April 18, 2017 § 14 Comments
Last year I decided that I was going to cap my riding at ten hours a week. I figured that if I’m getting older and tireder and can’t recover, then why the hell am I riding so much?
You’d be amazed at how hard it is to go from riding 5-6 days a week down to four, or sometimes three. But what’s really amazing is how hard it is to get in ten hours once you make that your limit, especially in only four days.
The other thing is how pent up I get, in a good way. Good-bye groaning legs. Good-bye to the “don’t wanna ride but have to” blues. Good-bye “easy day.”
Instead, all I want to do is go hard. Of course I always used to want to go hard but often couldn’t, or what I thought was hard no one else did. Friday Coffee Cruises used to be the best because I could cruise, coffily. Now I’m counting the hours between rides, or what’s worse, the days.
And what’s odd about that is now having three days during the week where cycling doesn’t happen. I haven’t had so many consecutive bike-free weekends in decades. Whichever day I don’t ride is like an extra day in the weekend because it’s not only a day off work, it’s a day off from having groany legs. And when Monday comes around, there’s no epic anything to recover from.
My last ride was on Saturday, doing a new fetish I call time trailing. If someone told you “Hey, Freddie, from now on we’re going to do one 60-minute all out effort every week!” what would you say? Aside from a New York hello, that is. I’m so pent up that I can’t wait.
We rode so hard on Saturday that two people got physically ill afterwards and have remained so. I felt so wobbly the rest of the day that even sitting hurt. And there were new areas I’ve never felt pain in before, in this case my eyelids. You are doing something wrong when your eyelids hurt. How in the world do you tire out an eyelid?
I slept nine hours whereas I usually sleep seven. I slept through my alarm the next day even though I usually bound out of bed at five. But you know what? By midday Sunday I was feeling pretty good. That’s weird. We even dashed over to the site of the Lake Elizabeth Massacre and snapped some poppy photos. Me spending Sunday looking at flowers? Who have I become?
What’s weirder is that when the Monday spinaround invite came on Sunday evening I had to tap out my regrets and my finger was trembling. That’s how bad I wanted to ride. Now it’s Monday and I want to go smash. There is so much energy coursing through my legs right now that every ten minutes I have to take a deep breath and say, “Only x more hours until Telo.”
I think that when you do a little bit and it’s intense, and you don’t follow it up with a bunch of long miles or other stuff, it makes you a lot fresher than just riding a lot, particularly when you are a worn out old shoe to begin with. As Richard Meeker used to say, “Masters racers train too much.” I’m not sure he’s the best person to quote when you’re trying to up your racing game, but even a rotten apple can have a good seed or two.
The down side to riding less is that you have less fun. But the up side is that when you’re on the bike, it is miserable as hell.
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July 8, 2015 § 12 Comments
I don’t know if he ever really said it.
Rich Meeker is supposed to have said something like this: “Masters racers train too hard and ride too much.”
Please check in all nasty comments about Rich at the door to the Internet, or refer to one of my earlier posts and pile on there. Just because someone cheated doesn’t mean they aren’t smart about their sport.
For over 30 years people have been telling me variations of “You train too hard and ride too much,” to which I always politely smiled while thinking, “WTF do you know? Where were you on the Donut Ride?” Right, Elron?
Of course on race day those know-it-alls are on the podium and I’m DNF because “no legs today.”
Turns out, they knew a lot. Masters racers, apparently, train too hard and ride too much. “Oh, yeah?” I can hear you Wankophizing. “Too much for what?”
Too much to do well at races, that’s what.
“Well, who cares about racing?” I can hear you shout back.
“Only the people who pay entry fees and show up to race.” In other words, ME. And YOU.
Of course it doesn’t matter what people say to me. My mind is ten million impermeable layers of granite, especially when it comes to cycling. I know everything, and what I don’t know isn’t worth knowing.
“Yeah,” Fields once said, “but the problem is that what you know isn’t worth knowing either.”
Then one day a very helpful pro (“What does he know?”) suggested that masters racers train too hard and ride too much. I ignored him while nodding wisely in assent.
But something made me listen, even though it was a few weeks after the fact. My 51-year-old body, whose recovery slows each year like a tiny pebble rolling uphill through a massive pit of wet cement, refused one morning to do what I demanded of it.
“I wonder if I’m tired? I mean, like, permanently.” I thought about an old blues musician from New Orleans who, in his 80’s, was asked how he felt as he sat on the corner strumming his guitar. He considered the question briefly, and looked at the eager tourist who was desperate for the aged musician to utter some reaffirming words about a life fulfilled from singing the blues.
“I reckon,” the man said, “that I feel like an old worn out shoe.” Was I, too, becoming a Converse All-Star that had been to one hipster convention too many?
I tried to ride my bike that morning and did so, without vigor. And from that point on I started exercising my sitting muscle. Throughout the race season, which in California runs from January 1 to about December 31, I have only ridden hard once, maximum twice, during the week, to wit:
- Monday: Nothing or easy pedal
- Tuesday: One 5-minute effort on the NPR or full gas 1-hour effort
- Wednesday: Coffee cruise
- Thursday: 60-minute full-gas Flog Ride, or 60-minute easy pedal depending on what I did on Tuesday
- Friday: Coffee cruise
- Saturday: Race or Donut with full sprinkles and choco pain glaze
- Sunday: Easy Wheatgrass cruise
My results are as follows:
- Still feel like racing in June, as opposed to weakening in Feb., cratering in Mar., and giving up after the BWR in April.
- Legs feel fresh
- Reduced reliance on Chinese doping products
- A baby’s handful of good race results, i.e. a single top-50 and no crashes
They say less is more, which is definitely not true for money or penis length. But for masters racing, ol’ Meeker the Beaker may have known what he was talking about.
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February 4, 2015 § 66 Comments
The Facebag almost broke on Monday when someone posted a photo of the results in the 50+ masters race at the Red Trolley Crit. There atop the leaderboard sat Richard Meeker, returned from a 2-year doping ban and picking up where he left off: Making fools of the best old fart racers in the state, make that the nation, make that the world.
According to eyewitness accounts, Meeker the Beaker a/k/a Loose Leaf Powder a/k/a Mr. Kleen rabbit-punched breakaway companions Mark Hoffenberg and Thurlow Rogers with a finishing sprint so vicious that all they could do was loll their tongues and do the Harpooned Whale Bellyroll of Death as Sir Toxic blew across the line in a blur.
None of this should have been surprising. Rich doped (to no one’s surprise), was busted (to everyone’s surprise), mounted a pathetic tainted supplement defense (to everyone’s undying hilarity), and has now returned with a vengeance, which he will be serving up nice and cold. If you plan on racing in the 50+ category in SoCal this year, and you’re super fit and super fast and super good, I hope you like the sound of “second place,” because whether it’s a time trial, a hill climb, a crit, or a rolling, windy course, the unrepentant, proud owner of a two-year doping ban is going to stomp your nuts.
‘Cuz you know, when it comes to bike racing, Rich Meeker does it all.
What was surprising, nay, astounding, is that the Beaker signed up for the race under the banner of Surf City Cyclery. This is surprising because according to at least one rider, he wasn’t even on the team.
Despite strenuous politicking to be allowed to join, the members reportedly held a ballot and emphatically voted not to let Sir Toxic on the team. No matter to Rich, though. Despite the vote reportedly taking place a month ago, which means he would have been well aware that he wasn’t on the team, he is listed on his 2015 license as a Surf City rider, and he apparently rode the race in a Surf City club kit that’s for sale to the general public. After this horrendous wardrobe malfunction, I heard that he received a call from management and was told to cease and desist.
It will be entertaining to see whether he continues to show up claiming to ride for Surf City and whether he changes his license. Alternately, it will be fun to see which team he rides for next and to hear the pathetic excuses that people give for allowing this unrepentant leper to ride on their team. The fact that he still maintains his innocence and refuses to admit to wrongdoing puts him on a lower level than Lance & Co., who at least admitted what they’d done and are now suffering the consequences, however mild they may be.
As far as I’m concerned, I could care less whether the guy races, although there’s no shortage of people who wish he’d find a different sport to cheat at. He’s done his time, and the rules say that he’s allowed to return to the fray. It was heartening to see people on Facebag comment that the real first and second in that race were Hoffenberg and Thurlow, and it’s encouraging that there are teams who refuse to be associated with him. Perhaps his strategy of throwing Hammer Nutrition under the bus is making teams and sponsors and potential teammates wonder who he’ll point the finger at the next time USADA rolls into town.
But of course we always save the best for last. Rich and his wife have opened an organic drink bar in Corona del Mar, catering to the beautiful set’s desire for healthful, tasty nutrition. The name?
Some shit you just can’t make up.
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November 23, 2013 § 147 Comments
Lokalmotor Richard Meeker tested positive for steroids at the 2012 national masters championships and was sanctioned this week with a 2-year ban. Rich claims that he’s never intentionally doped and that the positive result came from a tainted supplement. He does this through a press release. A press release? From a 50+ masters bicycle racer?
I don’t believe him.
Can we please stop saying “shocked”
Rich’s press release says he was “shocked” to find out that he’d tested positive. I’m not sure it shocked anyone who regularly races masters cycling in SoCal, unless, like me, they were shocked that USAC finally nailed a masters racer who’s a pretty big deal. To the contrary, the positive simply confirms rumors that have swirled around Rich for a long time: that he wins races in part due to banned drugs.
The sad thing is now watching people who like Rich personally — I’m one of them — as they try to distance themselves. Folks, you don’t have to distance yourselves. He cheated, he doped, he got caught, he hired a lawyer, he fought it for fourteen months, and now he’s issued a non-apology proclaiming his innocence using one of the oldest, silliest, least credible, most embarrassing excuses possible. It’s the excuse that comes with the pre-printed “How to Dope” drugs from China, I’m sure.
“If to find doping caught violation, please to excusify on official protocol testing about mix product bad tea contamination and to a herbal remedy vanishing twin,” or something like that.
The “tainted beef” excuse, Rich, has been used by better, more famous, and more credible racers than you. Still, it’s okay to insult our intelligence. We’re bike racers after all.
What I want to know isn’t how his friends will react. I know what they will say because they’re already saying it. “Let’s wait until all the facts are out.” [Hint: they are out. He doped, got caught, and has been sanctioned.] “Those drugs don’t even make you go faster!” [Hint: they are still illegal, so you’re still a doper if you use them.] “Rich would never do that.” [Hint: he did.]
What I want to hear is something from his team, “Breakaway from Cancer,” which is sponsored by Amgen, which was founded by Thom Wiesel, who has a long and sordid history of turning the company into the major player of doping in cycling in the “Armstrong Era,” as if doping in cycling was limited to some tiny sliver of time when bad ol’ Lance ruined everything.
This may come as a nasty “shock,” but until Breakaway from Cancer and its team management make a strong statement about this, they’re going to be tarred with the amateur wanker doper brush, too — and so will their entire team. That’s a shame because it’s now reflecting on guys who truly are beyond reproach, guys who, if they tested positive, I would quite literally shake my head in disbelief.
That’s the press release I want to read, the one that says, “Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer masters cycling team condemns doping in sport. Richard Meeker’s positive test is proof that the system is being applied fairly to catch drug cheats on all levels. He will not be riding for our team in 2014, when his ban ends.” And then, in furtherance of the clean sport that Rich talks about in his press release, I’d like to see the test results he claims he carried out, along with the name of the supplement.
Indeed, now’s the time for his team to demand the release of that data in order to protect all cyclists out there who are buying unicorn powder in the hope that it will fill in the gaping cracks left by age, inability, genetic slowness, lousy strategy, weak legs, too much beer, insufficient training, and general sloth.
Just the facts
Rich has long been one of the top masters racers in the country, and although I’ve raced with him, it’s not exactly true to say I ever raced “against” him except for a couple of times, because he was so much better that I could never follow his wheel.
Throughout 2012 he was virtually unbeatable. He won time trials, sprints, crits, road races … in one race he went off from the gun, raced in a two-up breakaway in a hard, hilly road race, got caught, then destroyed everyone in the sprint. After the race no one would have been surprised if he’d done 10,000 push-ups, dragged a 747 down a runway by his teeth, and bench pressed a small ox.
The only time I was in contention for a finish against him was at the end of 2012 in a ten-man break at a CBR race. Sitting behind him and looking at his legs was enough to make me want to quit. He looked like a professional road racer with 0% body fat combined with a track racer combined with a weight lifter combined with the Six Million Dollar Man combined with Bo Jackson.
My stolen youth, stolen by dopers
Unlike Lance, who is responsible for everything bad that ever happened to me, Rich is in a different category. You see, Lance stole my dreams. He forced me to become a lawyer. He made me fail my algebra tests and ruined my career as a pro cyclist (I would have won the Tour and the Nobel Prize in physics if he hadn’t doped).
But Rich Meeker?
He didn’t ruin shit. To the contrary, the only times I’ve ever talked with him he’s been an exceedingly kind guy. Unlike certain steroid-crazed, punch-throwing drugheads on the SoCal masters circuit, Rich is as nice as they come. It just so happens that he doped.
So? Our ranks are quietly filling with ex-pros who’ve been sanctioned for drugs, not to mention ex-pros who raced higher than kites and never got busted.
If you race masters in SoCal and you don’t understand that drugs are rampant here, you are an imbecile. Too many riders turn in unbelievable performances not to understand that the sport is rife with drugs. However, unlike pro racing, which actually matters in some weird alternative universe, masters racing is like vanity book publishing.
No one gives a flipfuck. Even if you’re the greatest masters racer in the history of Planet Earth, YOU’RE STILL A FUCKING MASTERS BIKE RACER. In other words, you are over the hill at best, one foot in the grave at worst.
It was a pretty good year
Rich is a national masters champion whose USA Cycling results for 2012 make you want to burn your bicycle and your racing license. National crit champion, national road silver medalist, SoCal Cup 1st, Ladera Ranch 1st, Paramount Crit 1st, Manhattan Beach GP 1st, Rosena Ranch 1st, Jail Circuit Race 1st, District road champion, Barry Wolfe GP 1st, Arco Crit 1st, Dana Point GP 1st, Avenue of the Flags 1st, Redlands 1st, Ontario Series 1st … you get the picture. If you were racing 45+ in 2012, you were racing for second.
This is different from catching some 65-year-old wanker in a Florida time trial who placed fifth out of five entrants. SoCal masters racing is a national benchmark, and the guys who sit atop the leaderboards here are the best of the best when it comes to elderly, delusional wankers whose lives revolve around bicycle racing.
Rich insists that he took a tainted supplement, but he has refused to name the supplement. He’s long been one of the top masters racers in SoCal, and it’s possible he’s telling the truth, just like it’s possible that Tyler had a vanishing twin, that Alexi drank tainted herbal tea, or that every other tawdry and poorly conceived and cheap-ass lie coughed up by every drug cheat ever was true.
Whether he is or isn’t, though, it doesn’t affect me much, because I’ve been beaten by guys on drugs and I’ve been beaten by guys who are clean as a whistle. My enjoyment of the sport has a little to do with how I place and a lot to do with the friends I make and the experiences I have.
At the professional level, where careers and sponsor dollars and prestigious victories are at stake, it makes a big difference whether people dope. At the masters level, it’s more sad than it is outrageous, although if I were a sponsor of an amateur bike team, pumping money into bikes, clothes, entry fees, and clean supplements, I’d be flat fucking livid. There are a lot of businesses out there who sponsor small time masters racing because they like bicycling, not because they’re expecting a big payday.
Life, and cycling, have a lot more to offer if you take them head on and accept your race results for what they are: nothing more than how you did on a certain day in a certain race against certain people.
My guess is that when Rich’s ban is over, he’ll be the same affable guy he’s always been, and he’ll still be kicking my ass, supplements or not. I just hope he drops the facade and takes his beating like a man. Silly as we are, even bike racers don’t believe what’s written in a press release.
August 5, 2012 Comments Off on How to beat Rich
Every pre-race team meeting this year by every team in Southern California began with the same question. “How’re we gonna beat Meeker?”
Everyone would then kind of stand around and draw circles in the dust with their big toe. “Uh, let’s attack him early and win out of a break.”
“He always marks those.”
“Let’s take him with us in the break, then.”
“He can outsprint anyone in the break.”
“Let’s chase all the breaks, including his, and lead our guy out for a field sprint.”
“He always wins the field sprint, remember? He’s the fastest guy in the nation for his age group in the crit.”
“Well, let’s let him dangle off the front, then run him down towards the end when he’s all tired from working in the break, and then we’ll crush him in the sprint.”
“We tried that at the states road race, remember? He was off the front for 45 miles, we brought him back, and he still won the sprint.”
“Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s send him to London for a few weeks!”
So Rich went off to London to watch the Olympics with his pal Chris Horner, and while he was gone other good riders got to shine. Then he came back.
The secret to beating Rich Meeker in a crit
Today we learned that the secret weapon in stopping Rich from winning is by getting to the guy who glues on his front tire. If you can get to that guy, you’ve suddenly got a chance.
The Brentwood Grand Prix takes place in the global center of hot chicks, fake boobs, guys in Ferraris, Schwarzeneggers, OJ Simpson (before he got life without parole), and the full on West LA vibe. Is your region’s signature event in a place called Hooterville? Is your best crit of the year in an office park?
Brentwood GP happens along a tight, technical little course with a couple of grinding bumps, fast tailwind, hard headwind, and oh-fuckit turns that test your ability to actually handle a bike. Of course, there’s always at least one guy in any crit who is so terrible, jerky, sketchy, twitchy, and unable to control his bike that I’m terrified shitless throughout the race. To make matters worse, that guy is invariably me.
John Hatchitt, our strategy guru, chaired the team pre-race planning session. “We got seven guys. Alan won San Marcos last weekend convincingly. If we play our cards right we can win this one, too.”
“What about Meeker?” I asked.
“Here’s the plan. Wanky, you will get dropped after the first couple of laps, then pulled. So we need to make maximal use of your 150-watts of incredible power. When the gun goes off, hit the front and string it out.”
“It will give you a chance to crash on the first or second turn before people have gotten too tired to avoid you. Rondash, Frias, Harry, and I will stay towards the front, cover any moves, and keep Alan in position in case Meeker rolls off.”
“How’s he gonna beat Meeker?” I asked.
Several dudes glowered at me. “Then, with two or three to go, we’ll get Taylor up into position for the finish, along with Alan if he’s not off the front.”
“But what about…”
I never finished the question, as my teammates sped off to the line.
Breaking bad. Really, really bad.
The race started at a torrid pace, with everyone hustling to get to the first turn, a 180-degree pivot that went up a little bump and then dove down through a chicane and onto a wide straightaway. As we went through the first turn I heard behind me the grinding, skidding, cursing, smashing, banging, whanging, panic-inducing sound of some wanker falling on his ass.
The sound scared me so badly I jumped hard and raced away, dragging the pack behind me for a solid forty or fifty amazing yards. As I swung over, Meeker came through breathing fire and hand grenades at a speed normally reserved for things with large internal combustion engines.
Fifteen minutes into the 50-minute event I was hauling through the start-finish with Hatchitt in hot pursuit of a $150 prime. Steve Klasna, who needed gas money just as badly as I did, powered by with a hard surge. “Fuck,” I thought. “He can have the money, because I got cheered by Christine Reilly, who distinctly yelled ‘Dig deep, Wanky!’ as I zipped through the turn before the finish.”
I had wanted to tell her that if I dug any deeper I’d be in China, but the recent shortage of oxygen in the Brentwood area made that impossible.
The peloton paused after Klasna took the prime, and I rocketed 75 slots back to check on some of my good friends and make sure they were okay. One of them was a dude in a black kit with a giant red license tag hanging from his seat rails that said “Handicapped.” Some shit even I can’t make up.
Meeker then “rolled off the front,” which is what people say when someone jacks away from the wankoton so hot and hard that you couldn’t catch them with 200-lb. test and a fishhook prime of hookers and blow. It was classic Meeker: you take the prime, I’ll take the vee.
They don’t make Yugos any more
This was the critical moment in every race where the contenders, the wannabes, the couldbeens, the oughtahaves, the shouldacouldas had to either man up, put their heads down, and close the gap in the teeth of a headwind or do what bike racers do best: look at each other and say, “You go!”
To which the other dude says, “Fuck that. You go.”
By which time the 30mph gap means you will have to go 32mph without the cozy protection of all the people whose wheels you’ve been sucking for the entirety of the race.
Alan, never a fan of the Yugo, instead hopped into his Igo, and bridged. Klasna tried, but was winded from his gas money effort. Various other riders tried, but in a flash Hatchitt and Meeker’s teammate Roger Worthington came to the front and began doing “efforts” that were just slower than the break, allowing their teammates to establish and then build on their lead, but going fast enough that no one wanted to chase.
Although the gap yo-yoed, at one point getting down to ten seconds when Frank Schroeder and his merry band of assassins tried to close the gap, the constant teamwork of SPY and Amgen, and the iron legs of Flores and Meeker, meant that the break succeeded.
With five laps to go I knew it was my turn to move to the front so I could help with a last lap lead-out. I sprinted down the straightaway as hard as I could, using my last ounce of power, and in a flash had moved up from 76th to 73rd. So much for that. The only thing that remained was for Meeker to beat Alan in the sprint and for someone else to close the field sprint clusterfuck.
When tires go bad
On the bell lap, however, a miracle happened. The closer, the state road champ, the state crit champ, the national crit champ, the badass who doesn’t just bring home the bacon but brings home the entire pig, Rich Meeker himself came red-hot into the next to last turn and rolled a tire.
Fortunately, although Rich is now five pounds lighter from skin loss, he wasn’t badly hurt. Even more fortunately for team SPY, it meant that our closer, Alan Flores, got to roll across the start-finish first, hands held high for a zillion meters.
1. Suze Sonye cracked out an impressive win in the Pro/1/2/3 race, capping her season with win number 389. Apparently all those beatdowns on the NPR are paying off. Oh, waitaminnit. She’s been one of the winningest chick bike racers in SoCal since she was in kindergarten.
2. Emily Georgeson nailed down an awesome win in the women’s Cat 3 race. What a badass. And a cuteass.
3. Shai Oved, the La Grange dude who discovered all those flying snakes in Austin, got 2nd in his Cat 4 race for two weeks in a row. Props!
4. There’s some club called FFKR Architects Racing. Like, how do they pronounce that? “Yo, we ride for fucker archictets,” or something?
5. Rider Unknown took first in the Cat 3 race. Way to go, Rider!
6. Teammate Tait Campbell got second behind Rider. Nice weekend for SPY!
7. Monster Media snagged four out of the top ten in the 35+. I watched it for a couple of laps but it made me ill to watch, they were going so fast. My buddy Aaron Wimberley got eleventh, after telling me on Thursday, “Dude, your attacks are like watching a big blue bus leave the bus stop. They’re slow as shit and everybody’s on it, including the fat guy with a walker. You need to learn how to accelerate.”
8. My other buddy, Josh Alverson, who normally rides for Bike Palace, raced the 35+ event for team Poor Number Placement. I hope they have a good bro deal or something.
9. Amy Hutner gave me an awesome hug after my race. It’s so wrong that bigamy is illegal in California.
10. Pischon Jones was one of the few big boy sprinters to gut out this tough course in the Cat 3 race. Nice job, even though you were cramping like a dog.
11. Tink learned that when you have no teammates, and the course is relatively flat, you can’t ride fifty good racers off your wheel. She did, however, put on a toughness clinic.
12. Today’s race was marked by the absence of Greg Leibert. If he’d been in the 45+ race, there’s no doubt that he or Klasna would have made the break with Rich and Alan.
13. Greg St. Johns showed up and shot photos. This is like having Picasso show up and sketch the fruitbowl on your dining room table.
14. CyclingIllustrated.com was there in force and with live HD streaming of the race. This will become a standard before long. JB is always on the cutting edge, and not happy unless it’s the best.
15. The people and machines who put on the BWGP did a phenomenal job. If every crit were like this–challenging course, beautiful little village with restaurants and shops so that people could watch the action up close while eating a hamburger gut bomb–cycling would p*wn NASCAR like pole dancing p*wns curling.
June 3, 2012 § 14 Comments
When Norman Mailer wrote the WW II novel that catapulted him to fame as a serious writer, thereby ensuring that no one outside of a college English class would ever read his work, he was criticized for the long, slogging, endless, mired-in-mud style that characterized long parts of the book.
Mailer replied: “Yes, those passages are long, hard to get through, miserable, and they leave you with a feeling of having given much to accomplish nothing. That’s what it was like in the infantry.”
Okay, he never said that, but this blog post is gonna be exactly like the Bakersfield state championship road race. Long. Miserable. Not fun. Not funny. And most of you will quit long before it finishes.
Chester Karrass ain’t got nothin’ on Mrs. WM
Mrs. WM accompanied me to the race as my watergirl. “Oh, you have such a great wife,” you’re thinking. “Mine would never do that.”
Neither would Mrs. WM. This was the result of a hard fought negotiation in which Mrs. WM extracted maximum value for the sacrifice she was about to make. “Okay, I will go and do a terrible bike race that is no fun and I hate it but you have to take me somewhere nice.”
“Okay. Lunch in Oildale after the race?”
“Somewhere with a hotel and a spa where we can stay overnight with a nice pool and no bicycle and a nice restaurant with shopping.”
“Del Amo Mall and the Hybrid Hotel in Torrance?”
“No. I want Palm Springs and you have to get a new car. I hate your car with the ugly bump in the rear.”
In negotiating, this is called “tossing in the hookers,” and is a ploy where you put something in play that will ultimately get stricken from the deal while still leaving you with what you really want. So I signed the 12-page contract for the Palm Springs weekend, and off we went to Bakersfield.
That poop is too nasty for my butthole to look at
Ms. WM’s race day got off to a bad start when she had to visit the port-o-potties. I was pinning on my number when she returned, looking kind of green.
“Are you okay?”
“That was awful!”
“What? The toilets? They’re pretty good actually. Kind of that rose-and-pinesol-with-chemical-strawberry-car-freshener scent. It’s almost stronger than the poop. Of course it’s early in the day. By noon they’ll have to haul those things off with a hazmat team.”
“It was gross!”
“Gross? It’s a friggin’ port-o-potty, not an aromatherapy boutique.”
“I’ve been to many public events before. People don’t usually poop so much! It’s the bike racers! They are extra poopers!”
She did have a point. How many times do you go to a Dodgers game and get things started off by unloading a four-pound, corn-studded bowl breaker? At a bike race, by the time you’ve driven from the hotel to the sign-in, the Denny’s Grand Slam and quart of hot coffee have pretty much raced through the tunnel and are peeking at the door, which explains the ratio of solids to liquids at a bike race port-o-potty and that funny dance everyone’s doing as they wait for a vacant seat.
“Can’t you just breathe through your mouth and get your business done? It’s not like you have to carry out an inspection or anything.”
“It was too disgusting for my butt!”
“It was so nasty I couldn’t sit down on the seat and have my butt facing all that stuff.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Mrs. WM never kids when it comes to poop.
“No I am not kidding!”
“So what’d you do?”
“I took many of the paper seat covers and dropped them down in there to make a paper cover for the poop so my butt wouldn’t have to look at it.”
That detail taken care of, I went off to race.
It is better to try and fail than fail to try
This applies to everything in life except bike racing. With bike racing, most of the time it’s much better to fail to try. I’ve put together a little graph that helps explain.
|FAIL TO TRY||TRY AND FAIL|
|Barbie Food during race: $0.00||Barbie Food during race: $17.72|
|Gas: $0.00||Gas: $49.82 [$132.90 in Konsmo’s Blingmobile]|
|Dinner in Bako: $0.00||Dinner in Bako at Padre Hotel: $141.29|
|Doubletree Bako: $0.00||Doubletree Bako: $77.00 [w/Family Discount]|
|Condoms: $0.00||Condoms: $7.32|
|Case of water: $0.00||Case of water: $4.68|
|Breakfast at Denny’s: $0.00||Breakfast at Denny’s: $17.29|
|Entry fee: $0.00||Entry fee: $35.00|
|Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $0.00||Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $12.22|
|Weekend in Palm Springs: $0.00||Weekend in Palm Springs: $500.00 MINIMUM|
|Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $0.00||Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $25,892.12|
|TOTAL: $0.00||TOTAL: $26,754.46|
Even though I was a history major, it seems clear that fail to try is definitely the way to go on this one.
Even though fail to try is a winner, you still don’t get to call yourself a bike racer by bailing on this event
The Bakersfield race is one of the few real bike races in Southern California. The vast majority of bike races here are circle jerks. You go round for 55 minutes and the best sprinter wins. Don’t get me wrong. Winning these events takes balls of steel and the speed of a rocket. I couldn’t win one on a Vespa. But they lack the key elements that are required for bike racing.
Those elements are:
- Weather. If you’re not fighting the elements, you’re not bike racing. Heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, hail, ice, etc. are prerequisites.
- Hills. If you don’t have elevation changes of some sort, you’re not bike racing.
- Distance. If your body doesn’t have to go into reserves that test your endurance, you’re not bike racing.
- Varied terrain. If you don’t have to use a variety of bike handling techniques, you’re not bike racing.
- Tactics. If the conclusion is virtually always determined by a bunch sprint, you’re not bike racing.
It is a sad testament to the lameness of the SoCal cycling scene that the 45+ field, a group that can easily pull in 100 riders in an early season crit, barely had thirty racers toe the line. As far as I know, not a single field came anywhere close to reaching its limit, and the majority of them appeared to have half or less of the number of racers who show up to preen and primp and strut and flex at the crits.
What’s up with that?
What’s up with that
Bakersfield has put on a phenomenal race, slightly different from De Vleeshuis Ronde in that there is less climbing with more distance, but identical in its challenging nature and superb organization. A giant tent with chairs and bike racks was erected at the start/finish so riders could stage without frying their brains out, and so that they could sit in the shade and relax after the race while eating the excellent food prepared on site.
The difference between this race and the innumerable local crits, though, is this: you’re going suffer like a motherfucker if you finish this race. Today never got above the low 90’s, but Saturday’s events approached 100 degrees. The wind blew hot and hard both days. The long climb was shortened, but the three loops around the shorter, punchy climbs were devastating.
This was a race where you had to hydrate properly, have the right nutrition, ride smart, and meter your efforts in order to get shelled out the back and spend the rest of the fucking day battering into a merciless hot headwind by yourself. If you wanted to actually finish with the group, or dog forbid, in a breakaway, you needed all of the above plus you needed to be one hard, tough, fit, canny bastard [in the interest of equal treatment, the word “bastard” refers to men and to women].
This is another way of saying that many of the soft, marshmallowy wankers who comprise the cannon fodder–and often the podium–of the local crit scene didn’t stand a chance in hell of placing in this race. Rather than coming out to Bako, having their balls beaten with a tire iron, getting crushed on the climbs, and flailing in a wanketto for a couple of hours, they chose to stay home and do something else. [See graph above for financial analysis of that choice.]
There’s more to it than money, honey
Nothing comes close to approaching the satisfaction of finishing a hardass beatdown in a challenging road race. If you’re too scared of failure and pain to show up and race, you’ll never know how good it feels to cross the line. I’d also argue that you’ve never raced your bike.
In our race, I got kicked out the back on the second lap, one punchy climb before we hit the long highway downhill. I never got back on, and was eventually shelled from my five-man chase group. Before coming off, though, I got to witness selfless heroics on the part of teammate Harold Martinez, a flatland crit dude, who singlehandedly pulled back a deadly break that was almost a minute up the road by stringing the whole field out into the gutter for the better part of five miles.
That’s the kind of stuff that earns respect from friends and adversaries alike. It’s the kind of stuff that real bike racing consists of: people with varying talents using those abilities to try and benefit the team rather than sitting home and cherry-picking the next race that you think is most “suited” to your talents.
I got to watch non-teammates like Bart Clifford, new addition to Big Orange, follow a break and fry himself to make sure a teammate had some help in an early move. I got to watch the power, speed, and athleticism of guys like Dave Jaeger, John Hatchitt, Jeff Konsmo, Richard Meeker, Todd Parks, Greg Leibert, Steve Klasna, Louie Amelburu, Mark Noble, Jon Flagg, and several others as they manhandled a brutal course and reduced the already small field to a handful of survivors.
More importantly, even though I flailed, a number of people proved themselves worthy of this challenging course. They did more than prove themselves worthy: they raced their bikes.
Our own South Bay rider Kristabel Doebel-Hickock won her women’s race yesterday with the 3/4’s, and placed seventh today with the 1/2’s. Her performance deserves a write-up of its own. She’s amazing.
Richard Meeker won the 45+ race, displaying all the skills that make him the best all around road racer in Southern California and one of the best in the nation.
Jeff Konsmo pulled a huge second place out of his hat, taking second to Richard in a reversal of 2011. Jeff rode strongly and tactically for every bit of the race, forcing the pace on lap two and finishing with his signature kick.
Kevin Phillips got fourth in the 35+ despite being swarmed by Monster Media, even though most of his training lately has been on the track. Kevin pulled some astounding numbers: 1-minute power 748 watts. 10-minute power 366 watts. All in a day’s work for this South Bay phenom.
Trudi Schindler got 2nd in the women’s Cat 4, and 5th overall in the Cat 3/4. Great job!
Strongman Phil Tintsman showed his versatility–again–with a silver medal in the tough, tough 35+ race. Great work, Phil.
See you next year?
If for no other reason than to show your support for the people in Bakersfield who’ve done so much to create a fantastic venue for bike racing, you should put this race and De Vleeshuis Ronde on your calendar for 2013. Come on out and get your dick stomped into a flatworm. You’ll be glad you did.