A KOA Campground Parking Lot, near Santa Margarita Lake.
MKA sits in his car, heater on, watching a black storm cloud crest the ridge, headed straight for him. Genghis is frantically searching every nook and cranny of every garment bag and glove box in search of Gu. "I need at least 7," he says, seriously. A gust of wind slams into us and my hot coffee spills in my lap. It's too cold to jump outside and dry off, so MKA sits there cursing and muttering. The Blue Norther hits and golf ball sized hailstones are bouncing off my windshield. Suddenly we are inside of a car wash. The storm cell eventually passes. MKA is about to call it quits when we peer out, and there he is, astride his bike, needing to talk.
Cap’m Kruger, looking like he just escaped from a Siberian gulag -- gaunt, drawn, dull and shivering. But he didn’t want shelter and he didn’t want soup -- he wanted to talk, to explain things. Like, for starters, what was he doing here, in this KOA parking lot, when he should be out there, on the battlefields, racing with the 30 plus field?
"You got a 23?" What? "You'll need a 39 x 23. It's murder out there. You know me, I don't BS." Cap'm Kruger has just been dropped in the 30 plus race presumably because he lacked the proper gearing. This is the same former Commando trained by Special Forces to live off dirt and bugs who likes to boast after winning rain-soaked crits, and I quote, "The more miserable the weather, the better it is for me." I reminded him of his oath. His retort: “No, it’s not the rain or cold or hail -- I love that -- it’s the mountains." Cap’m Kruger was here on a mission of mercy, to warn us of a similar fate if we did not heed his advice, now.
Genghis looked at me, I looked at him, and we both looked away, grinning. This was too easy. "Well, thanks for the warning, but I think we'll stay with our 42 x 19s. Thanks anyway. And don't worry, the crit course tomorrow is flat so you can just sit in." We snickered -- a snicker that I'm sure resonated in the Cap'm's skull roughly 15 hours later as we rounded the final turn of the crit...But first, let's talk about something important, like two road races, two labor Vees.
Pro 1-2 Road Race, 60 miles (shortened from 90 due to risk of hypothermia), undulating farm roads, power climbs, corkscrew descents, blind turns, oak trees, creeks, lots of cows, very few cars.
The best thing about racing with the “elites” is your anonymity. Nobody really cares what you do or how you do it, so you can experiment. On this day, MKA decided to pretend to be a climber. On the first lap, MKA noticed that whenever a small break would form on a climb, it would always fizzle out at the top. MKA noticed that the InCycle nimnidiots were wearing radios, so perhaps the team climber was being ordered by the Clipboard lounging in a coffee shop somewhere to “back off” to wait for “the sprinter.” The Janes Lipstick riders, being young and impressionable, would back off, too, since this was apparently the winning strategy for corporate sponsored teams.
At the start of the second lap, MKA is noticing that Genghis is trying to tenderize his hamstrings by pounding on them, not lovingly, but like Rocky Balboa in the meat locker. What’s wrong? “I don’t know. I feel great, but I can’t turn the cranks over” -- like the problem was purely mechanical. See? And Genghis graduated from law school with Highest Honors. Which forces MKA to ponder: What came first? The stupid sport or the stupid players? Did the sport make Genghis stupid? Or the other way around?
And then Hovercraft rolls up in his sporty silver jag, offering libations and whatnot. “Need anything?” Now, most of us would be thinking about food and water. But Genghis, he saddles up to Hover and goes: “Yeah, about 6 miles back there’s a mulberry bush in a backyard with a fence next to a barn where I threw my toe warmers, could you go back--” At about that time our genetic vortex warning bells sounded. I remember attacking just as Hover floored it. Sometimes you just have to get away.
Getting away was not really the plan, but that’s how it worked out. After a series of jolly attacks, MKA found himself alone off the front with about 20 miles to paydirt. Hover rolls up side by side: “Dance on the peddles, Dance on the peddles.” MKA was enjoying that imagery so much -- head up in the clouds, tip toeing through the tulips -- he didn’t even have time to bunny hop the rattlesnake in his path. Poor thing, writhing in pain. Should I stop? I kept thinking how barbarian chic it would be to cross the finish line, solo, with a bloody rattlesnake draped over my shoulders. Hmmm. There’s some cactus, too. I could bite the snake’s head off, chase it down with cactus, and then go around spitting poisoned darts. Maybe start a trend. At least ward off the blue coats when they come knocking with the empty piss cups.
At one point MKA got about 1 minute 10 seconds on the pel. Then we hit the head winds at the music stopped. Hover, who was rolling back and forth between me and the break, finally announced that Beektor Ayala’s team had organized a chase, in a tone that said: “It’s over Johnny.” At which point MKA, attempting to trade self-glory for team glory says, “This is for Genghis.” Besides which rumors had been circulating that a movement was afoot to force MKA to upgrade and a 20 mile solo 12k dreamer spanking would only serve to fuel the fire. So MKA throttled back, ever concerned with image and political correctness.
As soon as the pel latches, with about 5 miles to go, Genghis attacks and eventually gets out of sight. MKA is now surrounded by a pack of spent cartridges, all smoke, no powder. The only thing keeping me awake is Hover’s banter with this Eurodork. Now, I’m not one to cast aspersions on a guy simply because of where he was begat or who begat him, but I’ve noticed this bizarre trait by European bike racers: they hate caravan operators, whether on a motorcycle or in a car. They feel compelled to scream and berate them, in the same instinctive way that a dog is compelled to attack any vehicle that comes close to his turf.
So the Eurodog is screaming at Hover, who has broken no laws, and in fact is performing a useful service. He’s out in the middle of bucolic San Luis Obispo county, burning his own gas, offering support in an event that nobody knows or cares about. “Git bok, git avay, yu dumbkof, I keel you,” and so on, gesticulating wildly, to which Hover replies, placidly, “Are you working for Labor? Do you want to be on Labor? Labor says what?” The key here is repetition. Eurodoggie, if nothing else, remembers Labor. And he should.
Genghis’ meat tenderizing apparently did the trick, as he waxed the two dreamers in the sprint after a slow speed approach. MKA won the field sprint for 4th. MKA’s journey of self discovery yielded useful information, such as, (1) Be careful of inducing out of body experiences in rattlesnake country, (2) Just because you can break away doesn’t mean you should. As for Genghis, he learned not to toss valuable garments he hoped to later retrieve in a backyard patrolled by militia-trained pit bulls.
In the 30 plus race, Hovercraft and Robocop took 1-2 with a comfortable 12 minute margin. Of note, Kevin Klown of the North showed up but refused to don the Labor J. 20 minutes into the race he’s jerking some bloke’s chain when he crossed his front wheel with the rear of another’s and smashed face first into the gravel. Naturally, Hover and Robo throttled down and got away clean. Had Klown been wearing the colors, they would have at least thrown a water bottle at his head. Klown did get up and limped in for 6th. More importantly, he learned a very valuable lesson: Don’t look a Labor gift horse in the mouth and expect tongue on the second date.
Downtown Crit, 8 AM start, frigid, .65 mile four corners; road surface quality somewhere between original Roman cobblestone and post-modern drunken Caltrans patch crew.
Not going to sugar coat this. Labor had it’s A team. Hover, Genghis, Robocop, even the embittered candy-coated Klown-man. The Daisy Maids have Cap’m Kruger and two old guys with furry legs and stale breath. From the gun it’s single file. MKA’s legs are chilled to the bone. Hanging on near the rear to warm up. Finally get out front with a short, brutish runt goes by the name of Trollson (Coalson?). He’s both oddly and powerfully built and has plenty of juice in the corners. We get out there for a few laps until my legs load up with concrete and I gotta go back to the gamebox for the jackhammer.
Meanwhile all sorts of nonsense posing and popping at the front. With about 6 to go, Trollson is off the front and Hover bridges. A few laps later, Klown gets a free ride on the rump of a push-me-pull-you. With 4 to go Genghis beckons MKA to shoot across at about the time Klown latches with Hover and Trollson. MKA makes it across the clean and with three to go it looks like a Labor panty party.
But with about 1.5 to go the pack catches on. Turns out, as usual, our gap was “huge” only in our minds. On the bell lap the speed accelerates with a knot of knuckleheads crashing and thrashing about. On the backside Genghis jumps and Kruger, the quiet one, bears down. MKA latches onto to Kruger as we approach turn No. 3. MKA decides he’d better compensate for his poor bike handling by going long and cuts to the inside.
MKA rounds the final turn, doing the Ahh-yeahh, but in the time it takes him to straighten up for the final push he could’ve gobbled three banana splits. MKA begins flooding the nervous system with urgent commands to crank-crank-crank but at a certain point the message gets lost in the madness and the legs assume a life of their own. The only control MKA can assert is the act of throwing the bike at the line but it’s difficult to spot when the eyes blur and the bottom half disappears. So you just sort of sense it’s close and throw it out there and hope for the best.
At the line, MKA looks to his right and sees Genghis, all teeth and dimples, raising his fist. On the outside, Cap’m Kruger, quiet like a Doberman. We congratulate Kruger, fraudulently, on the grim chance that he dinked us. This one’s for the eye in the sky.
The eye in the sky don’t lie. Kruger’s wheel hits the stripe before MKA’s by the width of a nose hair. Labor shrinks in horror at the fallout -- Cap’m Brawny Shreds Labor Timber to Pulp. Labor scrambles it’s PR team for a comforting spin. “He just sat and sprinted.” But this snub wears thin -- it takes nerves of steel to sit while a break rides away, with no assurances that the pack will chase. And only a flasher would stick his dink out there show. And whether it’s by an peephole or the full monty, a Vee is a Vee. So you have to give credit, even though you don’t want to.
The Mother Board
1. Cap’m Kruger, Daisy Maiden Critwits
2. Max Kash Agro, Labor Power Tinkle Dinks
3. Genghis Hahn, Labor Power Early Jacks
4. Pretendo I
5. Pretendo II
6. Kevin Klown, Labor Power Mental Patients
AfterAgro: The promoters are nice people and I’m sure they mean well but did it really make sense to toss the collegiate retard category in with the 30 plus? Every 5th lap it was like passing through a freaks n geeks party or a meteor shower or herd of scaredy cats. Another gritch. Why start the wheeler dealer master blasters at the crack o dawn while reserving the premium downtown Sunday noon lunch crowd slot for 5 dormfed girls, who waddled around at an average speed just below double figures?