Jun 29, 2009

Mas Video: Rapha Gentlemans Race

A few weeks ago I had planned on having a weekend off from racing. It was going to be all ice cream, hammocks and sparkling water.

Rapha Gentlemen's Race - New Paltz, NY from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Then the emergency 'Brown' phone lit up and on the other end was a gaggle of riders blubbering on about how 'therewassixbutonedroppedoutandnowtheyneedanother'. Turns out it was an unofficial, uninsured and unlikely gentleman's race put on by Rapha outside of New Paltz NY. Bicycling Magazine had a crew of mostly mountain bikers put together and it was captain Cushionbury who had called me (could have been a text, email or twitter).

I had to make the tough decision of sitting at home sipping lemon spritzers or travel for a 125 mile group ride through a place called the 'Gunks'. I can't resist anything called 'Gunk' and so I packed the green machine and headed to Emmaus to meet the crew. I rolled into my favorite Bikeshop/ coffee bar South Mountain Cycles, had a shot, shot the shit and waited for the band of pirates.

Soon teammate number 1 Selene, the Fitness Chick, rode by and informed me that rider Joule (sp) had just called and was out due to a crash on the bike that day. Damn. Now we had to scramble to find a 6th person, so we lit up the hovering network of cell signals in the sky and had a last minute commitment form Aaron Synder himself, despite the fact that he was leaaving for Europe in 2 days and his girlfriend was left not happy.
Now all we had to do was kill a little time while we waited for Mr. Snyder to show. What better to do than ask to take Cush's souped up Subaru WRX for a quick spin. In the space of 30 seconds I was almost hit twice before I even pulled out of the parking spot in front of the 10 people waiting to go, all laughing at me and placing bets on the car's and my survival.

As I pulled away, Aaron pulled in, and when I got back in one piece, we scattered.

There is an ironic element to the fact that I was about to do a team time trial over 125miles. I had just written a point-counterpoint argument about the merits of Solo Mountain Bike Stage Racing for Mountain Bike Magazine, which Cushionbury had assigned to me. Now I was in a position to see what it meant to race as a team, where no one was allowed to be dropped, and all bonking would be shared.

After a day that saw one rider who had come despite a terrifing crash on the Track earlier in the week, began falling apart at about mile 40, another rider fighting through severe cramps at mile 105, a missed turn and one flat, I realized the spiritual value of riding 'with' people. It required an empathy I'm not used to calling forth and the type of team bonding experience I usually leave for the movies I don't go to see. Except maybe 'Shaun of the Dead'.

Anyways it was a great time. Beautiful place and great team mates. Thanks, Mike, Selene, Mike, Brad and Aaron.

Jun 25, 2009

My New Formula Rotors

Thought I'd throw these out there. Got some new Formula R-1 rotors. All steel, extra cut and they feel a ton lighter than traditional rotors even though I think they are only like 20-30 grams lighter each.

The mounted ones are the new ones.

Jun 23, 2009

Cows, Bells and stewed. Welcome to the South

Somethings just get away from you if you aren't paying attention. Shirts mostly. Racing also. I just tallied up my season so far and the season to go, only to find out I've done 19 races as of this weekend. Those 19 races add up to 28 days of actual competing on the bike. It makes me wonder what the hell am I thinking? I think I only did about 26 races last year total. At this rate I'll be almost double by the end of the year.

Crap. Well I guess that that means this coming weekend at the beach is a well deserved break.
It'll be nice to sit back and not think about the night time trials, hill climbs, 100 mile races, xc races, chamois cream, drink mix, packing air, socks, clean kits, the other guys, air pressure entry fees and most of all leaving home. Well, I guess I'm leaving anyways.

Last weekend Jordan and I packed up the 5th Element and turned it south towards the hot hot hot south. Saturday was the USA Cycling Endurance Calender marathon race, the Cowbell Challenge. 50 miles of sweet roots and kick in the johnson climbs. Five climbs that are pretty short but back to back and steep enough to make you feel like you are doing 5 two minutes sprints at the end of each lap.

All in 95+ degree heat and 100% humidity.

The start saw Jafer off the front gunning it for the KOM points while I tried to stay relaxed and entered the single track 3rd or 4th. Taylor Sullivan put in some new technical rock boulder sections that were really fun, if you like squeezing your rear derailleur through some pinch points. Which I do.

So we got down to business, racing. With the heat I fugured I'd try to keep it dialed back to keep from vomiting and make it to the end. And I wasn't sure i'd make it to the finish at all. It could have been the fact i only rode my bike 3hrs the week before, or the heat, or the fact the Jafer and Aaron Oaks were putting the pressure on but I had serious doubts about my day finishing good. I decided that if I could make it to the half way point life might start looking better, and when we got to three laps to go, there was just me and Aaron who promptly attacked and put himself in the hole. So I figured the last two laps I might stay away if all works out.

Going into the last lap I pass Tim who says to me "otheryoulookingrealstrong." I couldn't really understand and thought he either said "You are looking stronger than the rest." or "There is a dude looking real real strong." Well I worried about that and kept looking back to see if I could eliminate one of the options from above. I thought I saw a streak in the single track but it's hard to tell since it's so twisty, but when I got to the bottom of the 2nd climb I looked back and there was Jafer coming after me as if I stole his dog. So instead of relaxing into the last three climbs I had to sprint as if I'd stole someones cellphone while they were talking on it.

Dizzy and done I finished almost a minute and a half up on Jafer, and I had no plan on racing the next day. Of course the pain and memory went away and no sooner did I eat a Ben and Jerry's cone, than I was ready to hit the start line.
The next day was a little cool temperature, but the competition has going to test my legs to the end. We started fast even though it was only 3 laps I was talking myself through the whole race. I made it through 2 laps in the top 5 group and felt pretty good as we headed out for the third and final round, but like a traffic accident, I was blindsided by an uncontrollable urge to stop pedaling, and my vision went a little funny.

Well I decided that I had put myself through enough, rode off the course towards the finish to turn in my chip and stopped at the car to drink something first. Then I sat there for a few minutes, Kyle and company drapped some wet cloth on me and I started to feel a bit better. I cheered on the racers as they went by and as I looked over at the start finish line I decided that the last thing I wanted to do was to have BRuce Dickman giving me a hard time for DNFing, which I hadn't done all year.

So I got back on the bike to finish the lap, and cool down. I went without my jersey and rode in bib glory. I actually like riding at the back of the pack sometimes as I 've expressed before. You get a chance to ride with new people, and there was Sam to keep me company. Thanks Sam. Then I caught Anina, the 2nd place female. 1st place was in sight 30sec up, so I couldn't go in front of her for fear of pulling her up, so I just sat behind her and tried to be encouraging for her to not give up. She didn't yell at me to leave her alone, so I just stayed there and watched the womens race from the course, which was really fun. Good job to both of them for battling to the end!

Colorado NExt week!

Jun 15, 2009

Stoopid is as Stoopid 50

I was but wasn't planning on doing this race. Then my car done broke down and a $500 alternator was needed. Well I could sit around here or go and try to make a little money and get a workout in. Plus I needed to start the Raffle Ticket push in full force to help pay for the Breckenridge Race'n Blowout for the month of July.

So up I loaded Friday night into the Lockwood breadbox with a gaggle of 5, including my dog Gertie. We made it through the early storms to the super secret camp spot, set up the hammocks, watched the fire, climbed the tower and went to bed. Gertie slept in the Hammock with me.

At the start line we had 6 Indy Fab riders there, which was sort of startling. I was really excited to have a crew looking so sharp in our new kits. The start was relatively mild, with a climb that went a couple of miles on gravel before turning left on the single track. IF rider Greg made a couple meat tenderizing attacks, then Rich Straub took a turn, who's wheel I followed, and when he fell off the pace I said to hell with it and took a flyer. Unfortunately I let Jeff come around me at the singletrack and though he has improved his trail riding a bunch in the past few years, I wasn't able to really rock the granite as much as I would have liked.

Eventually I got around Jeff and before me was some of the best technical ridge riding I've had the pleasure of putting rubber to. About an hour in Jeff and Eatough were on my wheel on a nice ribbon of downhill single track. I wasn't trying to push the pace, and had just told myself to relax, not take any risks and ride clean when I leaned into a small pine sapling as if it was ski gate and caught my barends at mock speed. After doing a tuck and double roll I popped up with Eatough and Schalk staring at me wild-eyed and not convinced that I could possibly be okay.

After a quick check of myself, putting my water bottles back, rolling the chain back on we were off. I realized I hit my head pretty good, and found out later I had a broken helmet, still there was no nausea, dizzyness or darkness so I figured I was okay.

From that point on I held onto 3rd place comfortable till the 35 mile mark when Chris Beck rolled up on me. He had flatted earlier and had been chasing all day. I was running my power tap and had an idea of the climbing numbers I wanted to maintain for the workout I wanted. Surprisingly Beck didn't roll on without me, and at one point he asked me what the hurry was. I didn't say it, but there was the little matter of the last podium spot, so I relaxed for a minute then dialed back in my numbers.

There are two big climbs after the 35 mile mark and the first one was an angry ant biting a tied down man exposed to a blazing sun for about 30 minutes.
The second wasn't as long but was annoying. I had a pretty good idea that the finish line was at the end of the next piece of single track. All I wanted to do was get in the trail first, and not flat on the downhill. I had to keep Beck behind me with a few short accelerations but it paid off as we finished 3rd and 4th, at the silliest most anticlamatic finish line ever. I totaly dig it.

Jun 12, 2009

Going to Colorado, Wanna go?

So I'm driving to Colorado for the Marathon National Championships on July 4th and then the Breck Epic from the 5th-10th. If anyone wants to drive out with me to share the drive/costs let me know. We need to leave in time to get there on the 2nd.

You could fly back or hang out and do the races too. Right now flights from Denver are super cheap on Southwest.

Let me know!!

Not Quite Right: Still good times

Yesterday's ride was a Google maps compilation. So 6 miles in we turn to go up Dennison rd and get a gate and washed out gravel. Oh, and the weather was what BikesnobNYC calls epic. I flatted immediately past the gate. After some turning around and exploring for the rest of the ride, we logged 60 miles, with one highlight being rt. 534 through Hickory Run State Park.

Next time I'll the Skinny Chicken to get the 411

Jun 2, 2009

If one aint working get another

This whole year cycling/ racing has presented one interesting obstacle after another. Each being solvable, thank you, and therefor each being a moment of pride in a job well dealt with. From India to DSG, to this weekend at the Mohican 100 I've come across a problem that when resolved it makes me feel quite accomplished even without a trophy to display.

I suppose that is why racing bikes can be considered an instant gratification device, not unlike crack. I mean anything that makes you feel good can be addictive, even if the process of getting it can be as painful as riding a 100 miles or robbing a convenience store and getting your leg run over as you trip while sprinting away across a busy highway.

There are very few places in life where a mistake can seem so colossal, while actually being so trivial and repairable. Sure if you take a wrong turn during a race after having almost bridged a gap created by an earlier crash, it's going to seem as if all was for naught and the purpose of continuing is questionable. At that point one has to find a good reason to continue.

At the Mohican I went through a list of reasons why to bail, which turned out to be an existential debate on why am I here. I'm here because it's part of a series, and since I'm no longer in a position to get worthwhile points I should ditch. If I do this race then I might be expending unnecessary energy, I should ditch. I could quit and race tomorrow at Iron Hill and make some money to feed my dog. Do 100 milers appeal enough to me anymore? I mean really, the sense of accomplishment is old hat. I've done close to 20 of these things, most of the courses 3 times at least and this was going to be my 4th time around this track.

That's when I realized that the sense of accomlishment comes in a variety of colors. I do sort of like coming from behind. I did feel responsible for leading 5 other riders astray when I missed the turn and they had come from a long ways away. Maybe I should vindicate myself by trying to stick with it and do some work to make their time feel a little more worthwhile.

Eventually that seemed like the thing to do. I put my head down, tried to make up for lost time and kept the pace decent. When I was on the front I tried to do my pentenance. Surely one or two of the lead group would fall off and someone in my group would have a chance to take maybe a top 5. Eventually it came down to Bart Gillepsie from Utah, Rob Litenwalner and myself. Bart was one of those guys I had come to respect just out of seeing his name and understanding him to be a good racer, and I was super excited to get to race him. UNfortunately it was under the auspices of me getting us lost and we didn't really get to have the cage match I wanted. Rob is an old friend by now and he was having a great day, getting dropped then ramping it up to catch back on.

On the last few climbs, Bart pulled away, and all I could do was motor along with Rob as my riding partner. At aid station 5 Rob got hot bottles that had been in the sun all day, and when he had to stop at station 6 I was able to continue on.

The last mile of the race course passes by my car and since I had long given up on caring about the possiblilty of counting the race to my overall series standing I took the pleasure in letting my dog, Gertie, out of the cage and she did her first unleashed trail run with me to the finish. Rob caught us just before the end and offered to wait but I told him to go on and in the end I finished 9th just behind Rob and Gertie.

Well that was over, I felt accomplished despite the race issues of an early stick in the rear wheel and going the wrong way. And I felt really good. It's too bad I didn't have an opportunity to ride with the boys on the front.

After eating I went back to camp, cleaned up and saw Elk come through then my traveling partner Nik Schaffer. After little socializing and eating Nik and I jumped in the car and followed Matt Ferrari home to State college where we slept, then woke up early enough to eat an early breakfast before heading to the Mid-Atlantic race at Iron Hill where I wold get a chance to crush myself and maybe earn back some traveling cash.

As usuall the race was humid, but the course was super packed and after a quick start with the legs punching me, I managed to go to the front and stay there. Holy crap I couldn't believe I felt that good. And I got paid enough to cover my weekend expenses! Ahh the life of a desperate Pro, chasing the bills.

Up next is the Hoo-Ha and then the Cowbell challenge in NC. I'm looking for traveling partners to NC if anyone is interested. Then I go to Colorado on the 28th. And If anyone wants to drive out with me to split the trip let me know. You'll probably have to fly back from Denver since I'm not coming back till after the 18th of July.

I'll be doing to Marathon Nat. Championships in Breckenridge then the Breck Epic then the Breck 100.

See ya.