Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the mud is not even dry yet

That's it. The races are over and the cx bike will shortly get rebuilt with fenders, bottle cages, and some meaty winter tires. Sure, there is still Ice Weasels but that's more of a party with a side order of cx racing. Some fools are off to nationals but my budget, time, and interest do not allow for the long trip to cold, snowy, Bend, OR.

I can't help already looking forward to next season. Will I run the same gearing? Will I pick up some different tire options? Which 19 year old will win the series title?

Also on my mind are opportunities for improvement to the cx scene. This article on velosnooze.com is actually rather interesting. The title sponsor and race organizers of the biggest mtb series in America are thumbing their noses at USA Cycling and the UCI. Instead of spending extra money to achieve UCI accreditation, they are re-investing that money for the benefit of their sponsors and participants:

"The whole concept of the US Cup is to subsidize promoters with assistance in marketing, prizes and funding to help bring their event and the sport of mountain biking to a higher level in the U.S.,” said Kady.

“We do this by adding value to their event in the form of venue and course development, rider swag bags, event T-Shirts, number plates, onsite support and additional marketing,” said Kady. “I feel it makes sense for us at this time, to take the money we would spend hosting and subsidizing UCI events, and put it back into the races, riders and venues.”

Although 10-20 elite riders might suffer from the decrease in UCI events on the American mtb calendar, the goal of the promoters is to add benefits for the hundreds of other participants.

As I read through the article it was easy to recognize the similarities between mtb and cx events in the USA. You've got promoters all across the country trying to provide opportunities for racers to score UCI points in hopes of boosting those riders further up the international rankings. At the same time, you've got a greater concentration of higher ranking (UCI C1 and world cup) events taking place in Europe. Although cx racers are not chasing UCI points for an Olympic spot, this statement still mirrors the challenge for American cx promoters and the select few who need those UCI points:

“The entire model is built around getting points so that riders have a stronger starting position at the Olympics,” said Tedro. “But the model is flawed, in that riders in Europe have so many more opportunities to rack up points on a weekly basis. So we end up promoting an event for the benefit of a small number of riders, who still can’t compete in terms of points with guys who can jump on a train and score 60 or a 100 points over a weekend.”


In the current model, it is nearly impossible for an American based cx rider to score the number of UCI points necessary to rank in the top 15 world wide. Eventually a rider will max out the number of UCI C2 points they can earn and there will be no more upward progress in the rankings.

So I wonder, will the American cx promoters come to the same realization? Is it still worth the financial burden to host so many UCI C2 events across this country? Promoters are investing a large portion of the money from their sponsors and participants to benefit 20-30 riders (only the top 10 riders in a UCI C2 event score UCI points). Is that the best use of those dollars? What improvements could be made to an event if the UCI money was available to be invested elsewhere? Would a series like Verge New England or the MAC diminish greatly if they were no longer C2 events?

I'd like to see North American promoters work together to organize a national calendar of UCI C1 events. There are plenty of quality promoters and venues around this country that can accommodate that. Sure, those races will be more costly, but they will also draw the best fields and provide the biggest audience for the sponsors. The 10 racers who really need/want the extra UCI points will make it to these events and as a result the spectators and participants will increase.

In the meantime, those racers who want to succeed internationally currently need to race internationally before the World Championships. Yeah, it will be expensive and time consuming but if you are among the 1% of participants that actually have the talent to race internationally, that's the sacrifice you currently need to make.

In the future, reducing the total number of UCI C2 events in this country while increasing the number of C1 events would allow North American cx racers to head to Europe with a better international ranking. It may even draw some of the top European talent to North America (in lieu of a US-based World Cup) on a more frequent basis.

There are a lot of moving parts to be coordinated, but it needs to start with American promoters and sponsors focusing their resources on the majority, those who financially support them. As Tedro says:

"the company is developing a new series designed to offer racing opportunities for both professional and amateur racers across the country, redirecting financial resources from UCI licensing requirements to 'where the money really belongs, namely the riders.'"


Let's watch and see whether Scott Tedro's move to create the US Cup Mountain Bike Racing League pays off and let's learn from it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

motivator

Damn you Nemeses! It will be 9+ long months before I get my chance to do battle with you again. Ah, but during that 9+ month wait, I can at least take some satisfaction that my Victims must also agonize over their place behind me this season.

Thank you Colin for giving me some motivation (and frustration) until the next season.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pot calling the Kettle black

The folks from Cheshire Cycle throw a really great party at Cheshire CX. They get great spectator and sponsor support and the course is really fun with some great singletrack, fast corners, technical corners, and a 50 meter run up where the spectators and hecklers tend to congregate. My plan was to do the single speed event and then the 1,2,3 race. The single speed event was staged 2 minutes behind the Cat 4 field. As we came into the run up on the first lap three of us had caught a number of the Cat 4's and were having a good time riding together through traffic. The race was only 35 minutes so I didn't want to drag the others around for too long. I decided to put in a hard effort on the uphill section of lap 2 and from then on I was solo single speed, chasing the stronger Cat 4's. I held on for the win and came close to catching the Cat 4 winner.

I hung around cheering for the other finishers and then headed back to my car to get my wallet and license to register for the 1,2,3 race. By the time I made it back to registration the 3,4 race was underway and Graham Garber was off the front. I was definitely surprised to see him in that race but once I spoke to the registration folks I understood why. Graham and Hunter Pronovost (promoter/organizer of the race) were the only two people registered for the 1,2,3 so they decided to bag the race and Graham entered the 3,4 to avoid making his day a total loss. Oh well, no second race for me.

Sunday I was pre-reg'd for the Durham CX race. It's a new event run by the Laurel Bicycle Club. They've been around for 30+ years and my former employer is their supporting shop so I wanted to make a point of supporting their effort. Plus, they were running around at Cheshire CX trying to get as many people as possible to come out for their race.

When I arrived, I was faced with a major dilemna. Not being able to double up on Saturday kind of bummed me out. I had my geared bike and really wanted to get two races on Sunday. The only option though was the 3,4 race because they did not have anyone interested in the 1,2,3.

I lined up with 15 or 20 other riders, including a few strong Masters riders that I know but who I don't usually race against. For the first 3 laps I yo yo'd between 2nd and 5th with one guy driving the pace the whole time. The course was really fun but also quite hilly. Not as bad as Catamount but still hillier than most CX races. I noticed I was the strongest on the climbs so I decided to test the others a bit on the 4th lap and was able to shed two of the five from our group. For the last 3 laps it was three of riding together. I spent a fair amount of time at the front but didn't push too hard in the windy spots, hoping to save something for the last lap and the second race. I let the other two lead most of the 5th lap all the way to the tough uphill on the final lap. I put in a really hard effort from the back on the hill and built enough of a gap that I was able to hold them off all the way to the finish.

I spoke to Diane Fortini at the finish and told her I'd prefer not to be scored since I really belonged in the 1,2,3 field but she insisted since I am a 3 that it was ok and she would score me.

So, after writing a post about how lame it is to race in a category where you expect to be on the podium, I did exactly that. I suck.

On a positive note, you should all try to fit both Cheshire and Durham into your calendars for next year. Just like Mansfield Hollow, these two races are run by passionate people who want to see us out there enjoying ourselves (in a sick, painful way). They had good prizes, good courses, and reasonable entry fees. Support the little man next year!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't you want to challenge yourself?

Looking at the pre-reg list for the Shedd Park race this Saturday is disappointing. There are waaaay too many people in the Cat 4/Citizen field. Folks, the Cat 4/Citizen race is for beginners. People without an annual license, people who make it to 4 or 5 races all year, people who have almost no training time during the week or simply do not take racing seriously.

Here is my helpful guide for the 50+ people who are probably registered in the wrong category at Shedd Park.

- If you have ever finished in the top 15% of a Verge race, you know you should not be racing in the Cat 4 field at an event that offers a 3/4 race.

- If you finish in the top 30% of a previous Cat 4/Citizens event, you know you should not be racing in the Cat 4 field.

- If you have raced in the Cat 3/4 field and not finished DFL, you know you should not be racing in the Cat 4 field.

Here is some advice for the Cat 3/4 field.

- If you finish in the top 20% of the Cat 3 Verge races, you know you should not be racing in the 3/4 field.

- If you finished on the podium of a 3/4 race with more than 30 people, you know you should not be racing in the 3/4 field again.

Guess what people? Continuing to race in your category until you win is not a valid excuse (note I said excuse, not reason). There are 80+ people in the Cat 4/Citizen field and 50+ in the Cat 3/4. If everyone one of them was waiting until they won an event to upgrade, the fields would crumble under their own size.

So I challenge you, fellow cross racers, to race up a category for the rest of the season at these non-Verge events because you all have at least two options to choose from. Make it a point to choose the faster field. You might just surprise yourself and have fun without racing for the win.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not Just Any Given Sunday

This time of year is usually all about 'cross and 'cross racing. Thanks to Matt Simpson, I had something else to look forward to, helping break up the routine of racing that usually absorbs my October and November weekends.


The season ending pastry ride was announced a few weeks ago and confirmations started pouring in pretty quickly. The rules were simple. Show up, be prepared to eat tasty treats, leave your powertaps, SRMs, and race wheels at home. Wear some wool, maybe a leather helmet, and expect to enjoy 2.5 hours of casual riding with good friends and teammates.

The only downside was that the ride started in NH and a bunch of us live in Boston. The solution that we came up with was to ride up there and then enjoy the group ride before hopping on a train to get back home. Here is a chronology of my day

6:15am: Wake-up (tired) and confirm it is still raining and that fenders and waterproof clothing will be necessary.


6:30am: Get the fenders and all-season wheels mounted


6:45am: Start consuming calories (two bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch) and sit around debating whether or not I can just bag the ride and go back to bed. Verify that three others are committed so I probably need to show up.


7:15am: Reluctantly pull on my finest lycra and apply some embrocation while hoping it might stop raining before I walk out the door.


7:30am: As I walk out the door, I’m able to confirm it is just a light mist. I’ve got to drop off my bag of clothes and stuff in Watertown to be shuttled up to NH by Mr. Bramhall.


8am: I drop off the bag on Jeff’s front porch just as the mist turns into a steady rain (Can I just sleep on the porch for a little while?)


8:33am: Arriving fashionably late (and unfashionably soaked) at Peets in Lex Center I noticed there are three fine racing machines leaned against the wall. My hopes of missing the train are dashed.

8:45am: Final bits of pastry and coffee are consumed and we walk back out to the steady drizzle to begin our journey north. Luckily Murat has the route dialed because apparently he spends most weekends finding the best roads within riding distance of Cambridge and none of us really want to be fumbling with a map or written directions in these conditions.


We estimate our trip at 45 miles and give ourselves a generous 2.5-3 hours to complete the journey, not quite knowing what we’ll encounter. Murat is wise enough to find a flat route and despite one flat tire (which was rather wicked btw) we still make it to Simpson’s in under 2.5 hours.


11:15am: I am really impressed with the upbeat spirit during the ride despite the fact that it rained, drizzled, or misted for at least 43 of the 45 miles. When we arrive at Matt’s, the garage is open and we are greeted with dry t-shirts and treated to a huge spread of delicious treats, including some gingerbread cupcakes (gotta remember to get that recipe) while Matt dries out our soaked clothes on ultra gentle cycle.

11:30am: Hanging out with the Simpson family and their dog is great. It almost makes me forget the soaking wet chamois and 35+ miles that still lie ahead of us.


11:35am: The first wave of riders show up. Ronny, Mark, and Tom roll in together. I’m impressed that people didn’t back out due to the weather. Then Ronny tells me it is sunny at his house right now.


11:40am: Jimbo rolls in, with wool and leather helmet. Nice

11:45am: They’re coming fast and furious now. Justin, Stephen, Jeff, Eli, Kerry, Roland.


11:50am: Steaming hot jerseys, arm warmers, and vests are delivered from the drier. It feels soooo good to put them on.


Noon: The grandparents arrive to watch after the three Simpson daughters freeing both Matt and Kerry S to chaperone the ride


12:15pm: We embark on the most casual of casual rides

12:16pm: We discover that Roland’s casual gear is missing as he rides off the front


12:30pm: Conversational pace, everyone is behaving and enjoying the company


1:14pm: Justin shares coffee (and milk) from his travel thermos with anyone who is interested. I guess, since there are not Starbucks every quarter mile in NH we have to bring our own coffee. No complaints though.

1:15pm: Time check confirms that those trying to catch the train back to Boston ought to pick up the pace a bit. Roland is happy to help with this and he turns the casual pastry ride into a bit of a speed ride.


2:00pm: After 45 minutes of beautiful, rolling hills and slightly faster than desired pace, Roland has delivered the 4 of us to a turning off point.


2:08pm: We say our goodbyes and head off on the route that Roland just described


2:09pm: Woops, none of us listened very well to Roland and after successfully completing the first turn, we are unsure of the next turn. Consulting Nick’s Garmin 705 gets us back on track and we access our time/speed requirements.


2:10pm: The train leaves at 3:04, we estimate 12-13 miles to go, on a paved bike path covered with leaves and a few weekend walkers. Pacelining begins.


2:25pm: It’s sooo cooold, and Yash is starting to fade a bit. Murat whips out some food and forces Yash to consume. Within seconds Yash is back to full strength and pacing us to the train.


2:50pm: Enough time to spare, we roll into Ayer and Murat recognizes the commuter rail stop a short distance away. We load up with chocolate milk and snacks at the Mobil Mart and begin analyzing what was an unexpectedly great day with friends, pastries, and 90 miles of pavement.


3:05pm: We’re encouraged to take the last car on the train since we’ll have an elevated ramp in Porter Square to aid in unloading our bikes. What we don’t realize is that we are also sent to the back due to our smell, appearance, and nuisance factor.

3:10pm: The bikes are piled in the back of the train and we all start removing wet shoes and socks.

3:45pm: Conversations shift between bicycles, bars, women, and racing while the train lumbers into Porter Square.


4pm: We unload in Porter and head off in four different directions. The weekend is over and another killer ride is in the books. The season isn’t over, just changing.

Thanks Matt and Kerry for organizing the event and letting us invade your space for the day. And all the HUP and FOHUP who made the ride, let's do it again sooner than later.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top Notch Photog

Click on the picture for more NoHo goodness from the official photographic master of 2009 CX. Obviously I like this one because it is me but there are a ton of quality (can we start using quality instead of epic?) shots in her highlight real.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Addiction

Being a cycling addict is much safer than being a drug addict. Even though my wife and family may think otherwise, I am pretty certain I could never over dose on cycling (racing is another story though). I'll keep trying but I'm confident it won't happen.

I just received these pictures from my father-in-law. This was right before I left their house in Montana and began a 30 day stretch without seeing any familiar faces. It's always hard leaving Montana because we have so much fun and it is a beautiful, relaxing environment. It's even harder when you know you won't see your wife for 35 more days.
Hard to believe that trip was more than a year ago.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wednesday Morning Worlds

No numbers, no lap cards, no USAC. Just lots of off-camber turns and watts sucking hills. Usual time, usual place.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Best Tailgate EVER!

In an almost last minute fashion, the idea of a HUP tailgate was hatched. I expected to see some of those little floor level grills with 3 or 4 burgers and hot dogs at a time. Oh no, that's not how the HUP crew rolls. I rolled up with the Baker of Hearts and his cargo of beverages, e-z-up tent, and bikes galore. When we located Eli he already had the charcol grill warming up and a delicious looking turkey ready for cooking. He also had a service table, a cooler of beers, and a race to get ready for. It was 8:30!

As the morning continued, we had more and more items added to the table. Since it wasn't lunch time yet, the spread started with bagels, nutella, bacon, and probably some other breakfast goodies. There was a little warming up to do on the course, but when I came back the lunch spread was starting to compile. The turkey was still cooking but there was already stuffing, cheesecake, HUPcakes and liquid refreshment to serve an army...of HUP and FOHUP alike.


As much fun as the racing at Gloucester was, the most enjoyable part of the day was just spending time with teammates and friends that really know how to enjoy themselves and get along. There was not a single negative vibe anywhere near the tailgate HQ; just a lot of satisfied, smiling bike racers and spectators. The way it should be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moving to once a week

Cross practice has been really fun and more importantly I think it has been paying off. I've never spent so much time practicing on a cross course but I kind of like it. Plus, the company and new faces have been great.
Now that race season is ramping up and most weekends will be filled with (a minimum of) 2 hard days of racing, I'm only going to be making it out for practice once a week. I'll shift the drill to Wednesday mornings at 6:30. I hope to continue seeing new and old faces each week until it is just too cold and dark to do it anymore.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Early morning carnage

Robert called the new course Lars "Carnage" Anderson. After being asked to stay off the ball fields we had to get creative and utilize some completely new areas of the park. From the reactions of the 15+ in attendance, the new course may even be better than the old one.


I suck at off camber turns so I decided to put in as many of them as I could. I still suck, but I learned many others suck just as much as I do (not Dave Wilcox though, damn). I went down on one of them, tweaking my right thumb a bit, Matt Aumiller went down(hill) on one and banged his shoulder. I'm sure a few others slipped but didn't confess. Gorgeous Gary Bavolar made his first appearance and managed to screw up his left shifter. He also confirmed that v-brakes are mediocre without travel agents.

Cat 3 superstar in the making Greg Whitney showed up on his mountain bike and still held onto the front group though he couldn't quite match the pace of his teammate Mike Wissell. Thanks to the big crew of Threshold riders that made their presence known. I'm starting to wonder if they employ the buddy system at all times because I've never seen just one. It's kind of the same with the CB crew who were well represented this morning.

Lots of new faces but also plenty of repeat victims. Hopefully the weather will cooperate so that Thursday's final tune-up before the Verge season kicks off will bring out another batch of victims. I'll be tweaking the course a bit to add some length and utilize a bit more of the open field now that we have a plethora of cones to work with (thanks Matt A and Matt S). Tell your friends, show up at 6:30am, but STAY OFF THE BALL FIELDS (and don't show up if it rains)!

Friday, September 18, 2009

New course

We were told we need to stay off the baseball and field hockey grass so next week we'll have a new course, focusing on the off camber, power sucking hill. Hopefully we'll still have a big turn out like we did on Tuesday.




Wednesday, September 9, 2009

1st Annual Upper Valley Century

Last week I received a late invitation from PVB to attend what is probably my last long day in the saddle in 2009. Instructions were to meet, along with Yasushi Katsumi at a secret location with our equipment in order to be shuttled north for the ride. Actually, we just met at PVB's apartment on Friday night and we piled into the Subaru and headed north to Hanover, NH.

It's been a number of years since the first Rosey, PVB, Katsumi road trip (New Gloucester, 2004?!) but we reminisced about it like it was just yesterday and quickly reformed our wolf pack during the drive. We arrived safely in Hanover and easily found our way to the accommodations: Chris Milliman's kick-ass house within walking distance of downtown. After drooling all over his garage which overflows with high end bike stuff that has been used and abused, not babied (the way it should be!), we got the tour of the rest of the abode and it is an awesome place that the Milliman family calls home.

The plan was already in place for our 7:30am rondevious at a Hanover park. We'd be meeting some of Hanover's finest dressed men (Andreas and Mike Whitfield) as well as a few friends of Chris's, all in the name of fun and suffering together. The wolf pack had agreed on traditional Belgian blue for the day's event and with the aid of some mild strength embrocation, we were well equipped to handle the early morning cool temperatures.

I was told to expect roughly 100 miles, a mixture of dirt and pavement, and plenty of climbing. I took this to mean 28mm tires on the cross bike and in the end I was satisfied with my equipment choice. Although I was a bit undergeared on some of the descents, this wasn't a race.

Before we even made it out of Hanover, Andreas suffered a tubular flat. Mind you, the man had already ridden something like 40 miles before he met us at 7:30am but I guess a house full of 5 children and a full time Dr. job forces you to adjust your riding schedule. We waited for him to go home and grab some clincher wheels since he didn't want to use his only spare tubular and be stuck with no spare many miles from home. Not sure what was taking so long (apparently he lives at the top of a mountain, that's what took so long), we decided to roll out and let him shortcut the route to meet us later which he did very successfully.

The route rolled almost immediately out of NH and across the river into VT. Chris gave us enough time to get comfortable and stretch the legs before hitting the first serious climbs and dirt roads about 10 miles in. Despite having four long time locals among the group, Milliman had managed to find a route that included some completely new roads for the four of them. This meant not knowing exactly how far to the top of some of the climbs but that made it all the more enjoyable.

With services conveniently located every 30 or so miles we didn't need to carry much beyond spare tubes and cash, always a nice feeling. The majority of roads were empty so we were able to ride two abreast or even three across on some of the really quiet dirt roads. It was a mostly leisurely pace, only elevated when Milliman came to the front on the flats or when invited guest Kurt put the hammer down on the climbs.


I noticed around mile 40 that we'd been averaging nearly 100 ft of elevation gain per mile and unsurprisingly, that trend continued to the end. With only two flat tires, we were able to make pretty good time, arriving close to Hanover by 1pm. Some of the folks had family committments so they peeled off and we were left with four: Milliman, Yash, PVB, and me. Our plan was to head up the west side of the Connecticut River in VT before crossing back in NH and hammering home. Along the way, Milliman coyly suggested that we take a detour up a nice dirt road. It was great, except that Chris didn't come with us and we got punched in the gut with a final climb up Rt 110 into Hanover (next time you're coming with us Milliman!).All in all, a great ride that is being titled the Upper Valley Century and scheduled to continue annually.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

look what I found


The start of some sweet trails right above my office. Might have to commute with the cross tires more often.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

D2R2 picture dump

Since I've been too lazy to write a proper recap of the event, I'll let my photos tell the story.