“Dude,” G3’s text read. “Can you give me a ride to the church?”
“Sure,” I wrote back. “I’ll snag you at the curb in front of your house.”
Ms. WM needed the car that day, so she drove me over to G3’s in the Prius. He was standing on the curb with his bike, a set of wheels, the team tent, and his race bag, which weighed 80 lbs. and was five feet long, stocked with everything he’d need for 50 minutes of racing and six months in the wilderness and a complete bike overhaul.
“Uh, how’m I fitting my stuff in that?” he asked.
“In what?” I replied.
“Your midget Prius. There are already two people in it and a bike, and the back seats are folded down. Where am I going to sit?”
“Are you blind? In the front seat.”
“But Mrs. WM is already sitting in the front seat.”
“Are you calling her fat?”
G3 sputtered. “Dude, no one’s calling anyone ‘fat.’ That’s a tiny Prius passenger seat and a full grown adult is already sitting in it.”
“You just called my wife fat.”
“I did not!”
“You sorry turd,” I said. “She is not fat.”
“I never said she was fat!”
“She has a very narrow ass.”
“Look, Wanky, I’m sure she has a very narrow and a very firm and nice ass. There’s no dispute about that. But I have a somewhat wider ass and our two asses won’t fit in that single seat. Plus, there’s only one seat belt.”
“There you just called her fat again. And now you said she’s too fat to wear a seat belt.”
“I did not!”
“We’re going to be late for the race.”
“My stuff won’t even fit in the back. This is crazy.”
I sighed, popped the hatch, and showed him how to surgically insert his bike atop mine, then wedge the tent along the side, then cram his massive pack on top of his full carbon rear wheel, which groaned.
Mrs. WM opened the door. “Get in. There’s plenty of room!”
G3 exhaled and squeezed in next to her. Half of his right haunch hung out of the car. “Now what?” he said. “The door won’t close.”
“If we were on the Marunouchi Line at rush hour, here’s what the little man in the uniform and white gloves would do,” I answered, gently pushing the door against his dangling buttock and then mashing it as hard as I could.
“Ouch!” he said.
“That’s just your fat being pinched,” I said. “It’ll grow back.”
We hurried over to the megachurch on PCH where the Hun and Major Bob were waiting for us in his rad Mercedes van with leather captain’s chairs. “Where’s Dr. Whaaat?” I asked.
“We’re going to get him at the usual pick-up spot,” said Major Bob.
A few minutes later we got on America’s busiest and most dangerous freeway and exited at Culver Boulevard. Crossing Culver, we prepared to re-enter the freeway. Dr. Whaaat? was standing on the entrance ramp with his bike. The only thing missing was a big piece of cardboard that said, “Full-time Employed Teacher: Broke! Dog Bless!” and a tin cup for donations.
We bundled him into the van, almost getting smeared by the whizzing traffic, and hustled off to the Rosena Ranch circuit race, which is located at the hypotenuse of the Meth Triangle that comprises Palmdale, Riverside, and San Bernardino. All the way there we plotted strategy.
“It’s simple,” said G3. “We will have eight guys and Major Bob, so we attack every lap.”
“Then what?” I asked.
“Eventually we’ll tire everyone out and then Money can hit the gas and ride off in a break. We’ll have three or maybe even four guys in the move who can either act as clogstacles so that Money escapes on the last lap, or we can activate the Team Lizard Collectors’ asphalt magnets, which will pull a few of us to the ground and impede the others while Money dashes to victory.”
It seemed like a great plan until we got to the starting line, where we were greeted by Meatballs. “Oh, fuck,” I said. “Are you 45 now?”
Meatballs grinned. “In fact, I am.”
Meatballs is kind of a bummer to race with, because he always wins. He clumbs, he sprunts, he time trails, and he attacks. Especially, he attacks. Like, over and over and over until your legs turn to mush and your eyeballs droop and your gonads swelter and you decide that today wasn’t meant to be your day anyway as he goes from being a massive meatball in your viewfinder to a tiny speck up the road to invisible to a massive meatball standing on the top step of the podium taking your gas money and case of Clif bars.
On the plus side, my coach had given me some winning advice:
- Don’t do anything.
- Sit in.
- Expend zero effort.
- Avoid the wind.
- Be patient.
- Don’t be over eager.
- Don’t get sucked into meaningless early attacks.
- Save your bullets.
- Let the race unfold.
- Be invisible.
- Then, after doing 1-16, while positioned in the 15th slot or so, wait for the hard, decisive attack that is certain to come, follow it, and you’ll have made the winning split.
However, I slightly modified coach’s plan so that after the 3rd lap my race plan looked like this:
- Attack from the gun.
- Follow every move.
- Chase everyone.
- Attack again.
- Hit the front from the rear coming up the right-side, into the wind.
- Lead up every climb.
- Do at least a dozen max 30-second efforts.
- Scornfully stare at everyone.
- Attack some more.
- Then, after doing 1-10, while positioned at the very front after a futile acceleration and while exhausted and gasping for air on the hardest part of the false flat, I waited for the hard, decisive attack that was certain to come and did, tried vainly to follow it, failed to latch on, and watched the winning split go up the road.
Sure enough, Money had made the split, which was created by Meatballs, who had attacked from the back in the draft of the group before sling-shotting off to the far left side of the road, forcing chasers into the gutter, at a speed that was horrible to even think about following.
No one on Team Lizard Collectors could do anything other than check to make sure their asphalt magnets hadn’t been switched on by mistake and pray for a typoon or swarm of mosquitoes carrying the Zika plague or other natural disaster that would somehow stop the breakaway. At one point in the race, TLC organized a chase, determined to bring back our team leader since it was clear there was no way he could win the sprint.
However, the chief problem with bringing him back so that we could counter and get another breakaway going with perhaps a better composition, was that he was going a lot faster than we were and in order to catch him we’d have to go faster than he was going, which proved difficult since, as mentioned earlier, he was going faster, and as it turned out, a lot faster, really an extra super whole lot faster.
Another problem was that even though Money isn’t known for sprunting, the rest of TLC isn’t known for winning, and even if we had been able to re-shuffle the deck, it would still have included Meatballs (unbeatable) and Fireman (unbeatable by anyone except Meatballs). So instead we attacked each other, with Dr. Whaaat? rocketing away and finishing a glorious ninth.
In the end, Meatballs ground up the breakaway into little pieces of gristle and shit by accelerating every time out of the u-turn, crushing it up the climb, then shattering the group into a few manageable morsels of charred flesh at the very end and handily winning the sprunt.
Back in the van we all hung our heads, cursed our fate, and yelled at each other.
Finally, as we were about to all get kicked out of the van by Major Bob and be forced to walk the seventy miles home, Surfer Dan from Team La Grunge stuck his head in the side door.
“How was the race?” he inquired with his trademark smile.
As we all scrambled to get in our version of how our teammates had ruined it for us, he held up his hand. “Guys,” he said. “Did you have fun?”
We looked at each other and released our fingers from each other’s throats. Because in fact, yes, we did.
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