Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spot Brand Longboard

On Saturday's Frozen Caryl Park/Hale reservation ride one of the MRC guys showed up on a sweet Spot Brand belt driven 29er single speed. According to the rider it was a wedding present from his wife! Can you imagine? I am admittedly in a bit of a bike crush phase right now. Its hard not to crush on bikes these days as people have finally broken out of the Trek/Specialized/Cannondale cookie cutter bike mode and are buying bikes with dare I say it soul. Well this bike has a ton of soul.
Sweet belt drive single speed love

29er Nokians! That's some big meaty rubber with studs to keep you upright on an icy day.
Pearl White with sparkling blue accents. Very classy

What's this little detail? According to Michael Lowry the lucky rider of this bike its a adapter to hold onto his dog's leash so he can walk the dog while riding. How crazy is that?

Very sweet bike and another of those bikes that just catch your eye and make you say nice....god I love all things two wheeled at this point

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Frozen Chosen

My sincere apologies to the 1st Marine Division and my Marine friends. There was nothing funny about the Chosin Reservoir. But the headline just popped into my brain and it just fits for this post. David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter is one of those tales that just sticks with you. We throw around the word epic and think of how hard we are as bikers riding in winter. But this book tells an epic in the tradition of Homer and is the definition of hardman. Even if you are a total pacifist read that book and you'll get a glimpse of what tough is.

Speaking of tough men. I bumped into Rob Bauer at Natasha's pedalpowerphotography show last week and we talked about how closely our lives parallel each other right now. Plans were quickly hatched for riding. I got an email this week about trying to ride mtn bikes in the woods near Caryl Park and Hale Reservation. I was so stoked. Turns out a couple of other MRC riders decided to brave the Jens Factor HC conditions as well. The temperature dials in our cars read 10 degrees F at 10:30 am as we kittted up (well smartly everyone was kitted up already!) and got the bikes ready to roll.

It was a small but tight crew. Rob Bauer who is tough as nails, Art who I've know for about 5 years and is a super tough mtn biker and an MRC'er I haven't met before named Michael Lowry. Now I am in a bit of a bike lust phase. Well I am always in bike lust, maybe its more like having bike crushes as I love seeing new and different bikes. Well Michael brought a real interesting bike to the ride. He had a Spot Brand Longboard 29er ss with a belt drive! How cool it that! Rob was on a single speed as well. And Art was on a full suspension Specialized.

Having ridden these woods a million times I had a pretty good idea of what we'd be dealing with. Basically soft powder with a sheet of ice under it waiting to rip our bikes out from under us! Even with my Nokians I was a bit apprehensive of crashing really hard. But Art and Rob showed zero fear on their big fat non studded tires. Art crashed super hard first turn onto the trail. But these guys like I said before are tough as nails and it didn't seem to phase them at all. In fact, if I didn't know they weren't on studded tires I never would have guessed. Those two have some serious Ninja skills on the mtn bikes! And railed over the ice with very few crashes considering the peril lurking under the crusty powder.
The ride was beautiful. The conditions were perfect. The trail was fast and 90% rideable which is a gift in the middle of winter. Sure a half hour into the ride my fingers were frozen solid. But everyone who rides in winter has been there before. You just ball them up in a fist and they thaw out....eventually. After an hour truthfully I wasn't even cold. I was having so much fun chasing Rob on his single speed that I wasn't even noticing how cold it was. We did a crazy loop all through some great single track in Caryl Park and Hale. Between the three of us we knew just enough to put together a great loop without getting lost. We even rode the beach!
I have to say if I ride with these guys more often I may actually get some dirt riding skills. At one point I was following Rob over this bouldery technical section. A little up and over and down and in and I was thinking to myself wow what a great line. Then I hear Rob say under his breath "oh shit" Next thing I know he drops off the rock! No time to think and I just do the same thing. It was awesome! I never would have even tried that on my own. The single track was way less icy than the firetrails so we stuck to those. It made for a way more fun route anyway until Art with his massive watt producing efforts ripped his rear derailler off his bike!

No problem we think who has a chain tool and we'll just make it a single speed. Rob produces a shop quality park chain tool! Snap goes the chaintool pin! Dooohhh. Art just rips the chain apart and takes the derailler off and creates a 26" like-a-bike. It was a hoot actually hiking up and then surfing down the hills. Art forgot one time he didn't have a chain as he was trying to ride up a rock garden and almost ate it pretty bad! That was pretty hilarious in itself.
We got about 2.5 hours in of great riding in the woods on a day that no sane person would think "oh let's go biking." When we got back to the cars the digi temperature dials read 20 degrees! Kudos to those guys for getting me out on the bike and showing me how its done. I have to say I think I like riding my mountain bike more in the winter than summer. It is just such a different experience with all the rocks and ruts covered by frozen ice and snow....its almost like a skate park how you can surf over stuff that would have killed you in the middle of August. Speaking of August there was much talk of 24 hours of Great Glen! Rob and Art have their team "Locked and loaded" as Richard Fries likes to say. Team Hupcake Express must ride again! We had so much fun two years ago. Let's do it! Resumes will be accepted effective immediately. Although some other sucker errr I mean jackrabbit is doing the first lap run around the lake! Don't think of it as a race the whole idea will be to make it a fun excuse to go for a camping trip and hangout.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hup is going to Tabor!

Well a Hup Blanco beenie is! And on one of the icons of New England cyclocross! If you all don't know already Richard Fries is heading to Tabor to call World's. Incredible. I gave him my Hup beenie to keep his head warm and to make sure a bit of Hup travelled to World's. I am soooo stoked for Richard and can't wait to hear all his stories and look at his photos when he gets back! Damn I love that man! He has done so much for New England and our sport. Hup Hup Richard kill it in Tabor!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Circle A Love

Not often you get to see a bike like this in person! Words won't do it justice so I am just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. But my God Circle A is producing some gorgeous machines. There are two things that blew my mind about this bike. Number one is obvious its sheer beauty and attention to detail is staggering in its genius. But almost more importantly above its sex appeal is that it not only looks good but is fast! Who would think a "show" bike with racks and fenders could be such a fast road machine? That is the magic of this bike. That's it I will shut up now and just let the bike speak for itself. Enjoy!
Take note of the tire cleaning device on the fenders!
Another look at the fenders and the tire cleaner

Now racks and fenders may not be something to get all crazy about but look at the functionality and beauty of what you have here, pure genius. No sks crap here!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wanted: Swiss Nanny

Hup is desperately seeking a nanny to watch over our devo squadra this fall/winter. Job requirements include a fluency in either Flemish or French and the ability to teach said language to our young charges. You will need to be able to operate efficiently in the field, ie literally in the fields of Vt, NH, Mass and Rhode Island. Weekends are mandatory. Candidates with an aversion to mud, rain, snow, vomiting or crying need not apply. Knowledge of the Belgian handshake and/or the Belgian method of gluing expensive french tubulars onto carbon rims a plus.

Knowing the difference between chamois creme and desitin critical and having both in your messenger bag at all times a must. Responsibilities include maintaining a secure perimiter around the Hup tailgater. No one comes in or out without your knowledge. Use of the buddy system may be acceptable with our 9+ devo squad members assuming there is a secured playset or we are at Putney were all rules go out the window its Vermont for god sake nothing can go wrong up there they are a bunch of hippes. Gameboys, Iphones, google phones, paging, texting, tweeting and all other distractions including Vogue magazine, The Twilight series and Kindles are strictly forbidden. What you do monday-Friday is your concern. Sat am -Sunday evening all eyes and ears will need to be focused on our little darlings so we can race cross worry free.
All kidding aside Hup is in the midst of a baby boom! Congrats to all my brothers and sisters out there who are either pregnant or have recently given birth. I've been there. Times two. And it is an amazing time in your lives. Kids are the greatest gift in our lives. I know what most of you are thinking--the 2010 cross season is ovah! Kaput. Done. No my friends not at all. Cross is the perfect sport for a family. Seriously. Yes you may have to scrap your plans of Rapha style epics as that is decidedly not family friendly. Nor is road racing. Mtn bike racing probably isn't either. But your loss is crosses gain. Think about it. You'll be fresh. Sleep deprivation will build character. All the things you used to obsess about before a cross race will seem trivial. And frankly that hr you are racing you will bring some old man power to bear that people have never seen in you before.

Cross is all about being specific anyway. You don't need big miles and 20 hour weeks to be good at cross. I'll take 6 hrs of laser focused training over mega miles any day. All you need is short and sharp and some serious desire to bring the pain. I remember when we had our first daughter nine years ago. My Sycip teammates signed me up for 24 hrs of laguna seca as kind of a joke. The joke being I hadn't ridden with them all season and they assumed I would crack and be their support crew. Haha the joke was on them. I broke it down. Ok what do you need to be good at a 24 hr race? A total lack or need or a want of sleep. Check. I had that in spades. Once you have been woken up every two hours to feed an infant (or help feed an infant) it toughens you up.

Frankly you begin to realize maybe you didn't need all that sleep you were getting before. Ok so I had the ability to basically stay up for a solid 24 hrs. The next business was the riding. I knew long rides were out. But like cross a team 24 hr race is a sprint event. You do one 1 hour lap every 4 hours. Great Zoe became a bit of a kitchen timer to when I needed to ride. After helping out with Zoe I would hop on the trainer for an hour. Did that 4-5 times a day. It was hilarious. My teammates cracked so hard it was ridiculous. The wheels fell off the wagon around 2 am. They say that if you want to do a surprise attack in a war that is the time to do it. People's biorythyms just natural tap out at that time of night. Two teammates dropped out saying they were too tired. Too tired? Are you kidding me I thought I hadn't slept in about 3 weeks at that point.
By the morning it was down to three of us from the original 5. I had literally had no sleep the entire night helping our one solo rider with food and kit. I also helped Jay Sycip cook up his infamous tequila Chili! That experience was such a wake up call and an affirmation that you know what kids are awesome. They don't slow you down at all. You just have to train smart. Cross is all about training smart. But have no fear. Us old guys are plotting already. Yes I may have to cave and import a Swiss nanny, or in a bind maybe Dutch nanny but definitely not Austrian, Australian or French nanny that just never ends well....

Congrats to all my Hup teammates far and wide with new families! We've got you covered and are already plotting and scheming to make 2010 awesome. Bring the kids to the race, we'll set up shop in the tent or perhaps we'll get an airstream camper and have a traveling Hup daycare service for cross racers. Come to think of it we could make some serious cash money with this ponzi scheme. Forget the racing in 2010, next year we offer child care and Belgian waffles and coffee at all the Verge races we'll be rolling in cash money!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"The woods are lovely dark and deep,"

"but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep" Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening of course. So much to love in my biker life this week. I am at least two posts behind but a January Hup training ride trumps all. At Natasha's Pedal Power art show mid-week Hup may have let the moment get the better of us. It was sooo awesome to be together for the first time since cross season. Nat's party was really a great night of art, friends and talking bikes and riding.
Sunday's ride was born of Natasha's plentiful beer stash and much biker love! We got the word out, invited some Vip quests and crossed our fingers that the weather God's promise of 41 and sunny would bear out. The list of who was on our dance card was impressive. Richard Fries, Sarah Bresnick, Rosey, Yash, Graham,, Eli, some new faces. 12 riders strong met up at Peets in Lexington. We rolled out at a pretty brisk pace as it was about 20 degrees colder than advertised at our 9 am departure. We had an early test of the steely nerves of the squadra as we descended in a paceline at about 25 mphs across a bridge covered in black ice! You know what no one flinched. That's what happens when you have a patron like Richard Fries policing the front! No one, and I mean no one touched their brakes. The only indication of our imminent demise was the whispered call of "ice" coming back six rows of riders. We sailed across it carved a quick right turn without missing a beat! Now that my friends is PRO. And why I trust these people with my life.
Seal Team 6 member Markie Mark earned his stripes today. He had plotted an intercept course to meet up with us at Nagog hill. We stopped for one minute and bailed on him! Sorry Mark! It was way too cold to wait. We got back up to speed and were flying in the paceline again when we see a streak of Hup bleu coming at us from out of the sun. Well really emerging from the fog as we never did see the sun on this day. The whole group was like a wolf pack welcoming a wayward alpha back into the pack! Much hooting and hollering as we passed each other at about 25 mph on opposite sides of the double yellow. Mark did a quick u-turn and was back in the group in a heartbeat.

Most of us were on our cross bikes or winter bikes. Graham was rocking a badass Seven Axiom in a black and white paintjob. Don't know if that was a "loaner" or a new bike. I need to hear more! After about an hour and half the group splintered up a bit. Graham and Richard had to peel off before Strawberry Hill, then the 45+ contingent had to beat an early exit to get back to playoff football! Granted our quick coffee at Peets post ride turned into about an hour of loitering and talking about cross 2010! Some big things coming! Man if half of it comes to fruition it will be totally off the hook. For a three hour ride I was pretty deep in bonky town! From the emails and tweets it sounds like everyone was eating through their entire houses! A Qdoba fajita steak burrito finally made me feel human again!

Graham seems pretty happy with that Axiom he is rolling on! I am going to need a full report asap. As far as my ride I am still blown away at what a great bike my easton 7000 series Rock Lobster cross bike is. Hmmm it really has me thinking I need to get my act together and dial up some sweet goodness out of Santa Cruz asap. Maybe in Scandium this time?
Yash looks a wee bit cold here. But the man is HOTT! And his new Zanc looked like a orange creamsicle just glowing in the winter haze like a beacon to follow over hill and dale. Thanks to all who made the "first" team ride of 2010 so kick ass. More to come! Next stop Otis AF Base! Can't wait for the next team ride. Hup Hup

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bandit racing anyone?

Ok so here it is I am going to just come out and say it. They have more fun in California and the PacNW than we do. Its true. We are just too damn serious back here in New England.

Its in our dna and was imprinted upon us by those damn puritans and their Mayflower. See if "we" didn't kick the British out we'd be a lot more fun trust me. The Puritans were the boring ones. We can say we are so liberal blah, blah, blah. Sure MLK and Malcolm X both hailed from Boston but so does Scott Brown...dohhh. But I digress.

The point is we need to have a bit more fun so we can get a bit more serious when it matters. Dieter's annual Battenkill viral marketing campaign exposed some interesting things...oh wait you don't think Dieter uses the blog forums as marketing? What you think he's just a hot head attacking random bloggers cause he feels threatened? No way. It is a calculated approach to drum up interest for his race. Its not unlike the election we just had. How many people who said they'd never race BK voted with their money and signed up to race? A lot.

But one thing that did come out of the whole BK mess was that people clearly want to get some rides together that maybe aren't "races" The Grasshopper series in Norcal is amazing. Granted they benefit from a totally different geography than what we have. In Norcal once you get out of the city limits you hit beautiful open space. On the east coast we have crazy sprawl. Out in Norcal its population dense then open space. Its gorgeous and ideal for this type of riding/racing.

But how about it. What if we do it. Yash's hardman series primed the whole squadra for cross season last year. It built comradery among the team, it built strong legs and strong character, and we had some real laughs along the way. Remember when I crashed climbing on Ronnies and Tom's ride? Oh god it was hilarious. I was so blown up I literally couldn't stay upright and collapsed into the mud. Yash laughed really hard at me as he rode over me...

So I know RMM wanted to cook something up. Rosey has a great vision for a ride. Gwilli what you got in RI? Something Hilly with some teeth maybe? Ronnie can you dial up that ride again? Paging all interested parties. Seriously lets do this. Make it a 4 ride series. And let's see if we can build something. We can model it around the Spring Classics if we want or we can do our own thing. One ride must be on cross bikes though that is a given.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Captain America

What a season for TJ and the Cannondale/ boys. Tim Johnson has really been my favorite America cross racer forevah. I love his style of riding. Love that he is so tough. Love that is sooo down to earth and cool. I became an even bigger fan about two years ago when my friend Eli and I flew out to the USGP finals at PDX on the same plane as Stu and the boys. We arrived into PDX late and exhausted. TJ was with Stu and Lynne and Georgia Gould and a whole entourage. We were all waiting in the baggage claim for our bike boxes, etc. TJ was sooo normal. Just easy to talk with. Once he heard we were from Boston he livened up a bit and was just super cool to us. That made a big impression and solidified my superfan admiration.
Suffice it to say I was soo stoked when he won Natz in Bend. His twitter feed kept promising good things for his stars and stripes kit that Stu was cooking up. But frankly the US National Championship kit has become a bit of a freak show of late. Don't know if its the USAC factor. Has to be. But come on people! We have some good stuff to work with here you just have to put your heart into it! Well when Lyne's & Andrew's pictures trickled out of Santa Cruz from the Aptos surf city race I was so stoked! Yes that is how you do it! Send Captain America over the pond to represent! We don't need some Tommy Hilfiger wannabe getup. We want Superheroes!

It brought back so many memories as well. Aptos is a crazy cross course. One year I did it it was so muddy you literally had to crawl up one of the runnups. I think I had one gear the whole race but it was the one and only time I ever beat my arch rival Evan Adams. That was also the first time I ever realized being a mudder was a good thing. And that being a mudder on a heavy day meant one thing-Payback for all the beatings those fast skinny roadies gave you all season long!
This last weekend as I was checking twitter I noticed all these weird tweets about a superfan rider card contest. I so almost didn't participate as I figured there is no way I could win. But it was TJ and JPow I had to at least give it a shot. Lyne from Podium Insight has a really great thing going right now. Lyne did hands down one of the best interviews ever of Adam Myerson a while back. She is a fantastic photographer and a great journalist. Didn't take much to prompt me to follow her twitter feed and frankly it was a really savvy viral marketing idea. So I signed up for the contest with about zero confidence in my chance to win.

Well. I won! Holy crap! My shrine to cross just got kicked up to 11! TJ and Jpows cards will join my 2 Molly Cameron cards and my 2 Adam Myerson cards in my altar to all things cross. I am so pumped that we have such an elite group going to Tabor. Its hard to imagine how they will do. But who knows maybe Jpow, Driscoll and TJ can work together and do some damage. Either way this year we are sending some Superheroes to World's and I am stoked!

Andrew of CXmagazine took this great photo of Tim Johnson running the barriers at Aptos!
Post World's party at world HQ? Oh yes Hup will be attending this in black tie affair. Hopefully we will be celebrating either way we'll be lifting our glasses high in the air for a fight well fought!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I heart Twitter

Yeah so all those people who were like Twitter is stupid. What a waste of time. Yeah its such a waste of time Kim Kardashian just got paid $10,000 a tweet. Holy crap. That is ridiculous. It truly is a new world order and Twitter will be the mouthpiece of this revolution. On a side note does anyone even watch tv or read magazines anymore? Advertising and marketing as we used to know it are dead. RIP old school marketers.

But why do I love twitter? Cause I am not cool and wouldn't know how to be cool if my life depended upon it. But my friends are pretty cool. And are smart. Like scary smart. What ever happened to bikers who were artists and sort of dirtbags. Damn its all IT guys and scientists right now. But I like it cause its making me smarter...well kind of by osmosis anyway. But reason #351 why I heart twitter. All my twitter peeps showing me the good Sporza feeds so we can watch Belgian tv live! I even like the Belgian ham adds. Englebert Humperdink maybe not so much but I digress..

I was reading M&C, one of the OG cross bloggers yesterday and I remembered this moment in Diegem. There is a lot to love about Sven Nys. But this right here is THE reason to love him more now than ever. And frankly if you want to be PRO forget the white tape, fancy top tube decals with your name on it, and sexy white sidis. You want to be PRO be like Sven. And when I say be like Sven I mean older current Sven who is thriving around much younger competition.

In the pictures below Nys just lost his lead in the Superprestige series. He also lost any chance at the overall series. All because his derailler exploded. Did he throw his bike over the barriers, bitch and moan about the course or the spectators? Did he throw Shimano under the bus and blame them for his loss? First thing I thought when I saw that photo was Di2 failure...but he never blamed Shimano. What would Niels have done? Can you imagine the hissy fit he would have had? Remember when Sparticus broke his chain in the spring classics? Not pretty.

This is how you do it. And frankly this is what I am carrying into next season. You don't see Nys yelling and screaming. He's just all business. That my friends is PRO. Next year when you get pissed cause some guy chops your wheel or crashes in front of you zip your pie hole and race. You blow your bike to shit, run it into the pit like a pro and get it straight and get back out there and race. So much to learn from Nys this season. Belgian National Championships seemed over for him midway through. But he stayed calm let the young guys duke it out then moved up a group and blew past them. Did that three times. And the third time he blew by them all for a free and clear victory. It was hilarious to see how his passing the young guys affected their riding. They were crashing each other out all over the place. Can he beat Niels and Stybar at World's? Probably not. But I am rooting for him..well him and Stybar!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mo better raffle for Mo!

I heard about this raffle on the Rhonde de Devolder ride on saturday. I am not usually a gambling man but $200 for a good chance at winning an $8,000 custom Seven cross bike is even making me feel lucky. But dare I say I covet second prize even more than the blinged out cross bike? Gasp it is true. Second prize is a Pedros Master tool kit! Dear god I have always lusted after a PRO tool kit in a briefcase, sure then I'd have to learn how to actually work on my bike but that's a minor detail, all the info is here: MM Racing Raffle

Even if you "lose" you win as the money will help one of the nicest woman in the cross game get over to World's and represent the U.S of A.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Jens Factor

Thanks Graham for forwarding this to me. I know why you did it, really I do. Yes I have become soft. Softer than the entire Quick Step team who seemingly fled Belgium for Spain while Stijn Devolder continues to train in Belgium. In Devloders words " It is not so cold that you freeze on to your bike. You go from a temperature of 0 (Celsius) to minus one and you're not dead. It hardens your character." Hell yeah it does Stijn. He has even done many of his long training rides on his cross bike when there is snow on the roads.

So thanks Graham you are right. I need to quite it with the hot yoga, training in the stankment, looking for indoor trainer rides (wtf? how whack is that?) and harden the fuck up and ride outside. This weekend my brother, this weekend I ride like Stijn!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Get your Art on!

Its been well documented how high up on a pedestal I hold Natasha's photography. When she puts together an art show at one of Boston's shrines to cycling how can you not go? Seriously. I will be there with bells on as they say...

Smokers Part Deux

Ritte Smokers photo by Jay Yoshizumi

Most people's day begins with a cup of joe and reading the New York Times, Boston Globe or grabbing a quick news feed off of CNN or Yahoo. Me, my daily routine is a pot of Peet's Major Dickason's and straight to All Hail The Blackmarket. Everything I need to know for my day is right there. Well everything biker-life related anyway.

I have "known" Stevil forever. His new project AHTBM is incredible. He has basically become the voice of the velorution if that vision includes single speeds, beer drinking, cross races, basically anything full of shenanigans and fun. Not that I was going to anymore but Stevil's new site was the final nail in that coffin.

But I digress. Yesterday I stumbled upon the GREATEST blog post of all time. Seriously. At least from someone on a Belgian inspired team who is obsessed with the style and hardman appeal of all things Belgian and to do with the Spring Classics. Stevil's interview is incredible, go read it before you waste your time on my blog post. My post is really an homage to his greatness which in part is a window into the mad genius behind Ritte Racing.

Even after a few communiques with Spencer Canon at Ritte Racing I am still hugely suspicious. If you ever read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers you'd know that there is no such thing as an overnight sensation. The magic number is 10,000 hours. These guys came out of nowhere seemingly and have put out a gorgeous kit, a bike named the Bosburg that is so damn sexy I can't even think straight when I look at it, and a series of viral youtube videos that are pure comedy. These boys know what they are doing is what I am saying.

Ok so below is my interview with Spencer and an attempt at trying to get to the bottom of what Ritte Racing is all about. Enjoy!

VCB: When you think Southern California you think Hank Moody, strippers, Motley Crue and surfers you do not think Belgian hardmen. Seattle? yes it rains constantly and they are hardmen. Portland Oregon? my god they ooze hardmen with their 'cross scene. New England? The place breaks you before it makes you into the hardest of hardmen. SoCal? Impossible. But you get it. How is this possible. Who are you and where did you come from? Are you the long lost love child of Johan Museeuw?

SC: Hi Chip, thanks for having me. You are even more ruggedly handsome than your blogging suggests.

Yes, you're quite right. Southern California is so cushy that the hardest of men who move here are no doubt softened by the perfect temperatures, beautiful roads and awesome rides. This softness is also partly due to the fact that many of us do a lot of blow with Hank Moody off the naked bodies of blonde, fake-boobed strippers. Though we may slink away when the clouds roll in, I do have to say that California racers are strong as shit and we race hard. We have massive mountains out here and brutally steep climbs. We're not a total loss.

As for me and my Ritte boys… well we're not claiming to be as tough as the guys in Seattle and Portland. I mean, it can get pretty epic trying to find a matching silk Rapha scarf for your carefully coordinated wool jersey… we're still basically pussies. We just recognize our faults and are trying to be a little tougher every day. Some of us are actually from Belgium and England and other spots where cyclists grow up tough, but some of us still have a lot of work to do to become men.

So to answer your questions: One, yes, it is impossible. Two, no, my mother and Johan only dated for a short time and she said his fish couldn't swim.

VCB: Who is Lanolin and what exactly is his role on the team? Is he the Flava Flav of Ritte Racing?

SC: Lanolin is the alter-ego of the owner of Ritte Cycles and Ritte Van Vlaanderen. Spencer rarely drinks, never smokes and is painfully quiet. Lanolin is total son of a bitch who likes to make fun of racers who take themselves too seriously. Lanolin is also a better racer than Spencer, who despite his crisp tan lines is sadly slow.

VCB: The bikes and the kit are sheer magic. My heart races just looking at them. Is this some kind of statement about team Sky? The irony isn't lost on me...Team Sky even look bored at their own team launch. You guys are going to shake some things up aren't you?

SC: Wow, thank you for saying so. My heart races when I look at the bike and really takes off when I'm riding it up a hill for some reason. We designed our bikes and kits to be both handsome and tough. We chose the Belgian colors in homage to the place at the true heart of cycling. So far, riders around the world have gotten pretty exited about our product. So, yeah. I guess we are shaking things up a bit. As for Team Sky, I actually haven't seen their bikes until just today. Very nice I think. Glad they didn't totally screw it up like Astana.

VCB: What has been the local response to all this Belgian love in Southern California? Are they ready for this?

SC: That, Chip, is an interesting question. There is mostly a very positive response to Ritte, our mission and our aesthetic. People are excited to see something different and also want to change the arrogant, Iceman bullshit attitude that pervades the road scene. But there are also those who perceive us as a threat. There are some team directors who are pissed their riders are leaving to race for us and have been calling up sounding like bitter ex-girlfriends. They're so clueless they don't understand why one of their guys would leave them to race for a little nobody upstart like Ritte. As for the other racers on the scene. I think the skeptics will accept some Belgian love when they get their asses handed to them.

VCB: What category will the team be racing? Is the team focused on amateur racing or Pro?

SC: We're currently fielding racers in every category, but the original idea was to just be a Cat 3 road/stage racing squad. I myself am a 3 and I think 3s show a love for racing that the other categories sometimes lack. 3s are the ones who get up early and train their hearts out to win, and still get to work by 9. At the same time, they're almost wholly ignored by the clubs and teams they race for. When all the attention and praise and money is poured into elite squads, the 3s just keep racing for the love of racing. We have added some 35+ ex-pros and elite guys, but they don't take racing for granted either. That's the core of the Ritte attitude. We just love racing. I think we'll do well, but if we get beat by a stronger team, we're not gonna stress about it.

VCB: I see you are heading out to Battenkill this year. Do you guys know what you are getting yourselves into? Do you know how many crashes you will cause from the gawking? I may have to make the trip to just witness this epic display of love for all things Belgie. We will be waiting for you guys at the top of Juniper Swamp road with cowbells and a keg of beer

SC: We are so excited for Battenkill that we may just go ahead and drive up there tomorrow. We're fast, but the dirt is a whole 'nother thing. Unfortunately we're only going to field a small squad in the 3s race, but we are bringing our native Belgian, Jim Downs, who recently came back from racing the Kermesse scene in his homeland.

We'll keep an eye out for you at the top of Juniper Swamp. Can you stick some cash in beer cans so we can pay for the flight back home?

VCB: All Belgian hardmen eventually must do cross. I see from Stevils website that one of your riders took the plunge in uhhh Ritte "kit" those are some damn fine tan lines by the way...What are you and the teams plans for cyclo-cross? Will we see a Ritte Superprestige series popping up in Laguna Niguel? If you guys gain a foothold in Southern california cross in America will never be the same.

SB: Yes. Cross is becoming quite a hit here in SoCal, though usually the course is totally dry and the temperature can get over 100F. That picture is of me, fighting off serious chafing in the Spooky Cross pro race this Halloween. I had this torn up NASCAR shirt and Daisy Dukes that I had to safety pin so my balls wouldn't fall out. Some of us have done a bit of cross. I actually stood on the podium between Elvis and a Stripper at Cross Vegas last year and Jim Downs won the SoCal cross series this season.

Ritte Cycles is planning on releasing a CX bike in time for next season. It will be as badass as the Bosberg and we will for sure come out and represent with it in true cross country next season.

But first we've got to get though this road season. So check back in at though the year. We're going to be documenting our season with videos and stories so everybody can follow the madness.