How Dying Hard Makes Winning Easy. The Barrio and Avocado Hills
May 8, 2006
Barrio Logan, San Diego, 40 plus crit.
Two to go. MKA's worried. Two bigbox sprinters in the 5-nim break. One's got hairy legs, a large round snout and a wide load [Matt Hahn, aka "Cappy', short for Cappybarra). The other's got a sharp beak, bad teeth, bloodshot eyes and a bad liver [Stricky].
MKA's got a teammate Elmer Fudd (the inscrutable mathematical genius formerly known as "Ratfink") in the break, but MKA's not sure whether's he's got fuel in his tank or fire in his belly.
Rounding out the break is Choco Loco, aka "Chocolate E'Clare," who loves to pull hard until he can't, or at least until MKA makes a move. After taking yeoman pulls at the outset, Choco has been coasting. Either he's spent, or he's saving for a final push.
You Laughing Now?
Back in the glory days, Hoffy's Heroes (aka, the Blockheads) dominated Labor. That was before Elmer Fudd broke out his MKA plumber's helper, the master declogger. Once the pipes were cleaned, Elmer chased down, abused, and casually dropped Heroe No. 7, The Mule, at San Luis Rey, while the Cloggers flogged themselves.
Problem is MKA's got zero confidence in his "Bike English." When it comes to high-speed concerning, MKA is a muddler - at best, he muddles through it. MKA can't remember which way to lean. Does he lean his body into the turn? Like the Superbike hosses do? Or does he lower his bike towards the corner, but shift his body away from same? MKA tried to read a how-to book by Davis Phinney a few years ago. Phinney used the term "counter steering."
This seemed to make sense at the time, but the intervening years have been unkind to MKA's memory. MKA thought he read that motorcyclists "counter steer," that is, they shift their weight away from the corner. But I've tuned into the Superbike races on Speed Channel. I've seen with my own eyes the master pocket-rocketeer Troy Bayliss not only lean into the turns but happily massage his kneecap against the pavement at warp speed. He leans into, not away.
Bottom line: MKA lacked the skills, the confidence and the edge. Besides which there was a splotch of oil at the apex of the final turn and MKA's already donated his share of buttcheek to the asphalt gods this year. Added to which has never come from behind to beat anybody-if he scores, he let's her rip long and large (don't read that last sentence after replaying your favorite porn file). MKA needs to light it up early, banana the last turn, and hope that Stricky and Cappy grease out on a spilled taco.
With 1 ½ laps to go, the ants in MKA's pants collectively bite down hard and MKA jumps like a cat with his tail on fire. Slides through the chicane comfortably and despite admonitions to hammer and not look back, curiosity wins out. He looks back, hoping to see the hang-dog faces of dejected grunts, or better, the bickering of embittered warlords whose fragile solidarity has just gone to pot. All those calories burned! All that gunpowder exploded! All those dreamsicles - melted.
Choco's locked on - imagine being chased down by a Clydesdale on steroids. Frightening actually. MKA decides to throttle back, coasts through turns one and two, flattens out on the backstetch, finding comfort in the expectation that Elmer Fudd will counter with a vicious FU counter. Alas. Elmer piddles by with a grinning Stricky locked on. Christ, now MKA's got to hop on that love train, which fortunately was far from "runaway" status.
Then the fun started. MKA sidles up to Elmer as if to say "well, are you going to light it up or what? I got some juice left." Elmer appears unbothered, as if to say: "where's the fire?" We have four turns to go. Elmer gently takes the point. No thrashing. No swinging elbows. No grunting. Elmer comes out of the uphill turn casually, like we're strolling through the countryside . MKA wants action. He wants anger. He wants to feel the Grim Reaper's cold bony fingers tickling his throat. He wants to hear chain bolts creaking. Instead he's getting the visual equivalent of a milk cow in a field chewing on a giant prozac-lick.
MKA's gotta go. Got to go into the chicane first, come out first, and leave the rest to chance. MKA bolts. Enters chicane first. He comes out first. But even by fruit standards MKA's banana turn is neither crisp nor green. Instead it's soft, mushy and tar-black. The Master Opportunist and unsympathetic rapacious predator Stricky-Dick, like a bad case of herpes, cannot be shaken. Stricky reels MKA in, gaffs him on board, and runs his razor sharp talon from stem to stern, spilling MKA's smoking innards to the delight of all. Goddam gut-bustin' pip-Diddy! Outsmarted, outgunned and fed to the gutter vermin.
MKA: "Elmer, why didn't you light it up?"
Elmer: "I was waiting."
MKA: "Waiting for what? The dam had busted! The water was rising! We were sinking in shark infested waters!"
Elmer: "I was waiting for the photog at the corner to set up. You must not have seen him. You taught me that hype was far more important than results. I wanted a shot of a nice, tight bombing pattern with Labor on the point."
But wait. It gets better. The next day was San Luis Rey, a grueling road race through the rolling avocado, lemon, and orange groves of San Diego County. Hoffy's Heroes in full force: Stricky, KK, Man in Black, Donkey Kong (Malcolm), Johnny One Time and the Mule. Looked like a long, bitter slog in the saddle for MKA and Elmer.
As expected, Hoffy's Heroes kept sending off scouts. As expected, MKA kept chasing. Now why would MKA try to chase down just about everything? Well, the short answer is it can't be helped. MKA is like one of those black labs down at river on a hot day chasing down whatever gets thrown in the drink - a Frisbee, a tennis ball, a stupid rock. It doesn't matter. MKA has no sense this way.
Also, there's that TV commercial that kept playing in my head. The one about the dope who kept putting off changing his oil until his engine seized? The one where the mechanic pops open the cash register - Kaching! - and says: "You can pay me now or you can pay me later?" Well, every time a Heroe dribbled off, his brethren would form a barricade on the front and basically the older farts in the back would start carrying on about their granddaughter's graduation. Look, MKA knows that once you start chasing, an expectation arises in the pel. Instead of "rallying the troops," it has the opposite effect. Apathy settles in. Why chase, that idiot on Labor seems to enjoying chasing after dropped anchors. Let him do it.
MKA knows that. But why let a 45 second gap stretch to 10 minutes? Chase now and get it over with, sort of like getting my bi-annual cortisone shot. Last week MKA spent two hours in the waiting room. Now, MKA hates shots. Ever since as a kid waiting in line with the other wretches down at the county clinic for my free vaccine. The kids looked OK going in, but coming out, every kid was howling bloody murder, clutching their arms where apparently they'd been stabbed with a huge sword. It's the anticipation, the dread, that kills, not the actual physical insult.
The neuroscientists in the lab coats who spend all day poking mice tell us that the solution to dread is self-distraction. What better distraction is there than the joy of inflicting interim pain on others? MKA could sit there and stew with the grass munchers or get on his horse and jump over the fence, taking solace in the notion that heavy-lifting is being done, of the type that only illegals with names like "Jesus" would do. There's a certain blue collar bravado about doing the dirty work that builds character. Yes, MKA supposes he could just daydream to pass the time, but why pay the $30 race entry fee to drift off? MKA's can do that all day during his dayjob, and get paid fairly well for it.
Parenthetically, MKA is a drug user. I don't know if my cortisone injection rises to the level of drug "abuse." MKA does know that without that 22 gauge needle entering his hip joint, injecting the magic cooling agents, he'd be a whole lot more abusive.
"Patience?" There's No Patience Sitting Behind Blockheads! Don't Sit Back. Attack!
Back to the race. Four laps of about 12 miles per lap. MKA's wheels are starting to wobble. Where's Elmer? MKA could use a little back up. He comes up. In his best high school guidance counselor tone exhorts me to exercise "patience." Patience? I got a spike dangling from my vein over here. The smack hasn't hit, I got to help it along. I got idiots up the road with their idiot sows blocking. Talk about dread. If we let those idiots get away, and they win, by minutes, imagine the gnashing of teeth and pulling of pubics! MKA's not asking for heroics, just a simple pull through now and then to keep it honest, fercry.
Besides which, the last thing you want to do is empower a blockhead. Don't let blockheads think they are being useful. Remind them this is a bike race for everybody. Clogging is what MKA does to toilets. Don't honor the Clog. Don't ball up behind the Sludge. Pound the Ninnyhammers! Slog the Cloggers!
Naturally, Hoffy's heroes seize on the rancor and chortle, as is their right. Thinly veiled disparagements follow. A long simmering contempt for Elmer Fudd bubbles over. At this point, MKA would like to say he was setting up Elmer for the Big Launch. But MKA has yet to peg neither his new teammate's muscle nor his M.O.. Sometimes it looks like's he's content to finish top ten and collect his precious Socal cup points. Other times he simply doesn't appear to give a crap. And then there are those times he rides with the mania of a rat in a slaughterhouse.
About 1 lap to go. Man in Black is off the front, solo. MKA's ghost has just about been gotten. Elmer, fresh as a daisy, comes up and, like clockwork, says its time to reel Black in. He lights it up the climb. We catch Black. The group has separated. On a steep climb the Mule attacks because it was his turn. Elmer goes after him, Stricky stuck like a bug. Stricky falls off. Another rider (big, burly, furry, with odd shaped calves that don't appear to match his torso) catches the duo on the downhill and they are sayonara!
The Heroes sort of look at each other. "Uh, textbook says we're supposed to counter and then sit on the bridger. But Stricky couldn't hold Elmer's wheel. Elmer's now up there with the Mule who's got no chance on the final uphill finish. Gents, I think it's safe to say we just stepped in our own s_ _ _ _. What now?"
Revenge is sweet and crow is best served baked. The Heroes could only watch and wonder as Elmer the Patient rode away, untouched, unsalted and uncooked for the Vee. Which of course means at the next road race the Heroes will even out the odds by recruiting more talent from Jenny Craig's fat farm to slog and clog. That or they'll bring in the PerTurbo to teach Labor a lesson which we might've even learned if we didn't already know the race would be for second.
OTHER STUPID NEWS:
In the 30 plus crit, Perturbo blasted away early with Sqweeky. Labor frantically chased. The elder Laborites blew sky high, but not before King Karl got across, sans bullets, matches, and key parts of his lungs and aorta. Sqweek attacked, Karl chased, caught, and the angry Moses smote the mortals with his staff as he flew by, soloing the last two laps, with a zillion heathen in hot pursuit. Karl Von Labor got 2nd. Later he placed 8th in the pro 1-2 hackfest.
Karl won the 30 plus road race at San Luis Rey. No details necessary.
Keep your eye on your back.