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


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


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!