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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You want Mud you've got it

Kristina Donehew rocking the blanco at dahweasel. By Russ Campbell

Yeah I referenced an AC/DC song...what are you gonna do. Holy week featured something pretty unique. Don't know if its happened before or not but either way it was something special. Back to back weds night cx races. That is pretty badass. And the two events could not possibly have been more different. Gary, Russ and MRC did an amazing job on MidnightCX. It was such a great venue, so well organized, the course was fantastic. Top notch. They had world caliber racers. Especially the Brits which needs it own post but what a great night it was. Too fast and furious cross racing. Grass, tight turns etc. Night Weasels was like the MidnightCX's Satanic drunk cousin....that just got out of jail and was itching to do some crimes. While MidnightCX had a mostly flat, high speed grassy course Night Weasels had the heaviest course I have ever ridden in my life. Ski Ward is a heavy course on a good day. It is a ski hill. So yeah you will be climbing. So it will be hard. But we had torrential rain leading up to the race. So much so that the Ski Ward crew had to do some serious engineering just to make it rideable. Huge hats off to them. They do so much work getting the race course ready that people never see. They really deserve so much credit.
But this is dahweasel. It is supposed to be hahhd as Ultraendurance guy would say. What you get at Night Weasels is part party, part heavy weight MMA throwdown on cross bikes. It is supposed to be tough. But this year was a lot tougher. We say dahweasel requires two things for survival. Blood and Metal. She got a little taste of blood on Wednesday. Thankfully not too much. But her thirst for metal was unprecedented. So many rear deraillers just snapped off peoples bikes. I saw it happen at least once right before my very eyes. Snap. Crackle. Pop. I basically rode a single speed cx race last night. And no it wasn't a gearing option. I had no options cause I could not shift. Thankfully I was in the 39 X26. Any other gear and I would have been doing a lot more running I will say that. My race was sooo much fun. Like I said this is the muddiest course I have ever raced. You had to be smart. Ride way outside. Tape to tape and just hope there was some actual grass left to give you traction. There really wasn't much as everyones bikes went from 17 pounds at the start to about 70 pounds by the end of lap one. So much grass was packed up everywhere it made braking and shifting basically impossible. I had soo much mud and grass on my cogs the chain couldn't grip the teeth. Good times.
This year was a redemption for me if you will. I wasn't planning on racing as I was helping Colin promote the race and didn't want to leave him hanging. Last year I did one hot lap then started hearing Colin's voice in my head. Started yardsaling and packed it in before even finishing a second lap. That did not sit well with me. I do not drop out of races. But my good friend Michele Smith took over my prize czar role and let me race without worrying about Cat 4s sitting around waiting til I finished to get their Prince of Darkness Trophy. Yes we had sick Prince and Princess of Darkness trophies made by a man named Skunk. Skunk is a legend at Seven Cycles. So I was able to actually race. The great thing about this was that even though I ran from the Newbury Comics booth to my car with ten minutes to staging to throw on my skinsuit it just didn't matter. My warm up was a heavy slathering of Tim Johnson Mad Alchemy embro, a gu shot, some flexall on my lower back and a quick Belgian handshake on my tires. PRO as hell. A warm up was about as helpful as file treads on a night like tonight.
This photo may be the greatest cross photo of all time and says so much about the NECX Photo by Bob Jenney of 545 Velo

Really my only goal was to not die. Part of me really wanted to do well. Not gonna lie about that. Its well documented that I love mud. The crazier the better. But this took crazy and just sent it to defcon 11...Even though it was so muddy Colin and his crew created a great course. Yeah parts of it were a slip and slide but like Lyne said in one of the Cyclingdirt videos you shouldn't be afraid to run. If it bogged down just run. And actually running was better than riding in so many places. It also gave you a chance to do triage on your bike. I pulled so many of those little wire flags out of my cassette, rear derailler, front brake. It was insane. Its like the course was spitting metal at me..see there is that metal again. I rode with and against some of my best friends in the NECX. Frankly it was awesome. One of the more insane parts was at the top of the first climb. You basically climbed the hill then had to run about 100 yards through a ankle deep bog. Then you remount and go on Mr Toads wild ride down the hill. Well as I remount a guy is right on my inside. It is dark. You are moving wicked slow. So I don't even think about it till we both jump on our bikes at the exact same time. Then our bars lock. All I have time to say is Oh no...locked. And I eject out over the front of my bike and do a superman yardsale down the hill. I run back up and the other rider has been kind enough to untangle our bikes. We don't even say a word. Just remount and keep grinding.

What an amazing night. Huge, Huge HUP Hugs to my partner in grime Colin Reuter. Wow. What can you even say. He worked so hard to make this happen. I really don't know how he did it. Its hard to tell which he used more his talent or sheer will power. Thank you to Newbury Comics, Roger, Nick, Billy and Thom for supporting us in a huge way. I love those guys. They are what the NECX is all about. Pete from Mad Alchemy. He is pictured above. Twice. Man I love that guy. Again another guy who just backs cross. Lives it. Breathes it. And just ups everyones game. It was so great seeing Tim Johnson and Lyne and the whole team out being a big part of grassroots racing. I can't even put into words their support. Tim put up $150 of his own cash for primes. And pushed riders to keep them from falling over. Gave beer handups. Talked to everyone. That is PRO. Supporting a bunch of cross crazed lunatics on a night when you should be resting for a C1 race on saturday. Much respect. Thanks to Chris Smith from Lazer Helmets. Not only are Lazer helmets the coolest helmets on the planet they are Belgian. I can't think of a more appropriate prize for the Night Weasels than a Lion of Flanders Genesis helmet.We had so many other great supporters: All Hail the Black Market, EMS, Thomson and the Ride Studio Cafe. And we couldn't have done it without the volunteers help. The team stepped up big. Sure there were some issues with bells or balls or something out on the dark side of the course but you know the saying what happens on the darkside stays on the darkside. Unless it gets captured on video....but I digress. Meg and Michele and Mark from HUP handled registration and prizes. What an amazing event. Thank you to all of the racers and fans and again huge thanks to Ski Ward. Show them some love this winter. They really have grown to love bikers. We should love them back.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I ripped this photo from Stevil's blog All Hail The Black Market. If you don't know of it you should. Pictured above is one Robert Kurosawa. Or Pineapple Bob. Or P-Bob. That man is/was my CX Pimp. End of story. He is the one who got me hooked. Not to sound old but before the internet we had to actually seek out our teachers and mentors. You couldn't just become twitter friends with cyclo-cross pros. It just didn't work that way. You had to earn your way into the tribe. I had a bit of an in as I was friends with P-Bobs friends. They were my introduction. And I was an editor of a small bike mag in SF. So I approached him under the guise of wanting to do an interview and learn about cx. I knew nothing about cx.

But I had been dancing around it the last year. I was good friends with the Ritchey team. The same Ritchey team with Thomas Frishknecht and Hank Djernis. Yeah google search those two names if you really like cx. And yeah this american guy named Don Myrah. So even if I didn't know it at the time I was getting sucked into the cross vortex. But when I knocked on P-Bobs door in Oakland and walked into his house I was blown away. It wasn't a house as much as it was a museum. Bob is an artist. And his house housed his art. You just don't see this in Boston. I don't know why. But he welcomed me in. He made me coffee. He popped in a tape of Worlds and said sit down. He made me watch tape, after tape after tape. That is how people learned about cross. By watching old grainy videos of europeans going bananas on cx bikes. You would catch a glimpse of some poor American rider crashing into the tape while Frishy put on a clinic in descending some sketchy off camber.

Bob took me under his wing. I learned so much from him. There weren't any coaches back then. You just rode the damn bike. Lots. And you focused on doing cross right. My first cross bike was a Rock Lobster that was two sizes too big and had bar con shifters. We had clipless pedals. Frankly sti was just coming out but no one trusted it. Hence the bar cons. Bar end shifters worked great for cross. In some ways its too bad they died out.

But back to P-Bob. I owe him everything. Sure the NECX is amazing. But you can't replicate that first teacher or that first mentor who taught you to love something. It was so good to see a photo of Pineapple. And looking just like he is digging life. Thanks P-Bob for giving me the love of cx.