Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mud Flaps are nice

Lot going on in my little world. Cross season is ovah. Officially with World's last weekend. I missed the best party in the whole NECX but I had much more important things to take care of. That is how it goes. The weather has been crazy this winter. So I have been riding. Lots. And have cleaned up my act. Not gonna go into details but we have what you would say a family crisis going on with my moms. Or wake up call. Its working out well. As best as you can hope for in these situations. When you walk through the doors of Dana-Farber it changes you. My mom is ok. But what always amazes me is that my family rallies. Big time. We may all be batshit crazy Irish Townies but I will tell you what we come together. That was driven home from day one by you guessed it my mom. So let's say its made me focus. Big time.
Not gonna bore you with the details but its a bit of a cleansing going on. I have been lucky to have some amazing conversations with some good friends. And have been on some great rides that have really helped me focus. I consider myself pretty Zen or Buddhist. Or maybe a Hybrid. I am spiritual. I am not going to shy away from it. I pray. Nightly. I pray at the start grid of every race. Every mini-epic. Its in my DNA. But I always felt I was pretty cool with death etc. But I have been hit with this news about my mom hard. So its time to really peel back the bullshit. Take away what doesn't work. Chose health if you will. You need to be healthy and strong for others not just yourself. So that is the journey I am on right now. Its funny really. Cross may not be "healthy" for me. Its true. I come into cross season lean and tanned. I come out 10 pounds heavier and bloated. Blame it on the beer and cupcakes. Who knows. So some big changes. Beer is out. Booze is out. Soda is out. Shit. This is not going to be easy. But it has to happen
Ryan Kelly hit the nail on the head. But I will agree to disagree on the alcohol. It can be fine for most people. But please I am Irish. As Brett Favre once said I am not a good drinker. It sneaks up on me sometimes. So for now we put that part aside and focus on the positive. I have some amazing friends. Actually we all do. That to me is one of the most incredible pieces of this NECX puzzle. A huge thanks to everyone who checked in on me or asked me to coffee or let me ride with them. Its really helped. Speaking of riding. I am a Strava addict. Its weird. Its not the data itself. Or the KOMs or anything. I just like that it gives you these challenges. And you can see what everyone else is doing. For me who is pretty much uncoachable. Well. Totally uncoachable. It gives me a goal. What is that goal. Ride. And ride lots. We will see how that strategy pays off. I think it will pay off big time
Body is a wreck after riding 5 days straight last week. Got about 160 miles in. That is pretty sweet for January in New England. Plan is to surf this wave of Global Warming til the next mini Ice Age kicks us in the nuts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Young Man Winter

Ice World has no rules. As we all know. I like most sane people have some rules. One of those rules is no riding under 20 degrees. I also hate the trainer. Like viscerally hate it. I don't know how people do it. Frankly riding the trainer for extended periods of time is wayyy more brutal than riding outside. So when Andy Huff (picture above) called me out on my own supposedly Hardman fb page and on twitter I pretty much had to show. You lose all your Hardman status if you don't show up for your own ride right? The Garden Gnome said 10 degrees. But it looked sunny. Andy tweeted that he was dressed and heading to Cutler. No turning back now. I got my self all jacked up listening to Sean Paul Temperature. About 20 times....

Put on ALL my clothing. I was a bit worried about my gloves but whatever. How bad could it be? I rolled out and it wasn't that bad. Sun was shinning. Sure it was cold. But it wasn't that bad. On my way to Cutler I saw a pack of teenage girls walking wearing just hoodies. No hats. No jackets. Hoodies. Uggs and sweats. Yeah you think you are Hard. Not even close my friend. Townie girls are wayyyy tougher than you trust me. I laughed a bit inside and rolled over the hill to PTC. I got there wicked early. Not a great thing when its 10 degrees and windy. One rule of winter I do stick with is keep moving. As long as you are moving you can't freeze to death. Pretty sure that was in Jack London's Call of the Wild. Or maybe its keep moving so the wolves don't get you. What ever. I was an art major. So I go into Cutler and search out the euro chutes. The ground was frozen and fast. Found the sickest chute yet. Rolled back to the parking lot and was greeted by about 5 police cars, an ambulance and two Firetrucks. Ahhh the party doesn't start til the cops show up.

Andy was boxed in by what looked like either a.) Dog Walker road rage b.) Drunk hikers c.) an old lady who went for brake and hit accelerator. Either way a car got t-boned in the parking lot that defied all logic. All the policemen and the poor guy who's SUV was just jacked up just looked at the crime errr accident scene and shook their collective heads. Luckily they were all wearing their helmets or they would have deserved it cause driving cars is inherently dangerous...

Anhyoo. Two other hearty souls arrived. In all the excitement I started getting all Hypothermic so I jumped in the team car. Should I mention that Andy had four rolls of course tape sitting in his car. Yeah the King of Bandit cross is ready to occupy your park at a moments notice....be afraid. The Occupy CX movement is coming to a park near you sooner than you can imagine.

They finally got me out of the car after much protest. They weren't buying I already did my ride. You guys go ride I am going to listen to dancehall music here in the car...They dragged me out and put me on my bike. Mostly cause they didn't know the trails. I lead out and go into the park towards the Island. Andy and I are chatting a bit. I stop to shake out my now frozen claws of hands so I can use my brakes and notice its just me and Andy. Hmm that is weird. The other two roll up with a story about a stick in a derailler. If my brain wasn't so frozen solid this would have raised red flags. Cutler is a derailler killer. Not sure why. But it has a nasty reputation as a ripper of deraillers. I head towards the rooty stuff. Clean the crazy rooted camber. I hear some "noises" behind me and just hope no one has maimed themselves too severely.

I get into the flow once again. Just railing the turns. Get out on the board walk and over to the Island. I assumed everyone was right behind me. I stop to try and get feeling in my hands. And no one is behind me. This is starting to shake out like a bad horror movie. Finally one rider appears. We talk about how cold it is. We wait. And wait. Then head back. At the other end of the board walk we see a lone toe cover. WTF? Has the Yeti devoured Andy and the other dude? Holy crap. So now we are in full back track mode looking for blood trails and any remains. After almost getting all the way back to the main trail I see Andy coming towards us. Looks like the late rider snapped his chain and they went back to the parking lot.

I take them back out to the Island and get in a nice hot lap. Then give them high fives and say my goodbyes. I jet home as fast as I can and eat all the food in the house. I still have a wicked Ice Cream headache. But all in all an awesome day on the bike. Thanks Andy for once again getting me stoked to ride bikes!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Way of the Bike

Roger Cadman and I battling it out. We look like a kind of Yin and Yang of cx. Or maybe the Half-Moon cookie of cross. It was so much fun...photo by Tiffany Remy

The bike cannot cure cancer. The bike cannot save the world. The bike is not everything. The bike can transform its rider. And it can build communities. And it can be a time machine that even if for only one brief moment of flying can fix everything. This post was going to be called "The Kids are Alright" And it was going to be an homage/shoutout to all the riders, mostly young who have taken Ernest Gagnon under their wing the last two cross seasons.

I don't know how much you all know about Ernest. I didn't really know much about him til recently. I knew his story a bit and knew he was a good photographer. But the impact these young men (mostly) have had on his life is nothing short of amazing. We talk incessantly about how to grow cross and fight over the most minor details. Its insane actually. What gets lost in the conversation is that like lots of movements cross has its own life force right now. The growth is happening in a viral way now. Look at how many women are coming into the sport. People can say they have contributed to the growth but in the big picture it is the community that has made it happen. Not one person or event or team.

One of Ernest's goals other than to get his health back was to race a cross race. Ernest is struggling with some lifelong health issues. He is trying to lose weight by changing his lifestyle. A big part of that is cycling. He has done an amazing job! He has already lost a ton of weight. And is getting his health back. But he still has a ways to go. I think he got kind of bummed that he didn't get to actually race at one of the races this year. He really shouldn't have been bummed as what he has accomplished already is beyond belief. But his friends and he came up with an idea. How about a cross relay race? And thus the Ernest Gagnon Bitter Cold Showdown was born!

A bunch of people got together and made it happen. Andy Huff is now and forever the King of Bandit racing! Typically a Bandit race is show and go. Ie., show up maybe throw a few cones down and do a flash mob cx race. But be prepared to flee from cops, angry dog walkers or groundspeople. Last Sunday the same day as Nats Andy created the Occupy Cyclocross Movement. Andy talked about the race for weeks. He found a venue. He invited everyone. We all showed up and it was like Deja Vu of Shedd Park. I rolled up and saw step in stakes and course tape. On the WHOLE course. I mean that is unheard of. That takes balls made of unobtanium. But sometimes when you want to do something Bandit you go big. And everyone including the police assume its legit. Andy, Ernest and Abel set up a sick course. Like seriously fantastic. Turns. Lots and lots of turns. And a bunch of offcamber and some sketchy stuff. Two drop ins and some great use of the broken down remnants of this old park. There were also two short cuts. The idea afterall was not to do a race that crushed everyone but that was for beginners or those new to the sport.

The NECX is awesome. But there is a piece of the puzzle we are missing. Say all you want about juniors being the future of cyclocross but beginners and women are the future. End of story. No beginners. No future. And doing it as a relay makes it so much less intimidating. Teams of 5 were formed up. About 40 people showed up to race. Cosmo came up from CT, a gang of ECV came down, Geekhouse, Newbury Comics, Hup, Mystic Velo, a ton of riders. And it was like the word got out to bring a new person to try cx. So many new faces that were willing to give it a go. Ernest and Cosmo were on our team of Abel, Parke and Myself. A lemans start was decided. Batons were issued. And they were enormous. I had a lot of trouble with the baton....I kept fearing I would crash and it would need to be surgically removed from my body. A bunch of us were on singlespeeds. It was so awesome seeing people having such a good time
Soy Sauce Jesus...or Pikachu not sure which...

The highlight of course was Ernest taking two laps! He did it. Respect to Ernest. And to Cosmo and to all the kids who supported Ernest in his dream to race cross. I really believe this is the future of beginner cx. Whether we do it as a "clinic" or as a race series I think is irrelevant. What it does it brings new people into the sport and doesn't scare them off. We really could build it into a cool thing. I wanted it to go for 24 hours and have bonfires and kegs of beer but you all know I am sick like that ; )

The other highlight was my final lap. I got to race my great friend Roger. I love that man. If there is anything the bike does is it opens you up to so many amazing people. And it forges friendships that you just couldn't build in any other way. I think it happens in surfing and a few other culty sports/activities. But cycling and cross especially are something special. Roger got me at the line by a bike length. And Susan technically beat us. Well she beat us pretty badly actually...

Thursday, January 5, 2012


HUGE Hup! Hup! to our brother Smithers for his win at Nats in the 40+ yesterday! Non-championship sure but he's a champion to me. Look at that Hup style right there! Congrats Chris seriously so stoked you rocked it you made all of Hup proud!