July 4, 2016 § 26 Comments
The July 4th Holiday Ride is always a doozy. This year was no exception.
It’s hard to disagree with the statement that the Holiday Ride is the worst ride ever. About 200 people show up and flail their way from Manhattan Beach to Brentwood. Then there is a knife fight in the mud for Tony Manzella’s wheel and we pack the entire lane of a narrow, twisty, fucked-up country road, the knife fight for Sweet Ass’s wheel moves on to guns, then mortars, then nukes, and two minutes in there are 10 riders left and unless you’re one of the ten your day is done.
If you’re one of the ten, you just risked life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for about twenty minutes of crystal-meth-pure misery.
Before today’s ride Sausage told me to video it on his GoPro. “But I have a Cycliq Fly12,” I protested.
Sausage is into high quality. He’s also real diplomatic. “Your camera sucks,” he said. “Use mine.” It’s hard to argue with facts.
EA Sports, Inc. and I drove to the Center of the Known Universe where everyone was standing around all nervous as hell. Why nervous? I don’t know, actually, because the ride always ends the same way. You get miserably dropped. There is no drama, and after having done it for ten years there’s not even any mystery about when it will happen.
Of course not everyone in the Santa-Monica-to-the-South-Bay arc is a lunatic. About 200 other people, all of whom who have done the Holiday Ride, and all of whom know how stupid it is, have formed an alt-Holiday Ride called the Yellow Vase Ride. They ride at a friendly pace around Palos Verdes and then have coffee and croissants at the Yellow Vase cafe. People laugh, talk, tell stories, and appreciate the beauty of the area and the fun of cycling.
Well, fuck those people.
By the time we got to Marina del Rey there were another hundred or so baby seals who’d been added to the clubbing list. In addition to the drama of the ride there had been some pre-ride Facebag drama, too. Phil Gaimon was going to show up and tow us up Mandeville at 462.3 watts like he did last year, but first we had to sign up for his Grand Fondue. One of the local Strava addicts complained that it wasn’t fair for us to be motoring along behind Phil, and a war of words ensued, after which there was a lot of red, rashy, very painful butthurt. So to make sure everyone on the ride was going to be okay I brought something for anyone who might need it.
Of course Phil didn’t show up so there was no need for the balm, but it’s nice to be prepared.
The ride followed its predictable course. At first people were chatty and tried to hide their anxiety with lighthearted banter. Then in Santa Monica people began to fight for position. Then on San Vicente it went from blob to narrow line, 2 or 3 abreast. Then on Sunset it was deadly silent. Then on Mandeville there was only grunting and the clanging of gears. A few people put on a brave front with occasional chatter. Two minutes in it was quiet as a teenager at a video console, an ethereal silence that enveloped us as each rider sank lower into the pain mire, everything in the universe resolved into the tiny strip of rubber twelve inches in front of your nose, and one by one people fell off, no words or excuses or explanations needed because the brutal pace and gravity spoke all that needed saying.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and rest assured that my mother is very unhappy about all of the profanity. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
July 5, 2015 § 13 Comments
We overtook the Team Helen’s/Santa Monica BMW guys on Ocean and I noticed that in the midst of their stylish blue-white-red kits there was an orange helmet. The rider was rail thin and wearing an Optum kit. I checked his top tube and it said “Phil Gaimon.”
So I knew that the 2015 July 4th Holiday Ride was going to be hard.
It turns out that Gaimon, who’s one of the nicest people around, showed up to help the Helen’s guys retake their Mandeville KOM, formerly owned by local legend Tony Manzella and recently usurped by Nick Brandt-Sorenson, the infamous masters racer who received a two-year suspension after testing positive for naughty substances at masters nationals in Bend, Oregon in 2011, where he won both road and the crit titles and then de-won them after the pee-pee test.
To my way of thinking, Strava KOM’s are the one place that doping and dopers should be encouraged, since the whole compete-on-Strava thing is a totally bogus shit show to begin with, but whatever … my immediate problem was figuring out how a 51-year-old freddie would stay in the same county as the top pro road racer in the country.
The short answer, of course, is “ain’t gonna happen,” and it didn’t. But when we turned onto Mandeville Canyon Road for the 6-mile, 16-minute climb, it sure seemed like it might. Then Phil went to the front and five seconds later the dream died stillborn.
I was behind Frenchy the Younger, seven bikes back. In the rear I could hear the pounding and mashing of the massive fredoton which included well over 200 idiots like me who thought that we were really going to get a chance to ride against Phil Gaimon.
The Mandeville Canyon climb is very gradual, and never starts to hurt until the halfway point. We hadn’t finished the first quarter mile and over a hundred riders had evaporated into a mist of seized muscles and irreparably ruined (until tomorrow) egos. My legs hurt in that first quarter mile the way they usually hurt in the last.
After the white picket fence that marks the halfway point, U23 Hagens-Berman pro and Eagle Scout Diego Binatena leaped away from what was now a group of less than ten people. Phil took a breath, never bothering to get off the hoods, and gradually increased his effort by ten watts every thirty seconds. Diego returned to the fold and a couple of other riders popped like the gas-inflated stomach of a decomposing corpse that’s stuck with a shovel.
Now Phil had Diego, Matt Cuttler, me, Matt Wikstrom, Tony Manzella, and Stathis Sakellariadis on his wheel. All but Tony and Matt were young enough to be my kids, and all, including Tony, were just getting warmed up. The massive noise and carnage earlier in the ride had been replaced by the eerily quiet sound of spinning chains and labored breathing, which turned out to be mine.
With about half a mile to go Matt started to come off Diego’s wheel. “I’m done,” he muttered.
“Close the fucking gap!” I croaked, and miraculously, he lunged and did.
Shortly thereafter we both cracked. Tony, Matt, and Stathis came streaking past to close the yawning gap I generously handed them. Matt and I pedaled together briefly until I had to leave him in order to get caught up on some important reading material. When I hit the final wall, Phil had sat and was lazily pedaling. He had towed the group, I later learned, for the entire fifteen minutes at something around 430 watts.
Of course I sprunted by him and shouted, “Quitter!” as I beat the remnants of the softly charging fredoton, led by Derek B. and G$. Diego, Stathis, Matt, and Tony were finishing the business section of the Times when I arrived.
“Beat” of course is meaningless when all you do is finish ahead of someone, because the true tale of the tape is on the KOM leaderboard, where the computer gets to decide who’s the fastest of them all. Poor Phil Gaimon never had a chance against ol’ Strava.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, which devoted subscribers have recently characterized as “redundant” and “useless.” Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here.
December 28, 2013 § 5 Comments
December 29: On what would have been Raymond’s 93rd birthday, Velo Club La Grange invites everyone to join them on a memorial pedal along the famous Nichols Canyon route. This is one of the iconic rides in Southern California, and was started by Fouquet, a French immigrant, waiter, restaurateur, and passionate cyclist. Riders meet at the traditional meeting place on the corner of Westwood Boulevard and La Grange Avenue. Please meet by 7:45 AM. The ride will be a “No Drop” pace led by Marco Fantone. VCLG asks that you obey traffic laws and be courteous to motorists, even the ones who are obviously trying to kill you. The ride is about 30 miles long and ends at Peet’s Coffee in Brentwood, so you can also park there, as it is about three miles to the start in Westwood. Estimated end time is 10:00 AM. All La Grange members are encouraged to wear their current kits in honor of Raymond’s memory, and other area riders are also encouraged to wear their club colors, as Raymond’s life was all about supporting Southern California amateur bicycle racing.
December 29: Tour of Palos Verdes. This will be a moderately paced wankalong leaving the Malaga Cove fountains at 7:30 AM sharp for a more easily paced loop around the PV Peninsula. Everyone is invited, and like all good rides this one ends at a coffee shop, also in Malaga Cove. There’s plenty of parking if you’re driving. The route will follow the Donut Ride, but at a pace where you’re not hocking up a lung.
Jan 1: South Bay Holiday Ride. This ride goes off at promptly at 7:59:18 from the Center of the Known Universe, a/k/a CotKU, a/k/a Manhattan Beach Starbucks by the pier. It is a complete fredfest, and when the weather is good, which it will likely be on Wednesday, the ride can attract well over 200 alleged cyclists, all of whom will be surging and charging to get to the front so that they can promptly slow down. The festivities start on Mandeville Canyon Road, where the massive gaggle, which will have already shed a hundred riders up San Vicente, will lose another 175 or so riders as the pace hits warp speed up this 6-mile climb. So, if you’re reading this carefully, yes, you got it right. It’s an all-day pedal (70+ from PV) so that you can do an 18-minute effort with some very fast riders. The rest of the time you’ll be terrified for your life trying to avoid the tandems, in-line skaters, racquetball players, and freddies who are trying out their $15k Christmas rig for the very first time.
Jan. 1: North County Holiday Ride. This ride goes off not-so-promptly at 8:00 AM or 8:05 AM, leaving from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas. What began as a friendly, welcoming way to get people to enjoy a holiday pedal together — modeled after the South Bay ride of the same name — has become a kind of low-watermark in vicious brutality. The ride eases along for about 20 minutes, and can have pretty big numbers depending on the weather, but as soon as the group hits the San Dieguitos climb, well, the effluent meets the rotating blades. This ride is not for the meek, the weak, or the fragile of ego, because your legs will get torn off and your sense of self-worth will be completely destroyed. Expect to spend a lot of time by yourself, wondering why you drove 100 miles at 5:00 AM to pedal, lost and broken, amidst the endless rollers of North County hell. The ride climbs up Lake Hodges, which invariably reduces the already reduced gathering into a final selection of ten or fifteen of the true strongmen and strong women of SoCal cycling. Make it to the top of this bad boy with the leaders and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with Tinstman, Rogers, Dahl, MMX, and a handful of other bloodthirsty warriors. The ride is quick and short; 60 miles finished by a graveside service.
Jan 1: Long Beach NYD Ride. If you’ve never ridden with 10,000 other freddies, this is your chance. A wilder, crazier, more reckless, bizarre, dangerous, flailing group of whackadoodles hasn’t gathered in one place since the last full session of Congress. It’s a hundred miles and the pace starts hot, shedding the freddies, until only the strong freddies are left. The ride goes south from Long Beach; check the ride route here. The ride finishes in San Diego, so you should be prepared to either ride 100 miles back, or have someone waiting to pick you up, or have money for a motel room, or belly up to the bar and start drinking. Enjoy, and stay alive, or at least in one piece.