Humanity seems to spend half its time dreaming about the afterlife, and the other half dreaming up ways to pointlessly waste the precious few moments we’re actually here. This includes things as meaningless as arranging a protest march for a cause you believe in, to cleaning your comb, to blacking in the teeth of people in magazine photos, to–incredibly, but truly–compiling a list of the 1,000 worst ways to waste your time and posting it on the Internet. Yes, you can click on that link, but at your peril.
Most of these ways, however, are thought up by amateurs. In order to really waste time, and to waste it for huge numbers of people, you need a former Stanford prof, a math/computer genius from MIT, and a good marketing campaign during the TdF. That’s how you get Strava.com, which, translated from Italian, means “he of weakened brain who pedals.” And unlike traditional time-wasting methods, Strava sometimes compels its members to kill themselves, which, as the link shows, helps clean up the badly muddied gene pool that is hobby cycling.
Like a well-oiled Clodhopper
Today our contingent massed at the Domes and discussed our battle plan: beat Douggie’s Strava record for the “Rollers” segment, which begins at the bottom of the Switchbacks, goes through Portuguese Bend, past the glass church, and finishes just before the Lutheran church at Hawthorne. Douggie set the record on January 8, 2011 on the Donut Ride with a group of heavies, laying down 29.4 mph over the 4.9-mile stretch. We argued about whether he’d set the record sucking wheel or had done it on the sharp end of the spear, hurling the fat gear into the teeth of the wind.
I was prepared to put his record to the sword, and had assembled an elite team of assassins for whom team trailing was second nature. The anchor of our team was Clodhopper, a massive individual whose sheer body mass guaranteed that we’d hit a land speed record rolling down from Trump. Next was Junkyard, the man with more metal in his body than the space shuttle. Junkyard was just coming off a six-month pause occasioned by a bust-up that had resulted in the docs replacing his elbow with a titanium bottom bracket, so he wasn’t necessarily at his sharpest. Third wheel was Iron Mike, fresh as a daisy after having completed a 120-mile beatdown on PCH the day before–his third in three weeks. The team was rounded out by Twinkles, Spindly, Flyboy, Biker Chick, and Kamikaze, who got his nickname earlier in the morning by going straight at the entrance to Better Homes and damn near killing the entire assemblage. “It was never a problem,” he assured us afterwards. “I’m a neurosurgeon.”
Strategy + Teamwork = Domination
Unfortunately, though, Bad Planning x Boneheadedness = Shipwreck. Clodhopper, who often requires the same thing be shouted at him three or four times, was instructed that, as the plunging anchor who would use girth and gravity to get the train rolling, he would need to gradually wind up the speed going down Trump in order that we could all stay together. No massive, full-bore jumps, please. Clodhopper nodded eagerly, having fully understood the plan. The moment we turned off the Switchbacks he leaped from the saddle and instantly split the group into shards.
“Clodhopper, you crazy bastard!” I yelled, “Gradually, goddammit!” He slowed down for a pedal stroke, looked back at the tattered remnants of the group, and then charged full steam ahead as if an army of yellow jackets had gotten loose in his shorts. I managed to get his wheel before gravity took hold, and looked over my shoulder to see Iron Mike uttering a mighty oath. Junkyard sprang across the gap, latching on just in time to be completely fried by the effort. Clodhopper hunkered down and beat the pedals with the fury of a dog trying to scratch a major flea infestation off its balls.
Not today, Freddies
I glanced back to see that the wheels had come off our well-oiled time trail machine. A massive gasp and shudder issued from Clodhopper and he was done, like an expiring sperm whale whose heart has been pierced by the steely point of death thrust home by Queequeg’s trusty harpoon. Junkyard thrashed out a couple of manly pulls before giving up the ghost. I flogged a bad gear alone to the finish, eking out 4th place on the Strava leaderboard. I’d managed a mere 28.1 mph and was still 26 seconds adrift of Doug’s badass effort, though only four seconds out of second place. As we regrouped for the slog & flail up Hawthorne, everyone politely reminded Clodhopper not to “take off like a crazy bastard, you sonofabitch.”
Clodhopper, who is a former world record holder in the distance medley relay, (no shit, you can watch the YouTube video here) and whose name is engraved on the Hall of Fame at the Penn Relays, chuckled. “We’ll get it next week,” he said. And it wasn’t a question.