By the time we hit the right-hand turn onto the stairsteps of death, Wankmeister’s golden legs from the previous week had turned to silver. Barely hanging onto the back, I noticed that Ol’ Gizzards had been shed. Fatty the Pimple, the balloon dude with the red outfit and rainbow striped sleeves that made him look like a zit about to pop, was huffing and puffing like a Code 4 cardiac patient.
At the top of the stairsteps my legs of silver had turned to bronze. Fatty the Pimple popped. On the long crazy downhill I recovered, then recovered some more on the rolling section leading to the hard right turn, where the organizers had thoughtfully placed lots of sand and gravel across the off-camber, high speed, right-angle intersection. “Careful!” they yelled, which was lots cheaper and easier than sweeping the deadly turn with a broom. Fatty had toiled his way back on, and of the forty or so riders who had toed the line, only about twenty remained.
As we began the climb up to the start-finish, we passed the giant sign pointing out the San Andreas Fault. Now at least I knew who to blame for that vaguely familiar taste in the back of my mouth. The taste of bitter.
A three-man suicide break was already up the road. Axena had attacked with Purple Parks, and Steelhead bridged to complete the threesome. Our main chase group came through the start-finish, turned left, and began rolling up what is in effect the second section of the climb that began at the sandy intersection.
DQ Louie had decided to bring back the leaders, and the moment he upped the pace my legs of bronze turned to legs of wood, then plastic, then overcooked spaghetti. This was it. The dreaded moment of droppage. The moment when the hardest, gnarliest, most painful and relentless contest in Southern California goes from being a road race to a time trail.
Fatty never came off, which made me hate him even more, and made the bitter flavor stronger still.
Oh, no, Mr. Bill!
On the descent I formed a group with Mr. Bill from Big Orange, Bill L. the Pool Guy, and some dude from Schroeder Iron. His name was probably Bill too, but I was too tired to ask, and the way he hung his head and sagging gut as he rotated through told me that he was too tired to answer. None of them was climbing worth a shit, which made it even more humiliating when they effortlessly rode away from me the third time up the big climb.
As I flailed along by myself I passed C.U. Tomorrow. “Good job, C.U.!” I said as I passed.
“Fuck you!” she waved.
The next chick I overtook was Irish Lassie. “Good job, Lassie!” I said as I passed. “Shut up and give me a push!” she yelled.
The next gal was Gangstachick, who I passed just as we began the downhill. How was it that these three teammates were spread equidistant along the climb? “Good job, Gangstachick!”
“Your advice about wheels sucked! There’s no wind at all! I should have brought my 808’s. YOU SUCK!” she called out as I passed.
By now I had formed another flail group, this time with Cat 4 Shon Holdthebroom. We lumbered on for a long way, with him occasionally moaning, “I can’t pull through. No more gas, dude.” Fortunately, his tank magically refilled after the final turn as he and his Cat 4 buddies left me in the dirt, sprunting up the final mile to the finish. I crossed the line with yet another impressive moral victory in the bag. Dropped, defeated, and spanked by a couple of Cat 4 wankers at the end, it had been another day that began with high hopes and ended in the rubble of cruel reality. I rolled my tongue around in my mouth, collecting small clumps of salt. And bitter.
The real race, for the real racers, however, had ended much differently.
[Tune in tomorrow for "How Devil’s Punchbowl 2012 Was Won Through Trickery, Treachery, and Deceit, and How Fireman Borrowed My Rear Tire but Lived to Regret It and How Mighty Mouse Learned the Importance of Checking the Race Flyer for Starting Times and Never Trusting the Most Notoriously Late Racer in the State to Tell Her When Her Race Was Supposed to Go Off and How Tink Listened to Wanky and How Roxy Almost Broke Her Hoo-Ha”]