The changing complexion of a bad rash

April 25, 2018 § Leave a comment

Another Telo went off last night. There is something weird in the air or maybe in our water bottles, because tonight’s Telo was the biggest I can remember in ten years. What a few years ago was tagged, put in the cooler, and later autopsied (the heart and lungs donated to those needing a transplant, the rest of the body donated to science, and the brain thrown away due to its small size and surfeit of abnormalities), has come back like one of the Undead.

Which proves:

  1. Racing ain’t dead.
  2. If you take pictures of it and post them on the Internet, they will come.

The last three weeks have seen successive growth in racer turnout. There were forty racers all in all, including at least four women. The big pack has transformed Telo from a training crit into a bike race. Unlike the typical Telo edition, where Evens Stievenart rides everyone off his wheel, or whittles down the field into a tiny break and crushes his breakmates in the sprunt, today and last week there was actual racing involved with lots of racing stragety.

Although the 39 members of Team Lizard Collectors were unable to deny victory to arch-rival Methods to Whining, TLC mounted a number of valiant efforts which, at one point, forced MTW ninja-of-the-peloton Destroyer to single-handedly pull back a lethal TLC combo of David Ellis, Greg Seyranian, and David Wells. TLC refused to chase its own teammates (whaaaaat???), and worker-bee Knuckles happily rode up to the front and blocked.

It was a beautiful thing to see a break with no MTW riders in it, and even more beautiful to see MTW chase hard, although in the end MTW rider Aaron Wimberly incinerated the field with a fierce sprint, finishing so far ahead it was like swatting a fly with a flamethrower.

One of the things contributing to the difficulty of Telo is the prevalence of Hop-in-Wankers, riders who get lapped, hop back into the peloton refreshed, and then lend a hand with occasional chases, not to mention acting as clogstacles on the last lap as they sprunt for 15th among the non-lapped riders. Some people don’t like the H.I.W.’s but I do: It’s a frigging training race and people get stronger when they get shredded, jump in, and then put down another series of hard efforts.

Avoiding clogstacles on the bell lap, and moving up through a field of gassed riders is also much easier than doing the real thing on race day, so it’s great practice.

Kudos to all who came out and raced, and kudos to Tom Duong and Yasuko Davidson, who spent the entire hour cataloging this nonsense. Most of all, kudos to Joe Yule, the guy who brought Telo back to life–all hail the mighty Junkyard!

END

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Clash of the moderately-sized titans

April 11, 2018 § 6 Comments

The history of Telo is a bit foggy, or rather windy. It has been going on for over thirty years. Fifteen years ago it sported huge turnouts of 50-60 racers every week, sometimes more. With the downward spiral of road racing, Telo completely died about four years ago, and so dead was it that I actually listed it as “R.I.P.” on my South Bay Rides page.

Then Grandpa Joe, Junkyard, the resident creative genius of the South Bay stepped in. With a little cajoling and a few exquisitely tailored, beautifully designed winner jerseys, he brought Telo back to life. There are few things as important to the development of grass roots racing as having a regular weekly training crit. Training crits give people a place to race during the week, give new riders a chance to learn under less pressurized circumstances, and impart a vibe of competition that is part of, not apart from, camaraderie on the bike.

This past week Grandpa Joe’s heart, after close to six decades of hard work, decided to take a few beats’ vacation, and next thing we all knew our spiritual leader was being whisked off to a hospital to have his ticker frozen, the jumper cables attached, and to hopefully have his battery restarted. Dire prognostications were made about the Man of Junk, the Big Banana, and we all began writing obituaries that began with “That tough bastard …” or “That sonofabitch …” or “Who’s gonna design my kits NOW?”

Fortunately, they got the right ends of the cables hooked up to the right battery terminals, and after scraping off a whole bunch of battery acid and a few false starts, Junkyard’s battery was completely recharged. There was concern about lasting damage to the fermented brain lodged in Junkyard’s sweat-lodge of a cranium, but his first words were “I’m selling all my bike shit and spending the rest of my life wandering through museums!”

Relief was all we could feel hearing these oft-repeated words, uttered every time he regained consciousness in a hospital, because it meant for sure that he was not more than a month out from doing NPR, and two, perhaps three from suiting up at Telo.

Last night we had a massive turnout in his honor. The field was littered with hitters, and it took about forty riders to keep Evens in check. At the end, Methods to Winning demonstrated a method to winning, i.e. start your leadout with Destroyer, then follow it with Hair, then with Youngdude, then Rahsaan, and then put E.A. Sports, Inc., in the closer slot. Of course, even though it wasn’t the third quarter, he closed. Or rather, slammed the fuggin’ door shut.

I staggered home to lick my wounds. Another windy beating. Another vicious mauling. Another day of infamy metamorphosed into an evening of despair.

Another Telo. Thanks, Junkyard.

END

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Telo fun and stragety

March 28, 2018 § 2 Comments

Great night of racing at the Telo training crit last night, filled with action and #faketactics. Smasher smashed away from the field about halfway through and was never caught despite the disorganized and haphazard efforts of the chasers, who included Heavy D., Tony Wang, Shiftless, Dr. Whaaaat?, Hair, and me.

Cameo appearances by Prez, Wily Greek, and Junkyard enhanced their own personal fun of getting kicked out the back and fighting the 20 mph headwind alone for an hour.

Team Lizard Collectors used its four riders in the chase to perfectly set up Hair, who rides for Methods to Winning, for the field sprunt, which he easily nailed as the Lizards shouted at each other, watched Heavy D. ride randomly, and vigorously chased down each other’s attacks.

It never occurred to the Lizards to take turns attacking Hair, who happily sat in while watching his chances go from one-in-six to 100%. Smasher was awarded a coveted loaf of bread for his efforts. Hair, who got second, got nothing, and I, who got third, got the best prize of all: A ride home.

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I did it my way

June 19, 2015 § 20 Comments

My way just happened to be wrong.

From the moment that Junkyard announced the creation of the Flog Ride, everything was messed up. First of all there was the name he’d given it, “Love and Thursday.” Then there was the length, only four laps. Worse, the first lap was neutral. To cap off the mess, we were supposed to descend with care, especially around the two hairpins.

With a little bit of effort, though, we got all of that fixed. We changed the name to the Flog Ride. We lengthened it to five, then six laps. We reduced the neutral section to the first 25 feet, and we descended the hairpins at the razor edge of physics where speed, friction, and tire pressure all come together in a terrifying blur of clenched sphincters.

It was glorious. We’d do the 25-foot warm-up and then hit PV Drive North full gas. The uninitiated were typically shelled in the first 500 yards. Those who managed to hang on for the first lap, survive the kamikaze downhill sweepers, avoid the peacocks wandering in the road, and keep from slamming into the side of fast moving traffic when we right-hooked back onto PV Drive North were reduced to puddles on Lap 2.

By Lap 4 there were never more than five riders in the lead, and everyone else was busted out the back and struggling around the golf course alone, in the dark, angry, hurt, broken, and wondering why they’d gotten up at 5:30 AM for a 6:35 group ride that had lasted thirty seconds.

Each time up the 7-minute climb was a terrible infusion of pain, and hardly anyone ever came back to do the ride more than twice. The Flog Ride was the sadistic bully at the end of the block whose house you’d go three miles out of your way not to have to walk by. It was the barometer for how badly you sucked, how low your pain threshold was, and how poorly your self-image comported with reality.

On the plus side, the graduates of the Flog Class of 2014-2015 racked up wins at Boulevard and numerous other races. The fitness that came from doing six eyeball-extracting intervals was superlative; if you could do all six laps with the lead group and finish on the 20% grade up La Cuesta, you were race ready.

The fact that hardly anyone ever showed up was no problem. All it took was two other idiots bent on mayhem to get the training effect we sought.

The fact that dozens of eager riders showed up, got instantly shelled, and never came back was no problem. Welcome to life, suckers!

But despite the ride’s near perfection in every way, it did have one minor complication: In a few short months three riders went down in the hairpins, and thanks only to dumb luck, when they slid out across the yellow line there was no oncoming traffic. Had there been, people would have died or been catastrophically injured.

After the third bicycle falling off incident, we decided that no ride was worth this kind of risk, even though such a decision clearly called our insanity into question. The options were to cancel the ride or to modify it so that it comported with the wise architecture sketched out by Junkyard in the first place. So instead of racing up the hill and then racing back down, we raced up the hill and coasted down, taking the hairpins at slow, fully controlled velocity.

Not only were shelled riders able to regroup without racing down the descent, but slow coasting on the downhill meant that the uphill intervals were even harder, if such a thing is possible. There’s no way to make a bicycle ride safe, but sometimes you really can take out the sharpest fangs without killing the fun. Just don’t call it Love and Thursday.

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Birth of a bike ride

December 5, 2014 § 26 Comments

Rides come and go, mostly go. When the New Pier Ride was ruined by construction on Westchester Parkway, a new ride was subbed in. Dreamed up by local rider Junkyard, the new Thursday ride has now reached a point of such viciousness that its founder not only gets shelled in the first three minutes, but it’s gotten so hard that he can’t even get out of bed.

Now that, friends, is a hard bicycle ride.

The Thursday ride leaves at 6:35 AM sharp from the fountain in Malaga Cove. The route is simple:

  1. Right on PV Drive.
  2. Right on Paso del Campo.
  3. Right on Via Campesina.
  4. Right on Via Chico, through the arch, and back to PV Drive.
  5. On the sixth lap, left on La Cuesta, where the ride terminates at the top and you vomit.
  6. Back to Riviera Village for coffee and lies.

The awesomeness of the ride is expressed by the fact that it immediately starts with a climb, so people immediately get shelled. No imagining, no hoping, no fantasy that you actually had sort of a good ride. You start and if you don’t have the legs you’re gone. There is something beautiful about this type of summary execution, where the usual habit of lingering, wheelsucking, and flailing by at the end becomes a nasty sort of trial, judgment, and punishment within the first few hundred yards.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there because the beginning climb isn’t that steep, and the following climb up around the golf course isn’t that steep. So with practice you can get strong enough to hang on, although the humiliation and crushing sense of defeat that comes from getting repeatedly shelled the first few times you do the ride is usually enough to make people go away and never come back. The net effect is that after a few laps are three groups.

  1. Stathis the Wily Greek.
  2. Everyone else.
  3. The fragments.

But it gets better because there are no stoplights. On the NPR, indeed every group ride in L.A., the ride is controlled partially by stoplights, and largely by stoplight whiners. Essentially, when you’re off the front on the NPR with one other wanker and you have a pack of 85 chasing with a tailwind and you’re pedaling harder than teakwood and you approach a red light and you run it, at the end of the ride all the wheelsuckers and never-seen-the-fronters and wait-til-the-end-sprunters and why-are-we-hammering-it’s-Novemberers will berate you for scofflawing. Never mind that there was never any danger, and never mind that the whiners are the very people who will pull the craziest death-shit in the middle of a pack fighting for a wheel. The point is that they want to detract from your awesomesauceness and your heroic brokeaway antics. Plus, they’re pissed that their sprunt didn’t count because you had already crossed the imaginary line in a fantasy victory.

Not so with the Thursday ride! There are no stoplights to run, only stop signs, and the stoplight whiners never, ever, ever show up for the ride. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, then fricasseeing them and eating them for dinner.

The ride offers up lots more goodness, for example racing tactics. There is always one idiot or two who will attack from the gun and establish a healthy gap. Said idiot, who often writes a daily blog, then gets reeled in and crushed. But rather than simply floating to the back to regroup and attack again, the torrid pace and the constant rolling climb punish the would-be attacker to such an extent that the next hard acceleration, typically unleashed by Derek, or by EA Sports, Inc., or by 26, obliterates the hangers-on so that Sausage, Spivey, Fireman, and I wank along until they shell me, too.

In short, you can get all the misery and failure of a race every single week without paying a nickel or driving a mile.

But wait, there’s more! Repeat riders get stronger (can you imagine that?) so the ride gets even harder. 26, who never finished without getting shelled, put the wood to everyone yesterday. When a big boy like that gets as comfortable on rolling power climbs as he is in sprints, it’s going to mean mayhem.

Best of all, with the exception of the time that Sausage got dropped, turned around, and hopped back in with us as we came by, there is no cheating. Once you get unhitched, you’re on your own to struggle and suffer and try to catch the little red blinking light in front of you. Or you pair up with another wanker and suffer in tandem.

The ride is short; just under one hour long, and after finishing the climb on the last lap you jog left and go up La Cuesta. It’s only a little more than a quarter-mile long, but at 12 or 13 percent it feels like a light-year. Now if we can just get the ride’s founder to start showing up again.

A bad time gone worse

October 30, 2014 § 17 Comments

For three years we enjoyed the New Pier Ride. But last week, a mortal blow was dealt to this mainstay morning ride in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Massive construction along Westchester Parkway meant that in addition to the normal avoidance of cars, crap in the road, and other bikers, we had to negotiate giant earthmoving equipment, massive trenches, construction workers, steel plates, ripped up pavement, plastic cones, and an entire parkway shrunk down to one tiny, narrow lane.

Many people, including me, decided that they would be taking a hiatus from the Tuesday-Thursday beatdown until the construction was finished. Some folks suggested a return to the Old Pier Ride, a classic urban fustercluck that included countless stoplights, lots of aggro morning commuters, and a deathly, screaming pedal along a narrow bike path in the marina.

Naaaah.

Then I got a note from Junkyard. It said something like, “Yo, Wanky. New route on Thursday around the golf course in PV. Four laps. Neutral descent. Finish on La Cuesta, with its 3-minute, 15% grade. Be there.”

At first it seemed crazy simply because it is so different from the NPR, which is flat. The loop around the golf course has three short, very punchy climbs, and that’s the opposite of what NPR aficionados want. In fact, the NPR is a place where pretty much anyone, regardless of fitness, can hang on due to the sucking draft of the 80+ riders barreling along a wide, flat parkway.

The illness of Junkyard’s route was that there would be nowhere to hide. The climbs weren’t long enough to select for “climbers,” but they weren’t easy enough to let the big and the lazy simply cruise over the difficulties by leveraging position and momentum.

At 6:35 AM we rolled out from Malaga Cove. One or two geniuses had left their headlights at home, but no matter. The crew consisted of Junkyard, Toronto, Tumbleweed, EA Sports, Inc., Cookie, Davy, Tregillis, South Bay Baby Seal, and me. “Let’s ride the first two laps neutral until we’re familiar with the course,” Junkyard advised.

We did in fact start at a neutral pace, but a hundred yards in we were going full-gas up PV North. Cookie made a groaning noise and popped. The next time anyone saw him, he was hanging over his top tube in the parking lot with his eyes spinning backwards in his head. When we crested the third and final riser at the golf course on lap one, only three riders were left. We regrouped and did another lap.

This time Davy and a couple of others opened a gap on PV North. Toronto closed the gap and then made an opportunistic attack at the bottom of the last climb. But then the transmission fell out of his chassis, a rod when flying through his engine block, and we didn’t see him again for a while.

By the end of the third lap Tumbleweed and Cookie had left in order to [go to work/ ride according to their proper off-season training plan/ do yoga]. Junkyard was shelled. Toronto was shelled. I was cracked.

On the final lap we hit the first climb up PV Drive hard. Then on Via Campesina, EA Sports, Inc. accelerated. Davy had taken a sabbatical and now I was about to do the same. Tregillis rolled by to bridge and I clawed onto his wheel. EA Sports, Inc. made it first to the top of the golf course, but unfortunately we had the beast of La Cuesta waiting. Tregillis hit the ascent and floated away, then caught EA Sports, Inc., and kept on floating.

I was so blown that even with EA Sports, Inc. paperboying up the climb I still couldn’t catch him. Atop La Cuesta we struggled and gasped and heaved.

Toronto joined us after a while. “My cleat kept wanting to come out of the pedal so I had to pedal just right,” he said, implying that but for the cleat issue things might have ended differently. Then he added, “Plus, I already rode hard and did some big climbs before we started.”

Junkyard trailed in, face and chest covered in sheet snot, eyes crossed, and strange sounds coming out of his mouth that sounded like English as it is spoken by wildebeests.

After a few moments we all agreed that it was a great course except that no one would ever want to do it. “Can you imagine the NPR crew showing up for this?” asked Junkyard.

“No,” I said. “I can’t.”

“And the whole thing was only 36 minutes,” he said. “Next week we’ll add two more laps. But the first lap will be neutral.”

We all looked at each other.

“Really,” said. “It will.”

END

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