Saturday, October 3, 2015
Holy Week has been beyond words. Holy Week if you are new to this blog or cyclocross is a stretch of 6 races in New England that actually go for more than a week. Technically speaking. It goes more for about two weeks to be honest. It features two night races and two UCI classics. Or Meccas. Choose your metaphor. All 4 races have lives of their own. The night races could not be more different. Midnight is always warm, dusty and just a flat out speed fest. Night Weasels is ALWAYS muddy and brutal. So much climbing and technical descending. Gloucester like Midnight with the earlier date is always hot and dusty and FAST>. Providence. Dear god what do you say about that race? The history is like something out of some Dystopian novel. May the odds ever be in your favor because Roger Williams Park gives zero fucks about your feelings. So many souls crushed on that course. It is always nasty. We were "blessed" with true CX conditions this year. Holy Week has destroyed and elevated so many CX careers. Survive it. And you can survive anything.
But this wasn't meant to be a tribute to Holy Week. It is an ode to the NECX. Holy Week arguably was very responsible for forming the NECX. The NECX is New England cyclocross (no hyphen). Cyclocross doesn't get hyphenated in my world amigos. Sorry. Not sorry. I moved here in 2004. I literally had panic attacks when my lovely wife told me we were relocating from PARADISE (Norcal) back to this HELLHOLE. My wife and I left Boston for a reason. We celebrate Townie-life and East Coast culture but it is hard. Real hard. Shit happens and it scars you. Moving was for survival not for some life affirming boondoggle. Its great that kids get to backpack all over the world and find themselves. That was not my childhood. You survived it. And moved if you were lucky. I loved Norcal. I did not ride bikes when I lived in New England. No one did. You played hockey, drove muscle cars and went to keggers. But an earthquake and luck landed me right smack dab in the middle of SF bike culture. I loved it. All my friends were bikers. I lived, breathed and ate cycling. It was more a surfer lifestyle than what you would call the classic cycling culture. Especially at that time when road cycling was king.
But fast forward and we drop in on Boston. We have our second child just as the Red Sox win the pennant. Life feels good. I still rode for a Norcal team. Sycip. Then I met Zac Daab. And Yash. And joined HUP United. And that my friends is when everything changed. I am not saying HUP started the NECX. Of course we didn't. But it was a big part of it. The idea that community mattered. That building something that everyone could add to mattered. That CX mattered. We had one real bylaw. Roll with a good crew. And to this day I think that is what the NECX is about. Every region has its own flavor. I am not for a second saying the NECX is "better" than PDX, or Seattle, or Norcal, or Boulder etc. Each region is just unique. Even in this day when we are all "friends" and those old rivalries have died off. But I love the NECX. More for what it continues to become than what it is. That probably doesn't make sense but let me elaborate. Its like the snowball effect. You have big teams and icons of the sport living and working and striving to make CX a thing here in New England. They are passionate and so diverse in backgrounds and yet somehow work together as a collective.
Like any family that is so diverse there are fights. Feuds. Even some badblood. But it gets put aside every Fall when CX season rolls in. Its how we roll. What is truly amazing is that not only do the same people who maybe "started" the NECX keep putting their heart and soul into this thing but new people jump in and take it to the next level. Colin aka Resultsboy is a perfect example of this. What he has done is remarkable in many ways. The new teams that pop up are the same way. As are the older teams with history like ECV. So what is the NECX? In a nutshell its not unlike the region we live in. A rag tag bunch of misfits with a shit ton of genius, talent and a nice dose of Yankee resolution thrown in for good measure. This season has been one that truly has left its mark. Its early too which is weird. But maybe its the Colorado influence in a way. A bunch of NECXers have moved to CO in the last couple of years. It makes sense. When I drove across country after college and saw the Rockies I about lost my mind. It is mind blowing. So gorgeous. Especially for those who love the outdoors.
But when your friends who move away keep showing you the love and coming "home" and supporting you it oddly means even more than those you lean on every day. I know that sounds strange but it means a lot to me. Its easy to move on. Especially when you move. I have stayed in touch with a bunch of friends from Norcal but its hard. The fact that Pete (of Mad Alchemy) and James and so many more NECXers who have moved still show me and the NECX so much love means everything to me. Once you are a part of the NECX. And James and Pete (and Pete's family) will always be a part of the NECX. It is just the way it is. I have never had friends like this. It is like a family. And a good family that holds you up and makes you strive to be the best you can be. I know I am getting way too emo with this. I wanted to just put down some words about how special this beast we have is. Colin, Sara, Dana, Gewilli, Matt & Mo, Aumiller, Pete, all of HUP, Roger Cadman, Shoogs, the list just goes on and on. I would not be who I am without each and everyone of you.
Why am I so moved by all of this right now? Because really its never been better. I have been home 11 years. My first real race in the NECX was 2005 at Gloucester in a Blizzard. I laughed my ass off on the start grid. And that was when I was HOOKED. I was faster then. Skinnier. Had better skills. But I am still striving. I tried to retire this year. Colin and Sara did not let me. I love them for that. I will never retire. I want a Viking funeral on a pile of CX bikes. Its just too incredible. Yes, this Holy Week and Night Weasels were off the charts. Katerina Nash racing Night Weasels and leaving her and her Luna teammates bikes in the Chainline tent at Night Weasels was life altering. They are what is right with CX. They get it. World Class talent having fun and smashing. We all say CX is fun and get in trouble for it. If the best in the world can have fun I think the rest of us can too. That is what keeps us in the bike game.
What does it mean to be a part of the NECX? Don't be a vampire. Help out. PMA. Be nice. Don't be a dick. But race HARD. And train hard. Work your ass off. Lift people up. Never forget we are all in this together. Racing is hard. Promoting races is hard. Building a community is hard but is so worth it. Thank you to everyone who built the #NECX. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the tipping point was the skinsuit party at Reuter hall. It wasn't pretty. There were some growing pains. But at the end of the day we all came out of that stronger, closer and ready to create this thing we have today.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Holy Week for those unfamiliar with the term is two weeks of CX insanity in the #NECX. It is called a week but in reality spans almost two weeks. And from the sprinter vans that showed up last weekend in NH clearly people are showing up even earlier for Holy Week than ever before. Holy Week is comprised of two mid-week night CX races and two of the biggest UCI races on the east coast. It kicks off with Midnight ride of CX, then moves to Gloucester, then Night Weasels and then Providence. This week has been known to destroy mere mortals. Doing all 6 (now 7 if you include the Friday of Providence that features the SSCX, Madison and Builder's Ball) takes some serious moxie. And lots of beer, coffee and pizza. Midnight Ride of CX is held in Lancaster at the fairgrounds and put on by Gary David. It is a fast mostly flat course. The polar opposite to Night Weasels. Gary puts the screws on racers though. Its almost evil how much he throws at you over the course of a lap. There is a nasty sand pit that I think they hold equestrian events on, three trips through a woodshed, and a "hill" with a spiral of death descent. And one of the scariest starts in all of New England. Its possible I still have PTSD from the time I raced the 3s and almost ran over Cosmo as he was doing his best bear attack/dirt nap/fetal position move in the middle of the hole shot. Whether its PTSD or getting old the start scares me.
Which is unfortunate as I had an amazing start position! Front row in fact. I probably didn't mention there were 55 SSCX racers lined up behind me did I? 55 SSCXers. On a Weds. Unreal. I had been obsessing about gear ratios all week. Thank god my mechanic is my friend and has the patience of a saint. I was texting him insane ramblings. I would hear a rumor of what gearing a competitor was running and search the internet for gear ratio charts and apps. All this madness led me to Sheldon. And once I found Sheldon (RIP) I calmed down a touch. My calm isn't a normal person's calm but it is at least more functional than full auto/full crazy velocb. A bit of context. Up until this season I really didn't take SSCX seriously. In fact I would say it was the complete opposite. I promoted a SSCX series but raced geared CX. SSCX was for me, a break from serious racing. It was an excuse to act silly, take handups, drink beer, chill. Etc. The series was always meant to be competitive. And more and more people have poured into it and made it amazing. This season has been the most fun I have had in years. And racing with such fast and fierce people has lit a little fire in me. I really want to race SSCX. Not just party but race. Its weird. I don't even know who I am.
Which brings me to a little dust up that happened the weeks leading up to UnHoly Week. I had a bit of an internet fight with a good friend. The internet for me isn't serious. Fights happen as does snark and heckling but I never take it seriously. But sometimes things go too far etc. Again its only the internet and I love my friends. I have fights with friends and family in the real world. Doesn't mean I don't love the hell out of them and would do anything for them. Anyhoo. My good friend and I were sparring a bit. The dust settled and we hugged it out. And then he brought his 'A' game to Midnight. I get what he was trying to tell me. I really do. And he showed me and us some of what makes him one of the funniest dudes in the #NECX. Thom Parsons unleashed Ultra Enduro Guy onto SSCX and it was a beautiful thing. He showed up with a clunker bike worthy of Otis Guy. His "pit" bike was a fixed gear basket bike loaded up with a basket full of Tecate. He had a hydration pack with his number on it. I literally was laughing my ass off. The officials told him the basket bike would have to stay in the pit as a hydration zone. Something about the basket being dangerous. Or an aero advantage. Its still foggy. But flash forward to me on the front row next to Matt Myette.
To say I was sort of uncomfortable would be an understatement. I have some history with this race. Most of it is not good. I was lined up left side. The race starts on a gravel road. It is super wide. At about 500 feet it pinches way down and flows right, then left. All on gravel and pavement. A friend compared it to running on marbles. That sounds about right. Imagine doing that with 55 people, elbows out at warp speed. So when I heard someone behind me heckling me to not mess up the start I came out of my fear induced fugue state to say hi to Shawn Mottram. I laughed a bit and said "Shawn you take my spot" He differed cause he is a cool guy but I insisted. You don't line up in front of the potential race winner. I am sorry but you just don't. We took off as anticipated at warp speed and I chickened out. I just don't have that Kamikaze mindset. I went from 11th to about 40th in about a heartbeat. Once we hit the grass I felt "safe" and tried my best to get back up to some of my friends.
I can't state enough times just how fast this course was and how deep the field of SSCX competitors was. It was as if a Cat 3 race and Masters race were shoved together. Lots of argy bargy, sharp elbows and some douchey corners. Multiple crashes. Etc. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Johnny Utah running back the wrong way on the course. I was too hypoxic to process what was happening (he snapped his chain going for the holeshot.) I was killing myself to keep from getting run over by Ghostship Matt. Well that and I was trying to put some separation between us. Ha. That is funny. Matt is so much stronger than me its ridiculous. We hit the sandpit and it was like someone dropped tear gas across the course. You couldn't breathe or see. I just tried to follow Matt's outline through the fog. We popped out and I could see Gewilli's orange jumpsuit and Grigg's neon bike. I felt good. Novick had put a downhill ring on my bike the day of the race. I was running a 38 x 16 and while not over geared I had enough gear to at least stay in the group I was in. When we hit the woodshed it was like I forgot how to ride a bike. I usually am a boss on the wood chips but damn they had my number. I was sooo slow in there.
We come out of the woodshed and just blast off up the "hill" Utah has reattached which is again very confusing. He grabbed a spare bike in the pit and was back in the race! As we crest the top of the hill and make the turn Matt's borrowed bike explodes. In less than one lap he destroyed two bikes. That is impressive. One chain and one belt drive. Those are some watts my friend. We come through the start/finish and I start trying to get a plan. That is sort of funny as we are going so hard I can barely think. I was killing myself trying to get up to G and Derek. They were so close but I was just screwing up the turns so bad I was losing ridiculous time. Then the Chainline Pain Train caught me! Eric and Kevin are awesome. I love racing with those two. Two totally different styles of racing but both are crafty and strong. We ride the next few laps together. Again, so close. Eric gaps me right before the last trip up the "hill" and that as they say is that. The last lap was basically just damage control. Don't lose any spots and try to catch G.
I rolled through with G about 15 seconds up. One of the best little battles that was going on was between me and Grant from Monster Truck. Monster Truck is a fairly new team. But they have such a great attitude. Grant's teammates were cheering him on all race. But they would also cheer for me once and a while which was really cool. Grant say's he is a triathlete. I don't believe him. Triathletes don't race cross like that. Ok, that comment is going to get me in trouble. Triathletes can actually be very good at CX. That statement may get me in even more trouble. Both statements are true. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it! Grant and I battled for a lap or two. On the barriers right before the downhill spiral of death he got around me and took it all the way to the finish. Well played sir!
I have been loving all the new racers and teams in the SSCX series. It really has made it so rad. Michele, my good friend and Co-Captain of HUP, decided to race the SSCX race! I was so psyched. She smashed it. It was so great seeing her out there. Thea and Michele both made it onto the podium! Michele with the win and Thea in 3rd! HUP truly is having one of the best CX season I can remember. Such spirit and class. Kevin went on to do the triple crown along with Gewilli. I don't even know how that is physically possible. They are beasts. I don't even double up because its just too much for me to do more than one CX race.
What a great way to kick off Holy Week. Next up is Gloucester. The HUP Death Star will be activated. And then we head back to Ski Ward for Night Weasels! The Friday of Providence will feature the SSCX race, the Madison and the Builder's Ball. We have some extra special stuff planned for Friday. Don't miss it. HUP! HUP!
All the incredible photos in this blog are by my good friend and photographer extraordinaire Russ Campbell!
Monday, September 21, 2015
What a weekend. NH double in the Zanconato SSCX series. Two of my favorite races of the season. CX @ White Park on Saturday and Sucker Brook on Sunday. Both right over the border in NH at great little venues. Classic NECX grassroots CX at its finest. We are doing this out of sequence as I am still so jacked from yesterday's events. HUP United for those new to this here blog is a New England-based cyclocross team. Our founder Zac Daab is now in Seattle and we have some great chapters around the country. Mostly in the Pac NW. HUP NECX grew out of Zac's original concept and has become what it is today via a lot of hardwork and lots of people growing it in a certain direction. At its core it was and always will be about building and supporting the community and growing CX. We were early adopters to SSCX. The SSCX series was founded by a core group of the NECX. HUP was a big part of it. And HUP has supported the series since day one. HUP has always been a fun team. Fun is in our bylaws. If its not fun why would do it? But we are a race team. What happened Sunday at Sucker Brook may have been one of the greatest moments in HUP NECX history. It was a Blanco swarm of the SSCX race.
This "Fall" has been very un-Fall like. This past weekend was really hot. Both races were dust bowls. One of HUPs limited edition kits is termed Blanco. It is not for the shy or weak of heart. It has been known to blind people. But it is a life saver when its hot. Black kit in the scorching sun is brutal. White gives you sick watts. And is like the stillsuit of bike kit. While everyone else is dying from heat exhaustion in their all black kit you are chilling like a villain and spraying watts all over the CX course. Back to my early point. HUP and Zank have always been a huge part of the SSCX scene. Myette of Zank is a legit contender for the podium every time he pins a number on. But the rest of us are pretty much there for the party. Yes, we turn ourselves inside out and have some great battles. But we are not really cracking the top 10 on a regular basis. What started as a fun series has become legit. Sounds crazy to call SSCX racing legit but that is what we intended when we launched this series. Yes, the finals is a party. But all the other races are races. And this year its gotten even faster. We have had great turnouts and lots of new faces. Its been awesome.
But when I rolled up at Sucker Brook and the team started streaming into the tent. I just had to pause. 90% of the team was in blanco. Kevin and his girlfriend Thea have become legit contenders in all the SSCX races. Mike Golay showed up on a sick Raleigh SSCX. AnonCX would have been proud. Coach Aumiller was running around chasing his BC High kids and giving out sage SSCX advice. Tyler from Laughing Dog was near collapse in the booth after getting a top ten in the 3s on his SSCX! Kevin and Eric the Chainline Pain Train were right next door. It was just beyond rad. Then Myette showed up with an exploded Zank skinsuit. Not that he wouldn't have looked hot racing with a blown out skinsuit we did what HUP does. Conscripted him for the day. I loaned him my HUP kit and Voila we had even more HUP in the SSCX race! Carrie and Rob showed up as well. It was really just a HUP party. What a great way to get this season going.
I did a quick pre-ride with Kevin and Eric and almost took them through a chicane at warp speed! Oopsies. The combo of bad eyesight, dark sunglasses, yellow tape and too much caffeine almost ended spectacularly. I let Kevin and Eric lead after that. The course was great. Same Sucker Brook I remember with so many crazy chicanes and turns. Sucker Brook throws a lot at you. You really had to work at driving. The loose corners and dry dusty course didn't help either. You had to be on top of it. After doing a pre-ride we watched the 1/2/3s race. Doing our pre-staging warm up as a team clad in blanco was amazing. Somehow I ended up on the second row. Not really where I belong but I will take it. Whistle went off and we took off like a shot. One of the trickiest parts of Sucker Brook is the holeshot. The start is a slight uphill on a paved road. The left hand turn is onto gravel. You are about 4-6 across before you hit the gravel. Bad things can and do happen. One of the reasons I LOVE SSCX is that 90% of those racing know what they are doing. There is way less stupid shit that happens compared to the 3s or masters. We get through the holeshot and we are flying. We get past the tricky off camber and I hear what I can only describe as the Road Runner behind me. "Beep Beep" I look and its Myette. He started front row, missed a pedal and watched everyone explode off the grid without him. Going from DFL to mid-pack in a 1/4 lap is impressive to say the least.
Things are basically controlled chaos with so many people packed together and sooo many turns. Again, kudos to all these riders. They know how to race CX. So few people getting douchey in the corners. It was just fast, hard CX. After the first lap, I was locked in on the Chainline Cycles Pain Train. Right where I wanted to be. Kevin and Eric are awesome. Not only are they cool dudes but they are great riders. It was honestly one of the most fun races ever. We rode together for the rest of the race. Well "together" Ie., Kevin about a turn or two ahead. And me and Eric locked and loaded. Eric put in a solid dig with about 1 to go and I lost contact with him. I killed myself trying to get back on but it was too big of a gap. But what a great course. So many rad twists and turns. Hats off to Jack Chapman for all he does for this race and the CX community!
And the icing on the HUP cake was a double HUP podium. Kevin and Thea in full beast mode! Those two are so awesome. Two of the nicest people you will ever meet. Kevin has done so much for HUP and so much for the SSCX series the last two years. Love that dude.
Thank you to everyone who has come out and supported the SSCX series. Its been a great kickoff to the season. We are just getting this party started. See you all at Midnight!
Monday, September 14, 2015
Where to even begin with this post? How do you put down on a virtual pad such an amazing day? It was like a #NECX reunion. We wait all year for CX season to start. All the haters can hate as Tay Tay would say. Just because we love CX doesn't mean we don't love what ever cycling pursuit that happens the other 8 months of the year. I have never understood this animosity towards CX. We LOVE CX. Get over it. Or just join Crossfit and do reps for Jesus. Give your life some meaning I guess. Just because we LOVE CX doesn't mean we hate X, Y or F'n Z.
Adam Myerson once gave me some sage advice (and I am going to screw this up but I will try my best to recall his words) "Never let anyone take CX away from you" Myerson rocks. The brief period in time I was a Cycle-Smart client his life advice meant more to me than the actual coaching. And that advice has stayed with me since he sent me a text on a dark day I was having. And it holds true today. Go ahead. Hate on CX. Chop me. Drop me. Say mean shit. Hate on SSCX. Hate on sandbaggers. Hate on masters. Hate zipties. Hate juniors. Hate masters women over 40 with carbon bikes. CX doesn't care about your hate. All we have is actual love. But we are the red-headed stepchild of cycling. We get it. And we welcome you and everyone to our table. On every given Sunday from September to January.
Sept 13 was the opening day of the #NECX. Quad CX has been the kick off race for New England for about 5 years now. Sucker Brook used to be the opener but you know CX has blown up. And Ted and the Quad crew do an amazing job. Ted gets it. I use that saying a lot. But I don't use it lightly. Ted works so hard to make Quad one of the most fun races in New England. What is not to like. A great venue at a gun club. Nothing like racing CX and hearing full auto in the distance. I keep saying one year I am going to ask Ted to let us do a CX biathlon during the SSCX race. I am not saying give some CX racer an AR-15 and let them go nuts. But maybe a nice air rifle or BB gun. Shotgun a Harpoon hit the target and move on. Don't hit the target? You lose spots bro...I think it has potential. But like flaming barriers may seem better in concept than application.
This year's Zank SSCX series presented by Mad Alchemy has me pretty stoked. This probably is no shocker to anyone who visits this blog. I hold friends dear to me. And Pete and Mad Alchemy are special to me on many levels. Pete and Mad Alchemy's support of the series pretty much took my usual stoke and sent it to 11 or 22 depending on your perspective. We have a lot of cool things planned to celebrate this partnership. We flew the MA Death Star at Quad as one step in this partnership. It was so amazing seeing it over Quad. It was the epicenter of the SSCX race. And nothing represents all that is SSCX in the #NECX like Gewilli and his orange jumpsuit. The orange jumpsuit is like the Holy Grail of SSCX. Or maybe the Excalibur. When I see G in that thing I lose my mind. Gewilli was in rare form. He had unveiled the #garbagetruck for the race. Here is the link to his post about it. It reminded me so much of when Paul Saddof made his dumpstervagen. People can lose their minds over zip ties. But what boggles my mind is the arms race that has infected CX. We used to just show up on cobbled together touring bikes and have at it. If you were super cool you had tubies. But that was it. You did not have matching 5k bikes. No one did. Maybe you had spare wheels. But yeah sure zip ties are ruining CX. But I digress.
Gewilli doubled up. He went full Quad CX mullet. Business at the front and SSCX party at the back. Doubling up is no joke as Mike Wissell and Matt Sousa I am sure can attest. If you do CX right you should be destroyed at the end. In G's case he at least had a couple of hours to "refuel" aka my start beers. Gewilli and I have a tradition. I "pay" him to rock the jumpsuit. Usually I pay him in beer. In this case it was Harpoon Take 5s so it was really more a pre-race #hydrationzone. I think he only had three. Maybe four. But what happened in that few hours was that Gewilli turned Syd the kid into a CX super fan. I am not kidding. I don't bring my kids to races. I just don't want to force my lifestyle on them. But she really got the bug at Great Glen. And when I told her I was racing she wanted to come. I couldn't say no. I was worried it would suck for her. But I knew Quad is super family friendly. They have a grill. The course is really self-contained. I had friends there. I told myself it would be ok. But was freaking out of course. But G saved my ass. And really set up one of the top ten race experiences of my life. I am a sucker for family. It just means everything to me. The #NECX is basically a family to me. But my real family makes me crazy. Getting to race in front of them always fills me with so much stoke.
Geoff brought a megaphone to the race. Of course he did. And he let Syd have it. Ok, that right there is a friend. Handing a megaphone to a 10 year old is like handing a loaded gun to a redneck. Ok bad pun but you get it. Kids love noise. And love being obnoxious. I told Syd she could make all the noise she wanted. Just be nice. She mostly liked the siren. For each race that went off she would hit that siren and scream her lungs out. It became a bit of a thing under the Mad Alchemy tent. A whole crew started to show up. Todd, Parke, Jeremy, Alex and Pat, Winston Porkchop. Syd was meeting everyone. And loving it. I couldn't believe how much she was digging the scene. Gewilli was so cool with Syd. He would be like "Syd do you really want to eat that potato chip?" Syd would be like but they are so goooood...on the drive home Syd gave G the ultimate compliment. She said "Geoff is like Uncle Randy (Shoogs)" Yeah buddy he is one of dad's best friends.
So you have Syd being bit by the CX bug. You have a whole NECX reunion in full effect. You have Gewilli in the orange jumpsuit with a new #NECX patch on his ass. You have Sara Bresnick out of retirement and FIRING LIVE BULLETS!!!! (sorry Fries moment). You have Lauren Kling back on a bike racing!!!!!!! You have so many cool friends rolling in and out of the tent. You have Kevin, Thea and Lesli doubling up in a day and racing BOTH Hartford CX & Quad. You have Sousa and Wissell coming off the 1/2/3 race and jumping back into the SSCX race. It was unreal. Sorry for so much rambling but it was just beyond words. The SSCX race was off the charts. Perfect mix of hardcore racing and shenanigans. The start got a bit nuts as some one went down hard right after the tree. How we avoided him and his bike cartwheeling through the air is beyond me. We rode our hearts out. Had a blast. And then Syd rocked the podium presentation. How many 10 year olds can take a print out of race results and read off names and teams and not even blink an eye? I even think she pronounced Mike Wissell's name right!
Thank you to all who came out. Thank you to Gewilli for turning Syd the kid into a CX fan for life. Thank you to all the "new" people on the podium. Why lie I have a bit of a Boloco team crush. Seeing them on the podium fills me with joy. And Ben Pagano on the top step. Very cool. Keep coming out. Let's make this the best SSCX season ever.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
The kickoff of the 2015 Zanconato SSCX Series presented by Mad Alchemy is almost here! This weekend will be opening day for the series and the #NECX. Quad CX has been the opening day for a few years now. It is the first "real" CX race here in New England. No disrespect to any of the races in August. But CX should start in Sept. Sorry but it is the way it is. Back when I first started racing CX out west every Fall was like a CX reunion. We rarely saw other racers during the offseason. Everyone went their separate ways. Its not like it is now. CX is 365 now. When we aren't racing we are riding our bikes in the woods or getting lost on some bizarre mixed terrain adventure race together. But SSCX still feels like a reunion. I have so many friends I am looking forward to seeing this weekend and this season. I know I am going to make a bunch of new friends and frenemies this season as well. That is what honestly keeps me going after all these years in the cross game. I am so stoked it is not even funny.
But on to some business! Harpoon is BACK as our beer sponsor! They have supported us from day one and I am so appreciative of their support. Mad Alchemy is our presenting sponsor and we have some really cool projects in the works together! Look for the Mad Alchemy tent at Quad. Come by and say hi. Hang out. We will have zip ties for those who want to give SSCX a go or just have room for one bike. We love all bikes. Dedicated wonder bikes, weird franken bikes, and regular bikes locked out to one speed. Please make sure your bike is one speed before we get to the start line. Not that I mind doing a TT back to the van to get zip ties for those that forgot them. But I am old and only have so many matches. We can't wait to race SSCX! Bring all your energy and fun and racing spirit. If you have ideas about how to make the series better we are all ears! We don't really have any rules. Just be nice, race hard, respect your competitors and hug Gewilli.
We have two races this weekend. A few BALLER SSCXers are doing the Hartford/Quad double. Its bold but so are most SSCXers. I considered doing the Landmine/Quad double but remembered I am an old man. I will leave that to the kids. Hartford will be the home to next years National Championships. Consider this a preview! I have heard great things about the course. Quad as I mentioned has held the title of opener of the NECX for a few years now. The Gun Club is one of my favorite courses and Ted and his crew do a great job. One note on the Gun Club. The Gun Club is a private club that opens up its grounds for us dirt bag CXers to race and have a fun day on. They sell beer and food at their grill. NO OUTSIDE beer is allowed. Please do the right thing and if you want a beer buy it from the Gun Club. Not a lot of venues allow us to buy beer and walk around with it. The Gun Club does. Plus I am hoping next year Ted let's us include a bit of a SSCX biathlon into the race. Imagine actually shooting BB guns for points? Yeah I can.
We have two posters that will (hopefully) be available soon. The punk rock inspired one above was designed by Jon Nable. The metal poster below was created by Matt Lolli. I am so stoked on both of them. Look for them at the Providence Builder's Ball in the Zank booth. Can't wait to see all of you on Sunday. If you have any questions you know where to find us. Or hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
President Obama is the punchline of many a joke. In this case I am being 100% serious. Ever since Firefly put on an adventure ride all around Boston termed D1R1 Scott and I have been itching to do the route. We had planned on joining Firefly the day before D2R2 to do the ride but the weather and the #CBL interfered. Scott and I do a ton of rides together. We have done a lot of recon for mixed terrain rides. Riding "CX" bikes in the woods is pretty much our go to ride at this point. What I call "CX" may not be what you call "CX". Sure racing is great. But you know what is really great? Getting lost in the woods and riding all day with your good friend. CX bikes are the perfect adventure bike. They really always were. There is NO need for a specific adventure bike. It already exists. Its called a CX bike. The adoption of tubeless and disc brakes has made the Swiss Army knife of bikes even better equipped to deal with woods riding.
But as usual, I digress. So why is this post title thanking our President? Scott texted me and asked if I wanted to do the D1R1 on Labor Day. He had me at bikes. Then I read the Globe drinking an extra large iced coffee from Dunkies while eating a French Cruller that President Obama was in town. Boston is a shit show on a good day. Add in Labor Day and a Presidential visit and who knows. My idea of "fun" does not include being stuck on the Pike for three hours. So I texted Scott back and said why not start and finish at Blue Hills?
Blue Hills is a gem. To some its just a rocky lump sticking up a mere 500' and staring out at the harbor. But I love it. Its taken a while but I really do love that place. Its not easy on a CX bike but its totally doable. OK before everyone goes all crazy on me. Not all of Blue Hills is doable on a CX bike. There are some next level mountain bike trails that you want a mountain bike for. But a lot of the other stuff is great. Scott and I got a spot at Houghton's Pond before the holiday beach goers took over the lot. That in itself was some kind of Labor Day miracle. Especially considering it would turn out to be one of the hottest days of the summer. This actually would explain a few things later on in the day. We got our act together which basically means we pulled bikes down off the rack and loaded up the Garmins. Scott had the route on his Garmin so was the defacto Trail Ninja. He is better with navigation than I am anyway to be honest. I navigate mostly by internal GPS. Once I have ridden a place I tend to remember the turns etc.
We decided to do the Blue Hills portion first which turned out to be a great decision as by the end of the ride we were totally cracked. I honestly don't know if we would have been able to ride the techy trails at the end of the day. The first few miles or so were mainly gravel roads. Nice swoopy ones. Again, for a holiday weekend there were not that many people. We hit our first technical trails and the fun started. Riding CX bikes over rocks and roots is a blast. But you have to be smart about it. We got out of Blue Hills without a crash, flat or mechanical. That is a miracle trust me. Last time I went through here with a group on CX bikes we had 4 flats in about a mile. It was going to be a good day I could feel it.
The Firefly route was awesome. We were following it in reverse as that is just the way it worked out. But the flow felt perfect. After the technical riding of Blue Hills we rolled onto a really nice road in Milton. I had expected to deal with a lot of angry drivers and nasty City streets but have to say these roads were better than most roads I ride in the 'burbs. My favorite part was right after Milton when we hopped onto the Neponset Greenway. It is a great multi-use path that runs right along the water. It was so cool seeing so many people on the path and at the many parks along the way through Dorchester.
People freak out about riding in Boston and Dorchester. I honestly don't get it. We rode all through Boston without one maniacal driver attempting to kill us. Ok one guy in Hyde Park lost his shit and yelled at us. And some nice kids said they liked our outfits. I look at those as heckles.
After the Fenway we turned onto Olmstead. I had never ridden any of this before. I have ridden Larz and like it but Olmstead and the whole Charles River Path was mind blowing. I have never seen so many geese in my life as well. And for some reason they were just camped out in the middle of the path. City Geese clearly give zero fucks as they didn't even move a muscle as we came through.
All I could think about is what an amazing area it was to practice CX. And low and behold as we pop around a corner we see Spencer and a group of #Garbageball enthusiasts finishing up their CX shenanigans. We stopped and said hi. I wish we had been there in time for a round of Garbageball. That would have been a hilarious part of this fantastic ride.
Heading through JP I started to crack. We had been through about 3 bottles and some energy type food. I didn't realize how hot it was. Which is weird. But there was so much to see and the ride was so rad I didn't really have time to worry about heat or bonking. I started looking for a Dunkins or coffee shop. Nothing. Which is bizarre. We saw a Mexican place up ahead and beelined for it. Sadly it was closed. Stupid Labor Day. Luckily there was a 7-Eleven across the street. We loaded up on cold cokes and "food" and headed towards Blue Hills.
Ok the "trail" back into Blue Hills is one for the ages. Basically we followed a pipeline to a Highway Graveyard. We were so bonked it seemed like some kind of weird dream. A beautiful CX dream. We rolled back into Houghton's Pond as all of Boston was descending upon the parking lot. Thanks Obama (and Firefly) for a damn fine way to spend the day on a bike.
Monday, August 24, 2015
I had heard great things about the Vermont Overland Gran Pix. My good friend Michele gave it high marks. Michele is a trail ninja. If she likes an adventure ride it is going to be a good one. It is dubbed a "race" but coined an adventure ride. Basically a mullet. Business at the front and party at the back. My blog posts rarely if ever include the drive to the event but sometimes as they say just showing up is 90% of being successful. This late in the summer an overnighter away from family was not an option. So the plan was 4 am wake up call and drive 2.5 hours to VT. Not totally crazy even though I am NOT a morning person. Wheels were up at 5 am. To say I was tired was an understatement. On a good night the cat wakes me up twice and the dog once. Worrying I would sleep through my 4 am on top of all the usual nocturnal goings on and I got about an hour of sleep. It was drizzly. Then rainy. But by the time I got to NH it was nice out. My friend Derek Griggs chopped me so hard as he came onto the highway at Portsmouth, NH! This is one of the weird coincidences about bike racing I love. How many times have you randomly bumped into best friends while driving to a race? Or pulled into the lot at the EXACT time as a teammate? Happens all the time. After Derek chopped me I won't like that I dropped him. My strategy was simple. Use the fog as a tactical advantage. We had some ground fog on the drive up. Like next level. I honestly thought we might die. Whether it was driving off the road or being gunned down by a semi-truck. We somehow lived. Not exactly sure what angel was watching over us.
The five people who read this know my ADD gets the better of me some times. I was so excited to use the new Bikereg app on my stupor phone that instead of doing what I usually do for races (print out the reg page. Yes I know I am a dinosaur) I used the Bikereg app for directions. It worked GREAT! Until I pulled into Peter Vollers driveway. Ooopsies. I pulled back out onto Main street and started stalking for cars with rook racks. Saw one and chased after and rerouted to the Suicide Six Ski Resort! With a name like that you could tell we were in for a good day of adventure! It was so nice seeing a parking lot full of bike racers and riders. As I pulled into my spot boom my new teammate John pulled in right next to me. Like clockwork. We said hello, exchanged high fives and I went off to get my number. On the way over I saw THEWILCOX!!! My good friend David took a job with Rapha a while back. This meant of course he moved from Boston to Portland. He has been so missed. He is such a part of the #NECX. And now all of bike riding thanks to Rapha and his new job! He is so awesome. I gave him a big hug and we caught up. He handed me a welcome double (triple?) cap...so good.
Registration was hilarious. A mix of nervous riders who clearly were here to race and a party crowd. Saw so many familiar faces. The plan going in was to ride with a loose group of friends. The lead up to VOGP was a hilarious faux freak out about equipment selection. At some point it stopped being pretend and might have hit full freak out mode. I don't think so though. The main issue was we kept getting different intel from different riders. Most riders were committed to CX bikes with file treads. But people were texting me advice to go 29er. I have used the 29er on some of the adventure rides we have here in Boston. But those were more mountain bike rides that we do on CX bikes. I have been happy with that choice. But a 29er is not ideal with lots of dirt roads and climbing. My friend Todd won the bike choice chicken though. He opted for his sweet Zanconato steel 29er. He put 40 C tires on and destroyed us all.
My choice was simple. I resurrected my Rock Lobster recently do to some unforeseeable n -5 bike issues of late. The RL was given new life and has become a bit of a Franken bike. Fork from one bike, wheels from another. Its how CX used to be before everyone showed up with matching out of the box carbon wonder bikes. I went with Clement MXP tires instead of file treads. I have some very bad history with file treads and wet rocks. I think I still have the scars on my internal organs from the last time I crashed on file treads. The adventure ride/race began ala JAM Fundo. New readers who are unfamiliar with the JAM Fundo the start of the ride was staged in a parking lot. A very wide parking lot. With one "exit" And we were going to all be turning right. Yeah you know how this goes. We strider biked along with a horde or human powered machines to the eventual road. Then joined the congo line. It has been a while since I have been in a group this big. It was fine. Unlike some big group rides this ride with probably comprised of 90% cross riders. Cross riders are my peeps. We survive the first road sector and then take a sharp left onto the first dirt road. Of course its a climb. My heart rate goes through the roof. I guess waking up at 4 am, driving 2.5 hours and pounding cappuccinos is not ideal for warming up to pedal the bike.
Again this is reminding me a lot of the JAM Fundo. It is elbow to elbow on the climb. Riders are so close to one another. Luckily no one does anything stupid. Ok I do a few stupid things but it is in the futile attempt to stay in contact with my little group of friends. My main plan to be honest was to ride all day with Eric. Eric is pictured above eating a deep fried bacon doughy bit of goodness above. We have been trying to get together all summer for a ride. It just hadn't happened until the VOGP. So my main goal was don't lose Eric! The first couple of climbs were typical dirt road climbs. Punchy but not to bad. Then we hit the first sector of "pave" aka singletrack and things blew to pieces. Todd made a vicious attack on his 29er gravel bike and was gone. Never saw him again. Eli went into full chase mode and like Todd was gone. Eric and I regrouped and found a pace we could handle. We met one of Eric's friends Alix a bit down the rode and created a little group. Eric and Alix had ridden Raid Rockingham together and were a two person comedy act. They kept me laughing through all the suffering.
To say the course at VOGP was beautiful would be an understatement. It is in my top 10 of courses. Maybe top 5. It mixed all the elements I love in a mixed terrain ride. Killer dirt roads, cool towns, single track! Tech. Mud. Bourbon...wait bourbon? Ok that is not 100% confirmed but I am pretty sure we did either bourbon shots or shots of Sailor Jerry. The VOGP as stated earlier is a race. Make no mistake. JD was scoring it and he is as legit as it comes in the scoring game. And one of my fave people in the world! And Ned Overland errr Overend was in attendance! How crazy is that? Through in Tim Johnson, Crystal Anthony and her brother and you have some serious firepower. The rest of us weren't racing. Obviously. In the spirit of all good adventure rides the crew at VTOGP set out some great aid stations. Not just the usual random water stop with a Clif Bar and energy gel but a legit gourmet century type stops. There were two actually. The first one was stocked with the fried bacon donuts. Incredible. Next stop had all kinds of maple goodness and what was described as "maple water" When I downed the shot my throat burned. In a good way. I looked at my partners in grime Kat and Alix and was like what was that? What ever it was it gave me wings. The closest we could get to an answer was it was maple water soaked in old rum jugs. So good. It might have been bourbon....
Eric, Alix, Kat and I rode the entire course together. I can't thank them enough for one of the best days on the bike in a long time. I am hooked on the VOGP. Again its up there with the top ten rides I have done in my life. Yes the climbing at times was BRUTAL. The 3 of them knew the course and would have conversations in hushed tones about the spikes that would be coming up. I was thankfully totally oblivious! All I did was deal with what was in front of me. The climb at mile 40 though was something. We climbed, and climbed and climbed. But the company kept it light and we all were nicely suited to each other pace. The part I love the most though is the descending and singletrack. All four of us race CX and mountain bikes and ride dirt roads. So bombing down high speed descents was a non-issue. One thing I will say. If you see caution signs on an adventure ride pay attention. In general you should be paying attention but most riders get so stoked on the pure thrill of descending they can get themselves in trouble fast. We saw a few tire tracks leading off the road and saw one gentleman take a legit gravel nap. Eric almost had to bunny hop over him. Good times!
One of the highlights of the day though was when my friend Michele gave me this. Picture above is a brand new IF measuring tape. Somehow this summer I lost my 20 -year old IF measuring tape I picked up at Interbike one year. I loved that tape. Losing it bummed me out. It turned me into a bit of a mental case. I won't lie. I am weird with some stuff I won't sugar coat it. This was literally one of the nicest gestures a friend has ever given me. Michele is so awesome. Not only a great friend but a great teammate and leader of HUP United. So lucky to have her as my teammate and friend. Such a great day on the bike. And like that my friends my gravel season is over. Now time to focus a bit more on CX itself. Running starts today. Skills start this week. Yes I will still do adventure rides. I will put this out there now. I am doing Iron Cross this year. So the riding has to match up with the Mac Daddy of all adventure rides. HUGE thanks to Eric, Alix and Kat. Couldn't think of three cooler people to spend the day suffering and laughing with.