Monday, March 17, 2008

Tail Gunner

Yesterday represented the my 1st anniversary back racing. And I did it in style, herding the 1/pro field like a boarder collie nipping the heals of the young bucks (some old ones, as well) in Visalia. My tongue was hanging like a boarder collie, too.

You know, now that I'm old, it is kinda fun to do a couple of races in a day, but why do they have the be the kind of races that, well, I really don't get too excited about. Oh sure, going fast is fun; however trying to keep my fat head up as I beat across the pavement for a couple of hours kinda hurts. But okay, it is still kinda fun. Plus, I'll have to miss my favorite road race next weekend due to a commitment to present at a professional conference--even though I've given my walking papers to the profession (Adios Academy will be the next post), so I may as well get in the abuse while I can.

It was encouraging, though, to be able to hang in the 1/pro race. It was damn quick. And to be honest, I was not a player the last time I did the 1/pro race in Visalia, when I was too young to go for the double dose. However, we did have the road race in Exeter to zap the legs. And the last time I did that in 94, our average speed was the same for the road race as it was for the crit. 90 miles at 29 mph hanging on to the Silver Bullet train. Good times, but past times. Yesterday I called on some memory, and I leaned heavy on making sure that I did not waste any energy, unlike some around me racing for 80th place. That was probably me, though, many years ago. Ah youth.

Unfortunately, the race day ended on a low note. Trish Bell, pardon the pun, rang her bell in the spill on the last lap of the women's race. She had no recollection of what happened, and kept asking the same questions, "did I wreck? was it the last lap?" as though she had not asked them. I'd seen this before after a big pileup in Lawrence KS. I kept on telling my friend, Mike, to sit down as he had a huge lump the color and size of a tomato on his forehead. He kept on saying, "no, I did not wreck, I did not hit my head." He could not remember me telling him time and time again. Luckily, no long term damage, for either Trish or Mike, but scary stuff nonetheless.

So, two weeks off from the racing. There'll be a trip to San Diego to give the finger to the political science profession, while providing some professional training to a couple of students. There'll be a trip to Burlingame to get acclimated to my new job (more in Adios Academy). There might be some training too, cuz Orosi is coming up, and that was my first road race back last year. Road racing, not the crit circle dance, is what I am in it for. And, I just can't let some skinny, dark skinned sprinter win this year.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I T-Shirted

It's been a while since I've entered anything here (blame it on my continuing, and possibly soon to end struggle with the academy). But I T-Shirted yesterday at the Cantua Road Race. I would say I podiumed, but Velo Promo races don't have podiums. Plus, it is grammatically incorrect (okay, so is T-Shirted).

Back and forth, up and down, along side Highway 5 in the middle of nowhere, I found myself crossing the line in second. Some nice guy named Bob in a blank jersey beat me. So, how did I get to that point? Well, I snuck away when Dan Martin was not looking, with about 3 miles to go with Bob. Oh, there were moves before that, but only the one that works counts (unlike the almost move at Mothballs two weeks ago).

But really, what to say about the Cantua road race? Velo Promo really went out of its way to find the most boring stretch of road possible. Don't get me wrong, Velo Promo is a godsend to the Cali cycling scene, but come on Bob L., I almost had to violate anti-doping rules due to the desire to get jacked up on something to keep me awake. At least Danny boy was there to animate things in the first 50 meters. And I told him to calm down before the thing even started. But since I did not want to fall asleep, I too went off the front for a bit on the first leg out.

Much of the race was spent in rotating fashion, and much of that was our group of 9 trying to stay away from a group of 5 or 6. Snooze. Danny asked me on the last leg out, what do you think there Nick? My response, something on the way back. And something on the way back it was. Cracks started to form, and I did my niggling best to pry them open. Then, torque time, snap she goes. Danny said "we got a gap", but the gap was closed, and it was cat and rodent time. My mate asked me "what should we do?" "Tag team time" I said. He took a dig, and when it was still together, there was a pause. Next thing I know it was just me and Bob. Teamless, blue jersey Bob. Hmm, Dan must have fallen asleep. Again, the course is that boring.

200 meters to go and Bob says nice race and fades back. I guess I should have gotten out of the saddle and nailed it, but I just thought to myself, I can't go any faster, so I don't know why he thinks it was over for him. Maybe I just look that intimidating. I somewhat peddled away, but he must have seen the lactic acid oozing out of my legs, and he pushed on by. Congrats, Bob. T-shirt and $10 bucks for me. I just had to picture the podium girls giving me a bouquet and a peck.

Alright, to the grading. Then a fun meeting with the chair tomorrow. Why did I send that email?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Next Time I Won't Wait 12 Years

Sleepy San Ardo signals the end of the 1st season after my 12 year hiatus from saddling up and slogging it out for glory with the other spandex obsessed fools.

Twenty calls to the starting line. Twenty nervous moments of wondering whether I was going to get spanked. And oh yes, I was spanked many of those times. However, I found that I could still spank a few out there. Hopping in with the geezers, nervous as all get out, I quickly found myself at the pointy end of the pack. I even was able to hold my own in a few prosey races. Driven by memory, driven by nerves, I laid it on the line and suffered like a dog.

After a few races into the year, I started itching for podium spots, and started to think that I needed to lean on the grey lump between my ears to help me climb the steps. That, though, did not work for me. Too much time calculating, not enough time cycling. In the end, I want to race first, and placings are cake if they happen. And I figure, for me, the best way to place is to simply race hard. I'm more happy racing that way, anyway. There is just too much going on off the bike to worry the right strategy on the bike. The two wheeled journey is to get away from the rat race. It's my salvation, not my stress.

So, I finished the season like I started this season, dragging and driving myself into the ground. "Nick, there are a lot of people sitting on," said Craig N as our group 'o 10 raced into San Ardo. Oh well, Craig, I hope they enjoy the ride. I did.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Alternate Universe

I got me some airtime on the local news as the face, or at least one of them, of the SLO criterium saying how I remembered watching the crit in 86 as a young high school teen punk and how it got me excited about racing bikes. Well, truth be known, I was not a punk back then, but goth. And more truthfully, we called it death rock back in the day. Long live Bauhaus!

Anyway, it brings back memories, all nostalgic and stuff, but also thoughts about where I am now, home.

Spring of 1986, there I was, nearly a high school dropout. What did I care about education? College was for the rich smart kids. I was a kitchen hack, born and bred. I missed prom cuz there was a punk rock show that night, and I would rather slam dance than dance to Journey (there was a little punk in the goth). And I liked me some cheap beer, and cheap vodka (with plenty of OJ of course).

So, what was I doing watching a bike race and getting all excited and stuff? Well, there was a little bikie under that black hair dye and eyeliner. In fact, I probably would not have gone goth, or at least to the extent that I did, if it were not for a junkie needing a fix.

Grewal, Lemond, and the Badger had all got me excited to turn this pedaling thing I found by accident into something more. The accident: I was caught flipping through Bicycling magazine one day during my junior high pre-algebra class. Hey, I already had pre-algebra in the school I transferred from, so I was bored. Don't ask me why I had a Bicycling magazine, too much cheap vodka between then and now to remember. So, Mr. Beck came by and said, "like biking, sonny? There's a century going on in a couple of days, why don't you give it a spin?" I was 13 and stupid, so what the heck. I borrowed a bike that was way too big, and rode around SLO county in a pair tennis shoes, running shorts and a t-shirt 3 days later. Eight hours and one bee sting later (up the running shorts), I was hooked. I liked this two wheeled thing.

The racing thing did not immediately draw me in. For some strange reason I saw myself as a cycling tourist. It must have been the century influence. But after seeing Grewal spank that Canuck, Bauer, in 84, I knew I wanted to ride, and ride hard. My local shop hooked me up with the kind race ride, and let me make low easy payments. A beautiful, shit brown, quad butted, Suntour equipped Fuji speed machine was mine for the taking, and I planned to do some Grewal style ass whooping with it. Problem was, it got stolen before I took out a racing license, and after only a few payments. I guess I should have known better than to leave it unlocked in the Roach Hotel (it's been seriously gentrified since then, but a little too late for my purposes). Sorry, Alexi, Mr. Brownstone put that inspiration on hold.

Drinking, dark music, and dancing became my new life style. That's right, I said dancing. I tore that shit up on the dance floor, shaking my groove thing to the 80's music that we all know and love (no, not Journey). Okay, I had one foot in that lifestyle and the other on a pedal when the bike was stolen, but I would have probably given that alt lifestyle up to the devotion and money that the racing thing was surely gonna require. But you might understand why Bad Boy Grewal inspired me, given my distain for the norm lifestyle.

Back to the 86 SLO crit. Watching it got me all excited, but I already said that. But at the time, I had a friend who rode for the Cal Poly Wheelmen and was also a DJ for Burnt Dog Radio, Cal Poly's radio station, spinning the punk rock (again, there was, and still is, a little punk in me) and he egged me to hop back on the bike if I was all excited about the spandex spectacle. I stopped dying my hair and started shaving my legs, cobbled together a bike from parts and stuff I had, and started riding with DJ Slow Boy. I eventually paid off that Fuji, too.

The bike racing did not start immediately, and when it started, it was a bit of a rough ride. I worked full time plus, so there was little time to train. But I could ride, oh yeah, I could ride. I lost my cheap beer gut and started to find some speed. But after too many flats, not enough money, a full time job, and a gal that wanted my time, well I gave up the racing thing before it really got off the ground. I did not, however, give up the bike.

After a year off of racing, I gave it one more shot. Boom, a month into the 1990 racing season, I got my cat 2 upgrade. Boom again, a few months later I got my cat 1 upgrade. Somewhere in between, Tracy told me I loved my bike more than her, and boom, I had more time to ride my bike. A few months later, I was at the Olympic Training Center listening to Chris Carmichael tell me how to ride my bike, and building a healthy distain for some young, fat headed punks. A decade later, I would find myself in grad school, watching many of those fat headed punks tearing it up in the Tour. Punks!

Twenty years plus one from the 86 crit, and I am getting ready to saddle up and spin around the SLO block. What a long, strange trip it's been. Wait, I hate The Dead. Long live Bauhaus!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sucking Air, or Maybe Just Plain Sucking

That damn Zaca Fire made for LA like conditions in the Santa Maria valley. Toss in the incessant attacking of that dino Thurlow, and it was wheezy time.

I got me a top 10. Nothing to brag about, though, given that there were only about 25 baby geezers lining up, plus that full blown geezer, Thurlow. He coulda gone for a bear jersey in the 40/50 race, but given that he already won a road one a few weeks ago for 45 + (for some strange reason, we have two masters championships in these parts), I guess that he decided that wearing two jerseys would be a bit warm. Damn unselfish bastard.

Lap 1, the dino whips it up, looking at us young pups with the look that says "take off your diapers, boys, and race your bikes." Ah man, old man, can't we just warm up? Nah, whip it, and whip it good. By the end of the lap, we are all pretty much together, not for lack of TR trying to bust things up, though.

Lap 2, the dino keeps wagging his tail at us. Mid way through the lap, things get busted up. Four go, then I chase, and look at about 4 on my tail. We connect, then two more maybe, and it looks like this is going to be be the race. Unfortunately, though, half the guys were Amgen guys, two La Grange, then the rest were solo. Of course, this means that the hemoglobin boys can attack freely, and no one really wants to work. And oh yeah, that damn dino Thurlow. I try to cover when I can, and try to catch my breath from what feels like one working lung. Coming to the end of the lap, I'm looking for Ale-Jet's phone number. "Ale-Jet, this is Nitro. Got the number of your doc so I can get me some of that special mist you use? And oh yeah, how much is too much?"

Lap 3, I get popped. The bottom fell out of my lungs, and my head did not want to push them further. I drop off, thinking that 3 laps is good enough for the day, but I end up getting caught by a group of about 7, including my mate in blue, Peter B. What the heck, let's go for a ride boys. Going up the bump, I get up front and just get in diesel mode, which is not too taxing on the carburetors. Going over the top, Peter says, "We've got a gap." A gap over the laughing pack? Wait, I want to laugh. Oh well. And looking up the road, it looks as though the lead group have eased up on their war, and that we might actually catch them. So heck, time to put some berryboy representation back in the front group.

Lap 4, we catch. Missing from the front group, though, was a certain old man. I ask one of the hemoglobin boys about the status of things up the road, and he says it's just Thurlow and one of their boys off the front. Cool and the gang, maybe I can breathe. The fourth lap was pretty civilized. I pull through with the non-hemo's in the group, knowing full well that we ain't catching the boys up front, but I may as well make an effort of it and get my money's worth.

Lap 5, the remaining hemoboys get their blood pumping. Peter makes a show of it too, and things start to whittle down. Up the steep, short bump, hemoboy Els lets one rip. I get on and we split from the group. It seemed good for a short while, a real short while. After one pull by me, I find myself wheezing to get back on his wheel, and that was all she wrote; third place went up the road. I catch back on what is left and try to find my missing lung. Going up the final long bump, an attack goes, and I wheeze my ass off to go with him. No go. Ah heck, I already dragged my ass, with the help of PB, back into a race that I was all prepared to drop out of 3/5ths of the way though; sitting up with 4 miles to go to cruise in for a top 10 was fine for me, and that is what I did.

No glory at Sisquoc, but of course glory is not want I'm in it for, unlike some brown skinned Norcal riders out there. I'm in it for the lung abuse. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If the Young Want To Serve Themselves Up, Then Let's Chow

I tried to make light of the Chicken affair, but this ain't fun anymore (not that it ever has been). It looks like the Kazakh kid pulled a Hamilton, and now my excitement over tomorrow's battle in the Pyrenees is gone.

Oh, Alexander, please confess. Please, please, please. Please don't blame it on a sloppy lab. Although I'm sure that conspiracy theorists are already thinking that this is a response to Moreau's bashing by the Astana boys, and I certainly think that the lab's sloppy work should lead to having its credentials revoked, a confession would better serve the sport, which I'm sure that you love dearly. There's a nasty culture that still exists, and it needs to be cracked.

This is a fight that needs to be won. Let other cyclists know that cheaters will get caught. This will help bring in fresh kids who do not want to subject their bodies to suspect doping techniques, and instead simply subject their bodies to the beautiful abuse of pushing their bodies to the limit. Their bodies, not someone else's, or some other animal's. It can be done.

Confess, Alexander.

Fans, hold tight. This won't go down easy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Would You Like Some Fresh, Cracked Pepper With Your Young, Sir?

The Danish Cycling Union (DCU) announced that it is suspending the Chicken due to accusations that while in Mexico, he had injected gerbils with EPO and then stuffed them up his gizzard hole. This process is known to mask synthetic EPO. This accusation first came to light after Richard Gere met the Chicken in the emergency room of a Mexican hospital.

Gere contacted the Danish federation about this several years ago, but pleaded to them not to let it out. Gere only wanted the cruel practice of injecting gerbils with EPO stopped, and hoped that the federation would have a chat with the Chicken. "I also thought his wife was kinda hot, so I did not want to be a dick and make a public statement or anything," added the aging star of American Gigolo and Pretty Woman.

But after seeing the Chicken tell the world that he could be trusted, Gere noticed a little bounce in his step that led Gere to believe that the Chicken was still subjecting gerbils to abuse. Gere called the press and the Danish federation to put a stop to it, claiming that he was afraid that other cyclists might be "enticed to use the procedure in order to get themselves one of those pretty yellow shirts."

The DCU was only too happy to drop the hatchet on the Chicken while he was in yellow, especially since they felt that the French, and their silly little Tour, were hogging the cycling limelight. "This will knock them down a notch," stated a source within the federation, who asked to remain anonymous. "I mean come one," he continued, "the Tour of Denmark, with its hors cat├ęgorie dykes, is just as prestigious."

The press, running out of stories about the hot wives of pro cyclists, were also eager to cover the story. "We're doing it for the animals," said one journalist. Some TV stations, though, have taken the higher ground. In response to all the doping scandals in the sport, German TV has stopped coverage of the Tour. Instead, they filled the normal 6 hours a day of live cycling coverage with Dancing With The Stars. "You know the stars are not on drugs," said German TV's president.

The Chicken was quick to point his pecker in response to the allegations. "It was Menchov who could not get his ass over the Galibier, not me. He probably forgot to take the poor little bugger out before starting the stage," bawked the Chicken. "Bakawwwk!" he added.

Many of the other riders in the Tour are now dropping their shorts to show that they are not hiding any gerbils. Of course, those who are keeping their chamois close to their sphincters are suspect. "My mom taught me to be modest," stated a cyclist from team Discovery Channel who wished to keep his private parts private. He added "plus, I love gerbils, and have many at home." That rider's room was raided later that night, and he has since been suspended by his team for being in possession paraphernalia used for doping practices.

Meanwhile, cycling fans are left scratching their heads. Most don't mind if Al Trautwig and Bob Roll lose their jobs as cycling commentators due to the implosion of the sport, but many are addicted to the spandex spectacle, spending hours and hours on blogs obsessing over the smooth-legged boys of the pro peleton. For many, it is the spectacle that gives them the inspiration to lube up their chamois (clearly not for gerbil purposes) and hit the road. "What happened to the good old days," lamented one fan, "when riders only injected speed into their asses?"