Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For the love of Luna

Cycling is filled with hero worship. We just got through one of the more exciting Tour de Frances in a while and it was a bit of a look into the how's and why's of cycling adulation. Why do we love Andy Schleck but hate Alberto? Has LA grown the sport or killed it? Has the entire PRO peloton ruined our ability to have cycling heroes? I think heroes still exist in cycling. I do I really do. Its been more apparent to me now than ever. What PRO means to me today right at this minute is very different than what it meant to me even a couple of years ago. The biggest hero that came out of the TDF? Jens Voight. Why do we love him? Cause he is tough, he is funny, he is human and he cares. Ok I have gotten way off track here with this post but I swear I am getting to my point.
Do you know what is PRO? Giving back. And caring about your sport. I have been working with the Luna Chix Pro Team a bit the last couple of months on a fundraiser (http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=11181) Pedro's is doing to support IMBA. The trails matter. Access to the outdoors matters. Racers don't often take the time to give back to the advocacy groups that provide all this access to these amazing open spaces we get to ride our bikes on. We take it for granted. But if you lived through the years when mtn biking was a crime (it still is in lots of places) you wouldn't take for granted the hardwork that a lot of men and women did and do to ensure we can ride freely. Pedro's is proud to sponsor the Luna Team. They are really an amazing group of athletes. And the Pro team is just one part of their greater mission. They have an amazing grassroots team. They support so many ideals that resonate so deeply with us. But back to the team. Partnering with Luna made so much sense. They are a mtn bike team, IMBA is fighting hard for trail access. Perfect.
But usually that is where it ends. But not with the Luna Team. They gave us a great team bike and an autographed jersey. That in of itself is awesome! But when we reached out to Amy Dombroski and Marla Streb and asked for a little more help they didn't even hesitate. I can't say enough about both of these women. They are total class acts and get it. Amy specifically has been so great and hands on about helping out. So here is the big news. In addition to all the great prizes we have to raffle off in our fundraiser thanks to the generosity of the Luna Team and Marla and Amy every person who buys a raffle ticket gets a Luna Team media guide autographed by Amy Dombroski! Talk about awesome!
So basically you cannot lose in this raffle! It is guaranteed. The other big news is we are extending the deadline to September 15th and are in the process of creating a really fun event soon to be announced! Think Beer, Bikes and a certain iconic bike shop on the eastern seaboard.....ok I have already said enough about that.....check out the raffle. Buy a ticket (or two!) get yourself a collectors item from one of the coolest up and coming american bike racers in a long time! Just in time for cross season!

Monday, July 19, 2010

JAMing at the JPow Fundu!

Can I call JD and Meg the first couple of cyclo-cross? Maybe I'd get in trouble saying that. First couple of good times on a bike? How about that that is less likely to upset anyone as you cannot argue that a day with Meg and JD is without compare. JD, Meg and Michele rolling!

I offer this photo post for my non-facebook friends. There are a few of them out there. And I for one support their boycott, blackout or what ever you want to call it. In all instances it makes a LOT of sense to stay the hell away from fb. But you miss out on some nice photo updates etc. So my non-fb friends this is for you! All the gorgeous pictures here are from Lyne at Podium Insight! She does an amazing job. And it was the first time I got to meet her in person. What a funny and super smart and uber-talented woman.
Markie Mark shirt flying game face on looking PRO as hell!

Michele Smith smiling through the pain! As much as the Fundu was super fun make no mistake about it it was a hard ride. And I think it caught us a bit off guard at first. Once we realized hey this is like a mini-Rapha ride we got our game faces on and had a great time even with some time in the pain cave

Jabs!!! Does he look like Laurent Fignon here or what? Granted the hair is shorter but still. Great great day riding with Stephen! What a super cool cat.

That is some pig! Alec Donahue and Mukundu Feldmen getting our dinner ready! Thank you to everyone who made this ride happen and thanks to Lyne for the amazing pictures!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No Shirt, No Shoes...no problem

Jabs expression says it all. I am pretty sure in his head he is thinking "dude you are f'd!"

Ok I am NEVER that guy. What guy? The dude that shows up for a race and forgets his license or his helmet or his lucky socks etc. I am prepared damnit! I may be slow, and old and fat. But those are the only excuses I ever have for not doing well on a ride or during a race its not cause my bike isn't set up right or I sabotaged myself by leaving a vital element of a ride behind. Oh but at the Jeremy Power Grand Fundu this weekend? I was that guy in technocolour! No excuses. But for my viewing audience I will elaborate a bit and let you use me as your comic foil this fine day. Hup has been doing a lot of these types of rides lately. Frankly I am more into rides like the Ronde de Rosey and the Rapha G-race than any other type of ride at this point. Give me a mix of gravel and road, my friends and a group of super cool bikers and some actual adventure and I am a happy man.

So to say I was stoked for the Fundu was an understatement. It was being held in Easthampton which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places on the planet, it was being put on by some super cool people and it was for a good cause. Plus pretty much with a few exceptions all my favorite people were going to be in attendance. Perfect. Now onto the potential shit show that was only kept from becoming a full on disaster because I am a professional. Ok so the wheels began to come off the wagon the night before. Facebook is great and all but I ended up really miscalculating how early I needed to leave. I overslept my alarm and ended up leaving BOS way later than planned. And what was even funnier and probably why I was able to pull it together once the whole house of card fell to pieces was that I was unusually calm. No pre-ride jitters, no stress just a real sense of well-being. That probably should have been a huge red flag.
It was soooo great getting to ride with Michele and groupo MegA! Such a great day with great friends and teammates
I roll up 95 get on rt 2 and start flying towards Markie Marks haus in Leominster. I get to Marks house seemingly on time. But then when we look at the GPS coordinates to MegA and JDs house it becomes real apparent there is no way we are making it to Eastho for a nice pre-ride pastry brunch with those guys! Doooh! Ok so game on. No panic yet as we are pretty sure we are gonna make the staging time no problem just bummed we are going to miss out on having some down time with those guys. So we get on the highway and try and make up time. I make another strategic error (or maybe not looking back on it..) and stop at the Wagon Wheel for an egg sandwich. Both SBZ and resultsboy have totally gotten me addicted to the pre-ride egg sandwich. Frankly a bagel sandwich with egg, bacon and cheese is better than doping. Its a fact. But it takes no less than a half hour to get the sandwich. Holy shit. Yes it was worth it as it was the best egg sandwich I have ever eaten but still now we were even further in the hole. When we get to the turn to rt 91 south of course there is a detour and now we have to head north to basically Vermont before doing a 180 to head south. So finally we pull into Meg's literally as they are rolling out the door! They are so nice about it. But its clear we need to get moving. We do a quick transfer of some goods and the biggest most potentially ride dooming error happens. I of course am once again oblivious to it.

Is this Montana? No. But my god is Western Mass just one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Granted this landscape photo was taken by one of the best photogs in the game but still. Thanks Lyne for coming to the Fundu!-photo by Lyne Lamourex of Podium Insight

Meg and all of us caravan over to Ed's farm and we are greeted to one of the most picturesque farms in Western Mass. There is a big tent for the after party, a pig is roasting on a spit and all the cool cats getting ready to roll. We mill about, kit up, hug friends we haven't seen in a while and get ready to stage. I am fully kitted up standing around in my blanco kit when I notice that something is missing. Oh Noze! I left my helmet and my shoes back at JDs when I was unpacking some stuff at their house. Again. I do not panic or freak out. There is no screaming, crying or other hysterics. Just the cool realization that ok now I need to think real clearly. How can I fix this? There are 130 people staging for a ride in 5 minutes blocking the exit. OK I figured I'd wait til everyone left and bee-line it back to Megs house and get my shoes and helmet which are just sitting there in their driveway. The group rolls out and I take off! The race within the race is now on! I drive back get my shoes and return to the venue (it wasn't that simple as I am totally unfamiliar with eastho but I have already gone on way too longwinded).

I roll back to staging and am greeted by Al Donahue. Al is so awesome. In his total calm voice he gives me some sneaky sneak intercept coordinates to reconnect with the group. I get my shoes on and get into TT mode. My heart rate was pretty much at 173 in a milisecond and stayed that way until I got my team on race radio. I basically cut the course and met them on the steepest climb of the day. It was such a sight for sore eyes after an hour running around missing the ride to see bikers clad in dayglo lycra! The first group I came up to I asked "so would you say you are at the front, at the back or maybe in the middle?" I guess there had been a bit of climbing over that 10 miles cause I got a kinda cranky "I didn't know this was a race" response. No problems my brother I get it I really do. So I lay down some more watts trying to catch Hup up the road. The road pitches up! Like crazy steep. I see Eric Marro mashing gears and think oh I am screwed. But even though it is a brutal climb I am so happy to be in the group after thinking my chance of riding with these guys was zero.
The only bummer of the day? Poor Robin crashed into our roof rack on Rt 2. This is dedicated to you my avian friend.

At a little step in the climb I just do some circles and wait to see if Hup is behind me or up the road. What a sight seeing Markie Mark rocking up that climb in B sample!!! Groupo Hup was back together! I got to ride with Mark, Jabs, Michele Smith, Meg, JD, Cathy Rowell and Eric and his crew all day long. It was amazing. It was like a mini-Rapha ride. 60 miles, a great mix of dirt roads and pavement. An Ice Cream truck was waiting for us at mile 30. Jeremy Powers was waiting for us at the first water station at mile 20. While we were waiting he went down the road on his bike and dragged back 4 jugs of water. Did I mention he was on his bike? How many pro riders would haul 4 water jugs back to a bunch of civilians? Umm that would be none. Kudos to Jpow! He made this ride something special. Well his whole crew did. All the support people were amazing. Jelly Belly and Wheelhouse were such good patrons on the road. Lyne from Podiuminsight was there taking pictures and hanging out. There was a metric ton of the coolest cross racers on the planet. There are sooo many stories that came out of this day. And I feel a follow-up post but for now I leave you with this story. It just typifies the whole fun aspect of the day. So as we are all sitting down eating and drinking beers and cokes. A Jelly Belly rider comes in super late. Like I said Jelly Belly and Wheelhouse were amazing they were great Patrons keeping everyone safe and patrolling the whole course making sure if someone had a problem they could help out. So he comes in basically last with a couple of riders he had shepherded along. He has something huge shoved up the back of his jersey. At first I thought "Holy crap the dude brought a jug of water in case people ran out?" Nope not even close. He pulls up to the group and reaches behind him and pulls out a desk fan. There were a ton of little flea market/yard sales along the way and apparently it had a free tag on it. Holy crap. He probably had that fan in his jersey for about 5-10 miles of rough road. BALLER

So what an amazing day! I cannot wait for next year! Thank you to Jeremy Powers, Alec, Mukunda, Ed Hammel, The Jelly Belly team, Wheelhouse racing and all of Eastho's bikers for welcoming us and making sure we had a safe and incredible day! Hup! Hup!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Barriers 101- A 12 step program

Cross is a bike race. Period. If you aren't fast and can't drive a bike you could be a Baryshnikov over the planks and you aren't going to win a cross race. Technique matters but it isn't going to trump power and speed. But cross is the great equalizer. I am a terrible mtn biker and a terrible road rider but on a cross course I am ok. I can be competitive against riders way stronger and more fit than I am. A big part of cross is that people do have trouble with alot of the technical aspects of cross. The transitions and technique can end up taking lots of riders out of the game.

So here goes here's how you do barriers. For full disclosure I know lots of coaches but I am NOT a coach. I know lots of people who do cross clinics but I could not do a cross clinic to save my life. But I try to be a sponge. When smart people talk I listen, when my mentors do things a certain way I try and emulate them. In 12 steps or less here is what I have picked up about barriers over the years.

1. First rule of cross barriers. Don't die. Ok that seems pessimistic but is it really? You are traveling at a high rate of speed heading towards a wood plank that has been secured to the ground typically with rebar. If you hit it with your face or head it will hurt you. Frankly if you hit it with any part of your body it will hurt you. And what you were once riding (ie your race bike) will now be weaponized as you try and get off it and carry it (fling it!) over the barriers. Weaponize a bike? Yeah trust me. If you get all discombobulated and hit the barrier with your front wheel while trying to hurdle you are either going to get a lever or handlebar in your face at a high rate of speed or endo over the barrier and get all cut up by your chainrings or both. Sven Nys got a nasty cut over his right eye a year ago doing just that. So don't make it seem like its just a novice move.

Ok great so we all agree we shouldn't die doing barriers. But what does that mean? It means go SLOW. Do everything at slow speed at first. Take a few steps before the barrier instead of trying to do it with only one. Its a progression and the key is to do it smoothly without losing too much speed

2. Practice barriers without the barriers. What? Seriously. You need to get used to all the tiny details before you deal with the barrier. Just because you have gotten on and off your bike a million times doesn't mean you can do a proper cross dismount. Ok so if you don't have a barrier what are we practicing? I'll go over that in steps 3-12. But first let's go find a nice field. Maybe a soccer field or any grass will do. Lets make it as flat as possible okay? What we want to get used to is the whole dynamic move that is getting off the bike at a high rate of speed and handling the bike and the transition all while looking as CXey as possible.

3. Setting up. The set up on the dismount is probably the most important part. In a race shit can happen but you want to have a line sorted out. I remember at Noho we spent about 20 minutes working out the line for the sand pit. You want your line to be as straight as possible. For your safety and speed and others. Ok so let's say we are 20-30 feet out from the imaginary barrier. You are coming in at speed hands on the brake hoods. Fingers wrapped. Maybe you scrub a bit of speed if you are at warp drive.

4. Kick out the Jams. Ok time to get off. Unclip the right foot. (*some would say clip out the left first but we'll get back to that as this is barriers 101) Now with the right foot free of its shackles swing it around in a scissor kick. You don't have to get all rockettes here. It just needs to clear the saddle. Actually its a good point to make all these movements as minimalist as possible to save energy and to keep you smooth.

5. Hip Check. As your right leg swings around lean (don't push it over!) your bike against your right hip or vice versa. Your hip will now support your bike and stabilize it as often you will be rolling over rough terrain or a rider may bounce into you etc.

6. Jam the hand. Now take your right hand off the right brake lever. Put it on the top tube right in front of the saddle. What you are doing now is pushing down with your right hand into the tt to again stabilize the bike but also give you a dynamic lever to fling the bike up and to get off your bike. It is in the position that you want to be coasting towards the barrier. I think lots of people think you just come flying up to the dismount and do steps 3-10 at the last minute. No in fact you want to get into this position and coast about 10-15 feet of the barrier then get ready to get off.

7. Friends don't let friends step through. I am smelling a t-shirt for this cross season. But don't do it. All the older training materials recommend stepping through but its too dangerous. If you fuck up you have no chance of saving yourself. You will have a really bad crash. I've stepped through and never had any problems. Time atac pedals seem to release a bit better than the other brands. But I have had a couple of friends really jack themselves up when they couldnt unclip and hit the barriers hard. Ok we all agree right? DON'T step through! Just swing that leg down and let it rest right behind your left foot which is on the pedal.

8. Eject! At this point you should be say 10 feet from the barrier even further away if you aren't comfortable. But let's say you are pretty comfy at this point. Ok so your head is up you are looking straight ahead. Back to my caveat at step 4 there is an advanced method that says before you do your scissor kick to unclip the left foot and rest it on the pedal body. It is a very cool move but one that just adds too much complexity to the dismount for my addled brain to handle especially when I am at vo2 max and can't even think straight. But I digress. So for our purposes our left foot is clipped in here. Just unclip it and do a little hop off. What ever works for you here is fine either left foot touches down or right or even both at the same time.

9. Bike Toss. Ok so here is where the magic happens. You are say a step or two from the barrier. You are off the bike and ready to strike. It seems like you should pick up the bike right? No. You are flinging it. Seriously. You want the bike going first and its momentum will carry you over. So with your left hand on the brake lever and your right on the tt do a quick ally oop and fling that bike up and over the barrier at about shoulder height. You want the bike (saddle specifically) on the outside of your elbow. Why? If you lift the bike with the saddle between you and your armpit you will be limited by your own body how high you can raise the bike. With the new UCI rules this shouldn't be a problem as all barriers will now only be as high as a speed bump but still keep that bike to the outside.

10. Hurdle. The bike is flying through the air in a perfect David Millar bike toss (kidding) and now you are ready to get over the barrier. Your left leg touched terra firma back at step #7 remember that? Ok so left leg did a tiny little balletic touch down. As the bike is going over and carrying you with it your right leg like an olympic hurdler is driving over the barrier! Get that knee high up and over!

11. Run Forest Run! Again you aren't picking the bike up and stepping over as much as you are flying or running over the plank like a hurdler. So following the right leg is the left leg in a flash of speed and panache!

12. Touch down FTW! Ok now place (don't drop!) the bike on the ground (or hold it shoulder high if its a double) take a step and remount!

That in 12 steps is how you dismount and get over a barrier! Good luck and just as an fyi bruised and scarred shins are sexy I swear!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Photo Bomb!

For some reason I have the Runaway's Cherry Bomb in my head as I write this...instead of Cherry Bomb it's "Photo Bomb"...If there is a better jersey design in existence I can't think of it. Mickey at Spooky Bikes has many talents. And his ability to conjure up imagery is almost shaman-like. Is this a shot across the bow (or was it as its an old kit) at Speedvagen and the cult of Unicorns and Rainbows? Probably. Kind of like Punk rock rising from the ashes of Haight and Ashbury and peace love and hippies. Give me a decapitated unicorn with a rainbow pouring out of it any day and I am a happy man. Chasing Matt Green (well chasing is a overstatement as he was JRA as I was killing myself to even keep him in sight) while looking at that jersey made it impossible to dwell on the suffering and pain I was enduring. How could you even worry about your own pain while looking at that? You just laugh and get stoked each time you look at it. At least I do.
The crew at Spooky get it. You don't need me telling you that. A spy ops visit a couple of weeks ago to Eastho, Noho and the lower corner of VT just put an exclamation point on what I already knew about them. But spending a day with them, riding with, talking bikes with them just hammered home how much these guys rock. You think the spirit of mtn biking is dead? Spend a day with these guys and there is no way you will say that at the end of the day. These guys may singlehandedly save mtn biking from itself.

We rolled up to Spooky HQ and we talked shop for a bit. $3,000 edge rims may or may not have been used as a frisbee. I cannot confirm or deny this rumor. Then we all piled into cars and headed to some fresh trails. These boys not only can ride their brains out, I saw Garson do a move over a hip high downed tree that still boggles the mind, they embrace what used to embody the spirit of mtn biking. Mtn biking used to be about adventure. Hanging out with your friends. Not caring about what bike you rode or how cool you were. Although the Spooky guys are wicked cool no doubt about that. But they welcomed us, shared trails they had built with their own hands, and were such great hosts it wasn't even funny. I seriously need to spend a lot more time with those boys. Not to (once again) show my age but they reminded me a lot of the Retrotech crew in Chico, California back in the glory days of mtn biking.

Is there a more beautiful thing than the 666 number plate? I don't think so. I have only been lucky enough to rock a 666 # plate once in my life. It was a Surf City CX on Halloween. Can't even make that up. It was a jungle cross course and I suffered my ass off but rocking 666 on Halloween? Priceless. I will never forget that day...
Start ramp of the Pedros "trike" race. No pressure there. Matty B, Richard Fries, Tim Johnson et al telling me how to not die and go fast. How is a 45 year old man supposed to go fast on a clown bike without dying? Seriously. I lived but I did not go fast. I might have had the slowest time of the night. Mickey from Spooky had a great QOTD "BMX riders will always win a 28 second race" Yes they will and yes they did.
Right before my Cape vaca this appeared. I say appeared because that is exactly how it showed up at my door. Basically it would have seemed less weird if Fairy Boots showed up at my doorstep and did an irish jig and dropped the new All Hail the Black Market kit in my lap. I had spent all morning packing the van. Just as we are about to leave I go out to the van and sitting on the driver's seat is a white tyvek envelope. Inside was that bit of goodness plus a crazy ass button and a nice AHTBM sticker that will either go on the team van or on the Rock Lobster. Not sure which. The kit is amazing. One of the sharpest designs ever. I rode it every ride down the cape and it gave me wings!
I think cross is ruining my mtn bike riding! Ha what a reversal. But it is true that it is pretty hard going between the two bikes. I will say that after 3 solid months of trying to become a mtn biker and with some serious help from my friends I am getting better at it. I was actually able to roll right over that and a bunch of other logs etc on my rides through Nickerson State Forest on my cross bike. I left my chainring tag on that a bunch of times!

One huge shout out from vaca. You know how everyone thinks twitter and fb is a huge waste of time? Well my headset was rocking so bad it was ridiculous. I tweeted how I could not figure it out for the life of me. Matt Roy, the king of all bike mechanics, hits me back and then gives me a call. My god he is amazing. He walked me through it and voila! No more creaky headset! Thank you Matt you are my hero!

So Pedro's has this raffle (www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=11181) going on right now. It is for a really good cause. IMBA has a new initiative that will help us keep the trails open. I get that here in New England we are sooo lucky to have NEMBA. We have tons of trails to ride on. We get to build trails! Do you have any idea how unusual that is? I lived in Norcal for 12 years and being a mtn biker was akin to being a criminal. I am not kidding. So just cause we live in dirt paradise doesn't mean the rest of our brothers and sisters are so lucky. If you can please buy a raffle ticket. It will do a ton of good and you may just win some super sweet swag. At least you will win knowing the good folks at IMBA are fighting for our right to ride!