The seven stages of Telo

June 28, 2017 § 6 Comments

It was a nasty little evening. Hot. Windy. And a full roster of seal clubbers … Frexit … EA Sports … Tothenstein … Destroyer … the Hun … Heavy D. … Bader the Bad … Alx Bns … various members of Team Lizard Collectors … various members of Le Bleu Blow …

And then we started. Lap One, chatty, easy, leg-stretchy.

Lap Two, Frexit attack, four-man break for three laps.

Lap Six, absorbed by the gassed wankoton.

Lap Seven, a handful of weak accelerations.

Lap Eight, Frexit attack, shattered the already broken field, and the six-wanker break was firmly established, quickly putting 1:30 on the crushed and hope-deprived chasers. The break consisted of Frexit, Tothenstein, Destroyer, EA Sports Inc., Bader the Bad, and Wanky.

After we settled in, Bader the Bad began shirking pulls. I rode up to him. “Dude,” I said.

“Yeah?” he answered.

“This six-man break only has room for one worthless, weak, lazy, scheming, shirking, no-good piece-of-dung rider. And that rider is me. Everyone else, especially the 19-year-old unemployed dude who isn’t in school and who rides full time, has to take their fuggin’ turn at the front.”

Bader the Bad shrugged and took a half-hearted pull before going to the back of the bus. EA Sports, Inc. was none too pleased, and he showed his displeasure with a 1500-watt explosion that detonated the breakaway. We struggled up to his wheel, and he swung over. Everyone made it across except for The Bad, who was kicked out the back like a reporter at a White House press conference and sent to the chase group to reflect on his errant ways.

However, what looked like a race that would end up pitting EA Sports, Inc. against Frexit and Tothenstein in a sprunt finish, was not to be.

Various lapped members of Le Bleu Blow fell in with the chasers and it was all legs on deck as Heavy D., the Hun, and Alx Bns undertook Mission Highly Unlikely: Bring back the break! With Foxy whispering the gap times so that it sometimes sounded like we were 50 seconds up and other times 5 seconds down, disarray reigned as everyone waited in vain for Frexit to tow us around at 30 mph.

The Hun and Heavy D. bridged across with three laps to go, and then the entire remnants of the chase caught back on. Everyone sighed as we waited for the “new” formulation of the race finish, which would, instead of pitting EA Sports, Inc. against Frexit and Tothenstein in a sprunt finish, would now pit EA Sports, Inc. against Frexit and Tothenstein in a sprunt finish.

With half a lap to go, Heavy D. and the Hun tiredly put a few bike lengths on the twelve-man wankoton, but no one cared. The real finish would unquestionably involve Frexit, EA Sports, Inc., and Tothenstein.

As we rounded the last corner and Frexit opened up the sprunt, a wave of terror spread through the field! Heavy D. and the Hun were still out front, if only by a few yards! Even the rockets of the fast finishers weren’t enough to close the gap, with the Hun pipping Heavy D. for the glorious win and the adulation of three people, especially me.

As we sat around and moped, complaining about how unfair it was that a group of chasers rode smart, worked together, never gave up, utilized the efforts of the Hop-in-Wankers, reeled in the break, then countered and won in a bold move, it occurred to Foxy that we were in fact going through the seven stages of Telo grief, set forth below.

  1. SHOCK & DENIAL. You will react with numbed disbelief as you witness the field shatter on Lap Two, and you, of all people, get kicked to the curb despite your awesomeness. You will deny that they are faster than you and that the group is gone for good. You will be shocked that you drove all the way down from Santa Monica only to participate for five minutes. You will deny that your poor training, absence of stamina, weak resolve, and general worthlessness had anything to do with it. You will tell yourself that “It’s all coming back together in a lap or two and I’ll have a second chance!”
  2. PAIN & GUILT. You will feel excruciating pain everywhere and feel profound guilt at having abandoned your work and family obligations simply to get your head staved in and your precious seal pelt stripped shamelessly from your back. If you are in the break you will feel pain at sitting on Frexit’s wheel and feel waves of guilt at being a leech who sits on the back doing nothing (unless you are The Bad). The pain will crescendo if you’re in the chase and people begin berating you or worse, attacking you and causing you to utterly fail and get lapped.
  3. ANGER & BARGAINING. You will shout back at your oppressors and strike crude bargains in the break to allow them to allow you to hang on. “I promise I won’t sprint,” “I’ll give you ten bucks,” “Do you like my wife?” and other nonsensical trades will be offered, all of which will be ignored. If you are in the third chase group or have been lapped you will feel rage at everyone who races by. If you are in the first chase you will feel fury at those whose inattentiveness allowed that fuggin’ break to roll away.
  4. DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS. After doing five laps solo you will feel sad, very sad, and people standing on the sidelines will note your sad facial expressions. You will reflect on the stupidity of the endeavor, the slowness of your legs, the dullness of your talents, and the incredible stupidity of spending $2,000 on full carbon wheels, made 100% of pure carbon, only to get dropped five minutes into a training race, which is itself an oxymoron. If you are one of the chasers you will feel great loneliness as you do all the work and your wheelsucking chasemates wait for the opportunity to dump you and bridge solo to the break.
  5. THE UPWARD TURN. Now the chasers will catch sight of the break! Suddenly it will all make sense. You were doing this for a reason! The carbon wheels and 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit were worth it! Your wheelsucker douchebag chasemates are pals after all! Just a few more laps and you’ll have reeled them in!
  6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH. Now the breakaway, caught, gassed, and thoroughly chastened, works through the steps that led to its demise. What could we have done better? Why did we start soft pedaling? Now that we’re all back together, it’s time for a new strategy. Perhaps it’s time to do some more TT intervals or buy a different (but more costly) set of carbon wheels that are 100% carbon. Hey, it’s only a training race.
  7. ACCEPTANCE. Everything happens for a reason. The Hun is a sorry sonofabitch but he rode tough and outsmarted everyone. That bastard Heavy D. acts friendly but is actually a badass. It’s okay to lose sometimes. I am who I am. Telo is Telo. Plus, just wait til I get that shipment from China. Then I will flay some sealskins for realz.

END

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Leadout

June 21, 2017 § 28 Comments

I’m a simple person.

I like cream in my coffee.

I like toast for breakfast with butter and jam.

And I want to win Telo.

I’ve come to terms that #3 is never going to happen, but every week rebel mightily against reality. I have it in my head and there are 24 or 25 chances a year to win and this is the week.

When I say win I don’t mean set a new PR or make the breakaway. I mean cross the finish line first.

It’s a very simple concept, except that after innumerable starts, it’s never happened, and as I get older and slower and apparently a bunch dumber, the chance of winning, which was always infinitesimal, keeps getting smaller.

As Derek the Destroyer says, “Your race results are largely decided by who shows up,” and at Telo there are always at least four people who can sprint faster than I can, if not forty.

Yesterday, there were seven.

Before the fake race started, Derek, explained the race strategy, which went like this:

  • Frexit wasn’t there.
  • Smasher wasn’t there.
  • EA Sports, Inc. wasn’t there.
  • Hair wasn’t there.
  • [Complicated race analysis] + “follow my wheel.”

The analysis part actually meant something, but for me, once the race started I knew I would forget everything. But I remembered “follow my wheel.”

At the last moment Alx Bns showed up, along with the Hun, and then at the very last minute Surfer Dan, and of course Heavy D., none of whom I was ever going to beat in anything, much less a sprunt. However, with [complicated race analysis] + “follow my wheel,” there was a chance that something good might happen.

Until Ronnie showed up. Ronnie is the current Pro/Cat 1 leader in the CBR Sprint Cup standings. He’s about 25 years younger than I am, and about 30 times faster. We started the one-hour beatdown at 6:00 PM pointy-sharp and everything was fine until it wasn’t.

Somewhere between 6:NOAir and 6:VOMIT I looked up and there were only eight riders left. Ronnie and Derek had methodically attacked until there was nothing left, and each time they got pulled back someone else would counter.

With three laps to go Derek said something to me that I couldn’t hear so I nodded as if I did. The entire race I had followed Rule 1 of Steve Tilford’s Bike Racing Ten Commandments, which was “stay off the front.”

With one lap to go everyone slowed down and got ready for the sprunt. Patrick Barrett slotted in behind Derek but I somehow got back on the wheel after Turn 2, into the headwind. Derek motioned for me to stay there, as if anything other than a punch to the face could have dislodged me. We entered and exited the chicane and everyone bunched up on the right.

At just the right moment, Derek jumped to the left, into the wind. Miraculously, I was in a small enough gear to accelerate with him. Miraculously, I was able to follow. Not so miraculously, he then began pulling away. Miraculously, I realized that if I didn’t get on his wheel at that very second I would be finishing eighth out of eight. Not so miraculously, waves of doubt and pain overwhelmed me. Miraculously, my legs kept pushing. Not so miraculously, I wanted to cry. Miraculously, I didn’t crash into his back wheel as he whipped through Turn 3. Not so miraculously, I couldn’t see or breathe or think and then boom Derek went wide, leadout finished with one turn and 400 yards to go and the last words I heard were “At least you got second, Seth!” and I had no idea what that meant because there were eight of us and I could see Ronnie’s shadow on my wheel and I whipped through the last turn and it was weird because Derek’s leadout had been so vicious and fast that even though I was gassed just by turning the pedals the momentum kept me going and as I waited for the swarm to pass me it didn’t and only Ronnie was left who easily kicked by for the win without much effort and in that split fraction of a second I was about as happy as I know how to be and parenthetically as I write this several hours later I still am.

END

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Fake race report

April 28, 2017 § 5 Comments

Telo is pretty much a fake race, but it’s so gnarly, and such a good lab for learning how badly you suck that it deserves its own fake race report.

A really good race report needs to be simple. This one sure is: “Josh Alverson countered on Lap Two and soloed for the last 40 minutes.”

In between the start and the finish there were some teachable moments. One of them was that people don’t like wind very much. It was howling. It was so awful that only about fifteen people showed up.

So, top twenty!!!!

I think racing in the wind makes you better. You either get stronger by fighting the wind, or you get smarter by hiding from it and metering your efforts, or you improve your echelon/paceline skills. Sometimes all of these happen.

Josh had two breakmates at different times, but he rode them both off his wheel. I ended up in the first chase group with Aaron, Eric, and Dan Cobley. Dan was the strongest guy by far and he got us within twelve seconds before Josh nailed the coffin lid shut and pulled away.

Aaron rode the smartest, because he is the smartest. With a teammate up the road he rotated through and immediately swung over. If the three of us could bring back his teammate Josh, fine with him; he’d wax us in the finish. Which he did.

With five laps to go it became clear that we weren’t catching Josh. Dan and I are teammates but we didn’t ride that way. Eric and Aaron are both very fast so our only hope would have been to start attacking them and hope to get away. Instead we kept hammering at a pretty steady pace.

Funny how guys can be too tired to pull hard but when you round that final corner they catch a second wind. Good bike racing is always strategic. I love racing with guys who can think and race simultaneously. It’s very hard to do and I wish I could.

I got fourth for the second time in two weeks. Forever Fourth, or something like that.

David Wells and Emily did the best recap of all, which describes every Telo I’ve ever done, and none more so than this past Tuesday. I now share with you below:

END

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Washed up seals

April 20, 2017 § 16 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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