No place for old men

April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

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

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

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

“Yeah. What?”

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

Pause. “Well, never.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl.

February 23, 2015 § 60 Comments

After the CBR crit last week I was rolling around with G$. He had fired a thousand artillery shells and I’d fired a hundred mortar rounds in our vain attempts to get away. Robb M., who had fired a dribble from his tiny squirt gun, came by as we were chatting. “Are you guys dating?” he snarked as he passed.

The following week was Rosena Ranch, a nasty, hilly, miserable little 2.7-mile circuit with two stinging climbs and two ripping downhills. I looked around at the start line. G$ was there, but Robb was apparently busy that weekend.

G$ broke away on the fourth of eleven laps with Jaycee Cary of LaGrange. I clawed onto their rear wheel as teammates Alan Flores, Harold Martinez, Dave Jaeger, Jon Edwards, and Jon Nist clogged the front like avocado pits in a garbage disposal.

After a couple of laps Jaycee sat up, brains oozing from his knees and a soft moaning sound emanating from his armpits. It was just me and Greg. I thought briefly about Coach Holloway’s two injunctions:

  1. Always be the second strongest guy in the break.
  2. Have a plan to win.

The first injunction was easy. G$ ripped through each lap like a sailor on shore leave rips through a whorehouse. I did my share of the work, and Greg did the other 99%. But the “have a plan to win” part wasn’t turning out so well.

As G$’s efforts put more and more time on the subdued and demoralized field, it was simultaneously subduing and demoralizing me. But at the beginning of our breakaway how different it all had been!

For years I had fantasized about riding a break with Greg. How good it would be, just him and me as we punched our way to victory. And now here I was, having finally taken all the clothes off that cute girl in high school I’d been dreaming about. She was right there in front of me, buck naked, offering up her soft yet firm breasts as her erect nipples stood to attention under the gentle caresses of my tongue.

I pressed myself on top of her as she spread her legs, trembling with excitement as I hovered on the verge of plunging myself into that hot and welcoming refuge of ecstasy.

But then, WHAM! She was pounding my nuts with a hammer.

Then, WHAM! She was stomping my dick with giant hob-nailed boots.

Then, WHAM! She was beating my teeth out with a brick.

Then, WHAM! She was stuffing a roll of barbed wire up my butt.

How could something that had begun so right be going so wrong? In the midst of my agony, as G$ wasn’t even breathing, he turned back to me and smiled. “Dude,” he said, “if we stick this out to the line, this win is yours.”

Anyone else would have understood this as the perfect winning plan. But I had a much worse one, so I shook my head. “Fuck you,” I said. “I don’t want any gifts. No gifts!” I had forgotten that you’re only supposed to proudly repudiate gifted wins a-la Pantani on Ventoux after you cross the line.

G$ shrugged as we hit the bottom of the climb. “If you say so.” He punched it so hard that all of the other beatings seemed like loving caresses. I fell off the back then clawed my way back to his wheel, gasping.

He looked back as we hit the turnaround and attacked again. I flailed as hard as I could and reattached to his rear wheel. “Hey, man,” I said. “You know how you were saying about me winning? Is that deal still on the table?”

He answered with another punch to the gonads, then settled into a pace that was harder than a fourth-grade word problem.

On the bell lap we crested the final climb before the roaring descent, which turned into a gentle kicker to the line. G$ looked over at me. Then he reached down and slowly took out his water bottle, smiling.

“What the fuck is he doing that for? GO NOW!” I shouted to me, and go I did. Full gas. Nothing held back. The gap was instantaneous and big, but somehow he closed it with 200m to the line.

“Sprunt!” I shrieked to myself, cranking out the massive 450-watt finishing effort that has made me a watchword the world over. “I’m winning!” I continued to yell internally. Somehow, G$ wasn’t coming around! I was beating him! I was awesome! I was the greatest! I had done it!

The line flashed by, and you know what? A picture is worth a thousand words. Oh, and a question: If his hands are off the bars, does that mean he wasn’t really sprinting?

Friends let friends think they're actually sprinting for a win. Photo courtesy of Lauren Mulwitz, 2015, used with permission.

Friends let friends think they’re actually sprinting for a win. Photo courtesy of Lauren Mulwitz, 2015, used with permission.



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An atheist’s Christmas prayer

December 25, 2014 § 56 Comments

“There are no atheists in foxholes,” the saying goes. But there’s a corollary: “Stay the hell out of foxholes.”

It’s Christmas time again, otherwise known as my birthday. And as Manslaughter observed while texting me the other day, “Hey, Wanky, you know what? I’ve never seen you and Jesus together. Weird.” Actually, he said “u.”

For many years I hated my Birthmas celebration for the obvious reason of present shortage and complete absence of birthday partyage. We once tried to do it in July and learned the cold truth. You can’t change your birthday. All those kids swarming around the cake and stuff didn’t mean anything when they said, “You’re birthday’s on Christmas, though, isn’t it?”

It’s like spending all that money on a nip and tuck and stretch and having all your friends say, “You got a nose job, didn’t you?”

Christmas I was born, and to Christmas I was consigned, hating it until about age 30, when I realized that the good thing about everyone forgetting your birthday is that everyone forgets about your birthday. “How old are you again?” asked in June is so much better than, “Hey, happy 51st!” spoken exactly on schedule.

This is really the essence of Christmas for me: A spoiled old man complaining about having gotten shorted on presents when I was seven. Now that I’m a full-grown atheist, we don’t even buy a tree anymore, just a Christmas shrub. A few years ago I tossed the lifetime of Christmas decorations that had accumulated, handmade things from my childhood and the childhoods of my children. All we have left are some stockings, two of which were made by my grandmothers. I’ll hang onto them, I suppose, and may even hang them up.

But Christmas is more than an earnest attempt to avoid crowds, eschew impulse shopping, and avoid over-laden tables of sweets, cakes, eggnog, and food. For some people, Christmas is a chance to pray, and to pray from the heart.

I have ridden a few times with a guy named Justin. I don’t know his last name, but I know he is a good rider and a really kind guy. He is a professional tutor in Manhattan Beach, and at age 39 he has helped hundreds of young people navigate the increasingly complex and increasingly competitive world of academics. Little by little he fell in with the MB crew, a gang of riders that includes Jeff K., King Harold, Jaeger, Manslaughter, and the other hardcore South Bay cycling addicts.

In October they planned a four-day ride from San Jose to LA, a 500-mile leisurely jaunt along some of the most gorgeous coastline in the world, during which they would all stare intently at their stems and drool for six hours a day. On the first day Manslaughter went zinging through a tight, gravelly turn that was marked with a giant sign saying “BICYCLES CAUTION: TIGHT, GRAVELLY TURN!!” and, to his surprise, at 35 mph his wheels slipped out and forced him to engage his secondary braking system, otherwise known as the skin up and down the left side of his body, and his head.

As Manslaughter is wont to do, he snapped a few photos for Facebag, taped up his frame, and continued on. Later that day Justin, who was also along for the fun, fell and broke his wrist. At the ER one thing led to another and when he returned to Los Angeles for further treatment he ended up getting a biopsy on a small lump on his tongue. It turned out to be stage four cancer, and Justin is now heading to San Diego for chemo and radiation. His Christmas just turned into a foxhole.

I also learned that a week or so ago there was a mass for him at which several hundred friends, family, students, and former students gathered to express their love and support. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a rough slog, something that makes our “suffering on the bike” look absurd in comparison because you know, if you choose to do it, it’s not really suffering.

There’s something about that slog and about the love of the people around him that resonated with me. A couple of nights ago I met up with Jami and Derek and Daniel and Andrea for dinner. Afterwards we went upstairs to the bar where a handful of friends had gathered to wish me a surprise happy birthday. It filled me warmth, that feeling that people love you, even the same people who gleefully pound you into mush on rides and in races.

As I basked in the glow I thought about Justin and wondered how I could pray for him because well, atheists don’t pray. Then it struck me. No matter what you believe, I hope you believe that love matters. I do. And that’s my prayer for Justin — that the love around him will make the difference. Merry Christmas, man. See you soon.



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P[u]CK[e]RR Up!

January 29, 2013 § 20 Comments

The 2013 Poor College Kids Road Race started fast, downhill and into a crosswind. The bunch was nervous. Maybe eighty idiots rolled out; less than half would finish.

It was impossible to move up, so tightly were we packed together. Everyone felt feisty and strong and ready for the challenge at hand: Fifty-six miles of road racing in Santa Barbara County on rolling terrain with one moderate five or six-minute climb.

In the beginning, before we all hated one another so intensely, there was much pointing out of obstacles, especially the first triple set of road dots that caused lots of skittering and whoa-ing and rear wheel sliding. Then we roared through the first gravelly turn with a couple of riders going sideways but not falling down, and then the pace went full-gas into the tailwind which soon became another crosswind.

The next time someone says bike racing is “fun,” I will vomit on them personally.

We hid behind one another as much as possible until the climb approached. A mile or so out there was the familiar groaning and scraping and crunching and disharmony of Idiot A’s front wheel lurching into the rear derailleur of Idiot B and both grinding into a massive twisted morass of broken carbon frames and smashed wheels and curses and cries and blood and minced flesh and the ultimate terror (“Fuck, how’m I gonna ‘splain this to my wife?”) but the second I heard the first tiny little squeak presaging the crash I stomped on the pedals and shot ahead, never looking back to see who had fallen and caring only about saving myself.

We went up and over the climb, a few lumbering stragglers getting popped at this test-em-out, totally doable pace, and then went through the rollers and roared down into the start finish and began the second of four laps.

Thirty-six minutes.

It slices, it dices

On this second lap the pace ratcheted up so suddenly that we were all forced into the gutter, hiding from the crosswind but too stupid to form three or four echelons. We hated each other too much to form echelons. Better to force our rims up against the edge of catastrophe and batter into the sliver of slipstream than go wide, provide a full-lane echelon, and take turns.

Echelons are for wind-savvy Flandrians. Sun-soaked saps from SoCal just ride in the gutter and suffer like idiots, drooling blood and spit onto their bars and shrieking “Fuck this hurts fuck this hurts fuck when is this gonna end fuck I’m quitting after this lap fuck why doesn’t that asshole give me another inch of pavement fuck I hate bike racing!”

Through the gravelly turn again there “warn’t near as many as there was a while ago,” and some sadist at the front began pounding again so that by the time we hit the crosswind it was almost unendurable. A break of seven or eight pinched off and rolled up the road, the guttered peloton unable to chase because the break was riding in an echelon but the group was a single file pushed up against the yellow line, smashing the BOTS dots with bone-jarring contact bam-bam-bam-bam-fuckwhenisthisgonnaend-bam-bam-bam-bam-fuckgivemejustaninchyoubastard-bam-bam-bam-bam.

MMX, stuck in the front of the chase bus, launched to join SPY-Giant-RIDE teammate Alan Flores, who had already spent the first lap in a leg stretching solo attack and was now part of what would be the day’s winning move. MMX clawed his way across the gap, mashing and battering and forcing himself onto the tail of the break as we left-behinds regrouped, with the more adventurous pushing the pace until the break was all but caught.

Don’t sit up before the catch

Team Helen’s and the handful of other poor sods who’d worn themselves out on the BOTS dots because they were too selfish and mean and stupid to echelon and who now didn’t have anyone in the break, brought the pack to within perhaps fifty yards of the breakaway, then sat up without closing the gap. At that moment we hit the climb.

The break dangled, got even closer, then crested the climb and was gone.

We never saw them again. Greg Leibert from Big Orange, Benny Parks from Jessup Chevrolet, Flores and Marckx were all there, as well as Chris Hahn the loner, back from his exile in the land of mesothelioma fundraising to the only home he ever knew: Racing bikes for $50 and a water bottle prime, sucking wheels, screaming orders, riding randomly, surging, opening gaps, and infuriating his breakaway mates.

After one outburst, Flores finally rode up to him. “Dude,” he said. “Shut your fucking mouth and ride your goddamned bike. It’s a race, not a fucking debating contest.”

The third lap was more terrible for the left-behinds than the second, if such a thing could be, and it was. The left-behinds with no one in the break gnashed their teeth and ground their gears at the front, destroying the weak of spirit, the jiggly of flesh, and the spindly of leg. We tore down the crosswind section, again stupidly in the gutter, raced through the tailwind, then guttered out against the BOTS dots, bam-bam-bam-fuckthissucks-bam-bam-bam-givemeaninchyoucock-bam-bam-bam, too stupid and cruel and mean and stingy to follow King Harold’s lead as he tried in vain to show the idiots the palliative effects of forming an echelon.

Hell ends in one more lap

The fourth lap was the easiest, as the left behinds had nothing left, the sun was going down, a bitter cold was setting in, exhaustion, bonk, hopelessness, and the dull emptiness of a lost battle in which all was sacrificed for no good reason slowly sank in. Andy Jessup flailed up the last climb, dropping the left behinds briefly, only to be reeled in a mile from the finish. In the insane downhill leadout to the line, where grown men with jobs, families, assets, and social standing flew headfirst to the finish at 40 mph, risking everything for 8th place in a 45+ older gentlemen’s prostate contest, some wanker who had a lock on 26th got chopped and landed on his head.

As he lay writhing and screaming in agony, blood everywhere, bike parts scattered like a swap meet after a tornado, flopping and moaning and crying, I pulled over to help drag his carcass out of the way so that the heroes charging in for 30th and 31st, heads down, didn’t t-bone what was left of his battered and bleeding body.

In the final tally Benny Parks took overall prostate honors, followed by someone else, followed by Chris Hahn, who had committed all manner of sins against His Leibertness in terms of wheelsuckery and other assorted violations of the Code Of Honor Among Wankers, followed by His Leibertness, followed by somebody, followed by MMX, who had destroyed the little band of brothers with a fratricidal attack in the closing kilometers, followed by He Of The Iron Nutsack Alan Flores, then a dribble and a drabble, and finally a surging field sprunt win by Aron “Gaudy” Gadhia, nipping Big Steve Gregorios at the line, who, along with Dave Gonyer, won the award for Most Gigantic Mountain of Human Flesh to Make it Over that Fucking Climb Four Times with the Field.

Mongo just pawn in game of life

Mongo Pappe and I had driven up together; he’d done the race on his ‘cross bike and I’d done the race on bile and spittle and chunks of lung. Whereas Hatchitt and Taylor and Gonyer and King Harold and the other teammates had done yeoman’s work controlling the front, Mongo and I had skulked at the back, cursing the gutter and getting as tiny as we could and trying to park behind the biggest butt we could find.

We listened briefly while DS Hatchitt debriefed the team on our combined fledgling tactics. “Wankster,” he said. “Where the fuck were you? I thought you’d been dropped.”

“I was back there, uh, conserving.”

“Conserving for what? You should have been chasing the wankers who were trying to bridge.”

“Oh. Well, I uh, was…”

“The only time you stuck your nose out in the wind was when you dashed up the hill with KK and almost dragged him up to your own teammates in the damned break.”

“Well, I was, uh, trying to sort of be a, like, you know, a decoy.”

“It was stupid. Don’t do it again.”

“And Mongo!” said the DS.

“Yeah?” Mongo answered in his tiniest voice.

“What the fuck you doing riding back there with that slacker Wankmeister?”

“I was trying to, er, help, uh, the team, you know…”

“I do fucking know. You were shirking back there with Wanky sucking wheel on the fat guys while the rest of your mates were up here busting their balls. Next time follow the First Rule of the Peloton, okay?”

“Sure,” said Mongo. “Uh, what’s that?”

“If you’re anywhere near Wanky, YOU’RE FUCKING OFF!”

Before returning to the car. Mongo looked at me. “Was that race as much fun for you as it was for me?”

I looked around to make sure no one could hear. “Hell, yeah!”

We laughed, high-fived, and headed back to the hotel.

Wankmeister cycling clinic #10: Upgrades

May 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

After a very successful 7-year career as a Cat 3, I was recently force-upgraded after getting 2nd at the Long Beach crit, even though I only had 4,598,209 upgrade points. Some of the other sore loser types complained to the officials. I told them that it’s only my 75th top three placing of the year. I told them that I started out this year with the GOAL of winning the SoCal Cup as a Cat 3, and that I always reach my goals. This is a kind of robbery, having my Cat 3 taken away. What am I supposed to do now? Race the Cat 2’s? Race the 35+? That’s cray-cray.

Zerep Divad

Dear Zerep:

It’s a hard lot in life when USCF officials will no longer tolerate cheating, and I sympathize with you. It’s only fair that you should be able to break the upgrade rules so that you can win money and prizes that would otherwise go to someone else. I for one am in solidarity with you.

It is even more terrible that you must now race with the Cat 2’s. What do they think you are? A full time pro? Jeez, you’ve got a wife, kids, job, mortgage. How are you going to up your miles from the current 500 per week to 650? Can’t be done. Those fuckers. And 35+? Are they joking? Like, how are you gonna beat Charon and deMarchi and Paolinetti? You couldn’t carry those guys’ jocks with a forklift. Crap. On the plus side, you can now flail around with Wankmeister and beat up on cyclotourists, triathletes, and joggers. So there’s that.


Dear Wankmeister:

I’ve been a Cat 3 for two months now, and just got upgraded. I’m totally psyched. I hated flogging with all those wankers. It was dangerous, and frankly, not much sense of achievement to win, especially when you’re beating career hackers who are too chicken to race the hard races. I actually did a 35+ race the same day I upgraded and got fourth. It was fast and hard and I didn’t have any teammates, but I used my head, rode smart, and got a decent result. I’m looking forward to improving as a cyclist by racing with guys who are faster and better than I am. That’s the only way to improve. At anything.

Nosredna Cire

Dear Nosredna:

This is a sad commentary on the state of cycling, when a guy can just win a few races and upgrade rather than sandbagging for years, collecting prize money, hamming it in front of the cameras, and perfecting the art of “sit & sprint.” I hope you know that you have single-handedly brought our sport into disrepute. How will we attract new riders? How will we coerce our wives and kids to come watch? You think Mrs. WM is gonna sit out in the 300-degree heat to watch Wanky get 55th in a crit? You think Wanky Jr. is gonna hang around to watch Pops get dropped on the first lap of Pukebowl? ‘Course not!

My advice to you, young man, is to forget the crazytalk. Do a couple of P/1/2 races. Maybe even crash once or twice. Then lay low for a year or two and come back as a Cat 4. Move up gradually. If you play your cards right you can get a good 5 or 6-year run of pistachio primes and prize money before they bump you up. Trust me on this one.


Dear Wankmeister:

I’m a sandbagger. I admit it. I’m proud of it. Although I could easily upgrade to Cat 3, I like it here in the 4’s. I only race a few times a year anyway and don’t give a rat’s ass about results. My goal is to be one of the cool dudes on the South Bay rides. I want to put the screws to DJ. Make Roadchamp suffer. Drop King Harold on the flats. Heck, I already put a bunch of dudes to the sword on Saturday’s ride out to Decker Lake, including YOU. Then I made fun of Triple for getting dropped after I crashed out Polly. So why should I upgrade? I want the “cool” you can’t get in school.

Setting my sights,

Dear Checkerbutt:

Oh, boy. You are 25 years old. DJ is, like, a hundred. He’s old enough to be your grandfather’s father. Beating him, or Roadchamp, or King Harold, is like bragging about having sex with your wife. You’re SUPPOSED to, for Dog’s sake. When these guys were 25, they didn’t have their sights set on smacking down some shriveled up old weekend hobby biker. They were Cat 1 or Cat 2 or national caliber athletes racing against their peers. You can never be South Bay cool on the strength of your old geezer beatdown resume.

On the other hand, for them to ever whip up on you reduces you to ignominy. They’re NOT SUPPOSED to be able to stomp your dick in the dirt. So when they do, you lose all kind of style and respect points. And don’t ever think, even for a millisecond, that old farts don’t keep score. They’re still laughing about your epic meltdown on Fernwood and your colossal collapse on the Rock Store climb, and chasing down Wankmeister at Telo after being admonished not to by King Harold is like marrying your cousin, only worse.

However, all is not lost. It is possible to endear yourself to the South Bay royalty. Follow the easy steps below:

  1. Race. This means real races. With numbers, entry fees, officials, crashes, etc.
  2. Upgrade. This means winning, placing, or participating. Show that you hate being a Cat 4 wanker and are desperate to get out and become a Cat 3 wanker.
  3. Do the South Bay royalty rides in the off season, and obey proper SBRR etiquette as further described below. Remember at all times that as you shamelessly angle for an invitation to the FTR, you must ingratiate, fawn, flatter, and suck knob to a fare thee well in order to earn the approval of FTR DS Jaeger.
  4. Keep your mouth shut unless you’re about to do some serious knob polishing. Don’t remind Triple he just got shelled like a bad pecan. He knows it; he’s the one that had to wipe the four pounds of sheet snot off his face. Plus, he’s so old that by the time you’re his age he will have been drawing Social Security for 15 fucking years.
  5. Don’t crash out Polly by being a fred. South Bay royalty all have families, jobs, and shorter lifespans than you. Don’t move up the date any quicker than necessary.
  6. After beating the living shit out of Wankmeister, dropping him like a stone on the climbs, railing his innards into mush on PCH, and flogging him like a dead skunk all the way back up to his apartment, don’t “evaluate” his ride for him by saying, “You did pretty good today. Not too bad on the climb; good effort there. Good job on PCH, you hung in fine and were even able to do a little work, too. Boy, you sure were breathing hard when we were going up Pepperdine and you couldn’t pull through! Are you going slow now because you’re tired?”

Anyway, I hope this helps. You’re a good kid who has potential, but then again, so did most of the other convicts on death row.


Hand job, or, health issues that affect cycling

May 12, 2012 § 5 Comments

For the last couple of years my right palm has been getting really callused. A series of hard lumps has formed around the base of my middle finger, lumps that are so large and hardened that they have made it impossible for me to fully open my hand.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “I bet his vision is worsening as well.”

It’s not, smartypants.

Wanky’s damaged palm.

Since I spend so much time typing, it made sense that this was  carpal tunnel syndrome, or probably, according to Dr. Google, “Trigger Finger.” I wouldn’t ordinarily have given much thought to it, since it never really affected me, but over the last two years it’s become harder and harder to reach the front brake lever. And when something starts jacking with my ability to ride…I pay attention.

(Not) Rushing to judgment

It usually takes me a long time to get to the doctor. For anything. The last time I had a physical was in 1997. I had a cold. The infection had traveled into my chest, and avoiding medical care allowed it to become full-fledged pneumonia in one lung. After recovering I went to the doctor, who took a chest x-ray and told me that I was in great shape.

Haven’t caught cold and haven’t seen a doctor since.

I don’t like doctors for the same reason I don’t like dentists. They hurt. When I was a little kid I had lots of bad doctor and dentist experiences. That, combined with a daily diet of beatings from my brother, didn’t make me tough. It made me weak. Weak and fearful. I remain that way today. As a result, I’ve never gone to get my trigger finger treated because Dr. Google said it would require minor surgery, and as everyone knows, surgery means needles and blood.

I don’t mind blood. Unless it’s mine. In which case I will do anything to avoid it. And when the only thing I have to do to avoid it is not call the doctor, it’s pretty simple, since I never call him anyway. Like I said, though, it has started to affect my cycling, so about a year ago I started making plans to get ready to prepare for perhaps getting in the mindset to be fixing to think about making an appointment with the hand doctor.

Yesterday I went to see him. You know how you always bust your butt to get to the doctor on time? And you know how once you get there you wait for an hour, which makes you wonder what in the world you were hurrying for? That happened. Filled out the forms (No, no STD’s. No, no heart disease. No, not allergic to any drugs. No, not currently pregnant. Last period? She was complaining about it a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t remember the date. What does her period have to do with my hand?)

And then…”Briefly describe your problem.” Wow. Briefly? I took a stab at it: “My problem is that I’m pretty fucked up because I’m from Texas.”

I turned the paper around and looked at it from different angles. Somehow it didn’t look right. So I added, “And my middle finger hurts and is callused and I can’t open my hand all the way.”

The French are watching you

If you were a cynical bike blogger who always made fun of the French and the Danes, what kind of disease would karma send your way? It would be a disease with a French name that was caused by a recessive gene among people of Scandinavian descent. Of course it would.

In came Dr. Slutsky. Yep, that’s really his name. And nope, I’m not going to make fun of it. What am I going to say that he didn’t hear every single day of his life the first 12 grades of school? Nothing, and I can’t stand not being original, unless I’m copying CapTaintBag.

Doc Sluts glanced at my palm, and said something that sounded like “De Pooter’s Contracture.”


D-u-p-u-y-t-r-e-n-s Contracture. It’s named after the 19th Century French physician who first tried to treat it surgically, Dr. Baron Gillaume Dupuytren.”

“You kidding me? I got a French disease? How degrading is that?”

“Not exactly. The name is French, but the condition is genetic, most likely of Scandinavian origin.”

“Danish. Even worse. Dolphin-killing-inbred Viking disease named by some French dude. So you’re going to operate?”

“No. Surgery doesn’t really help. It’s incurable.”

“We have a cure for syphilis. For bad spelling. For small breasts and short penises. Don’t tell me you can’t cure this claw-hand deal.”

“Eventually your hand will contract so much that you’ll have great difficulty doing normal activities. Unfortunately, you’re right-handed, and it’s your right hand, and you’re young, which typically means a fast progression. We can do some surgical procedures later, but the problem is that the genetic defect causes uncontrolled Type 2 collagen growth. The collagen will come back even more quickly after surgery. It’s genetic. 100% rate of recurrence.”

“What does this mean for whacking off?”

“As long as it doesn’t spread to your left hand, you should be fine.”

“Left hand? I can’t use my left hand! It doesn’t even feel like me. And what do you mean ‘spread’? Don’t tell me this shit spreads.”

Dr. Slutty tells me that this shit spreads

“It can. Do you have any calluses like this on your feet?”

“I don’t know. They’re so gnarly I don’t get down there too often.”

“What do you mean, ‘gnarly’?”

“Oh, the usual. Stuff between the toes. Giant ol’ crusty yellow toenails that smell like dead eggs when you try and scrape ’em clean underneath. Just not a real cool place to hang out, y’know? It’s one of the benefits of being tall. Your feet are a long ways off.”

“At this point all I can tell you to do is to keep an eye on it. Come back in about a year or so, or whenever your hand is so arched that you can’t lay it flat on the table.”

“I already can’t lay it flat on the table.”

“Hmmm. Yes. Well, there’s nothing for it as of now. And keep an eye on other body parts.”

“Whoaaaa—what do you mean ‘other body parts?’ You mean, aside from my left hand and my feet?”

“Yes. You want to make sure it doesn’t develop into Peyronie’s disease.”

“No! Not another French disease!”

“I’m afraid so. It’s another type of collagenic thickening.”

By now I could see the two little twins from The Shining covered in gore shouting “Redrum! Redrum! Redrum!” only it was worse than that. They were shouting “Sinep! Sinep! Sinep!”

I got faint and had to sit down, but I was already sitting down. So I lay down on his leather couch, and wondered why a hand doctor had a leather couch in his examining room. I slowly choked out the words. “So…tell…me…about…Peyronie’s thing.”

Doc Slutmaster tells me about Peyronie’s thing

“It occurs in the penis. The collagen lays down bands beneath the skin of the penis, causing it to curve.”

“This can’t be real. Anglecock? If you were doing a stand-up comedy routine I wouldn’t even laugh.”

“You don’t have it yet. It only occurs in a minority of cases of people with Dupuytren’s.”

“A minority? Dude, 49% is a minority. How many, exactly?”

“The penis develops a bend…”

“A bend? Like a river? You’re telling me my dick is going to look like a U-bolt? Good Dog, what’s gonna happen when we stop at the Ocean Park toilets on the Saturday ride? Everybody’s gonna laugh and say, ‘Don’t stand behind that dude when he whizzes!’ Can you imagine the nicknames? ‘U-Turn.’ ‘Double Joint.’ ‘Comin’ and Goin’.’ My Dog, this is the worst thing imaginable.”

“Not the worst,” Doc Sluthopper said. “The worst is that when the curvature becomes sufficiently hardened and pronounced, it can result in penile fracture during intercourse.”

By now I was softly sobbing. “Great. Fucking great. My pecker’s going to break off during sex. Then what? Call a tow truck to pull it out? And what happens to the stump? Do they put me on Dr. Phil to do a panel with that dude whose wife chopped his weenie off while he was sleeping? This isn’t happening. It’s not real. Tell me it’s not real. Please, Doc Slutbag.”

Moral of the story

There isn’t one, except for his assurance that the Peyronie’s disease thing was unlikely, and I was probably just going to have my right hand turn into a deformed claw in the next five or ten years. So I have that going for me.

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I went to a party with King Harold, Roadchamp, DJ, Polly, Triple, and Bull. I showed them my hand and they immediately turned my deformed fingers into a gang sign…”The Claw.” And when they found out that one day I might have the dreaded U-dick, they made so many jokes and laughed so hard and came up with so many funny nicknames that I almost felt better.

And of course they all promised to take care of Mrs. WM for me if my pecker broke off. “We’ll make sure she’s taken care of,” they said.

These dear buddies helped me realize that no matter how bad off I get, they will always be there to laugh at me and steal my wife. That’s what friends are for. Cycling friends, anyway. Allez, allez.

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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