When Norman Mailer wrote the WW II novel that catapulted him to fame as a serious writer, thereby ensuring that no one outside of a college English class would ever read his work, he was criticized for the long, slogging, endless, mired-in-mud style that characterized long parts of the book.
Mailer replied: “Yes, those passages are long, hard to get through, miserable, and they leave you with a feeling of having given much to accomplish nothing. That’s what it was like in the infantry.”
Okay, he never said that, but this blog post is gonna be exactly like the Bakersfield state championship road race. Long. Miserable. Not fun. Not funny. And most of you will quit long before it finishes.
Chester Karrass ain’t got nothin’ on Mrs. WM
Mrs. WM accompanied me to the race as my watergirl. “Oh, you have such a great wife,” you’re thinking. “Mine would never do that.”
Neither would Mrs. WM. This was the result of a hard fought negotiation in which Mrs. WM extracted maximum value for the sacrifice she was about to make. “Okay, I will go and do a terrible bike race that is no fun and I hate it but you have to take me somewhere nice.”
“Okay. Lunch in Oildale after the race?”
“Somewhere with a hotel and a spa where we can stay overnight with a nice pool and no bicycle and a nice restaurant with shopping.”
“Del Amo Mall and the Hybrid Hotel in Torrance?”
“No. I want Palm Springs and you have to get a new car. I hate your car with the ugly bump in the rear.”
In negotiating, this is called “tossing in the hookers,” and is a ploy where you put something in play that will ultimately get stricken from the deal while still leaving you with what you really want. So I signed the 12-page contract for the Palm Springs weekend, and off we went to Bakersfield.
That poop is too nasty for my butthole to look at
Ms. WM’s race day got off to a bad start when she had to visit the port-o-potties. I was pinning on my number when she returned, looking kind of green.
“Are you okay?”
“That was awful!”
“What? The toilets? They’re pretty good actually. Kind of that rose-and-pinesol-with-chemical-strawberry-car-freshener scent. It’s almost stronger than the poop. Of course it’s early in the day. By noon they’ll have to haul those things off with a hazmat team.”
“It was gross!”
“Gross? It’s a friggin’ port-o-potty, not an aromatherapy boutique.”
“I’ve been to many public events before. People don’t usually poop so much! It’s the bike racers! They are extra poopers!”
She did have a point. How many times do you go to a Dodgers game and get things started off by unloading a four-pound, corn-studded bowl breaker? At a bike race, by the time you’ve driven from the hotel to the sign-in, the Denny’s Grand Slam and quart of hot coffee have pretty much raced through the tunnel and are peeking at the door, which explains the ratio of solids to liquids at a bike race port-o-potty and that funny dance everyone’s doing as they wait for a vacant seat.
“Can’t you just breathe through your mouth and get your business done? It’s not like you have to carry out an inspection or anything.”
“It was too disgusting for my butt!”
“It was so nasty I couldn’t sit down on the seat and have my butt facing all that stuff.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Mrs. WM never kids when it comes to poop.
“No I am not kidding!”
“So what’d you do?”
“I took many of the paper seat covers and dropped them down in there to make a paper cover for the poop so my butt wouldn’t have to look at it.”
That detail taken care of, I went off to race.
It is better to try and fail than fail to try
This applies to everything in life except bike racing. With bike racing, most of the time it’s much better to fail to try. I’ve put together a little graph that helps explain.
|FAIL TO TRY||TRY AND FAIL|
|Barbie Food during race: $0.00||Barbie Food during race: $17.72|
|Gas: $0.00||Gas: $49.82 [$132.90 in Konsmo’s Blingmobile]|
|Dinner in Bako: $0.00||Dinner in Bako at Padre Hotel: $141.29|
|Doubletree Bako: $0.00||Doubletree Bako: $77.00 [w/Family Discount]|
|Condoms: $0.00||Condoms: $7.32|
|Case of water: $0.00||Case of water: $4.68|
|Breakfast at Denny’s: $0.00||Breakfast at Denny’s: $17.29|
|Entry fee: $0.00||Entry fee: $35.00|
|Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $0.00||Post-race meal at In ‘N Out: $12.22|
|Weekend in Palm Springs: $0.00||Weekend in Palm Springs: $500.00 MINIMUM|
|Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $0.00||Possible purchase of replacement vehicle for fucked up Camry: $25,892.12|
|TOTAL: $0.00||TOTAL: $26,754.46|
Even though I was a history major, it seems clear that fail to try is definitely the way to go on this one.
Even though fail to try is a winner, you still don’t get to call yourself a bike racer by bailing on this event
The Bakersfield race is one of the few real bike races in Southern California. The vast majority of bike races here are circle jerks. You go round for 55 minutes and the best sprinter wins. Don’t get me wrong. Winning these events takes balls of steel and the speed of a rocket. I couldn’t win one on a Vespa. But they lack the key elements that are required for bike racing.
Those elements are:
- Weather. If you’re not fighting the elements, you’re not bike racing. Heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, hail, ice, etc. are prerequisites.
- Hills. If you don’t have elevation changes of some sort, you’re not bike racing.
- Distance. If your body doesn’t have to go into reserves that test your endurance, you’re not bike racing.
- Varied terrain. If you don’t have to use a variety of bike handling techniques, you’re not bike racing.
- Tactics. If the conclusion is virtually always determined by a bunch sprint, you’re not bike racing.
It is a sad testament to the lameness of the SoCal cycling scene that the 45+ field, a group that can easily pull in 100 riders in an early season crit, barely had thirty racers toe the line. As far as I know, not a single field came anywhere close to reaching its limit, and the majority of them appeared to have half or less of the number of racers who show up to preen and primp and strut and flex at the crits.
What’s up with that?
What’s up with that
Bakersfield has put on a phenomenal race, slightly different from De Vleeshuis Ronde in that there is less climbing with more distance, but identical in its challenging nature and superb organization. A giant tent with chairs and bike racks was erected at the start/finish so riders could stage without frying their brains out, and so that they could sit in the shade and relax after the race while eating the excellent food prepared on site.
The difference between this race and the innumerable local crits, though, is this: you’re going suffer like a motherfucker if you finish this race. Today never got above the low 90’s, but Saturday’s events approached 100 degrees. The wind blew hot and hard both days. The long climb was shortened, but the three loops around the shorter, punchy climbs were devastating.
This was a race where you had to hydrate properly, have the right nutrition, ride smart, and meter your efforts in order to get shelled out the back and spend the rest of the fucking day battering into a merciless hot headwind by yourself. If you wanted to actually finish with the group, or dog forbid, in a breakaway, you needed all of the above plus you needed to be one hard, tough, fit, canny bastard [in the interest of equal treatment, the word “bastard” refers to men and to women].
This is another way of saying that many of the soft, marshmallowy wankers who comprise the cannon fodder–and often the podium–of the local crit scene didn’t stand a chance in hell of placing in this race. Rather than coming out to Bako, having their balls beaten with a tire iron, getting crushed on the climbs, and flailing in a wanketto for a couple of hours, they chose to stay home and do something else. [See graph above for financial analysis of that choice.]
There’s more to it than money, honey
Nothing comes close to approaching the satisfaction of finishing a hardass beatdown in a challenging road race. If you’re too scared of failure and pain to show up and race, you’ll never know how good it feels to cross the line. I’d also argue that you’ve never raced your bike.
In our race, I got kicked out the back on the second lap, one punchy climb before we hit the long highway downhill. I never got back on, and was eventually shelled from my five-man chase group. Before coming off, though, I got to witness selfless heroics on the part of teammate Harold Martinez, a flatland crit dude, who singlehandedly pulled back a deadly break that was almost a minute up the road by stringing the whole field out into the gutter for the better part of five miles.
That’s the kind of stuff that earns respect from friends and adversaries alike. It’s the kind of stuff that real bike racing consists of: people with varying talents using those abilities to try and benefit the team rather than sitting home and cherry-picking the next race that you think is most “suited” to your talents.
I got to watch non-teammates like Bart Clifford, new addition to Big Orange, follow a break and fry himself to make sure a teammate had some help in an early move. I got to watch the power, speed, and athleticism of guys like Dave Jaeger, John Hatchitt, Jeff Konsmo, Richard Meeker, Todd Parks, Greg Leibert, Steve Klasna, Louie Amelburu, Mark Noble, Jon Flagg, and several others as they manhandled a brutal course and reduced the already small field to a handful of survivors.
More importantly, even though I flailed, a number of people proved themselves worthy of this challenging course. They did more than prove themselves worthy: they raced their bikes.
Our own South Bay rider Kristabel Doebel-Hickock won her women’s race yesterday with the 3/4’s, and placed seventh today with the 1/2’s. Her performance deserves a write-up of its own. She’s amazing.
Richard Meeker won the 45+ race, displaying all the skills that make him the best all around road racer in Southern California and one of the best in the nation.
Jeff Konsmo pulled a huge second place out of his hat, taking second to Richard in a reversal of 2011. Jeff rode strongly and tactically for every bit of the race, forcing the pace on lap two and finishing with his signature kick.
Kevin Phillips got fourth in the 35+ despite being swarmed by Monster Media, even though most of his training lately has been on the track. Kevin pulled some astounding numbers: 1-minute power 748 watts. 10-minute power 366 watts. All in a day’s work for this South Bay phenom.
Trudi Schindler got 2nd in the women’s Cat 4, and 5th overall in the Cat 3/4. Great job!
Strongman Phil Tintsman showed his versatility–again–with a silver medal in the tough, tough 35+ race. Great work, Phil.
See you next year?
If for no other reason than to show your support for the people in Bakersfield who’ve done so much to create a fantastic venue for bike racing, you should put this race and De Vleeshuis Ronde on your calendar for 2013. Come on out and get your dick stomped into a flatworm. You’ll be glad you did.