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.
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 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.
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!”
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.