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Neal Karlinsky makes time to ride when he can —...

Shifting Gears #7: Teriyaki-flavored revenge

Neal Karlinsky was the recent victim of kids throwing something at him while he was riding, but he was able to exact a bit of revenge.

Too busy to ride? So’s Neal Karlinsky. But the married father of two, who’s also a national television news correspondent (you may remember his bombshell 2010 interview in which Floyd Landis admitted to having doped with Lance Armstrong), just got his first USAC race license in 25 years. He’ll be blogging here throughout the year about re-entering the race world in middle age and trying to juggle training and team obligations with work, family, and unpredictable days-long trips to cover breaking news.

This isn’t a race report, it’s a detective story, complete with a marginal-speed chase, hard evidence, and hot chicken teriyaki. And it’s probably happened to you … maybe not the chicken part, but still.

I’m riding home, on the final hill to my house, just happy to have squeezed in a quick ride after work. I’m in the saddle, inside a generously marked bike lane, when all of a sudden, “whoosh, clank!” Was it a bottle or a Pringles can that was just thrown at me? All I know for sure is that three teens are in a car whizzing by and two of them are hanging out the window, flipping me off, laughing and calling me something I won’t print here.

If there was a way to capture rage on Strava, I’d have KOM’d it — because I stomped on the pedals and started chasing. If that bottle had gone into my spokes, I could have broken my neck and I wanted those guys to know their game is no joke. I was desperate to get my phone out of my back pocket and get a picture of their license plate, but because I had a vest on, I couldn’t do it very fast and when the geniuses in the car realized I was chasing them, they took an obvious detour to get away and avoid a light. I got a distant picture — you can make out the model, color and dent in back, but you couldn’t read the license number. Disclaimer — chasing cars isn’t brilliant. But phones with cameras are our friends. And I just wanted a picture. I also wanted them to see me taking the picture and, if I was lucky, pee their pants out of concern. Everyone is accountable.

Fast forward a few days. It’s been hectic around the house, kids have track and choir and blah, blah … we seem to have no dinner. It’s getting late, still pure daylight around Seattle this time of year, but late none the less. So I run out to grab my favorite hot teriyaki for the family, which just happens to be located within a hundred yards of my near assault at roughly the exact time of day. As I was walking to my parked car, teriyaki in hand, I started thinking about the knuckleheads, wondering if their evening trip home is routine. Maybe I’ll see them again one of these days? And right then, I kid you not, there they are, sitting in the left turn lane at a red light. Same car, same dent, same three morons inside. I walk across one lane of stopped traffic and with delicious teriyaki in one hand and my iPhone in the other, I take a picture of their license plate. Then I go around to the side of the car where one kid has the window down. “Did you guys throw a bottle at a guy on a bike over here last week?” I say, pointing an iPhone and some hot chicken at the guy. His face turns white and he manages a “no.” “Yes you are,” I say, “And now I’ve got you!”

The next day, I’m at my local cop shop where a nice uniformed officer listens to my tale, looks at my pictures and agrees — yep, definitely the same car. And it turns out he’s a former cyclist. He runs the plate, visits the car’s owner and sends a little chill his way. And that is all I wanted. We’re all so vulnerable out there. It’s bad enough that people text and drive or just don’t see us on occasion. But when you have knuckleheads intentionally throwing things at riders, they need to be put on notice that it’s not good fun — it’s potentially dangerous.

Also, that revenge is a dish best served with spicy teriyaki.