December 1, 2012 § 31 Comments
New Girl’s eyes flexed open at 5:00 AM, beating her alarm clock to the punch by half an hour. A broad smile crept over her face.
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and reached for the elastic band on her nightstand, quickly tying her hair into a ponytail. She pulled the ponytail tight and smiled again.
Her clothes were neatly laid out on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed. She’d chosen all Donut, and not just because it was the Donut Ride, and not just because it was her favorite kit, and not just because Junkyard, who’d designed it, would be riding with her. She had also chosen it because rain was not only in the forecast, but it was lightly beating down outside her bedroom window, and she’d learned the hard way not to wear white kits on rainy days.
She smiled again.
In a few minutes the oatmeal was bubbling on the stove. It had that roasted smell, like coffee, but more wholesome, with a creamy foaming and bubbling on the top. She loved to watch it swirl and make patterns, but most of all she loved to laugh at it, because oatmeal was so funny.
Here she was, starting each and every day with oatmeal, even though she’d gone out of her way to poke fun at Wankmeister’s FB posts that regularly featured images of gray-as-death oatmeal with raisins bubbling in the top like rabbit pellets. Oatmeal was funny, she decided again, and smiled at the pan. It foamed and bubbled in a way that, if you cocked your head right, looked kind of like it was smiling back at you.
The meeting place
New Girl kitted up and pulled on her clear plastic rain cape. She’d spent thirty minutes in the bike shop picking a rain cape, and went with this one because even though it wasn’t very snazzy, it was clear, and clear was what she wanted so that the Donut Ride logo would shine through, even in the rain.
She went into the garage and ran a cloth over Princess. She’d cleaned it the night before, and she smiled at the sparkling cogs and well oiled chain. “Enough to lubricate it, not bathe it,” Junkyard had told her. It sparkled, just in time to get covered with muck and filth and grime and fun, especially covered with fun.
She rolled out of the garage, each foot clicking with that solid life-affirming lock of pedal on cleat, binding her to the machine, making them one, turning their mutual admiration into codependency. Now, the decisions she made were binding. Now, whatever happened to Princess would also happen to her.
The simple rain beat harder against her, but inside her three skins she was dry and warm and smiling at the shiny, muffled world. The thought of meeting her mates made her push just a little harder. As she came up the slight bump, eagerly looking into the parking lot at Catalina Coffee, her smile fell. The lot was empty.
Calling in sick
New Girl got off her bike and stood under the concrete arch. She looked at her phone; Tumbleweed and Madeline had texted to say they were opting for less rain and more bed. New Girl smiled again and texted back, “OK! I’m at CC and pedaling anyway! HAGD!”
She sat back to wait, realizing that she was early, as usual. Very early, as usual. Her first surprise came when Tumbleweed and Madeline appeared. “Not going to let you ride alone!” said Madeline.
Then Gussy appeared from out of the light rainy fog, his jersey halfway unzipped and carpets of wet chest hair spilling out. He was already laughing. “You can call me ‘Gorilla in the Mist,'” he said, and everyone laughed.
As the other riders appeared, Gussy’s monologue of jokes, tales from the old days, observations on Krispy Kreme, and predictions about how the Donut Ride beatdown would unfold kept everyone grinning. But New Girl grinned biggest, because she was smiling on the inside, too.
With Toronto and Junkyard in formation, they all rolled out for a pre-loop, destined to get them to the start of the Donut with just enough time for coffee and a bathroom break.
Warming up for a beatdown
New Girl loved the pre-loop best of all, even in the rain when everything was shiny and trying hard to jerk her wheels out from under her. The road striping, the BOTS dots, the oily runoff, the slicky leaves and fallen pine cones and magnolia cones all conspired to knock her over, but she smiled her way through it, so happy to be pushing up the little kicker by the golf course that she forgot to talk or chat or do anything other than grin.
Now they were soaked and back in Redondo’s Riviera Village for the final call-up before the massacre. New Girl wheeled up to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and smiled some more as she saw more of her buddies. There’s the Pilot; there’s the Bull; there’s Arkansas Traveler; there’s Sparkles; and oh! Look! Over in the corner looking all sour and out of sorts but really not sour or out of sorts at all…it’s Wankmeister! She smiled big, and he smiled back in his finest Donut morning scowl.
The group pushed out, the rain had stopped, and fifty or so riders filled out the peloton. New Girl smiled at Suze, at Wolfe, at JP, at Dawg, at Marco, at Erik, and at Prez! She thought she might run out of smiles before they hit the first climb out of Malaga Cove, but she didn’t.
New Girl didn’t know it in words, but this is the secret of the congregants of the Church of the Spinning Wheel: The faces, and backs, and bikes, and legs are as familiar to you as you are to them, and with familiarity comes trust and with trust comes the elemental core of us to the surface, our humanity, in other words our belonging to and place in the tribe.
Legs to brain: We’re not part of the tribe anymore
Up the climb out of Malaga Cove, New Girl felt the sting and then the throb and then the fire in her lungs. She wasn’t smiling anymore as she locked onto the wheel in front of her, praying she’d make the climb with the group, hoping that her ride wouldn’t end here as it sometimes did, before it even started.
A split second of inattention and she wobbled, smacking into Junkyard who was alongside her. He gave her a friendly smile, but she was terrified. She’d almost knocked down her best buddy, what was she doing here, she was redlining, she was a hazard to the group, the road was incredibly slick and it had started raining again.
She’d been kicked out the back so hard the week before that by the time she reached Hawthorne, alone, she’d had to pull over into the parking lot of the 7-11 and sob, and here she was again about to get her ticket punched. At the moment of disconnecting, Wolfe, who’d watched the whole mini-drama, reached over and gave her a hard push, gloved in five words of encouragement and faith: “You can do it, dig.”
She dug as hard as she ever had, hanging on by a thread until she was over the bump. She caught her breath as the sucking of the peloton dragged her through Paseo, along the bluffs and the billion dollar mansions with the trillion dollar views that they all got to enjoy for the price of a bike and some pain, until she found herself on Pilot’s wheel. The next big acceleration came through Lunada Bay, and this time the kick was hard and sharp and on top of the several jumps already in the account which meant it was every man and woman for herself, and so New Girl was out of the neighborhood and by herself.
She was still smiling, though, and when Madeline and Sparkles came by they rode a steady paceline up to Trump National, the gateway to the Switchbacks.
As she gathered herself for the big push, New Girl felt her rear tire go soft, then flat. The rain had started up again. The group atop the Switchbacks wouldn’t know she’d flatted and they’d continue on. For the first time that morning her inside smile frowned.
If you have to grow up, be like the Fireman
A handful of people in the South Bay are larger than life. The Fireman is one of them. He looks gruff and road-hardened and ready to take whatever the hell you can dish out and pay you back double then drink you under the table plus beat you in the sprint or give you the lead-out from hell that you’ll remember for a thousand years if you ever manage to come around it, but it doesn’t take anything at all to get underneath the callused exterior and find a heart as large and kind and generous as any, anywhere.
Maybe it’s because his day job involves roadside visits to catastrophic freeway collisions, or because his night job takes him to blazing infernos venting poisonous gas and smoke and death, or because his summer holidays take him to raging wildfires throughout LA County, maybe that’s what explains him, but I think there’s more to it than that; I think there’s something of the man, the husband, the father, the patriarch who opens his door to friends and feeds them from his table until they can eat no more and swallow not another single drop, this is what explains him, he is a throwback to the days of the tribe, he would have been the leader of the clan, the first one to throw the spear or lead the charge or repulse the invading horde, the first one to christen the infant or bless the newly wedded couple or mark the newly conquered ground as hallowed, it’s this, his Stone Age mantle of hunter, gatherer, and leader of the tribe that makes him what he is, the one we all look up to without knowing why.
Which is a fancy, long-ass way of saying he stopped to help New Girl change her flat.
In a flat fucking jiffy.
Then he paced her up the Switchbacks to a new personal Strava record.
Then he continued on his way after perfecting her day and restoring her smile before she could even say “Thanks.”
New Girl got home from her Donut, legs covered in mud, and after cleaning up she got to work.
An hour and a half later she was knocking on the firehouse door. A burly fireman answered. “Yes?”
“Here,” she said. “These are for you guys.”
“Oh,” said the fireman. “Is it something we said?”
She laughed. “It’s something you DID, silly.”
“You gonna let me in on the secret?”
“No,” she said with the biggest of smiles.
The firehouse dude smiled big, too, the circle now complete.
September 29, 2012 § 16 Comments
I recently, as in “today,” crashed while riding through Portuguese Bend. Several of my riding buddies said that I did great because I didn’t break anything or get hit by oncoming traffic or knock anyone else down or get my head run over by the rider behind me. I’m still not sure I did it properly, though.
You are correct to be concerned. Eyewitnesses say that when you lost control, you flew over the handlebars and did a “superman” onto the pavement, fully extended, smacking the side of your face.
Crashing style points are typically awarded as follows, and generally speaking, faceplants of any type score very low, if at all.
Tuck and Roll, concluding in a full standing position, bike unharmed: 10 points
The Sergio, where the full catastrophe is caught on film, you are twelve feet in the air, and don’t leave the scene in traction: 9 points
Collarbone Crack, where there’s little to no external damage to kit or bike: 8 points
First Day of School, where you crash your new ride on its maiden voyage, but only scratch it: 7 points
Psycho Mike Biketoss, where you flip yourself over the bars from a standing start for no apparent reason, flinging the bike forward so that it clips the recently-mended broken elbow of the rider in front of you without taking him down: 6 points
VeloCenter Warmup Takedown, where you clip the wheel in front of you during a warmup behind the motor and take down seven other riders: 5 points
NPR Glide & Slide, where you take the wide, easy, uncluttered, open turn from Pershing onto the Parkway but nonetheless slide out and torch your bike: 4 points
Canyon Leap, where you ride off a cliff on Piuma going uphill at 4mph because you’re staring at your wattage display: 3 points
Stern-O Pussy Riot, where you flip off a motorist, who flips out and beats up your friends while you stand off to the side and watch: 2 points
Ricky Rocket Garage Crawl, where you beat up the motorist, then run off into a neighborhood hiding in someone’s garage while the police troll the streets looking to charge you with a felony: 1 points
The Frankendave, where most of the face and all frontal teeth are removed on impact: 0 points
PS: Glad it’s just scratches and bruises! Heal up!
September 28, 2012 § 11 Comments
The first time I heard the patrol car bleep his horn, we were headed towards the turn to begin the last lap on the NPR. “We’ll be seeing him again,” I thought.
Lap four played out in all its glory: Vapor leadout, Wike the Bike spanking all pretenders in the sprunt, and the Belize Bullet making a last minute acceleration from too far back. We reached the red stoplight at Pershing and the cruiser pulled up next to us. The cop was highly unhappy. “Who’s the leader of this ride?” he yelled.
Each of the seventy riders knew that the answer to this question was, “Write ME the ticket, officer.” So no one said anything.
“That’s okay,” I thought. “I’m surrounded by the crew. There’s nothing that one cop can do against this phalanx of mighty warriors.” So I hollered back at him. “I’m not the leader, but I’d be more than happy to talk with you.”
“Pull over there!” he ordered as the light turned green.
We 70 badasses aren’t scared of no damn cop
I pulled into the turnout and dismounted, confidently approaching the policeman. Well, more deferentially than confidently. My father had always said that the only proper answer to a person in a bad mood with a badge, a gun, a pair of handcuffs, mace, a radio, a riot shotgun, and a fully armed partner on alert was “Yes, sir.”
“You guys can’t ride like that,” he said.
“Yes, sir. Like what, sir?”
“You’re spilling out from the far right lane and filling up the entire second lane as well. It blocks traffic and is incredibly dangerous.”
“Look, I totally respect what you all are doing out here. You’re in great shape, you’re doing a healthy workout, and it’s good. We have no problem with that. But when you block the entire road, someone’s going to get hurt.”
“Now, what’s your name?”
“Perez. Dave Perez.”
“Okay, Mr. Perez. What’s your phone number?”
“Ah, 867-5309. Area code 310.”
The cop looked at me funny. “I’ve heard that number before.”
“It’s, uh, common, sir.”
“I’m not going to cite you, but I’d appreciate it if you got the word out in your club that you can’t block both lanes.”
“I’ve talked to this group before. What’s the name of your club? South Bay something?”
“Wheelmen? No, we’re not a club. This is just an unorganized ride. It’s…”
“Look, I know you guys are a club and this is a club ride. Which club is it?”
“Yes, sir. But sir, we’re a bunch of different clubs.” I held up my SPY armwarmers. “I ride for club SPY. And all these other people,” I jerked my hand over my shoulder, “ride for various clubs. There are people from all over the U.S. and even the world, and even Australia, who join on this ride.”
I was thankful that Caveman James from Colorado had joined us today, as I could pull him out from the throng as proof that we weren’t just one big club ride but rather an amalgamation of unrelated idiots. Caveman had his best American Flyers’ Russian full facebeard and really did look like a foreigner, or a space alien, even.
The cop was scowling now. “Well, why’s everyone wearing the same outfit then?”
“Same outfit? There are at least a dozen different…” I turned around to start pointing out the different kits and teams who were represented on the ride, but stopped mid-sentence. The massive gang of supporters had melted away. No one but Sparkles, New Girl, Mr. and Mrs. Diego, Mel, Hines, and a couple of other wankers had stayed. The only team kits were Ironfly and…South Bay Wheelmen.
“Mr. Perez, those outfits clearly say South Bay Wheelmen.”
“Yes, sir. I can explain, sir.”
“I’m sure you can. Just like I can write a ticket.”
Mercy is the hallmark of justice
“But I’m not going to,” he continued. “I’d like you to get the word out. We want this to be safe just as much as you do. If it spreads out into a long line because you’re going fast, so be it. But when things bunch up and start blocking both lanes, we’re going to have to intervene.”
I couldn’t explain that he’d seen us just before the turnaround, and that with few exceptions we did a pretty good job of stopping for lights, stopping for oncoming cars, checking before we u-turn, and being safe except for the last 400 yards when people risk everything for the glory of winning the sprunt. So I just said, “Yes, sir.”
“And what’s with those socks?”
“Yeah. Why the tall pink socks?”
“It’s ah, breast awareness, sir.”
“Cancer, I mean. Breast cancer awareness. Think pink breast awareness,” I mumbled, blushing.
“Okey-dokey.” He shrugged. “You guys and gals be safe out there, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Now go catch up with your group. Have a good day, Mr. Perez.”
“Yes, sir!” We looked at each other, knowing full well that everyone was already back at CotKU quaffing their third latte and taking bets on who had gotten the ticket.
New Girl rode up, grinning. “Coffee’s on me, Wankster. Thanks for taking one for the team.”
“Oh, it was no big deal. He wasn’t going to give me a ticket.”
“How did you know that?”
“I’ve already gotten one ticket this year. That’s my limit. Now if this had happened in 2013, I’d never have stopped.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m buying your coffee anyway.”
And she did.
September 17, 2012 § 6 Comments
Let’s start with the big stuff…
Mighty Mouse: Brought her NPR-honed dick stomping skills to the Nautica Malibu Tri and left a trail of shattered members all up and down PCH. CalTrans garbage truck overheated and broke down on Zuma Hill due to overloading with broken dicks. Wore her Big O tee on the podium’s second step.
Wankomodo: Got a public tongue lashing, laughed it off in the spirit it was intended, gave thanks for his new nickname, and refused to take the Wankmeister seriously. You are now officially part of the gang!
Italian Stallion: Came out for the Donut, rode off into the sunset in a marvelous pink outfit after telling G3 to shut-the-fuck-up about the crazy old lady trying to kill us in Portuguese Bend. Tony almost fell off his bike laughing, just as some wanker touched a wheel and flopped down in the middle of the road. Italian Stallion gives us a great write-up of his national championship road race here.
Crown Jules: Stomped everyone except Stathis the Wily Greek and the Italian Stallion on the Switchbacks, outsprinted John “Dillinger” Hall, who kicked me out the back like a pro roadie’s under-the-armpit snotblow.
Rico Suave: Got badly shredded on the Switchbacks, roared back on Wheatgrass to smash everyone up to the Domes, busted up the field on the Glass Church, towed WM to the line, beat him with a bike throw. I hope Rico never discovers drugs.
Erik the Red: Dropped all but a handful on Better Homes, took the sprunt at Hawthorne by a country mile after bridging with JLR. Formally announced his engagement to SPY Elite Team for 2013…yee-haw!
Tink: Returned to the mix, but was under coach’s orders not to engage in any nonsense for a couple more weeks. The sun shone in happiness at her return!
New Girl: Ignored flu symptoms, West Nile virus, superbug, and early onset pneumonia to lace up and ride to the Rock and then Wheatgrass before coming undone at the seams. Dr. Wanky has ordered bed rest until further notice.
Crit Champ: Showed up on the Donut after bringing home a silver medal from nationals, attacked the field on Paseo del Mar, followed all the moves until gravity took over. Also, wrote a fantastic piece about his season vs. the national championships. Read it here.
Surfer Dan: Displayed fine form that comes with his recent 899-mile weeks in preparation for the Everest Challenge, where he and a few other hardy souls will climb the highest mountains in California on a dog sled. Did three repeats up Crenshaw prior to showing up on Wheatgrass and smacking the snot out of us.
Ms. Abs: Was spied sunning herself on the strand in RB this morning, so we got to chat about life and Pen CX; she also updated me on Steve B.’s 198-mile, 11k of climbing ride that he did immediately prior to the Life Flight and coma resuscitation team.
Suze: Pushed several struggling wankers up through Portuguese Bend, and got a nice push on the tush by the Italian Stallion just past Terranea. Like the eye of Mordor, Wankmeister sees it all!
G3: Out for an easy noodle ride, set the fifth best overall time on the short Donut Loop. Ouch. Glad he wasn’t riding in earnest. Toured with WM along the Esplanade on his boss cruiser, with world’s cutest Ava in tow. When you see a kid that cute riding with G3, it makes you sure of this much: She takes after her mother.
Pilot: Noticed my general bonkishness and loaded me up with a full tankard of iced coffee atop the Hill. I owe you one; actually, I owe you several.
Lake(r): New inter-galactic rep for Lake Cycling showed up to taste the Donut despite being HQ’d in San Diego. Give him a welcome the next time he comes around. If there is a next time, as he sat with Wankmeister out at CotKU and learned that the South Bay is essentially an insane asylum without proper walls.
Iron Mike: Treated another passel of ingrates to $400 worth of nasty, foul-smelling, barely potable wheat grass, which made my front two teeth fall out and turned the others deep green. So at least they all match.
Junkyard: Spent Saturday in the 200-degree heat climbing Latigo, Piuma, Crownview, Anchovy, Deer Creek, Decker, and Questhaven, then couldn’t figure out why his legs were flat on the Wheatgrass Ride. I promised to draw him a diagram to explain it, as he’s a visual person.
Sparkles and VV: Rode the Wheatgrass in halter tops due to predictions of high heat, causing several neck strains in the field and aggressive fighting in the wankoton to ride next to them.
Casey Stengel: While he was noodling up to the Domes and I was chasing Rico Suave with all my might, he hopped out of the saddle and gave me a massive tow to within spitting distance of my quarry. The spit didn’t carry, though, and I never closed the gap.
Dude in Antique Sidis: I don’t know if you remember the Sidi Revolution, the first cycling shoe to use velcro, but Dude was wearing a pair and it looked like he hadn’t taken them off since 1986, including his hike across the Himalayas and the year he spent marching across a field of cow manure. We made him sit downwind at the Jamba Juice, where he killed a small flock of starlings with the smell.
July 16, 2012 § 8 Comments
I got up from my desk on Friday and tottered. My assistant gave me a funny look. I walked as quickly as possible to the restroom without running or trying to look panicked, calmly pushed open the door, noted with thanks to Dog that the only stall was open, all the while whipping off my belt, undoing my necktie, dropping my glasses on the washbasin, and getting the last button on my collar undone just in time to release everything in my stomach straight into the toilet bowl.
You know how just before you puke, your mouth starts to drizzle spit like a rabid dog and you get that nasty feeling of “Shit I don’t want this to come up but it feels even worse staying down,” and then nature takes over and it’s a kind of relief and release at the same time, with the acid from your stomach shooting up into your nose and burning like a match…you know that feeling?
I tried to mop up the mess with the handful of paper towels I’d grabbed as I waltzed in, then washed my face in the sink, went back to my desk, finished up with the discovery I was working on, and called it a day at 2:30 PM. By 3:15 I was in bed, feverish, vomiting, swilling lemonade and counting the minutes until Mrs. WM had finished brewing up a pot of chicken soup.
My Japanese Awesome Princess
My J-A-P makes the most awesome chicken soup, and it did its magic so that by Saturday morning I was able to have a light breakfast coffee, bagels with cream cheese and lox and onions and capers, and a bowl of yogurt with fruit, and some more chicken soup with noodles, and a bacon sandwich with some ice cream on the side.
The Donut Ride was off the calendar, so I puttered around on the Internets and flossed the puke out from my back molars, and finally by 5:00 PM was able to go to the store and buy some pistachios and make a run by the bike shop to get some new tires. Two of my best friends were coming by for dinner at 7:00, but I got a text from Ms. Awesomeness that said, “We’re running late; Mr. Awesome is coiffing his nether ‘do.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I texted back “Okay!” and about 7:30 they arrived. We immediately launched into a giant back of chips and homemade salsa and guac and a bag of pistachios and before long they and Mrs. WM were good and drunk. Dinner commenced and before long things gravitated to that natural topic of dinnertime conversation, circumcision.
Mrs. WM raised her eyebrow. “Whatta you mean circum decision?”
Ms. Awesome. “No, not circum decision. Circumcision.”
“Ooooh! Like-a they do on a Jewish boy?” Mrs. WM glanced over at her son, who was staring hard at his plate.
“Yes, that’s it,” said Mr. Awesome.
“Nah, we din’t do no circum decision on our boys, that’s a trimming on the tree but not gonna grow a longer branch. Good gardener don’t trim no tree top unless it’s a gonna sprout new shoots.”
No one really knew what to say, least of all Mrs. WM’s eldest son, who everyone was now staring at his plate and not saying anything. Leaping into the awkward breach, Mr. Awesome came to the rescue. “You know, I’ll never forget the time this lady and her husband came over to our house and she said, ‘Bill has the worst anus itch!'”
The forks all clattered and WM Jr. breathed a sigh of relief. “Now I’m telling you, if your husband has anus itch, that’s just not something to go and tell the neighbors over dinner. I’ll never forget that.”
With thoughts of anus itch and circum decision in our heads, we finished dinner, and topped it off with coffee and ice cream and fruit. By 11:00 I was ready for bed, as I had racing to do on Sunday, and my preparation was complete.
Spin out the legs before the race
I got up at 5:45 and met Jack from Illinois (not his real name) down at the Malaga Cove Fountains. We did a little 25-miler around the Hill, rode up to the Domes, and then I prepped with a pre-race chocolate croissant and double latte. We climbed back up to the top of the Hill, said our good-byes, and I returned home. It was 9:15, so I took the next step in my time-proven race prep: a 2-hour nap.
Mrs. WM rousted me with strong coffee and more bagels, before sending me off to the races with a peck on the cheek. “Why you wanna waste money at a stupid bike race? Last time even Harry helpin you, you got a didn’t never finish, so this time don’t get no didn’t never finish, okay?”
I promised I wouldn’t get another didn’t never finish and drove down to the Dominguez Hills course. First race was the 45+ Richard Meeker Victory Parade. This is a pretty basic offering for all local SoCal races; it’s an event where 75-100 riders donate $35 to Rich so that he can practice his crit skills…not that he really needs the practice.
With a howling headwind on the back side of the course, several doomed breakaways were brought back by the bitter wall of wind. It became clear that in order to become the next 45+ State Criterium Champ, I would need a plan. So I made a couple of charts in my head that looked like this:
|Way to Beat Rich Meeker #1|
|Sit in and Wait ’til the Sprint|
|Don’t have to work||Have never beaten Rich in a sprint|
|Surprise||Have never beaten anyone in a sprint|
|Exciting to watch||Have never been near a sprint|
|Can hang out at the back||Don’t know how to sprint|
|Can chit-chat with friends||Afraid of crashing|
|Doesn’t matter what happens in the race||Don’t like to bump other riders|
|Poor cornering skills|
|Unsure of wind direction|
|Poor at judging distance to line|
|Terrible in-pack maneuvering skills|
|Unclear how to move up in last few
|Easily frightened by loud yelling|
|Tend to brake in all the turns|
|Often grind a pedal in the turns|
|Jump to soon|
|Jump too late|
|Don’t usually have a jump after
|Haven’t developed victory pose
|Way to Beat Rich Meeker #2|
|Looks cool||Have never won out of a breakaway|
|Can appreciate each yelling fan||Have never been in a breakaway|
|Plays to my “diesel” style||Unsure of what breakaways look like|
|Doesn’t require a field sprint||Unsure of how they form|
|Unsure how you get into them
|They look very tiring|
|They look very hard|
|Rich is a great breakaway rider|
|Rich can easily bridge to any dangerous
|Rich can easily outsprint anyone in the
|Give up easily|
|Don’t like prolonged pain or discomfort|
|This is almost as absurd as trying to
win in a sprint
Conclusion: I should not be in this race
After reviewing my table of pros and cons, it became apparent that there was no path to victory. My chance of winning was zero. So the next obvious step was to quit. Two laps had already gone by, and I was the last rider out of about a hundred. As I whizzed through Turn One, planning my graceful exit at the upcoming driveway, I heard an unmistakeable scream: “Wanky! Go to the front!”
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had a cheering section in a bike race, but when you hear your name called out, it gives you wings. The next time ’round I peered up, and there they were were, New Girl, Sparkles, Miz Prez, and Mighty Mouse all planted in the shade at the outside of the turn, screaming in unison, “Wanky! Go to the front!”
Well, there was no quitting now. I had the cuties on my side! And since I was the very last rider in the bunch, all the other spectators could see me perfectly. Forget having to pick some doofus wearing a gray outfit out of the middle of a pack of a hundred people wearing gray. Plus, my little camera was hooked onto the front of my bars.
Now that they were cheering me each lap and telling me to go to the front, there was no way I was going to the front. Each time around I got happier and happier, and this was abetted by the fact that when you are lounging at the back of a 45+ elderly prostate crit, it’s not exactly taxing. I got caught up with KK about his recent hour record. I fiddled with my camera. I sat up and stretched. Way in front people appeared to be working, but what concern was that of mine? All I had to do was smile and wave to the cuties once a lap.
Soon enough, though, it was five to go, and “Go to the front!” became a moral imperative. I charged halfway up the pack. With four to go I advanced some more. With three to go I was in the top fifteen. My cuties were screaming madly, but I had my hands full with the idiots who were bumping my bars, crowding me in the turns, and trying to kill me.
With two to go I was in the top ten, and out of Turn 3 I blasted to the front. A small gap opened on the field (later reports had it at between sixteen and four inches), but terror had been struck into the heart of Rich Meeker, who tried to hide his fear by chuckling. The giant of the peloton was glued to my wheel as we flew through Turn 4, with the mighty Wankmeister drilling out a brutal tattoo past the finish line and straight into the screams and cries of his cuties, all bunched up in Turn 1 and certain that today was his day.
Shortly past the turn a committee of acids, mainly of the lactate party, held a caucus and chose a new candidate for the remainder of the lap. That candidate was called Mr. Anaerobic Respiration, and he was a much slower and more reluctant candidate than the earlier nominee who had so enthusiastically endorsed the Wankmeister for Champion platform, Mr. Aerobic Respiration. The lactic acid committee delivered their new candidate to each and every one of my muscles, including my brain, with a freshly painted sign painted in sharp spikes of pain that said, “Quit Pedaling Now You Asshole Before You Die!”
With the last cheers of the cuties ringing in my ears, I slipped off the front, then back to the first 20, then the first 40, then the first 50, and finally to the tail end of the bunch. There was a sprunt, far, far away. As I straggled across the line in 87th place, the announcer said, “Rich Meeker! State champion again!”
But all I could wonder was this: is the podium’s top step as wonderful as hearing your name called out each lap by adoring cuties? I suspect I’ll never find out.
May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
I don’t know who coined the phrase, “Cheaters never win.” It was obviously someone who was never elected to office, never practiced law, never worked in banking, never submitted reimbursement requests to MediCare, never was married, or never won the TdF.
To make it strictly accurate, the phrase should be re-worked to say, “Cheaters didn’t win on the NPR today.”
We had a huge group at the Pier including the usual suspects: G$, Mighty Mouse, New Girl, Bull, Heeleys Dad & Jr., USC John, Fireman, Suze, Cary, Scott Apartmentsyndicate, Gooseman, Chris D., Kramer, Wolfeman, Lisa C., and guest appearances by Roadchamp, DJ, Damien “The Omen,” and on and on and on. And on.
Everyone began yelling “Bike path!!” on roll-out, so we stomped up the hill instead and took the Alleyway of Death just to be contrarian. The usual barely-caffeinated drivers backing out of their garages, runners stepping off curbs, huge potholes, and blind roadway entrances kept things lively until we hit Vista del Mar. As the nice 2×2 formation gradually ratcheted up the pace, G$ rolled to the fore and ordered that the pace be cut so that people could catch back on.
I hung my head, scolded, and retreated towards the back. It was a big-ass group.
It’s a new sport called Dodgecar
The mechanics of the NPR are kind of funny, because in addition to picking up people along Vista del Mar, once we bend right to go up Pershing there’s always a big group of 20-40 people camped out in the parking lot waiting for us to come by. They are stopped. In a parking lot. Unclipped. Around a blind corner. At the bottom of a hill.
We are single file. Coming down a long, fast grade. Through a green light. At about 30.
If we hit the red light, it gives the campers a chance to adjust their maxi-pads, apply the final coat of lip gloss, clip in, and then get started up the hill so that when our light turns green they can meld with the group. If we hit the green light, there is pandemonium worthy of a soccer match between pre-schoolers. Leaping on bikes, flailing cleats clicking into chains instead of pedals, curses, shouts, wobbly starts in the wrong gear, swerving bikes at 5 mph veering out of the parking lot into the middle of the 30 mph swarm…in short, it’s the kind of early morning clusterfuck that makes you glad you’re on your bike, and makes you determined to be the clusterfucker rather than the clusterfuckee.
This morning, having been relegated by G$, I nosed towards the fore as we approached the light. Red. Just before I touched the brakes…hallelujah!!…GREEN! I mashed it hard as a lumbering SUV in front of me turned on its right-hand blinker. So far so good, but there was nowhere for it to turn, except into the parking lot of campers, who were now wildly flailing to exit and hook onto the tail of the missile.
I easily cruised around the car, but it scrubbed off the 60 or so riders behind me except for Roadchamp and Bull.
Vapor, rolling out of the parking lot at a standstill, was none too pleased. “Hey, wankers! Be careful! And quit attacking while we’re stopped!”
Don’t piss off the dude who rides tempo at 32
By the time I got to the top of the small hill, I’d been joined by Roadchamp, Bull, Seanergy, and Suze. The Sho-Air dude from a couple of weeks ago was parked on the side of the road, glumly eyeing us as he changed a flat. We pounded on.
At the overpass, the pack was in another county. Roadchamp and Bull were taking gnarly pulls from hell. Seanergy was working. I was wondering how they had spotted my testicles lying in the road while we were going so fast, yet still managed to stop, pick them up, and them stuff them down my throat. Which made breathing hard.
When we hit the Parkway, Sho-Air Shawshank redeemed himself, and then some. He began pulling so hard that our tiny group could barely rotate around him, much less match his speed. Shawshank now had the bit between his teeth, and we had a breakaway. As with other completely futile fantasies grounded in an unfirm grasp of reality, we thought it might stick. No break has ever stuck from the beginning of the NPR.
Come on baby, light my fire
Meanwhile, back in the pack, Vapor was pissed. We’d blitzed him by surprise (though in my own very, very weak defense I always mash it up Pershing) and now we had a huge gap with some horsepower. Vapor began taking pulls that were so fast and sick that Fireman reported entire lungs being coughed up from those unlucky enough to be on his wheel. If you’ve ever done Tim Roach’s Hour of Power at the velodrome and had Vapor show up, you’ll know what this was like. The dude can go harder and faster and longer than anything without an internal combustion engine. And when he decides to pour on the coal, the combustion is what happens behind him.
Fortunately, our little cadre of cheaters was soon joined by other cheating wankers. Tree Perkins, who’d been out toodling around, hopped into our group and took a couple of pulls. Adam Tattooed Leg Dude got overhauled, hopped in, and helped out for a lap. Big fat Equipe wanker out for a Parkway pedal joined our team and almost sort of halfway kind of thought about maybe taking a pull before he quit.
And the entire way Roadchamp, Bull, Shawshank, and Seanergy were flogging the big meat harder than a teenage boy on his first visit to pornhub.com.
All good things must end. Bad things, too.
Just before the light at the beginning of the third lap, we all came together, ridden down by the efforts of Vapor and sub-efforts by some of his lieutenants, including G3, Austin Heeley, USC John, and G$. “Cheaters never win!” he yelled.
A spirited discussion between him and Roadchamp ensued. As the cheater-in-chief, I thought it best to keep rolling lest the donkey tail get pinned on me, where it mostly belonged. I glanced around and people looked destroyed. At that moment Mighty Mouse roared to the fore, and I could tell that she’d worn her very best dick-stomping boots to the party. Whatever sausages hadn’t been speared and roasted, she proceeded to stomp to a fare the well.
The end was predictable. I made one last flailaway attempt that never even gained separation. The group was shot to shit, and hardly anyone had any gas at all in the finale, except for Vapor and Motorhead. Motorhead took the sprint with what looked like a nice lead-out from Vapor. I was so far back that the only way I got the results was from smoke signals.
Moral #1: Don’t piss off Vapor with a sneaky, cheapass move and expect to stay away.
Moral #2: If you’re hoping we’ll start easy at the bottom of Pershing, you might be disappointed.
Moral #3: That taste of puke in your mouth at 7:30 AM? Well, it beats sitting in traffic.