The good times rolled

October 16, 2017 § 14 Comments

The 2017 South Bay Cycling Awards are in the books. The Academy voted on a slate of incredibly worthy nominees with the following results:

2017 Greatest Advocate, Lynn Ingram
2017 Best Bike Shop, ShiftMobile and Jason Morin
2017 Best Young Rider, Makayla MacPherson
2017 Best Old Rider, Keith Ketterer
2017 Most Improved, Thomas David Rennier
2017 Best Club, Velo Club LaGrange and Patrick Barrett
2017 Best Event, Belgian Waffle Ride and Michael Marckx
2017 Wanker of the Year, Greg Seyranian
2017 Belgian Award, Dan Cobley
2017 Group Ride Champion, Eric Anderson
2017 Best Sponsor, BonkBreaker and Greg Leibert
2017 Best Male Racer, Jay Williams
2017 Best Female Racer, Megan Jastrab
2017 GC Award, Rahsaan Bahati
2017 Greatest Recovery, Debra Banks
2017 Strava KOM, Meagan Jones
2017 Most Happy to Help Others, Pablo Maida
2017 Most Fun, Michelle Landes
2017 Best Spouse/SO, Sarah Butler
2017 Steve Tilford South Bay Rider of the Year, Charon Smith

This year’s award ceremony was dedicated to the life of Steve Tilford. Steve’s wife Trudi Rebsamen and her sister, Susan Ohlman, traveled from Chicago to attend the awards, along with a contingent of Midwestern friends of Steve. Steve was posthumously inducted into the South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame and Trudi was presented with the induction statuette, hand made and hand painted by an artist in England. It was an emotional evening for everyone who had known Steve, and his presence was strongly felt.

But the fact is that these were also the Wanky Awards, and like the event from 2015 when Steve attended and gave the keynote speech, it was a night of celebration mixed in with a healthy dose of silliness and a massive dose of good times. Those good times weren’t immediately apparent to Academy member Derek Brauch and his teammate John Abate, who found themselves feverishly assembling the famed Wanky backdrop with broken pieces of PVC piping, missing nuts/bolts, all with a few minutes to showtime. A quick trip to Lowe’s and some more feverish duct-tape engineering resulted in a shoddy backdrop perfectly appropriate for the proceedings that never collapsed on the stage or the crowd but at all times appeared as if it might.

Academy member Dan Martin pulled off another stunning year of twenty hand-made Wanky plaques, beautifully painted and mounted horseshoes to signify the incredible stroke of luck and confluence of astrological alignments that it takes to win an award. Winners fought like vicious dogs to keep people from pilfering their hard won trophies and swag bags, but it was only when Jon Paris slit the throat of the pinata baby seal, spilling out hundreds of dollars in swag from Performance Bicycles that things went berserk. No one died, thankfully.

The event continued with Rahsaan Bahati co-hosting the awards, and he actually carried the day with witty commentary and impeccable delivery. One of the most important things to deliver, of course, were words of thanks for the numerous people and organizations who prevented the award ceremony from being a complete failure. In no particular order:

  • Strand Brewing, via Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello, who made the best brewery in the South Bay our home for the third year in a row.
  • Yasuko Davidson, who baked the most prestigious awards of the entire night … the magical loaves of bread! Recipients James Cowan and Greg Leibert looked pretty stoked!
  • Patrick Barrett came to the awards with pounds and pounds of smoked brisket, making himself a true champion of the people.
  • Velo Club LaGrange donated $1,500.00 to defray expenses, and believe me, otherwise we would have been quite frayed.
  • Big Orange Cycling kicked in $1,000.00 to further defray the frayees, and it was awesome.
  • Long Beach Freddies gave $1,000.00 to this august event, meaning that with a bit of creative accounting and skulduggery and cooking-of-the-books, we would almost end up in the red, instead of being drowned in red ink.
  • South Bay Wheelmen gave $300.00 to buy flowers for the wives of the Academy members.
  • Pedal Industries, via Todd Brown, donated custom race-day bike gear bags to three lucky recipients. The bags were custom-designed with the Wanky logo for 2017.
  • Wend Wax, via Ryan Dahl, donated Wend chain wax kits to every recipient. It’s the best lube for your chain; I won’t use anything else.
  • Echelon Color, via Tony Manzella, donated the printing for our posters and for the memorial poster we presented to Trudi.
  • Metadzn, via Joe Yule, donated design services for our logo and for the poster design.
  • Law Office of Seth Davidson, via me, donated South Bay Cycling socks to every recipient, Steve Tilford memorial socks to every recipient, 20 signed copies of Phil Gaimon’s “Living the Cycling Dream,” and 12-oz. bags of Groundworks whole bean coffee to all winners.
  • JoJeBars, via John Abate, donated awesome energy bars–fresh baked, delicious, and healthy food to fuel your ride.
  • Methods II Winning, via Ken Vinson, donated killer pint glasses to every recipient.
  • Mammoth Gran Fondo, via Caroline Casey, donated another set of killer pint glasses to every recipient.
  • BeachBody Performance, via Denis Faye, donated recovery drink mix and energy drink mix to every recipient. Denis also showed off his French insults on stage, which were the best!
  • Origin Clothing, via Marco Cubillos, donated clothing to every recipient and also provide models Bailey and Flint to work the room and be generally awesome.
  • VeloFix, via Matt Brousseau, donated tire repair kits to all recipients.
  • Special shout-out to Hint Water via Kevin Salk, for providing several hundred bottles of  Hint Water which made a huge difference as the night wore on and thirsty cyclists began thinking about the next day’s ride and getting hydrated. Talk about saving the day!
  • Extra-special shout-out to Jami Brauch for getting customized swag-bag stamps with the Wanky logo and hand-stamping all of the bags for that extra custom look.

Of course a ridiculous event like this could never have happened without lots of people flailing around and making stuff up at the last minute. Again, in no particular order …

  • Chris Gregory, who’s been with us since the beginning and is the inventor of the world-famous hashtag, #ewaw, Everybody Wants a Wanky! Chris designed and made the necklaces for past winners, designed and sent out all of the finalist invitations, picked up all of the Charmin for butt-hurt runners-up, survived Costco to get water, and of course served as podium presenter for the fifth year in a row.
  • Sherri Foxworthy, who’s also been on the podium from Year One, providing guidance laced with a bit of profanity, and lots of laughs on the stage. “Batteries.”
  • Stephanie Lin, podium presenter who never misses a chance to dress up and make us all look better than we otherwise possibly could.
  • Kristie Fox, who for the third year has done the hard work of ordering and designing and getting the cake, the cupcakes, the coffee vendor, organizing all of the e-invitations, completing the database, moving huge amounts of junk from pillar to post, serving as shipping terminus for things as varied as lamps, socks, and drink mix, and then of course dancing until the very end.
  • Tara Unversagt, who managed all of the winner signatures on the poster and made sure that the right thing was in the right hands at just the right moment.
  • Delia Park, who managed sign-in and traffic flow.
  • Lynn Jaeger, who showed up as a guest but ended up getting conscripted to the sign-in table.
  • Marc Spivey, Academy member who lined out the sound system and the killer playlist.
  • Derek Brauch, Academy member who built the backdrop under great pressure.
  • Dan Martin, Academy member who made the world-class trophies.

Additional thanks to Bjorn Snider for the great write up! I’m sure I’ve left lots of people off who donated time and money to make this event happen, but hopefully you’ll remind me so I can add them in! Already planning for 2018!

Awesome thank you to Jay Yoshizumi for the fantastic photos below!

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Idiot gets ticket punched

August 2, 2017 § 26 Comments

Almost two months ago I wrote about James Doyle, local buffoon, jerk, kook, pinhead, fool, tool, dunderhead, tosser, wanker, clod, goof, whackjob, lameass, numbskull, numbnuts, jackass, and all-round horrible person, and I wrote about him here.

James knocked down John Walsh in a bike race. John got badly hurt. A video camera captured James’s maneuver. A hue-and-cry ensued. And yesterday USAC suspended Doyle for one year and put him on the Bad Boy List. This basically means that if he pulls this crap again he can have his license revoked, even if it happens in a non-competitive venue.

Since I know the victim personally it feels really good to learn that the aggressor got punished. A lot of people think the punishment wasn’t nearly stiff enough, and they’re right. I was suspended for a year back in 1986 for simply cursing out the officials and writing mean letters to the USCF protesting my punishment. If you could get a year’s suspension for causing butthurt, you should be able to get a lifetime ban for almost killing someone.

Still, it’s progress after a fashion. Who can forget the way that USAC has historically ignored this type of attack? In 2011, Rahsaan Bahati was deliberately crashed out at the Dana Point Grand Prix. The video is breathtaking. After being knocked down, Bahati, the victim, was fined and suspended for throwing his glasses at the pack in anger. Rest assured that USAC didn’t take two months to render its decision.

The rider who crashed Bahati out received no penalty at all, even though the whole thing was on video and is one of the most brazen examples of evil and malicious bike riding I had ever seen prior to the Doyle takedown. Check the video here if you don’t believe me. Seconds 39-42 are unbelievable, but not as unbelievable as the fact that the rider who got punished was Bahati.

 

In any event, it’s encouraging to see that USAC is finally willing to take some responsibility for policing the hostile and dangerous riders in its ranks; what’s discouraging is that there is hardly anyone left anymore in the ranks. The Doyle-Walsh takedown sent a loud message to racers, and a screamingly loud message to their significant others: It’s not worth it. Doyle may have a year off the bike, but Walsh has injuries that will take a very long time to heal.

Those grand fondues and fun rides keep looking better. And better. And better.

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Disrespect your elders

July 10, 2017 § 20 Comments

The sidewalk was hot enough to fry the frying pan after incinerating the eggs. There was a nasty crosswind howling across the desolate course, which was strewn with construction equipment and port-a-potties, doors ajar as they wafted their sweet aroma through the spectators’ area. The final turn led to an impossibly bitter finishing climb that topped out at 6% at the line, where the sweltering audience would be able to inspect the bits of puke dribbling down the racers’ chins.

To quote a famous bike racing film: “Dozens of spectators. Hundreds of dollars on the line. And the stakes? Medium.”

It was Mike Hecker’s and Tom Fitzgibbon’s 805 Criterium, a labor of love that showed the depravity of older men. I took one look at the course and the boiling, stretched, agonized grimaces of the riders toiling up the grade a mere five laps into their race and knew it was going to be a day of bliss.

The race was held a half-block or so from the Amgen Campus in Thousand Oaks; so in addition to the complimentary wheel pit, the wrench services by sponsor Win’s Wheels, and the crack bike injury lawyer services offered by Derryl Halpern, there was also a special EPO pit where I could drop off my syringes in the event I started running low on oxygen uptake receptors mid-race.

Before the race began I carefully reviewed Steve Tilford’s racing principles, thoughtfully taped to my top tube. I only needed to review Rule 1: Don’t Fuggin’ Pull. Before the race I had spoken with Head Down James, who had relentlessly attacked but was never able to make it stick. “No breakaways,” he said. “The group’s momentum on the downhill will peg you back.”

“Then why did you keep attacking?”

Head Down James looked at me blankly. “Dude,” he said. “Because it is fun!”

The 45+ Leaky Prostate Profamateur Full Carbon Made of 100% Carbon race went off, shortened from 50 to 40 minutes due to a terrible accident a couple of races earlier. I sprinted to the back and began fighting aggressively for last place with another fat, slow, and stupid looking racer who looked a lot like Anthony Reguero. It took a while for me to establish my dominance at the end of the chain.

A long way ahead in a galaxy far, far away, Off the Front Wars were taking place as Pat Bos, Tony Brady, and countless other real bike racers ripped away from the field with incredible displays of amazing power. All I noted was that Matt Carinio, that dude who won that national crit title that one time, was fighting hard for next-to-last place and wasn’t interested in the heroics up ahead.

Before the race I had felt him out for his condition. “How’re the legs?”

“Just trying to find some form,” he egregiously lied with a straight face.

“Really? Because judging from your legs you can probably stop looking.”

He laughed. “No, I’m riding for fitness. Hopefully I can come around later in the season.”

The great thing about bike racers is the way they shamelessly lie in the face of indisputable facts. First, it was already later in the season. Second, he was obviously in peak form. Third, no one “rides for fitness” in a steel smelter. Whatevs.

With two and a half laps to go, one of the hopeless breakaways got caught immediately before the final turn leading up to Barfnpuke Hill. I had done nothing the entire race. My legs felt great. The hill had taken nothing out of my legs. The field was looking at each other, calculating the math for “When do I start moving up without getting stuck too far forward?”

I hit it hard. With five or six Big Orange teammates back in the field, I knew it would have to be decisive in order for them not to chase me down, as our key team tactic at Team Lizard Collectors is “Never chase anything but orange!”

My strategem worked. As I flew away from the tired, wrinkled, sad, scabby, pickle-faced old men, Rahsaan Bahati and Tom Fitzgibbon in the announcer’s booth began screaming something that sounded incredibly similar to “Wanky wins the $50 cash prime!”

I caught sight of Ms. WM on the sidelines, who was swooning as she realized that after more than thirty years her husband was, instead of worn-out excuses, finally going to bring home actual cash from a bike race. The gap was huge, it was now two laps to go, and the only way they would bring me back was with an organized team effort. Since Team Lizard Collectors had inexplicably decided not to chase, the work was left to Pat Bos and Team Don’t Fuck This Up Bart Clifford.

With one lap to go I was still clear and the five or six fans paying attention were cheering wildly, or at least somewhat lukewarmedly. With a final shuddering push, Pat and his henchmen hunted me down like a mangy cur, put the bootheel on my neck, and listened to the popping and cracking sound of my cervical vertebrae as the life and fight slowly seeped away.

Unhappily for them, instead of having sat up and gifting me the awesome victory, they were now left in the sad situation of having brought Matt Carinio, fully rested national champion who’d been at the back all day, Dave Holland, fully rested Big Orange Lizard Collector who has a massively fast finish, and one other fully rested dude to the bottom of the hill.

Carinio put away his nail file, folded the Sunday paper back into his jersey pocket, adjusted his glasses, did a couple of mini post-up practices, unclipped the leash and let go with what is often referred to as a “sprint.” Brian Davis got second, Dave got third, and Team Don’t Fuck This Up Bart Clifford watched as Bart, totally gassed from his team’s chase, kicked hard for fifth. Moral to the story: It’s better to get beaten by a national champion than a worn-out, broken down, wheelsucky, desperation-move Wanky.

After the race Ms. WM, recovered from the shock of winning fifty whole cash U.S. dollars, propped me up beneath the tent, doused my head with cold Gatorade, and firmly instructed me rest.

“Rest? We’re going home.”

“No,” she said. “You gonna race the 35 little boy race.”

“Like fuck I am,” I said. “It’s not for four hours, it’s already 100 degrees, and they’ll all be fresh. Fuck that.”

“You gonna go out there and get onna more fifty dollars. Thatsa good bike racin.”

“Honey, I won my first $50 cash prime in 33 years. Lightning won’t strike again today. Trust me.”

Four hours later I was lined up with a smaller field. A younger field. A fresher field. An angrier field. Fortunately, the wind was blowing lots harder and it was now 105 degrees. “Don’t worry,” I told Holland. “A break won’t stick. All we have to do is suck wheel and when they get pissed, flash our AARP cards. I’ll lead you out and you can show Charon and Bahati what the word ‘sprint’ means.”

Holland rolled his eyes. “Please don’t get anywhere near me in the sprint,” he begged.

The whistle blew, the race started, and coming up the hill on Lap 1 Charon and two dudes attacked. “Don’t worry,” I told Holland. “It’s way too early. They’ll be coming back.”

Charon and his breakmates then put a minute on the field and Charon won the race by six furlongs.

Twenty minutes in, things were getting desperate. A chase group of five was up the road, including John Abate. Another group of about fifteen riders was also up the road. In the far back were Holland, I, and fifteen other idiots all wondering why it was so hot, why our lungs were on fire, and whether anyone would notice if we sat out ten or eleven laps and then hopped back in.

As we hit the bottom of Barfnpuke Hill I knew it was now or never, and most likely never. Somehow I got across to the chase group. Holland made it too, but later realized that he had a dentist’s appointment and was not seen again. Everyone in the third chase group got a case of acute reality poisoning as the facts indicated the race for them was over, and if they stayed they would feel terrible and be ridiculed by their wives for finishing 20th, or ridiculed by their wives if they gave up and quit. So most of them quit.

Now I was with Rahsaan, Brandon Gritters, and a large person in an orange outfit (not with Team Lizard Collectors) who was delusional enough to think that we could catch the break. He began shouting at me to pull through, not realizing that he was large, young, and a perfect draft, and that the only way I would pull through is if he had compromising photos of me and someone’s pet goat.

“Pull through!” he yelled, breaking the rule of Don’t Talk. I silently hunkered down, enjoying his width.

Soon other unhappy bicyclists, all twenty years my junior, joined the chorus. “Pull through!” they yelled, treating a tired grandfather like some stupid draft animal. I hunkered some more.

As we hit the bottom of the hill, the one person who had not broken the rule of Don’t Talk, Rahsaan, downshifted and accelerated hard. I hopped on his wheel as he dragged me out of the trench, through the concertina wire, through the mortars, past the bayonets, through the mustard gas, into the barrels of the .50mm Brownings, and somehow, miraculously, onto the tail of the second chase group.

Orange Shoutypants Dude learned two vital lessons: (1) Save your air for pedaling, not bicycle racing instruction. (2) Wanky don’t pull.

No one else made it across except for Eamon O’Reilly and Gritters. Now there were three up the road and about nine riders. Everyone else in the bike race had quit in disgust or was flailing, lonely and in pain, around the windswept hellhole of a course. We were only halfway through. And if you want to know what makes people in a 35+ bike race angry, it’s having a 53-year-old hairy-legged old fellow tagging along. It’s very hard for 35_ fellows to convince themselves that they’re any good when they’re riding with someone who isn’t, especially since every time through the start-finish the announcers would shout, “There’s Wanky, somehow hanging on by a meat thread! Boy, these guys must suck if they can’t get rid of that worn out old shoe!”

The obvious solution to this shameful disgrace was to begin attacking the elderly, which they did. However, a lifetime of wheelsuckery and general meanness somehow allowed me to hang on, even as the group got smaller. With a few laps to go all pretense of pride vanished and the young, strong, handsome, fast young fellows submitted to the incredible humiliation of having me pull them around the course.

“This is all being caught on camera,” I told them as they refused to rotate through. “Rahsaan, they’re going to take away your national champion jerseys when this video gets out,” I added.

Finally, Rahsaan and Gritters, after resting comfortably for a while, responded to my last-ditch attack with a hard counter at one lap to go. I was left with four other riders, none of whom felt inclined to pull. Why should they? We were probably the last five riders in the race. Rather than fighting for a shred of self-respect they would be duking it out for, uh, sixth. Somehow, that’s better than last.

With a few hundred yards to go they all found legs and a new lease on life. I got tenth out of the eighteen corpses who finished the race, the only wanker to have completed two full races on a punishing, miserable, excruciating, stupid, meaningless, regret-and-invective-filled day. Everyone else had quit.

My best race ever, or at least since Telo.

805_phil_beckman

Copyright 2017 by Phil Beckman; Purchased with Commercial Use License.

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Fresh air

June 11, 2017 § 12 Comments

Yesterday I sponsored a peloton skills clinic, taught by Rahsaan Bahati and assisted by Big Orange club members Greg Seyranian and Jon Stark. We had thirty-two riders show up for the free event, which took place on Westchester Parkway.

For ninety minutes Rahsaan talked, answered questions, and rode two laps around the Parkway so that we could practice the things he taught.

Education is a critically missing component from most bicycling organizations. It’s hard to understand why, as a condition of its existence, every bike club doesn’t have an ongoing education requirement. Actually, it’s easy to understand.

  1. Most people who run a club think they are experts with nothing to learn.
  2. Most people who race bikes think they invented cycling.
  3. Most club members are wholly unaware of educational opportunities, because typically THERE ARE NONE.
  4. Most cyclists would rather ride badly and get hurt than devote several Saturdays a year to improving or, dog forbid, teaching others.
  5. 99.99999% of all non-cycling family members have no idea, none at all, how dangerous riding a bike can be if you do it wrong.
  6. Safety has no place in any racing club I’ve ever belonged to except, if you’re incredibly lucky, as an add-on to kit design, race reimbursement, board squabbles, fights over sponsorship, training, and Strava competitions. Usually it’s completely non-existent.
  7. Most clubs refuse to pay money for professional instruction. But they will pay for parties!
  8. Most racers think race survival skills = road safety skills.
  9. Most new cyclists ape the attitudes of the more experienced ignoramuses.
  10. There’s never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over … in the hospital.

This clinic was strongly supported by the Big Orange membership, with about forty riders and three board members giving up the precious, golden Saturday riding hours of 8:00 to 10:00 to enjoy the clinic, which was an outgrowth of the first one put together by Big Orange rider and board member Joann Zwagerman.

I’ve been racing since 1984 and riding competitively (i.e. like a freddie) since 1982, and I learned so much listening to Rahsaan. Few people in LA have any inkling how knowledgeable this man is, and it’s not until you’ve actually listened to him that you can even begin to appreciate his warmth, kindness, gentle instruction, and profound understanding of what goes into competent bike handling.

Even though we’re the only community with a Rahsaan, your community has experts who possess great knowledge about riding safely, and they would love to share it. If you’re on a club board or in any position of leadership and are not aggressively pushing education to your membership, you are failing everyone. And if you don’t think you can find someone who knows enough to teach, visit the CyclingSavvy website to get started.

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CBR #5–bike racing for fun and not much profit!

May 30, 2017 § 5 Comments

I did two races yesterday, the 45+ and the 35+. This was held on the “left-hand” race course, which is the longer one with four turns and which is almost pancake flat.

The 45+ field had almost ninety riders and there was no wind, so I knew it was going to be very fast. After the race someone said we averaged 28.5 mph over sixty minutes. I don’t know if that’s true, but the handful of times I was off the front it was ridiculously painful.

Two moves that would have worked in CBRs past were the one in which I followed Pat Bos. Basically, once the first salvos have been fired and people are starting to tire, any move with Pat in it is going to be a winning one. We stayed away for about a lap, but each time he flicked me to come through we lost massive speed. The pack seemed to bring us back with ease.

The other move was with Red Trek Dude. I don’t know his name but he is fast and super smart. Same deal, though. They pegged us back after a couple of laps and that was that.

With twenty minutes to go it looked for sure like it was going to be a field sprint, so I slid to the back. It’s funny how a peloton has a group consciousness, where everyone realizes the same thing at the same time without ever saying a word. Sometimes it’s “field sprint,” or “that move is gone,” or “bring it back.” I don’t know how you know but you just know.

I settled back to watch the fireworks because I’m a firm believer in leaving the dangerous, dirty work of sprinting to the sprinters. It’s true I don’t win much but it’s also true that I have a pretty good record of going home with all the same skin I left with.

The second race was slower, I think, but just as ridiculously hard because it was a smaller field. The 35+ race looked like it was going to be a battle between Rahsaan Bahati and Charon Smith, two guys who wrote the book on crit racing. It’s always weird how in one race things stay together and in another race on the same course on the same day under the same condition a break goes, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why.

I stayed at the back most of the race, where things would have been really easy were I not already gassed. The one time I moved up towards the front to see if any break action was about to happen, all I found was a lot of wind. So I slinked back.

While Rahsaan and Charon were watching each other on the last lap, Robbie Miranda hit out early and beat everyone to the line. It’s always exciting when an underdog beats the favorites, although Robbie wins so much he’s hardly an underdog. I was so tired after two hours of racing in circles that even sitting was a chore.

My Big Orange team tent was the happiest place at the race. We had several riders do their first race yesterday. Kevin Salk and Matthieu Brousseau were incredibly excited to race; Matthieu so much so that he put on a clown suit after the race and wore it on the podium. It was pretty awesome that while other people were fumbling for their podium cap our guy was buttoning up his entire clown suit. A huge contingent of Big Orange racers paid entry fees and raced. I could name them all, except I couldn’t. The NJ Of The Day award went to Andrew Nuckles, who did three races and never stopped talking for seven straight hours.

Sherri Foxworthy came to the race and snapped a ton of team pictures, as did Paul Cressey, so we have two team photogs who are each generously paid in granola bars and all the warm water they can drink.

Team members Delia Park showed up to cheer and chat and encourage, and Kristie Fox put up the tent at Dark AF:00, loaded the tent area with food and drinks, and spent the entire day pinning people up, refilling bottles, changing poopy racer diapers, then going out to race against some very fast women. Denis Faye of Beachbody Performance also came to cheer his wife, and Connie Perez, recovering from a bad fall, was there as well. Marilyne Deckman raced her way to fifth, Lisa Conrad had a strong showing in the 4s, and everyone agreed that Michelle Landes needs to woman up and switch back to Big Orange.

People who want bike racing to be more fun and who think that industrial park crits are boring need to see what happens when their entire team shows up, including spouses, kids, and S/Os.

Because it’s fun AF. Photos courtesy of THE Sherri Foxworth.

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Workin’ the mouth

April 7, 2017 § 14 Comments

I’ve always maintained that industrial park crit racing is really boring for spectators. A huge mass of people go round and round, they’re harder to distinguish than fall warblers, then someone shoots out at the end, throws her hands up, and the race is over.

Who’d want to watch that for fifty minutes, or even fifteen?

But then I thought about America’s most popular sport, throwball. The players are indistinguishable if you’re a neophyte. What they are doing is incomprehensible. Some umpire dude is constantly blowing a whistle and throwing a flag. Everyone suddenly decides to give the throwball to the other team. Someone runs across the finish line. Another dude kicks the throwball through the fork tines. Weird point combinations of six, three, one, sometimes two, appear at random. WTF?

And for all that, people go ape-fuggin-shit and hundreds of millions of dollars change hands online.

What do they got that we don’t got?

Then it hit me. Announcers. They got announcers. Some of them are great. Some of them are awful. All of them have mountains of crap to say. One dude talks about how four seasons ago one throwball dude dragged down another throwball dude. Another talks about somebody’s fifth knee operation. Some other dude compares one throwball team to the Pittsburgh Flintstones’ Stone Curtain from the 70s. It may be drivel, but it’s informative drivel.

But bike races? Crits have four types of announcers:

  1. This is my playlist. Hope you like the 70s.
  2. Nathan Newbie. “Hey everbody!! (Is this mic live)?”
  3. Jaded Fuddy Duddy. (“Looks like you all missed the break. Hahahaha.”)
  4. Awesome Announcer (“You’re not paying me? See ya.”)

Numbers one and two are self-explanatory and common. And guess what? Spectators don’t have to come to your industrial park crit to listen to K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Number three is some dude who’s been around forever, is sarcastic and cynical, and when he pays attention, if at all, it’s for the pro race. Men’s.

This year the CBR Crit took a different approach. It got Rahsaan Bahati, David Worthington, and David Wells to create an actual commentating crew.

AND IT PAID THEM.

These three guys are all smart, glib, and experienced announcers, but most importantly they know the racers and they know how to race. Whether it’s the Cat 5 Crit or the Masters 55+, they call out names, real names. None of that “Here comes number 69 leading the pack!”

It makes all the difference to a mom, dad, brother, girlfriend, sister, or boyfriend to hear a name called out. And it makes all the difference to all the spectators to hear experienced racers break down what’s going on, lap by lap. Analyzing riders’ strengths, speculating about weaknesses, commenting on strategy, filling the time with anecdotes and explanations makes these races become for the spectator what they are for the racer: Fun.

It’s easy to get great bike race announcers, but after a day or two spent in the hot sun shouting yourself hoarse for eight hours it transitions from “fun” and “helping the community” to “work.” Professionalizing it by paying the announcers for what they bring to the event is one of the best investments a promoter can make.

END

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A tale of two Francises

February 24, 2016 § 34 Comments

The first time I did the Old Pier Ride on a December day in 2006, I got yelled at by Stern-O. My crime? Daring to be a new face contesting the sprunt on a steel Masi while wearing a wool jersey.

On my first few Donut Rides I was yelled at and pushed around, and was only able to create breathing room by riding some of the worst-behaved people off my wheel. The only way you could get people to lay off was by beating them down.

Those few short years ago road riding in LA was like it still is in many places. Cliquish, hostile, and full-to-overflowing with self-important preeners.

Nowadays LA is not that way, even though other parts of SoCal and NorCal are still rife with faux elitism. Guys like Rahsaan Bahati, Robert Efthimos, Greg Leibert, and especially Greg Seyranian have created an environment where inclusiveness is the norm. New faces like David Wells, and old ones like Gerald Iacono and Michael Norris have kept up a steady drumbeat that welcomes new faces.

Eventually the most offensive snobs relocated to faraway climes, or took to riding by themselves in tiny groups at odd hours where they come into contact with hardly anyone, or they’ve simply quit riding.

This environment has attracted a lot of people to the old group rides. The NPR now easily starts with 70 or 80 riders. There’s often shouting and sometimes a bit of jostling, but it tends to be based on actual riding behavior rather than to establish a pecking order.

One of the guys who started showing up one day was named Francis, but one look at him and you pretty much knew that:

  1. You weren’t the first person who’d thought about saying, “Lighten up, Francis.”
  2. He’d beaten up lots tougher guys than you for lots smaller infractions than that.

In a universe where bikers are the underdog and the police are the enemy, Francis was like that overgrown guy in the movie with beard stubble and a knife who shows up in the 7th Grade classroom after riding his motorcycle to school and befriends the twiggly dork getting bullied by the bad guys. Turns out that Francis was a homicide detective and beneath his tough, flinty-eyed exterior there lay a hardened, unflinching, barefisted interior.

This was amazing because suddenly when the group got pulled over by a cop responding to a call from an irate PV housewife who’d been slowed down four seconds on her way to Starbucks, instead of getting a lecture, four back-up squad cars, and tickets all ’round, Francis and the cop would have a conversation and that would be it.

It was also amazing because we now had a cop who backed us up when bad things happened. It’s a funny feeling to think that when some cager in a pickup buzzes you and flips you off and then gets it into his head to escalate the situation that he’s going to find out he’s grabbed the red-hot poker with both hands by the wrong end.

Of course, what are the chances that a hard-bitten homicide cop would even be named Francis, let alone also be a cyclist, and a good one, at that? One in several billion. So in an effort to let him know how much he was appreciated, I made an especial effort to give him as much shit as possible, which, to his credit, he always returned in rather unequal quantities.

But back to the NPR …

In tandem with the large size of the ride, the police whose jurisdiction is LAX International Airport have their own Wellness Department, which focuses on health initiatives for employees and for the broader community. After a particularly bad car-bike collision on Westchester Parkway, which abuts the airport’s runways, the officer in charge of Wellness decided to get involved.

This guy’s name is Officer Sur, and with the department’s backing he now escorts the group on Tuesdays. He drives an SUV patrol car with large magnetic signs that say “3 Feet Please!” indicating the minimum legal passing space a motorist must give a cyclist.

He assists with intersection control when we make the u-turns on the Parkway, and also helps control traffic at lights when the lights are changing and only half the peloton has made it through. Officer Sur even came to our 6:40 AM liftoff at the Manhattan Beach Pier and gave a talk about rider safety and police involvement with things like the NPR.

From the time that he has been escorting the ride, we have gotten noticeably less (as in zero) buzzing or harassment by cagers. So in addition to the lottery-like odds of having one guardian angel in the form of a homicide detective named Francis, we wound up with an even more improbable scenario: Having two policemen who ride and who look out for others on bikes.

 

So I was talking to Officer Sur after the NPR, and telling him about Francis.

“Francis?” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty weird, huh? I mean, what are the chances of having a cop named Francis who’s not only involved in cycling but who’s also kind of a guardian angel?”

Officer Sur looked at me to see if I was pulling his leg. “Pretty long odds,” he said. “Because that’s my first name, too.”

officer_sur

Officer Sur giving a talk before the NPR.

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