Monday, April 30, 2012


Best. Race. Ever. Got sort of tricked into this one. Well I have sort of been tricked into this whole mtn bike thing to be honest. Resisted it for sooo long. But everyone has been so patient. And I am finally at the point where I am seemingly no longer a danger to myself or others. Obviously as now my friends are inviting me to actual mtn bike races!

Singlespeed-A-Palooza is a singlespeed mtn bike race down in NY put on by Darkhorse Cycles. About a 2.5 drive from Boston. We got down in time for a pre-ride the night before. Stewart State Forest houses the nicest trails I have ever ridden in my life. They remind me so much of Skyline in Napa Valley. Only nicer. They are just so much fun. Buffed super twisty with some technical bits. Drop ins etc. Nothing scary at all just fast and fun. The area is really funny. Darkhorse cycles reminds me of West Hill up in Putney. In a barn/house super cool people. How many race promoters have beer for you at registration? Ok I know one or two dudes but other than Colin/Thom? Yeah that is what I thought

They also allowed people to camp out in the yard next to the shop for the race. And had a fire that night for people to hang out and drink beers. We went to dinner at a restaurant across the street from the shop called the Cauldron. I kept expecting Dennis Hopper to walk in and demand a Pabst Blue Ribbon. A bunch of the NECX went down for the race. Team Awesome was in full force and it was awesome to hang out with them. We also bumped into Doug Jenne the guy who rode to the Ronde from ct. As in rode his singlespeed to the Ronde, raced the Ronde and rode home. Such a cool guy. I was exchanging texts with Todd P and Kerry all night just getting stoked to see them and race the next day.

It really is worth a trip just to ride the sweet trails get a nice dinner etc. That alone would have been worth the trip. We went to bed watching Resident Evil. Perfect movie for the night before a 27 mile ss mtn bike race!

I stressed out all week about what gear to pick etc. In the end I had the "perfect" gear aka what I had. But in all seriousness 32 x 18 was perfect for me. David Wilcox is once again a hero for not only getting my bike ready so fast (less than 24 hrs) but doing it so PRO. My bike worked flawlessly. Dropped the chain twice at the end cause I was bonked out of my head and riding like a bull in a china shop but it was no big deal. Its a singlespeed race. You just get off and put it back on and keep pedaling

I went down with Matt Aumiller and Leah. Such a great crew. I love hanging out with those two. I missed my start for the second mtn bike race in a row. I say missed as its just way more casual than cx. People mill about and then some one says go. I was talking with Ryan White and Bob Morgan at the back of the NJ wave when I hear an air horn go off. It really was no big deal as we had two miles of fireroad ahead of us before the holeshot. I openly admitted I was not going to pedal 150 rpm for 2 miles for a holeshot. Either way Ryan and I moved through a ton of riders. We got to the singletrack top half or so. It was hard to tell who was in your category and it really didn't matter to be honest.

 When I say singletrack it was just that one track about a wheels width. Super fast no brakes style. First descent some dude crashed and took out about ten guys. I just squeezed by the wreck and kept going. I had a good first lap which was the opposite of Hopbrook where I crashed about 20 times on the first lap. Second lap my back was crushed. It hurt sooo bad. Obviously you have one gear. You have to use a lot of core etc to keep going. There was about 3-5 runnups/walkups. I named them after cx runnups. Noho, Lowell, NBX, became a bit of a mantra. Early into the second lap Ryan caught me. He must have gotten caught in that crash early on. We chatted for a bit and then he took off like he had a jet pack on. I couldn't believe how fast he rode away from me. He ended up 9th

Todd P caught me at about the half way point of the second lap. Again we just chit chatted etc and had a great time carving the singletrack etc. I dropped my chain at one point and he got away from me. I closed down the gap and we rode fast together. I don't have that same mindset (aka Killer Instinct) as I do in cx. I really don't have any "I must beat x dude" at this point. Maybe when I get better at this but really I can only go the speed I can go. I am loving it but haven't figured out how to race it. And I was bonking pretty bad. I guess Todd was as well and he was trying to hide it by joking etc. But it was a race so I turned on my tactical part of my brain and got a plan. I knew we had a pretty long fireroad section right before the final singletrack into the finish chute. I knew that who ever led on that singletrack would beat the other racer. There was only one place to pass on that section and it would have been tough physically and mentally at the point. 

So when we popped out on the gravel road I hopped on one of the local Darkhorse cycles riders wheels and rode tempo up the road. I peeked under my arm when we got to the top and we had popped Todd P off. I followed the Darkhorse guy the whole way in. Just talking about how amazing the trails were and the beer and hotdogs that were waiting for us at the finish line! I came in 26 and Todd came in 27. 

We all hung out at the end. It was like Ice weasels. Only warm! One big keg party. People hanging out and smiling. I am sooo hooked. Wish I reg'd for the Darkhorse 40.

Leah had a rough race. 2 flats, a bunch of co2 etc. But she is such a badass. She finished strong and as always was smiling. It helps that they had beer stations ON THE COURSE! And that the trails were 100 times better than anything we have up here. It was so fun road tripping with Leah and Matt. They are awesome. They keep me from totally freaking out. And I am learning so much about mtn biking from them. Can't wait for the next one!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ronde photo dump

There were so many cool images to be captured from the Ronde. But I could barely breathe or eat so shooting photos was really out of the question. Of the images I wish I had captured were Aumiller's Johnny Cash socks. They were high and black and Johnny Cash was flipping me off and telling me to stop being such a weak puke and pedal harder. Dana Prey handing me a ziplocked bag of fresh bacon. Actually any photo of the Pedal Power ladies. They looked so stylish in their new kits and were smiling at all times. DJ Roberto and his boom box. Why do I love Robert Hale? There are a ton of reasons but that is sure one of them. Dude shows up at a brutal bandit cx race with a boom box on his his bike. Luckily boom boxes have gotten smaller in the 21st century so there is that but still people were riding slicks and trying to eek out all the speed they could out of their bikes. Respect. And it just sums up Robert in general. He is tough as nails and so fast. He also has mad ninja skills that I never even knew he had. But he's fun. Like a lot of fun. And a great guy. I am so glad that he finally invited me on Camelstache.

Ok so those are some of the photos I wish I had taken. Here are some that I did take that are just gems:

Ramponi sporting the old school Yo Eddy kit and riding one of the sickest Firefly Monster cross bikes you have ever seen.

Belgian tan lines and real tan lines were the order of the day. It must have been 80 degrees at points. I have a savage tan right now. Pretty much at August levels...

There were some sick bikes at the Ronde. This may have been one of the sickest. Pete's new Stoemper. One sexy aluminum cx killing machine. It was also my first chance to see the new Mad Alchemy kits in person. They are gorgeous. And as I rolled out locked behind Pete's team I noticed one really cool detail. Each rider has a frame builders name on the back panel of their shorts. Each rider is "sponsored" by a builder. I wish I could have shot that. It was so cool. Zanconato, Rock Lobster, Stoemper. That is a serious line up to say the least.
Pete rocked fatty slicks. Mind boggling. But fast guys want to go fast! And they tend to have the skills to cash that kind of check

Go, Go Godzilla...this may be the best headbadge on the planet...

William Johnson looking ready to crush it. A lot to love in that photo....

Hup's own Big Tomeke. Man just oozes style. So tough and such a nice guy. It was so great to see him. I see some serious mtn biking with the big man in my future this summer.

Geekhouse. Love the Geekhouse crew. I am way too old and unhip to even associate with them but they get major props from me for channeling the early days of Fat City...

Ahhh my good friend Roger Cadman of Newbury Comics....great, great friend. And to be honest that is what the Ronde is about. You cannot recreate the type of bonds you forge on a day like Sunday in a more casual setting. Racers may scoff at this type of event. Saying its a group ride. Fine. Go race your races. Its cool with me. I am wicked proud of my friends who went to Battenkill and Myles Standish etc and rocked it. But these type of events are different. Its like going to war. Or on a expedition etc. It tests you. You find out the true nature of people. You support each other, push each other farther than possible. You learn to adapt. Love it. Thank you to all of you for being so rad. Hup! Hup!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ronde de Rosey 3.0

The MAN himself, Scott Rosenthal

Ronde de Rosey 3.0 went off this Sunday the tale of the tape: 65 miles, 4;12 ride time, 4:31 elapsed time, 1 flat, 6 endurolytes and too many Hammer Gels to count. Rosey wrote a great recap on his blog. DJ Roberto brought the beats and Camelstache delivered the PAIN. An unholy alliance of sorts between the Lion and the Cockroach has taken place in large part due to Team Camelstache. Camelstache is a sort of super squad combining members of then Cambridge Bicycle Team (now Broadway Bicycle School) and Hup United. CB (BBS) brought the 'stache and Hup brought the Camel (back). Matt Aumiller and Robert Hale are the masterminds behind the team. I was brought into the mix around February when Rosey, Matt and I started scouting out the route for this years edition. In years past I had led Hup teams to mixed success in these bandit cx races. I was really pumped to not have to Captain a team and to just ride for my teammates. It is very freeing to just hammer and not have to worry about a lot of other people. This years crew was Matt Aumiller, Robert Hale and Uri. We brought Uri in for both the power of his 'stache and the power in his legs. Uri rides lots. You think you ride lots. You don't trust me. The amount of riding Uri has done so far is mind boggling.
Tavern owner Gerry and Camelstache founder Matt Aumiller

We all met up at Washington Square Tavern early Sunday am. There were soooo many bikers. The bike pile alone took up half the block. Gerry was there checking everyone in and being so awesome. Gerry really has opened his arms to the NECX and allowed all of us dirt bag bikers to take over the Tavern for a good cause. That cause of course is Bikes not Bombs. As much as the ride itself is a blast in the end its to help promote a really great advocacy group in Boston. Rosey rewarded Matt and my recon efforts with a last place start! The Ronde goes off in handicapped waves. Slowest to fastest. First team back "wins" The Ronde is NOT a race. But you get 130-170 cross racers together for lawn darts and that is gonna get ugly fast. So you get teams of bike racers together and say go and yeah they are gonna go. We did our best to mark the course with pink ribbons and spray paint arrows at all the road turns. For the tech savvy we provided various GPS files. And for the traditionalists a cue sheet. Lots of ways to skin the cat as it were. The first teams went off at 8:00. We cued up with really skinny and fast dudes. Did I mention they were really skinny and really fast? Yeah awesome.
My buddy Pete of Mad Alchemy took this as we were riding Pond Street in Wellesley. That picture sums the WHOLE day up!

So our Bad News Bears crew rolls out with some of the fastest racers in the NECX. DJ Roberto asks if we want to hear some beats. I thought he was kidding. No he wasn't. He had a tiny speaker on his handlebars and brought the Funk to the Ronde. Literally. Funk music starts pumping out of that speaker at massive decibels. It was the coolest thing I have ever been a party to in my life. And set the tone for how our day would go. No one could accuse us of being serious I will say that. We hit the first road section and its clear that this is gonna be a brutal day. I told myself we were Rosey's sweepers. That we would help people get back on track and make sure people had fun etc. Matt Aumiller and DJ have a very different idea of sweeper. I think they thought Rosey meant street sweeper aka KILL THEM ALL. All three teams rode together at what I would call a casual group ride pace. Conversational. Nothing bad yet. Then we turn onto Skyline Park. And we go! The gate was across the road so we had to surf some gravel to get around it. I got the hole shot up the grass hill but that was short lived as Aumiller and The Wilcox come flying by me at warp speed. I try and stay on David's wheel as best I can but they are crushing it. I stay connected and am starting to see red. We fly through the woods and pop out onto pavement. Dirt Sector 13 went by in a flash. We all regroup. There is some gamesmanship going on but no one can really make anything happen yet.
Team Bryter Layter. One of four Hup teams that rode the Ronde. Jay Bartlett, Abel, MVL and Mike Golay

We all roll together to Cutler. We all divebomb into the Cutler parking lot and its like a bomb goes off. Mike Wissell goes flying past me with Ian right on his wheel. No way I can hold that. Then some vine from the depths of Hades reaches out and attacks Ian. Like literally. I have never seen anything like it in my life. We untangle and get back at it. Cutler is just a blur we are railing everything. I can't get around Ian cause its so tight. As if riding behind Ian wasn't bad enough Ryan Kelly starts finding new and exciting places to crash. It finally hits me that while these guys have sick power to weight ratios they do not really know how to handle a bike in the woods. I mention something to Ian about his incredible handling skills and ask him how many times per lap he crashed at Great Glen last year. And FINALLY get around him. We drive an insane pace through Cutler. There is carnage everywhere. Flats. Crashes. 420 breaks. I don't even look people in the eye. I am on a mission to get my team out safe and ahead of the other two teams we came in with. I hear Aumiller yell 'PUMP TRACK' Hell yeah. Sure we are "racing" but that doesn't mean we are gonna miss railing the pump track at Cutler! We do a hot lap and pop back out. We all regroup right before the boardwalk and all head across.
Ok before I get to far ahead of myself. FOR THE RECORD. While we rode fast and aggressive. Everyone I was with. That is 30 dudes at this point. Were safe, polite and courteous. No one ever endangered anyone. We even slowed down to let a "stray" Golden Retriever get across the boardwalk. Ok back to the task at hand! So we all roll across 128 on the overpass and head to South street. I made a HUGE tactical error. I packed all my food into my camelback. I didn't even have a gel in my jersey pockets. Thankfully PVB handed me a little slice of heaven in aluminum foil at the Tavern right before we left. I ripped it open and shoved it in my mouth. It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is on these types of rides to have a good crew. And to me one of the most critical attributes of a good crew is non-verbal communication. Each team member "knows" what the other is going to do or wants to do or maybe even needs to do without have to say anything. Once we hit South street we made a conscious decision to shut it down a bit. We had caught a ton of teams. Were riding well within ourselves but couldn't match the watts of Mad Alchemy or Bolo Loco. So we sort of dangled off them about 25 yards. In a way this saved us early on. I got a front row seat of one of the worst crashes I have ever seen in my life. As we are flying down South st at about 25 mph I see Mike Wissell EXPLODE in front of me. He hit something. And just went tumbling. Full speed. Yard Sale. Rolling and then hits a post and stops. I did a quick cross dismount and got off right next to him. He was up in a flash and trying to get back on his bike. I tried to help make sure he was ok. Then I remembered it was Mike and is unbreakable. He is basically the Chuck Norris of the NECX. I bet if I went back and checked there would a dent where he hit the road. The road doesn't hurt Mike, Mike hurts the road. Other than blood pouring down his forearms he seemed fine. Easy for me to say. He did finish the entire ride plus some while bleeding. He is a badass. Obviously

Rosey and Gerry making the magic happen! The post-ride raffle raised $2,200 for Bikes not Bombs!

We all get to NTF and again start seeing carnage. More flats. More 420 breaks. See so many of our friends. Everyone is cheering everyone on. And having such a great time. We hook up with the 29er Rampage crew as we exit and ride with them for a while. It pretty hilarious to hear Thom say "oh we are in a paceline do I need to pull through?" Nah dude. We got this. We have a pretty good crash in the woods on our way through Ridge Hill. I start Yogiing (Yogi bear reference) food off Uri and Robert as I can't get to my food and Aumiller won't let us stop. Have I mentioned that Aumiller was wearing Johnny Cash socks and that Matt was beating me like a drum? Yeah probably not. We exit out of the woods and find CX OMP! That would be Jerry and GeWilli's crew of the team. I was so stoked to see those dudes. It was Jerry, Nick, Geoff, Curtis and Cort. That is a whole lotta OMP right there that is for sure. They seemed pretty happy to see us as well. I was in no rush to blow through another group frankly. So we sort of made a gentleman's unspoken agreement to stick together for a while.

We made it up to Weston sans incident. We found Seven's team sort of scattered all over the place. One of the keys to the Ronde is very similar to a horror movie. Never get separated. Ever. Stick together and the bad man can't find you and cut you into a million small pieces. True statement. We sent their wayward Seven rider back to them when we found him further up the road. We got through the techy Weston woods. That really to me was one of the most fun spots we rode. I was not on my 'A' game by any means. Well I may not have an 'A' game. I am pretty much a bull in a china shop when it comes to trail riding. But I got us through safe and sound. A theme was beginning to take hold that would continue almost for the entirety of the ride. Camelstache would put me on the front to use me for my trail knowledge. I would kill myself through the woods to make up as much time as possible. Then we would pop out onto pavement and they would tuck me into a protective bubble and we would paceline to the next dirt sector.

We finally hit the Weston rail trail. It is one of my all time favorite places to ride a cross bike. Its like a test track. You can just put the pedal to metal and go as fast as your skills and legs can handle. Curtis went off the front and crushed us hunting for the KOM. I got on Aumillers wheel and we drilled it. We weren't chasing him but were just laying down a nice tempo. I knew I was starting to get punchy as I kept thinking of Sylvain Chavanel. Not just thinking about him but that I was him. I know. That is insane. But it was hot. And I was obviously starting to bonk. It probably makes more sense if I said I thought Aumiller was Boonen right? Oh shit this is starting to sound like the ramblings of a madman. I did hear choppers overhead as we flew over the rail bed. It got me all kinds of pumped. We come of the dirt and thank god we see Rosey! That to me has to be one of the best parts of the ride. Rosey is out there looking after things. On his bike. So cool.

We all get back together eat something. Try and take on fluids. I think I took my first endurolytes at that point. Jerry and I start commiserating. We were both pretty rough. Not horrible but starting to unravel a bit. We get to Walden and get lost....haha..pretty funny. But guess what even though we set the course shit happens. I don't know Walden at all. We rode it once back in February. But I knew where we were and where we needed to go so I found a trail and rode it. Turned out someone took down all of Rosey's pink ribbon. No shocker. Weston and Concord aren't that keen on bikes. So it is what it is. We grouped up with ECV a bit which was a blast. At the HUGE runnup we crawled up that wall and hopped back on our bikes. At some point we dropped into a descent and Jerry stacks in front of me. I was so out of my head I had zero reaction time. All I could do was pray. And try not to run over his head. So I aimed for his wheel. It was pretty funny actually. I ended up flatting so we all stopped and ate a bit etc. Curtis had some issue with his wheel and a bunch of teams caught and passed us. I think Threshold and ECV. It was so great seeing Curtis and Jeff and Dan and Shane and Ken...Love those dudes.

CX OMP and Camelstache continued with our alliance all through Concord. We stopped at a Scumberland Farms and refueled. Hup 2 rolled in and looked good! Tom and his crew were smiles as always. We headed back out and looked for the Bedford rail trail. This is when things got serious. When we hit that sector of dirt the pace just exploded. Aumiller and Cort just went off the front. I tried to stay connected but man it was getting ugly. I heard something going bad behind me but all I could do was look straight ahead and try not to hit some babyhead rock at Warp speed. I guess one of the cx dudes crashed and flatted. I hated to leave them behind but no way Aumiller was stopping at this point. He could smell the finish and knew that Quad was still up ahead. We got through the dirt and popped out at the old train depot. Aumiller asked me where we were. Hahah that is funny. I ask to see who has the cue sheet. Cue sheet? I threw that out at the Tavern. Nice. Reminded me of a scene from the Cannonball Run. Ok no problem. I say just look for the Rs. Rosey did a great job spray canning the Rs on the road. We got to Col de Lex and I had to beg them not to destroy me. We soft pedaled up it and they started handing me food.

One other thing about a good crew. At some point you begin to take on each other strengths. I have ridden with Rosey on some of the craziest rides in my life. He wasn't with us at this moment but he is always with me. That may sound weird but its true. So as I started to bonk I became a sort of hybrid chipo/Rosey killing machine. The Rosey part of me would put his head down and just go harder. The Chipo part of me would just be friggin hallucinating and talking crazy. All to the entertainment of my teamates. We somehow got to Belmont and Robert took us back to the Tavern like we were tearing into the Velodrome...We came in and looked for Quad. They had already changed and had coffees in their hands. OMP won the day out. Respect to those guys. They are strong as hell and really got into the spirit of the Ronde. The fact that three dads from the suburbs won the Ronde is awesome.

Huge thanks to all the teams and friends who came out. So many memories. I could write all night. One of my favorites is of Dana Prey handing me a ziplock baggy filled with bacon and saying its fresh do you want some? Cracked me damn lucky to be able to call of you my friends. Respect to ALL of you. You all rode your hearts out, had fun and are all badasses in my book. Mike may be too much of a badass. I hope that pole is ok. I may have to go out and see if it needs some fixing up...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Belgian Tan Lines

I love riding dirt roads with embro covered legs. The dust gives you the best spray on "tan" money could buy. The grit and grime are worth so much more than some bronzed and tanned legs. Rode the Weston rail today. Locked onto Mike Good of Quad cycles rear wheel. It was better than any race I have done. Seriously.

Think Pink

When the going gets weird, the tough put on Burberry scarves. Its been pretty bananas out there. Not gonna lie. Ronde recon this year has been pretty gonzo. I mean who wears (and loses!) a $300 Burberry scarf in the woods for a hike? Only in the 'burbs. Only in the 'burbs. Same 'burbs that gives you $300 fine cashmere scarves gives you broken tvs and 20 foot graffiti penises...So be on your game okay? Ronde is this Sunday. All the latest info is on Rosey's blog.. Check it daily so you don't miss out on something. Or at least check it Friday before the race. The course will be blazed with pink ribbons. We have done a really thorough job. We will try and spray can some arrows on the road sections but the whole getting arrested thing may limit that a bit. Why can Verizon spray can the shit out of my neighborhood and its "ok" but I feel like a vandal spray canning a little arrow?
Check Rosey's strava it will have the actual route. But basically its Washington Square Tavern-Skyline Park in Brookline-Cutler Park in Needham-NTF-Ridge Hill-Aquaduct in Wellesley-Wellesely College-Central St in Wellesley. Take the Marathon route to Cliff rd. Cliff Rd to Oak street.Oak Street to Fields Pond rd. Through the woods by Weston reservoir pop out and cut across ash into the woods again and over to Regis. Wellesley Street to School Street to Church Street. Find the Weston Rail Trail. Haul ass down that to Lincoln. Find Lincoln road. Take that across 117 and over to Concord. Get to Walden Pond. Go into the woods in before Walden right across from Baker Bridge road. Haul ass to Concord. Hop onto the Bedford rail trail to Beddy. Then it gets fun. All through Lexington over the top of Belmont. Then haul ass back to Brookline. You get the idea by now. Lots of orienteering with dashes of hauling ass. I would say its 70/30 dirt to road. The first dirt sector is probably the most mountain bikey. Cross bikes. Steer clear of road bikes. File treads could work but I would go with a knob up front.

You WILL get lost. This is a bandit race. We did not rake the trails. Be prepared for adventure! If the shit hits the fan which it will just take a deep breathe and improvise. You don't have to do exactly what is on the "cue" sheet. This is just as much a cannonball run as it is a Ronde. If you get kicked out of an area or super lost just get to a road sector and find the next dirt sector. Maybe you will find a new section we can use next year!

You might stop and eat. Wellesley and Concord are good restock spots. We have an aid station p/b Hammer Nutrition. Bring plenty of tubes and $10 per rider. All proceeds go straight to Bikes not Bombs. We will have a kick ass party and raffle after the Ronde at Washington Square Tavern! So stoked to see all of you Sunday! Hup! Hup!

Oh we have a few Strava KOM sectors. We will have some prizes for them. So bring a Garmin or superphone and Strava this bad boy. Rosey has some nice prizes check his blog for the details.The KOM and QOM will also receive a pair of Lion of Flanders socks for their efforts. I would like to add my own personal windmill Powell's Island in Cutler. I had that KOM and plan on getting it back. Sub-3 minutes gets the current KOM. It would be interesting to see how far it could come down. Obviously be careful. We don't need anyone getting hurt in Cutler or anywhere else hunting will be a Sunday and bird watchers pretty much have no clue that anyone other than them "uses" the woods.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Get in The Van

As most of you know by now I am pretty enthusiastic about all things related to riding the bikes. But often my rock and roll lifestyle interrupts living the dream and I probably have to bail on 50% of the rides I would like to attend. For no other reason than it looks like fun I had planned on doing a bunch of mtn bike races this spring/summer. Peer pressure is a funny thing. It can get you to do really, really dumb things or really, really rad things. I have a lot of rad friends. And they have been pushing me to do the latter. I may sometimes think its the former but when I just chillax and trust them it ends up being rad. Mtn biking is one of those things that I am thankful for finally giving into peer pressure and giving it a real chance.
The West Coast and the East Coast are different. Duh. But they really are. I was an ok mtn biker out West. But I hated riding my mtn bike back east. I won't lie it scared me. Well still scares me. And yeah its taken me seven years ( I am slow learner) but I am finally starting to feel it. I owe a lot of people for helping with this transformation. Riding with people who can actually explain how to ride something has been HUGE. Thom Parsons, Colin, David Dietch and a whole legion of the NECX or NEMTB have really helped me be a functional mtn biker at this point. I still have my moments but can now fake it a bit. So when I saw Hop Brook on April 1st will stalking bikereg I thought why not. I put a big red star on April Fools day. But saying you are going to race and actually racing are very different animals. My enthusiasm started waining a bit the wednesday before the race. Colin came by to pick up a spare wheel I had and we both complained about it being too early blah, blah, blah. But then Colin said something. He said if you want to make sure you race just get a good crew and pack them in the van. Brilliant! And that day on twitter #GETINTHEVAN went into full effect.
When I "bought" my minivan seven years ago I literally had night sweats for the two days leading up to picking up my new vehicle at the dealer. I put bought in quotations as I didn't buy it. My very pregnant wife bought it on her way to work one day. She deemed my SUV as unsafe for our new child that was coming. She was in fact right. SUVs are friggin death traps. I of course thought as a new minivan driver my life was ovah. I was no longer a dude in an SUV but was now some soccer mom or worse. So I sort of resisted at first. But then the sheer brilliance of the van and how much you can pack into it began to hit me. There is NO better race vehicle than a minivan. So by Friday we had a veritable who's who of Hup and the NECX lined up to get in the van. I was a bit nervous as I have never packed the van with 5 bikers and their bikes. I went to Landry's and picked up a 3rd tray for the roof rack. Plan was 3 bikes up top and two in the back. And of course the tallest Hupster got stuck in the back buried under bikes. Sorry Jon. He was a real trooper about it and will get some kind of kiddy seat bonus for the next trip.

We got to Jon's house with 10 k left in the RVV. It was pretty hilarious. We are shoving everything in the back of the van while running back into Jon's house to look at the big screen watching Boonen, Pippo and Ballan duking it out. We had our own race to get to so we rolled out with the finish still in question. Thank god for superphones! Nick fired up his Android and live streamed the final 5k. Amazing race and sooo stoked to see Tomeke back. Sad to hear Fabs is out with a broken collarbone but that is bike racing. Abel showed off some sweet Wolverine chops just for the occasion! Leah and I were pretty much in complete freak out mode. The other three were really, chill which helped us keep our act together. We got to Hop Brook just in time for the finish of the PRO and Cat 1 race. And again back to the peer pressure factor. There was definitely a big squad from the NECX. And most everyone you spoke with had been somehow "tricked" into racing this early in the Spring. But it was so great to see so many familiar faces. Mike Wissell sort of freaked us out as he just came off the course and had that "look." You know the one. His report of the race did not help our freak out. Like at all. But then he ate something and was back to his usual hilarious self. And we kept reminding ourselves that Mike is in this to win it. We are here for fun.
Colin gave me a little advice right before we lined up. Take off the layers. Thank god I listened to him. It was about 40 degrees but man you heat up in the woods. I would have melted if I had left my leg warmers and jacket on. His last bit was hilarious. And I quote: " Chip, don't do anything douchey ok?' Oh man masters cross racers have a bad reputation don't we? I get it Colin I really do. Mtn biking is sooo different. So chill. I mean the call to staging was downright pleasant. I didn't see one sharp elbow or lazer death stare at all. Frankly people were being wayyy too nice. It was making me really uncomfortable. Did I mention I was sort of scared? Why lie. Yeah sure I have been riding with a bunch of really talented mtn bikers. And they are being really cool about giving me tips and not openly mocking me for how bad I suck. But racing is so different. You have to go fast. And take chances right? I kept thinking about something Frances Morrison aka the cxninja said to me right before we lined up. Go your own tempo on the climbs. And its ok to get off and run if its faster. That was my mantra the whole race. You don't need to tell a cross racer twice to get off and run. Trust me.
So I line up back row in a large group of sport men. We had our own special AARP race plate which was slightly odd but I get it. We are wicked old and all the young people should know we are coming so they don't hurt us. The start was way more mellow than a cross race that is for sure. We hit the first "climb" and I hear Colin yelling "Chip, that is NOT how you get the hole shot!!" Hilarious. No that was in no way how to get the hole shot. I was behind a dude in baggy jeans, flat pedals and vans with his underwear hanging out. I crashed all over the place the first lap. I hit trees, bounced off rocks. Got ejected off my bike in some gully at one point but then when we came through to the big "run" up I started to settle in. It helped that Colin and Christin were at the run up dishing out more heckles. I ran up it as fast as I could did a cx remount and started channeling France's advice. I just spun up those nasty climbs and tried to find a rhythm. I started to catch some people. I am pretty sure I was about dead last in my field at the first technical section. So I had a lot of work to do. But what is funny about mtn bike racing is its fun. Like literally fun. We all say how fun cross is. Cross is NOT fun. At all. If you are doing it right it should feel horrible. But mtn biking, at least for me cause I suck at it, is fun. All the technical stuff takes a lot of thought. After that first lap I new what I was dealing with so could really flow through some stuff I crashed on in the first lap. I must have crashed 10 times the first lap. Second lap I didn't crash once

Towards the end I got caught by a singlespeeder. Again I can't say enough about how cool people were in this race. I assumed people would be yelling at me etc. Elbows out and going crazy. The opposite was the case. I mean people were really nice. In cross if someone catches you they aren't going to say a word to you they are just gonna bury you. But the singlespeed guy was really cool. We rode the whole half of the second lap together and it was a clinic. Singlespeeders are really talented. Obviously. They are smooth and pick great lines. I am neither of those things so I tried to follow him and see how he did it. It was awesome. I got away from him on the final climb to the finish and did my best to not crash myself into a tree right before the finish line.
After the race we all just hung out ate homemade cookies and bagels and talked about when we get to do this again. Oh Ultraendurodydude interviewed me right after getting back to the van. I look like I just did like 5 lines of coke. I am all jittery and talking crazy. But I think mtn biking does that to you. I am hooked. I joked that this was way more fun than cx. A big part of that was obviously about 50 of us from the NECX showed up, got rad and hung out. I really hope this trend continues and cx can OccupyMountainbiking all summer long! April 22nd is the next one who is #GETTINGINTHEVAN?