Dennis on the Road

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

If we can't fix it...

Bicycle racing is so much more than going fast on two wheels. There’s the tactics, team dynamic, and of course the adventures of being on the road nearly every weekend.

This past weekend the RHVillans headed off to Madera Stage Race. Jesse/Andy ventured out on his own with his girlfriend while Aaron, Christian, Josh and I, joined by Cal Giant’s Patrick Briggs, set sail in Big Red, the bastard stepchild RV of the team. All was going as planned until ½ way from Oakland to Madera, Big Red started making sounds you never want to hear coming from a vehicle you are counting on to deliver you somewhere. That was immediately followed by a smell of the same description.

We pulled over at the next exit: Central Turlock. (There doesn’t seem to be enough of Turlock to designate any part of it “central”.) Demonstrating the voracity of our team, we quickly sprung into action. Patrick began inspecting the engine. Christian was on the phone to AAA. Aaron was researching where the closest Uhaul center was. Within a half an hour Tiny (who, as you would expect, was far from small) showed up in a tow truck, guided us around the corner to Toby’s Auto Center, and drove Christian to get a Uhaul.

We hustled to unpack the bikes and gear from Big Red. From the Uhaul we called ahead to Andy. “Please beg Velo Bob (the promoter) to let us start the time trial late.” After all the drama, we arrived to the start of the race as the final riders were heading off. Since the first race of this 4-stage competition was an individual event against the clock, it was possible to give us the time we needed to get ready (although without the essential warm-up). I assembled my bike, including the $900 carbon disc wheel set I was borrowing from our team manager, and slipped into my arrow-dynamic kit, only to discover that my cycling cleats did not make the transition from RV to Uhaul. Since stage races require the completion of each stage in order to continue competing in the later stages, I had no choice but to mount my sleek TT bike with sandals, heading off for the slowest 20-mile ride of my life.

Since all categories, other than our Pro/1/2 class, started racing the following day, we brainstormed how we might get my shoes to Madera without having to drive to and from Turlock ourselves. Christian suggested his friend Steve, who would be driving down early the next morning. He agreed. We called Toby to see how the transfer of shoes could happen, and he gave us instructions to climb the fence. I still can’t believe that I asked a guy I didn’t know to climb a fence of an auto yard at the crack of dawn in the center of the Central Valley to fetch my shoes… and that he said “yes”. It turns out that my friend MJ was with Steve and showed his support by imitating the barks of rabid auto yard mastiffs once Steve hopped the fence. Here he is delivering the shoes before the 2nd TT the next day.

After Friday’s fiasco, I was ready to show what I could really do. I put in one of the best time trial efforts of my life and took 4th place in the stage, although I would remain hopelessly at the bottom of the GC (General Classification).

Meanwhile, back in the Bay Area, Elliot, our teammate and Big Red’s proprietor (i.e. he was the one who found her for free on Craigslist and has paid for her with endless hours of labor), was devising his plan to save our asses. He got Toby on the phone and somehow convinced him to work on Big Red on Saturday. Elliot drove to Turlock and worked side-by-side with Toby, finally delivering Big Red back to us by the third stage, the criterium, Saturday afternoon. Elliot, and Josh’s friend Rich did a late night run back to Turlock with the Uhaul while the team debriefed some tactical screw-ups that resulted in the loss of the podium by only one second! (By the end of the last day, Andy ended up in 4th place, while 3rd place was literally only one second faster over 150 miles of racing.)

Although we nearly weren’t able to race, and we faced a million challenges, we pulled off a decent weekend. RHVilla/Montano Velo Cycling Team took 4th and 7th in the GC, and in total we had 6 top-ten stage placing. As we set off on the trip back to the Bay Area, we started Big Red up with her keys attached to a new key ring from Toby’s shop. In addition to the name, address, and phone, was Toby’s slogan: “If we can’t fix it… Fuck it!”


At 2:46 PM, Blogger Dana Riley said...

hey dennis I notice ur post n starrs blog. so heres mine its thats were u can find me

hope u get hired



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