Build it and they will leave

When Junkyard came up with the idea of an alternative Thursday ride to the NPR due to massive construction on Westchester Parkway, it was a doozy: One warm-up lap followed by four hard efforts around the PV Golf Course, finishing on the monster climb of La Cuesta.

We skipped the warm-up that first ride and got straight to business. By the end, the group was in tatters. I think the day was November 6, 2014. The next week we also skipped the warm-up and added a lap. It was horrible beyond belief. No one could believe that anyone would voluntarily do such a thing.

As the months went by, one by one riders heard about The Flog. They came, they sampled, they never came back. From a training perspective, the ride was worse than useless. But far more awful was the damage it did to your ego. Always dropped and left to ride alone.

After a year, Michael Hines suggested we stop and regroup after each lap, effectively turning it from a race into interval training. We agreed. The ride only got harder, and the non-benefits even more pronounced. A two-fingered handful of riders soldiered on, but by then the ride’s reputation was so bad that new faces were few and far between.

The ride wrapped up its 35th edition for 2017, to resume again in January. I love this ride more than any other. It represents the best that competitive cycling has to offer: A small group of friends who take care of each other, who are safe and respectful, who go all out, and who make progress in whatever way they’re trying to improve. And at the end, if things work out, covfefe.

This ride has so many great memories for me! The day that Daniel Holloway and his crew showed up and destroyed the course record. The countless times that Stathis blasted the group apart, effortlessly, it always seemed. Amazing feats of speed on La Cuesta (and everywhere else) by Chris Tregillis. The continual, never-say-die efforts of Michelle Landes, one of the toughest riders around. Evergreen Mike Hines, reliable and hard as nails. Greg Lonergan who always made the hardest efforts even harder. Derek Brauch, always raising everyone’s game. Emily and Aaron, the happiest couple in the world! Lauren Mulwitz and the times she has come out and smashed. Josh Alverson, fearsome, funny, friendly, and quick to show us how Stanley O’Grande gets things done.

David Wells and his countless antics, videos, and photos. Luke Rokuta, dependable and smiling and thrashing it with his Pioneer power meter. Bill Klahr and Stacy Hill, two regulars, and of course Tim Vaughan and Steve Shriver!

And there were the handful of incidents! Marc’s fall in the hairpin, Emily’s fall in the hairpin, Kroboth’s fall in the hairpin, Michelle’s wheel-tap, Hines’s chain snap, the incident with the jogger, and Rico’s collision with the curb. For a ride that has gone off more than 140 high-intensity times, that’s an enviable record–and there have been no serious injuries.

Of course what I miss most are the people who used to come and don’t any more. The ride is too far, too early, too painful, too stupid, too pointless, or just too boring. Robert Efthimos, one of the best people I know and a tough competitor, Stathis and Chris, Stacy, Eric Anderson, Greg Seyranian, Greg Lonergan, and Head Down James, who I once screamed at for taking the hairpin at lightspeed.

“You crazy sonofabitch!” I yelled. “You can’t take the wet downhill hairpin like that! People will follow you and get killed, for fuck’s sake!”

Head Down James didn’t shout back. He looked at the ground and said quietly, “But I was only going 35.” That was his last flogging; our loss.

Jon Davy, Bob Spalding, Major Bob, and the immortal Francis Hardiman! Riding with him and Alex Barnes was such a low point in terms of ego but a high point of humanity … so many fine riders and good people have moved on to other and better things, which I get. But I miss them all anyway! Turbo Tom Duong, and remember Peyton Cooke? I do! He used to be there every time, along with Eric Anderson.

And of course the people who showed up once or twice, delivered their message or had it delivered, and never came back. Michael Smith, Dan Cobley, Greg Leibert, Jeff Konsmo, Dave Jaeger, even Dan Sievert, “the Bull.” Dave Holland came and dished it out once, Gussy did half-a-Flog, and our Dear Leader, Junkyard Joe, comes once a year whether he wants to or not. The one or two cameo appearances of Evens Stievenart and Julien Bourdevaire were never to be forgotten.

Between the “been there” and the “done that” there are all the people on the Facebag Flog page who’ve never ventured forth. Please come! We will be gentle, and if not gentle, at least respectful. That’s my promise.

And I’m grateful to those pedalers who still make this ride a part of their lives. Josh Dorfman, the eternally happy Michelle Landes, Kristie Fox, Mike Hines, Emily and Aaron Wimberley when they can swing it, Luke Rokuta, Bill Klahr … thank you all.

It was a great year of flogging. 2018 will be our fifth anniversary, the make or break date for most marriages. Let’s keep this love affair alive.

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

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12 thoughts on “Build it and they will leave”

  1. The Flog is the only ride I miss now that I’m gone. I look forward to it every time I come to LA. I know the Donut, NPR, Telo, Holiday etc will be there. But the Flog, the Flog is a delicate thing…but I know where I will be Thursday morning, even if you are not (except that first time I came back, I’m still angry about deciding not go that time).

  2. As you aptly describe, the Flog is epic. It don’t care who you are. You will go to a place that will expose your deepest insecurities, fears, and weaknesses. You will question your fitness, training, approach to life, and cycling as a sport. But you will come out the other side knowing you did something meaningful, something transformative. Those with whom you shared it will be your friends immediately, for the experience you shared. And all of this by 8am.

  3. I don’t often flog, twice, but when I do I show up late, ride dead last up La Cuesta & finish with a wheelie & a smile😂

  4. A little blood, a little sweat, a little anaerobic redlining and a couple of fractured ribs. Jim-dandy good times in the land of peacocks and segregationists. I sure do miss that ride…..

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