DJ got the bikes loaded up and we went to pick up Roadchamp. He was waiting at the curb with four sets of spare wheels, a 75-lb. bag, and his trophy from Vlees Huis Ronde 2010. This enormous sculpture consisted of a giant block of wood with a meat cleaver embedded in it. “What’s the trophy for, dude?” I asked.
“It’s going with us. To let the competition know what they’re up against.”
“Like, somebody attacks and you’re going to brain them with it?”
Roadchamp was unfazed and loaded the thing in the Suburban, which listed a few degrees starboard as a result. We next picked up King Harold, who, not to be outdone by Roadchamp, had a bike bag heavier than Roadchamp’s, filled as it was with his igneous rock collection.
The drive was a pre-race bullshitting contest, with each person telling a more outlandish tale of stupidity than the one before. DJ led off with his famous “lost a tranny towing a boat outside Vegas story,” which I easily topped with my “running the Alpha Spider sans oil ’til the engine seized tale,” followed by Roadchamp’s “we got lost riding mountain bikes and spooned overnight in a briar thicket after jumping across a waterfall until we were almost rescued by the sheriff narrative,” followed by DJ’s “broken femur on Bronco epic,” which I had to totally p*wn with “the time I bow and arrow target practiced one day on the public golf course legend” which totally shut everyone the fuck up, except King Harold, who admitted that he’d never “had an adventure, gotten lost, been arrested, sunk a boat, crashed a car, killed anyone by mistake, or been in jail” although there was one time when his dad fell out of a chair and all the kids laughed really hard.
When we got to Bakersfield it was already 107 degrees. We parked next to G$, Axena, and Mighty Mouse, who were trying to put up a tent with half of its legs broken. Fortunately, King Harold, DJ, and Roadchamp are all engineers, so by the time we finished the canvas was torn and the other half of the legs were broken. I slammed a tuna sandwich and a couple of bananas, loaded up with three water bottles, and we rolled to the line.
The ref began with, “The center rule line is permanently enforced for all eternity by cement trucks and crazed pickups going the other way and by angry people with loaded guns. Cross the line and you will be relegated to the coroner’s office. Also, at the bottom of the first climb there is a massive swarm of stinging bees. Close your mouths. Finally, when you pull off the side of the road to quit or just to die, watch out for the poisonous snakes that are everywhere. Riders ready! Go!!”
Pain is intelligence leaving your body, or, what doesn’t kill you makes you pretty much an invalid
Vlees Huis Ronde, which in Dutch means “How’d you like getting fucked in the throat with a sharp stick while having your balls slowly roasted over a campfire?” has quickly become a place that racers avoid with a passion. Its first year, the 45+ field had 30 finishers. Word spread that it was a brutal and nasty race, and riders flocked to test their mettle in 2011. Forty finished. This year, everyone who’d wanted any had gotten a taste of this beastly desert beatdown, and barely 45 racers signed up. Twenty-three finished.
The soul-destroying heat and relentless climbing whittled the field down by half in short order. Somewhere up the last steep climb on the first lap, I think it was after the second turnaround coming up the backside of Leibert’s Corner, I realized I was up to my old tricks again: glued to the wheel of the craziest dude in the race.
This hairy-legged wanker was riding a vintage 1980’s steel DeRosa with “Diamante” tubing (Srsly? Diamond tubing?) and downtube shifters, and each time we hit a climb he would plunge from deep in the red zone into the purple zone and from there into the wobble off into the gravel zone. With me on his wheel, stupidly, of course.
By the second lap our tightly knit group of people who all hated each other was feeling the effects of the heat. Roadchamp’s stitches from his 12-hour oral surgery the day before the race had come loose, and every time he exhaled, a spray of blood blew out like spit fired from a misting machine. The steel bike dude had received a brief graveside service where everyone threw their empty water bottles and GU wrappers at his corpse as we rode by. Giants of the road such as Thing 2 had pedaled off into oblivion. King Harold had turned the ride into a solo pedal through purgatory.
The only people left were the gritty, the tough, and those who can only be called “too stupid to quit and/or so poor that it’s worth a $15,000 hospital bill for the chance to win $37.” However hard up and miserable we all were, though, it was about to get that much worse.
[Tune in tomorrow for “Wanky Learns the Difference between Self-Preservation and Self-Immolation”]