Friday, May 30, 2008

Bicyclic Antidpressant -or- Cycloprozac

The rain finally gave out and some veteran Grimpeurs made it out to Mud Pike under blue skies. Talks-with-legs, Lord MonkeyButt, Killer Bee, and Big Daddy Birdman all joined the Fat Cat. The Gang was in high spirits, save The Cat whose self diagnosed bipolar disorder had taken a turn south. Dropping from 190 or 200 miles per week to about 80 to 100 can churn the neurochemicals up a bit. Gotta feed the addiction, ya know. The Fat Cat apologizes if he brought anybody down. Despite the obvious suffering and swearing from the fat one, it was great riding with that group.

As you can see, The Flanders Fat Cat was in his usual placing on the climb up Mud Pike. MonkeyButt, Birdman, and Killer Bee duked it out for the summit while Talks-With Legs nursed The Fat Cat up the hill. At the top it was Big Daddy Birdman taking his first Summit victory. There is something to be said for having a million miles or so in your legs. You’d have never known he biked to the starting gate from Morgantown. The man is a miracle.
(If Tim can figure out how to email photos, we'll get the podium pic he's taking.)
(There it is. Worth waiting for, eh?)

The tar and chip settled enough to spare MonkeyButt’s brand new carbon fiber Giant with Shimano wheelset upgrade much damage; so, the group headed north on Skyline. Along the top of the mountain we tried to show MonkeyButt, who was riding well but in the wind, the benefits of drafting. The paceline held the Fat Cat in their protective wake. Despite the fact that The Cat was decidedly weaker than MonkeyButt, the latter was easily dropped by the former—with a little help from his friends.

Everybody flew down the mountain past Jumonville and into Coolspring at 50+ mph. The Cat caught a coal truck just as he reached the bottom. He slid right into its draft at speed. Having only read about the benefits of motor pacing, the Fat Cat was amazed to be going 40mph without much effort. He must have been having fun because his smile looked like the bug shield of an old pickup.

It was back towards home through Hopwood and then Fairchance, where killer bee broke for home. The remaining riders regrouped at Bullfeathers back country bar and grille for some well earned carb replacement and random conversation. A motion to rename one Grimpeur “The FLAT Cat of Flanders” was made and seconded. A vote is pending future performance.
What a beautiful ride. The day began with four happy riders and one cantankerous grump. In the end, all were united in post ride glee. That Cycloprozac, it’s damn good stuff.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Riding the Couch.

In case you missed it, let me tell you that the Giro was spectacular today. It was the embodiment of the Grimpeur ethos: the harder the better. The riders have been sorely challenged this year with the past three days consisting of two Summit finishes in the Dolomites as a warm up for the Plan de Corones time trial. This same highly anticipated climb was to be debuted in 1996 but the final, and most diabolical, few kilometers had to be abandoned due to heavy rains. The weather came through this year and so did the mountain.

You know the course is good when the riders are bitching, and bitch they did. The usually stoic and sturdy Jens Voigt of CSC called the race “stupid” after dragging his Cervelo up the last 24% slopes of today’s time trial. “I don’t like it. Leave it to the mountain bikers,” he said. The winner of the stage, Liquigas rider Pelizotti, after negotiating the final 600 vertical feet of gravel road said the race was, “simply too hard”. David Millar of Slipstream did him one better, calling the race, “ridiculous” and “insane.” Gasparatto even invoked the specter of le dopage saying, “They want us to race clean? This Giro is too hard.”

Ahhh, yes, it all harkens back to the early days of the Tour de France when Henri Desgrange, the race founder, was putting it to the likes of Francois Faber and Octave Lapize. Assasins they cried upon summiting the mighty Tourmalet, pushing their bikes and covered in mud. Hell, Eugene Christophe, affectionately known as “Cri Cri”, had to find a blacksmith and forge himself a new fork, the smithy standing aside, to replace the one he shattered on a descent. Despite such heroic efforts, old Henri had the audacity to give Cri Cri a 10 minute penalty for being assisted: he had a boy working the bellows. In the spirit of Henri Desgrange and Grimpeurs everywhere, this year’s race director, Angelo Zomegnan said, “ Look around us. There are not mountains like this anywhere else in the world. This is the Giro. If they don’t like it they can race somewhere else.”

One rider who can come on up to the pike and try his hand at the polka dot jersey any time he likes is the current holder of the Maglia Rosa, Alberto Contador. Called up at the last minute to ride the Giro, his Asthana team’s ban lifted in the twelfth hour, he left the beach and strapped on a pair. He rode the 12.9km, 8.4 average grade in a time of 40:48, strengthening his grip on the GC. To give you an idea of just how hard the stage was, Contador spun a 34x30 gear ratio. The biggest I spotted was a 38x27, the fool. Alberto managed all this on a broken radius he suffered in a crash a few days earlier. When asked what he thought about the race he said, “I will race up whatever they throw at me.” A man after my own heart; and I don’t care how gay that sounds. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Contador is my new hero, at least until we find out what kind of pharmacy he’s hiding in his veins.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gallery of Grimpeur Champions

Lord MonkeyButt gets the first contested jersey.

The Flanders Fat Cat lives up to his name but still takes the jersey from MonkeyButt.

The Aerobinator comes out and shows everybody what a real grimpeur can do. (And is damn happy about it.)

Skidoo says, "What, this old thing?"

The always enigmatic Talks-With-Legs makes a statememt with his podium shot.

The jersey back on its rightful owner, a still big, but not so fat, Cat. Who will be next to claim the maillot a pois rouges?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

God Loves A Grimpeur

There is a God: his beneficence towards the Grimpeurs is evidence enough. He also has a sense of humor. The rain fell steadily all morning and the car wipers were working double time on the way to Mud Pike. Killer Bee met The Fat Cat at the base of the mountain. Unfortunately, he was in his pickup and not on his bike. No offerings of spare rain gear or other trinkets could sway him to trifle with the fecund skies. Wet is not his thing, apparently. He merely wanted to show The Cat the courtesy of a proper withdraw and, it seems, to say that his picture in the last report made him look fat. It is true. Killer Bee is a bit more trim than his photo would suggest. “Bad camera angle,” The Fat Cat assured.
As Bee Boy made his carbon fueled exit, the rain ceased. For most of the ride to come the clouds would hold their water like an eight year old’s stretched bladder at the arcade. It wasn’t until passing under the one kilometer to go arch in Fairchance that the practical joking deity emptied a bucket on the Fat Cat’s head.

The Cat had cleared out his bag of excuses with an eye towards winning the jersey today, or at least making Killer Bee suffer. Fast bike, check; remember to eat, check; not sick, check; water bottles, check ( well, half check: one of the bottles was culturing something brown); I suck, well, I guess that excuse is still valid. But, being that the jersey was out of play, a change of plans was in order.

The decision was made to try and make the trip without hurting. No burning quads, no burning lungs, no foggy glasses, no heroics of any kind—just a steady, under threshold, aerobic ride. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Mud Pike was taken at 31:28, no great shakes but there was plenty left for an up-shift and a strong kick on Papa Bear. Skyline north, the victim of heavy tar and chip was finally passable. The road was a lovely redish pink with freshly painted lines. It had, of course, been stripped of its glassy smoothness for half its length, but at least the chips stayed on the road and off the paint job. That silky ribbon of asphalt returned just after the Kirby road intersecton. It felt like no effort at all to spin up to 30 mph, or thereabouts, to the golf course. Enjoy it while you can guys and gals. The trip down the mountain at Jumonville was a little hairy due to the sheen of mud laid down by quarry trucks. From there it was across the mountain’s feet to Haydentown. No breakthroughs, no pr’s, no grand epiphanies or flashes of profound insight, just two happy hours of riding. Life is good.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Coughing Up a Hairball

Outclassed, outgunned, outmanned, outmatched and out of luck. The Fat Cat of Flanders was the anchor to Talks-With-Leg’s and Dave Buchanan’s drug runner special cigarette boats. Oh sure, it started off all well and good, conversational pace up the run in and what not. Scylla’s slope was no big thing, conversation continued. Then Charybdis opened up her big fat maw and sucked the life out of the Cat.

"Charybdis in Watercolor"

Through the doldrums, Dave got ahead while Talks-With-Legs chatted up the flagging Cat. Knowing he was lost, the Cat bid his fellow Grimpeur onward and upward to challenge the young upstart who was stretching the gap. Talks-With Legs, who you know covets the polka dot jersey, did not hesitate in abandoning his feckless host. The doldrums are “relatively” flat, which is to say the grade is probably only 5 or 6 percent, but there are several little no name risers that tickle the double digits. After a couple of these, the Fat Cat was alone.

A lackluster bit of recovery finally settled in and the Cat tried to catch up. On top of Baby Bear, he saw the other grimpeurs, side by side, just going over Mama Bear. A pittance of comfort was taken in getting a glimpse. It was tempered by the realization that those couple of hundred yards were insurmountable given the terrain and distance to finish. Rumor has it that Talks-With Legs was able to summon his years of racing and European riding prowess to nip the youngster on the line. All the Cat saw was the two coming back to fetch him. Congrats on joining the storied pantheon of Grimpeur Champions. Too bad we forgot to get your victory photo.
One more order of business. Dave gets the Grimpeur name “King Bee”. He comes by this moniker by virtue of the fact that he fuels his rides with a water bottle full of home grown honey: I kid you not. However, readers are encouraged to think of John Belushi in a bee suit on Saturday Night Live whenever King Bee is mentioned. You unfortunate younger types will have to do with the image of that bee character that pops up randomly on the Simpsons.
Go to this address to see the Killer Bees in action:

Some information about Tuesday's ride was gleaned from Killer Bee, who was in attendance that day. It seems that Charlie has been drifting away from his crazy notions of running and all the attendant bodily harm. He has been turning into a real bicyclist and showcased the shift by pulling away from Killer Bee and Nate at the 2/3 mark and never looking back. Contrary to my imagined version, Charlie took the jersey. The Grimpeurs will allow one vestige of his ill conceived foray into running; his Hasher handle will transfer over because it can’t be topped. Charlie, you are, and remain, Analgesus. Nate forfeits his grimpeur status for a grave transgression to be made clear later.

The Grimpeurs headed South on Skyline, the North being shut down by a dastardly deep dressing of tar and chip. If you’re not from around here, tar and chip is the inane practice of taking a perfectly good road, slathering black tar across it, and dumping a load of pea gravel all over it. Ernestine and her juicy tires were up to the trial but Talks-With-Legs’ green glossed carbon fiber rig balked at the thought of tiny little projectiles assaulting its skinny little slicks and finely woven skin.

By Bruceton Mills the Fat Cat was totally toasted. All across to Lake ‘o’ the Woods he could only listen to the conversation from afar and watch his companions noodling along at half speed to keep him within earshot. Along the relatively flat perimeter of the lake, the Cat got close enough to hear the woeful saga of Nate and the back side of Wymps Gap. Nate, done and riding with a fork in ‘im, much like the Fat Cat today, did the unthinkable when the grade kicked up on that last climb. He went foot down! He stopped mid climb! He didn’t even have the decency to feign mechanical difficulty or to pretend to have to answer Mother Nature’s suddenly urgent call. These sort of things can be accepted with a jaundiced eye. Hell, your buddies will secretly thank you for it. But, to unclip simply because the body, or more accurately the mind, gave out and to not proffer an acceptable ruse—madness!

Anyway, we all made it back to Haydentown alive. Killer Bee rode the two miles back to his cave while the Flanders Fat Cat toasted Talks-With-Legs’ glorious chase and victory. The beer wasn’t free this time but it was still good.

You can stop reading now. We have come to the part were I can no longer stand it and have to dig into my big bag of excuses. Oh, here’s a good one: I was riding a cross bike to the others’ road rigs. Hey, I ain’t no Mark G. Okay, let me dig around in here: I was just getting over a cold— yeah, that’s a keeper. What about: I think I’m getting the kids’ flu. It worked well during the ride, but seeing as I am not doubled over the keyboard or wretching on the screen, gonna have to toss that one out. Oh, now this one is an oldie but goodie: didn’t eat today—that one never gets old. Let’s see if we can find it…oh yes, here it is: only one water bottle—that always goes great with no food. Wow, how could I forget this one: haven’t been able to ride much for the past few weeks—that’s golden. Yea, yea, yea: my front hub was bad/too much attrition--gotta have a mechanical in there. Whew, this is all getting a bit unwieldy, my arms are full. Maybe just one more from way down in the bottom here—wait, wait, I can get it: I still suck! Well, might as well put all these others back in the bag; that about sums it up. Nonetheless, it was still a great ride with good company, and we’ll do it all again next Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Filler In Absentia

The Fat Cat was not able to make the Grimpeurs Tuesday, but the show went on without him. No report has been filed as yet but at last word it was to be Charlie, the butt of all jokes Kean; Dave, from Fairchance, and anyone else who might show on election day. I e-mailed Charlie, requesting that he give an account of the day’s events, but have had no reply as yet. I don’t think he is dodging the chore. His lack of response is more likely due to the fact that he operates a computer that came straight from Jobs' and Wozniak’s garage. According to Charlie, this ancient cipherin’ machine has issues with Al Gore’s internet.

I imagine it was a spirited fight for the vacated polka dot jersey. I can see both riders on the lead in, exchanging the traditional pre-excuses/lies about how they haven’t been able to ride much this year due to some phantom obligation or conjured injury. Just as they approached Scylla and her imposing wall, one would joke about the legs already hurting while the other would suggest they turn back with a half smile and a nervous titter. They would converse in short breathless sentences, trying to look as though they were feeling fine. By the time they reached the hairpin and scaled Charybdis, words would likely have been replaced by heaves and grunts. I can imagine one or both riders, if they were still together, “resting” along the doldrums and recovering the powers of speech. Internal dialogs filled with doubt and thoughts of abandon would have been discordant with those given voice with regard to the fine weather or the great play of the Pittsburgh Penquins.

The riders would have found themselves cursing, wondering how long the damn grade could keep up, as they pedaled Le Elever Orange. Baby Bear would feel easy after the little descent from the pull off. Charlie probably would have given a testing acceleration over its “crest”: how foolish. Mamma bear would have put the burn back in the quads of the riders who no longer bothered to engage in conversational warfare. I can hear the audible if not ear-piercing profanities issued when the forgotten Papa Bear showed its teeth. In my minds eye I see the cranks of lithe Dave turning a fraction of a revolution faster while he inexorably pulls away from a gasping and demoralized Charlie. What would you expect from a triathelete anyway? At least Kean wasn’t there to try and use his (Charlie's) helmet as a latrine this time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Damn the Weatherman

Thunderbolts and lightning: Very, very, frightening. At least that is what the weather weenies said. Of course, the reason for their existence is to foment fear and gin up anxiety so that people will watch/read the weathercasts: gotta feed the hungry corporate sponsors. Don’t you think for a minute that any weather weenie could stop The Flanders Fat Cat from making his appointed rounds. Long ago he learned not to put his trust in false prophets. Besides, the dark clouds and ill tempered weather only served to excite The Cat into a near frenzy of anticipation for the battle to come. Man versus gravity with a tag in from big mamma nature, it doesn’t get any better than that. Go ahead and sit on your couches with your hot toddies while the hard men laugh in the face of adversity.

Lord Monkeybutt freed himself from his corporate overlord imposed Meadville exile and waited at the base of Mud Pike, ready to face rain, wind and grade. The Cat was feeling full of himself, fresh off a nice ride in the Appalacian Spring Spectacular. Oh, he was dropped that day, but it took some doing this time. MonkeyButt also professed to be feeling flush after a good week of riding. It was shaping up into a day when records are broken and legends are born. Okay, maybe that is a bit much, but it was throttle up from the get go.

The Cat was very strong up the first/ worst grades. MonkeyButt followed just out of reach of the Fat Cat’s foxtail. Well hell, since hyperbole and exaggeration seem to be the order of the day, let’s try again and give these sections some names. The Cat and Lord MonkeyButt stormed up Scylla, around the hairpin and slashed their way above Charybdis’ grasp. At the crest, the Fat Cat remembered that he forgot to fuel; or rather, the mountain reminded him.

All through the rolling single digit middle grades, we’ll call them “the doldrums,” The Cat slowed. A half bagel topped with a tomato slice at 6:30 A.M. apparently is only good for about 12 minutes of high intensity work. MonkeyButt was uncharacteristically immune to psychological warfare, ignoring The Fat Cat’s tales of hypoglycemic woe. He turned the screws with little accelerations, repeatedly getting a half wheel or so ahead of The Cat, probably hoping to get out of earshot of all the whining. On “Le elever orange” The Cat dug into his diminishing but still substantial fatty acid stores and found a bit of punch, holding off MonkeyButt, and making the pull off first in place and in pain.

Twenty-one forty seven. “It’s not enough,” wheezed The Cat as MonkeyButt pulled alongside, “We’re a minute and a half off.” It was clear that he meant to let up and give in to his legs’ pitiful entreaties. However, Lord MonkeyButt would have none of it. In heretofore unseen fortitude, he exhorted his opponent onward and upward. They spun quickly up “Baby Bear.” It was faster yet up Momma Bear as each measured the other. Hot, quick breath fogged The Cat’s glasses until he could see nothing other than a nearly indiscernible yellow centerline. Eyes weren’t needed to know that final steep somnabitch “Papa Bear” was upon them. The Cat heard Monkeybutt grunt and rise out of the saddle for a come from behind shot at glory. He rose to defend; hoping against hope that the nasty old sack of washing machine tainted gel he snuck on the doldrums had made its way to the quads.

The hammer was there! It struck a heavy blow, laying Lord MonkeyButt low. At the top it was 28:44 for the Cervelo. Monkeybutt was only 40 seconds behind, also breaking the thirty minute mark for his fastest time yet. He admitted to arriving in a swirling cloud of light headedness and hyperventilation. Ah, that’s the good stuff, isn’t it?

The heinous and incalculably satanic vandalism of formerly silky smooth Skyline Drive with “fresh tar and chips” turned the Grimpeurs and their fancy smancy bikes away. They rode gently down the wet roads and back to the valley below. How amazing the change in the mountain, brown and barren to green and lush, in just a week. The ride finished up in the lowlands after 30 miles of ambling about and feeling whipped.

Bullfeathers backwoods bar and grill offered up free post ride refreshment courtesy of a sales rep that was pushing Molson. “Sure we’ll try some of this, how do you say, mole sun, of yours.” Hey, free beer is good beer. Purely for medicinal purposes, of course.

Friday, May 2, 2008

High Rollers

The Aerobinator and his cohort, Birdman, staged a coo and seized control of The Grimpeurs Thursday. We three and Talks-With –Legs were to go on a reconnaissance mission in the mountains of Maryland for the Birdman’s Saturday “Bonus Ride.” We would also scout the course of Sunday’s “High Rollers Race” near Big Bear Lake for the Aerobinator. As soon as The Cat stepped out of his car at The Birdman’s nest, the Aerobinator set the tone for the day. He let loose a quick jab before the bell, “Hey, you don’t look so fat in street clothes.”

After a stop in Friendsville Maryland, Big Daddy decided to take the back roads to the starting point. It was beginning to seem as though this ride report would be reading something like, "The ride went on for hours on every back road known to Marylanders. We maintained a brisk average speed of 40 mph: too bad it was in a car.” After several incantations of various road names that we “have to be on” or that “has to be coming up” and a rousing game of pass the lame computer map about the van, we finally took the long way and got to our destination. We were not surprised to see that it was only 100 yards from an intersection we had crossed long ago.

The Fat Cat never ceases to be amazed at the abrupt change in road conditions from West Virginia to Maryland. The ride started off with a mile or so of, “they’re going to race on this?” road which then magically transformed into smooth red tinged rollers. After climbing over “the wall” Aerobinator warned about (The Cat was last over but only because of a fat white dog that chose to harass him) the riders tumbled down over the other side and flew across the scenic valley alongside Cranesville swamp. Each time the pace line slowed, we were assured that a turn onto “Sang Road” was imminent. The Cat knew something was up when they hit 22 miles without coming upon the turn. The race course was only 36 miles and the half way point was in a little town called Terra Alta (the translation should rightly scare you flat landers). The little peleton should have turned and climbed into “High Ground” long ago. Nonetheless, the leadership was determined to press forward in obedience to the lame little computer map that had burned them once before.
Oakland Maryland, we knew were that was; and were it was, was no where near where we wanted to go (try saying that five times fast). All rolled around aimlessly through the scenic little town and its country park until Big Daddy Birdman finally came to his senses and herded the vertiginous cats back together. The Lost Boys took a quick water and feed stop to discuss the situation. Aerobinator amused his compatriots by turning a screw into Talks-With-Legs’ rear tire (jokingly?). It was decided to go back the way they’d came, and maybe stumble across the elusive Sang Road.

A few miles out of Oakland, after the two big boys put another one of their hurtins on the little guys, a long grade added to the growing climbing total. At the midway point, either Talks-with legs opened his valve stem or Aerobinator’s “joke” came to its punch line. One way or the other, eight legs got a happy little break from the climb while the leak was fixed. Never has the Fat Cat seen an over-ripe banana peel of a tire come off the rim the way that threadbare piece of rubber did.

Sang run never materialized. It was concluded that the great and powerful ghosts of the internet had misnamed the road. Apparently this pissed The Aerobinator off because he charged up the next hill. The Cat took the opportunity to see if he could hold the wheel. Big Daddy and Talks-With-Legs were smart and sat this one out.

Maybe all this grimping crap was actually doing something. The wheel was held. But, the Aerobinator, having something left in the tank in contrast to the Cats redlining, fume burning effort, punched over the crest. The Cat tucked in, caught up on the downhill, and settled in behind. When they finally let up, the Aerobinator’s breathing was a little labored. The Fat Cat was literally frothing at the mouth. It was GREAT! The Cat actually led one more run through the valley and up a hill. Then he was cooked. He spent the last few miles struggling to keep up while Big Daddy and the big ‘A’ admired pig genetalia and paced along with a cyclist friendly dog (who would have nothing to do with us stragglers).

Back at the car everybody was feeling tired, but good. All agreed that getting lost (on the bikes) was half the fun, the scenery was great, the roads were fantastic and the weather was perfect. All also agreed they wouldn’t run the High Roller race. Good luck Saturday, all you who would follow Big Daddy Birdman on his quest for the Eastern passage.