As we prepared to prepare to get ready for the world famous Ironfly club ITT that had become the less world famous but still nationally renowned TTT, Mel pointed to the pleasant looking if somewhat bleary young man sitting on a chair with a clipboard.
“That’s Hockeystick’s son,” she said. “He came out to watch his dad race and to time the splits. Hockeypuck, this is Wanky.”
There’s an unwritten rule about meeting the adult and semi-adult progeny of bike racers: You’re obligated to say something flattering about the parent. “Your dad sure is tough,” or “Your mom is tougher than most of the guys,” or “I can barely hang onto your dad’s wheel.” Whatever, as long as it builds up the parent in the eyes of the child.
I looked at Hockeypuck. “Your old man’s a fucking wanker,” I said. “Plus he’s fat and slow.”
“Wanky!!” Mel scolded. “It’s his son!!”
“Oh, shit, I’m sorry. He’s not a fucking wanker. He’s a total fucking wanker. And I’m going to kick his ass today. Glad you’ll be here to see it.”
“Aw fuck, Mel, I’m not telling him anything he doesn’t already know. What, do I have to pretend the kid’s blind and doesn’t see Hockeystick swilling beer, stuffing his gut on pizza, and heading off for a hard day at the office at the crack of noon?”
Hockeystick, who was standing nearby, looked up and smiled as he adjusted the airfoil on his $15,000 time trail bike. He, Canyon Bob, Toronto, and Boeingboing were raring to go. Each had brought a full time trail rig, except for Canyon Bob, who had slapped some TT bars on his vintage Trek. They had the full battle regalia: aero helmets, disc wheels, skinsuits, shoe covers, and enough attitude to beat down a rapper with a murder conviction.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it
Thankfully, I have a short memory and never hold a grudge, with the exception of the things I always remember and the grudges I’ll be taking with me to my grave. This time last year the world famous Ironfly club ITT had confirmed my talent and ability as the fastest non-aero time trailist in a field of seven, including one elderly gentleman in his early 80’s. The club race last year had been broken down into Merckx and aero categories.
I had devastated Canyon Bob by a full 21 seconds over the 20km course, even though he’d been riding aero bars. Take that, dog! Toronto, who had opted for the full aero bike with disc wheel, had still only managed to take a handful of seconds out of me, but even though he was in the aero category and cheating the wind he nonetheless took every opportunity to rub salt into the non-wound. He got particular pleasure out of the photo on his FB page that shows him passing me as my tongue appears to dangle in the spokes. Hockeystick had been lapped and peed on the previous year and was spoiling for a rematch.
Throughout 2011, last year’s wankers plotted their revenge. The first step was to make the race a team time trail rather than an individual event. This would play to Hockeystick’s strength of putting together teams where he is the slowest member, gets dropped in the first ten yards, but nevertheless collects the palmares, jersey, and chintzy medal to hang in the 10′ by 75′ trophy case that occupies the entire third floor of his home. This also played to Toronto’s strong suit, which is photography. He’d wind up with some great pictures, and with Canyon Bob on the team would only have hang on for dear life and rotate through briefly. Very briefly.
The only problem was that despite Canyon Bob’s legendary ability to flail and flog, there was no way that he alone could win the TTT with Toronto and Hockeystick sucking wheel for dear life and avoiding the front like a Mississippian avoids the dentist’s chair. The other problem is that the one other team would have Fukdude on it. Fukdude won a national championship this year. Fukdude won the aero category of the club TT in 2010 by almost a full lunar month. None of them had ever beaten Fukdude at anything. Ever.
Hockeystick, though, went to work, doing what he does best–finding the talent, and signing ’em up. And he had Boeingboing in his sights.
Boeingboing rides for Southbay Wheelmen. Although he was pretty much a flailer when he raced with the 45+ masters, as soon as he hit 50 he started whupping ass. In 2010 he brought home numerous top ten finishes, and he’s known far and wide for his time trailing. So between him and Canyon Bob, with Toronto and Hockeystick doing cameo rotations to give the other two a respite, they had the makings of a team. Not a very good one, but a team at least.
Flailers’ futile challenge to the Heroes
From the beginning, Hockeystick’s ragtag assortment that made up Team Flail was doomed to fail. Not only was the Heroes team led by Fukdude, but it included Jdawg, a monstrous pain addict who provides a draft for those in his wake comparable to that of a fast-moving barn. Although not necessarily known for his time trailing prowess, the Hero contingent also included Fireman, something of a time trail wanker but also the man with the widest elbows in the business. He could always be counted on to suffer and to drink everyone else under the table at the club party later in the day, including Hockeystick.
Finally, of course, the Heroes included me. In addition to my non-aero victory the year before, my amazing performance in the state’s 45+ non-prostate elderly men’s TTT with Mel’s tiny bar extenders, and my incredible blogging efforts, there was simply no way we were going to lose for one simple reason: technology.
The thing that bothered me most was how everyone would be aero except me. So I decided to do what every masters racer eventually decides to do when he races more than two time trails in a year’s time: go out and buy some more speed.
All I really needed to get aero was a pair of clip-on bars and some shoe covers. $538.88 later I returned home knowing that in addition to greater natural ability, a superior training regimen, and my matchless ability to suffer, I now had shoe covers that matched my bike. I immediately sat down and penned the entry to my victory blog, which began like this: “O, ye simpering wretches…”
Breakfast and a few text messages
I awoke bright and early on Sunday, brewed a cup of coffee, and made some oatmeal. By six o’clock the text messages started rolling in. New Girl bailed because VV bailed. Skimpy couldn’t make it because he’d stayed out too late the night before. Loopy and Dinky had to cancel because they always cancel. Etcetera.
I fired off a quick text message to Fireman, who answered promptly, confirming our team’s 8:00 rendezvous at Catalina Coffee. When I arrived, Jdawg was already there, along with Fukdude. Neither had aero bars. Or discs. Or aero helmets.
“What’s with the non-aero shit?” I asked.
“Fuck, dude, we’re going Merckx style. It’s just Hockeystick.”
“But they’ll all have full TT rigs.”
JDawg looked over our bikes. “Well, we’ve got aero bars, I’ve got Zipp 808’s, and Fukdude’s legs, so between the three of us we’ve got one aero racer at least.”
“Where’s Fireman?” I asked.
We went into the coffee shop. There, indeed, was Fireman. In the Barcalounger. Wearing a pair of beach shorts. And sandals. And next to him was his youngest kid.
“What the fuck?” I asked. “Where’s your shit?”
“You blew it for me, dude,” he said. “That text message you sent. My wife saw it and was like, ‘You didn’t tell me you were going bike racing today’ and I was like ‘I was going to tell you’ and she was like ‘Yeah when two minutes before you left?’ and I was like ‘No five’ and she was like ‘I’m going to the gym and you’ve got the kids’ so that’s that.”
We all looked at each other. “Looks like your four-man team will be three-man,” Fireman laughed. “Fuck it, don’t worry. It’s just Hockeystick and Toronto. By the time Hockeystick gets his stomach over the top tube you guys’ll be done. Plus, how embarrassing would it be to show up with a bunch of TT shit just to beat Hockeystick? If the three of you wearing football uniforms and riding skateboards can’t beat those guys in full aero, you don’t deserve to win anyway.”
Beating up the blind senior citizen
As we pedaled out to Carson, we mulled over our predicament, which was not unlike accepting a challenge to fistfight a blind old woman in a wheelchair. If you won, you earned the world’s contempt by stooping to the challenge. If you lost, well, you got to spend the rest of your life known as the guy who got beaten up by the octogenarian granny.
Thankfully, by the time we reached the course Mel had arrived with several boxes of donuts. All athletic endeavors are enhanced by donuts, so I had four or five. The sugar and grease act as a kind of emulsifying agent for the oatmeal, which speeds the passage of blood through midway through the event, when it begins to pour out of your eyes.
Boeingboing had set up his trainer in a parking lot and was all lathered up. Toronto, who had been showing up on all the group rides for the past two weeks on his TT rig, was riding in circles and shouting, “Wankmeister, I’m going to stomp your head in!”
Canyon Bob glanced over at Team Heroes and decided he didn’t even need to warm up, so he climbed back into his car for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. Hockeystick made some final adjustments to the computer tracking system for his bike’s ailerons, and then brought out a wondrous thing that looked like a combo tire jack-and-forklift. Through a complex system of pulleys, levers, and hydraulic pumps, he raised his frontal portion up over the top tube and then easily swung his leg over the bike. Game fuckin’ on.
The agony of my feet. And legs.
We launched first. Team Flail went second. They beat us handily, by 21 seconds. Hockeystick’s son sat incredulously as he tallied up the result. Shaking his head, he said to his dad, “How did the old guys beat the young guys?”
First to chime in was Toronto. “We were gritty!”
Second to chime in was Hockeystick: “We suffered more1”
Third to chime in was Canyon Bob: “That was stupid!”
Fourth to chime in was Fussy via Facebook: “There were only three of them, and you goofs were full aero.”
Fifth to chime in was Fireman via text: “They BEAT you? Haaahaahahaaaaha!”
Boeingboing had already packed and left, afraid perhaps that he’d seen and photographed at this event of ignominy.
Kissing and making up
Even though we’d been completely pwned, there was a club party that afternoon where we’d get to laugh it up while secretly feeling humiliated (losing team) and not so secretly feeling prideful and happy and euphoric and master-of-the-universe-like (winning team). Team Losers would clap Team Winners on the shoulder and say “Good ride!” and “You guys were flying!” while secretly thinking “You sorry fucks couldn’t win a wheelchair race on a bet, and the only reason you beat us is because (—–insert multiple excuses here——-), and Team Winners would laugh somewhat modestly and say “It was only 21 seconds,” or “Well, we were full aero,” or “Heck, you only had three guys,” while secretly thinking “You sorry fucks think you’re so fucking good but we thrashed the shit out of you and there were really only two of us even doing anything.”
That was the plan, anyway.
What actually happened was that, as we left, me an the old lady got into a shouting match over a lost shipment of $6.00 Capo tall white socks. “What do you mean you didn’t pick it up? UPS left the fucking tag!”
“I did too go to pick it up they gave me the wrong box. It was some purple froofy underwear thing with a yellow wig.”
“Well shit, why didn’t you take it back and get the right box?”
“I did!! They lost it!! It’s not my job! And quit yelling! And if you care so much about your stupid cycling socks you should get them yourself!”
By the time we hit the club party it was World War Twelve, such is the power of a shipment of Christmastime, specially-priced Capo tall white socks, engineered to bring happiness through a brutal spousal hollerfest. As we exited the Pimpmoprius, up pulled Canyon Bob and his lovely wife. “Hey, Bob,” I said.
“Hey, Wanky. How’s it going?”
“We’re fighting!” my old lady said.
“Other than that, though, things are great,” I added.
The joy of sox
If you’ve ever gone to a party in the middle of an intraspousal feud, you know that there are only two possible outcomes. One is that the angry partners will bottle it up and put on polite pretenses ostensibly to avoid wrecking the mood for everyone else, but in actuality because they don’t want other people to see that their marriage is just as pedestrian as everyone else’s. The other outcome is that the presence of others will act as a kind of audience catalyst, in which the performers, stimulated by the spectators, will rise to the occasion and let the whole ugly thing roll out on the carpet, kind of like a big turd in the middle of a ballroom dance, with everyone trying not to step in it all the while unable to look away while still trying to keep time to the waltz.
We chose the latter, of course, and after a few moments of pleasantries went storming out like a typhoon. Fortunately, cooler heads eventually prevailed and after eight or nine days we began speaking again once UPS found and delivered the lost socks. So happy was I to have new, tall white socks that I even sort of admitted that maybe it hadn’t been her fault and that perhaps next time I shouldn’t throw a tantrum like a three year-old. Perhaps.
Team Flail now reigns for all of 2012 until the next iteration of the club’s team time trail. Hockeystick has ordered a new set of pulleys and cables for his GAD (Gut Assist Device), and formed a track pursuit team with its sights set on a national pursuit title for 50+ tarck wankers. Canyon Bob has decided to up his training regiment to four hours per week. Toronto now has two time trail victories against Wankmeister, precious, secret victories that he takes out and strokes when he thinks no one’s watching, and laughs to himself when he thinks of how good it’s going to feel when he gets number three. Boeingboing has constructed an elaborate story of plausible deniability to de-confirm that he even knows, much less races with, his teammates.
And me? I’m left with a year of gall and wormwood, the bitter taste of defeat left in my mouth permanently, or at least until…next year.