Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Valhalla I am coming

Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called Life. Electric word life it means forever and that is a mighty long time. But I am here to tell you there is something else. If you don't like the world you are living in take a look around you at least you got friends.—Prince. 
Yes my friends you have friends. We have this crazy ass bike community. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. We made a blood oath the second we hopped aboard a bike. Any bike. All are welcome at our Church. Come in all sizes. Colors. Creeds. 29ers. 650b. FS. HT. Drop bar enduro. We are all but humble servants of the Dirt Church. 

This post was supposed to be the last post of 2018. Whelp. I had a pretty epic vaca. Not in the epic ride bro but in the epic I lived and loved it to the max. My family is my whole world. Only second to my friends. And if you are reading this you know we are friends. I love you with all my heart. I am sure we have suffered and wandered upon the same path. This post I have been saving for a special moment. And the moment is now. I live a blessed life. It is not without suffering and hardship. This year has been hard. But I refuse to call it a "bad year" I know lots of you have had hard years. I see it. And I am here for you. 100%. Not sure why 2019 feels so hopeful. But it does. I read a quote from a coach recently. I am a lacrosse coach. Girls U14. It is a hotmess. But he said it is not about winning or losing it is about winning and LEARNING. Yes. That nails it. This past year was hard. But I learned a lot. In that suffering came great knowledge. I fucked up. A lot. I was a bastard at times. Pain can do that to you. You lash out. You don't mean it but it happens.  You sweat the small stuff. It adds up. And maybe you lose focus on what matters. Luckily I have the best friends in the world.

So about this post. I have never been surprised. Literally. I know lots of people have elaborate bday surprises. Not me. Ok maybe that one time my dad gave me the keys to the Datsun. But it really wasn't a surprise it was more like "shit we don't have a present for you how about this rusted out car..." That car was cool don't get me wrong. So 2018 was hard. I know it was for you too. But in one of my more darker moments a reset of sorts was hit. I mean I did not see it coming. But one of my true friends and the love of my life got me good. 2018 I was a bit elusive. Not sure what that was about. Maybe I was depressed. Duh. And sort of retracted into myself. Sorry. My friends would ask to go on rides and I would be like nah I am busy. I mean I was but still. I missed my friends. I am a pack animal. Always have been. I love the idea of a tribal culture. I am part of a wolf pack. Even if at times I may go off on my own. You ever stay awake at night listening to Coyotes howl? They howl because one of the pack has been separated from the group.

I love my crew. It is a tight crew of 3 that morphs out to 6 that expands to infinity. But my wolfpack tends to be the Zank crew. I love my HUPmates and a bunch of others. But the Zank crew. Wow. We have so much history. We are all dads and of a certain age. We are warriors. Sure we may seem like boring old white guys but trust me. Love them to death do us part. So when Matt called me, texted me and guilted me via our WhatsApp thread I relented. I fidgeted. I cajoled. I tried to deflect and parlay a gravel ride. But Matt was insistent. No he did not say "Chip, you little bitch we are riding mtn bikes." But he basically said that. So it was on. We were riding Russell Mill. I joked about how Michele left me for dead on this ride last time and how much I HATE mtn bikes. But actually it was a great route. And Michele found some sick flow stuff in Billerica. Myette even lied that he had ridden it. Yeah I am gullible. I trust people. It is bizarre I never have been surprised before. 

So I have one of the worst weeks of my life. Why bother with the details. A legion of moms go through the same shit on the daily. My gender bender lifestyle is nothing special. But I kind of suck at it. I have tried my best. Done my best but that is all you can do. So in the worst space and week of my life I am like sure dude let's do this. Matt rolls ups amidst some bizarre backstory of where he is and what he is up to. Pam, my beloved, is acting super fucking weird. But I am so fucking blown out the dog could have been chewing on a zombie hand I would not even bat an eye. There is a lot of crazeeee happening that am. I am like what fucking ever. I do the dad shuttle and get the kids to school. I get home. Pam is weird. Both of them seem amped. I just settle into ok let's go ride bikes and fuck this bullshit of a week.

Matt may be a serial killer. We engage in senseless banter. Blah, blah, blah. Do not get me wrong. I love Matt. Straight up. Brother from another a mother. So we are cruising along in the Honda Pilot. And then we blow by the exit to Russell Mill. I am like "Bro, I know you aren't from around these parts and it is early but yeah...exit. Blown...." Myette gets all serious and says we are going to KT. I almost jump out of the car. Full fight or flight. My brain goes into hyper drive thinking about what bullshit I have scheduled and what bullshit I have to cover. Matt sees the look on my face and says open the glove box. Pam has it covered. I open the glove box and there are two cards. One from Pam and one from the kids. Both make me cry. Damn I needed this. No strings. No obligations. Just heading to VT and KT. KT kids is Valhalla. The poor Vikings had to endure a lot of horror for the mythos of Valhalla. It actually exists my dear friend. In VT. In Burke to be exact.

 I have always been on a teeter totter of the physical and the spiritual. It is where I feel most comfortable. I do think you can find the path of enlightenment through the palace of excess via the physical. Whether it was hockey as a kid, martial arts, surfing and then cycling. It is how I feel most at home. KT reminds me of Maui in the '80s. Somehow I convinced my then girlfriend now wife to go to Maui with me to windsurf. My GF did NOT windsurf. She chose to suntan on the beach and get absolutely annihilated by the sun. But Maui opened my eyes. It was perfect. It was the first place I had ever visited where I felt at home to be myself. KT feels that same way. It is built around cycling. You roll into town and you sense cyclists are welcome. The whole community thrives off cycling. So the whole drive up I am like ok KT the Valhalla of mtn biking. I am soooo riding my 29er. Matt planned everything. Rented me a party bike. Got the BNB dialed. I am pretty hesitant to give up my 29er. The bike shop that rents the bikes is so chill. I am NOT chill. Guy is like hop on it. I am like wow. Ok see ya.

 It is the perfect bike. I love hardtails. Will always love hardtails but damn I love a party bike. I barely rode a mile and I was sold. The Santa Cruz 5010 is an amazing bike. I mean literally I hopped on it and it was green light GO! time. We headed up to the trail head and then just shredded for two hours. Epiphany number 1. I do not hate mtn biking I just hate mtn biking on my shitty local trails. God damnit are the trails in KT amazing. It is like when you go to ski in Vail or Beaver Creek for the first time. You feel like a super hero. Full send. Full shred mode. My hesitation around renting a bike was totally unfounded. Do yourself a favor. Rent a bike. It was an eye opener.

Day one we do about two hours of super fun trails. We climb up onto the Chapel. I won't lie I am a religious person. It is hard these days in this country and climate. But I can transcend that. The chapel in KT is what has always drawn me to christianity. It is the same vibe I get in the woods or on the ocean. It is on a spiritual level. Not political at all. We bump into a super cool group of  ladies. Again, how often do you bump into 10 women on mtn bikes? All together. No dudes. They were so rad. I went into the Chapel as it has always been a life dream of mine to see it. In person was beyond what I had imagined. We roll out and hit more of the most amazing trails I have ever seen and then ride back into town to the BNB. The BNB is incredible. How it is so affordable is beyond me.

That night we walk five minutes down the hill to the Tikki Bar and a fun event going on. We make tie dye shirts. The next day we shred for another two hours of hero riding. I reluctantly hand the 5010 over. I seriously consider just leaving it on the rack and giving them my cc # for it. It is that great of a bike. I am a believer. I bend a knee at the altar of KT and Santa Cruz. 2019 I plan on getting up to VT more than I have in the past. This trip was the highlight of 2018. The greatest gift two friends have ever given me.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Merry Zankmass

The above photo captures the entire spirit of the Zank SSCX series. 90% of the photos in this post are courtesy of Andy Cooper. I shot a few but they don't capture the race. Just my warped view of building the course and witnessing the glory of 4 years of dreaming of getting a CX race at Medfield State Hospital. The first time I rode through MSH I dreamed of one day holding a CX race on these hallowed grounds. A lot of work had to happen to make it happen. I have been at the promoter game for so long it is almost embarrassing to admit how long I have been doing this. But this one. Wow. It is my Valhalla. I can die a happy man. Ice Weasels gave birth to the Zank SSCX series the same way Loki gave birth to Fenrir. The Zank SSCX series is basically a monstrous Norse Wolf running wild on cross courses throughout New England each Fall. Loki to me embodies what this whole series is about. Gender fluid. Trickster. God but maybe also something else. So pictured above you have Morris E. Eagle going hard through the barriers. Elbows out. Mike Wissell the #NECX Thunder God shredding the bad idea skinny. Keith flying through the planks. Who knows what is going on behind them....

I love SSCX. It is pretty much my sole focus every CX season. I am always blown away by how this crazy train just keeps getting more rad each season. This season had its challenges. In some ways it was my most challenging. The teeter totter isn't easy. You always want to keep it balanced. Kids. Wife. Family. SSCX. It can't tilt too far away from the familia. But my SSCX family is very important to me. Without it I don't know how I would get through a Fall. This Zank Series started hot and dusty and went full mudpocalypse. I love mud. But as a promoter it can be a disaster. No one wants to see a venue trashed. Especially one you revere. One you have been wanting to share with the #NECX for years. I can't tell you how stressed I was about this race. I have worked World Cups. Large rodent branded festivals on another coast. Nothing stressed me out like this. OK there was that one night....well morning really in Monterey around 3 am when I refused to leave the hotel room to build the course. My future wife talked me out of that room and I trudged off to lay tape. When Colin asks me to do something I jump at it. Cause I love that dude. And love the Weasel brand. Working on a Weasel's Inc event is an honor. To put on such a rad race I think you have to feel it. My love of Weasels and SSCX is enduring. 

I have been watching a lot of Parts Unknown lately. If you aren't hip to it it is Anthony Bourdain's show about travel and food. A common theme is about how much one gets out of creating a meal for loved ones. That is how I feel about the Zank series and race promotion in general. Yes I love bikes. And while I have been "retired" for about 5 years I still enjoy pinning a number on and racing.  But what I love more is throwing a HUGE bike party where all my favorite people show up and get rad. I was pretty nervous about this one. New venue. Super legit venue. Most legit Ice Weasels in history. But damn look at these photos. So worth it. No one got hurt. That in itself is some kind of miracle. Watching people ride the Bad Idea skinny at warp speed was a heart attack waiting to happen. Honestly though the most difficult part of the course was a curb. Not a 4" marble curb but a rounded broken 2" curb. Colin, Greg and I myself both looked at it building the course. We all agreed it would be no problem. Lesson #567 of race promotion: what you think will be no problem is in fact a problem. Watching the beginners smash their wheels at full speed right into the curb was crazy. Then people started endoing and crashing. That is when I made a panic call to my wife to pick up sandbags. God bless that woman. How many wives would drop everything and run to the hardware store and buy 10 sandbags on her day off? I married well. So my wife saved Ice Weasels....she certainly saved a lot of carbon wheels. 

A quick interlude and a HUGE thanks to Greg. Without Greg this never would have happened. He is the most PROfesional race promoter I have worked with. He made signs, he worked with the Town, he put together the best powerpoint presentation I have seen and pitched it to the town council. He was a great liaison. Saw around corners. Worked so well with all the different agencies. My favorite part of working with Greg was seeing him witness firsthand the Matrix like communication tree Colin and I are so used to. We fluidly go from twitter to text to email in a millisecond working issues. At one point I had to tell Greg "well you took the blue pill. There is no going back" We built the course out in two days. A weeks worth of breathing into a paper bag paid huge dividends. Colin found a Food Truck! And the Rasputitsa bus arrived! We had so many volunteers help that set up went way faster than I thought. And tear down was a breeze. Well not a breeze. Tearing a course down in the dark when it is 20 degrees isn't easy. But honestly we had a guardian angel on this one. As much as we sort of played up the spooky side of the venue I never once really felt that vibe. If anything I think we brought a light and positive energy to a site that maybe has a spooky vibe. 

My favorite race is always the SSCX and this one did not disappoint! It sold out in a matter of days. It was the biggest field of SSCX racers and fat bikers I have seen. The costumes were lit! I mean people went full out. What I love about it is it is a race with a party at the back. The women were battling the entire race. That podium was legit. The stories from the race itself still make me laugh. We had a surprise late entry of Morris E. Eagle the BC High mascot. Morris was so rad. I saw so many friends. Hugged so many people. It would be impossible to thank everyone but I will do my best. First thank you to the Town of Medfield and the local dog walkers for being so cool about us taking over the venue for a day. We met a lot of dog walkers during our course build. And they really are such nice people. As part of our efforts to make this a recurrent home for IWC we will be donating a check to support the Medfield Rail Trail. We love the trails. Frankly that is how we found this venue. And so many people were able to ride to the race. That is pretty rare these days.

I want to thank ALL the racers who came out and had a great time. Thank you for respecting the venue and being good guests. I want to thank Anthony and the Rasputitsa crew for coming down and handing out waffles. Thank you to Roni Vetter for the mini-cupcakes. Thank you to 3Cross and the Fritz Team for opening the bar and keeping racers hydrated and fueled. Thank you to Lesli and Kevin for being the best Podium Bosses ever. Lesli and Kevin are the glue that keep the Zank Series going. Lesli's husband created the amazing trophies that were handed out to the overall winners. Kevin's scarves and coozies were highly coveted prizes to say the least. And a special thanks to Rhys Niesen for her handmade metal podium pins for the Vest Winners! Check out her metal art at Rhys May Jewelry.

Thank you to our sponsors! Zanconato Custom Cycles builds the best bikes on the planet. NEXT cycling was so nice to donate a set of wheels for our raffle. Zach Levy was the lucky winner of those sick carbon hoops! Mad Alchemy has been supporting our shenanigans from day one. 3Cross has not only supported us with podium beer throughout the series but have become such good friends and partners in grime over the years. I can't think of a crew that I would rather hang with on any given Sunday than that bunch. Derek Griggs has been racing this series since its inception. He really has been one of my personal mentors in all things CX and NECX. He took me under his wing when I first moved here from NorCal. I was kind of a punk SF kid when I first moved here. Why lie I had a bit of an attitude. But he set me straight and taught me a ton. Derek always donates prizes from Feedback, Kali Helmets and Ortleib. Our end of season raffle always devolves into a product toss/Yankee swap. I hope everyone enjoys it. They seem to. I certainly love handing stuff to Ryan and having him chuck it into a crowd.

This season was a blur. I am already thinking about how to improve the 2019 Zank SSCX Series. If you have any ideas, suggestions etc just hit me up via the usual channels. I think it was perfect. The racing was well contested, so many people came out and raced, and most importantly people had fun! Our two champions Kerry Litka and Mike Wissell were such great ambassadors both for SSCX and the NECX. They make everyone feel welcome and put so much into the Vest and representing. I can't thank them enough for all that they do to help grow this series. This series really was created to grow SSCX and to grow grassroots cyclocross. I think we have been very successful with both. I am so happy seeing SSCX grow and love the grassroots races. We will be back next year with the same rad races and same rad attitude. Have a great (well deserved!) offseason. I hope to see lots of you on the trails and gravel roads of New England. Thank you for all you do!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Blogging is Dead, Long, Live Blogging!

Ok kids my household has a squirrel "problem" As the photo above shall attest. No idea how it began. But here we are as they say. But just 'cause you love squirrels doesn't mean all things squirrel are cool. I mean we have standards. I went to the friggin' most ELITE art school in the nation. Elite Art School is kind of like Elite Masters CX isn't it? I mean art is art bro. Why even go to school to do art. Just make the art man. Did Vince Van Friggin Goch go to Art School? Hell no. He suffered for his art. Snorted turpentine and ate moldy bread cause you can not spell Paint without Pain...Just saying. 

So when you name your race "Secret Squirrel" you basically had me at Hello. I fancy myself the PT Barnum of hijinx in the #NECX. A softer, gentler Loki. Maybe an All Father of all things SSCX. So when I see a kindred spirit I lock onto that ray of light in the darkness. Mike O'Connell is some kind of badass brother from another mother to me. Honestly I am not worthy. I have known a lot of people in the bike game. It is scary how long I have been at this. It is not some hobby or dalliance to me. I live, breathe and bleed this sport. I have worked on World Cups, and with some of the most influential people in the sport but Mike just brings so much energy to it I can't even describe it. I honestly can't figure it out. It is like seeing a double rainbow. You don't see the double rainbow and try and figure it out you just gaze in awe at that magical moment. Mike is possibly the greatest promoter in New England. I am not taking away anything from the Legion of others who have put on UCI races, and pillars of CX in the region. But Mike has done his own thing. Unsanctioned. Fun. Dialed. I will not miss one of his events ever again. They are literally must do events. And will be the pillars of the Zank SSCX series for as long as I am its #hype machine.

So what makes Mike's events so rad? Production value first and foremost. Beer tents, reg tents, cool signs, police, fire, food trucks, did I mention beer tents? heaters..these events are races for racers. Mike thinks of everything. It may be his military background. When I worked on the Sea Otter in Monterey the force behind that race was a retired Navy man. I think the military trains you and forms you logistically to deal with things as crazy as bike races. The promoters I know who are so good have that same sort of mind set. You have to be super organized and super chill to do race promotions without going crazy. Seeing first hand how Mike and his crew handled a course destroying micro-burst at CrosstoBeerFest was impressive. Seeing how he handled a last minute course disaster and pulled a rabbit of a course out of his hat that appeased both the town and the racers was nothing short of a CX miracle. Bike racers feel entitled to lots of things. We don't really consider the impact of a muddy race on the promoter and the town or host. It has a toll and a cost. I as a co-promoter of many races know this first hand. I have stood in the dark and talked to irate land owners about the damage to their property. Mud is great in europe. Maybe there are NIMBY dog walker groups in Belgium. I don't know. I do know in America people have LOTS of opinions and feelings. And the promoter is the one who gets an earful when the grass is torn to pieces. 

Mike clearly has that balance of strength and empathy when it comes to handling these touchy issues. His solution with a brutally wet November and the gift of a post Thanksgiving Secret Squirrel was for him and his crew to work themselves to death to get a sick loamy course for us to shred on. News flash I prefer shredding to power. And Ok I am not built for running. But do like it on a jungle cross course. I cut my teeth on jungle cross. I love it. We need to keep jungle cross alive and well. The course Mike and his crew came up with was amazing. Honestly. I heard he got some grief for the start. Hell I loved the start. And got a GREAT start. If I was a better runner I would have gotten separation from lots of dudes way faster than me. Rosey is a great runner. He ran up over my back and into the mix like a freight train. It was magical. I may still have some of the sand he kicked in my face stuck in my teeth.

"Dangerous" courses are less dangerous. You can quote me on that. As I age my goal is to become the Yogi Berra of the #NECX. What I mean by that is a course with features is much less likely to result in a serious injury than a fast wide open one. Canton is a great example of this. Each year we would see Sully. Each year we would say "Sully please don't get hurt this year" or "Sully please don't leave in the bus this year" And every year like clock work dude would knock himself out. Putney doesn't hurt anyone because people FEAR Putney. I think same can be said about a course like this. I loved every moment of it. I love SSCX. The Heckle Pit is EXACTLY what a heckle pit should be. NegaCoach yelling at me to not let the Town of Needham down was pure gold. The kid out in the middle of the course telling us all we were doing great was amazing. And yes, the beer on a stump made my race. I don't take a ton of handups these days. I am old. I have to drive home and be an adult. But damn that beer tasted good. See you all at Ice Weasels on Saturday. We have a special one for you. I am gonna high five every last one of you. Thanks Mike you my friend will get a hug...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Putney! Putney! Putney!

Putney. The word is like Valhalla. Or Mecca. Or Nirvana. Any CX racer worth their mud, sweat and no gears has heard of Putney. It is the oldest cyclocross race in New England. West Hill Shop has produced some of the best cyclocross racers in the region. And when you race them on home turf you learn a few lessons in a) the course and b) cyclocross 101. For those maybe not in the know I will now try my best to share my deep love of West Hill CX, Putney and Vermont in general. New England is a weird err unique place. Quick without googling how many states make up New England? No cheating. Oh so sad for you, you included New York didn't you? And probably left out Rhode Island. The number is six: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. I can't think of a region with six more different states. I mean the Pac NW will tell you Norcal, Oregon and Washington are TOTALLY different but are they really? No not really. Not like NH vs VT? Or CT vs RI? And these states are CLOSE to each other. So you pick faves. VT to me is it. If I could figure a way to move to VT I would do it in a heartbeat. The people, the terrain, the air, everything. It just speaks to me. This will sound weird but it is even in the soil. The course at West Hill is unlike anyplace you will ever race cyclocross. There is mud and then their is Putney. In the ten or so years I have raced there I don't think I have ever raced that course when it was dry. I don't think that a dry Putney is possible. 

Ok let me backtrack a touch. As stated earlier West Hill/Putney is the longest ongoing CX race in New England. Not the oldest race in the US. That goes to Surf City in Santa Cruz. God bless those hippies out west. But the oldest in New England. And a monument. I remember when I first joined HUP. Zac Daab spoke of Putney in revered tones. My teammates would talk story about freezing their asses off and the brutal run up and the insane drop off. My eyes would get so big hearing them talk about it. Most of my fondest CX memories are from my trips to Putney. The best way to do West Hill is with a packed van and a crew. And at least one trip to the Putney Co-op. I mean two visits would be optimal but one is mandatory. So you probably are getting the idea that this race is a CX rite of passage or pilgrimage? Yeah it is. And all the hype is true. So a few years back when we were getting the Zank SSCX series calendar roughed out I asked Mike about Putney. Would they go for it? I think my friend Derek Griggs asked Jim about it. He loved the idea. And from that point on West Hill has been a part of the series. This year the largest field of the event was the SSCX field! I mean that is incredible. I love that people love SSCX. And I love that all the SSCXers get it. Putney is a must do event. I personally will never miss Putney. Not as long as I race cross. It means that much to me.

This year I drove up with my partner in grime Matt Myette. He is always up for a road trip. We did a Putney trip with David Wilcox that is such a fond memory. As we were plotting and scheming this trip we realized that trip was 8 years ago. Eight?! How is that possible? Time flies by my friends. Soak it in while you can. I know I am going full send until the end. I picked up Myette and we packed the van with Zanks. I feel beyond lucky to have so many rad friends and a friend who builds me some of the best bikes on the planet. We took the ummm scenic route as Matt HATES traffic. I don't blame him really. Massholes are the bane of my existence. And the Mass Pike is full of Massholes. We roll up to West Hill and get our CX on! I just love seeing that shop. Imagine a bike shop but it looks like a ski lodge. There are wood burning stoves, beautiful wood work, the nicest floorpan you have ever seen in a bike shop. I should put quotes around "bike shop" because West Hill is much more than a bike shop. Even if cross isn't your thing the history at this shop alone is worth the trip. West Hill is tucked off highway 91 right above a cornfield. In the old days we used to have to race around that cornfield. It was where souls went to die. I don't really miss that part of the course I won't lie. But how many bike shops do you know that have a LEGIT cross course on their property? I mean seriously.

The course has changed a bit over the years. For lots of reasons but the main elements have not changed: Mud. Greasy, gnarly mud. You better bring your A game to Putney. This is NOT a grasscrit. It is real cross as the kids like to say. I love mud. And love tech. I have never understood those who thought the course was too technical. White Park is far more technical. Putney has a really great mini-pump track, a nice woodsy section, a drop off, and run ups. Oh you will run at Putney. I am not a runner. But love the runups at Putney. They are hard. And greasy. And now you run up and then drop in to a chute and run up again. You are getting what I am cooking? It just keeps throwing challenges at you. That is why we all got into cross in the first place right? I mean sure it is cool to race really fast on a wide open course....full stop. No that is not actually fun. Sorry. Not sorry. That sounds like hell to me actually. I want barriers and a course that will send you to a dark place. But then you will have amazing moments where you overcame some crazy drop or transition. And you will feel like a hero even if you see the photos later and are like wow....

This edition of Putney did not disappoint. Like I said we had a big field. 45 I believe. And what really amazed me and still amazes me is you had juniors and all manner of racers. The front is super fast. Much respect to them. But you also had just people who love SSCX. A guy with a broken ankle raced. That guy is literally me hero. The entire Fritz team to me deserve a massive shout out. They embody everything CX is about. They roll as a crew. Set up their tent. Spread the love via 3Cross beer. The promoter raved about how cool they were. Any time you can trade beer for putting your team tent up at a race you know you are doing it right. Jim is the type of promoter I love. Loves seeing everyone having a good time. Appreciates the little things like beer or someone spending the time to thank him or his crew. He just gets it.

The race started out fast and furious. Kate Northcott came FLYING by me. I settled in with the Fritz boys for a bunch of laps. I love riding with them. At some point Kate's son came caught me. That was a bit of a wake up call. Ok you just got passed by a 10 (?) year old. Ok maybe pedal a bit harder. Wow this kid can drive a bike. Oh that was a sick line. Oh shit look out for that tree. Yeah I got beat by a 10 year old. I am not ashamed. It has happened before. I also got to ride with Kerry Litka for a bit as she passed me. Damn. She just floats over stuff. I tried to follow her through a mud bog and as she floated through it my front tire dug in and sent me into the trees. God I love CX.

 I had a blast. Results are meaningless for me at this point in my CX "career" I race because I can and because it is like my church. Seeing everyone. Racing with so many cool people. Getting to hang out with some of the raddest people I have ever known. That is what it is all about. Thank you to all you SSCXers who get it. We have two more races in this here rolling circus. Secret Squirrel and Ice Weasels. Those two will not disappoint. A HUGE shoutout to Jim, West Hill, Kate Northcott, and the whole crew up at Putney. Thank you for making the series so rad. And a special thanks to Andy Cooper for these great photos.

Monday, October 22, 2018


I have never been to Crosstobeerfest. There I said it. I know. This is very off brand for me. If there was ever a race that screams me it is Crosstobeerfest. As we were putting the schedule together for the 2018 Zank SSCX Series Crosstobeerfest came up. I was very interested in adding it. I emailed Mike and he was so into it and so accommodating. He asked me what time spot we would prefer. Darkness of course....Crosstobeerfest is a mid-week night time CX race about 30 minutes from Boston. Well thirty minutes when there isn't traffic which is never and 30 minutes if you are smart and leave before 2:30. Can we talk for a second about Boston traffic? How and why does rush hour start at 2:30 now. Who gets out of work at 2? Seriously. So yeah mistakes were made. I didn't leave the house until 3:30. My race start was 6. I thought worse case scenario I roll up, kit up an just get my number and get to the line. Or join late if the race already started. I don't race SSCX with expectations. I do it to hang out and sling mud around with my best friends on two wheels. This is our time together. So I don't like to miss it. 

I rolled in with actually an hour to spare. Nice. And Myette pulls up just as I am getting out of the van. Even better. We roll to reg and get our numbers. I want to stop and talk to people and all he says is "Chipstick get your shit together we don't have time for this..." And he of course is correct. As a co-promoter of a night race I can say without hesitation that Mike and his crew put on one Hell of a race. I may go out on a limb and say it is one of the best races in New England. I mean the production level is off the hook. Timing chips, tents, signage everywhere. It is like a well run machine. As we are heading back to the cars we look off into the distance. It looks like Ragnarok is coming. Literally. Off over the horizon is a nasty storm system. Gewilli had tweeted out something early in the day about securing those team tents. Damn I guess that is what he was taking about. I mean it is the closest to a storm front that looks like it could spring a tornado that I have ever seen. And I love storms. I won't say I was nervous but it caught my eye. 

We do the usual pre-race dance of ride around with friends in circles warming up. Hit the port-o-potties. Play who hung my bike in a tree.....Then we hear the SSCX racers to staging. Have I mentioned that there were 64 SSCXers racing? On a Weds night! That is the biggest field of SSCX racers outside of Ice Weasels that I can remember. I guess people like this SSCX thing! My only goal for this race was to not get beat by the BC High kids. I love the influx of juniors into CX. It has been amazing. BC High is one of the most inspirational teams around. Coached by two of my really good friends. But come on. Getting beat by a Legion of 16 year olds? 

So as we are cueing up for staging a micro-burst hits us full on. The temperature drops about 20 degrees, the wind kicks up 20-40 mph hour and it feels like it is hailing. Full down pour. We huddle together like penguins and then the course gets ripped apart. Like literally blown away. Somehow Mike and his crew get the tape and course back together in what seems like a blink of an eye. This crew is unflappable. 

Post Crossnado I line up. I am nervous. Lots of people I don't know. They don't have their right feet clipped in or in a position that would dictate they are in any way ready with 30 seconds to the gun. The siren goes off. I try to not get crashed out and try to get past these dudes that clearly were not ready for full gas. It is sub-optimal but night racing!!! Have I mentioned I didn't pre-ride? Pre-riding is for people with expectations. I like surprises!

What I wasn't prepared for was how much mud there was. And how tight some of the turns were. And that with my crappy night vision I wouldn't be able to see parts of the course. This actually becomes the biggest charm of the race as it unfolds. You have to really go off of faith. Faith in your bike and handling and faith in your fellow racer. I follow lots of racers into crazy lines. The mud is so deep at the far end of the course that when you dismount you are ankle deep. Luckily it really was only for about 20 seconds and then you could remount and pedal. So many cool features. Loved, Loved, Loved the course. Also loved the stealth handups. And riding past the beer garden while a live band was playing. Have I mentioned this is my new favorite race of all time? Damn I can't believe I missed this the last 4 years. 

So somehow I am finishing on the lead lap. Not sure how that is possible but I am happy. And only one BC High kid has beat me. #winning. But the best part is as I am coming into the final sand pit before the finish I see the Zip Tie Fairy! She is in a group of three. Clearly she is battling to keep the two from passing. So I slip by one and then another and then get behind Lesli. We come out on the grass together and then hit the barriers together at the beer garden. It is the best moment ever. What a way to end such a crazy evening of racing. Finish up. High fives all around. Hit the beer garden and watch the women race. Head home before 9. Man I could get used to this. You can keep your weekend racing. Mid-week Crosstobeerfest is for me. The photo above is of the Zip Tie Fairy herself and by ABWphoto

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Practice? We Talking about Practice?

Yes, AI we are going to talk about practice today. For those unfamiliar with AI or his rant about practice, first shame on you, second here is the link in all its greatness. Unlike AI, us mere mortals do indeed need to practice. And cyclocross is probably one of the few cycle sports were practice is almost more important than training. I hate the word training FYI. But practice? I love practice. The skills and weird bizarre nature of cross is what made me fall in love with this sport at the get go. Cyclocross requires of its participants a crazy combination of fitness and technique that is hard to even put into words. The start has to be full gas. Surviving that initial chaos is really the key to any success in cross. There may be a few people who have bad starts and come from behind to do well but it is rare these days. There are way too many people who focus solely on cross these days for that to happen. So practice those starts. Over, and over, and over.Wait for the whistle. Be ready. Right foot up. Blast off. Clip in. Don't get crashed into the tape. 

Once you have done ten or so starts it is time to practice turns. A good cross course has lots of turns. The trickier the better. I hate seeing cross courses with too much straight away. One it is boring, two why? You want the roadies to win don't you? Yeah you do. If you don't put in some turns the roadies will just leave us in their dust. Off cambers are my true favorite. I love the velcro sound a tire makes as it is right on the edge of breaking away in a grass turn. I love that sound. Let's me know I am carving instead of over braking and accelerating back to speed at every turn. Speaking of accelerating. CX is a thousand tiny deaths at the hands of 10 to 20 second sprints. Every time you come out of that corner and maybe lose speed you need to get it back. So get it back. Sprint out of every corner. After every run up. Those seconds add up.

Run. Ok I am a horrible runner. I vow to run every year. Never do. I have at least three sets of brand new running shoes that are still brand new. But you have to run in CX so during practice run. This is better anyway. Make it a transition. Whether in a set CX practice or your own course find two to three spots. Make a transition from bike to run so you can practice getting off and picking the bike up and running with it. There are so many techniques for running with the bike. Some instances are dependent on what you are running up or across. A stair runnup is totally different than a dirt pitch which is totally different than a sand pit or beach. So play around. And practice is the best time to do it. Mid-race is not a good idea to try something new. Trust me. It rarely works.

Barriers. It is one of the defining features of cross. I hate a course without at least one set. It just doesn't feel right. Now if the course has natural barriers-a telephone pole or downed tree, unrideable woods section or a beach....ok that works. It doesn't have to be a traditional double barrier setup. But I like that. Again, I am not particularly good at barriers I just like them because they make me work and think. And that is really one of the things I love about CX. Even if your fitness is horrible or you crashed at the start and are DFL you still have the course. The course is always going to be a challenge. Why not look at it that way. Even if you are last if you are riding super smooth and killing the technical sections you are winning in my mind.

So back to practice. I have been at this a long time. I honestly have let my practice slide. Some of it is my weird schedule but honestly a lot of it is apathy. I had the chance to go to Saturday Morning Prestige this past Saturday in Southie. Kevin posted up the photo above on his Instagram. I saw that tape and stakes and was like "hell yes!" I was so happy I went. An organized practice like Wednesday Superprestige or Larz is a gift. There are lots of organized and bandit practices. Most happen on a Weds. It is mid-week and you are pretty much recovered from any racing the weekend before. You should be pretty fresh. What is great about an organized practice is there are people there to help you figure things out. People are so happy to answer any questions etc. And you get to sort of mini-race with friends etc. Oddly this season has been like starting all over with CX. Not sure what it is about. I think it is my SSCX family. They just bring so much PMA to cross and bikes and life in general that even some old retired dude like me feels like a kid again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Welcome to the Gun Club

Quad Cross has been the unofficial/official opener of Cross season in the #NECX for 12 years. At first it seemed "too early" Sucker Brook the 2nd or 3rd weekend in Sept was always the opener. And then this other cool race happened. It was first held at Middlesex College. The close proximity and the Quad crew's effort made it a special race pretty much right out of the gate. I have so many crazy memories of those races at Middlesex. Mud bogs, bee stings, botching a remount and doing the unspeakable to the point I curled up in the fetal position next to the tape and thought I might die. But those races were amazing. Quad has always been known for its rad course design and super chill atmosphere. When it moved to the Gun Club in Maynard it just went to 11. I mean it is at a Gun Club! The early days at the Gun Club people swore bullets fell on the course (they didn't) and again some epic memories happened. The time Eli hit a tree. That was bananas. The time Lolli rode THROUGH a tree. Timber!!! Grillo's Pickles got its first introduction to the NECX via the Newbury Comics team. Unless my memory is off I believe they had pickled jalapeños one year. So yeah the race is a classic. 

It is one of those races you just do not want to miss. For an early season/low key Jungle Cross race it gets one of the highest turnouts of any race of the season.  It has been a part of the Zank SSCX series from the beginning of the series. I have been trying so hard to introduce SSCX Biathlon as an Olympic sport. I mean it has HUGE potential. Set up a table with BB Guns and beers. Each racer has to shotgun a beer and hit a can. It will change everything my friends. The weather for this year's race was surprisingly cool. Most years (Thanks Global Warming) it is so hot. It is always dusty. But that is one of the things I love about the race. So many races are just boring grass crits. Quad takes Jungle Cross and weaponizes it. All the woods sections are best navigated in the drops. And you had better have double checked those fancy tubular glue jobs I will say that.

This year's course design was probably my favorite of all time. It had all the usual elements-Woods section, euro chutes, gravel road climb, twists and turns through the sand pits, fast opening start, super tricky gazebo sector. And some great double barriers and a telephone pole!!! I love it. I won't lie that going from couch to SSCX Beyond the Thunderdome is maybe not super smart but yolo. Even at 53 you really only live once. And as long as you can go you best go. Cause at my advanced age you don't know how many times you are going to get on this rodeo. Ok it wasn't FULL couch to SSCX. I mean I did hot yoga that morning. That has to be a good warmup for going redline on a SSCX for 40 minutes right?

Regardless I was pumped. I get to the venue and it is like a SSCX reunion. So many people. So many high fives and hugs. I love this Island of Misfit toys we have created. The SSCX crew really is special. Reminds me of how CX was back when it was a niche sport. I got to see the Vest after Kerry bedazzled it! I knew when Kerry Litka won the vest the previous weekend we were in for something special. She is very creative and has a flair for design. What she created was so rad. It is pictured above. Honestly this is what I love about the Vest. The wearer puts their stamp on it. It becomes a living testament to SSCX and the rider. It also is sort of like the one ring that binds them all. Once you get it you do not want to let it go. It was so awesome talking with Kerry about it. She gets it. 100%.

I did a quick pre-ride which really only included the sand pit turns and then lined up with 60 of my favorite people. I won't lie I was kind of nervous. Which is weird for having done this so long. But new season. I really have only been riding gravel soul rides in the woods mostly by myself and at 10 mph. That really doesn't translate to full gas SSCX. The whistle goes off and the time for nerves is over. I stay locked in as best I can but the start at Quad is nuts. Full gas on grass sharp turn at a tree. Major pinching and brake squealing. The good thing about SSCX is you avoid all of that Cat 3/Masters argy bargy. Not that crashes don't happen. It is CX after all and people are going full out. But maybe it is the limiter of one gear or something but you just don't get all the dive bombing and chopping you get in those other races. A voice is going off in my head that I should get off and run around the conga line ahead of me but that just seems in bad form for SSCX. So I keep flowing as best I can. Then I make what I can only describe as a bad lifestyle choice. Or as I called it later my attempt to Bunnyhop Mediocrity.

So my good friend Derek had given me a verbal course preview. He had mentioned a telephone log hop. I had locked onto that and thought "Oh I am hopping that" It is gonna be EPIC! I will show these racers what riding in the woods all summer has taught me! So I come through a sketchy gravel chicane and see my WHITE WHALE!!! Have I mentioned it is the first lap? And I am surrounded by other racers in traffic. Uhhh yeah. So I don't really know what happened next. But I went for it. I hopped. And paid the price. I almost made it. I got the front wheel up and on the log. Tried for the Tap hop move and damn if my bb didn't get hooked up on the log and yeah I was that guy. Thank god people had a sense of humor. A guy after the race came up to me in the van and fist bumped me and said "That was rad!" God I love singlespeeders. An "elite" Masters racer would want to fight me in the parking lot for "ruining" his race like that.

Post epic log hop fail I just sort of pulled my shit back together. I was truly partying at the back now. But it was such a great crew. I had a really fun mini-battle with a couple of friends. We were working really nicely moving up a bit from our DFL back of the pack section. Each lap there was a really great group in the woods heckling and doing handups. What is weird in a race like this is it is pretty hard to hear or see anything but the course. I mentioned how hard the course was right? Each year at least one person crashes heavily on the euro chutes and gets pretty dinged up. So you have to be on your game. I take those drops seriously because it is my brand. I may be slow and old but you give me some crazy ass drop and I am in the drops and riding that like a boss. So I didn't even realize it was my friends in the woods. Until I got knocked off on the 3rd lap and had to run the hill. Then I hear Baumann yelling "YOUR NAME IS CHIP YOU HAVE TO TAKE A CHIP!!!" That is a reasonable statement. So I run over to the side where they are and get a very spirited spank in the ass and grab a mouth full of dill pickle chips. Amazing. Those salty snacks gave me wings!

Great race. Best course ever. And HUGE kudos and thanks to Quad and all who work on this race. It is so hard putting on a race like this. The front of the SSCX was super exciting! Rhys won the women's! She really smashed it. It was so awesome seeing her rocking a gold ball mask attached to her helmet and just flying. It is so rad having her joining us this season. Kerry held onto the vest by 5 points! Wild. The men's points ended in a tie! And Connor Walsh held it for one more week. Next stop on the Zank Wirld Tour is at Cape Cross. Now if you are from New England you know about The Cape. I assume you do. It is going to be amazing. And we are all going for fried clams and cold beers after. Count on it. See you in two weeks my friends! Oh and HUGE thanks to Andy for this amazing video!