Wankmeister cycling clinic #18: UCLA Road Race prep

February 16, 2013 § 8 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I’m a Cat 4 doing my first road race and I’m doing UCLA which is on the Punchbowl course and I hear its a pretty hard race but I’ve been ridding a lot of hills lately in PV and doing a couple of attacks on the NPR so how do you think I’ll do and is my preparation enough to at least get on the podium? How does this rode race compare to the Donut Ride?

Wistfully,
Frankie Gonzalez

Dear Gonzo:

Your preparation is perfect, but that’s because for a first time Cat 4 at UCLA Road Race 2013, any preparation is perfect. Sitting on the couch eating Cheez-its is perfect, because for you the result will be the same: By the end of Mile One you will get coughed out the back like a piece of gooey phlegm, and certainly annihilated no later than the middle of Mile Two. The Punchbowl course is to the Donut Ride as getting your nuts run through a meatgrinder is to flossing your teeth.

Factually,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

Deep dish or shallow rims? 54 or 53 teeth (I hear the downhill is blazing fast.) Rear cog–how big?

Technically,
Acky Accurate

Dear Aaaack:

Deep dish if you want to get caught by the first big side gust of wind on the 50 mph descent and go sailing off into the barbed wire fence and from thence face-first into a pile of steaming cow turds. Run the 54 so you can fly on the downhill, then bog down in the rolling crosswind terrain, get blown out the back because you’re overgeared, and retire at the end of the first lap for apres-ski bon-bons and fifteen minutes of cool-down on the trainer. Nothing smaller than a 67 for the rear. There should be less than 1″ clearance between the biggest rear cog and the rails on your saddle.

Gigglingly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

What’s the typical tempo of this race? My plan is to sit in for the first three laps and then try to attack on the climb on the last lap and get away. What do you think?

Cunningly,
DQ Smedley

Dear DQ:

I think you’re an idiot. Unless you consider “sitting in” being shoved into the gutter single file with your tongue wrapped around the spokes and bleeding from the eyes and throwing every ounce of life you’ve got into staying attached to the hairy dude in front of you who’s already gapping out as the leaders turn up the electric skillet to high less than a mile into the race, you’re in for the shock of you life. There’s no “sitting in” at UCLA unless you’ve got a lawn chair at the finish line and a cooler of beer. Or hot tea and a bonfire in the event it snows, hails, and then rains, like it did three years ago.

Dose of reality,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I’m not a good clumber, but I want to do UCLA RR to help my teammates. Good idea? Bad idea?

Probingly,
Sammy Speculum

Dear Spec:

You want to help your teammates at UCLA but you can’t climb? There’s a place for dudes like you. It’s called the feed zone.

Parchedly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

How would you rank the following riders (all have pre-registered) for the UCLA RR?

  1. THOG
  2. G$
  3. Jeff K.
  4. Tri-Dork
  5. John H.
  6. Mongo from Bako
  7. Kong
  8. Bennydril

Oddly,

Jimmy (the Greek)

Dear Jimmy:

  1. THOG: He will either win or get first.
  2. G$: He will either get second or be the runner-up.
  3. Jeff K.: Best man at the wedding. Again.
  4. Tri-Dork: He’s lost 49 pounds just by giving up butter (that he used to put in his beer). He got dropped twelve times at Boulevard and TIME TRIALED BACK ON EVERY TIME. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
  5. John H.: He is too nice, but he will still crush 95% of the field.
  6. Mongo from Bako: Mongo and I have been practicing synchronized ‘cross bike dancing. We will be the prettiest duo in the field (with matching ‘cross frames and cantilever brakes). See our video here.
  7. Kong: He will pound. Then flail. Then pound some more. Then flail. Then collect his prize for Largest Dude Who Belongs In A Crit And Ain’t Afraid Of No Damned Hilly Road Race.
  8. Bennydril: No team to help, except for Kong, who’ll be in a different orbit. He’ll be isolated and beaten by superior numbers.

Conclusively,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

How come Charon don’t do hilly road races?

Doubtingly,
Bak Stabber

Dear Bak:

I don’t know. How come Kobe doesn’t play offensive tackle?

Stupid questions get stupid answeringly,
Wankmeister

END

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Boulevard road race and tragedy, Part 2

February 5, 2013 § 15 Comments

At the starting line we very old fellows staged behind the somewhat old fellows in the 35+ race. Stefanovich was there, and looked back at me.

“I made it!” he grinned.

“Sorry about that,” I replied.

“No, dude, I was inspired by your blog. This is gonna be awesome!”

“Inspired?”

Dandy Andy, whose four-foot handlebar mustache drooped down to his knees, nodded vigorously. “Yeah! We read it on the way down. Inspired!”

“Oh,” I said glumly. “Then you missed the point.”

“I did?” asked Stefanovich.

“Yes, it was supposed to be a demotivational piece, something to despire you from coming, not inspire you to show up.”

Stefanovich laughed. “Yeah, well we’re here now! So braaang it!”

The whistle sounded and off they went.

He’s got your whole world (in his hands)

When it came our turn, my only concern was whether I’d get dropped on the 10-mile twisting, tailwind descent. The ref sent us off with a warning. “Okay, guys, watch out for the turns on the descent. We’ve already lost seven or eight riders in high speed collisions, so I’m asking you to take it easy the first lap. After that you can do whatever you want.”

I wondered why our lives were precious on lap one, but worthless on laps two and three, until I realized the ref’s unspoken subtext: “Most of you wankers won’t be around for the second lap, so it will be safe to go full throttle.”

Ulp.

After cresting the first brief, gentle 2-mile climb, we hit the downhill. My 50 x 11 immediately spun out, but I was prepared for the acceleration and sprunted onto the end of the whip, letting the slipstream suck me along.

The down side to being on the end was simple: There were about fifteen wankers ahead of me who were scared shitless, and with good reason, as they were clueless about how to handle their bikes at 50 mph in a tight formation on a twisty road. I had a flashback to the year before, when Tree Perkins had lost control, crossed the center line, and leaped up into a fence, then a shrub, then climbed a tree with his bike.

The feeling of helplessness was complete. My life was wholly dependent on the flubs and flails of some Cat 4 wanker who had just turned 45 and decided to ride with the “safe” dudes rather than the suicidal Cat 4 field, not realizing that it was these very aged Cat 4 wankers who made our normally conservative old fellows’ category so deadly on a course like this.

As if on cue, Tri-Dork dropped back to a couple of wheels in front of me. Tri-Dork was the one wheel I wanted to avoid beyond all others, but like a moth drawn to a flame, could not. Tri-Dork’s bad bike handling skills, which had caused him to flub and crash on a dry road one morning with only one other rider and shatter his shoulder, were accentuated times a thousand by the speed and the turns.

Swooping through each curve, Tri-Dork wobbled, braked, gapped, accelerated, and slashed his way through the formation with terrifying abandon. Charging up through the field at just the moment he should have been slowing down, Tri-Dork got bumped and did the only thing you’d expect a recovering triathlete to do in a bike race: He panicked and shot for the center line.

If a car had been coming in the other direction this story would be an obituary extolling his bravery, instead, he regained control and charged back into the field. “Tri-Dork!” I shouted. “Get the fuck away from everyone! And stay out of the trees!”

The race in earnest

Today’s elderly fellow beatdown and prostate abuse ride would be dominated by Big Orange and Amgen. We turned off the downhill and began the climb up Las Posas, with Mike Hotten of Big Orange setting tempo on the front. His steady pace was the first phase of the Big O “softening up.”

A huge rivalry had shaped up between Big O and Amgen. Steve Klasna, who had ridden for Big O the year before and is one of the best racers in SoCal, now rode for Amgen and was looking for his first victory of the year. Thurlow Rogers a/k/a Turbo a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG had won Boulevard the year before, and as one of the the greatest American cyclists in history, as usual he had come to win. Backed by national champion and locomotive Malcolm Hill, Amgen was closely matched against Big O.

The race day favorite was Greg Leibert, whose teammate Jeff Konsmo could be expected to play his usual role of policeman/late attacker. New to the 45+ fold was John Hall, easily one of the top climbers in the South Bay and a guy who always kept a strong finishing kick for hilltop finishes. Former Boulevard vainquer Todd Darley would also play a key team role, with Tri-Dork flying the wild card colors in his 45+ debut. One of the biggest men to line up for Boulevard, Tri-Dork had proven the year before at the UCLA Punchbowl course that size was no limiter, as he’d ridden with the leaders for most of that hilly, attacking course.

Jessup Auto Plaza brought the heat with the Man Who Fears No Hill, Andy Jessup, easily the biggest dude in the field and also the gutsiest. Not content to do the flat crits, he was always pushing the pace in the races least suited for his build, uncowed by altitude or by the toothpick physiques of the likely podium contenders. Benny Parks, who had won for Jessup at P[e]CK[e]RR the week before, would be in the mix, and Jessup’s Brien Miller would play a key role in my own personal Boulevard saga.

Supermotor Jon Flagg, riding mateless for Surf City, tough guy Greg Fenton, and national champ Doug Pomerantz for UCC would round out the movers and shakers in the race. My own SPY-Giant-RIDE Cyclery team started with a solid contingent that included Alan Flores, John Hatchitt, Jon Geyer, and Andy Schmidt. As Alan would later remark after posting his best-ever Boulevard finish for 6th place, “We were just passengers today. It was a handful of other guys driving the bus.”

Lap One Climb: Devil take the hindmost

Klasna, Leibert, Konsmo, and THOG sprinted around the kicker that ended Las Posas and began the 4-mile climb up to the finish on Old Highway 80. The pace went from cool to warm to hot to full-fryalator. Midway up the climb the field had been reduced from about 70 to no more than 40 riders. Thankfully I’d started at the front, and as Konsmo and Co. turned up the screws and my legs seized up there were plenty of spaces to fall back without getting dropped completely.

The survivors were now in one nasty line, and as Leibert and THOG looked back to assess the damage, it occurred to them that, with the remainder of the field bleeding from the eye sockets, now would be a good time to ride in earnest. Their two-man attack left the rest of the field gasping and huddling for a rear wheel.

With about a mile to go the pack bunched up and I realized that today would be the first time in four attempts that I’d ever finished Boulevard with the lead group on the first lap. It was more than euphoria. It was victory, and it tasted sweet.

As we piled into the start/finish, however, the leaders ratcheted up the pace and blew out a handful of riders on the steep finish line pitch. My victory evaporated as I realized that my race was about to end at one lap. Fortunately, we crested the finishing hill with Amgen’s Robb Mesecher coming by, and by latching onto his wheel and double-wide draft was able to maintain contact with the group, which was now strung out in a mad chase to bring back G$ and THOG.

Once we hit the descent, the group had thinned considerably, but Tri-Dork was still very much there. G$ and THOG had returned to the fold, and Hotten again rode tempo on the green tennis court vomity stretch of Las Posas. We pushed up onto Old Highway 80, rolled slowly for a hundred yards or so, then exploded as Konsmo, G$, and THOG blew apart the group.

A few seconds before I popped we overtook Aaron Wimberley, a sprinter in the 35+ race and one of the few fast men with guts enough to take on a hilly killer like Boulevard, rather than hiding and waiting for the speedfest at the short, flat, fast crit the following day. “Go, Wanky!” he yelled as we flew by. I “went,” all right…straight off the back.

As I cratered, Brien Miller yelled at me. “Come on, wanker! Dig!”

“I’m digging!” I gasped. “My grave!”

My race had ended midway up the climb on the second lap as I watched the leaders ride off, then came detached from the chase group. I soft pedaled to catch my breath, well aware that the next lap and a half would be done alone, into the wind, slowly, with nothing left in the tank.

As I recounted to myself all the grand successes of the day (finished one lap with the leaders, got halfway up the second lap with the leaders, almost sort of kind of practically didn’t get dropped, etc.), I heard an awful noise behind me. It sounded like a large animal in its death throes, or like a giant engine with a major internal part broken and rattling loose, or like a one-eyed monster from the Black Lagoon coming up from behind to eat you.

I didn’t dare look back, and it’s a good thing I didn’t, because when the shadow of Malcolm Hill came by, it took everything I had to latch on. Powerful arms flexing, mighty legs pounding, bellows-sized lungs blowing like a racehorse, Malcolm had the chase group in his sights and he wasn’t slowing down.

Soon we’d overtaken Brien. “Dig!” I shouted as we went by.

He grinned and hopped on. Malcolm flicked me through with his elbow after a solid half-mile haul, but all I could do was fizzle and fade for a few strokes before Brien came through with a powerful surge. Between Malcolm and Brien, with me sitting on the back taking notes and adjusting my socks, we closed the gap to the chase group to within a hundred yards.

Suddenly my inner wanker blossomed, and the possibility of catching on spurred me to actually take a pull. I leaped forward, temporarily dropping the two mates who had done all of the work, latching onto the back of the chasers. Malcolm and Brien joined, and a quick glance proved that this was indeed the chase group to be in.

Get that Flagg, Darling, and put Pomegranate on it

Jon Flagg, Todd Darley, and Doug Pomerantz comprised the chasers, along with a couple of other horses, and the leaders were briefly in sight, though they vanished after the turn onto the descent. Whittled down to about ten expert riders and one Wankstar, these elderly fellows conducted a downhill clinic on the backside of the course.

I’ve never felt safer at 50 mph on a bike as Malcolm & Co. drilled us through the tight turns at max speed, max lean, and never so much as a waver or a wobble. With a few miles to go before the turn onto Vomit Road, Darley leaped off the front. The final effort to bring him back, just before the turn, revealed the incredible once we’d crossed the tracks: The leaders were right there.

As we steamrolled up to the leaders I spied a poor sod in a Swami’s kit flailing in the gravel off the road to let us by. He wasn’t pedaling squares, he was pedaling triangles. He had that Wankmeister look of dropdom that comes from having ridden alone, fried, cold, into the wind, by yourself, for most of the race. He was haggard and beaten and defeated and covered with the frozen crust of snot and spit and broken dreams.

It was Stefanovich.

“Come on, you fucking wanker!” I yelled as we roared by. “Get out of the fucking dirt and race your dogdamned bike!”

He looked up and smiled through the crusty snot.

A few hard turns and we’d reconnected. Todd paid for his efforts by slipping off the back, and Tri-Dork, who’d made an amazing reattachment, was likewise surgically removed. More incredibly, G$ and THOG were still there.

My one lap victory had now become the ride of my life: I was finishing the third lap at the head of the field, and in my excitement I surged to the front as we crested the first rise on Las Posas. G$ looked over and grinned. “Wanker! Hit it, buddy!”

I swelled up like a big old balloon, pounded hard for three strokes, then blew and got dropped. As my race ended yet again, I passed a Jessup wanker from the 35+ race. “Get your ass up there, you quitter!” he yelled.

Spurred by shame I dug and caught onto Malcolm’s wheel just as we flew over the cattle guard.

A few pedal strokes later I was rested and taking stock. There were fifteen riders left. Just then, G$ glanced over to the side and attacked. It was a thing of beauty. With fourteen riders keyed on this one guy, and with him already having ridden a 15-mile breakaway, he kicked it hard. No one could follow as he dangled just off the point. It was that moment in the race where everyone tried to rationalize the reason they weren’t chasing, while refusing to admit they were too tired and afraid and broken and chickenish and weak.

G$ dangled for a mile, getting slightly farther away as Konsmo and Hall kept the pace brisk enough to discourage any followers.

Except one.

With the animal fury that’s his trademark, THOG ripped away from the peloton. “There,” we all thought, “goes the race. If I chase I’m doomed. I think I’ll just sit in and hope for third.”

By the time we hit the big climb for the final time, cat and mouse had begun. Only problem was, the cat and the mouse were up the road and out of sight. So it was more like roaches and Raid. Flagg attacked repeatedly but no one was letting him go anywhere. After the third surge, Konsmo rolled. The gap opened, and then he vanished.

“Well,” we all thought, “fourth is pretty respectable to brag to the GF about. I’ll fight for fourth.”

As we approached the start/finish, the hard attacks came for real. With a few hundred yards to go I had to choose between getting dropped and getting dropped, so I wisely chose to get dropped. “Fifteenth,” I told myself “is damned respectable in this race. And even if it isn’t, I’ll claim it is.”

G$ outlasted THOG for the win. I crept across the line significantly behind #14.

Big Orange took first,third, and fifth. Amgen walked away with second, ninth, and tenth.

But if you ask me, it was 325-lb. wobblywheels Tri-Dork, finishing 25th in his very first Boulevard outing who went home with the best ride of all.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 3, “Post-race analysis of why you’re a fucking wanker for not showing up”

2013 Boulevard road race, a tragedy in three parts

February 3, 2013 § 8 Comments

Part I: The Venus fly-trap

I stood in the sunny parking area, having just arrived at Boulevard, and contemplated the only thing that a bike racer contemplates before registering and changing into his battle garb: Where are the port-o-potties?

Then I remembered that Boulevard had none. The smart money voided the chamber up at the Golden Acorn casino gang toilets; the dumb money drove down to the race site and used the quaint wooden latrines.

I peeked into the first one, which was easy to do because it had a large window with no glass in it, facing directly from the barbecue and parking area into the direct view of a toilet. On the down side, if you were scarfing a hot dog with chili and looked the wrong way, you’d catch a full frontal of someone grunting and straining away to make space for another round of wieners.

On the upside, if you were the one grunting and straining, you got to watch all your friends drink, eat, and be merry while you took a little sunbath and did your business.

I looked in and was greeted by G$, trousers around his ankles as he soaked in the scenery and the sunshine. “Yo!” he said. “Don’t be shy!”

I stuck my head further into the window and looked at the other two units. Using either would have required a hazmat suit, so I sauntered around the building and entered the other toilet. This one had no windows, was almost pitch black, and had a single unit stuck over in the corner. Spiders and roaches and a scorpion scurried off as I approached.

My eyes adjusted to the gloom, and indeed the unit was spotless. It’s amazing how clean a public pooper will remain, even in a barbecue venue frequented by tweekers and chili-dog aficionados, when it’s guarded by scorpions.

I brushed a couple off the rim and into what was sure to be a very unpleasant way to die, even for a scorpion, and settled in. I could hear footsteps outdoors and voices.

“That other place was out in the fucking open practically. I ain’t shitting there. Gotta have my privacy.”

The two speakers stepped into my domain and saw me over in the corner. “Oh, wow, dude, sorry.”

“No problem,” I said. “I’ll be done shortly. Just watch out for the scorpions.”

If it looks sunny and feels warm, put on an extra layer

After registration I got dressed. Thermal undershirt. Thermal arm warmers. Jersey. As I got ready to put on my thermal long-sleeve jersey, Quickie drove up. “Yo, dude!” he said. “I got 34th here last year!”

“That’s, uh, awesome.”

“You got 36th!”

“I did?”

“Yeah, you were behind me.”

“That makes sense, I guess, if you were 34th and I was 36th.”

“Yeah, you were 36th. I was almost 33rd.”

“What happened?”

“Fucking pit bull chased me down on the final climb. I tried to sprint away but cramped.”

“Did you live? Or did he kill you?”

“I had to get off my bike and put the bike between me and him. I thought he was going to eat my fucking frame. That’s how come I got 34th.”

“Bummer. I mean, awesome.”

“You were behind me,” he reminded me again.

“Oh, yeah, well I was behind a lot of people.”

“Thirty-five of them, actually. You were 36th.”

This was getting repetitive, even for me. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Hey, what’s with the long-sleeve jersey? It’s fucking 70 degrees out here.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You’ll broil in that thing. Stick a butter pat, some soy sauce and  ketchup down your back after the first lap and the coyotes will be able to eat you barbecued. Don’t overdress, dude.”

“I won’t. But the wind is howling out on the course. And if you get dropped you won’t finish before five. And by then the shadows will be long. And the cold wind will cut to your core. And your sweat will freeze. And you will die if you’re lucky. The warm weather at the start lulls everyone into a false sense of security. Out on the course the helpless riders freeze and seize. It’s like a Venus fly-trap. Invites you in, then covers you in the toxic goo of your own sweat, spit, blood, and mucous, and kills you. That’s Boulevard.”

“You planning on getting dropped, then?”

“I always get dropped at Boulevard.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Me. too. But I was…”

“Thirty-fourth last year,” I finished.

“Yeah!” he brightened. “And you were 36th!”

Bike racing is a sport of tiny, incremental changes to maximize performance

Lauren and Ron Peterson have helped me immensely as I’ve become more focused on fine-tuning my bike fit. Last winter on a ride Ron said, “Hey, dumbass. Your saddle’s too low. Raise it.”

“Oh. How can you tell?”

“You knees are hitting your chin. Raise the danged saddle.”

“How much?”

“Start with two inches.”

So I did, and immediately noticed positive changes. The next time Ron dropped me on a ride, he said, “Another inch, wanker,” as he whizzed past.

Each time I went to the bike shop to get my saddle raised, the mechanic shook his head. “You can’t raise your saddle two inches at one time. That’s massive.”

“Oh. How much do most people raise it?”

“A giant lift is a centimeter. Usually it’s done in millimeters.”

“Make it three inches, then.”

Lauren had also helped me with my bike fit. “Yo, Wanky,” she said. “That bike posture where you’re all hunched like a dog going after a sofa cushion is robbing you of power. Not that you have any.”

“Really?”

“Fact. You need to find a balance between being squeezed over your bike like a pretzel and sitting up in the saddle like a windmill. Bump up your stem a fraction.”

So I threw away the whole stem and got one of those up-pointing dork stem things that raises your bars about a foot.

“You don’t do things by halves, do you?” she said as we walked over to the Boulevard Cafe to get a cup of coffee.

“Nope.”

Victory and defeat are defined by the care one uses in choosing one’s equipment

A few days before the race I’d gotten tired of my road bike, and had taken it over to Luca Brazzi’s for him to part and sell on e-Bay. “Dude,” he said. “Glad to do it, but aren’t you racing Boulevard this weekend?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you gonna do for a bike?”

“I’ll ride my ‘cross bike.”

Luca looked at me for a minute, pausing politely for the punch line. None came. “Dude. You can’t race Boulevard on a ‘cross bike. You’ll get dropped on the first lap.”

“I always get dropped on the first lap.”

“Then you’ll get dropped in the parking lot.”

“So I’ll get home early.”

“What are you going to do for gearing?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know on the back side of the course where you spin out a 54 x 11?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you think is going to happen when you’re running a 50-tooth chain ring?”

“I, uh, hadn’t really thought about it.”

“Here’s what’s going to happen: Your fucking legs are going to come unhitched at the pelvis and you’re going to kill whoever’s next to you when they get speared by your bony fucking legs whistling through the air at 50 mph. Here. Take the bike back. We can part it and e-Bay it after the race.”

I had, however, made up my mind. “Nah,” I said. “My Giant ‘cross bike handles better than the Venge anyway. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re nuts,” he said.

Proper nutrition is the key to success

I was fanatical about proper eating prior to and during a race. That morning I’d had oatmeal, raisins, kimchi, eggs, sausage, yogurt, fruit, and coffee. The fartage alone would shell a dozen or so riders.

An hour before the race I carefully unwrapped my magic lunch. Quickie peeked in. “What the hell are you eating?”

“PB sandwich.”

“Before a race?”

“Yeah. But I’ve got coffee to wash it down with.”

He shook his head and went back to his car.

Humpster wandered over. He was doing Boulevard for the first time and wanted some advice from a seasoned wanker who’d been dropped every time on the first lap for four years in a row. “What are you doing for nutrition during the race?”

“I’m taking a small water bottle.”

“What are you putting in it?”

“Water.”

“Dude,” he said. “The race is almost seventy miles. You’ll die.”

I thought for a second. “You’re right. I’ll take two.”

He rolled his eyes. “What about food?”

“I don’t need food. I’m just taking a pocketful of these.” I showed him a handful of dates.

“Gross. What the fuck are those? Baby turds?”

“They’re medjool dates. Filled with, uh, energy stuff and things.”

“Gimme one.”

Before I could warn him about the unbreakable granite pit in the center, he chomped hard. Shards of tooth went everywhere. “Dogfuckit!” he screamed. “My tooth!”

“I was gonna warn you,” I said. “About the pit. It’s really hard.”

He stanched the blood with his cycling glove and staggered back to his car. “Don’t worry!” I called after him. “It’s just one tooth! That’s why Dog gave you 32. Or was it 36?”

Quickie, who had only heard part of the conversation, shouted over, “You got 36th, dude! Thirty-sixth!”

Perfect preparation on the day before the race is the key

On Friday I’d ridden to work and then gone to the gym. Since I wasn’t  riding hard, I figured it would be a great day to do some squats. I loaded up the bar with two massive five-pound plates on each end and went into a deep squat.

The giant muscled man with tattoos looked on in amazement. “Dude,” he said as I grunted and roared and strained and heaved and pushed and sweated and almost threw out my back as my legs straightened, “you’ve only got ten pounds on the bar.”

It took me a couple of minutes to catch my breath. “I know,” I said. “But today I’m going big, so get outta my way.”

As I finished off the set, a small group of hecklers gathered around the squat rack. “C’mon, Wankster! You can squat those ten pounds! Be the animal! Be the beast!”

“Let’s do it Wanky! Well, maybe you should replace the fives with 2.5’s. Just sayin’!”

After three sets my thighs were so wrecked that Tattoo Dude had to grab me by the armpits to lift me to a standing position. It briefly occurred to me that all this thigh work might not be such a great idea the day before a big race. “Fuggit,” I told myself, and moved over to the inclined leg press thingy.

Still delirious from the massive squattage, I accidentally put on the 45-lb. plates instead of the 25-lb. plates. When I released the switch control protector thingy, the entire contraption came crashing down like, well, a ton of steel plates, jamming my right knee hard into my rib cage. I felt a sharp pain and something under the skin went “pok-kee-t.”

I somehow got the weights back up to where I could engage the protector locking thingy, and tried to stand up. The sharp stabbing in my rib cage was so intense I could barely breathe. Tattoo Dude came over. “You fuck yourself up, Wankster?”

“I…gasp…think…gasp…I’m…gasp…okay.”

“Where does it hurt?”

I pointed to my rib. “Here…gasp…”

“Oh, you probably just bruised or broke a rib. Get back into the fucking leg press and finish your set. Just don’t hit your damned broken rib with your knee and you’ll be fine.”

He put me back into the leg press thingy and reduced the weight to an amount appropriate for a young elementary schoolgirl and watched as I completed the set. Between the pain in my rib and the pain in my throbbing thighs I could barely breathe.

Tattoo Dude then slapped on a couple of the giant plates, two per side. “Here you go. Now do some calf raises.”

When I finished he picked me up out of the thingy and carried me over to the leg extender. “You wanna go big? You wanna be big? You wanna flex and pop those veins? We’ll get you beefed up in no time.”

“But, Boulevard tomorrow…” I protested.

“Yeah, you can walk up and down the fuckin’ Boulevard tomorrow all day long, and all night, too. We’ll put legs on your skinny ass that will get you all the tricks you can handle.”

He plopped me down into the leg extender and loaded it up with a huge, unthinkable 60 pounds. “Hit it!” he yelled.

Out of fear I jerked my legs straight, each knee joint making creaks and pops and tearing noises that sounded like a wing separating from a fuselage in outer space, that hollow, empty rending sound of bone and muscle and gristle all twisting knotting and grinding. “More, you weakling!” he roared.

Three sets later I was in tears. He carried me out of the gym and set me gently on the curb. “Good job, weakling. You won’t be able to walk tomorrow, but that’s what it takes if you want to go big.”

“Walk tomorrow?” I thought. “I can’t even walk to the car.”

When it all comes together: Nutrition, equipment, adjustments, clothing, and pre-race preparation

Finally zipping up my jersey, I assembled my ‘cross bike. Now I was really wondering about the downhill. How windy would it be? What if I had the gears to hang on the climb, but got shelled on the damned downhill? How mortifying would that be?

I hopped on the bike to warm up, and my legs seized. The weights from the day before had completely destroyed what little musculature I had to begin with. Then I gasped from the sharp stab of the broken rib.

Had I done anything right?

I saw John Hall pedal by, and realized, “Yes, I have. I have the best-pinned on number in the whole damned race.”

John had failed his comprehensive exams in Basic Number Pinning On, and had left huge gaps in the tops of his numbers. Whether he thought he’d save weight on safety pins, or whether he was counting on the reverse sail effect of the billowing numbers to push him faster, or whether he was planning to psych out his competition with the constant whirr, buzz, flap, and chatter from the fluttering paper numbers, it worked, as he turned in one of the great rides of the day.

At the beginning, though, he sounded like a small helicopter. It gave me some measure of confidence. My numbers were perfectly placed so that I could access the dates in my rear pockets and so that the officials could easily read my number. Not that it’s hard to read a number when you’re the last guy crossing the line, alone…

Tune in tomorrow for Part II: The Vomilitious Road to Hell

News from around the Empire

January 18, 2013 § 11 Comments

As of today I’m free at last, free at last, thank Dog almighty I’m free at last. “Why?” you ask. Because henceforth when I get asked The Question(s) about The Cyclist I get to say, after thoughtfully furrowing my brow, this: “Well, it’s a good question. I suggest you go out and ride your bicycle in order to answer it.”

Elbow testing: Junkyard thwacked his rebuilt elbow yesterday at the start of the NPR, right where the electronic circuitry connected to the shoulder bone, which was connected to the brain bone, which was connected to the new PV Kit bone, which got shredded and tore a hole bigger than Dallas. The ‘bow, however, is rock solid minus a touch of cosmetic road wear. They DID build him better than he was before.

Bellyflop: Neumann/aka Hockeystick/now known as “Belly” did a track stand at the turnaround on the NPR, had his wheel chopped, and tumbled off his bicycle. No harm done, and he was quickly helped by Rahsaan. He did, however, bounce when he hit. I’ve never seen that before. Belly, time to try the South Bay Wanker Diet. It’s painful, but it works and it’s free. PS: Track stands in the middle of swirling roadie packs = Numbskullish.

First blood: Charon Smith scored his first win of the year at Ontario last week, finishing so far ahead of the field that he had time to completely recover from his sprint effort and shave his head by the time he crossed the line. The finish photo shows everyone with teeth gritted, faces twisted, bodies hunched over the bars looking like they’re running from a zombie army, and Charon with arms raised, mouth closed, and no visible signs of exertion as he cruises to the win. I’m pretty sure there were some intense post-race team huddles at MRI/Monster Media, and they went like this:

“Don’t ever let it finish in a bunch sprint again, dogdammit!”

“I told you we’re going to have to break away to win! Only way to outsprint Charon is by making him do the 1/2 races, where he belongs.”

“We can’t have him in a break, ever!”

“At CBR we’ll attack the entire race until we get away!”

“If we work together with the other 99 riders in the race, we might have a chance!”

Etc.

By the way, good luck with that plan!

Get ready for CBR: The first South Bay crit of the year happens on Sunday when Chris Lotts puts on the Dominguez Hills Anger Crit Thingy. Please show up to support local road racing in SoCal. Yes, you’ll be pack meat, just like last year. So what?

Winter’s over: The South Bay endured seven (some say eight) days of brutal winter this month, where early temperatures got down to 39, and the highs never crested 65. Thankfully, the bitter temperatures are over, and we’re slowly returning to lows in the high 40’s, highs in the high 70’s. Don’t put away your heavy winter clothing yet, but for sure rotate it to the back of the closet.

Bad wind news: G$ is in Scottsdale testing his bike position in a wind tunnel. Great. A faster G$. Just what those of us in the Elderly Fellows category need.

Gitcher waffle on: The Belgian Waffle Ride is set for April 7, 2013. It will be the hardest one-day ride of the year, where chicken tactics, wheelsucking, and letting others do all the work will earn you nothing more than infamy and a purple card. This will be first and foremost a contest between you and the road. Finish it and you’ll know satisfaction!

Mad props to Dorothy: The 2012 cyclocross season has ended in SoCal, and it couldn’t have gone better or been done without the extraordinary efforts and work and innovation and enthusiasm of Dorothy Wong. I bailed after about ten races. That shit is hard. Next year, which I suppose would be this year, I’ll be in for the whole season now that I know what I’m in for. Thanks to Dorothy for making ‘cross such a success.

Equipment flail: After dissing on my Night Rider lighting system and replacing it with the tube-shaped Serfas light, I can happily report that the Serfas is far superior except that it shuts off every time I hit a bump, and after about four or five bumps it won’t restart without a 1-minute pause or longer. That’s a long-ass time when you’re bombing down VdM on Bull’s wheel at dark-thirty. For $150.00 you’d almost expect something that would work, but then you remember, “It’s an elite cycling product, so of course it’s a pile of shit unless you spend at least $500.00.”

Smooth looking skin: Since incorporating kimchi into my diet, Mrs. Wankmeister has advised me that my skin is softer, more lustrous, and gradually shedding the leathery, scaly, rough, scabbed-over look that comes with road cycling. Though I don’t give a rat’s ass about the  beauty aspect, I do believe that healthier skin will stave off the skin cancer in my future for at least a year or two, and Professor Google confirms that kimchi is the wonderfood for healthy skin. The downside of course are the kimchi farts. Those things are vicious, however, they too have a beneficial effect on skin, as anyone on your wheel gets an instant facial dermal peel when one of those suckers rips into their face. You have to be careful, though, because they can also melt the polarizing slits on your expensive cycling glasses.

On the French Toast Ride, no one can hear you scream

January 11, 2013 § 20 Comments

[Private message sent out to lucky invitee participants of Dave Jaeger’s Annual and Legendary Southern California French Toast Ride Beatdown and Smacktalk Session]

Dear Wankers,

By now you’ve checked the weather forecast. Rather, you’ve been compulsively checking it for the last month, hoping for rain, or snow, or even heavy clouds, anything to make Jaeger call off this nonsensical affair.

The bad news is that in Camarillo tomorrow it will only be partly cloudy with no snow or tsunamis in the forecast. The worse news is that when we roll out it will be 35 degrees. The worst news of all is that you have no idea what to wear.
Leg warmers? But what if it doesn’t warm up in time?

Tights? What if it gets too hot? Isn’t the high supposed to be 58?

Shoe covers? But aren’t they heavy and won’t they slow you down? Plus, they’re too bulky to put in your jersey, right? And they look clunky. But you hate cold feet. You bonk when your feet get cold, remember?

Maybe you should wear toe covers? But toe covers won’t do anything in 25 degree weather. Twenty-five degrees? Right, twenty-five, because with the wind chill you can knock off a good ten degrees, and that’s assuming the wind isn’t already blowing straight into your face, which it did last year for the first ten miles. If it does that tomorrow at 35 degrees, you’ll be dead by mile six. How will you keep warm?

Embro? You haven’t used it all year because you’ve been golfing and cooking Cornish hens in your new, oversized George Foreman Cooker like Harry, or sleeping ‘til noon like Yuletide, or not riding at all like Toronto. If you use embro now you could end up with hot parts, like Skeletor did two years ago. Hot parts for seven hours is a long, hot time.

And so it goes, one worry after another, one nagging concern followed by another bothersome consideration, the concatenation of which will lead to rack and ruin at about mile 80, or much earlier if your name is Dalrymple or some other impossible-to-spell surname.The good news is that there’s nothing you can do about it, and freezing to death might actually be preferable to what’s really in store for all but a tiny handful of riders whose preparation, fitness, hardiness, and  lust for pain are perfectly tuned (that would be me). Longhaired Dude, I’m not talking about you. You’ll get a few sprint points that no one wants anyway and then suffer like a dog the rest of the ride as you suck wheel and refuse to do any work and get shelled on all the climbs before the pace even picks up and then go back to your Team Helen’s wanker buddies and thump your chest.

Old Lug, we know you’ve been silent and training your butt off, but you should have been training your stomach off, because the way that thing hangs down it’s a wonder it doesn’t get caught in your chain. Isn’t there cosmetic surgery for that? And even though you’ve been training like mad, the best you can expect is survival, tucked in at the rear, never sharing the work and letting others drag you across the highways and byways of the FTR.Major Bob, you and Fence will take turns hiding from the wind and then fighting to the death for “biggest dude to make it up the climb without recourse to a defibrillator.” If it’s a tie there will likely be an arm wrestling contest. I’m putting my money on Fence, just because he’s from Philly and has arms like a cheese steak sandwich, although Bob’s military affiliation means that he might be expected to have the heavier caliber weapons or a bayonet that he might use in a pinch.

Punkster, I can’t believe you’re coming back for this ride. Thirty years younger than the next youngest rider, you’ve failed to ever distinguish yourself except as fodder for the first easy attack into Fillmore. After that you’ve been crushed, beaten, dropped, and ground up by people old enough to be your grandfather’s grandfather, or older than Stern-O, even. Well, not older than Stern-O.

G3, your excuse of loose bowels is finely honed and we’ve all been led to expect that you’ll just barely be surviving, but we know it’s cover for the fact that you’ve logged 14,000 base miles this winter squiring the whole pack of Big Orangers up and down PCH at 13 mph on no-drop rides. We know that secretly you’re going to make a surge after sucking wheel the whole ride, sandbagging to the very end and then, if you flail, blaming it on the bowels, but if you succeed, rubbing salt in the wound by saying you did it “At 50%; imagine if I hadn’t been sick.”

Bull, you’ll avoid blowing up in the first mile, maybe, and will do everything in your power to “ride strategically.” However, there’s no “strategy” for getting a boxcar of lead up Casitas and Balcom without a hoist, and the closest thing we had to a hoist in terms of weight, girth, and immobility was Oldman, and he’s quit in order to replace his La-Z-Boy reclinacouch with a triple wide version and built-in brewpub. So you’ll lug yourself up on your hands and knees and promise to do better next time. Hint: you won’t do better until you learn to say “no” to the fifth trip up the buffet line at those 1-percenter conferences you attend every other week.

Stern-O, you’ll suck wheel except for one glory pull where there’s no danger of getting dropped, remind everyone that you’re ten years older in horse years than Methuselah, and will make sure that whatever happens you’re not the last one up Balcom. Then you’ll go home and brag to the obese dude with heart problems who’s your riding partner that you “Hung with Roadchamp and G$ on the climbs.”Roadchamp, no matter how many KOM’s you take, you’ll get no respect because, well, there’s nothing you’ve ever done that’s worthy of it. Except your blingmobile. That is truly awesome. Along with the butcher trophy that you sleep with. (PS: Would you put in your will that I get the butcher trophy? I’ve been sleeping with my ribbon from Brad House’s PV Hillclimb back in ’09, and it’s just not the same.)

Überfred, I’m lumping you with the other Long Beach Freddies as toxic material barely worthy of mention. The entire pack will be pedaling madly to stay away from the cadmium/mercury/radioactive isotopes that all you guys carry on your skin. And frankly, they won’t have to pedal very hard to do it. We’ll see how late into the ride you keep yelling for everyone to “take a pull.” My prediction is that you’ll be silently sucking wheel the entire day, praying that no one sends you into the wind.

Becker Bob, the last time you did this ride you got the award for Dude Who Rode Longest With Fewest Training Miles. That was honorable then, but it’s been two years and you should have ridden your bike in the interim. This year you will be coyote fodder. The Circle K has been boarded up, though, so if you carry a hammer you can pull a few nails, climb in, and at least have somewhere to spend the night.

Bones ‘N Skin, I remember like it was yesterday when you made that acceleration on Lake Casitas, followed by a major engine rupture and rapid reversal of motion. Will 2013 be any different? How? Why? You need to get off the Toronto/Yuletide/Becker Bob training program and increase your mileage to at least three donut shops per week. Really.

Skeletor, you’ve trained for this and this alone for the last three years. Quit pretending otherwise. We’ve followed you on Strava and know that you’re peaking. There will be no excuses this year, no “Wankster blew at the bottom of Balcom after our pee stop attack and collapsed on the guardrails” excusifying. Nope. No broken back, cracked necks, laminated skulls, infected intestines, or anything else. Pressure’s on. Everyone’s got a beautiful, well-polished, handcrafted excuse except you. Welcome to hell.

Anonymous, you’d deserve lots of smack talk except that you’re always hiding so well that I frankly couldn’t pick you out of a crowd of two. Maybe this year you will nose to the front and show your true colors…and as long as they’re not those awful corpse-gray colors you were sporting last year, it will be a good thing. Did you eventually burn those kits? I think they were the ugliest thing in the peloton ever. Until you came up with those checkered things. And Wehrlissimo’s plaid shorts. Yuck!

Gil, you  get a pass for saving that dude’s life in the car. But next year, forget it. The bulls-eye will be so big a blind man could hit it.

Turtle, you’ll cower and shrink again on the 101, unable to pull through, barely able to hang on, a testament to the ill effects of too much beer, too many cheeseburgers, too many videos, and too little time spent riding something other than Überfred’s 26-mile “hammerfests” in the mountains of Long Beach. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll all be watching.

Dalypunzel, Fussy, and Sufer Dan, as newbies you get the fewest words. You are negligible.G$, you’ve already laid claim to doing something spectacular on the climbs and have gone so far as to invoke that little incident last year where you tried to ride your bike under a car. Downhill. At speed. That’s the kind of tactical savvy we’ve come to expect from a dude who thinks that bright green and orange look good together, and tomorrow we expect more poor judgment, reckless displays of strength, and ultimately getting owned by Roadchamp, WHO’S JUST BETTER THAN YOU.

Harry, what can I say? As long as you get on my wheel once, I have the medicine to punish you for your insolence. You inhaled it once on Encinal. You will inhale much, much more tomorrow. I’ve been snacking on a special variety of double-fermented cattle offal kimchee for you and you alone. And no cheating this year on Casitas, you cheating cheaty cheater.

DJ, your efforts on Casitas will be marked. By me. I will drop you just like two years ago, when you flailed, struggled, and surged, only to get kicked out the back at the end at the end of the climb. Okay, so you caught up and dropped me later on the second mini-peak, but that’s because I let you. Tomorrow I will simply let you dangle, then garrot you with an attack of such speed, power, and wild abandon that your last memory will be of a pink flash traveling at the speed of light. No manner of home remodel excuses or fan thingy routing or placement of the urinal (Next to the bed? In the kitchen?) will earn you anything other than a merciless drubbing.

Yuletide, you know you shouldn’t be doing this. You’ve not been riding. You’ve had surgery. Big surgery. Massive surgery. You’ve had kidney failure. Potassium depletion. Erectile dysfunction. Echinaea of the postpartum. And worse. Even without those things you’re a first-class wanker. But your foolish pride and desire to be with the boys is forcing you do something that even Oldman recognized was folly. Repent now, and give your spot to Tink. She’ll ride better, punish more people, and get more out of it than you, who will be in the passenger seat of the sag wagon come mile fifty.

Toronto, as the only person weaker and less trained than Yuletide, people are counting on you to act as a cushion for their own flailing. That would be Fussy, who was, in fact super depressed to learn that Oldman was bailing because he’d pegged Oldman as the one rider who, even mathematically, had no chance of finishing ahead of him. Marc, you had so many great excuses! Too much work; romancing a lovely lady; trips to Rome; ballet lessons. Why not cash in on them now? You’ll crawl up the climbs and be lucky to make it to the top, and I’m just talking about that little bump after we leave the Jaegers’ driveway. Really. This is madness. Quit while you’re still behind.

As for me, I’ve shaved 76 pounds off my normally large frame and now have a power-to-weight ratio of Huge : Tiny. There will be no mercy. I’ve logged more miles than G3 and more intensity than all of G$ and Roadchamp’s big ring workouts combined. I rode one-legged around the peninsula yesterday in a 30-degree sleetstorm wearing only a Speedo and t-shirt. It took fifteen minutes.

I’ll be pre-fueling tonight with a special kimchee combo for Harry, and will be bringing the magic dates-and-almond rocket fuel for in-ride power boosts and speed enhancement. In short, there’s nothing any of you will be able to do in the face of my awesomeness, other than take photos (from a distance) and post cool things on my FB page like “You’re the best!” and “Like” and “Über like.”

Free autographs to the first five who finish after me, $45 each for the rest of you.

There will of course be fine, warm, tasty French toast prior to the screaming beatdown, but here, too, your choices are fraught with peril. Eat too much and ride like you’re dragging a railroad tie. Eat too little and no amount of in-ride fueling will feed the beast on the 101, let alone Casitas and Balcom. But with all the clothes you’re bringing, will there be pocket room for food? How many Gu’s can you force into your jersey? And what’s the best food to take out and eat without having to shuck off three layers of clothing to get to it? And what about zipping and unzipping while you ride? What if you’re not so good at that, and you have to stop to zip back up? What if you get dropped, or if you’re already dropped? Toilet stops? What if the cold makes you pee more than normal? What if “normal” is as often as our leader’s tender prostate, one-urination-per-kilometer?

Oh, and how’re you going to climb Casitas with twelve pounds of wool clothing tied to your waist?

Let’s not forget that your S.O. has a honey-do list for you tonight so you won’t get to bed before one o’clock. Then you’ll toss and turn. And you have a hard time riding on insufficient sleep. I suppose you can keep hoping that maybe it will snow, like it did this week in Palestine for the first time in recorded history.

Well, it’s been fun. I’m going to start my taper now. Say your prayers, if you believe in that sort of thing. The only one who’ll be listening is the stony slope of Balcom Canyon.

The great NPR bike path vs. alleyway controversy

September 26, 2012 § 10 Comments

It’s been simmering for months now.

One group of idiots wants to take the bike path. Another group of idiots wants to take the alleyway.

And today, it all boiled over.

Advocates for the bike path

The bike path has everything going for it. It allows for a slow and measured pace out to the dickstomping grounds of Westchester Parkway. It provides panoramic views of the beauty that is Santa Monica Bay, with Malibu, the mountain peaks, blue skies, and gently breaking waves as a backdrop. It meanders. It is devoid of angry drivers seeking to start their day with a bit of fresh cyclist roadkill. It’s traditional, and it lets you start your day, whether winter, spring, summer, or fall, with a crisp reminder of all that is good and lovely and wonderful about Southern California. If there’s a swell working at El Porto, you may even get to see one of Dan-O’s Danc surfboards shredding the glassy face of a tidy little beach break.

Advocates for the alleyway

The alleyway has nothing going for it. It’s ugly. Cars dart out of garages and cross streets with only inches to spare. Gnarly drainage culverts whack your rims every few hundred yards. The landscape is a gloomy ass-end of homes and condos, blotting out the sky, the sun, the ocean, and the early morning thongage. The occasional pack of grim-face runners will swoop by, looking like runners everywhere look: miserable and in pain.

Like a cheap whore, the alleyway is fast, boneshaking, and gets straight down to the business of going from the Pier to the beatdown in the shortest possible time. At the end of the alleyway, there’s a short jaunt over to Vista del Mar, where the peloton picks up a mashing head of steam, blasts down Mt. Chevron hill, and pounds it hard all the way to the Pershing death launch.

Why would anyone choose the alleyway?

First, because people are sheep, and they will follow where led, even, and especially, to the slaughter. Second, the bike path is often strewn with sand, which creates ickyness inside the links of $250 Campy chains and fancy Chris King freehubs. Third, although the drowsy morning commuters lurching forth pose certain hazards, the bike path features large numbers of the dreaded pathalete, a species of biker/runner/rollerblader/walker/stroller pusher/surfer/skateboarder/razorer who careens along the narrow strip of asphalt, often threatening to bash head-on into the rolling peloton.

Of course, the bike path is luxuriously wondrous for viewing if you’re on the point, but everyone else (except Hockeystick, who’s always got his head turned sideways) has to focus intently on not crashing due to slowing, extremely tight quarters, and the numerous turns that are studded with sand.

But the biggest strike against the bike path is that it’s pleasant and leisurely, so when the nasty reality of the Pershing bump appears, numerous wankers find their kneecaps blown off by the sudden hard surge.

When the voice of the South Bay speaks

…you listen. And this morning, G$ began the ride thus: “Assembled wankers! Today we ride the bike path! It is spoken!”

No one’s voice has the strength of G$’s, and when he pointed his bike down the path, all but six of the massed riders followed. I headed for the alleyway with SBW Eric, Patricia, Canyon Bob, Jens, Pistol Pete, and one or two others. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I was trying to fuel a controversy. There’s a difference.

By the time we reached Dockweiler, we could see over onto the bike path from Vista del Mar, and the wankoton was far ahead. Eric and I rolled steady, trying to make up ground, and apparently we succeeded, attested to by his deep gasps and the strings of snot trailing along my upper lip and around my neck. At the Pershing launch site, Canyon Bob sprunted up the hill. Bucks and a handful of others saw us coming and wrongly assumed we were the main group.

Canyon Bob kept mashing, I clung to his wheel, and by World Way ramp at LAX we had a flailaway group that included Chris Stewart, Dan Luzier, Chris Cooke, and four or five others who all died an untimely death by the time we dropped down back onto Pershing. At the turn onto Westchester there were just four of us. The main peloton was far behind and apparently not willing to chase. After a while Dan crawled into the gutter and rolled up in a fetal position. We soldiered on.

One for the record books

Of the many incredible benefits of doing a clusterfuck like the NPR, none surpasses this: If you flail, you can blame it on the lights or on the speeding peloton working together to rein in your heroicism. If you prevail, you can chalk it up to your general greatness and wonderfulability on the bike. Conversely, if you’re in the pack and someone escapes, you can blame it on the lights you had to stop at, or the traffic you had to wait for at the turnarounds, or on the unwillingness of the dawdling peloton to work together to rein in those OTF wankers.

In short, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone, and you can always tell your wife how awesome you were and how everyone else sucked.

Today saw the first time in the history of the NPR that a breakaway stayed away for the entire four laps around the Parkway. The victors chalked it up to their speed, their ability to work together (as Jack from Illinois [not his real name] would say), their canny sense of timing, their hardness into the wind, their incredible ability to endure pain that would destroy mere mortals, and their fancy bicycling outfits.

Grumpy wankers in the peloton saw it differently, as this menu of comments suggests:

Prez: You were off the front the whole time? I thought you had a flat and got dropped.

Black Sheep Squadron: You didn’t win the NPR, dude, you cheated by taking a shorter route.

Hoss: No one bothered to chase. Didn’t you see us soft-pedaling and laughing at you each time you passed on the other side of the Parkway?

Stathis the Wily Greek: We let you have it.

Ol’ Bollix: Dude, you sneaked away on Vista del Mar and hammered before anyone even knew you were gone. Then you ran all the red lights except one, and you only stopped there because of the cop car. Finally, it’s the fuggin’ off season and the only people on the point were the schmoes who use this as their one chance all year to go to the front. What a fuggin’ joke. You guys are a sneaky bunch of cheatbag wanktards.

As I said, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone. Which begs the question, now that the wankoton has seen that a well-timed, well-placed, well-stoplighted breakaway can p*wn the group, when faced with the choice of bike path vs. alleyway on Thursday…

…which one will it be?

Crazy little thing called “love”

August 15, 2012 § 5 Comments

High levels of molybdenum can interfere with the body’s uptake of copper, producing copper deficiency. Symptoms include diarrhea, stunted growth, anemia, and achromotrichia. On the other hand, not having enough causes high levels of sulfite and urate, and neurological damage. So it makes sense that in order to get just the right amount, you’d go to Leadville, CO for the weekend, a scenic little village known for its molybdenum production.

What makes less sense is that you’d go there for a 104-mile bike race. It’s located at 19,324 feet, which is higher than Mt. Everest, although slightly shorter than Via la Cuesta (per Nancy). Leadville is an old mining town, which is tourist-speak for “run down, polluted shit-hole that is unbearably cold in winter, too far from everything fun in summer, and populated by people who, after four generations, all look the same.”

It took a visionary like Ken Chlouber, a former mining supervisor, to revive the town on a tried-and-true concept: There’s a sucker born every minute!

The night before the race

Nothing is as nerve-wracking as the night before a big race, and our hero from the South Bay had made the trek determined to succeed. He had prepared. He knew the course backwards and forwards. He had memorized every single rest stop, poop stop, waystation, halfway house, IV drip station, and custom coffin manufacturer. There would be no surprises.

He’d prepared all year to be the best HUB at the Leadville 100, the hand-up bitch to beat all hand-up bitches. It would be a huge responsibility keeping Mighty Mouse and Tree fueled for this epic race, but he’d grown a three-foot beard. He’d bought a crumpled cowboy hat. He was wearing an orange skirt. G$ was ready.

That’s “MISTER” Hand-up Bitch to you, pal

Leadville is an out and back course and has featured some of the finest cyclists in the world, men with stuff in their veins that doesn’t qualify as blood, but can’t properly be called ice water, either. Lance, Levi, and Floyd have all taken on this legendary course, and have set course records that have yet to be struck down by an appeals court, an arbitration panel, or a post-judgment ruling.

The race begins at 10,200 feet. This is twice as high as Denver, but only about one-hundredth as high as Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver in 1985, when I saw the Dead there. Arriving a week before the race to hone her altitude fitness, Mighty Mouse remarked, “Dog, I’m out of breath just climbing the stairs!”

G$, who was there to polish his HUB skills, turned to her that first evening and said, “Honey, I’m winded just brushing my teeth.”

The dawn of the day of the damned

Mighty Mouse knew she was in select company, as she lined up with only 3,000 cyclists, a fraction of the number who’d come out on the NPR the week before to see if Prez was really going to wear a lime green jersey and purple shorts (he did).

She was parked in the third starting corral, with 800 people in front, which, though daunting, wasn’t nearly as bad as Puddsy Osterknocker, who was in the 187th corral and had 2,999 wankers he’d have to pass. Or not.

At the start of the race a wanker on a purple bike with skinny tires, a month of razor stubble, triple that amount of B.O., and a big booger stuck to his mustache turned to Mighty Mouse and said “This is going to be an epic day!” She closed her eyes and prayed that she wouldn’t fall off a cliff, and if she did, that B.O. Boy wouldn’t fall anywhere near her.

Neutral start with a twist of lemon and a slice of battery acid

Mighty Mouse stared at her front wheel, body tensed, mind focused on the task at hand as an overwhelming feeling of excitement flooded through her, tingling her extremities and making her think of…never mind…that’s in the Fifty Shades of Leadville, a sequel coming next month for which you’ll have to pay.

The starting shotgun fired, a few birds fell from the sky, and they rolled out on a neutral start through Leadville. For each neutral pedal stroke of the neutral start, neutral wankers neutrally fought for every neutral millimeter of position, neutrally clawing, bumping, rubbing, headbutting, and threading impossible non-openings to gain any neutral advantage for the first climb.

Scrambling and gasping and pounding as hard as they could, the wankoton hit St. Keivens, and the gradual pace fit perfectly with Mighty Mouse’s grand plan, which was first not to die, and second, not to fall off the cliff with B.O. Boy. After climbing a few miles, she came onto pavement only to discover that Murphy’s Law of Bike Racing applies even in Leadville: The crazy/dangerous/stinky dude you’re most desperate to avoid in the 3,000-strong peloton is the wanker you’ll be with the entire race.

B.O. Boy’s preparation had been less than ideal, and he was hanging onto Mighty Mouse’s wheel making awful moaning sounds that frightened the small children lining the route. She decided to lose the stinker with a fast descent around Turquoise Lake, then pounded up Hagerman’s Pass to Sugerloaf Mountain to the top of Powerline. The climbs were standard 6% grade with a few puddles here and there, until you realize that six percent is enough to turn you into a melted marshmallow after four or five minutes of hard effort. B.O. Boy had found his second wind and sprunted off ahead, but never so far that the awful smell didn’t drift back to the followers.

More power to the engine, Mr. Scott!

Picture a 30% grade that’s about eleventy twelve miles long. Okay, there’s something wrong with you if you can picture that. Then picture the bottom part with hard packed sand, two foot ruts, sharp turns, and no consistent line unless you’re driving a bulldozer. Oh, and the top half is covered with jagged rocks, human skulls, tiger pits, and angry motorists with rifles. You’ve just pictured the Powerline climb.

It gets its picturesque name, oddly enough, from a power line. Those Leadvillains may be dumb, but they sure are stupid.

As Mighty Mouse overtook B.O. Boy, eyes tearing up from the effort, several of her co-workers began the first series of crashes, as they would get stuck in between ruts, while at the same time more skilled riders were rocketing down, more or less out of control (usually more), on both sides of the trail.

The carnage was awful to behold. Wankers flopping on their sides. Wankers flying over the handlebars into the ruts at speed. Wankers tipping over and cracking their noggins on the rocks. It was like the biggest fred ride in the history of the universe interspersed with some of the best, fastest, most skilled MTB riders in the galaxy. It was the NPR after a gravel truck spill, on steroids. (Uh, maybe not a great analogy).

Mighty Mouse let the wankers fold, picked a great line, and pounded her way down. On the downhill she careened around fallen riders, leaped tall trees, and generally got down in one piece. The last time she saw B.O. Boy he was begging a kid spectator for a drink from the kid’s coke can while the child frantically dialed 911.

If it’s called “Pipeline” then you can surf it

Mighty Mouse hit the pavement and sat for a few minutes while the smallish wankoton looked about, each rider hoping the other would stick his nose in the wind. No one wanted to pull.

Surprise.

Putting her exceptional NPR training to good use, she Went to the Front and began stomping the snot out of the limpish appendages hanging out of various male bib shorts. This got the paceline going, and they reached Twin Lakes in roughly 3 hours. To put this in perspective, a normal person would do the same route in three days, give or take a month.

At Twin Lakes, Mighty Mouse’s hand-up bitch churned to the fore, stepping on the heads and internal organs of other, less experienced HUB’s. Blowing into the feed zone at 20 mph it was first hard to spot G$ among the hundreds of screaming people all trying to find their rider. It seemed like half of them were there for B.O. Boy, but even the Army of Stink was no match for G$ in his full-on hand-up bitch mode.

With some HUB’s clinging to his beard, others latching onto his Stetson, he shook them loose with kicks, bites, and scratches as he refueled the mighty tank of the Mighty Mouse.

The Columbine beatdown

This 10-mile, 3,000-foot ascent up the face of one of the toughest climbs in the race, summiting at 12,500 feet, was destined to bring even the hardiest wankers to their bloodied, quivering knees.

Picture a gravel-covered Fernwood for five miles, and then the climb gets really nasty. It goes from gravel to loose rock, to even looser rock, and gets steeper as you climb higher before it ends in a rusty guillotine, under which your head is placed. The blade, dulled from the rust, simply hammers your head two or thirteen times until the agony in your temples makes a migraine look like headache relief. That’s what happens when you run your body through hell with no oxygen. That’s why people die on Everest. And that’s why you and I are reading about this in the comfort of our beanbag chair, smoking a doobie and ordering more pizza.

Mighty Mouse reached down to swig from her bottle, but hardly had the oxygen to swallow. Chewing her GU rubber thingies required so much oxygen for her jaw muscles that she had to do Lamaze just to get down a bite.

Obi-wan Kenobi tells the Jedi that The Force is with them

Just as the Lamaze breathing seemed as if it would induce delivery, Mighty Mouse looked up to see the Leadville founder, the Zen master of MTB, the karmic spirit of the greatest MTB race ever, the tantric sex god who invented the “Triple-hold Reverse Battering Ram,” Ken Chlouber himself, the man who knew so much about mountain biking that he wasn’t about to do this stupid race again, at treeline yelling “Dig deep! You’re tougher than you think you are! You can do more than you think you can!”

Mighty Mouse was so inspired she would have cried had she not been trying to keep from vomiting.

With the words of Chlouber ringing in her ears, Mighty Mouse was able to ride to the goat trail about 1/2-mile from the top of Columbine where she had to get off and walk. And so the death march began. If you think riding a bike to exhaustion is awful, wait ’til you have to follow it with a ten-minute bike push up a 300% grade paved with glass and dead people.

This marked the turnaround! The survivors had their numbers recorded, thanked the volunteers, sobbed on their shoulders, asked where the taxi stand was, and upon learning that there wasn’t one, they began the epic descent down Columbine.

Easy for you to say

Incredible as it sounds to think that 3,000 wankers would ride their bikes up a mine shaft on top of Mt. Everest, it was more incredible when Mighty Mouse saw that, as she bombed down the mountain, there were thousands of people walking up.

Where were they from?

What were they doing?

Why were they doing it?

Did anyone have a stretcher?

As she blew by, the enthusiastic spectatewalkers shouted, “You’re almost at the top!” and “Keep your tires rolling!” and most terrifying of all “Rider up! I’m on your ass like buttfloss!”

After the Columbine descent, Mighty Mouse’s HUB reappeared, handing her food, drink, and a healthy helping of encouragement. She quickly grabbed more stuff, and headed back to Pipeline.

The next ten miles were into a brutal headwind. She was alone. She was tired. She was hoping that Sasquatch might show up and give her a push. She remembered that one mile on an MTB is like a thousand miles on a normal road bike with no air and square wheels.

In the out door, or up the down climb

Part of the horror of Leadville is that everything you encounter on the way out, you encounter on the way back. The nasty climbs are hairy descents, and the hairy descents are nasty climbs. Mighty Mouse climbed the first steep section of Powerline, her legs feeling like Leadville, her lungs starting to burn holes in the bottom, and strange bits of phlegm, blood, and esophogeal tissue coming out her ears

It was now Mile 80, her legs crumpled, and she dismounted.  After a respite, she hopped back on and rode the rest of the way up. A few false flats made the job easier, but like everything else in this race, as soon as something got easier it got lots harder. In this case the flats had loose rock, which made it hard to gain traction.

Down the rocky, technical, terrifying, death-defying section onto Turquoise Lake Road, then another fast descent, and then a climb up the back side of the lake. This was the point where the living were separated from the dead.

With each pedal stroke a mash of agony, Mighty Mouse couldn’t believe her luck when a young, muscular, tanned, fit young Adonis with perfectly moussed hair ran up along side her. “Hey,” he said in a baritone. “Mind if I sample the goods?”

“Smart shoppers always do,” she said as his strong, sinewy, powerful palms pressed against her aching ass. He pushed, then caught up to her, then pushed again. He was strong, and each shove sent her flying up the road, allowing precious recovery before her legs kicked back to life.

“Was it good for you?” he shouted as she pedaled off. “It was awesome for me!”

Hand-up Bitch to the rescue!

Having gnarled her way through one hundred miles of freds, ruts, crashes, hypooxygenation, mental fatigue, and physical collapse, Mighty Mouse had only a few miles to go, but her tank was so dangerously low that she didn’t see how she’d conquer the final four-mile Boulevard Climb. This vicious stinger on the end of the ride was inhuman: lined with the bones of last year’s decedents and covered with nails and soft sand, Mighty Mouse knew her race was at an end. Nothing could get her up this final hill.

In the run-up to the climb she’d hopped onto a paceline, and it was rolling fast, even though everyone knew they’d crack and quit two hundred yards into the climb. And then, there on the side was G$, armed with the Special Hand-up Bitch Bottle…but the speed! He’d never get her a hand-up at 25mph!

Trained as a track star, and the recipient of countless high-speed hand-ups, Mighty Mouse’s HUB knew exactly what to do. He spun and began sprinting as if shot out of a gun. His brief burst hit maximum speed as MM raced by, arm outstretched. She grabbed the bottle perfectly!

And no ordinary bottle was it! This was G$’s last reserve of Ruggedmaxx Endurance IV, which had the effect of slinging Mighty Mouse up the last four-mile climb like a rocket and giving all the men in a four-mile radius erections that lasted for two days.

All’s well that ends well on the Leadville 100, especially if it’s someone else doing it

As she approached the finish line children were scattering, cowbells were ringing, and babies were crying. A feeling of amazing accomplishment came over her as she rolled onto the red carpet. A Leadman himself placed a medal around her neck. She was so happy to get off her bike and be done, especially because there was a cool 85-mile trail ride she wanted to do the following day.

She started to tear up as she realized what she had accomplished, and how lucky she’d been to have the best hand-up bitch in America there when she needed him most.

For him, too, it had been an amazing day, hanging out on the trails, drinking whatever was left in castaway bottles, snacking on the numerous mashed up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and best of all, running up and down the trails with the four and five-year old kids. He was definitely the only kid with a three-foot beard.

After the race, the two champions, each successful in their own way, enjoyed a candlelight dinner over hamburgers while drunken Leadvillains played banjo love songs to their next of kin.

Until next year, all hail the Mighty Mouse!

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