September 8, 2015 § 27 Comments
If you have been following the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, perhaps you’ve been agog at German chancellor Angela Merkel’s bizarre, incomprehensible response to the poor, the wretched, the hungry, and the persecuted, yearning to be free: “Welcome!”
That’s right, folks. Instead of building a wall (U.S.A., Israel, Hungary, DDR), Germany is rolling up its sleeves and getting down to the hard work of accepting and integrating what will shortly be over 800,000 refugees. Sure, there are Germans who believe that the best welcome is a water cannon and a concentration camp, but they are a minority. Merkel’s word on the influx of hundreds of thousands of people pouring in?
“Deutschland schafft es.”
“Germany has this.”
Compare that with the standard bearer for the Republican Party and current GOP front-runner, Mr. I Am Angry Donald Trump. He hates immigrants from Mexico and proposes a wall that Mexico will pay for. Trumpy is pissed off, doesn’t like brown people, and wants to keep everyone away from the table except himself and presumably the handful of white male billionaires like him.
So there I was, jammed into the chute behind Michael Smith, Rico, and Matt Cuttler as we pounded up Mandeville Canyon on the 18-minute interval that is the Holiday Ride. The 80-person peloton had been surgically reduced to a tiny group with the messy, bloody, painful efficacy of a giant liposuction hose and only wheelsuckers remained, glued to Matt’s wheel as he relentlessly tried to reel in the Wily Greek.
Towards the end a few faces who hadn’t been seen the entire ride rushed forth, led by a searing attack courtesy of Big Wanker from La Grange, a strong young buck who clearly believed in making his elders do all the work. Attila Fruttus and Dave Holland scampered off with him. I held his wheel for 200 yards and cracked, experiencing the spectrum of cardiac arrhythmias described here.
I think I got eighth in a non-race that no one counts while everyone raced and counted.
On the way down I chatted with one of the guys, a newcomer from the Midwest. He told me about his few forays down south into Orange County, and about how he’d done the Como Street Ride the day before.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s pretty different down there.”
“Three hours of riding and talking with people and not a single person asked me a single question.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’d ride next to someone, talk to them about THEM and hear all the details of their life, what they did, but never got any interest the other way. It was a one way street. No one gave a damn.”
“It’s called the Orange Curtain for a reason,” I laughed.
“When I came to the South Bay I was welcomed,” he said. “People asked me to join their club, join their team, join their rides; I spent my first two weeks saying ‘Thanks.'”
“You are a national class bike racer, don’t forget.”
“It’s not that. In the last several months I’ve seen all kinds of people welcomed and have seen zero shunning. It’s just different here.”
“That’s cycling for you,” I said.
“Merkel or Trump,” I said.
He looked at me funny but I didn’t explain.
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December 17, 2013 § 13 Comments
Sometimes the things he says take a bit of decoding, and sometimes the things he says leave you scratching your head, but sometimes my pal G$ will let a pearl of wisdom drop that is practically Buddha-like in its wisdom. So you gotta be on your toes and you gotta be patient, sometimes extra, extra patient, because when one of those nuggets plops down if you’re fiddling with your Garmin or yapping about your last indoor training session, you’re gonna miss it.
We were coming back from a sedate little pedal up Mandeville Canyon, and we had hit a traffic light, I think it was on San Vicente. When it comes to traffic signals I am like a Republican mom who’s got a double tall chai mocha soy latte in one hand, an outgoing text message on her iPhone in the other, three squalling kids in the back seat, all while running five minutes late for li’l Becky’s ballet lesson.
In other words, my preferred mode of travel when riding alone is to blow through anything that doesn’t have a cop or oncoming traffic. Red lights are suggestions, and stop signs are bad ideas that won’t be adopted in this draft of the presentation.
As I’ve gotten older and more concerned about the opinions and terror of others, though, I pretty much stop at red lights when I’m with a group, and I’ll even slow way down for a stop sign. It freaks people out too much otherwise.
So we came to that ol’ stop light and put our feet down. G$ looked over at me and grinned. He’d been talking about pole vaulters and how they were put together different from other track and field elite athletes, especially when it came to beer and curfews and careful dieting — that is, pole vaulters apparently didn’t believe in either. I was concentrating as hard as I could, trying to remember what pole vaulters did, and trying to follow the details of the bus ride back in 1983 from Kansas down to El Paso in which the pole vaulters had caught a skunk and fed it beer and then let it loose in the opposing team’s locker room.
I was trying might and main to wrap my brain around how you “caught a skunk,” much less “fed it beer,” into a reality framework, and it wasn’t happening, when G$ let drop a nugget. “You know,” he said, apropos of nothing, which is his finest contextual context when it comes to nuggets. “Stopping is good.” Of course, we were stopped.
My brain ground to a halt. He might as well have said “Wife beating is good,” or “Heroin injected through the tip of your penis is good,” or “Bat sandwiches are good.”
“Dude!” my brain screamed, but didn’t say. “Stopping is TERRIBLE! Stopping is the OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE DO! Stopping is to biking what books are to Kanye West!” But instead I just looked at him kind of mutton-headed and said, “Huh?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I used to want to go all the time. But now? Stopping is good. Every time I stop it’s like, you know, good.”
“Aw, you know. It just feels good.”
We waited for the light to change while he picked up the story where the skunk and the other team’s star miler found one another, but I had tuned out because I was focusing on my leg, the one that was anchored to the ground and not pedaling my bike. Then I focused on my other leg, which was also not pedaling my bike. All of the pedaling juice that had backed up inside my veins from the trip up Mandeville ebbed away as we stood there doing nothing.
My heartbeat tailed off. Everything relaxed. I looked to the left and smiled at the Brentwood mom and her double latte.
The light turned green and off we went. At the next stop light it happened again; we stopped and it was good. It wasn’t an annoyance or an obstruction or a deliberate plan by the auto-industrial-military-Republican-anti-Obamacare-complex to force me to carry a gun, it was … good. Stopping was so good in fact that, once I’d left the group and couldn’t be observed by anyone who knew me, I stopped for a stop sign.
Then I began to ponder the Oracle of the South Bay and the deeper meaning of his utterance. “Stopping is good.”
What if it wasn’t just about cycling?
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November 23, 2012 § 10 Comments
Iron Mike and I knew it was going to be bad, and not just because we made our first pre-ride pee stop at the elegant planter and walkway entrance in front of the Police Department.
“Can we piss here?” I asked, incredulously.
“Sure. Do it all the time.”
“What about the cops?”
“You see any cops?”
“I see a big entrance to the police department that we’re standing in front of.”
“I asked if you see any cops,” he said, casually uncoiling the hose and helping spruce up the vegetation.
I had to admit I didn’t see any, so I followed suit.
We’d gotten to the start of the Holiday Ride early. It was chilly but the sun had already burned off the mist. It was going to be a perfect day. Every idiot in the South Bay with a bike would be there. Rather than start with the foaming crowd we kept pedaling. After about ten minutes they caught us on Vista del Mar. Rather, they rolled over us like a tsunami.
Did you say THREE HUNDRED?
Remember, this is an unorganized, unsponsored, casual ride that has been happening for years on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day, July the Fourth, and Labor Day. But whatever the critical mass was, it somehow got reached. Well over three hundred turkeys strutted out of the woodwork to test their legs in the race up Mandeville Canyon.
And a test it would be. Stathis Sakellariadis, Tony Manzella, Rahsaan Bahati, Diego Binatena, Dan Cobley, Greg Leibert, Cory Williams, Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, and a slew of Helen’s strongmen were all there spoiling for a fight.
Which was fine and as it should be.
What was not fine, and what was not as it should have been, was the outright war for position that began the moment the swollen cancer left Manhattan Beach. Going down Mt. Chevron, some idiots braked for the reflector dots and took their feet out of the clips. The idiots following too closely and watching something other than what was in front hit and went down.
No one cared, apparently because this was a race to the death.
I’m not easily frightened
Well, actually, I am. I’m a cowardly, fearful, trembling wussmaster when it comes to crashing, pain, danger, or getting hurt. And the second we were overtaken by the cancer, my terror level went through the roof.
People who don’t race, who have never raced, who have no intention of racing, and who wouldn’t know how to pin a number on a mannequin were fighting for position like pros approaching the Tranche d’Fuckenberg. Tiny little space between two bikes? The Turkey Pros shot through.
Both lanes filled, curb to center lane? A Turkey Pro would jump the yellow dots, sprint into oncoming traffic, advance ten positions, and dive back in.
Can’t move up by riding in the wrong lane? Watch the Turkey Pros hop the right-hand curb and race up the sidewalk. That nice lady pushing a pram with twins will understand later how important it was for them to be properly positioned, even though she’s drizzling terror pee now.
Only a couple of people figured out the solution, one being Miles Irish. Miles bulled to the very front and kept the gas on all the way to San Vicente while Turkey Pros crashed and burned behind him. Downside? The plumes of smoke coming out of his ears once the road tilted up. Upside? He never planned on winning on Mandeville anyway.
Towards the front, but never on it
The main ploy behind the Turkey Pros was to hop, squeeze, slide, and push their way towards the front, but to never actually get into the wind. It’s a clever tactic worthy of a protected Euro pro in a big race…but it’s a wanker move par excellence for the Holiday Ride.
When we hit the left turn on San Vicente, Hair looked over. “Why the serious face?” he laughed. Dude fucking always laughs, is fearless.
“I’m trying not to crash.”
Hair laughed. “Better spend that energy trying to hang on.”
And he had a point, because when we hit Mandeville Canyon, Josh Alverson opened up the throttle. Tree Perkins followed, with me glued to Tree’s wheel. I held the speed for thirty seconds or so, then swung over. Done.
As the wankoton blew by, I counted. For ten solid minutes riders passed me. I stopped counting at 298, and there were dozens who’d never even turned up Mandeville as well as dozens who had u-turned and gone back before passing me.
Meanwhile, back at the Center of the Known Universe
Long before I reached the summit a cadre of South Bay wankers including Joe, Gus, Marc, and Doug came blasting by. They had made the sensible choice not to wait for the endless stream struggling up the hill, and to ride back in a smaller, safer group.
For some reason, however, the closer they got to CotKU, the more ridiculous things got. Dudes who hadn’t been in the same zip code for Mandeville honors were now gunning it, devil-take-the-hindmost, to be first in line for coffee.
The only thing that got in the way of their fun was a Cadillac Escalade, and although they hit it full tilt, the 4,000-pound vehicle amazingly didn’t crumple from the impact of the flesh-and-bone-wrapped-around-some-plastic-tubes.
It did lose a tail light, whereas Carey D.’s entire frame broke. Doug busted a brake, and Marc got an ouchy on his saddle bag.
Back at CotKU they compared notes, trying to understand why their forceful bodies hadn’t been able to easily thrust aside the Escalade. No one could figure it out until King Harold, who happens to be an engineer, explained it to them.
“Mass times velocity,” he began, as the wankers’ eyes glazed over at the word “mass.”
Then he re-started. “Look here, dorks.” Everyone looked at his foot, where a doodlebug was trundling by. He lifted his foot and lowered it quickly on the hapless bug.
“You, dorks, are the bug. The Escalade is the foot. Get it?”
A light went on in the formerly befuddled and confused faces of the crash victims. “You mean…?” said one.
“That if it’s a witch…” said another.
“And it’s heavier than a duck…” said a third.
“Then we burn it?” said a fourth, as the other three nodded vigorously.
King Harold shook his head. “No, no, no,” he said. “I mean that this Holiday Ride thing we just did…”
“Yes?” they asked in a chorus.
“It’s perfect for you. Just perfect. See you on Christmas Day.”
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.