?
3. Significant other knows where you want the organizers to ship the corpse?
4. In the unlikely event you finish, have you reserved two weeks’ worth of sick days beginning March 26?
5. Cab money? There are no cabs, but you may be able to pay for a hitchhike.
6. Recited your prayers?
7. Kissed ass goodbye?
You’re ready to ride!
***Pre-ride course notes
- As of last week, additional challenging sections have been added with steep, shorty, punchy walls and rapid descents.
- Some of these new sections include dirt and gravel, with a particularly nasty section after the Couser Canyon climb.
- After this series of morale crushers, where some will fall off their bikes or grind to a halt as they flailingly try to navigate the uneven surface, there is a new, long component of dirt roads.
- One of the new unpaved sections has a “special surprise.” Remember when you were a kid and you loved surprises? Well, you’re not a kid anymore.
- One of the unpaved sections goes for a while, hits a kicker toward the end that will cause many to flail on and dismount or tip over.