December 31, 2012 § 9 Comments
Yah, yesterday was hard enough so today Slim played hooky at the back, then hooky off the back as the pack rolled up the reservoir climb without him, then plowed up Homes & Domes without him, then bombed down the Switchbacks without him, then let him slide on by while they were filling up water bottles, then overhauled him again in Portuguese Bend.
Slim didn’t care. He wasn’t going to do anything except sit. Let the others suffer if that’s how they wanted to spend their Sunday morning.
At the glass church Marco, Mark, and Jay rolled off the front. Thirty or forty riders watched them go, waiting for Slim to surge from the pack and tow or bridge. But Slim sat and let their indecision fester. He knew every inch of this road and they all measured “pain.” Today, hurting was for someone else.
A few riders took turns at the front, but no one wanted to push it. The Glass Church hill is unforgiving. If you fire too hard too early, you’ll be watching your erstwhile friends recede into the distance.
Slim nestled into the center of the group. He’d found his wheel, and he wasn’t letting go. Marco & Co. were gone and not coming back anyway, not with this gang of “No, dude, YOU pull” types.
Slim had glued onto Old Fox, owner of the ugliest, nastiest pedal stroke in Southern California. It was a horrible, repulsive pedaling style, jerky, elliptical, toe on the left leg bent awkwardly in towards the crank, every spin of the legs looking like a bad piece of Aggie engineering that had been redrawn by Rube Goldberg.
Slim had first run into Old Fox on the reservoir climb six years ago. Slim had been fast and fit, and Old Fox had been clunky, chunky, and already older than most naturally occurring rock formations. Slim passed him. Old Fox hopped on. Slim upped the ante to threshold. Old Fox hung on. Slim pushed the needle into red. Old Fox started to wheeze. Slim punched once, hard. Old Fox took it on the chin and blew.
The whole thing had disturbed Slim because Old Fox was so old, so ungainly, so out of shape, but had held on for so long. Nothing grates on the ego of a cyclist like having a plainly inferior rider hang on when you’re going all out.
The next time they met, it was on Old Fox’s turf. Flat. Four corners. A big bunch. A fast finish.
Old Fox took second, coming out of nowhere, beating a dozen contenders who were twenty or thirty years his junior. Slim learned that Old Fox had gotten silver in the national crit championships as a younger racer. Those awkward, ugly strokes only looked inefficient. When you stopped staring at the ankles and the knees, you noticed the high cadence and the smoothness between the knee and hip.
In dozens of head to head encounters, Slim had taken Old Fox once, and that was with the lead-out of all lead-outs from the Fireman, uphill and after a hundred miles…and even so Slim had edged Old Fox only by the width of a tire.
Slim took stock of the group’s remnants as they crested the Glass Church hill. Maybe a dozen riders remained, even though the pace had been anemic at best. Junkyard, Pilot, Canyon Bob, Mike B., and one or two others took turns revving the downhill as they approached the first of two bumps that preceded the uphill sprint. A gang of over-excited Velo Allegro wankers had melded with the group a few miles back, and they jostled for position.
Old Fox did nothing. Slim hated the way he never worked, never took a pull, never went to the front, but he admired him, too. Old Fox’s conservation of energy was an art form. His easily spinning legs had yet to make any effort at all, even as those around him made withdrawals, some larger, some smaller, from their rapidly dwindling accounts.
Slim would beat Old Fox at his own game today. Slim hadn’t cracked a sweat. He hadn’t budged from the wheel. He let Old Fox guide him easily through the group. Old Fox’s clunky pedaling was a decoy for more than his efficient, high-cadence stroke. It also took your attention off the fact that he negotiated the cracks and crevices in the peloton with utter mastery and ease.
Halfway up the first bump Pilot moved to the outside and shot forward. Old Fox pushed the pedals hard and followed, still perfectly protected. Slim was right there. Over the first bump, down the screaming backside and approaching the second and final bump, Old Fox showed another one of his cards, the expert sprinter’s ace of spades: The card of patience.
This close to the line and Slim, if left to his own devices, would have been panicking and hitting the gas full-on. Not Old Fox. He knew it wasn’t time. It was close, but not close enough. A little more pavement, and it was still close, but not close enough. A few more yards till and it was close, closer, and then showtime.
The old man kicked the pedals so hard that his bike shot like a rearing pony, and only pure attentiveness kept Slim on his wheel. As the peloton was hesitating to see who would lead it out, Old Fox was shooting free and clear, none of the remaining riders having a snowball’s chance. He’d launched from the far outside, from a fast, strong wheel, mid-way up the pack, and with such ferocity that the only other rider who could grab his draft was Slim.
They were free, Slim could feel it without looking back. the chaos of the jostling and the whining of the wheels had been replaced by silence. No long shadow throwing forward. Just Slim and Old Fox, and Old Fox was about to get spanked.
“This is how the lion feels before it sinks its teeth into the soft, warm neck of the kicking gazelle,” Slim laughed to himself. “Now tell me how you like these fangs, fucker.”
Legs fresh, with plenty of gas in the tank, Slim kicked as the finishing sprint sign approached.
But…surprise, surprise. Old Fox had some fumes left to cook off as well. Slim came off the wheel and hit the wall of wind. At the same time, Old Fox gathered his powerful shoulders and arms, coiled his entire body, and kicked the pedals one last time. Through the sucking gasps Slim saw the old man’s legs move perfectly around in that final lunge. Nothing ugly, or ungainly, or wasted, just one last complete effort.
Old Fox by a bike length.
The panting, lazy dogs came scrambling up after, frothing and foaming with frustration and proffering the best and most practiced of excuses.
“Dude it was too squirrely back there, I just let it go,” barked one.
“I was gonna lead you out,” panted another.
“I got boxed in,” yapped a third.
Old Fox just smiled and let them roll past.
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.