Sea Squatter Exclusive: Labor Powered by The Old Ways, Driven like the Devil, Inspired by the Legends
When the Legends Die,
The Dreams End.
When the Dreams End,
There is no more Greatness.
--Bear’s Brother, Ute Indian
April 16, 2003
Are pounding and winning exclusive?
Go back to the beginning. What prompted us to take up the bike? Mediocrity in other more conventional sports? The allure of escape from studying, deadlines, girlfriends, wives, the grind of the work-a-day world? The need to stave off imminent bloating without forsaking your favorite sin snacks? The repressed feminine fondness for shiny legs, tight lycra and tropically scented cocoa-butter? The hope of a spiritual awakening of the kind that can only be triggered by the wanton flaggelation of the flesh? The promise of glamorous prizes, of camaraderie with like-minded freaks, of travel to exotic places?
What about the sheer joy of pounding? Didn’t most of us enter our first race with the innocent notion that the strongest man won? That the hallowed place of an honorable and decent warrior was on the front, jaw in the wind, eager to protect his turf from unworthy overakers? Wasn’t our motivating mantra captured by and reduced to the simple mandate:“Hammer”? And didn’t along the way we get tired of being the strongest rider who never placed? Didn’t we grow weary and ultimately ashamed of losing the war to nefarious wheel sucks and pretenders? Didn’t we get sick of chasing down the break singlehandedly, or getting caught at the line after a 45 mile solo, or pulling the field the last 5 laps -- of doing all these heroic and epic deeds -- without so much as a nod of respect from the ungrateful benefactor of our labors?
And along the way didn’t we soon learn that the only recognizable measure of success is the Board, or a trumped up title, the holy grail of the closer and the bane of the poser? So didn’t we begin to put away our foolish notions of unfettered pounding and sadistic pummeling as the only honest means to a glorious end in favor of the sly and savvy strategems of the celebrity podium hound? Didn’t we begin to understand the survival advantages of surrounding ourselves with bridge-crossers, mountain climbers, pack sprinters, imploders, e-mail hackers, detonators and psy-ops specialists? Didn’t we begin to supplant our own desires for glory for that of the team? And didn’t along the way we learn that in a team sport each member has a role to play, has a rung on the food chain, as it were? But, as the race dynamic unfolds, how often is it that the salt-encrusted pounder is also the champagne spraying closer?
Memories are like legends. If we forget them, we get lost. Most of us -- the old timers -- were driven in the early days by the powerful image of a glistening, irrepressible Greg Lemond battling the Europeans on top of the world, and against all odds, winning. We learned that he made history without the aid of teammates. He went into the enemy’s arena, showed no fear, and despite the bullet holes, the poverty and the impossible deficits, he conquered all with Rasputin-like devilry. He was a hammer. A pounder. When Lemond’s ghost enters MKA’s brainshow, he is not being led out, he is not being coddled, he is not being nurtured by a posse of scrubbers, wipers, robots and eunuchs. He is not waiting -- he is attacking. I see only LeMond, the mountain, a sharktoothed smile and the frightened faces of peckers about to get pounded.
And so the issue today is whether Labor can win and pound, like we were taught, by the legends, who planted the seeds that inspire greatness.
Sea Squatter, 40 plus Road Race, 64 miles, headlined by self-proclaimed world’s greatest masters teams, the immortals from Jax (Turbo, Hoffy, McPherson, et al). 25 miles to go. MKA perturbed at the stop and go traffic. Breaks that look promising form, only to disintegrate because one smart guy decides 70 minutes from now he can’t win and pedal hard. MKA attacks, not for looks, not for glory, and not out of boredom. MKA attacks because it felt right, and it felt good, and I’m tired of speculating about what will happen, I only know that right now I’m sick of the pretending, this is not poker ferchrist, and from somewhere deep an old voice is whispering, louder and louder, “Hammer.”
Benny Parks (aka the Desert Rat) and Ricky La Virus (aka Simpson, Jax) bridge up with Mark Fennel Seed. The hammering commences. LaVee takes his turns, but MKA can sense that the fervor of his pulls has been dampened by the stern vibe coming from his brethren in the rear. He is torn. “If I pull my guts out, I probably won’t win, may even get dropped. But if I sit, Agro et al will go medieval on me, forever.” Meanwhile, Fennel has the look of a mail carrier with a long road to go and a short time to get there. Slightly insane, capable of savage acts of cruelty, quiet. The Desert Rat? Picture a slightly more intelligent Vampire.
After about 15 miles we’ve got a 2 minute gap. Fennel disappears, without a whimper. He simply faded away, without notifying us of his imminent demise, not once begging for mercy. His transition from Pound to Flail was immediate, like a bullet to the back of the head. But he gave his life with the solace and comfort that on this day a pounder, not a pack-squatting sychophant, would prevail. Fennel seed died with his cleats on, his honor in tact.
We hit the final climb, our gap comfortable. MKA has a hunger that won’t be sated, attacking the climbs like a bowl of Haagy Dee Vanilla Swiss-A and ripping on the flats like a cheetah in full gallop. That’s the key -- the coveted gallop, when you began to rock as if on a quarterhorse, light as a feather, the wheels barely touching the ground, willing yourself forward, each rhythmic bob a step up in the speed, a boost in the momentum, which seems boundless. Pounding. The moment. You own it. Liberated from the fear of an investment soured. Comfortable with the knowledge that at another time in an other place this would be stupid and painful, but for now, it’s working, and I’m going with it.
MKA launches a mock attack to evaluate the wattage of his compatriots. Ricky the Vee wasn’t being coy when he disclosed that he was hurting. He dropped like a bug-infested big oak. Just me and Benny left, and MKA is holding a full house, on account the wings are spry and the legs are quick. At the top of the final climb, his fate sealed, Benny squeals for mercy, offering me the vig for the throw, but you don’t get to heaven by selling your soul.
1. Max Kash Agro, Labor Pounder (grateful for the Pound, mindful of the Flail)
2. Bennie Parks, aka Desert Rat (a solid day spoiled by end of the trail whimpering)
3. Ricky the Virus, Jax (dutifully held out for the turbo posse, but plum give out when the switchblades broke out)
4. Perturbo, Jax (inexplicable)
5. Hoodee Hovercraft, aka Hawk n stalk, Labor Powza (you can’t play me now nor play me later)
We’re not done. In the 30 plus crit, to the untrained eye it looked like Labor was enroute to an epic flail with both of its smashmouth sprinters, Gspot and Psycho Wiko, off the front with 35 minutes to go on a long straight course with only three turns, looking like a pair of shotputters rumbling ahead of a pack of skeletons in the marathon. You could see the joy in their ruddy cheeks as they lumbered by lap, after lap, with a tenuous 20 second gap, a pair of hippos dressed up like butterflies. Of course their labor brethren enhanced and extended the dream, rudely clogging up the corners and impolitely letting gaps open. But doubts lingered: yes, the cindarella sprinters are pounding now, full of grace and form, but when the time and territory become precious, will they turn to pumpkins?
Wiko shook off the dream and smartly faded to the pack with 10 minutes remaining. Gspot held on longer, fully emersed in the vision of one man pulling away from a battalion of angry bloodsuckers. It looked like he was going to go down fighting, but as we’ve learned the only good fight is the one you win. With three laps the pack absorbed Gspot, who at that point had every right to retreat to the first aid tent with loaded legs and soured puss, except for one thing -- he’s Labor.
On the final lap, Genghis, KB, Hover, L Ron and Wetcalf took turns monster pulling on the point, with Wiko in tow. Going into the final turn, Gspot from the dead dives into the lead, with Wiko trying to hold onto the speed without tapping his breaks, which to a crazy Irishman is like detoxing your whiskey with ice. He somehow manages to square up without t-boning the curb, grabs Gspot’s wheel, who slings him to the line.
For every pound, there is theoretically an equal and opposite flail. Labor continues to subscribe to this thesis; however, as in nature, sometimes seemingly random aberrations rattle the universal truths. This could be one of those paradigm-busting anamolies, unless the missing element is time, and we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the meantime, Labor’s enjoying the ride.
1. John Psycho Wiko, Labor Power (bruising bundle of jolly good bitterness)
2. G-Spot, aka Great Scott, Labor Power (off the front, in the scrum, it don’t matter)
3. Waiters, lickspittles, yes men, do nothings, crouching chickens.
More to come. In the 30 plus circuit race at the Laguna Seca Raceway, again Labor was forced to consider not only whether we would win, but how, as style points count. This sounds arrogant, but it’s not. In a field sprint, Labor’s golden, with Wiko and Gspot coiled like springs, waiting to burst. In the interim, we’ve got the ever ruthless Genghis ready to plunge the dagger in a breakaway, along with KB and L Ron. So it comes as no surprise that Genghis found himself in a break with the omnipresent Mr. G Spot and an infiltrator, didn’t enjoy the company, and broke away solo on the last lap, for the vee.
The 30 plus Bored
1. Genghis Hahn, Labor Power (high winning percentage when remains upright)
2. G-Spot, Labor Power (drawn to the line like a blue tick hound after a ring tail coon)
3. DNA analysis pending
4. Pyscho Wiko, Labor Power (don’t let the chub, the curls and the lipstick fool you, Pyscho’s a widowmaker from South Central with a thirst for peckerheaded pretendos).
Look, as the saying goes, Satan never had to win no stinking title to prove how good he was. Titles, like victories, don’t measure the man, and they don’t prove greatness. It’s that rare intersection of winning and pounding, when we take the prize despite the employment of tactically unsound or imprudent methods, that produce the memories that endure through the ages.