April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments
Different people obviously enjoy different things about riding bikes, and you can tell a lot about what they like by the rides they do. Here are my rides from last week:
- Saturday Donut beatdown.
- Sunday 60-minute TTT practice with Kristie.
- Tuesday Telo fake crit with real vomit pieces.
- Thursday Flog intervals.
I’m doing TTT practice again today and no matter how I look at those rides about the only thing they have in common is that they aren’t any fun. It’s obvious I don’t like fun, or spoken another way, not having any fun is a lot of fun.
The Flog ride that we do on Thursdays is the least fun of any ride I have ever done. It’s in its third year and I wish I had a quarter for every person who has done it once. This past Thursday I felt awful, as I hadn’t recovered from Telo. The reason the Flog ride is so bad is that it is six hilly 5-6 minute intervals, which is not fun, but since you do it with a group, each lap is a mini-race.
Because we’re bike racers we keep score in our heads each lap, which is silly. We regroup in the parking lot after each interval, descend a twisty road to the start, and do it all over again. Everybody keeps score and strategizes how to win the interval, or at least how to delay the droppage as long as possible. Like I said, silly.
The fastest lap times ever recorded were when Daniel Holloway and two of his teammates came out and did it. I love it when people say “Holloway’s just a sprinter.” So ignorant. That guy, in addition to being clean as a whistle, is good at virtually every aspect of bike racing. Stathis the Wily Greek did the Flog ride religiously before he retired at the unripe age of 30-something. He won every lap almost every time, including the horrible 13-14% grade up La Cuesta, the climb we do the last lap on and where we take a glory group photo at the end.
Some people found it demoralizing to get smashed every single lap by Stathis, but I didn’t. I love that kind of riding because it is so real. You don’t dangle in between delusion and reality, you get reality force-fed down your throat. Stathis was so much better than you even on his worst day and your best day. Like the Alabama rednecks used to say about Bear Bryant, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.”
Most people don’t like that, I guess.
Anyway, I felt awful from the start. Greg Seyranian’s fitness is really coming around; he blitzed us on Lap 1. Then he started hard at the bottom of Lap 2 and led out the whole lap, and then dropped us at the end. Then on Lap Three he led out the lap and I sat on and managed to pass him at the top. Lap Four he led it out again, and Josh Dorfman uncorked a nasty attack that no one could follow. Lap Five Mike Hines attacked us all on the mini-wall past the stop sign. I hung on somehow. Mike is a masters world champion on the track. He has these accelerations that just break you.
On Lap Six I quit and went home, which I hardly ever do. I had a deposition later that morning, but that’s just an excuse. The reality is I apparently had had a little bit too much fun.
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April 1, 2016 § 11 Comments
Our fools here in the South Bay are not limited to April. Every Thursday morning at 6:35 AM we do the Flog Ride, which consists of six loops around the Palos Verdes Golf Course and a finish on Via la Cuesta.
Each lap is very hilly, and the finish on Via la Cuesta is pretty steep.
The ride is pretty foolish year-round because:
- It leaves really early.
- It is really hard.
I know that it is possible nowadays to quantify “hard” with watts and Strava and kilojoules and TSS’s and amperes and such, but those methods are sterile. The best way to quantify the ride’s difficulty is in human terms, which is to say that hardly anyone ever comes back to do it twice, and many of the best riders in the South Bay have never even done it once.
How hard is the Flog Ride? After the fourth lap yesterday one of the new riders dismounted in the regroup parking lot and began fiddling with his bike.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“I think my brakes have been rubbing,” he said. “I just can’t keep up.”
“It’s not your brakes that are rubbing on the rim,” I assured him. “It’s your lungs rubbing against your rib cage.”
At the Flog Ride, you can say with almost 100% certainty that when someone shows up to try it out, the rider will be a Reverse Terminator. He won’t be back.
The ride is only a year and seven months old, but two riders do keep coming back, and every week they have two goals:
- Don’t be last.
- Make it to the second turn with the group.
No dreams of beating the Wily Greek, no dreams of holding Destroyer’s wheel, no prayer of following Davy Dawg, no fantasy of ever even coming close to being first atop the climb, no goal of shattering the group on the puncher past the stop sign, no, none of that, just don’t be last and please, please, please dog let me make it the second turn before I get hammered, pounded, Mercury-in-retrograded into a quivering pile of gasping meat and flicked out the back.
But every week, with the precision of autocorrect, Michelle and Tom show up and get mercilessly vaporized. They are friends and teammates and good people, so we crush them.
Until yesterday. It was the last lap. We were all tired and dreading the final climb up Via la Cuesta. We made the first turn and Riddlebarger jumped away. Alan, a Big O teammate commuting to work who had jumped in with us, motored the tiny group into a tiny line. Michelle was second wheel and I was on her wheel.
Three riders launched at the stop sign but the group stayed intact. Atop la Cuesta, while the rest of us sat on the curb panting, Michelle and then Tom rode up. “We made it to the second turn!” she shouted, delirious with joy. Tom’s smile was bigger than a trophy bass’s.
“One and a half fucking years!” she said. “And we finally weren’t the caboose!”
We collected our lungs and got ready to descend to Redondo Beach for post-ride coffee and lies. “You coming?” Michelle asked Tom, who was standing on top of the hill, on top of the world, and gazing off into the distance, pleasure diffusing across his face.
“No,” he said. “I’m going to savor it.”
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September 27, 2015 § 16 Comments
Every Saturday morning the best riders in the South Bay assemble to contest the legendary Donut Ride. They are young, they are shaven, they are tiny, they climb very fast. And they are wearing their finest clown underwear, except for Wily, who showed up this morning in culottes and a tank top.
Ostensibly the goal of the Donut Ride is to be the first rider to reach the radar domes. But roiling beneath the stated objective is a deeper, more fundamental objective, one driven by horror and terror and the fear of humiliation: Don’t get beaten by the creaky old wanker with hairy legs.
No one has ever said it to me directly, but they don’t have to. Being ridden off my wheel is the most demoralizing thing that can ever happen to a cyclist because it means you really aren’t very good, and it can destroy the future dreams of an aspiring young athlete. Therefore, it is with especial relish that I target the young, the bright, and the upcoming.
For them it is lose-lose. No possible excuse can make up for getting stomped by a wrinkled prune who is old enough to be the father of most, the grandfather of many, and almost the great-grandfather of one or two. “It’s the off season,” “I’m going easy today,” “My coach told me to keep it in Zone 3,” … at the end of the day getting whipped by a senior citizen on a challenging climb is simply a deal-ender.
For me of course it is win-win. As soon as I’m shelled I can chalk it up to biology. “I’m almost 52, he’s 25. I was lucky to stick around for as long as I did.”
And of course by simply hanging around and hanging around, once in an incredibly rare while I actually pick off one of the targets on my list. I still remember and savor the day a couple of years ago when I caught and dropped Wily. The afterglow from that is as strong and fresh and warm as peeing in the shower.
And who can forget the time (singular) that I shelled Ponytail, a 25-year-old climbing phenom with the draft of a knitting needle? And how the wonderfulness of the victory was punctuated by his comment that he thought I was in my 20’s, and how crestfallen he was to learn I had an AARP card.
Then of course there was the time I scampered away and beat Derek the Destroyer, an accomplishment so drenched in fantasticity that I didn’t ride for a month afterwards. In my checklist there is even a mark next to Tony Manzella’s name. One mark, one time, to be savored each night with incense before I go to bed. That’s kind of my scorecard, after about 450 Donut Rides, with an asterisk for the time in 2008 that Rudy dragged me up to the Domes on my steel Eddy Merckx and intentionally didn’t drop me.
One of the unstated rules every week is “Drop Wanky.” I’ve seen guys take years off their lives rather than have me beat them. I’ve seen riders spent, dead, and ready for the retort when, looking back and seeing me, they come back to life like the undead and sprint away from the embarrassment of getting wankied.
But for the last three years there has been a very rare bird I’ve been trying to tick off my list, a kind of California Clapper Rail that has been elusive, cagey, and hell bent on thwarting me. He has beaten me in every possible configuration, and has beaten me when I’m riding my best and he’s riding his worst. And he’s always done it by generous margins. No bike throws, no last-second surges, just a smooth swing of the executioner’s axe and bam, he’s gone and I’m tied up in knots going backwards.
I’d go so far as to say he’s sworn a blood oath and it looks like this: That repulsive old faker will never finish anywhere near me.
And I never have, until today, of course.
Julien had sandblasted the pack of about twenty that still remained at the bottom of the Switchbacks into a small group of seven. My quarry had attacked hard just before we hit the wall on Crest, headed to the radar domes. Julien pulled him back and only Wily, Ponytail, Strava Junior, my quarry, and I remained.
Julien turned the screws and I popped. Strava Junior must have come off before then, because I was alone as my quarry and the three others pedaled away. Just before the turn to flat spot there was another flurry of attacks, and my quarry blew. He was within range. I pulled him back then came around him hard, listening for the telltale signs of having someone on my wheel. It was dead silent.
When I finished, the only three riders ahead were all younger than my children.
I hurried home and made a tick mark on my checklist. Then I logged onto eBay and put everything up for sale, because that’s as good as it’s ever going to get.
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June 8, 2015 § 143 Comments
The failure of licensed racers to race is the biggest barrier to a thriving sport, but there are other factors. After non-participation, the biggest obstacle in California is the local racing association. The SNCNA and NCNCA seem locked in a deadly competition to see who can strangle the sport the quickest.
I’ve always thought that the northern district was better than the southern one, a misperception that definitely falls into the category of wishful thinking. This past weekend I signed up for the Pescadero Road Race.
I’ve never raced in NorCal because it is too far away, even though their road races are legendary. “NorCal,” people whisper, “is where you find real road racing in California. Not this punk crit SoCal crap.” I wondered what road race could be harder than Punchbowl, or Boulevard, or Castaic, or Vlees Huis, or Tuttle Creek, and decided to find out.
Of course in order to make the trek I’d need company, and Wily, ever eager to do hard road races, agreed to split the $96.00 we’d have to pay at Ye Old Millipede Motel in Redwood City. Two days before liftoff Wily shot me an email. “Dude,” he said, “they won’t let me register.”
“It’s their state elite championship race and they only allow district residents to race it.”
“That can’t be right. Every state lets non-residents race, they just can’t compete for the jersey. Anyway, you’re a resident of the state.”
“Nope,” he said, and forwarded me the emails.
Of course the only possible reason to ban non-district elite racers from the race is so that the tiny penis NorCal riders can not only win the jersey but also be first across the line. In our own elite championship race, the SoCal champion got fourth place, being beaten by out-of-state/out-of-district riders. No one cared, of course, least of all the promoter, because the more riders the more competitive the field the better the race’s reputation and the more money.
Wily first inquired as to whether or not he could race. The promoter responded:
Nope. Norcal only. Why not try one of the other 1/2/3 races?
Sounds good, Wily thought, What other race is it he’s referring to? Answer: There isn’t one. This was the promoter’s very clever way of saying Kcuf Ouy.
Wily next took a more analytical approach.
Pursuant to USA Cycling Rule 7J3(b), “State Championships are open to US Citizens and permanent residents (green card).” This plainly entitles me to register and race, as I’m a US citizen and licensed USA Cycling rider. Subsection (d) only gives the Administrator discretion with regard to ineligible riders, which does not apply to me as I am clearly eligible. Subsection (e) only applies to members of the local association, i.e. NorCal, which again, I am not. Can you cite me to any rule or authority that would allow you to prevent me from entering? If not, please confirm that I will be allowed to register and race.
He quickly learned, however, that analysis is useless with idiots. The promoter responded with this gem:
This is an Elite district championship, not state. You must be in the NCNCA district.
It’s a gem because this is not a rule except in the very loose sense of “I’m saying it therefore it is a rule.” Events held under USAC permits must conform to the USAC rule book with regard to all aspects of the race. What’s funnier is that the promoter calls it an “Elite district championship, not state.” There is, of course, no such event.
Other SoCal riders began inquiring and the promoter gave them the same runaround — you can’t race in THIS P/1/2 race but you can race in one of the OTHER 1/2/3 races, unless you don’t qualify because those are all masters races, which means you can’t race ANY of the races.
It’s not up to me to bypass the registration restriction. The flyer publicly states NCNCA only and the officials
expect me to enforce that for the two championship fields. You’re always welcome to come and race another field. If you reg’ed online there is a no refund policy in effect.
My favorite is the last line: If you already paid, Kcuf Ouy.
So now the asshole promoter claimed that it was up to the officials whose rules he was merely enforcing. So Wily pinged the chief poobah. As soon as I saw her 281 area code at the bottom of her email, I knew she was going to be an idiot because that’s the area code for Houston, my hometown.
Wily then tried this tack:
Is there any other rule than the ones you’ve cited that allows you to ban me from entering this race? If there is, please point me to it, as the rule you’ve cited to mentions state championships, an event you now claim that you are not hosting. If there is no other rule and you still won’t allow me to register, please confirm that you won’t allow me to register since it is a 7-hour drive and doesn’t make any sense for me to come up the night before, stay in a hotel, and show up only to be refused entry due to some rule that you claim USAC forgot to put in its rulebook because they somehow forgot that California has two districts, even though there are specific provisions that talk about states with multiple districts.
The promoters should be aware that their flyer constitutes false advertising and, according to an attorney who has reviewed the rule book and the flyer, it is a possible violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act as well.
I and the other SoCal racers who have contacted the promoter are very upset about this arbitrary exclusion from the race. It’s a violation of the USAC rules and it’s also illegal.
Instead, Wily received a response that will go down in history as one of the best pieces of Kcuf Ouy that anyone affiliated with NCNCA has ever sent out. And of course the maroon who sent it has the excellent email handle of email@example.com, which is, you know, so cool.
These championships were once called “district” championships. USACycling, for reasons of its own, decided that they should be called “state” championships and that is how they are addressed in the rule book. It is likely that USAC forgot that California is divided in half along with Nevada, so Northern California and Nevada are administered by NCNCA as one state and Southern California and Nevada are administered by SCNCA as another. Most other Local Associations in the country coincide with state borders.
The dividing line between the two “states” is the line running east-west across California with San Luis Obispo, Kern, and San Bernardino Counties to the south, and Monterey, Kings, Tulare, and Inyo Counties to the north. Clark County Nevada is southern and the rest of Nevada is northern.
Your license states your residence as Palos Verdes which, of course, lies well south of that line, deep in southern Los Angeles County. That puts you in the “state” administered by SCNCA.
NCNCA has determined that only riders living in its “state” of Northern California and Nevada are allowed to race in its “state” championships, much like other state’s championships are restricted to in-state residents. NCNCA has held NCNCA-only elite championships for many years and this very question has arisen before. USAC has long stood by NCNCA’s determination.
Rule 7J1. “State Championships are allocated by the Local Associations to race directors based on the criteria that the LA or its administrator shall determine.”
Rule 7J1 puts the race director in the position of having to enforce NCNCA’s ruling even though he would love to have you pay your entry fee and race on the spectacular Pescadero course.
I’m sorry that you will miss out on this great race.
NCNCA Officials’ Committee Chair
The first bit of analysis is priceless. NorCal is excluding SoCal because the USAC rules committee “forgot” about California being divided into two districts. They forgot about it so totally that there is an entire subsection devoted to states with multiple districts, of which there are two: Nevada and California. I will remember this argument the next time I’m in court. “Hey judge, the legislature forgot to put this in the law so I added it for them.”
Then the Hon. Hardaway launches off into crazyland, explaining that since districts are the same as states according to the forgotten rule, you have to determine a rider’s “state of residence” by a fictitious line that divides NorCal and SoCal, kind of like Mason-Dixon. It’s in the forgotten rulebook, look it up.
Then, carried away by his Civil War remembrances, he reminds Wily that Wily is “deep in southern Los Angeles County,” who voted to secede and join the confederacy and is therefore not entitled to the protections of the Union army. Finally, we are directed to Supreme Court precedent, as we are told that USAC has “long stood by NCNCA’s determination.” You can find the text of the decision here: 60 U.S. 393 (1857).
Best of all, Hardaway quotes a rule, 7J1, and then simply invents what it says even though the actual rule, which he goes to the trouble to type out, says nothing of the kind.
In case Wily hadn’t gotten the message, it’s this: KCUF OUY!
The idiot with the Houston area code then piles on with this beaut:
I believe your question about racing Peacadero has been answered based on the rule book, our district boundaries and the race flyer which indicates the Elite 1/2 race is for NCNCA racers as well as the email from Mike Hardaway, the chair of our officials committee where he clarifies how the Nor Cal and So Cal districts are viewed.
Then, with everyone singing from the same page, the promoter decides to dispense with all of the indirect rigamarole and cut to the chase scene:
I have reviewed your communications with the officials and myself as well as several other SCNCA individuals. My decision is SCNCA members are *NOT* welcome to race in any of the elite championship races in 2015 that I promote.
Everyone understand what *NOT* welcome means? It’s the new stealth marketing ploy to get people to drive seven hours and pay nonrefundable entry fees in order to *NOT* race.
So to hell with the rules, to hell with promoting races, to hell with getting more riders to race, and to hell, especially to hell, with everyone who holds a racing license from The State of Southern California as Defined by the Invisible Mason-Dixon Line, in other words, in case you have trouble with all this backwards spelling and convoluted reasoning: FUCK YOU.
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November 9, 2014 § 26 Comments
I know what you’re going to say. “He’s even older than you are.”
“That guy hasn’t won a race in years.”
“DJ? He still rides?”
And, of course, “Who?”
Yeah, well, whatever. We all have benchmarks, and Dave is one of mine. “The day I beat Dave Jaeger up a climb,” I have often said, “is the day I will quit cycling.” I’ve made that promise to myself because it’s something that will never occur.
“Never say never!” chirp the Pollyannas. “Ya gotta show up to win!” Oh, horseshit. There are some people you’ll never beat, and it’s not because you don’t train enough or have the right equipment or the right dietitian or whatever, it’s because they are faster than you. That’s Dave. He’s faster than me when he hasn’t been training for a year and I’ve been on the EPO Diet.
He’s faster than me in races. In training. He’s even faster than me getting out of bed, I just know it.
I used to do an early morning Saturday training ride with him but I quit doing it for the same reason I quit buying lottery tickets. There was no chance of winning.
It’s no big deal to me that he’s richer, better looking, has an uber-hot wife, and wonderful kids. That stuff counts for zip. All I ever cared about is beating Dave Jaeger on a climb. He has beaten me every year for the last six years on the French Toast Ride, cruising up Balcom Canyon in his big ring, putting minutes on me even when I hit the climb with a several-hundred-yard head start. He has beaten me so many times on the Donut Ride that on the few times a year that he bothers to show up I immediately call it my “off week.”
Worst of all, when everyone else beats me everywhere else I get to smile and say, “Yeah, but I’m 50,” even when the other guy is 49. Not with Dave. He races 55+ starting in 2016. He’s waaaay older than I am. And worser than the worst, he’s always nice about it. “Good job, wanker,” he’ll always say after putting a few football fields in between me and my dignity. And he’ll mean it.
Yesterday was going to be more of the same. The Donut Ride started slowly, thanks to the absences of Smasher and Ollie. Manny Fresh did a pointless attack on the downhill, and SBBaby Seal rolled away only to make the fatal mistake of turning down the alley. No one followed and he wasn’t seen again.
Once we hit Portuguese Bend the pace picked up, but not too much. We had some Belgian dude named Jan riding with us, and just the word “Belgian” was enough to make most of us shart in our shorts. Even the Wily Greek was eyeing him.
Jaeger always gets irritated when people go slow, and this day was no exception. “What are you wankers doing, holding hands?” he asked. I nodded. He shook his head and attacked off the front, from the front. The last time I saw him do that was at the Lake Castaic Road Race. In fact, the situation had been identical.
“Did you wankers show up to hold hands or race your bikes?” he had asked.
“Hold hands, hopefully,” I had peeped.
That time too he had shaken his head, punched it, and soloed for 47 miles to victory. It was my only top-ten road placing of the year, but that’s just because everyone from #11 on down quit.
DJ rolled away from the Donut. We lollygagged some more until we hit the bottom of the Switchbacks. There are usually a half-dozen wankers left by this point, as the repeated accelerations have shaken the dingleberries out of the weeds, but today we were still thirty or forty strong. There was a feeling of joy in the air as the larger specimens enjoyed being with the lead group at the bottom of the climb, a point at which they were usually alone, defeated, struggling, and swearing off pork rinds at least for the next hour.
The Wily Greek leaped away. Chatty Cathy followed. Davy followed. Destroyer followed. I followed. With a few pedal strokes I glanced back and the wankoton had evaporated. Then as Wily punched it again, I evaporated. After clawing my way back we went around a couple more turns on the Switchbacks and Wily surged again, taking Destroyer with him.
Chatty Cathy pulled for a while then cracked. I passed him and continued on to the wall. Up ahead I could see Wily Greek and DJ, who had hooked up, with Destroyer in No Man’s Land. Jaeger then came unhitched, and I passed him on the wall.
Please re-read that a few dozen times. “I passed him on the wall.”
Yep, that actually happened. Wankmeister passed David Jaeger on a climb.
Somehow I got onto Destroyer’s rear wheel, “somehow” meaning “he let me.” Then he towed me to the flat spot. Then I towed him for six or seven feet to allow him to recover before swinging over to let him share some more of the work. Then, a quarter mile before the end, with Wily dangling out in front doing his nails and wondering why no one was riding up to him, I spied a shadow on my wheel.
I didn’t need to look back, because there was only one rider yesterday who had the legs to chase down Destroyer on a climb, and the outline of the head meant that it was Jaeger. My glorious victory, the one time I was going to actually beat the best bike racer, nicest guy, richest man, dude with the hottest wife … it all crumbled in an instant.
The only hope I had, and it was a slim one, was cunning. Destroyer swung over and I took a massive 180-watt pull. DJ came through like a bull. I went to the back and recovered from my 180-watt effort. We rounded the bend. The imaginary finish line was in sight. Wily, who had arrived slightly before, had finished the finance section of the Times and was halfway through “A History of Modern Computing in Twelve Volumes.” I dropped back a few feet and took a run at Destroyer’s rear wheel.
Destroyer laughed at the tiny acceleration and easily sprunted away, but to me, he was small game, tiny fish, he was nuttin’. As I passed the imaginary finish line I heard that familiar voice on my right-hand shoulder. “Good job, wanker.”
“Best ride of my life,” I said.
He laughed. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve passed me before.”
“I’m sure I haven’t.”
‘November 8, 2014, the day I beat Dave Jaeger on a climb.’
The artist told me to keep the ink out of the sun for two weeks, which will be hard because it’s on my forehead in 36-point Courier and kind of winds down over my ears and neck, and yes, tattoos hurt a bit, and yes, it’s my first one, but this one is worth it.
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November 2, 2014 § 27 Comments
I woke up yesterday and looked outside. It was the worst weather we have had in Southern California in over a year. The thermometer read a bitter 65 degrees, and the roads still had places that appeared to be wet, or at least damp. Twelve or eighteen raindrops pounded down, and a large cloud hung over the mountains.
These are the days that the hardmen greedily await, a day when we can disprove the calumnies spread about the softness, cowardice, and shickenchit nature of cyclists in the South Bay. I rummaged through my closet and took out my sturdiest, best insulated clothing. I drew on the armwarmers and wind vest, knowing that with these accoutrements I could weather any weather.
Sure enough, as I rolled down the hill to the start of the Donut Ride, the climate was even more terrible than I’d surmised. The wind in my face brought the temperature down to 60, or perhaps even 59 degrees. I shivered as I bit my lip. Drops of rain (I counted six) beat my face and eyes so hard I could barely see. The occasional roadside puddle required every bit of bike handling I had to keep from crashing. Parts of my bike got wet, and flecks of dirt and mud spattered onto my downtube.
I gritted my teeth and pedaled.
As I dropped down to the start, several minutes late, I saw the group coming towards me. It was as I expected. This awful combination of cool breeze, raindrops, and roadside puddles had kept all but the toughest tucked snugly into their beds. The usual sunny day contingent of 60 to 80 riders, decimated by the brutal cold and soul-drenching wet, was a tiny cadre of seven riders: The Wily Greek, Davy Dawg, PJ Pajamas, Cookie, some dude named Hector with a backpack, the Pilot, and I.
Although the first thirty minutes were run beneath sunny skies along dry roads, our bicycles became very dirty. No wonder the normally tough men and women of the South Bay had opted for breakfast and bex in sed. The effort and work it would take post ride to clean their bicycles, the terrible toll it would take on their fingers and wrists to hand-wring the dirty rain out of their kits, and the incredible labor it would take to clean their chains meant that only the craziest and hardiest would brave these bitter elements.
Wily kicked everyone in the gonads and road away at Trump, and just as we began the grueling ascent of the Switchbacks, the heavens loosed their fury. Rain began pouring down in an incredible wall, such a deluge as hasn’t been seen since the days of Noah. Each of us hunkered down in the pounding squall, feeling a handful of drops work their way through our rain vests as small splotches appeared on our sunglasses. The temperature plunged to 58 and our bodies froze to the core.
After a relentless, nonstop downpour of one full minute, we were each somewhat damp on our exposed legs, but we soldiered on. The descent was even more awful, with chills and biting winds cutting us to the core even though the temperature had bumped up to 65 degrees. Like the hardmen of Belgium and the iron soldiers of Roubaix, we pushed on down the hill and went home.
The entire ride lasted an incredible seventy minutes, each minute an eternity of suffering and misery. As I peeled off my somewhat damp clothing, soaked as it was with the frigid rain drops, I nodded in grim satisfaction to myself in the mirror: “It is the days like today,” I grunted, “that make the champions of tomorrow.”
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May 22, 2014 § 27 Comments
It was a sunny, perfect day for the legendary South Bay Donut Ride. The fast riders preened and flexed, the somewhat aged fellows clenched their bowels and prayed for a miracle, and the no-hopers stood on the periphery like dorky kids in junior high school, hoping to be noticed but then again hoping not to be, either.
The Wily Greek surveyed the pitiful gaggle of third-class citizens. He’d had to make a tough choice. Go to Bakersfield and race against his peers in the tough, dreaded Vlees Huis Road Race, or stay close to home, wake up late, beat off and beat up on the pudgy geriatrics with leaky prostates? It was an easy choice.
The pack rolled out and the Wily Greek paid no attention to the surges, the glory pulls, and the half-legged efforts up Malaga Cove. As the pace quickened in earnest after exiting Lunada Bay, he deigned to take a leisurely pull. No matter. With a condescending glance he noted that many of the baby seals were already spilling blood and gray matter from their bludgeoned braincases. The gasping, wheezing, emphysema-like gurgles uttered by the old farts were almost amusing.
The Wily Greek was still breathing through his nose, except for the occasional yawn.
By the time the peloton hit the punchy rollers of Portuguese Bend, many had already called it a day and were hurrying home to check Strava and lie to their wives about flatting. By the time they hit the bottom of the dreaded Switchbacks there remained but a small group of twenty survivors carved out of the 100-plus dreamers who had started out in Redondo Beach.
The Wily Greek loved this part of the ride. He started at the back and casually took in the grimaces of the sufferers. Some displayed heaving, dipping shoulders. Others, hunched over the bars like a dog mounting a cat, shivered and shook as oxygen debt demanded a repayment that they couldn’t afford. The leaky prostate riders who had hung on to that point began to drip, drizzle, and pop like the fasteners on their loaded diapers.
Of all the beautiful things about cycling, the Wily Greek appreciated this aspect the most: watching the lame, weak, sick, old, deluded, and infirm crate, crack, and give up. It was better than playing tackle football against kindergartners. It was better than winning a chess game in five moves. It was better than being the house in Vegas.
For the remainder of the ride, the Wily Greek toyed with his victims like a tomcat toys with a maimed mouse. Like a wife toys with a husband who has forgotten her birthday. Like a mortuary salesman toys with a bereaved family. It was a beautiful thing, voluptuous in its crass exercise of power by the strong over the weak.
As the Donut Ride regrouped for the final run-in to the Hawthorne sprunt and the Via Zumaya climb, the Wily Greek preened a bit more. It was so much fun watching the little guillotine addicts come pedaling up for another session under the blade.
The reconstituted group had about forty riders in it, including a large contingent of leaky prostates. Since the downhill section was so fast, the Greek couldn’t lose anyone. To the contrary, even some of the slowest and flabbiest were able to hang on to the speeding group.
This disgusted and offended him.
Sitting at the back he prepared the launch that would eat their lunch, an acceleration so rapid that he would rocket by and finish alone. At that very moment he heard a rumbling. With a quick look over his shoulder he saw the huge, lumbering truck, and just as quickly he violated the Rule of Rules: Thou shalt not draft a garbage truck.
The leaky prostates watched in amazement as the truck flew past with the Wily Greek tucked into its massive draft. As it shot past, however, the older, weaker, leakier, but still somewhat wiser old ones heard the terrible sloshing sound of hundreds of gallons of liquified, putrefied smegma that had been smushed by the compactor’s giant ram and then collected in the floor of the compactor.
The seeping, liquified filth that is squeezed from the compacted garbage load normally collects toward the front by virtue of a slanted floor, which prevents the goo from sloshing back out the hopper into which the trash is first collected for compacting. (I learned all this from Google).
Unhappily for the Wily Greek, when the truck went up the final, very steep little kicker in Portuguese Bend, the liquified ass-drippings drained back into the hopper and then, when the truck hit a bump, sloshed out in a giant wave onto his front wheel, legs, shorts, and chest.
As Al Jaffee would have said, “Yecccccchhh!”
The horror and shock that the Wily Greek felt, suddenly covered as he was in rotting slime, was nothing as compared to the hilarity and laughter that erupted from the wankoton. In a fury, the Wily Greek accelerated over the bump, intent on chasing down the garbage truck and giving them a tongue lashing for their errant smegma sloshing.
However, the truck was driven by garbagemen, union garbagemen at that, men who spent the day hoisting 200-lb., fully loaded trash cans up over their heads. They were men with tattoos, not cute dolphins surreptitiously marked on their calf where they couldn’t be seen by fellow lawyers and dentists, but big, nasty tattoos with pictures of female genitalia, dragons snorting fire, knives through skulls, and slogans like “Kill to Live” emblazoned on their arms, legs, chests, necks, and backs.
These were men with bad teeth.
And in short, they were not to be frightened by a slim, veiny waif riding a bicycle in his underwear.
At Abalone Cove, precisely at the point where the Wily Greek overtook the garbage truck, it slammed on the brakes and veered hard left. The fetid goop in the hopper sloshed again, but this time it poured out in a giant projectile vomit-arc directly into the Wily Greek’s face.
At that same precise moment the wankoton came by. Face dripping in shit, the Wily Greek did what any person would have done. He tossed his Barbie food. He tossed his electrolytes. He tossed his whey protein breakfast. He tossed his gluten-free, all natural, 250 kcal breakfast. He tossed everything down to the lining of his stomach.
Several riders thought briefly about stopping to render aid, but only briefly.
There are so many morals to this story. Take your pick.