|"139,000 FT" is a bit of a stretch. It was not quite that epic.|
Musical Captain's Chair
By the time I began the race, I'd ridden the course three times, more or less. I wasn't getting any faster; I was coming off a fractured elbow, with only about four weeks of slow riding in me after four weeks off. But I was at least going to finish. But enough about my excuses.
The Rapha Gentlemen's Race (RGR) was a race of attrition, and that attrition began with the team, which was captained by Jack Hartley.
Sorry, Jack, but you bit off a bit much for your group of friends, who dropped out en masse before they'd even seen the course. ("Family obligation" seems a bit of a crutch when you have six weeks notice.) Unfortunately, Jack was coming back from shoulder surgery, and dropped out much more spectacularly by bonking and falling off his bike, in the dark, in the middle of Angeles National Forest. This was all harsh, all real.
That left me—who'd dropped off the Bike Effect team due to the whole fractured elbow thing—as the team captain. What a weird chain of events. Awkward.
|Ethan and Attila.|
Our team was called La Chiesa della Ruota Parlata, spaghetti-mouth for Church of the Spoken Wheel, after a Sunday ride the guys that did not ride typically ride together. Jack had kits made and everything. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to see that this event was a significant event for Jack, and that he was downtrodden to be unable to even ride along with the race. We were all sympathetic, but thankfully Jack overcame the disappointment and decided to follow the race as our directeur sportif, providing us with beverages, smiles, and encouragement.
Race? Not an Issue
Nothing very exciting happened in the first half of the race, starting at Golden Road Brewery, except that Bobby drank about four tallboys of Miller High Life along the way to the climb, two of them before 7:30 am. (This guy could be the Bodie Miller of Olympic track cycling.)
As a team, we were making good, conversational time. No other team had passed us despite our missing the first turn and taking a long-cut to the first climb. Once off-road, we still were never passed. I did have a funny moment, however, seeing Max and "Bradford" from Team Mudfoot along the course with a flat. They weren't racing, but I'd ridden with them at 8 the morning before, and I'd spent a lot of time making fun of "Bradford" for being the slowest changer of a flat tire in the universe, because he gave me so much time with which to do so. So seeing him changing another tire at 8 am on consecutive days, I said something along the lines of, "Did you bring a headlamp to finish the job?" And rode away. Not my best story.
Ethan is a phenomenal climber. He won't admit as much; he'll just ride away from you ever-so-humbly on every incline. And that's what he proceeded to do. That doesn't make him very valuable as a teammate, but at least you know he's not behind you alongside the road. And it's not like he does it out of spite or anything; he's simply a great climber.
As we climbed the dirt road up Mount Gleason, Ethan was out of sight. He'd linked up with another guy who'd been a good teammate and left his whole team in the dust. Coincidentally (or not), he was Ethan's friend. They were the only ones ahead of me on the course when the guy flatted. Ethan stopped to help him, and I went past, and ended up tagging along with the very serious Bike Effect team when they came up, all the way to the top.
|Bike Effect: all-over-print jerseys, 'cross bikes, and tan lines.|
|Dirty job for a road bike. Not so much for a 'cross bike.|
|Ritte's Aaron Wise looks down on me, with his loose sleeves on extra small jerseys.|
|Paddy gutted his way through the day.|
The winners had passed us. It was just a ride now. Jack and his better half drove alongside us up Upper Big Tujunga, kindly. As we summitted on Angeles Crest Highway, Paddy found a second wind, and ripped down the descent into the sunset, into LA. Maybe it was that the Rapha film crew with the crazy RED camera that inspired him, but he was on one.
As we neared the end, Bobby drank a few more beers, bringing his total to a very impressive dozen or so. ("There's method to my madness" was the quote I got out of him as he descended, hands off the bars, chugging what may have been his tenth beer.) It was fun riding behind him; I spied some neat little moves and handling tricks from his track background. And he smelled like a brewery, which was motivational.
Ethan was the last rider to hit the bottom—he goes up so well, but descends like his huevos are actual eggs. From there, we rolled easy back to the brewery and finish. Paddy's bad luck wasn't quite over, as he rear-ended Karim, taking Reembo and his back wheel out of the race only a mile to the finish.
|Nice aero helmet, dork.|
La Chiesa didn't win, but we had a higher purpose this day—to serve—and I'd say we more than fulfilled our duty.
... God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
In the end, we ranked 15 out of 24 teams, with teams like Golden Saddle Cyclery ahead of us in seventh.
Which is total bullshit, because GSC didn't go up Upper Big Tujunga (cutting off like 20 miles) nor finish with six men. (Not that we did, but according to the 3 km rule, Reembo gets the same time.)
Like I do with everything else, I'm going to note it, remark about it, but I'm certainly not going to worry about it.
|We're still homies, but I count five dudes (three over 6'4!) who finished a shorter course.|
|We should've won jerseys for Lanterne Rouge, but instead we just got consolation caps.|
|Biggest surprise of the day? Ex-pro skateboarder and cinematographer Greg Hunt shooting a bike race for Rapha.|