March 20, 2002
Max Cash Agro
Redlands, 40+ Criterium, Pre-Game Chalk Talk
MKA addressing troops at close range through megaphone: "Allright, huddle up. Labor goes large today. Stanky, I want you and Hover to monitor the front, pretend like you're going long, but keep it together. On my mark, within 5 to go, I want a vicious solo attack, followed by a gut-busting counter. I don't want you idiots to finish. You hear? I'm not up here some macho Nick Nolte in Thin Red Line boasting about the necessity of sacrificing soldiers. This is not self-sacrifice. You are not expendable. This is full-investment, with no interim position accepted. You will be rewarded. On my mark."
Stanky: "Do you mean you're going to order us to attack with your bullhorn? Won't everyone hear you? Shouldn't we use walkie-talkies, or radios, in the ear, like Postal?"
MKA: "Look, you're new to Labor, so you don't know. Labor is not about secrecy or skullduggery. We want them to know we're coming. We want them to know it's going to hurt. Like going to the dentist for a root canal, or that annual finger probe by the proctologist. A scared human tends to seize up in anticipation of the pain. The mind floods the flesh with cortisol, which produces tension, which overcomes will, which paralyzes, which compounds the torture. Plus it's real stupid to attack in this fashion which is exactly why it must done."
Stanky (incredulous tone) : "It must be done because it's stupid? That's the strategy?
MKA: "The strategy comes from downtown. Downtown says this is not a 'match', or a 'game', or a 'round robbin' fer christ, it's a race. The street says we're supposed to ride around half-asleep until the bell lap, at which point 10-15 guys go bonkers: 50 minutes of tedious time-spanning boredom punctuated with one brief fire fight. Labor says we race from the gun. Every attack is like a dagger in the hide of the beast. Eventually, after sustained and targeted pricking, the beast will tire, and that's when we mount the final push.
[Cell Phone Rings, MKA answers.] "Agro. Phil, yes, what can I ... Well, I'm busy right now. What? Shaq doesn't like Fox's haircut? Kobe won't give up the rock? .... Phil, all due respect, I don't have time for this nonsense. I can't do my job and yours, let me get back to you...No, later.... OK, call me back in an hour. Take a vicodin ferchrist and throw 'em that 'bury the me, raise the we' claptrap."
MKA continues: "So yes, I'm going to order the strike, via megaphone, and you're going to execute it without thinking. And if after my direct order you should actually hear me heckling the field thereafter, then your brain is still operating, which means you're not pounding, which is to say you are flailing. And permit me to say this, flailers are a dime a dozen -- dandies who talk about "team" and "lead outs" and "just wanting to have fun," but when it comes time to charge the machine gun nest are suddenly too tired or AWOL. Labor didn't bring you in so you could finish top twenty. This isn't a finishing school for dilettantes. We brought you in so you couldn't finish at all. With smagma all over the cheeks, top tube and shorts. Wasted productively and happy."
Stanky: "I see. No I do. These other teams, we used to talk about not taking this too seriously and just having fun, but in truth we were depressed as hell, we hated each other and we had zero fun. What you're saying is that I can have fun blowing my lungs out and not finishing because it will be in service of the greater good - the good of Labor. Coach, I can do it."
Der Hiptler: "Permission to excuse myself to Port-a-Pooper."
MKA: "Permission denied. Hiptler, I want you to hold it, because that's your job, to hold back, until the end, at which time you will be allowed to release the pressure in one final blast, sans paper. Lugnuts, you take the point on the bell with Butch in tow. Butch, I'm just wasting my time telling you what to do. When Hipp blows, it could get ugly, as he has not eaten a vegetable in approximately 7 years, and there's no telling what kind tarry residues, protozoa and dung suckers are festering therein."
Which is about what happened. Hovercraft and Stanky initiated or joined several breaks, most of which were powered by fresh old-timers such as: battle hardened warhorse and fellow clipboard, Perturbo Rogers of Liquid Toxic Metal; Italian micro-Fabio and legendary sponsor-sucking candiru Gassyhola, aka Gash, G-hole, purported winner of over 400 races over his charming 20 year career (note: a candiru is a toothpick thin fish about an inch long that has a hideous habit of swimming up the slits, gashes and holes of other animals to feast on fresh blood, once inside the tube they attach with barbs and must be surgically removed). And finally, ageless flower child, harmless Goodfella, fellow clipboard and Phanner of the 12k Phlame, Ed Demonseed. With 5 to go, MKA Patton-like barks his directive: "Attack Stanky Attack!" Which he does, with abandon. The pel chases and catches. Four to go, Hover counters, opens gap. Cap'm Kruegger goes to front in full chase mode. Hover locks up with 1.5 to go. Lugnuts takes the point through the bell, with Butch and Der Hiptler glued like lampreys.
Coming out of the quasi hairpin at turn no. 1, Perturbo and Gash attack for all they're worth ($12k?), fully committed, a near identical replay of their successful move last week at Vizee, which Butch and Hiptler both covered, but Butch blew out both tires with a few turns to go (note: he did not go down; in fact, still in the hunt, Butch Cass continued to dive into the corners on both rims, clinchers dangling, spraying the field with sparks, and some say he would've gone all the way to the finish like that if it were not for the providential intervention of the men in white coats who wrapped him up in a straightjacket and carried him off the course, screaming).
Butch took off after Gash and Turbo like John Wayne in True Grit after the bad guys. With one turn to go, Turbo and Gash were both on fumes, and Butch saw his chance. He dove into the final turn, with Hiptler locked on. As per orders, Hiptler did not see open road until the last 20 meters.
Der Hiptler, who in his day could close at a speed roughly equivalent to the rate at which a Black Hole sucks, recounted: "Before the race I secretly let out a few psi from Butch's tires so he wouldn't blow at 40 per in the last corner. I had to scrub a little speed before Butch made his move but I've been motorpacing to Starbookio's every afternoon for a triple mocha frosty so I figured my top end was primed, plus I put the 11 on, in addition to which I had been getting a saddle sore from sitting all day and really needed to jump , which also helped stave off a blood clot I could feel pooling in my right leg."
Labor Bored, Redlands 40+
1.Der Hiptler, Labor Power (water bottle supercharged with M&M-/Mountain Dew cocktail)
2. Butch "Mama" Cass, Labor Power (takes to frenetic bell lap like duck to water)
3. Stan Bunghole, Flailer Mades (welcome back, the pel needs your deranged strain of bitterness)
4. Roberto Gassy-hola, Rent-a-Pro (3 hours later won the ho-hum pro 1-2 post-dream race )
5. Perturbo Rogers, Toxic Heavy Metal (soloed about 10 laps for glory)
30+ Criterium : Legend Building Labor Style
MKA settling into role as insane team coxswain, manning the clipboard and the motherphone. Wasn't it Lenin who said no army can withstand a clever man with a printing press and a catchy slogan? Turns out MKA is far more powerful, considerably louder, and far more annoying with a megaphone than with a bike, or a keyboard. Don't believe me? When was the last time you saw three teammates in a big race stay off the front with three laps to go? Sure, legs, lungs, heart and bitterness played a role, but MKA polled the racers afterward and the consensus was that the m-phone was key. Decide for yourself.
Big crit. Fast. Multiple early breaks. Several look promising, but looks deceive. Labor, as per genetic design, rabidly attacking. Not a single break without at least one Laborite. Furrball in early getaway with Dr. Brick S-house, reformed 12k dreamer Tomo Kemosabe and clump of Velocity squatters. Hover bridges up. Break gets caught. Labor Europretty Hans Von Bigelow honing art of stoopid attack to perfection. L.Ron Labor seen bridging and rolling. Hoverhawk swooping, diving, strafing and pseudo-fluttering. H. Diddy massively controlling the front with coolness of Hud and caginess of the Desert Fox: nothing gets away without his blessing. Genghis Hahn, in the weeds, hiding, waiting to strike, jaws swollen with high-protein neurotoxins. Psycho Wiko and Butch on alert, ready to clog the front on a moment's notice.
MKA on the backside, working the phones, absorbing taunts and threats from the Velocity slobs under the tent. Decide to re-position on the straightaway, where MKA draws nuisance fire from the likes of Brother Bunghole (de facto clipboard for Taylor Maidens) and pop gun-toting big gamer Cleveland, who predicts that Labor will flail because Labor "doesn't know how to race." Brother B-hole communicates with troops using hand signals and lip syncing. Crowing that no labor break will stick because he's ordering his boys to pull it back. Like high stakes poker, MKA sees his chase and raises the bid with a counter. Brother B-hole covers the bet, at which time MKA says "finey. You want a field sprint, I'll give you a field sprint. Labor, after all, has got a few guys in there who've won a few races."
Labor orders a shut down. About this time, about 20 minutes to go, Fembot national hero and bikie guru Hegg Starr decides that MKA is wielding too much influence and having too much fun. He drops off the back, exits the race, and saunters over to MKA's perch in the gutter. "Give me that phone!" MKA, lips firmly locked on his precious propaganda transmitter: "Get your own phone -- there's some roadwork about a click from here, grab a yellow traffic cone." "I want your phone. Do you know who I am? I was winning gold medals when you were memorizing Beowulf. These idiots don't listen to me. They should be honored to have me. I want a little respect!" "Heggstar, valid points all, but this phone fits me, it's like magic, the synergism, I speak to it, my boys respond. I lose this phone my boys flounder, confused and lost like castaways in a storm." "Look, I know bike racing, and phone or not, your boys are already floundering. That guy in the yellow helmet, the one you call L-Ron, for example, he's weak, can't handle a bike and has no business being in this race."
The object of Hegg Starr's derision is none other than L.Ron Hubbard, a mild-mannered, tallish, thinnish and ultra-lean roadie who is about as intimidating as Woody in Toy Story. Earlier in the day, in the 12k Dream race, L.Ron powered a six man break for about 10 laps before getting caught on the final lap. L. Ron was itching to bust out. All he needed was a tiny crack in the door. Genghis responded by tearing the door off the jambs. In the last ten minutes, Genghis never saw the field. He put himself out there, dangling, knowing that either the cavalry would come up, or the field would burn up chasing, allowing Butch, Wike , Furrball and Hippstar to clean up.
With three laps to go, something strange happened. Approaching turn one, Genghis had a small gap on a charging Hover who had a small gap on L.Ron who had a wee gap on the field. Holy Moses! If Labor can connect the dots and launch, and at the same time, call up the reinforcements to the front, Labor can redefine team tactics. MKA nearly expectorates his larnyx barking orders: "Stanky, Butch, Wike, move up, CLOG and SLOG!" It was beautiful, Butch, gag-faced, sprints to the front and opens the out riggers. Meanwhile, Hover, Genghis and L.Ron solidify, miniaturize and synergize. With two to go, the Labor Trio has 7 seconds. The entire Fembot team is on the front of the spear, stringing it out. The Trio is driving, digging so deep they break their collective shovel against the bedrock, but no mind, they get down on their hands and knees and claw their way through the firewall with bare fingers. Hey, isn't this what it's all about? Tapping dormant reservoirs of power? Converting "I can't" into "I will?"
One to go. The trio holds a five second gap. The Fembots have vaporized. Velocity takes over, fully loaded, with McFiddy armed and dangerous. Hover, Genghis and L.Ron working together, as one, wasting nothing, repelling the souring signals, flooding the cortex with natural narcotics, nurturing the burn, reveling in that rarified mind-body moment when what we normally call "pain" is actually a sort of "pleasure." The announcer energized the crowd: "This is unprecedented. This never happens. The pack won't let a break from the same team stick. It's the ultimate in-your-face. The ultimate domination."
MKA's hoofs it to the start finish, bones rattling, catching shrapnel from Cleveland's exploding head. This is going to be close. Suddenly, out of the last corner, Genghis and L.Ron zip out, with Hover holding on for dear life. Three seconds later a long stream of riders buzz by like angry yellowjackets from a beehive on a mission. Hold on Hover! Hold on! McFiddy is closing down fast. L.Ron and Genghis hit the line, arms raised, exhausted but delerious. Hover ran out of gas about a klick down the road but is driving forward purely on muscle memory and transcendental magnetism. Hover hits the line just as McFiddy flies by, with Der Hiptler in his sour wake.
Bejeezus! This wasn't in the script! This is mega-epic madness that will burn long in the memory of friends and foe alike, for centuries to come. Years from now, they'll be asking, where were you when Labor went 1-2-3 at Redlands, like where were you when Torble & Dean won gold, or when Hank Aaron belted no. 715, or when Franco caught the deflected pass, or when Bobby Thompson hit the shot heard 'round the world, Cassius knocked out Sonny, or when LeMond beat Fignon by 8 seconds, or when Beamon jumped 29 feet, or when the Bills raged back from 28 down to beat the Oilers, or Michael J's buzzer beater against the Jazz and the Cavs, or Flutie's Hail Mary, or when Mike Bootner's Fighting Falcon sophomore team lost to the Galveston Tors 65-0 and the whole team had to crab for 3 days.
1. L. Ron Peterson, Labor Power (with apologies to the oracle of Hegg Star)
2. Genghis Hahn, Labor Power (Bitterness as pure as the driven snow)
3. Hoodee Mahatma Hoverhawk, Labor Power (I got nothing left boss)
4. McFiddy, Velocity (He who hesitates is lost)
5. Der Hiptler, Labor Power (last man over the Grapevine in driving snowstorm before I-5 closed, pure Labor)
Racing's fun, but MKA has found his calling, the Mouth behind the Megaphone.