Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hard Hitting Interview

Sprocket Talk with Antony Tanman

Today we are lucky to get the chance to talk to stage winner of this mornings race, Pepe Pompadillo, to get his insights into the ride, the ICCC and cycling in general.

Antony Tanman – Hi Pepe, great ride this morning, but things seemed to get a bit messy. What happened out there?
Pepe Pompadillo – The usual bullshit. Lack of communication, poor leadership and a whole lot of guff about the “vibe”. It was generally a debacle.

AT – But you came through OK?
PP – Well when I get that type of leadout, I have no choice but to do it for my teammates. The General was unbelievable today, he took us through the roundabouts perfectly and had me in a great position as we came to the sprint. I couldn’t let him down.

AT – Who else was there at the end?
PP – Just a couple of Muppets. One old bloke who was trying to push way too big a gear out of the turns, and another bloke with a strange straight back riding action. I don’t know what happened to the rest.

AT – Tell me about the ICCC? What is its future?
PP – Look I think the ICCC has been a victim of its own success. There are management problems at the top end that really need to be sorted out if it’s going to be sustainable in the future. There are governance issues that need to be a priority. Policy and procedure frameworks that are matched to appropriate compliance mechanisms are a matter of urgency. It’s going to really need someone to step up.

AT – Who do you think is in a position to do that?
PP – Look it’s not easy. You need someone with high level skills in organisation and people management, but also someone who can be an assertive leader when this is required. Someone that can make the hard calls and then stand by them, but who is also prepared to roll their sleeves up and get stuck into the policies. There is only one person I can think of with that type of capacity?
AT – Yes??
PP – Bradley “The General” Fry. If he was willing to do it.

AT – OK, tell us a little bit about yourself. I can’t help but notice that you are often disparaging about your penis size and sexual function. What is that all about?
PP – I call it my “worst foot forward” technique. Get your failings out in the open and they cease to be debilitating. I learnt it when I was a kid and I used to get called “wingnut” for a week when I got my haircut, or sometimes it was “Dumbo”. I cut my hair really short, got a lot of shit for a week and then people forgot about it.

AT – So penis size?
PP – Look it’s really not an issue and besides, my hands are relatively small so it looks quite big compared to them.

AT – Who do you fear the most in the ICCC?
PP – Well of course there is the Mammoth. He and I have both had our battles with the bulge, but when we are both off the pies, we are about the same standard. His brother is improving fast and of course Dicko up the hills. But really I still have a bit to improve so maybe they should be fearing me!

At – How is the weight now?
PP – Just under 90. I have peaked at over 110 and my all time record is about 70, so I am about half way. I have about half a Dicko or a 1/3 Beechy to go. That gives me an edge on the Mammoth, as I reckon he still has a full Dicko.

AT – Tell me about Simmo?
PP – He’s the one that can really step up. He does not recognise his own talent at present but a few months of consistency and he will be flying. Word is he’s off the fish and chips.

AT – Your weight loss tips?
PP – Get of the piss, and don’t eat like a fat prick. Basically give up all the things that you like doing.

AT – Tip for next week?
PP – I will be giving a lead out masterclass, but the guy that has to have a crack is Dicko. I know he is psychologically struggling with his sprint, but I reckon next week is the day for him. I have lost all faith in the Fox, Crystal Cranks and the Ace to ever do anything – shit I hope one of them proves me wrong.

AT – Pepe, it’s been a pleasure.
PP – The pleasure is all mine.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Power and the Passion

While popular culture would have us believe that the First World War started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a crazed Serb nationalist, most historians know that the real cause was a broader lust for power and control – human nature really. As Mrs. Pompadillo is fond of pointing out, she only has to take her eye off the ball for a minute and Pepe is putting in a run to annex her Austro-Hungarian.

And so it was this morning with the power vacuum created by the bulk of the ICCC being engaged in other pursuits. The Mammoth was keeping the Ace warm in a cosy snow cave somewhere, Au de Cologne was off on business and Dicko, knowing that the burden of sprint lead-out rested on his shoulders, decided that if he could not win, that he was simply not showing up.

With the confusion that these absences created, someone had to step up, and who should appear out of the mist to assume this role? None other than the mythical hard man of the road, “The General” who had been waiting in exile for his chance to assume the leadership that he has always known was his and which there was now a clear opportunity to reclaim.

Along with Pepe he created what other members of the group termed “The Axis of Weevils”, as first the General and then Pepe led the bunch through Ballarat and up Eureka Street, the smallish group working very well together.

The power couple on the front soon broke down however, when after a week of dodgy gastro-intestinal issues Pepe tried to squeeze out a sneaky fart and came dangerously close to following through. It was only after a close inspection of the chamois when he got home that he could state with certainty that there had been no rectal leakage.

The sprint up the hill off Brewery tap showed that everyone was still going well, even the groups newest member “Exotic Mike” from the Peninsula, who had perhaps found himself with the wrong crew at the lake but went along for the ride anyway.

Turning into the finishing straight, Pepe clenched his sphincter and did his best to lead the sprint out in a way that gave everyone a chance. With 200 to go they were all still there, but when authority needed to be stamped there was one stamper and a whole lot of stampee’s. The General crushed all opposition – most disappointing, Crystal Cranks and the Fox who wallowed in like a couple of limp muppets 5 meters behind the Kaiser, both suffering from a severe case of softcockitis. There is going to be a big call soon for Runge to get back on the Kypo as the move to the new bike has yet to pay any sort of dividend and we know the lad keeps his mind on his money.

But to the victor the spoils - General Fry, we salute you.

“The King is Dead, Long Live the King”

General Brad Fry at the victory presentation.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Juiced Chapter 2 - Watto

As they pulled up in front of Watto’s house, Ace was still carrying on like a pork chop about not wanting to go in.

“I’m staying in the car. You just go and do what you have to do.”

Richo could see his point, Watto was generally a bloke that you tried to avoid if you had any choice in the matter, but sitting in the car was not going to work. He would want to know why he was out there looking like some sort of schoolboy.

“Mate you have to come in. He is going to want to see you. Just grow some balls and get out of the car. We’ll be out in 10 min.”

Watto’s house was nondescript and looked like about 1000 places in the streets around Altona. Brick house with a brick fence and a brick garage at the end of the cement driveway. It was a typical 50/60’s bit of Australia working class suburbia, but now it was worth a mint with its big block and easy access to the city. Watto’s house blended into his street and that was just the way he would have liked it.

They walked down the driveway and passed a dark grey Statesmen parked beside the house. A few years old. It was a car that would not get a second glance from 99% of people, but to Richo’s eye he could see that it had a bit of an exhaust and matched to the LS1 V8 it would undoubtedly get along alright. It had some nice aftermarket wheels, aggressive but not over the top, and a nice leather interior. It was a nice car without being an over the top car. Once again it was Watto down to a tee.

As they reached the front of the house and Richo pressed the doorbell, Ace shuffled on his feet, alternating his weight from one leg to the other, generally looking like a nervous dill. Richo gave him a quick scowl as they heard the deadlock behind the door being unfastened.

The door opened and there was Watto. Not for the first time Richo noticed that he was a dead ringer for Dutch kickboxing champion Bas Rutten. If you had to describe him, you could do worse that saying he was what a mean old pit bull terrier would look like if he suddenly turned into a man in his mid 50’s. His bald head and non-descript facial features were generally lost on those that met him due to their almost instant fixation with the thickness of his neck. It was not a fat neck, it was all muscle, sinew and veins. It was significantly wider than his scone and blended seamlessly into his equally impressive shoulders and chest. While standing less that 6ft tall, Daryl Watson was a man of incredible presence and power.

He was wearing a tight fitting v neck jumper that accentuated his features and some worn, but clearly expensive jeans. His whole presentation screamed of carefully considered casualness. Watto was a bloke who was used to making an impression.

“David! Good to see you. And Mark, I haven’t seen you for a while. Come in.” He had one of those calm emotionless voices that was for some reason unnerving.

Watto always called Richo by his actual name. Richo figured that this was because he had known him since he was a child and that there was almost a paternalistic element to how he addressed him. Richo was always amused when someone called Ace by his actual name. Mark Acceri was not called Mark by anyone other than his mother as far as Richo was aware. It appeared that this would have to be adjusted to his mum and Watto from now on.

While the outside of the house was decidedly average. The same could not be said for the inside. The whole place looked like it had been gutted and renovated and everything had been done to an incredibly high standard. The carpet, the architraves, the door fittings all looked like they had been selected with care and were of the highest quality. The house was sparsely furnished but what there was looked like it would cost a lot, and it was all laid out with some thought. As they got to the end of the hallway it opened into a kitchen living area which in turn connected to an outside deck by a wall of French doors.

“Would you like a drink boys? I am just having a cup of tea.”

Both Richo and Ace indicated that they were OK, both having glugged down a couple of coffee’s over lunch. Watto made himself a herbal tea and they sat at the large dining table that overlooked the deck outside. Richo and Ace sat somewhat uncomfortably as Watto took a few sips of his tea, Watto's physical appearance clearly at odds with both his surroundings and the faint smell of peppermint emanating from his cup.

“Thanks for dropping in David, I am away for the rest of the week but your dad told me that you might be able to help me out when I saw him yesterday and I really wanted to touch base with you before I left.”

“No problem” said Richo. “I am keen to see if we can stitch something up as well.”

“Your dad said you might be looking for a job?”

“Yeah, Lucy’s growing up and Jade is wanting to go back and do some study so I am going to have to start bringing in some more regular income.”

“What grade is she in now?”

“She’s in grade 4.”

“And Jade, is she seeing anyone?”

“I don’t know, that’s her business. I just want to do the right thing by her and Lucy.”

Richo and Jade had not been together for over 5 years, but it was still not something that he liked talking about. They had always stayed on good terms and he had always tried to be a good father and to support Jade in being able to provide for their daughter. He still loved her and certainly loved Lucy. He had made his mistakes and had paid a heavy price for them but he had made a decision the moment that they had separated that he would do what he could to support both of them and that is what he had done.

“OK, well I need someone to help out with cleaning and odd jobs at one of the gyms. It would work out to about 20 hours a week at $20 bucks an hour, cash. You could be flexible with how you did the hours, so you could fit in your training and racing. It’s nothing glamorous.”

Richo understood that when you had left school at the end of year 10 that glamorous was unlikely to be the way you described the sort of jobs you had a look in for in the future unless you were a better than average looking female and were trying to talk up your pole dancing career. Ricoh, apart from being a male, had always lacked rhythm and flexibility so pole dancing was not really an option. What Watto was offering was the sort of deal that Richo needed. 400, plus the dole, plus whatever he won was enough to keep him ticking along and to make sure Jade had what she needed.

“That sounds fine Daryl.”

“There would also be some extra work that might come up from time to time at the other gyms and things I have going on.”

Watto owned four gyms. Almost everyone knew that the gyms were just a front used to sell drugs. Each of the gyms was in a suburb where there was a high demand for steroids and other gear. Watto had worked out before anyone else that gyms, motorcycle gangs and drugs, were a winning combination. He had started off with a gym in his back shed where he trained track cyclists in their weights. Most of the big names of cycling on the track in Australia had worked with him at one time or another. It was his knowledge of weights combined with his knowledge of pharmaceuticals that was the drawcard. Watto was a smart guy who had a knack for finding other smart guys to work with to get things done. He was a traditionalist who embraced technology. When communism broke down he was one of the first to realise that there was a lot of knowledge and merchandise in the former Soviet Union that would have a lot of takers in the “free world”. He made contacts and he developed relationships. The internet was his tool but he also used friendships that had been established within sport. He used cyclists to make contact with the guys who supplied the drugs. Watto only dealt in the best gear and was strictly about performance, not recreation when it came to substances.

He ran a two part strategy. He obtained knowledge and goods from Europe and linked into the bikies for their skill in distribution, transportation and protection. His real skill was not to do anything stupid, working on a long term strategy when others were looking at short term gain. Being smart and already having a foot in the door with sport meant that he had a ready clientele who all had a vested interest in discretion. Watto had prospered in a dog eat dog world by being smarter than the average hound and having tougher dogs to do his dirty work when this was required, and in this business that was something of an inevitability and which Watto did not shy away from. Because he looked after the bikies and kickboxers, they looked after him. It was all strictly business for Watto. You would not see him in the papers or the front row of a high profile boxing fight. He was the man behind the scene that everyone respected and whose connections and usefulness meant that he not an expendable commodity like the majority of pumped up drug dealers. Any arrangement that Watto was involved in was something to be careful about – even cleaning the shitters in his gym.

“Well you can start next week. Drop in and see Frank on Monday and he will explain what we need done.”

After a bit more small talk, they were about to go when Watto asked if Richo could have a look at his bike as the gears were not changing smoothly. Watto explained that he would show them out via the shed so he could have a look at it. They left the house through the French doors, crossed the deck and then a small grassed area and were at the side door of the shed. What from the road looked like a one car garage, was actually a much bigger and more elaborate affair when you saw if from the back yard. It was actually an L shape with a roller door opening to the driveway but then extending around the backyard following the fence line. Watto used his keys to open the side door and flicked the light inside. Richo and Ace were confronted with an impressive sight. The whole scene was neat and tidy with a work bench taking up the whole width of the back wall. There were various high qulity tools packed into the bench with an expensive looking rolling tool chest off to the side. There was a high qulity air compressor along one wall nestled into some industrial shelving. Then there was the really impressive bit. Lined up neatly were at least 10 motorcycles. They weren’t just any motorcycles. Richo noted the collection, making a list in his mind:

Green Frame Ducatii 750ss
Mk1 Moto Guzzi Lemans
Laverda Jota
BMW 90s
Suzuki GS1000s and Katana
BSA Rocket3
Norton Commando racer
Kawasaki z900
Honda CB1100RB

All the bikes looked immaculate. Richo did the sums and figured that there was at least 250K worth of bikes in the shed, maybe more. Any enthusiast would have firmed up to have one of them. Watto had one of the each of the best bikes from the 70’s and early 80’s from each of the major manufacturers.

“Nice Collection” squeaked Ace in one of the first things that he had managed to get out since they had been there.

“Thanks, these are the bikes I loved when I was a kid. Now I have some cash I have been picking up the best ones when I come across them. I just about have all the ones I have been looking for."

Richo couldn’t resist. “Shit, gyms must be doing better that what the papers say!”

Ace gave a look like he had just discovered he was missing a testicle.

“A little better” Watto deadpanned.

Richo reflected that taking the piss out of Watto was a bit like playing with a snake. If you knew what you were doing you could do it safely, but it paid to keep your wits about you because no matter how comfortable you were, it was still a snake and it would bite you if you took your eye off the ball.

Watto’s bike was an old steel Kenevens with newish shimano groupset. Richo gave it a once over. Watto had been a good rider in his day before a bad crash had turned his attention to other challenges. Richo was a little surprised that he was still riding at all.

“You doing much?” said Richo as he checked the gears.

“Just a couple of rides a week with a few blokes from the gym” said Watto. “We ride for an hour and have drink at the café. Just good to do a bit of endurance stuff.

Richo had to smile. One of the hardest, toughest pricks in the city riding with some blokes to a café. What the fuck was the world coming to?

“Shit Daryl, your chain and cassette are shagged. Just go and buy yourself a new bike mate. This things 20 years old. For the cost of getting it right you could get yourself something new – it’s not like you are hard up for cash you tight arse!”

Ace now looked like he had lost both testicles, but Watto gave a good natured laugh this time.

“This one has sentimental value. Who could I take it too for a bit of an overhaul?”

Richo realised that he was getting in deeper with Watto than what he really wanted to, but there was only one bloke who he trusted when it came to fixing bikes and this bike was up his alley..

“Let me take it with me now and I will drop it in to Phil – I will get him to go right over it and drop it back as soon as it’s done.”

Phil was an old school mechanic who was best mates with his dad. Phil had worked on bikes all his life and he was exceptional at it. He had no formal training and was as rough as guts, but what he didn’t know about bikes was not worth knowing. He could work on all the new stuff, but he was just as happy changing the bottom bracket or headset of an old shit fighter.

The last few years, when most blokes of his age were retiring to a life of once a week bowls, Phil had enjoyed something of an Indian Summer. As cycling had become the “new golf”, all manner of trendy bike shops had sprung up with their brightly coloured facades and staff of 20 year old hipsters. The shops owed more to marketing than to any real love of the sport. The mechanics all worked in view of the public, usually putting together bikes worth more than the average car. Phil often wondered about the bike shops of his youth, dark dusty treasure troves where there always seemed to be more stuff crammed into the space that was available than what was prudent or would pass modern OH+S standards. The adventure of being shown the “good stuff”, like a set of Campag Delta brakes or a Super Record crankset. Whenever Phil thought about it he always visualised the inevitable roof full of hanging frames, and wheels. The old shops were places of stories where musty black and photo’s would remind customers of the shops bona fides, the owner standing with a young Phil Anderson, Danny Clark or if they were older, Russel Mockridge.

The new shops were all razzle dazzle. The only photo’s were blown up posters of the latest world or tour champion trying to sell you some sort of seat, or worse, energy bar. There was no place in this world for the fixing of old clunkers, but there was still plenty of old clunkers to be fixed.

This was where Phil came in. Each morning he would go to one of two trendy bike shops that he had become indispensable to and would load up his van with about 10 bikes. He would take them home to his little workshop and following the little instruction sheet stuck to the frame he would fix them better than they had ever been fixed before. He would do two hours before a 15 min break for a nine hour block and would drop the bikes back that evening ready to be picked up the next day. He would make 200 cash for his effort.

He could have had 5 times as much work as every shop was in the same boat with old bikes piling up to be fixed, but Phil had a good system of doing a vans worth of bikes each day, alternating between shops. His workshop was a wooden work bench with a vice, a good quality work stand and the real tool of the trade, a full Campagnolo tool kit. Campagnolo was the oldest component brand in cycling and had dominated the sport up until comparatively recent times. It was brand that was both shacked and liberated by its role as the custodian of cycling values, destined to be sought after at the top end but frowned upon whenever it tried to compete in the mass market at the bottom end where the real volume and profits were to be made.

Phil’s tool kid was still housed in its original wooden box. To a casual observer it was a box that looked like it might house a small guitar or other instrument. On the outside in blue was the campagnolo logo. When the box was opened the most perfectly formed set of tools were packed into individual positions. The whole package was a thing of great aesthetic appeal and quality. It was one of those rare things where a set of instruments designed to be functional, actually transcended this and was beautiful and would have been worth owning for this purpose alone. The fact that they were the best tools for fixing a bicycle ever made in a bizarre irony, almost seemed to be an added bonus.

Phil had other tools, mostly made by hand, but it was the campagnolo stuff that got the workout on old frames like the one Watto had. Special bearing presses for headsets and bottom brackets. A special tool for aligning the rear derailiuer. A drift for removing bearing cups were all there housed in their individual spots. Phil had acquired his kit when working for professional teams in Europe. To have a kit and to be able to use it designated you as a master. For the Italians that he worked with, a master mechanic was only a short step down from being a professional rider in terms of the esteem with which the role was held.

Phil’s new found usefulness, had had a spin off for Richo. As he tucked away a bit of cash, Phil lashed out and brought himself a new van, a dubiously named Hyundai Iload. This is how Richo came into possession of the old Toyota Hiace that had done the job for Phil for at least the previous 10 years. Luckily for Richo, Phil’s handiness with the spanners extended to most things mechanical and the old van, tatty around the edges as it was, had not mechanical problems and was a good fit for Richo’s needs.

“If you wouldn’t mind David that would be great. Just let me know what it costs and let Phil know I will fix him up. Tell him I am happy for him to do whatever needs to be done.”

With that the boys loaded a third bike into the back of the Hiace and hit the road.

No sooner had they pulled away from the curb and Ace was into it.

“Fucking herbal tea. Did you see what the fucker was drinking? 30 years of juicing yourself up and he’s drinking fucking herbal tea and riding to the café with a couple of soft cocks to have a fucking chai latte – fucking unbelievable.”

“And what the fuck are you doing getting a job with him. Mate that prick is not the sort of prick you want to be standing in his shed with looking at his fucking motorbikes let alone working in his fucking gym. Cleaning! Cleaning my arse, mate you know what sort of shit goes down there. You know don’t you?"

“Take a deep breath Mark, your hyperventilating.”

Both laughed at this, but things remained a bit tense.

“It’s your life Richo, but you want to make sure you know what you are doing. Shit the fucker has some nice bikes though. Gee I was sweet on that Laverda, I have never even seen one of those in real life before.”

After some banter about the motorbikes Richo made a final comment on his situation.

“Mate I need to get my shit together. I’m 34 and I have to start earning a regular income. I don’t have an education and I don’t have much experience so I have to take what I can get and who knows maybe this will give me a chance to get into personal training or something, maybe some coaching.

Ace grunted and shook his head.

“Richo the personal trainer. Fucking hell…Fucking hell. What are you going to have your own little uniform and everything? Fucking hell.”

Ace was still being a smart arse and coming up with names for Richo’s personal training business when he dropped him home. Richo had had about enough by this stage but they arranged to catch up the following morning for a training ride and Richo drove off and headed to his parents house where he was currently living. With a bit of luck Phil would be there and he could hand over Watto’s bike and kill a couple of birds with the one stone.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Juiced Chapter 1 - Old School Values

When they made contact, they hit hard. While they had come together shoulder to shoulder, one of them had been more prepared, was stronger and was clearly more used to this sort of caper. Above all the other noise there was the clear sound of air being forcibly expelled form lungs. It was a sound you often heard in minor grade football when a middle age bloke faced the crushing realisation that he had spent too much time on the piss and pies and not enough on his core strength as he was shirt-fronted by young bull who had been looking for an old bull to take down. It was a sound that if it was yours, you knew was going to be accompanied by that unpleasant feeling of your small intestine trying to vacate your abdominal cavity via your arse and your throat at the same time.

Dave Richardson, Richo to almost everyone, might have been an old bull, but he was not going to be taken down just yet. Ace was his wheel to follow, and when he had moved right to pass the rider in front and for a brief second had opened the door for the youngish bloke with the flash shoes to try take his spot, it was a challenge that just had to be accepted! Old school versus “the future”. They called him “Lethal” apparently because his name was Leigh and he had a “lethal sprint”. In truth he was just a rich kid who had had his tyres pumped up a little too much a little too soon. He was quick, but he was dumb. It was just that he had not realised that yet. He was used to throwing his weight around with other young blokes who were as soft as him. Because he usually won, they thought he was some sort of hard man. He wasn’t.

So as Lethal moved towards Ace’s wheel, Richo moved toward him. Young Lethal had come to expect that when push came to shove that everyone would act politely, but today he was wrong. Rather than simply leaning on each other and one rider losing their nerve, Richo ran into him. He put his head down, tensed his shoulder and clouted him. At that point they were travelling at around 55kmph. After his sound effects, Lethal now found himself careering off toward the gutter on the right hand side of the road, one foot pulled from its pedal and a look on his face something like a four year old who has just followed through and shat his pants. Riders behind took evasive action in all directions, cursing and carrying on as they went. Ace kept focused on the line and Richo sat calmly in the space directly behind his wheel.

“Nice Ace, keep steady, keep steady.”

Ace was strong and he was brave, but he was not that smart. He could never win on his own, as he just couldn’t think, but when he got good directions he was a gun. He was destined however to work for others, never to win for himself.

“Stay right, but move up. Hold third wheel.”

With 500 meters to go it was too early to be on the front and in the wind, but this was where you had to put the brakes on Ace a bit as he was prone to letting his excitement get the better of him and finding himself a winner 100m out and then 15th as he actually crossed the line.

“Doing well mate, hold until I say go. They will go early, but just hold your position.”

It was a straightforward sprint but there was a reasonable headwind. It was a day that you wanted to go as late as you could, but you still had to be careful of being jumped from behind. The plan would be to have Ace at top speed at a hundred meters from the line and then go.

300 out and the riders to the left started their sprint, out of the saddle heads down. Ace only needed to stand up for a few pedal strokes and then he was able to match their pace in the saddle, keeping his powder dry.

At 200 to go the riders who had initiated the sprint were at full pace, but they had gone way too early and they would start to slow down soon. Now was the time for Ace to do his thing.


Anticipating this, Ace was out of his seat almost instantly. The power of his acceleration was almost enough for him to create a gap, but Richo had been ready and held his position just centimetres behind the wheel. He was only just able to do it though and he was increasingly recognising the fact that Ace was actually quicker than him now and that he should be the one leading out. But he could keep that under his hat for a little while longer – Ace still had a lot to learn after all and being fast and being the winner were two different things.

With 100 to go, Ace was in the front and apart from sensing a rider behind and to the left, Richo had a clear run. Time to hit the go button. After clicking into his hardest gear, he got out of the seat and sprinted to the line, coming around Ace as close as he could, knowing that he would fall in behind him before soft peddling to make sure that no one could simply follow behind and try a sneaky last minute burst. This meant Ace actually had two jobs, to “lead out” the sprint, protecting Richo from the wind and bringing him up through the bunch until he was in the perfect position to launch his own sprint for the line, but also “closing the door” behind him so that no one else could get the benefit of following his wheel. As Richo approached the line he did what he had always been taught to do and threw his bike to the line like he had done on the track hundreds of time. It was an unnecessary habit in this instance as he crossed more than a length ahead of a gaggle or riders who fought for the minor placing’s.

There were muffled congratulations and pats on the back as the riders slowed down. Ace gave him a slap on the backside.

“Good work big fella, I needed some cash.”

Six hundred prize money would see him earn two hundred for his work. That was about the going rate for someone as good as Ace to give up their chances to help you out. You could try it on for less but if you paid peanuts you got monkey’s and you had to actually win before you could start worrying too much about how much of it you were going to be giving away.

“I‘ll meet you back at the van and we’ll get packed up so we can get out of here as soon as the presentations are over” said Richo as they parted ways to warm down. Richo contemplated if the commissars would have anything to say about the bump to Lethal, but he reflected that it would have looked pretty innocent from the finish. Still they could be an officious bunch of trumped up little pricks and it was likely that a pissweak Muppet like Lethal would make a complaint. He decided that he would cross that bridge if and when it was required.

When he got back to the van, Ace was already half changed with his bike packed in the back. They had an extendable awning set up off the side, with some chairs laid out underneath. Inside the van there was clamps to hold the bikes that were accessed through the rear door and the side sliding door could be accessed from under the awning. From there you could grab a water drum and a big tub that they used to wash with along with their clothes, a fridge and other bits and pieces. It was a functional if modest set up, but everything worked well and was the result of attendance at lots of race’s where stuffing around trying to find things at the end of busting your arse in the heat for 4 hours had focused the mind on those things that might make life easier in future.

Richo stripped off under the awning and washed himself down with a sponge from the tub. There was no modesty and people walked past with Richo displaying the whole kit and caboodle, but you had to do what you had to do. After drying off he put on his underwear and jeans and sat down to put on his socks and shoes. Just as he was starting to tie up the first lace he noticed that he was about to have company. Lethal and his posse were making an appearance.

Walking fast they were bee lining it for the van, Lethal looking shitty and the other two trying to look tough, but not really having much success. Lethal was an athletic six feet and maybe 75 kg. He was all perfectly shaved legs and bad haircut. On his right arm he had a tribal tattoo that looked like was still a work in progress. His two mates were variations on the Lethal theme, one a shorter and stockier version, the other a little bit more gangly. All had spent a fair bit of time refining their look from what Richo could tell.

“You fucking tried to take me out you fucking cunt, you tried to put me into the fucking barriers.”

Richo didn’t look up, but did have to reflect that there were no barriers and that maybe Lethal was going a little bit too "Tour de France" already – theatrics over substance.

“We both tried to get on the same wheel mate and you lost.”

This was going to be a short and sharp type of interaction. Lethal was going to find this out more quickly than he could anticipate.

“Bullshit, you’re a fucking wanker mate and you shouldn’t be riding, I am putting in a formal complaint, and I’m not letting this go, cunts like you think you can get away with anything, well you are a fucking wanker and you’re a fucking has been who can only win by being a dirty juiced up prick.”

Richo looked up for the first time.

“You’ve got 5 seconds to fuck off, or you are going to get hurt.”

“Yeah, what are you going to do you fucking wanker, I’m not going anywhere.”

Richo stood up slowly. Lethal remained pissed but his mates showed the first signs of doubt. Unlike all the others that were a part of this little pantomime, Richo had been brought up on the track. Doing standing starts, doing weights, being aggressive. He had also been on the gear when he had realised that he was too light to be a track sprinter and too big to be a road sprinter, and had tried to shift the scales with some artificial help. He had muscles and he had scars from crashes where bones had been broken and lots of skin had been lost. He also had a family who were into boxing and part of his training had always been to work on the speedball and heavy bag. In a rough pub he might meet his match, but at a bike race he always had the bases covered. Having seen this scene play out before, Ace leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head, silly grin plastered on his face.

As Richo stepped towards the trio in front of him, Lethal assumed the stance that is common in private school fights, the chest out theatrical he man show of strength. The sort of posture that assumes that there will be a bit of chest bumping, finger pointing and general shouting before both parties call it a draw and walk away feeling they have achieved some sort of moral victory. Unfortunately for Lethal that was not the way Richo was going to be playing it.

As he got to within a step of his foe and with no sense of aggression or urgency, Richo’s left hand sprung out in a quick jab. It was not a hard punch but it was quick and it connected flush on the end of "the boy with the half arsed tattoos" nose. As he stumbled back, his brain registered what was happening and he tried to get his hands up in some nod to whatever knowledge of self-defence he had accumulated over his 21 years. This corresponded to the second part of the two part combination that Richo had been working toward. His right hand ripped into an already half falling Lethal’s left side at the base of his ribs. For the second time in less than 20 min anyone within 100 meters heard the sound of forcibly exasperated air escaping from Lethal’s rapidly collapsing lungs.

He did not so much fall but crumple as he went down. His mates had a look one part fear, one part concern and one part surprise. Almost in unison they put their hands out in front of them like they were trying to push away an invisible balloon, giving the universal sign for “this is bullshit and I don’t want to have anything else to do with it other than to pick up my mate and to get the fuck out of here”.

With Lethal doing a combination of grunting, sighing and gasping for air in no particular order, they dragged him to his feet and hobbled away. As they got out of the danger zone the lanky one turned around and fired his parting shot.

“You’re a fucking lunatic Richo, ya fucked in the head.”

The response was quick.

“Yeah I am, so remember that the next time you get wound up by one of your mates and try and be some type of a tough guy, because if it happens again, you are really going to get fucked up.”

Sitting back down, Richo looked at Ace.

“That’s two zip for old school values.”


“Don’t worry about it, lets just get our money and get out of here. I’m starving. We’ll grab something to eat and then I have to drop in an see Watto on the way home.”

Ace’s face went blank.

“Fuck off mate, I am not seeing fucking Watto – Why the fuck do you want to see Watto? What the fuck are you doing seeing Watto? Fuck.”

Richo let out a decidedly half arsed laugh.

“You stay in the car then you weak prick, but I have to see him and I have to see him today.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Coldest day. Biggest bunch. Best smelling winner. It was a day of firsts and milestones as the Wednesday “Tour de Alps” got back into full swing.

As the bunch continued to swell at the start, first disappointment of the day was when Wazza appeared out of the mist, not on his bike, but in his daggy dad tracksuit. Hard man reputation well and truly shattered he was last seen wandering off into the darkness muttering something about madness…

A cautious bunch navigated their way through town, conscious of ice and errant car drivers before settling into a steady tempo up the Eureka st. drag. It was here that Simmo showed that you can take the boy out of Maffra, but you can’t take the Maffra out of the boy, as too many sessions on the fish, chips and dim sims, took its toll half way up and the big fellow dropped off the pace. More on that later.

A regrouping at the top of the climb saw the bunch heading to the highway together but cross it in two halves. A small group rolling into the distance while the rest of the bunch waited for the heavy breathing, farting and heart palpitating Simmo to once again get back on.

The turn into Humfrray, brought the realization that Crystal Cranks was nowhere to be seen. It was surmised that he was perhaps playing out a fiendish plan to beat the group to the sprint zone for sneaky burst into a hollow victory. This led to a quick change in route to confound the soft-peddling unisexer.

The sprint was interesting and perhaps the most stylish affair that we have seen for a while, with Au de Cologne, after being led out by big brother, taking the win but not before a late challenge from an equally stylish Matt Hanlon who was making his first appearance. In the battle of the swarthy Hollywood types, Hanlon’s push came to an end at about the same time as the other major challenger (the rich kid with all the gear) that was on the sweet smelling ones wheel. Pompadillo put in a late charge through the traffic, but while closing fast, he was not able to overcome a man refreshed after a week of romantic sunsets and foot massages. Hanlon along with almost everyone else in the bunch claimed to be working for “The Ace” today, but the new bike kid was once again let down by his debilitating performance anxiety, an affliction that has impacted on him at key moments of excitement since his early years.

Back at the Lake View the attention turned, as it inevitably does, to Crystal Cranks – where was he and what had happened?

It did not take long for the answer to be revealed, as our brightly coloured comrade waddled through the door displaying a large amount of camel toe.

In the most serious of tones he explained how he had turned around at Compassion St. (Looking for a grunting Simmo), had ridden for a while along Frustration Road, before finding himself lost and confused on Anger Avenue. Finally he got some perspective as he meandered along the High Moral Ground, before plunging painfully into Relentless Piss Taking Valley.

So Runge takes out the inaugural “Babychino” award and moves into short odds to win the “Golden Dummy” at the end of the year.
Next week stands to be another cracker.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Race Ready Bike for $52

Was doing my standard ebay trawl the other day and came across something that was a little too good to not have a crack at.

It took the form of a late 90’s aluminium bike. I am a bit of a cannondale fan and tend to keep my eye out for early model CAAD’s. I am riding a SAECO Caad4 at the moment, and would love a red Caad3 to make into a real Cippolini replica.

Anyway, no dale’s, but there was a bloke down the road from me selling a “Quantum Stealth”. I remembered a bloke who had one back in the day. They were an early Cannondale copy with tubes that looked like you could build a bull bar out of. They were not light, but they were stiff. Anyway with a starting price of 40 of your best, it was worth a punt. It looked in good condition, running shimano rsx shifters (worth more than 40 bucks in their own). The stealthy bit seemed to be that it was painted matt black – trying to channel a bit of stealth bomber action me thinks.

Being an experienced ebay snaffler, I put a bid of 52 dollars on. That’s a tip there kids, always put a couple of extra dollars on as the average punter will bid to a round number – more on that later.

So with 5 min to go I am the only bidder and am looking good for a 40 dollar deal of the century. With 5 seconds to go another bloke bids 50 and I take the win by my extra two dollars. Sweet.

Picking up the beast confirms a couple of things. The shifters are jammed up (common), but the bike seems in remarkable condition. Get her home and realise that it has pretty much brand new tyres, and that there is virtually no wear anywhere. First order of business was to pull the shifters, remover the rubber hoods and go to work with the wd40. Old shimano shifters rock, being incredibly well made (talking 7 and 8 speeds here), but they have a habit of jamming when the grease inside the mechanism goes hard. Flushing them with wd40 frees this up. You really want to clean that all out and then regrease them with a light grease – do this right and they will last forever. Don’t get wd40 on the hoods as it will break these down. It is always worth picking up an old set of shimano shifters if you get a chance – always.

I was having some trouble freeing up the left shifter (fine now), so I chucked on an old 105 one that I had and put some old bar tape on, greased everything up and went for a 2 hour ride.

Verdict – stiff as a very stiff thing and a lively little number. Not really good for bad backs or pleasure cruising, but a nice thing to ride. Similar to an old cannondale. Rsx shifters are 7 speed. Now before you get all weepy on me, this is actually a good thing. 7 and 8 speeds run a thicker more durable chain and they tend to stay in tune easier because they have a bit more room to play with between sprockets. They shift super sharp and for a training winter bike they are all you need. You can run an 8 speed cassette with 7 speed shifters but you will lose either the top or bottom gear. Best bet is to run 13,14,15,17,19,21,23.
Now I have a few bits and pieces to chuck on, including a mizuno carbon fork and some old ultegra or dura ace cranks, but even now I would be happy to have a race on this bike – for 52 bucks.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wazza Writes History

On the bleakest of mornings, when the common wisdom questioned the sanity of venturing onto the streets, “Wazza the Lionhearted”, showed that it takes more than just cycling talent to win a bike race.

Wazza can’t sprint, he can’t climb and to be honest he is not that strong on the flats. So what does he have? I’ll tell you what – he’s got a heart as big as a fucking pumpkin!

While Esmo tried to establish a base line for his resting heart rate in bed, Runge and Marriott debated the going out while in the spa together and the “Silver Fox” practiced his easy listening piano numbers – “Pumpkin Heart” – rode the lonely road through the rain and the sleet, eyes focused firmly on the prize.

While the “Corriedale Kid” mused over pictures of his best breeders, “The Ace” listened to his Essential Motorhead compilation and “The General” contemplated the return from his sabbatical leave from the ICCC, “Pumpkin” settled into the zone.

“I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet and I was having trouble seeing, but I knew that this was my chance and I had to make the most of it” said our man in the post-race interview. “I am not a talented cyclist – I rely on other attributes”.

The attribute he is talking about is the ability to be as hard as nails when those around him take the soft option.
In the debrief at the Lake View, the crowd just wanted to be close to the gold plated toughness of our man Wazza. For today at least, he was the ICCC’s Jonathan Brown.