It was a pretty good year for KP. Elite track nationals? Fifth place, team pursuit. Master’s track nationals? Stars and stripes jersey in the team pursuit. Silver medal in the individual pursuit. Bronze in the points race and scratch race. State champion in the individual and team pursuits. In addition to his state and national titles, KP had some excellent results on the road as well. And he achieved all of this before he discovered the Tug-Toner, so he should really blow doors in 2012.
But who really cares about that national champion stuff?
I don’t. Because the most important result for KP in 2011 was first floated as a mere idea on Wednesday, June 8, when I received a phone call. “Hey, dude. Wanna do the state team time trial?”
“I dunno. When is it?”
“Saturday. It’ll be fuckin rad, dude.”
“Saturday? That’s three days away.”
“Yeah. You ever done one?”
“Got an aero rig?”
“Got some aero wheels at least?”
“Just my 404’s. But I wouldn’t use them because my PowerTap’s on my training wheels.”
“Yeah. Fuck, dude. Ever use TT bars?”
“No. Look, I don’t think I’m your guy. Who else is on the team?” I figured if he was calling me, he had three people and was scraping the bottom of the barrel.
“Canyon Bob and Hockey Stick. You’re the last choice, dude.”
“I didn’t know Bob had a TT bike.”
“He doesn’t just his old road bike he’s kind of converted over.”
“But his current road bike is, like 15 years old. He’s going to be using something older than that?”
“Yeah. We’ll look like a bunch of dorks.”
“And I thought Hockey Stick was, like, a 2k pursuiter. Since when did he start doing 40k road time trials?”
“Fuck, dude, he just wants a medal. We only have to finish with three dudes. He’ll flail for the first three or four miles and get shelled.”
“What about me? I’ll flail for the first mile and get shelled.”
“Fuck dude, you’ll do fine. You’re a hammer. You know Canyon Bob goes good. He likes pain. Long as you don’t fucking crash us out on the TT bars.”
“I don’t have any TT bars, I told you.”
“No prob, dude. You can use Mel’s. I got a couple of extenders we can screw on before the start. Just don’t fuckin crash us out.”
“Are we going to practice?”
“Bob’s got a job, dude. Hockey Stick would practice but he’s fucking hittin the beer by 2 p.m. and you have to work. I’m swamped anyway. You’ll do fine. Don’t fuckin worry. We’ll get there early so you can practice.”
“Why’s Hockey Stick so sure we’ll get a medal?”
“Fuck dude, there’s only gonna be two teams show up. Only team registered now is Big Orange.”
“Big Orange? You’re joking. Don’t tell me G$ is doing it.”
“Him and Hottie and Weninger and Rob Mesecher. Don’t fuckin worry, dude.”
“Worry? They’ll crush us.”
“So you’re in?”
“No, I’m not in. I’m not paying an entry fee to race against those guys. That’s crazy.”
“Ironfly’s paying the entry fee, dude. Hockey Stick’s got the van and a bitchin four-bike rack. Swing by my place at 5 on Saturday. I’m gonna fuckin send you a TTT how-to email. It’ll be rad.” Click.
How to do a TTT in 73 easy steps
Sure enough, that evening I had a how-to TTT email waiting for me when I got home from work. And I somewhat quote:
“Don’t worry about being a dork, you’re pretty much a dork anyway but you can still get a medal because there are only two teams. Even you guys can’t fuck this up. So here’s how you do it, don’t worry, you’ll be fine, maybe.
“Your pull is NOT over when you pull off, your pull is over when you are back on a wheel at the back of the train. How many times have you taken your pull and thought you were fucking Eddy Merckx because you pulled off without puking, then somehow by the time you got to the back of the paceline you are blown and out of the saddle sprinting like a dork to get on a wheel only to get dropped like a fuckin wanker? Keep this in mind tomorrow and don’t be a fucking dork and drop yourself. Your pull’s not over until you’re back on the train.
“We are going to ride in the following formation: Me< Canyon Bob < Hockey Stick < Wankmeister. I will lead us out and get us up to speed, fast but not too intense and then Canyon Bob will carry on, etc. If we come out of the chute too hot we’ll blow and you can’t recover, it’s a matter of pacing. So don’t be a fucking dork and act like you’re sprinting for the chance to spend a night with a hooker and a baggie full of coke, just keep it under your threshold whatever you do.
“This will allow Bob to follow me, because he’s a smooth wheel, and allow me to follow Wankmeister so I can yell at him as necessary because he will probably be hammering like an idiot and drop us and then drop himself unless he’s wobbling like a madfuck because he’s never ridden TT bars so just pray he doesn’t crash us out. Hockey Stick will get to ride behind Bob, the most steady guy, so he can save the most energy so as not to get dropped, which is fucking hopeless because he’s going to get fucking shelled no matter what but at least hang on for five miles and give us a little break.
“Everyone should use his Garmin, just tape the damn thing on your aero bar with packing tape if you need to, I will have tape with me. Don’t worry about your rig looking stupid, you’ll all look like dorks no matter what. I will set the speed of our effort, you guys will simply maintain the speed. If I have us doing 28.5 mph, then you should pull through at the same speed. Remember, the key is to get quickly up to speed without overdoing it.
“If we are going too quick/slow I will yell at you to quit being an idiot and to pick it up or slow it down. This means adjust the speed by ½ mph, do NOT sit up and jam on your brakes, just roll back the effort 5-10 watts. Going fast in a TTT is all about efficiency and spending our resources wisely, if we do this correctly we can actually not be totally embarrassed, maybe.
“Going from 29 to 30mph takes a lot more power than going from 28 to 29mph, drag is not linear. Any time spent going over the average speed of a section is wasted energy, we need to ride as steady as we can and make adjustments slowly. We are going to time our pulls using crank revolutions, so count your right leg doing a full revolution as one tick. We are each going to start off doing pulls of the following length: Me, 30; Bob, 25; Hockey Stick, 10; Wankmeister, 30. Don’t be a dork and suddenly forget how to count it’s the same fucking shit you learned in kindergarten, except Hockey Stick, who probably didn’t learn it til fifth grade.
“I want Bob to have a bit left for the final push, his physiology is pretty adapted to an end effort. Wanky and I can both go full gas from the start and suck it up at the end when Bob comes around. Hockey Stick, don’t be a flailing flogfuck, you need to make the distance, at least five miles, ten would be optimum.
“I will continually ask how you’re doing when I am falling back, just give me a quick ‘Okay’ or ‘Hurting’ or ‘I am fucked’ or whatever. I won’t fucking pay attention unless you say you’re okay, this is going to hurt, it’s a fucking time trial. Remember: WE HAVE TO FINISH WITH 3 GUYS. If we are down to three guys we can’t torch anyone. The first five minutes we will feel as if we are going too slow, this is normal. Just chill and roll into the effort, we are going to be riding for ~50 minutes. The big time losses will come in the final six-mile stretch, we need to be able to ride that part fast, like our dicks are caught in a fucking vice and somebody’s fucking beating it with a hammer.
“Exactly halfway through we have a short hill, so go big ring and aero, but it is a 25-second incline that breaks the rhythm a bit. Let’s try and keep it together if possible. Hockey Stick, I want you to take shorter pulls for the two miles before the hill, we need to be able to get you and your big fucking beer belly over the climb without losing pace, no one needs to be a hero. Pay attention to where I put us on the road and the the side I pull off on, we will adjust this on different parts of the course depending on the wind, which is going to be howling worse than a fucking Gozilla shitstorm, headwind or crosswind for 3/4 of the course.
“If you are pulling through one of the four turns on the course be aware you have three other idiots behind you, don’t attack out of it or go through it so fast someone gets gapped off and is chasing. If one person goes in the red too early they will not recover, you will be hopelessly fucked and quit. We will all be riding near the edge for the entire time, and Hockey Stick you’ll be going faster than you’ve ever gone on something two-wheeled that doesn’t have a fucking motor.
“Shorter pulls will keep our speed up, long thrashing pulls slow us down. If you are all feeling good after the first five miles then we can pick up the pace but keep short pulls. We need to average over 28mph for the race, that will put us on schedule to do 50 minutes flat, that is our goal. Remember: three guys finish, short pulls, don’t go out too hard, and don’t be a fucking dork.”
5 a.m. was not really all that rad
Canyon Bob and I got to KP’s house at 5:00 a.m. and lightly rapped on the door. Nothing. Then we knocked a bit louder. Nada. Finally we started pounding. Eventually the door opened. KP stood there in his underwear, blinking as if he’d just been rousted from R.E.M., which he had.
“Fuck, dude. I slept through the alarm. Be ready in a minute.”
Shortly he reappeared and we loaded the bikes into his van. Hockey Stick lives in Manhattan Beach, and when we got there the light in his garage was on and he was sipping on a cup of coffee. We transferred the bikes from the van to the rack, climbed in, and headed out. Hockey Stick drives crazy fast, which I guess is fine if you’re steering a high performance sports car, but a Honda van stuffed with people, gear, and dangling four bikes on the back end makes for a pretty frightful ride.
The benefit was that we got to glorious Lake Los Angeles so early that we’d have plenty of time to register, set up our bikes, and warm up. Having the extra time, we stopped in for a snack and a dump at the McDonald’s. Both took longer than planned. For some reason we all decided to stand in the registration line together, further chewing up time, although one person could have registered us all.
It turned out that there were five teams total, and with the exception of ours, they were all on badass TT rigs, team kits, aero helmets, and had obviously practiced together. Hockey Stick had a $15,000 Specialized Widowmaker TT ride with a rear disc, three spoke HED in front, internal cables, electronic shifting, custom molded aero helmet, wind-slick skinsuit with shoe covers, and a fully integrated internal power meter.
Canyon Bob’s rig was an antique Trek 5500, state of the art from 1992 but state of collapse in 2011, tricked out with TT bars. “Here, dude,” said KP, flipping me a pair of tiny, 225mm bar extensions. “These’ll fuckin make you aero.”
It took me a while to get them on. By the time they were secured, and I had my kit on, we only had fifteen minutes to our start time. “Fuck, dude, better try those fuckin things out before we start so you don’t fuckin crash us out.”
I hopped aboard, got going, and immediately ran into several mission critical issues. The first was steering. The extenders totally changed the weight and handling of the front end of the bike. The second problem was steering. Stretched out on the bars I could no longer make quick corrections to my line. The third problem, even bigger than the first two, was steering. The bars were tiny, and obviously made for someone who didn’t have 36″ inch inseams on his forearms. The midget bar ends stopped halfway down my forearm, leaving the rest of the bone and my hands to flop freely off the ends of the bars. The fourth, and biggest problem, was steering. No brakes or shift levers meant that the whole bike wobbled when my unpracticed hands moved back to the hoods.
After 100 yards of practice, I turned around, nearly crashing out into the ditch. The wind was howling. “We’re gonna fuckin miss our start!” KP shouted. “Let’s go!”
Hockey Stick hadn’t even gotten his helmet on. None of us had ridden more than 100 yards. We were the second team to go off, with Big Orange behind us. They were warmed up, fierce looking, color-coordinated, and licking their chops. The studly team in front of us roared away.
Suddenly, total panic kicked in. Through the pounding of my heart and sensation of icy cold legs I heard the ref counting down “3-2-1” followed by the clicking and clacking of shoes into pedals and the blur of KP blasting down the road, Bob and Hockey Stick in tow.
Getting up to speed gradually, kind of like the space shuttle
Within seconds I was in full sprint mode trying to catch on to Hockey Stick. By the time I caught up we were going absolutely full fucking bore at 33mph. I hit the front, pulled for a few seconds, swung off and barely latched back on. Before I’d had time to grab my breath I was at the head again, unable to stay there for more than about five pedal revolutions. It was more pain, and more intense pain, than I’d thought possible. And we were only a minute into it.
KP had come off the line so fast that we were all completely blown less than a mile in. When I rotated back to latch on after my third pull there was nothing where Hockey Stick was supposed to be except air. He’d been blasted out the back and was a receding speck in the distance. KP and Bob were taking huge pulls, with me simply rotating through, gasping, and lunging to catch on the back. This, unfortunately, was the “easy” tailwind section.
We hit the crosswind and I was almost blown off the road. Unable to control the bike, but buffeted like a spinnaker whenever I tried to ride on the drops, all I could feel was the kind of numbing, stupid pain mixed with sharp spikes of stinging agony that comes from dental surgery, childbirth, or arguments with a bank’s customer service rep. Each time KP rotated back he’d say, “You okay?” and I’d try to nod through the snot and spit, and they would just keep battering away.
51:03 later we finished. I could barely dismount. Hockey Stick had driven the van to the finish, was nattily attired in his apres-TTT outfit and sipping on an energy drink. Incredibly, we had almost caught the team in front of us, and had avoided, if only barely, being devoured whole by Big Orange, who won the race. “We got a silver medal!” Hockey Stick chirped. All I could do was groan as my legs cramped and I lay in the back of the van. The final ten miles my legs had kind of come around, and the final three miles I’d wielded the whip and thrashed it like a madman.
“Fuckin rad, dude,” said KP as we headed home. “Not bad for a bunch of dorks, huh? You know those other guys on the tricked out rigs felt pretty stupid, huh, getting beat by a bunch of dorks like you. I sure would. Good job!”
So I can attest to it, as I was there–stellar performance in the TTT by KP, a hero among men…or at least among dorks. Best of all, I learned something important about doing a team time trail properly: Whatever you do, don’t start out hot.