Changing of the guard
October 17, 2016 § 12 Comments
If you haven’t noticed, you will soon: The iconic grass roots race series affectionately known as “CBR” or “California Bicycle Racing” or “Pain in USA Cycling’s Ass” is being run by Jeff Prinz.
That’s right, and you heard it here second if you already noticed Jeff’s name on the latest CBR race flyers. Chris Lotts is no longer the promoter for CBR.
When you look up the word “controversial” in the dictionary, there’s a long entry, about twenty lines long, and at the end it says, “for a complete and thorough definition of the word in all its permutations, see ‘Christopher Lotts.'”
Some of Chris’s dust-ups were epic beyond epic, like the time he took on the entirety of women’s racing, or the time he got into a years-long battle with the Schroeder Iron/BBI riders, or the civil war that erupted when he lost control of the Tuesday racing in Eldorado Park. If you wanted to get into hand-to-hand combat, all you had to do was send him an email or, better yet, a Facebook message giving him advice about how to run his races. Add in a dash of complaining about prize money or the start time for your event and you would quickly upgrade from civil war to nuclear.
But Chris’s most epic act was the slow, drawn-out, 20-year consistent promotion of local bike races right here in our backyard. Like him or hate him, and I always liked him, Chris could be counted on to deliver what he promised, when he promised it, at the agreed-upon price. And to do that he had to fight USA Cycling, the local SCNCA organization supposedly dedicated to helping promoters, the disarray of local bike clubs, the petty bullshit of butt-hurt racers, the risk of bad weather wiping out an entire day’s event, and That Which Defines Every Bike Racer Who Has Ever Lived, i.e. “Gimme Something For Nothing.”
Chris could have made things easier, and he could have made his races more successful, but then he would have had to have been a different person, and a different person wouldn’t have persevered through thick and thin for the better part of twenty years to put on hundreds of fast, fun, local races. As people quickly found when dealing with Chris, save your advice for when you’re the one whose ass is on the line.
Whatever else Chris was, he wasn’t a philanthropist. His races had to turn a buck, and this past year not only revealed the writing on the wall, it was revealed in ten-foot, blood-red letters: Road racing in Southern California is on life support and the ICU nurses are out doing shots and meth in the alley behind the hospital.
SCNCA had a 30 percent drop in race entries for 2016. For any legitimate business, you’d fire the CEO and everyone else, you’d board up the storefront, sell the inventory, and get into a new line of work. It’s easy to point the finger, but it proves what Chris has said for decades. Our organizing body is killing the sport, and the people in charge of developing new racers and helping promoters have failed, because in tandem with the death-spiral of race entries we are also losing races on the calendar.
And what promoter would want to continue in this environment?
Answer: An experienced optimist with a new plan. Folks, I give you Jeff Prinz. He has his work cut out for him, but if yesterday’s CBR Upgrade Races are any indication, there’s life in the ol’ gal yet. He drew 200 entrants and has plans for two more races before year’s end. Not having any of Chris’s baggage, and being open to new approaches, being a proven relationship builder and an experienced bike racer who understands what cyclists want out of an event, Jeff is taking on a huge task but he’s taking it on with the tools to succeed.
I for one plan to support him 100% in his efforts with time, resources, and cash on the barrelhead. I hope you will make the “effort” to make sure he succeeds, if only because, you know, if you’re going to call yourself a bike racer, you really do have to actually race your bike.
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Show you the money
August 6, 2015 § 31 Comments
I hope you’ll put these two races on your calendar:
Why? Because it’s your last chance in 2015 to win some good money in a SoCal crit. I’m donating $2,000 in cash primes for the 8/23 race, and an additional $2,000 in cash primes for the 8/30 race.
For the 8/23 race’s P/1/2/3 event I’m donating eight $100 primes and one $200 prime on the next to last lap. Same for the 40+ masters men’s race. Good luck prying those dollars out of Surf City’s mouth!
For the 8/30 race, $1,000 in primes will be up for grabs in the P/1/2/3 event, and ditto for the women’s P/1/2/3 race, with the elite women getting exactly the same prime payout as the elite men.
The cash primes, which will be cash, will all be paid out in cash.
I support Chris and Vera’s efforts because year in, year out, they put on quality races that are easy to get to, that are run on safe courses, and that respect the efforts of the participants. Everyone doesn’t get a medal but everyone gets treated with respect, at least if you consider getting called a “cupcake” respect.
As just one example of the way Chris listens to his customers, this year he gave the 50+ racers one hour races for virtually the entire year. As far as I know, that’s the best in the country for our age category.
There is so much that is messed up about amateur bike racing that it’s incredibly important to support the quality events that we do have. I wish I knew how to make bike racing more popular and more inclusive, but I don’t.
What I do know is that beefy primes thrown in every few laps can up the ante, change the riders’ calculations at varying points in the race, encourage attacking, and give a lot more riders the chance to win even though they may not win the race.
See you there!
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June 15, 2015 § 14 Comments
When people sniffing around the edges of competitive cycling ask me about bike racing, I always tell them this: Preparation is key.
Not, of course, that there are any such people, but if there were that is what I would tell them.
And of all the critical preparations, none is more important than nutrition. Since Mrs. WM abandoned me for a 3-month orgy of Japanese food and home cooking courtesy of her mom, the world’s best cook in a nation of great cooks, I have been making do admirably because nutritional preparation is key to major races like the CBR crit #6.
This is a major race even though, despite diligently promoting the hell out of it and shaking the crust off my teammates to get them to show up, CHRIS LOTTS STILL HASN’T COMPED A SINGLE FUGGIN’ RACE ENTRY.
Anyway, I wanted to do well at this race and so I prepared nutritionally for it. However, the day before the race we were running low on food, well, actually we’ve been running low on food for a long time now since I’ve decided to boycott the supermarket until we eat through the stores that MRS. WM HAD LAID UP IN ANTICIPATION OF THREE NUCLEAR WINTERS.
This isn’t a contradiction; we are running low on fresh foods but not on flour, for example. You can’t have enough flour, and we don’t not have enough.
So sure, it’s going to be hard to eat all that flour, but not as hard as it will be to eat the twelve large cans of salt. So getting ready for the race meant preparing some flour and salt. Fortunately, the one thing Mrs. WM had left an ample supply of was Nestle chocolate chips. She bakes cookies once every three years, so we had twelve bags of chocolate chips in case someone needed to get diabetes over the weekend.
“Honey,” I said before she left, “please don’t go to the store and buy anything. Whatever it is, we have enough.”
“Okay,” she said.
Later that afternoon she came in, loaded down with grocery bags. “Did you just go grocery shopping?” I asked.
“I thought I asked you not to.”
“I didn’t buy any ‘food’ food.”
“What did you buy?”
“Toilet paper and chocolate chips.”
“But we already have twelve bags and I’m on a diet.”
She smiled and unloaded the bags.
The night before the race I took out the flour and butter and sugar and salt and baking soda and vanilla extract and chocolate chips and pecans, and I made a giant bowl of cookie dough for dinner. It was getting late and I didn’t feel like cooking because I wasn’t sure how the oven worked so I took out the peanut butter and Nutella jars and the remainder of the ice cream and put it all on top of the cookie dough and ate a couple of big bowls and drank some milk and a lot of coffee and then I went to bed.
The next morning I didn’t feel very good but I felt worse after breakfast, which was more cookie dough. For vegetables I sauteed an onion and some garlic and mixed it with Cheerios because I’d drunk all the milk the night before.
At the bike race I saw Prez, the most well prepared bike racer in history. He always gets to the race early to warm up, and this time was no exception. He’d arrived eight whole minutes before the race started, which is a long time for him. He was in a great mood. “Hey, Wanky,” he said. “Guess what?”
“I forgot my bike bag and don’t have any shoes. And my bike.”
Pretty soon twelve people were scurrying around to find him a pair of shoes. No one would loan him any because his foot fungus is pretty infamous, but a Cat 5 who didn’t know any better offered up a pair of New Bongasnoop Xtra Race Shoes. They were four sizes too big but Prez didn’t care.
“Hey,” he shouted to no one in particular, “does anyone have a helmet I can borrow?”
Someone did, but they knew that no helmet on Prez’s head is safe, so we ended up going up and down the line of parked cars trying to find one that was unlocked. We did and borrowed a really nice $400 POC aero helmet. “I’ll put it back as soon as I’m finished,” Prez said as we checked to make sure the sheriff patrol wasn’t around.
Back at the starting line with one minute to go Prez yelled to the onlookers. “Does anyone have a bike? I forgot my bike.”
He was in fact the only fully kitted out, aero-helmeted guy on the line without a bike. The same Cat 5 guy who just wanted to be nice gave Prez his $10,000 carbon bike with full carbon wheels and 100% carbon. “Be careful!” he said.
“That’s my middle name!” Prez said, pleased that he’d be able to wreck someone else’s machine this weekend.
With two laps to go Prez, who is the key lead-out man for Surf City’s train, roared up through the pack to take control of the lead-out and give his boss, Charon Smith, another lightning bolt pull to victory. “Dammit, Prez!” Charon shouted, “you’re doing it again!”
Prez had boxed in his boss, forced him into the curb, and was about to take out his front wheel. “Sorry!” he said, but not before the sound of screaming, cursing, and twelve broken bikes rent the air. A loose wheel arced overhead, temporarily blotting out the sun. Prez stepped on the gas, took out four people, ran over a pylon, hit a small child on the sidewalk, bounced off a tree, and flipped into a tent. The poor Cat 5’s bike shattered into a billion pieces at the poor kid’s feet.
Prez staggered to his feet, shading his eyes to watch Charon hit the jets and win his 67th victory of the season. As the poor Cat 5 cried inconsolably, sobbing about the five years it had taken him to save up for his bike, Prez stripped off the fungal shoes and patted him on the back. “Don’t worry sonny,” he said, “next time you just need to be a a little bit better prepared.”
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She told two friends, and she told two friends, and …
December 10, 2014 § 14 Comments
There are three kinds of people with racing licenses.
- Racers. They race pretty much every weekend.
- Sorta racers. They race a few races each year.
- Fakesters. They have all the stuff, but none of the “stuff.”
If you promote bicycle races, aside from your obviously miserable financial judgment, your need for public abuse, and the strange satisfaction you get out of dealing with angry/stupid/selfish people, you have one really big need on race day, and it’s that people show up and race. For the most part, we expect you, the promoter, to promote your race. We’ll come if we feel like it, maybe.
This is a stupid model. Sure, the promoter should do his best to get people to race. He’s a fuggin’ promoter, for fugg’s sake.
But full fields have as huge a benefit to bike racers as they do to promoters. Full fields increase prize money. They increase sponsorship. They increase spectatorship. And most importantly, they help the promoter turn a profit, which encourages him to keep living in a tent and to promote more races next year. It’s my belief that fuller fields rather than emptier ones can be accomplished by the bike racers themselves, and in 2015 I’ll be giving my theory a shot. Here it is:
People who fit into category #1 above are the backbone, the meat and potatoes of racing. Guys like Brauch, Tinstman, Wimberley, and Charon are just some of the riders who show up week in, week out, with no prodding or encouragement. They live to race. More about them later.
People who fit into category #3 we can forget. They will never race. It doesn’t matter why; the fact that they’re on a race team, that they have team race gear, that they love to talk and read about bike racing is irrelevant. They would rather do a hundred group rides, team training camps, and century rides, than sign up for a single 45-minute USA Cycling crit. Forget them.
People who fit into category #2 are the rest of us, and we hold the key to successful turnout on race day. Sorta racers make annual race calendars, target certain races, and do lots of actual training. Sorta racers are sorta fit in January and sorta wrecked by late April. Sorta racers have no trouble putting in 15-20 hours a week on the bike, but lots of trouble doing more than a handful of races. Sorta racers have detailed excuses for not racing on race day, even when they’ve planned to race. Sorta racers think a lot about racing early in the season, and focus on kiddie soccer games, “work,” honey-do’s, “the high cost of racing,” safety, and butt pimples as reasons to stop thinking about racing later in the season.
In short, we sorta racers are fence sitters. We wanna, but most of the time we don’t.
The difference between a felony conviction and staying at home is often the difference between a buddy saying “Let’s do it!” and not. Same goes for racing. As any salesman knows, the customer has to be asked to buy. And as any good salesman knows, “No, thanks” is simply an opportunity to ask again with greater skill and persuasiveness.
My best race in 2014 resulted from Derek B. asking me to go race with him. I didn’t really want to go, it was the last race of the season, I’m not good at crits, at age 50 I don’t belong in the 35+ superman category, I was tired from Saturday’s Donut Ride, I didn’t have a good set of race wheels, the entry fee was too high, the race was too short, and my butt pimples were suppurating.
All of those objections were overcome by the simple act of being asked because being asked to go race your bike with a friend is flattering, and it also puts you on the spot. The super excuse of butt pimples sounds awesome when you’re talking to yourself, but not so great when you have to mouth it to someone, especially someone you respect, as a reason for not lining up and actually using your $10k in gear and your 25 hours a week of profamateur preparation.
In short, the people who are committed to going to a race can boost race attendance by sending out three, or five, or ten emails, or even more outrageously by actually telephoning, or even more extremely by asking a pal face-to-face to sack up and go race together. If you’re one of the people who’s a dependable ironhead, make sure you ask a couple of other people to go race, and for dog’s sake don’t limit it to your teammates.
Why ask non-teammates to race? Because one of the reasons that guys who aren’t on big teams don’t race is because they hate rolling alone against the big teams and they need extra motivation to go out and get crushed. Again. Asking non-teammates shows that you value their presence, and it stimulates smaller teams to get their act together. A powerful motivator for people to race is having a rider complain to his teammates that he’s the only fuggin’ one in the race, so please come out and help.
Another reason that sorta racers don’t race is they simply forget. I’m going to this weekend’s CBR race because yesterday, on a training ride, I asked EA Sports, Inc. what he was doing this weekend. “I’m racing, dude. And so are you.” It wasn’t a question. It was an order, but it was also a reminder as I’d completely forgotten about the race.
If you’re one of the sorta racers who sorta races, on the days when you’re actually committed, make sure you ask several friends to go race with you. This locks YOU in when it comes time to scratch the b.p.’s and prevents you (hopefully) from bailing at the last minute, and it will encourage one or two other riders to join you. (Hint: Asking others to race with you can also involve sharing rides, splitting gas fees, and saving money!! If it’s a CBR race in LA, it means having someone to ride over to the race with.)
Finally, if you’re the leader of a team, have you reached out to every single rider via email and encouraged them to line up? Have you made two or twelve phone calls to the sorta racers who have hogged all your swag and been conspicuously absent on race days? No? Well, get callin’!
So, does it work? I think it does. I’ve sent out about ten emails and had one buddy confirm that he’s in. His comment? “I’m not very fit, but it’s been over a year since anyone asked me to go race, so, hell yeah.”
If you tell two friends, and he tells two friends, and he tells two friends, well, who knows? The “problem” of declining race participation might simply vanish.
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How to race crits (better)
November 20, 2014 § 7 Comments
Our team leader sent us all a link to an article about how to improve our crit racing. Here’s the link.
Now, our team leader knows what he’s talking about because he’s won a ton of big crits, so it makes sense that he would send us advice about how we can win, too. Unfortunately, his optimism is clouded by the massive cumulonimbus of reality. The only people who are ever going to win crits are the ones who already win crits. Instead, I wish he would have sent us an article about crit strategies for people who are hopeless and who have zero chance of ever crossing the line first.
I googled “tips for hopeless crit racing wankers” and got no hits except for a profile on some dude named Chris Lotts. So I thought I would type up some hopeless wanker crit racing tips and share them with you, because let’s face it, you ain’t ever gonna fuggin’ win a crit. Ever.
- Don’t fuggin’ crash. This is the number one rule for crit racing. If you’re a winner, you will sometimes fall off your bicycle because you have to take risks, bang bars, check timber, and see who’s testosterone is the stinkiest. Everyone else doesn’t have a fuggin’ chance, especially you, so don’t go home with your nuts covered in road rash. When you have to choose between taking the aggressive line or falling back 30 places, you sure as fugg better cower, brake, and give way. “How come your balls are all skinned up?” is not the question you want to have to answer when you get home.
- Don’t fuggin’ sprint. Are you in the top five coming through the last turn? Of course not! You’re a fat fuggin’ wanker who’s lucky to be in 65th place with his epidermis intact. Sit the fugg up and coast. Let the other knuckleheads battle it out for 64th place, ’cause one of them is going down. On his face. And his name is Prez.
- Don’t fuggin’ attack. You know who attacks? Winners, that’s who. Chubby, stub-legged wankers on $10k bikes are not going off the front for more than 10 yards, and if they do it’s on Lap 3. Go to the fuggin’ back of the bus where you belong. Even if you did get into a break, you’d be shelled. Instantly. Save your energy for the Internet chat forums after the race where your handle is “CritStud” and nobody fuggin’ knows you’re a greasy-fingered Cheetos addict with a saggy ass and a Cat 5 racing license.
- Don’t fuggin’ wait. You know the idiot who burns all his matches drilling it at the front in the first four laps? Sure you do, because that idiot is YOU. Let’s face it, when the screws get turned on the last five laps you’ll be so far back that your girlfriend will need a fuggin’ telescope to see your saggy ass. So, the time to do the glory pull is NOW. Early and often, then sink to the rear and soft pedal. All you need to be able to say is “Didja see me?” and get a cool head-of-the-field glory shot by Danny Munson or Phil Beckman. Fuggin’ winning.
- Panic like a motherfugger. When the race starts you should already have crapped four times and be nervouser than a tuna fish at a sushi cooking class. Veer like a crazyfugg from right to left, bounce off other racers like a pinball, charge the fuggin’ inside line on crowded, tight turns, and scream at everyone like you’ve got Ebola and can’t wait to share it. It’s the only way you’ll move up. To 55th.
- Complain about the fuggin’ prize list. So what if you finished 84th? Let the fuggin’ cheapass promoter know that if he’d been giving out hundred dollar bills instead of old socks you would have lapped the field. If he’s giving out hundred dollar bills tell him he’s a sellout fugghead for commercializing our pure sport and you finished 98th as a protest. If he punches you in the face it’s because you fuggin’ deserved it.
- Tell the officials they fuggin’ suck. Even a genius like you can’t win when the game’s rigged, and the game-riggers are the fuggin’ cheatfugg officials. Tell ’em! Remind the zebras about how when you rode bandit in the Ol’ Scratchynuts Century where there were NO fuggin’ USA Cycling officials, you finished in the money, and her name was Zelda.
- Make the winners fear your fuggin’ gap. So what if you corner like a battleship with a broken rudder? There’s no reason the winners should benefit from that. Hustle towards the front and do your patented full-brake-plus-gap-out pedal stroke into the turn, opening up 12 bike lengths that everyone else has to sprint around. Are they mad? Do they yell and bitch? Does it make them tired? Sucks to be them, fuggers.
- Bounce your fuggin’ check. The d-bags promoting your event don’t deserve to eat, so always pay for your race with a bad check. They’ll never turn it over to the D.A., and the joke’s on them for taking money from a guy like you with road rash on his nuts anyway. It’s more fun than banditing a century, because the promoter has to pay a bad check fee to boot. Sucks to be him, fugger!
- Piss in the fuggin’ bushes. Just because the fuggin’ maroon promoter paid to have 15 port-o-potties doesn’t mean you have to use them. Whip out Mr. Business when the bag is full and whizz anywhere you want, especially if it’s near little kids or first time wives who’ve come to see their man race. If they think it’s a family affair, they got another think coming, especially when they see what a big ol’ handful of veined-up purplish manly wood looks like while they’re feeding animal crackers to the kids and grandma.
Anyway, I hope this helps all you aspiring crit racers out there. Good luck!
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Water the roots
November 8, 2014 § 6 Comments
This post is directed only to people in Southern California who meet one of the following requirements:
- You have a racing license.
- You have a fancy road bike, in which fancy > $1,500.
- You have a cyclocross bike.
- You have at least one Strava KOM.
- You troll Facebook on Sunday afternoon to find out the local race results.
- You follow professional race results.
- You have a power meter.
- You know what “WKO+” is.
- You like to “mix it up” on group rides.
- You have recurring fantasies of riding Merckx off your wheel high in the Alps, with your sixth consecutive Tour victory on the line.
If any of the above applies to you, please take note that on Sunday you will have 2 (two) opportunities (Möglichkeiten) to actualize your inner Walter Mitty in an actual bike race. These 2 (two) opportunities (Möglichkeiten) are outlined in detail below.
Möglichkeit A: Udo SPYclocross
This race has everything. If you’ve never raced cyclocross before, or if you haven’t yet gotten your feet wet this season, no race on the calendar is better than this one. In addition to fantastic organization, a challenging course, and the state’s best competition, Lake Hodges is a bottle’s throw from some of the best breweries in America. Cyclocross, because it’s bike racing, is hard. But it’s also fun — there are actual crowds, they actually cheer for (or at) you, and the only attitude is the attitude of “let’s have fun, and let’s race.”
Udo Heinz, to whom the race is dedicated, was struck and killed by a bus on Camp Pendleton almost two years ago. Udo was the epitome of a good rider. He tirelessly worked to organize and execute the best ‘cross races on the calendar, he was a safe and considerate cyclist who always looked out for the other guy, and he was the kind of person to whom others turned for help and advice.
If you have never raced ‘cross before, make November 9, 2014, your first race. It won’t be your last.
Möglichkeit B: SPY Upgrade Crit p/b CBR & Chris Lotts & Vera!
So let’s say that you don’t have a ‘cross bike or don’t know anyone who has one, which, frankly, is complete bullshit. But let’s say that we accept your bullshit because we’re friends and that’s what friends do. I know for a fact that you want to race your bike, deep down you really do — and there’s no safer, better place to do it than in one of Chris & Vera’s upgrade races. The race will go off on time. Bullshit dangerous riding will not be tolerated. Winners and near-winners will be glorified on a podium, and you will have the satisfaction of having actually raced your bike.
Well, there’s actually a third option for Sunday: Pull on your fancy riding outfit, wheel out your fancy racing bicycle, and pal around with your buddies at the coffee shop talking about how you wish there were more race opportunities in SoCal. See you there. At the race!
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If you wanna get to heaven (you gotta raise a little … )
September 25, 2014 § 14 Comments
“Manslaughter and I are going for a slow spin around the hill. Leaving in five minutes.”
I read the text and started changing. I caught them in downtown Redondo, flipped it, and we started around the peninsula. It was 9:30 AM on a Wednesday, and too early on-a-day-that’s-not-a-Friday to contemplate drinking. The chatter was the same as always. Derek talked about losing weight. Manslaughter giggled. I wondered what I was going to blog about.
Manslaughter began talking about Santa and Jesus, and how he didn’t believe in either. Then Derek turned and said, “That’s fine, being an atheist and all, but then what exactly is your plan for getting into heaven? You don’t cruise across the line into heaven in the middle of the pack, sucking wheel. Getting into heaven is a time trial, and Jesus better be in your support vehicle.”
“Not to mention your water bottle,” I added.
Manslaughter giggled and suggested taking a “dirt road.”
“What kind of dirt road?” I asked.
“A flat one,” he lied.
Derek and I agreed since we were on our road bikes and, hell, we had done the BWR, right? How bad could it be? Manslaughter turned off the pavement to the left of where Tink had once splatted and where Toronto’s daughter had hit the seam in the road and launched into the curb and where Little Sammy Snubbins had flipped into oncoming traffic at 30. Ah, memories.
The dirt was fine until it turned up, then up again, then massively up. Manslaughter, currently ranked #23 in the nation for mountain biking, and therefore a never-miss descender and climber, misjudged a turn, fell off his bicycle, and ended up looking like a pubic crab on its back wiggling a very tiny bike in the air. We laughed and passed him, trying and failing to run over his neck.
Derek slowed, having lost too much weight the night before, and I raced by. I kept him behind me by weaving all over the steep and narrow trail. I’m not sure why he kept saying “motherfucker,” but he did. After a while we caught a rider on horseback.
“That horse is pretty sketchy,” I thought. “If I sneak past it I bet it freaks and maybe kicks and kills Derek and I win to wherever the fuck this climb goes.” Manslaughter had been dropped a long way back, which was fine, except that he was the only one who knew the route.
I picked a tight passing lane and went to shoot through it. The horse sensed my presence and looked like it was going to turn away from me, which was fine, until I realized the pivot was actually an aiming maneuver. The last thing I saw was its rump rising up to make room for its rear legs to clear and then lash out.
The next thing I knew, I wasn’t on a hot dirt road in Palos Verdes anymore. It was cool out and cloudy, but I was above the clouds. I saw a big pair of gates. I could see through them. There was Prez, wearing a halo and what appeared to be a peacock suit made of lycra, winking at me and holding a pair of new Michelin tires over his head with no video camera. There was Erik the Red, waving. Those were the only two people I knew.
Then I saw Charon manning the gates. He had a big book in front of him. “Wanky! You signed up for the wrong race again! Better head on down to your proper category.”
I felt myself falling. Now it was hot again, really hot, but at least I saw more people I knew. Hell, I knew everyone. But there was a black river of steaming hot energy gel to cross in order to get to them. I climbed into the boat waiting on the shore as a hooded guy started to row me across. “Brad?” I asked. “Brad House? Is that you?”
“Naw,” said the oarsman. “He went to somewhere really hot and miserable and filled with sinners. He’s in Texas.”
I debarked and got into a long line. “Where do I sign up for the 50+?” I asked.
Lane, who happened to be standing next to me, said, “I don’t know. I’m here for the Strava competition.”
“Who the hell is in charge around here?” I demanded. Soon enough I got to the sign-in table.
A huge three-headed angry Marine wearing an FBI men-in-black suit and Blues Brothers SPY shades glowered at me. “What the fuck do you want, cupcake?”
“Chris?” I said. “Is that you?”
“Who were you expecting to meet? Mitt Romney? You just signing up for eternity? Only $10 for the second eternity.”
“There’s been some mistake,” I said. “Manslaughter’s the atheist. He’s the one who wanted to suck wheel on Jesus. I’m always at the front. How do I get back up to Prez and those tires?”
“Ha, ha, cupcake,” Chris laughed as he gave me my number. “You’ve just been entered in the BWR from Hell.”
I shuddered. There in the distance stood MMX with a whip and a giant purple card, beating a drum that was slightly out of tune. He sneered at me. “What’s wrong, Patsy? There’s only 8 billion miles of dirt through a live volcano this time.”
“No!” I screamed. “Noooooooooooooooo!”
Suddenly I was lying on my back and the horse lady was saying, “He didn’t give me three feet when he tried to pass. He’s lucky poor old Sukey didn’t kill him.”
Manslaughter and Derek were splitting a bag of sport beans waiting for me to wake up. “If you help me wipe up the blood,” I said to them, “I’ll have Mrs. Wankmeister pick up a case of Racer 5 and make us some quesadillas with mushrooms and salsa.”
It sounded like a good idea to Derek and Manslaughter. Suddenly it was okay to drink before noon on a not-Friday-day. And we did.
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Is Strava killing bike racing?
May 24, 2014 § 76 Comments
I’ll be the first to admit that the patient was never particularly robust, but in 2014 there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of racers who line up on the weekend. At one of the best and toughest road races all year, Vlees Huis in Bakersfield, there was an incredibly tiny lineup despite this being one of the best organized, safest, and most challenging races on the calendar.
Plus they fuggin’ had beer. Now, when bike racers won’t show up to a bike race where it’s hotter than Beyonce doing the nasty with Heidi Klum and you get to slake your post-race heat prostration with cold, locally brewed beer, the Dogs have gone crazy.
We will leave aside for a moment the obvious: if Fields had ever heard you weren’t going to race your bike because it was “too hot” or “too cold” or “too rainy” or “too dangerous,” he would have kicked you off the team, repo’d your kit, and made you give back all the beer you had drunk. We will also leave aside for a moment that the “weather” in SoCal is the most wussified, gentle, bike-friendly weather in the continental United States.
Many factors may be at play besides the general cowardice, tenderness, and babyfication of modern SoCal bike racers, but there are only so many absentees you can blame on an angry spouse, the cost of entry fees, the fear of quadriplegia, and the general wussdom of all the riders who said they couldn’t do Vlees Huis because it was “too far to drive.” [Check the mileage sometime when you live in Houston and have signed up for the Fort Davis Stage Race for a bit of perspective on “too far to drive.”]
Flapping of the gums
The other day I got into an argument about whether some guy was the best climber in the South Bay. Back in the day this would have been a relatively easy argument to resolve. The guy who had won more hilly road races, or the guy who was always at the front on the long climbs would be crowned the champ, even more beer would be drunk, and we’d find something else to argue about.
But this time my adversary pulled out a shocking counter-argument: his Strava KOM’s. A guy who’s done a handful of hilly road races and has consistently gotten shelled on the tough climbs — or who hasn’t even showed up — maintained that his sexy Strava performance on segments as short as 200 meters meant that he was somehow a really good climber.
What the hell is going on here?
It used to be that the best riders were the ones who won bike races. Rahsaan Bahati, I thought, was the best bike racer around because he’s won the most races. Charon Smith, Phil Tinstman, Thurlow Rogers, Mark Noble, and guys like them, I thought, were the best old guy bike racers around because they’ve won the most races.
It would never have occurred to me that a person might consider himself excellent in some aspect or other of competitive cycling based on his Strava KOM’s.
But you know what? Lots of riders do.
They choose three or four carefully selected races each year, they do a weekly group ride, and they do the vast bulk of their “head-to-head” competition on Strava. Will someone please tell them that if it’s on Strava and you’re by yourself, it’s not head-to-head? No matter how many times you self-dial, you’re still just doing yourself.
The race of truth
Every bike race is a race of truth because the fastest rider always wins. For many, that’s a downer because there’s only one winner. You can’t go home and tell yourself that you’re at the top of the leader board of 50+ troglodytes with a BMI of 200. Worse, when you lose a bike race you don’t get any trophies or crowns on your iPhone.
Strava perfectly satisfies the urge to achieve what I call DIP — distinction, improvement, praise — it’s an urge that resides in all of us, particularly, it seems, those of us who cycle. Bike races don’t provide much DIP for most participants, even with the dozens of age/gender categories per event. Instead, they provide proof of what we all instinctively know about ourselves but wish wasn’t true: MOP — mediocre, overweight, pudknocker.
In any contest between DIP and MOP, DIP will always win out. Ride your bike and get a trinket every time beats ride your bike and get your spirit shattered every time, especially when the shattering may also include collarbones and carbon fiber.
Don’t be a DIP-shit
This Monday Chris Lotts will put on his Memorial Day Crit in Dominguez Hills. The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix, Death Valley Stage Race, and State ITT Championships will also happen this weekend.
If you’re in SoCal, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend at least one of these races. If you’re in L.A., I really hope you’ll at least make it to the Memorial Day Crit. If you can spare 50 minutes to analyze all your weekly rides on WKO and Strava, you can lug your ass out for a one-hour race at Dominguez.
Guys like Chris promote races year in and year out. It’s a gratifying job for them in that they play an integral role in the sport that they love, and it’s a blast getting to deal with overfull port-a-potties at the end of the day. But it’s a huge amount of work and expense, and when “racers” who live in the area choose to spend their time on Strava digitally satisfying themselves rather than competing in organized events, it eventually kills off the event. The margin on bike races is tiny, to put it mildly.
Maybe as a Stravasturbator you think that’s fine, and I suppose if your idea of being an accomplished racer is 0’s and 1’s endlessly strung together to make an image on a computer that makes you look tougher than Eddy Merckx, that’s okay. I suppose if it’s more fun to wear $500 worth of kit riding $7000 worth of bike to compete against your “friends” on Strava than it is to ride against your mortal enemies in a real bike race, hey, to each his own.
But let’s not confuse sitting at your stupid computer and clicking “kudo” with racing your fuggin’ bike.
I’m probably not gonna make it
January 17, 2014 § 12 Comments
My excuse isn’t great, but it’s pretty damned good: 118 miles on Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride, where I’ll have to smack down young posers like Jay-Jay LaPlante, Aaron Unpronounceablelastname, Greg “I have another mortal virus” Seyranian, Dan “when does the ride start” Cobley, and one or two other flailers like King Harold and DJ himself. Yeah, I’ll bust their chops up the Lake Casitas climb, on the 101, and then with G$ I’ll time trial from Ventura to the top of Balcom while Stern-O, Bowles, Spivey, and the Long Beach freddies take turns licking each other’s open wounds.
Shorthand: I’ll be too tired for the season opening crit in Dominguez Hills, but I’ll try to make it anyway.
What’s your excuse?
The man with the plan and the white Mercedes van
When Chris Lotts kicks off the season opening SoCal crit on Sunday, January 19, lots of people will be complaining. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to complain than to race your bike. Studies show that complaining exerts a biological cost of less than .00001 homeostatic watts, whereas putting on a single bike race shortens your lifespan by roughly twelve years. Chris is now -459.7 years old, and getting younger by the week.
There are a shit-ton of reasons that you need to be at the CBR race on Sunday, and to show you why, I’ve compiled a list of whines that I’ve heard over the years. If you’ve thought or uttered more than three, I’ll call the whaambulance and have you taken (at your cost) to UCLA Harbor so that they can rub salves and ointments on that special place to relieve your butthurt.
1. “That’s a stupid fuggin’ four-corner industrial crit. That’s not bike racin’.”
Riiiiiiight. What you really want is a 100 km kermesse over wet cobblestones in 42-degree weather and spitting rain, because you’re hard like that. So what if you’ve never finished Boulevard or Punchbowl? In your Velominati fantasy life, you are a Hard Man who can’t be bothered with “easy” races like this. Fortunately, your doctor continues to renew your prescription as soon as it runs out.
2. “CBR races are too easy.”
Easy? Then why do the same handful of guys win every race, races that have 100+ entrants? Hint: Because the other 99 wankers feel strong and fast and fit until a) the winning break rolls up the road, or b) Charon opens up his sprint.
3. “Those races are way too expensive.”
Let’s see … $2,500 for your carbon tubulars … $750 for your three team kits and skin suit … $140 every other month for your training Gatorskins … $72/year for your stupid Strava Premium subscription … $3,900 for your Campy SRM power meter … tell me again about how that $35 entry fee for close to an hour of full-on racing is gonna bust your budget?
4. “Lotts annoys the shit out of me.”
Poor baby! Break out the butt salve! So you can take bumping bars, hitting the asphalt at 30 mph, and racing until your eyes pop out of your head, but you can’t take a little diversity of opinion? You crumple up and die when Chris talks about his “Christian Tingles” web site? Awww, I feel really sorry for you, and I envy the little glass bubble you live in and the inheritance that protects you from getting out and LIVING IN THE REAL FUCKING WORLD.
5. “Those races are a clusterfuck. A handful of big teams control everything.”
Guess what, limpster? The guys on those “teams who control everything” got there by racing their dogdamned bikes, not by sitting at home reading Jonathan Vaughters’s Twitter feed. What’s stopping you from making the break, sitting in, and letting the “big teams” do all the work as you cannily outsprint them to the finish line (besides the fact that you always race at the back and don’t train hard and are 30 pounds overweight)?
6. “I’m more of a stage racer than a crit rider.”
Yeah, and I’m more of a Martian than I am a New Jerseyite. Look, stupid, if you want 21-day stage races, you’re living in the wrong city, county, state, nation, and body.
7. “It’s too early in the season.”
Oh, I get it, the Interwebs coach you pay $399 per month to tell you that you’re “making great progress” has advised you to wait until, say, April? Did it ever occur to you that he wants you to wait until April in order to delay the crushing reality that’s going to batter your ego when you still finish 51st after an after-tax-dollar investment of $15k? Hint: P.T. Barnum said it.
8. “Crits are too sketchy.”
I see. Because you’re the one steady wheel out of the 100+ numbskulls, and, like the mother who watched her son in the marching band and commented “Look! Everyone else in the band is out of step!” you think that no one knows how to properly handle a bike except, of course, you?
9. “Crits are too short to give me a good workout.”
Yes, I understand completely. No one in history has ever ridden to a race, raced, then ridden home. You’re obligated to drive to the race. It’s in the bylaws.
10. “We need more road races in SoCal, like they have in NorCal.”
So you’re going to promote a road race? I didn’t think so. Or you’re going to race in NorCal? Nope — too far and hard and expensive, right? So why not shut the fuck up and support the one guy who shows up week in and week out, who has the genius of being able to put on a bike race and make money at it (okay, so the genius is Vera), and who can take your abuse and never take it (too) personally? Answer: Because you’re not very good, your ego is tender, and it’s easier to talk about bike racing than to race your bike.
See you on Sunday. Or not.
Ride like Thurlow
May 25, 2013 § 10 Comments
I’m only three or four years younger than Thurlow, which is like comparing myself to the greatest basketball player of all time by saying, “I’m only three or four inches shorter than Michael Jordan.”
I first saw Thurlow at the Tour of Texas in 1984 at the Camp Mabry crit in Austin. He was racing for Raleigh. Nelson Vails was his teammate. Dude was old even then.
There’s no name in the peloton that is as heavy as “Thurlow.” It weighs about four thousand pounds. You can slacken a room full of bike racer boners just by whispering “Thurlow.” It’s the only word in the English language that makes grown men hunch over and start to droop. Generations of cyclists have been flogged, tortured, punished, and then dropped by “Thurlow.”
The only residue remaining in this, his fifth decade of bike racing, is the residue of pain and defeat. Yours.
“Thurlow’s not his old self”
Commentators have remarked that in 2013 there’s something missing from the arsenal of America’s winningest bike racer. He only got second in the BWR behind Neil Shirley, a pro who is young enough to be his great-grandson’s grandson.
He’s only won a couple of races so far this year, and has only gotten top three placings in about a dozen. “You should have seen him at SLR,” said one of my buddies. “He just folded. Never seen Thurlow fold like that.”
I mused. Thurlow has more national championship jerseys than my buddy has race participations for the last two years. Oh, and a rainbow jersey. And that Olympic team stuff. Then there was that season that he raced with Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond on La Vie Claire.
“Oo eez Bernard Hinault?” asked our homestay French student who comes from, of all places, Bretagne.
“Eez joos ze greatest fucking French bicycle racer ever,” I snarled.
“I don like ze sports,” said Homestay before going out onto the veranda to smoke a cigarette and wash it down with some Colt .45.
Imitation is the most pathetic form of idolatry
I’m always trying to race like Thurlow. You know, the way he always understands what’s always going on all the time. The way he rides close to the front and never misses the split. The way he rests, then attacks, then rests if they bring him back, then attacks again. The way he seems to summon the most strength at the one point in the race when everyone else is at their weakest. The way he stuffs the painburger down your throat with a red-hot poker, then beats the end of the poker with a 30-pound hammer.
Of course, I’ve never Ridden Like Thurlow, starting with the omniscience thing. Where Thurlow knows what’s going on all the time, my awareness seems to focus on stuff like that family sitting on the picnic blanket on Turn 4. “Wonder what’s in their sandwiches?” I wonder.
Boom. Break is gone and Thurlow has a 45-second gap.
Or the ride towards the front thing. Try as I might, as far forward as I get, pretty soon I’m back in 87th position, right behind Lardball with the Grand Canyon asscrack and the Serengeti grassland of hair sprouting from the waistband of his non-bib shorts.
Then there’s that attacking thing. Thurlow attacks the way an angry farmer with a pitchfork stabs the head of the king as it rolls off the guillotine’s blade. My attacks, to quote Aaron Wimberly, “Are like a huge commuter bus on four flat tires going up a mud mountain with a full load of passengers.”
And of course Thurlow rests, then goes again. I rest, and then there’s a football field between me and the peloton, a DNF, and a personal request from the family in Turn 4 to give me some of their sandwich.
But still, that doesn’t stop me from trying and experimenting. Whether it’s a fancy power meter, or nose breathing, or the water + kimchi diet, I’m always up for something new, because the difference between me and Thurlow can’t be that he’s just better…there has to be a trick, and one day I’ll find it.
Me & Prez
A couple of weeks ago Prez and I were riding back from the NPR. Prez notices everything when it comes to biking. Nothing escapes his attention, so I usually ignore him when he’s talking, but this particular day he mentioned Thurlow.
“There are guys out there whose pedaling is so efficient, it’s incredible,” Prez said.
“Uh-huh,” I answered, watching the cute nubbin in the Smart car prepare to back over the dude pushing the stroller.
“Like Thurlow, you know? That guy’s pedaling is so incredibly efficient.”
Now I was all ears. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. One reason is that he seems to pull up as much as he pushes down. He’s got that little muscle on the hams just on the inside of his thigh that you never see in cyclists. Him and Charon, they’re about the only two around here with it; it’s because they’re so efficient.”
All I had to hear was “Thurlow” followed by “Charon” and now I was hanging on every word. But I pretended to be bored and only half-interested. “Yeah?” I said.
“Yeah,” Prez said. Then he launched into a complex and insightful description of pedaling efficiency and why most of us, him included, were so inefficient. “It’s the pulling up,” he concluded.
Secrets stolen stealthily
Chuckling to myself at this new-found secret, which I had wrested from the knowledge banks of Prez without him even knowing it, I immediately began pushing and pulling up simultaneously. Then I discovered that this was impossible, because after about four strokes your legs give out. It appeared that rest was part of the pedaling equation.
Nonetheless, by the time I’d reached the office, I had figured it out. You didn’t actually pull up with your feet, you pulled up with your thigh. It was not so much a push and pull effort as much as it was extremely short intervals between the flexing of the thigh. I went noticeably faster. I was noticeably more exhausted.
“Could this be the long lost key to victory?” I wondered. “Have I finally cracked the Code of Thurlow?” I raced through the day’s work, bounding out of the office at 4:00 in order to Thighflex ® all the way back home. Preliminary plans showed that I would now be able to crush all the competition, earn every Strava KOM I desired, and sell the newly trademarked Thighflex program to coaches worldwide. I might even realize every cyclist’s dream of finally getting a pro contract and riding the Tour without too many drugs, or the Giro with way too many.
Thighflexing up the Mt. Home Commute
As I warmed up my thighs with the proprietary Tiny Muscle® Thighflex® limbering method, I felt the incredible strength and speed from this new system. Poor Prez. What a sucker. He’d revealed the most important secret of riding and I was now on the cusp of millions, huge victories, and taking a Strava KOM away from Lane Reid when he least expected it.
“Heh, heh,” I chuckled gleefully as I roared up Mt. Home and its vicious 2% grade. “Wait ’til I unleash this at the CBR Dogpoop Memorial Day Crit.”
In preparation, I showed up to contest the Lower East Side Long Beach Shopping Ride, an incredibly intense, competitive, powerful informal race disguised as a shopping excursion of 65+ elderly ladies with baskets on their mamachari bicycles. As we approached the first stop light, which was turning yellow, I Thighflexed®. The grandmothers couldn’t follow my jump, and in seconds I had opened a gap. The youngest grandmother, whose basket was filled with a 10kg bag of rice, leaned on the pedals and clawed me back.
I glanced over my shoulder and attacked again, this time putting maximum power to my Tiny Muscle® while Simulflexing® the Thighflex®. Undeterred, the granny held my wheel, forcing me to decelerate slightly, cause her wheel to overlap, and allowing me to take her to the curb.
She grabbed a handful of brakes as her front wheel caught the curb. The rice bag burst on impact as I redoubled my Thighflex®, now a solid 100-150m ahead of the hard-charging grandmothers, who weren’t about to let me get to the Costco pallet of discount diapers before them. They were no match. With a couple of more threshold efforts I pulled free and was gone.
With this independent verification of the Thighflex® system’s incredible power transer, I actually pity the fools who have signed up for Monday’s CBR Memorial Day Crit at Dominguez Hills. I’ve told Chris Lotts that he can go ahead and mail me the winner’s check, minus the entry fee to save me the inconvenience of actually having to show up and race. If he forces me to toe the line, well, all I can say to the riders out there who haven’t yet subscribed to the Tiny Muscle® and Thighflex® performance systems is this: You’ve been warned.