First time I ever saw Charon I thought, “Who is that guy? What’s wrong with that crazy guy who doesn’t know how to glue on a freaking tire?” We were barreling into the turn before the finish line at Eldo, it must have been April 2008, and this Sho-Air guy a few wheels ahead of me rolled a tubular on his fancy carbon rims. He went down quicker and harder than a hooker on a thousand-dollar trick, bounced off the tarmac and stood there in the middle of the field with bikes whizzing by, dodging, swerving, cussing, and doing everything you couldn’t imagine except slam into him, the stink from his melted carbon wheel spitting smoke and dust into the air, and that rolled tire hanging off the busted rim like a twisted old dog’s tongue lolling on the pavement.
That was Charon, he of the not-real-well-glued-on-tire, soon to be he-whose-tires-were-always-glued-on-so-hard-that-you’ll-need-vicegrip-pliers-to-get-them-off.
I did a few more Eldos that year, and never saw him roll another tire. Actually, I never saw him much at all, except at the beginning of the race. No matter where I finished, he was always across the line so far ahead of me that to have really effectively congratulated him I would have needed to have sent him a letter or called him on his cell. Thing about Charon was that he was always smiling, always happy to meet people, always in a good mood.
Sure, he was happy. Sure, he was nice. Sure, everyone liked him. Sure, he was handsome. Sure, he was a rocket on a bike. None of that mattered to me, though: I saw through to the real Charon. And I’m going to introduce him to you here.
If you will do me a favor, scroll down a few blog entries and you’ll see one of my posts regarding “Who’s Hot.” It lists, down at the bottom, Dan G., who celebrated his first race yesterday with a win. See? I was right. It also lists, higher up, Charon S., and gives the inside tip: he’s fully prepared and ready to rock. On Sunday at the Dominguez Hills crit put on by Chris Lotts and world-renowned California Bicycle Racing, 90+ knuckleheads showed up to blast around in a circle for an hour in the 30+ race.
I was one of them. Charon was one of the others. I finished in the churning, heaving, hopeless middle of the pack. Charon took fourth, and would have won if Bert Glennon hadn’t decided to lead out the sprint by digging a pedal and launching four hundred feet into the air and onto the pavement head-first. 90 guys. Fourth place. Think it’s easy? There’s another one on February 20 where you can come out and show us how it’s done.
Charon’s placing wasn’t just impressive because I labeled him an uber-hammer in my galactically-famous Form Report. It wasn’t just impressive because he beat out 86 other idiots in a mad, high speed death scramble for a moldy snack and cheap bottle of wine. It was impressive because to get to the line he had to pick his way through an earlier mass pileup, hold his position with five laps to go, bull his way onto the right wheel in the closing lap, fight off the scavengers and jackals trying to edge him out for position in the sprint, avoid a death crash in the final turn, and do all of that without expending any more energy than absolutely necessary so that when it came time to uncork the champagne bottle, it would uncork with a vengeance. It was a risky, nasty business that required a big, fat, hairy nutsack about the size of a shotput.
Will the real Charon please stand up? Of course he won’t. That’s because, like I said earlier, he’s got a secret side. It’s soft-spoken or utterly mute, it’s hidden behind a smiling mask, and it never, ever grins. The only prisoners it ever takes are already dead. This is Charon the bike racer: Dialed in and focused on winning, and in case you didn’t notice, or didn’t want to notice, or weren’t smart enough to notice, it means he’s intent on beating the snot out of the competition, all of it, including YOU.
What makes Charon the bike racer even scarier is that he doesn’t ride dirty. No nasty moves (aside from the occasional poorly glued on tire), no cheap shots, nothing mean or sleazy or low. He rides fair and he beats you fair and whips your ass with class.
So those of you who know and love Charon the nice guy are asking, “Who the hell are you? How are you pretending to know Charon? He smacks you around in bike races like a boxer beating a legless chicken. Where do you get off with all this crap?”
The answer, of course, is that I don’t really know any of those things about Charon–except that he’s the nicest guy in the peloton and he really did screw up that time by not gluing on his tire. I’m just speculating from afar, as I’ve never gotten close enough to him in a finish to see how he rides; he’s just too damned fast. Mostly I’m guessing, because even old man bike racing is fast and hard and tough, and when you place that highly in a 90-man field with half the guys going for the win, you have to be hard and smart and quick and possess a big old hairy, gnarly pair.
So where I’m going is this, South Bay Cycling Prediction Number Two for the season: Charon is going to win a whole bunch of races this year. And just because he’s smiling at you and giving you training advice and inspiring you with his positive attitude doesn’t mean he isn’t going to squash you like a bug when there’s only a couple hundred meters to the bright white line.
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