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The Dirty Dozen... continued.

self warns, “The hill must be respected!” At the whistle-blow the lead bunch sprints around the corner and attacks the hill with many mercilessly shot down as they are shouldered into wet leaves and ruts. Riders go down like dominoes and nearly roll back down the hill. Those who make it to the top are jubilant as the defeated regroup, march back down the stairs and attack the hill again until, as tradition dictates, they conquer. With a hundred-some riders this can take a while and the victorious stand upon the peak to cheer on their compatriots. I made it in two tries, a personal best. The next hill is a complete brute, falling in rapid succession after Canton. It’s nearly as steep and twice as long, pulverizing my already exhausted frame. With hills this steep, you need to bench press your front wheel into the road to avoid wheelie-ing, which takes a huge toll on the arms and shoulders. Once on top the group gathers itself for sugar wafers and Mountain Dew as many take a ritual piss in a lawn beside the road. The ride takes a turn for anarchy as exhaustion and caffeine dissolve concerns for propreity. This is the Dirty Dozen.

The cerimonial jet through the nearly mile-long Liberty Tubes, a rite of passage for local messengers, is a highlight for many cyclists who would never consider riding it alone, being highly dangerous and illegal. Cross racer Barbara Howe best described it as being like a speck of dirt sucked through the hose of a giant vacuum cleaner. The haul up Welsch Way is a break in comparison to neighboring Eleanor St. Barry-Holt-Eleanor is actually three streets with traffic changing directions twice, too steep and long for motor vehicle traffic. Naturally, we ride the length of it which goes from steep, into a false flat to mega steep, at which point the sidewalk abruptly turns to stairs looking more like an MC Escher illustration than rideable terrain. Bemused locals cheer and jeer at us but I’m too focused on humping my bike over the hill to hear a thing. Cresting the hill, my heart plays a blast-beat and my lungs are on overdrive. I’m uncontrollably whooping. After a short break the ride turns into a high speed pace-line along a busy road, across the river and back around to the Hazelwood neighborhood where it whips into the final climb; a long slog for several blocks up Flowers Ave. and then over the last wall of Tesla St., a fittingly impossible finish to an impossible ride. With the finish in sight, exhausted riders charge or crawl up the final hump gasping and drooling as they crest the last hill. The survivors drop on the lawn at the top, panting and coughing, waiting for all of the riders to finish. Once assembled the officials quickly tabulate points and hold a slip-shod ceremony to announce the winner and top-ten finishers. Everyone then quickly packs up and leaves thinking, “Fuck it, I’m cold, let’s go.”

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