Santa Claus in March

March 19, 2018 § 5 Comments

I was sitting in the car trying to stay warm before the race began, wondering where our fearless leader G$ was. He always gets to races with plenty of time to warm up, but we had ten minutes to go and he was nowhere to be found.

Where he was, was racing madly across the frozen wastes of San Bernardino County, trying to make it to the race on time. He had whipped into a convenience store with all the time in the world to take care of his pre-race business, but clean heated bathrooms being clean heated bathrooms, and G$ being a man who likes to take his time, by the time he got through with the 400-yard roll of Charmin the race was about to begin.

This was the most important race of the century, the second 2018 edition of the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race, masters 55+ division (combined with the 60+), and the field was massive. I had given up on G$ and pushed my way through the pulsing, nervous throng, elbowing my way to the front. The six other riders in the race, three of whom were in my category, grudgingly let me through.

“Hope I make the top-ten,” one rider wisecracked.

“I got something for you after the race,” said my other teammate, Rob, who had fallen behind on his $2.99 blog subscription.

“I got something for you during the race,” said Hard Knocks with a snarl.

I knew it was going to be a tough, bitter day. As El Rey de San Bernardino, I had the record for most wins at the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race, and the citizens in the South Bay had been clamoring all year for me to bring the crown back home. Today’s race featured forty miles on the hilly course, with a howling 20-mph headwind in the finishing 500m. In order to beat the three other grandpas in my category, two of whom were on walkers, I’d need to ride the race of my life.

Cavalry to the rescue!

Just before they blew the whistle, G$ came sprunting to the line, a white tassel of Charmin stuck to the bottom of his cleat. I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that I’d have a teammate to help me in my bid to take home an unprecedented fourth win, as it had been G$ who had gifted me with my second Rosena Ranch victory back in 2015. I had no doubt that with a little begging and pleading, and a whole lot of luck, he might do it again.

The race began at about the pace you’d expect from a small group of timid old farts like us, only slower, and when we hit the howling wall of headwind, our slow hit the brakes and ratcheted us down to crawl.

I attacked from the front at a blazing 8 or 9 mph, but the field had its eyes on G$, knowing that as a member of Team Lizard Collectors it wouldn’t be long before he chased down his own teammate in the finest TLC tradition, dragging the field up to the breakaway.

I roared through the start/finish to cheers of “Go, Seth!” and “Are you fucking crazy?” and “Noooooooo!”

“What are they upset about?” I wondered. “This is easier than stealing dentures at a rest home.” For two laps I cruised, opening a bigger and bigger gap, and figuring that completing another eighteen 2-mile laps would be a cinch.

On the fourth lap it seemed like either the wind was stronger or I wasn’t quite as fresh. On the fifth it seemed like the hills were steeper or I was slower. At the turnaround I saw a streak of orange as G$ unleashed his patented “None Shall Follow” attack.

“This is awesome,” I thought. “Once G$ gets up here I can take a rest and beg for him to let me win while he does all the work. This solo shit is for the birds.”

Misery loves company

Rosena Ranch is an out-and-back course with two 180-degree turns, so you can see how much distance you have (or don’t have) twice a lap. My gap on the field had been pretty big, but imagine my surprise when I saw G$ had sprung free and was bringing Hard Knocks with him.

“WTF?” I wondered. “Hard Knocks is a fuggin’ sprunter and neither I nor G$ can sprunt for crap.”

A lap later and there were three of us. As they passed me in the howling headwind I thought I heard G$ say, “He’s going for first.”

“Of course he is,” I thought. “And of course you brought a sprinter up to the break. We’re the Lizard Collectors and chasing our teammates is what we DO!”

I sat on the back in disbelief as they did all the work. G$ of all people. The most selfless teammate alive. The guy who never brings company up to a break. The master solo bridge artist. And he dragged Hard Knocks up on this epic day when I was poised to set cycling history?

To make matters worse, Hard Knocks hit the stairstep climb on the backside of the course each lap with a vengeance, gapping us both out and seeming to get stronger every time. Ten laps in I couldn’t hold back my frustration any longer. I rolled up to G$. “He’s a sprinter, you know.”

“I know,” said G$.

“And you aren’t. And I’m not.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I know. I told you already.”

“I heard you. Why’d you bring a dude who’s going for first?”

“Who?”

“Him.”

“Hard Knocks?”

“Yeah. That’s what you said.”

G$ laughed. “No, man, you know I’d never do that. I said ‘He’s good for third.'”

Punchin’ the clock

As soon as I heard that, a huge rush of power filled my legs. All was not lost! In a fit of enthusiasm and desire to help I took really short pulls, all on the downhill tailwind section, making sure to hit the wind only when we came in view of the announcer’s stand.

“Look at Davidson!” the announcer roared. “He’s been off the front from the beginning and hasn’t gotten off! A monster! A machine! A true strong man of the peloton!”

No sooner were we out of sight than I’d sneak to the back just in time for Hard Knocks to hit the hard section, and later to batter into the headwind. He didn’t seem to care. “Dude’s not getting tired,” I thought. And then it dawned on me. We’d fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Hard Knocks, sneaking up to the break, was going to drive the pace, wear us out, lap the field, and then once we reconnected with the pack (is four riders a pack?), attack and solo for the win.

The harder that G$ and Hard Knocks rode, the more I helped by pulling from the back and soft pedaling the front during the tailwind downhill section. Sure enough, with four laps to go we caught the beaten and flayed geriatric remnants who were spinning along with one foot in the crypt.

“Here it comes,” I thought, as Hard Knocks took another monster pull up the hill.

Shovel in the coal

With one lap to go, Hard Knocks pulled so hard that the pack detritus threw down their walkers and gave up. G$ and I hung on for dear life. “This is embarrassing,” I thought, wondering how I’d explain getting third to my tiny grandson.

Just then Hard Knocks eased up. “You ready?” he asked.

“For what?” I said suspiciously.

“I said I had something for you during the race,” he said.

“I hope it’s a lead-out.”

“In fact, it is.”

“Try not to do one of the lead-outs where you ride me off your wheel, dude.”

G$ ramped it up and swung over as we hit the wind wall one last time. Hard Knocks shoveled on the coal until steam started coming from the top of his helmet, timing himself to detonate almost exactly a hundred yards before the line.

“Here comes Davidson!” the announcer roared. “He’s been pulling the entire race and is still so strong he’s devastating his breakmates in the sprunt!”

The crowd of seven cheered somewhat wildly. My wife snapped more pictures. I tried to raise my hands in victory but a huge gust of wind caught my front wheel, almost hurling me to the pavement and forcing me to abort my raised hand salute so that it was more like a mini-gesture of terror.

I didn’t care. #fakewin or not, #giftwin or not, #grampswin or not … I’d won.

Epilogue 1: G$, Yasuko, and I went to celebrate at Panera, where we ate #fakebread and broke down the key elements of the race where G$ had done all the work and I’d done nothing. After 40 miles of windy, hilly nothing I was trashed. G$ finished his #fakebread and headed back to the race, where he did his second race of the day, a 50-miler, hauling teammate G3 to victory in the 50+ (G3 is NOT G$; it’s complicated), hauling teammate Ryan Dorris to victory in the 45+, and getting second himself. Just another day in the life of Santa Claus.

Epilogue 2: Team Lizard Collectors distinguished itself and broke its long history of chasing down teammates. In G$’s second race, Attila the Hun blocked and refused to bring back his own team’s break. In the Cat 3’s, once Wall Street was up the road, Baby Seal rode the front and blocked for fifty miles, ensuring a glorious silver medal for Wall Street on this toughest of toughguy/toughgal courses.

END

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Kind of amazing that for all that superb bike racing I didn’t win enough money to retire on! But you can help me afford a luxury retirement cardboard box with a subscription to Cycling in the South Bay! Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

 

Head hopping

February 25, 2017 § 18 Comments

We pulled up at the world infamous Rosena Ranch race course, where teammate Dave Ellis had just finished racing. “How’d it go?” I asked.

“Great,” he said. “I was in a good position the whole race, stayed out of the wind, and didn’t kill that guy.”

“What guy?”

“The guy who fell down in front of me.”

“What happened?”

“Dude had a bicycle falling off incident and put his head in front of my front wheel going 35. I had to bunnyhop it.

“What happened after that?”

“I’m not sure. I think the other riders all ran him over.”

“Oh yeah, I think I saw the emergency medical services U-Haul rental pickup.”

“The one with the hay bales in back and the loose bottle of cheap tequila bouncing around in the bed?”

“That one,” I said.

Major Bob, Surfer Dan, Baby Seal, Congressional Quarterly, the Hun and I had driven up in Major’s unmarked Mercedes van. We were champing at the bit to race our bicycles and hopefully not fall off of them.

My race, the combined 45+/50+ leaky prostate division (raced together, scored separately), went off at a torrid pace, so torrid in fact that after my first fruitless flail I fell back into the pack, caught my breath, and then moved back up by conveniently hopping over the bright yellow line.

I think that even may have been the yellow line we were advised about by the moto ref prior to the start. “Gentlemen [lie], do not cross the yellow line or you will be immediately dq’ed. No exceptions. This means YOU.”

No sooner had I moved over the yellow line and advanced fifty places than the moto ref came up next to me and screamed, pointed, and sent me to the back without any supper. Was I dq’ed? Who knew? What I knew was that Klasna, Kirk Bausch, and the Hun were dashing up the road in the first serious move of the day, and it was time to chase after them.

Soon enough we had a break of nine, including Major Bob, which was fortunate because it meant that he now had a reason not to drive home without us. We lost a rider, and after much pedaling Klasna and KB pedaled harder than we did and pedaled away up a hill and around a corner and they were not seen again until many laps later, a/k/a after the race finished.

However, unlike other sports where the first person across the line is the winner and everyone who is not the first person across the line is a loser, leaky prostate bicycle racing has a number of clever conventions to make sure that many people can be winners even if they technically are losers. The most perfect of the conventions is the “raced together, scored separately” convention.

This means (and you will need a notebook here) that if you have a 45+ and a 50+ race together, some people will register as 45+ and others as 50+, and the first person in each of those categories is the winner, in other words, you could have a situation where you had, for example, a breakaway of eight people, and seven of them were 45+, and they all finished ahead of the 50+ entrant, but since the 50+ entrant was the first 50+ entrant he would be declared the winner of his race and get fame, acclaim, worship, and the $45 winner’s check while the 45+ riders who finished in places 2-7 would all be losers even though they finished ahead of the 50+ winner.

If this seems simple, there is something wrong with you (number one), and you should get a job as a bike race official (number two) because a scrum of people rushing past is hard enough to score in the proper finishing order, much less the proper age category. This is actually great because it allows for the second great thing about leaky prostate bicycle racing, which is known as the “results protest.” Experienced masters racers always bring extra wheels, gasoline, and a pitchfork. More about that later after you wake up.

Anyway, there I was in a chase group of six while Klasna, who is over the age of 50, and KB, who is older than 45 but less than 50, were up the road. So it seemed like the best I could hope for was 2nd place in the 50+ category, since everyone else in the chase group was in the 45+ category.

However, another great thing about leaky prostate bicycle racing, in addition to its multiple opportunities to declare yourself the victor, is the odd fact that you will occasionally have a rider who is over 50 and racing in a combined 45+/50+ field, but who has registered as a “45+” rider. So just because a rider is over fifty and riding in the 45+/50+ race, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has registered for the 50+ category, since by definition anyone who is over 50 is also over 45 and can therefore choose either category.

So why would an older rider choose a younger category? Can you say “vanity”? The answer is simple: To the leaky prostate racer himself, there appears to be a huge difference in age between 45 and 50, and even though the rest of the world simply sees a bunch of wrinkly old balls going slowly around in circles, the wrinkly old balls would rather be 45+ than 50+ because it seems younger and not quite as wrinkly and potentially in need of fewer illegal testosterone supplements.

Therefore, the only way to tell whether a particular racer is 45+ wrinkly balls or 50+ wrinkly balls is by looking at his race number, since the clever race officials give a different number series to the 45+ to distinguish them from the 50+. In our race the 45+ number series began with prime numbers divisible by seven, and increased in half-integers up to the square root of pi. The 50+ numbers all began with the number 8 billion. So it was pretty easy to tell the difference if you were paying attention and had an advanced degree in math.

Unhappily, when Klasna and KB rolled I neglected to look at Klasna’s number, but rightly assumed that he was an aged 50+ wrinkly balls like me and therefore he would win and I would get second, since all the remaining numbers in the chase were prime numbers divisible by seven. We continued to race, which is another way of saying that everyone screamed at everyone else to “work together,” invoking the spirit of Jack from Illinois (not his real name) as no one worked, and certainly not together.

I finished the race and went over to Klasna to congratulate him on his win, only to notice that his number was a prime number divisible by seven, which meant that I, who had finished last in the chase group, was the only rider who had a number that began with 8 billion, making me the winner of the 50+ race. It was a glorious if complicated victory indeed and I savored the thought of how I would spend my $45, minus the $35 entry fee, minus the $15 fee for the second race, minus the $15,000 in gear.

So I sauntered over to the stinky toilets, which was appropriately where they posted the race results, and saw that I was nowhere on the result sheet, and that Dandy Andy, who had finished in the second chase group, had been declared the glorious winner and was entitled to the $45 emoluments appertaining to race victor.

Now the real race began, otherwise known as the “results protest.” I and fifteen other disappointed riders went over to the officials’ station to complain about having been left off, misplaced, or given 56th place instead of 57 1/2. Many tantrums were thrown, grown men challenged one another to duels, statements were made about various people’s mothers, and the obligatory money changed hands in order to make sure that the integrity of the process was properly respected.

In other words, I was crowned 8th place finisher champion winner, given the $45, and went proudly back to Major Bob’s van only to see that in his race Surfer had experienced a bicycle falling off incident so severe that it left his 100% carbon bicycle, made of pure carbon, broken into fifteen pieces, seven of which were the fork alone.

Much sadness and gnashing of teeth were had, particularly since all agreed that the shards and remnants qualified as “Even Fireman Can’t Tape That Back Together And Resell It On Craigslist As Like New.”

Eventually someone asked Surfer Dan how he was, and of course he was fine since he only landed on his head at about 40 mph. Baby Seal’s race had been uneventful, and Congressional Quarterly had decided after eight laps that he should probably return to the van and check to make sure his coffee thermos was still there, which thankfully it was.

Happy and brimming with confidence at my eighth place championship victory I started the 35+ race and immediately made my mark by quitting some few hundred yards after the starting line. It was just as well, since Karl Bordine was feeling particularly ill-tempered and rode by himself for 15 laps until he won and everyone else did not.

I returned to the stinky toilets and took the obligatory podium photo with Dandy Andy, who is also a strict adherent of “Don’t Raise Your Arms On The Podium Unless You’re Holding A Bouquet And Are Surrounded By 100,000 Screaming Fans On The Champs-Elysees After Winning The Tour.”

We piled back into Major Bob’s van, promised to send him gas money through PayPal, never did, and got home tired and hungry and happy, except for Surfer Dan, who had agreed to list the bike’s condition as “Fair” after he got it back from Fireman.

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END

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