May 4, 2016 § 25 Comments
What I want you to know is that yesterday, which was NPR Tuesday, I launched a glorious attack in the neutral zone along Vista del Mar as soon as we turned out of the alley. I’ve done this a zillion times before and it never works because I’m too slow and everyone else is too fast.
In order for any NPR break to stick a number of miracles have to happen, all simultaneously. First, Evens Stievenart has to flat. Second, you have to sneak away fast enough and early enough that you can scoot down the hill and get mixed in with traffic so the wankoton can’t really see you, like a thief in the night rummaging through *someone’s* panty drawer.
Finally, you have to *catch* all the lights on green or *catch* them on yellow or *catch* them on dead red a-la Stathis or Cowan and pray you don’t get crushed by a truck.
And then finally finally you have to latch onto a locomotive who is a) strong enough to stay away for four laps + Vista del Mar but b) not so strong that he drops you and c) is a complete idiot when it comes to bike racing and d) who can’t sprunt, i.e. Smasher has to be on the ride.
Finally finally finally, Venus needs to be retrograde in Cassiopeia and I’ll see your five and raise you ten. Then and only then do you have a chance.
Of course today was my day, because no sooner had I sprung clear from the snoozers than I saw Smasher up ahead. Smasher never met a hopeless breakaway he didn’t like. He looked back, saw the gap, and started smashing. “We got this,” he said. “Piece of cake.” Only one Vista del Mar sneak attack breakaway has ever stuck in the storied history of the NPR. That kind of once-in-a-lifetime cake.
Smasher smashed for a long way, I took a bitsy pull, and he smashed some more. Smashed up Pershing. Smashed up World Way ramp. Smashed onto the Parkway. I stuck my nose out in the wind for a few seconds for another bitsy pull. Then Smasher smashed some more.
When we made the u-turn it took so long to see the wankoton that I thought perhaps they’d made a wrong turn. Sausage was in no-wank-land attempting a hopeless bridge, and my teammates were chasing hard and then, all golden, we saw Evens S. flatted on the side of the road.
I sighed happily as I puked up bits of oatmeal, glued as I was to the mighty glutes of Smasher Who Smashed. At the final turnaround we were so far ahead that we lazily pedaled to the finish, where Cowan was standing with a camera because he’d crashed out for the tenth time this year and was having his bike glued back together. He was pissed. “You’re chatting!” he said. “What kind of finish is that?”
“We just owned your teammates, bitch,” I said. He reluctantly snapped a video of the laziest NPR victory pose ever and awaited the bunch finish for third, which had the hoped-for result: His teammate Todd Toofs beat everyone else. Grateful for scraps, Cowan posted the third-place video and titled it “Teammate wins NPR,” one of the few instances where history was written by the loser.
I tacked on a few extra hours, pedaling up Mandeville after almost getting doored by a car parked in front of Santa Monica Peet’s and driven by a guy who looked suspiciously like Ynot Alleznam, stopped at Phil’s and observed a homeless dude dance a jig in a Batman suit, then watched a crazy lady on the way home come shrieking up the bike lane in her Yaris beside a tour bus only to find when she popped out that there was a cop in the other lane who pulled her over and wrote her a ticket and then saw some buddies splayed on the pavement in Marina after they’d been run over by another crazy lady, this one on a bicycle going the wrong way in the bike lane and they’d had to chase her down and wrestle her off her bike and call the cops while the one dude nursed what looked like a fractured wrist, then I had a Tink sighting on the bridge, ran into Major Bob, Frenchie, and ML in PV but couldn’t stop to talk because I was bonking and then I got home, scarfed leftover tomato soup, leftover fried rice, an apple, a banana, half a box of chocolates and a quart of milk, and did my best imitation of “Crampie Grampie” where you hop around on one foot howling until the other leg cramps and then you roll in a ball and moan and everyone looks away embarrassed.
Mallorca, here I come.
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January 13, 2016 § 34 Comments
The average time that it takes a 1mm fracture in your pelvis to completely heal is 5-6 months. During that time it is important to exercise in such a way as to bring increased blood circulation to the fracture site, yet not to “overdo it” such that the soft tissue around the fracture becomes inflamed.
The best thing to do is to let pain be your guide as to any rehab program. Moderate pain is to be expected, whereas severe or excruciating pain likely indicates further damage or re-injury of the fracture.
Full resumption of pre-fracture, intense activities should not be resumed until at least five, preferably six months after the injury.
I had all this in mind as I rode to the NPR this morning, fully aware that I was merely seven weeks into the Wanky Rehab Plan. Then I became even more fully aware as the ride kicked up Pershing and gravity plus wind resistance plus speed forced me to the tail end of the 80-plus gaggle of flailing idiots.
As we made the sweeping turn for our first lap on Westchester Krapway, a place where I am accustomed to land the first blow, I grit my teeth firmly around my small intestine, hanging by a thread to the wheel of Scrubby Carbuncle, a poor fellow who, resplendent in his new 2016 team kit, had failed to adequately prepare for the physical stresses about to be placed on the fabric when it almost ripped after Scrubby doubled to his normal size by enormous gasps, and as a result began to gap me out as the massive, spiked Baby Seal Club of Turncoat Cobley swung a mighty blow across Scrubby’s tiny seal testicles.
The gap widened and there was nothing I could do. Slow of leg, weak of spirit, and fractured of pelvis I watched the gap widen as this–MY HOME RIDE–punched me in the kidney and prepared to drop me on the first acceleration of the very first lap.
Fate intervened, though, which was bad, because the brief stop at the first red light allowed me to catch back on, something as happy as, saying, getting the opportunity to ram your dangling, bloody stump back into the garbage disposal a second time.
I skittered briefly off the front only to hear the whooshing of The Club, this time being swung by the mighty G$. It cracked me across the nape of the neck and sent me hurtling to the back, where, instead of dying on the wheel of Scrubby, who had been skinned and had his bloody carcass dripping with entrails tossed into the maw of the rear-pack sharks who gnawed his guts while spinning in the slipstream of the mighty clubbers on the point.
Now my savior was the rear wheel of Daisy O’Doodle, a nice enough person who was suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous clubbing by Benedict Alverson, Sausage, and the gore-soaked South Bay Baby Seal, who had graduated from the ranks of the skinned into the ranks of the dickstompers.
Daisy’s skull split with the first whack of The Club, and as she sank to floor of the ice floe I felt huge shooting pains fire up into my crack, the tender fibers of barely knitted bone infused with the unholy fire of nerves being stimulated with red-hot coals. My tender nutsack, barely joined to my pelvic crack, dangled and jangled with each blow of the The Club as I shuddered and swayed, pushing harder than hard to close the four-foot gap which threatened to mushroom into a solid quarter mile.
By the final lap the monsters of the deep had taken over, with the Williams brothers, national clubber Holloway, Nutjob Pedalbeater, Dawg, Benedict Smasher, Baby Seal, Turncoat Cobley, and a host of murderers forming a final arrow that flew from the bowstring directly through the throats of all pretenders. I finished so far back I had to read about the sprunt in the newspaper.
At the post-coital lie and whopper exchange at CotKU, I required three people to help me dismount. After coffee I pedaled home at record slow pace, my tightened and aching bones barely able to turn the pedals.
Later that morning I had my first appointment with Dr. Patchumup, the bone guy who had diagnosed my strained nutsack as a broken pelvis.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Great,” I lied.
“What kind of activities are you doing now to help with your rehab?”
“Oh, just the usual.”
“You know, walking slowly in a heated pool. Stretching on my bed in the mornings. Trying not to move too quickly or to overstress anything.”
“Good,” he said. “Keep it up and you’ll be back on your bike by June at the latest.”
“Okay, doc,” I said obediently. “I will.”
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November 6, 2015 § 12 Comments
I decided to write down everything I know about performance cycling.
There. That sure was quick.
Then I decided to write down the things that, although inappropriate for others or unorthodox, have helped me achieve competitive success on the bike.
So that leaves me with my observations, and the problem with those is that they’re filtered through a brain that is politely described as “eccentric” and clinically described as “in need of strong medication.” But I regress.
The performance cycling pie has three equally sized slices. Well, they should be equally sized but they aren’t.
I. The training slice.
This is the one that in most pies covers 90% of the plate. I won’t tell you about training because you already know everything there is to know about it, which is why you won Paris-Roubaix last year. But I will tell you about my training slice for 2016 because it meets the only two criteria for a training plan that matter: It’s simple and I can do it.
- Don’t tire myself out. For decades I slogged and flogged, never passing up a long ride, never refusing an offer to take an interminable, stupid pull, never hesitating to follow up one hard workout with another, and then after that, another. But no mas. My new rule? If my legs feel flat I’m not riding. Why? Because I am old and wear out quickly, and if you’re over 40, so do you. You know how steel will wear out eventually? We’re not steel.
- Two hard efforts a week. Or less.
- Avoid any training regimen that involves data, or worse, social media, or worst, data and social media.
- Keep my weight at 150.
- Study Chinese more.
- Continue to finish each day with several tall, cold glasses of un-drunk beer. Recently I’ve been super enjoying not drinking Racer 6 IPA.
II. The aero slice.
This is the piece that some people focus on, but typically only as it concerns equipment. The current battle for “Most Aero” is being viciously fought between Strava Jr. and Sausage. The one ground down his carbon stem (full carbon, that is) so that the bolts no longer protrude. The other booked a room in the Specialized wind tunnel for his tenth wedding anniversary.
Fully 1/3 of your performance pie should be devoted to aerodynamics. The easy part is buying shit and loading up on 100% carbon components that are full carbon and taking your wife to the wind tunnel. The hard part is riding aero (and ever getting laid again).
Riding aero differs from buying aero, and as an inveterate cheapskate I’ve failed at both. In addition to a lifetime devoted to poor training habits, I’ve also developed bad positioning into an art form. The idiot out on the edge of the peloton, catching all the wind? Me.
The dolt riding three bike lengths behind the last rider? Me.
The clod who’s always on the wrong side of the echelon? Me again.
Unsurprisingly, stupid training and bad positioning go together. The bulk of your aero efforts should be comprised of wheelsucking, something that most cyclists gravitate towards naturally, and selective drafting, something that few riders excel at. None, it should be noted, surpass Vinny D.
Selective drafting is like having to sample fifteen wines before you pick one to drink. You don’t guzzle the whole tasting glass, just like you don’t commit to Twitch Thudpucker’s wheel for half the race. You put a little in your mouth, swish it around, then spit it out. Same with drafting. The wheel you suck should itself be well positioned. It should be ridden by someone who typically makes the split. And it should feature a big old ass, one that is wide and with overtones of blackberry, perhaps even including a tart yet buttery finish that goes well with fish. The rear panel should not be beyond its expiration date a-la-Brad House. And if Kjar isn’t around, you must learn to never follow riders who are smaller than you.
This can be a challenge, because little people are often the best racers. No matter. Spit them out and ride behind the bigger butt.
One difficulty I have always had in wheel selection is the delusion that I am small. Because I sometimes end up with the climbers, I mistakenly assume that I’m like them. I’m not. They are tiny and delicate and cute and you want to cuddle them and hook them up to a cheeseburger I.V. bag. But I am not. I am long and stretched out and a kind of elongated wind sail. So sitting behind tiny people doesn’t work for me, and henceforth I will not sit behind them. You shouldn’t either. What you will find, however, is that tiny people are constantly sitting on YOU. Use this to your advantage by throwing back your rear wheel, veering unpredictably, or stopping for no reason. Think PREZ.
The final piece of aero riding is navigating within the pack. This isn’t that hard (I’m told), but it is terrifying. The lugs who occupy the middle of the pack are using 78.3% less energy than I am as I slog over on the side in the wind, but they are scary because they have head tattoos, pierced teeth, facial scars, jangling ear dangles made of brass that play jingle bells against their top tubes, and they don’t cry when their bars bump. If you can develop the steel nerves to sit in this viper’s den of angry killers, you will arrive at the finish fresh and rested. Good luck with that.
III. The strategy slice.
For a very few riders, this is 90% of the pie, and they always win a few races a year. Do you know Gibby Hatton? He shows up to races with no teammates, not very fit, and always wins a few. Why? Because he has perfected aero pack riding and because he knows exactly when to pedal hard–once, in the last 200 meters, sitting fourth or fifth wheel in the last turn.
The rest of us had strategiotomies at an early age and are more or less profoundly stupid and incapable of thinking during a race. That’s too bad (for us, not Gibby) because it means that at no time in the race do we actually try to answer this question: “How am I going to win today?” [Note: “Go from the gun and solo the whole race” is not a strategy, just like “Be president of the United States” is not a career plan.]
Why are we so stupid? Because strategy involves constantly evaluating your “plan to win” against what’s happening on the ground. It’s a great idea to attack on the final climb unless there’s already a break three minutes up the road. It’s a great idea to come around Charon at the finish but 30 other people have the exact same plan and most of them believe in open carry. It’s a great idea to splat on your face in the last ten meters but Prez already has that sewn up. Plus, it’s not really a good idea.
Although dynamically strategic thinking is impossible for me, it is possible to pick one concept and stick to it. For example, “Don’t be the strongest one in the break.” Or “Don’t lead out the sprunt.” Or “Pay off the best rider.” That last one generally works very well.
So that’s it. Go forth and win. And remember who taught you how.
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September 30, 2015 § 30 Comments
This isn’t going to end well, Head Down James I’ve got, no problem, he’ll flog himself and explode like a can of tomato paste in the microwave and he’ll be happy with the flogging and last place because he initiated, rode, and drove the break, that guy’s head is made of concrete which is why he’s so loved you can pour words over his head like a bucket of water but not a one will ever sink in and there’s no hope with Davy he goes on the list of “never beaten” and “never even held his wheel when he kicks” and no fuggin’ wonder he’s the masters national kilo champ and he hasn’t taken a single pull since bridging and he’s licking his chops the real problem is Sausage he also goes on the “never beaten never even close” list he’s got a ferocious kick and worse than that he’s smart but at least I’m on his wheel and not vice versa nine hundred to go and boom there goes Head Down James launching off Davy’s wheel now it’s Sausage, me, and Davy and Head Down James is opening a nice little gap but he won’t be able to sustain it on this riser but whoa now Sausage is on the front and he’s slowed way down he’s not chasing his teammate except it’s LaGrange so he eventually will and plus Sausage is no dummy he’ll never in a million years sprunt from the front I get it these wankers are waiting for me to close the gap yeah, perfect, I close, Head Down blows, and Davy beats Sausage or maybe Sausage gets real lucky and beats Davy but anyway I’ll be left dangling fuck it I’ve never won out of a break ever ever ever not in thirty years and now I’m stuck with two sprinters eight hundred to go Head Down’s gap isn’t growing his speed will crater any minute but Sausage is going so slow it won’t matter and Head Down will take the win this is maddening I’ve ridden the break the last two laps exactly like Daniel said don’t be the strongest guy in the break make sure we don’t get caught but don’t be the stud still the math isn’t here one slow old hairy legged guy never beats a kilo champ and a sprinter seven hundred to go well I’m not chasing that fucker isn’t that what Derek said sometimes you just have to be content with someone else winning because if you go it’s not gonna be you and he also said patience and holding back at the end is the hardest but you have to wait for the other guy to flinch six hundred to go I can see Davy’s shadow and Sausage just went up a gear so he’s ready for the jump better upshift too and he thinks it’s gonna be me but he knows it might also be Davy boom there’s the sound of Davy’s whole bike groaning under 1800 watts five hundred to go shit here comes Davy off my wheel shit Sausage was totally ready shit this hurts shit they’re pulling away shit go go go shit I’ve got Sausage’s back wheel oh man this hurts but is Sausage gonna get Davy’s wheel three hundred to go shit he got Davy boom Head Down’s blown we’re passing him like a bullet train passing a tree now Davy’s fading no way oh yes way he’s been conventioning at Eurobike and Interbike and hasn’t been training of course two hundred to go boom there goes Sausage but closing to Davy has hurt him he doesn’t have his usual kick go now attack his rear wheel and shear off into the wind at the last minute oh man one hundred to go there’s the finishing tree Sausage is staring over in disbelief with the you need to pee-in-a-cup look now I’m flying past him damn this is sweet should I raise my arms hell yes but it’s just the stupid NPR yeah but everyone’s looking so rub their noses in it arms up and don’t fred out and crash oh that feels good just keep them up, fingers spread, palms out, forever.
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June 16, 2015 § 15 Comments
It was pretty unpleasant, that last lap out on the Parkway. There I was, hanging onto Big Thom’s rear wheel for dear life. He was in a hurry and that translated into extreme physical discomfort. For me. He flicked me through to take a pull but I reflected on the last couple of times he’d shown up on the Flog Ride, crushed me, and left me for dead.
My turn could wait.
Then across No Man’s Land came Major Bob, which was great news because he has never shirked a pull in his 35 years of bike racing. He didn’t this morning, either, even as I shirked and faked and gasped and hung on for dear life, awaiting the turnaround.
The whole thing was surreal, and not just because we’d reached escape velocity and had left the gravitational pull of the pack. It was surreal because I was sitting on Big Thom’s wheel, and if there’s one iron law of bicycle physics on the NPR it is this: You can never sit on a La Grange rider’s wheel because they are always buried in the rear of the group, searching for oxygen and spare legs.
Then, there was the other surreal thing … the guy off the front we were chasing was NJ Pedalbeater, another La Grange rider. And the final corkscrewed, Dali-esque nail in the eyeball was that La Grange had been out front for four laps and we hadn’t been able to reel him in. The only thing that smacked of comforting familiarity was that one teammate was chasing down the other. But other than that …
Off the front? La Grange? For four laps? And a desperate chase effort led by … La Grange? And the desperate effort of Big Thom turning manly seal clubbers into soft, velvety pelts ready for harvesting? Whaaaaat?
Call it what you want, but don’t call it an anomaly. Call it Sausage Power.
Since he was elected president of arguably America’s best racing-cyclo club, Robert Efthimos has breathed amazing life and vitality into an organization whose time had come to hand over the reins to new blood. Under Robert’s watch race participation has soared. Rather than whipping out a birder-like checklist and ticking off the rare appearance of La Grange at a race, you can now expect them there because they show up in force, set up a tent, and race the entire day.
Nor is their presence limited to one type of race. La Grange can now be expected at any race you show up at and in any, sometimes every, category. Robert’s brand of leadership by example mixed with a big tent philosophy, his deprecating self modesty, and his ability to execute has given LA cycling an important model for growth. By assiduously courting new sponsors while continuing to work hand-in-glove with his existing ones, such as the incredibly generous and dependable Helen’s Cycles, La Grange is showing other clubs a model for how a club can strengthen its cycling identity while still attracting people who don’t race.
Nowhere is this easier to see than in La Grange’s monthly mixers, where club members and non-members, racers and non-racers, and gasp, and even cyclists from the poor, unwashed South Bay are welcome. Over the last three years we’ve gone from wondering “Who is that Sausage dude with twelve bike cameras and a fast finish?” to “Imma try to get on his wheel and afterwards borrow ten bucks.”
All of this and more went through my head as we hit the turnaround. After having sat on for half a lap I jumped hard, dislodging Big Thom who had so nobly sacrificed for the cause. “La Grange may be on a roll,” I said to myself, “but they still have some work to do.”
Several hundred yards from the imaginary finish I realized that it was I, not they, who was the work in progress: La Grange’s OTF rider coasted across the line with his hands in the air.
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August 14, 2014 § 28 Comments
I had been faithful to her for years. There have been other girls who I’ve looked at, sure, but she was the one to whom I remained true.
Then a couple of years ago Sausage whispered to me that there was a smoking hot babe over on his side of town, told me she was “really special” and that she would “really get your pulse up.” I didn’t pay much attention at first, but over time I couldn’t resist the temptation. After all, one woman, no matter how wonderful, can’t satisfy you all the time. It’s natural to want variety, to do things a little differently, to feel the touch of someone different and new.
Sure, I knew it was wrong. But today I snapped. I felt terrible as I sneaked out of the house extra early this morning. My wife must have known something was up, because she said, “Isn’t it too early for the NPR?”
I mumbled something, got dressed, and switched off the light as I made my guilty escape. After a frenzied ride up the bike path, I met her. There on 26th and San Vicente, the morning not yet fully broken, there she was, ready for the taking if only I was man enough to handle her.
Sausage was in the middle of the group that whizzed by. He winked. “Finally came to get some, eh?” he said.
I nodded, no longer guilty, no longer afraid of the treachery I was about to commit. To the contrary, I was burning, on fire, the blood pounding through my veins as we met for the first time. The way she roared downhill on San Vicente, so smooth, so fast, so racy, it was a dream.
Then it all changed in an instant. Suddenly she was going up, up, up, with Manzila blasting at the front, shattering the group as it launched up her curving, sloping surface. I was panting from the exertion, exploring her, feeling her out, looking for that rhythm that comes when two bodies, in synch, pulsate with the pounding.
The first time it was awkward, I’ll admit it. I’d been so accustomed to my lover of all those Tuesday and Thursday mornings that I had a hard time adjusting to her raw, jagged uphill contours. I’m embarrassed to say that I was so excited that I finished too quickly the first time, giving out before I should have, with a dozen or so riders ahead of me. I knew she was unsatisfied.
We sat on the corner at Sunset and regrouped. I looked at Gareth, still out of breath. “What’s her name?” I asked.
“Amalfi,” he said. “Her name is Amalfi.”
“What a beautiful name,” I thought to myself, but before I could repeat it we were off again. This second time around, a group of three wankers launched on San Vincente. I followed. This time I wasn’t going to finish early; no, I’d hold it strong and steady and even, driving her and driving her until she was satisfied, too.
We hit Chainbreaker Corner and I pounded with a frenzy. My breakaway companions sagged and heaved their shoulders. Their wad was shot. Alone I soldiered on until Gareth caught me, then dropped me. I struggled back on, grinding away, not done yet. Then Manzilla came by. I latched onto him and he dragged us to the final hundred meters, when a gaggle of four or five riders swarmed by us at the end.
I was wasted, wrecked, spent, and she was, too. I know she liked it, but as we waited again at Sunset to regroup I could tell she wanted it one more time. And I promised that I’d give it to her.
Again on San Vicente I launched with three others, except this time Gareth went with us. By Chainbreaker it was “just the two of us,” and it was this final effort that was most exhausting, most painful, yet most beautiful and satisfying of all.
“Oh, Amalfi,” I said, as I pounded and pushed and thrashed, sweat pouring off my face, grunting and gasping and moaning, amazed that I had this third effort in me, amazed that Gareth hadn’t spit me out the back and left me for dead, amazed at Amalfi’s grace.
And that was the end, just Gareth and I sweating and heaving atop her.
On the way home I was flooded with guilt, but also with a sense of love and, yes, conquest. I would never abandon my dear old lover NPR; Tuesday mornings at 6:40 were still for her and her alone. But now that I had tasted the forbidden fruit of the Amalfi Ride, now that I had buried myself in the triple climax of her six minutes and thirty seconds of pure ecstasy, I knew I would be back for more.
Would NPR understand? I hope she will. I’m only human.
March 7, 2014 § 29 Comments
Wankmeister’s ass hurt, the kind of butthurt that felt like his saddle had been forcefully wedged somewhere between L1 and T9 for an hour or so. Even though he was curled up in bed, coughing chunks of dark green phlegm, his legs still ached the deep ache of “you are too old and weak to exert yourself in this fashion and expect anything other than collapse.” The roots of his teeth hurt, always a bad sign. Most worrisome, his headache had sunk down below his brain and had morphed into a deep throbbing at the back of his eyeballs.
Wanky wondered if he’d ever had sore eyeballs before from a bike ride. He hadn’t.
Don’t roll NPR when you’re droopypants
The morning had begun with the most ill of omens, an incredulous interrogation by Mrs. WM. “You not goin onna NPR?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You crazy? You been droopy alla week with cold and coughin and fluin and spittin onna washbasin and onna toilet seat. Why you goin onna ride so soon after bein droopypants?”
“I’m better now. I need to ride.”
“You ain’t better now you still all sick and still coughin because you woke me up alla night spittin, you was spittin an chokin like a cat spittin four hairballs outta his butt.”
“That would be shitting, then, not spitting.”
“You was doin that too and you wasn’t turnin on the high fan because it stinked up alla hallway and even inna kitchen.”
“Honey, I’ve been off the bike for a week. I’m losing fitness.”
“What you’re losin, you’re losin onna your mind. An you’re gonna come back home even bigger droopypants you watch, an askin onna “hot tea” this anna “leg rubbin'” that but I ain’t doin it.”
Etymology of the South Bay seal hunt
Few know that the concept of baby seal clubbing on the New Pier Ride was invented by Bull Seivert, also known as “KitchenAid” for his thrashing, mashing, mixing, heaving, whaling, pig-fucking-a-greased-football pedaling style that, when observed up close, makes you wonder whether the bike wouldn’t go faster if he flipped over on his back and rowed the thing in the air with his giant hams. Bull is known far and wide for his fearless, senseless, single-minded charges to the front, charges so filled with fury and strength that he typically explodes halfway through the ride like a giant blood sausage overstuffed with snot, sweat, and sputum.
However, by the time that KitchenAid rolls over like a great, bleeding, wheezing harpooned whale, the hangers-on, suckers-of-wheels, waiters-for-the-sprunt, and all other manner of lower life forms have been beaten into a lumpy pulp of quivering flesh and bone. It was after one particularly memorable thrashing that Bull compared the pack fodder to a raft of baby harp seals, innocent, bleating, helpless, chubby, doe-eyed and defenseless in the face of the murderous, blood covered drunks swinging their hooked clubs, matted as they were with the blood, gore, and fleshy pieces of their victims.
The baby seal analogy stuck, and the truism of the analogy was such that entire contingents of NPR riders began referring to themselves as “baby seals.” Like their namesakes, they relived the brutal clubbing of their furry friends each and every Tuesday. Only a few of the most daring pinnipeds, creatures with names like Sausage and Poopsie, ever raised their flippers in victory at the NPR. The passion play remained forever writ in stone: The giants clubbed and the baby seals rolled over in a bloody trough of shame, pain, and defeat.
Carrying the hunter’s club to the seal’s own demise
Winter before last, on a cold and rainy morning that had less than twenty riders on the NPR, Wanky had stopped at the alleyway exit to take off his rain jacket. The pack kept going but one baby seal stopped. It was a weak and barely developed juvenile seal, Phoque de Paris, who was in his second season of riding. Phoque accepted his place in the clubbing hierarchy so completely that he had purchased a baby stuffed seal and strapped it beneath his saddle, just in case there were ever any doubt. There wasn’t.
Wanky fumbled with his jacket, got it stuffed in his jersey, and the pair, hunter and prey, set off in chase of the peloton. Wankmeister wasn’t feeling great, and his less-than-great sensations were enhanced by Phoque’s madman time-trial mode along Vista del Mar, battering into a nasty, miserably cold crosswind. “What the Phoque?” he wondered at this sudden display of speed and power by a heretofore undistinguished baby seal.
Phoque never swung over, and barreled for several miles until the pack was in sight. With one huge final effort he got to within a couple of hundred yards. By now Wankmeister was quite warmed up and he noted Phoque’s shoulders as they swayed and sagged, his head beginning to evince the tell-tale “cranial droop” of a tired rider. Thankful and profoundly appreciative for Phoque’s selfless effort, Wanky took out his club, inspected the shiny, sparkling, unblooded tip, and jumped as hard as he could around Phoque to close the gap. Unable to follow the sudden burst, the hapless baby seal, after doing all that hard word for a friend, found himself alone, shelled, and hopelessly dropped as the pack rode away.
Wankmeister wiped off his club and went on to a glorious NPR victory that day, which he dedicated to “that little phoquer who waited for me.”
When the club swings full circle
Now, many moons later, Wanky reached the Center of the Known Universe and greeted his fellow riders. The chief talk that morning was whether or not the angry psychotic homeless person would be waiting to ambush them in the alley, and what the best response would be if he challenged the group again with his fists. Most agreed that the bragging rights attached to 60 healthy grown athletic men beating the snot out of an insane poor person were minimal, and although a certain “fun” quotient was mentioned by one or two, the consensus was to take evasive action if he appeared.
Wankmeister’s cold/flu/bronchial infection/ovarian cyst reminded him how bad he felt, how right his wife had been, and how he should have stayed in bed. When the group turned onto Vista del Mar, he realized that in his current condition the only sane thing to do would be, of course, to attack. So he did.
Unbeknownst to our hero, however, there is a sacred rule espoused by those who are famed for never attacking anywhere, ever: “Thou shalt not attack on Vista del Mar.” In retrospect, when he was curled up in bed, Wanky wished that he had known about the rule if only so that he could have enjoyed breaking it. By the time he passed Imperial, a nascent break had formed including Bull, Phoque, Lamchops, Brewmaster, and Ronan the Mini-Barbarian. The first time that Phoque pulled through, Wankmeister noticed something that surprised him. Beneath Phoque’s saddle there no longer dangled a stuffed baby seal.
After a few rotations Lamchop had been seasoned, fried in the pan, and served up with a sprig of parsley. Mini-Barbarian decided to go back to the pack and get civilized. Brewmaster’s yeast infection had gummed up his pedalworks, and there were soon only three riders left. After one rotation KitchenAid began to suck and heave, and each time Phoque swung over for Wanky to pull through, he couldn’t. “Hey, fucker!” yelled Wanky. “I can’t pull through if you don’t slow down!” Shrugging, Phoque kept the gas on.
Dragging the corpse
They raced up the small hill on Pershing, with Bull still hanging on for dear life, unable to take a pull. In his pain-besotted misery, Wankmeister cursed his friend and teammate. “Pull through you sorry fucker, I don’t care how much you’re hurting,” he muttered to himself between mighty exhalations of snot that were immediately absorbed by his dripping mustache, then drooled into his mouth or into his beard.
By the time they hit the Parkway, KitchenAid’s beaters had been reattached and he started to pull through. The peloton was a distant memory as Poopsie, Sausage, Hallpass, and Finnhead bitterly complained and gnashed their teeth about the early attack while they had been discussing gear-inches, motorcycle protective clothing, and drag coefficients. They angrily made plans to impugn the integrity of the breakaways, people who had none, on Facebook. “Just remember,” Finnhead said to Poopsie, “it’s easier to complain about a breakaway on FB than it is to chase it down in real life.” Then they all went to the back and Instagrammed each other’s kits.
The three-man breakaway, however, was completely unconcerned with Finnhead’s gnashing teeth or with the long, detailed complaint that Sausage and Poopsie would draft and mail to the New Pier Ride Advisory Board and its director, “Toofs” Prettytree, one of the staunchest advocates for fair, honest, riding on the NPR and dental work and wheelsucking. The breakaway was concerned with something much more important: Not becoming a one-man breakaway, as Phoque was drilling and grilling like an insane combination of dentist-turned-Texas-BBQ-chef.
Phoque kept the torrid pace up for minutes at a time, pausing only to catch his breath while Wanky leaked tears and prostate juice all over his bike and while KitchenAid kept staring mindlessly at his Garmin, hoping that it would say something other than YOU ARE COMPLETELY FUCKED NOW. It didn’t, but deep in the throes of cranial droop KitchenAid slammed into Phoque’s rear wheel, creating a nice brown stain in Wanky’s shorts that would take several hours of hard scrubbing to remove. “Keep your fucking head up and quit looking at your fucking computer!” Wanky roared, but it wasn’t a roar, it was more of a whimper, as Phoque was driving the pace into the wind again and the two cabooses needed every bit of oxygen to pedal.
Swing. Thud. Swing. Thud. Swing. Thud.
If you’ve ever been in a break on the NPR with four laps to go, you know the meaning of hell. 99 times out of 100, you’re going to get caught and when you do, you will be wrecked. However, Phoque didn’t appear to care, and he swung his club at Wanky and Bull with abandon. The blood flowed.
“So,” squealed Bull. “This is how it feels.”
“Ouchies,” whined Wankmeister. “My prostate juice is sopping my shorts.”
“Oh, did that hurt?” Phoque asked solicitously. “Let me give you another one.” And he’d pound away. Occasionally the chasing peloton would come into view, with Sausage and Finnhead and Toofs seated comfortably at the back, adding new points and sub-points to their detailed legal polemic that would be posted after the ride. Poopsie tried to drive the pace, but as an inveterate baby seal his efforts were for naught, and anyway, while the chasers got hung up at the occasional red light Phoque & Co. had full advantage of the NPR’s Three Breakaway Rules, which are as follows:
- Never stop.
- Do not stop.
- Stopping is prohibited.
Finnhead and Toofs made note of this and added it to the long list of infractions being compiled, to wit: “Faux breakaway cheaters and early attackers in neutral zone furthermore didn’t stop but we had to stop at all the lights so there.”
“Be sure to add that we almost caught them anyway,” said Finnhead, comfortably sitting in the very back as the break continued to put huge amounts of time on the pack.
It pays to have friends in high places
Even with their gargantuan lead, the breakaway would have succumbed had Wankmeister’s SPY teammates not sat at the back of the peloton and refused to assist with Poopsie’s doomed chase. Before long even Poopsie, he of the detailed report to be submitted to the Rules Committee, threw in the towel. Finnhead, realizing that his usual zero probability of winning had been reduced to negative numbers, focused instead on the 38 mph max speed that he would reach by sitting on others’ wheels, and chalked it up as a win. Sausage planned to purchase the Parkway in his next M&A acquisition and jail all future rule breakers.
As they sped up towards the bridge on the finishing lap, Phoque finally swung over. He was starting to look winded and well-tenderized for a late attack, the kind that would be quick and hard enough for him not to respond to, and the kind that would leave him gasping for air as Wankmeister claimed another glorious victory. It would be a nice “don’t forget your elders” touch to pay Phoque back for the relentless clubbing he’d administered the entire morning.
“Hey, man,” Wanky said as he passed.
“You ever won the NPR?”
Phoque shook his head. “No.”
“Well, wanker, you will today.”
And he did.
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