Washed up seals

April 20, 2017 § 15 Comments

 

“When I was watching, I almost couldn’t understand how that small gap could be so nearly impossible to close. But I did understand because that gap has been in front of me so many times before. The cool thing is when you do close it.” — Steve Tilford.

I had great legs for Telo last night, which I chalk up to the last two weeks of time-trail training. It seems that 60-minute efforts are thoroughly miserable but they make you stronger. And they do help you close a gap.

Before the race I told Derek that I had great legs. “The first rule of having great legs is to never tell anyone you have great legs.”

“My legs feel awful,” I said.

“Really?” Derek asked.

Bike racing has lots of rules. One of the rules is don’t buy a poster from http://www.allposters.com unless you see it first. I have always liked Albert Bierstadt even though he is considered hokey by real art lovers. His work is overdone and drippy and maudlin, supposedly. I love his pictures because he really did paint the beauty of the West. If you think it’s overdone, that’s because you’ve never seen nature in its grandeur. He’s not overdone, you’re underdone.

Anyway, I bought one of his paintings called “Seal Rock.” I bought the poster for $10 because the painting’s $7,900,000 tag was out of my price range. My daughter and wife immediately said it looked horrible, and it was a pretty lousy reproduction, as if someone had fallen asleep with their finger on the “saturation” button. Still, I wasn’t about to throw away ten bucks so I hung it on the wall.

My daughter looked at it. “Well at least it fits with the other cycling stuff.”

“It does?”

“Aren’t you always talking about clubbing seals?”

She had a great point, and using that clever reasoning we now have another cycling work of art to go with my 1990 World Championship banner and my poster from the 1957 worlds held in Spain. So cycling poster purchase Rule #1 is Make Sure It Is Related to Cycling. And this one was because, seals.

There weren’t many baby seals at Telo yesterday. Mostly they were people I’ve never beaten before. But since I had great legs I planned to beat them anyway.

“What’s your plan?” Eric asked me.

“Hammer from the gun.”

“That’s not a winning plan.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Well, if Frexit shows up, he’s going to win. And Josh or Derek will make the split with him. So one of us covers Josh and the other covers Derek. That way one of us will make the split. They’ll still beat you, of course.”

“Makes sense. What about just following Frexit?”

“He will tire you out then counter while you’re putting a lung back in and you’ll miss the split. Like every week.”

“Okay.”

The race started and we went easy for three laps. Then Aaron strung it out. It was a small group, maybe 25 riders, which is bad at Telo because there’s nowhere to hide. The headwind stretch was its usual howling headwind. My legs felt beyond good, like I could go with anything.

Daniel Park started the attacks, and pretty soon Frexit went. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm so I forgot about marking Derek and Josh and went with him. It was hard but I was okay. Then there were a few more counters and we were about thirty minutes in and suddenly I wasn’t okay. Just as I came off the front a huge counter came with Frexit, Derek, Eric, Josh, Bader, and everyone else in a line, one of those grim-faced lines.

I got dropped and was in a chase group of about ten riders. We were all pinned. The leaders were about fifteen riders or so and they simply vanished. I recovered a little and started rotating hard along with Jon Paris and Tony Wang. Then Scott Torrence began putting in some massive efforts. He had been following wheels and had a lot in the tank. He finally put in one huge pull about the time that the leaders sat up.

That effort closed the gap and as we rushed up onto the tail of the leaders I could see that they were all sitting up and gassed. It was a case of a break going so hard it tired itself out, or it had too many people to get organized, or both. We caught them just before the right-hander into the driving headwind, so I swung wide and kept punching, which turned out to be the winning move, just not for me.

I was now in a break with Derek and Attila, who is ostensibly my teammate, but neither one of us can sprint. Then David Wells came across a hellish gap solo which made it 3-to-1 but still terrible odds because although Heavy D has a good finish, he’s not as fast as Derek.

We were in tactical hell. If I quit driving the break we’d get caught by Frexit, Brexit, Aaron, and Eric and my meaningless fourth place would go to meaningless-minus-four-places eighth. It’s funny the kind of loser math you do when you’re about to get your ass kicked. But if I kept my foot on the gas Derek would cream us in the sprint. He had no incentive to drive the break because he had two teammates in back, one of whom could likely close the deal. However, he wanted to keep the break going just enough to stay away from Frexit, who’d beaten him soundly last week, especially since the chance of losing to the three of us on Team Lizard Collectors was zero.

This is where if I’d have been a bike racer I would have taken the risk of getting caught and forced Derek to work harder. Instead I attacked him, which he easily followed, and neither of my teammates was able to counter, so we were back where we started, with the added disadvantage of having removed all doubt from Derek’s mind as to our respective energy levels.

On the final lap it was hopeless, so I told Attila I’d lead him out but he’d have to close the deal. That was wasted air, of course, because the only deal he closed was beating me for third. Derek attacked before the end of the chicane and came through the last turn clear. Heavy D gave him a run for a little while but Derek’s kick was too much.

The rest of the field, at least the part that hadn’t quit, finished in twos and threes. Everyone’s face looked green. I’m certain that’s the first time I’ve ever beaten Frexit or Brexit. Even though it seemed successful from the vantage point of instigating the break, driving the break, and getting one of my best Telo finishes ever, it was still loser math, fourth out of four with three teammates in the break.

I’ll keep doing the TT practice and see if that helps. That’s the first time I’ve made the split at Telo in about a year. But as Derek likes to say, the determining factor in winning any race isn’t how you ride, it’s who shows up. Maybe next time I’ll send out a group email telling everyone that the race has been moved to Wednesday.

END

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#Frexit

April 14, 2017 § 10 Comments

Another frustrating Telo Tuesday. Not that that’s unusual. They have been consecutively frustrating now for about ten years. Not much reason for that to change.

Evens Stievenart, our adopted French hammer, is one of the best riders in California and one of the top marathon-endurance riders in the world. He won the 24 Hours of LeMans last year, bike version, and has his sights trained on 2017, too. Glad I’m not the target.

He showed up at Telo, our Tuesday night worlds, and said he was very tired. “I’m very tired,” he said. That didn’t mean anyone else had a chance of winning, it meant he would win with different tactics.

His usual tactic is to attack into the wind each lap. Finally people get tired of riding in the gutter and they give up. Then he rides off by himself or with one or two others. Then he beats them in the sprint.

My problem is that I’m not fast enough to follow the crazy hard attacks when the good guys are fresh, and I’m not strong enough to break them when they’re tired. My bandwidth is straight up mediocre.

Derek Brauch was there; he’s never an instigator, that’s not his style. Instead he’s a conservative. He doesn’t waste energy, reads the race, and invariably goes with the winning move. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him miss it at Telo except for one race last year when he said, “Go with Cowan if he attacks from the gun.”

Cowan attacked from the gun, I didn’t go with him, and “Head Down James” stayed away solo for the entire sixty minutes. The races are always harder and better when Velo Club LaGrange shows up, that’s for sure.

Last week I had followed every one of Evens’s attacks, about twelve of them. He finally got tired of me shadowing him, sat up and drifted to the back. Then he attacked on the final turn and smoked everybody in the finish, everyone who hadn’t crashed, that is. Afterwards he texted me, “You followed me so much I almost called the police for stalking.”

He has a good sense of humor.

This week I had crazy good legs, which is always a bad sign. It means I will squander them in pointless attacks, which I did, starting with an attack in the neutral zone with Michael Smith. We got caught after a few laps, then he broke a seatpost and was done.

I kept attacking but Evens and Derek were filing their nails. When I sat up for a second, after about thirty minutes, Evens attacked and took Derek with him. We never saw them again. Evens did most of the work then outsmarted and outsprinted Derek in the finish. I don’t know how you outsmart Derek. He’s the savviest guy out there, period.

No one wanted to chase because, I don’t know. Aaron Wimberley was there and he had a teammate up the road. Eric Anderson was there but he wasn’t going to chase the break so Aaron could sprint him fresh. Josh Alverson would normally have bridged solo but not today. In most races you know when the winning move goes because everyone kind of heaves a collective sigh. The fight goes out of the group.

With four laps to go I thought we had three so I figured I could at least give my teammates a three-lap leadout. I wondered at the end of lap three why no one was coming around. “Dang, maybe they can’t.”

But of course they could. I saw Emily holding the one-to-go card and was gassed. I probably made a d’oh-ing sound. They kicked me out the back on the headwind section and I finished last. I learned again that if I have good legs I should ride at 80 percent and wait.

It also occurred to me that if you have to learn the same lesson over and over and over, maybe you aren’t really learning.

END

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Aim for where he was

April 8, 2017 § 9 Comments

This is what they always told me about avoiding crashes and why I rarely avoided them. “Aim for where the dude who’s falling was, because he won’t be there anymore by the time you get there.”

Instead, I always watch crashes like a fascinated little kid with a front row seat, trying and failing to will away that I’m a grown man with brittle bones and the front row seat is moving, rapidly, into the vortex of the blood bath.

Last Tuesday after Telo finished we were all standing around the prostrate bodies and charred carbon frames that were 100% pure carbon doing what you always do when your moaning or inert friend is laying in a twisted lump of bloody lycra, that is, you ask meaningless questions like “Where does it hurt?” and the friend urgles or maybe says “Unnnnnh,” or his eyes flutter like he’s in the middle of a seizure and as red seeps from an ear he moans “Everywhere.” Everyone is trying to figure out who has insurance, what the deductible will be, and whether it’s better to limp over to the hospital a few blocks up and sever the spinal cord or call an ambulance.

I was misdiagnosing all of Patrick’s injuries. “You were knocked out, dude, you have a severe concussion.”

He looked at me, lying on his back. “I never lost consciousness. I remember everything.”

“Oh. Well, your head took a huge whack. You still have a big concussion even though you didn’t black out.”

“I landed on my shoulder. My helmet isn’t even scratched.”

I helped him to his feet. “Where does it hurt?”

“My shoulder,” he said.

“You have a broken collarbone,” I said with great certitude.

“Then why can I do this?” He raised his arm.

“Fuck it dude, glad you’re not hurt.”

He winced in excruciating pain and clutched his shoulder.

I ambled over to the curb where other wounded warriors were sitting and evaluating their injuries, and way more importantly, the damage to their bicycles. Only Boozy P., who hadn’t fallen, seemed unconcerned. I wondered why until Alx Bns noted that “It takes a kind of genius to have a bike repair shop adjacent to the race course.”

Aaron was holding his left hand as his index finger swelled up into a giant Italian sausage. “Is it broken?” I asked.

“No,” he said, grabbing it by the end and yanking it so that it made a grinding and cracking noise as it snapped back into place.

“How’s your bike?” I asked.

“Dunno,” he said, with most of his butt cheek grated into fine mince and hanging out of his vaporized shorts. “All’s I know is my hand hurts.”

I was concerned about his bike, not because it was damaged, but because as we had come through the final turn on the final lap everything had seemed so perfect. Being on Aaron’s wheel at the end of Telo was nirvana. It guaranteed you weren’t going to win, because his finishing kick was impossible to come around, but it also guaranteed you weren’t going to fall off your bicycle, because nowhere in a bike race is safer on the last turn of the last lap than Aaron’s wheel.

Why? Because Aaron never has bicycle falling off incidents. No one has ever seen one. In fact, no one has even heard of one. Instead, people have seen magician skills, Aaron vanishing on the other side of ten-bike pile-ups unscathed, Aaron going sideways through a slamming garage door of falling racers, Aaron bunny hopping heads and butts and backs and airborne bicycles, Aaron somehow being the one who dodged the bullet when everyone else was buried in a shallow grave.

So it was with detached intellectual curiosity that I saw him come through the turn, my wheel just barely overlapping his on the outside, and then to see his bike begin to slide. As I waited for the application of the magic Aaron essence that would extricate him, and therefore me, from what was going to otherwise be a nasty bicycle falling off incident, I noted that no magic wand was ever waved. Was Aaron really going to fall off his bicycle? End times.

His bike continued to slide until his tires were no longer touching Mother Earth and, amazingly, a massive shower of sparks flew up in front of me, like July. “Hmm,” I thought, only partially considering that the next thing about to happen was going to be me hitting the pavement, “his bike is obviously not made of 100% pure carbon. Fake carbon. Alternative carbon.”

In the next prolonged time-lapse sequence, his body and bike were now in front of mine, and it occurred to me that NOW would be a great time to begin considering my next phase of this unplanned ballet. Should I tuck? Should I hit the front eject brake? Should I jerk my handlebars hard to the left? Should I aim where he wasn’t? He seemed to not be everywhere except in front of me, so there were actually a lot of places to aim for, but that assumed I could aim.

There were too many decisions to make and too little time, so I did what I had learned to do at the dentist’s office as a small child, which is close my eyes and prepare for the pain. When I opened them I was past the carnage and on the straightaway with no one in front except Frexit, King Harold, and someone else.

Behind me was the sound of more carbon and hard-earned dollars hitting the asphalt. A few riders who had survived the carnage were now sprunting full gas for sixth or seventh. They could do a u-turn and see how their wounded friends were faring after crossing the finish line. I watched them speed to the line, focused like granny glasses on nothing but the end.

Bike racing.

END

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Mostly free bike racing

March 17, 2017 § 2 Comments

With Daylight Saving Time comes a reset of your body clock, free weekday bike racing, and apparently for some, death. Whether in traffic collisions, workplace injuries, heart attacks, or the receipt of illegal doping shipments for your drug-free bike racing team, the time change can be hazardous to your health and job security.

And rather than being a victim of circumstance, helplessly awaiting the call from USADA, the tightening of the chest, the rear-ender on the 405, or someone dropping a forklift on your foot, I recommend that you proactively select your hazard, which in this case is free bike racing.

Two best free bike races after the Daylight Hazard Time change:

Telo Street Fake Crit: Pay no money, pound your legs and brains into mush for 60 minutes, watch Grandpa Joe show up late, watch the enthusiastic group of 40 get whittled down to a sad-faced group of 20, then 10, then 3, dodge oncoming cars, idling 18-wheelers, antsy moms in SUVs offloading kids at gymnastic class, celebrate Evens Stievenart’s devastating win accompanied by Colin Croston and Shon Holderbaum, watch Grandpa Joe forget to have ordered the awesome winner’s jerseys, go over to Boozy P.’s place for the party that Grandpa Joe arranged, watch the party disintegrate because Grandpa Joe forgot to arrange it, watch 40 thirsty bikers fight to the death over the four beers in Boozy P.’s fridge, and best of all check the winner’s corner on the Telo World Championship’s TWC page on Facebag where Grandpa Joe still slings the best artwork and graphic design on the Internet.

Eldorado Park Free Fake Crit With Surcharge: Pay a little money, zoom around in circles without having to dodge cars a-la-Telo, and best of all watch Gil Dodson, Dave Wehrley, and a host of other kind people donate free entry fees to junior racers, watch kids who come from rough circumstances race their bikes and experience the joy of flying on two wheels in a pack of nutjobs defying death and calamitous injury as they vie for glory, in other words, nirvana.

telo_winners_1_2017

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Weeding out the grass roots

July 20, 2016 § 21 Comments

There is a new poison in the herbicide arsenal, stronger than Roundup, Banish, Barren, and TK-10 all lumped together, one so nasty and lethal that where it is poured nothing will thrive, nothing will grow, nothing will live.

We started Telo last night with our eyes glued to the fancy winner’s jersey plastered on the back of Smasher, knowing that whatever else happened, it was going to hurt us more than it hurt him, and it would be unendurable. Smasher’s race plan was simple: Smash.

His ultimate goal? Get the winner’s jersey for his teammate Derek the Destroyer, who a couple of weeks ago had officially retired as a profamateur, gained ten pounds, quit training, and places top-five now in every race he enters.

My plan was simple. Follow Smasher’s wheel, also known as Belling the Cat. Destroyer opened Lap 3 with a fierce attack, which I easily followed. All I had to do was go harder than I’ve ever gone in my life, then add ten percent. We were quickly reabsorbed. After following Destroyer around for another lap or so it seemed wise to slip farther back.

We had a large field of broken and hopeless wankers, none of whom had the slightest chance of surviving the carnage that was about to be unleashed. In a flash, just as I had settled back to check my phone and see how much money I’d lost for the day on Chinese real estate stocks, Destroyer went again and took six riders with him.

Being at the back when the winning break rolls is the stupidest feeling in the world. You watch it happen from afar, slack-jawed at your bad judgment, while all of the idiots around you either don’t know what’s happening, don’t care what’s happening, or, like me, pray to dog that someone will take the bit between his teeth and do all of the nasty work dragging you up to the split.

Then I spied Smasher, who was cheerily pedaling along, not the least concerned. “That wanker,” I said to myself. “He totally missed the split.” So I got on his wheel while a few panicked riders took turns trying to organize a chase.

[*Note to non-racers: “Organize a chase” is a fantasy concept that exists in the minds of people who think that a group of people who hate each other will work together for a common cause, cf. Republican National Convention in Cleveland.]

As we rounded Turn 4, I saw Smasher, who is British, arch his lower back slightly, tighten his grip on the drops, and push down harder on the pedals. “This is it, here comes Brexit!” I laughed to myself, jumping hard on the pedals so that I’d already have a head of steam when Smasher launched his bridge.

When Brexit came I was already accelerating, already committed, already fully prepared to follow Nigel Farrage in his destruction of the common European weal–except that I wasn’t. Smasher opened up a bike length, then two, then five, then ten, and then he was a tiny speck far, far ahead as I sagged in no-person’s-land. I don’t know how many watts he expended, but Strava says I was at my max of 253 watts, so he was putting out at least 14,000 or so.

There is a moment in every race that is decisive, which is another way of saying there is a moment in every race when everyone gives up hope, digs into their suitcase of excuses, tries several on until finding one that fits, and then takes comfort in finishing with the other losers in the fourth chase group. I slunk to the back and congratulated myself on having had the wisdom to miss the split and to choose the Wheel That Shall Not Be Followed.

However, the Brexit plot thickened. The other losers back in the EU chase group were unwilling to be losers just yet, and the breakaway lost steam as Scotland insisted it would Screxit from the UK and Scrontinue with the EU. After an eternity of riding at ridiculous speeds through cracks in turns, lapping gassed riders who would jump in, gap me out, then re-explode, after battering into the headwind where each pedal stroke felt like algebra, the incredible happened: Smasher and Boozy P. came back. Brexit was going to be put to a re-vote.

The losers took heart; the remnants of Destroyer’s break were a mere 200 yards away! They had been caught!

Except, since they were still 200 hundred yards away, they hadn’t been.

They dangled.

They teased.

They shed a couple more riders.

They were just within reach, kind of like good interest rates in someone else’s mythical portfolio.

Then, at the key moment in the race, I did what I’m known far and wide for: I cowered and hoped someone else would do for me what I was too lazy to do for myself.

No one did, and the 200 turned to 300. Fortunately, Smasher was still with us, until, of course, he wasn’t. He leaped across the windy gap in Brexit II, caught Destroyer and Steinhafel, and the three of them immediately put an entire half-lap on the twenty remaining losers, all of whom lost.

There was some sprunting for scraps, but I couldn’t be bothered to watch Destroyer pull on his first ever victory tunic, which of course he’d won in retirement. With the Union shattered and the cycling grass roots poisoned with buckets of all-kill herbicide, it was a great way to end the day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been having my new Leather Volt break down, which happily it did.

At least I’m not bitter.

Photos courtesy of Joe Yule!

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Why you’ll probably never, ever win a bike race

June 23, 2016 § 16 Comments

It’s not because you don’t put out enough power, or don’t have a good enough bike, or don’t have the right coach, or aren’t on the right drugs.

It’s not because you have a job, because this is just a hobby, because you take your family obligations seriously, or because you can’t leave work early or start work late.

It’s not because your legs are too short, your tummy’s too round, your neck’s too stiff, or your body is better at “endurance” than “short” events.

It’s not because you drank too much beer the night before, or you had to service someone, or they served you gluten pancakes by mistake, or the ectrolytes in your bottle were frazzy raspberry instead of chunky chocolate.

It’s not because you’re mostly a climber, or mostly a rouleur, or mostly a time-trailer, or mostly a lead-out rider, or mostly a sprunter but only from 100-yards with a lead-out train.

It’s not because your FTP is low, your HR is high, your VO2 is average, or your prostate is prolapsed.

It’s none of those things.

It’s because you aren’t Aaron Fucking Wimberley. And guess what? You never will be.

Aaron is of course a metaphor, but he’s a metaphor writ large. He’s been off the bike since last summer, logs a hundred miles a week if that, works 50 hours a week, has an actual personal life, and when stuff gets busy, as it has for the last year, his bike sits in the corner and gathers dust.

But on race day, which yesterday was, when Aaron came out to the Telo crit, the famed crit that now offers a champion’s custom jersey and SEVEN WHOLE DAYS of undisputed bragging rights, when he showed up along with Jules Gilliam, Rudy Napolitano, David Wells, Josh Alverson, Jon Davy, Francis Hardiman (omit the “i” and you’ll know all you never need to know about that dude), Alex Barnes, James Doyle, Chainbreak, Casey Macguire, and an entire throng of pack fodder, with every single rider planning on getting that jersey, and Rudy launching artillery rounds every lap and Josh countering with bunker busters and Jules slashing everyone with a machete and the group gradually reducing to its barest essence like a fine French consomme, and the pace so torrid most of the time all you could do was grit your fuggin’ teeth and curse blood, and Aaron, the guy with the least miles and the least fitness, hiding, thinking, suffering, thinking, following, thinking, waiting, and thinking until all the body blows had been landed and all the howitzer shells had been spent and the machete blades had broken off and the last lap was tear-your-cheeks-off-fast and people crumpled and folded like bad origami and with a thousand long yards to go whenJules sprang free, he had it he had it he had it he had it until he didn’t, which was about the time that Aaron gave it one perfectly planned and immaculately thought out hard kick, the only kick he’d given all day because it was the only kick he had, and he’d been saving it like North Korea with its one functioning nuke, and the timing was perfect and the power was perfect and the line was perfect and the acceleration was perfect and all everyone else could do was slump and sigh and groan as their jersey dreams went up in a puff of smoke and bad bong water.

Because winning bike races takes legs, but what it really takes is brains.

END

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Elder abuse

June 15, 2016 § 16 Comments

We had six laps to go at Telo last night, which has evolved from a skull-splitting massacre by the strong of the weak into something even worse thanks to the introduction of the now-famed Telo World Championship jersey.

The rules are unclear as to whether you have to turn over your jersey if you lose, or whether former winners can wear their jersey during the race, but if you win the race you get the jersey, designed by StageOne Sports with curlicue flourishes to remind everyone that whatever else Telo is, it’s nastily windy.

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David Wells, two-time jersey winner.

I showed up last night for the first time since the jersey was introduced and noticed that not only were all the hitters present and accounted for, but a Velo Club La Grange squad comprised of Austin Powers, Sausage, and Surfer Dan had shown up with the specific intent to rip the jersey off of David’s back and take it back to the west side, preferably with a few heads mounted on pikes to serve as warnings or as appetizers for Patrick Barret’s legendary barbecue.

The plan to keep my powder dry for the first thirty minutes didn’t survive first contact with the enemy, or the second, or the third, and in fact after five minutes my powder was soaking wet. The second 2:20 lap shed half the field and the third lap split the field again. Simple math suggested that if the field continued its torrid process of mitosis there would soon be no one left.

Stuck in the chase group I chased hard, which is another way of saying I sat on Davy’s wheel while he chased hard, then sat on Sausage’s wheel while he chased sort of hard, then sat on Carlos’s wheel while he didn’t chase hard at all, then sat on Patrick’s wheel while he sat on other people’s wheel, and then barely stuck my nose into the wind, realized it was blowing hard and directly into my face, and crawled back into my hole.

Soon the entire school of remoras were firmly attached to Davy’s mighty thighs, and after much sturm, much drang, and extreme discomfort, Davy dragged us back to the leaders.

Smasher and Derek attacked repeatedly and were repeatedly brought back. Then with six laps to go and everyone starting to calculate just exactly how they were going to get that pretty new jersey, I cruised into the headwind section and gradually pulled away.

I looked back and saw a huge gap which was bad. When you are old and weak and alone and in a headwind, the only possible outcomes are bad, worse, and worst. In this case of course it turned out being worst, because Smasher, Rico Swervy, and Austin Powers bridged up. Imagine being a guppy swimming happily with your other guppy tankmates and then suddenly some idiot dumps a catfish into the aquarium.

The first thing that the bridgers did, of course, is ride past me so that I had to swim extra hard to latch on. After a lap they began riding even faster. Then they began screaming at me. I wasn’t sure what they said due to the wind and my breathing but piecing each of the shouts together it sounded like this:

Smasher: …. through  … catch … !

Austin Powers: Pull … you … the … gonna … you …!

Rico Swervy:  … field … us …  sake!

I marveled at the air from their lungs they were able to spare in order to repeatedly shout and spit at me; having none myself I endured the singularly horrible combination of verbal and physical abuse. At one point on the tailwind straightaway Austin Powers went so fast that my field of vision became a tiny dot of wheeze, not a speck wider than the 23mm of his rear tire.

Did they not know that I was 52 years old? Did they not understand that 52 is no match for 20, 30, and 40? Did they not understand that I had sprinters back in the field? Did they not understand that I wasn’t pulling through because I was totally pinned? Were they frustrated at my presence, which seemed to indicate that none of them were really all that good if they couldn’t ride away from a grandfather?

Smasher urged some more and then attacked and rode away and won.

Austin and Rico screamed and attacked but didn’t ride away, perhaps because they couldn’t. As we approached the finish they looked back in a panic. “You sprinting?” Austin begged, unaware that of all my bad qualities, sitting in a break at a training race and sprinting for second wasn’t one of them.

I said more nothing, as I’d been saying for the last six laps.

After the race Smasher was awarded the jersey as all of the dead, near-dead, and going-to-be-dead-later riders stood around and imagined themselves in that natty Lycra pullover. He smiled. He mugged. Then he singled me out: “Why didn’t you pull through?”

Everyone looked at me. “Congratulations, Josh,” I said.

END

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