Monday, November 20, 2017

Moving in Stereo


The photo above is the greatest team photo of ALL time. Don't even attempt a better team photo than this. You can add in Dolphin plushies. Pillows. Pools. You won't even come close to this. HUP has been around for more than a decade. Our founder Zac Daab was on to something when he created the first "anti-team" He had a vision. The vision was a team based on who you would want to hang out with for a weekend in Vermont. Who you would get up at 4 am on a freezing November to pile in a van and head north for a rad adventure ride. Zero drama. The ability to smile while suffering. And to never take this whole bike game too seriously. 


I joined HUP about 8 years ago. Post two or three concussions things get foggy. But basically Zac and Yash brought me in. I met Yash at a few races after moving to Boston from SF. I was still racing for a rad Norcal Team called Sycip. I wore that Sycip kit with pride for two years after moving "home" I guess I made an impression. Maybe it was the Norcal kit or the steel Sycip. Who knows. But as they say "One HUP finds another." Yash, Zac and HUP opened up my whole world from Norcal bike racer to Boston cyclist. I was worried about moving back home. Boston is a weird place. I left for a reason. But sometimes you have to leave a place to fall in love with it all over again. Those early years were awesome. Yash was the DS of the team. He was a one man house of style. Taught me so much about CX and the east coast. Then around 2009 the torch was passed from Yash to myself. Yash was moving away from Boston. He moved to DC and then later to China. HUP needed a new DS. I became that DS. To say I was honored was an understatement. 


HUP became my battle flag. I loved the team and loved what it stood for. We had some really special people on the team. HUP is simple really. We ride bikes. We build the community. We support those who need it. Michele Smith came on to HUP shortly after I did and we became Co-DS. And the team has flourished. Each year Yash has come back from his travels Michele has organized a Yash Ride. HUP honors its members. Once you are HUP you are always HUP. And we definitely honor those who built this team. I said it earlier. I love Yash. And owe him so much. He made me feel welcome in a pretty tight insular bike scene. Showed me the ropes. Introduced me to people I count as the best friends I have had in my life. Some are as close or closer to me than family. They really are like my family. 


So when Michele sent an email that a Yash Ride was on I got very stoked. When HUP gets together magic happens. I have never been able to make it to one of these elusive Yash rides. In an odd twist of fate this Yash Ride was taking place the day before Lowell. Lowell is where the torch was passed so many years ago. Lowell was where the Forest of Lowellenberg was created. So much tradition. Rosey stayed over at my house the night before the ride. We rolled out at a gentlemen's hour. We considered stopping at Dunkins for an XL and a box of munchkins but were a bit pressed for time. We didn't want to miss the HUP train leaving the station. As tradition would have it DJ Robert brought fresh oysters from Duxbury. How many rides do you know of that start with pre-gaming oysters. So Robert, Nable and the whole crew are shucking oysters and slamming them down in the parking lot. A nice lady rides over and asks me and Rosey what this is all about. She says " are you guys on a cyclocross team?" I sort of chuckle. Um yes ma'am. We are. Why do you ask. She replies "My friends were wondering why you were having so much fun before a ride." Boom. Fun. It is what it is all about.


I see Yash and give him a big hug. It has been waaayyy too long. Then we do what bikers do. We size up each others bikes. Yash does not play. He is well known as a collector of fine bikes. His newest is a custom 333FAB. Max was arguably one of the best welders at Seven back in the day. And an OG on HUP. The 333FAB bikes are gorgeous. Yash had a sick new CX/All Roads resplendent with all the cool bits. We collected the team for our first of many photos that day. Then rolled out. Another tradition is DJ Robert brings a boom box. His playlists are next level. As the title infers we rolled out to the Cars Moving in Stereo. Being from Boston and of a certain age this song just brings back so many memories. And frames who I am in so many ways. Of course the second we get onto the Minuteman Bike Path a car drives ONTO the path and turns in front of our group. Yeah cyclists are the problem.



Remember earlier when I said HUP is a special team? This is a classic example. No one crashes. No one pounds on the SUV in rage. We just move around said offender and are on our merry way. Lexington isn't my favorite place I won't lie. White entitlement + congestion + faux liberalism always rub me the wrong way. But as Dwayne the Rock Johnson would say I just push those feelings down into my little fanny pack and move on. I would say we have a group of about 15-18 riders. All HUP. Some new to HUP some OG. But all on the same page. I catch up with Yash and Robert. I tuck in under Robert's shoulder and roll down the path just so happy. I flow back and connect with Nable. We stop at Shenanigans Station Number One. Bikes make us all kids again. It is what keeps us in the bike game even when we are old enough to know better. When the crew sees a playground with some crazy ass swings shit is gonna go off the rails. We avoid the ER somehow.


Michele has put together such an amazing route. Minimal road. Trails that feel familiar but in a direction I have never ridden them. Yash keeps commenting on how smooth we are on the trails and wondering how we do this all the time without crashing. It honestly is so funny to me. I guess I take this whole way of riding for granted. I certainly wasn't always this comfortable riding CX bikes on the trails but after so many years it is the style of riding we have evolved to. Adventure riding. Gravel. CXenduro. I am not in marketing and have nothing to sell you so I don't put labels on this type of riding. It is just a ride.


We hit Ponyhenge. Much hilarity ensues. The best team photo of all time is taken. The only thing missing maybe is some dolphin plushie toys. We somehow have gone without a crash, a mechanical or incident to this point. Shocking. The Heavy Metal God of Thunder is clearly watching over us this day. At some point I realize where we are and start laughing out loud. Michele and I and a few others revere creating these adventure routes. So when I am able to see the master at work and enjoy her handiwork it just fills me with joy. As much as a lot of The North (In Boston we are separated by a river and a turnpike) bugs me just as I am sure where I live bugs them there are elements of Lexington and its environs that resonate with me. The history certainly. Rolling by Walden where Thoreau wrote some of the most seminal words about being an outdoors person always pulls at me. Seeing British flags along the Minuteman Path where soldiers died forming this country is always poignant. Especially during these turbulent political times when who we are as a country is being challenged daily.


The best parts of these rides other than the riding is the ability to talk to so many friends and teammates. You really have some of the best conversations while on a bike. As the ride begins to wind down the talk turns to post-ride food and hangouts. We end up in a nice pizza place right in Lexington. We all share a huge pizza and talk about the ride. It is hilarious how each rider looks at the ride and their own set up for the ride. I tend towards CXenduro. I will give up a light weight machine for one that will handle what ever the trail throws at me. A lot of the crew prefers a bike that is better suited for going fast and are ok with some mayhem along the trail. We plot and scheme our next HUP ride and adventure. And after some fond goodbyes we all pedal off in our own directions. Yash you will be missed my friend. Can't wait til the next time we get to ride together










Thursday, October 19, 2017

Happy Trails


Got the news yesterday that Lone Wolf Cycling was closing shop. It was kind of a gut punch I won't lie. LWC to me was always like the Ex-Presidents from Point Break. For them it truly was never about the money. They stood for something. They proved every ride that the human spirit is still alive. Yes that is paraphrased from Bodhi's speech about the system. The system that kills the human spirit. Cycling at its core to me is about that. I know it certainly doesn't live up to that. But it is a nice thing to strive for. I have always been drawn to these type of people and these ideals. When I first got into cycling out in Norcal it was this type of crew I joined. The LWC crew reminded me so much of those early days in SF. Very similar to the Swobo crew. Very different approach obviously. Philly and SF (well the guys who founded it were from Marin. Hey Tupac was from Marin...) could not be more different. But the things Swobo was so good at the LWC took to 11. Build a rad community. Be about the ride more than the selling of your soul and constant riding the wave of some new "fad" Have the best worst ideas. You get the idea.


Lone Wolf brought a lot of people together. I guess they were the flame and we like moths were drawn to it. I still don't 100% know how I ended up friends with these dudes. I blame AnonCX and Jed a bit. They were the ones who introduced me to them at the Philly Bike Show years ago. I was "working" and trying to promote a new brand. The second Ryan took me over to the LWC booth it was pretty much all over. They had me at Wu Tang Clan basically. My love of Philly and LWC blew up after that trip. I grew up near Boston. If you live within an hour from Boston you always say you are from Boston. Deal with it. Boston has that type of effect on people. If you like hockey in Boston you grew up HATING Philly. Ok if you are a Boston sports fan you hate lots of places but you get my drift. I was born to not like people from Philly. But oddly, I really love Philly and people from Philly. Bizarre.


Sully by Matt Lolli 

After that fateful trip to the Philly Bike Show things starting escalating. The Philly Show is rad by the way. If you ever have a chance to go do yourself a favor and go. The City is fantastic. And the show is really one of the coolest bike shows I have ever been to. The Show is a great mix of bike industry, bike culture and art. I am not new to bike culture or singlespeeds. My past life out in Norcal was full immersion into both. But moving home to the Boston 'burbs I sort of lost touch with a lot of that. The LWC was all in with both. Again it was like getting into the Hot Tub Time Machine and going back to South Park circa 1994. The original Swobo gang was really just a couple of dudes preaching a lifestyle. And lots of people drank that koolaid. Because bikes are rad. And up until that point the main focus of bikes was racing. And road racing. Road racing culture is horrible. Sorry not sorry. Especially at that point when it was some dying fixation with all things euro and specifically Italian. No thanks. There was a reason I stopped riding as a kid and surfed, windsurfed and did things that were cool. Cycling was NOT cool. At all.


I stayed in touch with the Philly crew mainly through my friend Ryan. And like a Zombie virus that LWC crew and vibe started spreading. Philly was the hot spot. LWC was patient zero. People started popping up on my radar. Yes it had a bit of a Fight Club aspect to it. Shoogs, Quags, Utah. So many new cool friends. I am not cool. But cool people wanted to hang with me. Again bizarre. And as a marketing director of a new bike brand I saw this as a huge opportunity. So I mixed work and play in a blender and made a smoothie forged in Hell. Man we had a good run. I went all in. When I heard SSCXWC was going to be in Philly I started planning. We built special bikes. We packed a van with bikes and people and headed south. Matt Lolli and I created Sully. We had a horrible idea that we should bring SSCXWC to Boston. OMG that seems even more insane now as I type this. Thank god a blizzard stopped this best worst idea from ever happening.


We get down to Philly and scatter across the City like a SSCX strike force. I stay with my good friend Ryan. SSCXWC13 is incredible. The Feats of Strength are beyond anything I really have ever participated in. Philly is a remarkable cycling city. Lots of great paths. Drivers don't seem hell bent on murder. A great trail system about 30 minutes away. We rode all day. Got drunk. Almost got in a bar fight with Adam Craig over a Lion of Flanders flag. That was Yarnell's fault not mine. I just happened to be in faux Belgian fan boy kit. We ended up at the Liberty Bell as the sun was going down and my cell phone battery was dying. And I had no lights. And I had no idea where I was. I somehow found my way back to one of the host bike shops and miraculously bumped into my friend Ryan. The next day was Worlds.


If you weren't at Philly Worlds I don't even know what to say. As I waited at registration with Abel a large man dropped a Ronald Reagan mask at my feet. And said "Lose something Brah..." Haha god damnit I love this crew. We really are like a Wolf Pack. And I owe the LWC for showing us just how to do it right. Kevin had taken a train down from Boston to get to Worlds. He had walked from the train station in a snow storm. I asked him where he was staying. He said he'd figure it out. I told him to not wander off and that he was staying with me at Ryan's. And that kicked off one of the craziest bike race experiences in my life. We raced our hearts out as the snow kept coming down. We witnessed one of the greatest days of racing SSCX ever. Then we feared a bit for our lives. Apparently people in Philly don't know how to drive in snow storms. And Philly clearly does not know how to deal with a Blizzard. Which is really weird. Luckily I had an AWD van with Blizzak snow tires and Ryan had a Subaru. We carved through a sea of overturned SUVs to the safety of his condo.


We sat in his condo eating humus and going onto the dark web to create cyber-warfare against all the others trying to secure the rights to the next SSCXWC. We weren't at the after party to play poker for the rights to host. Which is an odd way to determine who hosts Worlds but frankly thank god we weren't there. The only place worse than Boston to host a SSCX Worlds would be...ok no where actually. No where would be worse. So the sun set on that idea. But bonds were formed that weekend that would last for a lifetime. The next 4 years we spent so much time riding, scheming, and coming up with new ways to make mayhem.


MA Field OPS may have led to me being fired from my job at said brand. Totally worth it. In spades. The crew that came up to do a double adventure ride weekend in MA was so rad. Our recon mission for the ride was probably one of the top ten days on a bike. We all became Trail Wizards that day. And I think I introduced my good friend Michele to a side of the dirt bag life that she hadn't seen before. The bond between the LWC crew and our crew wasn't always seamless. At Providence one year some of the NECX were a tad freaked out by the dude in the Pizza costume drinking on the line of the SSCX race. Frankly, the tension made me love this whole match made in Hell even more. And it pushed me to make the SSCX series we have so much better. Those trips the LWC crew made up here helped us grow our SSCX community.


I will forever be thankful to that crew for being such good friends, supporters and instigators. They really inspired a ton of people to Kill Yourself to Live. Their bumper stickers weren't just catchy marketing phrases. They were Zen Koans. Oh and they also introduced me to Dave's Killer Bread. So in closing, Happy Trails my friends. May your handups always be cold, may the high fives sting, and may you always have pizza watts. Peace out boys.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Support Person

Nothing more metal than two hospital bracelets by CB
Ok there is a bit of a backlog in the old bloggity blog world of the #CBL. We have blown right past UnHoly Week and CX Fever and we have to make some decisions. The people have spoken and today we tell the tale of the #1 Support Person in the history of the Zank SSCX. The title of this post was going to be The Heavy Metal God of SSCX. I mean look at the photos. Which by the way are all by Katie Busick and courtesy of Minuteman Road Club. How many races offer all the races PRO photos for free download after the race? Not many I think. Not to get off track but MRC puts on one hell of a bike race. Two free beer tickets with your entry, the before mentioned free photos, team tent spots, rad course, free parking...I mean what more could you ask for? So it has been unseasonably warm in New England this Fall. Thanks climate doubters and hurricane after hurricane for bringing this tropical heat wave to the bastion of Fall. Summerfall is a term I do not want to get used to. Thank you very much. 


But back to the task at hand. I know my five loyal readers are very familiar with Mike Wissell. They need no introduction to this great man and what he is all about. But for the one person who may have found this blog by googling "mud" or "CX" or "NECX" or maybe hit surprise me on google and came across this hot mess I will do my best to introduce you to my good friend. Mike is one of the toughest guys I know. Lives for brutal mountain bike stage races. Gives back to his own team, B2C2, on a level most racers can't even imagine. Supports other racers on rival teams like they are his own teammates. Has been hosting Larz World's, a weds am CX training race, for as long as I can remember. How he finds the energy to do all he does is beyond me. But as I said before he is also one of the nicest guys on the planet. Stands up for what matters, has a moral compass. All the things you want in a friend. He dabbled in SSCX before. And by dabbled I mean would show up to a few of the Zank SSCX races and destroy everyone who happened to be racing that day.


This past summer we met at a great coffee shop to to talk about SS Mtn biking. I do have a fondness for all things single speed. At the time we were talking mtb. But he said he thought he would focus entirely on SSCX for the 2017 CX season. I obviously thought that was a great idea! But didn't really focus too much on it at the time. As CX season rolled around I got some very excited and exciting emails from Mike. He was in fact racing the SSCX series! And his enthusiasm for his frankenbike project got me all fired up. It kept morphing. Dropper post/drop bar CX enduro bike. Flat bars no dropper. It was the ultimate frankedbike. And what I LOVE about Mike is he would email me and ask "is it cool if I ride this freak show of a bike?" I was like dude that bike is rad!!! Honestly what I love about CX and 29er MTBs is they are basically the same bike. Especially when you are talking CX and 29er Hardtail. The wheels are interchangeable. The bikes are basically the same. It makes for some real fun set up Rubik's cube hacks.


One of the things Mike brings to the series other than his talent and racing ability is how much he cares about the race and all the racers. We all say we care but how much do we? How much do we give back? He cares a lot. Always checking in with everyone. Says hi to all the racers. And this season he started high giving racers after he finished. He wins most races. He is that fast. Not to say there aren't a lot of really strong racers chasing him. His mere presence has upped the competition in a way that I never imagined. But his waiting at the line high fiving everyone as they come in? That is being an ambassador on a whole other level. People love Mike's finish line high fives. I mean what is cooler than after turning yourself inside out for 45 minutes you see a smiling Mike at the finish and he high fives you? Awesome


Minuteman Road Club puts on a great race. I look forward to it every year. The Zank SSCX is a points race. The leaders denim vest is a highly coveted item. Once you wear it you do not want to lose it. Mike and his wife Caitlin were expecting a baby this CX season. To say we were happy for them was an understatement. But babies have their own ideas when they want to arrive. My two daughters clearly had their own ideas. One was premature by six weeks (that was exciting!) and one refused to come out. To this day they seem to have embraced this personality trait. Mike told me the baby was a bit late in its due date. The night before a double Zank SSCX weekend I got a text from Mike. They were heading to the hospital. He arranged the vest to be delivered to MRC. The points race was close. Bradford won Mansfield and with Mike gone it made the series a tie race. I had assumed Brad would be donning the vest at MRC. Mike was happy for Brad. We all were. Brad is like Mike one of those guys who do so much for our community.


As I was waiting in the reg tent for my number I see a pale rider coming towards me in the distance. Dear god it is Mike. The baby was born the night before at 1 am. Caitlin's parents arrived at the hospital that am and told Mike to go race. That is a family who loves and supports each other. And he had arrived at his SSCX family to celebrate not just SSCX but his new baby with us. I almost cried not gonna lie. But there is no crying in SSCX. We all lined up and had one of the best races of the season. Perfect conditions. A greasy, muddy SSCX slip and slide. Mike won. Mike got on that podium and put his vest back on. One of the most amazing days in the #NECX in my opinion. Little Milo has one rad dad. And one hell of a family. That little god of thunder should be proud of his dad. I know I am.


Monday, September 25, 2017

The Kids are Alright


This post easily could have been titled "Bad Santa" But it was 90 degrees out. And it is September. So why was HUP riding a Gentleman's Race during Cross season in 90 degree heat in NH? Well kids team building isn't all trust falls and Navy Seal training. We are a bike club after all. We race CX. It is a good idea to ride the CX bike. Even if it is 90 degrees in September and the gods have left an "open" weekend in September. I personally love Fall. Not just for CX but for all New England offers. When I heard a Gentleman's Race was happening they basically had me at hello. I thought initially that the whole thing was an ironic jab at the Rapha rides of the mid-2000s. I did a few of them. They were fantastic. Then they literally jumped the shark. Like all things Rapha. But credit where credit is due. Those early Rapha rides reframed how we viewed riding. I still don't know what this riding is exactly. The two Rapha rides I participated in I did on a road bike with 25s. Now my default is a CX bike and 37s. As my friend Greg says "all bikes can be gravel bikes" Hell yes they can.


I opt for those gnarly bits. I would rather be overbiking for most of the ride than underbiking on the stuff I live for. We assembled a team. I love how Michele described it. "The premise of this sitcom is that two older sprinters / rouleur types who have kids go to NH to do a gravel TTT with young, spunky, fit climbers. Hilarity ensues." She nailed it. Honestly this is why Michele and I work so well together. I had zero agenda. Maybe I did in some recess in the back of my mind. But it was simple. Get the two new young guns of HUP and the two veterans together for a rad ride. It worked out way beyond my expectation. Anyone who knows me know I go into these things with zero expectation. Come back with your shield or on it basically. We rolled up way early. Haha. HUP is a lot of things. One is prompt. The other is prepared. We have learned a few things along the way. So Joanna gets a text from Guthrie that they are the only ones in the parking lot. Hmm. Ok. So we search for a suitable second breakfast and come up with Bagel Alley. Oh hello.


We all place our orders. The kids pretty much shame Michele and I. Omelette bagel, legit second breakfasts. Michele and I share an everything bagel. We kinda pick on it. We might be a tad nervous. I was mostly nervous as I had zero idea what to expect. I was pretty sure this was a road ride. But my friend had told me there was some legit dirt. I always get excited about new to me dirt tracks. We get to Goodale's the second time and the parking lot is filling up. Some familiar faces. Some fast teams for sure. Hmm a fair amount of road bikes. Ok. Its on. The rules of the ride are simple. TTT format. All four riders stay together. Self supported. Time bonuses on the road. Bonuses include convenient store bonus, wild life bonus, mandatory selfies, and wounded warrior bonus. We nail all of them. Except the open wound one and the flat one. I can't believe how clean we rode this. Zero crashes. Zero mechanicals. Zero melt downs. PRO.


I won't lie. My legs felt horrible early on. Like lead weights. And we weren't even climbing. Things have been a tad stressful lately. No need to elaborate. We all have stress. But I had a magic bullet. I made the mistake a few times this summer of not bringing Endurolytes with me. Shit goes bad fast when I don't have those. I took four over the four hours and frankly it saved me. Zero cramps. Body felt fine once it woke up. After hour one things started coming around. We were moving pretty well. The one exposed highway climb was nasty. I mean I basically just stuck to who ever's wheel was right in front of me. I think it was Michele. But I can't be sure. I am pretty sure Guthrie pulled for 64.5 miles. Hahaha. Probably not. But I don't think I ever was at the front. God love this team. They know how to keep their elders safe.


What worked incredibly on this ride was the division of labor. Michele is a trail wizard. And an organizational ninja. She dialed the whole ride in. Guthrie was in charge of social media. Michele was in charge of the rest stops. Joanna was in charge of the wild life photos. I am not sure what I was in charge of. Which was a good thing. The first social media stop I was pretty sure we were going to get shot. But it was for the time bonus so YOLO. NH is a hot mess. I love and hate it. You will be rolling along some dirt road and see some compound for lack of a better word. And in front of that compound is an ACE Hardwares worth of lawn maintenance equipment. Guthrie wanted a team photo on a bunch of rider mowers. Thank god we survived. 


The route was so rad. A great mix of climbing and really fun dirt roads. The beauty of Southern NH is the climbing doesn't kill you. Especially when you are a flatlander like me. Its all doable. We kept rolling. Found the first store with the time bonus. We purchased $15.01 in goods. Maximum bonus. Two teams rolled in as we were rolling out. That was a bit odd. We had only been passed by one team at this point. Honestly we were not thinking of this as a race. We just were rolling under Shark rules. Keep swimming. No stopping. Michele cracked the whip to keep us focused. Guthrie and I had lots of crazy I mean great ideas for team photos. At some point we came across what can only be described as Zombie Santa. Not gonna lie it made me nervous. But we snapped some pics laughed and got moving. We started just clicking off the miles. Right at the end a team "caught" us as we waited for traffic. But we dug deep and beat them to the finish. What an amazing day. I love this team and what it stands for. Guthrie and Joanna are the newest HUP. Michele and I are like Rogue and Old Man Logan bringing the next generation of X-Men into the fold. This season is off to a rad start. HUGE props and respect to Michele, Joanna and Guthrie for indulging me in this boondoggle.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Full Hasselhoff


Cross in September is a cruel mistress. We get hyped all summer for it. Sure #crossiscoming is a running joke that we use to mess with people a bit. Especially when we start posting that hashtag in June. But we do really live for this time of year. All bikes and bike riding are great. I probably prefer adventure rides over actual CX racing at this point. I am definitely built more for long, slow endurance rides in VT...nobody can you see you suffer on a Class 4 road in Woodstock. It is just you and the squirrels. Who can be vicious. No doubt. But there is nothing like CX. It is part a reunion. Part rolling circus. It is our version of Beer League Softball as my friend the aging hipster once said. We always say "Cross is fun" And while yeah it is fun. Cross in September is brutal. Most years I come into September with some fitness. I usually do a mtn bike race or two. Do some actual CX training. Maybe run if I am feeling really spicy. Yeah not this year.



I went full couch to CX season. So why is CX in September so hard? Humidity is a beast. I am built for winter. I am not built for going full out in 80 degree heat with 80 percent humidity. People are fast in September. All the damn roadies and mtn bikers have been racing all season. They are flying. I mentioned my summer was filled with soul rides in VT right? I have zero regrets. But I have been at this game for a while. Its amazing I can be this bad at something I have done for so long. The starts have been umm interesting to say the least. White Park is always fast. It is one of the fastest courses we race. Not sure if it is the stacked fields or just the way the course is laid out. But it is also one of my favorite courses. A great mix of turns and tech. Three brutal loose runups and a sick descent. I got there and met up with all my friends. Saw a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while. We camped out in the Chainline tent and got our groove on.


Did I mention it was hot? Damn. I wasn't really prepared for how hot it was going to be. I love my OG HUP Noir. But it is all black. My helmet is black. Just like my soul. But for now I am really not thinking about that. Way too may high fives and checking out all the new bikes etc. Eric writes his max heart rate on his wrist with a sharpie. I am not sure if this is for humor or to keep him from having a stroke. I don't go into these races with expectations. If you have zero expectations you really ensure you will have a great time no matter what. Sure there are a few people I sort of think yeah it would be cool to race with them today and see how it goes. But I am a mid-packer at best. Probably more like party at the back at this point. We do some typical controlled chaos of a call up. Volunteers on the front row. Points leaders on the front. The front is pointy. That is all I will say. I sort of get boxed out of the second row. I am too nice sometimes aren't I? But it is Beer League Softball and realistically it won't make much difference. Although in Cross and especially SSCX the start is everything. If you aren't at or near the front it is over. You are literally on your own for the next 40 minutes doing a solo TT.


So we go 0-60 in a blink of an eye. Wow my starts are really bad this season. I get clipped in and am seriously DFL. This is the second race in a row where I am off the back right from the gun. I guess riding gravel at a gentleman's pace doesn't really translate to full gas off the line. Who knew? Might need to work on that before Midnight CX...So ok I am OTB. No need to panic. Ok maybe I panicked a tad. But I kind of regain contact by the time we get to the playground. And I can see Eric albeit he is four turns ahead of me and accelerating. I start catching some people. Oddly the horrible runups slow people down enough that I can catch up. That is weird but I will take it. I get through the first lap and am pretty much seeing stars. I see Utah. He is like "CHIP LETS HANGOUT!!" I love hangs amigo but I have to catch some people bro.....we ride a lap or two together. We come through and I see 5 to go. No. God. How can you post 5 to go. Just don't put the card up. Or hand me a cold Dale's before showing me that...soul crusher. But I am riding with Utah so its ok.


Utah kind of fades. I think he went out way to fast. And he has cracked ribs. And he rode all the runups. He is a beast. I see a few people ahead. All cross races are about attrition. People explode. Crash. Implode. If you hang in you are guaranteed to move up. It is like the Hunger Games. So when I see Tim sort of looking rough I know something bad has happened. Turns out later he had trouble with his pedal on the sick descent and crashed and then may have been run over by Eric. As I said it gets crazy in the middle of a race like White Park. A little about the descent. It is probably one of my favorites in New England. You have to run up this blown out sidehill. Then get to the top and remount and pray you clip in. You pretty much drop in blind. After the second drop you can see and blast out onto the field and go full gas across the grass to the finish. It is a pretty unique feature.


So amid my soul searching and finding a reason to continue this beating I am taking I hear and see cool people. A mix of friends old and new and random cool Cx peeps. Some really funny heckles. Eric Marro seriously kept me from going to a really dark place with his comments. So I will own it. I went Full Hasselhoff. What is FH? David Hasselhoff is a god among men. An impressive amount of chest and body hair. And not afraid to flaunt it. I tend to be a bit reserved. I am a dad. My days of wearing a skinsuit are over. They say dadbods are hot. I can't really confirm this but I know I was about to have heat stroke so I did the only thing I could think of. I unzipped my jersey. If I could have ripped the sleeves off mid-race I would have done so. I instantly felt better. I mean I no longer felt like I was going to die. And oddly some people who I started to catch did not look so fresh. I mean if you look at the photos of me on the internet I look like a hotmess. But really I was coming back. I swear.


I did somehow claw my way back to being very close to Grant. I almost thought for a millisecond that I was going to be able to catch him and sprint it out for who knows what back of the pack spot..but it was fun chasing him and trying to use some tactics to catch him. It didn't work but it made the last lap a lot of fun. We finished up. I collapsed in the tent and contemplated what just happened. Wow. That was the most brutal race I have ever done. I am literally counting the days until the snow falls. Why is racing CX in the heat so horrible? I mean mtn biking happens in summer. It is never this bad. Who knows it must be some cruel trick of the Cx Gods. I mean Cx is supposed to be a winter sport. If global warming really does mess with our Fall we may need to consider a new mantra. NOCXINSEPT...ever. If September is the new August I may have to retire...

Full Hasselhoff by Russ Campbell

So here it is in all its glory. Full Hasselhoff by Russ. It is a hotmess but also a fantastic shot. Harkens to epic Rapha shots in Roubaix. Cross dangling. Sweat flying. In the drops. Damn it was a good day. Thanks to everyone who makes the NECX and the Zank SSCX Series so rad. Next stop on this world tour is Midnight Ride of CX. DONOTMISSIT. I know I always say we have something special planned. In this case I am 100% serious. You will not want to miss it. Thanks for reading

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Drops beat tops every time


Ok this is about a week late and a dollar short. But I wanted to get it down on the blog before the next race. The Zank SSCX series is some kind of redheaded stepchild, magic unicorn, drunk ginger leprechaun that comes out to play each Cyclocross season in New England. It was born on the beer soaked fields of White Barn Farm seven years ago at Ice Weasels. Jerry, Zank, Myette, Utah and I were drunk. Obviously. And I think Jerry said something like why don't we do this all season? Not the out of control keg party but the SSCX thing? Racing SSCX is cool. I can't say no to my friends if you haven't noticed. If I ever said no to you, which is doubtful with my track record, please don't infer we aren't friends. It just means my day job got in the way of my rad job....

Blue Steel FTW. We have water bottles. You know you want one. Or two. Find us at the races while they last 

But I digress. So this our seventh season I promised to tighten up the calendar a bit. I wanted to avoid the confusion of double race days. Although Thea, Kevin and Lesli will be forever my heroes for doing the Hartford/Quad double it is sub-optimal with a point series to have two races on the same day. Colin says mean things to me when we do this. So you know. I avoid that. No calendar will make everyone happy. I love all the races. I wish every one could be in the series. But a Baker's dozen or a dozen seems about right. Especially as we don't do drops. Participation is encouraged and rewarded. This season is lining up to be pretty sweet. Hartford secured the Saturday before Quad! That made my whole season. I love Ron Manizza. Mansfield Hollow is probably one of my favorite races in the NECX. He embraced our series early on. Really he was one of the first promoters who was like "Oh hell yeah you want a SSCX race? Let's do it!" And he has always supported us. And I have always supported him for that type of loyalty. When I heard Hartford would be on a different day than Quad CX I got very excited. And you know how excitable I can get.


 I sourced the two leaders denim vests. Utah did it last year. I felt obligated to do it this year. Utah walked me through it. Oddly Levi thinks a small women is TINY. And a MEDIUM Man is HUUUUUGGGGEEE. So yeah there is that. But the vests are legit. I rattle canned the hell out of them. I wanted to add some flair but only the vest holder can do that. It is like a ritual. Not unlike the Stanley Cup. You win it you can do what ever you want with it. Literally. And in our case it is encouraged. I want each leaders signature stamped on these denim vests. My life as you all may or may not know is about my family. People say that but in my case it is my J.O.B. My wife is a very successful businesswomen and amazing person. We have two amazing kids. They need my help. It is the best job I have ever had. But it creeps up on me and I sometimes get pulled in many directions. Syd the kid was having a rough day Saturday am. My friends joke that the kids don't get to have rough days on a race day but family first to me is not just a tag line. It is my way of life. I am like a Samurai in that sense. I would lay my life down for these three women. So we somehow end up with Syd the kid in the van heading south towards Hartford. She loves bike races. She doesn't want to race she just loves the scene. It is really cool. Lets face it.



I get it. Your bike race feels more important than anything else on race day. But its not. As my good friend Fatmarc would say this is Beer League Softball. So Syd is having a shitty day. We drive south listening to the new Tay Tay album. This actually becomes the soundtrack for my entire race which is awesome. In my head of course. Now if I flashed some Benjamins at Ryan Kelly he'd do this for me but most announcers won't play Taylor Swift for any entire bike race. When its in your head it lasts forever! So we actually are having a good time. Syd has never been to CT! And is loving it. We get a bit hungry so pull off at an exit that google maps has told us has a Subway. I get discombobulated. I say "Syd where is the Subway?" She says "next to the strip club" Ummm Wut? Yeah there is a strip club next to the Subway. And its busy. At 11 am on a Saturday. Syd and I play Stripper or Patron while we wait in line. My kids are oddly cool with strippers and strip clubs. God love this generation.

Thea the women's leader and queen of all HUP style 

So our trip to Electric Blue, I mean Subway sets the tone for the whole day. We get to the venue in Hartford and I get that feeling. Its like a reunion. Yeah sure I spend a ton of time with a lot of these Jabronis. But a lot of them I only see this time of year. And they are literally my second family. I park next to Lesli. We find the rest of the crew and set up a bit of a compound. These races are as much about the race and racing as they are about seeing your friends. I love that about Cyclocross and especially about our SSCX crew. The MAZ/Zank crew are all business. New team, new energy. All awesome. Mike Zank my friend, title sponsor and heavy metal god of thunder has been on a mission. And its all coming down to this moment. I love Mike. He's an amazing bike builder and family man and friend. He's also a damn beast of a bike racer. It is nice to see this all come together. That is what life should be about honestly.


Avi by Jon Nable. Not at Hartford but made Syd's day with his in race commentary 

So we do our usual dance. We get it all together and we line up. I sort of line up next to who I want to ride with. Note I did not say "race" I have been literally sitting on my couch the last three months. Okay a slight lie but not totally untrue. Zero CX practice. Haven't raced or practiced CX since the past Ice Weasels. Why should I? This is Beer League Softball after all. So whistle blows. I am feeling ok. Then we hit some god awful paved climb. Fuck. Ok. It is all good. Oh shit. I am DFL. Ok maybe get moving. This was more about participation than results but you always want to do OK. Right? So I move up. Nothing douchy. I swear. Find a group. Party at the back. Then after a few laps lock in with the the Worcester crew. Pretty amazing racing with dudes you rode with the first time a week ago. The Worcester crew are awesome. Might be my new favorite group of riders. So we play some cat and mouse. I only rode with them that one time on a decidedly bananas course so unclear at what their strengths and weaknesses are. The beauty of being so old and having been at this game for so long is you get the mental part. The fitness part? Yeah that is a hotmess. But we settle in. Honestly I haven't had this type of mental race in decades. It is actually really rad. I ride pretty much four laps with Dave. We go back and forth. I get away on the run up. WUT?! It is a horribly steep wall so maybe short stubby legs help. Then he reels me back on the technical off cambers by the gazebo.

This course is incredible. Has everything. So many great pieces of a puzzle. So we go back and forth. Last lap I know what has to happen. But he does too. I don't gap him on the run up. I crash a bit on an off camber. I catch him at the barriers. We ride together to the Gazebos. I know in my head I have to get by him at the sand pit. But I REFUSE to do anything douchey. I mean why? Why would you do that? So we are right together. Paved chicane. Then straight away to the finish. I am on the tops. He is in the drops. Game. Over. Best sprint of my life though. I can't remember the last time I sprinted like that for a finish. I came through hot. He beat me by a wheel. Or less. Mike Wissell tackled me to keep me from crashing. Best. Day. Ever. I love all of you SSCXers. We have two new leaders. The series is just kicking off. Please join us for all this fun.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

3Cross Kick Off Party


3Cross Brewing Company in Worcester is a new sponsor for the Zank SSCX Series. They came on board last season and became much more than a sponsor. I take sponsorship very seriously. I often call it more support than sponsorship as I like to think of it as a two way street and a relationship/partnership. Honestly it is what I love most about this series. All our sponsors are our good friends. Last year 3Cross came in big time. And from the first race you could tell it was going to be a great fit. Both Jessica Howland and Dave Howland the owners of 3Cross are cyclists. They came out to the races and raced and hung out and it was awesome. The Zank crew all live very close to 3Cross in Worcester. The Zip Tie Fairy Lesli Cohen is great friends with Jess and Dave and would always tell me about their great rides. So it seemed only natural to have a kick off party and ride for the series at 3Cross. 3Cross was stoked about the idea and next thing we knew a great new tradition in the Zank Series was born!


Jess and Dave curated the route. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I kind of assumed we would be doing a bit of an urban adventure. Heavy on the pavement and cool factor but not a lot of trails. Wow. Was I wrong. We met at 3Cross around 1. It was my first time to the Brewery and I was blown away. It is a great location and the vibe inside is so awesome. Bikes everywhere. Classic Klein hanging from the ceiling. An old Yo Eddy. Lion of Flanders flag hanging in the corner. My type of place. We did what bike racers do and sort of mingled around. Got our kit on exchanged hugs. Checked out each others bikes etc. Once everyone arrived we all got together and did something I don't think I have ever done. We all got in a circle and Rebekah Weiner one of the ride leaders asked each person to introduce themselves and to answer a question. The question posed was "what would be your dream job" The answers were pretty great. And it was a really nice way to get everyone to know each other a bit more before heading out on an adventure ride together. It certainly diffused some of the nervous energy that all bike riders have before heading out on a ride.


We split into two groups. Jason led the group I was in that was around 15 riders. And Dave and Jess led the other group. Like all group adventure rides the two groups would morph into each other depending on flats, crashes, and other shenanigans. Honestly I still haven't processed what went down on this ride. Like I said I was expecting an urban alley cat type of ride. What I got was basically Feats of Strength like we did in Philly years ago at SSCXWC. Worcester has incredible riding. Like incredible. Who knew? The most legit technical CX trails I have ever ridden on my CX bike. Full CXenduro. And honestly I have never seen CX riders this smooth and confident on tech on a CX bike. I mean I ride with very talented riders all the time. But I have never seen anything like this. Jason was a perfect ride leader. Funny. Smooth. Fearless. Bloody. And on a SSCX. Thank god I brought my RoboZank on this ride. So Worcester has hills? Again, who knew? Lots and lots of techy climbing.



The first technical trail section (which in hindsight was a buff trail in comparison) things got a bit exciting to say the least. It had a great little descent that took its first toll. Kevin O flatted on some gnar. I assumed he was fine. The group held up and waited but I decided to ride back just to make sure he had it sorted. Along the way I bumped into Dave. We had a great chat and then we went looking for Kevin. Kevin had been absorbed by the other group. We all said hi and then zoomed off to regroup. We all had a nice chat along the way. I felt so at home with these riders. I can't think of anything that brings people from such different backgrounds and experiences together like the bike. I certainly knew a handful of the folks on the ride. But it was amazing how the whole group from the first moment was in synch.


We split into two groups again. When riding trails it really is important to try to keep group size to a minimum. Its better for all parties involved. What I love about riding CX bikes on trails is that you really have to think a bit more about everything. Sure a modern CX bike with fat tubeless tires and hydro disc brakes expands what you can ride you still are on a CX bike. The limits become real apparent fast. What I loved about Jason's feedback on the ride was that he would have us stop pretty often to regroup. Then tell us what was coming up. I especially loved that each time he would say "ok so the real technical stuff is coming up" I would just laugh inside thinking that wasn't the technical stuff?


Jason didn't lie either. The ride started out on pretty smooth flow trails and got progressively harder and more technical. This was actually really smart. We all got pretty loosened up by the time we hit the real tech. I mean the final decent we rode was hands down the rowdiest trail I have ever ridden on a CX bike. It would have been challenging on a mtn bike. I was right behind my friend Jed at the top. Probably too close as he hit something and then ended up surfing his top tube into the trees. How he didn't die is honestly beyond me. It was one of those crashes you see firsthand where everything slows down and you get tunnel vision and you think "oh shit, this is not good" Jed somehow found the softest trees to smash into. And laughed the whole crash off.


After making sure Jed was ok I got back up to speed and starting bouncing off roots, rocks and god knows what. As I am coming in way too hot I see Chris stopped at the top of a rock wall. Now I pride myself on being pretty technically savvy on my CX bike. RoboZank has certainly upped my confidence. That bike was purpose built for riding techy trails. But this wall looks nuts. I stop and look over. Yeah, full send rock wall. Of course as Chris and I are contemplating our deaths some local guy just comes flying past us and drops down the wall. Laughing. In a fluro pink jersey. So many people are laughing as they send it or crash. Some poor rider just ends up smashing through trees like some Sasquatch.


We all regroup at the bottom of the trail and just talk story. The list of people who rode that rock wall is impressive. All did it on CX bikes. Some on cantis. Rides like this prove once again that the cross bike is the perfect do everything machine. Can you ride everything? Well after this ride that is debatable and swings toward yes. But guess what if you are freaked out by something you can walk. I walked a ton of stuff. Zero shame in that.


One thing I really love about these types of rides is that they bring so many different types of cyclists together. Racers, adventure riders, mtbers, randoneers, its just a whole melting pot. Honestly I prefer these rides over an actual CX race. Big time. I love CX racing it is a wonderful hotmess. And it can be a great way to hang out with friends etc. But I would rather ride with friends for 2-4 hours and then hang out over a beer at a cool spot than race for 45 then everyone bails. The ride/fun factor ratio for me wins on these rides every single time. It also is a wonderful way to meet new cyclists, ride in an area you never would have even known existed before and expand what you can do on the bike. I was so impressed with Worcester and the cycling scene. And having a hub like 3Cross to have rides and fun roll out of is a gift. Dave and Jess are doing right. And the beer is fantastic!


 The ride and party were a benefit for the Greater Worcester Land Trust. And you could tell from the ride that a lot has gone into both preserving these trails and turning them into something very special. We raised over $300. Huge thanks to 3Cross, Jess and Dave, Jason, Rebekah, Lesli and all who came out to ride. HUGE thanks to those who sponsored the ride: 3Cross, Jake's Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Bakeshop, Vittoria, Cross Propz, Mad Alchemy, Mighty Leaf Tea and Kevin for making amazing Coozies. All in all a fantastic time. If you can join 3Cross for one of their Thursday night rides. You will not be disappointed.


Hope to see a ton of you this weekend. We have a double kick off weekend. First race at Hartford on Saturday and Quad Sunday. It is on like Donkey Kong my friends!