In the belly of the beast

August 6, 2018 § 7 Comments

I stared at the three fried eggs and sausage dripping in hot grease, bit into the thick slab of toast covered in jam and butter, and savored the pungent coffee. “This,” I thought, “is the best I’m gonna feel all day.”

Last year we did a ride simply called Big Day, in September, 240 miles to Santa Barbara and back, with the feared Gibraltar climb thrown in to separate the living from the dead. As with so many bad ideas, this one, fermented over the course of a year, lost virtually all of its awful overtones so that only a fruity, mellow flavor with overtones of camaraderie and notes of good times remained. The tannins of hatred, rage, depression, pain, loneliness, failure, inadequacy, and collapse had all magically been softened, reduced, and left to drift to the bottom of the barrel, dregs that memory would never touch.

Due to this gradual process of delusion regeneration, we decided to follow Big Day 2017 with (surprise) Big Day 2018. Oddly, many of those who participated in 2017 were unavailable, busy, training for other events, or simply ignored my kind invitation for 2018. I suspect that it is because they had too much fun the previous year, for example lying on the cement at Cross Creek and moaning at 8 PM, with only forty miles or so to go.

Lessons learned

If there is one thing I have learned in a lifetime of cycling, it is that I haven’t learned anything. But it seemed like a good idea to set up a few training rides before the Big Day, so I emailed the seventeen riders on the start list. “160 miles, leaving PV at 5:00, CotKU at 5:30, pointy-sharp.”

The only person I heard back from was Frexit. “Sounds good,” he said. “Will we be back by noon?”

“You will,” I said. “We won’t.”

At the appointed time and place I was pleased to see Fancytires, Noquit, and Baby Seal. I was displeased to see no one else, because it meant a hard ride with hardly anywhere to cower.

“If I get dropped, just leave me alone. I don’t want you waiting for me,” said Noquit.

“What makes you think I would wait?”

“Nothing, actually.”

Then Frexit rode up and everyone began muttering under their breath. “This is gonna suck,” said Noquit.

“It is strange,” said Frexit as we got going. “I think that people like me as a person, but no one likes it when I come along on their bicycle ride.”

“Wonder why?”

Wonder no longer

Leaving Manhattan Beach, Frexit, who was on his TT bike, got it up to speed, which just happened to be my threshold. Normally you relish sitting on someone’s wheel because it means you will go faster with less work, and they will tire themselves out dragging you around, but with Frexit all it means is that you will go faster with more work and you will exhaust yourself being dragged around before you get to Santa Monica.

This is basically what happened, until we hit PCH and Frexit picked it up a notch. The horrible knowledge that you are an hour into a 160-mile ride, and already toast, is awful.

We hit the Rock at Pt. Mugu at 7:45. Frexit dragged us to the end of PCH then sat up. “I’m very sorry I can’t go with you all the way,” he said, “but I have a meeting at noon.”

None of us could speak, but we were ecstatic to see him go as it meant we could go really slow and not hurt so much. We started taking five-minute pulls, with Fancytires pounding extra hard, perhaps to make us feel nostalgic about our special time with Frexit. In Oxnard we needed to make a turn while Baby Seal was on the front, but he was wearing earphones, so despite our screams, yells, and shrieks, he motored away. I contemplated making the turn and leaving him to his own devices, normally a smooth move, but then realized it would be one less wheel to suck, so we chased him down, berated him for riding with earphones, and continued on to Ventura.

Noquit had “QUIT” written all over her face when we pulled into the coffee shop.

White walls and all

“Do you know this place?” I asked Baby Seal, who had found it.

“No.”

“How’d you find it? It looks like it’s gonna have good coffee.”

“It’s gonna have great coffee.”

“How do you know?”

“I googled ‘coffee in Ventura’ and they came up; the walls inside are white. Any place with white walls is gonna be off the hook.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Dude,” he said. “Think about it. White walls in a fucking coffee shop? Meth heads leaning against the wall with their greasy hair, kids smearing feces on the wall, people dropping black coffee and it spattering the baseboards? You know how much time and money it costs to keep white walls clean in a coffee shop?”

“So?”

“So they’re obviously insane. And even though they’ll be out of business by March, insane, idealistic people make the best coffee. Insane about the walls, insane about the beans.”

We stood in line forever, noting that the coffee shop had perfected the art of making a lot of people wait a long time for a simple beverage, but when it came, Baby Seal was right. It was lights out coffee.

On the road again

We got back on our bikes, surprised to find that a 30-minute stop fueled with coffee and pastries had taken away most of the pain from our four-hour time trial. It didn’t take long for the sugar-and-caffeine rush to burn off, though, and by the time we hit PCH I was fried and Noquit was deep fried. Fancytires and Baby Seal were feeling sporty, turning the screws with every pull.

Just as things looked pretty dim for the home team, Fancytires got a massive blowout. The gunshot from behind made me hope he’d need to Uber home. Unfortunately it was a sidewall gash that could be fixed with a boot.

However, before that happened Fancytires would have to get his rear wheel off, and he set about changing his tire in a most unusual way, i.e. flipping his bike upside down. We looked at each other as he engaged in a wrestling match with the rear wheel, and despite his prodigious forearms, the wheel was winning.

“Dude,” I said, “let me help you with that.” I flipped the bike over, removed the rear wheel, booted the tire, and changed the flat. “Don’t ever tell anyone that I changed your tire.”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s like admitting you had your brain surgery done by your car mechanic.”

We examined Fancytires’s tires, and they were really fancy, high-end Vittorias. “Don’t bring these on the Big Day,” I said.

“They’re new,” he protested.

“Yeah,” said Baby Seal “they’re supple and they ride great. Problem is that if you look at them too hard they flat.”

I handed the wheel back to Fancytires, and he proceeded to turn his bike upside down again and challenge the rear wheel to another wrestling match. Baby Seal intervened. “Who teaches people to do it like that?” he mused aloud. “We gotta find that guy and break his thumbs.” Re-flipping the bike, he put on the wheel, aligned it, and off we went.

Everyone gets a break

Although Noquit and I had benefited from the respite, so had Fancytires and Baby Seal, who proceeded to start pounding us on the rollers. Fancytires ground us on the roller at LA County Line, then really ground us coming up from Leo Carillo. Noquit quit.

I dropped back to see if she was going to need CPR or maybe just a discouraging word or two. Baby Seal saw us in difficulty and sprinted off with Fancytires, which frankly is the best preparation of all of Big Day, i.e. killing them off when they falter.

“Just leave me,” Noquit said. She was dripping in sweat, covered in misery, and barely turning the pedals.

“But then I won’t get to enjoy your suffering,” I said.

We fell into a steady pace. After a mile or so, Fancytires dropped back, perhaps guilty about leaving me after I’d changed his tire, perhaps guilty about leaving a friend to die, but most likely curious as to whether he could have my wallet after I expired. “Go on,” I told him. “Noquit has quit, I’m burnt toast.”

He nodded.

“And tell Baby Seal he’s an asshole for attacking his friends!”

Fancytires nodded and sprinted away.

The Big Day Rule

There is only one Big Day rule, and it is this: When you feel really strong towards the end, you’re about to implode.

Fancytires clawed his way back up to Baby Seal, who throttled it hard and shelled Fancytires coming out of Zuma. As Noquit and I straggled into Cross Creek, we saw Fancytires weaving ahead of us, and then saw him veer off into the Chevron for a drink, a snack, an i.v., and a defib. We continued at a brisk clip. For us.

A mile before Temescal Canyon I saw Baby Seal’s water bottle on the roadside. “That’s a good sign,” I said. “Means he’s out of water and so delirious he can’t be bothered to pick up a $40 Camelback.”

“Are you going to stop and get it for him?”

“Fuck no,” I said.

Sure enough, at the Temescal Canyon light we saw Baby Seal, his pelt no longer shiny and his flippers sagging greatly. We sprinted by him without so much as a “hello,” which turned out to be a mistake because as tired as he was, he wasn’t nearly tired enough to be dumped by a grandpa and a shuddering Noquit.

We raced into Santa Monica, where I finally had to tap out. “Starbucks,” I begged.

Love in a cup

I never drink/eat frappucinos, but I ordered a huge one with an extra shot and I can say that it was the finest culinary experience of my life, comprised as it was of pure sugar, ice, and caffeine.

As we sat there collecting our thoughts and thinking how we might get home without riding our bikes, Fancytires shot by. We never saw him again.

Baby Seal felt better the closer we got to home, which made Noquit and I feel that much worse. As we approached the turnoff to Silver Spur, Baby Seal made as if to go left, where he had parked his car.

“Nun-uh,” I said. “We go up Basswood-Shorewood, you go up Basswood-Shorewood.”

“But I don’t live up there!” he protested.

“Quit bragging,” I said.

Baby Seal hung his head, then attacked and dropped us with minimal effort.

Back home my everything hurt. “How was it?” Yasuko asked.

“Awful,” I said.

“Really? Why?”

“Because right now, at 163 miles, completely broken and unable to stand, when it’s the Big Day, there will still be 80 miles to go.”

END

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The Quitnut Ride

June 23, 2018 Comments Off on The Quitnut Ride

The best thing about the Donut Ride is that like all group ride #fakeraces it is a brand new day. The sun shines. People mill around in front of the coffee shop commenting on each others’ new appliances.

“Hey, Wanky, is that a new frame?”

“No.”

“When did you get it?

“Last year.”

“I thought you rode a Cannondale.”

“I did.”

But more than wondering about frames and wheels, most of all everyone wonders, “When will I get dropped?”

Donut math

The Donut is pretty easy for me to figure out. If riders show up who I’ve never dropped before and who have always dropped me, then it is a certainty they will drop me again. I think all group #fakeraces are this way. For some reason, though, because today is by definition a new day, hope copulates with delusion giving birth to the fantasy child that the same thing that happened the last hundred times maybe won’t happen this time, too.

In addition to the boundless optimism of the Saturday Ride, the Donut has a tradition of new old people showing up. New old people are riders who used to ride the Donut and then quit. Some of them got jobs, some of them lost jobs, some of them had too many birthdays, some of them stopped having birthdays, some of them had a particularly memorable bicycle-falling-off-incident, some of them graduated from high school, some of them graduated from single life and some of them got promoted to single life, but for the most part they got tired of Donut comas.

The Donut coma is what you are left with after the Donut. It is only 48 miles and 5,000k of climbing but when you get home you have the thousand-Donut stare, the Donut droop, and you can’t do anything except stare at the tv, or in my case, if you don’t have a tv, at the wall.

Anyway, new old people continually pop up on the Donut. They are in town for a few days, or they dusted off their ’95 Colnago, or they decided to get in shape again, or they never got out of shape but have been living in Biloxi and are back in the South Bay on business/vacation/visiting family, and for whatever bad set of reasons they decide to come have a bite of Donut.

It is very bittersweet seeing these new old riders, like today when the Irish brothers showed up. On the one hand it makes you happy to renew acquaintances and see old friends. On the other hand it makes you sad to know you are going to rip their legs off or, in the alternative, that they are going to rip off yours.

Would you like the blood glaze or the puke glaze?

This morning it looked bad and got worse. Frexit was there, Alx Bns was there, Rudy was there, Fukdude was there, Hop-in was there, Surfer was there, and so were a bunch of other Donut aspirants. Lately the Donut has become so punishing that there is even a group of pre-Nutters, riders who used to always mix it up at the front who have decided that life is too short and there are too few Saturdays left to spend them drooling on a stem while gazing into the barely-covered butthole of some dude six inches in front of your nose for three hours.

I think we started a bit hot, as I was later told that we hit 37 mph launching through Malaga Cove Plaza to the base of the climb up to Pregnant Point, and Surfer, my partner in crime, set the fifth fastest time ever up to Bluff Cove, a 3-minute something effort.

A bunch of other things happened, none of which mattered, except that when push came to shove came to smash came to crush came to blow came to flail came to gasp came to drop, I watched Rudy attack our front group on the Switchbacks as Alx Bns, Strava Jr., and Fukdude pedaled away on the chase and everyone else self-immolated, me especially.

At the college preen point (you know, the part in every #fakerace group ride where people stand around and preen and flex and fluff), the 60-strong peloton was much depleted. I shrugged because it had been a tad sporty and there was for sure more sportiness to come, so I descended ahead of the group, something I like to do because bombing a 45 mph descent on a narrow, twisty, two-lane road with forty people barely in control of their bikes doesn’t seem like the rational move it seemed ten years ago, when you could literally watch your life flash before your eyes in slow motion as Prez took the final turn at 50.

I made the right-hander at the bottom of the descent and pedaled super slowly, waiting for the group to catch so we could throw another bundle of matchboxes into the furnace going through San Pedro.

The boys of summer had already gone

Unhappily for me, the group never caught. That’s because with the exception of Frexit, Joe, John, Chris, Luke, and Kristie, everyone else quit and went home, which is the first time that an entire Donut Ride has simply folded its cards and quit.

The seven of us finished the ride, and when I got back I texted a few friends, not that I have any. “WTF happened?”

“That shit was too hard.”

“I got a flat.”

“I am too full of beer and sloth to hang these days.”

“Only one climb in me today.”

“I went pop early.”

“Fuck you.”

And etc.

Evens and John van Gilder took turns smashing our faces in for the rest of the ride. In other words, another Donut fried and glazed to perfection.

END

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TLC strikes (itself) again!

May 23, 2018 § 7 Comments

Two weeks off. Fresh legs. Telo start. Small field, 20-ish. Hitters King Harold, Frexit, Brexit, EA Sports, Inc., Baby Seal, Heavy D., Medium Banana, Chase.

Heavy D. Lap 2 launch. 4 riders. Brought back. Stayed towards front. Pulled through. Ten minutes in field relaxed. Frexit chilling. Greensox and Heavy D. at the back. EA Sports, Inc. watching. Baby Seal flapping flippers.

Chad attacks. Followed. Took turns, him into the headwind, me on the tailwind. Good gap four laps. Felt the chase. Heard a noise while on the front. Never looked, just sprinted. Right reaction; Frexit. Barely grabbed on.

Full Frexit death mode. Hang on for dear life. See rear shadow. It’s Chase. Chad got him to within striking distance, Chase closed, Chad couldn’t get across. Another lap. Joined by EA Sports, Inc. Glad I’ve got teammate Chase with me.

Chase sandbags with baby pulls. Break established. Frexit and EA Sports, Inc. not pulling hard, thinking about the sprunt. I fear getting caught. Keep digging hard. Chase sandbags.

Five to go. King Harold, Baby Seal, Medium Banana six seconds back. EA Sports, Inc. senses the chase. Revs it up. Frexit throws down monster pulls. Can barely come through. Gap reopens. Chase loading more sandbags than a citizen volunteer crew before a hurricane.

One to go. Headwind section. EA Sports, Inc. and Frexit eyeing each other. Chase loading more sandbags for the sprunt.

Slowly roll away. Gap. Head down. Go almost all-in. Gap grows through chicane. Out of chicane, might stick this one.

Chase realizes teammate is up the road. EA Sports, Inc. and Frexit shrug. We ain’t chasing Wanky just so the other guy can outsprunt me. Chase sees teammates, does the arithmetic:

Do nothing = Teammate wins

Chase = Probably catch teammate, lose to EA Sports, Inc. and Frexit.

Therefore, third and fourth for TLC better than a win.

Chase chases.

EA Sports, Inc., Frexit laugh. Everyone knows they can count on Chase to chase.

Chase chases.

Chase catches at the last turn.

EA Sports, Inc. and Frexit leave Chase like overturned manure wagon in ditch. Chase beats Wanky for third. TLC strikes (itself) again!

END

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Telo tussle

April 5, 2018 § 4 Comments

On Tuesday there was big Telo wind and a pretty good Telo turnout, with the most important factors being Frexit and Brexit, sworn cross-Channel enemies who would battle each other to the death.

The group stayed together for a while despite a series of attacks and breaks and accelerations. Baby Seal hit the gas a couple of times, NEVER SKIPPING PULLS, and Team Lizard Collector stalwarts such as Raul, Tom the Kid, Heavy D., Sulk, Dowdy, Son of Max, Ivan the Terrible, Foxy, Racooney, Sanch, and Patrick kept things lively. Dino rider Toronto had come out of the museum with the intention of riding himself into fitness, and where better to do that than Telo, where gale-force wind, face-flattening speed, mommy-and-kiddy gym traffic, and a healthy dose of shoutypantsing by other riders would stiffen the spine of anyone? Original Marco was there too, as was Honda Brandon, with Boozy P. and Mrs. WM shooting photos in the turns, a true All-Star Telo if there ever was one.

Eventually Frexit split the group and with me glued to his wheel and Hair glued to mine, he reeled in the small group off the front that included Brexit, and finally the outlier, Alx Bns. Alx was coming off a superb showing at the Donut Pissing Contest and, having urinated much longer and thicker streams than anyone else, was ready to make common cause with his British compatriot Brexit in order to stifle the dreams of the Gallic nation as embodied by Frexit.

With five riders in the break, one of whom were determined to do as little work as possible, I felt pretty sure that it was only a matter of time before Frexit, Brexit, and Alx would punch me out the back to the retirement home of the chase group. As the shoutypantsing began I marshaled a whole host of reasons why I should be allowed to SKIP PULLS, SIT IN, AND PRAY TO DOG.

  1. I was 12 years older than Brexit, 14 years older than Hair, 20 years older than Frexit, and 24 years older than Alx. Plus, it was Be Kind to Old Folks Week.
  2. I was no threat to anyone, except perhaps from passing out.
  3. They should take pity on me and be kind to an ol’ buddy, ol’ pal.
  4. I have a blog.

A truce was declared in which they would take turns attacking me, until finally Frexit rode off and won. Brexit, in solidarity with striking French railway workers, quit in disgust. Alx attacked me and Hair and pedaled off to a glorious second place.

Hair, who had ridden twice in the last month, dragged me around for five laps. As I got ready to dust him in the sprunt and claw my way onto the podium, the chasers hunted us down in the final turn and Dowdy, Ivan the Terrible, and a couple of others lunged for Hair’s wheel. Hair, exhausted, cramping, and tired from pulling for five laps, easily won the field sprunt, booting me off the podium and onto a disgraceful fourth place #fakefinish at the #fakerace.

There is always next week … I hope.

END

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Heartbreak Hotel

August 9, 2017 § 38 Comments

With one lap to go I was a few minutes from achieving the only thing I have ever desired in life, that is a victory at our local training crit a/k/a Telo.

The field was a mishmash of gizzards, car parts, tree roots, defective Morton-Thiokol O-rings, broken razor blades, bald tires, and sunken galleons on the Spanish Main, as the pack had disintegrated shortly after re-entry, leaving only Frexit, Head Down James, Hair, and me in three-man-one-robot breakaway.

With seven laps to go, Frexit had urged me “Easy, easy!” as we came through Turn 4, which in bikeracespeak means “Ouchy!” So I waited a lap and attacked, shedding my unwelcome partners in an honest effort to toss them onto the garbage pile of discarded racers.

My hands were tied. If I sat in the break until the finish I would certainly get fourth. If I attacked I would [certainly – .0000001%] get fourth. So I had to go with the percentage shot.

Five laps to go and the gap held steady.

Four laps to go and I started pulling away.

Three laps to go and they clawed some of it back.

Two laps to go and it held at ten seconds.

One lap to go they were eight seconds back. Dreams of victory danced through my windshield. A lifetime of groveling was about to be rewarded with a few seconds swallowing a deep draught of the elixir of victory. Repeated beatings at the hands of unpleasant people was about to result in the bootheel landing on their neck instead of mine. Revenge would be sweeter than a diabetic dessert.

I rehearsed my victory speech, remembering to thank the little people who had made me who I am, thanking my parents, my deceased dog Fletcher, Phil who sold me my first bike, Fields, and then moving on to my wife, children, and a brief explanation of the dedication and hard work it had taken to reach what to the casual observer looked like an overnight success.

My speech, however, failed to account for the bitter hatred that Head Down James felt deep within his soul. Even though I had mentored him as a beginning cyclist by shouting epithets at him, screaming at him to lift up his fucking head, and trying to intimidate him at every turn, he apparently had forgotten all those little kindnesses and was now hell bent on revenge.

With Head Down James preferring to drag Frexit and Hair up to me so they could smear him in the sprunt rather than seeing me walk off with a glorious, life-altering victory that I would mockingly hold over his head for all time, he buried himself and closed the gap with only a few hundred yards left to go. Head Down James knew that the ignominy of being dropped out of his own breakaway and then beaten by a solo move at the hands of the leakiest, braggiest, un-cagiest racer in America would put paid to his professional athletic career. Frexit also knew that a Wanky defeat before his assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans Velo would cause an emotional collapse from which he might never recover. Hair didn’t care; he wasn’t getting higher than second no matter what and he knew it.

Head Down James’s effort was enough. Aaron and Frexit buried him, and worse, they buried me. I praised them insincerely afterwards, congratulated them while secretly wishing that each were slowly beheaded by a rusty table saw, and pedaled home, crushed.

And although you may not give a damn, my dear, tomorrow is another day.

END

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French beast connection

August 7, 2017 § 18 Comments

A great way to become a better rider is to ride with people who are better than you. It won’t make you faster or stronger or smarter or more successful in racing. However, with the clever use of an iPhone or GoPro you will be able to snap pics and show them to your friends on Facegag, upload them to The Stravver and etcetera, proving that you are heroic and tough enough to ride with Titanic Crusher ergo you are almost as good as Titanic and if you only had more hours to train and dope to ingest and motors to install you would be as good as he.

It’s important that the footage not show how Titanic Crusher is barely breathing whereas you sound like a medicinal advertisement for sleep apnea.

The first time I saw Frexit was on the New Pier Ride. He was humbly pedaling along in an ugly bicycle outfit trying to fit in among all of the perfectly attired, matchy-match profamateurs on the Tuesday morning preenfest. He was doing a terrible job of it because despite his ugly outfit he had a smooth pedal stroke, a relaxed demeanor despite being squeezed in the middle of an idiot sandwich, and worst of all, he was smiling as if a morning ride with friends was for enjoyment rather than for huge expressions of serious seriousness topped off with seriousity.

Before we hit Pershing, the life and death battle had begun as the idiots jostled for position, which in the South Bay does not only means “place where you can be nearest the front with the smallest risk of having to be on it,” but also “place from which you can solicit new riders to join your fake race clubteam.”

Velo Club LaGrange, a historically fake clubteam, had won the last several recruitment contests, and even as they jockeyed for position I came up hard on the inside, threw an elbow, and began the finishing sign-up sprint.

“What’s your name?”

“Evens.”

“That’s weird. Did someone add an ‘s’ by mistake when you were born?”

“No, I am French.”

“What’s your last name?”

“Stievenart,” he said.

“Oh,” I nodded. “So you’re actually Belgian.”

He laughed as we hit the bottom of Pershing. “You should join Big Orange,” I said. “We are a bunch of dorks also know as Team Lizard Collectors or The Asphalt Magnet Gang, but we will reimburse your entry … ” I couldn’t finish because he rode away. And away. And away.

At the end of the ride I offered to wash his bike if he would join Team Lizard Collectors, and he agreed. Thus began Frexit’s association with a club that would be shameful for him but glorious for us.

It turned out that Frexit had won a bunch of French national time trial championships, and had won a big stage race several times called Tour Encaisseur des Lézards and was training for the 24 Hours of Le Mans bike race. Frexit won that race last year, by the way, destroying his competition by a huge margin as he came in first among over 3,800 insane people.

In the process, Frexit became known as a terror on two wheels, riding crazy distances at crazy speeds, and more importantly, showing up at our local training crit to give us all a chance to take selfies with him and sit on his wheel for half a lap or so. In 2017 he returns to Le Mans as defending insane person and with the twin goals of winning again and cracking the mythical 900km mark over a twenty-four hour period. Naturally, we’ve been helping him at Telo by offering up copious quantities of fresh seal pelts for repeated clubbing.

Best of all, you can be part of Evens’s 2017 Le Mans quest on Wednesday, August 16, when he will be out at Westchester Parkway doing a tune-up ride from 6:00 AM until about 5:00 PM. In order to simulate the attacks and surges of the race, Frexit has kindly invited other cyclists to come out for any period of time to ride with him and spice things up. It should be about as fun as having rusty nails pounded up into your gums, maybe more.

But as long as you get a few selfies to show to your friends, it will all be worth it. See you there. Briefly.

END

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Simple Simon

July 26, 2017 § 18 Comments

Tuesday is the holy day of the bike racing week and I was praying, nose mashed against the stem, body swaying from side to side like a tree in a hurricane, and great oaths, curses, imprecations, and foul utterances doing everything they could to exit my mouth hole if only I would stop breathing so hard and groaning.

Frexit and Peachfuzz had caught me and Attila the Hun, but what momentarily looked like the champion’s breakaway from Telo had got pulled back by the pack. Thankfully I had a bunch of Team Lizard Collectors teammates in the chase and they had worked mightily to bring back our breakaway, which contained three of their teammates.

I had countered at the catch, gotten free with Frexit on my wheel, and then sat for a lap while he ground out another fearsome gap which, thankfully, wasn’t so great that my fake teammates couldn’t close it down. Two seconds before the actual catch I sat up in defeat and despair, perfectly marking the difference between winners and  losers: That’s the moment at which Frexit made one more giant effort.

Team Lizard Collectors and the slobbering chase group, satisfied at having caught the minnow, sat up and watched the whale swim away. I drifted to the back and tried to collect my broken bits of self-respect which, in truth, I’d had none of to start with.

At that moment it became clear to me: Life is really pretty simple. All it takes to make a Frenchman who is already insanely strong, insanely stronger, is to put him in a foreign land and offer him good, homemade bread.

Because that’s exactly what Ms. WM had done, and we all suffered the consequences. My wife, you see, bakes bread. Her repertoire is narrow; she bakes round loaves, always the same ingredients, always the same shape, and always the same taste.

Those who have eaten it are never the same because bread goes so incredibly deep in our human consciousness. It is the staff of life. It is the thing we earn. It is magical when fresh, durable and sustaining when old. It pairs with every food imaginable, or goes the distance solo, with nothing alongside it at all.

The taste of fresh bread well made, not the unbaked mush sold in plastic bags at Safeway, has no peer, or even anything else in its category. It sits alone atop the food pyramid, King Tutankhamun gazing down at the minions of flesh, vegetables, and other lesser comestibles.

And what is bread? Flour, water, yeast, salt. That, plus the magic sauce of the hands that knead, watch, rise, and bake, and in my home those magic hands have come up with bread perfection. My poor son-in-law is reduced to groveling when it comes off the cooling board. Visitors hang their heads in a spent, abject foodgasm when it crosses their lips. Pot luck party hosts whisper in muted tones of sad begging, “Would you mind asking Yasuko to bake a loaf of bread?”

That is how supremely her bread reigns among those who know, and woe was unto us on Tuesday because she had said that morning, “I’m onna bake some bread and give a bread prize onna Telo champion.”

“No,” I said. “Your bread will not be wasted on those terrible people. It will be wasted on me.”

“You onna just as terrible as they is.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say, except “Okay, but please bake two loaves and leave one here. Please?”

She did, and when word went out on Facebag that Mrs. WM’s Magic Bread would be offered up to the Telo winner, we had a true lineup of hitters, and all the pain I was feeling mid-race was due to the Frexit frenzy of getting a shot at bread he hadn’t eaten since the last time he was home in France.

The fight for second was vicious. Davy Dawg led it out with Hair on his wheel and with me on Hair. Peachfuzz was slotted in behind Pooh Bear ATX, who in the final turn made a power move by slamming his inside pedal against the pavement, causing me to shit a blue streak in fear as this is exactly where Hair had come up on the inside and thrown himself onto the asphalt a few months ago, with me on his wheel. I swung wide to let those willing to die do so, and Hair flew to the finish for a glorious podium finish as everyone else fought viciously for whatever scraps you call the scraps after the first set of scraps.

As expected, Frexit won despite an eleven, then ten, then nine, then eight, then seven, then six-person rotation spilling their guts, lunch, and spittle in a failed attempt to chase him down.

You want to make a French bike champion go even harder? Bread, baby, bread.

END

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