The day the hardmen showed

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I woke up yesterday and looked outside. It was the worst weather we have had in Southern California in over a year. The thermometer read a bitter 65 degrees, and the roads still had places that appeared to be wet, or at least damp. Twelve or eighteen raindrops pounded down, and a large cloud hung over the mountains.

These are the days that the hardmen greedily await, a day when we can disprove the calumnies spread about the softness, cowardice, and shickenchit nature of cyclists in the South Bay. I rummaged through my closet and took out my sturdiest, best insulated clothing. I drew on the armwarmers and wind vest, knowing that with these accoutrements I could weather any weather.

Sure enough, as I rolled down the hill to the start of the Donut Ride, the climate was even more terrible than I’d surmised. The wind in my face brought the temperature down to 60, or perhaps even 59 degrees. I shivered as I bit my lip. Drops of rain (I counted six) beat my face and eyes so hard I could barely see. The occasional roadside puddle required every bit of bike handling I had to keep from crashing. Parts of my bike got wet, and flecks of dirt and mud spattered onto my downtube.

I gritted my teeth and pedaled.

As I dropped down to the start, several minutes late, I saw the group coming towards me. It was as I expected. This awful combination of cool breeze, raindrops, and roadside puddles had kept all but the toughest tucked snugly into their beds. The usual sunny day contingent of 60 to 80 riders, decimated by the brutal cold and soul-drenching wet, was a tiny cadre of seven riders: The Wily Greek, Davy Dawg, PJ Pajamas, Cookie, some dude named Hector with a backpack, the Pilot, and I.

Although the first thirty minutes were run beneath sunny skies along dry roads, our bicycles became very dirty. No wonder the normally tough men and women of the South Bay had opted for breakfast and bex in sed. The effort and work it would take post ride to clean their bicycles, the terrible toll it would take on their fingers and wrists to hand-wring the dirty rain out of their kits, and the incredible labor it would take to clean their chains meant that only the craziest and hardiest would brave these bitter elements.

Wily kicked everyone in the gonads and road away at Trump, and just as we began the grueling ascent of the Switchbacks, the heavens loosed their fury. Rain began pouring down in an incredible wall, such a deluge as hasn’t been seen since the days of Noah. Each of us hunkered down in the pounding squall, feeling a handful of drops work their way through our rain vests as small splotches appeared on our sunglasses. The temperature plunged to 58 and our bodies froze to the core.

After a relentless, nonstop downpour of one full minute, we were each somewhat damp on our exposed legs, but we soldiered on. The descent was even more awful, with chills and biting winds cutting us to the core even though the temperature had bumped up to 65 degrees. Like the hardmen of Belgium and the iron soldiers of Roubaix, we pushed on down the hill and went home.

The entire ride lasted an incredible seventy minutes, each minute an eternity of suffering and misery. As I peeled off my somewhat damp clothing, soaked as it was with the frigid rain drops, I nodded in grim satisfaction to myself in the mirror: “It is the days like today,” I grunted, “that make the champions of tomorrow.”

END

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