July 4, 2016 § 26 Comments
The July 4th Holiday Ride is always a doozy. This year was no exception.
It’s hard to disagree with the statement that the Holiday Ride is the worst ride ever. About 200 people show up and flail their way from Manhattan Beach to Brentwood. Then there is a knife fight in the mud for Tony Manzella’s wheel and we pack the entire lane of a narrow, twisty, fucked-up country road, the knife fight for Sweet Ass’s wheel moves on to guns, then mortars, then nukes, and two minutes in there are 10 riders left and unless you’re one of the ten your day is done.
If you’re one of the ten, you just risked life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for about twenty minutes of crystal-meth-pure misery.
Before today’s ride Sausage told me to video it on his GoPro. “But I have a Cycliq Fly12,” I protested.
Sausage is into high quality. He’s also real diplomatic. “Your camera sucks,” he said. “Use mine.” It’s hard to argue with facts.
EA Sports, Inc. and I drove to the Center of the Known Universe where everyone was standing around all nervous as hell. Why nervous? I don’t know, actually, because the ride always ends the same way. You get miserably dropped. There is no drama, and after having done it for ten years there’s not even any mystery about when it will happen.
Of course not everyone in the Santa-Monica-to-the-South-Bay arc is a lunatic. About 200 other people, all of whom who have done the Holiday Ride, and all of whom know how stupid it is, have formed an alt-Holiday Ride called the Yellow Vase Ride. They ride at a friendly pace around Palos Verdes and then have coffee and croissants at the Yellow Vase cafe. People laugh, talk, tell stories, and appreciate the beauty of the area and the fun of cycling.
Well, fuck those people.
By the time we got to Marina del Rey there were another hundred or so baby seals who’d been added to the clubbing list. In addition to the drama of the ride there had been some pre-ride Facebag drama, too. Phil Gaimon was going to show up and tow us up Mandeville at 462.3 watts like he did last year, but first we had to sign up for his Grand Fondue. One of the local Strava addicts complained that it wasn’t fair for us to be motoring along behind Phil, and a war of words ensued, after which there was a lot of red, rashy, very painful butthurt. So to make sure everyone on the ride was going to be okay I brought something for anyone who might need it.
Of course Phil didn’t show up so there was no need for the balm, but it’s nice to be prepared.
The ride followed its predictable course. At first people were chatty and tried to hide their anxiety with lighthearted banter. Then in Santa Monica people began to fight for position. Then on San Vicente it went from blob to narrow line, 2 or 3 abreast. Then on Sunset it was deadly silent. Then on Mandeville there was only grunting and the clanging of gears. A few people put on a brave front with occasional chatter. Two minutes in it was quiet as a teenager at a video console, an ethereal silence that enveloped us as each rider sank lower into the pain mire, everything in the universe resolved into the tiny strip of rubber twelve inches in front of your nose, and one by one people fell off, no words or excuses or explanations needed because the brutal pace and gravity spoke all that needed saying.
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February 14, 2016 § 16 Comments
Team Lizard Collectors rolled up to the start of the UCLA Road Race in our pimping Bonk Breaker Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van and Hotel and Restaurant. G3 and I had argued the entire 1.5 hour drive to the McDonald’s toilet about race strategy.
“The Cat 3 race is harder than the Leaky Prostate 45-plus Profamateur race,” he said.
“You are insane,” I diplomatically replied. “Our field is stacked with THOG, the desert rat brothers, Roadchamp, Capture the Flagg, Strava Jr., and a host of other mutants. They will kill it from the gun and we’ll all be dropped. We’ll never make it over the first climb.”
“Yes, we will,” said G3. “We’ll do them just like in the Cat 3’s.”
“Oh, brother,” I said. “How is that?”
“We’ll roll up to the front and ride tempo.”
“Great. Until the desert rats and Roadchamp and Strava Jr. hit the gas and drop you like Chinese egg soup.”
“Nope. I’ll chat them up and make small talk, ask about the kids and stuff. By the time they get through telling me about their new chain lube and Strava Jr.’s 1-oz. derailleur we’ll be through most of the climb and you won’t get shelled.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Works every time in the Cat 3’s.”
“This ain’t the Cat 3’s.”
The race started, G3 rolled to the front, and holding a steady tempo began chatting with the rat brothers about the carpet cleaning business, the pool cleaning business, and whether they thought it would rain in the desert anytime soon.
Even at tempo half the field was shelled, and when we made the first turn by the blowing trash and the flimsy gates that only barely restrained a rabid Rottweiler and a foaming pit bull who thought we had come to raid the meth lab, the hitters realized they’d been tricked and three of them scampered away.
“You did it!” I exulted to G3. Making it over the first climb was the hardest part of the race; even though we had four laps the remaining times around would be easy in comparison.
Since we were there to sacrifice all for our team leader G$ (easily confused with G3, at least on paper), and since we still had seven riders in the lead group, we all slunk to the back to let G$ do the hard work of reeling in the break, which he did. Once he made the catch, G3 yelled, “Come on guys, let’s get to the front and bring back the break!”
“They’re already back,” we said from the back.
Now that the hard part was over, all we had to do was continue lurking and shirking while the peloton dragged us to the finish, where we would gloriously win the first seven places, and maybe G$ would get eighth.
However, as we started the climb for the second time, the group seemed to shrink and Team Lizard Collectors suffered a major reduction of its core members, including Dr. Whaaat?, who was experimenting on a hot and hilly road race with a new homemade energy drink made of pickle juice and salt. Just as we approached the rabid dog gate, one of the pre-race favorites, Strava Jr., rode straight into the back of G$’s rear wheel and fell off his bicycle.
The leaders, realizing that one of their chief competitors was down, stomped on the pedals, shredding the group. Strava Jr. lay writhing in not really pain, and after determining that his handlebars were twisted 5-degrees he declared his day over and went home to collect some more KOM’s. In the meantime, our valiant team leader G$ had pulled over to check the wheel that Strava Jr. had smashed into. As the sole remaining member of Team Lizard Collectors near the leaders, I considered my options:
- Stop and help my team leader with his repair, give him a wheel if necessary, help him remount, get him speedily on his way, and tow my heart out so he could rejoin the leaders and win the race.
- Pretend I didn’t see him, pedal blindly by, and try to catch back onto the group I had no hope of staying with so I could possibly get 14th.
It’s not often that life presents such easy choices, so I left him at the side of the road and tried to rejoin the leaders.
However, G$ fixed his bike, remounted, and with no assistance powered across a hilly windswept stairstep to close a 30-second gap and rejoin the front group. I was soon caught by a rather hopeless and dispirited group of people who once resembled cyclists but now looked a lot like homeless desert people on bikes. They dropped me after a few miles.
One by one, everyone remaining in the race passed me except for one fellow who was afterwards declared retroactively dead. I sensed that he was a real threat to the leaders and even though we were 40 minutes back I knew it would take a lot of skill to keep him from going across to G$, who eventually attacked the lead group and won the race.
Fortunately, Mr. Corpse was unable to execute his plan and I kept him blocked safely in 39th place, just out of reach of G$, who was mostly in another county. It was a super valiant team effort and I was humbly honored to play such an important role in G$’s win.
Thanks to my hard work, I demanded that G$ buy the whole team lunch with his $80 in winnings. He agreed and we went to the Hungarian Sausage and Meat Company, located back in Pearblossom between the bail bondsman, the liquor shop, and the Baptist church. Since we had Attila the Hungarian with us, we figured he would appreciate some of his native food.
Inside the shop, he went to the counter. “Anyone here speak Hungarian?” he asked.
The young lady shook her head. “No. What makes you think they would?”
“Well,” said Attila, “the sign says Hungarian Sausage, so I thought maybe someone here was Hungarian.”
The woman made a complicated look with her face, straining muscles that seemed attached to her brain, but that hadn’t been exercised much in the last few years. “No,” she said. “We only speak American here.”
Attila looked at the menu. “I’ll have the Hungarian sausage sandwich,” he said.
The woman scowled. “That takes twenty-five minutes. You’ll have to wait twenty-five minutes. It’s a twenty-five minute wait.”
“Then I’ll have something quicker. What do you recommend?”
“The summer smoked Polish blood sausage with spicy entrails.”
“I’ll have that, then,” said Attila. We all ordered the same thing.
Twenty-five minutes later our food came. I don’t know if it was good or we were ravenous, but it was gone in seconds. At lunch we were joined by Derek the Destroyer, who had gotten second place in the much easier 35+ race against a very weak field.
“Second is okay,” I said. “But 38th in the 45+ race was a lot harder.”
“Really?” he said. “Because we had Tony Manzella, Kirk Bausch, Gary Douville, and a few other guys who go pretty good.”
“Pffft,” I said. “They would have gotten 39-41 in our race.”
“But I think we almost lapped you,” he said.
“That’s because I was blocking. We had a dead guy who was trying to bridge and if he’d gotten across G$ wouldn’t have won.”
Derek munched on his sandwich thoughtfully. “I see,” he said.
On the way back we dissected the race. “Good job, G$,” I said. “I think I could have won but I had the wrong gearing.”
“I could have won, too,” said Attila, “if the race had stopped after the first lap.”
“I could definitely have won,” said G3, “if I hadn’t ridden tempo for Wanky in the beginning. And Dr. Whaaat? was on the podium for sure if it hadn’t been for the pickle juice and salt.”
“I was really surprised that I won,” said G$, who has only won the race five times previously. “I guess I just got lucky.”
No one said anything.
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January 9, 2016 § 17 Comments
I got the pre-ride queasies, and I never get the pre-ride queasies.
Seven weeks ago tomorrow I was hurrying to the Donut Ride, all fit and feeling great and shit, and I fell off my bicycle and fractured my hipbone, which is connected to my nutsackbone, which fuggin’ hurts when you mash it between the pavement and the steel rails on your saddle.
Now, though, I’m 100% healed up minus about forty percent, but it’s the forty percent that doesn’t matter so I’m headed off tomorrow for the Donut Ride to fulfill my date with destiny. Only thing is, chances are good that it will be a real loser of a date, where the other person is missing a lip, has a death’s head tattoo and a pierced tongue, and is dragging a duffel bag filled with shrunken heads and dynamite.
Usually I love going to the Donut but tomorrow I’m scared. Ever since I fell off my bicycle I have been scared. Scared of falling off again and re-breaking the crack that isn’t healed. Scared of falling off and whacking my head. Scared of getting smacked by a car.
But worse than all that is my fear of droppage. Usually on the Donut I get dropped but not until a bunch of other people have been carved up into bite-sized pieces and fed to the Destroyer or Surfer Traitor or Smasher Traitor or the G-Money or the Strava, Jr. or the Jules or the Frenchy or the Pony Girl.
Tomorrow though I’m going to be the chum. That’s how it is when you have more excuses than training miles. Here’s how it will go:
- Man, this hurts but I’m near the front.
- Man, this is awful but I’m not too far from the front.
- Man, I can’t stand this anymore I hope someone closes that gap.
- Man, I hope I can hang onto this fourth chase group.
- Man, I hate riding alone.
- I wonder if I beat that little kid who started with us on a mountain bike?
Yeah, it’s gonna suck and when I heard that Manzella and his West Side wrecking crew are coming I knew it was going to suck times a thousand. If you don’t know Tony, he is a very nice fellow.
Except he’s an absolute bastard the way he grinds you up into pulp and is then nice to you afterwards. It would feel better if he’d spit and curse a little bit but I’ve never even heard him say “fuck.” I don’t think he knows any dirty words and dog knows I’ve tried to teach him.
I also hope he doesn’t bring that other nice bastard Michael Smith. He is a wheelsucking bastard until he stops wheelsucking and rides away from you and then congratulates you at the top even though he weighs 250-lbs. and you’ve been dieting your way down to 135, that bastard.
The best policy tomorrow would be to stay home and ride the trainer and do Zwift. Do you know Zwift? A buddy in Japan sent me a link to it. It is the apotheosis of stupid. You get on your trainer and pretend you are racing people on a video screen.
I can pretend a lot of shit. I can pretend I’m president of the galaxy or that I’m fucking a movie star, for example. But I can’t pretend I’m racing an animated character on a screen. Oh, and I forgot to mention that on Zwift you pay money to race the fake cartoon characters.Why not just pay your wife to get on a trainer next to you and race her? Afterwards if you let her win you might at least get laid.
Like, I know bicycle people are maroons, but are they so stupid that they can pretend they’re racing Tom and Jerry? I guess the answer is “yes.” And please don’t send me some whiny-ass email about how it’s snowing in Bismarck or some shit. Put on another layer and go ride, you big pansy.
But back to the Donut, where I’m gonna get smeared. It’s going to be humiliating. How humiliating? There’s a 1-in-10 chance that I will get beat by Prez. All these wankers are going to blow by me and some of them will probably pat me on the back and say “Good job!” which in cycling means “Fuck you, loser.” Usually they just snarl at me, which in cycling means “You are awesome, dude.”
Prez has never beaten me on a climb because he is so fucking slow. One time I did the Donut after a lung transplant and I still beat his ass up the Switchbacks. That dude climbs slower than a vine in winter. But tomorrow he might whip my ass. You know how that’s going to hurt? I can see it now. “Wanky passed by Prez, who pats him on the back and says ‘Good job!'”
They say you have to get back on the horse but why, especially if the horse is nasty and has kicked your head in already? Can’t you just poison the sonofabitch, or shoot him?
Anyway I better go to bed but not before I have some milk and pie to calm my nerves.
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September 18, 2015 § 9 Comments
I’m pretty excited about the upcoming South Bay Cycling Awards, slated for October 17 at Strand Brewing Co.’s new facility, 2201 Dominguez Street in Torrance. In addition to having Steve Tilford as our guest speaker, and in addition to having four inductees into our newly built Hall of Fame (constructed entirely of zeroes and ones on land borrowed from Mark Zuckerberg), it’s going to be a rollicking good time.
There are already enough RSVP’s to make it a capacity crowd, so if you don’t get there when the doors open at 5:00 PM there’s a chance you’ll be turned away. Normally, putting together an event of this size–20 awardees, almost 70 finalists, fancy invitations, several hundred drunks–takes an incredible amount of time, hard work, and attention to detail.
Unfortunately, those are my exact three weaknesses, so as in years past we’ve just made shit up and hoped for the best. This year will be no different, although with an executive committee of highly questionable abilities, it could potentially be even sillier than it was last year, when the high point occurred at 2:00 AM after everyone had been kicked out of the bar and survivors were staggering through downtown Manhattan Beach with a giant, 6-foot, inflatable pink penis.
Did I say this would be a classy event?
No, I did not.
Still, as things come together in their sloppily drunken sort of half-crazed way, people have lurched into the breach to help make things happen. Whether it was Chris’s invitation assembly team, or Joe’s amazing t-shirt and poster design, people keep stepping up to help.
So it came as another happy surprise when Tony Manzella offered to print up a batch of the posters designed by Joe Yule, another example of people pitching in to make a fun community event even more so. Unfortunately, my lousy photos don’t do justice to the artwork or to Tony’s high-end production of the prints, but if you show up on Oct. 17 you’ll be able to see these beauties in person, and maybe even get one for yourself!
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December 9, 2014 § 28 Comments
There is no greater fear than the Fear of Getting Dropped.
I used to think it was a function of cowardice, because everyone gets dropped, and people who avoid rides because they’re afraid of droppage, well, come on. Eddy got dropped. Lance got dropped. The fastest guy on your group ride got dropped. And of course you got dropped — repeatedly. It’s the nature of the beast.
Since droppage is inherent in cycling, i.e. there is always a point where, when people are going hard enough, you will get shelled, I’ve never understood why people avoid hard rides or hilly races because of their FOG’d. On reflection, though, it’s not about cowardice. For some it’s about the humiliating nature of reality. Getting shelled every time, every climb, or coming off the back early in the ride/race means you’re not very good. The people riding away from you? They are better than you, and all of the complex emotional defense mechanisms that we generate to “attaboy” ourselves crumble when the peloton rolls away.
But that’s not the main reason for FOG’d. The main reason is primordial and lies with the herd and the tribe. Whether it’s solitary confinement or lagging behind the other zebras because of an injured leg, being culled from the group speaks to our most primitive fear of defenselessness and death. When the tribe can no longer support you, you were either put on an ice floe or taken to Obasute-yama. When you could no longer keep up with the healthy herd you fell prey to the wolves who forever shadowed the group, waiting precisely for you to stumble or lag, and then pull you down, and then sink their fangs into your throat as they sunk their bloody snouts into your gore-soaked entrails.
Starting out with the group, getting popped, and flailing home alone has all of those connotations, not to mention mile after mile of cursing the sorry bastards who didn’t even have the common courtesy to wait.
When I heard about Tony Manzella’s new Dogtown Ride and glanced at the list of guys like Rudy Napolitano and Matt Cutler who were in attendance, I knew it would be a great ride. It would be great because, with 60 miles and 6k of climbing, it was going to be hilly and hard. I knew it would also be pitiless and therefore a small group. None of these guys were hand-holders. They might wait for a couple of minutes at the top of the first few climbs, but after a while if you couldn’t keep up you would suddenly remember a kiddie soccer game or a load of laundry or that this was December and not really part of your profamateur training plan.
The ride began at 8:00-ish at Dogtown Coffee on Main Street in Santa Monica. There were about 30 starters. After the first hour we were down to less than twenty. By the time we took our first rest stop at the bottom of Piuma there were about ten, and when we got back to Santa Monica there were perhaps eight riders left. I’m sure I’ve done harder rides with better riders, but I can’t really remember when.
And you know the funniest thing of all? At one point or another, almost everyone got dropped.
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November 26, 2013 § 11 Comments
Whenever I get bummed out about all the douchebaggery in Old Foks Racing a/k/a “masters,” I think about the shadow riders. The shadow riders, you know, they perk me up.
They are the men and women who ride in the shadows of the d-bags. They often don’t race, or if they do, it’s occasional, and whenever they show up on a ride — if they show up on a ride — they remind you what legs, lungs, and unfettered ferocity mean on a bike. The shadow riders didn’t get the “fast riders are assholes” memo. They smile and go hard and beat you up the hill because they’re just plain old faster.
Craig Hummer is one of my favorite shadow riders. He doesn’t race at all. In between his crazy-busy schedule as a national TV sports commentator, he throws on a light, rolls out at 5:00 AM, and charges around the PV Peninsula.
The first time I met Craig, I didn’t even meet him. We were going up to the Domes and he was going down. “That’s Craig Hummer,” someone said.
“Craig Hummer. The TdF announcer.”
“Whatever.” I didn’t have a TV and wasn’t interested in people who talked about the Tour de France.
“He’ll rip your fucking legs off.”
Now … I was interested. I looked him up on Strava, and he had some mythical times on some mythical segments. “Ah, so what. Anyone can chalk up times on Strava.” So I thought.
A few years later I did my first ride with Craig. He ripped my legs off, which was bad, but he crushed my fragile ego, which was worse. All the way up VdM he was chatting. All the way to the Domes he was gabbing. I never got a word in edgewise, not because he talked too much, but because I was coughing up a kidney.
Wanting to make sure it wasn’t a mistake, I rode with him again, this time with Tri-Dork and Ol’ Scabies, who is 70 going on 95. Ol’ Scabies rode better at 70 than I ride at 49, and it was only through the combined half-wheeling of Tri-Dork and Craig that we shed him. If I can ride 1/10 as well as Ol’ Scabies when I’m his age, I’ll surrender my AARP card and take up Elite road racing.
Craig dusted my broom again, hairy legs and all, chatting the whole way like we were at a quilting bee. Then he honored me by saying he looked forward to our next ride. The sun was up by then, but it was only 7:30 AM. The next time we talked, by message, he was jetting his way to NYC, out of the shadows and into the limelight.
Damn ugly jersey dude
The first time I got ground up into gristle and pooped out the back by Tony Manzella, he was wearing a terribly ugly jersey emblazoned with the names of famous bike racers. He had come down to the South Bay to sample the Donut Ride, and the bite he took was big enough to eat the whole damn thing.
Tony was obviously too big to climb well, so when he dropped the whole fuggin’ wankoton and soloed to the college, the problem was simply that he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to do what he did. Fucker.
The handful of times we rode Mandeville together on the Holiday Ride, my goal was simple: Stay with Tony until I gave birth to a small vomitus. Then quit. Each time I achieved this goal.
Tony’s the guy who decides to race ‘cross, shows up, does the most competitive races and places in the top four his first race. Then the top two. Etcetera. He’s the guy you fucking hate, except, you can’t possibly hate someone that good, that honest, that friendly, that fair, and that willing to take a pull. Then, to really make you feel like a POS, he’s the guy who can chat you with you before the ride about … art.
Tony’s a shadow rider par excellence. He loves to ride, but his integrity and decency and perspective show you, by example, that the master’s racing scene doesn’t have to be what it is. There are people out there who have that rarest thing of all, common sense, common decency, perspective.
So what if he ground me up and spit me out on Seven Minute Canyon? So what?