Quitting for good
May 31, 2016 § 13 Comments
The great thing about quitting bike racing once and for all is racing again. It’s a freshener-upper, like ditching a girlfriend who you’re absolutely done with and can’t stand ANY MORE EVER until later that night when you get hungry.
I woke up this morning, the day after I’d competed in two races at the Old Fellows Droopy Sack Race in Thousand Oaks, and two races at the Same Old Droopy Sack Fellows Race in Compton. All I could think of was Brett Clare. It was his fault I felt this way.
“This way” was unable to stand properly, with shooting pains up and down my spine and legs. Worst of all, I stood on the Monday scales and realized that I’d gained five pounds in 48 hours. Apparently the math of a few hours racing + 49,000 calories = stretchy pants morning.
I hobbled into the kitchen to make coffee, wondering how it had ended this way. On Memorial Day, our nation’s greatest celebration of sending off young people to die and spend a trillion dollars in Iraq so that we can shop at Wal-Mart, I had made a clever race plan for the CBR Memorial Day crit to compensate for my tiredness from the previous day’s racing:
- Sit for 40 minutes.
- Attack at the 41st minute.
- Break the field with my tremendous power.
There were some obvious problems with this strategy, but the most obvious one (aside from the well-proven absence of tremendous power) was the promise I made to teammates FXH and Dave Holland, who had shaken their heads in disbelief at the idea that I’d wait even four minutes, much less 40, before making a pointless move.
“Guys,” I swore on a handy bible that I pulled out of my skinsuit, “if I do anything other than sit last wheel for the first forty minutes of the race I’ll buy you each a new bicycle.”
“Thanks,” said FXH, “but we don’t have any more room in the garage for a junker pulled out from the dumpster.”
“No, no,” I said. “Full carbon made of 100% Taiwanese carbon with fancy Italian name decals and all carbon. Di3 wireless with Transformer functionality so it also folds into an aircraft carrier.”
David shrugged. “Whatever you do, we’ll try to help.” He patted his cell phone which he had thoughtfully opened to 911-instant-send on my behalf.
At that moment Patrick, my beloved Texas compatriot who had disproven everything we knew about Aggies and who had brought his BBQ smoker to the race, was on his bell lap in the Cat 3 race. We watched him pull the slickest move in the book, the old “jump off your bike mid-pack and create a bit of confusion so your teammates can sprint to glory.” Video here.
Of course Patrick wasn’t only working for his teammates with this slick move. He was also shearing off a few choice cuts of skin and lean beef to add to the cooker so that we could feast afterwards on some incredibly tender cuts of bikerloin. And it was outstanding!
But back to the story …
The race began and I drifted to my allotted slot, #65. I watched far up ahead as Brett Clare, Brett Clare, and Brett Clare began whaling the living snot out of each and every droopy sack. In between Brett’s savagery, Thurlow Rogers would launch punishing counter after punishing counter, and off in the distance I could see my loyal teammates FXH, Dave Holland, Attila Fruttus, Chuck Huang, and Steven Ehasz closing gaps, attacking, and doing things of a various nature.
Each lap was made more interesting by the checkling of David Worthington, who, seated on a rusty bicycle, pedaled counter-clockwise and checkled everyone with bits of wisdom such as “Go faster!” and “Pedal harder!” and “The ’94 Rockets are better than your punk ass Warriors!”
It was surprising how un-tired I became sitting at the back doing nothing, and it appeared that the fellows doing all of the animating were not animating quite as hard fifteen minutes in as they had animated at the beginning, and after thirty minutes of animating their animating was much less animated, until, at forty minutes, there was a noted absence of much animation at all. A few laps prior Thurlow and another legend of the road had attacked and escaped.
I watched my watch to make sure I wouldn’t end up owing anyone a new bike or 100% carbon, coasted forward and did the Daniel-Holloway-accelerate-from-midpack so that when you hit the front you’re going 75 MPH and no one can even think about getting on your wheel. In my case, that has never worked because by the time I hit the front after my massive acceleration I’m only going about 25 and there are 60 other people on my wheel checking texts and emails.
This time, however, what with all the animation having evaporated into the ether, I hit the front and then hit the off-the-front and then hit the howling-fucking-headwind-on-the-uphill and then hit the breakaway and then hit the breakaway-chasing-to-get-on and then we rode around for a couple of laps and I noted:
- One bullet early equals two bullets late.
- If you’ve only got one match but the other dudes have none, you’re the only one who can light the fire.
- The pack loves to chase Wanky.
So we got caught and the pack sat up about ten yards before rolling up to my rear wheel. Which was when I noted something else:
So I did and the pack sat up and Brett Clare, Steven Strickler, and Rigo Cruz bridged and I buried it and attacked the break after Turn 3 and they hollered at each other while I pedaled furiously away. My Big Orange teammates had been masterfully controlling the field with expert blocking, shouting, weaving, bobbing, threats, firebombs, and plentiful garlic farts.
With victory secured and my congestive heart failure doing its thing I noticed with two turns to go that Brett Clare was gaining on me, filling my field of vision more and more like an alien in a horror film until he opened his jaws and snapped me in half a hundred yards before the line. (Moral: Riding away from a time trial champion is harder than it looks, and it already looks really fucking hard.)
They carried me from the oxygen tent to the podium and set me gently upon it, where I demurely kept my arms at my side and tried not to breathe beneath the raised arms of the great.
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The color wheel
August 5, 2013 § 15 Comments
Our SPY-Giant-RIDE team had spent a lot of time analyzing the course for the Brentwood Grand Prix in West Los Angeles, scouting the competition, and figuring out the best battle plan for bringing our main man, “Nails” Flores, to a second consecutive win. It was kind of a complicated plan and I drifted in and out of the pre-race discussion, catching only bits and pieces.
“…counterattack…after the prime…”
“Watch out for…”
“…going well right now…make sure to…”
“…breakaway but keep the pack…”
Problem was, I couldn’t focus because I had my mind on much more important things, like the colors of our new summer kit and whether everyone would be matching. I had always wanted to be on my junior high school cheerleading team so that I could wear perfectly coordinated clothing, right down to the shoelaces, but that was back in the day when male cheerleaders were laughed at, teased, called “sissies,” then gruesomely beaten to death. So, as they say, I chose life.
As everyone knows, in order to be a pro masters 45+ prostate-challenged bike racer, you have to have at least two kits. You need a spring-ish one that has dark colors to represent the departed winter and the windy, rainy, muck of March along with a splash of color for the flavor of flowers and greenery in April and May. Summer, however, must be bright and sunny and redolent with the smell of freshly mown lawns and new car purchases that you can’t really afford but that you were suckered into by the Toyota Tent Sale.
Master designer Joe Yule had been commissioned to do our summer kit, and had apparently knocked it out while watching re-runs of “I Dream of Jeannie” or while wearing a dress and heels. I pulled it on, admiring the way it flattered my chest and butt, and thought it looked great until I saw Brett Clare.
“Hey, Wankmeister! You guys all wearing Tink’s old SPY kits now?”
Then the other riders chimed in. “At least you won’t need separate orders for the men’s and women’s team!”
“Powder puff blue will go great with your eye shadow!”
Of course I recognized that they were simply jealous, and continued to focus on what really mattered: Making sure our team was properly coordinated. It wasn’t my fault that their mothers had raised them to think that electric green kits looked good with tongue studs and tattoos of dragons eating the sun while fighting St. George in front of a death’s head on top of a naked woman with angel wings and huge breasts.
At that moment up came Erik the Red. “Dude, you got my kit?”
“Uh, no. Why?”
“I thought it was being shipped up to you from San Diego.”
“Crap! Maybe I left it in the van.”
We only had a few minutes before the race started, so I rushed back to the parking lot. I was driving a borrowed 1975 Chevrolet van that had originally been “customized” with a bed and blue shag carpet and then used for another thirty years as a plumber’s truck. I tore the thing up looking for Erik’s kit.
He came over. “Find it?”
“No. But this may help.” I handed over a dust-covered dildo and a broken monkey wrench.
“Um, thanks, dude,” he said, and wandered off in search of clothing to borrow.
Getting on the same page
As we lined up I noticed that Nails was wearing the wrong color helmet. His was black with blue highlights, whereas the proper matching helmet should have been blue with black highlights. Before I could say anything to him about this horrific fashion faux pas, the gun went off.
The pace was fierce. Of the hundred starters, twenty decided that they had better things to do that Sunday by the end of the third lap. Each time I tried to advance towards the front to tell Nails about his helmet and offer to switch, a sweep would come up the side and put us all back into the gutter.
On the fourth lap a nice fellow wearing a kit that said “Ryan Construction: Building Relationships” chopped the shit out of my wheel in the fourth corner and almost ground me into the curb, into the air, onto a barrier, and into the meatwagon. I looked at him as he chopped me. “Really?” I asked.
He glowered in fury, unapologetic for having tried to kill someone for a bike length’s advantage in the middle of an old fellows’ race. We entered the 180-degree turn after the start finish, and Mr. Relationships was on my wheel. Just before I came out of the turn he reached over, grabbed me by the chest, and threw me backwards in order to pass me and sprint out of the turn for an “attack.”
I hopped on his wheel and watched him lay down a searing, brutal, inhuman, impressive effort for a solid 400 yards, after which his piston threw a rod, the transmission fell out, the wheels came off, and he went spinning wildly off to the side, never to be seen or laughed at again.
Helping my teammate
By now Nails was off the front with nine of the best riders and mix of the biggest teams in the race. Their gap was substantial; they were gone for good, it seemed. I began to panic, thinking that there was no way for me to tell him about his helmet, so I decided to ride up to where he was and let him know.
The ten-man breakaway hammered as hard as it could, but nothing was going to keep me from helping my buddy. I went to the front and, lap after lap, poured on the coal. Stupid teammates of mine who don’t know shit about color coordination screamed incessantly.
“Ease off, dumbass! You’re pulling back the break!”
“Quit hammering, dumbfuck! That’s our guy up the road!”
Teams Amgen, Surf City, and BBI also panicked, as their breakaway riders were imperiled by my efforts. “Quit pulling, you moron!” they screamed.
But I was on to their wily tricks. They wanted Nails to cross the line first in that uncoordinated outfit and make him a laughingstock, and it wasn’t going to happen on my watch.
Fortunately, with one lap to go I was able to cross over to the breakaway and bring the remaining fifty riders with me. As I sprinted for the front to tell Nails about his desperate helmet mismatch, my legs failed and I coasted in. My teamwork had paid off, though. By bringing fifty fresh riders up to the exhausted breakaway, I had ensured that six other riders crossed ahead of Nails so that his awful fashion mistake would be lost in the excitement of celebrating the winner.
Nails didn’t appear too happy when I told him about my efforts. “Dude, are you telling me you pulled the whole fucking race to chase down my break because you didn’t like my helmet?”
“Yeah. That’s what buddies do for buddies.”
“But I wanted to win that race, you dumbass.”
I nodded sympathetically. “You did. The guy who crossed the line first was wearing a terrible red-and-black combination with mismatched socks. Not even close. You owned his outfit by a mile.”
Red, white, and blue
August 21, 2012 § 1 Comment
I got all prepared to do a story about masters road nationals in Bend, Oregon. I was gonna get a list of all the SoCal men and women who are going up north to vie for a star spangled jersey. I was gonna give ’em all a cool bio. I was gonna do a rousing send off blog for the whole crew. I was gonna fill it with facts. Figures. Race results. Predictions. I was gonna really do some serious journalizing reportage stuff.
I was also gonna help out with the laundry and wash the dishes.
Old habits are old habits for a reason
The main reason they are old habits is because you like having ’em more than you like breaking ’em. My old habit is, rather than doing serious writing, to just slap shit together at the last minute and call it good. There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.
Plus, I got to thinking, “How many of these dudes and chicks do I actually know? How many have I raced with? How many have I ridden with? How many have ever laughed at one of my jokes?”
It’s a pretty short list.
So now I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m going to leave a lot of people off my “Rousing Send Off to Nationals List,” and that’s just how it’s gonna be. If you’re really offended, send me a quick synopsis of who you are and what you’re gonna do, and I’ll make up some grand ol’ crap and slap you onto the tail of the list.
The Roll of Heroes
Jeff Konsmo: Jeff is racing the biggest, and therefore the hardest field at masters nats, the 45-49 road race. It has 88 dudes registered, which proves that this is the age when men truly lose all judgment and common sense in the vain attempt to recapture the glory of their youth. Jeff’s made a run at this race for the last few years and has never gotten the jersey, although he is, without a doubt, one of a handful of old dudes capable of wearing it. His preparation this year has been off the charts. He’s gone into double secret probation hiding. The only people who can finish his training rides use mopeds. Large ones. He’s putting the finishing edge on his razor by training at altitude near Lake Tahoe. He’s dropped all that excess weight he’s so famous for and is now down to 112 pounds, fully clothed and carrying a pair of dumbbells. Mostly, I want him to win because he’s gritty, dedicated, and a class act. Plus, he’s the only dude I’ve ever known who takes trophies from former wins to races, and isn’t afraid to do the hardest road race of the year the day after having half his jaw replaced.
Rich Meeker: Rich is coming off the winningest year in cycling since Merckx was a junior. It’s amazing that one man could have a home and garage large enough to hold all the hardware that Rich has won. It’s gotten so bad that he’s had to rent his third storage unit just for the trophies he’s won since July. His pistachio primes alone fill up a small dump truck. Whether it’s against the clock, against a field full of nutheaded whackadoodles, against the heat, against the wind, against the hills, or against anything except The Hand of God himself, Rich has proven himself, without question, the finest racer in any category. I want to see him win the 50+ RR and crit because the rest of the country’s top riders need to experience the hopelessness, the despair, and the crushing feeling of defeat that we all get just watching him put on his cleats. Take that, America! Once Rich rolls up to the line, you’d better hone your strategy for nailing down second.
Charon Smith: This is the guy who, week in and week out, does the most with the least. He’s never got more than a couple of teammates, it seems, and he’s constantly doing battle against Monster Media and their stacked fields of ten, twelve, or more riders. And they’re not just good riders, some are flat out great. With every eye glued to his flashy orange shoes, and with every sprinter keying on him in the final lap, he’s managed to bring home at least eight big wins this year that I know of…maybe more, and sometimes it’s just him and Slover. Talk about David whipping up on Goliath. I really hope he wins because he’s always willing to ride with us wankers, laugh at our jokes (some of them), and be a part of the community rather than above it. He’s a role model to a lot of people, and always focuses on the positive. So nobody’s perfect. He’s got his work cut out for him in Bend in the 35+ crit, but it won’t be the first time he’s been down for the count and come up on top.
Karl Bordine: I don’t really know Karl, but he said “hello” to me in the parking lot the only time I did Como. I rode with him a couple of weeks ago on the Swami’s ride. Well, in his vicinity. No one really rides “with” Karl, as he’s in a league of his own. He’s going for the 35+ ITT and the road race. If he’s half as good as all the stories I’ve heard, and half as nice as he seems to be, he’ll not only win the time trial but get Gentleman of the Year as well.
Phil Tintsman: This dude is just over the top awesome. Family man, easy going, and bloody hammer of death when the whip comes down. Slathered up one side and down the other with tattoos, he is truly a complete road racer, able to bust your chops in a breakaway, beat you in a sprint, ride away from you on a hilly road course, and of course smash the snot out of all comers on the Belgian Waffle Ride. I don’t have the time to check USA Cycling and make sure which events he’s doing, but whichever ones he does, I expect he’ll do a phenomenal job representing SoCal, and maybe bring home a jersey as well.
Jamie Paolinetti: This is another dude I don’t really know, except to the extent that I see him every race in a break, or winning out of a break, or chasing down a break, or bridging up to a break, or initiating a break. The other way I know him is by the name “Fuckin’ Paolinetti.” As in, “I had the race in the bag but at the last minute you know who came around me? Fuckin’ Paolinetti!” or “We had a minute on the field, but Fuckin’ Paolinetti bridged and dropped us.” If he wins a championship he’ll do it in aggressive, full-on style.
Roger Worthington: He’s the inventor of beer, curer of cancer, and toughest curmudgeon on two wheels, and despite our checkered history and the time he kicked me out on my ass right before Christmas, with bills to pay and three hungry kids and never so much as a “Thanks, buddy,” I can’t not hope that he comes up aces just because he’s so damned good. Of all the things that differentiate RGW, Legal Beagle, Max Kash Agro, Hoppy Rog, and Crafty Beerboy (pick a personality) from the herd, aside from his indescribable wealth nothing differentiates him more than this: He’s the toughest bike racer out there. He’s got more grit in his belly than a hominy factory. He’s done it all, and is quite literally the progenitor of the professional masters bike racer: Before it was any of the current masters pro teams, it was Labor Power. Like whores and bad architecture, even bike racers can eventually become respectable, or close to it. Seeing him bring home a hard-won jersey would mean that the best racer really did win.
Brett Clare: He’s another dude I don’t know too well except from his ass and his shoulder. His ass I got to meet at the San Marcos race when he blew by the field with half a lap to go in a display of speed and power that reminded me, once again, why I should be knitting instead of bike racing. I also know him from his shoulder at the Brentwood GP, where he took a hard fall, separated his shoulder, finished the race, and is still registered for nationals. That’s just incredible stuff. Anybody that tough has a jersey in him. Plus, he friended me on Facebook.
Alan Flores: Alan’s my teammate, and I could tell you about how great he’s been riding, how he won Brentwood, and how he won San Marcos, and how he got second or third at Ladera, and how he’s on form, and how he’s canny and always picks the right move, and how he bridges, and how he attacks, and how he sprints, and how he’s a really good guy to be around…but I’m not going to tell you any of that shit. I’m going to tell you about the only time I finished a race with him, at Ontario several years ago. We were in a break and I got last. Moving right along, although he’ll be battling it out with Roger, Rich, and the other badasses of SoCal, Alan’s got the right stuff. Here’s hoping he brings it home!
John Geyer: John’s another teammate, but he’s going to have to forgive me for the short entry. I’m beat to crap, it’s dinnertime, and BJ is drumming his fingers wondering where the Tuesday installment is. With the right combination of luck and smart moves, John could prove instrumental in getting Alan into the break. He’s been the consummate teammate all year and played a big role in San Marcos. Like they say, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,'” although, unfortunately, there’s no “beer,” either. Safe to say that after nationals, held as it is in the craft beer capital of the universe, that will be remedied and a few glasses will be drained. Here’s hoping that someone from SoCal is draining a glass in victory.