February 19, 2018 § 1 Comment
I knew it was gonna be a great day at the CBR crit because when I peeled off my skinsuit in the port-a-dumpster, the right long sleeve slipped down behind me and dangled straight into the brown hole of death, but I was miraculously able to jerk it out before it touched any of the burrito/coffee/egg sandwich mixin’s stewing in the bottom of the tank.
It was obvious before the race started that it would end in a bunch sprunt, which was great because I’m still recovering from The Influence, and after so many years of doing this I have a sixth sense about when a race will end with a breakaway and when it will end in a mass gallop. My race plan was simple. Sit for forty minutes, race for ten.
As I rolled up to the line scanning my competition the only possible fly in my ointment was Thurlow Rogers a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG. Incredibly, there are still people, all newbies, who don’t know who Thurlow is. I explain it like this: “I first saw him destroy a pro-am race in 1983. He’s the best living active bike racer on earth.” If people don’t get that, after watching him race, they do.
Archibald & Rufus, CBR’s crack announcers, had warmed up the crowd with their unique blend of edutainment, teaching the audience about the race while also talking about their Valentine’s Day gift exchange of dead flowers, a roast dog, and several anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers naming the other as a felon. Anyone who thinks that it’s boring to watch a bunch of tired old farts in their underwear pedaling around an abandoned parking lot windswept with dirty diapers and used condoms has never listened to a race get lit up by Archie and Roof.
It’s money time
The race began rather animatedly, with Dandy Andy firing off the front. I sat comfortably in 67th place and sighed. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”
Sure enough, they brought him back.
Next went G$, stomping away from the field and opening up a healthy gap until the field realized that sitting out in the wind for 45 minutes was something that Money was not only willing to do, but that he had done countless times before … for the win. I sighed though. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”
Suddenly THOG shot out of the pack with a couple of riders in tow. This animated all the sitters, none of whom was interested in racing hard, but all of whom were interested in chasing THOG. There is a beauty in cycling because even though you may personally suck, with a little bit of effort you can ruin someone else’s day who is really good.
I sighed as I watched the hopeless move. “No break is going today.” It occurred to me that one reason I was so convinced no move was going today is because I was weak, tired, sick, and desperate to do a few parade laps then go home.
WTF? I said NO BREAK TODAY
Once the bunch was back together, G$ glanced around and kicked it. This time he opened up a small gap and three other riders bridged up, Dandy, Jaggs, and No Pull Dude. The field watched, everyone keying on THOG and waiting for him to do all the dirty work. THOG slunk to the middle of the field and the break really started to pull away.
I sighed. “Not today, wankers. No break is going today.”
I checked my watch and we were a mere 25 minutes into the 50-minute race. I still had fifteen minutes to sit, which was good, because I wasn’t feeling it. Suddenly the pack had slowed and my momentum carried me far towards the front. At about the same moment, THOG attacked.
When other people attack it’s sometimes unclear whether they’re attacking or whether they’re imitating a fully loaded city bus pulling away from the curb while dragging a building behind it. When THOG attacks it is pretty clear that the only thing worse than being a toilet roll in the CBR port-a-dumpster is being a crank or pedal on THOG’s bike. The viciousness of the smashing and the acceleration hurt to look at, and then you don’t have to look at it any more because he is gone.
After half a lap THOG was a tiny speck. For some silly reason I attacked, city bus style. The peloton yawned and hell began. I was a dangling worm on a hook, stuck between the group and THOG, which is like having your head crushed between a grand piano and a concrete wall, only worse.
Three laps passed, but after two I was a solid two hundred yards back from THOG and couldn’t make up an inch. It was a matter of minutes before I detonated and floated all the way back to the peloton. At that very moment my pals Archibald & Rufus screamed over the microphone, “Davidson is bridging to Thurlow!!”
“He is?” I thought, wondering who this Davidson guy was and watching Thurlow get smaller and smaller as smoke began issuing from the cracks of my everything.
What goes around
One thing I learned the hard way is that when you are in a break with Thurlow, you pull your fucking guts out. He is the greatest. You are shit. If you wind up on his wheel it means something epic is happening, and now isn’t the time to be clever or cutesie or calculating. It’s time to beat the pedals so fucking hard that you think your knees will come unhitched. The times I’ve been in a break with Thurlow he’s never had to say “take a pull” or “quit dicking off” or wheel-chopped me and sent me flying into the ditch.
Most importantly, when there’s prime money or a finish on the line, he has always dispatched me with the facility of a large hammer removing one’s front teeth. In other words, breakaway chum.
And when Thurlow heard the announcers say “Davidson is bridging!” he looked back, and what did he see? He saw chum. THOG chum. Tasty, fresh, bleeding THOG chum. So he eased off the pedals for a few seconds and waited. By the way, Thurlow never waits. If you are too weak to bridge, sucks to be you. But in my case, if you do bridge, then it really sucks to be you. I struggled onto his back wheel, and the beating commenced.
In a few moments I’d recovered and was able to pull, and that’s the beauty of being in a break with Thurlow. You go harder than you ever thought you could. Who cares if you get dropped, who cares if you lose, who cares if your feet fall off or you scrape a pedal and impale your head on a fire hydrant? The only thing that matters is DON’T BE A FLAILING WANKER.
With the added chum power, we pulled far away from the wankoton until they were invisible. All the while in the real race up ahead, G$ was tossing his breakmates into the paper shredder as they sat on his wheel begging for mercy. With a couple of laps to go the RuggedMAXX II kicked in and G$ left his unhappy companions to fight for scraps, but none of that mattered to me. I was covered in sheet snot and could care less about the race; I was barely even aware I was in one. All I knew is that we had two laps to go, and until the moment that Thurlow rode off I was all in.
We hit the next to last turn, uphill and into the wind, and I wound it up, sprinting from corner to corner, taking the final turn, and giving it a dozen final smashes. Then I sat up and Thurlow breezed by, hardly even pedaling, and frankly rather bored with the whole thing. Fifth for Thurlow is an embarrassment. Sixth for me is a tattoo on my forehead.
After the race my cheering section ran up. “Why did you quit sprinting?” they asked.
“That’s Thurlow,” I said. “If you’re not sprinting him for the win, you sit the fuck up and pay your respects.” Which I did.
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May 31, 2016 § 13 Comments
The great thing about quitting bike racing once and for all is racing again. It’s a freshener-upper, like ditching a girlfriend who you’re absolutely done with and can’t stand ANY MORE EVER until later that night when you get hungry.
I woke up this morning, the day after I’d competed in two races at the Old Fellows Droopy Sack Race in Thousand Oaks, and two races at the Same Old Droopy Sack Fellows Race in Compton. All I could think of was Brett Clare. It was his fault I felt this way.
“This way” was unable to stand properly, with shooting pains up and down my spine and legs. Worst of all, I stood on the Monday scales and realized that I’d gained five pounds in 48 hours. Apparently the math of a few hours racing + 49,000 calories = stretchy pants morning.
I hobbled into the kitchen to make coffee, wondering how it had ended this way. On Memorial Day, our nation’s greatest celebration of sending off young people to die and spend a trillion dollars in Iraq so that we can shop at Wal-Mart, I had made a clever race plan for the CBR Memorial Day crit to compensate for my tiredness from the previous day’s racing:
- Sit for 40 minutes.
- Attack at the 41st minute.
- Break the field with my tremendous power.
There were some obvious problems with this strategy, but the most obvious one (aside from the well-proven absence of tremendous power) was the promise I made to teammates FXH and Dave Holland, who had shaken their heads in disbelief at the idea that I’d wait even four minutes, much less 40, before making a pointless move.
“Guys,” I swore on a handy bible that I pulled out of my skinsuit, “if I do anything other than sit last wheel for the first forty minutes of the race I’ll buy you each a new bicycle.”
“Thanks,” said FXH, “but we don’t have any more room in the garage for a junker pulled out from the dumpster.”
“No, no,” I said. “Full carbon made of 100% Taiwanese carbon with fancy Italian name decals and all carbon. Di3 wireless with Transformer functionality so it also folds into an aircraft carrier.”
David shrugged. “Whatever you do, we’ll try to help.” He patted his cell phone which he had thoughtfully opened to 911-instant-send on my behalf.
At that moment Patrick, my beloved Texas compatriot who had disproven everything we knew about Aggies and who had brought his BBQ smoker to the race, was on his bell lap in the Cat 3 race. We watched him pull the slickest move in the book, the old “jump off your bike mid-pack and create a bit of confusion so your teammates can sprint to glory.” Video here.
Of course Patrick wasn’t only working for his teammates with this slick move. He was also shearing off a few choice cuts of skin and lean beef to add to the cooker so that we could feast afterwards on some incredibly tender cuts of bikerloin. And it was outstanding!
But back to the story …
The race began and I drifted to my allotted slot, #65. I watched far up ahead as Brett Clare, Brett Clare, and Brett Clare began whaling the living snot out of each and every droopy sack. In between Brett’s savagery, Thurlow Rogers would launch punishing counter after punishing counter, and off in the distance I could see my loyal teammates FXH, Dave Holland, Attila Fruttus, Chuck Huang, and Steven Ehasz closing gaps, attacking, and doing things of a various nature.
Each lap was made more interesting by the checkling of David Worthington, who, seated on a rusty bicycle, pedaled counter-clockwise and checkled everyone with bits of wisdom such as “Go faster!” and “Pedal harder!” and “The ’94 Rockets are better than your punk ass Warriors!”
It was surprising how un-tired I became sitting at the back doing nothing, and it appeared that the fellows doing all of the animating were not animating quite as hard fifteen minutes in as they had animated at the beginning, and after thirty minutes of animating their animating was much less animated, until, at forty minutes, there was a noted absence of much animation at all. A few laps prior Thurlow and another legend of the road had attacked and escaped.
I watched my watch to make sure I wouldn’t end up owing anyone a new bike or 100% carbon, coasted forward and did the Daniel-Holloway-accelerate-from-midpack so that when you hit the front you’re going 75 MPH and no one can even think about getting on your wheel. In my case, that has never worked because by the time I hit the front after my massive acceleration I’m only going about 25 and there are 60 other people on my wheel checking texts and emails.
This time, however, what with all the animation having evaporated into the ether, I hit the front and then hit the off-the-front and then hit the howling-fucking-headwind-on-the-uphill and then hit the breakaway and then hit the breakaway-chasing-to-get-on and then we rode around for a couple of laps and I noted:
- One bullet early equals two bullets late.
- If you’ve only got one match but the other dudes have none, you’re the only one who can light the fire.
- The pack loves to chase Wanky.
So we got caught and the pack sat up about ten yards before rolling up to my rear wheel. Which was when I noted something else:
So I did and the pack sat up and Brett Clare, Steven Strickler, and Rigo Cruz bridged and I buried it and attacked the break after Turn 3 and they hollered at each other while I pedaled furiously away. My Big Orange teammates had been masterfully controlling the field with expert blocking, shouting, weaving, bobbing, threats, firebombs, and plentiful garlic farts.
With victory secured and my congestive heart failure doing its thing I noticed with two turns to go that Brett Clare was gaining on me, filling my field of vision more and more like an alien in a horror film until he opened his jaws and snapped me in half a hundred yards before the line. (Moral: Riding away from a time trial champion is harder than it looks, and it already looks really fucking hard.)
They carried me from the oxygen tent to the podium and set me gently upon it, where I demurely kept my arms at my side and tried not to breathe beneath the raised arms of the great.
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May 30, 2016 § 6 Comments
I don’t listen to music very much any more because of mind control. The last listening binge I went on was Beethoven and there I was being forced to listen to paeans to Napoleon. I hate Napoleon.
But my cousin Josh had just released a new CD and it had arrived in the mail the day before so I put it in the player as I headed off for the races. It’s called “Love in a Hurricane,” and contains some of the best of his astonishing body of work — powerful blues rock, ballads, and re-works of iconic songs like Son House’s “Death Letter.” All of it is built upon incredible mastery of the guitar, and finished with an attention to lyrics that reflects his obvious love of poetry.
Napoleon I can’t dig, but Son House, well, uh, hell yes.
I got to the race and went over to sign-in. On the way there I watched the race that was in progress, the super old man’s category where Thurlow Rogers was mercilessly flogging the shit out of the field, then the break, then he rode off and won. Next I saw my friend Bart Clifford. Bart has only been racing for a few years but he’s one of the best old guy riders out there. He has a blazing fast sprint and if he winds up in your break he busts his balls to make the break stick, and still cans you in the finish. He was talking about the recent crash-fest at Old Fellows’ Fake Nationals in North Carolina. “Worse than a fucking off-season training crit in Ontario,” he said, which sums it up.
I put on my orange-and-black clown suit. Keith Ketterer, hour record holder, world champion, and phenomenal coach, came by to give me some advice. “Wanky,” he said, “just ride in a straight line.”
The 45+ race began and I stuck to my plan. On the way up I’d realized that there are only five moves in cycling:
Since I can’t sprint, and my attack is kind of like a Big Blue Bus moving away from the curb after taking on 150 Cheeseburger Conventioneers, I had made up my mind to sit the entire race and surge to follow anything that looked like a promising break. Then, with ten minutes to go I would attack. Once. Devil take the hindmost.
Two hundred yards into the race I had forgotten all that nonsense and was back to my incorrigible ways, squandering energy, jumping around like a bunny, and making sure that if a legit move ever happened I’d be too tired to respond. Pretty soon the race finished, but in the final lap I ran out of talent and finished third-from-last. Bart won handily, although as a professional actor he had to add some drama by lying down on the grass and panting as if he’d been shot in the liver with a javelin. John Slover got second and my teammate Dave Holland got third.
While deciding whether or not to do the 35+ race I ate six spicy pork tacos with guacamole, figuring a little extra energy couldn’t hurt. The taco euphoria caused me to foolishly sign up for the young person’s race, which was not smart.
In the 35+ race it was the Everyone Do Nothing And Watch While Kayle And Charon Win Show. Although the first few laps were pretty quick, they weren’t nearly as quick as the taco sludge that kept sprinting up my throat, threatening to overflow the drainpipe at any minute. About halfway into the race I turned to the dude next to me and said, “What are all these motherfuckers doing sitting in like this?”
He looked at me and smiled. “They’re watching Kayle race Charon.”
We puttered around for 45 minutes and then Kogut rolled and Charon followed him. “I ain’t doing nothing until you establish the break,” Charon said, which made sense because Charon had 38 Surf City teammates back in the field, which only had 32 riders. Kogut busted a gut to make the break stick, Charon whipping him like he was a dog. “Come on man, we got this,” Charon said, urging Kogut to take the battering pulls into the headwind, but not bothering to explain that “we” meant “Charon,” since in a two-up sprint Kogut had as much chance of beating Charon as I have of growing a third arm.
After that race I watched Megan Jastrab and Summer Moak, aged 14 and 17 respectively, smash the elite women’s field for first and second. I drove back and listened to more Love in a Hurricane, and as soon as I got home I went immediately to work.
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April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments
I have to take my hat off to Sam Ames, the guy who promotes the annual district masters road race championships here in SoCal. He makes very difficult races, runs them well, and gets the predictable flak.
This year CHP advised that no follow cars would be allowed, so riders were told to pack a tube, lever, and CO2 cartridge. One rider called Sam to voice his displeasure. “No follow car? For the state championship? That’s unacceptable!”
“Look, Wankface,” said Sam. “Can I ask you a question?”
“How many races have you been in where you flatted, got a timely change from the follow car, chased back on, and won?”
Pause. “Well, never.”
“So be sure to bring a spare tube, okay?”
The 50+ race had a star-studded field of used-to-be’s and wish-I’d-been’s, but the only one who mattered, it turned out, was Thurlow. After 65 miles in the skin-sizzling heat, after 7,000 feet of climbing, and after all but ten riders had been ripped like a hangnail out of the lead group, BonkBreaker’s Zimmerman attacked over the last little hump. He opened a gap and Chris Walker bridged. Seeing the looks of grim desolation on the faces of the remnants, Thurlow launched and joined the leaders.
Zimmerman dropped a kidney, Thurlow attacked and soloed in, and Walker could do naught but pedal squares to the line.
Not that I saw any of it. I had been dispensed with many miles before, discarded with the disgust and finality of a used Kleenex. But like every other bicycle race it had started full of promise and hope.
We rolled out some thirty riders strong, powering into a unique air formation that proved to be a headwind going out, a headwind coming back, and an underwind-topdown wind everywhere else, with a dose of powerful sidewind, like gonorrhea. We hit the first climb and I hewed to my mantra: “Hide, cower, suck wheel. Save me, Father Carbon.”
Midway up it was clear that the prayer and the expensive wheel purchase and the monk-like existence of fasting, celibacy, sobriety, and 8:00 PM bedtimes was working. The only thing that gave me pause was the disclaimer on the flyer that said, as it always does, “Watch out for rattlesnakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, and attack bees.”
I wondered about that because we were passing a huge clump of roadside blooming weeds and they were covered in bees. “Are they attack bees?” I wondered. “What is an attack bee?” At that instant three of them flew into the large vents in my helmet. I am allergic to bee stings.
Ever since I was a small child I have been terrified of bees and wasps.When I was eight I kicked a wasp’s nest and got 35 stings, wound up in the hospital for a week, and almost died. The following summer I doused a beehive with lighter fluid and tried to burn it, but the fire didn’t take. The bees, however, did, and what they took to was me. Fifty stings and another hospital stay and lots of injections. When I was twelve my brother and I tried to eradicate all the yellow jacket nests in our neighborhood. We had a long stick with rags soaked in gasoline, and went from nest to nest incinerating them.
All went well until the fifth one. The rags came undone and fell onto my head, aflame. My hair caught fire and the wasps attacked. This time I had to get a bit of a skin graft, which got infected, and I simultaneously almost died from what the doctor said was a record, one hundred wasp stings.
I thought about all that as the attack bees crawled around on my scalp. I hoped that they would find the anterior wind vent and exit, but as I waited the first acceleration came. Several riders didn’t come with it, but I hid and cowered and survived. We made it to the turnaround and Jeff K. punched it over each of the short stabbing climbs we had descended into the little valley and now had to come out from.
More riders chose a different, more humane pace. I struggled, and straggled, and held on. The bees continued to crawl around my head. As we hit the long 4-mile headwind to complete our first 25-mile lap, Todd P. began castigating us for our slowness and laziness. “When are you guys gonna start racing?” he snapped, attacking off the front into the wind, where he was followed by G$. They vanished.
I thought about that question, “When are you guys gonna start racing?” and realized that if we hadn’t started yet, then I didn’t want to be — and plainly wouldn’t be — around when we did. We finished the first lap and several more riders chose a different pace; a couple even decided to unilaterally shorten their race from three laps to one, mortally wounded as they were by Proximity To The Car Fever and its attendant symptom, Common Sense.
Two of the bees flew out, so I was down to one. We started up the big climb again. Todd and G$ were thirty seconds ahead. Our designated rider, DJ, was going to need some help on this one. I always love it when a team leader needs a dutiful lieutenant to go jump on several dozen grenades, because that’s always my cue to cower and hide even more. Teammates are an abstraction in bike racing, because in reality everyone is your enemy and they must all be killed in order for you to prevail.
Alan F., who had been trading places with me at the rear, moved to the point to bring back G$ and Todd. Inexplicably I was on his wheel. Was it reflex? Bad judgment? A misguided attempt to help my teammate?
It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:
Throughout the race, people will behave irrationally, hopelessly, and with no clear objective other than self-defeat so that he who waits longest and does the least can pounce and win.
G$and Todd were deep in the throes of senselessness and as Alan dragged them back, my proximity to the front was wearing me out. What was I doing there? Why was I anywhere near the front? Didn’t I know that every square millimeter of wind exposure was the same as riding with a spinnaker when you are large and fat and slow and weak and tired?
When Alan sat up, Chris Walker pulled through hard, inflicting difficulty and little black spots on the weak and infirm. Alan and I tailed off. “Good work, guys,” DJ said as we imploded. We had pulled back 3.1 or perhaps 1.2929272028 seconds on G$ and Todd, who now instead of being tiny specks were more like smallish specks.
Alone again, naturally, I chased back on, got dropped again, hit the turnaround, passed the women’s field, then got passed by the women’s field, then settled into a rhythm of despair and self-loathing and full-body cramps, each racking shudder causing me to think “Wow, I didn’t know there was a muscle there.”
On the downhill I was overhauled by King Harold and Dandy. They were angry, breathing fire, and mostly intent on catching and dropping the women. I was now lodged in the Pincer Movement from Hell, having to choose between hanging onto their battering pulls into the under/top/side/headwind, or sitting up and never re-passing the women. The final lap was as terrible as childbirth when you are a human and the progeny is a grown and angry porcupine.
Dandy and King Harold pulled me around, waited for me on the climbs, and after a mere one hour and fifteen minutes of indescribable torment, their teamwork, assistance, and selfless work got us to the line, where, after resting for the entire final 25 miles, I dropped them both and sprinted for 17th place.
You know it was a difficult race when the finishers are rolling around in the dirt afterwards clenched up in various post-race cramp positions. Fortunately, the race turned out much more successfully for me than my 19th place might indicate. By spending about $1,500 on new wheels, I moved up ten places from the previous year. So with another $1,500 expenditure in 2016 I can expect a top-ten, and then a final $1,500 investment in 2017 should ensure a win. I probably won’t even have to show up and they can just mail me my medal. Right?
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March 23, 2015 § 28 Comments
Before the race I saw Dave happily siting on his top tube.
“You racing with us?” I asked.
“No,” he said firmly and happily. “Masters 35+ 4/5.” Dave had won the Masters 35+ 4/5 sandbagger race the week before in Merced and was licking his chops, noting that none of his competition came anywhere close to his 400 weekly training miles.
“When are you going to upgrade? You’re a beast.”
He looked at me very seriously. “Oh, no I’m not. I’m still learning so much about racing. And the 40+ group is way too fast.”
“Let me know when you’ve learned everything you need to know about racing,” I said.
Our race was going to be whatever is worse than terrible. You would think that a bicycle race where you had to be at least fifty years old to enter wouldn’t be that hard, but you would be wrong. On the start line were Thurlow a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG, Konsmo, the Parksie Twins, G$, Mark Noble, DQ Louie, Jaeger, Pomeranz, and a whole host of other guys I’d never beaten, and wasn’t going to beat today.
The course was a 27-mile out-and-back. We were supposed to it twice. The total elevation was about 5,500 feet. Going out, the course had a series of punchy rollers that led to the bottom of a 1-mile climb. After a 2-mile descent, the road continually ascends through a valley with a half-dozen short climbs and a few false flats until you reach the turnaround at the 13 Mile point.
Then the road descends into a headwind all the way to the base of the 2-mile climb, which pitches up, flattens briefly about 2/3 of the way up, then crests and drops you back to the base of the rollers. The race finishes on a 1-km climb with a moderately steep final 200 meter “sprint.”
Less than a mile into the race I was fully occupied with Mr. Crash Magnet. He’s the guy I get behind in every race and every race has one. Crash Magnet was so scared that his arms were shaking and his entire bike was wobbling. The smart thing in these cases is to get away from Crash Magnet ASAP, but he’s called “magnet” for a reason.
In the Wrinkly Prostate Division, although most of the riders aren’t good at holding their water, decades of racing have made them masters at avoiding crash magnets. So there is a race-within-a-race: Get away from the magnet. And since I’m the worst bike handler after whomever the crash magnet happens to be, everyone slides and jostles and positions so that I’m the one stuck on Crash Magnet’s wheel.
I dashed off to the left and got ahead of him, but to no avail. The deck reshuffled and there he was again. After the fourth reshuffle I resigned myself to the terrible bicycle falling off incident in store if he hung around much longer. This is one of the great freeing experiences of bike racing. You are in destiny’s maw.
Robb came up next to me after we’d crossed the first four rollers. The bottom of the big climb lay ahead. “This is gonna hurt,” he said.
“Why,” I asked “are you using the future tense?”
About that time I edged around Crash Magnet just as he made a beeline for the shoulder, hit a rock, shimmied his handlebars, and launched himself headlong into a soft bed of cactus and ocotillo. As I sprinted away, wondering how badly he was hurt, I noted that THOG & The Co. from Hell had moved to the front. I slotted in behind him.
Now here is something that everyone who’s been dropped on a hard climb in a hard race surrounded by much better riders can relate to, but ordinary intelligent people who play golf and happily drink beer from the back of a golf cart cannot, and I call it the lighting of the fuse. It happens in stages.
- Terrible feeling of awful dread as you anticipate at the bottom of the climb.
- First acceleration at the bottom where you think, “I can do this.”
- Second acceleration shortly after the first where you think, “This is going to be hard.”
- Grit teeth as the pace settles in.
- Feeling begins somewhere in your calves, the feeling of give-up-and-quit.
- “I’m not quitting” + excessive teeth gritting. Brief look around to see that the group has halved.
- Third acceleration midway up the climb where you think, “Fuck you cocksuckers to hell.”
- Fuse burns up into lower quads. Pain however is no longer localized to legs and has spread to eyeballs.
- Fourth acceleration where the group halves again. Konsmo, who is leading the charge, is on the tops and doesn’t appear to be breathing. “Fuck you, Konsmo, if we ever stop I will kill you,” you think, or something like that.
- Almost at the top the fuse reaches the bomb and you explode. Body shudders, head droops, prostate deflates.
- “Quit gapping me out motherfucker!” is roared from behind.
- Race effectively ends.
When we reached Stage 11, I leaped onto the last rider’s wheel and latched on as we made it over the top. There was hardly anyone left. The pain immediately receded and all of my attention focused on why I’d chosen to try and ride with the leaders instead of doing the logical thing, which would have been following Crash Magnet face-first into the cactus bush.
At the bottom of the valley G$ took over. The pain returned and riders continued to pop off. At the base of each mini-peak G$ would punch it hard, but by now the people who had made it this far weren’t going to be dropped so easily. I looked up and saw the lights of the motorcycle that was following the 40+ field containing Mike Easter, Derek Brauch, Matt Carinio, Tony Manzella, Jon Flagg, and Chris DiMarchi. They had left five minutes earlier but the vicious climbing speed of Konsmo and G$ had devoured the time gap.
They were neutralized and we roared by, which led me to wonder this: Could someone please explain the biology behind how a group of riders, some of whom were in their mid-50’s, were riding faster than a group of men some of whom were fifteen years younger? Or maybe it was just mirrors and we had lighter wheels. But then I remembered that weight doesn’t really matter.
Whatever it was, we sped by with our teeth plastered to the stem as the 40+ pre-geezers stared over, insulted and slack-jawed. Shortly past the turnaround the butthurt 40+ field took matters into their own hands and came flying by us, proving the superiority of youth and better medical care. We never saw them again.
Before long our greatly reduced herd hit the base of the big climb. The fuse was re-lit, and burned all the way until shortly before the short flat. I was sitting on Mark Noble’s wheel making that last-gasp cry that lobsters make when you throw them into the boiling water, when I exploded for good. Race over.
With Chris Hahn, Scott McAfee, and Bald Tim on my wheel, we chased madly through the rollers, eventually picking up DQ Louie, who had inexplicably been shelled. After a few more miles of unutterable misery that left Scott and Bald Tim adrift, I dragged Chris and Louie back to the leaders. Of course we reattached at the bottom of the big climb, the fuse was lit, and it mercifully skipped Stages 2-11, going from Stage 1 to Stage 12 in about fifteen seconds. Louie and Chris happily pedaled away, the sorry bastards.
Left to wallow in my own misery, I slogged up the hill, was caught and dropped by teammate Andy Schmidt who had been stoned and chased out of the 40+ community, and was then overtaken by a mongrel group of 40+ and 50+ shellees including teammate John Hatchitt, and assassin/arch enemies Pomeranz and McAfee. I slunk to the back and struggled along to the turnaround, back down the valley, and to the bottom of the big climb.
This time I did something different, though. I put it into the small chain ring. Realizing that I’d been doing the massive climbs in my 53, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be easier if I used a smaller gear. Wow! Who knew???? Climbing is easier in a 39×28 instead of a 53×21. Gawrsh!
McAfee attacked and one by one our group reduced in size until there were only six of us. Hatchitt attacked, caught and dropped McAfee. Then after the false flat Pomeranz attacked, leaving me with a couple of 40+ racers who had no interest in or need to chase down guys who weren’t in their race.
With 1k to go I hunted down Hatchitt and McAfee. Hatchitt went early and blew. McAfee went a bit later, but I was able to sit on his wheel until the very end and throw myself across the line, beating out a couple of 40+ wankers and looking less like Mark Cavendish winning MSR and more like a fish whose bleeding mouth had been ripped from a hook and thrown mercilessly onto the rocks to flip, flop, gasp, and die.
After the race I saw Dave, who had sandbagged his way to another awesome win. “Good job,” I said, filled with bitterness and envy as I contemplated getting my downgrade for 2016.
Wankamodo snapped this immortal shot of my last-gasp lunge for a top-40 placing in our 40-man field.
50+ Leaky Prostate Category Race Notes:
Mark Noble played a smart waiting game, stayed out of the win, and smashed the four-man leading of group for the win, edging out Bennie Parks, Thurlow Rogers, and Jeff Konsmo. Race activator and head-banger Greg Leibert finished sixth behind Todd Parks, with SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b GQ6 teammate and 2014 winner David Jaeger coming in 8th.
My ride chauffeur, Derek Brauch, got second in the 40+ race behind winner Mike Easter. SPY-Giant-RIDE teammate Jon Flagg put on a display of incredible strength by bridging to the leaders and finishing fourth.
Emily Georgeson got a bronze medal in the women’s state championship road race, confirming again that this is her breakout season.
Other people in other races finished, or didn’t, with some going faster and others going slower.
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February 4, 2015 § 66 Comments
The Facebag almost broke on Monday when someone posted a photo of the results in the 50+ masters race at the Red Trolley Crit. There atop the leaderboard sat Richard Meeker, returned from a 2-year doping ban and picking up where he left off: Making fools of the best old fart racers in the state, make that the nation, make that the world.
According to eyewitness accounts, Meeker the Beaker a/k/a Loose Leaf Powder a/k/a Mr. Kleen rabbit-punched breakaway companions Mark Hoffenberg and Thurlow Rogers with a finishing sprint so vicious that all they could do was loll their tongues and do the Harpooned Whale Bellyroll of Death as Sir Toxic blew across the line in a blur.
None of this should have been surprising. Rich doped (to no one’s surprise), was busted (to everyone’s surprise), mounted a pathetic tainted supplement defense (to everyone’s undying hilarity), and has now returned with a vengeance, which he will be serving up nice and cold. If you plan on racing in the 50+ category in SoCal this year, and you’re super fit and super fast and super good, I hope you like the sound of “second place,” because whether it’s a time trial, a hill climb, a crit, or a rolling, windy course, the unrepentant, proud owner of a two-year doping ban is going to stomp your nuts.
‘Cuz you know, when it comes to bike racing, Rich Meeker does it all.
What was surprising, nay, astounding, is that the Beaker signed up for the race under the banner of Surf City Cyclery. This is surprising because according to at least one rider, he wasn’t even on the team.
Despite strenuous politicking to be allowed to join, the members reportedly held a ballot and emphatically voted not to let Sir Toxic on the team. No matter to Rich, though. Despite the vote reportedly taking place a month ago, which means he would have been well aware that he wasn’t on the team, he is listed on his 2015 license as a Surf City rider, and he apparently rode the race in a Surf City club kit that’s for sale to the general public. After this horrendous wardrobe malfunction, I heard that he received a call from management and was told to cease and desist.
It will be entertaining to see whether he continues to show up claiming to ride for Surf City and whether he changes his license. Alternately, it will be fun to see which team he rides for next and to hear the pathetic excuses that people give for allowing this unrepentant leper to ride on their team. The fact that he still maintains his innocence and refuses to admit to wrongdoing puts him on a lower level than Lance & Co., who at least admitted what they’d done and are now suffering the consequences, however mild they may be.
As far as I’m concerned, I could care less whether the guy races, although there’s no shortage of people who wish he’d find a different sport to cheat at. He’s done his time, and the rules say that he’s allowed to return to the fray. It was heartening to see people on Facebag comment that the real first and second in that race were Hoffenberg and Thurlow, and it’s encouraging that there are teams who refuse to be associated with him. Perhaps his strategy of throwing Hammer Nutrition under the bus is making teams and sponsors and potential teammates wonder who he’ll point the finger at the next time USADA rolls into town.
But of course we always save the best for last. Rich and his wife have opened an organic drink bar in Corona del Mar, catering to the beautiful set’s desire for healthful, tasty nutrition. The name?
Some shit you just can’t make up.
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February 17, 2013 § 28 Comments
Some people leave their hearts in San Francisco. I leave mine a couple of times a year in Pearblossom, one of the great scenic wastelands of America.
I rode up to the race with John Hall. He had had a superlative race at Boulevard a couple of weeks back. I had, too, in my very dumbed-down definition of the word “superlative.”
Neither of us said it, but we both approached the UCLA 2013 Road Race with high expectations. One of us would be sorely disappointed. Both of us would be sore.
As I explained to John, a guy I’ve never beaten on a training ride, much less in a bike race, number pinning was the single most important detail of the race.
“It is?” he asked.
“Sure. You let your number flap and whizz like an oversized bra on a cheap hooker and no one respects you.”
“Nope. You want respect, you gotta pin your number on right.”
“Oh, sure. All the pros pin their numbers on with at least ten or twelve pins. That’s one reason they ride so fast. It creates a more perfect airfoil for the wind.”
John looked straight ahead. I don’t think he was laughing. Not at me, anyway. I’m pretty sure.
It took eleven pins, and a carefully folded right-hand corner to get the paper to bend with my armpit, and a few stabs that went to deep into my thigh and drew blood, and a couple of errant pricks that wound up pinning my jeans to my jersey, and a readjustment or two so that the bottom edge of the number wouldn’t interfere with removal of food from the pockets, but after about an hour the number was pinned perfectly. It looked like this. Feast your eyes.
All the other losers had just slapped on their numbers and spent the time warming up. John rolled by just as I was finishing what, by all accounts, was a superb job of number pinning.
“Aren’t you going to warm up?”
“Nah. These other losers don’t even have their numbers pinned on right. I got this one in the bag.”
John continued warming up.
Greg Leibert, vainquer at Boulevard, multiple winner at Punchbowl, superstar and awesome dude rolled up. “Dude,” he said, “race starts in five. Why aren’t you warming up?”
I raised a haughty eyebrow. “You should be asking ‘Why is my number not pinned on as well as Wankmesiter’s?”
“Your number, dude. It’s not pinned on very well. It’s kind of crooked.”
He shook his head and left. Just then Tink came up. She’d just won her pro 1/2 race, had gotten second at Boulevard, and had outsprinted one of SoCal’s top women pros to win today after a 25-mile two-woman breakaway that beat the field by three minutes. “WM,” she said, “I’m really worried about your hydration and nutrition. What’s in the water bottle?”
“You need an electrolyte. You’ll dehydrate and die on this course.”
I shook my head. “Oh, Tink, Tink, Tink. You’re such an inexperience young thing. Behold!” I help up my perfectly pinned number.
“What? The number. Look how nicely I’ve pinned it on. It’s the best-pinned number by far. It will frighten everyone when they see how detail oriented and meticulous I am. They will extrapolate from the number to my careful race preparation and training methods. They will be paralyzed with fear.”
“Maybe. Until they see you’ve only got one water bottle and it’s filled with water and you don’t have any food or gels. Then they’ll think you’re sloppy and ill-prepared and have no idea what you’re doing, which will negate the effect of your number. Which, I admit, is pretty tasteful and pro.”
I laughed. “You’ll see.”
Nothing trumps confidence
Today was my day and everyone knew it. I even took a picture in the car to memorialize the look of pre-victory. Feast your eyes.
The selection for this race started when you were born
People who do or don’t do the UCLA road race always talk about how it’s a “selective” course and how the “selection” comes early. In most amateur wanker (redundant, I know) races where this kind of verbiage gets bandied about, it means that the chaff is separated from the wheat in the first few miles or so.
Punchbowl’s selection, however, begins at birth. If you are genetically predisposed to never exceed four feet in height and 57 pounds in weight, to have lungs that could double as flotation devices for an anchor, to have legs that terminate right below your neck, and to have the pain threshold of an anvil, you have made the selection of “possible Punchbowl winner.” All others are selected to be in the category of “loser” or “quitter” or “quitter and loser.”
The Punchbowl course features 15,000 feet of vertical climbing per meter, along with gale force winds. It begins at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, so unless your name is Oreamnos Americanus, the empty, rasping, dry, heaving sensation in your lungs (which quickly spreads to your other internal organs) begins the second you step out into the scorching heat.
The great thing about the Punchbowl course in February, though, is that it doesn’t always welcome you with scorching heat. With snow still on the mountains that separate this meth-infested shithole from the meth-infested shithole of Los Angeles, it sometimes welcomes you with snow, hail, ice, sleet, and freezing rain.
Canvassing people before and after they’ve raced the Punchbowl course covers the gamut in human excusifying. Here are some of the gems I overheard yesterday:
One-lap quitter: “I had terrible back spasms and my HR was at 150 going into the first climb. It was physically dangerous for me to continue.”
Translation: “I suck and am slow and wasn’t even remotely prepared for the brutality of the course and the onslaught of speed that begin in mile one of the first climb on the first lap, so, because I couldn’t endure the pain and wasn’t proud enough to guy it out, I gave up and quit.”
First-lap droppee and Cat 4 finisher: “I did the Cat 4 race because it’s harder than the 45+ race.”
Translation: “I’ve never heard of, let alone ridden with world champion Thurlow Rogers, state TT champ Greg Leibert, national road silver medalist Jeff Konsmo, et al.”
First-lap droppee and 45+ finisher: “This was the worst day I’ve ever had on a bike.”
Translation: “I’ve never done Punchbowl before.”
19th-placed Cat 4 finisher: “I had a great race!”
Translation: “I finished!”
First-lap shellee and quitter: “I actually made it up the first climb, but got dropped on the descent.”
Translation: “I was slow and out of gas and terrified of the 50mph+ speed so I pooped in my shorts and quit before the goo drizzled out my pants leg.”
Cat 3 Pack Meat: “Our team got third!”
Translation: “I personally got stomped!”
First-lap droppee and second-lap quitter (that would be me): “I have a vastly overrated opinion of my ability and when the going gets tough I squnch and splatter like a soft jelly-filled donut under the wheels of an onrushing freight train.”
Translation: “You are the 99.999999999%.” [Of bike racers.]
The path to victory is strewn with the bones of the poorly-pinned
One of the great things about having the best-pinned on number in the race and having eked out 15th place in an earlier race is that you become an instant expert on everything, especially race tactics. “Man,” I said to MMX before the race began, “Konsmo plays it too safe. If he attacked more, on a course like this no one could hold his wheel. He could shatter the entire field, sit up and wait for a handful of reinforcements, then decimate whatever was left in the sprint.”
One mile into the race Konsmo attacked on the course so that no one could hold his wheel. He shattered the entire field, sat up and waited for a handful of reinforcements, and then rode away. I was panting so hard that I couldn’t hear anything except the opening and shutting of my heart valves. My world had been reduced to the six inches of pavement in front of my wheel. I made the first turn, struggled along at the rear of the lead group for a minute or two, and then imploded.
However, I wasn’t worried. Konsmo’s number was askew and had been haphazardly attached with yucky spray stuff that would leave ugly marks on his jersey. He was coming back.
At that moment a pro rider who had missed his start came whizzing by with a grin. “Yo, Wankster!” he said. “Hop on!”
Sergio slowed down to a crawl, I attached, and he dragged me over the climb, where we picked up Tri-Dork, MMX, and a host of other droppees. Tri-Dork was having the ride of his life. Our reinforced group, driven by my awesomely pinned number, chased down the leaders.
I turned to MMX. “Poor bastards,” I said. “They don’t have a chance.” I slapped my number in confidence. MMX shook his head and moved up, clearly regretting the decision to let me wear the SPY-Giant-RIDE team outfit. We trolled along the crosswind and hit the right turn up the climb.
Leibert, who must have gotten a number adjustment along the way. Hit the first roller with a vengeance. “Thanks for the tow,” I muttered to Sergio.
“No problem,” he laughed. “You’re back in the mix now! Do it!”
So I did it. “It,” of course meaning that I sputtered. I coughed. I choked. I flailed. I got dropped.
Right there, my race hopes died, and things went from bad to worse. Tri-Dork passed me, and roared on to an incredible 12th place finish. At the end of the race there was a small de-naming ceremony where he was placed on the podium and the Poobah from Pearblossom waved his magic meth stick over Tri-Dork’s head and spake thus: “Oh, mighty Tri-Dork, eater of In ‘N Out, spreader of butter on his beer and ale, goofy bastard who is fain to hold a straight line at Boulevard and who descendeth Punchbowl with the ferocity of a Russian meteorite, he who lacketh the gene of Quit, who rolleth like thunder despite his inherent Tri-dorkiness, today we de-name you “Tri-Dork” and hereby christen you forever and henceforth “Anvil” for the crushing weight you drop on on your adversaries, and for the fatness of your own posterior which aids your descending and does not in the least impede your uphill skills against featherweight manorexics half your size.”
A quite graveside service
At the end of the second lap my dead hopes and dreams, bleeding and inert, were rudely shoveled off the racecourse and into the ignominy of the car, where I undressed, put on jeans, and sobbed quietly over my perfectly pinned on number. Little teardrops formed sad hearts and drippy unicorns as I cried and gently rent by breast.
Then I went back to the start/finish to cheer the racers and let the women feel my satiny skin while extolling the virtues of a kimchi-based diet. The women were impressed with my skin, but not so much with the kimchi. “I bet you fart all the time because of that stuff,” they said.
Now that you mention it…
The final shakedown
As I stood there cheering it occurred to me how much more awesome it was to stand on the roadside with a cold energy drink, snacking on Cheeto’s, and having cute girls feel my satiny skin was than pounding out a tattoo of death with angry, forceful, road warrior assassins hell-bent on inflicting misery and pain on wankers like me. I made a mental note of this.
On the final lap, Konsmo caught the three breakaways with 400m to go and left them like they were planted in cement. He roared to what can only be described as the most impressive victory for someone with a poorly sprayed-on number in the history of the sport.
Showing the grit, determination, and toughness that made them borderline mental cases for persevering in such a hopeless display of defeat and pain and misery and disappointment, the rest of the field dribbled in.
John had a great result, and we returned to Los Angeles enjoying an extended rehash of each and every move and countermove. I explained in great detail how Jay LaRiviere, with whom I’d had an Internet dust-up the year before, had caught me, dropped me, and ground me into dust. Revenge, as they say, is best served up cold, although in this case the extra flavoring of pain, altitude, endless climbing, and physical and mental collapse probably made it even better.
“Still,” I said, “he’d have done even better if his number had been pinned on straight.”
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