On the Bus with Team Dream: Fully Immersed, Fully Invested, and Very Well Fed. 
Las Vegas, Nevada

January 28, 2008

A nervous gambler at the craps tables, already 12 large in the hole, had just doubled down on The Big Red when the dice took a nasty roll and came to rest there on table looking at him like the black barrels of a loaded shotgun. The deadbeat had two choices: run for the exits and risk winding up in an unmarked grave in the desert, or offer up his right hand as blood currency. 

$12k Blitzkrieg.
About then word came down that the penthouse of the 32-story Monte Carlo was ablaze. Seizing the moment, the gambler began shouting at the top of his lungs that Al-Qaeda had just flown a Beechcraft into the tower, and all hell broke out. A herd of large humans, some still holding their porkchop from the buffet, others refusing to spill their comped gin and tonic, stampeded for the exits. Silver-fingered slot-grannies were trampled underfoot while unsatisfied fish-lipped tycoons clad in bathrobes and ray bans began trickling down, long ago abandoned by their escorts, who always got paid upfront.

None of this mattered to Kool Aid, who had flown into Vegas the night before on his Wind Wing I with his trusty assistant, Domo. He had smartly avoided the riff-raff, blinking lights, and legions of slobbering sodomites, understanding full well that pro bike racers do not tour. They don’t mix with the locals, but stay aloof and focused. He knew that pros come in, they eat, they recon the course, they study the topos, they spend several hours grooming, shaving and buffing, they keep their feet up and they race. Period. 

Kool Aid had been taught “The Full On Focus” by Santa Rosa’s Celebrity Mutant, who has raced all around the world and done mighty well, but in all his travels never cracked a Frommer’s or strayed more than a few meters from the team bus or his sitter. He had infused Kool Aid with the dictum that what a pro does off the bike is every bit as important as what he does on the bike, as long as the former doesn’t threaten to activate any important muscle groups or stimulate any brain activity that may splash cold water on The Dream. 

Featherlite Kool-Aid Kruzer: $2.5 million customized Featherlite Rock Concert on Wheels. Equipped with steam sauna, whirlpool, and drop down turbo trainer. "It was OK, but for the price you'd think they'd throw in special edition 'Team Dream' foldable chairs with cup holders." -- Kool Aid.
So it was with this rigorous discipline that Kool Aid came out to the harsh, tree-less, wind-swept yellow hills southwest of Sin City to Live The Life, which included but was not limited to racing his bicycle(s) at the Southern Nevada Stage Race. He arrived at a private terminal at McCarran Thursday morning and was whisked via a black limo Towncar with his 4 bike boxes and assorted cargo to a posh nearby RV showroom where he had arranged to lease the same rock star rig that Sting and Bono had used the last time they were in town to bless the masses.

It wasn’t a bad investment, for sure. A $2.5 million Featherlite bus, with the handmade glass tile, imbedded copper, and pearlized Italian leather doesn’t come cheap, but a three-day lease doesn’t run too much over what it would cost to rent out the entire chain of Motel 6’s in Vegas and Henderson for the week, where most of his cat IV adversaries were staying, three to a room. 

“Look, I’ve read Billy’s stuff about the stone cottages in Belgium, the kettle hanging from a hook over the fire – with the thin soup -- and the chill winds blowing through the rafters,” said Kool Aid. “And it’s not ‘good.’ It’s pathetic. I don’t buy into this hoary notion that hard races require hard men hardened by a hardscrabble concentration camp lifestyle.”

I simply won’t eat dog food off a hot plate. I won’t clip coupons to shave a buck off a Grand Slam. And I’m not going to accommodate a scumbag with a roll-away – I need a clean, unlittered path to the pisser. I stub my toe on the way, half-asleep, on those goddamn sharp fold-down sheetmetal legs, and it’s over. Besides which, those bugs, the vermin that crawl up the cot legs and infest the mattress – the threat that that poses – the lice and shit -- to my sensitive system, who needs that crap?”

Sweet Dreams! Life on the road is full of indignities. That's why Team Dream insists on Five Star accommodations. "After a hard day of training, nothing says 'recovery' better than Egyptian cotton, cashmere, and Italian bed linens!"
“Indeed not. Kool Aid sat down in the helm of his rock star bus and Domo set to work on the global positioning system to locate the nearest Whole Foods. Finding none, they settled for a Wild Oats and set their course. “I’m not about to sit down with a bunch of cheese-eaters and let a fry cook seal my fate. This baby’s got a galley that would put Spago’s to shame. All gas Bosch burners. Sub Zeros. A decanter from Neiman Marcus we can use to oxygenate our after dinner port, served of course in blown crystal.” 

“I prefer to shop at Whole Foods because of the mark up,” Kool Aid explained. “I want to spend at least $100 for a Japanese mush melon. Again, I reject the notion that intestinal fortitude requires a taste for Ranch Style beans or Top Ramen. I want home grown foods untainted by pesticides, hormones, or AM Radio. I want fruits grown in the fragrant garden of a monastery garden by celibate monks for whom the picking, plucking, and polishing of plump strawberries, blueberries or mangos is a major upgrade from masturbation.” 

Kool Aid’s spirits were buoyant until they rolled into a Wild Oats outside of Henderson and learned they did not carry Kopi Luwak, the obnoxiously expensive Indonesian bean recently made infamous in “The Bucket List.” The bean, at about $160 a pound, passes through the acid wash of a palm cat’s ass, a process that is said by epicureans to sweeten the flavor, after which it is then dropped to the jungle floor where it’s harvested as cat turd. 

Cat Crap Coffee! Start your day right with a jolt of Kopi Luwak. At $35 a cup, it costs more, but gives you that dexedrine buzz without all the USADA drug testing hassles.
MKA had never heard of Kopi Luwak before the movie, which for my money demeaned the bean as the butt of a joke that rendered the highbrow consumer something of a candy-assed fool. Kool Aid denied any influence from the movie, claiming that he’d been drinking the stuff ever since he and former human water balloon Mike Huckabee decided to shed 100 pounds. “The bean’s a serious diuretic. I got a tip from a buffed-up body builder with anaconda-sized veins. He said that the cat piss-caffeine blend helps siphon off the fluidsand reduce hunger. Granted, I may need a new kidney in a few years, but serious bike racers must make sacrifices. In the meantime, look at my shiny, tissue-thin skin! The breathtaking lattice of veins and arteries! Pretty, huh?”

Fortunately, all was not lost as Domo had brought in a stash of Luwak so Team Dream was not forced to slum it at Starbucks. After loading up on high end groceries, Kool Aid navigated the Featherlite down to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s vast parking lot, which he’d call home for the next three days.

The racing went well, in a perverse, inversely-proportionate-to-the-investment kind of way. In the time trial, Kool Aid powered his $12,000 custom Eddy Merckx with the on-board traffic, weather, and daydream alert system to third place, about 30 seconds out of first. The ride was not altogether unpleasant. “I could’ve gone faster, probably, but that would’ve required me to salivate on my carbon fiber top tube, which wouldn’t be bad but with all that Kopi Luwak acid in my spit it probably would have cut the tube in half. And I kept waiting for my auto-electric massage cramp prevention TENS system to kick in, but it never did. It’s supposed to activate when I reach my lactic threshold. I guess I never reached it. I’ll need to ask my coaches if my fear of electrocution subconsciously deterred me from triggering the current.”

The next day Kool Aid had a chance to move into first in the criterium, which offered time bonuses to the top three finishers. Unfortunately, nobody would work with him or let him win so he got 7th. Kool Aid despaired afterwards, via cell phone: “My cadence was good. My average wattage was good. I drank plenty of electrolytes. I enjoyed several chocolate Gu’s. And I never saw the front, like my coaches taught me. But on the last lap all these young dickheads just started going crazy, banging into each other, all angry, tortious, and uncivilized. I gave a courtesy command – ‘On your right, please, coming through,’ – and they moved to the right, cutting me off, boxing me in.”

Sweet Tooth? Try the Grand Opulence Sundae. "But be careful of those 24-karat gold shavings. You don't need the extra bullion on those long mountain climbs!" -- Kool Aid, when the stress of strict dieting is too much.
That kind of savage insolence can rattle the most seasoned pro cat IV, granted. Normally unshakably faithful to all aspects of The Program, most importantly the cessation of all edible things overtly sugary and buttery and creamy, that night Kool Aid could take it no more and buckled under the pressure. He needed sugar, lots of it, and he needed it now. So he powered up the yellow Ferrari rental trailing behind the Magic Bus and roared off to The Bellagio, where he had heard the hotel was seducing sheiks and sultans with The Grand Opulence Sundae for a mere $1.2k.

"I had to have it,” Kool Aid confessed. “It’s got all the good stuff – 5 scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean infused with Madagascar vanilla and covered in 24k edible gold leaf. Drizzled with rare Amedie Porceleana chocolate and adorned with exotic candied fruits from Paris, truffles and marzipan cherries. I made sure to stand up and walk around while eating, which we know is a good way to burn off big calories. Serious bike racers don’t squat when they indulge. Sugar left to pool in the bowels can quickly turn toxic. “

The next day was a 38-mile road race, a shabby to and fro with about 4200 feet of long and purportedly brutish climbing. Kool Aid spurted at the summit to take the KOM in front of nobody whatsoever except of course his fellow pack fodder and then the wheels just came off. He safely descended, threaded the turn-around and clicked down into his rigorously lab tested 34 x 26. About half way up the leaders on their 26-pound Costco Huffys pulled away. Kool Aid crested in 7th and spent the final 10 mile down hill spinning out his 50 x 12 at 39 mph. 

It was all very sad to think that but for a Master Plan conceived by a team of JPL physicists, and approved by one decorated Celebrity Mutant, Kool Aid might have with straight up, off-the-shelf gearing caught and passed the poor white trash up the road. 

In the Lobby. Kool Aid and Domo relax in front of the Plasma, studying the Cysoing à Bourghelles section of cobbles from the 1984 Paris-Roubaix video after a hard day of cat IV criterium racing. Notice the compression stockings worn by the non-pregnant Domo. "I wear them every night and my legs are never achy or tired."
But Kool Aid’s faith in the numbers remained unshaken. “The gearing wasn’t a factor. Not at all. If I had the regular stuff, my legs would have filled with acid at least 18 to 27 times over the course of the race. That would’ve been painful. Pain is highly overrated, especially when my goal is to enter 35 races in 2008. With the easy gearing, it may look silly – like I’m trying to splatter my prostate against my narrow bike seat – but this way I tap out my heart and lungs only. The legs stay fresh, and I’ll need both of them for the Tuesday night time trial near Bastrop.”

Kool Aid wound up 7th overall. Was he dejected? MKA spoke to him after Kool Aid had showered up, donned the white linen spa robe, tucked his achy feet into the monogrammed velour cloth slippers (all included) and sunk into the custom Italian electric recliner (with back massage). “Are you kidding? I’m on the bus. I’ve got coaches, mutants, and even MKA fretting over me. I’m this larger than life group project and if nothing else I’m helping the economy. Sure, my carbon footprint is larger than Midland, Texas but you should have seen my spew when I was racing open wheel Indy carts!”

Optimism abounds. “I didn’t crack The Board this week, but with the right equipment upgrades --- I hear Cipollini is working with Fendi on a cool new set of wrap-around shades for only $1,300 --- I can taste the payout.” Of concern: how to claim the anticipated $12 winnings? Income or charity, full tax exempt? 

The World is Watching. Domo carefully puts himself through the pre- race paces while throngs of rabid fans struggle with the Team Dream private security for a piece of their Hero. "For a second, I thought it was Altamont all over again," said the relieved Rock Star.a>
Next week Team Dream is scheduled to return to Sonoma for more training. They may do a few unimportant local races, primarily so Domo can cat up from an uncategorized public racer to an official, card-carrying Cat IV. MKA believes the upgrade will make all the difference. So far, Kool Aid has been forced to race alone, without any teammates. Insiders agree that in today’s competitive race climate, the adroit use of race radios can make all the difference. MKA surmises that had Domo been side saddle to radio in to Kool Aid that that big hill he was descending -- that long, 8-mile hill of which we have been speaking -- would be the very same hill he’d have to turn around and climb back up, that, armed with this important data, Kool Aid might have been able to hold on and summit with the leaders. 

Meanwhile, the JPL physicists over at Livermore are busy as we speak, recalibrating the optimal chain ring and rear cluster for Kool-Aid, for whom retail simply won’t do. Stay tuned. 

MKA
 
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