May 19, 2016 § 20 Comments
Thanks to an increase in license fees, the ratting out of several Depends-clad dopers, and a commitment to growing masters fields, cycling in the U.S. now stands at a pinnacle not seen since the 1980’s. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Derek Bouchard-Hall, the new CEO at USA Cycling, to discuss the special sauce he’s added to spice up the moldy old sandwich of amateur road racing.
CitSB: How do you spell success?
DBH: Same way I spell love. “M-O-N-E-Y.” I think the single biggest indicator for how well we’re doing is pre-registration for masters nationals next week. We’ve got 150 riders in the 45-49 field road race and 110 competitors in the 40-44. How exciting is that? And we’ve got 95 entrants in the 55-59 field. It doesn’t get any better than that, right?
CitSB: Some people would say that massive masters fields aren’t proof of a healthy sport but rather proof that the only thing left to do is cremate the corpse.
DBH: Not at all. Over time it’s going to have a huge trickle-down effect on younger racers.
CitSB: I’m trying to wrap my head around using “huge” and “trickle” to describe something. Kind like saying it’s “giant tiny.” Last year there were 73 men in the national amateur P/1/2 road race, less than half the number of profamateurs in the 45-49 for 2016. There were seven P/1/2 women. That’s seven as in “the integer between six and eight.”
DBH: You’re missing the big picture. Over time, competitive masters fields will encourage youngsters to get into racing. What’s more thrilling than seeing a 52-year-old grandfather with snot dripping from his pacemaker as he sprunts for 45th place wearing a full designer Thorfinn-Dipsquatch kit and monogrammed blood bag?
CitSB: A pile of rusty cans?
DBH: Don’t be cynical. Masters racers are the heart of bike racing in America. These are the people who young people admire and from whom they learn the finer points of tantrum-throwing, post-race fistfighting, and bike-tossing after missing out on a podium in Biloxi. Once you’ve captured the young people’s hearts, their wallets will follow.
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October 2, 2015 § 30 Comments
With the scourge of doping threatening to ruin our sport, USADA has finally gotten serious about the problem. Swooping in at this year’s Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, the drug testers snared a competitor who tested positive for cannabinoid metabolites, a/k/a marijuana, dope, pot, weed, Mary Jane, ganja, bomb, blunt, zambi, jive stick, juja, khayf, kickstick, kilter, yeh, twist, atshitshi, babysitter, bobo bush, fu, greeter, Indian hay, instaga, Jefferson Airplane, hot stick, and yerba.
Cycling in the South Bay sat down with new USA Cycling chief Derek Bouchard-Hall to talk about the new emphasis on clean competition.
CitSB: So, barely on the job for a month and you’ve already made a strong anti-doping statement?
CitSB: Care to elaborate?
DBH: We’ve got a zero tolerance policy for drugs. Starting today.
CitSB: And you’re going after pot smokers?
DBH: Have you ever seen “Reefer Madness“? Marijuana is destroying our country. It has been proven to make people insane.
CitSB: Right. But this is amateur bike racing we’re talking about. Everyone involved is already insane.
DBH: Exactly. And it’s because of all the marijuana they consume.
CitSB: What about its performance enhancing effects?
DBH: It’s been proven that a single puff on a marijuana cigarette adds 320 watts to your top end.
CitSB: It has?
DBH: That’s not all. It aids breathing, recovery, clear thinking, dieting, makes you extremely aggressive, defeats procrastination, and makes you extremely goal-oriented and organized. The performance benefits are undeniable.
CitSB: Okay. So where are the enforcement efforts going to be greatest?
DBH: Given our limited dollars for drug testing, we’re going to focus on Cat 3/4 women.
DBH: Women are statistically more likely than men to cheat.
CitSB: On their husbands?
DBH: No, doping. Lance got his first can of testosterone from a woman bodybuilder.
CitSB: Can of testosterone?
DBH: Yes. He started with cans of Deca-Durabolin and before you know it he’s bonging up on EPO and finally mainlining marijuana leaves. It all starts with the women.
CitSB: Gotcha. So, crack down on Cat 3/4 women pot smokers. Anything else?
DBH: Yes. We’ve prepared provisional bans for all of Washington, Oregon, California, New York, and Austin. There are some very bad marijuana addicts in Austin. Tom somebody, Jack I think is the other guy’s name, and Phil.
CitSB: Tom, Jack, and Phil?
DBH: Yes. But the jig is up. And we’re going to ban them for life.
CitSB: I notice you left Colorado off the list.
DBH: Yes, I did.
CitSB: Any particular reason?
DBH: We’ve done an informal survey here at the office. Colorado has some of the lowest marijuana injection and addiction rates in the country, as well as the strictest marijuana laws in the nation with the stiffest penalties.
CitSB: Ah, who gave you that info?
DBH: Oh, my staff. All of them.
CitSB: Uh-huh. Well, good luck.
DBH: Thank you.
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May 6, 2015 § 53 Comments
I have lots of unkind things to say about cagers. Like it or not, in general they are the enemy, seeking to kill and maim me at every opportunity. They hate me and want me destroyed; even the ones who stick their hand out of the window and wave are probably just drying their nails prior to reaching for the Glock.
And in general I have nothing but good things to say about the noble bicyclist, even when he’s veering, cursing, scofflawing, spitting, and getting off his bike to urinate in plain view of granny and the littl’uns. The worst spitting, public urinating, middle finger waving, ass scratching, profanity spewing wanker on a rusted out beach cruiser with two loaded beer coozies is, in my mind, infinitely preferable to the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful and considerate cager.
There is this one thing about some bicyclists that gets under my skin, kind of like the heads of a thousand deer ticks. Now I’m probably going to offend someone you know and love, and for that I am really happy. If I don’t offend you, I’m sorry. Send me a private note and I will try again. As Abe Lincoln said, you can piss off some of the people all of the time, but it’s damned hard to piss off all of the people some of the time.
Here’s the deal: You’re sitting at work getting paid more than you’re worth, fiddling on the computer wondering if you can knock off at 3:47 and still look vaguely occupied until 4:30-ish, when you can begin the pre-exit rumblings and fumblings that show you’re bringing a most productive day of Facebag-checking and Google news reviewing to an end. Suddenly, you get a message. It goes like this:
Hi, Bill — you know our mutual friend, Wanker McGee? He rode his bike off the edge of a cliff while doing front-end downhill wheelies with Manslaughter, and he misjudged the log he was trying to jump backwards and flipped off the cliff and onto the cactus 200 feet below and got LifeFlighted out and it looks like it’s going to be a while before he’s racing again or able to eat without a straw.
Anyway, his medical bills are in the six figures and you know he’s been living in that cardboard box down on 3rd and Main as he’s in his third season of trying to get his first pro contract, so I’ve begun a GoFundMe campaing for him and would really appreciate it if you could spread the word and maybe kick in a few bucks.
If you’re like me, you click on the link and kick in a few bucks. Then, feeling sorry for the poor bastard, you share the link with your friends and hope that the next time an appeal goes out it’s not you with the squashed melon. After a couple of weeks ol’ Wanker has piled up a whopping $5,000 to help defray his medical bills of $354,000. Which kind of raises the question of …
What the fuck is anyone doing riding a bike without health insurance? While I realize that there are a lot of destitute people who use a bike to get to work, the communist-socialist-atheist-Islamist Obamacare program makes it possible for the poorest of the poor, yes, even bike racers, to get health insurance.
In other words, if you can afford the $5k rig, two extra full-carbon wheelsets made of 100% carbon, the wardrobe, the entry fees, the podium cap (still unused) and transportation to the race, then you can afford the $90 communist-socialist-Islamist health insurance offered by our foreigner President who is trying to destroy democracy and our great nation by getting health care to sick people.
In other-other words, if you’re too much of a cheapfuck to get Obamacare but insist on racing the local crit/riding offroad with Manslaughter, I’m not sure you deserve anything from me. To make it even worse, there are bike racers who refuse to get the free (that’s “free” as in “your mom doesn’t even have to pay for it”) insurance because if you make less than $15k (and what bike racer makes more?) you get put on Medicaid, which, in addition to being free, is the Antichrist for many a Republican, welfare-hating, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps bike bum.
In short, the shame of being on socialist welfare free healthcare is worse than getting smashed to bits, asking others to pay for the damage, and then discharging the debts in bankruptcy.
My attitude towards this isn’t because I’m a heartless, unpleasant, penny-pinching Scrooge, although that’s part of it. A famous case here in LA a few years back involved a well-known rider with two kids who tore his face off descending Las Flores, and had to rely on crowd-funded donations to retire his medical bills. I helped promote the fund and donated to it, even though several people pointed out that a grown man (he was in his late 40’s) with two kids giving descending clinics on white-knuckle descents without health insurance was exactly the kind of guy who deserved the old “you made your bed, now lie in it” treatment.
Of course no matter how irresponsible someone is, when little kids are involved even the mostly heartless will reach for their wallets, and I still don’t regret doing so.
The main problem I have with shifting affordable health insurance premiums or even free Medicare coverage onto the greater biking community is that no matter how much your friends kick in, it won’t be enough. First of all, even if you raise $50k, it’s going straight to the hospital or other healthcare providers. Do I want to donate my somewhat-hard-earned money to Kaiser Permanente? Um, nope.
Second, raising money before you’re finished treating — assuming you’re a completely broke bike racer; redundant, I know — is a terrible decision because ultimately you’ll have to file bankruptcy and the money that’s rolled in may not be exempt, especially if it’s over $25k. In other words, Kaiser will still get a bite.
Third, there’s something really wrong with raising a stink about cagers who are uninsured or underinsured, which means they can’t make you whole when they run you over, then turning around and displaying the same financial irresponsibility when you crash out in a bike race and thrust the bill onto friends, family, and sympathetic strangers.
Century rides, race promoters, and other entities that put on bike events should require entrants to show proof of health insurance. USA Cycling (the great useless entity in the sky) should require you to submit proof of health insurance before it will issue a racing license, because unlike many activities, bicycle falling off incidents in bike racing are guaranteed if you do it long enough. 100%, no exceptions.
In addition to health insurance, if you so much as pedal down the block you should also obtain maxed out uninsured/uninsured motorist coverage on your auto liability policy. This will cover you for the collisions when the cager who mows you down doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your brain transplant, acting in effect as a third-party health insurance policy for you. And if you can afford a car and a $780 set of bike racks, you can afford the few extra bucks a year it costs to max out UM coverage.
So, I wish I could help out all the people who need it, and I don’t regret having done so in the past. But even more, I wish they would take that tiny ounce of prevention so we wouldn’t have to donate the massive pound of completely ineffective cure.
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April 24, 2014 § 10 Comments
I saw that the Belgian Waffle Ride is full. I’m gonna bandit the ride anyway. How can they stop me? The roads are free, right?
There are some excellent ethical and practical reasons not to bandit the ride. First, the ride only exists because of the 500+ people who have paid. So for you to only take from others who have only given is unfair. Second, by failing to properly pay and register for the ride, you are complicating efforts to ensure that the event runs smoothly. Paid police escorts, insurance, and city/county permits depend on having an accurate head count of participants. Third, the ride has been open since February. You had plenty of time to register, and the organizers and other participants should not have to foot the bill for you because you “waffled” about doing the ride. Finally, numerous two-wheeled bouncers will be on the ride, prepared to throw you out on your ass if you try to crash it.
23’s? 25’s? 28’s? Compact, right? 28 in the rear? Or 30? 32 too extreme? ‘Cross bike? Road frame? MTB? Pre-race nutrition? Steak and eggs? Carbs? So many questions …
In a quandary,
I think Nike has a slogan about this.
I signed up for the Belgian Waffle Ride because it sounded like fun. But I’ve been really busy at work and Billy’s soccer games have chewed up my weekends plus date night with Lucille, honey-do’s etc. so I haven’t gotten in much riding hardly any at all in fact. I know that it’s only three days away but I’m thinking some hard hill intervals, try to squeeze in an 80-miler, and a compact crank, maybe a new wheelset so that I can at least finish. Thoughts?
Hard Pushin’ Poppa
There is a massively fortified coastline in Normandy with three German divisions, concertina strewn along the surf line, thousands of pill boxes, land mines, machine-gun emplacements, and heavy aerial bombardment. I’m going to storm it in my underwear with a rowboat and a pea-shooter. Thoughts?
I’m not interested in the Belgian Waffle Ride. You know why? Because you guys are a-holes. Acting like it’s such a big deal, purple jerseys, such a macho ride, only the tough guys finish, blah blah blah. What a joke. You goons will clog up the roads and make motorists hate us even more plus it’s a ripoff I’d never pay money for something I can crash for free. Can’t wait to sneak into the beer garden. HA HA HA!
The fact that the BWR does not appeal to people like you is not a coincidence.
I was gonna do the BWR and had trained like mad, crazy mad. Dude, if you could see my fitness you would be so awed. I was gonna roll with the leaders and drill & grill & totally kill. Been practicing on all the dirt around here, 450-mile weeks, some of my KOM’s are getting Neil Shirley-like fast, yeah, that fast. I was gonna put the hurt on. But I went to see my doctor yesterday and he said I can’t because of this condition I’ve had so I can’t do it. Was so looking forward to doing the thang!
No problem; hope your rash clears up. I’m sure you would have killed it.
I was all excited about the Belgian Waffle Ride until I found out I was put in the third wave, with all the slow wankers and the beginners. Balls!
Cattin’ Up Carl
The administrators provisionally placed you in the first wave as you indicated on your registration that you were a Cat 1 on the road. Before finalizing the waves, they went to USA Cycling to verify that registrants had honestly entered their real category. Under “Cattin’ Up Carl, license number 498029,” here is what they found: Pooodleville Crit, DNF [Cat 5], Snarkton RR, 67th out of 68 [Cat 5], Hocknspit TT, 10th out of 10 [Cat 5], Swampass Circuit Race, 109th out of 109 [Cat 5]. All other events (fifteen total) you were listed as either DNF or DNS. So this year you will not be placed in the first wave, along with the Continental and domestic pros, Cat 1’s, state and national champions. However, they look forward to watching you cat up in 2015.
Regretfully but not really,
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December 19, 2013 § 37 Comments
Smedley Cutherbertson, a 16-year-old junior racer from Santa Monica, tested positive during a December training camp for a mid-level racing bike. He has declined to go through with the B-sample, or “secondary cost evaluation.”
“What can I say?” said Cuthbertson. “My parents wouldn’t spring for the full carbon $15k rig with Campy electric shifting and disc brakes.”
According to USA Cycling official Puds McKnocker, “We’ve never seen anything like it. Here this kid shows up for a winter training camp on a $6,000 bike. And it’s not like he has any excuses, either. He’s already been racing for two years. He should have known better. Did he think no one would notice?”
Sputum Cuthbertson, Smedley’s father, agreed to discuss the positive test result and sanctions on a conference call. “We knew what we were doing,” said Sputum. “He’s always been pack fodder, and we didn’t think that at his age this whole thing was worth splurging for a $15,000 bike that he’ll have outgrown in May.”
When asked about the sanctions, Sputum was apparently unconcerned. “Look, I know he’s going to have to spend the rest of the season being labeled a kook for showing up at a bike race with six other participants and he’ll be the only one on a cheapo bike. But we had to draw the line somewhere, and at the end of the day we’re middle class people trying to pay the bills. We’ll get sanctioned for his TT bike as well. That only cost five grand, if you don’t count the extra 2k for the wheels. They’ll pop us again for his ‘cross rig; we cut corners on that, went without disc brakes and refused to spend a penny over four grand; then his pit bike is even cheaper. We bought it on eBay for two thousand. Same for his omnium track bike; $3,000 tax, title, and license, although we upped the ante just a touch for his track TT bike — that set us back about six thou, but still nowhere near the top-of-the-line stuff that the other young children are riding. And you know what? We’re good with that.”
Sputum continued: “We’ve also refused to bundle him into the back of the van when he gets dropped on the Simi Ride, then race ahead and deposit him in front of the group so he can get back on. I don’t ride myself, but it seems like the whole point is to either be able to keep up on your own or train harder so you don’t get dropped.”
Reaction from the cycling community was swift, vicious, and of course, anonymous. A sampling of blog comments and bike forum discussions reveals the sense of betrayal.
immabighammer: “This kid is a joke. He thinks he’s gonna get taken seriously on a $6k rig? Ban him for life.”
interwebKoachDude: “We see kids trying to cut corners all the time; they learn it from their parents. Sad stuff.”
RideLikeEddy: “Fukkin little fukker ruinin our sport. Had some d-bag show up on the Doney without full carbon wheels, rode his dick into the curb teach him a lesson fucktards.”
stronglive: “He’s gonna get a pro contract exactly HOW on a dork bike like that?”
officiousofficial: “Testing works.”
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September 5, 2013 § 23 Comments
“Dude,” Josh said, “your face is fuckin’ covered with chocolate. Looks like you been bobbing for corn in the port-o-potty.”
Eric wiped a smear of sweat and spit across his face with the back of his hand. “Gone now?”
“Not even close.”
For well over three hours they’d been racing in the warm sunlight along the undulating roads that would ultimately lead to the mountaintop finish atop Mt. Bachelor. You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, at least as far as the weather was concerned.
Eric put his hands back on the bars and grimaced as the pack surged up the easy roller. They were three miles from the base of the climb and seven miles from the finish of the national championship road race for older fellows. The last forty miles had been an endless series of easy rollers, so easy that Eric’s legs were cramping and he could no longer hold onto the end of the peloton.
“I’m done, dude,” he said to Josh.
Josh glanced up at the darkening sky. “That looks bad, man. Hang on if you can.”
Eric slid off the back. As the gap widened, the pack seemed to slow. Now at the rear of the caravan, Eric dug and started working his way back. He re-connected. The pack surged again. He came unhitched, this time for good.
Alone now, he felt something hard hit his cheek. Then it hit him again. “That’s hail,” he said to himself. As each minute passed, the hail intensified. By the time he hit the bottom of the giant climb that eventually, theoretically, according to the race bible, led to the finish line, he was being pelted with golf ball-sized hailstones and blown sideways by 30 mph gusts. The hailstones hurt so bad that he wanted to cry out, and the larger ones raised giant welts where they struck his bare legs. Mixed in with the hail was a freezing rain. Then, as he got out of the saddle to pull himself up the climb, his legs cramped.
He was now officially as cold, exhausted, and miserable as he’d ever been in his entire life.
How in the hell had it come to this?
Taffy, beer, and the lure of immortality
On the fourteen-hour drive from L.A. to Bend, Oregon, Eric, Josh, and I had taken turns behind the wheel of the Prius. Initially maligned for its lack of power, its odd appearance, and its soccer-mom mystique, the Prius had quelled all criticism at the first gas stop.
“Dude,” Josh said. It was his turn to buy gas. “It only took thirty bucks and it’s full. What the hell?”
Hundreds of miles later, when we refilled again, no one was complaining about the lack of acceleration, as we’d all agreed to put the savings into a mutual beer fund. Every thirty minutes or so Eric would reach into his bag and whip out a new giant stick of taffy. Once Josh had found the taffy stash, the competition began. In addition to the giant Trader Joe’s bag of trail mix that we inhaled, I wondered about cycling nutrition before the Big Race. The taffy competition got so intense that several giant sticks, which had melted inside their wrapper, had to be placed directly under the AC vent so that they could be cooled enough for the competitors to peel off the wrappers with their teeth.
Getting the lowdown on the big ride
We reached Bend and checked into our team house, and convened a special team strategy meeting. Alan, who had done the race the year before, was blunt. “Look, dudes, it’s a really simple race. We go downhill for twelve miles, turn right, do a bunch of easy rollers for about forty miles, then hit the climb. First one up the climb wins. It’s a fifteen-minute bike race.”
“How easy are the rollers?” asked Eric.
“They’re nothing. You might be on the rivet once. Then it’s just easy.”
“How hard is the climb,” I asked.
“It’s the hardest fifteen minutes you’ll ever do.”
“What if you’re not, uh, like, you know, a really good climber?”
Alan looked at me. “Then you’ll look like a burnt fragment of flesh at a Hawaiian pig roast.”
“So what should my strategy be?” I asked.
Alan thought for a minute. “Sit in the whole way, and when you hit the climb, don’t be surprised when everyone leaves you.”
“Okay,” I said.
“What’s most important is rest and nutrition, so get to bed early, stick to your diet, and you’ll do fine.”
The perfect nutritional storm
Josh, Eric, and I were thrilled to find a nice little brewpub around the corner from the SPY Team HQ, a little place called The Old St. Francis School Brewery.
“Why are they fuckin’ serving brewskies at a school?” Josh asked. “Not that that’s a bad thing,” he said as we took a table.
“What are you having?” I asked Eric.
“I’m so not hungry,” he said.
“How can you not be hungry? We just sat in the car for fourteen hours.”
“I think it was the taffy.”
“You gotta be nutritionally energized,” Josh said as the waiter came by. “Eric wants a double cheese baconburger and a 32-oz IPA.”
“And I’ll have the same thing with double cajun fries and a pizza.”
“Yes, sir.” The waiter looked at me.
“Uh, I’ll have the garlic bleu cheese bacon and sausage pizza with artichoke and creamed corn. And the IPA.”
We got home shortly after the brewpub closed at two. The five-minute walk took a solid half hour, but we made it, and got ready for bed.
“Dude,” Eric said as he pulled out a gigantic pair of orange earplugs, each one of which was long enough to go from one side of his skull to the other. “Do you snore?”
“Only when I sleep. Do you?”
“Yeah, but not too loud. Do you fart?”
“Never, except at night.”
Eric dug around some more in his bag and pulled out a giant pair of nose clamps. “See you in the morning.”
The big bike box flail
The next morning we drove out to the time trial course in Prineville, where USAC had moved the registration, almost an hour from Bend, the city that everyone was staying. It made sense, you know, to have registration and packet pickup as inconvenient as possible. We got there just as our teammate Mike Williams was finishing. “How’d it go?” I asked, knowing that there’s only one of two ways a time trial can ever go. Horrible, and you win, or horrible, and you lose.
“It was horrible,” said Mike. “But I beat one dude.”
“More than one, I hope.”
“Yeah, but this one was awesome. My minute man came up to me at the start and said ‘Take a look at this jersey and memorize this number, ’cause you’re never gonna see it again.'”
We began laughing. “You’re joking! Even a bike racing douchebag wouldn’t say that!”
“Oh, but he did. So I caught him at the turnaround and as I passed him I said, ‘Have I seen you before?'”
Mike had schlepped up several bikes for the team from L.A., including Eric’s and Josh’s. His parents lived nearby, so we went to their house to get the bikes. The moment we stepped inside his house, his mother came up. “You boys look hungry.”
This is a polite way people have of saying to bike racers, “You look sickly and malnourished.”
“Well, now that you mention it … ” we said.
“Let me see if I have anything for you to eat.” In a matter of minutes she had laid out a huge spread of turkey sandwiches, fresh vegetables, homemade fudge, upside down pineapple cake with ice cream, and beer. There was enough food for twenty people. We ate ourselves sick and then went outside, where we had the dilemma of putting three bikes and four wheelsets into the Prius. We’d been joined by our teammate F-1 Jim Pappe, so nicknamed because he drove so slowly that even the local rusted out redneck pickup trucks passed him at will. We somehow got all the bikes and people crammed into the two cars and headed back to Bend with all our gear and our registration goodies.
One by one the team began to show up, with MMX arriving that afternoon, and John Abate arriving with Jess that evening. The road races were scheduled for the following morning, with the 50+ going first at 8:00 AM (me, Alan, F-1 Jim, and Randy Tinney), followed by the 40+ race (John A.), then the 35+ (Eric and Josh), and finally the 45+ with MMX, John Hatchitt, Andy Schmidt, and Peter Anderson). We all gathered that night again at the brewery and prepped for the race with copious amounts of greasy bar food and fresh beer. F-1 JIm, who had gotten sick on his drive up from Bakersfield and vomited all along the way to Bend, had recovered somewhat. Randy, however, was feeling awful.
“Dude,” he said. “I can’t race tomorrow.”
“Can’t race?” I said. “Why the hell not?”
“I have a headache.”
“We’re not asking for sex,” I said. “We just need you to toe the line and help Alan in the road race. You don’t even have to finish.”
“You don’t understand,” he said, as he wandered off to the men’s room to throw up again.
Back at the SPY HQ, I readied my gear for the race the following morning. The horribly dry air and the altitude left me gasping every time I walked up the stairs. “I hope the bike race isn’t harder than the staircase,” I muttered, before falling asleep.
The morning dawned to reveal at least one terrible hangover tinged with dry mouth and the overpowering urge to vomit. I somehow overcame the urge.
Abate had gotten in at two o’clock with Jess, minus their bicycles, which United had conveniently lost in between San Diego and Bend.
“No problem, sir,” United said as John frantically dialed their “service” department. “We should have them to you by the end of the day.”
“Dude,” said John. “We’ve got a bike race in a couple of hours. We need those bikes now. How do you lose a hundred-pound giant plastic container filled with bicycles? How?”
“Well, when we find it we’ll send it over to our service delivery center, and Delta will bring it to your hotel.”
“I didn’t know Delta had merged with United.”
“They haven’t, sir.”
“THEN WHAT THE FUCK DOES DELTA HAVE TO DO WITH MY LUGGAGE?”
He slammed down the phone and implemented Plan B.
“Hey, Randy,” John said as the phone awakened Randy from his dried pool of puke.
“You still not racing this morning?”
“Can I borrow your bike?”
John raced over to Randy’s condo and got his bike. Then he and Josh swapped machines, since Josh’s bike was closer to his size, and began the meticulous process of recalibrating seat posts, cleat positions, handlebars, and all the other important modifications that have to be made if your $10k bike is going to earn you the 57th place you have worked so hard to attain.
The leadenness in the sky
Since our race started three hours before John’s in the 40+, F-1 Jim and I left the SPY HQ at 6:15. MMX stuck his head out of the bedroom. “Weather forecast is for thunderstorms, hail, and temperatures in the 30’s.”
“At least we have that to look forward to.”
At the start of the 50+ elderly fellows’ national championship road race, the temperature was forty degrees, but the skies were clear. Greg Leibert, who was riding solo for Big Orange, did a few efforts with me up a short hill, and we chattered like chipmunks in the biting air, which, when you added in the wind chill, was easily 30 degrees. “Glad it’s going to be a sunny day,” I said.
We started off shortly past eight o’clock and in order to freeze us even more the race pointed immediately down a screaming twelve-mile descent. As the speeds began to ramp up over fifty mph, various riders who had never descended at those speeds in their lives began to get high speed frame chatter. One rider’s bike began to shimmy and twist like a flag on a pole in a hurricane as he rocketed off the road at speed and careened into the gravel, then the brush, and then into the soft landing of the sharpened ends of pine boughs.
The terror of avoiding the chattering bikes was almost enough to counteract the sub 20-degree chill that had penetrated into our internal organs.
How the race was won
Even though Alan’s race plan was solid, it was clear to me after looking at the national champions, world champions, and galactic champions in the race that my only hope lay with Godzilla showing up and eating everyone except me. After a handful of initial attacks, with Godzilla not showing up, the winning break of four mutants “rolled” of the front, which is another way of saying they went so fast that no one could catch them. Pretty soon the sun came out and we warmed up. The riders who’d been wrapped in several layers of plastic began undressing, which created a second level of terror almost as bad as avoiding the downhill catastrophic crashes caused by the frame shimmies.
The undressing riders would sit up, hands off the bars while packed in the middle of the clotted peloton, and begin fighting madly with zippers, sleeves, hats, and gloves, and then packing it all into a tiny rear jersey pocket. The merest chughole or wobble would have taken out half the field, but somehow no one crashed. However, one dude couldn’t get an arm of his rain jacket stuffed into his rear jersey pocket, and the flapping sleeve began driving me crazy.
“Is it going to droop down into his spokes and crash us all out?” I wondered. Each time I tried to get close to him to tell him, the Law of Cyclist Proximity kicked in. This is a basic racing peloton rule that says you will always get stuck behind the one person you don’t want to be stuck behind, or, you will never be able to get up to the rider you need to get up to.
I finally gave up, and just in time, because the easy rollers had begun to do serious damage to the peloton.
Easy for you, impossible for me
The easy rollers that Alan had promised were in fact a grueling, grinding series of endless, short climbs that, one by one, gradually sapped everyone’s legs even as the winning break of mutants disappeared forever. I hit the front exactly once and took a mighty pull, but after the peloton stopped laughing they reeled me back in just in time for the big final climb. I’d not eaten anything except a few Gatorade gummy chews which had been included in my preregistration goodie bag.
The gummies were wrapped in a long plastic tube best opened with a buck knife or blow torch. Each one was in a separate, hermetically sealed compartment made of industrial-strength rubberized plastic, and I almost tore out my rear molars opening the thing up. Then, in desperation I chewed not only the gummy but also the rubberized wrapper. It was nice that USAC had partnered with a company that knew how to make cycling-friendly food products.
As Alan had foretold, everyone over 140 pounds, which was virtually all of the elderly fellows in the race, was hideously shelled on the lower slopes of the climb. As the climb continued, the destruction became more pronounced. Sag-bellied, multi-chinned fellows who had begun with fantasies of glory were now relegated to wheezing, gasping, square-pedaling oafs who looked like they were being flayed to death by Captain Ahab.
Roger Worthington, who had won the tandem TT the day before, decimating a field of three other teams in the 50+ Men Who Are Willing To Spend $15k On A Custom Carbon Tandem That They Will Never Ride Again While One Has His Nose Jammed Up The Other’s Ass, was wasted from the effort. He took a long hard pull in the lead-up to the climb and then, as he imploded, began to shout “Pizza and beer, one dollar off at Worthy Brewing tonight!” as the wounded, stampeding elderly fellows roared up the climb.
I roared, too, but only for two hundred yards or so. Then I was stuck by myself, the field maddeningly close but hopelessly and forever unreachable. I could see the field break into smaller bloody clots as the final climb did its terrible work. Just as I had resolved to get off my bike and cry, a big white Nissan drove up alongside me. It was MMX, whose race wouldn’t go off until three.
“What are you doing back here?” he sternly asked.
“Flailing,” I said.
“Those guys up ahead,” he said. “Catch them.”
The guys were way ahead, and I had to choose between saying “Fuck you,” and “Yes, sir.” I chose life. I chose “Yes, sir.”
What unfolded was the most glorious 38th-place finish in the history of Elderly Fellows road racing. Whether it was MMX’s encouragement, my fear of looking even worse than I already did, the photo crew that was shooting close-ups of my awful grimaces, or the slight draft from the passing vehicles, I somehow got atop the gear and picked up speed.
Everyone who races loves to talk about pain, misery, and the hell of enduring a hard climb, but in addition to all that I had a special collection of facial grimaces that I practiced religiously at home to make sure I seemed more heroic than 38th place would normally seem. I gritted. I contorted. I drooled. I blew flecks of snot. I bobbed. I weaved. I thrashed. And incredibly, I began picking up one wanker after another. As Rudy Napolitano had said before the race, “Just don’t give up hope. Even though you’re hopeless.”
Each freddy freeloader I passed leaped onto my wheel, but quickly came off. With a last lunge I reattached to the seventeenth chase group, a collection of ragged and tattered and chubby and demoralized riders who were only thinking about the finish line 500 meters hence. I sped by, bringing BBI’s Brad Hunter with me. We had a brutal, heroic, incredible struggle for 37th place, with his final kick propelling him to a step on the sub-sub-sub-sub podium and a prize that included all of the unopened Gatorade gummy chews that had been thrown to the roadside in disgust.
Our race finished with the strongest of the mutants dropping the other mutants and me crossing the line in thirty-eighth place, one of the strongest placings imaginable and much more awesome than “38th” sounds. I checked with lots of people after the race and they all told me that thirty-eighth was truly impressive.
The amazing fart explosion
John Abate’s race, which rolled out shortly after ours finished, got caught in the hailstorm just as the climb began. But an even worse storm had descended on his smallish peloton a mere twenty miles into the race. A dude who shall forever hence be knowns as “Mr. Poopers,” raised his rear end up off the saddle in order to unleash what he thought was a mighty fart. Unfortunately, there was a major miscommunication between his sphincter and his brain, because when he released the gas, it was a fully loaded breakfast burrito turd with all the trimmings.
More impressively, he was wearing white shorts, and the gigantic brown bomb shot straight up the back of his bibs, staining everything brown and gagging everyone nearby. The smell was overpowering and it forced the pace up as each rider struggled mightily to get in front of Mr. Poopers. What was even more terrifying to the riders was the onset of the rain, because everyone knew that the water would start washing the poop out of Mr. Poopers’s shorts, and from there onto the bikes, shoes, and kits of whomever was behind him.
John surged to the front of his group at the base of the climb. The winning break was already up the road as the hail unleashed with such fury that it shattered his Garmin. Neither snow, nor sleet, nor hail, nor sideways wind gusts of 30 mph were enough to slow a man trying to escape the now-sopping-and-dripping Mr. Poopers, and John charged through the flying hail like a madman.
John hit the finish line and saw that the barricades and the entire finishing area had been destroyed by the hail and the gusts of wind, which had exceeded 50 mph atop the ski resort at Mt. Bachelor. The USA Cycling organizational team, which was extremely adept at cashing the checks of the riders. was less adept at handling problems on the actual race course, leaving it to racers, their wives, friends, and some dude in a wheelchair to pick up the barricades so that the finishing riders weren’t crashed out and killed as they finished. Hiding somewhere far from the calamity and sipping hot chai lattes, the USA Cycling brass convened an emergency meeting.
“Shit out there is gnarly,” said one.
“Glad we’re not out in it,” said another.
“Want to send off the rest of the races?”
“Sure. Worst that could happen is someone gets killed.”
“Plus if we cancel we’ll have to deal with scheduling and possibly refunds.”
At the mention of the word “refund” everyone panicked. “Send ’em off, no question. Hey, waitress! Could I have another tea?”
Just as they decided to order a few frozen and wet volunteers out to the PA system, a troop of angry motorcyclists stomped in. These were the men and women who followed the races and various chase groups. “If you think we’re going out in that deadly hail and snow and rain and sleet, you’re nuts,” said the leader.
The chief USA boss shook his head. “But what about refunds?”
Everyone quailed and several of the veteran staff began sobbing. “We can’t do refunds. We just can’t!!”
“I know!” said the boss. “We’ll move the race to tomorrow!”
“But what about the riders who just flew in for this one race and who can’t stay?”
“Fuck ’em!” the others yelled in unison.
“And what about the riders who were going to do the tandem road race on Friday? The two events will overlap!”
“Fuck ’em!” everyone roared, even more loudly.
“No refunds ever! Crank up the email machine and notify everyone. Chai tea lattes on the house!” roared the boss as everyone applauded.
What teammates are for
No sooner had John dismounted than the winners, then the remnants, of the following 35+ group came straggling in. Josh and Eric were covered in sleet. Josh’s helmet had been dented in by the hail, and Eric’s legs were covered in giant red welts. Neither could speak, and both had to be helped off their bikes. John, who was still frozen from his race, kicked into gear. With Jess providing towels, blankets, and warm clothing, the riders were stuck beneath the heating vents, which were going full blast. Both riders looked like they had just been through a terrorist attack.
Josh looked over at Eric. “Did we finish?”
“I think so.”
“Dudes,” said John with a grin. “You didn’t just finish. You finished the toughest, most grueling nationals road race ever.”
Eric cracked a smile. “It was a piece of cake until that final climb thanks to all those easy rollers.”
“Where’s my recovery beer?” Josh asked.
There was the hiss of a cap flipping off a bottle as Jess pressed an ice cold brew into his hand. “Right here.”
Josh drained the bottle as the icy cold beer warmed his frozen insides. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah.”
July 11, 2013 § 29 Comments
Whoa!! Blasted on the front pace of SCNCA.org web site was this:
SCNCA enters into agreement with USAC and USADA. Drug testing is coming to SCNCA races in 2013
Awhile ago, we mentioned that USAC and USADA were developing a program to bring anti-doping testing to local races. The reaction from the local racers was overwhelmingly positive. We are happy to announce that the SCNCA has signed an agreement to join USAC’s “Race Clean” initiative. Using a portion of the SCNCA surcharge that has been collected this year, there will be local testing by USADA this season. They will be at a minimum of two races. USADA determines the races…even the SCNCA will not know when and where they will be testing. USADA will be considering all remaining Road, CX, and Track events for 2013.
Huh? Drug testing in local SoCal races? That’s absurd! No one here dopes, or would dope, or has ever doped, or knows anyone who has ever doped. I once had a second cousin twice removed on my Uncle Clem’s sister’s side (paternal, step-son of the third wife’s adopted niece) who had heard of someone who knew someone who doped, but that was in Tennessee. Doping in SoCal master’s races? You’re kidding me, right?
I for one am disgusted that my tax dollars are going to be used to test for drugs instead of being used to purchase more surveillance equipment so that the FBI can zero in on my favorite porn sites. I’m even more disgusted that they aren’t even using my tax dollars, and most disgusted of all that they aren’t using yours.
Drug testing in SoCal is going to ruin our beautiful sport. Without drugs, masters would still be racing like we were in the 80’s and early 90’s. You know, LSD, hairnets, wool jerseys, no bibs, and chamois that bunched up like a crazy home video edition of Sanitary Napkins Gone Wild.
Without drugs, we won’t get to cruise the Interwebs late at night looking for Chinese EPO labs that are cheap, discreet, offer guaranteed delivery without bothersome customs inspections, and whose blood doping products aren’t cut with lead or arsenic.
Without drugs, we won’t get to go to our doctor and get various steroidal ‘scrips for our “asthma,” for our “saddle sores,” and for our, uh, “autoimmune disease.” But most of all, without drugs we won’t get to be pro. What’s the use of having a 12k rig and a trick team kit and a wrapped team car and masseuse tables and adhesive race numbers if you can’t also be on the juice?
I suppose I will get my head around this eventually. But you want to know what’s really gonna suck? Not being able to blame my own shitty results on other people!
“I woulda had that sprunt but ol’ Grizzles is on the juice.” Gone!
“How can you expect me to hold ol’ Clogstacle’s wheel on the climb? Fuggin’ doper.” Gone!
“I was shelled out of the break, yeah, what do you expect? Everyone else was snortin’ EPO.” Gone!
Oh, well. Back to the drawing board. And I’m not even an artist.