Thursday, October 29, 2009

ATX Fuzzy Love

One of the amazing things about Hup is the incredible kit we get. We have incredible designers cooking up phenomenal kit each season. Being a cross focused team we get a summer kit and a cross season kit. Well our cross season kit c'est arrive! And in this bundle of goodness is the piece de resistance. The Long sleeve jerseys in ATX fabric are incredible. I have always loved long sleeve jerseys. I like them a bit more than the jersey/arm warmer combo especially for Fall when the chance of overheating is pretty minimal. If you have never tried Vermarc clothing you haven't lived. Seriously. Their Roubaix fleece is amazing. Vermarc's ATX lining is slightly less toasty than Roubaix fleece but still keeps you nice and comfortable on a 40 degree and rainy seems to breath a bit more too than Roubaix fleece which makes it perfect for this time of year. And for extra style points Vermarc has added a very sexy V for victory (or Vendetta?) charm on the zipper! 

Hup Hup the real cross season is finally here! (well it kind of actually got here 6 weeks ago as it seems like we've had mud since mid-september!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ritual de lo Habitual

Nomar Garciaparra and Troy Palamalu. What do those two pro athletes have to do with a bike blog? They are both complete OCD freaks. I am a shade below those two. Kinda, sorta, barely...I am more a product of my inherent celtic heritage and therefore superstition is in my dna. Big time. I am so superstitious I don't even really know I am doing it half the time. I got a real world reminder just how bad I am when we had some painters over working on the house. They had their ladders up over the garage bays (ie., Man town) I was all kitted up had the Rock Lobster down off the hooks and was ready to roll out of the garage door. Saw the ladders and physically couldn't do it. It wasn't even remotely a safety issue as they weren't up on the ladders at the time. It was kind of like the vampire in those cliched true blood HBO series. Unless the vamp is invited in no matter how much they want to go into the house they physically can not do it. My body would not move forward. It was almost like an invisible force was holding me back. I had to walk back in the house and go out the front door...nice. Did I mention I am 44 years old?

Back to Nomar and Palamalu. In that the two readers of my blog reside in the greater Boston area and are sox fans Nomars OCD Ritual de lo Habitual needs no explanation. Troy Palamalu maybe a little. He literally crosses himself and gives thanks to god after every play. Every play. Not just like the Belgians or Italians at the start grid crossing themselves before the start of a race. Or big Tomeke's medal that was sewn onto his helmet strap at Paris Roubaix this year. Oh you didn't notice that? No it wasn't some big dangly gold earing that was hanging from his ear. Homey is a playa no doubt and surely sports some bling at the Disco but Paris Roubaix is no time for bling. Its time to get all your mojo on the same page or else. Don't know for sure but it was probably a Madonna de Ghisalo medal or saint christopher sewn on for protection. Come to think of it how did he stay upright when everyone else was crashing all around him? The medal for sure...

So I think it boils down to two schools of thought. Nomar is totally OCD. And he is living the title to Jane's Addiction's second album. The title translated from spanish means "the ritual of the habitual." Taking our daily lives and making them sacred. Or taking our addictions and making a ritual of them. Did it help Nomar focus? Probably. Was it cool as all hell? Yeah it was.

Now the other school of thought is pure superstition. That is the camp I fall pretty deeply in. Sure I have a bit of OCD. But a lot of my dna is just old world superstition. If I use the salt shaker for soup its a reflex action to toss some over my left shoulder. See a black cat I cross myself. See a hawk or crow its a sign...not sure what its a sign of but its a sign. Its not all Western perse but most of it probably passed down from my Irish grandmother. I wear a cross. Not cause I am a devout Christian but as a symbol of the spiritual and a time in my life when I felt close to it. I cross myself at the start grid at every race. I say a prayer for all the racers safety and to race with strength and good sportsmanship. Its part spiritual and part habitual. 

That my friends is a sad but beautiful sight. That Mala was on my wrist for 3 solid years.

I still can't get over the fact that on the eve of PVD my 3 year old mala bracelet broke. That has been on my wrist for three solid years! It was made by hand in Shasta California and blessed....and it has given me peace. If you are unfamiliar with a mala they are basically Indian/Yogic prayer beads. The fact that I didn't crawl into a darkened room and stare at a blank wall tells me I am just kind of quirky and not a total nutjob with serious OCD. Sure I had a fantastic race and didn't break any bones (still amazed by that!) but I think its awfully coincidental that since that mala broke I have been sick as a me its not all the h1n1 germs flying around its the bracelet breaking...its like all my power and strength left me when that bracelet fell apart.

I could go on and on but I fear I may be losing what ever readers I had of this blog as they now realize just what a whack job I really am. I will try and maintain some grasp on a modern mans sensibility. But I can't guarantee that I won't revert back to the old ways at Canton on one of the most important days on the Celtic calendar.... for now each time I watch a Steelers game and am amazed at what an incredible safety Troy Palamalu is I'll also be struck by how he makes a ritual out of his sport each and every play. Cross for me is that ritual. Wether its the repetitive mantra of doing barriers over and over again, or tweaking my Paul's brakes til they are perfect, fresh white tape before a big race, massaging in the embro every ride its all one crazy ritual that helps me get my cross on.

How hot is that PBS stamp? So hot!

FMB Grippo's Racing Ralph tread meets Francois supple casings. I kind of want to just sleep with them under my pillow for a few nights before racing em...

I still don't agree with Paul on this one (but they are his design so he wins this argument!) my Rock Lobster is WAYYY better than bacon!

And yes while I have now freed myself of the burden of my OCD behavior I do harbor a rubber and sock fetish...but don't we all. Wait, don't we all? Ok perhaps that is for another post.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Through sickness and in health

For just $10 Tire Alert reglued a fresh base tape on my defective Rhyno. How they afford to do it so cheap and fast is beyond me...

Yeah ok so my real name is Donald...whatcha gonna do? How did I go from Donald to chip? Hard calling that little bundle of joy Donald...Donnie? no way not Waspy enough... sure let's go with chip....great. Chip suits me, it keeps me young in my estimation. If I was Donald I'd just be another fat, out of shape townie Pats fan...not that there is anything wrong with that. The past twelve days have been an epiphany. I don't know how to be sick anymore. Seriously. I got sick right after PVD and just freaked out. The cold took me down pretty hard but instead of just giving in to it and resting and doing what my body wanted me to do...sleep. I panicked. I wanted drugs, I wanted tests. I wanted to be better I sound like some spoiled child...yeah that was pretty much me. 

After a week I surrendered. What helped? Well for one thing my coach. How funny is that? Most people think a coach is all about plans and the training. No he hit me with so much good healthy advise I realized just how bad I have been taking care of myself the last year. I am fueled on coffee and sugar. I am 44 years old and a stay-at home parent with two small kids in my care. Its is amazing I haven't gotten sick up to this point. So thanks to Al I've hit the reset button. The second half of the season starts in 10 hours. Sunday morning I am getting on the cross bike with its fresh tape, fresh record chain, fresh cables and housing and riding a tranquilo 3 hrs on some kick ass trails and roads through dover and sherborn. 

Its killed me to miss these brutal mudder conditions that everyone has been reveling in. The rain is pouring outside of my window as racers sleep (or drink belgian beer!!!) awaiting another heavy course. It is Rhyno weather and the tubie gods have smiled on me. Tire Alert did their magic and sent my defective tire back looking better than ever. That bad boy is getting glued up and ready for Putney's greasy dropoff. Molly has hooked me up with Thor's hammer of tubular mud tires! A pair of 32 FMB/ Grippos is heading my way from PDX via France. Those will be glued up and ridden hard...cannot even wait to see how a racing ralph tread on Francois' supple casing works on the nasty frozen tundra of Sterling and NBX....I pray for the mud and snow each day as some kind of cross hail mary....I hope my body remembers how to push those pedals in circles....

Something wicked this way comes from PDX/France!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The icing on the Hupcake

Belgie Hupcakes from G-star tailgater photo by Lodrina

How did half the season just go by in a blink of an eye? That's how cross season goes--one second you are scouting out secret training spots and the next thing you know you are breaking down the bike for winter storage. And that is why we spend so much time sweating the details all year for this small glorious window of cross season. 

I am taking a little unplanned break this weekend thanks to a nasty chest cold that took me down Tuesday after PVD. I felt great racing saturday, sunday I wasn't even tired, went on a nice Columbus day road ride with my wife and the kablaam full on chest cold. Not a shocker considering how sick my kids have been all fall..held out as long I could...

But as bummed as I am about missing what is lining up to be an epic (dare I say it? in this case its applicable) weekend of cross racing in New England its also given me a moment to reflect. We have at last count 6 cross races this weekend within a 2 hr drive of Boston. Some say this is not a good thing, maybe, but it gives us CHOICES. Imagine that. And the diversity of these races and courses couldn't be greater. Pick your poison. The weather is going to play a serious factor at some of these venues. Take a technical course like Mansfield Hollow and throw a ton of rain at it or maybe snow and look out man it is going to be a course that will surprise some people...better be prepared for a mudder...this will not be a grass crit that I kills me that I won't be there to suffer in the trenches with the rest of the mudders. I love it when it gets nasty.

This has been such a very different season for me. Last year was so much fun. It was my first year on Hup and it was great. But this year has been so much better. We are so tight as a group right now. Big changes for me...the 45+ A's have been a big jump up and I am digging it. Being on Hup has brought my game way up. Sort of funny that an old guy like me is learning sooo much from all these young guys. Mountain biking has played a huge part in getting me ready for cross season this year. And really I only tapped 1 % of its potential. But Weds Night Time Trial Club and Rosey's impromptu assaults on Cutler gave me a solid base to help me not feel totally over my head in the A's. I hired a coach. That is shocking. I have been unabashed in admitting I am uncoachable. But Al and Adam have been the anti-coach coaches. It doesn't always have to be about power meters, heart rate monitors and strict adherence to plans etc...Al has a plan man but its more special ops than rigid military style basic training and he is almost telepathic in his ability to say the right thing at the right time...scary as I have only been working with Al for 8 weeks. 

The "new" cross bike has made a real difference this year. I got my Rock Lobster 3 weeks before the season ended last year and never really got a chance to maximize its potential. I loved it straight away but never had time to dial it in. This year. Oh my god. The bike is incredible. It is light, its stiff and it just rails the cross course. I have been loving my Ksyriums and the FMB/Fangos. 25 psi never felt so sweet. The great thing about it is its not stoopid light the parts are picked for one reason they work. Not because they are the sexiest or lightest but that they have proven to work season in and season out. And yes its all campy except for the cranks which are shimano d/a with a d/a 46 t big ring...campyphiles will cringe but the bearings on the Ultra-torque cranks are not durable enough for cross racing. D/A are buttery smooth and you install em and forget em.
David Wilcox sporting the Yo Eddy inspired Geekhouse kit
One of the cooler aspects of this season has been the proliferation of new kit and teams like Geekhouse and Svelte. Those Geekhouse kits! Yikes. As a friend said recently "its like a unicorn puked up a rainbow." I like the kit but I can see the point. But man that is a cool team. Three of my favorite people are on that team, Jeff, Lo and Dave. Such cool cats, so strong and just nice to be around...

The Svelte guys are just animals and look so PRO its ridiculous. I didn't even know they'd recruited Peter Sullivan into their squadra! Good pick up as he is so friggin strong and just getting stronger. If he could just stop hurting himself! We've talked ad nauseum on forums etc about the new Verge categories. Its effect on the New England race scene is still to be determined but the guys who manned up and upgraded to 2 and are racing with TJ and Jon Page et all get huge respect from me. Seriously if you cross paths with David Wilcox, Cort Cramer, Colin Reuter, Kevin Sweeney, PVB and a bunch of the other guys who I don't know as well you better shake their hand and say job well done. Because those guys are heros. We all bitch and moan about staging and callups etc but try racing with Tim fricking Johnson bearing down on you like the Borg mothership about to absorb you into the hive. Those 2's are badasses.

Getting way to sentimental here for just a quick recap of the season so far. It must be the dayquil...the directions said every 4 hrs...maybe I have been doubling up a bit. I swear if this cold isn't gone by Sunday I am going to be on more drugs than Elvis...last bit. The next 9 weeks are going to be incredible. Certainly if the weather continues in this vein we are going to see a real cross season unfold....Hup Hup good luck to everybody racing this weekend

Sunday, October 11, 2009

So you wanna be a Rock Superstar?

Graham and Rosey on Hallowed ground
Got to star in a cross reality show called hang with the pro and learn how to ride fast even if you are old, fat and slow...The secret to getting fast? Hanging out with fast people. Seriously. They just do everything better, different and faster. Shit even their directions to their houses are tight and PRO as hell...when they say .3 miles you damn better believe it is .3 miles. 

Rode down to PVD (that's what the cool kids are calling Providence these days to me it just sounds weird kinda like PDX envy) with a PRO riding shotgun. Got down wicked early to get said pro to volunteer sign in for the event. Yes you read that right. And yeah I don't know too many pros that would volunteer to do reg for an event at 8 am in the morning when their race is at 2 in the afternoon. That is a dude that loves cross period. Anyhoo apparently they had enough volunteers and they cut him loose. I just won the lottery! Resultsboy looks over to me and says ok man kit up let's go ride the course. Hell Yeah! 
Hup has added some flair to that tailgate. Damn that is a sexy banner

So we go get kitted up and I learn PRO tip #1 the Fifth pin! OMG I hope I haven't broken some secret pro handshake about how they go faster but this may be it. The fifth pin rocks. Where does the fifth pin go? Do I look stupid? I am not divulging that kind of information on the internet? You have to figure that out for yourself my friend.

We head out and bump into Dave Wilcox. So I follow Resultsboy and Dave around the course just shredding. Colin is laying down some lines in the corners that are just like riding a rollercoaster. My teammate DJ Robert sees this display cuts the course and rolls up and is like Baker what the hell are you doing chasing pros around you have to race in 30 minutes...true Dj true but to get to Valhalla you have to ride with Vikings my friend. But he was kinda right. If I had a heart rate monitor on it would have been firing off like a swarm of angry bees...we hit the pavement and those guys were just gone anyway. It was for the better. But PRO tip #2 do those pre-ride laps fasssstttt! And find the tight lines. That shit pays dividends.
Chris Kings' new Cielo bikes are gorgeous! Here's a 29er w/integrated headset

I went back to the car and put on the Blanco. For some reason there seems to be some Blanco shyness going on in the NE. I can't understand why my teammates feel uncomfortable hanging out in a skintight white skinsuit around 1,500 complete strangers. My fans have an insatiable lust for it and frankly it is just plain faster than Blue. Got down to the start grid saying kevin's Mantra in my head "they all want to kill you, they all want to kill you." They really do as a point of fact but it is funny when you embrace that simple concept you do go faster. Fight or flight instinct I guess..

Ahh Verge much for fast prereg'ng in the A's and the race before the race. There were 30 guys called up before we got to us lowly it should be I guess. I slotted in right behind Brian Mcinnis. Again you want to go fast get close to fast guys. Brian is F'n fast!!! More on that later. Somehow I got a great start. Somehow? Colin's friggin hot laps had supercharged my legs is how. Surfed the inside line and was top 20 through pit row. 

Rode clean and in contact all the way around to the pavement. That's were I realized I was going to puke. I pulled back off the accelerator just enough to breathe and get my shit together and keep fighting. The course was incredible. Same one (basically) as the Natz course. Roller coaster crazyiness that rocked, 3 runnups, crazy ass 180 dismounts, and a bad ass high speed double barrier into off camber. Pro tip #3 Thank you facebook and Curtis Boivin! Curtis posted up a picture of the double barrier into off camber descent on fb. I saw that shit and was oh that is going to be a selection right there. I went out thursday with the pvc barriers set up as good a copy as I could and did it over and over again.

Had some really good battles. Got kind of cocky when we saw 3 to go and as we were coming into the 180 downhill dismount to big runnup I chopped the leader in my group to get ahead of them on the runnup. I didn't chop him out I just carved a wicked inside line to get ahead of him and he was never in any difficulty...I think...anyhoo I carved the shit out of that corner, got off fast and shouldered the bike and clunk...clunk? oh fuck I dropped the chain. Karmic bitch slap upside the head for my asshole move. 10 guys pass me right there as I am fiddling with my chain. (oh and chain? that's it for you my friend 2 drop chains in 2 weekends equals new shorter sexier chain next week!)
My good friend Jay Sycip from the PacNW haven't seen him in years. And he's exactly the same old super cool dude I remember and is doing an amazing job at Chris King

Ron is screaming in my ear from over the tape to get my ass moving...I get back on it and try and catch back on. When I come around toward the pit I see Brian in the pit. Not good cause he should be up in the front chasing the big guns...he comes out just as I am doing the 180 and he gets in front and just kicks it into gear. I chase him around for the next two laps and get a clinic in how to be fast. We pass guys. We drop guys. As we come through on the final lap and hit the pavement he drops it should be. 

What a day of cross! The best course in the US for cross? I haven't raced them all but from what I've seen? Hands down the best. Huge props to Richards Fries and Tom Stevens for making this happen. We got to race on Hallowed ground. I hope it grows and becomes a fixture on our New England Cross calendar maybe it can be the Superprestige or Overisje to Glousters New England worlds? Who knows but it was a huge success and can only get better. 

Best quote of the day? "Those embro kits are pretty" "Yeah I said pretty, there I said it" says my slightly drunk teammate..hilarious. Hup had a hardknock day. I don't even know what the finally beatdown was. 2 broken chains, 1 flat? 2 flats? Some stacked fields on a heavy selective course took its toll. But man my brothers and sisters fight the good fight! A big Hup Hup to all who raced! 

See you next week!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Lion of Lowellenberg

Take a close look at that photo...seriously. Look at the face. That is pure Ballan or Cipolini right there. The teeth. The grimace. Is it a smile? A grind your back molars to powder pain face? An I am going to devour my opponents and this race course roar? Its all of that and more. I owe a lot to this man. If you don't know him the rider pictured in these photos is a Mr. Yash Katsumi. He is the Director Sportif of Hup New England and my good friend. 

The first time I met Yash was under somewhat mixed refresh my memory I googled Falmouth eco-cross 2005 results. God bless the internet. Memory banks refreshed by virtue of the tale of the tape. I was born here in Boston. Raised between a two-headed Hydra of Roslindale and Needham. I fled New England right after college to pursue the American Dream out West. 

After over a decade long Odyssey I returned to the motherland. I came back with a pretty big attitude. I was about 100% sure that Boston and New England sucked ass. Northern California was the promised land period. And if you weren't going to live in or near NorCal really the only other option for you was the PacNW. Why would you live anywhere else for God's sake?

In a huge twist of irony I left a total mecca for cycling (Boston) with no clue about the culture and the riding and riders that was literally out my back door and moved 3,000 miles away to ignite a passion that has held me in its death grip for almost 2 decades. But I am getting way off track here. You get the point though right? I was a douchebag prodigal son returning to shitty old Boston and mouthing off at every opportunity about how great California was. 

I felt like I was a pretty good cross racer out in Norcal. I was on a team of pretty fast guys. I knew Tom Ritchey and a bunch of other luminaries out West, and was tight with all the cool cats in Santa Cruz. How hard could cross be in Boston right? I knew nothing....

So I go down to Falmouth to Eco-cross circa Oct 2005. I line up front row at the Masters race. Get a fantastic start. Maybe 5th wheel when BAM!!! I get wheel chopped right before the singletrack. I hit the deck hard come up pissed and watch the entire field go by. Nice, welcome to New England west coast guy.....

This is were Yash comes into the story. I wasn't feeling so good about that wheel chop. In fact I was pretty pissed. But as I walked up to the pit to get my wheels kind of fuming, a super nice guy asks me about my Sycip kit. Seems real friendly. We strike up a conversation and hang out in the pit for a while just talking about cross and bikes. I end up having a great day and totally forget about getting chopped. That is the effect Yash can have on you. Cross could have gone one or two ways for me on that day. I could have just gotten all pissed off and said F this its not worth it. Yash without even trying showed me the right way. Do it with class. Have fun. Enjoy hanging out at the race as much as the race itself.

Over the last year, really since the picture above was taken of Yash at Lowell last year, Yash has been plotting and scheming on how to elevate Hup NEs game. He brought the whole concept of the Hup Hardman rides to bear. He got me to race Battenkill! My god that in itself is incredible. His leadership style is hard to explain. You end up doing things on a bike that are wayyyy beyond what you are capable of because its done within the context of Hup it is achievable because of the team concept. One Hup finds another. It doesn't get any purer than that. He brings us all together for these incredible rides. Fosters competition and delivers the goods. 
Two of our Cat 4s break out seasons are perfect examples of this. Not to take anything away from their own hard work because they put in the miles and did the training. But what Jeff Bramhall and Robert Hale have accomplished so far this season is in huge part due to Yash's tutelage. I don't mean to embarrass Yash in any way by being so effusive, he is very modest, but it just hit me this weekend when we were all racing at New England World's and doing fantastic that we all owe a lot to Yash. 

We've been getting a bit shelled with the new elite Verge categories (who hasn't?). I am way over my head in the 45+ but to be honest not as over my head as I thought I'd be. I don't feel totally out of place. That's all thanks to Yash. What I also have to thank Yash for is his never ending sense of style and panache! If you would have told me I'd wear a white skinsuit racing cross a year ago I'd say your crazy. But there's Yash looking like a badass in a white skinny at Quad and well I guess I am going back to the car and putting on Blanco! And damn if that Blanco doesn't make you go wayyyy faster! 

That's it Yash will probably kill me for going on like this but it had to be said. Thanks Yash. I mean it. No way I'd be feeling this strong this season without the pastry rides, the Hardman rides, 6-hrs of Pats Peak, Battenkill and Blanco!! I personally can not wait to see the Lion roar again! Hup Hup

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Best CX Tailgate Evah!!!

Hup Director of Hospitality @ the start line happy that in 2 short hrs he'll be eating smoked turkey and bacon!

Hup had a plan for G-star this and utter domination on the race course? Sure that is nice and all but what people really remember is a good party right? The answer became oh so clear a week ago at Blunt...Tailgater! G-star was the launch of the Hup tailgater v 1.0 it was a HUGE success thanks to so many people. But Hup Director of Hospitality Eli Levine deserves the biggest shout out! 

My god the man took my mere suggestion of tailgater and cranked it up to 11! I get the feeling he's done this before. At 6:45 sunday am I got a call on my cellie. He was telling me he got THE SPOT! and oh did he! 100 yards right below the start/finish area on a grassy knoll overlooking the entire lower half of the venue! 

To top it off he brought a weber grill on which he roasted/smoked the best turkey I've ever tasted in my life. Kudos to Eli and so many others that were a huge help. It was awesome to see so many friends with their families just hanging out having fun. Gretchen made a Fab cheese cake that was consumed in record time! 
Rosey's post race recovery smoked terdurken!

We had some visiting dignitaries of epic proportion! One Maxwell Kullaway, OG Hupster, former Seven frame builder extradonaire and now of 333Fab fame, flew all the way out from Seattle to catch New England Worlds. He is such a cool guy. It was so awesome meeting him, hanging out, and drooling over his 333fab bike which is beyond words...I also got to meet The Faticus in person! Again total cx royalty in my mind...ok now this is getting way longer than I'd planned. Full report later I just wanted to give thanks to all who made the tailgate possible and all those who came by and hung out with us and made it the best day of cross tailgating evah! 
Max post race! He layed down some of the sickest high speed line changes I have ever seen in my life! He is a cross ninja no doubt about it
A personal confession this is the ONLY time I have ever stayed for a full day of cross. Usually with my insane life of family commitments etc its get in, race and book it home before the kids destroy the haus and DSS is called in...Seeing a whole days worth of cross was amazing. And G-star especially. The racing was incredible in all categories but watching the pro woman and mens race was phenomenal. Jonathan Page in person! My god how does it get any better than that!

Last  of the shout outs I swear: Matt Simpson rockin it!!! Rosey riding like a man possesed, The Haler-Hups own 4 assassin! Hole shot prime of $20 cash paid out in full! 3rd place sacrificed to appease his teammates lust for speed! Eli--dude rockin' it on the race course and off! Svelte, Embrocation, Spooky, Pedros, Geekhouse, Planet Bike, G-willi, CB, god cross fucking rules!!! See you all in Providence.

333Fab in the Haus!