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The Ring: A Collection of Voices

WANKMEISTER: THE END IS NEAR

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I deal with so many batshit crazy ideas, behaviors, and occurrences on a daily basis that it’s refreshing when I run across one that isn’t mine.

Photo by Kare DehlieThorstad

This little tempest-in-a-chamois was unearthed on Facebook, and it involved a recently upgraded Cat 3 who allegedly got his wheel chopped in a 55+ old fellows’ race. After the chopping, he did what lots of shitty bike racers before him have done, and what many more after him will do. He fell off his bicycle.

Then, the allegation goes, the outraged Cat 3 Older Fellow complained to the chief ref. So far, so good. Complaining to chief refs is standard fare when you fall off your bicycle after running into someone ahead of you because they made you not protect your front wheel. From that point on, the accusation gets murkier. Some say that the racer filed a criminal complaint with the police. Some say that the USA official told the racer that they would file a complaint with the police and that he would have to make a statement. Still others say that anyone who has read this far about an alleged kerfluffle between old fellows with leaky prostates riding bicycles in their underwear needs to invest his energy more wisely.

I reached out to the racer and asked, incredulously, whether he had actually made a statement to the cops about his bicycle-falling-off incident. He neither admitted it nor denied it, and when I asked him again he told me to go away and leave him alone.

I checked with the police department, but they won’t release or even acknowledge the filing of a complaint unless it is acted on or unless you’re the person who filed it. So as far as I’m concerned, there’s no actual proof that any of this happened, and he’s innocent of being a Delta Bravo until proven guilty. However, for the sake of cycling drama, let’s assume it did.

I’d like to assume this because when I emailed, asking him if he had filed a statement with the police regarding his crash, he came back with this gem: “If your child was hit by a stranger with a baseball bat would you make a complaint to the police?”

That’s a funny way to twist things. If someone walked up out of the blue and hit my child with a bat, I would almost certainly complain to the police. But when my youngest son played Little League, he was in fact hit with a bat by a member of the opposing team — a stranger — when the batter slung the bat. And instead of suing the child and his parents or filing a complaint with the police, I chalked it up to the risk of playing baseball.

Amazing concept, huh? Play baseball and you might get hit with a bat. Hey, this might even be a concept for cycling: If you race your bicycle you might fall off of it.

For some people, however, this is a false construct. When you fall off your bicycle in an Old Fellows Crit, the best course of action is to tell your mommy, or her surrogate, the police.

Imagine the precedent! Every time someone falls off his or her bicycle in a race, it’s potentially a criminal offense. Anything you do in the race can be trundled over to the cops by some crybaby loser and turned into a misdemeanor, or better yet a felony. Wonder how long we’ll have bike races of any kind if this approach becomes the norm?

Fortunately, there are a couple of things that stand in the way of sanctioned bicycle racing ever rising to the level of a crime, or at least to something more than a crime of bad taste, since the average masters racer looks like an overstuffed sausage in an undersized one-size-doesn’t-fit-you piece of stretch undies.

One of the things that protects our sacred sport of underwear riding is called the district attorney. They are able to look at this kind of silly shit, roll their eyes, and place your bicycle-falling-off incident in the “Billy Got Butthurt” file. The other protection is what’s called a jury. Imagine some rich-kid, whiny-ass, take-my-ball-and-go-home crybaby sitting in front of twelve normal people and explaining that even though he signed a waiver and had a rich history of falling off his bike, he nonetheless wanted an assault or battery conviction against someone because he, crybaby, ran into the person in front of him.

You know, like in a car, when the person who slams into the person ahead of him is always in the right. Oh, it’s not like that? Really? You mean in bicycle-underwear racing the person who gets smashed into is the one at fault? I see …

The jury would roll its eyes and send the crybaby home in the Whaaaambulance, albeit not before he had clogged the criminal docket with a silly case and had taken valuable resources away from prosecuting real offenses.

But even if this kind of crybaby were right, and someone intentionally crashed him out, it wouldn’t solve the problem for USA Cycling, for race promoters and sponsors, or even for the crybaby. Why? First, because he still signed a waiver. Now I know what all you legal yahoos are going to say, so let me say it for you: “That waiver doesn’t protect other racers who commit intentional crimes of assault and/or battery.”

That’s true. But in proving the offense, you still end up having to get by the prosecutor and his Butthurt File, and you still have to convince a jury — and convince them with a straight face, no less — that you’re not some whingeing wanker who can’t win on the field and is assuaging his sore rectum in a court of law. People with jobs who sit on juries may be unfamiliar and unsympathetic with underwear-clad older fellows who think that riding around in a parking lot on a bicycle and falling off of it is a noble activity worthy of vigorous law enforcement.

The other reason that crying to the police doesn’t work is because if every intentional wheel chop is a criminal act, then every bike race in the United States becomes a festival of handcuffs and Miranda warnings. Put it this way: Have you ever been in a crit and NOT had your wheel chopped? Chopping is to crit racing what tackling is to football, what flopping is to soccer, what DNF’ing is to Andy Schleck. Some of it may be intentional, but most of it is just wankers like me hitting the brakes in a turn because we aren’t very good, or wankers like Frankendave coming up hot and inside at 5 mph faster through an off-camber, wet turn because he enjoys time spent in the dentist’s chair.

Are assassins lurking out there, doing everything in their power to ensure that instead of getting 29th you get 46th in the 55+ race?

Newsflash: No. They are not. If the riders in the 55+ race are in a hurry at all, it’s to get to the bathroom to relieve their aching prostates.

Moreover, think of what an encouraging promotional tool this would create for those seeking to put on bike races. I can see the pitch to the city council now: “It’s a great way to get people to our town, have them enjoy the local flavor, and have them file criminal complaints!”

When some egregious act of bad bicycling occurs, isn’t there a procedure at every bicycle race for dealing with it? Isn’t that why we have officials? Isn’t that the purpose of lodging a formal complaint with the chief referee? And if the evidence is indisputable, isn’t the offending rider disqualified and suspended? And if the other rider does get suspended, isn’t that enough? Does every cyclist now have to worry about replacing some crybaby’s rich-kid rig and facing jail every time he races?

It’s hard enough explaining the underwear and shaved legs to your grown children. Imagine how much worse it will be having to explain this: “What happened, Dad?”

“I made a guy stop protecting his front wheel and run into me and he got a raspberry on his po-po.”

“And?”

“And now I’m going to Corcoran State Prison for five years.”

The ugly fact of bicycle crit racing is that on the last lap, when riders are trying to move up, they often dive into corners, bang bars, and try to force the weak, the infirm, the unskilled, and those with poopy shorts into inferior positions. This is the way that bike races are won, and if you don’t like it, perhaps you should blame it on the officiating that allows this type of riding, or limit racing to spin classes, or take up modern dance. Crit racing isn’t pretty and except for the winner no one else is ever happy, but is it criminal?

Add to this tasteless mix of Silly Stew a few other ingredients: Anyone who would go complain to the cops is probably someone who just wants to pin the tail on another rider rather than on the jackass to whom it belongs. It would also call for appointment of citizen-deputized Bicycle Race Rangers. I can see it now. One of our fellow cyclists wearing a leather vest, ten-gallon hat, spurs, and a badge and pedaling with a megaphone:

“Excuse me, you on the blue Colnago. Please pull over.”

Then the deputy could explain the basis of the charge (felonious wheelchopping with aggravated road rash), make the citizen’s arrest, and lead the perpetrator away in handcuffs and ankle chains.

However, in order to make sure that the criminal wheelchoppper was able to ride in the next race, we would also need a Bail Bonds tent as well as a tent for a defense attorney. “Snakey McGraw, your one-stop shop for DUI and bicycle-underwear criminal defense.”

In a bike racing environment where officials turn a blind eye to sketchy riding, where the riders have done enough racing to know what happens on the bell lap, and where you are always the one responsible for your own front wheel, filing a criminal complaint sounds like the poster child for what masters bike racing may well become: A playground for sore losers who think they can win with tearful complaints rather than with their legs.

This would set the stage for every spoiled little rich kid to run the bare-bones, broke-ass world of local bike racing out of business (not that it’s actually a business). Fall off your bike, drum up a statement to the fuggin’ police, and voila — you’ve singlehandedly “won” because in the next race other riders will fear you and give you a wide berth, not because you’re any good, but because you might call the cops and have them tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.

If this ever came to pass, I wouldn’t be surprised to see racers balance the risks and rewards, and decide to stay home. Everyone except the crybabies, of course. Their mommies would be proud.