I always love it when people talk about the health benefits of cycling, as if punishing your internal organs to the brink of failure is somehow good for you.
Yesterday’s Donut was filled with about as much cholesterol, fat, sugar, enzymes, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, karaya gum, wheat starch, cornstarch, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, sodium propionate, and food dyes Yellow No. 5 and 6 as the finest Dolly Madison Little Gem.
Before we started, Destroyer looked around. “You can win today, Wanky,” he said.
“Yes. But you can’t attack at Kilometer 1.”
“In the race to the radar domes, every single pedal stroke counts. But there’s no one here today who can beat you. With cunning and wheelsuckery you’ve got this.”
“What about Sausage? He’s ripping legs at the Flog Ride.”
“One-off. He has peaked for the state ITT and won’t be a factor.”
“Ivan the Terrible? He is so fit right now.”
“Yes but he’s focused on crits and honing his sprunt. The climb to the domes will be a bridge too far.”
“But look over there. Medium Banana has brought his wrecking crew from D.C. They are lean and look like they just had a bucket of chum for breakfast.”
“D.C. is flat. They won’t digest their first Donut very well.”
“What about Goggle? He’s in razor sharp form.”
“He’s competition, but smart riding from you and you could collect your first Donut victory since that last one you fake lied about in your blog.”
I spied Tinkerbell as she rode up, resplendent in her pro outfit. My heart sank. “There’s Tink,” I said.
“Conserve every stroke. Do not attack. Wait until the climb. Today is your day.”
Conservation and wheelsuckery
We bit into the Donut at 8:00 AM pointy-sharp, an 80-strong phalanx of ill-tempered cyclists dreaming of glory, savoring that first taste of sugar and soy lecithin as our mouths watered from wrapping our tongues around the glory hole of fresh donut.
As we approached the starting gate in Malaga Cove at Kilometer 1, I reflected on the wisdom of Destroyer’s words. To eat this Donut I would need to nibble around the edges and only chomp when the final ramp was in view. Restraint was the key. Cold calculation. The young man is strong, but the old man is wise.
I thought of the countless years that Surfer Dan and I had attacked at Kilometer 1 and even earlier, out of the parking lot, and of the futility in which virtually all such moves had ended. I reflected on my recent Km 1 accelerations and how they always flamed out early, a soggy lump of donut clogging my windpipe and arteries as I went down in paroxysms of indigestion.
This time would be different.
As we rolled past Km 1 an uncontrollable urge surged over me and I attacked, exactly as Destroyer had enjoined.
“This is futile,” I told myself.
“Don’t do it,” I told myself.
“Ease off,” I told myself.
So I pedaled harder and didn’t look back until I had passed Pregnant Point a couple of miles later. The wankoton was invisible, and my passengers were three: Dennis, Tinkerbell, and Goggle.
Tink and Dennis had no appetite for any more Donut at that point and were steadfastly chewing; only Goggle crammed more donuts between his teeth and began sharing the load.
I figured we’d get caught soon but that perhaps we could at least make it to Golden Cove. Dennis took a couple of pulls but Tink declined the invitation, masticating her chunk of Donut into smaller and smaller easily digested bits while Goggle and I stuffed ever larger pieces into our maws.
Dennis tailed off and then it was us three. Tink took a couple of token pulls, seemingly amused at our faces, which were covered in white donut powdered sugar.
We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and Tink accelerated with the ferocity of a rider who had won the QOM at last year’s Tour of California, which she had. “Rest day,” she smiled as we struggled back to her wheel. She slid to the back and we pushed on, littering the way with crumbs and the gummy spew that lines your arteries and creates artheriosclerosis of the aorta.
Goggle and I took turns, passed the flat spot on Crest, and began to get that feeling like maybe we shouldn’t have downed the whole sleeve at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have punched it at Km 1. Maybe this was a bad idea.
At exactly that moment Tink jumped us like a schoolyard bully, her rear wheel waving wildly from side to side like a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. Goggle conveniently had a flat tire, or so he claimed, and I was left to respond with two flats of my own, a right one and a left one.
Somehow I latched on. Tink relented once she saw my shadow. We were only a hundred meters from the final turn, and she took a quick look back to check my temperature.
What she saw was the twisted rictus of a gasping, heaving, choking, shuddering, worn out old shoe, and she stood once more on the pedals, gleefully chewing her Donut and leaving me to twist in the wind, choking on mine.
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