MT4 Day One: Blood on the saddle

Day One of Man Tour goes from San Jose to Santa Cruz. It is an epic day for some, a rude awakening for others, and leg-breaking batterfest for all. Day One of Man Tour is rife with tales of glory and preludes to crushing defeat. Last year, Pretty Boy spanked all comers on the climb out of the state park, proving that a summer spent training in the French Alps and a kit change every time he got sweaty could overcome three dozen elderly slackers on stone cold legs and tummies filled with barbecue roast beef.

Day One saw Gonzo’s chain snap at the bottom of the first climb. It saw the entire peloton come within inches (a very few inches, actually) of getting arrested in Cupertino when we stopped to gang-piss in the shrubbery along a major thoroughfare. Day One saw certain mantourists dismount on the climb and walk. Others were rumored to have hitched a ride with the sag. Day One in years past has seen the likes of Knoll set a blistering pace for two days that no one could match, only to crack and crater on Day Three such that he was bundled into the follow car and unable to complete the Tour. Mostly, though, the significance of Day One is discovered on Day Two.

Those who have prepared properly will finish up with the 6000+ feet of climbing, 80-mile day with a big meal. They will stroll through quaint and scenic downtown Santa Cruz, carefully stepping around the spirited youth who line the sidewalks smoking meth, shooting heroin, and puffing away at the local pot crop. After the meal, they will settle in for a long, refreshing sleep. They will wake up the next morning and enjoy a modest breakfast of eggs, bacon, oatmeal, toast, jam, butter, biscuits, wagonwheel gravy, link sausage, flapjacks, maple syrup, more butter, a large fruit bowl, cereal, and two tankards of pitch black, triple-bitter coffee laced with a cup of sugar and heavy whipping cream. Once on the bike, they’ll note some residual poison in their legs which flushes out by mile 10, and, ant-like, they will happily soldier along the flat-to-rolling terrain of Day Two. Life is good. The road is open. It’s a beautiful place to be, and no one’s telling you to lift the toilet seat or put down the lid.

My body’s a temple, and I pillage it regularly

Not so pleasant is Day Two for the lazy grasshoppers who fiddled away the summer. Those whose MT training consisted mostly of cheeseburgers and beer find Day Two to be a whole old day. Even though it’s much flatter and rather scenic, Day Two to these recalcitrant grasshoppers feels almost exactly like Day One, only worse. There’s no euphoria at rolling out of San Jose Intergalactic Airport hundreds of miles from responsibility with fresh legs, a happy heart, and the silly smugness that comes from wearing the same outfit as everyone else. There’s no wonder and awe at the majesty of this great state. There’s no spryness or spring in the legs. Rather, from the moment they’re awakened by their partner’s groaning snores at 2:00 a.m., they have the sickening realization that the deep-bone aches, the cramping calves, the stiff neck, and the painfully sore back are only going to get worse. Much, much worse.

As the grasshoppers pedal out of Santa Cruz, the first ten miles feel okay, not nearly as bad as the night presaged. By mile thirty, they’re ready to call it a day. By mile fifty, the whole thing, which they knew deep down was a bad idea, has become a poster child for what happens when bad judgment mates with fantasy and sport. By mile sixty, the grasshoppers have gone from miserable to angry. By mile eighty, they’re whimpering. When the group rolls into Big Sur, the grasshoppers are fused into a permanent hunch over their bikes and have to be pried off with sticks, blows to the head, and open bottles of cheap beer wafted under their noses.

Day One, then, sets the tone for the rest of the tour, a kind of rectal exam that tells the doctor whether or not you’ll need a colonoscopy or whether you’ll get to put your shorts back on and go home with a clean bill of health. You’ll never feel better than you feel on Day One, but you can assuredly feel a hell of a lot worse.

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