Saturday, May 28, 2016

Biased Blow-By-Blow - 2016 Giro d'Italia Stage 20

Note:  this post is rated PG-13 for mild strong language.


Perhaps, like me, you forgot to watch the Giro this year.  Well, good news:  today’s penultimate stage is the hardest and most important one, and there’s still no clear favorite to win the general classification.  So you’ve come at just the right time.  You’ve come to the right place, too, because I’m not bound by any journalistic standards, so I’ll say what I really think instead of biting my tongue all the time.  Professional journalists covering this sport must have lots of scar tissue on their tongues.

2016 Giro d’Italia Stage 20 – Guillestre (France) to Sant’ Anna di Vinadio

As I join the action, the racers have gone over the Col de la Bonette, the highest climb of the day (and second highest of the Giro, by a slim margin).  Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) soloed on that climb and got enough points to take over the KOM jersey.  He’s almost a minute ahead of a chase group of like 7 guys.  The peloton is 10 minutes back.

They’re interviewing Steven Kruijswijk (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo).  Well, actually, they couldn’t be, because he’s racing, whereas in the interview he’s in a t-shirt and not on a bicycle.  I’m going to have to guess that the interview was filmed earlier.  Poor Kruijswijk.  First of all, he’s got these extra letter Js in his name, meaning the highway patrol is bound to give him a hard time when they read his driver license.  “How do you pronounce that?”  /  “KRYSE-wick.” / “Doesn’t look like it to me.  Have you been drinking?”  And then there’s the gym teachers who loved to yell, “Christ, Kruijswijk!”  Though the Dutch probably have a different word for “Christ.”  Well, anyway, the other thing is that Kruijswijk was leading the Giro until yesterday, when he totally stacked into a snowbank and his bike went cartwheeling off like a pinwheel.  (Do pinwheels cartwheel?  No, but his bike did.)  He had bike problems after that, and then leg problems, and lost like five minutes and now sits third on the GC, just over a minute back.  Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) is in pink, 44 seconds over yesterday’s stage winner, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). 

The racers have about 47 km (29 miles) left to go, and are on the long descent approaching the last major climb, the Category 1 Colle Della Lombarda.

There’s an ad at the bottom of my Internet feed that says, “Do you want to stop snoring?”  I’m expecting it to go on, “Then stop watching bike race coverage!”  Okay, that’s not fair.  Bike race coverage is only boring to typical American sports fans, who can only get interested if their countrymen are in contention or if a bike race organizer has guaranteed lots of crashes.  I gave up on expecting American bike race victories long ago.  “We” have a guy in 39th place in the GC, Joe Dombrowski; and Nathan Brown is in 48th, then Ian Boswell in 75th, Chad Haga in 81st, and Joseph Rosskopf in 106th.  I’ve never heard of any of these guys, except Ian Boswell, and maybe I’m confusing him with that guy on “Charlie’s Angels.”

After a fairly mellow descent the peloton threads its way through a pretty little town.  I don’t think they much care about the breakaway up ahead, which still has about 10 minutes.  Mostly they’re just dreading the inevitable drop of the hammer, for surely the GC will be decided on this climb.  These dudes have got to be pretty tired after almost three weeks of racing.  I wonder if they slept well, or if they’re too sore and/or stressed.  For no good reason, I slept like crap last night and could really use a blood bag myself.

So, I’ve just realized that Dombrowski (Cannondale Pro Cycling) is in the breakaway (which has absorbed Nieve, by the way).  So I guess I do have an American to root for today.  Does that get me extra-excited?  Not really.  I don’t pretend that just because he’s American he’s a good guy.  He could be a complete dick for all I know.  Think of your worst enemy, and now imagine he’s in the breakaway.  You’d be like, “Oh no, not that jerk!  I hate him!”  You wouldn’t care that he’s American, would you?  I mean, unless you’re the typical rabid sports fan.

There are endless ads during this coverage so I’ll continue my Theory of Bike Race Spectating.  The reason I enjoy watching this is that I can relate.  I mean, no, I’ve never been that fast, obviously, and I surely haven’t suffered as much as these guys, but I have suffered and have a taste of the specific suffering they do.  And sometimes I can relate very specifically.  Like Kruijswijk’s crash into the snowbank:  I’ve done that!  It was in junior high.  I was riding home from school on my 3-speed and saw a friend way off in the distance, walking.  So I started sprinting toward him, all-out, and when I got close I yelled his name.  He looked back.  Suddenly I felt foolish:  the only logical thing to do, having gotten his attention, would be to plow into him.  But that would hurt.  Feeling I had to do something, I steered toward this giant snowbank.  I thought maybe it would just stop me gracefully, spraying snow everywhere, or maybe its surface would be glazed and it would be like a big gnarly jump, which would be cool.  But instead it stopped my front wheel dead, and I flipped right over the bars, soared through the air, and hit the ground like a sack of rocks.  My friend was aghast at my stupidity.  And I lost the Giro that day.

They’re showing footage of the finish line, where nothing important is happening.  Is this coverage sexist?

The breakaway has reached the base of the Colle Della Lombarda.  The Estonian rider Rein Taaramäe (Team Katusha) is on the front, driving a nice tempo.  His name, Rein, is an anagram of “rien,” French for “nothing.”  My wife’s name is also an anagram of “rien,” and (as you just realized, beating me to the punch) my own name is an anagram of “nada,” Spanish for “nothing.”  See how much I have in common with these guys?

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar Team) is on the front now, with Dombrowski on his wheel.  Whoah, Dombrowski attacks! 

He’s already got a  huge gap!  A bold move, with 29 km (18 miles) to go.  But man, he’s solid.  Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing Team) bridges up to him, and if you think I’m going to make some lame joke about “survival of the fittest,” you’ve got the wrong blog.

The peloton still hasn’t made it to the base of this climb.  It’s a huge peloton, meaning they’ve been loafing all day.  Nibali is practically coated with Astana riders.  They’re doing a super-slo-mo of his helmet strap—which is way too loose—flapping in the breeze.  I don’t get that.  I mean, if you have to wear a helmet, why not get some benefit from it by fitting it properly?  Is this a small act of rebellion?

Dombrowski is looking incredibly strong.  Atapuma, whom they call “the puma” in my daydreams, is just sitting on.  I often have daydreams of these racers on the school playground, and it’s always a playground in America, so I guess I am nationalistic after all.  Or just unimaginative.

There’s a guy in this race with the last name “Bongiorno.”  I can’t believe that.  Do you know anybody with the last name “Good Day”?  It’s as corny as “Suzy Chapstick.”

The peloton is on the big climb now.  The Eurosport announcer likes to say “danger men.”  I don’t think anybody in this race is really a danger man.  I hear “danger men” and I think of all those Texans who have gun racks in their pickup trucks, a gun rack in their living room, and a sidearm in every drawer.

Chaves is sitting behind the big clump of Astana riders, who are behind the Tinkoff guys.  Tinkoff is driving the pace for Rafal Majka, who sits 5th on GC, 2:14 down.  He’s a damn good climber and could win the whole thing today.  Look at his teammate with the spotty beard and thick Euro-mullet.

Up at the front of the race, Visconti has bridged up to Dombrowski and Atapuma.  Dombrowski is still leading.  He’s been in the lead the entire climb.  Why doesn’t he make these guys take any pulls?  Perhaps they have prodigious flatulence.  Okay, Atapuma’s ears must have started burning because he finally pulls through.

The chase group of four, with Nieve, is a right fur piece behind the leaders.  I can’t be any more precise than that.  Oh, finally, they show the split time:  40 seconds.  This climb ends about 10 km (6 miles) from the finish, so they’ve still got about 13 km (8 miles) to the summit.  Man, that’s a fricking long climb.  It’s almost as impressive as the Tinkoff guy’s mullet.  Tinkoff continues to lead the peloton.  I can’t wait until Nibali and Majka start attacking each other.

Dombrowski is back on the front.  You know, if this lead holds, he could move into like 34th place overall on GC, maybe even higher!

Atapuma has taken several pulls now, but Visconti is just sitting on the back of this trio, sucking wheel like a little bitch.  Race announcer Sean Kelly is talking about that now (employing euphemism, of course, being a professional).  Says Visconti is probably making the excuse that he’s working for his teammate Alejandro Valverde, the filthy doper ten minutes behind him on the road, who sits in 6th overall, tied on time with Majka and with Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Pro Cycling).

The announcers were saying Nieve has the KOM jersey in the bag, but I’m not so sure.  He’s not even wearing it—he didn’t move into the virtual lead until this stage—and there must be lost of points available for this climb.  I don’t think he can afford to get dropped.  I also don’t think you even care.  I guess I can’t blame you.

If this Eurosport announcer says “at the minute” one more time, I’m going to reach through this Internet feed and strangle him.

Wow, the peloton has really thinned out.  It’s down to like 14 guys.

The leaders have 20 km to go.  Atapuma has just pulled off and is now yelling at Visconti, presumably in Spanish, which Visconti either doesn’t understand or is pretending not to.  Atapuma’s vague hand gestures are getting the point across, though not as well as a more specific gesture.  I guess he’s got his endorsement prospects to think about, and I get that.  Have you ever noticed that Eminem, though the best rapper alive, doesn’t get any celebrity endorsements?  Hmm, I guess I’m wrong about that … I just did a little Internet search and it turns out Eminem has a deal with Chrysler.  So I think Atapuma should flip Visconti off right now, and then get on his radio and tell his directeur sportif, “Get my agent in touch with Chrysler!”

Michele Scarponi is pouring on the pace for Astana.  And now he attacks!  Nibali immediately grabs his wheel, and Chaves is right on him.  Chaves has a pretty good poker face.

Valverde is sitting pretty comfortable in this group, which is down to 8 riders.  I don’t see any Orica-GreenEdge riders there to support Chaves, and Nibali is down to just Scarponi for help.  It’s refreshing to not see Sky massing at the front.

Wow, while the camera was focused on the GC battle, things changed in the breakaway.  Tanel Kangert (Astana Pro Team) and Taaramäe have bridged up, so it’s now a group of five.  I’m sure this is exactly what Dombrowski and Atapuma didn’t want.  The breakaway’s lead is down to 9:14 with just under 6 km (3.5 miles) until the summit.  Taaramäe takes a solid pull on the front.

So the chase group (i.e., what had been the peloton) is down to Scarponi, Majka, Kruijswijk, Valverde, Chaves, Nibali, Uran, and Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick-Step).  Not surprisingly, Chaves is right on Nibali’s wheel.

Taaramäe has attacked the breakaway!  He looks really strong.  His bike, however, is butt-ugly.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an ugly bike.  Look at the half-assed decal, dripping off the down tube.  And what the hell are those handlebars?  They look like a child made them out of a pipe cleaner.  And the brake levers are mounted so high up … the mechanic should be stoned to death.  Unless Taaramäe likes them like that, in which case he should be stoned to death, in front of his family.

And now Visconti attacks!  I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.  Just annoyed.  I’ll admit it, I kind of have it in for anybody on Movistar.  They just seem dopey.  Not in the sense of stupid or checked-out, but in the sense of syringes and so forth.

And now Dombrowski attacks!  Atapuma quickly responds but for now they’ve gapped Visconti.

Dammit.  The announcer just said “at the minute” again.  Will somebody tell him that he’s not allowed to make up his own expressions?  Does he think he can popularize this expression, then copyright it (like “Threepeat”), and make some money on the side?

Taaramäe has a huge gap now.  Visconti is back with Dombrowski and Atapuma.

Jungels looks like he’s having too much fun here.  Ah, youth!  (He leads the Young Rider classification and will almost certainly sew that up today.)

Nibali attacks!  Chaves is right on him, with Valverde stuck to Chaves.  They’ve got a bit of a gap.  And now Nibali attacks again, and he’s got a pretty good gap!  Chaves doesn’t appear to be panicking, but maybe he should.  Perhaps his directeur sportif hasn’t given the order to panic yet.  “Don’t panic … don’t panic … okay, panic!  You’re losing the Giro!”

Chaves is trying to hang on Valverde’s wheel and is just barely getting the job done.  It’s really looking like he’s going to end up second on GC by the end of the day.  Nibali is just pulling away, looking incredibly strong.  He’s got his necklace out.  I wonder if he did that to intimidate the others.  “You see that?  I’m religious.  I have faith.  Therefore I cannot crack psychologically.”

Ah, and now we see some intelligent teamwork.  Kangert has dropped back from the breakaway to pace Nibali.  I really like Kangert, and I just figured out why:  his name makes me think of Kanga, the marsupial mommy in “Winnie the Pooh.”  She was always my favorite character.  That’s right, I liked her even more than Tigger.

And just like that, Nibali takes off again.  Either he doesn’t think he needs much pacing from Kangert, or Kangert wasn’t going fast enough.  Needless to say it isn’t enough to drop Chaves on this climb; Nibali needs to take enough time to hold it over the last descent and still have 45 seconds on him by the finish.

I wish I knew the gap between Taaramäe and the chasing trio.  They could pull back some time on that descent if they work together well.

Chaves has detonated!  Poor guy.  Look, his handlebars have even slipped down.  Soon his tires will go flat.  His helmet will melt.  Pigeons will start shitting on him.

Atapuma dropped Visconti and Dombrowski somewhere along the line.

Finally, Visconti takes a pull.  Maybe just to get some KOM points, as he and Dombrowski cross over the summit.  It’s only 2 km to go for Taaramäe now, so I probably don’t even need to know the split … I think he’s got this in the bag.

Nibali is on the final descent now.  He’s a great descender and it’s a pretty basic descent … I suspect he won’t take any chances now, because he’s more than 45 seconds ahead of Chaves and will extend his lead over the final Cat 3 climb to the finish.

Taaramäe looks totally solid as he heads for a solo stage victory.

They’re showing Astana’s directeur sportif, Alexandre Vinokourov, and he’s really wincing.  Perhaps Nibali is descending a bit too fast for his taste.  Truly, only a crash now could rob him of Giro victory.

I do not know how far Atapuma is behind Taaramäe, but he is definitely running out of road.  This finishing section winds around all over the place, which may help Taaramäe … if Atapuma could see him ahead he might find some extra motivation.

I think I just missed Taaramäe’s finish because of an ad for cat treats.  God I hate advertising.  That does it, I’m never buying my cat a treat again.

Yep, the footage is back and I’m watching Dombrowski take third.

It’s a good thing I’m not a rabidly patriotic sports fan because I’d be really bummed right now.  I wonder if Dombrowski could have won this if he hadn’t led the breakaway for so long.

Chaves has been caught by everybody and her mom.  He may not even hold on to second.  Nibali has 1 km to go.  He still looks pretty solid, and has a gap of more than a minute.  Actually, though, his cadence is slowing.  And he’s really grimacing.  Clearly this dude is suffering mightily.

And now Nibali finishes, really straining over the last really steep bit to the line.

The announcer says “And Visconti finishes.”  What a dope.  Visconti finished minutes ago.  It’s Valverde who’s finishing at the minute, of course.

Okay, thanks to the instant replay, you get to see a photo of Taaramäe taking the stage.

It’s a great day for anagrams-of-“nothing”-name-bearers everywhere!  You know what?  I think I like this guy.  I’m even going to forgive him for his ugly-ass bike and its grotesque handlebars.

Here are the final stage results:

Whoah, how about that!  The announcer was right after all ... that was Visconti finishing well behind Nibali.  I got confused because as you’ll recall, Visconti was up in the breakaway until very late in the race, not doing a lick of work.  And he somehow lost 6½ minutes to Dombrowski in the last few kilometers!  Here’s where the journalists have to bite their tongues ... the Eurosport announcer must have felt like saying, “Wow, after freeloading the whole race, Visconti must have fricking detonated!  How do you like that.  Justice is served, at the minute.  That Visconti ... what a pussy!”

The GC has been calculated, and Nibali now leads by 52 seconds, meaning the Giro is essentially over, since tomorrow’s stage is actually very slightly downhill.  Here’s what the final GC will probably be, with Valverde passing up Kruijswijk to take the final podium spot.

 Nibali takes the podium, flanked by a couple of women who must be related to him or something.  Sisters, perhaps?  Because otherwise, what are they doing there?  Oh, right, they’re ambassadors of sport, selected for their diplomatic acumen.  Look at Nibali’s goofy shoes.  Man those things are goofy.  Isn’t Italy known for its shoes?  I see a lost opportunity here.  Bruno Magli is leaving money on the table.

Nibali looks wistful as he collects his kisses.  Perhaps he’s thinking, “Gosh, I should have washed my face.  I should have shaved.  This can’t be every enjoyable for the ambassadors.  Unless they really love me….”

You may have noticed that this report hasn’t been as snide, cynical, bitter, and seemingly biased as usual.  Have I softened up?  I doubt it.  Frankly, I just didn’t see anything particularly egregious today; no clear signs of a standout doper.  Who knows, maybe the sport is cleaning up!  

Done laughing yet?  Yeah, I know … winning a pro bike race makes any racer look pretty suspicious.  My online correspondent has just written, “How many bags of blood do you think it took for Nibali to win it? Despite his obvious doping, I still kind of like his style. You could even say that he’s one of my favorite dopers!”  I like Nibali, too, especially after his public spat with the legendary doper and whiny little bitch, Chris Froome.

Speaking of doping, watch these pages in July for my biased blow-by-blow report(s) on the Tour de France, where Team Sky will send their “good” riders, replete with a full arsenal of game-changing substances, taking “not normal” to new heights I’m sure!

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

From the Archives - Kroopian Poetry (Dactylic Trimeter)

NOTE:  This post is rated R for mild strong language, gross imagery, and crude sensual themes.


Sometimes I don’t have time to think up a blog topic.  Taking a cue from the movie industry, and from the Book of Ecclesiastes, I’ve decided there’s nothing new under the sun and I’d better just rehash some old material this week.  So I’m posting two of my old poems—one that’s 30 years old and another that’s almost 20—and providing all-new commentary in the form of footnotes.  Pretend you found this in your Norton Anthology of American Teen and Sophomoric Adult Poetry.

The Blue Tube Club – spring 1986

Splat mud splut, Cow chud cud, Dog dung stunk.
Nose snot rots, Booger blood, Anal hair;                            2
Armpit sludge, Dick Butkus, Damp crotch rot.

Happy love, Friendly peck, Snuggle up,
Happy-sap, Special friend, Hugga bunch;                           5
Smurfy love, Special coo, I Love You.

Stupid jerk Fire Up Total butt
You all suck, You’re a prick, Gimme that;                           9
Go to hell, God you suck, Just shut up!

Footnotes & commentary

Title:  The Blue Tube Club

The Blue Tube Club was a club that my two oldest brothers and two of their friends formed in the mid ‘80s.  If you think four people is barely enough for a club, you’re probably right.  This club was either too elite to accept others, or (more likely) its members were too shy and self-conscious to do much outreach.  What isn’t disputed is that they refused to offer me official membership, despite the fact that I hung out with them most of the time anyway.  The idea, I think, was for me to be really bummed out about this and press my nose sadly against the window, wishing I’d be invited in to play their reindeer games.

In fact, I couldn’t have cared less.  This was put to the test when my brother Bryan asked me to write a letter to the Casper, WY Chamber of Commerce thanking them for allowing the Casper Classic bike race to be held there.  I refused.  (My perspective:  what did some local government functionary need with another piece of mail to process?)  Bryan said, “Come on, think of the Club!  What is the Blue Tube Club?  It’s a bunch of guys helping each other.  You know, like Bill drives us everywhere, and I fix the Volv’ [Bill’s car], and Geoff welded the roof rack, and I fixed the Volv’, and Dave … well, Dave makes us laugh.  So you should write that letter.  It’s time you started pulling your weight.”

To which I replied, “First off, I’m not even a member of the Blue Tube Club, as you’ve made abundantly clear.  Second, I’m not interested in pulling my weight.”  This last quote became my signature utterance.  To this day, it’s occasionally trotted out as proof of … well, something fundamental about my character, I guess.

Byline:  Maynard Steele

Maynard Steele was (and sometimes still is) my pen-name.  I didn’t come up with it myself.  In junior high French class we were passing around the sign-up sheet for the student directory, and (unbeknownst to me) my friend Phil erased my name and wrote in “Maynard Steele.”  That’s how it came out in the directory, and I decided to run with it.

Line 1:  Splat mud splut, etc.

It doesn’t take long for the astute reader to realize there isn’t much meaning in this poem; it’s arguably more nonsensical even than Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.  This was an assignment for my high school creative writing class.  The teacher, Mr. Kroop (I hope I’ve spelled that right) assigned us a “Kroopian poem,” which had the requirement of being written in dactylic trimeter.

What is dactylic trimeter?  It means each line had to consist of three dactyls in a row.  A dactyl is a foot of poetry with the first syllable accentuated and the next two syllables not.  An example of a dactyl would be the word “hangover.”  You place the emphasis on the first syllable and then the next two are non-emphasized:  HANG-over.  Another example would be the word “jettison” (JETT-ison).  In normal speech, you might occasionally stumble across three dactyls in a row, like “GO to the MAR-ket and STEE-al stuff,” but I wouldn’t say it happens a lot.

At the time, I was furious about the assignment.  It seemed impossible to write a single line of dactylic trimeter, much less a whole poem.  So I decided to be really sneaky and write the whole poem using nothing but single-syllable words.  I erroneously thought that strings of one-syllable words couldn’t be proven to be non-dactylic.  (This isn’t actually true, as I’ll get to later.)  Figuring my poem would be nothing more than a blatant act of rebellion, I didn’t bother much with the meaning and basically wrote whatever words popped into my head.

Line 2:  Booger blood, Anal hair

As you can see, I kind of faltered in my pugnacious resolve to use only one-syllable words.  Perhaps the better part of my brain realized that two-syllable words could be employed here without too much difficulty, and to good effect.  As you can see, both “booger blood” and “anal hair” are properly dactylic.  They’re also pretty gross, which was my way of celebrating the freedom I had in Kroop’s class to write whatever I wanted.  Mr. Kroop was famous for not only letting students write short stories that were brazenly, graphically sexual, but for reading these stories aloud in class.  (This was probably a myth:  when I was in Kroop’s class nobody wrote such stories, and no student work was read aloud.)

Line 3:  Dick Butkus, Damp crotch rot

This line demonstrates my failure to grasp dactylic trimeter.  First off, “Dick Butkus” isn’t dactylic.  I was correct that “Dick” is accentuated in this phrase, but I failed to notice that “But” also is.  It’s “DICK BUT-kus,” not “DICK butkus.”  If you don’t believe me, just ask him.  And while you’re at it, ask him why he never changed his name.  What kind of nutjob would willingly go around with a name like Dick Buttkiss?  Why didn’t he at least go by Richard?

The phrase “damp crotch rot” shows where my all-one-syllable strategy failed.  It’s pretty much impossible not to accentuate a word like “crotch.”  It’s a word that demands emphasis, even if you’re embarrassed to say it.  And the phrase “crotch rot” naturally comes out  as the trochaic “CROTCH rot,” perhaps because—specifying, as it does, the kind of  rot we’re talking about—“crotch” gets the emphasis, as would any word it its situation.  Consider this line of would-be iambic pentameter:

His house was fairly riddled with dry rot.

It sounds wrong, doesn’t it?  The last syllable of a line of iambic pentameter is supposed to be accentuated, but you cannot accentuate “rot” in the phrase “dry rot.”  It’s “DRY rot,” not “dry ROT.”  Many two-word phrases are like that, as I’ve explained in my post about how to write a sonnet.  “Dry rot” is trochaic, just like “HOT dog.”  And so is “CROTCH rot.”  Which makes it even worse, doesn’t it?  “Oh man, I’ve got a bad case of crotch rot, and it’s become trochaic!”

Lines 4-6:  Happy love, etc.

This stanza captures my frustration at teenagers in love.  There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with love, of course, but teenagers are annoying enough without deciding they’re in love.  You know how teenagers seem to think they know everything?  It’s particularly annoying when, at 16, they think they’ve found “the one,” and everybody around them knows they haven’t, and that this is just a stupid practice fling that will end in deep embarrassment for both parties, but they still go on like they’ve discovered what it means to love.

A teen would be arguably better off dabbling in the occult than messing around with romance. At the time I wrote this poem, my oldest brother was in love, which involved a lot of snuggling and even cooing.  It wouldn’t have been enough to say “Get a room!”—I wished he and his girl would go jump in a volcano or something.  Yes, some of this was sour grapes, but mostly it was the spectacle of all that James-Taylor-grade sappiness.

At the time, a buddy of mine did a long stint at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and had some long phone calls with his girlfriend back in Boulder.  Now, my friend had the good taste to keep the mushy stuff to himself, and treat the affair lightly, around his friends.  I suppose that many a teenager was labeled crass who was really just observing a delicate teen-specific form of decorum.  This could be a group sport:  at one point, another OTC athlete was waiting for the phone, and—perceiving from my friend’s tone and diction that he was talking to his girl—did a crude pantomime and cried out, “Plow ‘er, dude!”  This has become my friend’s signature utterance (even though he himself didn’t utter it).  To this day, it’s occasionally trotted out as proof of … well, something fundamental about his character, I guess.

Perhaps it’s out of a residual distaste for sappy, smurfy love that to this day, my friend and I will occasionally cry out “Plow ‘er, dude!” whenever some guy starts using goofy language like “relationship.”

Line 7:  fire-up

At age 16, when I wrote this, I was a pretty quiet fellow, as now, but with a very hot temper.  This could come out without any obvious provocation; it could be triggered by male hormones, typical life frustrations, instinct, impulse, and/or the effect of being your basic social outcast.  This volatility was exacerbated by those around me.  My two oldest brothers were a study in contrasts:  one was dreamy, quiet, largely disconnected, and (as described above) shamelessly in love; the other, meanwhile, was what you might call an angry young man.  The angry brother, whom we sometimes referred to as “Mr. A,” once chewed my head off, without a trace of irony, for stinking up the bathroom, as though that was some decision I made that could have been avoided—as if I’d decided to crap in a wastebasket or something.  The other members of the Blue Tube Club could also be a bit hard to take:  one had an excessively drippy girlfriend and liked to blow his nose on his shirt, and the other—a giant guy—liked to wear a big trench coat, smoke cigars, and make wisecracks 24x7, and would  spontaneously tackle me to the floor and pretend to hump me.

So as a result of keeping this company, and also due to my essential nature, I would sometimes lose my shit completely.  The label my brothers gave to these outbursts was “fire-up,” as in, “Uh oh, Dana’s on the brink of another fire-up!”  My fire-ups were very loud, and this stanza captures some of that.  Of course I made no effort, as a livid teenager, to yell in dactylic trimeter, so much verisimilitude has been lost here.  For example, I’m quite sure I used the phrase “total asshole” a lot but never once said “total butt.”  But of course “total” and “asshole” are trochees, so the phrase “total asshole” cannot be rendered in dactylic trimeter.

Teacher’s comment:  Did Max help do this?

My brother Max had Mr. Kroop’s class a year before I did.  To say Max was a mediocre student isn’t really fair.  I think it’s more accurate to call him an F-student.  But he got an A in Kroop’s class, and earned it.  He was, and is, a great writer, and his style, particularly in those days, was blunt, wild, raucous, and utterly uninhibited.  In contrast I was much more reserved, with poems like “The Paperboy.”  So I wasn’t surprised at all that Kroop saw (or thought he saw) Max’s hand in this strange poem.
A Voice Will Sing – December 7, 1997

Once in a while a voice will sing praises,
Something to levitate everyone’s spirits.                        2
Somehow the faithful will manage to fear it,
Calling it chanting from somebody crazed.

Must we all be a collection of skeptics,
Fearing the good we’ve been trying to summon,           6
Finding the evil in everything common,
Feeling that praise is not ours to accept?

     Witness your neighbor and salvage his soul,
     Count up his evils and call them the whole.            10

Footnotes & commentary

Line 1:  Once in a while a voice will sing

After I’d turned in the Blue Tube poem, Mr. Kroop read the class his own Kroopian poem, and to my astonishment he did just fine with the tricky meter.  The only line I remembered later was “Once in a lifetime a voice will sing.”  It bothered me that I’d taken as impossible a task that was not.  I vowed to try again at the Kroopian form, but of course never got around to it … well, almost never.  For over a decade I kept thinking about tackling dactylic trimeter, and finally got ‘er done.

I decided, after much messing about with this meter, that I didn’t really care for it, and that a slight enhancement would make the lines gallop along better.  I attached a trochee—that is, 2/3 of a dactyl—to the end of each line, and I think you can see it helps.  Without that last trochee, the line kind of lurches to a halt, like it’s been clotheslined.  Then I decided, having forgotten whatever rule Kroop made about rhyme scheme, to use an ABBA scheme (reminiscent of a Petrarchan sonnet), whereby the second line doesn’t rhyme with the first, but the third line does rhyme with the second, and the fourth line then rhymes with the first.  I also determined, somehow, that each stanza would have a zippier finish if I lopped off the second half of the final trochee.  To maintain the rhyme, this final syllable would have to rhyme with the penultimate syllable of the first line.  Thus, “crazed” rhymes with “prais-,” not “praises,” and “accept” rhymes with “skept-” instead of “skeptic.” 

Rather than paying a verbatim tribute to Kroop’s “Once in a lifetime a voice will sing,” I changed “a lifetime” to “a while,” because “once in a lifetime” didn’t makes sense in the context.  Plus, I didn’t want anybody to think I was alluding to the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime,” since I was alluding to Kroop’s poem (which for all I know was alluding to the Talking Heads, but no matter).  And based on my adjustment to the meter, I needed to tack on that trochee anyway.  Could “sing” be a transitive verb, setting me up to slap on a direct object?  Sure.  What can you sing?  A song, obviously, but that’s only one syllable.  “Ballad” is trochaic, but the fact is it didn’t occur to me.  I landed, rather arbitrarily, on “praises,” which really set up the content of the poem.

Line 2:  levitate

This word choice is probably my favorite thing about the poem.  I could have so easily put “elevate,” but “levitate” gives it a slightly creepy air—are the faithful right to call this voice a crazed chant?—but also points up the fact that the state of somebody’s spirits is kind of an illusion.  Anything that improves your emotional health could be reasonably labeled a placebo, could it not?  And your spirits, though raised up, are always so delicately perched … they could come down any minute, so isn’t the tenuousness of “levitate” better than the false solidity of “elevate”?

Line 8:  praise is not ours to accept

It’s important to keep in mind that I was fundamentally unconcerned with the content of this poem.  I was interested only in getting the meter and rhyme right, as this poem was a warm-up exercise for the real, serious poem that I intended to write next (and did, in fact, write—but you can’t see it as I wrote it for my wife).  So I think it a minor triumph that I managed to convey any meaning at all with this poem.

Isn’t it odd that religion is supposed to be an emotional balm, but so many strains of it bring negativity to the table?  For example, if somebody (even, or perhaps particularly, your inner voice) buoys up your spirits by praising you, you’re not supposed to accept—because that would be committing the sin of Pride!  After all, all praise be to God!

Line 9:  salvage his soul

At various points in my life, certain well-meaning types have decided my soul needed saving.  I’ve always found that vaguely insulting … like my soul is so far gone that some chance acquaintance—armed with little more than faith and a bible—can just sweep in and rescue me.  To me, such spiritual meddling is like a salvage operation.  (Both “salvage” and “salvation” stem from the Latin salvare, to save.)  As these do-gooders pick through the apparent disaster of my spiritual world, what bits and pieces are they looking to rescue before leaving the rest to slowly dissolve at the bottom of the sea?  And how is this operation supposed to bring a message of hope?

Line 10:  call them the whole

In all likelihood nobody has made it this far into my solipsistic morass of literary criticism, and even if somebody has, nobody is taking my quasi-religious rambling very seriously.  But if you have, and you are, please remember how little attention I actually paid to the content of that poem.  If changing a word made the meter or rhyme right, I did it, whether meaning was served or not.  In that sense, you could change this final line to “Count up the syllables and call that the whole”—but then it wouldn’t be truncated dactylic quatrameter!  It wouldn’t be neo-Kroopian!  See how this works?

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Is the Red Hook Criterium Series Good For Cycling?

NOTE:  This post is rated R for mild strong language and intimations of gnostical turpitude.


Let’s have a little fun before burying ourselves in a lot of tedious text:

Daaaamn, is that a great crash, or what?  I could watch that over and over again.  In fact, I just did.  So did you—don’t deny it.  Really gets the pulse racing, doesn’t it?

Here’s another great clip:

Both of these fine films were shot at the Red Hook Criterium in Brooklyn, part of a series of races that require the use of fixies—you know, those track bikes hipsters ride that have no brakes and don’t allow coasting.  Racing theses bikes on regular streets, instead of on a velodrome, has proven a great formula for generating lots of crowd-pleasing danger.

Is this kind of racing a good idea?  Should it be promoted, or banned?  That’s what I’m exploring with this post.

What’s great about the Red Hook series

Anybody who’s ever raced a rinky-dink criterium in some forlorn business park, with a tiny smattering of spectators (all of them related in some way to the racers) will appreciate the fact that the Red Hook series draws a massive crowd of spectators (17,000 in the case of London’s event).  There’s no doubt that this kind of race is increasing the visibility of cycling.

You know what?  I’m getting bored with all these words.  Here’s a video compilation of Red Hook crashes from 2013:

The first crash is my favorite because the (amateur) cameraman gets involved.  I just wish there was another camera angle so I could watch the third racer flip over the fence onto the guy.

What’s lame about the Red Hook series

The first lame thing about this series is that the whole premise is just so fucking stupid:  hey, let’s make riders use the wrong equipment, and race in the dark, so that there’ll be lots of cool crashes!

The next lame thing is that this race thinks it’s cool because it attracts a lot of hipster types.  According to this Velonews article, “[Director] David Trimble held an unsanctioned, late-night race in Red Hook as a challenge between bicycle messengers and local road racers” and “required everyone to compete on a brake-less fixie, the preferred tool of bike porters.”  Of course once the race got big, the messengers were no longer much of a factor, because we all know bike racing is for the idle rich, who have time to follow special training plans involving “efforts.”  And yet, having started out as this illegal underground thing, the race desperately clings to a self-professed rebel mystique.  This “teaser” documentary by Trimble, with its self-satisfied air, almost made me throw up into my mouth. Of course it doesn’t mention the crashes, which are obviously the point.  It’s a little like a commercial  for Oreos that celebrates the wholesome wheat flour without mentioning the sugar and fat.

And why are fixies the “preferred tool” of tools?  Because they’re stupid and unpractical, of course.  Their unsuitability for urban riding makes them edgy and cool, kind of like cigarettes, so they naturally appeal to vainglorious image-obsessed douchebags.  Now, I want to pause here and point out that not all bike messengers are like this.  Go to New York City sometime and check out the full spectrum of messengers.  A fair number of them are just a step above homelessness and ride really crappy department store bikes worth less than the lock they’re secured with.  I saw one poor dude who had to make do with a girl’s model.  Not all messengers are narcissistic curators of their self-important self-image.

I realize I’m getting into slippery territory here … if I don’t like fixie-riding hipsters and the lycra-kitted bike dorks on $5,000 carbon-wheeled track bikes who weirdly seek to emulate them, shouldn’t I want to watch videos of them crashing at high speed?  Fair point.  In fact, when I watch that first video, I can’t help but be annoyed that it’s not edited more tightly.  Check out this video here and you really appreciate the impressive capabilities of modern video-editing software.  Why does this albeit spectacular bike crash video run for a full 43 seconds, when all the worthwhile action is over after the first 11?  Meanwhile, the auteur obviously isn’t a bike racer himself because he fails to pan correctly and we miss part of the crash.  About 6 seconds in, you can hear the telltale sound of a riding going down, just out of the frame, but the cameraman doesn’t react.  It’s a good thing more guys stacked into the first guy, or we’d have missed the whole thing!

So yeah, there’s a part of me that says we should promote, and indeed enhance, this version of the sport.  What I’d really like to see is one corner without fencing, where they periodically allow spectators to blast racers with a fire hose.  Wouldn’t that be spectacular?  Or once in a while they splash oil across a corner.  Of course, the spectators shouldn’t be off the hook here … they need to get involved in the carnage as well.  Why not get a booze sponsor involved, and create a drinking game for the spectators?  Every time there’s a crash, everybody has to do a shot.  When some bozo gets sufficiently drunk, a course marshal opens the fencing and pushes him out into the street where he wobbles around a bit until a rider slams into him.  Now we’re talking!

But that’s not actually where this Red Hook series is heading.  Naturally, as it grows and attracts money, it becomes more mainstream, despite what the director would have you believe.  According to this article, “Trimble, who first organized the race in 2008 as a celebration of his birthday, said he consciously tries to balance the race’s grassroots feel with its growing popularity.  ‘As for people saying the atmosphere is getting more mainstream, it’s not like we have a bank sponsor,’ Trimble said. ‘It’s gotten bigger but believe me, it’s grassroots.’”

Okay, first of all, what kind of self-absorbed dickwad orchestrates his own birthday celebration?  Second, his “bank sponsor” comment is obviously bullshit given the event’s current “six-figure sponsorship portfolio.”  If Rabobank or Citibank offered shitstacks of money to grow the event, Trimble would accept it in a heartbeat.  And “grassroots” generally refers to an idealistic campaign to change society in some useful way.  How is a bike race designed for maximum crashes achieving that?

The biggest problem with Red Hook

Imagine if, after you watched that first crash video a dozen or so times, and forwarded it to all your pals, somebody told you, “Hey, you know that second guy who went over the fence?  He ended up a quadriplegic!”  Suddenly this wouldn’t seem like such fun, would it?  And racers do get maimed.  As described here, a 15-year-old Red Hook participant had a terrible crash, was unconscious in the hospital for two weeks, and had to have “his face rebuilt with 23 screws and numerous metal plates.”

Yeah, I know, crashes do happen in traditional bike races, but not nearly as often since racers are allowed to use proper (i.e., road) bikes.  When you watch a normal criterium, the compelling spectacle isn’t how many riders crash, but how many don’t.  Go watch the Nevada City Classic criterium sometime, and watch how expertly the racers carve the sharp downhill corner.  I wouldn’t take my family to watch this race if I thought it made cycling look dangerous ... I mean, why would I, when I’m trying to encourage my daughter to race, and my wife to let her?  A real criterium, where riders can modulate their speed and keep that inside pedal up through the corners, demonstrates how safe cycling can be, even at high speed.

The Red Hook series, on the other hand, gives newcomers to the sport some cheap thrills while painting a picture of cyclists as total madmen.  Comments on the Red Hook crash compilation video  include innocent questions, e.g., “are these bikes designed for racing?” and “why do they race at night?” along with typical inane comments, e.g., “Brooklyn girls be super ugly!!!” and “Y you crash bitch you only doing 5mph on the stupid turn.”  Clearly these are not cycling aficionados.

Is it just me, or is there a fundamental hypocrisy in play when an event that calls itself “grassroots” actually undermines the idea that cycling can be a safe, responsible activity?  As a person who wishes lots more people rode bikes instead of ensconcing themselves in giant SUVs, I think watching a bike race should make people want to ride bikes, not shudder and say, “Those dudes are crazy!”

And speaking of those dudes, I think it’s pretty disgusting that they’re willing to be led around by their egos and seduced into riding a brakeless bike, at night, in thrall to big crowds.  I’m reminded of Olympic women volleyball players who, for years, complied with the rule that they had to wear bikinis.  According to this article, one top player candidly acknowledged the mentality behind this:  “‘The people who own the sport [the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball] want it to be sexy,’ Johns told the Sunday Times. ‘I used to play in shorts and a T-shirt and was reluctant to change. But if it gets volleyball attention, so be it.’”  I can imagine a very similar quote from a Red Hooker:  “I used to ride a road bike so I could brake and coast through turns, but the race organizers want it to be dangerous.  My road rash really hurts but if it gets cycling attention, so be it.”

Does cycling need this kind of attention?

Ultimately, to enjoy watching the true sport of bicycle racing requires some sophistication.  The sport isn’t for everybody, and that’s totally fine.  Other spectator sports are subtle, too.  Think of baseball, with its bizarre tapestry of strange rules, secret signals between players, and so forth … would it benefit from a big dose of lowbrow, brute spectacle, like if after three balls the pitcher was allowed to throw the next ball right at the batter with full force?  Or if the outfield were studded with landmines?

Celebrating the crowd-pleasing savagery of the Red Hook series seems pretty pointless.  Does cycling really need to grow as a spectator sport?  I’d argue no.  What’s wrong with a sophisticated and elite—albeit somewhat rare—fan, who responds to drama, and suffering, and tactical savvy, rather than mere bloodshed?  And even if you do want the sport to attract more spectators, I doubt the Red Hook freak show is going to win over any true fans—just a bunch of looky-loos who’ll eventually get bored and wander off to go find a cockfight, or dogfight, or political rally.  I myself have a limited appetite for bike crash videos … sure, I had a little fun here, but I can’t picture myself engaging in this coarse activity for long.

I say we treat the Red Hook races the same way we treat the hipsters, with their ugly piercings, hackneyed tattoos, skinny jeans, and fixies:  that is, ignore them, and hope they just go away.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ride Report - 2016 Grizzly Peak Century Ride With Teenager


Last Sunday, for the second year in a row, I rode the Grizzly Peak [metric] Century with my daughter Alexa.  (Why not the full century?  Because I’m trying to promote the metric system in this country.)  Read on for a description mainly of the food, but also the jinx—high, low, and otherwise—we got up to.

Short version

We met up with my EBVC teammate Craig and his wife Susanne.  The weather was perfect.  The food was plentiful and yummy.  There were cool bandanas but no yellow socks this year.  Alexa rode like a boss (especially when she Froomed us on Pinehurst) and covered the entire ~120 kilometers—including almost 2,000 meters of climbing—with her customary flair and panache.

(Wondering what the verb “Froome”  means?  You’ll have to read the full report.)

Full version

Note that I don’t say “long” version.  “Long” in the context of anything written carries a distinctly negative connotation.  This report is “full” like “full-figured.”  But it’s certainly not long—I have just half an hour to write it so you’re practically done already.

Breakfast was the smear of jam Alexa left on a spoon.  My breakfast usually consists of my younger daughter’s bread crusts, but she wasn’t home.

I hadn’t ridden with Craig for like six months, even though he’s normally one of my best training buds.  That’s because this spring I decided, in lieu of my normal regimen, to ride less and get fat.  But I e-mailed Craig the night before and sure enough, he and his wife Susanne were registered for GPC, so we made plans to meet up.

Teenagers take a really long time at everything (except sleeping).  So Alexa and I were too late to meet Craig and Susanne.  Fortunately, fate was on our side and Craig got a puncture like 20 meters into his ride, giving me the chance to a) sync up with him anyway, and b) further promote the metric system via this report.

Here are the Alberts at the start, along with Susanne’s shadow.  Note my lack of arm warmers and leg warmers … that’s how nice the weather was.  This marks the first time I have ever rocked fewer biking garments than Craig.

Alexa got a new bike last summer, with a double (albeit compact) crank instead of a triple, so she’s forced to climb a bit faster, regardless of how much energy she ought to be saving.  But in fact she climbs much faster, beyond what her gearing demands.  At the base of the steep, winding part of Pinehurst, she stunned us all by suddenly yelling, “I am awaited at the gates of Valhalla!  Witness me!” and then launching a brutal attack.

Well, okay, I embellished that a bit.  (She hasn’t yet seen Mad Max – Fury Road.)  What actually happened is that she Froomed us.  That is, she was riding so well she accidentally dropped us without even realizing it, like Chris Froome always does.  I don’t think she noticed until she got to the top.  I had to speed up a bit to keep her in sight so I could stop my lap timer … I’m pretty sure she got a new PR by a large margin.  Her pace probably wasn’t very wise, so early in a long ride—particularly since this was only her second road ride of the year—but then, her prefrontal cortex is still under construction.  At least she’s not doing truly dangerous stuff like so many teens do, like stealing cars, snorting Drain-O, playing mind-altering video games, and texting 24x7.

At the first rest stop we tucked in to the famous GPC home-baked snacks.  In this photo Alexa does her best Vanna White impression, though her expression seems to be saying, “Did you really just give me a second plate of goodies for my very own?”  (No, they were mine!)

So that’s poppy seed cake, peanut butter cookies, ginger snaps, pound cake, zucchini bread, oatmeal cookies, and coffee cake.  There might have been some other stuff but I ate it too fast to notice.  Could there have been a home-baked aspirin loaf?  Possibly, if such a thing exists.

Next on the docket was a brisk descent of Wildcat Canyon, a trip through San Pablo, Pinole, etc. and on to the very heart of the ride, which is the oil refinery.  Here’s the requisite glamour shot … note how Craig’s head appears to be steaming.

We threaded along the newly restored Planet of the Apes road near Crocket, with a new diversion along an isthmus (?) past the C&H sugar plant, which (according to my handy GPC bandanna) was built in 1906 and processes all the cane grown in Hawaii, which is about 700,000 tons per year.  If my math is correct that’s 1.4 trillion pounds, which is particularly scary when you think of how rare sugar is compared to corn syrup these days.  Should I talk a bit about beet sugar?  Naw, let’s move on.  Here’s Alexa rolling past the dueling bridges of the Carquinez Strait.

We hit the second rest stop, ate a bunch more stuff, and let our legs get all stiff so we could have maximum difficulty on the next section of the route:  the famous, ruthless McEwen Road, named for pro sprinter Robbie McEwen, who compared this climb to having his spleen crushed in a giant mortar and pestle.  (Okay, I made that up … I don’t know where it gets its name.)

Craig and Susanne like to play word games to distract themselves from the pain of this climb, and were gracious enough to include us.  The standard game is naming world cities, going sequentially through the alphabet (e.g., Austin, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit…), but we decided to mix it up and try something new.  Craig suggested profanities based on the alphabet (asshole, bastard, etc.) but I nixed that since I’m supposed to be a parent.  We decided on non-profane derogatory statements by alphabet.  I started:  “Angry is how I feel toward you right now, Craig.”  Susanne had B, and of course that’s not very difficult (“bad” being a perfectly obvious choice) but she just couldn’t bring herself to say anything mean to anybody.  So this game didn’t last very long, though McEwen seemed to.

This year I didn’t forget to warn Alexa about the Pig Farm climb, though I’m sure she remembered it from last year anyway.  It was nice and green.  Here we are, having a good laugh, perhaps about how I talk too much and ought to be told to shut up.

Not surprisingly, Mama Bear was a mother.  The weather was now officially too hot for Alexa.  Plus, her neck was getting sore because she always rides on the hoods.  It’s just how she rolls.  Seems to work, anyway, and nobody could ever deny that she has better form on (and off) the bike than Chris Froome.  Would she complain if she had a mechanical problem and I took that moment to attack?  No.  She might ask me to fix her bike later, but then that’s what dads are for, at least in traditional patriarchal households.

As we rolled down the hill toward the final fueling station, and I mentioned my intention to stop for water there, Susanne said, “Do not, my friends, become addicted to water.  It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!”  I’m paraphrasing here.  For some reason she doesn’t like to stop at that last rest stop, so she rides on ahead and Craig fills a couple bottles, then hammers to catch up.  So here are the three of us, with Alexa clearly thinking, “OMG, are we really doing another stupid photo-op?”

We drank a couple ice-cold Juice Squeezes (70% real juice, with the other 30% being, well, whatever makes it the right color and flavor), had some more cookies, and hit out for the final stretch to the finish.

Along San Pablo Dam Road, Alexa seemed a bit frustrated and expressed the teen equivalent of “Are we there yet?” (I can’t remember the wording but the tone was unmistakable).  She’s a fine athlete but with the mountain biking she’s been focusing on, her longest ride this year has been around three hours and this was over five hours in, so I can’t blame her.  I decided she just needed a bit of encouragement, and I’d planned for this:  I whipped out a can of silver spray paint, sprayed it all over her mouth, and declared, “You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.”  Alexa, delighted, cried out , “Am I awaited?”

(All of the above was communicated nonverbally, of course, and there wasn’t actually any paint, though I did remember to bring lip sunblock this year.)

At the finish, Craig and Susanne had saved us a spot at a shady table.  Well, at least they didn’t put a jacket or backpack down and tell us those spots were reserved for somebody else.  Fortunately that still mainly happens at the movies, though some dickwad did that on Bart during rush hour the other day, causing me to fantasize about holding his face against the electric third rail—but I digress.

The food was excellent, as usual.  Barbecued chicken; nude red potatoes; grilled onions, squash, peppers, and eggplant; jeweled rice; plenty of Acme baguette slices.  The guy working the bread station was so impressed with Alexa—that is, her rare combination of youth, lack of tattoos, lack of piercings, and willingness to be seen in public with her father—that he invited us to swing by after lunch for some free bread to take home.  We got like six baguettes and a sweet batard, which were hard to carry back to the car but then that’s a great problem to have. 

All in all, another glorious day of biking.  (I wish I could tell you what we had for dinner, but the sad fact is, I just don’t remember.  At this rate, next year’s report may be just a paragraph or two!)

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