February 19, 2018 § 1 Comment
I knew it was gonna be a great day at the CBR crit because when I peeled off my skinsuit in the port-a-dumpster, the right long sleeve slipped down behind me and dangled straight into the brown hole of death, but I was miraculously able to jerk it out before it touched any of the burrito/coffee/egg sandwich mixin’s stewing in the bottom of the tank.
It was obvious before the race started that it would end in a bunch sprunt, which was great because I’m still recovering from The Influence, and after so many years of doing this I have a sixth sense about when a race will end with a breakaway and when it will end in a mass gallop. My race plan was simple. Sit for forty minutes, race for ten.
As I rolled up to the line scanning my competition the only possible fly in my ointment was Thurlow Rogers a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG. Incredibly, there are still people, all newbies, who don’t know who Thurlow is. I explain it like this: “I first saw him destroy a pro-am race in 1983. He’s the best living active bike racer on earth.” If people don’t get that, after watching him race, they do.
Archibald & Rufus, CBR’s crack announcers, had warmed up the crowd with their unique blend of edutainment, teaching the audience about the race while also talking about their Valentine’s Day gift exchange of dead flowers, a roast dog, and several anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers naming the other as a felon. Anyone who thinks that it’s boring to watch a bunch of tired old farts in their underwear pedaling around an abandoned parking lot windswept with dirty diapers and used condoms has never listened to a race get lit up by Archie and Roof.
It’s money time
The race began rather animatedly, with Dandy Andy firing off the front. I sat comfortably in 67th place and sighed. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”
Sure enough, they brought him back.
Next went G$, stomping away from the field and opening up a healthy gap until the field realized that sitting out in the wind for 45 minutes was something that Money was not only willing to do, but that he had done countless times before … for the win. I sighed though. “Hopeless. No break is going today.”
Suddenly THOG shot out of the pack with a couple of riders in tow. This animated all the sitters, none of whom was interested in racing hard, but all of whom were interested in chasing THOG. There is a beauty in cycling because even though you may personally suck, with a little bit of effort you can ruin someone else’s day who is really good.
I sighed as I watched the hopeless move. “No break is going today.” It occurred to me that one reason I was so convinced no move was going today is because I was weak, tired, sick, and desperate to do a few parade laps then go home.
WTF? I said NO BREAK TODAY
Once the bunch was back together, G$ glanced around and kicked it. This time he opened up a small gap and three other riders bridged up, Dandy, Jaggs, and No Pull Dude. The field watched, everyone keying on THOG and waiting for him to do all the dirty work. THOG slunk to the middle of the field and the break really started to pull away.
I sighed. “Not today, wankers. No break is going today.”
I checked my watch and we were a mere 25 minutes into the 50-minute race. I still had fifteen minutes to sit, which was good, because I wasn’t feeling it. Suddenly the pack had slowed and my momentum carried me far towards the front. At about the same moment, THOG attacked.
When other people attack it’s sometimes unclear whether they’re attacking or whether they’re imitating a fully loaded city bus pulling away from the curb while dragging a building behind it. When THOG attacks it is pretty clear that the only thing worse than being a toilet roll in the CBR port-a-dumpster is being a crank or pedal on THOG’s bike. The viciousness of the smashing and the acceleration hurt to look at, and then you don’t have to look at it any more because he is gone.
After half a lap THOG was a tiny speck. For some silly reason I attacked, city bus style. The peloton yawned and hell began. I was a dangling worm on a hook, stuck between the group and THOG, which is like having your head crushed between a grand piano and a concrete wall, only worse.
Three laps passed, but after two I was a solid two hundred yards back from THOG and couldn’t make up an inch. It was a matter of minutes before I detonated and floated all the way back to the peloton. At that very moment my pals Archibald & Rufus screamed over the microphone, “Davidson is bridging to Thurlow!!”
“He is?” I thought, wondering who this Davidson guy was and watching Thurlow get smaller and smaller as smoke began issuing from the cracks of my everything.
What goes around
One thing I learned the hard way is that when you are in a break with Thurlow, you pull your fucking guts out. He is the greatest. You are shit. If you wind up on his wheel it means something epic is happening, and now isn’t the time to be clever or cutesie or calculating. It’s time to beat the pedals so fucking hard that you think your knees will come unhitched. The times I’ve been in a break with Thurlow he’s never had to say “take a pull” or “quit dicking off” or wheel-chopped me and sent me flying into the ditch.
Most importantly, when there’s prime money or a finish on the line, he has always dispatched me with the facility of a large hammer removing one’s front teeth. In other words, breakaway chum.
And when Thurlow heard the announcers say “Davidson is bridging!” he looked back, and what did he see? He saw chum. THOG chum. Tasty, fresh, bleeding THOG chum. So he eased off the pedals for a few seconds and waited. By the way, Thurlow never waits. If you are too weak to bridge, sucks to be you. But in my case, if you do bridge, then it really sucks to be you. I struggled onto his back wheel, and the beating commenced.
In a few moments I’d recovered and was able to pull, and that’s the beauty of being in a break with Thurlow. You go harder than you ever thought you could. Who cares if you get dropped, who cares if you lose, who cares if your feet fall off or you scrape a pedal and impale your head on a fire hydrant? The only thing that matters is DON’T BE A FLAILING WANKER.
With the added chum power, we pulled far away from the wankoton until they were invisible. All the while in the real race up ahead, G$ was tossing his breakmates into the paper shredder as they sat on his wheel begging for mercy. With a couple of laps to go the RuggedMAXX II kicked in and G$ left his unhappy companions to fight for scraps, but none of that mattered to me. I was covered in sheet snot and could care less about the race; I was barely even aware I was in one. All I knew is that we had two laps to go, and until the moment that Thurlow rode off I was all in.
We hit the next to last turn, uphill and into the wind, and I wound it up, sprinting from corner to corner, taking the final turn, and giving it a dozen final smashes. Then I sat up and Thurlow breezed by, hardly even pedaling, and frankly rather bored with the whole thing. Fifth for Thurlow is an embarrassment. Sixth for me is a tattoo on my forehead.
After the race my cheering section ran up. “Why did you quit sprinting?” they asked.
“That’s Thurlow,” I said. “If you’re not sprinting him for the win, you sit the fuck up and pay your respects.” Which I did.
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March 26, 2016 § 45 Comments
Everybody quits racing eventually. I know I will. Like Keith Richards, who seems to have the expiration date of irradiated food, THOG is still racing, but he’s gonna quit banging bars one day, just like Richards is going to quit banging bars on the neck of his guitar.
Most bike racing quitters wake up one day and say, “Fuck this, I’m done.” All of the facts that were so obvious to the rest of the world for so many years suddenly become obvious to them. The scales fall from their eyes. The blind see.
Bike racing travels the arc of the human relationship, which studies show is this:
- Wow, she is hot.
- Wow, I want to spend all my time with her.
- Wow, let’s move in.
- Wow, my life is now complete.
- Wow, I wish she wouldn’t complain so much.
- Wow, how come she has cellulite?
- Wow, I guess we’re just not right for each other.
- Wow, I’m so done with you can I stay here until June because I can’t afford the security deposit on a new place yet and will you take the dog?
When you quit bike racing it usually starts with money or doping or existential angst or a big crash or all four, to wit:
- I can’t believe I paid $130 to race San Dimas, spent three days away from home, tacoed a $1,500 wheel, had my 45-minute “race” shortened to 35 minutes, and watched Konsmo win the overall, the TT, the road race, the KOM, and the green jersey still fail to cover his entry fee.
- Everyone is on drugs except me, and I am, too.
- I’m a grandfather now and my legacy is going to be … 42nd at Castaic Road Race in the leaky prostate 50+ category?
- I won’t be able to walk again until November after going down in the sprunt for 12th. WTF am I doing?
Unlike the Rolling Stones, though, who do a farewell tour every few years, or the Eagles, who retire by dying, bicycle racing quitters quietly sell their excess baggage on eBay and slink away. It’s a lot like retiring from the porn industry. One day you’re swimming in three bodily fluids at once, shimmering on everyone’s cell phone, and the next day you’re wearing baggy faded jeans, a floppy hat, and joining the Sunday birding walk over at the botanical garden. You’re fucking done, or more literally, you’re done fucking.
Me, I see the handwriting on the wall. I’m never going to win a big race, and even if I did, at age 52 THERE ARE NO BIG RACES. I might win a really tiny, little, itsy-bitsy race if I can get Nick Brandt-Sorenson to make me some of his really “custom” bibs and maybe get me on a program of “ultra-custom” jerseys.
But before I quit I’m gonna do just one more race. Yeah, that’s it. Just one more.
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February 14, 2016 § 16 Comments
Team Lizard Collectors rolled up to the start of the UCLA Road Race in our pimping Bonk Breaker Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van and Hotel and Restaurant. G3 and I had argued the entire 1.5 hour drive to the McDonald’s toilet about race strategy.
“The Cat 3 race is harder than the Leaky Prostate 45-plus Profamateur race,” he said.
“You are insane,” I diplomatically replied. “Our field is stacked with THOG, the desert rat brothers, Roadchamp, Capture the Flagg, Strava Jr., and a host of other mutants. They will kill it from the gun and we’ll all be dropped. We’ll never make it over the first climb.”
“Yes, we will,” said G3. “We’ll do them just like in the Cat 3’s.”
“Oh, brother,” I said. “How is that?”
“We’ll roll up to the front and ride tempo.”
“Great. Until the desert rats and Roadchamp and Strava Jr. hit the gas and drop you like Chinese egg soup.”
“Nope. I’ll chat them up and make small talk, ask about the kids and stuff. By the time they get through telling me about their new chain lube and Strava Jr.’s 1-oz. derailleur we’ll be through most of the climb and you won’t get shelled.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Works every time in the Cat 3’s.”
“This ain’t the Cat 3’s.”
The race started, G3 rolled to the front, and holding a steady tempo began chatting with the rat brothers about the carpet cleaning business, the pool cleaning business, and whether they thought it would rain in the desert anytime soon.
Even at tempo half the field was shelled, and when we made the first turn by the blowing trash and the flimsy gates that only barely restrained a rabid Rottweiler and a foaming pit bull who thought we had come to raid the meth lab, the hitters realized they’d been tricked and three of them scampered away.
“You did it!” I exulted to G3. Making it over the first climb was the hardest part of the race; even though we had four laps the remaining times around would be easy in comparison.
Since we were there to sacrifice all for our team leader G$ (easily confused with G3, at least on paper), and since we still had seven riders in the lead group, we all slunk to the back to let G$ do the hard work of reeling in the break, which he did. Once he made the catch, G3 yelled, “Come on guys, let’s get to the front and bring back the break!”
“They’re already back,” we said from the back.
Now that the hard part was over, all we had to do was continue lurking and shirking while the peloton dragged us to the finish, where we would gloriously win the first seven places, and maybe G$ would get eighth.
However, as we started the climb for the second time, the group seemed to shrink and Team Lizard Collectors suffered a major reduction of its core members, including Dr. Whaaat?, who was experimenting on a hot and hilly road race with a new homemade energy drink made of pickle juice and salt. Just as we approached the rabid dog gate, one of the pre-race favorites, Strava Jr., rode straight into the back of G$’s rear wheel and fell off his bicycle.
The leaders, realizing that one of their chief competitors was down, stomped on the pedals, shredding the group. Strava Jr. lay writhing in not really pain, and after determining that his handlebars were twisted 5-degrees he declared his day over and went home to collect some more KOM’s. In the meantime, our valiant team leader G$ had pulled over to check the wheel that Strava Jr. had smashed into. As the sole remaining member of Team Lizard Collectors near the leaders, I considered my options:
- Stop and help my team leader with his repair, give him a wheel if necessary, help him remount, get him speedily on his way, and tow my heart out so he could rejoin the leaders and win the race.
- Pretend I didn’t see him, pedal blindly by, and try to catch back onto the group I had no hope of staying with so I could possibly get 14th.
It’s not often that life presents such easy choices, so I left him at the side of the road and tried to rejoin the leaders.
However, G$ fixed his bike, remounted, and with no assistance powered across a hilly windswept stairstep to close a 30-second gap and rejoin the front group. I was soon caught by a rather hopeless and dispirited group of people who once resembled cyclists but now looked a lot like homeless desert people on bikes. They dropped me after a few miles.
One by one, everyone remaining in the race passed me except for one fellow who was afterwards declared retroactively dead. I sensed that he was a real threat to the leaders and even though we were 40 minutes back I knew it would take a lot of skill to keep him from going across to G$, who eventually attacked the lead group and won the race.
Fortunately, Mr. Corpse was unable to execute his plan and I kept him blocked safely in 39th place, just out of reach of G$, who was mostly in another county. It was a super valiant team effort and I was humbly honored to play such an important role in G$’s win.
Thanks to my hard work, I demanded that G$ buy the whole team lunch with his $80 in winnings. He agreed and we went to the Hungarian Sausage and Meat Company, located back in Pearblossom between the bail bondsman, the liquor shop, and the Baptist church. Since we had Attila the Hungarian with us, we figured he would appreciate some of his native food.
Inside the shop, he went to the counter. “Anyone here speak Hungarian?” he asked.
The young lady shook her head. “No. What makes you think they would?”
“Well,” said Attila, “the sign says Hungarian Sausage, so I thought maybe someone here was Hungarian.”
The woman made a complicated look with her face, straining muscles that seemed attached to her brain, but that hadn’t been exercised much in the last few years. “No,” she said. “We only speak American here.”
Attila looked at the menu. “I’ll have the Hungarian sausage sandwich,” he said.
The woman scowled. “That takes twenty-five minutes. You’ll have to wait twenty-five minutes. It’s a twenty-five minute wait.”
“Then I’ll have something quicker. What do you recommend?”
“The summer smoked Polish blood sausage with spicy entrails.”
“I’ll have that, then,” said Attila. We all ordered the same thing.
Twenty-five minutes later our food came. I don’t know if it was good or we were ravenous, but it was gone in seconds. At lunch we were joined by Derek the Destroyer, who had gotten second place in the much easier 35+ race against a very weak field.
“Second is okay,” I said. “But 38th in the 45+ race was a lot harder.”
“Really?” he said. “Because we had Tony Manzella, Kirk Bausch, Gary Douville, and a few other guys who go pretty good.”
“Pffft,” I said. “They would have gotten 39-41 in our race.”
“But I think we almost lapped you,” he said.
“That’s because I was blocking. We had a dead guy who was trying to bridge and if he’d gotten across G$ wouldn’t have won.”
Derek munched on his sandwich thoughtfully. “I see,” he said.
On the way back we dissected the race. “Good job, G$,” I said. “I think I could have won but I had the wrong gearing.”
“I could have won, too,” said Attila, “if the race had stopped after the first lap.”
“I could definitely have won,” said G3, “if I hadn’t ridden tempo for Wanky in the beginning. And Dr. Whaaat? was on the podium for sure if it hadn’t been for the pickle juice and salt.”
“I was really surprised that I won,” said G$, who has only won the race five times previously. “I guess I just got lucky.”
No one said anything.
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June 30, 2015 § 18 Comments
I attacked and got away with five laps to go. Woof-Woof came with me. I had been going pretty hard throughout the race trying to cause a split, and he started taking some really solid pulls, which hurt bad. I would come through on the downhill/crosswind section, which was tough but not as tough as the turns and the uphill section, which he was taking full throttle, intent on sticking it out to the end.
Woof-Woof started yelling at me to “work” and “not be a pussy,” thereby violating the first law of sales and bike racing: If you’re explaining, you’re losing.
I started laughing as he got angrier and angrier. His best line was “If you want to ride with the big dogs you better work, goddamn it!”
“Arf, arf!” I said.
“He is one of the funniest people alive,” I laughed to myself, so much comedy wrapped up in so much seriousness over a bicycle race being fought between grandpas.
Then when Woof-Woof’s brother, THOG, and Genghis bridged to us with my teammate tucked in neatly behind, Woof-Woof began screaming and banging his handlebars in fury and frustration. His likely first and guaranteed second had just fizzled to fifth, at best.
I began laughing so hard at Woof-Woof’s curses that THOG mistakenly thought I still had more gas in the tank. This was a fatal error because I fizzled badly in the finish, and THOG had to come around a slowly imploding Big Blue Bus rather than a clean, fast lead-out.
In the end, Woof-Woof’s brother beat him (again) and Woof-Woof barely nudged by me for fifth. Afterwards he was still so angry that he came up to me and said contemptuously, “After all that work I did you were still gonna try to beat me in the sprint, huh?” Implication: Does the mouse challenge the tiger?
I smiled and congratulated him. “Good racing,” I said. “What a schmo! And such a serious schmo!” I thought.
Of course he’d been Invisible Violet until the moment of the breakaway, and I had fired several shells too many. As we cooled down THOG humiliated him in front of everyone. “Wanky’s a classy rider,” he said, looking at Woof-Woof. “Always takes his pulls.”
Compliments like that are a rare thing from the guy with the rainbow stripes on his sleeve, compliments to be treasured, even when — or especially when — you’re last in the break.
Best day of racing, maybe ever.
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May 25, 2015 § 6 Comments
The last time Mrs. WM and Jr. came to watch me race was in 2008 at the Dana Point Grand Prix. With a few laps to go in the Calcium Deficiency and Low Test Category, Matt Hahn decided not to wait until he became an octogenarian and instead broke his hip on the straightaway in a terrible bicycle-falling-off-incident .
Far from the crash and in no real danger myself, in sympathy with the carnage I flung my bike onto the tarmac as hard as I could, bounced a couple of times in front of my shocked son and wife, then limped bleeding off the course and over to the beer garden where I fortified myself with two pints of IPA before soldiering on to complete the 35+ race DFL.
Today was going to be different, and it was. The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix took off helter-skelter at 10:15 AM with 50 minutes of frolic on the menu, which frolic quickly degenerated into volleys of attacks so vicious and cruel that by the third lap a bloodthirsty pack of wolves consisting of The Hand of God a/k/a THOG, Genghis Hahn, Gorilla in the Nist, Naugahyde, and Bullet rolled up the road.
I was just coming off a hard effort and recognized through the spit and blood clots that this was probably The Move, so I stretched across the open windy Serengeti and somehow latched onto the wheels of these Titans of the Drippy Prostate. Much pain ensued, and it ensued immediately.
THOG settled into a steady breakaleg breakaway pace of mymaximumspeedever+3 mph, and that strange time-space-continuum effect snapped into place whereby your time on the front seems like an hour but your time resting seems like a subunit of a nanosecond even though from the perspective of a person standing on a train it seems quite the other way around.
Once the breakaway was established, THOG ordered us all to begin riding in earnest, and the increased speed was so severe that Bullet began taking, shall we say, slight sabbaticals at the back, and Genghis began interspersing his cupcake pulls with blistering accelerations that coincided with the ringing of a bell later identified as “cash primes.”
Through it all I failed to notice that sticking off the front of Genghis’s handlebars like a cowcatcher was an apparatus that resembled two pieces of rebar welded together by the detonation of a phosphorous bomb, twisted, out-jutting handles sloping down, short and low, that were in fact 1990’s-era vintage aero bars. We will skip over for just a moment the fact that Genghis rides a top of the line TIME bike which, even with concrete wheels, would weigh less than the rebar Spinacis that were dangling off the front of his bike.
We will also skip over the fact that he never seemed to use them.
What we will focus on is the fact that in addition to cupcake pulls and prime-snagging he burst from the break with 200 meters to go and cleanly whipped the snot out of the shattered remnants of our brokedown palace.
There aren’t many rules in cycling, but there is at least this one: Thou shalt not fuck with THOG.
He’s not the patron, the boss, the head honcho, the universally acknowledged master of the universe, he’s much more than that. He’s the final arbiter of the pig trough. What, you ask, is the pig trough? It is this, written in Book of Degenesis, Chapter One, Verse One:
Life and cycling is a pig trough. Many are the pigs who belly up to the trough and seek to snurfle out its rinds, garbage, and tasty bits of rotten things unfit for human consumption. Yet before thou shalt be allowed to stick thy greedy snout into the trough, thou must contribute to it, and the pig that seeks to swill without giving his fair share shall be excommunicated from the house of pigs and forced to sprunt with the wankers back in the field.
It is a hard law, but immutable, and when Genghis swilled all the cash primes and guzzled the victory he was ratted out to the officials, who promptly convened a Reading of the Rule Book. Once the four officials had assembled their fifteen IQ points, Genghis addressed the genitals of the jury by citing to Rule 1I1(d).
In road, track, or cyclo-cross races, handlebars with ends, features, or attachments that extend forward or upward or that provide support for other than the rider’s hands are permitted only in time trial and pursuit events (not in Team Sprint); however, attachments that point upward on the brakehoods of road bicycles are allowed if the distance between them is greater than 25 cm (9.8 inches).
According to Genghis, the first clause of this sentence allowed his aero rebar attachments because they pointed down, not upward. The prosecution’s case, adeptly argued by THOG, countered that Genghis’s reading was selective, as no attachments are permitted that provide support for other than the rider’s hands, and Genghis’s attachments clearly provided support for his wrists, forearms, and also perhaps for his forehead.
Expert witnesses testified for the defense, but on cross they appeared to have spent too much time in the beer tent and the court granted the prosecution’s Daubert challenge and excluded the expert testimony.
THOG made his concluding argument to the jury, urging them to DQ Genghis because he “rode like a prick,” and a unanimous verdict tossed out Genghis’s glorious victory and awarded it to Old Naugahyde, who was urged to use the winnings for some skincare products and a visit to the dermatologist.
Most importantly for me, my sixth-place-out-of-six in the breakaway was instantly upgraded to fifth, which only vaguely compensated for the fact that I’d ridden like a complete maroon, had smashed the pedals at the wrong time, attacked from the front, and generally made a fool out of myself.
On the bright side, Mrs. WM got some great photos of Genghis, and Jr. was proud of his dad for not crashing again.
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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.
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March 27, 2014 § 9 Comments
The phone rang. “Yeah?” I said.
It was Scooter. “The start times are up. Have you seen yours?”
“Start times? For what?”
“The time trial. You signed up for the San Dimas Stage Race, remember?”
“Oh. Yeah.” This was a massive salt-peter in the peter pill.
“And guess what?”
“I’ve already lost ten minutes on the field?”
“No, dummy. You’re the third rider off!”
“That makes sense. They always send the slowest guys first. That way everyone can fly by them 5 miles an hour faster and have a good laugh.”
“Not at San Dimas. Your 30-second-man is THOG.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Nope. Go see for yourself. And your minute man is Jaeger.”
“Jaeger? My teammate who beat me in the 50+ Barnacle Butt category last week by fifteen minutes?”
“So what you’re saying is that I have two guys ahead of me who I’ll never see, and the whole field behind me who will all pass me like I’m chained to a block of concrete going down a gigantic ocean waterspout.”
“Don’t be so negative. You’ve trained hard for this.”
“Sure! You’re peaking for this race, remember when we talked about it in January? San Dimas was the most important race on your whole calendar! Remember? You had a plan to do specific uphill time trial power workouts. Diet. Meticulous care and attention to your rest and recovery. You were gonna slash through this race like a Brazilian farmer chopping fresh acreage out of the jungle. Remember??”
“Vaguely. I mean, yes. I remember.”
“So? You been doing all that, right?”
“The TRAINING, you numbskull! The training!”
“Oh. That. Well, I got a little off course in January, then things didn’t work out so well in February because of a beer issue, and in March I had a couple of cases at the office start to heat up. But other than that, yeah, I suppose I’m still on schedule.”
“Good. Because Leibert is on fire. And Konsmo is just a few riders behind you; he’s flying, and going uphill is what he does. So it’ll take everything you’ve got.”
“What if all I’ve got is, you know, a droopy stomach and not much gas in the tank?”
“Dude! This is your race! Those guys are all beatable. THOG? So what if he’s a former Olympian and one of the greatest riders in the history of the sport? So what if you’ve never beaten any of the other 35 guys in the race ever, at anything? So what if time trialling is what you do worst? Tomorrow is the day you cut loose! Get into the pain cave! Bring the big hammer! Make it hurt so good, baby!”
“I don’t know,” I said doubtfully. “The last time I did a time trial was about five years ago and even though I did the perfect pre-race donut and chocolate eclair race prep, it didn’t turn out so good. And, like, I haven’t really practiced since then.”
“No problem. Here’s what you do.”
“Yeah?” Scooter was so enthusiastic, I started to get hopeful.
“Just go out there and hammer! Everything you’ve got!”
“Hellz. All that crap about going slowly and finding your rhythm … fukk that! Time trial equals balls out. Throw down from the go-down!”
“So I should just pound it from the start?”
“Like it was the last 200 meters on the Champs-Elysees! All out! You’ll catch everyone by surprise and go so fast you’ll be finished before you actually get tired.”
“Wow. I’d never thought of doing it like that before.”
“Of course not. You have to innovate to win, and you can do this. Full gas from the first pedal stroke. You’ll thank me when you’re standing on the podium.”
“With great advice like that, I’m thanking you now. I feel better. I’ve got a game plan. I can do this!”
“Hey, by the way,” said Scooter, who is often in financial difficulty. “Could I borrow a hundred bucks? I’ll pay you back next week.”
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July 29, 2013 § 4 Comments
How did I get into this? I’m already at Part Five and haven’t even finished boring you with the group ride. It’s Sunday at 8:40 PM. I spent the entire day at the San Marcos crit getting dragged around the windy, hilly course by sadists. Now I have no idea how I will finish this stupid blog. Oh, I know! Bullets! Or better yet, finish the group ride saga with a numbered list!
- Dropped on the climb up Lake Hodges.
- Flailed with Dandy Andy and Hatchetman.
- Laughed at by Surfer Dan as we hit the sand trail because I veered off the trail a bit.
- Laughed at Surfer Dan a few miles later when he launched off the sand trail and into the bushes.
- Obliterated by Stinger, Lars, Ryan, MMX, Zink, THOG, and everyone on the rock garden trail.
- Obliterated by same up sandy wall Questhaven climb.
- Obliterated by Josh, Alan, Lars et al. on the run-in to Encinitas.
- Swore to never return to North County ever again.
Make it to the church on time
My LAX flight left at 4:30. It was a long way from San Diego County but doable unless the traffic was bad. The weekend traffic in the afternoon from San Diego to LA is always bad.
We got back to Encinitas at 12:30. My bike was covered in dirt and sand and gunk and filth. So was I. There was no time or place to bathe before I had to swap out my kit for jeans and a t-shirt so that I could go straight to boarding when I got to the airport.
I stripped on the sidewalk wrapped in a towel. I grimaced at the thought of how the sand and dirt were going to feel trapped inside my jeans on a 2-hour drive and 6-hour flight.
Then I noticed gushing rivers of sweat pouring off my body. I slipped on my underwear. I took off the towel. I used the streaming rivulets of sweat to wet the towel and scrubbed.
Sweat is a great cleaner. It kept pouring off my skin until the towel was a soaked sweat rag. Pretty soon I’d wiped off all the grime so that I was sparkly clean with a twinkly shiny layer of sparkly sweat. There was a clot of sand between my toes that I couldn’t clean with the sweat, so I worked up a good gob of spit and drooled on my foot. Then I toweled the hell out of it.
I suppose the nice families sitting outdoors at the Lofty Bean coffee shop didn’t often see a grown man standing on the sidewalk in his underwear spitting on his feet. Perhaps that is why they stared, but I left before the police arrived.
Next issue: Surfer Dan and Wankmeister swear a pact to never eat any junk food ever again, not even if they happen to pass by a 5 Guys burger joint while ravenously hungry after the hardest bike ride of their lives, and they especially swear not to do such a thing if it would make them miss a very important flight that they were already cutting way too close anyway.
February 16, 2013 § 8 Comments
I’m a Cat 4 doing my first road race and I’m doing UCLA which is on the Punchbowl course and I hear its a pretty hard race but I’ve been ridding a lot of hills lately in PV and doing a couple of attacks on the NPR so how do you think I’ll do and is my preparation enough to at least get on the podium? How does this rode race compare to the Donut Ride?
Your preparation is perfect, but that’s because for a first time Cat 4 at UCLA Road Race 2013, any preparation is perfect. Sitting on the couch eating Cheez-its is perfect, because for you the result will be the same: By the end of Mile One you will get coughed out the back like a piece of gooey phlegm, and certainly annihilated no later than the middle of Mile Two. The Punchbowl course is to the Donut Ride as getting your nuts run through a meatgrinder is to flossing your teeth.
Deep dish or shallow rims? 54 or 53 teeth (I hear the downhill is blazing fast.) Rear cog–how big?
Deep dish if you want to get caught by the first big side gust of wind on the 50 mph descent and go sailing off into the barbed wire fence and from thence face-first into a pile of steaming cow turds. Run the 54 so you can fly on the downhill, then bog down in the rolling crosswind terrain, get blown out the back because you’re overgeared, and retire at the end of the first lap for apres-ski bon-bons and fifteen minutes of cool-down on the trainer. Nothing smaller than a 67 for the rear. There should be less than 1″ clearance between the biggest rear cog and the rails on your saddle.
What’s the typical tempo of this race? My plan is to sit in for the first three laps and then try to attack on the climb on the last lap and get away. What do you think?
I think you’re an idiot. Unless you consider “sitting in” being shoved into the gutter single file with your tongue wrapped around the spokes and bleeding from the eyes and throwing every ounce of life you’ve got into staying attached to the hairy dude in front of you who’s already gapping out as the leaders turn up the electric skillet to high less than a mile into the race, you’re in for the shock of you life. There’s no “sitting in” at UCLA unless you’ve got a lawn chair at the finish line and a cooler of beer. Or hot tea and a bonfire in the event it snows, hails, and then rains, like it did three years ago.
Dose of reality,
I’m not a good clumber, but I want to do UCLA RR to help my teammates. Good idea? Bad idea?
You want to help your teammates at UCLA but you can’t climb? There’s a place for dudes like you. It’s called the feed zone.
How would you rank the following riders (all have pre-registered) for the UCLA RR?
- Jeff K.
- John H.
- Mongo from Bako
Jimmy (the Greek)
- THOG: He will either win or get first.
- G$: He will either get second or be the runner-up.
- Jeff K.: Best man at the wedding. Again.
- Tri-Dork: He’s lost 49 pounds just by giving up butter (that he used to put in his beer). He got dropped twelve times at Boulevard and TIME TRIALED BACK ON EVERY TIME. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
- John H.: He is too nice, but he will still crush 95% of the field.
- Mongo from Bako: Mongo and I have been practicing synchronized ‘cross bike dancing. We will be the prettiest duo in the field (with matching ‘cross frames and cantilever brakes). See our video here.
- Kong: He will pound. Then flail. Then pound some more. Then flail. Then collect his prize for Largest Dude Who Belongs In A Crit And Ain’t Afraid Of No Damned Hilly Road Race.
- Bennydril: No team to help, except for Kong, who’ll be in a different orbit. He’ll be isolated and beaten by superior numbers.
How come Charon don’t do hilly road races?
I don’t know. How come Kobe doesn’t play offensive tackle?
Stupid questions get stupid answeringly,
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February 5, 2013 § 15 Comments
At the starting line we very old fellows staged behind the somewhat old fellows in the 35+ race. Stefanovich was there, and looked back at me.
“I made it!” he grinned.
“Sorry about that,” I replied.
“No, dude, I was inspired by your blog. This is gonna be awesome!”
Dandy Andy, whose four-foot handlebar mustache drooped down to his knees, nodded vigorously. “Yeah! We read it on the way down. Inspired!”
“Oh,” I said glumly. “Then you missed the point.”
“I did?” asked Stefanovich.
“Yes, it was supposed to be a demotivational piece, something to despire you from coming, not inspire you to show up.”
Stefanovich laughed. “Yeah, well we’re here now! So braaang it!”
The whistle sounded and off they went.
He’s got your whole world (in his hands)
When it came our turn, my only concern was whether I’d get dropped on the 10-mile twisting, tailwind descent. The ref sent us off with a warning. “Okay, guys, watch out for the turns on the descent. We’ve already lost seven or eight riders in high speed collisions, so I’m asking you to take it easy the first lap. After that you can do whatever you want.”
I wondered why our lives were precious on lap one, but worthless on laps two and three, until I realized the ref’s unspoken subtext: “Most of you wankers won’t be around for the second lap, so it will be safe to go full throttle.”
After cresting the first brief, gentle 2-mile climb, we hit the downhill. My 50 x 11 immediately spun out, but I was prepared for the acceleration and sprunted onto the end of the whip, letting the slipstream suck me along.
The down side to being on the end was simple: There were about fifteen wankers ahead of me who were scared shitless, and with good reason, as they were clueless about how to handle their bikes at 50 mph in a tight formation on a twisty road. I had a flashback to the year before, when Tree Perkins had lost control, crossed the center line, and leaped up into a fence, then a shrub, then climbed a tree with his bike.
The feeling of helplessness was complete. My life was wholly dependent on the flubs and flails of some Cat 4 wanker who had just turned 45 and decided to ride with the “safe” dudes rather than the suicidal Cat 4 field, not realizing that it was these very aged Cat 4 wankers who made our normally conservative old fellows’ category so deadly on a course like this.
As if on cue, Tri-Dork dropped back to a couple of wheels in front of me. Tri-Dork was the one wheel I wanted to avoid beyond all others, but like a moth drawn to a flame, could not. Tri-Dork’s bad bike handling skills, which had caused him to flub and crash on a dry road one morning with only one other rider and shatter his shoulder, were accentuated times a thousand by the speed and the turns.
Swooping through each curve, Tri-Dork wobbled, braked, gapped, accelerated, and slashed his way through the formation with terrifying abandon. Charging up through the field at just the moment he should have been slowing down, Tri-Dork got bumped and did the only thing you’d expect a recovering triathlete to do in a bike race: He panicked and shot for the center line.
If a car had been coming in the other direction this story would be an obituary extolling his bravery, instead, he regained control and charged back into the field. “Tri-Dork!” I shouted. “Get the fuck away from everyone! And stay out of the trees!”
The race in earnest
Today’s elderly fellow beatdown and prostate abuse ride would be dominated by Big Orange and Amgen. We turned off the downhill and began the climb up Las Posas, with Mike Hotten of Big Orange setting tempo on the front. His steady pace was the first phase of the Big O “softening up.”
A huge rivalry had shaped up between Big O and Amgen. Steve Klasna, who had ridden for Big O the year before and is one of the best racers in SoCal, now rode for Amgen and was looking for his first victory of the year. Thurlow Rogers a/k/a Turbo a/k/a The Hand of God a/k/a THOG had won Boulevard the year before, and as one of the the greatest American cyclists in history, as usual he had come to win. Backed by national champion and locomotive Malcolm Hill, Amgen was closely matched against Big O.
The race day favorite was Greg Leibert, whose teammate Jeff Konsmo could be expected to play his usual role of policeman/late attacker. New to the 45+ fold was John Hall, easily one of the top climbers in the South Bay and a guy who always kept a strong finishing kick for hilltop finishes. Former Boulevard vainquer Todd Darley would also play a key team role, with Tri-Dork flying the wild card colors in his 45+ debut. One of the biggest men to line up for Boulevard, Tri-Dork had proven the year before at the UCLA Punchbowl course that size was no limiter, as he’d ridden with the leaders for most of that hilly, attacking course.
Jessup Auto Plaza brought the heat with the Man Who Fears No Hill, Andy Jessup, easily the biggest dude in the field and also the gutsiest. Not content to do the flat crits, he was always pushing the pace in the races least suited for his build, uncowed by altitude or by the toothpick physiques of the likely podium contenders. Benny Parks, who had won for Jessup at P[e]CK[e]RR the week before, would be in the mix, and Jessup’s Brien Miller would play a key role in my own personal Boulevard saga.
Supermotor Jon Flagg, riding mateless for Surf City, tough guy Greg Fenton, and national champ Doug Pomerantz for UCC would round out the movers and shakers in the race. My own SPY-Giant-RIDE Cyclery team started with a solid contingent that included Alan Flores, John Hatchitt, Jon Geyer, and Andy Schmidt. As Alan would later remark after posting his best-ever Boulevard finish for 6th place, “We were just passengers today. It was a handful of other guys driving the bus.”
Lap One Climb: Devil take the hindmost
Klasna, Leibert, Konsmo, and THOG sprinted around the kicker that ended Las Posas and began the 4-mile climb up to the finish on Old Highway 80. The pace went from cool to warm to hot to full-fryalator. Midway up the climb the field had been reduced from about 70 to no more than 40 riders. Thankfully I’d started at the front, and as Konsmo and Co. turned up the screws and my legs seized up there were plenty of spaces to fall back without getting dropped completely.
The survivors were now in one nasty line, and as Leibert and THOG looked back to assess the damage, it occurred to them that, with the remainder of the field bleeding from the eye sockets, now would be a good time to ride in earnest. Their two-man attack left the rest of the field gasping and huddling for a rear wheel.
With about a mile to go the pack bunched up and I realized that today would be the first time in four attempts that I’d ever finished Boulevard with the lead group on the first lap. It was more than euphoria. It was victory, and it tasted sweet.
As we piled into the start/finish, however, the leaders ratcheted up the pace and blew out a handful of riders on the steep finish line pitch. My victory evaporated as I realized that my race was about to end at one lap. Fortunately, we crested the finishing hill with Amgen’s Robb Mesecher coming by, and by latching onto his wheel and double-wide draft was able to maintain contact with the group, which was now strung out in a mad chase to bring back G$ and THOG.
Once we hit the descent, the group had thinned considerably, but Tri-Dork was still very much there. G$ and THOG had returned to the fold, and Hotten again rode tempo on the green tennis court vomity stretch of Las Posas. We pushed up onto Old Highway 80, rolled slowly for a hundred yards or so, then exploded as Konsmo, G$, and THOG blew apart the group.
A few seconds before I popped we overtook Aaron Wimberley, a sprinter in the 35+ race and one of the few fast men with guts enough to take on a hilly killer like Boulevard, rather than hiding and waiting for the speedfest at the short, flat, fast crit the following day. “Go, Wanky!” he yelled as we flew by. I “went,” all right…straight off the back.
As I cratered, Brien Miller yelled at me. “Come on, wanker! Dig!”
“I’m digging!” I gasped. “My grave!”
My race had ended midway up the climb on the second lap as I watched the leaders ride off, then came detached from the chase group. I soft pedaled to catch my breath, well aware that the next lap and a half would be done alone, into the wind, slowly, with nothing left in the tank.
As I recounted to myself all the grand successes of the day (finished one lap with the leaders, got halfway up the second lap with the leaders, almost sort of kind of practically didn’t get dropped, etc.), I heard an awful noise behind me. It sounded like a large animal in its death throes, or like a giant engine with a major internal part broken and rattling loose, or like a one-eyed monster from the Black Lagoon coming up from behind to eat you.
I didn’t dare look back, and it’s a good thing I didn’t, because when the shadow of Malcolm Hill came by, it took everything I had to latch on. Powerful arms flexing, mighty legs pounding, bellows-sized lungs blowing like a racehorse, Malcolm had the chase group in his sights and he wasn’t slowing down.
Soon we’d overtaken Brien. “Dig!” I shouted as we went by.
He grinned and hopped on. Malcolm flicked me through with his elbow after a solid half-mile haul, but all I could do was fizzle and fade for a few strokes before Brien came through with a powerful surge. Between Malcolm and Brien, with me sitting on the back taking notes and adjusting my socks, we closed the gap to the chase group to within a hundred yards.
Suddenly my inner wanker blossomed, and the possibility of catching on spurred me to actually take a pull. I leaped forward, temporarily dropping the two mates who had done all of the work, latching onto the back of the chasers. Malcolm and Brien joined, and a quick glance proved that this was indeed the chase group to be in.
Get that Flagg, Darling, and put Pomegranate on it
Jon Flagg, Todd Darley, and Doug Pomerantz comprised the chasers, along with a couple of other horses, and the leaders were briefly in sight, though they vanished after the turn onto the descent. Whittled down to about ten expert riders and one Wankstar, these elderly fellows conducted a downhill clinic on the backside of the course.
I’ve never felt safer at 50 mph on a bike as Malcolm & Co. drilled us through the tight turns at max speed, max lean, and never so much as a waver or a wobble. With a few miles to go before the turn onto Vomit Road, Darley leaped off the front. The final effort to bring him back, just before the turn, revealed the incredible once we’d crossed the tracks: The leaders were right there.
As we steamrolled up to the leaders I spied a poor sod in a Swami’s kit flailing in the gravel off the road to let us by. He wasn’t pedaling squares, he was pedaling triangles. He had that Wankmeister look of dropdom that comes from having ridden alone, fried, cold, into the wind, by yourself, for most of the race. He was haggard and beaten and defeated and covered with the frozen crust of snot and spit and broken dreams.
It was Stefanovich.
“Come on, you fucking wanker!” I yelled as we roared by. “Get out of the fucking dirt and race your dogdamned bike!”
He looked up and smiled through the crusty snot.
A few hard turns and we’d reconnected. Todd paid for his efforts by slipping off the back, and Tri-Dork, who’d made an amazing reattachment, was likewise surgically removed. More incredibly, G$ and THOG were still there.
My one lap victory had now become the ride of my life: I was finishing the third lap at the head of the field, and in my excitement I surged to the front as we crested the first rise on Las Posas. G$ looked over and grinned. “Wanker! Hit it, buddy!”
I swelled up like a big old balloon, pounded hard for three strokes, then blew and got dropped. As my race ended yet again, I passed a Jessup wanker from the 35+ race. “Get your ass up there, you quitter!” he yelled.
Spurred by shame I dug and caught onto Malcolm’s wheel just as we flew over the cattle guard.
A few pedal strokes later I was rested and taking stock. There were fifteen riders left. Just then, G$ glanced over to the side and attacked. It was a thing of beauty. With fourteen riders keyed on this one guy, and with him already having ridden a 15-mile breakaway, he kicked it hard. No one could follow as he dangled just off the point. It was that moment in the race where everyone tried to rationalize the reason they weren’t chasing, while refusing to admit they were too tired and afraid and broken and chickenish and weak.
G$ dangled for a mile, getting slightly farther away as Konsmo and Hall kept the pace brisk enough to discourage any followers.
With the animal fury that’s his trademark, THOG ripped away from the peloton. “There,” we all thought, “goes the race. If I chase I’m doomed. I think I’ll just sit in and hope for third.”
By the time we hit the big climb for the final time, cat and mouse had begun. Only problem was, the cat and the mouse were up the road and out of sight. So it was more like roaches and Raid. Flagg attacked repeatedly but no one was letting him go anywhere. After the third surge, Konsmo rolled. The gap opened, and then he vanished.
“Well,” we all thought, “fourth is pretty respectable to brag to the GF about. I’ll fight for fourth.”
As we approached the start/finish, the hard attacks came for real. With a few hundred yards to go I had to choose between getting dropped and getting dropped, so I wisely chose to get dropped. “Fifteenth,” I told myself “is damned respectable in this race. And even if it isn’t, I’ll claim it is.”
G$ outlasted THOG for the win. I crept across the line significantly behind #14.
Big Orange took first,third, and fifth. Amgen walked away with second, ninth, and tenth.
But if you ask me, it was 325-lb. wobblywheels Tri-Dork, finishing 25th in his very first Boulevard outing who went home with the best ride of all.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 3, “Post-race analysis of why you’re a fucking wanker for not showing up”