November 16, 2022 Comments Off on Wiggins loses knighthood, demoted to “Dude”
Bradley Wiggins, winner of the 2012 Tour de France and the most decorated Olympian in British history, was stripped of his knighthood this past Tuesday and demoted from “Sir” to “Dude.”
Dude Wiggins, whose financial woes have resulted in claims by creditors in excess of $1M, lost his title after the new policy of “Peerage Review” was instituted in October by neo-monarch King Charles. According to the Royal Office, “His Majesty no longer wishes to reward bone-idle wankers, and has begun a process whereby titles and assorted flimflam will be purged from the rolls when a recipient behaves egregiously for an Englishman, which sets the bar quite high.”
Dude Wiggins, as he is now officially known, was circumspect. “My cycling career, you know, I could give a shit. The gold medals were pawned for beer way back when. No one believes I won the Tour clean, not even me. My real calling is social work. That’s where I can make a difference. And how are you gonna help some kid in the projects if he’s always having to call you ‘Sir’? ‘Dude’ is way more practical. It’s what people call me anyway.”
Sir Mick Jagger and Sir Elton John could not be reached for comment, but their spokespersons reported they were “laying low for a while.”
July 22, 2022 Comments Off on Tour viewership declines for tenth straight year
Interest in the Tour de France continues to decline as fewer television viewers tune into the world’s largest sporting spectacle. With 150 million viewers across Europe in 2021, the 2022 edition of the Tour will have less than 110 million people tuning in, according to Nielsen Global, a firm that tracks worldwide TV audiences.
“In 2012, when the Tour was won by Bradley Wiggins of the UK, viewership was at an all-time high, with more than 500 million viewers. Next year’s projections are for even fewer viewers than 2022,” said Lacey Throckmorton of Nielsen.
The UCI, as well as Amaury Sports Organization, parent company of the Tour, have been concerned about the spiraling value of cycling’s marquee event. A joint study funded by the UCI and Amaury revealed some surprising answers to the question, “Why are fewer people following the Tour?”
The first and by far most important reason is the continued string of non-doping offenses, and its corollary, the visible decrease in over-the-top-doping that took place from 1904 until 2012. Cyrano de Bergerac, head of the study, says this: “People are sick of all the non-doping offenses. It has made an impossibly boring sport even more boring, if that is possible, which I suppose it is.”
Statistics show that since the retirement of the last Big Juicer to win the Tour, Sir Bradley Wiggins, interest has waned. “Wiggins brought a lot of fans, people who loved seeing a 6’3″, 185-lb. track specialist get so sotted with PEDs that he lost 25 lbs., gained the physique of a Michael Rasmussen, and went from winning 5-km track events to 4,000-km endurance races. That was spectacle,” says de Bergerac.
“Once Wiggins retired, Chris Froome was unable to sustain the massive and obvious drug use, opting instead for small amounts of mostly-undetectable drugs, although he, too, went through the radical body transformation that Tour aficionados love,” adds de Bergerac. “But with each passing year the riders simply got more credible as non-offenses kept piling up. And who wants that?”
Wim van Wim, head of marketing at the UCI, agrees. “Look at 2022. We have one guy weighing in the 130’s and another in the 140’s duking it out for the yellow jersey. They are skinny and short, easily mistaken for a prepubescent girl if it weren’t for those tight pants. You’d expect people like that to climb well, sprint poorly, and have to race strategically to win, and they do. Fans can’t stand it.”
Van Wim pointed to what he called the “heyday of hay days,” when George Hincapie, at 175 lbs., dropped an entire breakaway of newt-sized climbers and beat uber-newt Oscar Pereiro to the HC mountain finish at Pla d’Adet in 2005. “This kind of absurd thing that boggles the mind, spoofs reality, and confesses to the pharmacopia coursing through the veins of the peloton, this is what cycling fans want to see,” said van Wim. “Not some clean, snot-nosed kids who believe in sportsmanship, whatever that is.”
Unfortunately, drug testing seems to be effectively deterring the most blatant violators, leaving the peloton with not much more than smallish, light endurance athletes who are evenly matched. The UCI has convened a new committee, the Working Group on the Restoration of Full-Gas Doping, to look at ways to remedy this threat to the existence of cycling’s most cherished event.
According to van Wim, though, all is not lost. “If you still want to watch freaks do freakish things with every doping product known to man stuffed up their butts, I’d recommend you start watching gravel races. There is some great shit happening there,” he said.
July 5, 2022 Comments Off on Colin Strickland, murderer?
Whoever thought that gravel racing’s international limelight debut would be in the form of a killing?
The story pitched by the media is simple: jealous lover kills rival.
Justice will presumably be done. The suspected killer, Kaitlin Armstrong, could spend her life behind bars, or perhaps even get the death penalty. Mo Wilson, a rising star in gravel racing, will be eulogized and mourned for a life cut short at the incomprehensibly young age of 25.
Most meaningfully, Colin Strickland, the boyfriend-deceiver, will likely resume his over the hill cycling “career” as a “gravel professional” after the appropriate period of therapy and mourning. In due time he should be able to get back up to the big paydays of a gravel pro, which I’d guess are at least $50 and a BWR water bottle, maybe even a pair of matching socks.
But he will resume this stellar career minus his current stable of sponsors, although, true to form, Red Bull has yet to terminate his contract. This is the same company run by right-wing Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschiz who has long supported reactionary politicians, racist athletes, and who has targeted the young and the poor as prime consumers of an “energy drink” outlawed in several European nations.
But I digress …
Why has anyone severed ties with Colin Strickland? He didn’t shoot anyone. He isn’t a suspect. He’s not part of a conspiracy or even an accomplice. In the words of an unnamed source quoted by the Sun, “He’s a douche and a player,” and nothing more.
If being a douche and a player were grounds for losing sponsorship, the sponsored ranks of professional athletics and celebrity-dom would be slim indeed. I mean, “Stray Cat Blues” by The Rolling Stones is a song that literally glorifies the rape of homeless teen girls. And if that’s so socially unacceptable, why are good tickets for their 2022 tour upwards of $600?
In my opinion, Colin Strickland lost his sponsorships because although he committed no crime, he clearly appears to be the person who set in motion the chain of events that led to the murder of one of the two girls he appeared to be stringing along, Mo Wilson. The fact pattern seems sociopathic and all too common: narcissist has relationship with woman which allows him to live the fantasy pro lifestyle that his meager sponsorships in a niche sport would never enable. Narcissist starts fucking woman ten years younger than his girlfriend. Girlfriend finds out and narcissist engages the tried and true “triangulation” of a narcissist, seemingly lying to both women, and appearing to use the new woman to destabilize the mental health of the other.
Narcissist keeps up relationship with younger woman while claiming to girlfriend he’s done with fling; that’s certainly how it appears. Girlfriend knows she’s being gaslighted but can’t prove it because THAT’S WHAT GASLIGHTING IS. Rather than take her rage out on the narcissist boyfriend, girlfriend focuses her anger on the younger woman, who also appears to be hoodwinked by the narcissist into thinking that she’s perhaps still in the running to be the real girlfriend … unless she isn’t … and could he please clarify? It’s all so confusing, which is the destabilized mental state of insecurity and doubt where narcissists do their very finest work.
Narcissist keeps triangulating, sneaks out to date younger woman, lies to girlfriend claiming “dead cell phone” and going to “drop off some flowers for Alison” as cover for swim date and destination burger with younger woman. Girlfriend finds out about it and is now the only suspect in the murder of the younger woman.
The person who’s most likely going to prison or to the gurney? The girlfriend.
The literature on narcissist men is so overwhelming that you couldn’t read it all if you tried, and I’m not just talking about the scientific research. The runaway success of general consumption books like “Psychopath Free,” “Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist)” testifies to the number of women, and some men, whose lives have been destroyed by this especial pathology. And the pathology is always the same: love bomb, withdraw affection, triangulate, then discard. The only aberration from the pattern is that Armstrong killed Wilson before Strickland could dump her.
The signs are all there in the Austin Police Department affidavit used as the basis for Armstrong’s arrest warrant and in news reports, so it’s easy to put together a map of the pathological abuse with which he targeted Armstrong.
- Lying about the relationship. Strickland said it was “platonic and professional” and he considered Wilson a “close friend” despite a previous romantic relationship with her. But an anonymous tipster to APD confirmed that the two had an “on again, off again” relationship, and Wilson’s texts to Strickland showed that she herself was unclear whether they were in a romantic relationship or “just friends.” Pro tip: a woman doesn’t usually wonder about whether she’s in a romantic relationship unless there is sex.
- Secretive behavior. Strickland lied to Armstrong about the swim + burger date, and took a circuitous route to Wilson’s lodgings in Austin, using an alley to get there and using an alley to go all the way to the main road of MLK East even though uncongested neighborhood surface streets were available. Strickland was probably doing everything he could to avoid private surveillance cameras or to avoid being seen by Armstrong in case she was in the neighborhood, which, surprise, she was.
- Secretly carrying on with Wilson while lying about it to Armstrong. Strickland admitted he had changed Wilson’s name on his phone to deceive Armstrong, who clearly suspected that Strickland wasn’t done with Wilson.
- Gaslighting Armstrong. Strickland admitted to a romantic relationship with Wilson in October 2021, but denied anything after that. Yet an anonymous tipster confirmed that as recently as January 2022, Armstrong suspected new infidelities. Wilson herself was questioning Strickland about their status long after the supposed one-week affair.
- Continuing to triangulate even after Wilson’s murder. Strickland continued to deny that the relationship with Wilson was ongoing when talking to police, even though anonymous sources, Armstrong’s behavior, Wilson’s text, and Strickland’s secret date showed that the relationship was more than platonic. The triangulation had already gotten so severe that Armstrong now owned a gun and was talking about killing Wilson.
- Distorting his own statements to police. Strickland, panicked by the arrest affidavit that correctly portrayed him as the manipulative cheater, issued a statement in which he claimed that he and Wilson had only seen each other in “public” settings since the October 2021 romance, even though he admitted in the affidavit that he lied to Armstrong to conduct a private swim and burger date with Wilson. The setting may have been public but the date was an arranged infidelity.
- Appealing to his fan base for his narcissistic discard of Armstrong. Even after Wilson’s death, Strickland was appealing to the public for exoneration. He said in a statement that “it was not my intention to pursue along an auxiliary romantic relationship that would mislead anyone.” This was contradicted by the text message to him from Wilson, by his lying about the swim date, and by third party tipsters. It was also contradicted by his statement to police that he was secretly texting Wilson using a fake name on his phone so she couldn’t be identified by Armstrong.
- More gaslighting that drives Armstrong insane. Armstrong was so tortured by the triangulation that she blocked Wilson’s number on Strickland’s phone, began cyber stalking her, got a gun, and made phone calls threatening Wilson to stay away from Strickland.
- Withdrawing affection/demeaning Armstrong. Strickland dismissed Armstrong as a mere “participant” in gravel, whereas he was a legitimate “racer.” Strickland admitted that when he rode with Armstrong and he dropped her, he got “grumpy” when he had to wait as she wasn’t at the level of a professional racer.
- Blaming the victim. Strickland, with the help of willing news media, characterized himself as blameless, allowing the news trajectory to focus on the trope that Armstrong was a crazy, jealous woman.
- Makes himself out to be the victim. After admitting his douchebaggery to police, Strickland issued a pious press statement saying “Moriah and I were both leaders in this lonely, niche sport of cycling, and I admired her greatly and considered her a close friend. I am deeply grieving her loss.” The real person who’s been hurt? Poor old Colin. Let’s give him some space to grieve, okay?
What’s so horrible is the way that Strickland’s behavior has been glossed over by the media. Everyone points out that he’s not a suspect in the case, but no one is taking him to task for pouring oil on this conflagration that he himself is responsible for. And that’s partly because the pathology of narcissism is not well understood by the public outside of the word’s use as an epithet.
In fact, sociopathy, a/k/a antisocial personality disorder, narcissism, and psychopathy belong to a cluster of personality disorders that are well studied and well understood by medical science, known as the B Cluster of personality disorders. Although a person can have a variety of symptoms that make it difficult to label the disorder, i.e. narcissists share many traits with sociopaths, the salient fact is that certain combinations of certain traits lead to very predictable abusive relationship patterns. With the sociopath-narcissist-psychopath, the fundamental trait is a lack of empathy. The narcissist simply cannot put himself in the other person’s shoes, therefore he cannot understand why his behavior is wrong. Such people, not coincidentally, have an almost zero rate of “cure” and there is no known therapy or medication that can heal them.
It is this absence of empathy that is the cornerstone around which the narcissist’s main strategy is built. This is always the strategy of lying. The narcissist, in his pursuit of adulation as he hops from woman to woman, must constantly lie to everyone involved. Strickland certainly displays some faux empathy, another characteristic of narcissists, when he talks about how tortured he is to be so close to this tragic crime. But he never takes blame or responsibility for any of it, and never acknowledges that he has lost his sponsors because everyone can see how horribly he has behaved. His suffering is simply his proximity to the crime, not guilt at what he’s done. This is key because without empathy, you cannot experience guilt. He appears to be suffering when he looks at how this will affect his career, not at how the woman he presumably loved is a potential candidate for death row. As sponsors flee and people in the gravel world turn up their noses in disgust, everyone can see how badly he’s behaved. Everyone except him, because NO EMPATHY.
Strickland’s lies are so badly wrought and patent that it seems pointless to identify them. However, narcissists aren’t necessarily good liars, but they are always effective ones. By changing names, arranging clandestine dates, lying about whereabouts, manufacturing dead battery excuses, and always having a plausible explanation for the lie, the narcissist gaslights his victim. Armstrong was clearly so distraught by the dishonesty–is he cheating or isn’t he?–that she was willing to kill the other woman to resolve the uncertainty: you can’t have an affair with a corpse.
We don’t have the facts to confirm that Strickland love bombed Armstrong, the first step in a narcissist’s relationship, but she clearly felt a lot more for him than he did for her, and it’s not hard to imagine that she was lovestruck by his awesomeness on the bike, his reputation as a winner, and his 40,000+ #socmed fans. To underscore the disparity, Strickland says almost nothing post-murder about her. Nothing positive, nothing loving, nothing supportive. In fact, he runs as far as he can from the crime scene, doing everything in his power to wash his hands of Armstrong. He even “goes into hiding” out of fear. This too supports the narcissist’s relationship pattern. First he secures the victim’s love, then he withdraws affection. If they were together for three years and he can’t even bring himself to say she was a beautiful, wonderful person with whom he shared so much and he can’t understand how this happened … then there was something really, really wrong.
Contempt, the next phase of withdrawing affection, is evident in the affidavit when he disparages Armstrong’s cycling ability. Any woman who’s ridden with a stronger boyfriend or husband knows that it’s easy to have your self esteem attacked simply by getting dropped and having the stronger rider wait impatiently, which is precisely what Strickland admits doing. Moreover, his excuse, that she wasn’t a professional, is crazymaking. When had she pretended to be? When had that become a prerequisite for the relationship? He wasn’t a real estate agent with a job, either, and she didn’t lord that over him. When love bombing in the early phase of the relationship gives rise to contempt, disregard, and cheating, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a narcissist.
As far as Strickland is concerned, he clearly thinks he’s amazing, humble bragging about being called one of the greatest cyclists in the world (but somehow never having been good enough to ride the Pro Tour), and creating a #socmed image filled with self-love and self-adulation. His Red Bull videos are nauseating, so filled with pride at his ability to suffer, his “all body cramps,” his search to find his “breaking point,” and the fact that he’s such a “marked man” in the peloton.
In conjunction with the withdrawal phase of the narcissist’s relationship comes what’s known as triangulation. The love triangle is of course anything but. It’s a triangle of rage, hatred, and abuse, and it’s created by the narcissist in order to tear down the victim and prepare her for the final act in the tragedy, technically known as the “discard.” Triangulation always brings in a third person with whom the narcissist has had a romantic interest, with whom he may have an interest in later, or who is simply someone who can “objectively” testify to the victim’s unreasonableness/craziness and thereby further undermine her identity in preparation for the discard.
Mo Wilson was the perfect third side of the triangle. She was young. She was pretty. She was far more accomplished athletically. She was the darling of the sport. She was innocent. She had an engineering degree from Dartmouth. And she could be injected into the relationship sexually, via text messaging, via meetings at races, and via private dates so that Armstrong’s already crumbling self-esteem would be ground into dust. For her part, Wilson was likely receiving subterfuge from Strickland along the lines of “My girlfriend is crazy jealous,” and similar distortions of why Armstrong was so frantic. Armstrong seemingly confirmed this by calls to Wilson telling her to lay off. To Wilson, Armstrong might have seemed unhinged, but to Armstrong, caught between the triangulation, the withdrawal of affection, and the constant lying, things must have been falling apart through no fault of her own. This is how the narcissist works: inflict the damage and let the victim conclude that she’s to blame (not a good a enough bike rider) for the narcissist’s sudden interest in the younger, more athletic woman.
This process is called grooming, where the narcissist cultivates a relationship to land on as he prepares to discard the victim. Wilson, of course, is not privy to the gaslighting and triangulation, although she’s already experiencing some of its effects as Strickland keeps her guessing, sets up secret dates, is vague about their status, and likely disparages Armstrong to her. Strickland’s grooming of Wilson is obvious to anyone who knows what’s going on; he describes his relationship as simply “helping” her to get sponsorships and learn the ropes as a neo-pro. What a guy! Generous older man, wildly successful in his niche, kindly looking out for the eager, talented, bright-eyed up-and-comer.
The problem with his supposed kindly, disinterested generosity? The definition of betrayal is putting another person ahead of the person who’s supposed to be first. Whether it’s secret texting, secret dates, inside jokes, or sex, Strickland repeatedly betrays Armstrong without remorse, admission of wrongdoing, or intent to change.
That’s because the discard is coming. The only person who didn’t see it all along was Armstrong. The traditional narcissist’s discard is a horrible, identity-obliterating piece of cruelty. After all the love bombing, all the talk of soul mates, the joint business ventures, the promises of foreverafter and forevermore, the narcissist callously dumps the victim and gloriously sets forth on a beautiful and perfect life with the new victim in a whirlwind of publicity. #Socmed status is changed, loving date photos are posted, and the old victim sees her narcissist waltz off with a seemingly perfect, happy mate who gets all of the love and attention that she was supposed to end up with.
The discard is the most crushing moment in the trajectory of the narcissist’s relationship. The discarded victim is left with nothing emotionally, and often left financially destitute as well.
But in Strickland’s case, things got out of hand no thanks to the fake Second Amendment right of anyone to buy any weapon anywhere at anytime for any reason. Armstrong armored up and she didn’t wait for the discard. Instead, she discarded the innocent Wilson with a few well-placed rounds from a 9mm. Strickland may have lost a few sponsorships, but he literally dodged a bullet. Armstrong wasn’t the beaten down, destroyed woman that he’d hoped she’d become before he shifted gears full time to Wilson. She was abused, she was shaken, and her self-esteem had taken almost unbearable body blows, but she wasn’t going to let herself be discarded by Strickland. Had she known more about narcissism she might have been able to change the focus of her anger from Wilson, the next victim of Strickland’s, to Strickland himself.
By focusing on the jealous lover trope, the love triangle gone awry trope, the media neatly deflects a discussion of cause and focuses solely on effect. The dramatic escape of the suspect who absconds to Central America, her cosmetic surgery, the international dragnet that resulted in her arrest, and now, of course, the upcoming trial in which we’ll get to peer more deeply into the sadness and despair of a woman driven to murder another over some two-bit, over-the-hill, never-was-a-contender bike bum who wins races no one’s ever heard about.
What we won’t hear about is the cause, or at least, we haven’t heard about it yet. Strickland has done a great job of standing as far from the bomb blast as possible and most of the attention has been focused on the women, you know, the cat fight. If you could sum up Strickland’s media strategy it would be “Fuckin’ chicks,” with a sad shake of the head.
However, he’s not unscathed. It’s my opinion that his sponsors in particular and the broader public in general recognize him as a Class A scumbag, even though the news story has focused on the trope of the jilted lover. If he weren’t such a cretin, why would Specialized et al. have yanked his sponsorship? His behavior and his lies are so deplorable, made more despicable by his quotes about the “torture” he’s experiencing at his “proximity to the crime”–a tragedy that, in my opinion, he fucking caused. The general public may not know what a textbook narcissist is or how one operates, but they know a creep when they see one.
And since I’m a lawyer, I have a different take on this mess. In fact, here’s another Cycling in the South Bay opinion you can take to the bank: when Kaitlin Armstrong (what is it about that name?) seeks to prove she committed the much milder, second degree crime of passion rather than a first degree felony such as premeditated murder, her lawyers will marshal an incredible array of evidence showing what a manipulative, deceitful, sociopathic piece of shit that Colin Strickland is. His triangulation, his lies, his undermining of Armstrong’s identity even as he side-hustles Wilson … all these things are going to come out and they’re going to leave the jury wondering what too many women already know: how could anyone not lose her mind when subjected to this kind of sick, misogynistic gaslighting and sociopathy?
Colin Strickland is hopefully sweating bullets as he awaits the subpoena that will put him on the witness stand and reveal him as the sick, rotten misogynist that he sure appears to be. It won’t bring Mo Wilson back to life, but hopefully it will keep Kaitlin Armstrong off death row.
Thankfully, the neo-fascists at Red Bull may still be willing to sponsor him, since “misogynistic narcissist” is probably italicized in Red Bull’s corporate charter, and also thankfully, Strickland will receive the dollars commensurate to a great gravel racer, an amount which, in Austin’s housing market, should enable him to live in one of the city’s very finest shelters for the homeless.
And who knows? His personality disorder may even qualify him for a job at the bike shop partly owned by Austin’s other legendary cycling psychopath. What was that guy’s last name again?
July 17, 2019 § 6 Comments
I learned this from Fields and the Dickson brothers. In bike racing it’s often called “taking someone off the back.” It has a lot of variants and is a key bike racing skill.
Here’s the way it works: There is someone in the break who you don’t want to be there. Sometimes the rider is a threat. Other times he is a lame wheelsuck who can only make it to the line by doing zero work in the break. Still other times he is just a weak blabbermouth.
In the traditional last man lag, you drift to the back, where LW is sipping tea, and you open up a gap. LW notices the gap, then sprunts around. It’s the only effort he has done all day, or intends to do. He latches back on and resumes his wheelsucking. Of course when he sprunts by, you grab his wheel so he tows you up to the group.
You then reshuffle yourself in the break so that LW is again on your wheel. You open up a gap, again. LW sprunts by to close the gap, and tows you back up. Now LW knows what’s up and he’s winded, huffing and puffing. Sometimes, LW is so dumb that he doesn’t even know what’s going on.
You reshuffle again, get in front of LW, and open up a gap a third time. This time, though LW is mad. “Fuck you!” he either says, thinks, or both. Now he has decided not to close the gap. The gap opens, and opens, and opens. Pretty soon LW realizes that if he doesn’t do something, the race is over. But it’s too far for him to close the gap because he’s a lame wheelsuck. You then kick it hard, drop LW, motor back up to the break, and he’s gone.
The key to making last man lag work is that you have to be strong enough to close the gap. Alternatively, you have to be content with simply drifting all the way back to the peloton or the chase group. The key is to neutralize LW, to get him out of the break because he doesn’t belong there. Last man lag is always accompanied by lots of histrionics, shoutypantsing, and mean words, which you are duty bound to ignore. What makes last man lag so painful is that it exposes LW’s complete weakness, and therefore you don’t want to try it with someone who is better than you. They will simply let you drift way off the back, then come around you so hard that you’re the one who gets dropped, and they will happily reattach.
A second version of last man lag, and by far the more emotionally painful one for LW, is the disruptive non-rotation.
In this version, you refuse to rotate through. LW and others will shout at you and get very angry. Don’t worry, though, it’s bike racing, and the iron rule of breakaways is this: If you can’t drop a rider out of the break, you can’t drop a rider out of the break.
Once the frustration reaches a pitch, someone will start attacking in order to get rid of you. This part can be briefly painful, because you’ve targeted LW and want to make sure that he’s not part of the final mix, and you may have to actually exert yourself as you follow LW, who is going to try and not get dropped. LW is typically a clueless dunderhead and has no idea that any of this is transpiring. A better scenario is that he is a 99% clueless dunderhead, knows what’s happening, and knows he can’t do anything about it.
LW or the other breakmates will cover the move and you will resume your non-rotating, engendering more shoutypantsing. Sometimes it even takes the form of wheedling. For example, LW, who hates your fucking guts, will sweetly say, “Come on, buddy, just rotate through.” It’s important that even though you want to get off your bike and laugh hysterically, you maintain your poker face and refuse to work.
The anger pitch resumes, along with the attacks. The attacks are of course the one thing that LW can’t respond to, so gaps open up. In the melee you have to get on LW’s wheel, which is like taking candy from a baby. Once you’re there, you’re golden, as he will pedal mightily, jersey zipper popping as his tummy jiggles hither and yon, yearning to be free.
Then LW will do the elbow flick of the century and swing over. You will swing over with him. Under no circumstances will you pull. He will say some unkind things about your mother. About your childhood. About your lack of manliness. But no matter, because you and he are now off the back with one or two other riders and the race is up the road.
The key to making this version of last man lag work is silence and 100% fixation on LW’s rear wheel, because in addition to swerving, taking you to the curb, and trying to knock you down, he will also make one super-human effort to get back up to the break. Of course because he is LW and the jump will immediately deflate and peter out, this move will fail–you just want to make sure that you don’t get gapped out and actually have to pedal.
After a while you will either go back to the field, or better yet, get lapped. LW will be so angry that he goes slower and slower until, if you’ve played your cards perfectly, you’ll both be pedaling at about 5 mph. LW will really lay into you then. But the insults will be confused and jumbled and sound like the playground taunts of that kid in third grade who was really bad at spelling. DO NOT LAUGH. Just keep pedaling until the race ends or you get pulled.
The payback to being DFL with LW is of course the hilarity and mirth that result when you regale your teammates with the details after the race. It will be something to giggle and laugh about for weeks, if not months, and if it happens in a training race where you don’t have to pay an entry fee, and if LW is especially lame, you can do it again, and again, and again, taking turns with other riders in successive weeks.
Don’t say you never learned anything here about bike racing.
July 8, 2019 § 6 Comments
I showed up for what I thought was going to be a mellow Cali Riderz group cruise on Saturday. I was still tired from the Holiday Ride beatdown and hollerfest.
When I got to the parking lot, George said, “You ready to race?”
“This is the annual Alameda Corridor race.”
“We give the women a five-minute head start and then chase them all the way to O Street and PCH along Alameda. It’s about 13 miles. Whoever gets there first gets bragging rights for the year, and the smack has been nonstop since they beat us last year.”
“What about all the lights?”
“You gotta stop for ’em.”
“Five minutes is huge over 13 miles. Do the guys ever win?”
“They haven’t in several years.”
About this time Michelle rolled up. She was crying.
“What’s wrong?” George asked, alarmed.
“I’m so sad,” she said.
“Then why are you crying?”
“I’m just thinking about how sad you boys are gonna be when we kick your butts again this year.”
I didn’t know what to say. I’d obviously wound up in the middle of a war. “This thing been going on a long time?” I asked.
“Decades,” George said. “Decades.”
We rode a long way to the start, picking up riders along the way. When we got to the restaurant parking lot where the festivities were going to begin, there was a crowd of riders. Part of the crowd included Travis and Joselyn, on a tandem.
“What are they doing on a tandem?” I asked George.
“Travis is going to pace the women.”
“We’ll never catch him.”
“It’s better than their Plan A,” he said.
“What was Plan A?”
“To get paced on a motorcycle.”
“How does this usually work?” I asked George, getting nervous.
“Last year we didn’t go hard enough at the start because of all the lights. After the 91, there aren’t any lights and you have a clear shot, but there’s only five miles or so left, so if you aren’t picking up stragglers by the 91, you’re never gonna catch the leaders.”
“So we sprint after every light?”
“We have to.”
“What about the other riders in our group?”
“What about ’em?”
The women left, timing their departure perfectly with a green light. Five minutes later we started and rolled immediately into a red. From there we sprinted after each light for what seemed like forever, more than ten or fifteen full-gas efforts from a complete stop. After a while it was just me, George, and Michael.
By the time we got to the 91 we could see a few rear blinky taillights. We went even harder. With less than a mile to go we saw Travis and Joselyn and Shermadean. The rule was that you have to finish with at least two women if you’re on the women’s team, and with two men if you’re on the men’s team.
With a quarter mile to go they broke up. We barely passed them at the end.
After we caught our breath the women advised us that it didn’t count. “The real race is in November,” they said. “When we have all our strong riders.”
“What was this?” I asked.
“Just a little warm-up. To let you feel good about yourselves.”
I don’t know how good I felt. My legs just ached. It was, however, one of the most fun rides I’ve done in ages, seasoned with plenty of spicy smack. I tried to keep my mouth shut, which is hard. November is way too close.
July 2, 2019 § 1 Comment
Nobody “deserves” to be in the Olympics. With few exceptions, you begin playing a game years before, the Olympic Game. It’s the contest that inexorably leads to your inclusion or exclusion from the biggest sporting stage on earth.
The battle isn’t just with splits or with successive triple axels or points or wins or or or or or. No, the battle is at every level, from breakfast to training, from personal issues to whether or not your country is at war, from getting on with your coach to getting sent to the competitions that matter, from tearing the legs off your competitors to tearing ligaments in an unfortunate fall.
The Olympic Game doesn’t end until you’ve either made the squad or you haven’t.
And even though the Olympics are so near that Tokyo has completed the stadiums, spit-polished Ueno Station, painted the city with English signs and ripped out the squat toilets, for the athletes the Olympics are still a thousand years away simply because anything can happen between now and then, and by “anything” I mean “anything bad.”
Yet the Olympics are dazzlingly close, too, because at least in the world of track cycling the pool of candidates has winnowed considerably, and there are only a handful of races left that will put contenders on a competition trajectory to participate in the most important events leading up to the Games.
Your chances of getting picked if you’re not winning? Slimmmmmm.
Your chances of getting picked if you’re not at the biggest races in the next eleven months? Zero.
One of the biggest forks in the road if you’re a U.S. bike racer trying to qualify for the Olympics is happening this week, it’s happening in Carson, and for many of the riders, everything is on the line. A crushing performance here will likely send you to the Pan-Am Games, and a strong showing there will propel you into the upcoming events in the World Cup.
A catastrophic showing in Carson and your Olympic campaign will likely come to a halt, the kind of halt that happens when someone takes out your front wheel with a bulldozer. So if you’re wondering what to do this week, I recommend you take a few hours of your time starting Thursday and mosey down to the Carson velodrome to watch some hard core pre-Olympic knife fighting in the mud.
And no, I’m not going to backtrack on my opener, that no one “deserves” an Olympic slot. But I will say that at track nationals this year you’ll get to see the best, most astonishing, most accomplished, most interdiscplinary bike racer we’ve had in this country for years. Of course I’m talking about Daniel Holloway.
How good is Holloway? He has won the national elite crit title five times. He’s a two-time national elite road champion. How about this: he’s held a national title of some type every single year … since 2014. And on top of that, for a couple of years he was wearing national titles simultaneously in three events. Name a national caliber crit and he’s not only won it, but chances are he’s won it multiple times. Athens? Yup. Snake Alley? Yup. Speed Week? Yup. Tulsa Tough? Yup, yup, yup.
The only reason that he doesn’t still dominate the national road and crit scene is because he’s trying to make the Olympic track squad, period. He has raced six-days in Europe for years, and brings the same intellect, bike skills, and tactical genius to the boards that he brings to road racing. Explosive, canny, tenacious, he’s the kind of rider who quickly exhausts your thesaurus when you’re trying to explain that HE IS A BADASS KILLER OF A BIKE RACER.
But in addition to all that, he has another skill, one that truly puts him at the pinnacle of the sport: The ability to polish off a giant stack of homemade sourdough pancakes topped with butter and maple syrup and not even whine about the calories. In fact, when I offered him this healthy post-ride snack before we went for a pedal the other day, all he texted back was, “Sounds like gluten. I’m in.”
So my advice is that you boogie on down to the Carson velodrome sometime this week to watch some crazy great bike racing. You’ll see some people here in your hometown that, twelve months hence, you are for sure gonna see on TV.
June 25, 2019 § 5 Comments
Perhaps the biggest news in all of professional sports broke a couple of weeks ago when it was revealed that several riders accused team manager Patrick Van Gansen of inappropriate behavior. CitSB sat down with “Boxers” Van Gansen to get his side of the story.
CitSB: So it’s all out there. Sexual harassment. Fat shaming. Asking women riders to clean and cook. What do you say?
“Boxers” Van Gansen: This is all so what, no? But when they say I walk around the house in my underwear, I draw the line. I will make the strong defense.
CitSB: You’re denying that you walk around in a house full of young women in your tighty whities?
BVG: First of all, I do not wear the jockeys but the boxers. Second of all we had two rules in the house. 1) I never walk around in my underwear. 2) Unless the girls ask me to.
CitSB: And did they?
BVG: All the time.
CitSB: You’ve also been accused of fat shaming.
BVG: What is this?
CitSB: Humiliating a person because of their weight.
BVG: You are kidding, no?
BVG: I never do such a thing, only to the fat ones. And they are usually the ones asking me to walk around in underwear, by the way.
CitSB: Your accusers have also said that they weren’t paid.
BVG: This is true.
CitSB: Why is that?
BVG: As you know, they refused to cook and do the house clean.
CitSB: How has this controversy affected you?
BVG: As I have said in the interview with the CyclingNews, and I will quote, “Every day I receive messages from all over the world, telling me what a fat bag, dirty butt, bastard and so much more I am not.”
CitSB: Wow. A dirty butt bastard. People actually called you that?
BVG: Yes, it is true, they say such things but I am not dirty butt or bastard or fat bag.
CitSB: You say that your accusers were problem riders?
BVG: Yes, of course. They don’t like to ride in a little Belgian sprinkle. ‘It is too wet,’ they say. But I say ‘Get your fat ass out on cobbles and pedal, bitches.’ And for this they become angry and call me dirty butt bastard?
CitSB: Well, it is kind of strong language.
BVG: This you call strong language? Pfffft. It is little love whisper, my friend.
CitSB: How has your title sponsor, Health Mate, reacted?
BVG: They understand me completely, perfectly. They stand by me like big horse.
CitSB: Any concern that they may pull their sponsorship?
BVG: No, this good publicity for them. Excellent press coverage. Now whole world knows Health Mate is company that encourage women not to be fat.
CitSB: What about the formal complaints lodged with the UCI?
BVG: It is nothing. Trust me.
If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. If you hated it, subscribe anyway. Thank you!
June 13, 2019 § 7 Comments
Evens Stievenart and a South Bay crit specialist who hasn’t ridden his bike for three years, Cat 3 David Perez, are going to attempt the two-man Race Across America this coming Saturday.
I read that a few times and somehow it didn’t add up. Prez is doing RAAM? Last I heard, he was beta-testing for Krispy Kreme’s newest line of ultra-chub, frosting-smeared tummy busters. I’ve never seen Prez pedal for more than an hour without a coffee break, a cigar, and a ribeye … WTF is he doing trying to ride his bike across America with a beast like Evens?
So I did some research, a lot of it, called my sources, checked Wikipedia, talked to Charon, read the race roster and press releases, and carefully combed through Evens’s FB feed and found out that I HAD MADE A MISTAKE. Glad I caught it before I put it in my blog.
Anyway, turns out that Evens is NOT doing RAAM with retired Cat 3 Dave Perez from Jersey, but rather with world class endurance athlete Jean-Luc Perez from France. However, Dave and Jean-Luc have a lot in common, for instance they have the same last name. They are both men. Both reside on Planet Earth. Etc.
But back to Evens and Prez II. They plan to break the two-person RAAM record of six days, ten hours, and 14 billion stabbing sensations of pain throughout the body + Shermer’s Neck. Each of them has followed a meticulous plan of air up tires, ride, eat, sleep, repeat, for many years. Both are talented and thrive on the impossible. You can watch some of their incredible exploits here or here.
However, I don’t want to cover any of that. I want to talk about Evens, who I know personally and have ridden close to for a few seconds on one or two occasions, like the time he had a flat and was sitting on a curb, or the time we ate dinner together. Based on this intimate, insider relationship, I can tell you this: Evens is different. Of course he has all the qualities of a world class cyclist. He is fast, he has endurance, he has won a bunch of big races and etc.
But he stands out for the one quality he lacks: The quality of being a snobby jerk. No one is friendlier or quicker with a smile than Evens. Whether you are a local hacker or a locally deluded Cat 3 or a brokedown old fellow with a leaky prostate, Evens treats you with the exact same degree of kindness, openness, and warmth that he treats everyone. This is one reason why those of us who live in the South Bay kind of take him for granted, because although familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt, it does kind of make you forget that he is probably the greatest cyclist you will ever ride with.
Whereas other people are like, “Oh my motherfuckinggodjesuschrist you know Evens Stievenart?” we are more like, “Hey, Evens!” as he pedals by ten miles an hour faster with a wave and a smile.
His decency doesn’t stop with his demeanor. It continues with his participation in local rides. Somehow Evens finds a way to incorporate completely worthless hackfests like NPR, Telo, and the Donut Ride into his training, often by stitching it into the middle of a 190-mile training day. Other times, like the unforgettable week before his assault on the 24 Hours of LeMans, he will invite the entire wankoton to join him on a training ride. That time, he rode for 12 hours straight, averaging 189 gigawatts as local riders took turns sitting on his wheel or taking a pull in the wind for 18 or 19 seconds before they exploded like marshmallows stuffed with dynamite.
Evens knows he’s special. Everyone does. But he has the world-class knack of making you feel that you’re special, like you somehow have a microscopic bit role in his movie, like the thing that you’re doing and the thing that he’s doing although completely different and unrelated, are actually similar. I’ve never seen a rider so good about whom people say so many unanimously good things.
Which isn’t to say that there haven’t been episodes, like the time someone got butthurt because Evens did something or other and it turned into a Facegag drama. There, too, Evens showed his class and his decency. Rather than whipping out the flamethrower, or challenging the wanker to a ride, he apologized for any misunderstanding and humbly went on his way, leaving miles and miles of shredded legs and crushed egos in his wake.
Because at the end of the day, not to mention the beginning and middle, Evens’s kindness and decency stop exactly at the point you want him to get off of his program and onto yours, i.e. slow down just a little bit. Evens doesn’t mind if you ride with him, with this caveat: You’re riding with him, he’s not riding with you. If you’re hankering for a 1-hour stop at Prospect Coffee in Ventura at the turnaround on a 165-mile ride, sorry. He breaks for ten minutes and then leaves. Hope you know the way home.
Racing with Evens reveals an equally ferocious side. He attacks to win, and once he’s off the front, the number of prisoners he takes is zero. There’s no such thing as losing with honor, or racing for second place. The commitment he brings to his training, he brings to racing. Yet for all that, even when at his most earnest, he never resorts to bullshit tactics, wheel chopping, cursing other racers, or wheelsuckery. He’ll win at most costs, but not at all.
I could say more nice things about him, but why? If you ride in the South Bay you’ll meet him, and the experience will far surpass anything written here. If you don’t ride in the South Bay and you’re hearing about him from this blog, you won’t possibly believe that a cyclist could be such a decent human being. As my high school music theory teacher Mr. Strickland used to say, “Consider the source.”
When Evens and Prez II roll out mid-day Saturday from Oceanside, they will have a full team of 16 people to assist them in their quest to be the fastest duo to ever cross the USA on bicycles. Evens’s amazing wife Karina, his biggest admirer Cooper, and his legion of South Bay cycling fans will all be hoping for a successful race, a safe ride, and maybe even a slightly tired Evens with whom we’ll be able to keep up with on his return.
A fella can dream, can’t he?
If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 10, 2019 § 14 Comments
If you have ever thought that there was more to bike racing than brainless, wide, right-hand turns in an industrial office park, being fleeced by the promoter and shrieked at by Donald Trump … you were right!
Velo Club LaGrange brought to life something that is almost impossible to imagine in SoCal, that is, a bike race with right AND left turns on THE SAME COURSE. Oh, but there was more, so much more.
Of course there was some history here. LaGrange for years put on the Brentwood Grand Prix, the best crit on the SoCal circuit, technical but not dangerous, great downtown setting that was spectator-friendly, lots of prize money, and most of all, fun.
It took year of wheeling and dealing for LaGrange’s Daddy Warbucks to hammer out a five-year agreement with Porsche USA to allow a bike race on Porsche’s brand new, crazy good driving/testing track. The pavement? Perfect. The shoulders? No unpadded light poles here to kill and maim unlucky riders. Instead, the course had wide grassy shoulders that were forgiving and safe and that, several times, allowed riders to avoid collisions, shoot off into the grass, then re-enter the course and chase back on.
The course? It was technical, fast, and challenging not simply to win, but for many, to finish. With sweeping turns and a short straightaway, moving took skill and, if you didn’t do it just right, it burned through many a match to boot. Forget the masters teams with ten riders lined up with one lap to go, neatly delivering their guy to the line.
This was a race where leadout trains were almost impossible to establish, and even if lined up, they were quickly broken up in the run-in to the line. But there’s more …
Instead of having Donald Trump howl and yowl silly nothings, there were measured, intelligent announcers who told you what was going on, and better yet, a high observation hill from which you could overlook the entire course and see every move, every attack, every mix-up, in realtime. With a pair of binoculars it would have been even better. What differentiated this crit from virtually all others in SoCal was the visual of an entire peloton in a single file for the entire race, as opposed to a giant blob of riders, 99% of whom were sitting in for the sprunt while a handful either drove the pace of tried to get away.
To top it off, there was no extortion in the finishing area, where the promoter charged outrageous fees for clubs to set up their tents. Have a tent? Set it up, bro. No problem!
This event, with its five-year guarantee, will swell to mammoth proportions in the coming years because it delivers so much more than the hack offerings synonymous with many other crits. When racers have a convenient and safe venue, a challenging race course, the cachet of a major brand, the backing of one of the country’s oldest and most respected bike clubs, deep prize lists that put real money in riders’ pockets, respect for the participants and the spectators, great announcing, and a welcoming vibe, racers will sign up.
And … they did!
The women’s pro field boasted two UCI pros coming off the Tour of California, Krista Doebel-Hickock and Amber Neben. The other women’s fields had deep turnout as well, and to top it off, the promoters made junior racing a centerpiece rather than an afterthought.
Of course none of this happened by waving a magic wand. Porsche was initially far from certain that opening up its facility to a bunch of bike racers was going to be a good idea, but the marketing certainly made sense: A percentage of riders on nice bikes are also in the market for luxury cars, and what better way to show them what Porsche has to offer?
One of the funniest objections was Porsche’s initial concern that the bike tires could potentially damage its pristine, multi-million dollar test track. At first blush it sounds silly. How could a bike tire do what a car tire can’t? But then I thought about it like this: What would I do if a bunch of bike racers came up and asked to use my multi-million dollar facility with the blithe assurance that “It’ll be fine, dude, trust me.”
I’d run, that’s what.
But after analysis and discussion, the scales tilted in favor of the bike tires, and then it simply boiled down to this: Could the bike racers show up and not make total jackasses of themselves? Turns out they not only could … but they did.
A more polite, respectful, rule-following crowd I have never seen. Not a scrap of litter, not a single broken rule (don’t walk out onto the track or past the barriers), and no James Doyle-type antics. The consequence was bitterly hard racing and what I hope were enough sales leads to make Porsche think that there may be the basis for solid synergy between bikes and Porsche.
Huge kudos to everyone on VC LaGrange who pulled it off, from the negotiators, to the board that supported the race, to the volunteers who manned the event, and to the LaGrange racers, who, from the looks of it, outnumbered every other club on a day when clubs were out in force.
Here’s to 2020.
If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
June 5, 2019 Comments Off on So, um, what’s your plan?
That’s what I was thinking forty minutes into Telo. There were four other riders in the break: Julien Bourdevaire, who had sat on the front for 30 minutes and ridden most of the field out of the race. Peter the Hungry, who was either sitting in for dear life or planning a vicious attack. Chatty Cathy, whose game plan is always Hammer and See What Sticks, and Aaron.
That name kept bouncing around in my head, because with him in the split, there was no method to me winning. He was gonna win.
The small fry had already tossed themselves into the wood chipper, most notably Ivan the Terrible, reduced for the day to Ivan the Droppable. He’d correctly id’d Julien as the wheel to sit, and at the 30-minute mark when Julien drifted to the back had rolled up beside me and nudged me off of Jules’s wheel in the first turn.
“You should have just asked,” I thought, but no worries. I’m not committed enough to fight for a wheel, and it gives 20-something beginners a sense of satisfaction to push the old and infirm out of the way. I’m a giver.
Plus, I was laughing to myself. “Let’s see how well you like Jules’s wheel in about two minutes.” Because after decimating the field, Julien was taking a breather before doing what I predicted was going to be something really painful.
It had been an eventful Telo so far. About fifteen minutes into the race, the chain whip in the middle of the turn that we kept running over finally flipped up and into Emmy’s front wheel, exploding it with a massive bang. It’s easy to blame motorists for throwing trash onto the street, but it was hard to come up with an explanation of how a motorist in an office park would have dropped a chain whip.
Couldn’t have been a cyclist.
Two riders had gone up the road, and when we hit the tailwind, sure enough, Julien launched. Ivan the Droppable, who was perfectly positioned to follow the perfectly telegraphed move, opened up a huge gap as Jules sprinted away. I was on Ivan’s wheel, laughing as he desperately tried to close the widening gap. When he blew, I came around, then hit my own mini-wall.
Aaron came around me, bridged to Julien, and they were poised to join Peter the Hungry and Chatty Cathy. I grunted, put in an ugly effort, and latched on. Ivan was back in Gardena somewhere.
Our five-man group rotated easily away from the shards and pieces of the chasers, but still I kept thinking … “Aaron.”
Because as things stood, I was going to get fifth, and since I was showcasing my new Bahati kit, that wasn’t going to be enough. As is always the case at Telo, if Aaron is with the leaders at the finish, he’s going to win. Coming around him is about as success-proof a plan as coming around Charon Smith.
So I attacked with seven laps to go.
Unfortunately, several lapped riders fell in with the chasers, who also slowed, allowing Ivan & Co. to claw back on. This gave me a bit more distance, but it also meant that it was a matter of time before they started chasing in earnest, and nine riders against one old, slow, fading grandpa was a foreordained outcome.
Still, with five to go I had a gap. With four to go, a gap. With three, with two, and finally with one to go, I had a gap. The impossible looked like it was going to happen, except that each time I glanced back I could see Ivan, Wes, Brandon, and Chatty Cathy throwing everything they had into the chase.
Did they not understand that they were with Aaron? What did they think was going to happen in the sprint if they reeled me back? Why, instead of trying to bridge, were the motorheads working together to catch me in order to set up Aaron for the win?
All of these questions were duly explained afterwards by Baby Seal. Caught and shelled with half a lap to go, I was despondent. “Look, Wanky, there are three types of riders in the chase. The first are the ones who are just happy to be there. They may be lapped, or they may have lucked into it, but they don’t care about anything other than being where they are. The happyheads are irrelevant and ignored.
“The second ones are the swivelheads. They simply hammer and follow every move, without thinking about why, about the composition of the group, or about the finish. They are the ones that Aaron is playing like a banjo, using them up as they pointlessly squander their watts in the waning moments of the symphony. They include ‘teammates’ who chase, lapped riders who rested for ten minutes and now have a few more efforts to throw down, as well as arch-enemies whose idea of a win is seeing you lose. Bottom line, they are Aaron’s bitches, they just don’t know it, and probably never will.
“The third ones are the winners. Julien is back there laughing. He likes you and isn’t going to chase. But Aaron? He’s there to win. And he did.”
“What about me? Which type am I?”
“You,” he said, “are the hopeless flailer who sets everything up for Aaron. Either you stay in the break and help power him to the finish, or you launch, inducing your ‘teammates’ and the other swivelheads to chase you down, thereby giving Aaron a bunch of corpses to gently step over in the last 400 yards.”
“But why don’t the other riders calculate that as long as Aaron is there, they lose? Why don’t they attack him until one of them gets away?”
Baby Seal shrugged. “Calculate? It’s Telo.”
If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!