August 4, 2019 § 2 Comments
The ol’ gal died, she rolled over and heaved her last breath after having given seventeen years of service to The Cause of #Fakeracer Delusion, and a big group of us was lucky enough to be there when she expired. It was bitter but peaceful too, and we took turns turning her over with the toes of our boots, looking at different angles, remarking on how good she still looked and reminiscing about the good times she’d given us, selflessly, devotedly, never uttering nary a nag nor a complaint, and with two exceptions she’d done her job with nothing but sunny skies and perfect temperatures.
We talked about where to bury her but couldn’t really agree on anything. A couple of people suggested we skin her, stuff her, prop up the corpse, and trot her out every January and do a memorial re-ride, but it was either too soon to be talking about the resurrection and the life, or it was too pointless.
The ol’ gal was dead and she wasn’t coming back. Death is final that way. It admits of longing, regret, and wishful thinking, but it doesn’t admit of coming back to life.
The good news is that I chronicled the life and times of Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride every year since 2011 and posted the stories of her antics right here. I even gave her her own category and named it, originally, Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride. Spilled a lot of electrons over this annual momentous bicycle ride.
They say that all the benefit you’re ever going to get out of taking a trip is in the preparation, because once you go it never lives up to the anticipation. In fact, the best way to travel is to plan a year in advance, talk the hell out of it, think it to death, then cancel in time to get your hotel/airfare refunded. It’s cheaper that way and you accrue all the benefits without the lost luggage, the shocking credit card bills, and the herpes.
FTR was highly anticipated every year thanks to the email string that went along with it. Some years the exchanges were so harsh and the buttrash so painful that friendships were strained to the breaking point, and then permanently broken on the FTR itself. Because for all its camaraderie, FTR was about ruining the other rider’s day on the obstacles of the course.
There was a kind of beauty in killing her off, as David did, before one of us stroked out. A quick look at the riders attending the memorial service and it was clear that none of us had gotten any younger at all in the past seventeen years, and most of us had gotten seventeen years older, except Stern-O, who was now 87, the exact age he was at birth.
And there were absences. Most absent was most talked about, our compadre Junkyard who announced last week that he was going to take his dog and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
This kind of absurdity fit so perfectly with the memorial service: A cupcake of a guy who one year had to get towed up Balcom Canyon by a gardener’s pickup, a guy with the backcountry experience of a freeway overpass, had gathered together five days’ worth of cyclist Barbie food, two pair of city walking boots and a light rain jacket, then went up to Seattle to hike “the last two hundred miles of the trail, flip a u-ey, and do the 2,600- mile trail in reverse,” in winter, with no permit, no snow gear, no experience, no planned food drops, just a devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky attitude and the indispensable new Instagram account to chronicle what was going to be the shortest stay on the PCT in history.
In preparation for the ordeal he hadn’t bothered hiking, but he was hitting all the donut shops in Seattle prior to hitting the trailhead.
This is the kind of shit that made FTR so amazing: whacky people plunging in over their heads and getting reality shit-slapped back into their thick noggins. I needed that, and it’s too bad that FTR only came yearly because my green card for Delusionland only needs to be re-issued after facing the ugly facts of a seven-hour mauling at the hands of some very good riders in the mountains north of LA.
And that was partly why the ol’ gal was dead: there weren’t any more good riders. There were just old, creaky, drunken, brokedick worthless ones, those who had degenerated into tandems, those who had burned their age-graded #fakerace racing licenses, those who refused to even do the Donut Ride, milk sop that it has become, and those who no longer even rode their bikes.
Tragedy was ever in the wings, too. Our friend and stalwart hammerhead Taco Cart had narrowly escaped death in a horrible collision and was now on a multi-year road to recovery. Maybe the demise of the FTR was simply a mercy killing–putting her out of her misery before one of us went first.
In its own magical way, the dishonor roll of those who failed to show up for the memorial service reflected the FTR itself, an event that gave rise to the most extraordinary excusifying, no-showing and tail-tucking, all preceded by chest beating of the most impressive sort. Absent was Surfer Dan, he who never bypassed a free meal and who had led the ride on at least two occasions with full-gas efforts almost from the very start.
Not there was Gussy, Rodly, Manslaughter, and the immortal Hair, who held every green jersey and descent KOM on every FTR he ever rode. Not there was the Napoleon of Long Beach, Martin The Time I Beat Greg Lemond, and the shattered remnants of the Freddies, Gil, Turtle, Golden Boy, Brad … people who had made the ride epic and beautiful until, ravaged by decrepitude, senility, and petty infighting, they had thrown in the sweat-stained towel.
Punk Kid and the Illini trailer park contingent, Dear Leader and his endless training plans that never seemed to pan out on the big day, Jeremiah Johnson, Hottie, Tumbleweed, Mormon Trophy Thief, North County Tatty-Poo, Cogsless, Tiny Tex, Foxy & Seal (a Panamanian disco band from the 70’s), Marine Cupcake, Big Bowles and his early sneakaways, and a veritable rogues’ gallery of forgettable flailers somehow managed to miss the interment. What could have been more fitting for a ride that struck fear into the heart of the bravest than a deathbed vigil deserted by those who claimed to love the ol’ gal the most?
Because if a ride isn’t underpinned by lying, delusions, and chicanery of the very lowest sort, it will never become the stuff of legend.
And what a legend the ol’ gal was! My dog, those who made their way to the rim of the grave were the giants of the road indeed.
The undisputed all time champion of the FTR, Road Champ, was there, lit like a bonfire, skinny as a rake handle, and still chasing the national title he will surely one day win, if only because all the age-graded competition has died.
G$, the fierce monster of Balcom, the only rider on FTR to give off more grins, pushes, and attagirls-per-mile than DJ himself was there, the man who defined everything good about cycling in the South Bay, and who did it most notably by moving elsewhere.
King Harold, lately reduced to the ignominy of tandem life, the man who invented the Flatback 101, was there. Trust me, bitches, if you’ve never experienced the Flatback, count yourself lucky. King Harold was FTR’s bridesmaid, always dropped on the climbs, always holding onto a motorcycling up Casitas, and always nursing in the poor, the wretched, yearning to be free.
Dogg made the trek down to the service, a guy with whom I often traded punches going up Casitas, and whose punches were always stronger and better aimed than mine.
Stern-O, the mythical insane person of all things South Bay, evicted from Manhattan Beach, sentenced to Santa Fe, and doing his probationary-rehab in a cheap apartment just outside Chula Vista was in attendance not merely as the heart and soul of Father Time, but as he who also holds the record for most FTRs completed, especially if you count those where he vanished for long stretches and somehow ended up at the finish coiffed and lipsticked as if he’d just stepped out of the shower. Which he had.
Li’l Douggie paid his respects, the smallest rider to ever complete FTR, and the runner-up after Wanky for title of “Having Enraged Most People With Least Effort.”
Triple, the road giant whose Grecian Formula and stress-free living in a tent by the beach has allowed him, after all these years, to still have the one thing that no other FTR male can claim, and that every FTR male secretly gnashes his teeth over in hourly envy: A full head of hair.
And speaking of bald, Damian, named after the Satan-possessed heroine in the exorcist, whose good infinite good cheer was inversely proportionate to his FTR participations, attended the ceremony as well even though he had to drive three blocks to get there.
Polly, drunk as a skunk, was there to spread goodwill, reminisce, and try not to snore too loudly. Slim had made the trek up from San Diego and we got to stand around and recall his cramping episodes, but that’s the thing about FTR. You get the invite and do it once … you are a member of the club.
Hardest FTR Fucker Ever was also there, a/k/a Pilot, the man who completed FTR in 2017 on 100 base miles. The only person who might have given him a run for his money, Becker Bob, the surf shop manager dude who did it one year on 50 miles worth of prep, was absent, presumably dead.
Major Bob was there, as gnarly a smiling axe-murderer as you’ll ever meet, as was Elron, recently graduated from his degree program and seeking his first real job at age 50, but still looking more handsome, more fit, and more happy than all the other labor drudges … coincidence? I think not.
Bull was there too, mired in the delusion that all he needs is another $75 million before he can take that long 4-day weekend or, dog forbid, cancel a lunch date. We commiserated over the sad way that his success has ruined his creative email writing career, and about how the ol’ gal really took her final turn for the worse when he chose money, success, happiness, a new home, happy children, loving wife, and self-respect over cleverly crafted emails aimed at marginally employed bicycle delusionists. Bull promised to one day start riding again but I called Bull bullshit, and that was that.
And of course clean up hitter Iron Mike was there, the only rider to ever start and complete the FTR with even a touch of class. No matter that he now rides a tricycle and has been reduced to the sad state of Person Who Cycles for His Health, he brought to the burial a badly needed dash of intellect and humanity. He also had the common sense to leave early.
It was truly a memorial service for the ages. Toronto was there and he had carefully selected his wardrobe to not include the giant white windbreaker that doubled as a spinnaker; the event doubled as his 70th birthday party, and he didn’t look a day over 60.
But no attendee was more welcome than MMX, and he and I fondly reminisced about how, when DJ and the other leaky prostates tried to make a fake “let’s all stop together and pee” rule, we had gloriously hit out, for the tenth time, and almost snagged the glorious win up Balcom. Had I not found a section of guardrail in bad need of repair a few moments before the climb began, I would surely have succeeded.
Carly, Lynn, and the Jaegers senior were there as well, the people who had quite literally been midwives to FTR and who were now there to see her off. And though Macy and the extended Jaeger clan that had come together for almost twenty years to pull off the feat of feeding two dozen hungry cyclists in the early hours couldn’t make it, they were well represented. It was a hell of an evening.
FTR is dead. May she never rest in peace, but live vigorously, filled with excitement and fire, stirring passion, beauty, and love in our memories forever.
December 7, 2018 Comments Off on End of an Error
Continuing my tradition of a blogging holiday, it did occur to me that a serious wrinkle in the Force has bubbled up. It’s the formal notification I received last week announcing the end of the FTR.
Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride has been going on so long that no one remembers when it started. That’s partially because it was a long time ago but mostly because those involved are suffering severe memory deficits. DJ pegs it at about twenty years ago; I have only been doing it for ten years or so. It’s an invitation ride that was originated as a tune-up for the road racing season. Historically, as if anything related to FTR deserves the word, it came the weekend before Boulevard Road Race.
That epic battle was scrapped from the race calendar a couple of years ago. SoCal now has no legitimate road races, and only a couple that even pretend. Likewise, the formerly fit and hungry riders who queued up in Ventura County for the FTR’s 117-mile romp up hill and down dale are now a bunch of soggy, saggy, worn-out old shoes.
And that’s the fit ones.
The roll call of riders now is so decrepit that it resembles a funeral procession more than a bike ride. Flatback Harry hasn’t drilled it on the 101 in so many years that no one can even remember what it felt like, and it doesn’t help that his spine is about as flat now as bristlecone pine. DJ himself putters around the neighborhood streets in Manhattan Beach on his bike, putters in his garden, putters in his garage, and, rumor has it, even put-ters on the golf course.
Whatever he does, the days of yore when he could be counted on to slay all but Konsmo and G$ on the slopes of Balcom Canyon are long gone. He now hires a daycare assistant to bundle him into the handi-care van and lug him to the top. Sad days, indeed. The only truly reliable FTR old shoes are Shon Holdthetree, who still regularly runs into the taco cart in Santa Maria, and Bull, who prepares for the FTR with by cleaning out the Mexican food buffet with the vigor that he always has.
This last edition of the FTR, already tinged with the saccharine nostalgia of old people reminiscing fondly about how good they never were, promises to be so far from epic that even the long-extinct dinosaurs such as Tumbleweed have thrown their hats in the ring. We can expect regularly spaced defibrillators, crash carts, and matronly nurses to gently tie down the gurney straps as each worn out old shoe muddles his way back to the post-ride feast.
The FTR is dead, long live the FTR.
February 6, 2018 § 1 Comment
This year for the FTR I got to experience what it was like to be a journalist: Write about something I hadn’t actually done myself.
And I will tell you, it was no fun. No fun because two full days before the onset of Dave Jaeger’s world-famous French Toast Ride I was flat on my back with the flu, where I mostly remained until a few hours ago. No fun because everyone who showed up for the ride apparently had huge amounts of fun (except for those whose fun ration was somewhat minimal). And mostly no fun because I didn’t get to enjoy the hospitality of the Jaeger clan.
Some people wonder why you would wander across Ventura County for 118 miles, climbing Balcom Canyon at Mile 100, with people who mostly just want to drop you, but Dave has an explanation for it: “The ride is just the stupid excuse for a bunch of friends to sit around, have french toast for breakfast, and celebrate afterwards with some sandwiches and a couple of beers.”
Where else do you get to show up at someone’s private home at 7:00 AM, wreck their bathroom, be treated to homemade delicious french toast, eggs, bacon, and hot coffee, go out for an all-day bike ride, stop at another relative’s house en route to refuel and get rid of toxic wastes, and at the end shower up in those same folks’ home while eating a delicious lunch they’ve prepared for you?
Whatever else was clear after this edition of the FTR, none could doubt that age and the ravages of droopy prostates had laid low what was once if not the cream of Southern Californian manhood, at least some of its mostly unspoiled skim milk. In fact, the biggest showdown of FTR 2018 was simply being able to stagger to the starting line.
Three riders including me were stricken by plague and couldn’t start, one had heart problems and was put on the disabled list, one realized he’d rather do grandpa duties and telegraphed in his regrets, and two others simply rolled over in bed a few weeks ago and passed their coveted spot onto someone else. When the ride itself started there were immediate indications that this and all future FTR’s would need to have a geriatric route option for those whose creaky bones and flapping heart valves weren’t up to the task of Balcom, and by the time Balcom Canyon rolled around Stern-O and Tumbleweed showed their platinum AARP cards and were allowed to take shortcuts back to the ranch.
Age and infirmity reared their ugly heads on the steeps of Balcom, as is always the case, but unlike years past when exhausted desperadoes have hung onto slow-moving vehicles, this year’s Brokeback Balcom Award went to Randy T., who simply got off and walked. At the award ceremony when he was presented with the DFL trophy, Michael remarked to general hilarity that Randy “didn’t deserve the trophy because the figure on it was actually riding the bike.”
Bull suffered mightily over the course of the day, which was easy to understand given his twelve miles of prep since last October, but it wasn’t until his bike un-maintenance prowess came to the fore in the form of two dead e-Tap batteries that things looked grave. WHO KNEW YOU HAD TO CHARGE THEM? As Bull’s face fell, contemplating another twenty miles including the Golf Course Climb, all done in his 52 x 13, he plaintively asked whether “anyone happened to have a spare battery”?
Randy T. did, saving the crew from having to take turns carrying Bull up and over what, at ride’s end, would have been every bit as brutal as the Matterhorn.
The two Illinois first timers acquitted themselves with incredible distinction. Old Plodder felt strong gravitational effects on every climb but never came close to quitting. Young Plodder rode strong as befit his youth but distinguished himself with the most egregious lie of FTR 2018 when he reported to me over the phone that “After we finished I kind of wanted to go out and ride some more.” Check that quote with the photo of the guy in the red and white jersey with his head in his hands and the 1,000-yard stare and tell me how much more he “wants to go out and ride.”
Sadly, there wasn’t much more to report. People were too old to rock and roll but definitely not too young to die.
As far as the roll call went, it looked like this:
- David Jaeger
- Major Bob
- Stern-O* (Geriatric Route)
- Randy T.
- Jeff K.
- Tumbleweed* (Geriatric Route)
- Andy S.
- Craig L.
- Surfer Dan
- Scott B.
- Mark P.
- Baby Seal
When the dust had settled and the bottles had been drained, and the exhausted riders were happily settled into the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 101 back to points south, one rider took a minute to gather his thoughts and sum up the ride better than anyone ever has, or will:
We were just discussing how great the ride was today! Baby Seal just told me that his favorite part of the day was the awards ceremony. The intimacy and love between that group and your family is heartwarming. You truly put on an event that is one of a kind!
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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.
December 25, 2014 § 56 Comments
“There are no atheists in foxholes,” the saying goes. But there’s a corollary: “Stay the hell out of foxholes.”
It’s Christmas time again, otherwise known as my birthday. And as Manslaughter observed while texting me the other day, “Hey, Wanky, you know what? I’ve never seen you and Jesus together. Weird.” Actually, he said “u.”
For many years I hated my Birthmas celebration for the obvious reason of present shortage and complete absence of birthday partyage. We once tried to do it in July and learned the cold truth. You can’t change your birthday. All those kids swarming around the cake and stuff didn’t mean anything when they said, “You’re birthday’s on Christmas, though, isn’t it?”
It’s like spending all that money on a nip and tuck and stretch and having all your friends say, “You got a nose job, didn’t you?”
Christmas I was born, and to Christmas I was consigned, hating it until about age 30, when I realized that the good thing about everyone forgetting your birthday is that everyone forgets about your birthday. “How old are you again?” asked in June is so much better than, “Hey, happy 51st!” spoken exactly on schedule.
This is really the essence of Christmas for me: A spoiled old man complaining about having gotten shorted on presents when I was seven. Now that I’m a full-grown atheist, we don’t even buy a tree anymore, just a Christmas shrub. A few years ago I tossed the lifetime of Christmas decorations that had accumulated, handmade things from my childhood and the childhoods of my children. All we have left are some stockings, two of which were made by my grandmothers. I’ll hang onto them, I suppose, and may even hang them up.
But Christmas is more than an earnest attempt to avoid crowds, eschew impulse shopping, and avoid over-laden tables of sweets, cakes, eggnog, and food. For some people, Christmas is a chance to pray, and to pray from the heart.
I have ridden a few times with a guy named Justin. I don’t know his last name, but I know he is a good rider and a really kind guy. He is a professional tutor in Manhattan Beach, and at age 39 he has helped hundreds of young people navigate the increasingly complex and increasingly competitive world of academics. Little by little he fell in with the MB crew, a gang of riders that includes Jeff K., King Harold, Jaeger, Manslaughter, and the other hardcore South Bay cycling addicts.
In October they planned a four-day ride from San Jose to LA, a 500-mile leisurely jaunt along some of the most gorgeous coastline in the world, during which they would all stare intently at their stems and drool for six hours a day. On the first day Manslaughter went zinging through a tight, gravelly turn that was marked with a giant sign saying “BICYCLES CAUTION: TIGHT, GRAVELLY TURN!!” and, to his surprise, at 35 mph his wheels slipped out and forced him to engage his secondary braking system, otherwise known as the skin up and down the left side of his body, and his head.
As Manslaughter is wont to do, he snapped a few photos for Facebag, taped up his frame, and continued on. Later that day Justin, who was also along for the fun, fell and broke his wrist. At the ER one thing led to another and when he returned to Los Angeles for further treatment he ended up getting a biopsy on a small lump on his tongue. It turned out to be stage four cancer, and Justin is now heading to San Diego for chemo and radiation. His Christmas just turned into a foxhole.
I also learned that a week or so ago there was a mass for him at which several hundred friends, family, students, and former students gathered to express their love and support. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a rough slog, something that makes our “suffering on the bike” look absurd in comparison because you know, if you choose to do it, it’s not really suffering.
There’s something about that slog and about the love of the people around him that resonated with me. A couple of nights ago I met up with Jami and Derek and Daniel and Andrea for dinner. Afterwards we went upstairs to the bar where a handful of friends had gathered to wish me a surprise happy birthday. It filled me warmth, that feeling that people love you, even the same people who gleefully pound you into mush on rides and in races.
As I basked in the glow I thought about Justin and wondered how I could pray for him because well, atheists don’t pray. Then it struck me. No matter what you believe, I hope you believe that love matters. I do. And that’s my prayer for Justin — that the love around him will make the difference. Merry Christmas, man. See you soon.
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November 9, 2014 § 26 Comments
I know what you’re going to say. “He’s even older than you are.”
“That guy hasn’t won a race in years.”
“DJ? He still rides?”
And, of course, “Who?”
Yeah, well, whatever. We all have benchmarks, and Dave is one of mine. “The day I beat Dave Jaeger up a climb,” I have often said, “is the day I will quit cycling.” I’ve made that promise to myself because it’s something that will never occur.
“Never say never!” chirp the Pollyannas. “Ya gotta show up to win!” Oh, horseshit. There are some people you’ll never beat, and it’s not because you don’t train enough or have the right equipment or the right dietitian or whatever, it’s because they are faster than you. That’s Dave. He’s faster than me when he hasn’t been training for a year and I’ve been on the EPO Diet.
He’s faster than me in races. In training. He’s even faster than me getting out of bed, I just know it.
I used to do an early morning Saturday training ride with him but I quit doing it for the same reason I quit buying lottery tickets. There was no chance of winning.
It’s no big deal to me that he’s richer, better looking, has an uber-hot wife, and wonderful kids. That stuff counts for zip. All I ever cared about is beating Dave Jaeger on a climb. He has beaten me every year for the last six years on the French Toast Ride, cruising up Balcom Canyon in his big ring, putting minutes on me even when I hit the climb with a several-hundred-yard head start. He has beaten me so many times on the Donut Ride that on the few times a year that he bothers to show up I immediately call it my “off week.”
Worst of all, when everyone else beats me everywhere else I get to smile and say, “Yeah, but I’m 50,” even when the other guy is 49. Not with Dave. He races 55+ starting in 2016. He’s waaaay older than I am. And worser than the worst, he’s always nice about it. “Good job, wanker,” he’ll always say after putting a few football fields in between me and my dignity. And he’ll mean it.
Yesterday was going to be more of the same. The Donut Ride started slowly, thanks to the absences of Smasher and Ollie. Manny Fresh did a pointless attack on the downhill, and SBBaby Seal rolled away only to make the fatal mistake of turning down the alley. No one followed and he wasn’t seen again.
Once we hit Portuguese Bend the pace picked up, but not too much. We had some Belgian dude named Jan riding with us, and just the word “Belgian” was enough to make most of us shart in our shorts. Even the Wily Greek was eyeing him.
Jaeger always gets irritated when people go slow, and this day was no exception. “What are you wankers doing, holding hands?” he asked. I nodded. He shook his head and attacked off the front, from the front. The last time I saw him do that was at the Lake Castaic Road Race. In fact, the situation had been identical.
“Did you wankers show up to hold hands or race your bikes?” he had asked.
“Hold hands, hopefully,” I had peeped.
That time too he had shaken his head, punched it, and soloed for 47 miles to victory. It was my only top-ten road placing of the year, but that’s just because everyone from #11 on down quit.
DJ rolled away from the Donut. We lollygagged some more until we hit the bottom of the Switchbacks. There are usually a half-dozen wankers left by this point, as the repeated accelerations have shaken the dingleberries out of the weeds, but today we were still thirty or forty strong. There was a feeling of joy in the air as the larger specimens enjoyed being with the lead group at the bottom of the climb, a point at which they were usually alone, defeated, struggling, and swearing off pork rinds at least for the next hour.
The Wily Greek leaped away. Chatty Cathy followed. Davy followed. Destroyer followed. I followed. With a few pedal strokes I glanced back and the wankoton had evaporated. Then as Wily punched it again, I evaporated. After clawing my way back we went around a couple more turns on the Switchbacks and Wily surged again, taking Destroyer with him.
Chatty Cathy pulled for a while then cracked. I passed him and continued on to the wall. Up ahead I could see Wily Greek and DJ, who had hooked up, with Destroyer in No Man’s Land. Jaeger then came unhitched, and I passed him on the wall.
Please re-read that a few dozen times. “I passed him on the wall.”
Yep, that actually happened. Wankmeister passed David Jaeger on a climb.
Somehow I got onto Destroyer’s rear wheel, “somehow” meaning “he let me.” Then he towed me to the flat spot. Then I towed him for six or seven feet to allow him to recover before swinging over to let him share some more of the work. Then, a quarter mile before the end, with Wily dangling out in front doing his nails and wondering why no one was riding up to him, I spied a shadow on my wheel.
I didn’t need to look back, because there was only one rider yesterday who had the legs to chase down Destroyer on a climb, and the outline of the head meant that it was Jaeger. My glorious victory, the one time I was going to actually beat the best bike racer, nicest guy, richest man, dude with the hottest wife … it all crumbled in an instant.
The only hope I had, and it was a slim one, was cunning. Destroyer swung over and I took a massive 180-watt pull. DJ came through like a bull. I went to the back and recovered from my 180-watt effort. We rounded the bend. The imaginary finish line was in sight. Wily, who had arrived slightly before, had finished the finance section of the Times and was halfway through “A History of Modern Computing in Twelve Volumes.” I dropped back a few feet and took a run at Destroyer’s rear wheel.
Destroyer laughed at the tiny acceleration and easily sprunted away, but to me, he was small game, tiny fish, he was nuttin’. As I passed the imaginary finish line I heard that familiar voice on my right-hand shoulder. “Good job, wanker.”
“Best ride of my life,” I said.
He laughed. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve passed me before.”
“I’m sure I haven’t.”
‘November 8, 2014, the day I beat Dave Jaeger on a climb.’
The artist told me to keep the ink out of the sun for two weeks, which will be hard because it’s on my forehead in 36-point Courier and kind of winds down over my ears and neck, and yes, tattoos hurt a bit, and yes, it’s my first one, but this one is worth it.
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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.
January 13, 2013 § 15 Comments
I’m too tired and hungry and dehyrdated and dessicated to do anything besides report the facts regarding yesterday’s 117-mile beatdown, otherwise known as the 2013 edition of Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride.
First, a few stats:
Door to door: 7 hours, 8 minutes
Starting temperature: 40 degrees
Finishing temperature: 55 degrees
Skies: Beautifully clear and sunny. Perfect SoCal winter weather.
Wind: None to speak of
Distance: 117 miles
Total Climbing: +7,500 ft
Steepest gradient: 20%, Balcom Canyon Rd. (at mile 100; thanks, Jaeger)
Pieces of French toast consumed: 4
Slices of bacon eaten: 6
In-ride hydration: 1/2 a water bottle, 2 cups of convenience store coffee
In-ride nutrition: PBS, almonds, medjool dates, totaling 2,072 kcal
Calories burned: 4,200 kcal
Number of wankers who swore a blood oath that they’d start: 25
Number of wankers who actually started: 21
KOM: Jeff Konsmo
Green Jersey: Aaron Wimberley
Overall winners: James and Nancy Jaeger (got the most swag and didn’t have to ride a single mile!)
Individual Results (in order of free association)
Yuletide: Widely predicted to crash, burn, melt, and strew nuts, bolts, plates, and assorted surgical hardware all over Ventura County, Yuletide a/k/a Junkyard a/k/a Van Gogh pulled the ride of the decade out of his ass. Riding within his limits he got shelled on every climb, recovered on the descents, and ended up towing various wankers whose names shall not be mentioned, Jim Bowles, to various resting spots. Redemption is too weak a word for the gut-up, full-on, HTFU ride produced by the man whose logo is emblazoned on ten thousand sweaty butts across Southern California. Unlike last year when he was pulled the last half-mile up Balcom Canyon by a rusted out Chevy Luv filled with thirty lawnmowers and twelve yard workers that just happened to be passing at the right speed (2.4 mph), this year Yuletide brought the blood, sweat, and tears and stomped his way up under his own steam and ahead of various notables whose names shall not ever be mentioned, Jim Bowles. Ultimate proof of Yuletide’s rising tide was his appearance at the Wheatgrass Ride the following day, where he danced on the pedals (albeit a clog dance) and quaffed wheatgrass with the best of ’em.
Fussy: Coming back from a terrible ten-year injury that debilitated him so much he could scarcely complete a lap on the Donut without assistance from an EMS crew, Fussy overcame the awful disease of Put Extra Whip Cream On Everything Please by enrolling in the Wankmeister Diet Plan. After reducing his daily caloric intake from 15,000 to about 65, he shed the better part of four coats of winter bear grease and showed up at FTR ready to ride wheelies all the way up Balcom. For a first timer, he acquitted himself with honor and with the immortal Baylesian good cheer, better humor, and extra-wide butt for the rest of us to draft off. In fact, Fussy fought, hammered, grabbed wheels when he could, pounded alone into the wind when he had to, and produced a ride guarantees an invite for 2014, to the extent that invites are ever guaranteed, which they aren’t.
Becker Bob: Bob put in his usual 10,000 miles of preparation for FTR spread out over the last 25 years, and for the most part didn’t finish last, except for the times he did. On Country Club Climb the rest of the crew had time to put the finishing touches on a 35,000-piece jigsaw puzzle before he crested the top, but until that point he rode well enough to justify the 14 pieces of French toast he’d scarfed before rolling out. Some people may have ridden faster, but no one had a better ratio of food-to-miles than Becker Bob. And of course he brought the trademark good humor and camaraderie that has made him a fixture on this annual death march. “Next year,” he says “I will train. Really.”
MMX: Pulled the most. Pulled the hardest. Drew the fiercest opposition. Left to dangle with no teammates. Perhaps won the sprunt into Ojai (more on that later). Awesome fourth on Balcom behind 42-lb. Alex, 51-lb. Konsmo, and The Lung a/k/a G$ a/k/a Leibert. Next closest rider was still at the Circle K in Ventura. MMX split the field into 300 smaller parts on the 101. Punished the bad boys and girls with a 30-minute smashmouth pull from Ventura to Santa Paula, where only a handful could do anything other than grab a wheel and vomit up the Barbie food they’d eaten at the Circle K along with their dreams and self esteem and delusions of glory. MMX slashed and burned up the Lake Casitas climb, cresting in fourth behind Zombo, Roadchamp, and G$, and hung in on the climb into Ojai despite the dastardly four-man combo of G3, G$, Roadchamp, and Zombo who all worked together to work him over. Never looked tired, and got the Repartee of the Day Award when someone complained, “We can’t spend too long here at the Circle K because all the lactic acid will build up.” MMX’s retort: “You don’t get lactic acid unless you ride hard.” Showered the host and hostess, their son and daughter and grandchildren with chic SPY-ware gift certificates, and gave WM another pair of cool-beyond-cool shoes so that I can now step outdoors in something that was designed (and made) later than 1987. Ripped off a handful of Strava KOM’s on the ride, and never drifted more than a couple of wheels off the front for the entire 7-hour odyssey. Bad news: He’s just starting to build for BWR. Good news: Most of the FTR wankers won’t have to deal with him again until 2014.
Punkster: After years of quitting, getting dropped, flailing, and generally behaving like a kid who trains in a basement in Indiana, Punkster brought his A Game to the 2013 FTR, or at least someone else’s. He challenged for every sprunt, made the first or second split on every climb, and beat Konsmo on the Balcom Climb except for a technicality: In the event of a tie on Balcom, the vee goes to the older guy, or the guy who has won it more, or the guy who first claims that it was a “tie.” Unlike others who rode well at key strategic points, Punkster shared huge miles with MMX on the front, never shirked, and unleashed a number of solid, battering pulls. On the run-in to Ojai, he claimed a shared sprunt victory with MMX, however, that is disputed by G$ and Wankmeister. More below. If Punkster continues this upward trajectory (and it should, as he now appears to have reached puberty), next year no one will hold his wheel anywhere.
DJ: Like a fine old wine that’s gone sour from sitting too long in the dumpster, Dave Jaeger, founder of the FTR, racer extraordinaire, vanquisher of the inaugural BWR in 2012, icon of the South Bay and Dude Who Thinks He’s Getting Paid To Remodel His Home, produced yet another astounding ride. Why astounding? Because despite doubling his mileage for the last six months in a single day, DJ hammered, placed respectably on every climb, made the split going over Ojai, and mother-henned all the brokedown wankers spread from Camarillo to Ventura and back. Moreover, he produced yet another version of the often-copied, never imitated French Toast Ride, the prime ingredients being 22 oz. of Beatdown mixed with 1 cup of Cajoling, then adding a lightly battered 899 grams of Encouragement to 149 lbs. of Taking Care of Everyone Else. Dave, we love you, and especially love the FTR because it’s the only time you go slow enough for us to get ahead of you, even if it’s only for a mile or two.
Zombo: Remember Columbo? Looked like a doofus? Tricked everybody into thinking that he was a clueless knucklehead who you could easily fool? Then in the end he’d turn out to have had the upper hand the whole time, was playing the bad guy for a fool, and would nail the sorry flailer’s ass to the floor? Okay, and you’re familiar with zombies, right? The ones you kill and smash and obliterate and wreck and throw into the meatgrinder and shoot through the heart and push off a cliff and burn into ashes and make watch Oprah and then they just get up and come right back at you, strong as they ever were? Your worst fucking nightmare on the FTR is a blend between a zombie and Columbo, a/k/a Zombo, f/k/a Surfer Dan. This was Zombo’s first FTR and he ate so much living flesh off his victims that there was nothing but a scattered, tattered pile of stinky shorts at the end (zombies don’t like poopy bike shorts). Hairy legged, grinning goofily, faux clueless about where to attack and where to rest, Zombo made the strongest and scariest FTR debut in recent memory. That’s all well and good–turning on the screws early, keeping the pressure high, being game for the hammerhead tactics of MMX, showing that he was worthy…but where he earned his keep forever was on the 101. This was one of those things that’s life and death, where a rider is more than a rider, where your life is in someone else’s hands and they keep you from getting ground under the wheels of a tractor-trailer moving at 80 mph at huge risk to their own life. We were in single file, with MMX absolutely stuffing our entrails back down our throats with each mash of the pedals, rolling up a slight rise, freeway traffic blowing by at 80+, and all I could do was grimace, choke back the bile and the mostly gone French toast and date juice and earwax and latch onto Konsmo’s rear wheel with a bitter prayer, who in turn was trying to pedal through a wall of sweat and snot while latched onto Zombo’s wheel, who like the rest of us was hunkered down and praying to Dog that this hell would end. With no warning, Zombo’s left hand shot off the bars and made a huge, wild sweeping motion that only meant one thing: Look out for DEATH! His bike moved a centimeter to the right. By taking his hand off the bars and flailing wildly to warn Konsmo he’d risked losing control of his own bike and therefore his life, as the “obstacle” was a manhole-sized gash in the pavement that was about a foot deep and two feet long. I’ve seen some fancy bike moves before, but to have the presence of mind to avoid the uncalled-out hole, quickly warn the guy behind you, and steer without swerving was unbelievable. Zombo’s trust factor was high; Konsmo acted with total instinct, the buddy-in-a-foxhole kind of trust move that you blindly make when you know the wheel in front of you and depend on it. Konsmo saw the wild sweep and knew that whatever it was, it was bad. He didn’t know if I was echeloned, so he couldn’t veer. Instead, he followed Zombo’s slight deviation from the line in a controlled and instantaneous reaction and as I followed Konsmo I saw his wheel graze the edge of that black pit of death by a margin so slim you could have put a pencil lead between the edge of Konsmo’s tire and the gaping crevasse. Of course by the time I reached it I was safe; my eyes had been able to follow the arm-sweep to the pavement and move accordingly. Had Zombo plunged us all into that hole, someone would have flown out onto the 101 and met the fate of G3’s Go-Pro…more about that disaster later. In short, it was the unsung hero move of the day. Konsmo was shaking afterwards, well, after MMX had cracked the group and ridden away, leaving us to lick our wounds and do a Kum-Ba-Ya around Zombo.
Überfred: Long-hailed by himself as one of the greatest national team members of the 1980’s, and one of the dudes still riding who can regale us with that same awesome story of how he beat Greg Lemond in a race once (it was the Hooterville Crit, where Lemond flatted in the final turn and crashed into the barriers), Überfred turned in one of the most impressive and amazing FTR performances in his storied career. After telling DJ that he’d be there, and taking up a valuable starting spot (thousands of South Bay wankers, and a contingent of LB Freddies including Checkerbutt had tried every means possible to obtain one of the coveted slots), Überfred emailed the night before the big event to say he’d gotten a boo-boo on his hoo-ha and wouldn’t be able to make the ride. There has never been an FTR night-before cancellation, and some noted that it was more than mere coincidence that Überfred’s boo-boo happened about one hour after WM sent out the Final FTR Email Warning of Death, in which all were reminded that their hour of judgment was nigh, and there was naught left but to suffer the beatdown and tow up Balcom by the passing gardener’s truck, if they were so lucky. Subsequent investigation revealed that Überfred had been in NYC the previous week, hanging out with cheerleaders and practicing his arabesques and assemblés.
BJones: BJ showed up in a decidedly non-ugly kit and suffered like the LB Freddie dog that he was. Fresh and keen in the first few stabs on the way to Fillmore, and game for the finish at the bridge, BJ found a spot in the back third of the wankoton and pounded all 117 miles of misery back to the ranch house in Camarillo. Then, unlike the mere mortals who changed clothes, wolfed sandwiches, then drove home, where they fell asleep in their jeans, BJ left without eating and drove back to Brea where he watched his daughter play in three consecutive soccer matches. A more awesome FTR performance is scarce to be imagined. On Balcom, he was the final corpse that I passed, and watching him paperboy up the slope in tandem with Bull reminded me of two pilot whales doing a synchronized swimming routine on a trampoline. It wasn’t pretty, but it got them up the damned thing. BJ also stood and kicked hard twice at the top of the climb, so hard in fact that I had to cough up a lung to pass him.
Brokeback: Without question the least fit, least prepared, most woefully undertrained wanker on the entire ride, Brokeback was not only suffering from the combined effects of his Reise nach Italien, a prolonged courtship which has included all manner of lard, foie gras, crème brûlée, chocolate eclair, Napoleon, apple tarte tatin, lemon meringue, chocolate fondue, and Teste-Cubières, but also in constant agony from severe lower back pain which he had been treating with the above-mentioned desserts on an almost hourly basis. In short, Brokeback knew that from Mile One he would be in hell, that no savior or sag would come to his aid, and that the only way he’d get through FTR 2013 was with grit and a suitcase of courage the size of Dallas. Unlike certain unnamed Long Beach no-shows, rather than betraying the Brotherhood of the Toast, Brokeback strapped on his strap-on, threw a leg over, and didn’t finish last on every single climb. I’m not sure whether he deserves credit for starting this odyssey on an empty tank and finishing it on willpower, or whether he deserves contempt for not making some minimal preparation for it, but I do know this: I could never have done what he did. That amount of guts and determination do not exist in my family tree.
Hair: Generally considered a Cat 3 sprunter, Hair set fire to this year’s FTR. He won’t admit it, but he doesn’t have to because we all have eyes: He’s trimmed off all the baby fat and, thanks to Wankmeister’s diet advice, has dropped a solid 10-15 pounds. Gone is the Hair who had rolls of neck fat. Gone is the Hair whose size tiny jersey had an extra front pocket for his hairy tummy. Gone is the Hair who had little grab-aholds under his armpits…and in his place is a lean, hard, badass bike racer. He took the Fillmore sprunt by several football fields even after starting on fourth-and-400 yards back. But then he showed some serious cards, hanging with the leaders on the climb into Ojai, sticking his nose into the wind all day long, and consistently being the only rider besides Zombo who could play ball with MMX doing the hard work on the front. Hair flew up Casitas and then hit the downhill with such speed that all I could do when it was my turn to pull through was not pull through and whimper. He got outfoxed on the Ojai sprunt, but closed the gap to MMX and Punkster singlehandedly. Most incredibly, he was among the top finishers on Balcom, a place where no pure sprunter dares show his mettle. Then, in addition to all that, he did it with his usual smack talk, good humor, and encouraging words to those of us who could do nothing but drool in his nonexistent slipstream. With no teammates, no natural climbing talent, and no performances in previous years on the FTR’s hardest sections that were anything other than flail-worthy, this year garnered him the award of Dude Who Is Flat Fucking Badass. I can’t take credit for doing anything other than unsuccessfully hanging onto his shadow, but he owes me 25% of 2013’s race winnings thanks to my diet advice, even though he pretends to be doing it on Jenny Craig.
Wankomodo: Every once in a while you trash talk a person, say bad things about him, drag his name through the mud, and bash him to a fare-thee-well, only to learn that he’s a first rate, stand-up guy, and then, feeling awful about the terrible things you said, you apologize. Well, that ain’t gonna happen. But I will say this: If one person made the 2013 FTR an over-the-top success, it was Wankomodo, who showed up with his brand new Lambo, $873,000 in Canon bodies and lenses, and did the most incredible job of sag + custom photography that FTR has ever had, or even dreamed of having, since most of us drive rusted out cars with more than 200k in mileage, and our “camera equipment” uses film. He picked great vantage points, got super photos of everyone, had them edited and posted less than 24 hours after the ride, and asked for nothing in return. So many good things were said about you during and after the ride, Wankomodo, and a whole bunch of them by me, that your ears must have burned down at least three sizes. Thanks for making it a special day and for giving us lots of fodder with which to waste our entire weekend, and for giving us stuff we can use to holler, “Hey, honey! Come look at this!” while our bored wives trundle into the room to look at another photo of G3 or MMX or some shattered wanker struggling up a pockmarked road with his tongue dragging in the gutter. You’re the man!
Stern-O: Older than dirt, but never having let any stay on his bike for more than twelve seconds, Stern-O represented the tough guys of New Mexico with a bravado, power, strength, and courage that we have come to expect from a state where there are more children born in wedlock to their immediate relatives than there are meth houses per square mile…if only barely. Stern-O, the guy who never turns down a dare, whose reputation was carved on the hard roads of LA County, legend among myths, an unsolved problem on par with P versus NP, with the Hodge conjecture or the Riemann hypothesis, a complex mess of contradictions, confusions and bewilderment built on a base of dyspepsia and flatulence, Sterno-O The One And Only played his last FTR card. It was a dark and stormy night (in New Mexico). A band of fathers and children all born within the first degree of consanguinity sat around the campfire bright. “Ain’t the FTR tomorrer, Pappy?” asked one. “I reckon it is,” said Stern-O. “But I ain’t a goin’.” A gasp went up. “How come, Pappy? You ain’t never skunked on at ‘ere rat race afore.” “This here year’s differnt,” said Stern-O. “I’m fattern a Greek bride. Slowern a New Mexico University perfesser of addition and subtraction. Legs is spindliern the spokes on my racin wheels. They’s gonna be layin fer me over there in Californey. They’s gonna whup me good. Even ol’ Yulester’s gonna whup me. Bowles. Brokeback. All them fellers is gonna mash mah dick into the dirt and call me ‘Ol Grizzles,’ an’ ‘Softy,’ an’ I ain’t gonna stand for it. I’m a bailin.'” “But Pappy,” said his children, “you cain’t just quit the night afore the rat race. They’s done turned others away so’s you could do that there rat race. ‘Tain’t rat.” But Pappy would not be dissuaded. “I’ve done made fun a more wankers in my day than us New Mexicans have chillun who we’ve done married up to once they got over the age of twelve,” he said. “And I ain’t a gonna let ’em call me a wanker. No sir, I ain’t a gonna.” And with that, Stern-O fired off an email to DJ and bailed. Just. Like. That.
G3: The week before FTR, G3 had spent each day nestled up close to the toilet, pooping like mad in an attempt to dislodge the gastrointestinal bug he’d picked up from licking too many doorknobs. Faint, thin, covered in a Jeremiah Johnson beard, rickety at the knees, and begging to be excused for frailness even before he finished his sixteenth piece of French toast, G3 led out the FTR by attacking early and taking the first KOM on the climb into Fillmore. Then the sorry fuck landed the first blow in a four-man orchestrated project beating going up the climb into Ojai which was designed to, and which did, dislodge MMX from the wheel of G$ and Roadchamp. No matter that G3 exploded into a mass of poopy bibs…he knew his part and played it well, including his sneak attack on DJ going up Balcom, where he pounded the ride leader to cross the legendary Balcom threshold a few bike lengths ahead. If this was a weakened, broken, poop-covered G3, thank Dog we didn’t see him at full force. With his orange froo-froo talisman dangling from his saddle he rode smart, he rode hard, and he punished all who thought they’d smack him while he was down (that was mostly me). However, the one part of the ride where his wheels were coming off as MMX exacted revenge on the 101, with G3 blown off the back and buffeted by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, his brand new Go-Pro bar mount snapped and the camera flew off onto the highway. The timing was perfect, because he could now legitimately do what the rest of us were praying we could do: Stop and shudder and gasp until the big black spots vanished and the guy in the white robe surrounded by the shimmering white light receded into the distance a bit. As he went back to collect his camera, composing in his head the angry letter he’d dash off to Go-Pro demanding a refund for a product he hadn’t paid for, as it had been a Christmas gift, he was faced with a major decision: Should he reach down and pick up the camera, or get the fuck out of the way of the 18-wheeler that was listing over into the bike lane and headed straight for the camera. “Lunge for the $300 camera and likely die? Or get out of the way and dash off that nasty letter?” It was a tough decision since he had so much good footage of MMX and others riding him off their wheel, but smarts won out over thrift. He jumped back just in time for the big front wheel to hit the camera, explode it into a million pieces, and plow onward with the driver laughing in the mirror.
G$: Raging. Roaring. Full throttle. Destruction on the climb into Ojai. Beatdown on the climb up Lake Casitas. 1-2 finish at the Santa Barbara County Line. Punishing beatdown on the 101. Third-place finish on Balcom. Brilliant orange socks blazing, G$ checked the oil level, found it full, checked the gas gauge, found it full, and turned in another awesome FTR ride. Of all his impressive moves, none matched his 1-2 finish at the Imaginary Sprunt Finish in Ojai, duking it out with Wankmeister for imaginary victory. MMX and Punkster had already crossed what they thought was the finish line, but the Ojai sign had been taken down, so in our opinion they finished too soon. Hair then jumped, but he, too went too soon. In our opinion. This meant that the true sprunt line was just ahead of where the others sat up. G$ jumped once, jumped twice, and with Wankmeister on his wheel, then battling into the wind, these two titans of the big ring, both known far and wide for the sprunting ability, took an imaginary first and imaginary second at the imaginary line. Or so we imagined.
Roadchamp: It gets really boring trying to say something new about Roadchamp. He took the climbs at will. He had no peer on this FTR, or any other. Punkster will beat him in a year or two, but for now he’s the King of All Mountains. Will his abject terror and fear of bad roads scare him away from the Belgian Waffle Ride again this year? Probably. But rest assured that when the road tilts up in 2013, he’ll be a force and the only assured way of beating him will be with a moped.
Dlrmpl: Would have easily gotten the Newbie Award if it hadn’t been for Zombo. Dude rode strong, smoked it up Balcom, climbed great on Casitas, and only really got shelled on the climb into Ojai. Never showed weakness in the form of sobbing, calling out his mother’s name, or offering Wankomodo money for a ride in the Lambo. Dlrmpl will only get stronger, faster, and more intent on whipping up on the old dudes as time goes by. Plus he’s already DM’d all his wanker buddies, rubbing their nose into the fact that he got to ride and they didn’t.
Turtle: Realized that the 101 was going to be even more unforgiving than it was last year. Night before bailer and quitter.
Bull: Go and blow. For 117 miles. Bull hit the front, popped, recovered, and hit the front again so many times we all lost count. He and BJ’s synchronized paperboy on Balcom was poetry in motion, especially if you like bad poetry. Tough, resilient, always grinning despite the sheet snot hanging off his face like icicles, he asked for no mercy, not because he didn’t want any, but because he knew he’d get none.
Taylor: Gritted it out. Gutted it out. Showed up for FTR with no illusions, and left it with even fewer. It was a hard, miserable, lonely beatdown in Ventura County for Big T., and he took his beating like a man. No whimpering or whining, just slogging through the miles grimly and without complaint, lugging himself up Balcom and coming to rest in front of the food buffet Chez Jaeger, where he got all the reward he ever expected.
Bowles: Taking the part of Stern-O as Oldest Gentleman To Ride The FTR And Not Require Medical Intervention, Bowles pounded, hammered, got dropped, latched back on, and achieved the ultimate goal in his storied FTR career: Dropped Yuletide again on Golf Course Hill. Always glad to be part of the circus, and never the last elephant in the parade, he acquitted himself honorably again, and it was with an honorableness that will only increase as he keeps showing up.
Gil: Showing up…showing up…rings a bell…Even Superman has to show up when he signs on the dotted line. We were all disappointed and surprised that you joined the LB contingent of night before bailer and quitter. Damn.
Major Bob: You and Frias are the lucky ones. I’m too dogdamned tired to write anymore, and can’t imagine that anyone is still reading, except Harold and Leonard, who are wondering when I’m going to sing the praises of King Harry. Major Bob wrote his name large again in the storied history of the FTR. He came. He saw. He ate four helpings of French toast and enough bacon to make a Denny’s patron blush. And he charged all the climbs, bombed all the descents, spent time on the front, and was cracking jokes and grinning up to the bitter end.
Frias: Frias ground out yet another FTR. He wasn’t the first, but was by no means the last. Dude, I’m all typed out.
King Harold: Won the Best Pre-Ride Smacktalk Email Award of 2013. Whereas other smacktalking greats like Uberfred and Bull were strangely silent, King Harold unleashed a pair of disses that were truly wankworthy. Our time together on this year’s FTR was limited to the second bump, when Harry threw a chain and I made the horrible mistake of dropping back to help, like I know anything about chains other than “Don’t wrap them around the outside of the pulley-wheel cage,” and like I could help him bridge in the middle of a climb when the main group was sprinting away. What was I thinking? I know what I was thinking: King Harold is one of the best guys with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met, and I figured I’d rather flail alone into the wind with Harry for 100 miles than spend the next six hours curled up in a fetal ball of pain trying to follow MMX or G$. This of course was a terrible decision as we wound up in another OTB two-man flail of death, where Harry’s effort to get us back to the group was so ugly that neither of us had the legs to do anything besides pant and pray for the rest of the climb. Incredibly, he didn’t crush and drop me on the climbs. Perhaps it was his fear of the kimchee gas? We’ll never know…
Wankmeister: I sucked. Surprised? And it had nothing to do with the fact that I did the ride on two cups of gas station coffee, half a bottle of water, some dates, almonds, and a PBS.
Get your application in for 2014!
With the fame of the FTR having spread far and wide, and numerous friendships having been sundered due to one person getting in and the other not getting invited, and with much mystery surrounding the selection process, I’ve posted the guidelines below so that you can be guaranteed a spot in 2014.
- Receive an invitation from the previous year. This is the simplest, quickest, most generally successful way to get invited. Oh…you’ve never been invited? Hmmm, you might be hosed. But read on.
- Meet up with the early morning Manhattan Beach crew on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at CotKU for the better part of a year. Become friends with DJ, ingratiate yourself with him, demonstrate your prowess on the bike, be generous and safe, don’t act like a prick, and know your place in the group, which is above that of a germ but below that of a dingleberry, and listen to his same twelve stories over and over but pretend that it’s the first time every time. They leave at 5:30 AM. Oh…you don’t like riding that early? You live too far away? Hmmmm, you might be hosed. But read on.
- Ride somewhat regularly with DJ throughout the year at the NPR or Donut Ride, or race against him. Demonstrate your skills without being a tool. At the same time, ingratiate yourself with an FTR multi-year participant. Then, a couple of weeks before the ride, whose date is kept secret, find out through the grapevine if there have been any cancellations. On pain of permanent rejection til the end of days, never ever ever ask DJ directly if you can do the ride. Have your “connection” ask for you. The answer will always be “Hell no.” However, the following year the answer will be “No way.” Third year, “Maybe.” Fourth year “I’ll think about it if we have mass cancellations by the Long Beach Freddies.” Fifth year (reluctantly), “Okay, that wanker’s in.” Oh…you don’t want to wait five years? Hmmmm, have you considered the Solvang Century? No? Okay, read on.
- Send DJ a large suitcase stuffed with cash. You’re in like Flynn.
January 4, 2013 § 14 Comments
2013 rushed in, rudely sweeping aside 2012, who had just only gotten going. “Out with the old, in with the new!” she shouted.
“Old? I just turned one!” said poor 2012. “I was just getting going! I was on track to be the best year ever!”
“Beat it,” retorted 2013. “You’re the jackass who brought us the fiscal cliff, hurricanes in New York City, mass murderers in schools and theaters, apocalypse in Syria, complete melting of the polar winter ice, destabilization of the Antarctic ice shelf, crop failure in the Midwest, and the hottest summer ever recorded. You had your shot at glory and you blew it. Now step aside.”
With that, and copious amounts of tequila, the world’s revelers plunged madly into 2013, where, on the first day of the year, although things didn’t look exactly “new,” they sure looked foggy, dull, and shot with pain from the blinding hangover.
“Don’t worry about the over indulging in bad food, the excessive drink, and screwing your best friend’s wife on the last night of 2012,” reassured 2013. “We’ve got a fix for all that. It’s called the ‘New Year’s Resolution.’ You can fix all your problems and guarantee perfection in 2013 with it! Buy now and you’ll get this special SlicerDicer with a compact ratchet set and skin moisturizer all in one!”
Making 2013 the perfect year
Of course 2013 will be just as cobbled together, filled with disappointment, shot with joy and happiness, complicated, simple, profitable, and stained with red ink as 2012. The only difference is that by the end, everyone over the age of 28 will be one year dumber, one year weaker, and one year uglier. And EVERYONE will be one year older. So there’s that, as Knoll would say.
“No!” shouted 2013. “With resolutions we can fix the errors of the past! Let’s get started!”
A notepad and pencil were hastily shoved in front of the post-revelers, whose headaches had gotten so bad that, after puking three times they were too dehydrated to go back to sleep. Plus, the dog needed to be fed and had already crapped twice on the carpet. “Argh,” said the revelers. “Might as well resolve.”
So the Big Four marched out, the same Big Four that march out every year. The Big Four resolutions that enter the new year with so much force and fury that McDonald’s and Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol recoil, and employers everywhere rejoice. You know who I’m talking about:
Mr. I’m Gonna Lose Ten Pounds And Exercise Regularly.
And Mr. I’m Gonna Quit Smoking And Doing Drugs.
And Mr. I’m Gonna Quit Drinking.
And Mr. I’m Gonna Get Organized And Quit Putting Stuff Off.
Cyclists, of course, always add Mr. I’m Gonna Become A Better Climber.
“Yeah,” say the painfully hungover revelers. “I’m gonna do all that shit, but first I gotta have a cig and a beer after I finish the cake and eggnog leftovers from last night. And since I’m sick as shit today, I’ll get started on it tomorrow. Where’s the Advil?”
Some old things never change, Thank Dog
In the crazy rush to get rid of all the things that make us happy, though, one ancient, time-encrusted, hoary old tradition stands tall against the battering waves of change: Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride.
It’s now in its 15th or 500th year, depending on how aged and decrepit Jim Bowles, Martin Howard, and Gregg Stern look on the day of the ride, but numbers aside, it’s a lot older than the sum of its years. The FTR, like all old things, and especially like all old cyclists, is a perversely constructed event that has adapted and survived because of its perverse construction.
It’s not a race. It’s not a ride. It’s not an event, either. It’s more like scratching your butt–a nice habit that’s a bit socially awkward but that feels so good once you start that it’s almost impossible to start.
The FTR covers 118 miles of roads in and around Camarillo, Ojai, and Ventura. It has a couple of hard climbs, with the Balcom Canyon stinger thrown in at about mile one hundred. Strava it, or Google it, or search this blog for write-ups on past years and you’ll see what a miserable climb it is, and you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the route and its various obstacles, not to mention the travails of the riders.
Since the participants are all quite aged, with only one rider in his twenties, one in his thirties, the rest being far over forty, and a handful just a decade or two shy of the Jurassic, the ride doesn’t race, exactly. The balance of riders are too weak and old for that.
There are, however, a couple of KOM’s, a couple of regroup points, and everyone finishes together on a miserable little pitch up the backside of a golf course leading into Camarillo. Weather is mandated to be perfect, and it always is.
A tribute to the enablers of 2012
What the FTR really is, is a tribute to the cycling enablers among us. They’re the people who watch us roll out in the morning, fully aware that we may come back via LifeFlight, or we may come back so injured that we’re never the same again, or we may never come back at all.
They’re the people who don’t fully understand but nonetheless approve the purchase of not one, but two extra sets of full carbon race wheels. They’re the people who don’t share our passion for cycling, but who love us because of our in spite of our passion. They’re the ones who don’t ask why, even though they occasionally grumble about having to give hand-ups in the hot, or the cold, or the snow, or the rain.
FTR couldn’t take place without enablers, and not just ordinary enablers. Jim and Nancy Jaeger, the hosts, open their home to invasion by thirty or so ravenously hungry, highly excitable, and digestively dynamic cyclists.You might not think that’s such a big deal until you realize that each one of those cyclists, after scarfing the French toast breakfast, immediately dashes upstairs with massive rumblings of the large intestines.
No one will ever forget the year that Stern-O’s release and subsequent OCD tissue-wiping of the entire bathroom clogged the toilet, burst pipes inside the walls, and required a hazmat crew to come in and clean up the destruction. But what I will never forget is despite that incident and the general bomb-dropping and log burials that accompany the FTR every year, the Jaegers graciously make their home available again. Enablers? Yes. Saints? Most likely.
Lynn, Macy, and Carly Jaeger put together an assembly line of French toast, bacon, sausage, and strong coffee that would shame any military operation. They chalk the sidewalk, or at least the driveway, with cheerful slogans like “You guys all suck!” and “Good luck, wankers!” Mostly, though, they provide the infrastructure of food, good cheer, and assistance that makes every little nattering glitch dissolve so that the ride rolls out on time.
Who’s your enabler?
The FTR’s enablers come together for this one day each year to allow us the dual pleasures of wasting another entire day on the bike and getting to do it fully supported with food before and after the ride. If need be, and need has occasionally been, Jim Jaeger is never too far away to drive out to some point in the ride and scrape up a hapless wanker who’s found himself mechanically, physically, or emotionally unable to continue.
In 2013 you’ll be rolling the highways, or the dirt tracks, or race courses that have been set up for your cycling pleasure. Someone’s making it all possible for you, or at least not throwing up roadblocks, unless it’s Dorothy Wong and you’re racing ‘cross. In all likelihood, no matter what your enablers say, they admire you for not needing a New Year’s resolution to go out and push your body and your mind in this most physical of ways. At the very least, they admire your courage in wearing lycra despite that saggy gut.
I’m not so sure that global warming, or psychotic gun nuts, or war in the Middle East, or the surveillance state, or political gridlock will markedly improve in 2013. But I’m sure that the FTR and its enablers, as well as all the enablers who make your cycling possible, need to stick around, not just for this year, but forever.
In that one little way, at least, here’s hoping that 2012 is here to stay.
May 28, 2012 § 15 Comments
It’s hard to explain to people what it’s like riding with the leaders up the climb on the Holiday Ride. “Um, it’s hard,” or “Well, you see I was gassed and then Billy Boozles made a sweep up the right-side gutter while Arnie Aspartame swung off and then…”
Thanks to my new GoPro helmet cam, I got the chance to video the thing and let you see for yourself. Click here to watch the Mandeville Canyon climb all the way to the top with the leaders. Don’t tell me that it’s “blurry” or “fuzzy” or “dogshit quality video, dude.”
It seems that I stuck my finger on the lens cover and smudged it. Still, remind me again, how much did you pay for this? Exactly.
My ride commentary, with video documentation, is below.
#1. The video don’t lie
It’s amazing how much people lie about what they did during a ride. By the time they get done, they’ve fabricated a narrative that is so distorted that you wonder if the dude telling you the story was in the same century as you, much less in the same breakaway.
This video quickly punctures some of the biggest whoppers that bubbled up immediately after the climb. G3 complained, after getting caught and dropped, that his teammates had chased him down.
They all denied it. Vehemently. “We wuz riding tempo so you could stay away!” “I’d never chase down a teammate!” “Some dudes from another team reeled you in, dude, I swear!”
G3 was brought back by a well-oiled machine consisting exclusively of his own teammates. I know it won’t make you feel any better, Greg, but this is exactly how I feel when you chase me down on the Wheatgrass Ride, or when you chase me down at TELO, or when you drop me going up to the Domes. The only difference is that we’re not teammates. On the other hand, I know you’d do it to me even if we were.
Plus, there was no way in hell you were going to solo the canyon vee. Unless, of course, your teammates hadn’t chased you down, in which case, well, who knows?
#2. The dude taking the video is a wheelsuck deluxe
Yep. I sat on the whole way. Never took a pull. You’ll see Surfer Dan look back a couple of times and invite me to take a turn. You’ll see me refuse.
“Wow,” you’re thinking. “This is the guy who’s always telling everyone to take a pull? What a douche.”
As I like to say, “If the nozzle fits…”
I was gassed and too afraid of Surfer Dan to do anything other than suck wheel and pray that no one attacked hard enough to drop me, which is what usually happens. That’s how it is when you’re a wanker.
#3 The dude who won the hill is an even bigger wanker
Yeah. Sitting on your teammate for the entire canyon climb and then blasting by him with totally fresh legs after assisting with the earlier chase, catch, and drop of G3, who is also your teammate? What’s up with that?
Answer, and I quote: “That’s MY wall.”
Those who don’t know Tree well will know this much after watching this video: It’s all about Strava. He will sit, chill, and torch anyone, teammates included, if it gets him closer to a Strava record. In this case, he didn’t get the KOM, but he moved up the leaderboard to fourth. And he got the KOM for something called “Westridge to White Picket Fence.” So there’s that.
Attacking and dropping your teammate who tows you all the way to the end and being labeled a wanker is a small price to pay for an incremental gain on Strava.
Those of you who think this is just sour grapes because he blasted by me so fast and hard I couldn’t have hung on with a tow rope…you’re right! Of course, if I have to get my ass handed to me on a plate, Tree’s my first choice as server, because even after I called out his wankage he smiled back and said, “Good effort out there, Wanky!” Some people are nice no matter what. Go figure.
#4. Dave Jaeger is a total badass
The dude is 51 years old. Remembers Armistice Day. Helped Caesar cross the Rubicon. Was one of the first users of the new invention, dirt. Nonetheless, he attacks the breakaway. Gets reeled in by Surfer Dan. Attacks again and dusts off the remaining hangers-on. Gets reeled in.
Still finishes with the break for fifth. Tells me after the ride, “You rode smart for once.”
Me: “I wasn’t riding. I was holding on for dear life.”
#5. The real artillery was either home getting oiled or out doing a real race at CBR
Kalashnikov and G$ started the ride, which was about 150 strong, but parted company in Marina del Rey to go and do a real bike race instead of a kit parade w/15-minute hillclimb effort + frappucino at CotKU. Roadchamp was home, resting after a hard weekend of riding and putting the finishing touches on his afterburners for the state road race next weekend in Bakersfield. King Harold, Launch, Vapor, Critchamp, et al. were racing, placing, or winning.
#6. Tink is amazing
Check out the first part of the video where she winds up the pace and keeps the gas on. You can’t see the wreckage in the rear because I’m too busy sucking wheel to look back and catch it with my helmet cam, but she’s causing mayhem and destruction behind her. She sheared three minutes off her Mandeville PR and finished just after the first chase group. She now holds the QOM for Mandeville and sits 20th on the men’s leaderboard. This girl is simply incredible.
#7. The camera makes your butt look fat
It’s a 170-degree wide angle, and my nose is pretty much stuffed up your rear end, further magnifying the ginormousness of your hindquarters. Trust me, in real life your derriere is svelte, lean, muscled, and the stuff of magazine covers. It’s the fault of the camera that we all look like candidates for a bovine butt porn shoot.
#8. Surfer Dan is a total badass
Yesterday he went up to NorCal and got 8th in the state road race. This morning he turned on the jets going up San Vicente and kicked most of the holidayers out the back. On Mandeville he ramped it up, led the vicious chase to reel in his teammate, chased down Jaeger twice, shrugged his shoulders when Wankmeister cowered in the rear, and drilled it all the way to the top. He was gracious and not in the least bit miffed by Tree’s finish line antics or by my wheelsuckage, proving that the really good guys just go do their ride and never bitch about the result, while we wankers run home to our keyboard, uncork and savor a vintage 1876 whine.