Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pack First

I have always felt you should live your life like a wolf pack. I basically raise my kids like wolves. In a good way of course. But the other night was a perfect example of this. I have spent a lot of time this summer with my friend Matt Aumiller. We have gone on road trips to single speed races, we have worked on a bunch of bandit rides, weekly Cutler Enduro has been unreal. He even goaded me into taking my kids on their first real mountain bike ride in Cutler. He is a true friend. And a badass. On Monday he called me to ask me to meet him on cx bikes in Cutler. I was deep into Staples back to school shopping. My wife usually does this. If you want a nice slice of Hell on earth go to a Staples with 5 million back to school kids and their moms. My kids were great. We got in and out of there as fast as we could. But no way was I slipping out to ride. As we left I saw a rider up the road and I thought for a second it was Matt popping out and heading over to one of the Aqueducts. It wasn't. When I pulled into my driveway my cellie started blowing up. Looked down and saw it was Matt. I almost didn't pick it up cause I knew I wasn't going to be able to ride. But I picked it up. It was basically a 911 call. He'd gone off a boardwalk in Cutler and was stuck in the reeds. 

Now I have always wanted to be a wilderness first responder. This is not how I envisioned getting that opportunity. I didn't really know where he was at first. I tried to call him back as I was heading over to Cutler but there was no answer on his cell. By the timing of when he had called me at Staples I had a feeling he was on the West Roxbury side. So that is where I headed. I got there in about 5 minutes. I brought a bike so I could find him. As I pulled in I heard the sirens. A Needham Police Officer pulled in next to me. I told the officer where I thought Matt was and that I was riding in to find him. The cop followed me on foot. About 1/4 mile in I saw a bit of a yardsale on the bridge and a scene out of Paris-Roubaix. Rider in a ditch tangled in his bike holding his shoulder. I dropped into the reeds and helped Matt up on to the boardwalk. He couldn't get up because he was all tangled in his bike and on his right side which was all busted up. As I got him up on the bridge and we started walking back the officer came running up. We walked Matt back to the cars. Dedham Fire showed up just as we were coming off the boardwalk. They wanted to bring a wheeled stretcher down and strap him in there. I told them we could meet them up top in the meadow. They gave him the once over then strapped him into the stretcher with a neck brace. I told them to take him to Faulkner or Newton-Wellesley aka a real hospital. Instead they took him to Glover. They have changed the name to Beth Israel but you can change the name but you can't change the hospital. I wouldn't take my dog to Glover. If I had a dog. He waited a long time to just get pain meds. He finally got out of there with what we all knew...broken collarbone. I feel so bad for him. He has had such a rough go of it.

I went back the next day with a hammer and nails. I pounded down some loose boards. The crazy thing is we have been rolling over those loose boards on our 29ers all summer long. I guess a cx bike isn't a 29er. Crazy accident. So glad I was there to take the call and to find him. My wife still can't believe this story. Not sure if it makes her more or less ok with this Wolf Pack we call the NECX...Matt heal up my brother.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Itsss Baaacckkk

Blunt Park was like a NECX Reunion. Fatmarc says everytime you race cross in August a kitten dies. And there was much grumbling about it being too hot, too early, blah, blah, blah. No one was complaining at Blunt. People had some nerves and some last minute bike assemblage was happening in the parking lot but everyone at Blunt was sooo stoked. It was a gorgeous day and I personally like that course. It reminds me so much of Cutler. Fast woods, turns, log hops. They even added Stonehenge. But more on that later. I like cross. I like cross in August. For all the right reasons. The only way to get ready to race cross is to race cross. So you need early season races that aren't as important to get the bikes dialed and to get the rust off. You know its cross season when you are staying up late trying to get your bike ready to race on a Friday night! My Rock Lobster got the FULL MMracing SSC makeover. I don't even really know how this happened. Its like I got the golden ticket or something. I mean I know how it happened. Its not like Matt and Mo slipped me a roofie and I woke up with a totally pimped out cx bike. But you can forget just how talented your friends are because they are just that your friends.

I had one of those moments last week with my bike. I have been nursing the same frankenCampy groupo for about 3-5 years. A oddball mix of parts. It barely survived the Ronde in April. And I of course took the whole summer off the cx bike to ride singlespeed 29ers and drink beer! Time well spent. But when I got back on my cx bike it felt horrible. And worked worse than it felt. So I started to panic. Then, like all the (countless) times when I am freaking out, I reached out to those who are best at talking me off a ledge. David Wilcox is basically my CX panic button. He can fix everything. He suggested in such a calm way to try SRAM. And that I should talk with Matt and see if he had some parts. Then a light went off. I got to ride Mo's Seven Mudhoney way back in April. It was the nicest CX bike I have ever ridden. And it worked flawlessly. I had loved the SRAM set up that was on that bike. But as a card carrying member of the Church of Campagnolo I didn't even allow that Evil thought to enter my brain. Til now. Call it the Gateway Drug.

So I reached out to Matt. He sent me the most badass gear ratio chart I have ever seen. And I was all in. Matt offered up his MMracing SSC aka Mancave for the surgery. And it was. The Campy would not give up without a fight. Poor Matt. Man my bike was a shitshow. He had to literally drill out the binder bolt on my cranks cause they were seized. Matt spent about 5 hours building up my bike. When a World Cup mechanic spends that much time on your bike it is going to be badass. And it was. All the MMracing details. A racing stripe. Come check it out if you see me. Its awesome. Watching him work was like watching a master. He sees so many things. And he taught me so much about bikes and how they should be set up and maintained in that 5 hours. Like I said I won the golden ticket that night. Got to see how MMracing operates. And I got to hang out with Matt and Mo on a Friday night which in of itself was a gift. The bike works better than it ever has. The gear ratios 44/36 - 12-28 is beyond anything I could have imagined. I won't even tell you what my old set up was. It was horrible.

I took it out for a shake out ride saturday before Blunt. It was sooo much faster. The shifting worked how Campy is supposed to work and it just felt FAST. I did put a set of R-SYS wheels on and Grifos that I had left over from Ice Weasels. I never listened to Adam, Colin et al when they said Grifos were the bomb. They always said if you picked one tire for cx, pick a grifo. They are right. It is a fast rolling tire but grips. Not as grippy as say a mud etc but what you get in speed is worth wayyyy more than a slightly less grippy tire. And mind you its not a loose tire. I took it on a Ronde loop and pushed it. It held great. Good signs for Blunt.

Saturday night was probably not the best prep for a CX race on Sunday. My wife is a HUGE country music fan. She has wanted to go to a Country concert for years. She got tickets for Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney a long time ago. The concert was saturday night. I wasn't sure what to think. It was a blast I won't lie. But I had a Country Jams hangover Sunday am. That is for sure. I carpooled up to Blunt with the newly dubbed Patron Saint of the Zank SSCX series and best wingman on the planet Roger Cadman. Man I could literally spend all day with him. Such a good friend. And he is fit right now. And possibly more jazzed on cx than I am.

We had a secret mission for after Blunt. We were going on a cannonball run if you will to High & Mighty to pick up the podium beer for the SSCX series. H&M is the best sponsor on the planet. Will told us to come up and "take all you can." Wow. Take all you can is 40 cases in a mini-van. And reason #567 why I will always own a mini-van.

Again the parking lot of Blunt was a who's who of all my favorite NECX racers and a few of my fave MAC racers! Fatmarc was in the house! Any time I can see him on NE soil it warms my grinchy heart.

The race itself was awesome. We had 6 Hup in the 3/4 mens race. I won't lie I like riding with my teammates. I know I will make a lot of masters cry and they will want to know why I won't play in their reindeer games but teammates in your race? Nothing beats that. Hup's new office linebacker David Deitch was right next to me on the start grid. He put on a clinic of why mountain bikers make great cx racers. Blunt has a few ummm jungley features. The start includes a 180 at the end of a paved straight. I bet you know how this goes? So I lock in behind David and we tear up the right side. When the predicted explosion happens at the 180 on the left we surf it around the right and like a running back punching out into daylight we escape and are in a good train of guys escaping the carnage.

We have a great two laps. It was so much fun. The hecklers were in mid-season form. Matt Green mooned me. I literally almost fell off my bike. I yelled at him to get me a beer but I don't think he heard me. Colin tried to get me to jump Stonehenge. His "everyone is doing it" wasn't cutting it. Stonehenge was two HUGE slabs of concrete that were being used as barriers. On my 29er yes I would jump it. Not on a sub-17 pound cross bike with carbon spokes. The ladies of the NECX were into it as well. I hope more ladies get their heckling on at the races this season. It was rad.

I had a great couple of laps. Oddly I kept getting faster. The course suited me as we have been doing hot laps at Cutler all summer. I was moving up really well with one to go. Then got a front flat. Game over. I was too far from the pit to run and I wasn't going to ride a nice front wheel and ruin it in August.

But cross is back! I am sooo stoked. It was so great to see all my Hup teammates and all the other characters. The women of Hup did awesome in their race! Wish I could have stuck around to watch them race but I had to get to Noho with my wingman. See you all in a couple of weeks at Quad!

Friday, August 17, 2012

9 days

Cross season starts in 9 days. Its been an unreal summer. So much family stuff. I got totally hooked by singlespeed 29ers. Still surfing that wave. I now consider myself a mountain biker who races cross. Crazy. I haven't thought like that since about 1994. Yeah I know I should be a lot better at the bikes considering how long I have been at this bike game. Whatever. No one has ever accused me of being an overachiever. Underaachiever. Yeah maybe a few times. I have a legion of Dire Wolves in skin clothing to thank for my current mtn bike freakout.

Next year the #GETINTHEVAN world tour p/b Zanconato racing is going to be off the hook. This year was all recon and R&D. Next year its gonna be even better. We had a great crew going out to the mountain bike races. Some kicked my ass. And some were the most fun i have ever had on a bike. Mtn bike racing and riding feels like cx used to to me. I guess when you put the rainbow handcuffs on all that awaits you is doom...Don't get me wrong I am still mad for cx but I am going back to embracing it the way Eddy B and the French intended it. As an offseason pursuit. A good excuse to slop around in the mud and snow and mucky muck. To get some intensity in and hang with my awesome teammates. To give cupcake and beer hand ups. And maybe dollar bills this year. Or bacon. Haven't decided which.

The #GETINTHEVAN world tour may have a bit of a Triple Crown added to it. I am thinking of creating a Big Three challenge. Do Singlepspeedpalooza, Stewart 6-Pack and Darkhorse 40. That right there would make for the best mtn bike racing season ever. Sprinkle in all the other crazy races and that is a full summer of gnar.

Hup NE 2012 is looking amazing. Like a family. Well a wolf pack family...The Rock Lobster is ready. Three sets of tubies are dialed. 7 skinsuits in the closet waiting to be unleashed on the unsuspecting. I bug Zank daily to see if I can squeeze in a TIG SSCX bike from him. But I have my 29er. Others are still waiting. So I am ok with waiting til Ice Weasels. It is only right that others get to experience the Valaryian steel that Mike's bikes are....

Hope you all are freaking out as much as I am...see you in the mucky muck...Hup! Hup!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The gnar

Love the photos that come from the was pretty hot out there yesterday. So to recap. 7 dudes from the NECX went into the Darkhorse....3 came out unscathed. Heal up my friends.


 Colin and Leah stoked to ride bikes

The famous basketball coach Phil Jackson is known for a lot of things. Being a Zen "master" is one of them. One of the things he tried to instill in his teams was what to do when the "Thunder Struck" The Thunder being the unexpected. The thing you couldn't prepare for in practice. Colin had warned me that the start of the DH40 may get a bit sketchy. SSpalooza was very gentlemanly paced. But I could tell while lining up that the riders were more nervous. Dark Horse 40 is a special race. A really special race and clearly people were amped for it. I had a plan to ride it with my friend Bob Morgan of Team Awesome. We lined up together and when the police siren went off we went off. We moved up a bit. But we both refused to go full hamster wheel 150 rpm up a 2 mile stretch of gravel road on single speeds. Then we saw Will pining it at the front and started pedaling harder. This was were once again supposedly "smart" Chip gets way to excited about racing bikes and reverts to stupid Chip. I told myself over and over again the day before the race I was not going to make the same mistake I did at Pats Peak and go out XC race pace for an endurance mtn bike race. But yeah. Bike racing. You go fast. So we are going really fast chasing Will and Doug Jenne.

Jon, Leah and Christin all smiles cause the trails are so rad

We were in a group of 20 riders going about 25 mph down a gravel road. Colin had mentioned over breakfast that mtn bikers really don't know how to ride in a group. And they do weird things. Shit I really should have been listening to him instead of spacing out. So one second Bob is right next to me and then a guy cuts in front of his front wheel and Bob goes down hard. Like Mike Wissell hard. Bob's body goes left and his bike shoots right across me. I had not time to freak out. All I had time to do was lift my front wheel and jump. I guess all those sketchy ramps Sensei Aumiller has been leaving as little gifts to me on the west side of Cutler have paid off. And I learned another valuable lesson about 29ers. They roll over everything. Literally. So I hopped Bob's bike.

Bob Morgan is awesome. And took the Mike Wissell hardman award for the DH40. Crashed so hard at mile 2. Then rode the whole 40 with a smile on his face with huge chunks of flesh missing from his body. Respect

We hit the single track and bombs start going off. Ie we start catching the team riders who started 5 minutes before us. Nothing horrible happens but single speeders and geared riders don't mix that well. This will come back in spades later. I am soooo stoked to be on single track and shredding the amazing trails that I don't let any of those thoughts bother me. Just keep moving up. Get in a good pace and start having conversations with myself to ride tempo. Then I will see another single speeder and go hahdd...When will I learn? Never clearly. Got into a group of sport riders around mile 7 and they (well I am guilty as well) take a wrong turn. We were supposed to go right. We went left. There wasn't a sign and we assumed it was a left. You no the old assume adage. Assuming only makes an ass out of you and me...yeah. So I am feeling good. Hit the grass field right before the next section of single track before the beer stop err water station and Will Chrissman catches me. Fuck. In my heat stroked state I ask Will why he is behind me. In the nicest way possible he says cause you are a dumb ass Chip and you cut the course. Oh fuck...he didn't use those words as he is literally the nicest fast guy I know. I start having another type of conversation with myself. How do I fix this. I refuse to fucking cheat and dishonor DH40. I get the beer stop and its like a vision. A whole crew dressed in the most hilarious outfits ever is cheering us all on and offering us beer. Its 9:30 in the morning. So rad. I pull into their little slice of heaven and think about my options. I have a banana. I politely decline their beer even though it looks tasty. I have some water. The nice aid station lady asks me if she can help me. I tell her that I screwed up and am just waiting for the group I was in so I can relegate myself back from 3rd to 20th where I belonged. I see the DH guy come through and jump back in.

The rest of lap one goes great. Back in with the single speeders I get right back into the flow of it. Its so much more fun riding these great trails as they were intended to be ridden on a 29er. I rode sspalooza on my 26er converted over to ss. It was nice but nothing like the Zank. I knew the Zank would be better but not this much better. The DH40 course was very similar to sspalooza just in reverse. Colin, Christin, Leah and Jon and I had done a quick recon ride the night before so I started to get a real good feel of the course. I finished the first lap and stopped to get two more ice cold bottles and some food.
In my now pretty much fried brain I kept reminding myself to not miss that turn again. When I popped out at mile 27 the marker was back. Maybe it fell down. Who knows. So I rode that one section of single track I missed the first time around. What is crazy is that it was only a mile. Maybe slightly less but it was enough to put me from 20 to 1...yikes. Course cutting clearly is an advantage..who knew?

I pop back out and head up the gravel fire road. Have I mentioned how much I hate riding fire roads on a single speed? The fire roads were actually good breaks to drink water and take a gu. Aumiller sent me a great report the night before and told me to eat and drink on every fire road. It was the only thing keeping me from cracking. Speaking of cracking. As I am climbing the fire road I see a bike on the side of the road. And a mom and her kid with horrified looks. I can see the mom saying "don't look johnny" I ask her if there is a body in the gully? Low and behold like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz I see feet. Then a dude prone in a ditch. I get off and ask if he is ok. He groans and just says he has cramps. I don't think he has ever had a cramp before. He looks like death. I dig through my jersey and pull out my endurolytes. I give him two and take one. Cause I do NOT want to end up like him. Then my teammate Jon shows up.

He hands the poor guy a gatorade. We make sure the guy is doing better and we take off. Now I am 100% more stoked to race bikes. I get in behind Jon and we just go to warp speed. Just flying through the single track. It was one of the highlights of the whole race. But when we punch back out on the next fire road I take of his shackles and tell him to go fast cause he can. I can only soft pedal and drink and eat...At the next single track section I get caught and dropped by 3 Darkhorse guys on single speeds. That crew and the MTB NJ crew are the nicest riders on the planet. I mean they worked me over but they were so cool. Any time I would bump into a DH rider or MTBNJ rider the radness would  increase ten fold. I had made a vow to ride this for Aumiller. He loves these trails. I also vowed to do beer hands up. Because you can not race DH40 and not take beer hand ups. Its not right. Sure doing them on the first lap is a bit crazy but second lap. You have to. So I pull in to the secret beer stop and grab and ice cold beer. The crew goes nuts. Their enthusiasm was one of the best parts of the race. They were so awesome. They put a lei over my head and send me on my way. I come through after the pond and have another. Cause its DH40.

The second one made me a little burpy but I am a professional. Then I have a single speeders worst nightmare. I start cramping and get stuck behind geared sport riders. Can we all agree spinning a granny gear is stupid. I think we can. Its good for nothing. Riding trails is about attacking them not spinning up them. I try to be nice but its getting sketchy. I can feel full on rigamortus style cramps creeping into my legs. So I start riding a touch aggressive. We come up on one of my favorite sectors. It has a sick shale ramp up then an off camber shale drop off. Of course a sport rider gets totally hung up on the top of it. I fly up it and then dive bomb to the outside. It becomes a dance of oh my god my legs are seizing to just pedal. I somehow ward of the leg breaking cramps until the last little uphill before the end. As I am powering up it a sport rider stops mid climb and puts his foot down. And I ram right into his ass fall off my bike and seize up. I hobble up the hill like a zombie and get back on and pray the pedaling will fix everything. Stewart State Forest single track does indeed fix everything. I ride the next 2 miles in just so stoked on bike racing. I finish in sub-4 hours. Still haven't checked my time. I think it was 3:50. Will won it with a 3:15...

What a great weekend. So much fun. Huge thank you to the Darkhorse crew for putting on the most kick ass mtn bike race on the planet. Riding circles on the grass is seeming really really silly right now. But yeah bikes. I love them. Oh a special shout out to the secret beer hand up crew and of course to George from Dark Horse that man is a god to single speeding...for real