No place for old men

April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

I have to take my hat off to Sam Ames, the guy who promotes the annual district masters road race championships here in SoCal. He makes very difficult races, runs them well, and gets the predictable flak.

This year CHP advised that no follow cars would be allowed, so riders were told to pack a tube, lever, and CO2 cartridge. One rider called Sam to voice his displeasure. “No follow car? For the state championship? That’s unacceptable!”

“Look, Wankface,” said Sam. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah. What?”

“How many races have you been in where you flatted, got a timely change from the follow car, chased back on, and won?”

Pause. “Well, never.”

“So be sure to bring a spare tube, okay?”

The 50+ race had a star-studded field of used-to-be’s and wish-I’d-been’s, but the only one who mattered, it turned out, was Thurlow. After 65 miles in the skin-sizzling heat, after 7,000 feet of climbing, and after all but ten riders had been ripped like a hangnail out of the lead group, BonkBreaker’s Zimmerman attacked over the last little hump. He opened a gap and Chris Walker bridged. Seeing the looks of grim desolation on the faces of the remnants, Thurlow launched and joined the leaders.

Zimmerman dropped a kidney, Thurlow attacked and soloed in, and Walker could do naught but pedal squares to the line.

Not that I saw any of it. I had been dispensed with many miles before, discarded with the disgust and finality of a used Kleenex. But like every other bicycle race it had started full of promise and hope.

We rolled out some thirty riders strong, powering into a unique air formation that proved to be a headwind going out, a headwind coming back, and an underwind-topdown wind everywhere else, with a dose of powerful sidewind, like gonorrhea. We hit the first climb and I hewed to my mantra: “Hide, cower, suck wheel. Save me, Father Carbon.”

Midway up it was clear that the prayer and the expensive wheel purchase and the monk-like existence of fasting, celibacy, sobriety, and 8:00 PM bedtimes was working. The only thing that gave me pause was the disclaimer on the flyer that said, as it always does, “Watch out for rattlesnakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, and attack bees.”

I wondered about that because we were passing a huge clump of roadside blooming weeds and they were covered in bees. “Are they attack bees?” I wondered. “What is an attack bee?” At that instant three of them flew into the large vents in my helmet. I am allergic to bee stings.

Ever since I was a small child I have been terrified of bees and wasps.When I was eight I kicked a wasp’s nest and got 35 stings, wound up in the hospital for a week, and almost died. The following summer I doused a beehive with lighter fluid and tried to burn it, but the fire didn’t take. The bees, however, did, and what they took to was me. Fifty stings and another hospital stay and lots of injections. When I was twelve my brother and I tried to eradicate all the yellow jacket nests in our neighborhood. We had a long stick with rags soaked in gasoline, and went from nest to nest incinerating them.

All went well until the fifth one. The rags came undone and fell onto my head, aflame. My hair caught fire and the wasps attacked. This time I had to get a bit of a skin graft, which got infected, and I simultaneously almost died from what the doctor said was a record, one hundred wasp stings.

I thought about all that as the attack bees crawled around on my scalp. I hoped that they would find the anterior wind vent and exit, but as I waited the first acceleration came. Several riders didn’t come with it, but I hid and cowered and survived. We made it to the turnaround and Jeff K. punched it over each of the short stabbing climbs we had descended into the little valley and now had to come out from.

More riders chose a different, more humane pace. I struggled, and straggled, and held on. The bees continued to crawl around my head. As we hit the long 4-mile headwind to complete our first 25-mile lap, Todd P. began castigating us for our slowness and laziness. “When are you guys gonna start racing?” he snapped, attacking off the front into the wind, where he was followed by G$. They vanished.

I thought about that question, “When are you guys gonna start racing?” and realized that if we hadn’t started yet, then I didn’t want to be — and plainly wouldn’t be — around when we did. We finished the first lap and several more riders chose a different pace; a couple even decided to unilaterally shorten their race from three laps to one, mortally wounded as they were by Proximity To The Car Fever and its attendant symptom, Common Sense.

Two of the bees flew out, so I was down to one. We started up the big climb again. Todd and G$ were thirty seconds ahead. Our designated rider, DJ, was going to need some help on this one. I always love it when a team leader needs a dutiful lieutenant to go jump on several dozen grenades, because that’s always my cue to cower and hide even more. Teammates are an abstraction in bike racing, because in reality everyone is your enemy and they must all be killed in order for you to prevail.

Alan F., who had been trading places with me at the rear, moved to the point to bring back G$ and Todd. Inexplicably I was on his wheel. Was it reflex? Bad judgment? A misguided attempt to help my teammate?


It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:

Throughout the race, people will behave irrationally, hopelessly, and with no clear objective other than self-defeat so that he who waits longest and does the least can pounce and win.

G$and Todd were deep in the throes of senselessness and as Alan dragged them back, my proximity to the front was wearing me out. What was I doing there? Why was I anywhere near the front? Didn’t I know that every square millimeter of wind exposure was the same as riding with a spinnaker when you are large and fat and slow and weak and tired?

When Alan sat up, Chris Walker pulled through hard, inflicting difficulty and little black spots on the weak and infirm. Alan and I tailed off. “Good work, guys,” DJ said as we imploded. We had pulled back 3.1 or perhaps 1.2929272028 seconds on G$ and Todd, who now instead of being tiny specks were more like smallish specks.

Alone again, naturally, I chased back on, got dropped again, hit the turnaround, passed the women’s field, then got passed by the women’s field, then settled into a rhythm of despair and self-loathing and full-body cramps, each racking shudder causing me to think “Wow, I didn’t know there was a muscle there.”

On the downhill I was overhauled by King Harold and Dandy. They were angry, breathing fire, and mostly intent on catching and dropping the women. I was now lodged in the Pincer Movement from Hell, having to choose between hanging onto their battering pulls into the under/top/side/headwind, or sitting up and never re-passing the women. The final lap was as terrible as childbirth when you are a human and the progeny is a grown and angry porcupine.

Dandy and King Harold pulled me around, waited for me on the climbs, and after a mere one hour and fifteen minutes of indescribable torment, their teamwork, assistance, and selfless work got us to the line, where, after resting for the entire final 25 miles, I dropped them both and sprinted for 17th place.

You know it was a difficult race when the finishers are rolling around in the dirt afterwards clenched up in various post-race cramp positions. Fortunately, the race turned out much more successfully for me than my 19th place might indicate. By spending about $1,500 on new wheels, I moved up ten places from the previous year. So with another $1,500 expenditure in 2016 I can expect a top-ten, and then a final $1,500 investment in 2017 should ensure a win. I probably won’t even have to show up and they can just mail me my medal. Right?



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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.



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Chasing the $

February 18, 2015 § 31 Comments

Scattered observations on a Tuesday afternoon, scattered because earlier today Outlook slammed shut and the .pst data file got corrupted. That’s okay! It’s only 15-gigs and it only has 99,000 files!

Fortunately, MicroStupid has the Outlook Inbox Repair Tool and his name is Bill Gates. You turn on the repair tool and it scans the .pst file, except the word “scan” doesn’t quite fit. When I was kid I learned that “scan” meant to quickly look over something, but in MicroStupidese “scan” means “pull out the Sunday Times or Thomas Mann’s ‘Magic Mountain’ in German because it’s gonna take a while.”

After scanning, or shall we say trundling, the Tool indicated that my file was corrupted. Was I surprised to learn that something associated with me is corrupt? No. So I hit the “repair now” button and it did what MicroStupid is famous for: Hanging.

“Perhaps there’s a repair tool for the repair tool?” I wondered. So I googled “repair tool repair tool” and it took me to I won’t hyperlink; you’ll have to find that fifty-first shade of grey on your own.

Like an idiot I then reinstalled MS Office and since we apparently have the Cox Discount Internet Package, where electrons are hand-carried over to my apartment one by one in a wheelbarrow, it’s going to take a while. And we won’t mention the unhappy fact that after it’s reinstalled, the .pst file will still be corrupt.

Anyway, scattered.

Chasing the money

On Sunday I was scattered, too. Scattered from chasing Greg Leibert a/k/a G$ as he attacked nonstop for fifty minutes at the CBR Crit #2 over in Carson. Greg didn’t win but he rode a real bike race while almost all of the eighty other riders in the field hunkered down, did nothing, and waited for the sprunt.

The mere act of following G$’s attacks makes you feel like you did something worthwhile, even though all it got me was worn out. And in their defense, the reason that most of the other wankers didn’t attack is because they couldn’t.

This is gonna be gnarly

Lots of social media howler monkeys have shrieked with glee upon hearing the news that Drugstrong got popped for a cool $10m when he lost his “I perjured myself like a fugger but a crooked deal’s a deal” defense at the SCA arbitration. He’s also being sued for the balance in state court, and the Feds + Floyd are about to give him the Sodom + Gomorrah treatment in the whistleblower suit as they seek $300m in damages. With an estimated net worth of $125m, Drugstrong is going to look back on 2015 as the year he moved back in with his mom.

I know that gives a lot of people pleasure. It’s fun to watch rude and mean people get hammered, I suppose. I have to confess that when he first got dethroned I thought he was going to make a clean breast of things and that he would take the noble route and be a noble guy. Color me garishly stupid. But none of it makes me particularly happy, any more than it makes me happy when a convicted killer gets life without parole. Mostly I just feel sad. Sad for the victims, sad for the perp, and sad for Betsy.

Bikes still make kids happy

On a super happy note, Matt Smith’s appeal on this wankerish blog netted a bunch of free bikes for his high school’s new MTB team, as well as clothing, equipment, and donations. What a wonderful bunch of people you are. You’ve made a difference in the lives of these kids. They’ll remember what you did long after you’ve forgotten. Too bad you have such lousy taste in reading material.

Tri-dorks heart Bike scum

Speaking of lousy reading material, I was blown away that my tongue-in-cheek rant about triathletes and bike weight got posted in the biggest tri-dork chat forum, Slowtwitch. Not surprised that they picked it up, but surprised that a bunch of them made friendly comments. Most of the time when something I write winds up on a forum it gets burned to the ground because apparently a lot of people think that I write news, or that I report facts, or that I really think I know anything about the subjects I write about.

Anyway, thanks to all you tri-dorks you got the joke, even if it was a pretty lame one. And thanks as well to the one tri-dork on the forum who took it all very seriously and was outraged that I’d be so outrageous and that I was also wrong and a hypocrite. That dude spends way too much time on my sister publication, Red Kite Bore.

Golf is “Flog” spelled backwards

Mega-props to Emily Georgeson, the “sprinter” who got 2nd at Punchbowl behind Katie Donovan, the quintessential twiggy climber type who sprints like a battleship, corners like a city bus, but climbs like blood pressure at the Heart Attack Cafe. Emily’s success is down to hard work, smart riding, and a great coach-riding partner in Aaron Wimberley, but the meat and potatoes of her climbing prowess is our Thursday Flog Ride around the Golf Course.

That ride turns everyone into shrapnel. It’s tactical, there’s nowhere to hide, there are no stoplights, and it’s flat fuggin hard.

Skinned sausage

Speaking of hard, Robert Efthimos took a nasty tumble leading out the Cat 3 sprunt at CBR on Sunday and separated his shoulder. What’s worse, he also separated his carbon seat stays which are full carbon. Heal up, Sausage! And the next time you get the bright idea to do anything in a Cat 3 race other than NOT SIGN UP, don’t do it!

For those who don’t know it, Robert is the president-elect of La Grange, one of the oldest and most venerated racing clubs in the U.S. He is doing everything right to refocus the club back on racing, and his efforts have resulted in a strong La Grange presence at races. Guys like Robert and Greg Seyranian, who have an open door policy and who emphasize racing for people who JOIN A FUGGIN BIKE RACING CLUB are the key to the grass roots development that saw such amazing turnout at the races on Sunday. Hats off, Sausage. Hope you’re herding the frogs there for years to come.

The eyes have it

On a related note, Ronnie Toth called me the other day to talk about his MB Grand Prix crash that I’d written up several months ago. I expected a tongue lashing but got nothing of the sort. He was funny, polite, intelligent, and slightly butthurt (his words), and in the end we saw eye to eye regarding his terrible accident and the danger of the ubiquitous steel barriers.

Had Ronnie not been wearing his SPY shades he would have lost an eye, perhaps both. He’s had titanium reconstruction on part of his skull, and his nose was rebuilt with bone and cartilage from a rib. It’s amazing that he’s recovered so quickly, and when he told SPY about the sight-saving effect of the glasses, they gave him glasses … for life. Lots of reasons I support SPY, but nothing exemplifies it like this kind of stuff.

Huge props to Ronnie for getting back on the bike.

First blood

My good friend Michelle L. did her first bike race on Sunday. She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, on the bike or off, and before she got into cycling she ran a lot and she ran fast. Michelle took the plunge and had a blast. She had a lot of encouragement which outweighed all the wankers who said “WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT????”

Answer: Because it’s thrilling and kind of dangerous and hard as hell and fun. Michelle rode towards the front and then rode AT the front for the last five laps and still snagged seventh. Welcome to the sorority, Michelle! [Note: Michelle is also one of the riders who does the Flog Ride, and there’s no way any crit is as miserable as that.]

Happy Camp

SPY Optic is having its grand opening on Friday, Feb. 20, from 10:00 AM to whenever at their full service retail outlet in Leucadia, located on the 101. There will be a happy hour and live music and male strippers and female porn stars and President Clinton and celebrity cyclists such as Greg LeMond, Sean Kelly, Jacques Anquetil, and Pee Wee Herman. So don’t miss it.

Upcoming races

Rosena Ranch Circuit Race is this Saturday. It’s the best, most awesome, challenging, technical, impressive, wonderful, and truly incredible race course in the history of the sport even though it’s in San Bernardino. Cycling fans will recall Rosena Ranch as the place where I broke my 30-year jinx and rode to solo victory against a field of midgets and a corpse. However, a win is a win, and if I can win there, so can you. Plus, there is lots to do in the surrounding areas, like meth and stuff.

Okay, looks like Orifice has been reinstalled, and as expected the .pst file is still corrupt. Time to plunk down $199.95 for DataNumen Outlook Repair. I’m sure everything will be fine.



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Turn left here

January 8, 2015 § 25 Comments

After a brutal two weeks of winter here in Los Angeles, where we had to wear booties, thick gloves, scarves, thermal beanies, a thick underlayer, armwarmers, short-sleeved jersey, insulated jacket, legwarmers, and plenty of embro, the 55-degree morning temperatures finally ended and summer returned. Surfer Dan and I decided to celebrate the end of the cold and bitter half-month of December/January by putting in some hard training.

Before we could train, though, we decided to hit the DK Donut Shop in Santa Monica, and figured we should grab a big cup of coffee at Philz, and then maybe pedal back home for a nap so that we could really chart out a super tough training regimen for February or March. As we pedaled down the bike path we ran into G$, who was going in the opposite direction. He was looking for partners to join him in his super tough interval workout, and so when he found out we were going to the donut shop he was all in.

“Intervals are hard, but intervals after donuts are even harder,” he said.

“Maybe so, but there’s something harder than donuts and intervals,” I replied.


“Yeah. Mountain biking.”

Money made a face. “I never could get the hang of that.”

“Me, either,” I agreed. “Everyone always tells me how fun it is, though.”

“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, I guess, after it’s over.”


Surfer Dan was listening to us, because he’s a big MTB addict and is always trying to get me to go ride off-road with him, which I have occasionally done, invariably to my own detriment.

“The thing I could never wrap my head around was how they always say … ”

“‘…speed is your friend,'” I finished for him.

“Yeah. Speed really isn’t my friend. We haven’t spoken for years.”

“And all that crap about ‘don’t use your brakes.'”

“I know. If there’s one thing that screams ‘brakes’ it’s falling off a cliff at 40 headed straight for a log at the bottom of a minefield covered with jagged rocks.”

“Or what about that ‘don’t grip your bars so tightly’ stuff?” I laughed.

“Yeah. Like how are you supposed to not grip your bars in a death clench when physics are about to ram your face into a big stone?”

“Yep,” I agreed. “It’s a sport where you can find impending death easier than finding an accordion on an East LA radio station. But you know it wouldn’t be so bad if MTB just meant getting out on some wide and mostly flat fire road where you could pedal along and not have to drop off cliffs and avoid death every twelve seconds.”

“Uh-huh,” Money said.

“That’s what I hate about riding with Surfer. You start off on a nice fire road, no cars, birds chirping, and then he says, ‘Turn left here,’ and ‘here’ is a two-inch trail going down the face of a cliff. One minute you’re all happy and comfortable and having a good time and the next minute it’s nothing but screaming, furious terror, rage, and if-I-live-through-this-I’ll-kill-that-s.o.b.”

“I know,” said Money.

“It’s probably like how women feel when they’re having sex.”

There was a brief pause. “How do you figure?”

“Well, there they are having a good time, feeling all good and stuff and then the guy makes a hard left left turn down a narrow alley and she’s like ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and he’s like ‘Aw it won’t hurt’ and she’s like ‘Get that thing outta there’ and he’s like ‘Let’s just do it once and see how you like it’ and she’s like ‘No way’ and pretty soon everybody’s hollering and yelling and after it’s finished everybody’s all covered in sweat and kinda sore and wondering what the hell happened.”

It got really quiet then. “Uh, I think I better pass on coffee,” said Money. “I’m, uh, late for work.”

“Yeah,” said Surfer. “Me, uh, too.”

I got most of the way through my fourth donut before I realized that Surfer doesn’t even have a job.



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December 24, 2014 § 19 Comments

The older I get, the more I appreciate people who aren’t sociopaths. Not that the SoCal Profamateur™ ranks are filled with them, but I do run across them from time to time. A sociopath, of course, is a person who reduces the entirety of human existence to “I am in the right.”

Here’s a quick quiz to find out if you are a cycling sociopath, but if you’re really a sociopath one of the key qualities is the inability to recognize it.

  1. I never caused a crash.
  2. I’ve had bad luck before, but never been beaten.
  3. I dope because everyone else dopes, so it’s not cheating.
  4. I cut the course because I had to.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with banditing a ride because the organizers plan for a certain level of banditing.

Of course cycling sociopaths, compared to the ones I run across in my day job, are pretty harmless. Whereas cycling sociopaths are trying to cheat you out of a pair of socks or a fistful of gels, litigation sociopaths are often trying to ruin a client’s life, and sometimes mine as well. But despite their relative harmlessness, their presence causes the good guys out there to shine even more brightly.

One of my favorite Old Fellow Leaky Prostate Cycling Stars is Greg Leibert, a/k/a G$ a/k/a G-Munnnnny. I can’t help rooting for him, even when he’s plucking out my legs like an evil little kid yanking off the twitching limbs of a helpless insect. I root for G$ because he rides with class, he wins graciously, and he loses with a smile and a congratulations for the winner. I root for G$ because when he wins, the good guy really does win. And of course I root for him in the hope that one day I’ll beat him, and therefore have beaten the very best.

The last two seasons G$ has had a rough go of it on the race course, so much so that it almost seemed like he might be done for good. The guy who soloed to victory at Boulevard a few years back, the guy who regularly stomped the dicks of the best leaky prostates on the toughest SoCal road courses, had been “relegated” to “only” one or two wins a season. The saddest moment of my old fellow cycling career was this year at Boulevard, when I punctured a few miles from the finish. The peloton whooshed by, and then a few minutes later along came Greg, who stopped to help change my flat.

“Are you okay?” I asked in disbelief.

Greg smiled. “I didn’t have it today. They went, and I didn’t.”

It was like learning that there is no Santa Claus, only worse, since I was raised an atheist and we kept getting Christmas swag even after figuring out that the old fat drunk in the mall was nothing more glamorous than an old fat drunk in the mall. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear through the grapevine that G$ was back on track for 2015.

I’d see him doing lonely big ring workouts on Via del Monte. I’d hear rumors about the gradually increasing fitness. Best of all — or worst — I’d pump him about his condition and he’s say with a smile, “It’s coming around.”

Last Saturday G$ showed up for the Donut Ride, which is rare because he only shows up to check his fitness. Unlike the other wankers who throw themselves headlong into their “base intensity” programs 12 months a year, G$ builds, tests, then goes back to work.

As we snaked through Portuguese Bend, there was the familiar sight of the Legs From Planet Zebulon, the slightly hunched back, the smooth cadence, and the sinewy strips of calf, ham, and quad popping out from the stretched skin. Best of all, though, was the hollering.

G$ will never pointlessly ride on the front — he’s too smart for that — but he loves it when you do, and he has a well-worn method for getting the idiots to pound themselves into oblivion. Here’s how he does it: Some maroon will take a dig, and a fellow maroon will follow through, and then the pace will slack. “Sixteen mph?” G$ will yell from five wheels back. “Are we riding our bikes or pushing a baby stroller?”

No one has the man parts to turn around and say, “Hey, wanker, if you want the speed to pick up, there’s plenty of room at the front to give us a demo.”

Instead, we hunker down, all butt-hurt and such, and then take turns killing ourselves in pointless efforts to show that WE AREN’T GONNA GO SIXTEEN. Then G$ will yell a little more until we’re totally pooped, we reach the climb, and he leaves us like we are chained to a liberal piece of legislation in the US Congress.

But on Saturday, I bided my time until we hit the Switchbacks, followed wheels, and before long had left the wankoton in the rear, latched onto the wheel of Boy Jules, who hates being shadowed by creaky old men. The impossible had happened — a fit-and-getting-fitter G$ had been shelled by Boy Jules and Creaky Wanky.

The euphoria was intense, followed by sadness (“If G$ can’t keep up with me, he really is finished,”) followed by an unspeakable beatdown. Half a mile from the end of the climb G$ hunted me down like an old tom closing in on a crippled rat. He roared by, I latched on (having shed Boy Jules at the wall), and G$ played his favorite role of train conductor. It goes like this:

G$: I see you are riding on the train.

Me: Yes, sir.

G$: May I see your ticket?

Me: I ain’t got no ticket.

G$: Well, son, no one rides for free.

Then he came out of the saddle, fired the pistons, and vanished around the bend. I deflated and crumpled as he put a couple of football fields between us in a matter of seconds. I was deflated, but elated. You know why?

Because Munnnnnnny is back.



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I’ll have another bag of sand, please, with an extra dollop of cream on top

March 21, 2014 § 46 Comments

The most recent South Bay cycling kerfluffle and 24/7 Facebag drama was a beaut. The facts, such as they weren’t, went something like this: Gimme Mah Trinket, a super fast live-to-ride badass MTB racer showed up at the Third Annual Fredfest and Dorkathon Cross Country Bicycle Race in Scratchypits, CA. Having won the Leadville-qualifying Barburner, and having completed Leadville itself once and sort-of-but-perhaps-not-really completed it a second time, Gimme signed up for the beginners’ Cuddly Puppy Division race.

It was a full cuddly puppy field with six or seven riders, all of whom except for Gimme were excited to be racing their first ever, or second ever, or whatever MTB cross country race. Now I must insert here that I didn’t even know that you raced cross country on a bicycle. I thought cross country was a kind of foot race, so when I was told that the controversy occurred at a cycling cross country race my first reaction was “Fugg’ yeah, I bet those runners were sure pissed at getting beat by the bikers. I would be, too.”

But not.

The cuddly puppies lined up with battle-hardened, steely legged Gimme Mah Trinket and got devoured. How badly did they get devoured? Gimme stomped their dicks by seven minutes. She finished so far ahead of the puppies that race officials temporarily lost contact with her ACARS.

The cuddlies struggled in across the line, puppy butts covered in dirt and briars and brambles and sweat and gel packs that had exploded in their jerseys and drizzled down into their buttcracks. And they did what puppies do when they get their noses rubbed in their own shit. They whined. And the whine they whined was the greatest, most famous, most oft-repeated complaint ever made anywhere by any wanker in the history of the USCF: Gimme Mah Trinket is a SANDBAGGER!

Gimme didn’t really care. Her license listed her as a Cuddly Puppy despite being one of the strongest South Bay women on the road and in the dirt, she’d raced her category, and most importantly, she got her trinket. It was a beautiful, hand-carved, antique, hand-decorated water bottle from 1998 made during the Chee’ Pass Dynasty in China. Then she went to the official and upgraded to a Cat 1. Apparently you can go from a Cat 3 to a Cat 1 in MTB just by saying, “Gimme a one, please.”

Who knew?

Let the wailing begin

The cuddly puppies were outraged. They’d trained hard. They’d committed millions of dollars to this fine sport. They’d hired a coach, given up smoking meth, and told all their friends at work that they were going to do a “bicycle race.” How unfair that a pro, a superstar, a hard woman, a ruthless, toothy, shark-blooded killer with a zillion miles under her belt would sandbag the Cuddly Puppy division? At the Scratchypits race, no less! The outrage!

A measure of just how much of a beginners race it was bubbled to the surface merely by airing the “Sandbagger!” complaint. If USA Cycling were a book with a subtitle, it would be this: “USA Cycling: Sandbagging for Fun and Trinkets.”

The whole purpose of categories is to allow for organized sandbagging. If bikers wanted a real bike race, here’s how it would be run:

  1. Men, women, mutants, cuddly puppies, ex pros, current pros, leaky prostates, loose bowels, juniors, seniors, and almost-corpses would line up together.
  2. The ref would blow a whistle.
  3. The first person across the line would be declared the winner.

This would result in a genuine bike race with genuine results. The winner could say, “I was the best racer that day.” The down side is that races would have only thirty or forty riders, all of them would be in their late 20’s, and the same three people would win every single race. In other words, hardly anyone would get a trinket. The bigger down side is that USA Cycling and the various race promoters wouldn’t be able to promote races, because with entry fees from thirty riders you can’t cordon off a street, supply ambulances, promote the event, and hire a couple of cheap plywood boxes for a podium.

This is why cycling has zillions of categories, groupings, rankings, and divisions, so that no matter how weak, feeble, inexperienced, or strategically stupid you are, there is “some” chance that you’ll get a trinket. Trinkets get spread more democratically, race promoters get paid, and USA Cycling gets to send out another surly, obese, ill-tempered official to scream at you on a motorcycle.

Think of race categories for what they really are: Affirmative action for the weak, slow, and stupid. Without cycling’s affirmative action program, 99.999% of all racers would never experience the thrill of getting a $20 prime, or enjoy the glory of standing on a plywood box in the blazing sun, or posting their “results” on Facebag. Our society would be poorer as a result. Moreover, at least in the SoCal crit scene, without affirmative action no white people would ever win anything, and we can’t have that.

Do you really want a bike race?

The Scratchypits kerfluffle, if anything, proved that trinket racing really works, and it’s not the first time that a veteran sandbagger has been booted upstairs to a harder division due to whining cuddlies. The most famous sandbagging case in SoCal history was the Great Prez SoCal Cup Upgrade and Meltdown, where our hero sandbagged as a Cat 3 for several years. Just as he was on the cusp of winning the SoCal Cat 3 Cup, some cuddly puppy’s angry mom complained to the refs. “Prez is a sandbagger! Little Pookums can’t win anything! Upgrade him!”

Prez got force upgraded, and so emotionally destroyed that the trinket was so rudely snatched away despite being within inches of his sweaty grasp, that he dropped out of racing for an entire year. Worse, now that’s he’s back as a Cat 2, he is forced to race with the 35+ Masters division, the biggest category of sandbaggers in the entire sport. These are the guys who are for the most part Cat 1’s, Cat 2’s, and ex-pros, but who’d rather win most of the time than lose all of the time. However, unlike the Cat 3 races, riders like Prez go from winning sandbagger to pack meat, as it’s often difficult to finish and impossible to win. No more trinkets for Prez.

G$ tells a similar story about his own history of sandbagging. “When I was a Cat 3, I never wanted to upgrade. But after winning four out of sixty races, they force upgraded me. Some junior’s mom complained and said me and Roadchamp were dominating everything. Boom. Cuddly puppy upgrade. But I was like, dude, I’m forty years old. How’m I gonna race with the Cat 2’s? Their road races are a hundred miles long. I have a job, sort of. But they upgraded me anyway.”

G$ went on to collect plenty of trinkets, but only as a masters sandbagger. In sum, the category system is there for you to sandbag. You pick the race you think you have the best chance of winning, and the race you can most likely win is always the one against the weakest field. The weakest field is always the oldest or the slowest or the least experienced category. This is how trinkets are won, how juice boxes are collected, and how well-practiced podium poses are executed for the three adoring fans.

Any other system would result in a bike race, and no one in their right mind wants one of those.

Least of all the cuddly puppies.


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December 17, 2013 § 13 Comments

Sometimes the things he says take a bit of decoding, and sometimes the things he says leave you scratching your head, but sometimes my pal G$ will let a pearl of wisdom drop that is practically Buddha-like in its wisdom. So you gotta be on your toes and you gotta be patient, sometimes extra, extra patient, because when one of those nuggets plops down if you’re fiddling with your Garmin or yapping about your last indoor training session, you’re gonna miss it.

We were coming back from a sedate little pedal up Mandeville Canyon, and we had hit a traffic light, I think it was on San Vicente. When it comes to traffic signals I am like a Republican mom who’s got a double tall chai mocha soy latte in one hand, an outgoing text message on her iPhone in the other, three squalling kids in the back seat, all while running five minutes late for li’l Becky’s ballet lesson.

In other words, my preferred mode of travel when riding alone is to blow through anything that doesn’t have a cop or oncoming traffic. Red lights are suggestions, and stop signs are bad ideas that won’t be adopted in this draft of the presentation.

As I’ve gotten older and more concerned about the opinions and terror of others, though, I pretty much stop at red lights when I’m with a group, and I’ll even slow way down for a stop sign. It freaks people out too much otherwise.

So we came to that ol’ stop light and put our feet down. G$ looked over at me and grinned. He’d been talking about pole vaulters and how they were put together different from other track and field elite athletes, especially when it came to beer and curfews and careful dieting — that is, pole vaulters apparently didn’t believe in either. I was concentrating as hard as I could, trying to remember what pole vaulters did, and trying to follow the details of the bus ride back in 1983 from Kansas down to El Paso in which the pole vaulters had caught a skunk and fed it beer and then let it loose in the opposing team’s locker room.

I was trying might and main to wrap my brain around how you “caught a skunk,” much less “fed it beer,” into a reality framework, and it wasn’t happening, when G$ let drop a nugget. “You know,” he said, apropos of nothing, which is his finest contextual context when it comes to nuggets. “Stopping is good.” Of course, we were stopped.

My brain ground to a halt. He might as well have said “Wife beating is good,” or “Heroin injected through the tip of your penis is good,” or “Bat sandwiches are good.”

Stopping? Good?

“Dude!” my brain screamed, but didn’t say. “Stopping is TERRIBLE! Stopping is the OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE DO! Stopping is to biking what books are to Kanye West!” But instead I just looked at him kind of mutton-headed and said, “Huh?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I used to want to go all the time. But now? Stopping is good. Every time I stop it’s like, you know, good.”

“How’s that?”

“Aw, you know. It just feels good.”

We waited for the light to change while he picked up the story where the skunk and the other team’s star miler found one another, but I had tuned out because I was focusing on my leg, the one that was anchored to the ground and not pedaling my bike. Then I focused on my other leg, which was also not pedaling my bike. All of the pedaling juice that had backed up inside my veins from the trip up Mandeville ebbed away as we stood there doing nothing.

My heartbeat tailed off. Everything relaxed. I looked to the left and smiled at the Brentwood mom and her double latte.

The light turned green and off we went. At the next stop light it happened again; we stopped and it was good. It wasn’t an annoyance or an obstruction or a deliberate plan by the auto-industrial-military-Republican-anti-Obamacare-complex to force me to carry a gun, it was … good. Stopping was so good in fact that, once I’d left the group and couldn’t be observed by anyone who knew me, I stopped for a stop sign.

Then I began to ponder the Oracle of the South Bay and the deeper meaning of his utterance. “Stopping is good.”

What if it wasn’t just about cycling?

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