There are those chronic malcontents who like to condemn the Blue Coats for being unduly harsh, autocratic or petty but Max Kash is not one of them. Lately I've been hearing all sorts of crybabying about getting charged a $15.00 penalty for wearing your number upside down but there's solid policy arguments to support this punishment. The officials who have to study the videotape sometimes must cock their heads at an awkward angle to read the number and this can result in acute neck strain. Also a caddywampus number makes it more difficult to deek a rider for a center line violation. And finally I don't know how many times I've wobbled and nearly crashed because of the vertigo that comes from trying to decipher an askew or askance number at oxygen-depriving speeds. So there's good reasons.
Besides which the Blue Coats are charged with the awesome responsibility of protecting us from ourselves. Bike racers are notorious for pushing the safety envelope in ways that expose the entire pelaton to grave danger. This week, at the Pomona Valley Stage Race, I was again reminded of the invaluable service the Blue Coats provide in a sport rife with sinister paper folders, paper crumblers, surrepticious feeders, parking lot micturators, TP hijackers and the loathesome creeps who don’t have at least one foot on the blacktop when the gun goes off.
It’s no secret that cyclists can be ruthless in the art of deception. Before the road race, I spotted a tall lanky dumbkoff with tube socks sporting a Maipei jersey. Although he didn’t speak French and seemed out of place on his cyclocross bike, I marked him as The Man and decided not to shadow Turbo, Squeeker, Shaggy (aka, Brian Keith or vice versa, time trialer and gluttonous consumer of cheeseburgers and Scooby snacks), Kiwi, Benny the Desert Rat, Wild Bill “Bumblebee”Harris or the Italian pissant who refused to trade me a bottle of chianti for a “God Bless GM” bumper sticker.
The Blue Coats thankfully intervened, investigated, discovered the faux foreigner was actually a coon hunter from Fontucky, stripped him of his counterfeit kit and spared me the embarrassment of spending the next 3 hours sniffing the backside of a garlic pill popper. Plus it was the politically correct thing to do since the French refuse to help Boots ‘n Coots make a killing putting out well fires in the Iraqi oil fields and finally I must praise the Blue Coats for protecting the struggling cement industry here on American soil -- I mean with that unfair kind of advertising I was ready to get on Ebay and order 12 bags of French grout.
Parenthetically, Turbo did manage to squeeze off the front without MKA’s coxswaining and wound up towing the Italian, Kiwi and Desert Fox around for about 50 miles before succumbing to the nefarious skumjack who like all Europeans simply took the strong American for granted, exploited his big hearted kindness, road his coattails and pipped him at the line for the stage glory and a box of macaroni ‘n cheese. I must note that Labor would’ve done the same thing but Hover flatted and spent the next 25 miles bridging with loyal mates G.Spot and Stricky Dicky who was riding like the wind when he wasn’t stopping to take a leak.
Paper violations make for easy calls but it takes real sack for a Blue Coat to rise above the namby pamby compunctions of secular humanism and do what’s right. Take the final criterium. On the last lap, Will Bill Harris took a flyer with about a kilo to go. MKA gives chase but after about 30 seconds I didn’t know what hurt worse, my legs from the lactic bath or my bruised ego from failing to narrow the gap. We approach the final turn. Gspot has wedged up between the snow fencing and my left hip, and I’ve got Stricky tucked up on my right, making a sumptuous but highly unstable Labor sandwich. I’m busy calculating what’s worse, a broken neck or chest trauma, when Stricky moves right so G Spot can bust through and MKA can go hide. We round the last turn. A stampede of snot snorting Nimbolinos rush by. I look up to see Stricky tall as a Giraffe spinning out the 11, bony knees and pointy elbows boiling in full scramble.
Suddenly, Stricky is break-dancing on the blacktop at 40 per like one of those computer animated cosmic bugs in that most excellent sci-fi spoof “Starship Trooper”. It looked like he was coming around mild-but- not-meek Joe “The Giant Killer” Otero’s left and they both banged bars and/or insect parts. Stricky slides across the blacktop like a greased daddy longlegs and we barely avoid launching over his flesh-torn tentacles. If violence can be called art, this was a beauty. One for the books. Right up there with napalming that little naked vietnamese girl Kim Phuc.
Fortunately, aside from 3rd degree burns and a shredded Labor skinsuit (estimated street value: $890), Stricky was not seriously hurt. His main complaint was the agony of looking up from his fallen state to watch his arch nemesis Gap Star whiff by him for 48th. But MKA hadn’t signed up a client in the last 12 hours and was feeling hungry. So I walked over to the Blue Coats and asked the Chief Cheese Wiz the following: “Did you see anything unusual or untowards about the line anyone was taking within the final 100 meters?” I tried to maintain decorum as MKA knows the very sound of his voice can provoke hostilities. Besides it looked like the Chief hadn’t slept for three days and the Old Milwaukee stein of cold black coffee wasn’t working.
Madame Crabbe shot back with a tinge of sarcasm: “Oh, Do you mean when your teammate threw himself on the pavement?” Stunned, I asked for a clarification: “Just so we’re clear, the official position of the USCF, charged with protecting the riders and serving the sport, is that Steve Strickler, renown for crushing Squeeker in training rides, crashed himself?” Madame Bluecoat’s rebuttal was at once resolute and sobering: “Yes. Now get out of my face.”
Then it struck me. This is one of those courageous and unpopular decisions that we on Labor never expected the Blue Coats to make. For years now Labor has been ordering it’s closers to flop in the final 100 meters for obvious strategic reasons. The pile up will usually allow the Labor point man to casually stroll to the line unfettered. Point of fact, Gspot, who was on the front, took the Vee. Usually, with all the focus on the blood, anguish and mayhem, the Blue Coats will abstain from investigating the matter further. The horror of grown men at high speed in a tight cluster launching themselves onto the pavement is just too much for civilized folks to bear. But it happens all the time.
I realized that Madame Crabby was on to Labor’s Kamikazee caper. To shut the matter down and prevent escalation, I quickly departed, thankful that the Madame didn’t exercise her authority to both suspend Stricky for reckless endangerment and disqualify Gspot for benefiting from bush tactics. To paraphrase Capt. Willard, as he headed up river to Col. Kurtz, charging a field sprinter with manslaughter is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indianapolis 500. It happens, plus administratively it’s always easiest to blame the victim.
But there’s more. Yes, protecting riders from savage if not suicidal forms of altruism is a noble calling. More noble however is the Blue Coat’s iron-fisted, zero tolerance to creeping liberalism. In stage two, the circuit race, on the final lap of the 45 plus race, Labor’s Agrobat rounded the final turn sitting comfortably in the catbird’s seat about 5 back with 300 meters to go. Suddenly the wide buttocks of a cat IV sluggo appeared . The three riders on the point cut right. The no. 4 rider and Agrobat attempted to cut left, but rammed into Sluggo’s bumper. Agrobat and his pointman crashed hard. Hoffy, who was returning from a cracked pelvis himself, narrowly shaved the USCF Evil Kneivel who was puttering absently a few meters ahead of the field, averting further disaster.
Yes, yes, it’s a tragedy when a man goes down, but like Il Duce said, “The trains must run on time.” The Rican went to help his friend and brother who was in obvious pain from a probable broken pelvis. As Agrobat winced and grimaced, Rican assisted the medics in moving Agrobat to the ambulance. At about that same time, our 35 plus field, minus Rican, the good samaritan, roared by. The Blue Coats had started the race while two men were still down. After the race, the Blue Coats docked Rican, who was sitting in 9th place overall, 5 minutes for his good deed. Now, there are liberal do-gooders out there who will bitch and moan that this is but another example of hard-hearted cruelty by the Blue Coats. But think of the strength it took for the Blue Coats to drown out the anguished cries of soft-hearted sentimentalism in order to get Rican’s mind right. If Rican wants to ever amount to anything as a bike racer, he’s got to focus on himself, and put to bed these silly utopian ideals of helping others. And he darn sure better cease and desist with that seditious talk of holding the bumbling, blundering Blue Coats accountable for creating an unsafe road condition by not clearing out the dropped dungbeetle and his official motorcycle escort. If he doesnt like it, there’s plenty of room down on Fidel’s farm.
Wait, MKA’s not finished. There’s more evidence that the Blue Coats will simply not cave in to trembling emotion. While Stricky was putting leeches on his oozing burns and Agrobat was figuring out how he’s going to limp back to Vegas after his Fontucky surgeon plates his fractured acetabulum, Hipp Star was up in Sacramento picking shards of glass, pull tabs and thumb tacks out of his face (see our fallen hero in all his naked glory at http://www.laborpower.us/photos/misc2003/faceplant01sm.JPG). Turns out in a crit Hipp Starr didn’t have time to break so he stopped his forward momentum with the left side of his grill. Now there are those who will get squeamish and upset and feel obligated to send sympathy cards and commiserate with his pain and suffering. But how does this help the sport? Shouldn’t we be focusing on the winner? The living? The pursuit of the $12k dream?
Yes, yes, a bloody face, multiple lacerations requiring stitches, three broken ribs and another shredded Labor skin are plenty to cry about. But this is a tough sport. Save your tears. Face-planting happens. Cycling is a blood sport. How else are we going to compete with Nascar? Does anyone really go to a crit to watch a vicious attack, or a brave solo effort, or a blistering lead out? No. We want catastrophic injuries. And the Blue Coats’ job is to deliver. The minute they stop fining riders for upside down numbers, and start penalizing reckless racers, or removing the spike strips out of the final turn, the American public will simply go back to smackdown brawling or demolition derby. The sport will die without the prospect of imminent carnage.
Besides Hipp Star don’t want no stinking sympathy. Neither does Agrobat nor Stricky. Like all juiced up jocks, they’re in full denial. They just want to get back on the bike and take another crack at the coveted, life-sustaining podium, with the ancillary benefits of future call-ups and lavish recognition by the Rev. Billy Stone. And in this manner, under the selective hand of the Blue Coats, the sport weeds out the infirm, the meek, the liberal tree huggers, earth muffins and safety nuts, and the pack as a whole rolls into the next industrial park stronger, twitchier, snappier, choppier and more savage in its delerious quest for the $12k, undeterred by the prospect of attrocities, fully prepared to embrace the Horror as our beautiful friend.
For complete results of the Pamona Valley Stage Race, see http://www.scvelo.com/pvsr/results.html *Note that MKA does not appear on the Final GC, as the Blue Coats ruled that I had “DNF’d” . In truth, MKA did finish, and was 9th overall (whoopee doo), but MKA accepts his punishment gracefully, and remains grateful for the privilege of being able to expose myself and others to great danger under the painstaking stewardship of my beloved Blue Coats.