Field of rocks: A conversation with Sam Ames

March 6, 2021 Comments Off on Field of rocks: A conversation with Sam Ames

Real … easy … ride.

It’s probably easier to describe what the infamous Rock Cobbler isn’t than what it is. As organizer Sam Ames likes to say, mostly with a shrug, “It’s a stupidly hard bike ride.” He doesn’t add that you’ll have to dismount and go through a kiddie pool, or ride your bike through … a house.

Gravel race? Extreme ‘cross race? Not even a race? That’s up to you, apparently. The only thing definitive is a gorgeous course, an ominously hard reputation, and the knowledge that whether your post-ride drink is water or cold beer or something else, you’ll have earned it.

Traditionally run near Bakersfield, CA in February, in 2021 the event has moved to April 10th. I’ve known Sam Ames since he began promoting the now-defunct Vlees Huis Road Race well over ten years ago, and have been living sort-of-in-his-neighborhood, an hour or so up the road in the mountains from Bakersfield, so the timing was great to talk to him about the Cobbler.

Sam manages an enormous bike shop called Action Sports but found the time to chat about this event that leaves its mark on everyone who does it. Sam also runs the Gear Grinder Grill, a mobile feeding operation that caters eats for the Belgian Waffle Ride and other outdoor festival events. In sum, he is a hardened professional when it comes to making things go off without a hitch.

Seth Davidson: What’s the connection between the Rock Cobbler and the Belgian Waffle Ride?

Sam Ames: The Rock Cobbler suspects you know went to ride BWR [in 2013], met Michael [Marckx], and were inspired by it when we got home. We thought it was really cool, he was doing things we like to do so it spawned a process of showcasing things here in Kern County. Catering was born out of that because Michael hired us immediately and off we went.

Seth Davidson: Who is the typical Rock Cobbler?

Sam Ames: Somebody that enjoys adventure, has an open mind, and kind of likes what we call mixed surface. The running joke is that it’s sort of gravel and sort of not. The person that gets a little bit of the madness and the challenge. Don’t mistake our shenanigans for kindness when it comes to the route.

Seth Davidson: Is the Rock Cobbler an attempt to change perceptions about Bakersfield?

Sam Ames: Not intentionally. We have some pretty good riding but a lot of mixed surface stuff that is unique to Kern County. We picked February because it’s a great time for rain, things are green, so inadvertently we’ve changed perceptions, people have come up and said wow, I had no idea, and part of it is the private land we are able to ride. It wasn’t a goal but it has happened. People have come back and ridden on their own. That part I do like. I’ve lived here all my life and like where I live.

Seth Davidson: You promoted the best road race in SoCal for years, Vlees Huis. What happened?

Sam Ames: It was having a difficult time in hindsight in getting spots on the calendar. Some rider feedback that we had a really good road race, people that loved a hard road race loved it, I was fighting so hard with criteriums to get a spot on the calendar. We have a window, March, between heat and cold. I didn’t want to fight with the powers that be, USAC and its entities, we’d started the Rock Cobbler, and it was a slow migration away towards events that we didn’t have to work as hard to make happen. I got tired of having to fight with SCNCA and others to get the date that worked so I decided to focus on other areas.

Seth Davidson: What direction is competitive cycling going?

Sam Ames: I haven’t had my finger on the pulse. I said when I was 50 my racing days were over. I really haven’t paid attention, even pre-covid I wasn’t following any level of SoCal bike racing other than on social media. I perceive and hear that numbers are down, people are doing other events, interest is in other places. I’ve said for a long time that more effort and money needs to go into younger kids. I love what NICA is doing. It’s about getting more kids on bikes at an earlier age. The masters are wonderful but if cycling doesn’t become culture early I don’t know what happens. If you look at the Cobbler, 80% of the riders are over 40. People that age are seeking out other things. I get the feeling that USAC is on a bit of a decline and for young kids and young adults, that’s the area that needs to be bigger.

Seth Davidson: What got you into promoting races and events like the Cobbler?

Sam Ames: We knew we had great venues. Cyclocross was always my favorite aspect of cycling. We wanted to promote a ‘cross race. I rekindled racing as an over-30 guy and wanted to put on some events, so I put on ‘cross at Hart Park and I was confident that we had good venues. You do enough industrial park crits and you realize you have something people might enjoy, something cool for people to do. I really like entertaining and I get a lot of joy out of people enjoying themselves. The greatest reward is a satisfied customer, and I always treat my bike racers like customers.

Seth Davidson: You pretend to be an easy-going, humorous guy, but your events are professional, meticulously organized, and deadly serious. Why the two hats?

Sam Ames: I think my character having a military mom, she was awfully hard to deal with and when I was younger I was always the mediator, and I always wanted to be the queller, the negotiator, the person who likes to get along, I don’t like confrontation. I want things to be easygoing and have a good time but when it comes to delivering an experience I wring my hands over “Is this going to be right? Are there enough arrows out on course?” I pay attention to detail. Now when we go to an event as riders I get a good understanding of knowing people’s expectations, then I want to exceed them. How can I deliver a better experience? I pour that into my events, I want to raise the bar of expectations. Sometimes it’s too much, but I’m always trying to find new stuff to do and I want it done well. If I’m going to do it, I don’t want to half-ass it. I want it to be done right.

Seth Davidson: Bakersfield isn’t perceived as bike friendly. Is that accurate?

Sam Ames: I would say it’s no worse or better than places I’ve traveled to. I’ve had road rage incidents and discussions with NorCal/SoCal riders, we all have commonalities, I’ve seen it everywhere. As much time as I’ve spent on the roads here, it’s not any worse. I think we do have more accessible pathways. Every time I go to Santa Monica we’d be riding up PCH, I’d be like, ”Get me outta here.” I don’t get that feeling here. The east side has good shoulders, minimal traffic. The routes for people who are training, there’s a lot of road. As a commuter, I can’t say for certain. My commute is 14 miles so it’s all on bike paths or neighborhood streets. We’re not Holland or Belgium.

Seth Davidson: Few people from LA/OC/San Diego view Bakersfield as a cycling destination. Why is that?

Sam Ames: There is good riding here. The number of rides and loops here that have a fair amount of climbing with minimal traffic, you could ride 3-4 hours and never see a car. Obviously it’s hot in the summer and the valley allows us a rain shadow effect, so it’s easy to ride here a lot. People from SoCal like the less impact of the east side of town. On the west side you have to go a long way and it’s all oil and ag, going east there is a lot of great riding.

Seth Davidson: What does Kern County have to offer cyclists that the rest of SoCal doesn’t?

Sam Ames: There are epic climbs here.

Seth Davidson: What’s the riding like east of Bakersfield?

Sam Ames: You get into the Paiutes (mountains), 6-8 loops there, it’s lumpy, it’s full climb, 6-8 miles, valleys, a little bit of everything. That’s dead east. The one route I don’t encourage is Kern Canyon Road on CA 178. It’s dangerous but people do it. There are a few gravel roads that go in and around there that you can ride on road tires. It’s a 34-mile climb so direct east and slightly north there is a lot of everything.

Seth Davidson: What’s your cycling background?

Sam Ames: I started in late 1984-1985. I saw a bike race on television, Paris-Roubaix. It was a bad weather year. I kind of sat there, it was a snippet on ABC Wide World of Sports. I was mesmerized. It triggered my interest and I wanted to get a bike. That summer I worked in the grape fields. In the old days you had to go weigh the grape boxes, I saved my money, making $5/hr, went straight to the bike shop, spent $200 on a Motebecane, a  pair of shorts, a helmet that weighed as much as my Igloo cooler, did a few triathlons, hated swimming, got a license as a junior, raced in Spain, Cat 1 amateur level, but in Europe in 1988-89, there were no resident Americans, no creature comforts for me at that age, it was challenging. Came home, worked, kept riding. I was near Barcelona, just south of that.

Seth Davidson: Are you involved in safer streets advocacy for Bakersfield?

Sam Ames: Not directly. There is an entity, Bike Bakersfield, Zach Griffin of iBikeKern. I like to contribute where I can and have had Bike Bakersfield involved in events.

Seth Davidson: What is your approach towards gender and racial diversity at your events?

Sam Ames: I don’t see a lot of that issue in my events. I’m that person that looks at it and I feel like if anyone has ever come to our event, we want everyone to be included. It never really crossed my mind, never had any incidents where I felt that was a problem. If people have a voice or have been discriminated against, yes, speak up, we need to fix something if it’s broken. I want everyone to be included. There are people from any gender who may not get the stuff we do. Everyone needs to be included and feel included.

Seth Davidson: How do you coordinate with local, private, and county entities for the Rock Cobbler?

Sam Ames: It has been pretty simple. We categorize it as not a race. Most of the land we use, we have to follow the rules of the road. We don’t get into CHP and law enforcement issues because we try not to take over signals, and we pay for small windows to get through intersections. Now it’s on the east side of town there’s little of that. Stop signs on the roads, people in ones and twos. The off road is open land area that everybody uses so we don’t have to hassle with a lot of that. Private land is having good relationships and doing some upkeep, fixing a few fences, earning people’s trust, it’s humbling to be able to do that.

Seth Davidson: Why do you cap entry at 500?

Sam Ames: There is some level of what the venue/course can accommodate. There’s a point where it’s jut too many people that I can’t deliver the experience and manage the course marking. It’s controlled growth management. We went from 150 to 300 the first two years, this last year was the fastest sellout year ever. We might do a bit more.

Seth Davidson: Why did you decide to offer the shorter and easier Pebbler?

Sam Ames: We do a small number of 50. I didn’t want to do it at all but I had some good customers who said they can’t do the whole thing. I told them to turn around when they’d had enough, it’s not a race. But then I thought the easier thing is a cutoff point where the course can split and they could get their full experience. Some of it was fitness. They couldn’t do the full distance.

Seth Davidson: Who are the iconic riders of the Rock Cobber?

Sam Ames: Neil Shirley comes to mind. When we first started I didn’t know him and he reached out and said, “I heard about the event.” He came to the first one and that was impressive. He is one of the grandfathers of gravel in our area. He was a big key in giving us credibility. We’ve had Amanda Nauman, Ben Raymond from San Diego, Brent Prenzlow. Locally all my closest  friends have chipped in time, the iconic list is pretty long! There is only one person left who has started all eight, Glen Imke, a local guy.

Seth Davidson: You say up front that it’s not a race but that it’s stupidly hard. Are you trying to keep the grass roots feel for a reason?

Sam Ames: Yeah, I like the fact that the demeanor and environment is casual. That doesn’t make it easy. The route, we make it really, really hard for everybody. But we don’t play up the competition between riders because that happens on its own. They pin on a number and there’s a time, make it what you want it to be, but there’s going to be a kiddie pool! There are a lot of events putting up money and true gravel events being races, I like it a little more loose and fun. I’ve heard guys who race a lot who love it and say “Don’t change a thing.”

Seth Davidson: Why is the ride so popular?

Sam Ames: I think it’s popular because it’s unique and it’s not something where I’ve seen our format anywhere else. It speaks to some people, and trust me it doesn’t speak to everyone. I’ve had people say, “I’m never fucking coming back.” That’s the human being—we’re not all gonna like everything. People who like it want to see what’s coming next, the core is the challenge of the event. When they come they’re going to get a challenge. People just like the adventure. We come up with cool gifts they can take home and use, something bitching like a throwing axe that they can use every day.

Seth Davidson: How is covid going to affect gravel riding?

Sam Ames: It’s affecting every event. We had to move to April from February. I had to get the county involved because I want the event to be healthy and not have a cavalier reputation. The big discussion among promoters is later in the summer and fall people should be able to execute. Covid will require protocol for the better part of a year, at least. Some of the hygiene/safety measures will continue for a long time. I went to BWR in Cedar City and they did an exceptional job with sanitation, and stations, and great lengths to make it safe and good and we’ll do the same thing. We developed our protocol with two doctors and county health. You can’t control everything but people are aware—they know they can’t blow their nose off to the left like they used to. The demographic is not the 3:00 AM person shuffling through Wal-Mart who doesn’t care. Pre-event, during the event, post-event we have protocol.

Seth Davidson: What’s the hardest part about promoting the Rock Cobbler?

Sam Ames: The course. I’m a one-man show leading up to the event. I can be a good delegator, but a lot of logistical stuff up front is manageable for one person. But getting the course marked takes a small army of people I’ve worked with over the years. My greatest fear is people getting lost. Every year I learn a little more. Once we get to Wed/Thu/Fri it’s making sure that’s done well. Weather can wreak havoc.

Seth Davidson: Thanks, Sam!

Sam Ames: You’re welcome.

END


Snake and scorpion festival

March 3, 2016 § 18 Comments

I hope you sign up for the Vlees Huis road race that takes place in Bakersfield this Saturday, even though none of us can pronounce it.

Here is the sign-up link. Just do it.

Why should you do this race?

  1. If you win you get a meat cleaver trophy. The only thing cooler would be a piece of pave. Or maybe a severed head.
  2. My law firm is offering $1,000 in road primes, $100 each, with primes in almost every category. You can be “one and done” and still go home with cash in your pocket.
  3. It is a hard and hilly road race. Crits are fine, but every once in a while you owe it to yourself to show up and get humiliated, sent home with your tail between your legs, smacked around, ridden into the ground. Why? Because you’re a road racer, not a track racer.
  4. Your participation is crucial to the race’s continuity. My club, Big Orange, has 50% more race entries this year than any other club. Imagine how vibrant the racing scene would be if every club provided similar levels of cannon fodder. This means you.
  5. The race is in Bakersfield, a port-o-potty of a town filled with rednecks, pickups, and guns. Oops! Triple redundancy. Anyway, the Bakersfieldians need to be exposed to bicycle culture somewhere besides the hood of their F-350 diesel.
  6. Simply finishing will be a huge accomplishment. What else are you going to accomplish this weekend? Another group ride where everyone gets to declare himself the winner? A PR on Strava?
  7. The promoter, Sam Ames, puts on the very best events. This one comes with free Belgian fries and a free beer to everyone of drinking age who shows up, racer or spectator.
  8. The course has little traffic and the road is in very good condition. Mostly.
  9. There’s a 4-corner CBR crit on Sunday in Compton if you simply must get your industrial park fix for the weekend.
  10. You’ll be part of the solution, not part of the social media chorus who complains about the lack of good races but is somehow always busy on “that” weekend.

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and come enjoy the snakes and scorpions in the desert. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

The fattening

April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments

It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.

“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”

“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”

“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”

“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”

“Mxyzptlk.”

I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.

And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.

You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)

The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.

Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”

Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”

Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.

So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:

  1. Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
  2. Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
  3. Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.

So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!

1

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get psyched for the BWR. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

You can also follow me on the Twitter here:

The fattening

April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments

It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.

“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”

“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”

“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”

“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”

“Mxyzptlk.”

I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.

And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.

You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)

The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.

Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”

Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”

Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.

So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:

  1. Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
  2. Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
  3. Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.

So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!

1

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get psyched for the BWR. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

You can also follow me on the Twitter here:

No place for old men

April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

I have to take my hat off to Sam Ames, the guy who promotes the annual district masters road race championships here in SoCal. He makes very difficult races, runs them well, and gets the predictable flak.

This year CHP advised that no follow cars would be allowed, so riders were told to pack a tube, lever, and CO2 cartridge. One rider called Sam to voice his displeasure. “No follow car? For the state championship? That’s unacceptable!”

“Look, Wankface,” said Sam. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah. What?”

“How many races have you been in where you flatted, got a timely change from the follow car, chased back on, and won?”

Pause. “Well, never.”

“So be sure to bring a spare tube, okay?”

The 50+ race had a star-studded field of used-to-be’s and wish-I’d-been’s, but the only one who mattered, it turned out, was Thurlow. After 65 miles in the skin-sizzling heat, after 7,000 feet of climbing, and after all but ten riders had been ripped like a hangnail out of the lead group, BonkBreaker’s Zimmerman attacked over the last little hump. He opened a gap and Chris Walker bridged. Seeing the looks of grim desolation on the faces of the remnants, Thurlow launched and joined the leaders.

Zimmerman dropped a kidney, Thurlow attacked and soloed in, and Walker could do naught but pedal squares to the line.

Not that I saw any of it. I had been dispensed with many miles before, discarded with the disgust and finality of a used Kleenex. But like every other bicycle race it had started full of promise and hope.

We rolled out some thirty riders strong, powering into a unique air formation that proved to be a headwind going out, a headwind coming back, and an underwind-topdown wind everywhere else, with a dose of powerful sidewind, like gonorrhea. We hit the first climb and I hewed to my mantra: “Hide, cower, suck wheel. Save me, Father Carbon.”

Midway up it was clear that the prayer and the expensive wheel purchase and the monk-like existence of fasting, celibacy, sobriety, and 8:00 PM bedtimes was working. The only thing that gave me pause was the disclaimer on the flyer that said, as it always does, “Watch out for rattlesnakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, and attack bees.”

I wondered about that because we were passing a huge clump of roadside blooming weeds and they were covered in bees. “Are they attack bees?” I wondered. “What is an attack bee?” At that instant three of them flew into the large vents in my helmet. I am allergic to bee stings.

Ever since I was a small child I have been terrified of bees and wasps.When I was eight I kicked a wasp’s nest and got 35 stings, wound up in the hospital for a week, and almost died. The following summer I doused a beehive with lighter fluid and tried to burn it, but the fire didn’t take. The bees, however, did, and what they took to was me. Fifty stings and another hospital stay and lots of injections. When I was twelve my brother and I tried to eradicate all the yellow jacket nests in our neighborhood. We had a long stick with rags soaked in gasoline, and went from nest to nest incinerating them.

All went well until the fifth one. The rags came undone and fell onto my head, aflame. My hair caught fire and the wasps attacked. This time I had to get a bit of a skin graft, which got infected, and I simultaneously almost died from what the doctor said was a record, one hundred wasp stings.

I thought about all that as the attack bees crawled around on my scalp. I hoped that they would find the anterior wind vent and exit, but as I waited the first acceleration came. Several riders didn’t come with it, but I hid and cowered and survived. We made it to the turnaround and Jeff K. punched it over each of the short stabbing climbs we had descended into the little valley and now had to come out from.

More riders chose a different, more humane pace. I struggled, and straggled, and held on. The bees continued to crawl around my head. As we hit the long 4-mile headwind to complete our first 25-mile lap, Todd P. began castigating us for our slowness and laziness. “When are you guys gonna start racing?” he snapped, attacking off the front into the wind, where he was followed by G$. They vanished.

I thought about that question, “When are you guys gonna start racing?” and realized that if we hadn’t started yet, then I didn’t want to be — and plainly wouldn’t be — around when we did. We finished the first lap and several more riders chose a different pace; a couple even decided to unilaterally shorten their race from three laps to one, mortally wounded as they were by Proximity To The Car Fever and its attendant symptom, Common Sense.

Two of the bees flew out, so I was down to one. We started up the big climb again. Todd and G$ were thirty seconds ahead. Our designated rider, DJ, was going to need some help on this one. I always love it when a team leader needs a dutiful lieutenant to go jump on several dozen grenades, because that’s always my cue to cower and hide even more. Teammates are an abstraction in bike racing, because in reality everyone is your enemy and they must all be killed in order for you to prevail.

Alan F., who had been trading places with me at the rear, moved to the point to bring back G$ and Todd. Inexplicably I was on his wheel. Was it reflex? Bad judgment? A misguided attempt to help my teammate?

No!

It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:

Throughout the race, people will behave irrationally, hopelessly, and with no clear objective other than self-defeat so that he who waits longest and does the least can pounce and win.

G$and Todd were deep in the throes of senselessness and as Alan dragged them back, my proximity to the front was wearing me out. What was I doing there? Why was I anywhere near the front? Didn’t I know that every square millimeter of wind exposure was the same as riding with a spinnaker when you are large and fat and slow and weak and tired?

When Alan sat up, Chris Walker pulled through hard, inflicting difficulty and little black spots on the weak and infirm. Alan and I tailed off. “Good work, guys,” DJ said as we imploded. We had pulled back 3.1 or perhaps 1.2929272028 seconds on G$ and Todd, who now instead of being tiny specks were more like smallish specks.

Alone again, naturally, I chased back on, got dropped again, hit the turnaround, passed the women’s field, then got passed by the women’s field, then settled into a rhythm of despair and self-loathing and full-body cramps, each racking shudder causing me to think “Wow, I didn’t know there was a muscle there.”

On the downhill I was overhauled by King Harold and Dandy. They were angry, breathing fire, and mostly intent on catching and dropping the women. I was now lodged in the Pincer Movement from Hell, having to choose between hanging onto their battering pulls into the under/top/side/headwind, or sitting up and never re-passing the women. The final lap was as terrible as childbirth when you are a human and the progeny is a grown and angry porcupine.

Dandy and King Harold pulled me around, waited for me on the climbs, and after a mere one hour and fifteen minutes of indescribable torment, their teamwork, assistance, and selfless work got us to the line, where, after resting for the entire final 25 miles, I dropped them both and sprinted for 17th place.

You know it was a difficult race when the finishers are rolling around in the dirt afterwards clenched up in various post-race cramp positions. Fortunately, the race turned out much more successfully for me than my 19th place might indicate. By spending about $1,500 on new wheels, I moved up ten places from the previous year. So with another $1,500 expenditure in 2016 I can expect a top-ten, and then a final $1,500 investment in 2017 should ensure a win. I probably won’t even have to show up and they can just mail me my medal. Right?

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and find out why bicycle racing doesn’t make any sense, even bad sense. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

You can also follow me on the Twitter here:

No place for old men

April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

I have to take my hat off to Sam Ames, the guy who promotes the annual district masters road race championships here in SoCal. He makes very difficult races, runs them well, and gets the predictable flak.

This year CHP advised that no follow cars would be allowed, so riders were told to pack a tube, lever, and CO2 cartridge. One rider called Sam to voice his displeasure. “No follow car? For the state championship? That’s unacceptable!”

“Look, Wankface,” said Sam. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah. What?”

“How many races have you been in where you flatted, got a timely change from the follow car, chased back on, and won?”

Pause. “Well, never.”

“So be sure to bring a spare tube, okay?”

The 50+ race had a star-studded field of used-to-be’s and wish-I’d-been’s, but the only one who mattered, it turned out, was Thurlow. After 65 miles in the skin-sizzling heat, after 7,000 feet of climbing, and after all but ten riders had been ripped like a hangnail out of the lead group, BonkBreaker’s Zimmerman attacked over the last little hump. He opened a gap and Chris Walker bridged. Seeing the looks of grim desolation on the faces of the remnants, Thurlow launched and joined the leaders.

Zimmerman dropped a kidney, Thurlow attacked and soloed in, and Walker could do naught but pedal squares to the line.

Not that I saw any of it. I had been dispensed with many miles before, discarded with the disgust and finality of a used Kleenex. But like every other bicycle race it had started full of promise and hope.

We rolled out some thirty riders strong, powering into a unique air formation that proved to be a headwind going out, a headwind coming back, and an underwind-topdown wind everywhere else, with a dose of powerful sidewind, like gonorrhea. We hit the first climb and I hewed to my mantra: “Hide, cower, suck wheel. Save me, Father Carbon.”

Midway up it was clear that the prayer and the expensive wheel purchase and the monk-like existence of fasting, celibacy, sobriety, and 8:00 PM bedtimes was working. The only thing that gave me pause was the disclaimer on the flyer that said, as it always does, “Watch out for rattlesnakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, and attack bees.”

I wondered about that because we were passing a huge clump of roadside blooming weeds and they were covered in bees. “Are they attack bees?” I wondered. “What is an attack bee?” At that instant three of them flew into the large vents in my helmet. I am allergic to bee stings.

Ever since I was a small child I have been terrified of bees and wasps.When I was eight I kicked a wasp’s nest and got 35 stings, wound up in the hospital for a week, and almost died. The following summer I doused a beehive with lighter fluid and tried to burn it, but the fire didn’t take. The bees, however, did, and what they took to was me. Fifty stings and another hospital stay and lots of injections. When I was twelve my brother and I tried to eradicate all the yellow jacket nests in our neighborhood. We had a long stick with rags soaked in gasoline, and went from nest to nest incinerating them.

All went well until the fifth one. The rags came undone and fell onto my head, aflame. My hair caught fire and the wasps attacked. This time I had to get a bit of a skin graft, which got infected, and I simultaneously almost died from what the doctor said was a record, one hundred wasp stings.

I thought about all that as the attack bees crawled around on my scalp. I hoped that they would find the anterior wind vent and exit, but as I waited the first acceleration came. Several riders didn’t come with it, but I hid and cowered and survived. We made it to the turnaround and Jeff K. punched it over each of the short stabbing climbs we had descended into the little valley and now had to come out from.

More riders chose a different, more humane pace. I struggled, and straggled, and held on. The bees continued to crawl around my head. As we hit the long 4-mile headwind to complete our first 25-mile lap, Todd P. began castigating us for our slowness and laziness. “When are you guys gonna start racing?” he snapped, attacking off the front into the wind, where he was followed by G$. They vanished.

I thought about that question, “When are you guys gonna start racing?” and realized that if we hadn’t started yet, then I didn’t want to be — and plainly wouldn’t be — around when we did. We finished the first lap and several more riders chose a different pace; a couple even decided to unilaterally shorten their race from three laps to one, mortally wounded as they were by Proximity To The Car Fever and its attendant symptom, Common Sense.

Two of the bees flew out, so I was down to one. We started up the big climb again. Todd and G$ were thirty seconds ahead. Our designated rider, DJ, was going to need some help on this one. I always love it when a team leader needs a dutiful lieutenant to go jump on several dozen grenades, because that’s always my cue to cower and hide even more. Teammates are an abstraction in bike racing, because in reality everyone is your enemy and they must all be killed in order for you to prevail.

Alan F., who had been trading places with me at the rear, moved to the point to bring back G$ and Todd. Inexplicably I was on his wheel. Was it reflex? Bad judgment? A misguided attempt to help my teammate?

No!

It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:

Throughout the race, people will behave irrationally, hopelessly, and with no clear objective other than self-defeat so that he who waits longest and does the least can pounce and win.

G$and Todd were deep in the throes of senselessness and as Alan dragged them back, my proximity to the front was wearing me out. What was I doing there? Why was I anywhere near the front? Didn’t I know that every square millimeter of wind exposure was the same as riding with a spinnaker when you are large and fat and slow and weak and tired?

When Alan sat up, Chris Walker pulled through hard, inflicting difficulty and little black spots on the weak and infirm. Alan and I tailed off. “Good work, guys,” DJ said as we imploded. We had pulled back 3.1 or perhaps 1.2929272028 seconds on G$ and Todd, who now instead of being tiny specks were more like smallish specks.

Alone again, naturally, I chased back on, got dropped again, hit the turnaround, passed the women’s field, then got passed by the women’s field, then settled into a rhythm of despair and self-loathing and full-body cramps, each racking shudder causing me to think “Wow, I didn’t know there was a muscle there.”

On the downhill I was overhauled by King Harold and Dandy. They were angry, breathing fire, and mostly intent on catching and dropping the women. I was now lodged in the Pincer Movement from Hell, having to choose between hanging onto their battering pulls into the under/top/side/headwind, or sitting up and never re-passing the women. The final lap was as terrible as childbirth when you are a human and the progeny is a grown and angry porcupine.

Dandy and King Harold pulled me around, waited for me on the climbs, and after a mere one hour and fifteen minutes of indescribable torment, their teamwork, assistance, and selfless work got us to the line, where, after resting for the entire final 25 miles, I dropped them both and sprinted for 17th place.

You know it was a difficult race when the finishers are rolling around in the dirt afterwards clenched up in various post-race cramp positions. Fortunately, the race turned out much more successfully for me than my 19th place might indicate. By spending about $1,500 on new wheels, I moved up ten places from the previous year. So with another $1,500 expenditure in 2016 I can expect a top-ten, and then a final $1,500 investment in 2017 should ensure a win. I probably won’t even have to show up and they can just mail me my medal. Right?

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and find out why bicycle racing doesn’t make any sense, even bad sense. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

You can also follow me on the Twitter here:

Don’t just do it

April 17, 2015 § 25 Comments

I always wondered about that slogan. Just do what? It? Really? What if “it” is jumping off a bridge? Letting a drunk frat dude shoot an apple off my head with a compound bow? Have another one for the road? Because as we all know, the more you drink the more awesome the road becomes, especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

Don’t just do it. First, think about it, then, 99 times out of a 100, don’t do it. Then watch how time and unfolding events reward the cautious, the timid, the conservative, the frightened, the calculating, and the weak as the brave Just Doers plunge over the falls in a barrel.

When it comes to the state road race in Bakersfield tomorrow, however, you should definitely just do it. I know I’m going to. Why? Because it will be steel-smelting hot, dry as a California drought in the Central Valley — where Bakersfield actually is — and monumentally tough.

“Those are all reasons NOT to do it,” you’re saying to yourself.

Not quite. I forgot to add that it’s 75 miles long, hilly as hell, and the roadway is lined with stinging giant bees and rattlesnakes and oilfield trucks who think you would make a great piece of grill meat, right next to the mushed up grasshoppers and other bugs.

“Fuggit,” you’re saying. I can hear you. “No fuggin’ way.”

If your racing age is 50, though, maybe I can entice you because the 50+ Rather Leaky Prostate Category is going to be fun. As of today the pre-reg shows that at a minimum the race will be attended by Konsmo, Leibert, The Hand of God, Jaeger, and a bunch of other people I’ve never beaten in any bike race, ever. Day-of cameos will likely include Mark Noble, DQ Louie, The Parksie Twins, and one or two other carbon-eating bikeovores.

Since past behavior is the single best predictor of future performance, the fact that I’ve been dropped from the lead group every year since 2008 racing against essentially the same cast of crazies seems to indicate that this year will be more of the same, and since the race is 75 miles instead of 50, paying tribute to the biological reality that we get faster and stronger as we get older, I may be able to add a big fat DNF to my state road race palmares.

Delusion, however, dies hard, especially when it lives in tandem with massive infusions of cash. Fact is, I’m ready for this race. My monthly mileage is up to 150. I’ve bumped my FTP up from 185 to 189, and at 170 pounds I’m even svelter than I was when I worked as a burger chef. The cash infusion, however, will be decisive.

Since Mrs. WM doesn’t ever read this blog I can confess that three days ago I picked up a pair of FastForward back-ordered Super Ultra F-12 Full Carbon Tubular Climbing Carbon Four Spoke Heliomatrix Elevator Racing Wheels, which are full carbon with a carbon content of 100%. They are carbon and even though I got the super-down-low-don’t-tell-a-soul-this-is-just-for-you Bro Deal, my credit card started smoking when they ran it through the little card reader thingy.

Next, not worried at all about how I was going to pay the rent, okay, a little worried, I dashed over to Boozy P.’s place. Boozy P. is my ace mechanic. He lives behind a massive craft brewery and has franking privileges there like the US Congress does at the post office. I’m not making this up. It was the crack of noon, so Boozy was just getting out of floor when I banged on the garage door.

“Yo, Boozy!” I yelled. “I got some work for ya!”

There was a long silence followed by lots more silence. I banged harder and Boozy silenced harder. He eventually rolled up the garage door and blinked at the sunlight. “Sure is getting light earlier now,” he said.

“It’s noon, Boozy. It’s always light at noon.” I handed him the wheels. “Dude, Saturday is the most important race of my life. I bought these full carbon 100% carbon wheels just for the race and I need you to glue on the tires. We’ll be hitting 50 mph on the downhills so it has to be done right. A rolled tire and I’m a dead man. My life is in your hands.”

“Yeah, of course,” he said, absentmindedly reaching over for a hammer.

“Not the hammer, Boozy, the rim cement. And you need to use more than half a thimble on these puppies.”

“Yeah, sure thing, dude.” Boozy sat down on the bench and began wiping away the rivers of sweat that poured off his head and stomach. “What color bar tape did you say you wanted?”

“I didn’t say anything about bar tape. We’re talking about tubulars and how my life depends on you doing this right and how you’re gonna glue ’em on perfectly and not with that fuggin’ hammer.” Boozy was fiddling with the hammer again, and it was making me nervous.

“Sure thing, dude.” Boozy wiped away more sweat. “Hey, I think the brewery’s open now. Wanna go grab a quick one for the road?”

“I quit drinking, remember?”

Boozy looked sad. “Oh yeah, that’s right. Mind if I go get a couple IPA’s? One for me, and I’ll drink your one for the road.”

“Sure, but glue on the tires first.”

“Right,” he said. “Could you hand me that screwdriver?”

I left before the migraines began. Two days later I picked up the wheels. The fact that three quarts of rim cement were not smeared from the the rims to the tires to the spokes to the hubs meant that Boozy had either done an immaculate job or he’d used the industry-standard 1/4 thimble of glue and half a gob of spit.

I got home and put on the wheels. The were so light that my bike kept jerking up off the pavement. I floated up the Cove Climb. I dance up Via Zumaya. I jetted up Hawthorne and Monaco faster than I’d ever pedaled before. The tires were glued to perfection. My legs felt good, and suddenly the prospect of being thrown into the cage with Greg, Jeff, THOG, DJ, and the Parksie Twins didn’t seem scary, only pointless and stupid.

I was gonna do it on Saturday. Just do it.

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and find out lots of good reasons not to race your bike, ever. Ever. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

You can also follow me on the Twitter here:

Don’t just do it

April 17, 2015 § 25 Comments

I always wondered about that slogan. Just do what? It? Really? What if “it” is jumping off a bridge? Letting a drunk frat dude shoot an apple off my head with a compound bow? Have another one for the road? Because as we all know, the more you drink the more awesome the road becomes, especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

Don’t just do it. First, think about it, then, 99 times out of a 100, don’t do it. Then watch how time and unfolding events reward the cautious, the timid, the conservative, the frightened, the calculating, and the weak as the brave Just Doers plunge over the falls in a barrel.

When it comes to the state road race in Bakersfield tomorrow, however, you should definitely just do it. I know I’m going to. Why? Because it will be steel-smelting hot, dry as a California drought in the Central Valley — where Bakersfield actually is — and monumentally tough.

“Those are all reasons NOT to do it,” you’re saying to yourself.

Not quite. I forgot to add that it’s 75 miles long, hilly as hell, and the roadway is lined with stinging giant bees and rattlesnakes and oilfield trucks who think you would make a great piece of grill meat, right next to the mushed up grasshoppers and other bugs.

“Fuggit,” you’re saying. I can hear you. “No fuggin’ way.”

If your racing age is 50, though, maybe I can entice you because the 50+ Rather Leaky Prostate Category is going to be fun. As of today the pre-reg shows that at a minimum the race will be attended by Konsmo, Leibert, The Hand of God, Jaeger, and a bunch of other people I’ve never beaten in any bike race, ever. Day-of cameos will likely include Mark Noble, DQ Louie, The Parksie Twins, and one or two other carbon-eating bikeovores.

Since past behavior is the single best predictor of future performance, the fact that I’ve been dropped from the lead group every year since 2008 racing against essentially the same cast of crazies seems to indicate that this year will be more of the same, and since the race is 75 miles instead of 50, paying tribute to the biological reality that we get faster and stronger as we get older, I may be able to add a big fat DNF to my state road race palmares.

Delusion, however, dies hard, especially when it lives in tandem with massive infusions of cash. Fact is, I’m ready for this race. My monthly mileage is up to 150. I’ve bumped my FTP up from 185 to 189, and at 170 pounds I’m even svelter than I was when I worked as a burger chef. The cash infusion, however, will be decisive.

Since Mrs. WM doesn’t ever read this blog I can confess that three days ago I picked up a pair of FastForward back-ordered Super Ultra F-12 Full Carbon Tubular Climbing Carbon Four Spoke Heliomatrix Elevator Racing Wheels, which are full carbon with a carbon content of 100%. They are carbon and even though I got the super-down-low-don’t-tell-a-soul-this-is-just-for-you Bro Deal, my credit card started smoking when they ran it through the little card reader thingy.

Next, not worried at all about how I was going to pay the rent, okay, a little worried, I dashed over to Boozy P.’s place. Boozy P. is my ace mechanic. He lives behind a massive craft brewery and has franking privileges there like the US Congress does at the post office. I’m not making this up. It was the crack of noon, so Boozy was just getting out of floor when I banged on the garage door.

“Yo, Boozy!” I yelled. “I got some work for ya!”

There was a long silence followed by lots more silence. I banged harder and Boozy silenced harder. He eventually rolled up the garage door and blinked at the sunlight. “Sure is getting light earlier now,” he said.

“It’s noon, Boozy. It’s always light at noon.” I handed him the wheels. “Dude, Saturday is the most important race of my life. I bought these full carbon 100% carbon wheels just for the race and I need you to glue on the tires. We’ll be hitting 50 mph on the downhills so it has to be done right. A rolled tire and I’m a dead man. My life is in your hands.”

“Yeah, of course,” he said, absentmindedly reaching over for a hammer.

“Not the hammer, Boozy, the rim cement. And you need to use more than half a thimble on these puppies.”

“Yeah, sure thing, dude.” Boozy sat down on the bench and began wiping away the rivers of sweat that poured off his head and stomach. “What color bar tape did you say you wanted?”

“I didn’t say anything about bar tape. We’re talking about tubulars and how my life depends on you doing this right and how you’re gonna glue ’em on perfectly and not with that fuggin’ hammer.” Boozy was fiddling with the hammer again, and it was making me nervous.

“Sure thing, dude.” Boozy wiped away more sweat. “Hey, I think the brewery’s open now. Wanna go grab a quick one for the road?”

“I quit drinking, remember?”

Boozy looked sad. “Oh yeah, that’s right. Mind if I go get a couple IPA’s? One for me, and I’ll drink your one for the road.”

“Sure, but glue on the tires first.”

“Right,” he said. “Could you hand me that screwdriver?”

I left before the migraines began. Two days later I picked up the wheels. The fact that three quarts of rim cement were not smeared from the the rims to the tires to the spokes to the hubs meant that Boozy had either done an immaculate job or he’d used the industry-standard 1/4 thimble of glue and half a gob of spit.

I got home and put on the wheels. The were so light that my bike kept jerking up off the pavement. I floated up the Cove Climb. I dance up Via Zumaya. I jetted up Hawthorne and Monaco faster than I’d ever pedaled before. The tires were glued to perfection. My legs felt good, and suddenly the prospect of being thrown into the cage with Greg, Jeff, THOG, DJ, and the Parksie Twins didn’t seem scary, only pointless and stupid.

I was gonna do it on Saturday. Just do it.

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and find out lots of good reasons not to race your bike, ever. Ever. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

You can also follow me on the Twitter here:

Cross face

November 10, 2014 § 5 Comments

It’s always a good idea to pre-ride the course if you can. I sneaked onto the dirt climb and liked it. It was long and not too steep, sure to wear people out who had to do six laps around the 1.7-mile circuit. I came to a whoopty, and rolled down and up the far side with no problem. Then there came a second whoopty, deeper and steeper. “No problem,” I confidently grinned to myself just as the front wheel smashed against the far side and came within inches of pitching me head-first into the wall.

A nice red blob oozed out of my ankle as I came out the other side, hands shaking from the nearly catastrophic falling-off-bicycle-incident.

The far side of the course had been designed to take into account each of my many inner fears. The first was a long patch of soft, downhill sand chopped in half by a gravel pit. I sailed over it, wildly veering from tape to tape but staying upright. Then the course took a hard right through a deep sand trench that dropped you off into a thick layer of mud. Beyond the mud lay the lakeshore, where a wrong turn would result in a bath. I thought about the warning signs posted alongside the lake: “No fishing! Fish Contain Mercury and Heavy Metals!”

After the mud trap there was a soft, nasty sand pit that went on for a hundred yards or so followed by two small barriers where sadists with cameras gleefully awaited my arrival. Over the barriers, you could remount if you were in your XXXXS gear, or push through more knee-deep sand to firmer ground. Oh, and there was a flyover.

Some people get nervous before races because they don’t know what awaits them. I never get nervous before a ‘cross race because I know exactly what awaits. Pain, a few bad turns, and then a solo slog in last place for 45 minutes. As I stood at the start line thinking about exactly where my first difficulty would separate me from the herd, a weird thing happened during call-ups.

“Seth Davidson,” the ref said. I looked around to see who else in the 45+ A ‘cross race could possibly be named “Seth Davidson.” No one ventured up to the front row, so I shambled up, proving that merely by appearing on race day and pinning on number miracles can happen. Whoever was behind me was going to have a serious clogstacle to overcome.

The race started and I quickly gravitated to the back, then the far back, then off the back. At the sandy barriers I’d caught the tail of the main field, which mostly consisted of a giant sausage squeezed into a too-tiny patch of lycra. The giant sausage waddled over the barriers and I hopped past him, which is where my problems began.

I tried to get back on my bike but the sand was too soft to pedal, which kind of made sense since I’d parked in the deepest section of the sand trap rather than over on the edge, where it was firmer. After providing several dozen amusing photo ops for the camera folks, most of whom have by now posted clever and amusing memes on Facebook such as “Exhorts Others to Race: Stands Forlorn in Sand,” I made the bike move. By this time the peloton had relocated to a different county. I was about to get depressed until I powered by the SPY support team headed by Tait, which had already prepared a can of quality beer for me as a hand-up.

On the hill I overtook giant sausage, who appeared close to bursting out of his skin. For a very long time I rode by myself, with sad-faced onlookers viewing me with pity, or contempt, or both. Even my friends were too embarrassed to shout,with the exception of the SPY Beer Squad. With each partial can of high octane fermented recovery drink, I felt better and better, or at least less and less fearful. Each time I came through the mud and sand and gravel pit I picked up a few seconds until another hapless sod, someone so slow and inept and devoid of ability came within my sights. We traded pulls until the barriers, at which time I heard a whirring sound.

Glancing back it was Phil Tinstman, who had started two minutes earlier in the 35+ race and had now lapped me on a 2-mile course in less than forty minutes. The beautiful thing about this was that getting lapped meant that I’d have one less lap to ride around this course from hell.

After the race I staggered over to the SPY tent, where Sam Ames was washing away huge clots of blot mixed with gravel and sand by pouring cold beer over the open wound. “That’s a waste of good blood,” I said. Then, collapsing into the beanbag chair, Todd Parks wandered over and blamed me for his terrible start. “I thought you were going to take me out!” he said.

“The fact that you were behind me speaks for itself,” I said.

Phil, who didn’t look like he’d ridden his bike yet en route to his state title, chatted with some of his peers, not that he has any. “Once I had a big enough gap, I pulled the plug,” he said. “No sense in killing myself before the pro race.”

I thought about that as a kind of reverse strategy, you know, pulling the plug once everyone had ridden off to Mexico, and saving myself for the beer competition afterwards. “It’s an old Paolinetti tactic,” Phil added. “It’s okay if you win by just enough.”

“Hmmm,” I thought, “there’s wisdom there. Maybe if you’re losing, it’s okay if you lose by a few laps, too, rather than immolate yourself to only lose by, say, a few minutes.” Then I thought about giant sausage dude and how he’d cunningly sat up once I passed him. “Wise, wise man.”

————————-

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, which is kind of a bargain. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with sam ames at Cycling in the South Bay.