On Saturday we rode over to the NOW Ride. The previous week I had been dropped very early when the Subaru Santa Monica pain train led by Evens Stievenart rolled away at express train speeds on PCH.
This week the Subaru team was gone, but in their place, and indeed he replaces an entire team, was Phil Gaimon. Oh, and beast Jeff Mahin, and a couple of other ornery fellows.
We were trucking along PCH at about 35 and I saw Tony Manzella. I handed him a couple pairs of socks.
“Thanks, dude,” he said. Tony has enormous feet along with an enormous heart and lungs and my South Bay socks are the only ones that will fit his boxcars. He tucked them under his jersey.
This was only my third NOW Ride and a lot of people were giving me the stink eye because of my jaunty cloth cap, hairy legs, and general frailty. At Pepperdine Hill, where I always get dropped, I got dropped. First, Phil and Jeff and their pal rode away. Next, a clot of chasers rolled away.
I had about ten bike lengths to catch back onto the chasers but you know that is never going to happen. This time somehow it did. A little dude breezed by and I glommed on. He got me over the top and gave it 100% to close to about five bike lengths. I waited until I judged him spent and dashed past, barely connecting.
There wasn’t any rest, and what had started with 70 or 1,000 people was now down to the three guys off the front and a chase of about 20, make that 18, I mean 17, 16, 15, and finally fourteen. I was the last guy, dangling, and barely hanging on by a meat string each time the young fellows surged, trying to shake loose the old and infirm, me.
As we approached the descent into Zuma, I saw Jeff and Phil on the side of the road. They had stopped with their friend, who flatted, which instantly transformed our chase group into the lead group. At the bottom it is a flat run-in, a couple of miles, to the sprunt finish at Trancas Canyon Road.
The young fellows kept it single file. I hunkered down on Tony’s wheel in last place. I was pretty pleased with myself because I was gonna get fourteenth on the NOW Ride, a miracle. I was already writing up the glorious blog. It was gonna be wondrous.
With about 500 yards to go, Tony glanced back at me. Tony only glances back at you for one reason. It’s because he expects you to follow and he don’t want no excuses.
Tony has done this to me before and it follows a script: He accelerates and I get dropped.
He jumped hard, crazy, insanely, 8,000 gigawatts hard. I don’t know if it was because I was ovulating or because of my oval chain rings … oh, what am I saying???? It was because of my JAUNTY CLOTH CAP that I hung onto Tony’s wheel.
He blew past the front so fast that they couldn’t have caught him if they’d gotten advance notice by telegraph, and once he is going if you are in his draft it is like being towed by a barge that is going 500 knots. “Man, this is great,” I thought, followed immediately by “Man, I don’t know if I can keep this up,” followed by “Fuck this hurts,” followed by “He’s riding me off his wheel. Again.”
At that second he slowed and looked back. “Go, Seth!” he shouted.
I didn’t know what to do. I can’t sprint. I could barely pedal I was so tired. I had no idea what was the correct reaction in such circumstances, so I blurted out what I guess they don’t do in the last 100m of a lead-out at Paris-Roubaix, which is shout back, “YOU GO!”
He shook his head. “Seth!” he commanded. “Go!”
I looked back and saw the piranhas charging hard, so I slingshotted around Tony and got to the imaginary finish line first at the over-ripe age of 55. The young piranhas were not too happy and they kind of glared at my jaunty cloth cap, but not for long because there was a giant, slowing dump truck turning right and we almost slammed into the back of it. Then Tony wheeled into the parking lot of the gas station and shouted in his chain gang boss voice, “Good job, Seth. You just won the NOW Ride!”
On the way back home with Baby Seal and Kristie, I saw a tempting berm of sand and dirt and mud and decided to celebrate my NOW win with a display of the amazing bike handling skills that made me who I am today.