Tales of the big ring
October 23, 2019 § 2 Comments
I got an email from some dude named Ramy Khalaf.
“Hey,” it went, “I found you on the Internet and I’m making a video about rides in SoCal can I come to your office and make a video?”
“Sure,” I said, knowing I’d never hear from him again.
A couple of weeks later Ramy showed up with a world of legit cameras and equipment. Thankfully, I’d bathed that morning. You can’t always count on that.
Ramy has a YouTube channel, Bar & Pedal, where he combines amazing video skills and a love of cycling into some fantastic stories.
I would tell you about the video, but then I’d be telling the tale twice.
Click on the link. It’s a goodie!
The cyclist next door
June 13, 2019 § 7 Comments
Evens Stievenart and a South Bay crit specialist who hasn’t ridden his bike for three years, Cat 3 David Perez, are going to attempt the two-man Race Across America this coming Saturday.
I read that a few times and somehow it didn’t add up. Prez is doing RAAM? Last I heard, he was beta-testing for Krispy Kreme’s newest line of ultra-chub, frosting-smeared tummy busters. I’ve never seen Prez pedal for more than an hour without a coffee break, a cigar, and a ribeye … WTF is he doing trying to ride his bike across America with a beast like Evens?
So I did some research, a lot of it, called my sources, checked Wikipedia, talked to Charon, read the race roster and press releases, and carefully combed through Evens’s FB feed and found out that I HAD MADE A MISTAKE. Glad I caught it before I put it in my blog.
Anyway, turns out that Evens is NOT doing RAAM with retired Cat 3 Dave Perez from Jersey, but rather with world class endurance athlete Jean-Luc Perez from France. However, Dave and Jean-Luc have a lot in common, for instance they have the same last name. They are both men. Both reside on Planet Earth. Etc.
But back to Evens and Prez II. They plan to break the two-person RAAM record of six days, ten hours, and 14 billion stabbing sensations of pain throughout the body + Shermer’s Neck. Each of them has followed a meticulous plan of air up tires, ride, eat, sleep, repeat, for many years. Both are talented and thrive on the impossible. You can watch some of their incredible exploits here or here.
However, I don’t want to cover any of that. I want to talk about Evens, who I know personally and have ridden close to for a few seconds on one or two occasions, like the time he had a flat and was sitting on a curb, or the time we ate dinner together. Based on this intimate, insider relationship, I can tell you this: Evens is different. Of course he has all the qualities of a world class cyclist. He is fast, he has endurance, he has won a bunch of big races and etc.
But he stands out for the one quality he lacks: The quality of being a snobby jerk. No one is friendlier or quicker with a smile than Evens. Whether you are a local hacker or a locally deluded Cat 3 or a brokedown old fellow with a leaky prostate, Evens treats you with the exact same degree of kindness, openness, and warmth that he treats everyone. This is one reason why those of us who live in the South Bay kind of take him for granted, because although familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt, it does kind of make you forget that he is probably the greatest cyclist you will ever ride with.
Whereas other people are like, “Oh my motherfuckinggodjesuschrist you know Evens Stievenart?” we are more like, “Hey, Evens!” as he pedals by ten miles an hour faster with a wave and a smile.
His decency doesn’t stop with his demeanor. It continues with his participation in local rides. Somehow Evens finds a way to incorporate completely worthless hackfests like NPR, Telo, and the Donut Ride into his training, often by stitching it into the middle of a 190-mile training day. Other times, like the unforgettable week before his assault on the 24 Hours of LeMans, he will invite the entire wankoton to join him on a training ride. That time, he rode for 12 hours straight, averaging 189 gigawatts as local riders took turns sitting on his wheel or taking a pull in the wind for 18 or 19 seconds before they exploded like marshmallows stuffed with dynamite.
Evens knows he’s special. Everyone does. But he has the world-class knack of making you feel that you’re special, like you somehow have a microscopic bit role in his movie, like the thing that you’re doing and the thing that he’s doing although completely different and unrelated, are actually similar. I’ve never seen a rider so good about whom people say so many unanimously good things.
Which isn’t to say that there haven’t been episodes, like the time someone got butthurt because Evens did something or other and it turned into a Facegag drama. There, too, Evens showed his class and his decency. Rather than whipping out the flamethrower, or challenging the wanker to a ride, he apologized for any misunderstanding and humbly went on his way, leaving miles and miles of shredded legs and crushed egos in his wake.
Because at the end of the day, not to mention the beginning and middle, Evens’s kindness and decency stop exactly at the point you want him to get off of his program and onto yours, i.e. slow down just a little bit. Evens doesn’t mind if you ride with him, with this caveat: You’re riding with him, he’s not riding with you. If you’re hankering for a 1-hour stop at Prospect Coffee in Ventura at the turnaround on a 165-mile ride, sorry. He breaks for ten minutes and then leaves. Hope you know the way home.
Racing with Evens reveals an equally ferocious side. He attacks to win, and once he’s off the front, the number of prisoners he takes is zero. There’s no such thing as losing with honor, or racing for second place. The commitment he brings to his training, he brings to racing. Yet for all that, even when at his most earnest, he never resorts to bullshit tactics, wheel chopping, cursing other racers, or wheelsuckery. He’ll win at most costs, but not at all.
I could say more nice things about him, but why? If you ride in the South Bay you’ll meet him, and the experience will far surpass anything written here. If you don’t ride in the South Bay and you’re hearing about him from this blog, you won’t possibly believe that a cyclist could be such a decent human being. As my high school music theory teacher Mr. Strickland used to say, “Consider the source.”
When Evens and Prez II roll out mid-day Saturday from Oceanside, they will have a full team of 16 people to assist them in their quest to be the fastest duo to ever cross the USA on bicycles. Evens’s amazing wife Karina, his biggest admirer Cooper, and his legion of South Bay cycling fans will all be hoping for a successful race, a safe ride, and maybe even a slightly tired Evens with whom we’ll be able to keep up with on his return.
A fella can dream, can’t he?
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For a fist full of … socks
March 31, 2019 § 8 Comments
On Saturday we rode over to the NOW Ride. The previous week I had been dropped very early when the Subaru Santa Monica pain train led by Evens Stievenart rolled away at express train speeds on PCH.
This week the Subaru team was gone, but in their place, and indeed he replaces an entire team, was Phil Gaimon. Oh, and beast Jeff Mahin, and a couple of other ornery fellows.
We were trucking along PCH at about 35 and I saw Tony Manzella. I handed him a couple pairs of socks.
“Thanks, dude,” he said. Tony has enormous feet along with an enormous heart and lungs and my South Bay socks are the only ones that will fit his boxcars. He tucked them under his jersey.
This was only my third NOW Ride and a lot of people were giving me the stink eye because of my jaunty cloth cap, hairy legs, and general frailty. At Pepperdine Hill, where I always get dropped, I got dropped. First, Phil and Jeff and their pal rode away. Next, a clot of chasers rolled away.
I had about ten bike lengths to catch back onto the chasers but you know that is never going to happen. This time somehow it did. A little dude breezed by and I glommed on. He got me over the top and gave it 100% to close to about five bike lengths. I waited until I judged him spent and dashed past, barely connecting.
There wasn’t any rest, and what had started with 70 or 1,000 people was now down to the three guys off the front and a chase of about 20, make that 18, I mean 17, 16, 15, and finally fourteen. I was the last guy, dangling, and barely hanging on by a meat string each time the young fellows surged, trying to shake loose the old and infirm, me.
As we approached the descent into Zuma, I saw Jeff and Phil on the side of the road. They had stopped with their friend, who flatted, which instantly transformed our chase group into the lead group. At the bottom it is a flat run-in, a couple of miles, to the sprunt finish at Trancas Canyon Road.
The young fellows kept it single file. I hunkered down on Tony’s wheel in last place. I was pretty pleased with myself because I was gonna get fourteenth on the NOW Ride, a miracle. I was already writing up the glorious blog. It was gonna be wondrous.
With about 500 yards to go, Tony glanced back at me. Tony only glances back at you for one reason. It’s because he expects you to follow and he don’t want no excuses.
Tony has done this to me before and it follows a script: He accelerates and I get dropped.
He jumped hard, crazy, insanely, 8,000 gigawatts hard. I don’t know if it was because I was ovulating or because of my oval chain rings … oh, what am I saying???? It was because of my JAUNTY CLOTH CAP that I hung onto Tony’s wheel.
He blew past the front so fast that they couldn’t have caught him if they’d gotten advance notice by telegraph, and once he is going if you are in his draft it is like being towed by a barge that is going 500 knots. “Man, this is great,” I thought, followed immediately by “Man, I don’t know if I can keep this up,” followed by “Fuck this hurts,” followed by “He’s riding me off his wheel. Again.”
At that second he slowed and looked back. “Go, Seth!” he shouted.
I didn’t know what to do. I can’t sprint. I could barely pedal I was so tired. I had no idea what was the correct reaction in such circumstances, so I blurted out what I guess they don’t do in the last 100m of a lead-out at Paris-Roubaix, which is shout back, “YOU GO!”
He shook his head. “Seth!” he commanded. “Go!”
I looked back and saw the piranhas charging hard, so I slingshotted around Tony and got to the imaginary finish line first at the over-ripe age of 55. The young piranhas were not too happy and they kind of glared at my jaunty cloth cap, but not for long because there was a giant, slowing dump truck turning right and we almost slammed into the back of it. Then Tony wheeled into the parking lot of the gas station and shouted in his chain gang boss voice, “Good job, Seth. You just won the NOW Ride!”
On the way back home with Baby Seal and Kristie, I saw a tempting berm of sand and dirt and mud and decided to celebrate my NOW win with a display of the amazing bike handling skills that made me who I am today.
March 3, 2019 § 2 Comments
I had a good ride this morning. It started at 7:00. It was dry as a bone despite the weather forecast of 100% rain probability. Stupid weather forecast. If you live according to that crap, you miss so many great things in life.
200 yards into my ride it began to rain very hard. Thankfully I didn’t have a rain jacket so I got soaked, but the first few seconds of the ride were awesome, which goes to show how you need to have the courage to ignore the weather forecast, which is always wrong.
I rode with Kristie for an hour in the pouring rain. She hadn’t brought a rain jacket, either. The Wheatgrass 2.0 was supposed to start at 8:00 AM, pointy-sharp, and four other idiots actually showed up.
One of them was Evens Stievenart. He is one of the best riders I have ever had the pleasure of getting shelled by. He was angry at the rain and took it out on us. We had to go full gas to hold his wheel getting up and over the golf course. His rear tire shot a continuous plume of oil-infused, chemical, filthy water, mixed with grit, into my face and mouth.
The rain kept falling.
We decided to skip Stathisridge, the awful climb that punctuates the first part of Wheatgrass 2.0 like a harpoon in the groin but at the last minute we realized that if we skipped Stathisridge, the Wiley Greek, who lives at the top, wouldn’t see us and would think that we, like he, had decided to spend Sunday as pillow babies.
So we climbed it.
Evens waited for us at the bottom. Kristie and Vinnie decided there were better things to do than pneumonia, so that left four of us. Evens towed us to the reservoir and zipped up it. I hung desperately onto his wheel. The plume of filth continued unabated.
The rain kept falling.
Evens charged up Better Homes, but he went slow enough so that I could hang on. My threshold is his warm-up pace. We got to PV Drive again just in time to see the riders who had cut the course, including Stathisridge, showing intelligence.
The rain kept falling.
I got dropped on the wall going up De Luna and pedaled solo to the Domes. Evens was waiting; he had been there for a couple of hours. I ate some nuts and raisins. We waited for the others and then all descended together.
The rain kept falling.
Evens drilled it through Portuguese Bend and up the Glass Church. I jumped him past Terranea, and our remaining passenger rolled off the back like a spent artillery shell. Evens countered and I clawed on. He eased up and let me sprunt by for the imaginary win. By now I had drunk a liter or more of oily, gritty filthwater.
The rain kept falling.
We turned up Hawthorne and Evens rode away, I guess he was tired of babysitting. I got home covered in muck and soaked to the skin. When I showered a huge bolus of black sludge dissolved and ran out of both my ears, volcanically.
I toweled off and looked out the window.
The rain wasn’t falling any more.
The changing complexion of a bad rash
April 25, 2018 Comments Off on The changing complexion of a bad rash
Another Telo went off last night. There is something weird in the air or maybe in our water bottles, because tonight’s Telo was the biggest I can remember in ten years. What a few years ago was tagged, put in the cooler, and later autopsied (the heart and lungs donated to those needing a transplant, the rest of the body donated to science, and the brain thrown away due to its small size and surfeit of abnormalities), has come back like one of the Undead.
- Racing ain’t dead.
- If you take pictures of it and post them on the Internet, they will come.
The last three weeks have seen successive growth in racer turnout. There were forty racers all in all, including at least four women. The big pack has transformed Telo from a training crit into a bike race. Unlike the typical Telo edition, where Evens Stievenart rides everyone off his wheel, or whittles down the field into a tiny break and crushes his breakmates in the sprunt, today and last week there was actual racing involved with lots of racing stragety.
Although the 39 members of Team Lizard Collectors were unable to deny victory to arch-rival Methods to Whining, TLC mounted a number of valiant efforts which, at one point, forced MTW ninja-of-the-peloton Destroyer to single-handedly pull back a lethal TLC combo of David Ellis, Greg Seyranian, and David Wells. TLC refused to chase its own teammates (whaaaaat???), and worker-bee Knuckles happily rode up to the front and blocked.
It was a beautiful thing to see a break with no MTW riders in it, and even more beautiful to see MTW chase hard, although in the end MTW rider Aaron Wimberly incinerated the field with a fierce sprint, finishing so far ahead it was like swatting a fly with a flamethrower.
One of the things contributing to the difficulty of Telo is the prevalence of Hop-in-Wankers, riders who get lapped, hop back into the peloton refreshed, and then lend a hand with occasional chases, not to mention acting as clogstacles on the last lap as they sprunt for 15th among the non-lapped riders. Some people don’t like the H.I.W.’s but I do: It’s a frigging training race and people get stronger when they get shredded, jump in, and then put down another series of hard efforts.
Avoiding clogstacles on the bell lap, and moving up through a field of gassed riders is also much easier than doing the real thing on race day, so it’s great practice.
Kudos to all who came out and raced, and kudos to Tom Duong and Yasuko Davidson, who spent the entire hour cataloging this nonsense. Most of all, kudos to Joe Yule, the guy who brought Telo back to life–all hail the mighty Junkyard!
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What’s all the fuss?
April 18, 2018 § 2 Comments
After having my timbers shivered on Sunday at the Belgian Waffle Ride, I decided to take the week off. More accurately, my legs decided for me.
It was angsty when 5:00 Tuesday rolled around. That’s when you pull on the clown suit and pedal down to Telo, where hell awaits. I got twitchy and it felt weird, compulsively feeling like I should be airing up tires or eating a handful of almonds.
Instead I went down to the race course, kind of like I do in the beer aisle now, wandering lustfully in front of the multi-colored cans and bottles that spell my doom. The race started and you know what? It looked so easy.
After a few laps people were obviously in trouble but it looked so easy. We stacked up in the corner to take photos with our phones and people buzzed through in full lean. But anyway, it looked so easy. You could feel the incredible howling headwind in the backstretch, but of course, it looked soooo easy.
Then we went over to the start/finish and the long tailwind section, where Evens Stievenart and Eric Anderson punished the peloton with a nasty two-man breakaway that stuck to the end. The field had a lot of horsepower but not enough to bring them back.
Why didn’t they JUST PEDAL HARDER? It looked so easy.
I got home and scrolled through the pictures taken by Yasuko. Then I zoomed up on the faces, mouths gaping like trophy bass. It didn’t look easy any more.
There’s a lesson here, about the difference between watching and doing.
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April 5, 2018 § 4 Comments
On Tuesday there was big Telo wind and a pretty good Telo turnout, with the most important factors being Frexit and Brexit, sworn cross-Channel enemies who would battle each other to the death.
The group stayed together for a while despite a series of attacks and breaks and accelerations. Baby Seal hit the gas a couple of times, NEVER SKIPPING PULLS, and Team Lizard Collector stalwarts such as Raul, Tom the Kid, Heavy D., Sulk, Dowdy, Son of Max, Ivan the Terrible, Foxy, Racooney, Sanch, and Patrick kept things lively. Dino rider Toronto had come out of the museum with the intention of riding himself into fitness, and where better to do that than Telo, where gale-force wind, face-flattening speed, mommy-and-kiddy gym traffic, and a healthy dose of shoutypantsing by other riders would stiffen the spine of anyone? Original Marco was there too, as was Honda Brandon, with Boozy P. and Mrs. WM shooting photos in the turns, a true All-Star Telo if there ever was one.
Eventually Frexit split the group and with me glued to his wheel and Hair glued to mine, he reeled in the small group off the front that included Brexit, and finally the outlier, Alx Bns. Alx was coming off a superb showing at the Donut Pissing Contest and, having urinated much longer and thicker streams than anyone else, was ready to make common cause with his British compatriot Brexit in order to stifle the dreams of the Gallic nation as embodied by Frexit.
With five riders in the break, one of whom were determined to do as little work as possible, I felt pretty sure that it was only a matter of time before Frexit, Brexit, and Alx would punch me out the back to the retirement home of the chase group. As the shoutypantsing began I marshaled a whole host of reasons why I should be allowed to SKIP PULLS, SIT IN, AND PRAY TO DOG.
- I was 12 years older than Brexit, 14 years older than Hair, 20 years older than Frexit, and 24 years older than Alx. Plus, it was Be Kind to Old Folks Week.
- I was no threat to anyone, except perhaps from passing out.
- They should take pity on me and be kind to an ol’ buddy, ol’ pal.
- I have a blog.
A truce was declared in which they would take turns attacking me, until finally Frexit rode off and won. Brexit, in solidarity with striking French railway workers, quit in disgust. Alx attacked me and Hair and pedaled off to a glorious second place.
Hair, who had ridden twice in the last month, dragged me around for five laps. As I got ready to dust him in the sprunt and claw my way onto the podium, the chasers hunted us down in the final turn and Dowdy, Ivan the Terrible, and a couple of others lunged for Hair’s wheel. Hair, exhausted, cramping, and tired from pulling for five laps, easily won the field sprunt, booting me off the podium and onto a disgraceful fourth place #fakefinish at the #fakerace.
There is always next week … I hope.
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Best ride ever
March 21, 2018 § 1 Comment
This was simple. We were at the second Telo of the year and it was a pretty tough crowd. The rider to beat is always the same: Evens Stievenart. Two-time winner of the 24 Hours of LeMans Bike Race and unofficial 24-hour world record holder, Evens typically shows up for Telo after having already put in four or five hours.
My goal has always been to beat him, as ridiculous as that is.
Today as the race started he said, “Let’s attack early.” I didn’t know what he meant by “let’s.”
Three minutes in, he attacked, and we got away as I was stuck to his wheel. Eric Anderson, Josh Alverson, and Aaron Wimberly brought us back after a few minutes. Evens drifted to the back and attacked again. The Methods to Winning riders brought us back. The third time we were brought back but you could tell people were suffering to do it. The fourth time there were a number of crazy hard efforts from the field to bridge, but we went clear for good.
I sat on Evens’s wheel for fifty minutes. I never looked at my watch because I knew that if I did I would quit. I have never hurt so bad for so long in my life doing anything, ever. I played every mental trick in the book to keep from giving up. And I found myself taking lines through the turns that I’d never taken before, so crucial was every inch of proximity to his rear wheel.
At any given point Evens could have easily dusted me off, but didn’t.
Over the one-mile course, each lap I pulled for exactly fifteen pedal strokes, coming out of the last turn and getting us back up to speed on the tailwind section. Evens battered for the remainder of every single lap, especially into the 20-mph headwind section that is a little under half a mile long.
With one lap to go Evens was still sitting on the front. I rolled up next to him. “Don’t you dare give this to me,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” he answered with a smile. “I won’t.” Evens is unique because he has a massive time trial engine as well as a crazy fast sprint.
He led into the last corner and opened up his 1,000-watt finish after an hour of full gas time trialing. I stayed on his wheel until he reached max velocity, itself a lifetime achievement, then came around. I pulled even with his front wheel, still fifty meters from the line. He stomped twice and put five bike lengths between us, easily. Eric Anderson mopped up the field sprint for third.
After we finished I thanked him for letting me sit on.
“No problem,” he said. “I would have never let you win, though, because I know how badly you want it, and if you ever beat me you will never come back.”
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French beast connection
August 7, 2017 § 18 Comments
A great way to become a better rider is to ride with people who are better than you. It won’t make you faster or stronger or smarter or more successful in racing. However, with the clever use of an iPhone or GoPro you will be able to snap pics and show them to your friends on Facegag, upload them to The Stravver and etcetera, proving that you are heroic and tough enough to ride with Titanic Crusher ergo you are almost as good as Titanic and if you only had more hours to train and dope to ingest and motors to install you would be as good as he.
It’s important that the footage not show how Titanic Crusher is barely breathing whereas you sound like a medicinal advertisement for sleep apnea.
The first time I saw Frexit was on the New Pier Ride. He was humbly pedaling along in an ugly bicycle outfit trying to fit in among all of the perfectly attired, matchy-match profamateurs on the Tuesday morning preenfest. He was doing a terrible job of it because despite his ugly outfit he had a smooth pedal stroke, a relaxed demeanor despite being squeezed in the middle of an idiot sandwich, and worst of all, he was smiling as if a morning ride with friends was for enjoyment rather than for huge expressions of serious seriousness topped off with seriousity.
Before we hit Pershing, the life and death battle had begun as the idiots jostled for position, which in the South Bay does not only means “place where you can be nearest the front with the smallest risk of having to be on it,” but also “place from which you can solicit new riders to join your fake race clubteam.”
Velo Club LaGrange, a historically fake clubteam, had won the last several recruitment contests, and even as they jockeyed for position I came up hard on the inside, threw an elbow, and began the finishing sign-up sprint.
“What’s your name?”
“That’s weird. Did someone add an ‘s’ by mistake when you were born?”
“No, I am French.”
“What’s your last name?”
“Stievenart,” he said.
“Oh,” I nodded. “So you’re actually Belgian.”
He laughed as we hit the bottom of Pershing. “You should join Big Orange,” I said. “We are a bunch of dorks also know as Team Lizard Collectors or The Asphalt Magnet Gang, but we will reimburse your entry … ” I couldn’t finish because he rode away. And away. And away.
At the end of the ride I offered to wash his bike if he would join Team Lizard Collectors, and he agreed. Thus began Frexit’s association with a club that would be shameful for him but glorious for us.
It turned out that Frexit had won a bunch of French national time trial championships, and had won a big stage race several times called Tour Encaisseur des Lézards and was training for the 24 Hours of Le Mans bike race. Frexit won that race last year, by the way, destroying his competition by a huge margin as he came in first among over 3,800 insane people.
In the process, Frexit became known as a terror on two wheels, riding crazy distances at crazy speeds, and more importantly, showing up at our local training crit to give us all a chance to take selfies with him and sit on his wheel for half a lap or so. In 2017 he returns to Le Mans as defending insane person and with the twin goals of winning again and cracking the mythical 900km mark over a twenty-four hour period. Naturally, we’ve been helping him at Telo by offering up copious quantities of fresh seal pelts for repeated clubbing.
Best of all, you can be part of Evens’s 2017 Le Mans quest on Wednesday, August 16, when he will be out at Westchester Parkway doing a tune-up ride from 6:00 AM until about 5:00 PM. In order to simulate the attacks and surges of the race, Frexit has kindly invited other cyclists to come out for any period of time to ride with him and spice things up. It should be about as fun as having rusty nails pounded up into your gums, maybe more.
But as long as you get a few selfies to show to your friends, it will all be worth it. See you there. Briefly.
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July 26, 2017 § 18 Comments
Tuesday is the holy day of the bike racing week and I was praying, nose mashed against the stem, body swaying from side to side like a tree in a hurricane, and great oaths, curses, imprecations, and foul utterances doing everything they could to exit my mouth hole if only I would stop breathing so hard and groaning.
Frexit and Peachfuzz had caught me and Attila the Hun, but what momentarily looked like the champion’s breakaway from Telo had got pulled back by the pack. Thankfully I had a bunch of Team Lizard Collectors teammates in the chase and they had worked mightily to bring back our breakaway, which contained three of their teammates.
I had countered at the catch, gotten free with Frexit on my wheel, and then sat for a lap while he ground out another fearsome gap which, thankfully, wasn’t so great that my fake teammates couldn’t close it down. Two seconds before the actual catch I sat up in defeat and despair, perfectly marking the difference between winners and losers: That’s the moment at which Frexit made one more giant effort.
Team Lizard Collectors and the slobbering chase group, satisfied at having caught the minnow, sat up and watched the whale swim away. I drifted to the back and tried to collect my broken bits of self-respect which, in truth, I’d had none of to start with.
At that moment it became clear to me: Life is really pretty simple. All it takes to make a Frenchman who is already insanely strong, insanely stronger, is to put him in a foreign land and offer him good, homemade bread.
Because that’s exactly what Ms. WM had done, and we all suffered the consequences. My wife, you see, bakes bread. Her repertoire is narrow; she bakes round loaves, always the same ingredients, always the same shape, and always the same taste.
Those who have eaten it are never the same because bread goes so incredibly deep in our human consciousness. It is the staff of life. It is the thing we earn. It is magical when fresh, durable and sustaining when old. It pairs with every food imaginable, or goes the distance solo, with nothing alongside it at all.
The taste of fresh bread well made, not the unbaked mush sold in plastic bags at Safeway, has no peer, or even anything else in its category. It sits alone atop the food pyramid, King Tutankhamun gazing down at the minions of flesh, vegetables, and other lesser comestibles.
And what is bread? Flour, water, yeast, salt. That, plus the magic sauce of the hands that knead, watch, rise, and bake, and in my home those magic hands have come up with bread perfection. My poor son-in-law is reduced to groveling when it comes off the cooling board. Visitors hang their heads in a spent, abject foodgasm when it crosses their lips. Pot luck party hosts whisper in muted tones of sad begging, “Would you mind asking Yasuko to bake a loaf of bread?”
That is how supremely her bread reigns among those who know, and woe was unto us on Tuesday because she had said that morning, “I’m onna bake some bread and give a bread prize onna Telo champion.”
“No,” I said. “Your bread will not be wasted on those terrible people. It will be wasted on me.”
“You onna just as terrible as they is.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say, except “Okay, but please bake two loaves and leave one here. Please?”
She did, and when word went out on Facebag that Mrs. WM’s Magic Bread would be offered up to the Telo winner, we had a true lineup of hitters, and all the pain I was feeling mid-race was due to the Frexit frenzy of getting a shot at bread he hadn’t eaten since the last time he was home in France.
The fight for second was vicious. Davy Dawg led it out with Hair on his wheel and with me on Hair. Peachfuzz was slotted in behind Pooh Bear ATX, who in the final turn made a power move by slamming his inside pedal against the pavement, causing me to shit a blue streak in fear as this is exactly where Hair had come up on the inside and thrown himself onto the asphalt a few months ago, with me on his wheel. I swung wide to let those willing to die do so, and Hair flew to the finish for a glorious podium finish as everyone else fought viciously for whatever scraps you call the scraps after the first set of scraps.
As expected, Frexit won despite an eleven, then ten, then nine, then eight, then seven, then six-person rotation spilling their guts, lunch, and spittle in a failed attempt to chase him down.
You want to make a French bike champion go even harder? Bread, baby, bread.
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