They’re all different, but not really

September 19, 2015 § 8 Comments

Rolling out of Redondo this morning I was talking to this dude. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Roberto,” he said, then he paused. “I pay you.”

I loves me a blog subscriber! Instead of insulting him as I’d planned, I patted him on the back, asked about his wife and children, and exchanged pleasantries. “Another day, another Donut, same old, same old.”

“No,” he said. “The rides, they are all different.”

“They are?”

“Yes,” he said. “You just have to do them enough to find out the differences.”

I tried to count how many times I’d done the Donut Ride. “After five hundred times, this still seems like a ride where one guy climbs up to the top faster than anyone else.”

“But it is a different guy, eh?”

“Yeah. Sometimes it’s Stathis, sometimes it’s Sakellariadis, sometimes it’s the Greek, sometimes it’s Wily, sometimes it’s Dr. Swerve.”

“You see?”

I looked around, but didn’t: the Greek was down for the count after slamming into the front of the guy behind him on the NPR. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this really will be different.”

Without Wily to attack from the gun and make everyone chase until they vomit and quit, it was leisurely. Hoofixerman scampered away with Roberto the German with the Spanish Name, then later Rico went, and eventually the pack started to chase. We all came back together at Terranea, but no one was tired.

An Airgas Safeway pro from from Santa Barbara had rolled out with us, and notice therof was duly taken. Surfer started surging in Portuguese Bend, and some new skinny kid from Norcal named Sean began taking digs, and Les Deux Frenchies began stretching the rope.

I cowered and hid, trying as best I could to tuck behind Jules. At age 16 he’s one of the top prospects in America, and recently added three more national track titles to his sagging trophy shelf. Jules began dropping pretty much everyone on the switchbacks when he was 13 and hasn’t let up since.

We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks with a massive pack of about thirty riders, testament to how slow it had been–this point of the ride rarely has more than ten riders in the lead group. The down side to a slow start is that once the climb starts, it goes very fast.

Surfer Dan ramped it up, and then the Airgas-Safeway pro hit the front. The group immediately snapped in half, and after a couple of minutes there were only eight riders left, Les Deux Frenchies, Derek, Surfer Dan, Norcal, Strava Junior, and Jules. We got to the top of the Switchbacks and Airgas was gassed; he hadn’t known that the ride continued up the wall to the radar domes. Course knowledge is key …

Surfer Dan took the bit and charged up the wall. We all hung on. Frenchy Sr. kept pulling through, but everyone else hunkered down and rubbed their rosary beads. For me this was all miraculous. Not being a climber, and not being very fast, and not being very smart, it was shocking to think that I’d survived so much misery so far with so much cruel, pitiless talent. Before I knew it, the final curve was in sight.

No chance at a sprunt.

No chance with an attack.

So I jumped, shook free, and eased off the gas, hoping to latch onto whomever came by.

As luck would have it, the bad kind, Jules rocketed up the right-hand gutter. I could have easily gotten his wheel if I’d been on a motorcycle. Otherwise, no bueno.

Frenchy Sr. and Derek came by, then caught and dropped Jules. I looked back and the broken pieces were strewn way out behind me. I crossed the imaginary finish line marking the end of the imaginary race, and thought about all the beer I hadn’t drunk in order to reach this imaginary level of success.

“Roberto was right,” I thought. “They are all different.” Followed by “Shit, I’m thirsty.”

END

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Kids these days

December 16, 2014 § 15 Comments

I carefully went over my race plan with Derek on Saturday night. “Look, Wanky,” he said. “Don’t be an idiot.”

“That’s a tall order. Sears Tower tall.”

“I know. But you can do it. Here’s the deal,” he said. I was so excited because I love talking pre-race strategy. Not that I ever implement it, but it’s fun. “You have to wait ’til halfway. Don’t smash yourself at the beginning.”

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Yeah. Halfway through everyone will sit up.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. And they’ll be tired.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Because of all the knuckleheads who’ve been killing themselves from the beginning.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. But not you. You’ve waited until … how long are you gonna wait?”

“Halfway!” I shouted.

“Exactly! And because it’s halfway and all the knuckleheads have been attacking from the gun, you’re gonna be fresh.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. And that’s when you’re gonna attack. One time. And make it stick.”

“Then what?”

Derek shrugged. “Cross that bridge when you come to it.”

On the morning of the race my teammates were really happy to have me there. They were as excited as I was. “Hi, Eric!” I said. Eric is our team leader and super fast guy. He and I are pals. I said hello a few more times and he turned around.

“Oh, it’s you.”

“Yep. Here to work for the team!”

Eric came over to me. “Look, Wanky. Do two things.” He looked kind of upset.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. One — stay out of my way.”

“Okay!”

“Two — don’t chase me down. Got that?”

“Yep! It’s gonna be a fun race, huh?” I don’t think he heard me because he had already turned away. Then I saw my other best friend, Josh. “Hey, Josh!” I said. He didn’t answer for a few minutes but I kept calling his name and since he was standing next to me he finally heard me.

“Yeah?” he said.

“Well, ol’ pal, it’s gonna be a fun race today, huh?” I said.

“Look, Wanky, I don’t have time to fuck with your bullshit today. If you chase me down again in another race I’m going to kick your ass with a tire iron.”

“Did I chase you down last time?”

“No. You chase me down every time. And we’re all sick of it.”

“If someone would just tell me what to do.”

“We yell at you until we’re hoarse and you still chase us down. So cut the crap.”

“Okay, pal,” I said. “I’ve got a special plan for today anyway.” The rest of the team kind of glowered, but it was a happy, friendly sort of glower.

Soon the race started. Just like Derek said, the idiots all attacked from the gun, but not me. I did exactly what he said and waited until I was halfway through the first lap. Then I attacked. However, no one had sat up and no one looked very tired. In fact, they all looked quite fresh because they were all on my wheel. So I moved over and waited for another lap. “Maybe he meant halfway through the second lap,” I thought, and so I attacked again, but no luck. “Well it must have been halfway through some lap,” I told myself, so each time I got halfway through a lap I attacked I but never got anywhere except really tired.

Finally, about halfway through the race, everyone sat up. I was pretty beat from all the attacking, but I attacked again and they let me go. After a while out there I got even more tired. The wind was blowing and my bike wasn’t going very fast and I had all kinds of breakfast stuff gurgling up into my mouth. Yuck. Then some guy bridged up to me and I remembered the winning advice given to me by Daniel Holloway, 3-time elite national champion, which was this: “Be the second strongest guy in the break.”

That was gonna be easy since there were only two of us, except the guy I was with must have heard the same advice, as he kept trying to be second to me, and me second to him, until before long we were going about twelve miles an hour and another guy came up to us, a teammate, and then three more guys, including Josh. I was so happy to see Josh because he is a hammer. “Hey, pal!” I said happily.

“Don’t you dare chase me down. Or Ino, either,” he said, pointing to the other teammate.

“Oh, I won’t!” I promised.

“And remember, the fastest guy in the race is Eric and he’s back there, and none of us three can sprint so we’re not going to win out of this break, so let the other wankers do all the work so that either Eric can bridge and win or one of us can attack at the end when the others are all tired. Whatever you do, don’t fuggin’ work hard.”

I tried to remember all of what he said but it was too darned complicated and plus being in a break is the most exciting thing ever so I just went to the front and hammered as hard as I could. There was a young kid who had also bridged who never took a pull and sat on the whole time, but I didn’t pay any attention to him. Lazy kid. He was probably thinking about his math homework.

Josh kept yelling at me something about sitting in or sitting down or sitting duck but I was too tired to understand what he said. Towards the end someone attacked hard and opened a big gap; it looked like the winning move but thankfully I shut it down with a superhuman effort, then I realized it was my teammate Ino, darn it.

Then the lazy kid with the math homework who’d done nothing the whole break leaped away with one and a half laps to go. For a little punk he went fast. Somehow I caught him and then everyone slowed down. Next thing I knew our ringer Eric had bridged with 3/4 of a lap to go. He looked fast and primed for victory.

Then things got confusing. Some guy who looked pretty sprintworthy jumped hard right before the last turn. I got on his wheel and then some other things happened, I’m not sure what, but afterwards I heard some people saying that perhaps I had exploded in the middle of the sprunt and blocked all my teammates so that the lazy kid actually won. Not sure that’s true, by the way, but after the race none of my teammates would talk to me.

I think they were just tired.

END

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Breaking up is hard to do

November 24, 2014 § 23 Comments

Dear Miss Cyclocross,

I’m finally over you. I can’t handle any more of your abuse. Oh sure, it was fun in the beginning and yeah, we had a good run of three years together. But after a while having you push my face in the dirt and beat the crap out of me just wasn’t fun anymore. Every weekend it seemed like things would start out great, then you’d knock me down while your friends stood around and yelled at me and took embarrassing pictures of me all twisted up on the ground, then we’d get drunk, and then the next morning I’d wake up with pains in body parts I didn’t even know I had and bruises all over and a horrific hangover. You’d apologize and say that next time it wouldn’t end that way, but it always did.

And you were never a cheap date. I had to drive all over hell just to hang out with you, and when I did there were a couple other hundred guys — and girls — I had to share you with. I still remember when we started together and you were satisfied with my top-end machine. Next season you weren’t even glancing at anyone who hadn’t upgraded to discs. I hate to namecall but you are a fickle bitch. Every time I looked around it was $35 here, $35 there. That shit adds up.

And the food we ate when we were together wasn’t all that great, you know? The first forty times we snacked at some taco truck with a name like “Amos’s Fiery Anus Burritos” it was romantic, but after a couple of years it was mostly indigestion.

Sure, I met some cool people through you, guys like Phil Beckman, Dot Wong, and all those rednecks in Bakersfield who’ve never even heard of a good time that didn’t involve beating someone’s ass while standing around drunk under the scorching sun in a dirt field, but for the most part your friends suck just like you do. I mean, do you know how tired I got of having your stupid friends yell “Get out of the way, dumbass!” and “You belong in the beginners’ race, dumbass!” and “You crashed me out, dumbass!” My name isn’t dumbass. Got that?

Yesterday, though, I really knew it was over. You’d caught the eye of Derek, one of my best friends ever, and he was asking about you. I warned him that you liked it rough, but he didn’t care. He kept begging me to show him how to get off and I kept telling him you didn’t care how he did it but I finally showed him. Then he was asking me all these questions about how dirty were you, how hard would he have to go, etc., and I told him that if he wanted to run around with you he had better put in for the long haul because you were mean and a tough nut to crack.

Plus, he only had a rental.

But he begged me to introduce you to him and so I did. Beforehand you know what I told him? I said, “Dude, she is going to kick your ass.” He was pretty afraid of you after all I’d told him about all of your nasty tricks and what a vicious bitch you are.

“Which race should I do?” he asked me.

“Because you suck and she is going to stomp your dick very hard you should race the 35+B race. Start at the back so you won’t clog the turns and hurt anybody, and so you won’t fall off your bicycle. It will take a couple of seasons before you’re comfortable riding towards the front, if ever.”

Then on our first warm-up lap you knocked me down in one of the loose sandy turns and Garnet V. almost ran over my head. “Is that how you’re supposed to do it?” Derek asked me.

“Your turn is coming,” I said. And it was.

Pretty soon Derek’s race started and he won it. The next closest person was on a mountain bike and riding in a different race.

So, you humiliated me again, Miss Cyclocross. I won’t mention the fact that you let my pals Slasher, Ryan Dahl, Eric Johnson, David Anderson, Mike Williams, and Carey Downs all climb on top of you. But I will mention the fact that my neck and shoulder hurt like hell, that I can’t walk very well, and that I’m tired of being used. Plus, I can get a vicious hangover on my own.

Go ruin someone else’s life, Miss Cyclocross. Mine is in tatters.

Your ex,

Wanky

 

 

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.

END

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Hard as a ham sandwich

June 14, 2014 § 17 Comments

Derek the Destroyer looked at me and began speaking. His speech was slow and syrupy, disembodied almost from the movement of his mouth. Through his sunglasses I could see his listless, dying eyes.

“Wanky,” he said as we coasted down the Latigo bump on PCH towards the filling station. “I wonder if they have any ham sandwiches there?”

We were 130 miles in. We’d climbed Yerba Buena, Decker, the endless undulations of PCH, and the backdoor bonus climb at Zuma Beach. Derek had gone from bonk to the far-away stare of death, and his brain had regressed to its most infantile state, the state where, as you ponder hunger and starvation and the slowly decelerating circles of your legs, the part of your brain responsible for mental pictures of food (the subcutaneous trochanter) begins flashing images that contain the food requirements necessary to keep you alive.

For Derek, it was a ham sandwich.

“Dude,” I answered. “The only thing that gas station has are candy bars and diseases on the toilet seats. There ain’t no ham sandwiches there. There ain’t no ham sandwiches for another ten miles. Maybe the ‘Bucks at Malibu.”

He nodded dumbly. He’d known the answer before I gave it. “But don’t worry,” I encouraged him. “We only have thirty miles left to ride today.”

Surfer Dan and Manslaughter churned away on the front until we reached Malibu. We stopped at the coffee shop. Derek bought a ham sandwich and a single chocolate-covered graham cracker. He chewed slowly, his eyes staring emptily at the bricks on the sidewalk. “1, 2, 3 … ” he counted to himself.

“What’s he doing?” asked Surfer.

“He’s counting the bricks,” I said.

“I, 2, 3 … ” Derek repeated.

“He can’t seem to get past three,” Surfer noted.

“He’ll feel better soon,” I said. “Tomorrow.”

If you Facebook it, they will come

I had innocently invited the general public to join me on a mid-week jaunt up PCH after tackling the morning New Pier Ride hammerfest. This nasty 160-mile, 8,000-feet, all-day butchering attracted a solid contingent of about fifteen riders, all of whom thought that “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

At the top of Yerba Buena, a godforsaken, crack-filled, pothole-scarred, 8-mile climb, we were only at the 85-mile mark. One by one we stragglers reached the summit that the Wily Greek, Surfer, and Derek had arrived at several hours before, and we were all thinking the same thing: “There’s no fuggin’ way I’m going up Decker after this.”

Decker is a beast in its own right, a 4-mile, 8% climb with a couple of super steep sections coming at the very beginning of the climb. In our case, it came at the 97-mile mark, and no wanted to climb it. The easy choice was simply to continue home along PCH. Decker would have been easy to avoid. All we had to do was pedal by it and say nothing. No one would have complained or jeered until we had gotten back to Manhattan Beach, after we were tucked safely into our bar stools.

Sadly, as we sat atop Yerba Buena and tried to collect our wits, Derek broke The Rule and voiced our fears. “Uh, dude,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to do Decker.”

“Well, fugg those fuggers,” I said. “‘Cause I’m fuggin’ doin’ Decker.”

“Looks like you’ll be doing it alone,” he said.

“No,” said Manslaughter. “He won’t.”

The taste of one’s own words, chewed slowly

As we approached the left turn onto Decker, the Wily Greek slinked to the back and denied that he was really a Cat 1. Sammy claimed that today was a “rest day.” SB Baby Seal, who had manfully ridden me off his wheel on Yerba Buena, stared at his Garmin and tried not to look embarrassed. Toronto shook his head like a whipped mule that wasn’t going to walk one more step. Tumbleweed dug out and flashed his AARP card, and even the ever-resilient Frenchy made it clear that she had to get home in time to watch the paint dry. Boozy and Wheezy shook their heads.

Hoof Fixerman was blunt and unapologetic. “Time you wankers get home I’ll be on my fifth Racer 5.”

So Surfer, Manslaughter, Derek, and I pedaled off to our doom up Decker, which was a thousand times worse than we thought it would be. Like a bad kidney stone, however, it too passed, and once Derek had overcome his ham sandwich attack we pointed our noses home and flew down PCH with a whipping tailwind.

Back at the bar, Surfer ordered four plates of nachos, three pizzas, and a meat pie. The rest of us had a triple-beef bacon burger with bacon sauce and bacon dressing, topped off with bacon-flavored french fries with bacon bits. Manslaughter and I selected our favorite IPA in handy 32-oz mugs, and Derek ordered an 8-oz Michelob Weenielite, which doesn’t taste great and isn’t particularly filling, either.

The ride, which was only 155 miles but had swelled to 180 by the time Mrs. Wankmeister came to pick me up, had already become a legend in our own minds, a legend that could only be confirmed with another large mug and a visit to the ice cream shop next door. Everyone agreed that although it had been an epic unforgettable day, and although it had been worth it to see Derek exhibit for the first time the human trait of frailty, it was a complete waste of time, it had ruined whatever race fitness any of us pretended to have, and it was certainly the stupidest thing we’d ever done with the exception (perhaps) of getting into cycling in the first place.

So of course we’re doing it again next Thursday. See you there.

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