The thing about cycling is that you never know what you’re going to get, besides an ass beating.
It was 5:30 AM, pointy-sharp. There was exactly one person with bad enough judgment to be waiting on the stoop of CotKU. “I heard there was a ride,” he said.
I peered into the backlight thrown out from the coffee shop. All I could make out was a shaggy beard, a shitty bike, hairy legs, and a friendly voice. If it had been lighter I would have instantly noticed the worn handlebar tape, the scuffed shoes, the not-so-clean chain, and all the components that shrieked “We are ridden.”
We picked up Marc Coralle and Todd at the bridge at exactly 5:50. By “picked up” I mean we kept on riding and they scrambled to catch up. Shaggy at least knew a few things, or at least one thing, which was the only thing worth knowing: Shut up and stay at the back.
Marc is a lying Frenchman, redundant, and funny af. He had been trash talking the ride on the ‘Bag and insisted that the first person up Deer Creek was going to get the other guy’s light.
“What do you mean ‘other’”? I’d asked. “Sounds like you think it’s just going to be you and me.”
“It’s just going to be you and me,” he said confidently. “And I like your light. I need a new one.”
The last and only other time we’d gone up Deer Creek, a 2.5-mile, 11% monster, I’d had to turn myself inside out to catch and drop him. That boded poorly for today because the prior week I’d had the advantage of knowing the climb.
Marc’s lying was exceptional. He pretended to be a new cyclist and to his credit had a bit of the Freddie in him. But the more you quizzed him about his background, the more you realized he knew his shit, something confirmed by even a casual glance at his legs. His dad had been a “serious amateur” in France who had won “16 pretty major races” and who was headed for a “professional team” before he made a “different career choice.”
In other words, Marc had grown up from earliest infancy in and around bike racing in Brittany, the home of Bernard Hinault, though Marc pretended to know nothing about it until you got him talking, which I had. “So did you ride much as a kid?”
“Oh, never, I mean just a little but never competitively or like racing or anything.”
“That’s funny, your dad being a top amateur and everything. In France.”
“Well we rode a little.”
“Yes, just a little. My first time out we were coming down a hill and he started sprinting me. We were almost at the finish and he slammed my bars hard and sent me off into the ditch.”
“Sounds about right.”
“I was scared and mad but you know what he said?”
“If you want to win a bike race you better be ready to kill your own mother.”
“Not to mention your son.”
So inexperienced Marc only knew about sprinting, ditches, and competition to the death, and after getting worked over the prior week I knew that this morning would be more of the same.
Todd and Marc took turns sitting with me on the front while Shaggy, whose real name is Michael Schier, sat at the back. At Trancas Todd realized he had a very important 10:00 Saturday morning appointment he had to get back to.
“Shaggy is sandbagging,” Marc advised, an interesting insight from someone who knows nothing about cycling. “When we hit Deer Creek he will leave you like a stranger drowning in a bog.”
We hit Deer Creek and in fact, that is what happened, only Marc left with him. As they zoomed by I noticed that Shaggy had a gear combo just about perfect for the climb, maybe a 32 on the front and a 28 on the back. I don’t think his cadence ever dropped below 80.
About a quarter of the way up I saw Michael shake Marc loose.
I went as hard as I could which wasn’t nearly hard enough, but it was nonetheless a happy moment to watch Marc hand over his light to Shaggy, who didn’t even have a headlight but instead had been riding in the pitch dark with a tiny white blinky strapped to his handlebars.
On the way back we suffered like dogs.
Read this far? Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!
SPECIAL AMAZING OFFER FOR NEW SUBSCRIBERS. SIGN UP FOR Cycling in the South Bay AND GET A FREE PAIR OF South Bay Cycling socks! They are crazy comfy, astonishingly stylish, and each sock has a real market value of $1.5 billion. You get all that plus your daily update of blog irascibility all for the low, low price of $2.99! Not available in any store anywhere! Feel good about supporting local #fakenews and #ragjournalism!