Clash of the titans
December 22, 2011 § 3 Comments
As we prepared to prepare to get ready for the world famous Ironfly club ITT that had become the less world famous but still nationally renowned TTT, Mel pointed to the pleasant looking if somewhat bleary young man sitting on a chair with a clipboard.
“That’s Hockeystick’s son,” she said. “He came out to watch his dad race and to time the splits. Hockeypuck, this is Wanky.”
There’s an unwritten rule about meeting the adult and semi-adult progeny of bike racers: You’re obligated to say something flattering about the parent. “Your dad sure is tough,” or “Your mom is tougher than most of the guys,” or “I can barely hang onto your dad’s wheel.” Whatever, as long as it builds up the parent in the eyes of the child.
I looked at Hockeypuck. “Your old man’s a fucking wanker,” I said. “Plus he’s fat and slow.”
“Wanky!!” Mel scolded. “It’s his son!!”
“Oh, shit, I’m sorry. He’s not a fucking wanker. He’s a total fucking wanker. And I’m going to kick his ass today. Glad you’ll be here to see it.”
“Aw fuck, Mel, I’m not telling him anything he doesn’t already know. What, do I have to pretend the kid’s blind and doesn’t see Hockeystick swilling beer, stuffing his gut on pizza, and heading off for a hard day at the office at the crack of noon?”
Hockeystick, who was standing nearby, looked up and smiled as he adjusted the airfoil on his $15,000 time trail bike. He, Canyon Bob, Toronto, and Boeingboing were raring to go. Each had brought a full time trail rig, except for Canyon Bob, who had slapped some TT bars on his vintage Trek. They had the full battle regalia: aero helmets, disc wheels, skinsuits, shoe covers, and enough attitude to beat down a rapper with a murder conviction.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it
Thankfully, I have a short memory and never hold a grudge, with the exception of the things I always remember and the grudges I’ll be taking with me to my grave. This time last year the world famous Ironfly club ITT had confirmed my talent and ability as the fastest non-aero time trailist in a field of seven, including one elderly gentleman in his early 80’s. The club race last year had been broken down into Merckx and aero categories.
I had devastated Canyon Bob by a full 21 seconds over the 20km course, even though he’d been riding aero bars. Take that, dog! Toronto, who had opted for the full aero bike with disc wheel, had still only managed to take a handful of seconds out of me, but even though he was in the aero category and cheating the wind he nonetheless took every opportunity to rub salt into the non-wound. He got particular pleasure out of the photo on his FB page that shows him passing me as my tongue appears to dangle in the spokes. Hockeystick had been lapped and peed on the previous year and was spoiling for a rematch.
Throughout 2011, last year’s wankers plotted their revenge. The first step was to make the race a team time trail rather than an individual event. This would play to Hockeystick’s strength of putting together teams where he is the slowest member, gets dropped in the first ten yards, but nevertheless collects the palmares, jersey, and chintzy medal to hang in the 10′ by 75′ trophy case that occupies the entire third floor of his home. This also played to Toronto’s strong suit, which is photography. He’d wind up with some great pictures, and with Canyon Bob on the team would only have hang on for dear life and rotate through briefly. Very briefly.
The only problem was that despite Canyon Bob’s legendary ability to flail and flog, there was no way that he alone could win the TTT with Toronto and Hockeystick sucking wheel for dear life and avoiding the front like a Mississippian avoids the dentist’s chair. The other problem is that the one other team would have Fukdude on it. Fukdude won a national championship this year. Fukdude won the aero category of the club TT in 2010 by almost a full lunar month. None of them had ever beaten Fukdude at anything. Ever.
Hockeystick, though, went to work, doing what he does best–finding the talent, and signing ’em up. And he had Boeingboing in his sights.
Boeingboing rides for Southbay Wheelmen. Although he was pretty much a flailer when he raced with the 45+ masters, as soon as he hit 50 he started whupping ass. In 2010 he brought home numerous top ten finishes, and he’s known far and wide for his time trailing. So between him and Canyon Bob, with Toronto and Hockeystick doing cameo rotations to give the other two a respite, they had the makings of a team. Not a very good one, but a team at least.
Flailers’ futile challenge to the Heroes
From the beginning, Hockeystick’s ragtag assortment that made up Team Flail was doomed to fail. Not only was the Heroes team led by Fukdude, but it included Jdawg, a monstrous pain addict who provides a draft for those in his wake comparable to that of a fast-moving barn. Although not necessarily known for his time trailing prowess, the Hero contingent also included Fireman, something of a time trail wanker but also the man with the widest elbows in the business. He could always be counted on to suffer and to drink everyone else under the table at the club party later in the day, including Hockeystick.
Finally, of course, the Heroes included me. In addition to my non-aero victory the year before, my amazing performance in the state’s 45+ non-prostate elderly men’s TTT with Mel’s tiny bar extenders, and my incredible blogging efforts, there was simply no way we were going to lose for one simple reason: technology.
The thing that bothered me most was how everyone would be aero except me. So I decided to do what every masters racer eventually decides to do when he races more than two time trails in a year’s time: go out and buy some more speed.
All I really needed to get aero was a pair of clip-on bars and some shoe covers. $538.88 later I returned home knowing that in addition to greater natural ability, a superior training regimen, and my matchless ability to suffer, I now had shoe covers that matched my bike. I immediately sat down and penned the entry to my victory blog, which began like this: “O, ye simpering wretches…”
Breakfast and a few text messages
I awoke bright and early on Sunday, brewed a cup of coffee, and made some oatmeal. By six o’clock the text messages started rolling in. New Girl bailed because VV bailed. Skimpy couldn’t make it because he’d stayed out too late the night before. Loopy and Dinky had to cancel because they always cancel. Etcetera.
I fired off a quick text message to Fireman, who answered promptly, confirming our team’s 8:00 rendezvous at Catalina Coffee. When I arrived, Jdawg was already there, along with Fukdude. Neither had aero bars. Or discs. Or aero helmets.
“What’s with the non-aero shit?” I asked.
“Fuck, dude, we’re going Merckx style. It’s just Hockeystick.”
“But they’ll all have full TT rigs.”
JDawg looked over our bikes. “Well, we’ve got aero bars, I’ve got Zipp 808’s, and Fukdude’s legs, so between the three of us we’ve got one aero racer at least.”
“Where’s Fireman?” I asked.
We went into the coffee shop. There, indeed, was Fireman. In the Barcalounger. Wearing a pair of beach shorts. And sandals. And next to him was his youngest kid.
“What the fuck?” I asked. “Where’s your shit?”
“You blew it for me, dude,” he said. “That text message you sent. My wife saw it and was like, ‘You didn’t tell me you were going bike racing today’ and I was like ‘I was going to tell you’ and she was like ‘Yeah when two minutes before you left?’ and I was like ‘No five’ and she was like ‘I’m going to the gym and you’ve got the kids’ so that’s that.”
We all looked at each other. “Looks like your four-man team will be three-man,” Fireman laughed. “Fuck it, don’t worry. It’s just Hockeystick and Toronto. By the time Hockeystick gets his stomach over the top tube you guys’ll be done. Plus, how embarrassing would it be to show up with a bunch of TT shit just to beat Hockeystick? If the three of you wearing football uniforms and riding skateboards can’t beat those guys in full aero, you don’t deserve to win anyway.”
Beating up the blind senior citizen
As we pedaled out to Carson, we mulled over our predicament, which was not unlike accepting a challenge to fistfight a blind old woman in a wheelchair. If you won, you earned the world’s contempt by stooping to the challenge. If you lost, well, you got to spend the rest of your life known as the guy who got beaten up by the octogenarian granny.
Thankfully, by the time we reached the course Mel had arrived with several boxes of donuts. All athletic endeavors are enhanced by donuts, so I had four or five. The sugar and grease act as a kind of emulsifying agent for the oatmeal, which speeds the passage of blood through midway through the event, when it begins to pour out of your eyes.
Boeingboing had set up his trainer in a parking lot and was all lathered up. Toronto, who had been showing up on all the group rides for the past two weeks on his TT rig, was riding in circles and shouting, “Wankmeister, I’m going to stomp your head in!”
Canyon Bob glanced over at Team Heroes and decided he didn’t even need to warm up, so he climbed back into his car for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. Hockeystick made some final adjustments to the computer tracking system for his bike’s ailerons, and then brought out a wondrous thing that looked like a combo tire jack-and-forklift. Through a complex system of pulleys, levers, and hydraulic pumps, he raised his frontal portion up over the top tube and then easily swung his leg over the bike. Game fuckin’ on.
The agony of my feet. And legs.
We launched first. Team Flail went second. They beat us handily, by 21 seconds. Hockeystick’s son sat incredulously as he tallied up the result. Shaking his head, he said to his dad, “How did the old guys beat the young guys?”
First to chime in was Toronto. “We were gritty!”
Second to chime in was Hockeystick: “We suffered more1”
Third to chime in was Canyon Bob: “That was stupid!”
Fourth to chime in was Fussy via Facebook: “There were only three of them, and you goofs were full aero.”
Fifth to chime in was Fireman via text: “They BEAT you? Haaahaahahaaaaha!”
Boeingboing had already packed and left, afraid perhaps that he’d seen and photographed at this event of ignominy.
Kissing and making up
Even though we’d been completely pwned, there was a club party that afternoon where we’d get to laugh it up while secretly feeling humiliated (losing team) and not so secretly feeling prideful and happy and euphoric and master-of-the-universe-like (winning team). Team Losers would clap Team Winners on the shoulder and say “Good ride!” and “You guys were flying!” while secretly thinking “You sorry fucks couldn’t win a wheelchair race on a bet, and the only reason you beat us is because (—–insert multiple excuses here——-), and Team Winners would laugh somewhat modestly and say “It was only 21 seconds,” or “Well, we were full aero,” or “Heck, you only had three guys,” while secretly thinking “You sorry fucks think you’re so fucking good but we thrashed the shit out of you and there were really only two of us even doing anything.”
That was the plan, anyway.
What actually happened was that, as we left, me an the old lady got into a shouting match over a lost shipment of $6.00 Capo tall white socks. “What do you mean you didn’t pick it up? UPS left the fucking tag!”
“I did too go to pick it up they gave me the wrong box. It was some purple froofy underwear thing with a yellow wig.”
“Well shit, why didn’t you take it back and get the right box?”
“I did!! They lost it!! It’s not my job! And quit yelling! And if you care so much about your stupid cycling socks you should get them yourself!”
By the time we hit the club party it was World War Twelve, such is the power of a shipment of Christmastime, specially-priced Capo tall white socks, engineered to bring happiness through a brutal spousal hollerfest. As we exited the Pimpmoprius, up pulled Canyon Bob and his lovely wife. “Hey, Bob,” I said.
“Hey, Wanky. How’s it going?”
“We’re fighting!” my old lady said.
“Other than that, though, things are great,” I added.
The joy of sox
If you’ve ever gone to a party in the middle of an intraspousal feud, you know that there are only two possible outcomes. One is that the angry partners will bottle it up and put on polite pretenses ostensibly to avoid wrecking the mood for everyone else, but in actuality because they don’t want other people to see that their marriage is just as pedestrian as everyone else’s. The other outcome is that the presence of others will act as a kind of audience catalyst, in which the performers, stimulated by the spectators, will rise to the occasion and let the whole ugly thing roll out on the carpet, kind of like a big turd in the middle of a ballroom dance, with everyone trying not to step in it all the while unable to look away while still trying to keep time to the waltz.
We chose the latter, of course, and after a few moments of pleasantries went storming out like a typhoon. Fortunately, cooler heads eventually prevailed and after eight or nine days we began speaking again once UPS found and delivered the lost socks. So happy was I to have new, tall white socks that I even sort of admitted that maybe it hadn’t been her fault and that perhaps next time I shouldn’t throw a tantrum like a three year-old. Perhaps.
Team Flail now reigns for all of 2012 until the next iteration of the club’s team time trail. Hockeystick has ordered a new set of pulleys and cables for his GAD (Gut Assist Device), and formed a track pursuit team with its sights set on a national pursuit title for 50+ tarck wankers. Canyon Bob has decided to up his training regiment to four hours per week. Toronto now has two time trail victories against Wankmeister, precious, secret victories that he takes out and strokes when he thinks no one’s watching, and laughs to himself when he thinks of how good it’s going to feel when he gets number three. Boeingboing has constructed an elaborate story of plausible deniability to de-confirm that he even knows, much less races with, his teammates.
And me? I’m left with a year of gall and wormwood, the bitter taste of defeat left in my mouth permanently, or at least until…next year.
Year in review’s stellar performers: Kevin Phillips
November 16, 2011 § 4 Comments
It was a pretty good year for KP. Elite track nationals? Fifth place, team pursuit. Master’s track nationals? Stars and stripes jersey in the team pursuit. Silver medal in the individual pursuit. Bronze in the points race and scratch race. State champion in the individual and team pursuits. In addition to his state and national titles, KP had some excellent results on the road as well. And he achieved all of this before he discovered the Tug-Toner, so he should really blow doors in 2012.
But who really cares about that national champion stuff?
I don’t. Because the most important result for KP in 2011 was first floated as a mere idea on Wednesday, June 8, when I received a phone call. “Hey, dude. Wanna do the state team time trial?”
“I dunno. When is it?”
“Saturday. It’ll be fuckin rad, dude.”
“Saturday? That’s three days away.”
“Yeah. You ever done one?”
“Got an aero rig?”
“Got some aero wheels at least?”
“Just my 404’s. But I wouldn’t use them because my PowerTap’s on my training wheels.”
“Yeah. Fuck, dude. Ever use TT bars?”
“No. Look, I don’t think I’m your guy. Who else is on the team?” I figured if he was calling me, he had three people and was scraping the bottom of the barrel.
“Canyon Bob and Hockey Stick. You’re the last choice, dude.”
“I didn’t know Bob had a TT bike.”
“He doesn’t just his old road bike he’s kind of converted over.”
“But his current road bike is, like 15 years old. He’s going to be using something older than that?”
“Yeah. We’ll look like a bunch of dorks.”
“And I thought Hockey Stick was, like, a 2k pursuiter. Since when did he start doing 40k road time trials?”
“Fuck, dude, he just wants a medal. We only have to finish with three dudes. He’ll flail for the first three or four miles and get shelled.”
“What about me? I’ll flail for the first mile and get shelled.”
“Fuck dude, you’ll do fine. You’re a hammer. You know Canyon Bob goes good. He likes pain. Long as you don’t fucking crash us out on the TT bars.”
“I don’t have any TT bars, I told you.”
“No prob, dude. You can use Mel’s. I got a couple of extenders we can screw on before the start. Just don’t fuckin crash us out.”
“Are we going to practice?”
“Bob’s got a job, dude. Hockey Stick would practice but he’s fucking hittin the beer by 2 p.m. and you have to work. I’m swamped anyway. You’ll do fine. Don’t fuckin worry. We’ll get there early so you can practice.”
“Why’s Hockey Stick so sure we’ll get a medal?”
“Fuck dude, there’s only gonna be two teams show up. Only team registered now is Big Orange.”
“Big Orange? You’re joking. Don’t tell me G$ is doing it.”
“Him and Hottie and Weninger and Rob Mesecher. Don’t fuckin worry, dude.”
“Worry? They’ll crush us.”
“So you’re in?”
“No, I’m not in. I’m not paying an entry fee to race against those guys. That’s crazy.”
“Ironfly’s paying the entry fee, dude. Hockey Stick’s got the van and a bitchin four-bike rack. Swing by my place at 5 on Saturday. I’m gonna fuckin send you a TTT how-to email. It’ll be rad.” Click.
How to do a TTT in 73 easy steps
Sure enough, that evening I had a how-to TTT email waiting for me when I got home from work. And I somewhat quote:
“Don’t worry about being a dork, you’re pretty much a dork anyway but you can still get a medal because there are only two teams. Even you guys can’t fuck this up. So here’s how you do it, don’t worry, you’ll be fine, maybe.
“Your pull is NOT over when you pull off, your pull is over when you are back on a wheel at the back of the train. How many times have you taken your pull and thought you were fucking Eddy Merckx because you pulled off without puking, then somehow by the time you got to the back of the paceline you are blown and out of the saddle sprinting like a dork to get on a wheel only to get dropped like a fuckin wanker? Keep this in mind tomorrow and don’t be a fucking dork and drop yourself. Your pull’s not over until you’re back on the train.
“We are going to ride in the following formation: Me< Canyon Bob < Hockey Stick < Wankmeister. I will lead us out and get us up to speed, fast but not too intense and then Canyon Bob will carry on, etc. If we come out of the chute too hot we’ll blow and you can’t recover, it’s a matter of pacing. So don’t be a fucking dork and act like you’re sprinting for the chance to spend a night with a hooker and a baggie full of coke, just keep it under your threshold whatever you do.
“This will allow Bob to follow me, because he’s a smooth wheel, and allow me to follow Wankmeister so I can yell at him as necessary because he will probably be hammering like an idiot and drop us and then drop himself unless he’s wobbling like a madfuck because he’s never ridden TT bars so just pray he doesn’t crash us out. Hockey Stick will get to ride behind Bob, the most steady guy, so he can save the most energy so as not to get dropped, which is fucking hopeless because he’s going to get fucking shelled no matter what but at least hang on for five miles and give us a little break.
“Everyone should use his Garmin, just tape the damn thing on your aero bar with packing tape if you need to, I will have tape with me. Don’t worry about your rig looking stupid, you’ll all look like dorks no matter what. I will set the speed of our effort, you guys will simply maintain the speed. If I have us doing 28.5 mph, then you should pull through at the same speed. Remember, the key is to get quickly up to speed without overdoing it.
“If we are going too quick/slow I will yell at you to quit being an idiot and to pick it up or slow it down. This means adjust the speed by ½ mph, do NOT sit up and jam on your brakes, just roll back the effort 5-10 watts. Going fast in a TTT is all about efficiency and spending our resources wisely, if we do this correctly we can actually not be totally embarrassed, maybe.
“Going from 29 to 30mph takes a lot more power than going from 28 to 29mph, drag is not linear. Any time spent going over the average speed of a section is wasted energy, we need to ride as steady as we can and make adjustments slowly. We are going to time our pulls using crank revolutions, so count your right leg doing a full revolution as one tick. We are each going to start off doing pulls of the following length: Me, 30; Bob, 25; Hockey Stick, 10; Wankmeister, 30. Don’t be a dork and suddenly forget how to count it’s the same fucking shit you learned in kindergarten, except Hockey Stick, who probably didn’t learn it til fifth grade.
“I want Bob to have a bit left for the final push, his physiology is pretty adapted to an end effort. Wanky and I can both go full gas from the start and suck it up at the end when Bob comes around. Hockey Stick, don’t be a flailing flogfuck, you need to make the distance, at least five miles, ten would be optimum.
“I will continually ask how you’re doing when I am falling back, just give me a quick ‘Okay’ or ‘Hurting’ or ‘I am fucked’ or whatever. I won’t fucking pay attention unless you say you’re okay, this is going to hurt, it’s a fucking time trial. Remember: WE HAVE TO FINISH WITH 3 GUYS. If we are down to three guys we can’t torch anyone. The first five minutes we will feel as if we are going too slow, this is normal. Just chill and roll into the effort, we are going to be riding for ~50 minutes. The big time losses will come in the final six-mile stretch, we need to be able to ride that part fast, like our dicks are caught in a fucking vice and somebody’s fucking beating it with a hammer.
“Exactly halfway through we have a short hill, so go big ring and aero, but it is a 25-second incline that breaks the rhythm a bit. Let’s try and keep it together if possible. Hockey Stick, I want you to take shorter pulls for the two miles before the hill, we need to be able to get you and your big fucking beer belly over the climb without losing pace, no one needs to be a hero. Pay attention to where I put us on the road and the the side I pull off on, we will adjust this on different parts of the course depending on the wind, which is going to be howling worse than a fucking Gozilla shitstorm, headwind or crosswind for 3/4 of the course.
“If you are pulling through one of the four turns on the course be aware you have three other idiots behind you, don’t attack out of it or go through it so fast someone gets gapped off and is chasing. If one person goes in the red too early they will not recover, you will be hopelessly fucked and quit. We will all be riding near the edge for the entire time, and Hockey Stick you’ll be going faster than you’ve ever gone on something two-wheeled that doesn’t have a fucking motor.
“Shorter pulls will keep our speed up, long thrashing pulls slow us down. If you are all feeling good after the first five miles then we can pick up the pace but keep short pulls. We need to average over 28mph for the race, that will put us on schedule to do 50 minutes flat, that is our goal. Remember: three guys finish, short pulls, don’t go out too hard, and don’t be a fucking dork.”
5 a.m. was not really all that rad
Canyon Bob and I got to KP’s house at 5:00 a.m. and lightly rapped on the door. Nothing. Then we knocked a bit louder. Nada. Finally we started pounding. Eventually the door opened. KP stood there in his underwear, blinking as if he’d just been rousted from R.E.M., which he had.
“Fuck, dude. I slept through the alarm. Be ready in a minute.”
Shortly he reappeared and we loaded the bikes into his van. Hockey Stick lives in Manhattan Beach, and when we got there the light in his garage was on and he was sipping on a cup of coffee. We transferred the bikes from the van to the rack, climbed in, and headed out. Hockey Stick drives crazy fast, which I guess is fine if you’re steering a high performance sports car, but a Honda van stuffed with people, gear, and dangling four bikes on the back end makes for a pretty frightful ride.
The benefit was that we got to glorious Lake Los Angeles so early that we’d have plenty of time to register, set up our bikes, and warm up. Having the extra time, we stopped in for a snack and a dump at the McDonald’s. Both took longer than planned. For some reason we all decided to stand in the registration line together, further chewing up time, although one person could have registered us all.
It turned out that there were five teams total, and with the exception of ours, they were all on badass TT rigs, team kits, aero helmets, and had obviously practiced together. Hockey Stick had a $15,000 Specialized Widowmaker TT ride with a rear disc, three spoke HED in front, internal cables, electronic shifting, custom molded aero helmet, wind-slick skinsuit with shoe covers, and a fully integrated internal power meter.
Canyon Bob’s rig was an antique Trek 5500, state of the art from 1992 but state of collapse in 2011, tricked out with TT bars. “Here, dude,” said KP, flipping me a pair of tiny, 225mm bar extensions. “These’ll fuckin make you aero.”
It took me a while to get them on. By the time they were secured, and I had my kit on, we only had fifteen minutes to our start time. “Fuck, dude, better try those fuckin things out before we start so you don’t fuckin crash us out.”
I hopped aboard, got going, and immediately ran into several mission critical issues. The first was steering. The extenders totally changed the weight and handling of the front end of the bike. The second problem was steering. Stretched out on the bars I could no longer make quick corrections to my line. The third problem, even bigger than the first two, was steering. The bars were tiny, and obviously made for someone who didn’t have 36″ inch inseams on his forearms. The midget bar ends stopped halfway down my forearm, leaving the rest of the bone and my hands to flop freely off the ends of the bars. The fourth, and biggest problem, was steering. No brakes or shift levers meant that the whole bike wobbled when my unpracticed hands moved back to the hoods.
After 100 yards of practice, I turned around, nearly crashing out into the ditch. The wind was howling. “We’re gonna fuckin miss our start!” KP shouted. “Let’s go!”
Hockey Stick hadn’t even gotten his helmet on. None of us had ridden more than 100 yards. We were the second team to go off, with Big Orange behind us. They were warmed up, fierce looking, color-coordinated, and licking their chops. The studly team in front of us roared away.
Suddenly, total panic kicked in. Through the pounding of my heart and sensation of icy cold legs I heard the ref counting down “3-2-1” followed by the clicking and clacking of shoes into pedals and the blur of KP blasting down the road, Bob and Hockey Stick in tow.
Getting up to speed gradually, kind of like the space shuttle
Within seconds I was in full sprint mode trying to catch on to Hockey Stick. By the time I caught up we were going absolutely full fucking bore at 33mph. I hit the front, pulled for a few seconds, swung off and barely latched back on. Before I’d had time to grab my breath I was at the head again, unable to stay there for more than about five pedal revolutions. It was more pain, and more intense pain, than I’d thought possible. And we were only a minute into it.
KP had come off the line so fast that we were all completely blown less than a mile in. When I rotated back to latch on after my third pull there was nothing where Hockey Stick was supposed to be except air. He’d been blasted out the back and was a receding speck in the distance. KP and Bob were taking huge pulls, with me simply rotating through, gasping, and lunging to catch on the back. This, unfortunately, was the “easy” tailwind section.
We hit the crosswind and I was almost blown off the road. Unable to control the bike, but buffeted like a spinnaker whenever I tried to ride on the drops, all I could feel was the kind of numbing, stupid pain mixed with sharp spikes of stinging agony that comes from dental surgery, childbirth, or arguments with a bank’s customer service rep. Each time KP rotated back he’d say, “You okay?” and I’d try to nod through the snot and spit, and they would just keep battering away.
51:03 later we finished. I could barely dismount. Hockey Stick had driven the van to the finish, was nattily attired in his apres-TTT outfit and sipping on an energy drink. Incredibly, we had almost caught the team in front of us, and had avoided, if only barely, being devoured whole by Big Orange, who won the race. “We got a silver medal!” Hockey Stick chirped. All I could do was groan as my legs cramped and I lay in the back of the van. The final ten miles my legs had kind of come around, and the final three miles I’d wielded the whip and thrashed it like a madman.
“Fuckin rad, dude,” said KP as we headed home. “Not bad for a bunch of dorks, huh? You know those other guys on the tricked out rigs felt pretty stupid, huh, getting beat by a bunch of dorks like you. I sure would. Good job!”
So I can attest to it, as I was there–stellar performance in the TTT by KP, a hero among men…or at least among dorks. Best of all, I learned something important about doing a team time trail properly: Whatever you do, don’t start out hot.
Happy little fingers
October 31, 2011 Comments Off on Happy little fingers
This morning was a beautiful thing. For starters, the half-clothed person nearest me wasn’t Jekyll in his raggedy t-shirt and dirty underwear. And the first thought that raced through my head (with apologies to Dom, who thinks I have a cursing problem) was, “I’m so motherfucking glad I don’t have to ride my fucking bike another hundred fucking miles.”
Following that glorious thought was the smell of fresh coffee wafting into the bedroom. But best of all? Knowing that I wouldn’t have to tap out another 2,000-word blog on the touch pad of an iPhone. Steve Jobs, you are dead, so I won’t speak ill of you. Your sorry fucking iPhone touchpad, on the other hand, sucks ass.
You gotta keep eating if you want to keep going
In my joy at being done with MT4, though, I neglected to write up Day Five, which was a momentous day in the annals of the tour. It started with M8 gazing in horror at his breakfast burrito. “I can’t eat this. I’m not even hungry,” he moaned.
“Listen, you sniveling pussy,” I gently advised. “ManTour means food. Your body is being torn down, destroyed, beaten to shit day in day out. It’s crying for protein, fat, carbs, salt, caffeine, vitamins, minerals, beer. You gotta eat til you fucking want to puke.”
“But I already want to puke.”
“That’s because you haven’t eaten enough, dipshit. Once you finish that burrito you’ll stop wanting to puke. Then I’ll feed you a stack of flapjacks with three ice cream scoops of butter and you’ll want to barf every time you open your mouth. That’s when you’ll know you’re ready to ride.”
Breathanarian, our little 17 year-old, was sitting at the table in shock. He’d been subsisting the entire tour on paltry servings of vegetables, water, and long rides in the paddywagon alternating with violent headaches, stomach cramps, and vomiting. I looked at him. “You want to grow up and be a pussy like your old man, who can’t even nut up enough to come with you? Keep eating that shit, then. Men eat things that used to bleed. You want to ride like a man? Learn to eat like one.”
The waitress then brought him his meatless burrito (that’s kind of like a celibate hooker) and a big plate of hash browns all running wet with grease. “Were those cooked in bacon grease, honey?” I asked. She nodded. “Well, then, get to it, sonny.”
Brethanarian looked on in horror. “Shit, son, that’s good old-fashioned bacon lard. From pigs. Hate the fucking taste? That’s why God invented ketchup.” I shoved him the bottle.
He cautiously dribbled on a few glorps. “Dammit, boy, is there a war ration for ketchup going on? Gimme that fucking thing.” I splooged out half the bottle until his patty of hashbrowns looked like the morning of Saturday the 14th. “Now eat the fuck up.”
He and M8 began plodding through their meals. Their half-assed, dainty bites were painful to watch. The gal brought my bacon/sausage/chorizo double-wide burrito with a side of six blueberry pancakes and a tub of butter. I slathered the whole thing up with a container of maple syrup and washed it down with six cups of hot coffee, sopping up six large paper napkins in the process with drippings, spillings, poolings, and dribblings off my chin. Breathanarian was holding back tears. M8 quietly sobbed into his napkin.
“Gimme that, you pussies,” I said, taking what was left of M8’s burrito and the boy’s unfinished patty of potato-ketchup mush, mixing them in with my pancakes, dumping on some leftover salsa, and polishing it off with a tall glass of water. “Now, then. Let’s go ride our fucking bikes.”
Who wins the ManTour?
No one, you idiot. It’s a tour. However, ManTour does contain several discrete points, victory at which allow you infinite bragging rights–except that on ManTour it’s terrible form to brag. It doesn’t matter how you cross the line, either–you can cheatfully sneak away for the big prize at the L.A. County line on PCH like Knoll did two years ago at the Rock while everyone was stopped to change a tire and pee, or you can do it in a manly breakaway with a fierce sprint to the death as occurred in 2010.
The manner is irrelevant: only the result counts. Winning by strength, strategy, cunning, and strong legs are accorded the same respect as leaving early, sneaking off, cheating, lying, skulking, and batfucking your buddies when they expect it least.
On MT4 the first point was scored at the top of Page Mill Road on the way to Santa Cruz by Pretty Boy. The second point was scored at the Santa Cruz city limit sign by Coolhand. The third point was scored by Wankmeister in Big Sur. The fourth point was taken by Jens, who cheated his way into Ragged Point by leaving early and missing the construction stops: and what’s instructive here is that despite his low-lifing thievery, he still got the point, the sorry turd, as he beat me by a handful of seconds. The fifth point was taken by Wankmeister at the city limit sign for Morro Bay despite a long-range attack from the back launched by Bluebeard. The sixth point was likewise harvested by Wanky at the city limit sign in Lompoc. The seventh point was taken by Fireman at the Hollister exit on the 101.
But the eighth sprint point for the L.A. County line? The crowning sprint finish that the winner gets to tattoo on his forehead? The way this battle was won was one for the ages.
It ‘piers to me…
After a couple of hours’ riding, the Ironfly blue train reached Ventura Pier, we peeled off our armwarmers, Gu-ed up, drained our collective lizards, snapped some glory photos, and soaked in the beautiful morning sun. Twenty minutes later we rolled at a snail’s pace all the way to and through Oxnard. Once we hit Port Hueneme Road, the group rolled a bit more briskly, as the ag fields out past the last stoplight are the place where the attacks usually begin. From there to the county line sprint is about 15 miles.
Fireman busted away. I followed. Jekyll followed. After a couple more surges the group included Woodenhead, Hourrecord, Fireman, Jekyll, Fishnchips, Rocky, Coupe DeVille, and me. A few miles before the Rock we overtook a trio of Bicycle Bob wankers, who were thrilled to have a train. They hopped in, but after a few pulls the grease began to sizzle, and then they stopped taking pulls, and then Jekyll hit the eject button. Woodenhead was riding like a man possessed.
Jekyll took a couple of flyers, was brought back, and in the process we lost Fishnchips and Rocky. On the final roller before the flat 1k finish to the county line, Jekyll jumped, I covered and countered, and then Fireman blew past everyone. I barely latched onto his wheel and he towed me to the line, gifting me the eternal glory, money, and fame that come with such a prestigious finish.
A short time later we reached the Starbucks in Trancas, where the group, which had swollen to about 20 riders, stopped for coffee and lunch. There, sitting at a table, was M8, taking sips from an iced coffee and then upchucking bits of breakfast burrito into a plastic bag. There, lounging outside, was Tom Collins, chin sunken on his bony chest, eyes glazed over and unseeing. Somewhere even farther down PCH was Breathanarian, still fueled by the jet-fueled bacon grease.
The three hero-idiots had slunk off at the Ventura Pier and made a mad, pell-mell dash for the county line. The only problem was that they didn’t know where it was, as the sign had been stolen earlier this year and the only way to know it was by the change in pavement color. M8 and Tom Collins thought it was at Trancas, some five miles on down the road, and poor Breathanarian thought it was farther away still.
Since they hadn’t known where the line was, they couldn’t say who crossed it first–so none of the three could properly claim the win. When I asked M8 how he felt, he said “As long as I stop tasting this fucking burrito by tomorrow, I’ll be fine.”
Spoken, and eaten, like a man.
MT4 Day Five: The end of innocence
October 16, 2011 Comments Off on MT4 Day Five: The end of innocence
By day five, if we were tomatoes in the produce department, we would be bruised, spoiled, and after the briefest inspection by the produce boy, tossed in the dumpster. Sunrise, heralded by Hallmark cards as “The first day of the rest of your life,” rings in a dull, aching misery for what you can only hope will be the last day you ever, ever, ever see a bicycle.
The clever roomie with whom you so gaily chatted on Day 1 is a boring, grating twit whose every utterance unleashes a barely restrained, primal urge to strangle. The lovely scenery of California, so awe-inspiring in Carmel and Big Sur, has become a blurred, hostile moonscape of asphalt, road striping, and flat tires changed at inopportune times. The bravado and heroic imagery of the Man Tour has had its chintzy veneer stripped away, revealing what everyone else saw from the beginning: a creaky bunch of saggy, wrinkly, balding, ill-tempered, pot-bellied drunks who are too cheap to vacation in Italy.
And a hundred nasty miles still await.
Making matters worse, the biggest prize of the entire tour, the one that carries bragging rights, eternal glory, and spiteful resentment from everyone else until next year, sits at the sixty-mile mark: the L.A. County Line on PCH. There will be a fierce attack somewhere in SLO, perhaps earlier, where the group shatters and a breakaway emerges. From the entrance onto PCH, past the Rock at Pt. Mugu, and all the way to the county line there will be a surging, pounding, frenetic race between a handful of wrung out, surly survivors.
However, a nasty surprise awaits those who aren’t following this blog: the county line sign has been stolen, and all that remains is the wooden post itself. The only way to recognize the finish line is by the abrupt change in pavement color, where it shifts from the thrifty Ventura County road department’s hot mix of dirt, holes, straw, glass, nails, and warm tar into the firm, dark, hardened paving of Manly Los Angeles County. The canny victor in 2011 will be the one who lunges for the line while the other peckerheads are sitting back, craning their necks to the side in vain to spy the nonexistent green sign. Will the Wankmeister claim his second consecutive victory, or will the Fireman douse his parade with the Lethal Hose of Sprint Fury?
Come on pretty boy, gonna make you a man
The group of weary warriors regroups for lunch at Trancas and then pushes on towards home. The familiar landmarks become sharper–the funny bump in Malibu just past Cross Creek; the big cracks in the road near Moonshadows; the nasty bump in the road just over the hill past the Getty; the grate on the shoulder at the last light before Temescal…and with each landmark the exhaustion fades and the singularity of the accomplishment begins to sink in and rejuvenate tired legs, except for Woodenhead, whose wife has been calling every thirty minutes for the last two days telling him that he’d better quit fucking off and get home and help change the poopy diapers.
Suddenly it’s a victory parade all the way to the Ironfly World Headquarters. Friendships re-blossom. Well-wishers like G$ meet us on PCH or at Will Rogers and escort us back through the Center of the Known Universe and on to WHQ. Knoll tips a cup of Peets in our direction. Lies that, a few hours ago were mere middle of the road whoppers become full-blown fields of bullshit. The longing for beer wells up in the back of one’s throat again, and it’s just in the nick of time, as Mel has tapped a fresh one at the World HQ. The arthritis, achey prostates, and Ben Gay joint rubs are an ancient memory, at least until we get home. MT4…in the books!
South Bay cycle news
September 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Always on the sharp end of the spear: Former South Bay rouleur and current Cat 1 ‘cross racer MMX chalks up another stellar weekend of results. Podium this week and last dominated by Spy Optic.
Putting money where pedals are: Spy Optic is beefing up the profile of cyclocross racing in Socal. Interest and participation are growing. Spy is pushing it ahead, building on the solid base of long-time promoters like Brad House.
I never thought I’d see him pin on a number: Padraig is back in the mix after a nine-year racing hiatus, laying it down…where else?…in this weekend’s ‘cross race. Welcome back, and enjoy your Zinfandel spoils of victory!
Best looking peloton in America: CG looking good in the group, surviving the Pier Ride in style and modeling those sexy legs on FB in shitkicker boots. How good is her taste? Only StageOne, thanks. KH riding fast and looking unbelievably fine in her Helen’s kit…when do we get to see that state champ jersey??? VV and all the pretty gals galore, nice!
Flatback on the Parkway: King Harold leaves everyone choking on his fumes as he dusts the group on Westchester this morning. Whiners say, “Why are you hammering? It’s the OFF-SEASON!” King Harold says, “I didn’t realize you had a pro contract,” and “Aren’t you the same ones who never make the break at Telo?”
It’s not a royal court without the King: Pier Ride feels about 10mph slower when RB isn’t there showing off his Skilz and “Can’t Beat the Meat” bib shorts.
French Toast shakedown: DJ drag races/chases down the lone break into the Marina sprint. That boy goes faster when he’s unfit than most people do with a personal coach.
Get ready to brag about who you train with: KP is fit and in the zone for elite nationals at the Home Depot Velodrome this Friday. He races the team pursuit at 7:00 p.m. with local legend JW, world champion KK, and young matador CB. Show up for some barbecue, beer, and local pride.
Ironfly lays it all on the line: Davy Dawg and Hockey Stick represent the South Bay at elite nationals as well. Look for the Dawg to burn up the boards in the kilo. However well he does, no one will have more fun at nats than Hockey Stick. Guaranteed.
Goofball alert: Every Saturday the cream of the South Bay crop has been rolling out PCH to the Rock at Point Mugu in search of MT4 fitness and general fun. 100-plus miles, steady pace, and the occasional Freddy who has to be disciplined. 10/1 at 6:00 a.m. from the center of the known universe, a/k/a MBSB. Knoll, DP, Iron Mike, and one or two others do the honors.
Trading mush for asphalt: Local hammerhead, star shaper, first-rate guitarist, and missing tooth surfer boy showed up for the Pier Ride this morning. Everyone loves Raymond, but everyone really loves Danc, furry legs and all.
Go ’til you blow: Gooseman lit it up on the Parkway for 3 minutes at 30mph trying to haul in King Harold and his erstwhile breakaway partner. The explosion was seen as far away as Riverside. That boy never met a futile effort he didn’t like!
Chief returns to happy hunting grounds: JK is back from his Boys on the Loose in Utah walkabout, where participants stagger through the sagebrush on peyote for four days until they see a vision, after which they receive their name. “Two Dogs Fucking While the Trash Blows By” was deemed unfit for a man of his stature, so we’re keeping “The Chief” until next year.
Bloor Road to Blue Bluff TT: Back to the future
February 27, 2011 § 8 Comments
The first USCF race I ever entered was one of the very, very few USCF races I ever won. It was February, 1984. I had just gotten my Cat 4 license and joined the Violet Crown Sports Association in Austin after six or seven months doing their weekend training rides, the highlight of which were the “dirt road low water crossing sprints.” Jack and Phil and Mike knew every dirt road within a 100-mile radius of Austin, and every weekend ride featured numerous detours down roads that weren’t even on a map. Every time we’d hit a low water crossing, which was about every fifteen minutes, the peloton would slam on the brakes, throw the bikes onto the roadside, and pass around a massive joint.
I inhaled lots, not because I ever smoked but because the conflagration would send up plumes of smoke so thick that you couldn’t not partake. The group would then leap back on their bikes, and anyone who thinks pot isn’t a performance enhancing drug should have been on one of those rides. The pace would go from zero to hammer-forty in ten seconds, strung out into a line of dust eating, big ring churning, full-on pedal floggers.
No more than two or three minutes later, however, the hammer euphoria of the drug would morph into the wow, dude, mellow phase and the pace line of raw meat eating musclemen would become a slow, meandering, peaceful aggregation of happy riders. But those first two minutes…what performance!
Only the hard men need apply
In order to keep its USCF club license, the Violet Crown, snidely referred to by the envious as the “Violent Clowns” would annually throw together a “race,” usually announced a week or two in advance. In 1984 it was the Bloor Road to Blue Bluff Time Trial, in between Austin and Manor just off FM 973. Total distance was 4 miles.
I still remember the excitement, getting up at 6:00 a.m., eating a bowl of yogurt and granola, airing up the tires in my bright purple Picchio Rigida, pulling on my Detto Pietra shoes and pedaling from campus out to the course on that freezing February morning. By the time I got there I was frozen solid, and to my surprise, which should have been no surprise, Bloor Road was all dirt, and it began at the bottom of a steep hill. I wondered what would happen if there were a low water crossing.
Five other riders showed up, including Mike B., who was a junior and who had the first cyclocross bike I’d ever seen. Also present were Jack P. and maybe Tom P. When the results were tabulated, I was the winner over Mike by a few seconds. The organizers had either found a low water crossing or temporarily dispensed with the requirement, and in between giggles I was awarded first prize: an unopened Laverne and Shirley board game, complete with the plastic wrapping. Just in case you think I’m making that last part up, you can see it by clicking this link. It still remains the most valuable thing I’ve ever won in a bike race, and it has appreciated greatly in value: a vintage game will set you back $77 on Ebay.
PV Hillclimb 2011
Fast forward 27 years. I’m still a Cat 4 for those who idiotically believe that if you persevere at cycling you’ll eventually get better. The PV Hillclimb series (is two a series?) is sponsored by local promoter Brad H., Big Orange Cycling member, bicycle activist, endurance racer, elbow flapper, and 2009 state time trial champion in the category of mixed tandem combined age 90+ (of the four teams, one was disqualified because the guy had an expired license and the gal had “no license info available”). Brad has shown his thirst for the kill on numerous occasions, most memorably when he wrecked me at last year’s Devil’s Punchbowl. I’ve mentioned this in previous blog postings, but not because it bothers me. I barely remember it, in fact. I also hardly remember him regaling Rod G. with the race outcome by saying, “I don’t know what happened to Seth. He just crumbled. So I rode away.” For the record I’m not even slightly bitter, because I’m bigger than that.
I got up excitedly at 6:00 a.m., ate a bowl of yogurt and granola, aired up the tires in my white Specialized, pulled on my Sidi shoes, and pedaled from home out to the course on what was a freezing February morning, replete with hail along PV Drive from last night’s hailstorm. I rolled along on fire as the Mad Alchemy “Madness” high heat embrocation cream had gotten smeared up high and inside the chamois, and my parts were simply smoking.
Prices have gone up since 1984, when it cost me $5 to enter the Bloor Road to Blue Bluff TT. Brad’s PV Hillclimb set me back $25, but it would prove to be worth every penny. Although there was no Laverne and Shirley board game on offer, the winner would have his name engraved in a PDF file and permanently uploaded to the World Wide Web. I shelled out my money and continued up the hill to warm up.
Cycling on the Palos Verdes Peninsula has several iconic climbs, and this course is one of them. It’s six miles long, starts at the nature center at the bottom of the reservoir, and goes up Palos Verdes Drive to Marymount College. At the college you turn right and head up Crest to the radar domes. The total distance is six miles, with about .5 mile of downhill halfway up the climb. The first three miles are a gradual grade, no more than 4 or 5%. After the downhill the road tilts back up, and then you go right at the college where there’s a short but steep section before the road settles down into a gradual climb up to the finish. It’s easy to come out too hot on this course and run out of gas once you hit the college. It’s also easy to hold too much in reserve and finish with gas in the tank. My goal was to hold 310-315 watts for the entirety of the climb.
When the cat’s away
This weekend bragged an absence of the South Bay hammerati due to the Callville Bay Classic in Nevada and the Ontario crit. Other lightning fast climbers had gone north, where they could pedal as many long hills as they wanted without having to pay for it. The absence of a Laverne and Shirley board game, the cold weather, competing events, and common sense meant that when sign-up closed only 37 idiots had penned their names and paid their money.
Teammates Kevin, Jon, Bob, Greg, Alan H., and Alan M. toed the line and went off on schedule. Kevin won the 35+, and Jon got second. A couple of minutes into my ride I started to remember why it had been 27 years since the last uphill time trial: they really hurt. My category included 6 other riders, so it was bigger than the entire field in 1984. Moreover, one of the hungry Hard Men against whom I had to prove my mettle was Big Brad, the glare from his white state champion’s mixed tandem 90+ TT jersey blinding in its refulgence.
The sweet taste of victory
My minute man was a furry Freddie, and I overtook him with ease. My two minute man was furry Freddie’s furrier cousin, and I devoured him as well. At the finish I turned in a 22:31, which was good enough to put me atop the 45+ category, relegating the six other pretenders to the ash heap of defeat. In the course of human endeavor, has anyone ever achieved more? In the annals of cycling, has a more glorious chapter ever been written?
I stood at the roadside, sucking in the winter smog and reflecting on my accomplishment. How did this compare to Merckx’s Mexico City hour record in ’72? To his Giro TT victory in ’73? To Boardman in ’96? Surely those events, noteworthy as they were, couldn’t compare to this field of six that I had so totally dominated. Did Merckx, Moser, or Rominger ever have Brad H. snapping at their heels? Were any of those titans ever hardened by the spoils of victory in their early years by a Laverne and Shirley board game? I doubt it.
Race results here: http://www.backontrackproductions.com/2011TTClifClimb2ZLTS.htm
Race WKO+ power file here: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0Bwllm4cLW7EBYzk0ODdlYTctNWI2YS00NGI3LWFkNmEtYWRkNjNjMTJmMTAy&sort=name&layout=list&num=50
It’s all God’s fault
February 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
Some places are so pitilessly ugly that they scar you with their wretchedness. Pearblossom is one such place. Pearblossom howls with a dry desert wind that sucks the moisture from the air as it blows over the sharp, spiny, wound-inflicting desert plants that puncture the coarse sand like rusty studs on the collar of a rabid punk rock killer. Stuck in an orbit of pain and ugliness at 3,997 feet, this dustblown town has just enough of a commercial dribble to keep it from being a ghost town, but not quite enough to raise it much above the status of a graveyard.
Every time I load my car with bike, pump, wheels, and dread, I think about the bone deep ugliness of Pearblossom, gateway to the Devil’s Punchbowl, the last cobbled and cracked pavement on my own personal highway to hell. Saturday was no different. Mired in the defeat and despair of the relentless horsewhipping I’d suffered two weeks earlier as the only Ironfly 45+ at Boulevard, all I could think about on the drive to the race course was the weather forecast: rain and temperatures in the low 40’s. I’ve done Devil’s Punchbowl twice and finished near-last or DFL both times, and have done UCLA’s Punchbowl once, finishing in the last group of broken stragglers and damned proud of that.
There’s something poetic about the race being held along the San Andreas fault. According to UC geophysicist Yuri Fialko, “The information available suggests that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell. It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now,” he concluded in September 2005. Devastating, catastrophic, unexpected, pain, suffering, misery, loss of life…great place for a bike race.
Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone
Saturday, I could feel deep down that the only recompense I’d have for spending the day in the vicinity of a town that looks like it has been shot with a shit cannon would be another painful beating at the hands of my betters. Turning off onto Pearblossom Highway I noted the wind turbine that was spinning crazily from the 30-mph wind and gyrating in tandem with the billows of dirty diapers, styrofoam cups, and fast food wrappers that blew across the roadway. The wearying ugliness of the place was heightened by the hand-lettered roadside cardboard placards that advertised “Coffee and Gas” and “Chorizo Viern/Sab/Dom,” scratched in black magic marker and nailed to a post. A junked car lot had a rusted out VW microbus that some redneck had painted camo and welded onto a set of tank tracks.
The only bright spot was the bright blue sky, the brilliantly shining sun, and the knowledge that however awful the day’s drubbing was going to be, it wouldn’t be meted out in the rain. When I pulled up to the sign-in booth I spotted my good buddy Kwan Luu. He had been there since 5:00 a.m., and although the day was still cold, the dreaded rain never materialized. Shortly after signing in, a huge gust blew through, picked up both sign-in tents, and carried them away like the giant sails they were. Volunteers scrambled pell-mell into the cactus-filled desert scrub, trying to wrestle down the wayward tents, which blew farther and farther away with each fresh gust as the angry desert plants shredded the volunteers’ legs into bloody, pulpy wounds. The tents came to rest several hundred yards off, heavy steel legs tangled up in the cactus. “This,” I thought,”is the perfect metaphor for this race: sturdy legs caught unawares and blown to hell into a cactus field of pain.”
An earth-shattering event
I tested the air temperature against my bare legs and chatted with racers who had just finished. “Arm warmers and you’ll be fine,” one idiot said. “I took my gloves off after the first lap.”
The air was still biting cold, but the sun was bright and we didn’t go off until 1 o’clock. “Perfect time to slather on the Mad Alchemy,” I thought. Fortunately, I’d brought the Uber Madness tub of gel, which warms down to 0 degrees and in a pinch can be used to smelt ore. I rubbed on gob after gob and then got out to warm up. To offset my thin gloves I smeared a thick layer on my hands. Despite the sun it was cold, mid-40’s or so. I’d been off the bike all week and felt even slower than usual.
This isn’t a Boy Scout merit badge yet, but it should be, because navigating your way through a pre-race port-a-potty is more technical and has more horrific repercussions when done badly than any accident on the bike. I entered the cubicle of brown death to empty my bladder one last time, carefully placing my cleats so that they were on either side of the brown lumps on the floor that might have been mud. Or that might not.
I took off my right glove and held it with my teeth as I reached down to grip. Just as I made contact I cursed to myself. “Goddammit!!” I said, realizing that I hadn’t wiped the fiery hot leg embrocation off my fingers prior to reaching down. As I cursed, my glove slipped out from between my teeth and into the urinal. I swatted to catch it with my left hand, lost my balance, and both cleated feet slipped squarely into the big brown patch that I’d now concluded most definitely wasn’t mud.
Glove covered in piss, cleats clotted with manure, and the inside of my shorts now burning with the heat of a thousand forest fires, I hurried to the line just in time.
Lambs to the slaughter
The dire weather predictions had thinned the 45+ and 35+ fields to such a tiny contingent of idiots that the officials decided to combine us into one race of about thirty. As we sat astride our bikes waiting for the official to wave us off, a giant storm cloud that had been hovering above the peaks began to sweep down. The hillsides were covered with snow, but until that moment the bright blue sky and the warming sun, especially while sitting in the car with the windows rolled up (an especially accurate way to approximate what it’s going to feel like out on the course), had obscured harsh reality: we were starting at over 4,000 feet and climbing another thousand or so each of the four laps that would make up the 50-mile race.We rolled out into the 20mph+ uphill headwind at a pace that was simply a crawl. “This is awesome,” I thought. “I’ve never gone out this slowly. I may actually do well today. Plus, these 35+ guys don’t look that tough. All the guys who race 45+ say that it’s much harder than the 35’s.”
A few hundred yards later it began snowing. “Snow!” someone yelled.
“It’s not snow,” an idiot responded. “It’s a flurry.”
“A flurry of what, you dumbass? Charcoal?” someone shot back who sounded a lot like me.
Tucked in towards the rear of the group I sidled up next to Leibert. He looked at me and smiled. “Lambs to the slaughter,” he said.
“Yeah,” I chuckled, but then stopped as I choked back a bleat, realizing who he meant.
By the time we got to the right hand turn the early flurry had petered out. I was impressed at how un-tough the 35+ guys were. In the middle of that reverie, my legs awakened to the sharp pain of an even sharper acceleration. Within seconds we were strung out in a line, with the gutless and weak 35+ girly men smashing the pack into pieces. Dave W., Mike H., and another Big Orange rider made the split. The rest of us were pulverized into easily digested baby food and barfed out the back. I knew it was bad because one of the guys who missed the split was Leibert. It’s a rare sight indeed, but not an altogether unpleasant one, when you get to see the executioner with the blade against his throat for a change.
“If a man hates at all, he will hate his neighbor.” Samuel Johnson
We flew down the back side of the big hill in a mixed group of about twelve riders. When we turned right at the bottom of the screaming descent, the lead group was less than 30 seconds ahead of us. They had slowed as the gradual rise braked their speed.
A Barry Lasko rider accelerated to try and close the gap. Leibert answered with a swift counter. Bill Ralph and I took this as the perfect strategic moment to crack. With us was a rider from the 35+ gaggle, No. 104, I think, wearing a red-white-and-blue kit. I would come to hate him with all my heart over the next hour of my life.
Bill put his head down and began to pull. All I could do was come through with short, weak efforts, trying to spell him as he did the lion’s share of the work. To my amazement, up came Hotten from behind. Hotten, Bill, and I (well, not so much I) took turns as #104 sat on the back. Of course there was no reason for him to help, and by the looks of it, he was completely shellacked, but nonetheless out of my own misery a deep and lifelong hatred began to well up. I cursed that guys’ stupid Felt bike, I cursed his stupid jersey, I cursed his squeaky clean freewheel, I cursed his goofy pedal stroke, I cursed his parents, his siblings, his life story, his family tree, I even cursed his legwarmers, which looked really warm. Of course I did all of this manly cursing to myself, mostly because he looked big enough to twist me into a pretzel.
As we struggled through the finish area, world’s best Maggie, Angel to the Freds, called out encouragement and offered me water. Her smiling face got me through the second lap…not sure if I should be grateful or not. After getting halfway up the big hill the second time we were joined by another 45-er, “Scott,” who I will never forget as long as I live. He had closed the gap to our foursome and when he overhauled us he was gasping and wheezing and gagging with such ferocity that it sounded like he was being strangled.
That was fine and normal. What was unforgettable was the 12-inch dangle of near-frozen snot that had dripped from his nose, over his mouth, and was now swaying in the wind as it hung off his chin like a living, breathing stalactite. I wanted to offer him my piss glove and turd shoe to make the ensemble complete, but didn’t.
When the going gets tough, I head for the car
On our third time up the big hill, the P-1-2 group overtook us. Bill rolled towards the front of their group. “These punks aren’t so tough,” I snarled to myself. We turned right to attack the stairsteps, the not-so-tough punks hit the gas, and I hit the skids along with snotnose, wanker, and Hotten. Bill surged with the others and was gone.
Snotty and wanker then accelerated, leaving Mike and I alone. My piss glove was now iced piss. No feeling remained in my hands. The Mad Alchemy embro had mixed in with the dirt, mud, and sand and had ceased to heat. My feet were frozen. I couldn’t feel my lips or my face. My glasses were covered with ice as we hit the 50mph downhill. The wind cut through my short sleeve jersey and arm warmers like a bandsaw through a drunk millworker’s wrist.
Hotten looked back, let me attach to his wheel, and drilled the downhill as if there were actually something to drill about. We hit the bottom, where the snow had turned to freezing rain. “Got another lap in you?” he asked.
“Bleat, bleat, bleat,” I answered.
Crossing through the finish area for the third time, I saw Maggie. “Can I quit now?” I bleated.
“Of course you can, honey! Get off that stupid bike and get to the car before you freeze to death!”
It’s a known fact that the only two people you can’t disobey at a race are the official and Maggie. Bill had disobeyed the official a few minutes earlier by crossing the center line and getting DQ’ed. I wasn’t about to get DQ’d by disobeying Maggie, so instead I quit the race and staggered over to the car. Hotten roared on up the climb and finished like the iron man he is.
Winning isn’t everything (but it’s better than being a quitter wimp)
I wish I knew how the race unfolded, but since I don’t, I’ll have to speculate: Dave Worthington, Mike Haluza, and Jon Flagg rode everyone off their wheel to finish 1-2-3. This seems confirmed by the photo I stood around to snap at the finish. Greg got 4th, grinding it out for 50 miserable miles and never losing more than a minute or so on the leaders.
Haluza, judging from the absence of shoe covers, absence of leg warmers, and arm warmer pulled halfway down, wasn’t even cold. I’m not sure he knew it was snowing. Of course you’re wondering how they decided who got the win. It may have gone like this:
Dave: “Okay, guys, I’m winning today.”
Guys: “FU. You always win.”
Dave: “That’s right.”
Haluza: “I’m 6’4″ and could squash your entire body with my left foot.”
Dave: “I’m 5’8″ and can sprint faster than your Moto Guzzi.”
Haluza: “Okay. Take it.”
Jon: “Well, I get second then.”
Haluza: “Okay, but I get to punch you once as hard as I want after the race.”
Jon: “Ah, er, third place and that bag of pistachios sounds pretty good to me.”
Haluza: “Damn right.”
If you missed this epic slugfest on the San Andreas Fault and had to vicariously enjoy the UCLA Punchbowl race results on this blog, don’t worry! There’s another Punchbowl race coming up in April that will be longer, but every bit as fun.
Here’s the link to my WKO+ power file for the race, just click here.