Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Do You Race Cross?

Seriously? Why do you race cross? Loon for me solidified why I do. I do it cause I love it. That is why I do it. Do I do it cause its fun? Its not fun. Cross racing itself is not fun. Don't let anyone tell you that. Unless hurting yourself like you've never hurt before to the point of puking is fun for you. There is beauty in and personal growth in suffering I truly believe that. And bonds form from mutual suffering that can't be made in a more casual soft setting. Soldiers don't call it a Band of Brothers for nothing. And thankfully in cross we have an amazing Band of Brothers and Sisters.

So if its not "fun" why do it? A huge part for me is that bond that comes from suffering and striving together. Even if its a rival. Some of my best friends in cross are my rivals, or were my rivals and now they are my good friends. But even though we are friends we beat the crap out of each other each weekend. But back to this why do you race cross thing.
Do you race cross to just show up an hour before a race, get your laps in then race, check your results and go home? I guess that is cool. But you are missing out. Big time. I have been thinking about something a friend wrote on a blog in the MAC. Got him in a fair amount of hot water so maybe I will frame it up slightly differently. But the thought is really resonating with me and Loon put it to the forefront of my ADD addled brain. Cross to me is like a hive. Being a geek I think in terms of Sci Fi movies a lot of the time. I loved the Borg. The whole concept of a hive mind is appealing. Cross if you give it a chance has that. What Adam, JD and Al did at Loon was nothing short of incredible. They put cross on a stage that is hard to imagine for the "show up and race and split mindset." They created an experience. It wasn't just about cross although that was the vehicle. Hup made this a mini cross vacation. We had a nice condo five minutes away got up the night before and just got to soak it all in.
But back to JD, Al and Adam. Those guys get it. For cross to grow we have to show it off. The Nor'Easter was a huge outdoors music and climbing festival put on by EMS. It was impressive. It put a HUGE footprint on the venue. Huge tents, music stages, big expo basically an outdoors sportsapalooza. Tons of people showed up. There were climbing walls for the kids, zip lines across a creek great food, ect. If you are an outdoorsy person it was a little slice of heaven. But the first thing that blew my mind was how the red carpet was rolled out for us dirt bag cross racers. I am not trying to insult anyone but let's be honest cyclists don't get a ton of respect. But at Loon? Adam, Al and JD set us up like BALLERS. I have never been to a big event like this where the "athlete" ie., dirt bag crossers had the best parking in the whole venue.
Adam, Al and JD secured us our own entirely separate parking lot. We just rolled up said we were "athletes" and they put us stage left. There was a port-a-potty right next to the start grid. You think that is a small detail? That is a huge detail. And one other tip of the hat as to how much they worked to make it be the best possible experience for the racers. So we have the red carpet rolled out for us, all my favorite people are smack dab in the middle of a gorgeous mountain at the peak of Fall Foliage season in New Hampshire. Totally surreal. But we were here for a race right? That is the whole point. The boys set up a course right out of Switzerland! And it was a statement race make no doubt about it. How many of us, myself included have complained incessantly about grass crits? We bitch and moan that we want a hard cross race. We want a race like the videos we see from Belgium and the World Cups. Damn if we could just have that here in New England. Well here you go. Loon is that course. I am going to create a shrine to Loon in my mancave and light votive candles every day in the hopes this is permanently on the New England cross calendar. It will be a game changer I will tell you that.
Ok Chip I get it, it was hard but what the hell are you talking about? It was built to be selective. Both the Pro Womens and Mens fields were won by a minute. Think about that. The two riders got away and just kept building their leads. How did they do it? There were two brutal 2 min power climbs, then you hit what Mike Golay has now burned into our cross lexicon "Twisty chutes of death!" You think Putney is technical? Yeah that one drop kinda takes some attention but these chutes and descents took skill and good brakes and some moxy. I loved this course. It is my favorite course of all time right now. People will complain that it was a mountain bike course. It wasn't. Again back to those great videos we all revere from Europe. It was a tough ass cross course. Ok so you had the two power climbs, the Twisty Chutes of Death x 2, then you had an ass kicking runnup/crawl up that was the longest and steepest runnup I have ever done. Then you had some fast pavement and great twisty section you had to dial or you were crashing. I almost decapitated on lap two at this spot. You also got to go through a tunnel and all through the expo/main stage area.
Ok so that was the course. And it was a course were Legends can be made. Seriously. But what made it special was the festival. If you have never been part of a big festival like this you can't imagine how cool it is to race through with people screaming and yelling their heads off. People who have never seen a cross race before were blown away. I volunteered (got shangai'd) into being a course marshall for the Pro mens race. I was in charge of the course crossing that was the entry/exit from the venue. The attendees were a mix of outdoorsy college kids, local leaf watcher tourists, and families. None of these people knew what cross was. Now they do. And they loved it. Adam and the boys put on a show. It was super fast race and it blew people away.
But back to my main point....Why do you race cross? My simple answer was I love it. And I do. I love the racing and I love the geeking out on the course to figure out lines and setting the bike up just right. But those are selfish things and love is about giving back. What hit me as Carl Ring (god bless that Viking bastard) cornered me in the parking lot and put his hand on my chest and said "go relieve Parke at the course crossing" was that as much as I love the racing and all the socializing you have to give back. Everybody wants something from cross. We want our race just so. We want our results posted online, we want, we want it sounds like a spoiled child. So as I headed over to the expo and started marshaling it hit me. Its time to stop taking away from cross and give back. Course marshaling is damn serious business. Especially when you are dealing with a crowd that doesn't know anything about bike racing. The boys would come flying down this paved straight at about 25 and just carve the inside of the police fencing at the apex of the turn. Seeing that up close was impressive to say the least. But it also gave me fits as I had to keep the crowd at bay from walking out into the course and killing themselves and some poor racer.
So what am I saying about giving back? I assume we all help each other at the races. That is a given. I have always been impressed by how willing another racer is to share water and food or offer a hand with a pump or bike problem. If it weren't for Carl Ring and Soups SBZ would not have been able to contest the Green Mountain Verge. Those boys get it. But just think about it next time you are freaking out at a cross race. There are people who have worked sooo hard and put their own money on the line to make the race happen. You get to just pin a number on race and then go home. Carl thanks for helping me put my money where my mouth is. Adam, Al and JD thank you for putting cross up on a big stage and having it under the Big Tent!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mo better Embro

Its no secret that I am a huge fan of Mad Alchemy products. You can't argue with the quality of the line and the fact that Pete Smith is a good friend and just an amazingly cool cat just makes it so much easier to love. I always look forward to when new MA embrocation comes out. It reminds me of when Anchor Steam used to come out with their Christmas Ale. I would stockpile it, buy it in big bottles, give it as holiday presents. It was special. Still is really. Pete keeps upping his game. The Gentlemans blend was a huge hit. Really still is one of my favorites. But when Pete announced he was doing a signature line for Cross season with some of my favorite crossers as inspiration I was counting the days until he released them to the public.
Pete not only brews up some of the best embrocation on the planet he is a badass on a cross bike and such a cool guy. Not to use a totally overused term but he gets it. He really does. Its awesome seeing him killing it in the masters!
photo by Doublehop

The list is a who's who of cool cross racers in the U.S. Tim Johnson, Mo Bruno Roy, Molly Cameron. I settled on buying Molly's and Mo's. I chose Molly's as, other than Adam Myerson, she has had the biggest influence on me as a cross racer and has always been a willing mentor. Molly's embrocation has the whole euro thing going for it. It smells and looks amazing. But its been sort of warm here in New England (except today!) so I thought I'd start with Mo's. Mo's is a milder vegan embro. It smells like a spa, has the consistency of an Origins body scrub and goes on shiny! It doesn't change the color of your skin like a tanner like some of the embro but it has a high sheen.

I tried it at Quad last Sunday on a pretty warm day and it felt great. Kept the muscles supple but didn't burn. Embro on a hot/warm day can get crazy if you choose the wrong one. One year at Battenkill I put on some Sportsbalm and literally thought I was going to need to go to the er for chemical burns. Mo's signature embro warms you but doesn't overwhelm. Post Quad I didn't notice any "reactivating." Ahhh you haven't lived as a crosser until you've had the embro reactivate in the shower or later at night while under the sheets. Can be quite invigorating...

This week I had a chance to try it at Weds Am Worlds at Larz and today on a cool and rainy 2 hr road ride. Today was really its best test. It was 50-60 degrees and drizzling with lots of puddles. I put it on sans leg warmers and headed out. I noticed instantly how well it repels water. I could see on top of the cxey sheen beads of water rolling down the legs. Each cold puddle that sprayed my legs with water didn't penetrate to my legs at all and I stayed warm for the whole ride. This time in the shower it did reactivate but in a very mild manner. I love this embro. Its going to be my go to for the early Fall. And yes it does remind me a lot of Mo. Warm but tough. Perfect for cross racing in New England

Monday, September 13, 2010

Doublehop at Quad

Todd shot some amazing photos at Quad yesterday. He makes Hup look cxey every time he fires off shots of us. I think you can tell by the pictures that Quad was a tough, tough race. Lots of pain faces!
Ron Steers railing the corner in full on hunter/killer mode
Rosey riding that sand!!!!
Looks like Rosey and CJ had some battles
Ronnie riding where other me run...damn our 3s are badass
DJ Bert had a fantastic race in the 3s! He's a man on a mission this season!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Pain Cave

I saw this picture Andy Huff took right after the 3 race at Quad. Wow. That sums up the race. Brutal. Cross season is here. It will go by in a blink of an eye. Soak it up. Breathe it in. Feel it. Every season takes on a life of its own. I'm going to race this season like its my last. Leave it all out on the course. All the preparation is done. The time for projects is over. The time for racing is here!

Great job at Quad by the whole Squadra! Great to see Starr, Roni and Joy rocking the women's 3/4 race! Michele raced in the 1/2/3 race and rode super strong! Ron, Rosey and DJ kicked ass in the 3s and Jesse and Eli had fantastic rides in 4s. And Big Tomeke was in the haus! I raced in the Masters and could not believe how big the field was and how much I had to fight for every corner and every inch of dusty track on that course. But like any good drug addict I now just want more....cross is the drug and racing is the only cure....

Great seeing friends I haven't seen since the snow covered fields of Ice Weasels. There were lots of great new kit. and Newbury Comics are now my two personal faves. But I am partial to black...

Hopefully see everyone at Weds Am Worlds! Hup! Hup!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Float like a Butterfly and Sting like a Bee

My back log of posts is turning into an Everest like mountain of ideas. Lost in the shuffle was a post about the Hup Honey. So for my loyal followers I give you the Hup Honey! I am going to do a proper interview with Rob, Mike and Zac as I want to get their story behind the bike. But my story is one of sheer and utter mind blowing devotion. I alluded in my last post about how quickly this bike was made. It not only went through the production at Seven in what to me is some kind of record for bicycle fabrication it came out spot on. The paint is gorgeous, the curves are sexy and it just feels so good on my shoulder. All the pictures except my blurry Iphone stripped down frame shots are by Double Hop. Enjoy!
Those are some sexy can't see it so well but on the inside of the drive side chainstay is painted in Hup bleu Baal Belgium. Yeah that would be Sven Nys's hometown. Those chainstays by the way are ginormous! Try flexing those bad boys...

Pedro's tools being put to good use! Ok another shout out in an endless stream of shout outs. Joe and Rob both built the bike in like two hours while getting ready for the party at the Ride Studio Cafe. See if your bike shop would do that. They wouldn't but what do you think their reaction would be when you asked them to build your bike in two hours so you could go on a ride? Hmmm either laughter or something not so nice. Joe and Rob I owe you big time!
Another great shot by Doublehop. I always love black and white. The new Seven Cross fork is really nice. The expander bolt is one of the most simple ones I have ever dealt with. Wayyy easier than that damn Reynolds expander that used to cause me fits! The fork itself is super stiff with zero brake shudder. Clearance is a little tight for the pads but not so tight you can't remove the tire out of the fork quickly. I've been very impressed by the fork to say the least
The Lion will be roaring quite a bit this Fall. I love the color scheme that they came up with. It is such a great change of pace from all the bleu and black bikes that are out there right now.
Joe hard at work...I've been riding the bike hard for about two weeks. The first ride was on our crazy team scramble all over the hills of Lexington. I have put it through a bunch of race simulations on cross courses and have to say it is so nice to be back on steel. I hate the first question that always comes up with steel but I will answer it. Is it heavy? Not for a steel bike. Not for a cross bike. At 4 pounds for the frame it weighs a pound more than my full bore aluminum Rocklobster cross frame. Built up my bike weighs 18 lbs. I use reasonable parts nothing crazy. You could (if you had the cash and that was what you are into) build it up to be 17 pounds easily.

But and here is the big but, light is not always right. A cross bike has to survive 45 minutes of brutal torture or you lose. It has to be stiff and handle well or you lose. A light flexy bike sucks at cross trust me I have had those. The Hup Honey has so much cross pedigree running through its beefy chainstays and swoopy rear end you can just feel it. At Weds Worlds this week the bike just blew me away. Part of it was the SBZ fit that dialed it in...with a little help carried over from Adam Myerson's set up help from last year. This week I worked (ie., obsessed!) on the bike til I had everything in the sweet spot. But still fit and set up only gets you so far. The bike has to be able to drive around a cross course.

It hit me as we were doing barrel drills how well this bike handles. I had chopped the guys wheel in front of me in the apex of a corner because he went too wide. But he closed the door on me before I could pass. I though oops I am crashing. But no I was able to pull the wheel back and move around him to the outside. That is worth its weight in gold right there...I'll get that interview up asap and give a full report as the season unfolds! Hup! Hup!

Monday, September 6, 2010

We Were at a Party...

I am about two weeks late with this post. My apologies. So much going on right now. I mean it is the eve of cross season now isn't it? So of course I am losing it. Everyone have their tubies glued up? Licenses renewed? Legs shaved? Skinsuit on hand? Hmmm I am 0-4 with that list. See I have work to do I don't have time to be blogging but I can't disappointment my two loyal fans who actually read this blog so here we go! Hup United in New England has its groove back. Not that it lost it perse. Last year was magical. We had some setbacks but all told it was personally the best season of cross I have ever had. And being on Hup United let me experience what a real team can actually be like. I've been on clubs or teams for most of my cycling career but not like this. Can't even describe it to you. You either get it or you don't. Some people from the outside don't know what to think about Hup. That's cool. We aren't looking for anyone's approval or endorsement. When you are an anti-team and don't have sponsors and don't race for "stuff" the only thing you are racing for is each other. Zero drama, no infighting, just the love of all things two-wheeled. Well maybe not so much recumbents but you get the point.

Putting on a Hup kit is transformative. It gives you Watts. It gives you an edge. When people yell "Hup, Hup Hup" on a run up I still get goose bumps. Maybe its just the kit. That's fine. Job done if that is all its about. But its more than that. Hup United is classy. You don't see us losing our shit over some mechanical during a cross race. We aren't cyber bullying each other or other racers on twitter or the interwebs. We support the sport because we love it. Not because we need to be good for a brand...there is no brand there is only each other.

Ok I am getting way to manifesto-ishy here. Two weeks ago we had a cross kick off party at the Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington. And it was off the charts. Rob Vandermark the owner of Seven and the RSC and Mike Salvatore master frame builder, all around cool cat and Hup United OG called me out of the blue with two huge news flashes. Number one they wanted to have a Hup United night at the RSC!

I was blown away. At first I thought they meant they wanted to open it up to the public and have a party. I was totally into that but then they let me know no they wanted it to be small and intimate Hup United only. I was speechless. Rob and Mike worked so hard to make it happen. We celebrated Seven years of Hup with Seven skinsuits and all our usually Belgie bling all up on the studios walls. It was amazing seeing the kits all together.

We met at the RSC before the party and did a roll out ride with about half the team. Maybe 20 riders all on cross bikes. The other revelation Rob and Mike dropped on me as we were planning the party was that they were introducing a limited edition Hup Honey cross bike. There had been talk about doing a Seven Hup bike in the past as Hup and Seven share so much history but nothing ever materialized.

Hup United was formed at Seven, Seven years ago by Zac Daab and three other Seven employees including Mike Salvatore, Bernard Georges and Max Kullaway. Hup's ties to Seven still run deep. We have at least four members of Hup at Seven right now. Including Rob Vandermark. But when I saw the build sheet for the Honey it was a game changer. Thirty bikes were being built celebrating Sven Nys's 3o victories during the 2006-7 season. Each bike's "serial number" would be one of those victories. After a quick consultation with Yash I chose Baal as it is Nys hometown. Rob and Mike told me they could have the bike ready for the party. What is the wait for a Vanilla at this point? 5 years? My Honey was done in a week. Seriously. I bow down to Rob, Mike and all of Seven. Thank you so much for making this happen!
Bikes are great and the paint is amazing but having your friends build you a bike that is this unique and do it for the love of it. Priceless. I rode it for the first time on the rollout ride that night. It passed the "ohh shit" test with flying colors. SBZ the patron saint of mtn biking and mayhem led us on a crazy ass "cross" ride through and around Lexington. Most of the trails were footpath multi-use stuff that was fine on a cross bike. But SBZ being SBZ there was gonna be some mayhem. So as we are dropping down this sketchy chute of a trail and I am third wheel behind and DJ Robert I am about to go into Warp Speed DJ hits a water bar and totally catches air. JB bounces off it next and elevates, thank god I was in the drops or I would not be writing this blog post. I air it out land and just let the bike go. It rails through all the rocks and roots and just soaks it all up. Point and shoot. Beautiful.

We all got back to the Ride Studio in one piece even with some shennanigans between JB, me and DJ. DJ is a tad excitable and kept trying to pass us on the singletrack we being us had to hip check and elbow him into the trees. Its good practice for him as he is racing 3s this year and no one will be letting him get a clean pass trust me. Pretty impressive considering we rode some techy stuff on cross bikes. One flat was the only mechanical. And SBZ brought that on herself. You never deflate a tire at the start line...

Back at the Cafe we swung into full on party mode. I bought 5 cases of Belgian beer. There were maybe 40 of us. It was all gone by 9:30. Impressive. Hannah made us some amazing Hupcakes. It was so great getting to hang out with the team and some close friends without having to stress out about pinning numbers on or rushing around finding wheels etc. Such a fantastic evening with new friends and old friends. Thank you to Rob Vandermarck, Mike Salvatore, Seven, Ride Studio Cafe, Rob and Todd of Double Hop for all the amazing photos you see above (except the washed out one of the kit on the wall) Zac Daab, Hannah Kirshner and everyone who made it to the ride and party! What a great night. Hup! Hup! Hup!