Bakersfield, home of the gods of bad gas

June 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

How many times in your life do you get to compete for a championship? I’m not talking an NFL championship, or an NBA championship, or even an NHPA or an NTL championship. Those last two are National Horseshoe Pitching Association and the National Tiddlywinks League, and no, I don’t make this shit up. I make up other shit.

The fact is, you don’t often get to scrap for a championship, especially when you’re old, gizzardy, brokedown, brokebacked, when you piss too often, crap too seldom, are creaky in the morning and wore out by mid-afternoon. Nope, championships are generally for the young and the restless.

Once a year, though, if you are a bicyclist, you can compete for a state bicycling championship, where you pedal your bicycle as quickly as you can to win a prize. Then, if you win the prize, you can buy an even more special prize, to wit, a poorly made, ill fitting jersey in someone else’s size with a bad design that, ugly though it is and fitting as a potato sack though it may be, bears the words “State Champion” and the year of your championship.

This is a prize worth fighting for.

The course of snakes, stinging insects, drunk truckers, and champions

Today is Friday, June 1, 2012. It’s two days before the 45+ Elderly Fellows’ State Championship Road Race in Bakersfield, California. The race covers three 25-mile loops around a hilly course in the desert that has one moderately long climb and numerous short, punchy climbs designed to sap your legs, drain your fluids, and crush your will to survive. As I write this, a friend has Facebooked the current temp there, a moderately warm 105 degrees.

Although you would think that a desert course like this is destined to be hideously ugly, it isn’t. The hills are beautiful, and the desert has the rugged beauty of places where rain is scarce. The visual appeal of the course, however, can only be appreciated in a fast-moving car with the window rolled up and the air conditioner cranked up to “ten.”

Once you are pitched out from the cool security of the car like a fledgling forced to make its first flight, distanced from easy reach into the cooler and its mother lode of cold water, cold soda pop, and cold beer, the desert racecourse that has been designed by the Bakersfieldians is not beautiful at all. Its lack of beauty is only partially caused by the fact that the searing heat is so intense that your corneas begin to roast off the surface of the eyeball.

The true source of the course’s hideousness is the pounding sense of terror and desperation as you flail and pedal and struggle your way out, praying that you will make it back in. This isn’t a sprinter’s special, where well oiled, handsome, kitted up Adonises leisurely pedal for 54 minutes and pedal hard for one.

No.

This is a course where the cowering starters start slowly, knowing that most will quit halfway through, and where the group will only pedal faster when some idiot attacks, or accelerates, or behaves like he’s in a bike race. The pain and torture of the heat, compounded by stinging flies, bee swarms, and poisonous snakes along the roadway to bite those unlucky enough to collapse from heat prostration make Bakersfield truly a place for others to call home.

The contenders

The field will be half-filled with Big Orange, a smattering of SPY-Blue, and onesy-twosy riders from other teams. Although the bragging rights to the winner are galactic in scope, realistically hardly anyone has a chance of winning. Better to stay home and race another crit than suffer the expense, exhaustion, and humiliation of a beatdown so far from home.

What follows is a list of contenders, beginning with the odds-on favorite.

1. Wankmeister. Let’s face it, I’m the favorite here. First off, I grew up in Texas, so 105-degree heat is nothing. Average summer temperatures where I grew up were 140. At night. It’s true that I suffered a few issues at Punchbowl and got dropped rather quickly, finishing next to last. It’s also true that I got dropped on this same course a couple of months ago, finishing next to last. It’s also true that I’ve never even come close to winning a race in more than twenty years. However, I had Chinese food last night, and after the ER doc pumped my stomach I remembered that my fortune cookie had said this: “Time is a mirror of your desire.” So, that’s pretty clear. My jersey size is small. Thanks.

Pluses: Blogability. No one out-blogs the Wankmeister in a hilly road race. Plus I’ve got a cool helmet cam.
Minuses: Kind of lacking in the speed, strength, and endurance department. But I’ve got a day to come around.

2. DQ Louie: Unless he gets dq’d, which frankly is most of the time, there’s no one who can beat him in a hilly road race. Blazing speed. Relentless attacking. Strategic wheelsucking when necessary, full-on TT mode when he’s off the front. Always has a vicious kick at the end.
Pluses: Tininess. He’s got a drag coefficient of .00000002, which is about the same as a newt or a flea. His power-to-weight ratio is 3 gigawatts per kilo. So you’re basically fucked.
Minuses: Cheatyness. The officials love to dq DQ Louie. Why? He’s from Nevada, that’s why. The races are in California. He’s the dude on the freeway doing 80 who gets pulled over when everyone else is doing 100. Sorry, dude. But not really.

3. Roadchamp: He won last year, and he won two years before that, and he had a creditable showing at Vlees Huis even though they’d removed all twelve lower teeth for implant surgery the week before the race.
Pluses: He’s so skinny that he has to safety pin his socks to his calves. He’s focused. He’s all about winning. He hasn’t had sex in months, ergo mucho ferocityness.
Minuses: Everyone will be gunning for him; carries around old trophies from previous road victories as a talisman; has been known to crumple in the extreme heat. The pressure of not having won yet this year may be too much.

4. Invincible: He’s won this race before, he’s got national crit titles to his name, he sprunts, he climbs, he time trails, and he has more wins in the 45+ this year than everyone else combined.
Pluses: Dude always fucking wins. What more of a plus could you want? Best all around tactician in the game. Knows who to work with, how to control a break, how to kick out the shirkers, how and when to pull out all the stops.
Minuses: Sneakiness. He makes DQ Louie look positively forthright. Plus, he’ll be isolated in the race. THOG is recovering from a major injury. Glasship got his fill of Bako heat at Vlees Huis and is on sabbatical to the beer capital of Deschutes County. So, he’s by himself…yeah, I know. So what?

5. G$: This is one title that’s always eluded him, either due to bad luck, or poor luck, or inferior luck, or luck that wasn’t quite right, or fuckaluck. That’s too bad, because he’s one of the top guys in any category, and built to succeed on a course like this. He has specially prepared snake stomping boots that were made just for this race. With a huge B.O. contingent, he will likely let attrition do its nasty work, and only get to stomping dicks in earnest at the end, when they’ve all gone limp and stretched out from the heat.
Pluses: Time trails. Climbs. Attacks. Makes cool interview videos. Deep and wide team support to control the race or protect a break or send guys up the road. You know he’s got to be frothingly hungry for this jersey. He’s been tapering on the local rides, and has even cut back to five burgers ‘n fries a week. Serious shit.
Minuses: He’ll be dogged by Invincible and DQ Louie. If they get up the road with him, he’s got slim chance in a sprunt. Also, his team is so strong that Roadchamp, Kalashnikov, Capture the Flagg, Thing Two, Herndy Doo, or Hottie could wind up on the podium.

6. FTR DS Jaeger: The smartest rider in the bunch, always goes with the right move. Conserves when he has to, churns out the watts when it matters, never gets dropped on the hard climbs. Missed the vee at states by the narrowest of margins a couple of years ago, this could be his year.
Pluses: Savvy. Tenacious. Experienced. The best in the peloton at making up with savvy and smarts what he lacks in the legs, which frankly isn’t much.
Minuses: Can’t sprunt. Small team, and partially weighted by the anchor teammate from hell, a/k/a Wankmeister.

7. Kalashnikov: Super strong, fast, and clearly on form, Kalashnikov has the benefit of his Big Orange teammates to further strengthen his hand. He will likely play the role of agitator, forcing the other teams to waste valuable energy chasing, a strategy that has worked like a charm in the past.
Pluses: As stated above.
Minuses: If he has to go early, the bitterness of the course could spell doom.

8. Your name here. I’m sorry I left you off. You deserved to make the list, as you’ve got the right stuff, the training miles are there, and it’s finally your year. On the other hand, it’s almost 8:00 PM on a Friday night and I’m blogging about a stupid bike race for old men out in the fucking desert, for dog’s sake. This is enough, even for me.

A 15-minute video is worth an hour of excusifying

May 28, 2012 § 15 Comments

It’s hard to explain to people what it’s like riding with the leaders up the climb on the Holiday Ride. “Um, it’s hard,” or “Well, you see I was gassed and then Billy Boozles made a sweep up the right-side gutter while Arnie Aspartame swung off and then…”

Thanks to my new GoPro helmet cam, I got the chance to video the thing and let you see for yourself. Click here to watch the Mandeville Canyon climb all the way to the top with the leaders. Don’t tell me that it’s “blurry” or “fuzzy” or “dogshit quality video, dude.”

It seems that I stuck my finger on the lens cover and smudged it. Still, remind me again, how much did you pay for this? Exactly.

My ride commentary, with video documentation, is below.

#1. The video don’t lie

It’s amazing how much people lie about what they did during a ride. By the time they get done, they’ve fabricated a narrative that is so distorted that you wonder if the dude telling you the story was in the same century as you, much less in the same breakaway.

This video quickly punctures some of the biggest whoppers that bubbled up immediately after the climb. G3 complained, after getting caught and dropped, that his teammates had chased him down.

They all denied it. Vehemently. “We wuz riding tempo so you could stay away!” “I’d never chase down a teammate!” “Some dudes from another team reeled you in, dude, I swear!”

No.

G3 was brought back by a well-oiled machine consisting exclusively of his own teammates. I know it won’t make you feel any better, Greg, but this is exactly how I feel when you chase me down on the Wheatgrass Ride, or when you chase me down at TELO, or when you drop me going up to the Domes. The only difference is that we’re not teammates. On the other hand, I know you’d do it to me even if we were.

Plus, there was no way in hell you were going to solo the canyon vee. Unless, of course, your teammates hadn’t chased you down, in which case, well, who knows?

#2. The dude taking the video is a wheelsuck deluxe

Yep. I sat on the whole way. Never took a pull. You’ll see Surfer Dan look back a couple of times and invite me to take a turn. You’ll see me refuse.

“Wow,” you’re thinking. “This is the guy who’s always telling everyone to take a pull? What a douche.”

As I like to say, “If the nozzle fits…”

I was gassed and too afraid of Surfer Dan to do anything other than suck wheel and pray that no one attacked hard enough to drop me, which is what usually happens. That’s how it is when you’re a wanker.

#3 The dude who won the hill is an even bigger wanker

Yeah. Sitting on your teammate for the entire canyon climb and then blasting by him with totally fresh legs after assisting with the earlier chase, catch, and drop of G3, who is also your teammate? What’s up with that?

Answer, and I quote: “That’s MY wall.”

Those who don’t know Tree well will know this much after watching this video: It’s all about Strava. He will sit, chill, and torch anyone, teammates included, if it gets him closer to a Strava record. In this case, he didn’t get the KOM, but he moved up the leaderboard to fourth. And he got the KOM for something called “Westridge to White Picket Fence.” So there’s that.

Attacking and dropping your teammate who tows you all the way to the end and being labeled a wanker is a small price to pay for an incremental gain on Strava.

Those of you who think this is just sour grapes because he blasted by me so fast and hard I couldn’t have hung on with a tow rope…you’re right! Of course, if I have to get my ass handed to me on a plate, Tree’s my first choice as server, because even after I called out his wankage he smiled back and said, “Good effort out there, Wanky!” Some people are nice no matter what. Go figure.

#4. Dave Jaeger is a total badass

The dude is 51 years old. Remembers Armistice Day. Helped Caesar cross the Rubicon. Was one of the first users of the new invention, dirt. Nonetheless, he attacks the breakaway. Gets reeled in by Surfer Dan. Attacks again and dusts off the remaining hangers-on. Gets reeled in.

Still finishes with the break for fifth. Tells me after the ride, “You rode smart for once.”

Me: “I wasn’t riding. I was holding on for dear life.”

#5. The real artillery was either home getting oiled or out doing a real race at CBR

Kalashnikov and G$ started the ride, which was about 150 strong, but parted company in Marina del Rey to go and do a real bike race instead of a kit parade w/15-minute hillclimb effort + frappucino at CotKU. Roadchamp was home, resting after a hard weekend of riding and putting the finishing touches on his afterburners for the state road race next weekend in Bakersfield. King Harold, Launch, Vapor, Critchamp, et al. were racing, placing, or winning.

#6. Tink is amazing

Check out the first part of the video where she winds up the pace and keeps the gas on. You can’t see the wreckage in the rear because I’m too busy sucking wheel to look back and catch it with my helmet cam, but she’s causing mayhem and destruction behind her. She sheared three minutes off her Mandeville PR and finished just after the first chase group. She now holds the QOM for Mandeville and sits 20th on the men’s leaderboard. This girl is simply incredible.

#7. The camera makes your butt look fat

It’s a 170-degree wide angle, and my nose is pretty much stuffed up your rear end, further magnifying the ginormousness of your hindquarters. Trust me, in real life your derriere is svelte, lean, muscled, and the stuff of magazine covers. It’s the fault of the camera that we all look like candidates for a bovine butt porn shoot.

#8. Surfer Dan is a total badass

Yesterday he went up to NorCal and got 8th in the state road race. This morning he turned on the jets going up San Vicente and kicked most of the holidayers out the back. On Mandeville he ramped it up, led the vicious chase to reel in his teammate, chased down Jaeger twice, shrugged his shoulders when Wankmeister cowered in the rear, and drilled it all the way to the top. He was gracious and not in the least bit miffed by Tree’s finish line antics or by my wheelsuckage, proving that the really good guys just go do their ride and never bitch about the result, while we wankers run home to our keyboard, uncork and savor a vintage 1876 whine.

Your bike outfit looks like dogshit. Other than that, it’s fine.

May 17, 2012 § 13 Comments

Okay, so when people want to know what to wear, Wankmeister isn’t on speed dial. I get that. But I do know a thing or two about fashion. Just because I always wear that black t-shirt, ratty jeans, and those Vans with the holes in the back doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s what.

What’s What

For example there’s a difference between chick fashion and dude fashion. Chick fashion follows “TPO,” which means “Take my Panties Off.” Dude fashion follows “FOMI,” or “Focus On My Income.”

In other words, chick fashion is sexy, whereas dude fashion is all about brand recognition and money. Cycling fashion, however, is a unique blend. Tight, slinky, revealing stuff that is also designed to make you remember names and buy shit while hopefully not drawing too much attention that your junk is really tiny. Cycling clothes were gay before gay was the new straight.

Got that? Good.

A brief history of cycling fashion

A long time ago, cycling fashionistas wore wool shorts with real leather pads that scrunched up around your groin and acted as involuntary butt wiping rash inducers. You’d pull off the shorts along with a pound or two of brown crud. Yeccch.

Shorts were black. Shoes were black. Socks were white. Jerseys had a couple of sponsors’ names in big letters. Primary colors all the way, except for the occasional gay Italian ice cream sponsor who liked lime green and purple.

And that was pretty much fuckin’ it.

Modern cycling fashion

Then someone realized that plastic fabric was better than wool. It tore up easier. It was less comfortable. It didn’t breathe at all. And the synthetic chamois was originally a variant of sandpaper. But unlike wool, when you sweated it didn’t smell like an old tampon. So it prevailed.

The other thing that happened with cycling fashion is Adobe Illustrator. Every moron with a computer now had a 56-million color palette and the template for a bike outfit. At about the same time, local clubs realized that they could defray some of their beer money by selling ad space on their kits.

Real estate became scarce. Good taste became scarcer. Legit fashion and design skills became extinct. Pro and amateur teams alike wore whatever vomit some junior high school pre-accounting major with a laptop threw together. Design wasn’t an afterthought. It was an afterbirth.

Rewarding ugliness

Bicycling magazine recently posted a list of the best cycling kit designs in the Amgen Tour of California. It’s a shame that so little thought went into the piece, which could have shed light on some of the mechanisms behind the grotesquely ugly kits that generally blotify the pro and amateur pelotons, not to mention the “ride jerseys” and club outfits that litter our beautiful California landscape.

As a public service announcement, I’ve decided to review their list and comment on it. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I can sum it up thus: Get Joe Yule and StageOne to design your stuff. It’s really that simple.

1. Black proves you can’t design

“These lads know how to dress. Black jersey, black shorts, and stealthy black bikes—it’s all so punk-rock.” Uh, are you fucking kidding me? Black is the ultimate non-test of design. ANYTHING looks good in black. It’s the default color for slimming a double-wide butt, for repositioning curves that are in the wrong places, and for lifting saggy belly lumps that belong above the belt line…Black is such an addicting and easy color to design and dress with that once you get used to it, it’s hard to wear anything else, kind of like a vampire. But the problem isn’t that it’s “punk rock,” it’s psychotically depressing. It’s what people wear to funerals. It’s the color of religious clothing, judges’ robes, executioners’ masks, Ozzie Osbourne. Worst of all, it demonstrates zero design skill, because it goes with anything. Black bike. Black helmet. Black jersey. Black tires. Black deep dish rims. An occasional red highlight if you like the police car look, or a yellow one if you fancy bumblebees. Boom. You’re done. For cycling, as a design motif black sucks because it’s a slow and boring color. That’s bad, because for spectators, cycling is already a slow and boring sport. You want excitement on two wheels? Watch a fucking formula motorcycle race or some dirt bike action. Manorexic weenies with spindly arms who are clad head to toe in slow black women’s clothing? I’d almost take NASCAR. Almost.

2. If you’re even thinking about Orange, you’d better be nicknamed “G$”

“Those orange stripes! So swoopy! Swoopy is good, in case you were wondering. An orange and black pairing often evokes thoughts of Halloween, but on these Optum Orbeas, orange and black mean fast and stylish” Wow. Someone really wrote that, someone who supposedly wasn’t smoking a crack pipe. Her name is Jen See. Jen, the orange stripes aren’t “swoopy, swoopy.” They’re buttlicking ugly, especially with the lightened orange squares and slashes blended in with the regular orange. The other problem with this nasty looking kit is that you can hardly read the sponsors’ names even in a still photo. Are we really supposed to tell what this says at 35mph? Which brings us to the “money and brand” part of the design package. On a pro bike kit, you sure as shit better be able to read the sponsors’ names. And what brand of LSD was it that suggested the black/white/orange combo would look good with…green lettering…yellow shoes…bright red bottle? Kill the mutant now, doctor, before it spreads.

3. Everything looks good on a winner, right? Wrong.

“Does it matter what color a four-time Paris-Roubaix winner wears? The sea-foam and white jerseys are paired with black shorts—never a bad choice.” Actually, Jen, sea-foam is always a bad choice, unless you’re in a Jello marketing focus group or unless you happen to actually be an ocean. This color is so fucking ugly that it wasn’t even popular during the 70’s disco boom. The idea that winning makes everything pretty is doubtlessly true if your objective is to give Tornado Tom a fangirl fucking, but all the pave trophies piled up in a heap don’t make sea-foam green anything other than fugly. The epaulettes, arguably the most valuable real estate on the kit, have a tiny-ish red “S” for Specialized and a completely illegible scrawl for “innergetic,” along with some squiggly shit on the world champion sleeve striping. Poisonest of all, the sea-foam is really similar to the Astana “Blood Doping Blue” made famous by Vino, Tainted Meat, and a whole host of crooked drug cheats. When all you’ve got is a nasty coke habit like Tom, you don’t want to wear colors associated with dopers.

4. Garmacuda was styling when Jen See was still calling pale orange “swoopy”

“But with this year’s kit, the Garmin-Barracuda boys have hopped on the style train.” Jen has dealt out a true left-handed compliment, but at least she gets that the Garmacuda kit designed by Joe Yule is badass. In fact, Garmacuda has been on the “style train” from its inception. The last two years in particular have seen forceful, noticeable color combinations that do an extraordinary job of highlighting sponsors’ names and looking fantastic. This is shit you’d wear to a job interview. To a first date with a rich girl. To your fucking wedding. And it’s not “swoopy.” It’s “leg rip-offy,” Jen.

5. Your kit is boring and blah, but I love your Pinarello.

“How did Bissell get on the most stylish list? Two words, my friends: Pinarello and Campagnolo.” At first I thought, “Shit, this girl is funny.” Then I realized she was serious. Yep. Your kit is stylish because of your bike frame and your Campy gruppo. So, like, you could just ride naked. Jen, honey, your LinkedIn profile says you fucking went to Claremont College, Georgetown University, UCSB, you have a Ph.D., you speak French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch…and your critical analysis calls the Bissell kit stylish because of the BIKE FRAME? Our country is so fucking doomed it’s not even funny. Note to the computer programmer who designed the Bissell kit: That red and white swooshy thing on the ass that looks like a tuning fork or a toothless barracuda’s jaws…drop me a line when you finally figure out what the fuck it’s supposed to be. Thanks.

6. Just because it’s a color doesn’t mean it looks good

“Quite simply, this team oozes style from head to toe…Liquigas is all about color, lime green to be exact. The color isn’t for everyone, but the men of Liquigas totally own it.” No, Jen. The men of Liquigas don’t “own it.” They are contractually obligated to wear it. There’s a difference. You are sort of right when you say lime green isn’t for everyone, but to get it exactly right you should probably say “lime green isn’t for anyone.” For starters, it’s a total JOC, or “junk outline color” as we say in the trade. This means that it totally highlights each dip and curve of your package. For bike racers, who are scrawny little fellows with scrawny little toolboxes, that’s bad. Lime green doesn’t go with anything, but it especially doesn’t go with blue. Now I know what you’d say, Jen: “Does it matter what a four-consecutive-stage winner of the ATOC wears?” And again, we’d say, uh, yeah, it matters. Like, it really matters. And if you don’t believe me, try googling images for something called “Mapei.”

And when you get around to looking at the rest of the peloton, check out Spider-Tech. Shoulda been number two, after Garmacuda. Ciao, baby.

Tuesday’s NPR round-up: Cheaters never win, but they sure have FUN!!!

May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “Cheaters never win.” It was obviously someone who was never elected to office, never practiced law, never worked in banking, never submitted reimbursement requests to MediCare, never was married, or never won the TdF.

To make it strictly accurate, the phrase should be re-worked to say, “Cheaters didn’t win on the NPR today.”

We had a huge group at the Pier including the usual suspects: G$, Mighty Mouse, New Girl, Bull, Heeleys Dad & Jr., USC John, Fireman, Suze, Cary, Scott Apartmentsyndicate, Gooseman, Chris D., Kramer, Wolfeman, Lisa C., and guest appearances by Roadchamp, DJ, Damien “The Omen,” and on and on and on. And on.

Everyone began yelling “Bike path!!” on roll-out, so we stomped up the hill instead and took the Alleyway of Death just to be contrarian. The usual barely-caffeinated drivers backing out of their garages, runners stepping off curbs, huge potholes, and blind roadway entrances kept things lively until we hit Vista del Mar. As the nice 2×2 formation gradually ratcheted up the pace, G$ rolled to the fore and ordered that the pace be cut so that people could catch back on.

I hung my head, scolded, and retreated towards the back. It was a big-ass group.

It’s a new sport called Dodgecar

The mechanics of the NPR are kind of funny, because in addition to picking up people along Vista del Mar, once we bend right to go up Pershing there’s always a big group of 20-40 people camped out in the parking lot waiting for us to come by. They are stopped. In a parking lot. Unclipped. Around a blind corner. At the bottom of a hill.

We are single file. Coming down a long, fast grade. Through a green light. At about 30.

If we hit the red light, it gives the campers a chance to adjust their maxi-pads, apply the final coat of lip gloss, clip in, and then get started up the hill so that when our light turns green they can meld with the group. If we hit the green light, there is pandemonium worthy of a soccer match between pre-schoolers. Leaping on bikes, flailing cleats clicking into chains instead of pedals, curses, shouts, wobbly starts in the wrong gear, swerving bikes at 5 mph veering out of the parking lot into the middle of the 30 mph swarm…in short, it’s the kind of early morning clusterfuck that makes you glad you’re on your bike, and makes you determined to be the clusterfucker rather than the clusterfuckee.

This morning, having been relegated by G$, I nosed towards the fore as we approached the light. Red. Just before I touched the brakes…hallelujah!!…GREEN! I mashed it hard as a lumbering SUV in front of me turned on its right-hand blinker. So far so good, but there was nowhere for it to turn, except into the parking lot of campers, who were now wildly flailing to exit and hook onto the tail of the missile.

I easily cruised around the car, but it scrubbed off the 60 or so riders behind me except for Roadchamp and Bull.

Vapor, rolling out of the parking lot at a standstill, was none too pleased. “Hey, wankers! Be careful! And quit attacking while we’re stopped!”

Don’t piss off the dude who rides tempo at 32

By the time I got to the top of the small hill, I’d been joined by Roadchamp, Bull, Seanergy, and Suze. The Sho-Air dude from a couple of weeks ago was parked on the side of the road, glumly eyeing us as he changed a flat. We pounded on.

At the overpass, the pack was in another county. Roadchamp and Bull were taking gnarly pulls from hell. Seanergy was working. I was wondering how they had spotted my testicles lying in the road while we were going so fast, yet still managed to stop, pick them up, and them stuff them down my throat. Which made breathing hard.

When we hit the Parkway, Sho-Air Shawshank redeemed himself, and then some. He began pulling so hard that our tiny group could barely rotate around him, much less match his speed. Shawshank now had the bit between his teeth, and we had a breakaway. As with other completely futile fantasies grounded in an unfirm grasp of reality, we thought it might stick. No break has ever stuck from the beginning of the NPR.

Come on baby, light my fire

Meanwhile, back in the pack, Vapor was pissed. We’d blitzed him by surprise (though in my own very, very weak defense I always mash it up Pershing) and now we had a huge gap with some horsepower. Vapor began taking pulls that were so fast and sick that Fireman reported entire lungs being coughed up from those unlucky enough to be on his wheel. If you’ve ever done Tim Roach’s Hour of Power at the velodrome and had Vapor show up, you’ll know what this was like. The dude can go harder and faster and longer than anything without an internal combustion engine. And when he decides to pour on the coal, the combustion is what happens behind him.

Fortunately, our little cadre of cheaters was soon joined by other cheating wankers. Tree Perkins, who’d been out toodling around, hopped into our group and took a couple of pulls. Adam Tattooed Leg Dude got overhauled, hopped in, and helped out for a lap. Big fat Equipe wanker out for a Parkway pedal joined our team and almost sort of halfway kind of thought about maybe taking a pull before he quit.

And the entire way Roadchamp, Bull, Shawshank, and Seanergy were flogging the big meat harder than a teenage boy on his first visit to pornhub.com.

All good things must end. Bad things, too.

Just before the light at the beginning of the third lap, we all came together, ridden down by the efforts of Vapor and sub-efforts by some of his lieutenants, including G3, Austin Heeley, USC John, and G$. “Cheaters never win!” he yelled.

A spirited discussion between him and Roadchamp ensued. As the cheater-in-chief, I thought it best to keep rolling lest the donkey tail get pinned on me, where it mostly belonged. I glanced around and people looked destroyed. At that moment Mighty Mouse roared to the fore, and I could tell that she’d worn her very best dick-stomping boots to the party. Whatever sausages hadn’t been speared and roasted, she proceeded to stomp to a fare the well.

The end was predictable. I made one last flailaway attempt that never even gained separation. The group was shot to shit, and hardly anyone had any gas at all in the finale, except for Vapor and Motorhead. Motorhead took the sprint with what looked like a nice lead-out from Vapor. I was so far back that the only way I got the results was from smoke signals.

Moral #1: Don’t piss off Vapor with a sneaky, cheapass move and expect to stay away.
Moral #2: If you’re hoping we’ll start easy at the bottom of Pershing, you might be disappointed.
Moral #3: That taste of puke in your mouth at 7:30 AM? Well, it beats sitting in traffic.

The taste of bitter, Devil’s Punchbowl 2012, Part 4

May 1, 2012 § 4 Comments

Meanwhile, back at the race…

Steelhead had died 999 deaths in the suicide breakaway, but not 1,000 deaths because he’d already died once two years ago at Boulevard when he rode up to G$ and said, “Hey, dude, I finally made it over the first climb with you!” then hit a rock, splatted on his head and would have bled out except that STEEL DON’T BLEED.

After getting kicked out of the break, Steelhead took a breather, and with no teammates in the break drilled his brains out to bring back the two leaders, who came into sight just about the time that Steelhead threwsa rod, seized up, and was forced to put in an order for an all-new engine from Jessup Chevrolet. However, he also had to pay the extra $582.22 towage fee, as his carcass was dragged around the rest of the course in a more or less completely broken down state.

Purple Parks and Axena were finally brought back on the last climb up the big hill, and the tired remnants of the lead group slowly trimmed itself down to six. The heads of the snake were G$, DQ Louie, Jack Benny, Purple Parks, Ignoble, and Axena. Axena made a final attack with another rider in a one last bid for glory, getting a small lead on the rest of the lead group.

You’re my friend and I respect you that’s why I completely lied and stabbed you in the nuts

With Ignoble gassing it through the sandy, off-camber turn of death, the group chased up to Axena and his fellow traveler. G$ countered, gapping the group and taking DQ Louie with him. That’s when the hijinks began.

G$: “Pull through, bro. I need help.”

DQ Louie: “I’m done, man.”

G$: [to himself] “Done? That must mean he’s going to be content with second and give me the win. He’s an honest rider and would never trick me. Plus, he’s probably forgotten about UCLA.”

DQ: [to himself] “Does that sorry cocksucker think I’ve forgotten about UCLA and the way I hooked Axena, Big Orange protested, I got relegated, and Glass Hip was given the win? Fuck him.”

G$: [to himself] “Yeah, we’ve raced together for years. He’s a class act. Not like a lot of these other douchebaguettes who will lie and cheat and fake it and then whack you at the line.”

DQ: [to himself] “I can’t believe it. G$ is going to tow me to the line! What a sucker! I’m so gonna whack his ass at the line.”

G$: [to himself] “If it was anybody else, there’s no way I’d tow them to the line. Especially not a good field sprunter like DQ. But he said he was done, and he’s no liar. Okay, legs, uncork!”

With a mile to go, G$ switched into glide. The leaders were left to choke out their death rattle on his fumes. And then, as the line approached, DQ Louie hit the jets and took the win.

G$ couldn’t believe it at first. Then, little by little, he began to taste it. Devil’s Pukebowl. Hopes dashed. The taste of bitter.

Post-race interviews

After the dramatic stab-from-behind victory of DQ Louie in the 45+, Wankmeister patrolled the crowd and spoke with various participants. Their comments are below.

WM: How was the race?
Roxy [Bike Palace]: It went well. But it was hard. Really hard. I think I almost broke my hoo-ha.

WM: How was the race?
Mighty Mouse [Unattached]: It sucked.
WM: Why?
Mighty Mouse: This highly experienced racer dude who’s been coaching me and is a Pukebowl veteran gave me the wrong starting time, so I missed my race.
WM: And who is this highly experienced dude?
MM: Do you know G$?
WM: You were depending on G$ to get you to the race on time?
MM: Yeah. Why?
WM: Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

WM: How was the race?
Tink [Big Orange]: It went great! Thanks, Wanky! I followed your advice!
WM [nervously]: Uh, what advice?
Tink: Where you told me to suck wheel and never work in the break! They kept prodding me to go to the front, but I refused, and then finally I only took weak, slug-like, ineffective 10-second pulls! It was awesome! I got third!
WM: Uh, there’s a group of chicks coming our way with clubs and a pitchfork. Why don’t you crawl under my car for a few minutes?

WM: So, when does your 40+ race go off?
Fireman [warming up on trainer]: Ten minutes.
WM: Are you ready?
Fireman: Yeah. You got any food?
WM: Uh, sure. Here’s part of a half-eaten BonkBreaker from my last race.
Fireman: Fuck. Thanks, dude. I’ll take it.
WM: Good luck.
Fireman: Hey, could you do me a favor?
WM: Sure.
Fireman: Give me your rear tire, wouldja? Mine has a blister on the sidewall and is about to pop.
WM: My rear tire?
Fireman: Yeah. I’ll put your good tire on my wheel, and this fucked up one on yours.
WM: This bad one that’s about to pop?
Fireman: Yeah. Is that a problem?
WM: Uh, I guess not.

…after Fireman’s race, via text message…

Fireman: Fuck, dude. That was a 48-mile time trail.
WM: How’d the tire hold out?
Fireman: It was too heavy. That’s why I got dropped.
WM: Oh. Sorry. At least you didn’t flat.
Fireman: Yeah, a flat would have been great.

WM: How was the race?
G3 [Big Orange Cat 3, not to be confused with G$]: Fucking sucked. My tactics sucked.
WM: How so?
G3: Typical negative Cat 3 bullshit. I fucking hate racing with the 3’s. What a bunch of wankers.
WM: Why don’t you race 45+?
G3: Uh, no.

[End]

The Hand of God, Part 4: Capture the Flagg

April 25, 2012 § 9 Comments

Incredibly, Wankmeister’s legs were golden this epic day at Vlees Huis Ronde as he pedaled madly in his Spy Blue team kit through the anus of the Central Valley. Perhaps it was the blinding heat mixed with the nasty particulates and suffocating ozone that make Bakersfield’s air the most polluted in North America, a combination of stench, pain, and discomfort that can really only be approximated by growing up in Texas or living near Amarillo, boxes that Wankmeister has ticked off his gut-bucket list with the fattest Sharpie out there.

Perhaps it was Wanky’s new “Grind Over And Thrust” climbing technique which he has begun using to compensate for the VO2 maxiness of his betters.

Perhaps it was Wankmeister’s decision to go off-grid and just begin following the advice of his coach, Captaintbag, who, after telling Wankmeister that he should give up racing, also told him that if he insists, then JUST GO HARD.

Most perhaps of all, though, it was likely the visages of misery, suffering, despair, and disbelief mixed with the expressions of failure, humiliation, and defeat that were scrawled across the faces of everyone remaining in the lead group. Wankmeister had never lasted so far forward into a hard California road race. Here he was, surrounded by the most recidivist of the forcats de la route, and they looked like shit.

Golden legs. Brutal course. Smothering heat. Everyone else all fucked up. If the legs held, with a smattering of strategy Wankmeister could be a factor in the finish. If not, smoking all this crack sure had been fun.

We will show you mercy. Then after you look at it we will put it back in the box and kill you.

As the leaders sped up the first big climb on the second lap, Flagg of No Quarter attacked and gapped the field. Knowing that my legs couldn’t possibly hold out for a 20-mile breakaway, and that cleverness mandated conservation, I chose suicide by surging from the group and bridging the gap. We worked mightily together, with Flagg taking huge, mile-long pulls up the climb, and me taking brief, four-second pulls on the descents until the field was out of sight and a distant memory.

As Flagg of No Quarter upped the pace, I muttered, “Urgh,” or perhaps it was “Gurgle.” Whatever the sound your vocal cords make when your throat has been slit and the blood mixes with the final exhalation of air…that’s the sound I made. Flagg looked at me as I took my final, puny pull. “No worries,” he said. “You did your best.”

Then Flagg of No Quarter did his best, and vanished up the climb.

The Hand of God smites the unworthy

The field, which had once been a distant memory, now became a visible, living, breathing, fast approaching mob of the undead, with the Hand of God leading the chase. Ten thousand hundred million billion years old, white-haired, bent from the weight of the universe, bedecked in the 456 million-colored sleeve stripes on his champion of the universe jersey, THOG pushed, then pulled, then thrust the group forward until, after my ten mile breakaway attempt, I was swallowed up.

A series of droppage and catchage ensued, where I came off on the climbs and chased back on the downhills, usually with the help of Darling Todd. As we made our second and final ascent up Leibert’s Corner, the Hand of God looked back and saw the cluster of unworthy dingleberry sinners still entwined in the hairs on his rear.

THOG took out his giant Paddle of Doom and carefully inspected it for giant, rusty nails protruding from the end. Finding none, he reached into his jersey pocket and inserted several of the largest and rustiest. Then, with one mighty swat of the Paddle of Doom, THOG smacked the living shit out of the dingleberries who had, ’til then, tenaciously clung to his ass.

We were pounded loose with that one whack. The fire in my stove had gone completely out, and try as I might I couldn’t even reignite the pilot light. The other dingleberries rolled slowly up the road, dislodged from the leaders, while THOG led the remnants back onto the main road, capturing the Flagg, and bringing everyone back together.

In a matter of two miles I was 3:30 down.

The Hand of God meets the steel-toed boot of Satan

With four miles to go, G$ launched an attack into the headwind. None could follow save THOG and DJ. As the large gap filled with even more real estate, some sprunter dude gave the mother of all efforts and bridged. Just as he latched on, he took a second to catch his breath. In that second, G$ unleashed a mighty kick from the steel-toed boot of Satan.

Sprunterdude panicked and threw a chain, with G$ now hitting the bottom of the 1k climb to the finish. THOG waited for DJ to bridge, apparently unaware that the only time DJ bridges is when there are three other players at the card table and it’s his bid.

THOG unleashed the thunderbolt of doom, but too late to fend off the blow to the skull by the pointy, steel-toed boot of the devil. In a reverse of the 2011 finish, it was the devil first, the Hand of God second.

List of the casualties.

I dribbled in four hours or so later to secure 19th place, the exact same result from 2010. What a difference two years of training, a $15,000 bike, and experience make!

Back at the Suburban, Roadchamp was stitching his gums together with some baling wire, wondering why, after a 12-hour surgical procedure and losing two pints of blood, he’d not had the legs to go with the leaders. “Must have been the heat,” he concluded, carefully draping a towel around the meat cleaver trophy in the hopes that no one would notice.

King Harold came in later that night and immediately called his girlfriend to sob about the heat, the misery, the thirst, the hills, and most of all the massive cramps that soon engulfed him. We changed his didey, gave him a Wankmeister pacifier made out of granite and barbed wire, and headed home.

No one told any stories of epic danger, death, and courage in the face of utter destruction, however. We’d all just lived through one.

[END]

The Hand of God, Part 1: What day is today?

April 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

Words can’t describe the brutality of the 2012 Vlees Huis Ronde, held in Bakersfield. Oh, wait a minute. Yes, they can.

It started off the way that bike races this time of year always start off. “Hey, honey, I’m racing in Bakersfield tomorrow. Want to come and hand me up water in the feed zone?”

“Bakersfield? Is that the really hot ugly place with no shade?”

“I don’t know if I’d call it ‘ugly.'”

“I would. It’s that sandblown, windswept, terribly hot place with bad air and oil derricks everywhere. I hate that place. Aren’t the races there really long and, like, the bikes only come by once every hour or something?”

“Oh, honey, it’s not that bad. I mean, yes, you’re right, but for Vlees Huis we actually come by once every hour and a half or so.”

“Well, I hate that place and it stinks and the dry dirty air hurts my throat and it’s bitterly hot and I hate it and there’s trash everywhere and every third person is driving a pickup or has meth mouth. If Maggie hadn’t been there with me that time I would have killed myself.”

“Okay, aside from all that, is there like a REASON you won’t go. I really need water in the feed zone. They say it’s going to be in the high 90’s.”

It’s pretty much always in April. On the 21st.

“Since you ask, yes, there is a REASON I don’t want to go.”

“What’s that?”

“Tomorrow’s my birthday.”

[Tune in tomorrow for “Wanky Dodges a Marital Dissolution”]

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