Ripple

November 17, 2015 § 11 Comments

“It’s a testament to Mark,” he said.

It was, because Mark is a good man. And it wasn’t, because it happened thanks to a cadre of friends sitting down on the bench and taking up a long heavy oar.

It is easy to fall into the black hole of bad news. Once you fall in, following each twist and turn of the catastrophe of the day, it is hard to climb out. Bad news surrounds us.

Good news, like good love, is hard to find. The minute something good or happy rolls across your desk, questions set in. No one questions that Person A is greedy, Person B is insane, or that Person C is a sociopath, but everyone questions Person D who did the good thing. What the hell were HIS real motives?

I can’t help it, and you probably can’t, either. Sometimes, however, people do good things and it’s as simple as that.

This past Sunday over three hundred people gathered in Dana Point to raise money and seek a bone marrow donor match for Mark Scott. They didn’t show up by magic. They showed up because Dave Worthington, Tommy Nelson, Lauren Ames, and Russ Ames put together an informal committee to get the word out about Mark’s plight.

Knocking on doors, working the phones, banging away at the keyboards, The Committee put their money where their love was, and who could say no to that?

Many of the people didn’t know Mark and had never heard of him. But they were compelled by the love and devotion of his friends to show up and be a part of something bigger than themselves, which happens to be the definition of community, and not coincidentally of humanity.

Some of the people hugging and crying were pretty gruff folks in their day jobs, and that’s part of the good news, too. But the biggest news, of course, is old news, the news that when one person decides to make the cause of another his own, he becomes a small stone tossed into a gigantic, perfectly calm sea. He sends forth ripples and they touch everyone and everything in their path.

I think someone once wrote a song about that.

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The road ahead: Mark & Udo

November 12, 2015 § 10 Comments

Two items from two friends:

ITEM 1: The Road Ahead

My friend Dave Worthington is working with the cycling community in Orange County to put together a ride this Sunday that will benefit legendary SoCal racer Mark Scott. Mark is undergoing chemo for advanced leukemia. The ride leaves Bike Religion, 34150 PCH in Dana Point at 8:30 AM. Click on this link to register and learn more about Mark.

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Here is what it’s all about, in Dave’s words:

To Seth:

August, 8th Floor, Hoag  Memorial Hospital. Surgical masks at the door, tubes and monitors everywhere. I held his arm for a moment. Sick, but still solid gold, and asked my friend Mark Scott, “What music are you playing to help you through the night?”

“David, lately, ‘Shine Like it Does.’

‘This is the story

Since time began.

There will come a day

When we will know

And if you’re looking you will find it.’

“Shit, Mark, that’s a good one. Helped me through my freshman year at Texas. And bro, the chemo diet seems an extreme measure just so a sprinter like you can climb with the goats.” Our tears pooled like rain.

But you know something? We got this.

News We Can Use

Last June a cycling champion, advocate, and all-around great guy named Mark Scott was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). After several rounds of chemo, Mark is still in need of a life altering bone marrow transplant.

With the help of his healthcare team and with your support, Mark is poised to return to life as he once knew it, filled with love, surrounded by family and friends, driven by hard work and by his love for pedaling about this amazing planet.

Until the exact genetic markers are matched for the transplant, the immediate concern is to minimize the effects of the cancer via chemotherapy and blood transfusions. The entire oncology department at Hoag has fallen in love with Mark, and as far as we’re concerned, there’s no surprise there. Mark is so strong, always cool with his Colgate smile and sapphire eyes.

Inside, of course, it hurts like hell, but from the smile on his face you’d never, ever know.

Post ICU

Mark’s eyes were coal. Who dimmed the lights? “Mark … WTF?”

Mark was unresponsive. He was digging deeper than ever before, at war on the inside. For the first time in a long friendship he had nothing to spare for my tiny Me-Problems. “Mark, I’m your little brother, WTF?”

At his bedside, Mark told the enemy, “I’m gonna keep fighting.” Every cell in his body under attack and every cell fighting back.

“Now back off! I’m gonna keep fighting, man.”

More News We Can Use

To date Mark has endured four grueling chemotherapy sessions. From head to toe, his body has been riddled with a battery of probes, needles, bone core drills, aorta catheters, lumbar punctures, spinal taps, x-rays, and MRI’s. Through it all, Mark has yet to utter a single word of complaint, not one. All he’s done is smile, then grit his teeth and battle back. Mark Scott has spent a LIFETIME being the first guy to step up for his friends and for his community, and since he’s too humble to ask for your help, we are asking for him: We need your help.

This Sunday, Nov. 15, we are raising funds to directly benefit Mark during this fight with cancer. Additionally, Team Mark Scott wants to increase awareness of leukemia and those it afflicts. Simply by registering for ride, whether you attend or not, you’ll be helping MARK SCOTT.

Cancer can hit any of us at any time. Why Mark? We don’t know, but we know he’s not the only one. Another champion, Rahsaan Bahati, has an 8-year old nephew suffering from leukemia. Rahsaan will be joining us on Sunday, too.

Words from a Friend

Mark loves and appreciates you all. He has the stomach and backbone to beat this. Though not out of the woods, he’s made huge strides. Still, the hard part is yet to come. Remember, more than the rubber on the road, it’s the inner tube that’s 100 times stronger because it carries the pressure and the load; it’s what’s inside that counts.Whether you can make it or not, a donation of any amount will make a huge difference since Mark will be unable to return to work during this fight. www.gofundme.com/markscott

You can also support simply by registering for the ride. And like the song said:

“Shine Like it Does

Into Every Heart.

Shine Like it Does.

And if you’re Looking

You will Find It.

You will Find It.”

ITEM 2: Celebration of the Life of Udo Heinz

The Belgian Waffle Ride was conceived to challenge limits and to connect us as a community. Udo Heinz, a husband and father of two who was struck and killed near Camp Pendleton in 2013—is the closest to our heart.

Join us as we celebrate Udo’s life with a 55-mile memorial ride featuring friends, road and dirt on Saturday, November 14, starting from Stone Brewing Co. at 8:00 AM.

Hosted by the Ranchos Cycling Team, please RSVP for the ride and view additional details here: http://www.ranchoscycling.org/#!events/ccto

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But that’s just the beginning. Udo’s wife Antje shared this beautiful letter.

My Dear Udo,

It has been more than two years that I could ride behind your wheel and hear you yelling at me to “hang on to the wheel.” How I miss your wheel, my love.

I still feel closest to you when I am in the saddle of my bike. Sometimes a simple bike ride makes all the difference in my day. Blue sky above me, road under me, my heart pounding and my legs screaming, climbing up the hill.

I love riding my bike. You loved riding your bike. And we both loved riding our bikes together.

In the first year after you left us, my grief was raw and obvious. And the first anniversary was not a benchmark, really. It was merely the day after day 364, followed by 366, 367 and so on. Year one was a struggle to get up, get the kids to school and to figure out all those things like car title transfers, new health insurance, the mechanics of life.

By year two, most of those things were resolved. But now there is another big job waiting to be resolved: Learning to live life alone, a new identity because you are still GONE and you will always be gone. Year two means struggling to live life again. And it is hard.

Some days I don’t care about anything, some days I am just tired. Tired of fixing the printer without your help, tired of making big decisions alone, and tired of caring for our children by myself.

It is hard because I have to live without the one I can’t live without.

But I always go on. I take breaks when I am really dark but I always come out the other end. I have so many wonderful people in my life that carry me. They didn’t disappear after the first year of initial grief. They are still by my side and encourage me, listen to me, hug me and ride with me. Like all those friends that come to the memorial ride again this year to celebrate your life, your birthday, your smile, your love for riding. We will all ride for you and with you, Udo. We will remember you and talk about you. Because we cannot forget you. You were the kindest and most loyal and smartest guy I have ever met. You touched all of us.

I am still working on trying to live without you. C.S. Lewis said that getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

Antje

November 2015

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Up against the wall

August 19, 2015 § 16 Comments

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Mark was one of the best elite amateur bike racers Southern California has ever seen. Today he has a particularly nasty form of leukemia.

I remember the state road race a few years back in Bakersfield. Mark, who dominated in every discipline in the sport, had been injured and was far from fit, but he decided to do this grueling race to help out his teammates. He attacked on the first lap and stayed away until the final lap, when the other teams had to throw all their weapons into the fray to reel him in.

The moment he got caught, teammate Roger Worthington went with a counterattack and finished third if memory serves. That was pure Mark — thrilled to sacrifice everything he had for his buddies.

Mark’s friends and erstwhile teammates from Labor Power have rallied ’round, but no matter the support and love, it’s ultimately a battle that Mark has to fight alone. To no one’s surprise, he’s giving it everything he’s got, which is ten times more than anyone else.

Here are some thoughts from three of his closest friends.

From Roger Worthington, teammate, team boss, friend:

Few riders typified the combination of Labor generally abhorred prettiness. Our mantra was “Gritty Not Pritty.” Then came G-Spot. G-Spot did use cocoa butter. He did shave his arms. He did refuse to wear his Labor Stars and Bars because it was the wrong shade of blue. So why did Labor rally around this erstwhile Pritty Boy with the boyish smile and monster legs? Because he may have been pretty but even more so he was gritty. We’re talking all caps GRITTY. He’d go off the front. He’d bang with the baddest. He protected his mates. He feared no one. When nutjobs all about were losing their mind, he’d keep his cool. And no matter how hard, or cold, or hot, or nasty, he wouldn’t complain. This is the character trait that’s serving him now as he’s battling cancer. Just as my money was on G-Spot coming out of that last corner, it’s on G-spot now as he takes on a force a thousand times nastier than a bar-banging scrum. He’s focused. He’s resilient, and in his words, “It’s all good.” We believe him, and we believe in him.

From Charon Smith, friend and understudy:

Mark Scott … I’m not sure where to begin because he has been such a big part of my development as a rider and racer. I have raced with so many talented guys and have had the pleasure of being teammates with talented racers, too. Mark in my eyes stands at the top of the mountain simply because he was the guy who wasn’t afraid to reach out like a father leading his child through the valley and pointing out all the small details that a child would overlook or couldn’t see simply due to lack of experience and knowledge. He taught me how to stay calm, relaxed, and how to always stay in the moment. He would say read the race, monitor the situation, and that everything you do as a racer should have a purpose. Over the years I have stored these things in my hard drive, you will rarely see me doing something just to do it in a race to look good, because it is never about the look but always the process and the finish. Often I see guys doing things in a race that don’t benefit the team or themselves, but they do it because they like to show their strength. Mark would never do that. “Everything, all the time, has to have a purpose.”

In our race meetings Mark would always lay out the plan and he did it with such calmness it made you feel like everything was going to be fine and so often it was; he could control and dictate a race single-handedly when he put his mind to it. I recall him doing things in a race to cause a reaction so he could get the field to react so he could set up the situation he wanted or needed to give our team an advantage. Over time I learned to sit back and watch him work his magic and I was always smiling because I knew that what he was doing was to set us up for the win.

He would often grab me and say “Get on my wheel!” It was like I was out on a leisure ride and not in a race. It’s a hard and delicate job towing a sprinter around, very few riders can actually do it well. Some guys just speak your language on the bike and words are not needed. Mark and I were this way off the top but this simply came from his gift and his huge heart. He could win races but he was not interested in that, he was more interested in molding me and shaping me because he saw something that I could not see.

I recall speaking with Dave Worthington after Mark became ill and he said “You know here’s something I never shared with you. When you started winning I told Mark, ‘Charon is there,’ and Mark replied “No, he’s not there yet there are still some things he has to learn.’ This moment made me smile because while he was teaching and showing me the way he had a bigger plan and vision for me and I never knew it.

That’s he was like a father leading his son through the valley. I recall the first race I did with Mark and he told me out of the blue “I am going to sit this one out.” I couldn’t figure out what he meant, but he wanted to slowly let me fly on my own, and whatever magic he had, it worked because I crossed the line first that day. Over the last four years I have averaged 10+ wins per year all while my teammates are winning as well. This was Mark’s teaching: always give and share the success. The good things that have happened to me and my team all come from the foundation laid by Mark. In our meetings, my ideas come from the plans and visions Mark embedded in me years ago. He also taught me to never allow anyone to try to break you. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. He may not know it but I think of him almost every day because I am on my bike almost every day and that is where we became so tightly connected.

Thanks for allowing me to share my feelings and words about my friend and Captain Mark Scott AKA G-Spot! GB

From David Worthington, former Labor teammate and friend:

Early on I was impressed how Mark could get his workouts in and still have the balance to give back and enjoy Life. So much resolve and charisma in this man. When he worked for my firm he lived blocks away so we rode together constantly. Even though I was in great shape and though I thought I was Bad to the Bone, I didn’t last three weeks on his training program.

I felt no shame sitting on his hip for 15-mile pulls in the headwind on Coast Highway. We forged a tight bond there, a trust that never flinched and always rolled over to race day. We raced as teammates from here to Wisconsin to Mexico, and made a lot of friends on the way with whom we still share laughs and unpurgeable memories.

I remember:

“Here’s a cycling champion motor pacing me, the climber.”

“I knew at an early stage in our brotherhood, that the diva Mark Scott was a closer with the bite of a tiger shark and and the patience of Abraham and the generosity of a saint.”

“Many people have never seen ‘Brian’s Song,’ but I love Pic in that movie. Mark is a is a cinematic giant like the James Caan character, or that genuine earth shaker and world beater Cool Hand Luke.”

“Mark is oh so silky on the bike.”

“He’s generous and he has the secret, like a CSN song, his message is to love the one you’re with.”

“He doesn’t give a fuck about credit and relishes the hard work, the sweat the grit required to deliver optimal performance.”

“Work is his religion.”

“He’s not a cheater he’s a grinder with a sapphire smile, and if yf you moan about the burdens, the superficial loads of crap that everybody steps in, and you get too wordy about it all making no sense he may sorta brush the dander off the airspace and simply suggest, ‘Davie, you think ya might be over-thinking this thing?’ To which we pause and know … He’s right.”

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The greatest masters racing team of all time?

February 26, 2015 § 31 Comments

I can see Roger Worthington now, seated atop a golden throne which is itself perched atop a mountain of tightly bound thousand-dollar bills, staring out the giant plate glass window of his mansion in Bend.

As he casts his lonely eye upon the surrounding valley shrouded in snow, he cannot focus his attention on his immeasurable wealth, on his palatial eco-home that houses three people and has a carbon footprint the size of Beijing, or on his empire of craft beer, retail pizza establishments, and hundreds of thousands of acres of genetically modified hops.

Instead, as he scrolls through his Facebag timeline and sees the racing exploits of Charon, of G$, and of lowly Wanky himself, he can only grunt in discontent and snarl thusly on his feed: “Facebag, Facebag on the wall. Who’s the greatest masters team of all?”

Who, indeed?

In 2015, everyone seems to be vying for the title of America’s Greatest Profamateur Masters Racing Team. Is it Surf City Cyclery with its cadre of hardened killers, customized bike stands, personal masseuses and wrapped RV? Is it Monster Media with its gnarled and vicious national champions, its color-coordinated team bikes and its capacious custom canopy? Is it SPY-Giant-RIDE with its 80-man team, each rider armed with his own personal collection of fancy sunglasses, and its omnipresent armada of rolling wrapped team vehicles?

Alas and alack, it is none of these. The greatest masters racing team of all time was Labor Power. Driven by the power hungry and depraved mind of Max Kash Agro, this collection of weird, antisocial, and utterly bizarre misfits created the mold for the modern profamateur masters team and then smashed it, along with Max’s hip, irrevocably in 2006 — never to be recreated or even vaguely approached.

Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals

The story began in 1983 or 1984 as I was pedaling around the track at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, when I first met Roger. He had an orange Viner. He raced a bit but aside from being reputedly “mean as a rattlesnake” there was little to suggest that less than a decade later he would burst onto the scene as the millionaire financier of Labor Power.

By the time he had been evicted from Texas and relocated to his Shangri-La in San Juan Capistrano, he had already invented the key elements of the profamateur masters bike team: Fancy Euro car with a decal, garish team clothing, “deals” for the team members, and teamwork that even today few teams can begin to approach.

In keeping with Roger’s ethos of “winning isn’t the only thing, it’s what I pay you to do,” Labor Power put together a cadre of racers who still make themselves known as the elite of the leaky prostates. Chris Walker, Louie Amelburu, Chris Hahn, and Greg Leibert are just three of the old Labor Power crew who still dominate when they show up to race.

Others have gone on to their reward or faded from view: Chris Hipp dead, Dave Worthington retired, Mark Scott mostly retired, and Chris Hahn still racing but only when he feels like it. Among them, the stalwarts of Labor Power amassed a record that is truly beyond compare, and what’s more incredible, they did it without any real suspicion of doping.

Consider this: In 1999 the team scored 40 wins and 78 podiums, including two state crit titles and a silver medal on the road. The next year Labor Power upped their tally to 42 wins and 95 podiums including state TT and road titles, wins at the Cascade Classic, and victories in every marquee masters event in California. In 2001 the team notched 42 wins, a world masters road title in Austria, and a gold medal at the Pan-Am masters championships. In 2002 Butch Stinson alone earned 31 victories as the team rolled up a mind-boggling total of 120 wins for the year. With 103 victories in 2003, the team had nothing left to win. So, dropping down to a “mere” 37 first place finishes in 2004, Labor Power masters racer Chris Walker won the elite men’s national road race at age 42.

By 2005 the team was falling apart, and so was team leader Roger Worthington’s hip. Labor Power officially disbanded in 2006.

What possibly explains this run of dominance, stretching from roughly 1995 to 2005? First of all, Labor Power’s guiding motto was “Win.” The team would block and sacrifice if it had a rider in the break, but that rider knew that 2nd place was unacceptable. There were no glory breakaways with Labor Power, where a rider finished sixth out of six riders as his team sacrificed in the rear. If you were going to ride the break you’d better not only have a plan to win, you’d better execute it to perfection. The fear of failure was driven by the manic despotism of MKA, and it worked.

Second, Labor Power, with one or two glaring exceptions, didn’t take wankers. If you were a proven winner you might get a ride with Labor Power. There were no bro deals. If you rode on Labor Power it was because you were either a closer or you were a closer. People weren’t recruited because of their ability to help, or work, or fetch water bottles. They got a ride because they knew how to cross the line first.

Third, Labor Power intimidated. They invented the cycling blog when things were still done on paper. The created the first mad-man race reports. The fecund and off-the-reservation mind of Roger Worthington made fun of everything, lampooned the enemy, lauded himself, and backed it up with vicious-but-fair, take-no-prisoners race strategy.

Fourth, Labor Power was ugly. Their uniforms were designed by Chris Hipp, a guy who had zero artistic talent and several galaxies’ worth of racing ability. Matching Hipp’s bad art with MKA’s bad taste, Labor Power designed jerseys that are notable even today for their garish ugliness and brashly bad mixture of offending colors. Yet the ugliness had an effect: When you lined up against the twisted minds of Labor Power you not only had to deal with the yelling, the intimidation, the race savvy, the steely legs and the cunning minds, but you also had to try and un-see the awful combination of colors that makes Monster Media’s kits look almost attractive.

Fifth, Labor Power had fun. It wasn’t the fun of “we gave it our best,” it was the fun of a gang of blood-soaked Mongol warriors, dripping in gore and sated from the spoils of razing a village, beheading the elderly, and selling everyone else off into slavery.

Sixth, Labor Power had money. Roger, despite being one of the cheapest, most tight-fisted people on earth, knew that to run a masters bike team it would cost money, and to that effect he made sure that at the end of each year his racers received the tiny pittance in shared winnings that are enough to keep an elite old bike racer cozy and warm in a cardboard box. For the amount of money that masters teams spend today, Labor Power could have outfitted a small country of bike racers.

So the next time you’re feeling good about your race results, or you’re thinking that the team is on its way to a winning season, take a moment to peruse the details of what is unquestionably the weirdest, whackiest, winningest masters racing team of all time: Labor.

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