Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Sandbag?

Why sandbag in cross? Really do you have to even ask? Because it is F'n really hard. You can be a fast road racer (well probably crit rider right?) and super strong mtn bike racer but with one pedal stroke into the steel cage that we call a cross circuit all that periodization and power tap training don't add up to jack. It can be a huge bitch slap of reality across your fleshy cheek. And after a couple of weeks of getting beat down each Sunday it is going to get demoralizing really fast. You might even think F this cross business I am going back to my fixie and my tight jeans... at least the coffee shop girl thinks I am cool..
Nobody wants to feel like they suck. Frankly if you aren't sandbagging cross isn't fun at all. Seriously if you are having fun on a cross course you are probably sandbagging. If you are racing in your proper category you will literally feel like you are dying. There is no other way to be fast. If you are racing you have to turn yourself inside out each lap to just hang on to a mid-pack finish and maybe avoid getting lapped. This doesn't sound so sexy when people ask you how you did at the race that weekend. They want to hear "top ten" or you "won" they do not want to hear about moral victories of not getting lapped by the leaders.

People are pretty pissed about sandbagging right now. It's kind of like smoking right now. An easy target. And there have been some pretty blatant offenses lately. But what does it really mean to be a sandbagger? Is it winning? Winning by 2 minutes over some "fast" guys? Is it rolling up to a 3 race or a 4 race with deep section carbon wheels that cost more than some peoples monthly salary? Is it a fetish for all manner of french tubulars? 

I have been subtly (or not subtly) accused of sandbagging the Masters 3/4 race. And I did sandbag the 4 race out at PDX at the USGP finals. But like all sandbaggers I wasn't really sandbagging because I was still a 4 at the time and there was no other category for me to go in but the 4s. So when I was wayyyy out in front on the first two laps and Richard Fries was "guaranteeing" my victory it was the height of east coast sandbaggery on the PacNW. Thankfully I crashed heavily on the final lap and three locals beat me or the baseball bats may have come out for day 2..

The point is raise your hand if you have never sandbaggged? I don't see a lot of hands up. Wait you say you had a reason for racing that 3/4 race because of time constraints? Or you weren't feeling good that week? You sandbaggged period. By your own definition. Personally I think we all need to lighten up.

It will all work out. I am wayyyy over my head right now racing in the 45+ As. I am going to get beaten like a drum at the Verge races that are lining up like some kind of Algonquin lacrosse gauntlet. Oh you never played JV lacrosse and had to run the gauntlet? Lucky you. Your only hope was that no one brought a wood stick and they'd play by the code and only hit you on the back of the legs...I was never so lucky always took one across the front of the thighs...but that shit makes you tougher trust me. And that is how I am looking at this right now. 

Ok enough soapbox onto some good stuff. A little PSA for my cross brothers and sisters. One of our biggest FoHU the outlaw Jesse James has been bitten hard by the cross bug. He has totally drank the Hup Koolaid and wants to jump in the deep end of this cross game. First call I made was to Mickey. Holy crap that dude just gets it! I sent him what I thought was THE parts list. He fires back a list and I am like "hell yeah" why didn't I think of that...If only I wasn't soooo deep in the doghouse with my benefactor at the moment I would be all in for my own personal spooky....maybe next year...in the interim if you are even considering getting a cross bike do yourself a favor and call Mickey...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blunt E-postcard

Ok so apparently the sound guy had a few too many Anchor steams and was last seen hiding under the ez-up because it was raining too hard...its a work in progress the video is still RAD thanks eli...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cross F'n Rules

Yes it does....thank you e-richie for making the most badass t-shirt on the planet. And thank you for pointing out the obvious and beating that drum...because we are hearing you man...Big Time!

Who will be the king of the mucky muck? photo by Rob Bauer

It was a split squadra weekend for hup this weekend. A bunch of us pointed the compass north to contest the Vermont Verge weekend and to hunt for the oh so ellusive verge points!! Thanks to the glory of twitter we kept in constant contact! With Hupdates on the minute...lots of crazy stories coming out of the Green Mtn State...Mike W on the podium!!! We need to sort through fact and fiction but I believe I heard a report that my coach was bit by a donkey...I do hope his tetnus is up to date...The Fabulous Five....Tom, Ronnie, Eli, Marky Mark and myself stayed local and hit Blunt Park! And man am I glad we did!
Ronnie looking beat after laying down some mad watts!!! He got the holeshot in the 3s almost brought it home but it was not to be...soon my brother soon...it will happen I can feel it. None the less the man rode possessed! Big T did the double dip racing masters 35+ and then the 3s...he got bloody in the process but efforts like that will pay big dividends in Nov! Marky Mark raced tough in the 4s whose leader put down faster laps than the combined 1/2 field and Masters 35+ field! Ok whoever was driving that 4 train might need to get their upgrade on...

It was a perfect day to fly our home colors...pouring rain all day, greasy as all hell. We had two ez-ups and plotted and schemed on how we can pre-game and tailgate cross like its never been done before! Oh you wait it will be good. It may take a month to dial in but look out at Noho cause its a coming...

Rob Bauer and Big Tomeke lined up in the 35+ field looking stoked! Rob is the coolest guy on the planet and shot some incredible pictures. He also won the fastest upload on the planet as I wasn't even 1/2 way home and I see the finest shots ever taken of my ugly self coming up on facebook. If he can make my sorry ass look this good on a bike he's good trust me...

Why again do educators think cursive is a dead form of writing? Really? Have they seen Indy Fabs new logo? Gorgeous

Blunt was just a fantastic day of cross. I felt sooo sick all week. Took good care of myself rested up but I did force myself to do openers on saturday and am so happy I did. I am now a true believer in openers. My life is insane. Basically I forget everything, cannot concentrate and am a bundle of nerves leading up to race day. But if I do openers I can race well...no openers no race so well. It will be like a religious experience for me...call it Saturday Mass for the Church of cross. 

Blunt was a great race course. Super greasy, muddy wooded nastieness. All the roadies were complaining. There were yardsale crashes that defy all logic. I saw one guy go down on pavement and slide by me like he'd been shot out of a cannon. I hate to think what his ass looks like right now..not pretty I assume. The Fangos rocked! I was freaking out on the warm up lap as I was sliding all over the place. When I went back to the car I pumped them to 25 psi and did it again. Presto! The magic number. I railed the course. They are such a fast mud tire. You slip around a bit and they pack up but they also shed it and are really really fast. I am sold...and with an FMB casing? Just the bees knees.

So somehow I found myself out front for a lap or two....How did that happen? Roadies crashing all over the place I guess. After a few bobbles and some strong men coming by I ended up 6th out of 20. Super stoked about that. Especially as 5th was real close...Learnt a lot today:

#1. And it probably sounds like a broken record but my teammates rule! I just love hanging out with these guys. They keep my shit from falling apart...and me going into full on freak out mode. Plus all the other cool cats that we just get to hangout with each weekend make this time of year so killer

#2. FMB/Fangos kick ass and you can drive over them in your van and they don't break..true story. I am such an air head right now. I roll out of the parking lot after the race only to hear Ronnie yelling my name and holding a wheel in the air. That's funny I think...oh shit. My wheel must have been propped up in front of the van and I ran over it right in front of Ronnie! Thank god it somehow fell perfectly in between the wheels and was not smashed into a million pieces! 

3. Openers---can't race without them! I am too old to race without openers...plus I have the perfect little circuit 10 minutes from my haus to just rev up the engine and dial in the machine

4. Cross Fuckin Rules!! Hell yeah. Sadly I was too shy to ask Mr Matt Kraus who lined up in the 35+ for his two cents about why cross fucking rules in his opinion but don't despair I will be getting over my bad self and insert myself into the public and add a new feature to velocb.blogspot...we will pose this question upon the unsuspecting at cross races all across NE...be prepared to answer the question of why it rules for you!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Bikes of Waterville Valley CX

Sounds kind of dirty doesn't it? well bike porn is like that to some it is art and to some it is pure filth...some nice new colors out there...
Nice belgian blue Spooky
When I asked the rider if I could shoot this she, in such PRO fashion, clicked down into big ring and the 11 cog to get the rear der down and put the cranks at 6 o'clock...very PRO
lots of love for the Geekhouse bikes...
Vanilla....kind of like forbidden donut...so tasty

In the tech zone there wasn't a ton to report. The biggest revelation (and again a testament to how cool a guy Eli is) Tufo Flexus tires are FAST!!! They won the 4 race under mr Bramhalls powerhouse legs. Eli lent Jeff his race wheels as this course just screamed for tubies and all Nitro had were clinchers. Eli raced them to a 4th spot in his cat and then Dave Wilcox the uber fast rider who's Vanilla is pictured above raced them in the Cat 1/2 race...that my friends is teamwork! If the Flexus keeps bringing home the bacon each weekend like this I may have to rethink my opinion of the Tufo tubies!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The hills are alive with the sound of cowbells

How do real Belgian cyclo-cross racers do on a Swiss cx course in Switzerland? I have no idea. All I know is that after four hours stuck behind 200, 000 rednecks on their way to a Nascar race in Loudin NH when I saw these mountains my heart soared. Did I feel like Yodelling? Maybe...what's wrong with Yodelling?

Hup Came, Hup Saw, And Hup (Geekhouse!) conquered! Waterville CX was a huge success! First time race at an incredible venue, put together by people who get it and are among the coolest cats in New England. If you missed it bummer for you. I hope you had a good reason and it wasn't some lame bs like you were saving yourself for Sucker Brook...
Haler Flying over the barriers! Dj laid down a solid 3rd place in the cat 4! Woohoo
Like the Wu Tang Clan Hup is spinning off hits and solo acts in NE this season. Geekhouse is bringing it! And they look damn fine if I say so myself. They still bleed belgie bleu in my mind. To keep the Wu Tang theme going think of Geekhouse as one of Method Man's side projects
You want headbadges we got headbadges!
Can I call a rival teams rider classy? I think so. Nicholas Mashburn of CB is one damn classy rider! Brother fought hard today for second place

Now that my friends is how we do it!!! More in depth post later but I'll just leave it at this was by far one of the best cross trips I have ever taken. Major props and shout outs to Uber director of Hospitality Eli...That man is Hups housing coordinator extraordinaire..Great to assemble such a big group of riders to help support a great race. No excuses...next year get your butt up to Waterville!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Bad Bart out!

Damnit! Looks like Bart Wellens is going to be on the sidelines for a while. Sucks as I love Big Bad Bart. I still think they should have let him keep the karate kick victory at Overijse as that had to be one of the most hard fought victories ever and frankly the kick (video here wait for it at 1:03) barely grazed the guy htfu its cross for gods sake! ....story about his illness is here at cyclingnews.com
Love him or hate the guy brings it every race....I do love Nys who doesn't, but Wellens is like a pit bull. And I love that he doesn't win all the time but he buries himself kamikaze still for victory instead of just trying not to lose...heal up fast it won't be the same without him in there keeping all these pretty boys honest...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Totally tubular

Rhyno (left) and Fango (right) When you are chasing Giants you need some bite

Good god could there be a more cliched header that that? I am totally fried after 3 teacher conferences/curriculum meetings in 2 days. Frankly my brain is about to explode after trying to play nice with other parents and all these so-called respectable members of society....This whole mr mom thing gets a bit hectic from time to time but back to the vocation at hand...Cyclo-cross! 

I got bit by the tubular bug three years ago. And since that fateful ride at Sucker Brook I have become a complete tubular addict. They really are like crack...once you have tried them there is no going back. Tubulars are the single biggest performance advantage you can give yourself racing cross. Everything else is bullocks. Seriously. Fancy brakes? Whatever, who needs good brakes to race cross. If you are using your brakes you are going too slow and going too slow will not bring you cross glory I promise you. Carbon wheels? How about you just write me a check for $2,000 and I'll light a match to it because that's what you are going to do to those fancy pants 1,200 gram deep section carbon wheels after a season of cross.

The cross game is all about speed and carrying that speed around a course. And nothing carriers speed, corners better and flats less at low pressure than tubulars. Forget tubeless, forget clinchers nothing is better than tubies. They are race proven, the treads are optimal for what we are racing on and it is tradition damnit....

But seriously the biggest "headache" is glueing them up. I have an easy solution for that find a mechanic you trust and have them do it. It is not rocket science but it takes someone who has done it over and over and has been paid to do it, to do it right. That may seem like a cop out in our DIY culture but trust me call Aaron at Landry's in Norwood his track record is zero rolled tubulars in three seasons. There is not a home mechanic on the planet with that record. 

Ok onto to what really matters. What tubular to pick right? All I know about tubies I have learnt from one person...Molly Cameron. Molly is pretty much my source for all things tubular. She brings a crazy palmares to bear on this: World Cup racer, Shop owner (Veloshop in PDX), Bike Studio owner (Portland Bicycle Studio) mechanic, team manager, Rock Star...ok maybe she's not really a rock star but I think she is...anything I know about tubies (and its not much mind you!) I owe to her tutelage and patience. If you have any questions you really owe it to yourself to call her or send her an email. Sooo on to the show...

The FMB SSC 34
My first tubular tire ever. Gorgeous tire. Meaty, beety, big and bouncy. Francois runs a one man shop in France. He handmakes arguably the most beautiful and well made tubulars on the planet. His tires come already aquasealed (not sure if its actual aquaseal or another brand) for added sidewall rot protection. I have had zero problems with FMB tires from a quality control standpoint. The SSC is a great all around tire. It is pretty fast for an aggressive tire tread handles everything well and doesn't do anything crazy when you don't expect it to. 

Its two weakness in my mind are greasy mud-for some reason I never felt totally in control when it got real greasy and it is a bit slow for an all-arounder on the grass and pavement. What it does do really well is sand, bumpy grass and it corners on rails. I have tried this in a 32 as well and liked the 34 better.  

Dugast Rhyno 32
The Mjolnir of cross tires. Mjolnir would of course be Thor's Hammer that he used to destroy Giants. Make no mistake the Rhyno is a Giant killer. When the course gets heavy, the mud is hub deep or the terrain turns nasty this is the ONLY tire to bring to battle. I have held the track when riders are shooting off in all directions into the tape with their tires so packed up with mud they lose complete control of their machine. 

That said they are slow. Especially on the rear tire and especially on grass or paved speed sections. On grass you can literally feel the speed getting sucked right out of you through the rear tire. And Dugasts are the most fragile tire on the market. Quality control is crap. I have had brand new Dugasts self-destruct after one race. I went through 3 Rhynos last season alone. Why do I continue with them? Because like any addiction once its in your blood you need more. So you have been warned. Aquaseal the sidewalls, take care of them and maybe, just maybe if you are real lucky they'll last a season. But if its muddy and you love the heavy courses like I do you won't give a rats ass if the tire lasts because you'll rail through the mud with confidence that you've never had before in your life.

FMB Sprint 32
Ok now these tires....wow. The file treads giveth and the file treads taketh away...These tires are so fast even someone as slow and old as me can give the appearance of being fast. Last year at Sucker Brook I spent too much time chatting up my teammates and ended up literally in the last row of the 35+ 3/4 race. I ended up 9th. That is ridiculous because I am not fast at all. But these tires on a course like Sucker Brook (grass, super fast, with lots of 180 turns and pavement) are like Jets. 

Ok so that was the good. Super fast, sexy as hell. In my mind if you are going to get file treads these should be your only choice as they do have a working edge that gives you some grip on offcambers and such. I get the lust for white Pippistrellos and the Challenge XS oh I really do...but they can't compare to the FMB. Ok now for the bad. They have been responsible for cracking a certain World Cup riders ribs and they have been responsible for ripping the flesh off my palms at G-star last year. Speed can be a hungry and evil mistress. She will want blood eventually and you are going to have to be prepared to offer it up.

Challenge Fango 32
This tire is kind of THE tire for me right now. Molly doesn't like this tire. She is a huge fan of the grifo. Lots of the really fast riders are. I haven't tried a grifo but would worry it wouldn't corner well enough for my crappy bike handling skills. For me cornering traction is the holy grail. A Rhyno obviously corners like its on rails but is wayy to slow on a fast track. 

The Fango to me is the best of both worlds. Its not perfect. It doesn't have the most aggressive tread in the world, but what it does have are these crazy half-moon side knobs that dig in real nice. They slip once and a while but its predictable. But what they might give up a bit in traction they gain ten-fold in speed. This year I have tried a kind of franken-tread version of the Fango. Basically Francois of FMb cuts the tread off a Fango and glues it on one of his supple cotton casings. In theory it is a great marriage. 

The only complaint I would have so far is that the rear tire feels a bit out of true. This happens with handmade tubulars from time to time. And realistically it isn't going to slow you down but it feels weird on pavement. Recently Francois has been getting the tread direct from Challenge so he doesn't have to cut off the tread. This also ensure there is not any extra casing still glued to the tread bottom. I am curious to try the next generation of these tires to see if perhaps they run a bit truer. That said the original Challenge Fango is superb.

That is my two cents of what's out there. Tubies are fragile and even if you take great care of them they will get messed up eventually, luckily there is an outfit called Tire Alert in Florida who will fix them real cheap. They repair flats and base tape at criminally low prices. I have no idea how they make any money off it to be honest.

Black belt cross action

Bike wayyy high and outside, leading over the barrier, 
rider flying over hurdle-photo by Rob Bauer 

Epiphanies are weird things. You can't force them or will them to happen. One day poof they just happen. In martial arts there is the saying that when you are ready to learn (whatever, karate, kungfu, yoga etc) the master will appear to you. In western thought we interpret this as the master will magically appear and bells and whistles will go off and we'll get it. Sometimes the master is right there in front of you you just have to be open and listen. 

I have jokingly told my friends I am un-coachable. Its mainly in jest because in reality I am actually a very open person. I will never be gifted physically but what I lack in that dept. I have always made up with grit and an intellectual curiosity that's helped me learn (especially sports) on a deeper level. Nobody likes that person who starts yoga or something and then is just so over the top effusive with praise that they become a bore. I don't want to be that person but cross camp really opened my eyes to so many things that make you a better crosser. 

In that one-day fishbowl I couldn't even intellectually process half of what Al and Adam taught us that day. But somewhere in my brain I absorbed it like a sponge and like somekind of Manchurian Candidate trigger when I saw this picture on Double Hopped taken at Bedford and the picture Dave Roth took of Molly a flip switched. "Oh that is what they were trying to tell us about hurdling the barriers" fired off my inner voice.

Just study the pictures and you can see what is going on and why its so fast. Adam likened a lot of this to skateboarding-the board does something and the rider follows its flow. Here the bike leads and "flies" over the hurdle and the rider follows it. That's a hell of a lot faster than come in hot, stop, pick up bike, hop over, step, step, drop bike remount right? 
Again look at the right leg high and flying hurdler style and the bike leading and out

Epiphanies are crazy like that. How many times have I hurdled a barrier? 100s. How many times have I done it right? Probably zero. Maybe that one time last year at Noho when I was so out of my mind tired and I came into it hot with Big Tomeke next to me and we just flowed like water over them. 

The last thing and again what just had light bulbs going off in my head--look at the two pictures. These two crossers are 3,000 miles away from each other. Look how it is almost a mirror image. Right leg hurdling high over the barrier, leaping really. Bike is way out and in front. Whole body is leaning forward and you can tell just by looking how fast they are going. And you know what else is the same they don't have that pained effort we all have where it looks like we are doing some power clean with the bike... 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Power of Blanco

Today I felt the awesome Power of Blanco at Quad cross in Bedford! Sunday was opening day for my 2009 cross campaign. Next week's Sucker Brook CX is pretty much the official start of cross season in New England but Quad cross may soon rival it as opening day if they keep building off what they did today! There were 81 prereg'd 4s! Maybe 90 at the start line. That is incredible!

It rained buckets the 2 days before the race and then the skies cleared Sunday am and we were treated to a gorgeous day! Or tormented by it as surely all those in long skin black skinnies must have been! 

I emailed Yash mid-week for the dress code update....Blanco was the call...I tried on my Blanco skinny and was frankly a tad afraid both for myself and others. I left the skinny at home but brought the full Blanco kit on the off chance I had the courage to wear it...When I got to the venue and saw Yash lined up in Blanco I knew I couldn't let him down. I was glad I had the guts to wear it as it gave me mad watts that I never had any place putting out!

I am not really a race report guy so I am not going to bore you with a blow by blow descriptive of the race itself, what I will share are a few points. 

Point one: I am super stoked to be racing in the 45+ category. Its an amazing group of guys. Basically when I lined up and saw Soups on the front row, Brian McInnis two riders over and Tom Stevens right next to me it all became so clear. I will get faster and become a better cross racer by racing with these guys each and every week. There is no other way. To steal a phrase from another blogger Sundays will become spank me sundays. Today the Power of Blanco shined down on me and I rode way better than I could ever hope in a 45+ A race. Sundays when we are racing Verge races I will be getting spanked!

My plan was to try and follow Tom Stevens wheel as much as possible and watch his technique and learn from a true master. Trying to match his line was a clinic on how to race cross and how to be smooth and fast. Watching him really helped hammer home so many of the things we learned at cross camp. The past two weeks I have been trying to play mental games to remember all the important things Adam and Al taught us. There was so much to process. But I think I get it now. 

Point 2: My teammates kick ass. No way I could be on the line with these guys and even thinking of riding anywhere near them without the last 6 months of hardman rides, mtn bike adventures and Rosey's am cross world's. Plus hearing them screaming from the sidelines just sent shivers of adrenaline up my spine! Crazy.

Point 3: My teammate Tom is probably the toughest guy I know. He had a horrible day. He forgot his shoes and was a little late. He flatted and messed up his chain on the pre-ride. Changing the flat became an adventure as the tire exploded off the rim with a simple tube swap. He was stung by a bee on the lip seconds before our start. It looked bad at the line and the end of the race it had grown about 10 x in size. He didn't freak out, or start swearing or any dramedy, he just dealt with it was as cool as could be and rode like a champion. Amazing. 

Great seeing everybody out there! Next week we head up to Waterville Valley CX! I am sooo stoked for that race. And then Sucker Brook. It is going to be an incredible double weekend of racing in NH and the long awaited return of Zanc to New England cross racing! Bring extra cow bells and welcome them back in style!!!