November 22, 2013 § 9 Comments
It was 2:30 AM on the morning of the mythical running of the baby seals. The rain was lashing the roof as a chill wind blustered and blew. I lay in bed, knowing what awaited.
When my alarm went off at five, a text message from Bull popped up. “Wetsy Betsy,” it said. “I’m sleeping in.” This was in contrast to the bravado of last night’s email exchange, in which he had exhorted Skeletor to join him for a “warm-up” climb prior to the ritual running and clubbing of the baby seals.
I rolled down the hill and reached the Center of the Known Universe thoroughly wet. The first selection occurred at 6:40, as only a small group of riders had shown up. When we hit the bottom of Pershing, Skeletor broke apart the small group of about twenty, most of whom would never recover from this initial vicious clubbing. At the top of Pershing, where the Lazybones & Neverpulls typically wait to hop in with the fast-moving group, further avoiding any chance of having to do any work, we were surprised to see no one there.
The combination of rain, mud, filth, chill, and the two beasts of prey from North County had shriveled the already smallish dicks of the usual pack fodder, and they had rightly concluded that the proper place for them was, like Bull, snuggled up at home with their Teddy Bear.
Nasty beginning, nasty ending
Every time prior to leaving North County at 4:00 AM to collect a brace of seal pelts, Stefanovich had been bravely told by various would-be San Diego clubbers, “I want to go down there with you to see what that NPR is all about.”
But come four o’clock on Thursday morning, as usual, the only thing in the passenger seat was Stefanovich’s helmet and shoes.
The blows were swift and the carnage was immediate. The final selection consisted of Hair, Sausage, Skeletor, Fireman, Stefanovich, Boozy, and me, with Hair claiming muddy victory after a one-mile lead out by Skeletor. Video of the silliness is posted here.
Junkyard found himself spit mercilessly out the back, his legs throbbing and his his lungs rasping, cursing like a crazy homeless person as he pointlessly screamed for a light to change. In sum, this was no spiffy little Rapha, suit and tie ride for gentlemen, it was a filthy, ugly shit-covered club-fest where the only tie was a noose.
Toronto, who was clubbed and tossed almost immediately, later shook his bedraggled, scum-covered head at the coffee shop. “I thought that maybe because of the rain, you know, it would be easy.”
What started out as a clump of seal ground beef collected more maimed baby pinnipeds, each one vainly trying to swim its way back up to the disappearing break of blood-stained clubbers. As Junkyard later explained in the coffee shop, body dripping with grime and face aglow with the happiness of having gotten his dick stomped and head staved in, “We were like a clump of defective sperm swimming, hopelessly, for the fast-retreating egg.”
Movember chimed in. “Yeah, some had a tail that was too short, others a tail that was too weak to paddle, whereas others had no tails at all and were just floundering in the sperm-goo, never to reach the egg.”
“It was Darwinian,” agreed Skeletor in the coffee shop, his fangs dripping gore and the head of his club matted with the bone, gristle, tendon, and brain spatter of the hapless seals. “If you believe in that evolution stuff.”
Junkyard nodded. “It was Darwinian, but there was an element of religion in it, believe me. I was seeing the face of Dog on Toronto’s ass.”
Movember shook his head. “We were like a bunch of metal shavings on a weak magnet, some would stand up and tip over, others would hang on, others would fall off … reminded me of an 8th Grade science experiment gone bad.”
Junkyard thought for a moment. “Yeah, it was kind of like a failed science experiment, like where they try to attach a cat’s head to an elephant. Or, I suppose it might have also looked like an Aztec temple, with all those heads rolling down, and everything covered in blood and body parts, and people wailing and gnashing their teeth and shitting their shorts.”
Toronto rued this miserable day, on which he’d opened up more gaps than a broken down picket fence. “I must have swallowed three pounds of grit,” he said, spitting out a four-pound blob grime. “I think I chewed so much of that stuff it’s gotten underneath my fillings.”
“Sand is good for your gizzard,” Junkyard opined. “Helps you digest food, just like a chicken.”
“Then my gizzard is full to busting,” chimed in Erik the Red, who was sitting in a pool of his own sweat, dirty water, and mud. Everyone looked at the gooey seat and thought the same thing: “Hope the next customer isn’t wearing white pants.”
“All I can say,” said Junkyard, “is that was some Class A sphincter snapping.”
Because it was.
December 10, 2012 § 29 Comments
Dave Gonyer. The name even sounds big. And it is. Two hundred pounds of big. “Gonyer.” Makes me think of a huge dump truck loaded with slabs of rebar.
“Hey, bubba. Back up the Gonyer a couple more feet so we can unload the concrete.”
“I almost got run off the fuckin’ road by a Gonyer. Damn operator didn’t even see me.”
Gonyer. It’s actually an Americanization of the French surname “Gagne.” But lest you think it’s French as in “Those wusses who drink lattes and discuss poetry on the Left Bank,”…nuh-uh.
The Gagne clan are from the Central Massif Departement of France, which means “Region of Massive Testicles.” They worked for generations in the mines, where their hereditary occupation was “prendre le merdre pendeleuse,” or “carrying heavy shit.”
The Gonyers are big people. Heavy people. Stoic draggers of useless things without complaint.
How’d our roles get reversed?
I had driven down to North County San Diego for the Swami’s Poker Ride. It’s a 51-mile, four-person team time trial. You get the time of your slowest rider. The only other rule is that there are no rules.
Over the last year or so I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with North County, but haven’t yet discovered the “love” part of the equation. My trips there follow a pattern.
Good buddy MMX: “Hey WM, why don’t you come down to North County next weekend? We’re having the [insert name of awful-sounding ride] and you could ride with us. It will be fun.”
Me: “Uh, okay. Sure. Thanks for the invitation.”
Once I get there I find out that the “fun” consists of MMX and the other North County zombies tearing my legs off, shelling me forty miles from home, and leaving me adrift in a sea of endless, stabbing rollers.
This time, though I’d been put on the Team from Hell with MMX and David Anderson, I was relieved to see that there was another rider on our team, Gonyer, clearly unfit for duty and in comparison with whom I would appear fit and fast, for a change.
Before the ride started, Jim Miller came up to me. “How you feeling, WM?”
“Great,” I said. “We might actually have a shot at winning this if it weren’t for the weak link.”
I nodded over at Gonyer.
Jim looked at me quizzically. “Gonyer? He’ll do fine.”
I shook my head. “Not with this crowd. MMX is loaded for bear. David is coming off a state win in ‘cross. I’m as lean as I’ve ever been. Dude’s going to peg out on the climbs, and since our time is based on the slowest rider, Team Nemesis will beat us. Looks like I’ll be dragging weak link’s ass all over San Diego County.”
Jim laughed. “You’ve got it all figured out, don’t you, buddy? Ride safe.”
Warming up, then getting into a rhythm
We were the next-to-last-team to start, just in front of Team Nemesis, which consisted of Slasher, Assassin, The Hand of God, and Dandy. We rolled out and MMX slowly brought up the pace so that we had a chance to get good and warmed up.
Then, after those first 200 yards were completed, he sprinted away. One after another we clawed our way to his wheel as he continually looked back to see if Team Nemesis was gaining.
By the end of Mile One we’d overhauled Team Stefanovich. MMX and David took turns attacking the group. By the end of Mile Two I was done, hardly able to hold a wheel. Gonyer was gassed, too.
By Mile Ten we’d shed Team Stefanovich and passed Team Nemesis, who had taken a shortcut to get ahead of us but had gotten three flats courtesy of Karma, who is a bitch.
After the first checkpoint, at Mile Fifteen, I was unable to pull through. It had become clear that although Gonyer was equally gassed, his ample width meant that getting on his wheel was the Cadillac draft. “What the hell,” I thought. “He can tow me for a while. I’ll be towing him soon enough.”
Sharing the work by not working
Now my three teammates were doing all the work, and as we whizzed down one long descent Gonyer, who wasn’t very good at pointing shit out, rolled over a manhole cover. The civil engineers in North County had all decided that the best place to put big manholes with 2-inch lips was in the middle of the bike lane, so when Gonyer hit this one, his rear bottle popped out of the cage and exploded.
Karma Bitch paid me for my suckery when the contents of the bottle coated me from helmet to foot. This was the bottle in which Gonyer had put his triple-thick mixture of Fanta grape soda pop, with a viscosity of approximately 250 Pa·s, the same as peanut butter.
My glasses were immediately coated with grape goop, and long sticky goopcicles hung from my nose and helmet and chin. Everyone thought it was hilarious, but I was having a hard time getting the joke, so I figured if I sat in some more I would perhaps understand it better.
TTT tactics for people who hate TTT’s
Although we were nominally called “Team MMX,” in reality we were doing ITT MMX. As we rolled up one long climb, popping Gonyer off the back, I remarked to MMX, “You dropped Gonyer.”
MMX shrugged. “He knows how to chase.”
“But we’re only as fast as our slowest guy.”
“He’d better hurry, then.”
Unlike other teams, whose strategy revolved around sheltering the weak in order to maintain the highest average speed by keeping the group together and benefiting from the draft, MMX’s strategy was to destroy his teammates and make them go faster through fear, humiliation, and pain.
Gonyer caught back on. It was working.
Somewhat disappointed that his own team was still together, despite chasing down and dropping half a dozen of the teams in front of us, MMX gave the next set of death commands. “We will take the dirt.”
The ride had a “dirt” option where you could get an extra card for your poker hand by taking a “short” and “easy” off road section. At the Thirty Mile checkpoint we got our card plus an extra card for the dirt, and pounded on.
MMX and David shot off down the dirt trail, which was studded with boulders, gravel, a creek sporting 2-feet of soft mud on either bank, steep successions of sandy walls, plunging descents through off-camber corners with sheer drops and mined with sharp stones and numerous other “interesting features.” We passed countless dead and wounded Swamis in various states of bike carrying, bike dragging, flat repairing, or just holding each other and sobbing.
Before vanishing, David had admonished Gonyer to “ride lightly in the saddle” as he wasn’t a ‘crosser.
“WTF?” he said. “Two hundred pounds don’t ride anything light.”
I felt sorry for him, briefly, until my own self-preservation needs took over.
The last thing I heard him say, just before plunging into the mud pit, was “What the…..?”
Bring out your dead
Thankfully, MMX had flatted at the end of the dirt road. I staggered over to a fence and peed. Rummaging through my jersey pocket I pulled out a handful of GU gels and crammed them down my throat. We still had fifteen miles to go and I was done. Dead. Bonked. Cratered. Finished. Waxed.
“Where’s Gonyer?” asked David.
“Hell if I know. A long ass way back.”
“No he isn’t,” said Dave. “There he is!”
Gonyer whipped off the dirt just as MMX finished changing the flat. The other four-man SPY-Giant team was there too, and we left together.
“How you doing?” asked MMX. He had a thin smile cut across his face that said many things, but of all the things it said, none of them was “I hope you’re doing okay and if not I will help you.”
“I’m done,” I said.
“No, you’re not. Just one more climb and then you’re done. Questhaven.”
He punched ahead as the other riders accelerated up a short roller.
At the mention of Questhaven, my legs seized. Just one more climb. Questhaven. That’s like saying “Just one more island to hop: Iwo Jima. Oh, and you’ll be landing in the first wave. With a bow and arrow.”
Gonyer came undone ahead of me and I toiled up to his rear wheel. In more than thirty years of cycling I’ve never been so undone so far from the car. This was a level of emptiness, of bonk, of mental and physical collapse that could only be explained by the fact that I had been eating a diet to sustain a squirrel while making the physiological demands of a professional rock climber. I wasn’t going to make it.
“You okay, buddy?” asked Gonyer.
“Just sit on, then.”
I nodded, licking the strings of grape shrapnel from my face, thankful for the carbs.
The tow truck
Gonyer proceeded to haul me up hill, down dale, and along straightaways at blistering speeds. Never flicking an elbow for me to come through, easing up each of the several dozen times I came off, waiting for me atop every climb, patiently signaling the turns and coaxing me along, he showed more grit and teamwork and camaraderie in those fifteen miles than I’d shown since 1982.
Somehow I got over Questhaven. “It’s all downhill from here,” he said. “Sit tight.”
Momentarily elated, I soon realized that in North County when they say “downhill” they also mean “uphill.” Dropped, reattached, repeat…
As we got close to the barn, he turned to me. “You just having a bad day?”
“Did you do a lot of high intensity miles this week?”
“Just getting back on the bike?”
“What’s the problem, then?”
Gonyer shook his head. “Well, good effort, anyway. If you have four dudes, someone’s got to be the weak link. No shame in that.”
No shame, indeed.
July 26, 2012 § 8 Comments
Spivey and I got the morning started off in his garage taking turns ripping our thumbs out of our palms. He had over-tightened the quick release on his front wheel, and by the fifth try we had wrapped a towel around our bleeding hands and were inventing new combinations of “motherfucker” and “shitfuck” and “goddamned cocksucker,” etc. This was the high point of our day.
We arrived in Encinitas and the SPY/Swamis participants on the Godfather’s 48th birthday celebration ride trickled in. They all had that gnarly, unpleasant, “Where’s my fucking coffee?” look that augurs ill for any bike ride.
MMX gave his customary speech, thanking everyone for coming and expressing his pleasure at the day’s route. We would do the Swamis ride through Elfin Forest to the church, then meander out up Summit to Bandy Canyon, back through Rancho, around by the lake and then home. It would be an “enjoyable” ride, according to the Godfather.
Those who knew him, which was most everyone, realized that it would be a crushing beatdown from hell. What better way to celebrate inching closer to death than with a punishing assault up and down the roads of North County?
The boys in yellow
In addition to the fifty-five riders from North County and environs, Alan Flores had made the drive down from Newport, Bill Holford from Long Beach, and Francois, Maxime, and Brieuc had rolled over from Annecy, France. They were part of the wheel engineering and marketing team for Mavic, who has just released the new C982X14.219 integrated hub-spoke-wheel-tire system. They’d come to California for the product roll-out, and also to kiss the signet ring of the Godfather. You can read about the whole thing here.
The Mavic wheel was fucking rad. The tubular and rim are seamless, so that when you rub your hand (or penis) along the rim up and over the tire there is literally no change in surface curve from the rim to the tire. It’s as if the tire and rim and molded in one piece. This reduces drag coefficient by 78.82 Å, but raises the drat coefficient by 17.8 Mofos, as changing the integrated tubular looks about as complicated as one of those charts that shows all the different parts of a woman’s reproductive organs.
When I asked Francois about changing the tire, he laughed. “It is so simple, in fact. We radio the neutral car and they simply come and replace the entire wheel.”
Of course. I’d forgotten that when you’re in charge of support for the Tour, mechanical problems are a cinch. We all got inordinate pleasure later on when Maxime needed to adjust his seat but didn’t have a wrench. I got to go around to everyone and say, “Hey, the Mavic neutral support guys need a hex wrench, 4mm. Anybody got one?” It was even more awesome when one of the guys did.
What was super cool about the Mavic guys was the way they “represented.” More than just engineers or marketing shills, these guys could ride. They took everything that the North County riders and roads could throw at them, and acquitted themselves more than honorably. It was cool to watch how smooth they were on the bike and how easily they fit into the peloton. I often got the feeling that they were taking it easy on us, in that golf-game kind of courtesy where it’s uncool to stomp the living shit out of the people you’re hoping to do business with.
Rolling with the rollers
Each time I’ve gone to North County for a ride, I’ve been crushed. The crushing hasn’t been administered solely by the heads of state, either. Chubby dudes on fixies. Girls on ‘cross bikes. Elderly gentlemen learning how to ride again after their triple bypass. No genera of rider has been unrepresented in the classification of “Stomping Wankmeister’s dick in North County.”
I’ve tried to figure out why that is, and after reviewing my past power files and carefully analyzing the Strava data, it’s pretty clear: I suck worse than they do. What else could explain getting dropped on Rancho by everyone, including that nice lady in the Seven jersey who just got into cycling in February? What else could explain having to lean up against Spivey’s car after the ride to keep from falling over after getting off my bike? What else could explain having the whole group wait half an hour for me to catch up?
Well, actually, there is a factor above and beyond my suckage. It’s the fault of the North County roads.
Unlike the South Bay, where you are either riding flat, doing huge climbs in the Santa Monica mountains, or doing steep medium-length climbs in PV, North County San Diego is just rolling. All routes. All the time.
When you roll out of Encinitas and start the Swamis loop it’s a series of short rollers. They’re hard because of the pace, but not steep. You can find a wheel and hunker down. Same for Elfin Forest–there are plenty of short zingers, but nothing to kick you out the back per se.
The problems start to accrue after about forty miles, when the incessant rollers have, like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water, gradually brought your muscles to a boil. You stand out of the saddle–perhaps on Summit, or perhaps on Bandy Canyon–and you realize that there’s nothing left. By the time the pack rolled away from me and Spivey on Rancho, even though we’d had a 20-minute break and a coke, we were at whatever level of flaildom comes after “Code 6 Wanker.”
The bikers who live and train in this shit all the time–the MMX’s, the David Andersons, the Victor Sheldons, the Erik Johnsons, the Ryan Dahls, the Stefanoviches, and all the other “gimme my fuckin’ coffee” wankers and wankettes–have no problem. For them it’s another easy or semi-challenging sixty miles in the saddle. For the Wankmeisters, Spiveys, and other poor bastards whose strength lies chiefly in their ability to imagine how great they are, it’s a total fucking beatdown.
How much of a beatdown? At the hip little breakfast joint afterwards, Spivey and I were so fucked up we couldn’t even mutter phrases of obscene admiration at the luscious cuties who brought us our oatmeal and burritos. Yep, that much of a beatdown.
Comparing apples to apples
Inquiring minds likely want to know how the North County Swamis-type ride stacks up against the local South Bay institution, the Donut Ride. Well, it doesn’t. Unlike the Donut, which lollygags all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks unless there’s a Sergio or a Rudy or some other legit rider with a bug up his ass, our route started hard, was hard in the middle, and finished hard. On the other hand, North County visitors such as MMX and Stefanovich have showed up on the NPR and after a few hard efforts quickly realized the importance of having a large group within which to find shelter and relief. The key point is that although those guys can come up to LA and hang with our rides, I certainly can’t go down south and hang with theirs.
Maybe with a bit of practice that will change. Or not. Unfortunately, as soon as I hear the phrase “Let’s go down south to ride with the SPY guys!” that old desire to join the ride wells up again, just like my third grade desire to talk out of turn. Wish I could repress it, ’cause I know it’s gonna end badly.