We had gathered at the Center of the Known Universe for a 160-mile ride to Ventura and back. It was 5:30 AM and none of us wanted to be there. As we stood around waiting to leave we unanimously decided that riding to Ventura was a stupid idea.
Instead we would ride fifteen miles to Santa Monica, get coffee, and be back home and in bed before 8:00 AM. This, we decided, was a great idea.
In Santa Monica everything was closed except Urth Cafe, the most overpriced place with the worst service and the mediocre-est coffee you will ever drink, anywhere. But it was open.
We ordered and then huddled around the giant heater to stay warm. Before long it was time to go. I went over to the bikes, then came back as no one was leaving the heater.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“Hush,” I was told. “Baby Seal is telling a story.”
“What story?” I asked.
“He’s explaining how he learned about kindness and mercy in cycling.”
Once upon a time
“There I was,” Baby Seal said, “as the tiny NPR pack turned left onto Vista del Mar, I saw my idol pull over and take off his rain jacket. ‘Are you okay?'” I asked.
“‘Yeah,'” he said.
“By the time he had stowed his jacket the group was gone, and they weren’t coming back. I’d been riding for about two years and had gone from a 230-lb. smoker to a fairly fit rider. But I still hadn’t really earned my chops, and I didn’t hesitate to stop to help my idol. Together, I figured, we could chase back on.
“I hit it hard and for two minutes pulled my brains out. I looked back, and Idol was tucked on my wheel and not coming around. ‘He’s recovering,’ I told myself. ‘We got this.’ I pulled even harder, longer.
“A couple of times I looked back but Idol was in the box. ‘No worries,’ I told myself. We’ll get within striking distance, somehow, and he’ll close the gap. We got this!
“I rode my heart out, and for the first time I felt like one of the gang. The rain had kicked back up, it was cold, and I was driving it on the front, giving my idol a chance to recover. This was teamwork, what cycling was all about. Once you feel that warm glow, you never forget it.”
“Then what happened?” asked the Wily Greek.
“We came up over the Pershing bump and there was the field, maybe 100 meters away. I was done, but had saved just enough to be able to catch on when my idol finally came through.”
“Then what happened?” asked Adam.
“The motherfucker attacked and dropped me, bridged to the field, and left me for dead.”
Heads were shaken all around.
“But you know what was the worst part of it? The fucker never even looked at me, not a nod, not a ‘good job,’ nothing. And he didn’t ride by me, he attacked me. I have never been dropped that hard since, ever. I was crushed. Left alone, abandoned like a little kid on a doorstep, I was too shattered emotionally to even try to catch on. I turned around and went home.”
“Wow,” said Wily. “What an asshole.”
“Yeah,” I chimed in. “What a dick.”
Baby Seal looked over at me. “Yeah,” he said, “you ought to know. Because it was YOU.”
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