Today was a learning day, all 140 miles of it. You see, in a few weeks we are planning a Big Day ride which will be stupidly long and require some severe uphill punishment, so in the spirit of preparation I invited a few “friends” to join me on a jaunt from PV up to Mt. Wilson, then over to Venice, and back home.
I told them that the ride started at 5:00 AM, pointy-sharp, which it did. Unfortunately, the friends arrived at 5:01 and found themselves alone.
“There’s no way he left exactly at 5:00,” the baby seals said.
“Surely he’d wait an extra minute,” the baby seals said.
“He wasn’t serious about that ‘pointy-sharp’ crap, was he?” the baby seals said.
Answer Key: He did, he wouldn’t, and he was.
Another rule of my road is “Don’t check your phone,” but I was so perplexed by the absence of ‘Stash, who seemed like a pretty stand-up baby seal, that I broke down and checked it. Sure enough, ‘Stash and the gang were vainly waiting for the ride to start at their leisure rather than as planned. So I and my two companions stopped and waited for them. Shattering yet another rule, the one of “If yer late yer gonna fuggin’ chase.”
This turned out to be fortunate, because ‘Stash had brought MM, Frexit II, and Doobie with him, viciously strong riders who I could finagle into doing all the work while I sat in back and rested.
We zoomed through early morning Los Angeles, reaching downtown before 6:30, and then charged through Pasadena to the base of the climb at La Canada-Flintridge, where the Angeles Crest highway begins. From there it’s a 19-mile climb to the top of Mt. Wilson, and ‘Stash lit it up. Actually, he didn’t light up “it,” he lit up me, and I burned ever so brightly, all the while marveling at his strength, his youthful enthusiasm, and his obvious unfamiliarity with what was bound to happen when you threw down 500 watts at the bottom of a 19-mile hill.
Six miles in, ‘Stash began eating everything in his back jersey pocket, which was stocked better than most convenience stores, after which he slurped all of the energy drink in both bottles, until he looked back at me, greenly, and said, “I’m kind of starting to feel it.”
I presumed that “it” meant the endless grade he’d been throttling, along with me, but my Sympathy-o-Meter was stuck at zero, right at the mini-violin icon. “Maybe you should slow the fuck down,” I offered at about the time that his cadence began squaring the circle and his speed dropped from murderous to barely.
Filled with kindly sadism, I punched by and ratcheted up the pace, happy to finally be able to give as I had received, the only difference being that ‘Stash, instead of breathing heavily and showing signs of droppage, seemed to be recovering quite nicely behind what I had thought was a punishing acceleration. On the final 5-mile segment to the summit, ‘Stash recovered enough to rip his way to the top, with me hanging on for dear life.
‘Stash wasn’t riding bad for a guy who’s only been riding for two years, so on the way down I gave him as much bad training advice as I could, hoping it would retard his development for a while, at least.
We descended, met up with the rest of our crew, and then had lunch and covfefe at Starbucks. The traffic had picked up since 5:00 AM, but Doobie didn’t seem to notice as he dragged us back to downtown LA in a jiffy. And this is where the day’s second instructional lesson occurred.
I had been screaming at everyone to “Point shit out, for fuck’s sake!” because the seals all had the unnerving habit of refusing to take their flippers off the bars to indicate cracks, crevices, shattered manhole covers, glass, and other minor items that litter the LA streets and pose a hazard to my all-carbon FastForward rims which are 100% carbon and made exclusively of carbon, not to mention the rubber tars and tubes that surround them.
As we rushed up Beverly, Frexit II, who was on the front, rode us over a 6-foot crevasse that still had the bodies of several Mt. Everest climbers in it, and he neglected to signal it. I made a perfect 1-point landing in the crevasse with my rear tar, which exploded on impact, sounding a blast that was almost as loud as my curses, but not quite.
As we pulled over I said to Frexit II, “How do you say ‘Point shit out, for fuck’s sake!’ in French?”
He pondered. “Putain?”
“Then putain, for fuck’s sake,” I said. He shrugged, clearly not impressed with my French or my inability to hop or avoid the crevasse.
Great luck was mine, however, because Doobie was the mastermind behind Velofix, the mobile bike repair vans, and there’s no better time to get a flat than when you are attended by a genuine industry professional. “It’s just a pinch flat,” he said, checking the outside of the tar as a genuine industry professional would to make sure nothing was embedded in it. He got the tar changed in a jiffy, aired it up, and the moment I tightened the rear quick release we all twitched as the tar exploded again.
“Fuggin’ genuine industry professionals,” I snarled, showing Doobie & Co. how to speedily change a flat without the use of a tire lever, per the Gussy Tire Change Manual. Thirty minutes later we were good to go, minus my palms. I hopped on the bike and we raced down Alvarado through the throngs of Saturday shoppers.
“Watch out for the hole,” Doobie said, politely pointing out another crevasse that was far from me.
My tar, not appearing to hear the warning, exploded again, this time in front of a barbershop. MM removed the tar from the rim and did a careful inspection. Unlike the rest of us, all bifocal bound, she quickly located an incredibly tiny splinter that had pierced the tar casing. At that moment the barber, who had been standing behind us watching, said, “You need help?”
“Yes,” MM said. “Do you have some tweezers?”
“Sure, and I’m also watching the Vuelta.” We watched in astonishment as he showed us his phone screen which was playing the day’s live feed of the TTT. “Froome’s not looking good,” he said knowledgeably.
Remounted and reinflated, we raced down Venice Blvd. to home, stopping at a hundred lights, and re-starting each time with a massive surge by Frexit II, Doobie, ‘Stash, or MM, who were apparently practicing track starts. These relentless stops, starts, and jumps battered me into a lump of soggy bitch pudding. I barely made it up the nasty climb at the end of the ride, and when I did, I added another rule of my road: Don’t ride with people stronger than you, even if that’s everybody.
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