Tuesday, December 27, 2011

You Got This

Cross season goes by in the blink of an eye. This time of year for me is always about rebuilding and reflecting. No PCXSD (Post-cross season depression) for me this year. Season was so great and just flowed right into mtn biking and cross riding in the woods with friends that to be honest I didn't even miss the weekly freak outs to get ready for each weekends race. What that has been replaced with is arguably vastly superior. But I do miss the NECX. And the whole intensity of those racing weekends. Obviously its that which hooks us all.

I have been living and racing in New England for seven years now. Flew by. But man how its changed since I have been home. Night and day. This season more than anything else has been the season of the 3/4 women. Sure there have been other things that have occupied our cx minds. See what I did there? Never mind. But nothing has been a bigger story than the huge growth on the women's side of cyclo-cross. It really started last year when we had 100 women line up at Gloucester. When 100 women line up at New England World's you better take note. Cause it means something. And that momentum carried right through to 2011. Cxmagazine and Verge collaborated on a series of articles featuring the 3/4 women of the NECX coined "You Got This" It became a buzzword, mantra, rallying cry and movement.
There are lots of reasons for this growth. But that isn't what this blog post is about. This blog has always been about Hup NE. Its my personal love fest to all things cx and Hup. I have never been shy about that. Some people's blogs are narcissistic exercises in their own self worth. To me my self worth if you will is tied into how I can help others. Whether its helping others fall in love with cross or literally helping others out to be able to race cross. At this point in the game I get way more satisfaction seeing a friend do well in a cx race than my own actual race performance. I love racing don't get me wrong. But like lots of things seeing things through the lens of someone new to a sport renews your own love affair with it. And it helps you to not get bored or burnt out. Focusing on your self is a one way trip to burnout. I guarantee it.
But just as the NECX has seen a huge growth in women in cx. Hup NE has seen our numbers grow big time. We currently have 10 women on Hup. They are some of the most active members of our team. They bring so much energy and fierceness to the team it is contagious. I am always skeptical of a bike team that only has one woman. Or no woman. Really? Why? How can you have a club in any pursuit and not include women as part of the equation? It boggles the mind. This season not only saw growth but some really serious competition. They are basically what the killer b's were 3 years ago. Tough, solid teamwork, PRO as hell, and supportive of their teammates and the other racers. Sure there were some growing pains this year. And some stuff that really needs to be sorted out. Most of it just revolves around the fact that women's racing needs to be taken seriously. The women's field can't be relegated to having bad start times, mixed fields with jrs, inconsistent race times, and unequal prizes or prize money...or lack of prizes all together. Basically its time to give them the respect they have earned.
I think I have said it before but I will say it again. So much of my introduction to Hup was via two of Hups OG. OG being Original Ganstah obviously. Meg Bilodeau and Kerry Combs were and continue to be two of my greatest mentors in the cx game. They have both been great about helping me get better at cx. And mtn biking. Kerry introduced us all to the Hupcake. This can either be the greatest moment in Hup history or a scourge on cyclocross. Still don't know why USAC hates something as nice as a Hupcake but what do I know about growing the sport of cyclocross...they pretty much know what is best for cross right? Yeah Nationals in Wisconsin in January sounds like a great idea. But I digress...Back to the ladies. So what started as a small but really influential duo grew into 10 riders in a few short years. Lots of women made this happen. And I am so thankful to them. Sara Bresnick helped so much. Even though she went on to start her own team and race for cxresults.com she had a huge influence on me and Hup NE. Joy Stark, Michele Smith and Jenn Urguhart played really big roles in creating a team that women wanted to be a part of.
We have grown by adding friends. Hup always has grown by one mantra. "One Hup Finds Another." This has helped us to avoid some of the pitfalls of other teams. We have very little drama because we all know we are in this for each other. Not having sponsors makes us basically become our own sponsor. Every tailgater we throw is sponsored by us. No outside money we do it for the love of it. We sponsor each other. And that is how you build a solid team. The other way you do it is with competition. And make no mistake about the women of Hup they bring it. Every race. There was a picture from Gloucester 2010 where Michele and Meg were running up the hill leading to the beer garden. The looks on their faces were so fierce it was incredible. And you could tell they were battling each other. Not just racing but fighting it out. It was awesome.
I am beyond proud of all the women of the NECX whether they are on Hup or not. I am of course beyond grateful to have such amazing teammates as Meg, Kerry (know riding for Zank but always Hup in my mind!), Michele, Joy, Leah, Kristina, Roni, Jane, Elaine, Shirl, Kim, Ana and Lucia (who's team transfer papers are not coming through as quickly as I had hoped!)
The women on Hup have helped me so much its not even funny. I mean in some ways I have learned more from the women over the last three years than men. Its funny. Women are tougher than guys. Its true. They will not bullshit you. When you wuss out and don't ride a woodbridge they will lay into you. Sara still gives me sooo much shit if I dismount in LPR. I can't help it. Some of those bridges are sketchy as hell. How she rides them the way she does still boggles my mind. Her good friend Jane snapped me out of this woodbridge pity party I would have every mtn bike ride. I still suck but every time I ride a wood bridge I have Sara and Jane to thank. Guys (well other than Colin...) will let it slide. I have no idea why. For how hard we are about so many things in the woods what ever happens is fine. When its 20 degrees out and you don't want to get out of the car they will kick you out and tell you to get on the line and race!

The women on Hup have also helped me focus. Its been very well documented how bad my ADD can get. They are not afraid to crack the whip on me and get me to focus on the task at hand. Michele Smith has bailed me out of so many things its not even funny. Her leadership and experience have helped me and Hup out so much. I am so grateful she is a part of our Hup NE family. She really is the main reason I was able to race Night Weasels this year. Meg and Michele held down the fort at reg and then did the awards while I was out playing in the mud.
Joy and Roni not only bring a ton of style to the NECX and Hup but they have taken the HUPcake and cranked it up to 11. Who knew a.) cupcakes could taste so good and b.) they could look so good. Both ladies have taken baking and made it an art form. Some of my greatest memories of racing cross are taking a handup from one of them of their amazing cupcakes.

Kim moved recently to the MAC which was a bummer as we missed her so much this season but I have to say thanks to twitter and fb we were able to live vicariously through her and her amazing season. She rocked it! It was a battle and we are sooo proud of her that she came in 2nd in the 3/4 women in the MAC!

Leah in so many ways is like a partner in grime to me. She is such a badass and so tough she just pushes and inspires me to be half the badass she is. Having her on our 24 hour team up at Great Glen meant so much to me. Sounds stupid but its true. At events like 24HOGG you need people who are tough. Leah is very tough. One of the toughest people I know. But sooo creative and such a positive force. She probably doesn't even know how much she has inspired me over the years even before we were teammates. But its true. I feel really lucky to be able to call her my teammate and friend.

We have added some great new women to the team this season. Elaine (aka Tri Girl Pink) came on the team late in the season. She is good friends with a bunch of my friends and it made so much sense when she asked to be on the team. Again another super creative, fun and talented women who also is such a great competitor. And to top it off she introduced us to the Hupwich....Kristina and Shirl have been another great surprise this year. Two incredible women who have become good friends and Hup in such a short amount of time. Cross is amazing in that it bonds teammates and friends like no other sport that I have participated in. I am not sure what it is about cross. To me its the ultimate team sport. Not in the actual contest but in the build up and the preparation. You need teammates and friends. In the course of a cross season crazy things happen. You need to have each others backs. Whether its to have a teammate chase you all over the course with a Lion of Flanders flag zip tied to a hockey stick screaming his lungs out for you to go hahhdah or for a friend to run your wheels to the pit. It takes a team to make a cx season be a success. And for my money Hup is the greatest team on the planet. Thank you the women on the NECX and especially the women of Hup for bringing it every weekend this cx season. You inspired me, got me stoked, made me freak out, taught me about Power Animals, and showed me there is a better way. Hup! Hup!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

To DQ or not to DQ?

For the record I always stop at Dairy Queen I love that soft serve. But I am obviously talking about another type of DQ here. Disqualification. And the Icecrisisweasel. Not Dairy Queen. It is a dirty word in my book. It means you cheated. Or did something unsportsmanlike. I may be a lot of things. Fat and slow. Old. Sort of ugly. Totally ADD. But one thing I am is loyal. And a man of honor. For real. I am not even kidding. That means different things to different people. To me in a bike racing context it means riding and racing with class. It means having a higher standard. I don't yell, or swear on a race course. I don't do dirty things. I race hard. I don't mind rubbing elbows etc but I do not create drama like so many other masters racers. I believe in growing the sport by being positive and inclusive.

So I was faced with quite the dilemma as I was staged up at the back of the singlespeed race (that I was helping promote for my good friend Mike Zanconato) and the head official told us we would be DQ'd for taking a handup. Not just beer. Anything. A cupcake. A cookie. He said he'd already DQ'd 13 guys in the 1,2,3 race. This as you imagine was not received well by a bunch of singlespeeders. What the official didn't realize. Or chose to ignore is people were here to race. Whether they took a beer handup or not this race was on. There was a ton of bragging rights on the line. If you win Ice Weasels you have bragging rights for the whole season. And you are a badass. Period

So there was much grumbling. Counter to what the official stated later there was no disrespect towards him at all. He was laughing. Later he made it seem much more serious. It wasn't. How serious can a man in an Elvis costume be? Scary I guess. Well he scared me as it took me the whole race to beat him. But this was the younger Karate expert, hip shaking Elvis not the doped to the gills fried banana sandwich Elvis. The race goes off! 75 singlespeeders pedal their brains out to get the holeshot. I get in a good spot as I had a pretty big gear. Did I mention this was my first singlespeed race? Yeah pretty much. So I am locked in on some guys wheel which I find out maybe isn't the smartest thing with ss. We avoid one big pileup. We come flying down the straight away carve the berm and then come to a screeching halt at the tree as there was a HUGE pileup. I ram some guy in the rear with my brake lever. And then get t-boned from behind. I thought my rear wheel was done! Well not my rear wheel technically as it was The Wilcoxs R-SYS...doooh. I figured all those fancy carbon spokes would now just be shards hanging from a now useless wheel. But to my surprise it was only my brake arm that was jammed under the rim. So I step off and get my act together and get after Elvis! My battle with Elvis becomes epic. And as the laps wore on and my back and legs start killing me from the pain. I say to myself "Self just take a beer feed and get it over with. Make the pain stop." I let Satan have his little 15 minutes to rant about the injustice of how much suffering I was putting my body through and then ignored him. My last thought before getting back to the business at hand was racing singlespeed sober is stupid. Then I stopped the self pity talk and got rad.
I start getting high fives which is really weird. I am like oh yeah HIGH FIVE! Afterwards I found out it was the high five hand up. Oh goodie. No one can be offended or worried that cross will be ruined by high fives I guess. I do my best to finally catch Elvis. Meanwhile a 12 year old ECV rider gets on my wheel right before the sprint to the finish and proves that once again Old Man Power is a lie. 12 year old power is much stronger. Trust me. So I took the high road. I did not get DQ'ed. Streak alive. No DQ's on my permanent record.

But back to dahweasel. Thom Parsons had been getting us worked up all week that it was going to be a mudpit and that it was going to be insane. Or Xtreme! I forget which. Thankfully the mud was not of epic proportions but it was nice and greasy which made it super fun. The course was probably my favorite rendition of dahweasel yet. It was super turny but in a good way. And Kevin had dug out the most badass little Euro Chute on the back section. It was dubbed Bermingham as there was a nice little Berm you hit right after you dropped in. Then a run up and another chute and a ride up. In the 3/4 race I lined up with my good friend Markie Mark. He is pictured above looking like a stone cold killah. Actually we were both pretty much praying we didn't die in the first turn as the 3s have had some issues at the start this season. Noho? Hello people can't we just get a race started without bombs going off? And as we had thought the entire right side of the field at the holeshot looked like something out of Glory. Bodies and bikes flying through the air. We shot left and made it through clean. I think I ran over a dudes arm or his wheel. I didn't look back. Mark and I got in a great groove. We were in a group of 5 or 6. 1 Cambridge rider we knew and that same strong 12 yr old ECV rider. Ok he's not 12. He's probably like 19 or something. But he's wicked fit. Its not right. But in all seriousness he is a really nice kid. So Mark and I are working these guys over a bit and trying to get tactical. Unlike some of my other teammates, cough*Robert*cough, who would rather beat, crash or destroy their own teammate than lose to them. Mark and I were much more interested in beating the other guys in our group. I think we were all locked together for about 5 laps.

With 3 to go. We started feeling the situation out. Mark got to the front before the Euro Chute and got a little gap. As we came out and on the straight away I got a bit nervous. Mark was maybe 100 yards up now. I sat up. I did not want to work to bring CB and ECV up to Mark. Right before the pit Jordan came around and I had to go get on his wheel. Jordan, Me and Nick stayed in contact together for the next three laps. Mark stayed away and I fought as hard as I could but got gapped off with one to go. It was a great race. It felt so awesome to have that tight of racing for pretty much the whole race. I think the officials may have been doing too much work hiding in bushes trying to DQ people for HUPcake handups though. I am pretty sure we did an hour and lap. Not that I am complaining.
But in my mind I was done. I survived the cursed race #13 unscathed. Which is no easy task for me. Ice Weasels has left its toothy mark on me before. So I was glad to be done. I got back to the tailgate and was just stoked to be surrounded by the NECX and having a good time. I pounded a bunch of Moxie sodas, had a ton of steak tips and about a dozen mini-HUPcakes. Then the boys pictured above came looking for me. They wanted to know why I was in street clothing. Ummm you know I am done racing...What are you talking about Baker? They were not going to take no for an answer. So I did a push up contest with NegaCoach to get the blood going, a one eyed dog licked my face and I put my kit back on and got out to the start line of the singlespeed World Championships of New England. That nice man to the right with the frown? Yeah he is your NECX SSCX World Champ. So proud he won. Nothing better than your good friend and team rider of the Sponsors race taking the win.
There are way too many thoughts from dahweasel and this season to put in this post. I will say this singlespeed racing is alive and frigging well in New England thank you very much. It is not going away. And next year it will be bigger than ever. I am so thankful to everyone who made it happen this year. It was amazing. Seeing all the racers just race their hearts out. And battle. And have fun. Its what cross is all about. My personal thoughts from the one race I did? I am hooked. It is so different than geared racing. Night and day. It is not a gearing choice as the haters like to say. You have to flow. It gets to the crux of racing cx well. You can't use your brakes. Like ever. And certainly not in a turn. So it teaches you to really go tape to tape and carry that momentum. And you get in some sick battles because you all basically have the same gear. So its who can pedal harder. And then go even hahhdah. Or who can pedal at 150 rpm! I love it. My ss bike is going to get a lot of action this winter that is for sure.

Ice Weasels itself was amazing. Sure we had police helicopters circling us, and the board of health shook us down a bit. But everyone had fun and was polite and respectful. It may seem like chaos and mayhem to outsiders but its organized chaos and orchestrated mayhem. I bow down to Colin, Thom and Kevin. They worked so hard on this event this year. It was like a mini Noho. For real. And one thing that to me just spoke volumes was a little interaction I had with Thom's Grandmother. For those unfamiliar with the Ice Weasels. Its a working farm. Thom's family owns and runs it. They live there. So in the am as we were getting reg set up and everything rolling. His grandmother comes out. I don't know how old she is maybe 80. She looks out at the race course. She walks the course a bit. She says hi to me and says "this is amazing." Then she asks me and Ryan Kelly and Leah if we want to come inside where its warm. Mindblowing. You do not see that type of grace and warmth much anymore. Here we are for lack of a better word Occupying White Barn Farm. 500 strangers descended on her farm and got their cross on. Its not an out of control frat party its like Woodstock for cross racers.

Andy Huff and Joe from Seven soaking it all up. To my friends and amazing HUP teammates thank you for an incredible cx season. Thank you for Power Animals, NegaCoach, "You Got This", Dahweasel, Flyovers, mudpits, the Death Star, HUPcakes, Smithers and Lazer helmets, handups, Mudstaches, Matt & Mo, Singlespeeds, The Wilcox, Coach Al, Zank and the Sutton MTB Mafia, MegA and JD and the Noho CX Mafia, Old guys who race hard, the 3/4 women of the NECX! Especially the ladies. You ladies are so rad its not even funny. You show me how to race hard every race but still have fun and how to support one another. Thank you for that. Thanks to Roger and Newbury Comics. No one rocks harder. Thanks to Pete for making it rain Glitter. Thanks to Mark the Shark for that lap at VeloCX and for coming back. Thanks to Zank. Huge thanks to Mikey. Thanks for the singlespeed series. It was amazing. Thanks to Rob and Patria at the Ride Studio. You both have done so much for the NECX. Chan and Chanbagger. You two are a dynamic duo. ECV. Where to even start. Paul and Chris? Such good friends and both do so much for the sport. Colin. Dude. Hardest working man in the NECX. And just pro as hell. I have seen the darkside of race promotions. And Colin not only busts his ass but he stays so positive it is amazing. I can't believe the kid is half my age. But for real much respect. Matt Aumiller and the cockroach. Thank you for letting some boring white dude hang out with you hipsters. And don't worry I won't let your dirty little secret out that you are all PHD's and super smart productive members of society. No one reads this blog anyway your secret is safe ; ) Rosey. Gerry. The Ronde. Eli and MVL for keeping the HUP tailgate flames burning bright. Zac Daab, aka the Godfather. Huge thanks to that man for creating HUP and supporting us in the NE, Chris Milliman, Bill Strickland, TJ, JPow. Last but not least my babymomma. Err my smoking hot wife. My wife and kids are everything. You all are my family away from my family but they are everything to me. I owe them big time for letting me go play cx racer from August to December every year. Have a happy holiday and a safe New Year. My New Years promise to you all. 2012 will be filled with more gnar and more radness...promise

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We fly high

Ok this may be my favorite photo of the season! Well of myself. Most photos I see of myself are cringe worthy. I am sooo deep in the pain cave or I have snot bubbles coming out of my nose. I am not really photogenic anyway if you know what I am saying. But this photo! Damn. Our newest teamate Elaine Debititto is not only a great bike racer but an ACE photographer. I have really admired her work for the last couple of seasons. As a racer she puts herself in some great spots to get some great action photos.

But what we have here is one of the things I love about NBX! Those uphill double barriers are amazing. My technical training has pretty much taken a backseat to just riding the bike. I used to get out with the pvc barriers and just do dismounts over and over again. That really was the focus of most of my cx seasons. I prided myself for having that technical piece down. But you know what this season I realized while it is all great to do a perfect cx dismount its a bike race and not a cx dismount show. So I have been riding fast to race fast. But these play to my strengths. You can come in super hot as there is a straight away leading up to the planks. Then you just rail up a little bermy grass hill and fly off!

Probably my best work on the barriers all season long. Made up for my horrible beach runs both days! NBX was an awesome weekend of racing. Thanks Elaine for making look like I am sort of going fast! Hup! Hup!

My ONLY regret with this photo is that I am not rocking some pimp black vernice Sidi Dragons. The old ones I have on don't accent the Lion of Flanders socks or do them justice. Which is so sad. But frankly those socks added sick watts. Even on the beach. I have never heard of running watts. But no one passed me on the beach run on Day 2. It was definitely the socks...

Monday, December 5, 2011

The love of cross

Lucia and I freaking out about cross! Andrea's win was the most exciting bike race finish I have ever seen in my life. Not even kidding. Photo by Natasha

Falling in love with cross is a beautiful thing. I still remember when it happened to me. It was in Seattle at the Nationals about a decade (or two 1994) ago. God I am old. But back to the falling on love with CX. I traveled with the Ritchey team to help with Shari Kain's attempt to win Nats. Tom was one of the first guys to really bring in some serious talent into and from cross. He brought Europeans over and turned them into mountain bike racers and took athletes like Shari and turned them into solid cross racers. We had such a fun time. And it was really so ahead of its time. I mean think about it. This is 1994 or so. Shari had a crew of 4 people with her to help her be ready. We had a mechanic, a media guy (me) and technical guy. It was pretty badass. And we made the mechanic wear a latex French Maid outfit in the pit. Cross was pretty loose back then. It had a lot of that mountain bike attitude going on. Shari won and it was amazing but it was the elite race that hooked me. I didn't really get to watch the women race as I was helping in the pit and trying to figure out time gaps etc.

I had a front row spot for the men's race and it was amazing. It was a battle between Don Myrah and Jan Weijack. It was really intense. Course was nuts. Fans were going nuts. And I had a bunch of friends in the race as well. And I was hooked. I wanted to do what they were doing. That is how this all got started. On the sand dunes of SeaTac park. Segue to this past weekend. I saw the exact same thing happen right in front of my eyes with my friend Lucia. She started cx this season. She has been kicking ass. And really loves it no doubt. But she fell in love with it this weekend. The picture above might be the exact moment when it happened. After the race I went up to Andrea and congratulated her on her win but I also thanked her. Thanked her for getting my friend to fall in love with cross with her racing.
Deep in the pain cave! Photo by Benjamin Stephens

But its not just the racing that you fall in love with. Its the cross bike itself. My other friend Patria who works with Andrea at the Ride Studio Cafe just got a brand new Honey CX bike. She has been loving it. Not as a race bike but for its ability to take you places that no other bike can. A cross bike can be sooo much fun in the woods just riding along. Its different than a mountain bike. I dig riding a mountain bike but a cross bike in the woods is a whole other experience. You slow down a bit. You check stuff out. Maybe its the big wheels or the geometry of the bike but its just so different. And then you pop out on pavement and its like the nicest road bike you ever had. Sure maybe its a touch slower if you have fat tires on it but it still rides sooo nice. So cool to have two friends so stoked on cross. Coming at it a bit different. You have a non-racer (Lucia) getting all stoked about racing and the competition side of it. Then you have Patria who is a really seasoned road racer finding the other side of it. The cool adventure side of it. That is what makes cross so special. It can really transform you in a way that I don't think any other bike can.

NBX was an amazing weekend. Lucia came up to race it from NYC and that part alone made it one of the best weekends of the race season. We had so much fun. She raced great. Both days were so different. I learned the hard truth that yes you can have a Gentleman's slide on a beach run. Day one I must have lost 5-10 spots each time we ran that 150 yards of sand. Day 2 was a bit more to my liking as far as the course goes. And I got a good pro tip to deal with the sand. I came in each time dismounted and left the bike on the ground. I put it in the little groove closest to the tape and ran with it next to me. It was WAY faster. Not sure why. But it was. Day 2 I held my own in the sand. Both days the racing was soooo fast. It was tight group riding which was something really special. I am really beginning to love those 4-6 man groups were you are battling each other lap after lap. It is a pretty cool feeling to be locked in with the same guys the whole race and see if you can outsmart them or out ride them. My form is finally coming back around after the disaster of October. Its sort of funny as we have one or two weekends left of racing. And one of those races is basically a keg party where a bike race breaks out.

Should be a pretty funny two weeks. I am lighting votive candles and praying to the snow gods. Cause frankly if we don't get snow for dahweasel or Fitchburg I may have to take this late season form on the road to Maddison and frankly no one wants to see that!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Waffe Cross

Waffle Cross was born out of a desire to ride cross bikes 365 days a year. Not RACE cross bikes but ride them. Yes I get that cross is technically about racing but the bikes themselves as Grant Peterson once so poignantly stated are "do everything bikes." They really are. Yeah you can just be fixated on the racing and good for you. That is awesome. But you are missing a big aspect of what a cross bike can do for you. It can truly end up being a time machine. A core group of us started meeting up at Wheelworks. Andy Huff and Andy Ewas two of the most stylish gentleman cyclists in New England championed it and kept it going. The crew at Wheelworks were/are huge supporters of it. Starr and Brian and everyone who made waffles, brought coffee and led rides built it into this communal thing that moved beyond Battle Road and to an actual cross race at Lowell and then to what I hope is a long standing tradition the Thanksgiving Waffle Cross ride.
This Thanksgiving a small group of us showed up at Elm Bank to partake of the 2nd annual Waffle Cross. I didn't do a hard count but I would say about 20 of us were on hand. A lot of familiar faces and teams representing. It wasn't too cold at all and in no time we all headed out to do The Loop. The Loop is a sick mix of multi use paths, mtn bike trails and roads looping all through Wellesley and South Natick. My good friends Rob and Steen carved this loop out and have shared it with us. It is one of the most revered rides I do. I can't ride it without thinking of Rob and Steen and what a gift it is. Its not to be taken lightly on cx bikes especially covered in wet leaves. And we may have had some collateral damage along the way but I think everyone had a good time. I had to peel off early and didn't get to the waffle portion of the ride but felt so stoked to be able to jump in on a ride like this and then head off on my holiday vacation.

Rob is one of those guys that literally does it all. I have never met a more dedicated man in my life. I stay home with the kids but frankly I am an amateur compared to Rob. He is a cat 1 stay at home dad. I wish I could do half the things he does with his kids with mine. It is mindboggling. Huge respect to that man. And not only is he an amazing dad he is one of the coolest friends I have. Super talented on the bike, amazing photographer and one of those friends who even if you haven't seen them in a while its like you never skipped a beat. Love that man.
Uri getting his hi-viz on. I seriously need to get him a hi-viz Lazer helmet. Only Uri could pull it off. We had a crash not even 2 minutes into the ride. Wet leaves combined with a metal grate and you get the picture. To make matters worse the crashed rider landed in a huge puddle. Soaking her pretty much head to toe. She was tough as nails and just continued on. I would have headed back to the cars and started drinking massive amounts of coffee...

The Wilcox in deep thought. Or ducking my attempts at photojournalism. This is more arty anyway. As always so much fun riding with David.
Valhalla, Mecca you name it. Elm Bank really is a special place. Thank you Steen and Rob for sharing The Loop with the NECX. Thank you to Andy Huff and Andy Ewas for giving us Waffle Cross. And for being the most stylish men in cycling. I wish I had one ounce of the style those two have. Cross season is almost over. The cross RIDING never has to be over.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle


VeloCX

Its funny how this year Jungle cross has now become Euro cross. I am not being sarcastic at all. I loved it when I read resultsboys post about VeloCX and he described the course as being Euro. What has happened I think is that there are two styles of Euro courses. The fast grass crit style World Cups and Superprestiges and then the Jungle style Euro courses like the GVA Trophy series where all bets are off: Logs, crazy ass descents, woods, dirt, all manner of nastiness to challenge the rider. New England is missing that style of race. We need races where you better buckle up that chin strap extra tight cause its gonna be a street fight to steal a term from the voice of the NECX Richard Fries. I don't know if he has actually said that it just sounds like something he would say. But VeloCX may be my new favorite cross course in all of New England. And NEBC and Katherine Snell did an amazing job with it. If you missed it I feel bad for you. You missed a chance at a real Euro cross course. As the name would imply the race revolved around a velodrome. Not the huge banked style like at Trexlertown but a nice concrete velodrome with a course laid out all around it and through it.
The race started on the velodrome did about a 3/4 of a lap dove into the infield where we had a bunch of nice turns on grass and two sets of double barriers. Back out on the velodrome then a drop off into the woods. Some great woods riding with some insane climbing and descending. Not really insane but compared to all the grass crits we are subjected to it was pretty rad. Then onto a legit BMX pump track with two high walled berms, and numerous crazy ass table tops. The course was in good shape but there were at least two pretty good mud pits and a couple of gravely corners. But to say I was stoked when I walked from the parking lot and saw a full Shimano presence and heard Chris Zigmont over the mic was an understatement. This could seriously be built into a real mainstay of the New England cx schedule. It was also stop number 6 on the Zanconato singlespeed cx series. Most of the singlespeeders were there with a few key absences who chose Cheshire over NH.

I lined up in the 45+ race. The start on the velodrome was mentally pretty challenging for me. I don't road race so being locked in with 40 guys at 25 mph going into the first turn was making my brain want to explode. But in the back of my mind I felt ok as the fast old guys do not do stupid shit. Like ever. We got through into the infield with no incidents. Some separation occurred through all the turns and barriers. I was in with a good group and rode clean the whole race. With two to go I started to unravel a bit and started to bleed some spots. Not in a huge way but enough that I was starting to get the inner voice going. You know the "Master says faster voice..." As I came onto the pump track I noticed Mark McCormack entering it. I thought a minute and was trying to remember a.) how to get lapped by a PRO like a pro b.) how do I avoid taking Mark The Shark out on the high berm and being banished from New England when Mark gave me the gift of one more beautiful lap. He could have passed me with ease. But he sat up and said "Chip get moving don't you want another lap?" Actually I really did. Some races you want them over. Not this one. I could have ridden that loop all day. Literally. It was that much fun. So I answered the call and put down WATTS to get my last lap. Well as fate would have it right as I went back onto the infield I flatted my rear tire. I literally laughed out loud. But you know what. I knew the glue job would hold. The Wicox's glue jobs are bombproof. So I rode the entire lap on a flat rear Rhyno. And it was awesome. Really didn't effect my ability to ride any part of the course. Sure you had to ride a bit lighter but the contact patch was great and the tire drove really well. I finished up last guy on the lead lap. Thanks Mark!
Abel Mr Mudstache himself at VeloCX. I love that man. I really do.

Lowell Shedd Park

Lowell has always been my own personal buzz saw. It rips me to shreds each and every year. But like a lot of races like this I keep going back thinking it will be different. I am not going to lie I want the hard. I want the challenge. If its easy and you are so good at it it doesn't even seem to make you sweat what is the point? That really is what cross is all about for me. My problems at Lowell have always been crashes. I had one of my most epic crashes of all time that first year when the Forest of Lowellenburg was born. I t-boned some dude in hub deep mud at warp speed and flew what must have been 20 feet. Still have the ding on the tt of my Rock Lobster. Then the next year when it was fast and dry I almost killed the tiny Russian. I don't even know what happened in that one. I think I hit gravel and then I just went out of control at about 20 mph heading right for Tasha. She basically went into the fetal position to save her camera. Luckily I laid it down before I hit her. Last year I had a sick start and then hit a stump up top and that as they say was that. Being at the back of the race after that did afford me free reign of 4loko and waffle handups!
But this year. Wow. We unveiled the Death Star of ez-ups! How perfect that the new Hup ez-up was unveiled in the shadow of the Forest of Lowellenburg where so much Hup NE tradition was born. We had 7 women in the women's race. That literally brings a tear to my eye. We had an unreal Waffle Cross. But the racing. All that bad crash karma must have been used up because its not like I didn't have a ton of chances to once again have a crash of epic proportion. As we were lining up on the grass with 80 dudes in the 45+ race...wait 80 dudes? Yes there were 80 45+ guys at Lowell. It has become a mini-Verge. So we are sitting there in the start grid listening to Diane tell us to not take any beer, cupcake or waffle handups or we will be dq'd when my two wingmen and I start getting nervous. You can just feel something bad is gonna happen. There are no set lanes. People are half wheeling each other. We are screwed. Diane blows the whistle and the 3 of us are one bad move away from locking bars and taking everyone out. But we keep it together. The three of us clip in and are moving. Then BOOM. Its like a bomb went off. I have no idea how I got around the bodies and bikes but a small gap opened like the Red Sea and I jammed through it. I think I ran over some dudes carbon deep section wheel. Oops. We get on the track and it is on.

This was the fastest race I have ever been in. It was like a road race. Granted I have never been in one but if I had I am sure it would feel like this! 20 guys flying! 3 across locked on each others wheels. We made it around the tree of death and then just flew up the hill toward the double barriers. After the barriers some separation happened. I ended up in a group of 6 really fast guys. Guys I am not usually with. But you know what my form might actually be coming around. Because as much as mentally I was like this is too fast I am screwed. I felt fine. Then bombs started going off again. Chains started snapping. Dudes hit trees. Crashed on the upper deck. It was bananas. But I didn't even come close. Maybe I infected them all with my bad crash juju...what ever I will take it. I kept my arch rival at bay by about 20 seconds. Best race of the season for me. And by far one of the best days hanging out with the NECX.

Huge Hup hugs to Wheelworks, Shimano, BRC, CB, NEBC, and Hup for two great days of racing. My proposal? Lock this weekend up! Make it a VeloCX/Lowell double for eternity. This double is sooo much better than half the cookie cutter doubles we do and think that they are some benchmark for what cross should be. What you would get with these two back to back would be two polar opposite races. Two races really close to both Boston and NH. Two great clubs well four. Two races that try their hardest to be creative and give their customer what they want. Singlespeed racing, juniors on their own, women's fields that make sense. What a great weekend of racing

Saturday, November 12, 2011

DFL

There were a lot of possibilities for the title of this blog post. "Cross Crushed" as a play off Rapha's Cross Clash. The Grass isn't always greener. Maybe Ow and ow ow ow. You get the picture. Why is there a picture with a lion eating the lion tamer above? Being a lion tamer is a weird job. As long as the lions think you are a lion you are ok. Once the lions know you aren't a lion you have a real problem on your hands. I suspect its an awkward moment for all involved. A lion takes a swipe at the lion tamer and then is like wait what? Why have I been afraid of this hairless lion with the loud tail? You know how the story ends. That is pretty much how I feel sometimes. Do these kids have any idea how old and slow I am? Do they know that I really have zero talent? I guess that its possible that they do but they like me so put up with my total lack talent and pretend I am fast like they are. My Cross Clash with Matt Aumiller of Cambridge pretty much falls into this category. Matt and I have been riding together a fair amount. On more epic style rides. We did the Rapha ride together. We carved out the Ronde 2.5 ride together. Endurance riding can hide a lack of talent. I guess talent isn't the right word. Speed probably is the correct term. Or Power perhaps. Oddly I have speed but no power right now.
Matt in Newbury Comics kit he races for Cambridge obviously but looks damn good with tooth face on.

But back to the Cross Clash. This whole thing got hatched at Night Weasels when I was going pretty ok for an old man with zero talent. I unlike some of my younger old man friends have not found my old man power. Weird. But anyway I was going ok at Night Weasels. So after the race a 3 way Clash was formed between myself, Matt and Robert Hale. How can you say no to Cross Clash? To do so would be pretty weak. So we waited and waited. It never happened for various reasons. Eco-Cross in Falmouth presented itself as the perfect Clash. It was a Friday we all had it off. Looked to be a chill race. Matt got all stoked and said it was on. Ok no problem. I probably should have gotten a bit worried when he said with great enthusiasm that we were going to clash in the 1/2/3 race. Now even more disturbingly on the reg page it said PRO 1/2/3. Alarms were going on in my head as there is nothing Pro about me. But I figured what Pro would show up to some jungle cross race down the Cape when the payout is $250? My god at Night Weasels we were paying out $2,000 and its not like we were overrun by Pro's trying to get paid. So I thought ok it will be fine. For a few days it was really only me and Matt signed up. Then Colin and David signed up. We figured a handful of the usual Cape fast guys would show up.

The funny thing keeping me calm and not freaking out was I remembered eco-cross from when I first moved here. A super chill jungle cross race. I used to be great at jungle cross. In my mind I still am. But you know what? I am really not good at jungle cross anymore. At all actually. The Verge races have ruined me. I finally have speed but do not seemingly have any power. Oh well. Next summer I guess a healthy dose of mtn bike racing will be on the docket. So back to Friday. We lure Gewilli into the mix. Or did he convince me not to wuss out and request a downgrade from Dianne so I could race 4s at noon? I kind of forget. Anyway so we show up and then I find out real actual PROs are actually racing. In fact Luke Keough and his brothers are on hand. As are a lot of really fast guys. Ok no problem. We start joking about how many times we will be lapped. Twice seemed likely. Three times would just be sad. We line up at the back. Obviously. Colin gave me a nod to move up into the space right behind him but I shook it off. No way I wanted any part of that.
Luke Keough doing what he does best...

So basically it was two races. The super fast guys and us 3s partying at the back. Eco-cross seemed to be a bit more sketchy than I recall. Again I think Adam has ruined me. Seriously. I wasn't nervous it was just kind of funny cause I remember Dianne chewing out Colin for stuff way sketchier than this. Let's recap. A downhill barrier section at the end of a fireroad with gravel right before the transition to the planks. What could go wrong there? Then after the double planks a section of rubber ( they felt like metal) mats. They were super sketchy to say the least. Then after the plates of Death another gravel section. I saw a bunch of people almost hit the barn at the apex of the gravel. After that it was just the usual stuff. Course doubling on itself just asking for someone to get Treeboned. Ok let me take a step back. I am not complaining as racing it was way less sketchy than pre-riding. I actually enjoyed the challenge of actually having to stay focused at all time lest something really, really bad happen to you. But it also had a great mtn bikey flow to it.

But back to my actual race. So the 6-10 of us threes let a slight gap open after the "start" and then started our race. GeWilli got a good gap straight away. I stayed in a group of about 5 for most of the race. My Clash was dangling about 15 seconds up. I was in a group with his teammate Ian who had already done one race and was doubling up. He didn't even look tired. With about 3 to go I started to crack a bit. I made a "move" right before the woods on GeWillis teammate to try and do something that resembled racing. I got right in front of him before the woods and just went to warp speed. I got a small gap then down the fireroad to the 180 in the hub deep puddle. Made the 180 and he was on my wheel. My "attack" was short lived to say the least. He powered by me on the uphill riser and then that my friends was that. Luke Keough and the whole field came charging through shortly thereafter. At this point I went from "racing" to let's get lapped like a PRO ie don't crash out someone with an actual future in cyclo-cross. With one to go I saw Luke coming again. I could have sat up and been done with my race as if he came through at the finish my race would be over. But no way I was gonna be 2 laps down. I went hard into the pain cave and got through the barriers right as he came over the top of the vineyard. The hardest earned DFL of my life. Way back before we had kids Father Maurice a really sweet Anglican Priest said something that has stuck with me forever. He was talking about the keys to a successful marriage He said the key was that sometimes you have to put your hard hat on. Its obvious what he meant but for those who maybe don't get it he was saying even with love sometimes you have to work at it. Its not going to be easy. You may not even like your husband or wife. But put your hard hat on, grab you lunch pail and get to work. Friday was a day like that. I suspect I am gonna need to put my hard hat on for a few more weeks. And that is ok


Monday, November 7, 2011

No Sleep til Noho

MVL chased me all over the course shouting and screaming.

Noho to me is like a home away from home. Sooo much of my biker 2.0 life revolves around Noho. My coach lives in Noho. The Nohocx mafia does sooo much for the sport. Their influence goes way beyond the town limits of Noho. Just look what they have done with the JAM foundation. Amazing how they have been cultivating talent and building the culture. So many of my good friends live there. It has dawned on me many times why I don't live there. I could do it and love it but my family love where we live. I think I like it largely because it reminds me in so many ways of Northern California. If you put it next to an ocean it could be Santa Cruz. I have been going to CSI aka Cycle-Smart International for about 5 years now. It may even be 7. It has always been one of my favorite courses. But only three years ago all it had going for it was the race. I mean you couldn't even get a cup of coffee at the venue. Which was kind of a bummer as other than that you really didn't want to leave Look Park as it is such a great venue.
Noho has one badass runup.

But over the last couple of years Adam, Al, JD et all have taken it to a whole other level. This year as part of the NEPCX it was as good if not better than any cross nationals I have been to. Big fields, amazing flow to the course. I feel bad for crossers who don't have course designers like we have back here in the NECX. And I really feel bad for those who never get to race on grass. Both days courses were amazing. Such a great flow. But CSI is not a grass crit. Yes it is super fast on the lower deck but up top in the woods will chew you up and spit you out if you are not on top of your game. HUP goes all in with this race. Rosey and Yash started the tradition with the HUP Vip Suite. And we have kept that tradition alive. Noho got pounded by a crazy early winter storm. They didn't have electricity for 5 days. But you know what they are tough New Englanders. The staff at the hotel was incredible. We barely had power but they took great care of us. Huge Hup hugs to all of Noho for rallying and making the weekend happen.

There is a whole lot of Mad Alchemy love in that box!

Friday night was pretty chill. We got up late set up had a nice team dinner and went to bed. The 4s, MVL and Stewart headed out early and set up shop at pit row. Pit Row to me has changed the whole dynamic of racing in NE. It has built such a great sense of community. Five years ago after the race everyone would bail and go home. Now everyone wants to hang out watch the other races and just enjoy a great day of cx. My race aka the old sort of fast guys was great. After Canton it was nice to get a race in that was fast and clean. Nothing to rave about but a good solid race. Legs felt like they were finally coming around. That night we all went out to the Dirty Truth. Another great Noho tradition. The Dirty Truth is a really cool beer bar in Noho. They must have 40 beers on tap. I went over with Dr Jay, Todd P and MVL. We caught up with pretty much the entire NECX. Some were raring to get their beer light on full effect others were hedging their bets. MVL was smelling a podium and I was stoked for him. I tried to keep him from doing a full on Anthony Freak Out but it was pretty hard. He was amped! It is always so cool seeing someone so jacked up on cx.

The Dirty Truth! Such a fun night out with the boys! I had a couple for my hommie Steen...

We got home early and crashed out. I promised him I would drive to the venue with him early and help him get set up. I only pretended to not want to go early. Deep down I love the 4s. To me they and the 3/4 women are the life blood of cx. People complain about 4s and 3s getting "sponsored" or "hooked" up but to me it makes perfect sense. I would rather see a totally PRO cat 4 or 3/4 team than a masters "team". Cat 4s appreciate everything they get. I could tell Mark was stoked I was there to help support him. And seeing Stewart and the 3/4 women roll up and be all so stoked to race got me so psyched it wasn't even funny. To me that is what the NECX is all about. Its what being on a team like HUP is all about. You support each other, you like each other, you are a family or a wolfpack. Well mission accomplished! Mark has been working hard for this one and he got up on that podium. Even brought Samantha up there with him. So stoked. Such a great way to end a kick ass weekend of cx.
MVL up on the podium for the 4 race

HUP had 6 3/4 women racing! Which was incredible. Each one of those women inspire me and just get me so stoked. My race was really, really great. I felt fast. Raced smart. Still bouncing back. But considering I hadn't ridden or raced in a month? Wow. The highlight to me was with 3 to go I kept hearing Richard saying "Jan Wiejack is in the mix" blah, blah blah. All the other stuff pretty much was white noise aka Richard being Richard. But when I kept hearing him repeat the name my hypoxic brain clicked. No way I thought. It can't be THE Jan Wiejack. The Jan Wiejack that was so responsible for my love of cx. Jan was a legend. One of the first Euros to come over here. I saw him race nationals in Seatac in 1994. I had traveled with the Ritchey team as a sort of embedded journalist. Ritchey was trying to get a new racer Shari Kain on the podium. Deep down we all knew she could win it. She did. And it was amazing to be a part of. But what really hooked me was the elite race. You had all these bad ass americans lined up. Then the usual pack fill. Not like today but say 100 guys. Jan was relegated to the back row as he didn't have any points. The course was like nothing we have today. If we did it today there wouldn't be enough ambulances to carry away the injured riders. It was like some GVA race in Europe. I so wish we had courses like it.

Anyway he just destroys the field and makes his way to the front and then just punishes the Americans. It was like nothing I had seen before. And after that I knew cx was for me. Even if I suck at it. Which I pretty much do it is the most beautiful cycle sport on the planet. But back to Jan. He catches us and kind of muscles into our little four person group. Now that I know it is him I am like screw the rest of these guys what ever Jan does I am doing. I wasn't trying to beat him. I was trying to learn from a master. And I really did pick up some things. I can die a happy man I will say that. What an amazing weekend. So much to talk about. Jeremy Durrin's sausage fest has been well documented so I won't elaborate but it was hilarious. High & Mighty's beer tent. All my good friends working so hard. Pete giving me the best nickname evah! My wife jokingly has called me that for about a year. But I have never shared it with anyone as you can't make up your own nickname. When I saw Pete write it on my box of Mad Alchemy love it cracked me up. Pete get's me. And I love him for it. Brought home a Blue kids bike that has transformed my 7 year old into a total speed freak on the bike. Literally she went from not being able to ride to absolutely burning up the pavement in our 'hood. The best part was seeing all the people I missed seeing the whole month of October. It is so good to be back.
Along those lines. As I was in the beer tent talking with Christopher Walken, my good friend Katherine Snell handed me this cool trading card! It is for VeloCX the next stop on the Zanconato Singlespeed World Tour. Make sure you put this one on your calendar! My HUP Honey is being blinged out right now so I can race this! If you have never been there it will be such a rad course to do on a singlespeed. Super fun. A bmx pump track. We will enter Gnarnia my friends. And I have a HUGE box of swag for prizes and High & Mighty beer. See you all on the 19th!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hitting the reset button

On Saturday at Canton I hit the reset button on the 2011 cx campaign. Not gonna bore you with the details but October was rough. After Night Weasels it all went downhill fast. I didn't race or even ride my bike for 3 weeks. I was so close to pulling the plug on the season so many times. But finally things calmed down and I was able to think about the bike game again. But its rough when you are riding a peak and then lose 3 weeks and know just how bad you are going to suck. Some people can fake their fitness and just ride fast cause they are blessed with good genes. I am blessed with the worst genes on the planet. Not even joking. I fight bad genetics every day. The fact that I can be a mid-pack bike racer at 46 is a gift. But now I am being a doggy downer and really all that is in the past. With an impending snowpocalypse forecast for the weekend I started totally freaking out about bike racing again. Which was such a good feeling.
The last six months an unholy alliance has been forged between the Lion and the Cockroach. Ronde 2.5, Rapha G-ride, on and on and on. We have bonded over a shared interest in punishing ourselves and seeking the not so travelled routes on our cross bikes. Its been amazing. At Canton we set up shop right next to Cambridge's compound. It was great to see the crew as always. I was racing the 3/4 in the hopes of Cross Clashing with Matt Aumiller and Rob Hale. Life conspired against this and left me to battle men dressed as toilets, Tinker Bell and the Super Mario Brothers. Nice. I had really low expectations for this one. I was still hacking a lung and was not feeling right. But I took a ton of advice from Mr. Aumiller and coach Al. Went heavy with the vicks and all manner of old school tricks to trick my body into thinking it was actually health enough to bike race. But frankly merely being around the NECX got me ready to race. At the line I didn't even feel sick. I still knew I was screwed but I was able to trick my brain into thinking I had this. But back to the NECX. I had a most hilarious interchange with Resutsboy while warming up on the trainer. He was equally disgusted that I was on the trainer and then noticed I was using my Fangos. He began mocking me about using $80 tubies on a trainer and how insane that was. I assured him they were not $80 but were more like $120. His reaction was priceless when he realized I was using my FMBs!
He shamed me off the trainer and then gave the tires a pinch. And the mockery continued. But thank god. He suggested a much more PRO tire pressure like say 27/28. This set Rae totally off. Which in itself was hilarious. I doubted the effectiveness of such low pressure on a course covered in pavement but who am I to argue with the King of the Internet. I mean that kid knows stuff. So I borrowed CB's pimp crafstmen inflater and dialed it in. 27/28. And thank god I did.

So I roll over to the start and reconnect with everyone. I end up staging 3rd row right behind Dave Chiu. Not a bad wheel to follow. Whistle goes off and its like freaking Braveheart. People are swarming everywhere. I try and stay on Dave's wheel as much as humanly possible. We make the sketchy first corner and then I just lay down watts trying to lock onto Dave. In the scrum on the fireroad I lose contact a bit and get in with another Ride Studio rider. His gears start making all kinds of horrible I am going to explode any moment noises. Now I am learning cat 3s do things a bit different that the fast old dudes. Old dudes yell a lot in the beginning of the race. First lap they scream at you, threaten fights in the parking lot etc. All kinds of crazy shit. But nothing really goes down. They ride very predictably and contrary to the verbal barrage they spew at you, ride with a level of respect of someone who knows they need to go to work the next day and can't afford to be in a body cast. Cat 3s go kinda crazy. Which is sort of exciting.

So back to the starship trooper who's wheel I have the misfortune to be on. He mashes down on those poor gears one too many times and then BOOM! The chain snaps and goes flying through the air in slow mo like a helicopter blade in a zombie movie. I see it coming at my bike and don't even have time to process it. Bam its in my front wheel. Makes all manner of ripping and shredding noises. I dismount at the barrier pull it out and fling it. I remount and the wheel is f'd. Or I assumed it was f'd The front brake is rubbing so bad on it I assume I broke a spoke or two. The pit is soooo far away. I keep driving as best as I can but am bleeding spots. But at least I am moving forward. I am in an ok group heading towards the log when I stack it big time in a corner. I get up and the chain is off. A group of seemingly 20 dudes goes flying by me. I just laugh. Things went from good to bad so fast it was comical. Get the chain on and just try and get to the pit in one piece. The heckling starts in ernest. I hear Resultsboy yelling at me. "How can you be sucking this bad on $250 worth of French tubulars?" Well played sir.

I finally get to the pit after what seems like forever. I roll in and Mark is there in a second. He fixes the problem which ends up being my pads just got tweaked so they were rubbing my front wheel. I get back out in pretty much DFL. But now my bike actually goes sort of fast when I pedal hard. So I decided to go hahdah. Dave Foley aka Negacoach sees me and yells my favorite heckle of the day. I hear him yell "Baker are you really going to let a toilet beat you!?"

That shocks me out of my pity party and I am like hell fucking no I am not going to get beat by a dude wearing a toilet as a costume. So I start moving up. First through one and two riders and then groups. I pass Tinker Bell. Then with 3 to go I see the Porcelain God. And now it is on like Donkey Kong! With 3 to go the conditions have gone from cold but dry to pouring rain and freezing. And now Resultsboys pressure advice is paying off in spades. 27/28 makes a Fango which is not a great mud tire into a servaceable mud tire. As long as you stay on top of your shit you are ok. So I start making some headway as people are now either checking out mentally from the conditions or they are going off the course in the sketchy corners. I am able to ride the runup a couple of times which other than my battle with the toilet bowl man was the highlight of my day.

With one to go I finally catch him. He puts up a valiant fight but after Negacoaches heckling there is no way I am losing. I kick it into gear and catch a few more spots on my way in to the finish. At the line Andy Huff comes over and says "you know you wouldn't be falling out of that skinsuit if it was a Castelli" Hahah good one Andy a finish line heckle. Then I see my ass is hanging out of my skinsuit from some sharkbite. I don't even know at what point I shredded my $160 Vermarc skinsuit to pieces. What a day. CX season is back on! It was so great seeing everyone. Insane how much I missed the argy bargy, the heckling, the battles and all my good friends. Toilet bowl man...much respect. You are a worthy adversary!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jay Sycip's Tequila Chili Pasta

Jay Sycip pictured on the right

This is not a GeWilli foodie post. I am NOT a foodie. I eat good food but do not obsess about it. Not that there is anything wrong with that. So back when I went from an editor of a magazine to being a stay at home dad in full freak out mode with a colicky baby I got into cooking. I watched a ton of Jaques Pepin with a baby sleeping on my chest. I learned a lot. And I got into it. But like everything I do I tend to go "full Chip ADHD auto" in the blink of an eye. What is full Chip ADHD auto? You clearly haven't spent much time with me if you have to ask that. Its the old kill em all and let god sort them out approach to the Zombie apocalypse. Full auto is never a good thing. All it does is jam your AK and leave you without ammo...
Children of the Night. Jay keeping the zombies at bay

But back to my transformation from hellion to stay at home dad. So yeah we were alone out in SF in a 3 bedroom condo with a new baby. We hunkered down cause we had no family back up and really only one babysitter. So I cooked a lot. Jacques is an amazing teacher. His shows were like Zen to me. Even though I was in full on daddy day care mode I was still a biker. We lived right at the base of Mt Diablo. It is like a dream or past life to me at this point. But dear god there was some sick riding right out my front door. Again I had made a pretty rapid change in my life. We had just moved from San Francisco. I had left the bike industry. Or the bike industry kind of folded all around me would be a more accurate description. People really have no idea how bad the job market was when my wife and I got out of school. It was a disaster. But we lived a good life. Never complained. Didn't try to occupy anything. So here I am in the 'burbs. Beautiful 'burbs mind you. But it wasn't SF, or Marin or Santa Cruz where all my friends lived. But we made the best of it. I still rode. Stayed in touch with my Sycip teammates etc.
Jay now works for Chris King and as you can see puts his culinary talents to work on their gourmet century. Jeremy Sycip is pictured to the left in the center

So when they called me and asked me if I wanted to be on a 24 hr mountain bike team I got pretty stoked. I told them I hadn't been riding that much. They said they didn't care we were just gonna hang out and camp and ride bikes and drink beer. Wow. That is like offering water to a man in the desert. So I kicked it into gear. What is funny is I had no idea that I was basically already training for it. I had no need for sleep at this point. My baby woke me up every 2 hours. She never slept. At all. Well that isn't totally true. She would sleep on my chest for 2 hours then wake up screaming for food. But I also started riding the trainer at crazy ass hours. I figured it would be hour laps or so. So I would do four hours on the trainer throughout a 24 hour period.

I had no idea but for some reason 24 hour racing really works for me. I think its the team format. I am not really competitive by nature. I don't have a killer instinct. I can be aggressive and won't back down from a battle but I really like the comraderie of racing more than any other part of it. Well and the riding in the mucky muck. That really gets me going. So I met my Sycip teammates at Laguna Seca. Totally unprepared as usual. I had some Top Ramen, a loaf of bread, some cereal and PB&J. And a ton of beer. Classic Chip. I think I had a sleeping bag but I might have had a blanket. But it was June in Norcal so it certainly wasn't cold. We had a great tent city. I was on a 5-person coed team with Jeremy Sycip. Jeremy's brother and business partner at the time Jay Sycip was along for support. Thank. God. He basically kept me fed for the whole 24hrs. Pancakes, lunch, coffee. The man has a gift. Around midnight he started cooking chili. God it smelled so good. At first I thought chili? At a 24 hr race? I held off at first thinking this could end poorly. But then our solo guy came in. Just blown to pieces. He had gone non-stop for 12 hours. He asked me to help him take his jersey off. That is how wrecked he was. He sat down and Jay gave him a bowl of chili over spaghetti. The guy inhaled it. Then got kitted up and took off. The stuff was rocket fuel. I was starving at that point. Jay looked at me. Do you want some he said? Hell yes. I had a huge bowl. My teammates started dropping like flies through the night. The sleep deprivation started catching up to them. I rode through the night and had the greatest lap a 24 hr racer can ever have. The COD lap...Crack of Dawn. Going out in the pitch blackness and then seeing the sun rise over Laguna Seca was amazing.

So here goes Jay Sycips Tequila pasta. Basically its just a normal chili recipe. I like beans. My good friends from Texas would disapprove. And I like two types of beans. I also like meat. For the tequila we used Sauza Commemerotivo. But you can use anything. I assume it cooks off but I forget. Maybe I was slightly buzzed and that helped the laps go by faster. Put it over some thin spaghetti top it with Parm cheese and voila!

This recipe is a mix mash of a bunch of good ones:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or not for veg)
2 cups chopped onio
4 chopped carrots
4 chopped celery stalks
1 16 ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can red kidney beans
1 can black beans
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 1/2 cups of water
Tequila to taste. Maybe a couple of shots. I wouldn't use too much. Make it once and see how you like it.

Heat oil in large pot

Throw in veggies. Sautee with the tequila. You want to infuse the taste and burn off the alcohol. Or not I suppose. If you wanted to get your guests drunk you could add the tequila to the chili after you put the tomatoes in the pot.

Pour tomatoes in bowl. Crush by hand. Its ok to use your hand its your best kitchen utensil

Add in crushed tomatoes, the water and spices to the pot with the sauteed veggies. Turn up heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer

In a separate pan cook the meat. Some add the spices to the meat. It works well both ways. Once the meat is cooked add to the pot with the two cans of beans.

Let it all simmer. You want to stir the pot a lot with a wooden spoon so it doesn't stick. Add the tomato paste. Sometimes I add a jar of hot salsa in. It gives it a little extra kick

To add punch you could chop up jalapenos.

I cook some nice Barilla thin spaghetti. Then I serve the chili over the top of the pasta with some nice Parm cheese on top.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Night Weasels bonus footage

The Newbury Comics "heckle zone" or "beer feed" not sure which. All I do know is every time I came through here it got me sooo stoked it was insane. Thank you NC for rocking so hard and supporting cross in New England

Jon Nable. New HUPmate. Such a great guy. Massive watts. Mad skills. A playoff beard worthy of envy. Sidelined with a nasty D2R2 concussion. So glad he is ok. It could have been worse. But we need that man healed and headache free!

Thom. Looking like a rockstar with double shades. He hooked me up with some Tim Johnson Mad Alchemy right before my start. And frankly it set the tone for my whole race! The fact that TJ was at the race giving beer handups while I was racing with TJ blend on my legs is mind boggling

DJ looking PRO as hell and in full HUP team issue compliance! We had a good battle out there in the dark and in the mucky muck...

The Newbury Comics tent was the place to be. Darkness falls on dahweasel and blood and metal feeds the beast

The Prince and Princess of Darkness Trophies were amazing! Thanks to Skunk at Seven for making them. People were so stoked to win them

There is a cross bike under there. Somewhere.

Yeah its a new type of Campy Electronic derailler. I had to hide it under the mucky muck or the Italians would have had my head....

How the bike worked at all is beyond me. The bikes went from 17 pounds at the line to about 70 pounds after the first lap. You literally had to pull shit off your brakes, drivetrain etc as you ran. Or you had to stop and just triage it real fast. Running was such a big part of the Night Weasels. This my friends was not a grass crit. At. All