Monday, October 29, 2012

Hot Sauce

Canton Cup is like a mini-New England Worlds. It has a LOT going for it. Super close to Boston. You can actually ride to it if you like. It has a good mix of Zombie Apocalypse and super fast cx track. I say Zombie Apocalypse part to the fact that its held on Halloween Weekend so all things Zombie are on the brain. And that its held at a venue that would make a great set for The Walking Dead.

Canton has a pretty rich history for me. Its one of those races that are a buzzsaw for me. And in a sick she only beats me cause she loves me way I love Canton for how hard it is. Its not hard in any technical way. If you have been following my cx exploits for any period of time you probably gather that I am not the fastest racer. It needs to slow down a bit and get techy for me to crack my usual mid-pack finishing spot. I don't do well in a race unless bombs are going off and all the roadies are freaking out on dropoffs etc. Even then it has to be a perfect storm for me to get into the top 20...but results are NOT what cx has ever been about for me. Going hahhhd and fast with my friends and having fun has and is what cx is all about for me. Canton has all of that. Two years ago I finally found out the secret parking spot at Canton. And that has opened up a whole other aspect of the race. We set up the Death Star at the track and were able to have a great tailgater.

The re-routed the race a bit so the race didn't go right by the tent but still it was perfect. Any day you can roll up to the course with Snow Blind blaring out of the manvan and get a HUGE hug from your teammates and dump a teams worth of gear out and set up camp for a great day of cx and heckling is a win in my book. I registered for the Killer Bs once again. I can't help it. They are a ton of fun. The fields are big. I think there were about 80 guys on the line. That is pretty rad. Less rad was that we were staged 15 across ala Braveheart. And I would be lying to say I wasn't totally freaking out when the whistle went off. I was surrounded by friends. Which is both good and bad. Its good but its bad because you are extra careful to not fuck up and take them out. We went zero to 60 up the pavement. I basically held my spot but there were dudes flying up both sides of me. Then I was blinded. Both by the dust that the thundering herd had kicked up and a dude in a sheer white skin suit. Now I love Blanco. Its a Hup tradition. But this guy was not petite. And the skinsuit was ALL white. No logos, no double panels, nothing. He might as well have been racing naked. That would have been less obscene. And mind you I have no problem with nudity or the male physique. But I could not hang out behind this guys ass. So I had to get douchey two turns into the race.

I don't think I crashed anyone this time. I snuck through and put the pedal to the metal as much as I could. Have I mentioned it was a pretty big field? And that my start was about 6th row? So I had some work to do. And at Canton with its wide open fields you get a good view of the race. As we dumped out onto the field at turn 3 I could see the leaders already heading towards the woods and the first barriers. Hahaha. So yeah the race within the race was gonna be a party at the back clearly. But what is great about Canton and the 3s is that even when you are mid-pack or at the back of the race the racing is fast and there really isn't a big drop off in the racing. I got into a group with Todd P. Who is now 10 pound skull instead of 20 pound skull. Todd has made huge strides the last two seasons. It is really awesome to see how far he has come. Not only is he a good friend of mine but I really love racing with him. He is faster than me but we are well suited to race with each other.

We came into the barriers together and I almost axe murdered him. Not really sure what happened. I think I was so hypoxic at this point from going so hard that my brain wasn't functioning. Coming in hot to a double barrier boxed in by a bunch of young lions is a bit sketchy anyway but when you are seeing double it gets a bit dodgy. I got off fine took one step hurdled and then almost Joey'd my bike. I hit the front wheel and it went back like it was shot out of a canon. Luckily I kept a handle on it but it almost decapitated Todd. That would have been ironic. I saw out of the corner of my eye Jon bunny hopping the barriers. Respect! We hit the paved path and it somehow went from fast to faster. The group I was in was doing a pretty good job moving up. Some riders would crack and fall off. Others would take a flier to go try and latch onto groupo Shopengarten. Lots of people complain that Canton is "too" fast. Or that it doesn't have enough turning. What ever. If you can't see the beauty of going 18 mph on a cross bike locked into a 6 person paceline you mustn't really like racing. I love the jungle cross trust me. No one loves a sketchy dropoff more than me. But I also LOVE going fast. And being in a big group going fast and having to think about wether to suck wheels or lead and get away brings a whole other element to cx. I like it a lot. Canton isn't a grass crit though. Not at all. There was ample opportunity to get messed up. Not in a hurt you sort of way but in a yard sale kind of way. The run up/ride up this year was a perfect example of that. This year they made it a straight shot right into the run up. So you just had to go into it hot and carry that speed over the top to the track.

But you had to time it. I would say 5 out of 5 times I rode the runup people crashed at the top of it and I had to adjust my line to get around them. There were some pretty spectacular jam ups. There was a nice crowd of hecklers at the top as well so it made it even more fun. Towards the end it became a test of keep people from catching our group that now included Ed and Jon from Hup and trying to figure out how to catch Shopengarten and Glowah. It was so close. So close. On the 180s we could have reached across and high fived them. Steven would heckle me to come join there party. God I tried. Believe me I tried. I was about to blackout I was going so hard. Ed and I got into a good pace with about two to go. We pretty much were able to control our group by working together. Jon popped off the back but he was on a 29er with HUGE tires so he was working about 100 percent harder than we were to maintain the same speed. And Todd P took a flyer to catch the next group. Ed and I came up the runnup together and hit the track at warp speed. We dispatched the one guy still with us and rolled up to the finish 44 & 45th! I was so stoked Ed beat me. Seriously. Ed has come soooo far in cross. He is a natural at it no doubt. And man he is fast. Super fun to race with. One of the main reason I race 3s is to be able to race with my teammates. There really is no better feeling.

There were two costumed riders in the 3s. Abel from Hup who dresses as Super Mario and what I at first thought was some Naughty Elf...turned out he was a bottle of Srirachia hot sauce. Well played gentleman...well played. A cold Dale's Pale Ale tasted so good after inhaling dust for 50 minutes. As I stumbled over to the runup to heckle the 1/2/3 women I received the best heckle ever. Andy Huff saw me and said "you are a vision of White Trash" Yes. Yes I am....Huge thanks to the folks who put on Canton. Its for a great cause and always one of the highlights of my season. Most of the photos here are from Benjamin Stephens.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slingshot Engaged

This post could have had numerous titles. I like titles. Blame my years as a hack editor. Its pretty much the only thing I was good at. The other titles in the running were: Why I love racing Cat 3s, A Man in a Chicken Suit Saved my Cross season, When the Bodies Hit the Floor and 976-Evil....We will look at those as sub-heads and will get to all the glorious happenings that happened this past weekend. So yeah as you can gather from option 2 I have been feeling a bit burnt. Typical and a bit of a cliche. We all get SOOOO jacked for CX season then it gets here and we flame out before the snow even falls. Lame. Sauce. I always mocked those people. But it happened to me this year. Not because of training or racing but more bringing the mayhem/noise. You can only crank it to 11 so many times. And while dinosaur rock is a thing I just don't have that kind of stamina. I blame the cat. She has me so sleep deprived at this point I barely know my own name. So call it "Promoters Legs" or lamesauce I was playing the should I retire game in my head a bit the last week.

But then Mansfield Hollow popped up on the CX calendar. Wow. It is THE bar at which all NECX races should be held to. It is a classic. Just has that vibe that so few cx races have. Its up there with Putney. History, tradition, grassroots. More Smiles Per Mile as Uncle Ross used to say. So I got all warm and fuzzy about racing the bikes. Sure the whole drive down Jon and I talked mostly about mtn bikes and SSPalooza but man it was a gorgeous day in the NE. And UCONN? What can you even say about that campus. Gorgeous.

We pull up into the funky little bowl/ amphitheater of a pain and see the crazy offcamber that will be part of the start and just laugh. We park right next to Matt Lolli. Its gonna be a good day. We get out and preride and its beyond belief. They have nailed the course. Its in reverse of what I have done before but has all the elements that I love about it. Woods, sketch, beach/sand dune, crazy levee off camber, log hop, and some fun fast grass. Did I just use the words "fun grass"? Wow. I have a problem. Ok lets call it a soft cross addiction. And unlike in most cases where the only cure is more Cowbell. In this case the cure is a man in a Chicken suit. More on that later. So we get our pre-ride on. We are giddy with the prospect of hopping a log. Its on an uphill and totally doable. But people aren't hopping it. Weird. After being in a car for two hours Jon convinces me to hop on the trainer. Now I am anti trainer. Its seems lame and anti social and too serious. But my legs felt like ass after 2 hours in the car. So I did it. And it really made me feel better. So yeah I may be doing that from now on.

We line up in the Cat 3/4 race. I am having a real nice chat with some guy next to me when I sense the full on secret New England start about to be unleashed on us. I say to the nice guy next to me. Dude clip in we are about to go. He's like what? Trust me dude. Lock and load m'kay...And the safety pin came out of that grenade. Oh yes it did. Why do I love Cat 3 racing? Is it the human pylons that appear at the start of every race I am in? Sure makes it exciting. So as this video shows someone got a bit too excited. Or forgot to tighten their bars. Or maybe all those WATTS snapped that chain in half. We will never know. What we do know is that not 100 yards into it I see a guy taking a dirt nap in the fetal position right in front of me. I am going about 20 mph and boxed in. Nothing to do but hope your number isn't up. My good friend Matt almost made it through. Almost. He had to move a bit and got chopped and went down hard. Thanks to our Kamikaze on the ground I actually got a good start. And I see Jon flashing and slashing up the right side. So I hop on his wheel. Because he has great starts and I don't. He takes us up the steep off camber at warp speed. Then dudes start brake checking. Why people? Why? And Jon and I start falling down the side of the offcamber. I start panicking. He tells me to STFU and pedal. I do what he tells me. Half way down the Supermuds bit in and we are back to the races! The low line has actually vaulted us ahead of the dudes who are all tangled up in the fencing. We dive bomb down the camber and are in good position.

We fly through the woods and down to the beach.  We are staying together and moving up. After a sort of sketchy gravel descent that has a quick grass turn Jon loses his front wheel and crashes. Not hard but enough to put him back in the No Fun Zone. As I have learned before being in the NFZ in a Cat 3 race can be No Fun. And on this course it became almost impossible to catch back on. Too many dudes could not handle the woods or the camber or the numerous technical stuff this course asks you to deal with. I call it ALL the radness. Its still confusing to me why so many cross racers can't handle this stuff. I love it. And believe me I am not a great technical rider. Passable but who knows. Lets give the credit to the tires and the bike. So at this point I am in a good spot. Loving the course. Not wanting it to end at all. Then I see the Chicken Man. And I get stoked. And I see Zank and Rebecca and David and get stoked. Then Matt Lolli catches me and we have a good convo and I get stoked. He dropped me pretty good. Not surprising as he is a badass but once again super impressive as he is on a SSCX bike. He clearly has the gearing part dialed!

My friend Jason came through me at the end like a man on fire! So awesome to see one of your friends flying. I tried to catch him but he had wayyy too many watts on the flats for me even to come close to shutting it down. So in a nutshell Mansfield Hollow saved my season. I hopped the log every time. Wasn't always pretty but I never dismounted for it. I dove into the sand dude like a good Belgian. Granted I only made it half way through but the idea was a good one. Afterwards we all hung out said thank you to Ron and his crew. Then went into town and had burgers and shakes. Thank you Mansfield and Chicken Man. Best race ever. And when I came home I was met with a nice care package from Evil. My girls and wife were like umm you got a letter from EVIL. Hahah yes I did ladies. The Shitbird Jersey has landed. Be afraid, very afraid..

Friday, October 5, 2012

Night Weasels Cometh v 3.0

"None of this would be possible without the help of Newbury Comics..." Greg said it best in his exit interview with Ultra Enduryo Dude on Cyclingdirt. NC has backed us for three years. The last two had some epic conditions we had to battle with. And by we I mean all of us. Promoters, racers, Ski Ward, sponsors, volunteers. The NECX makes this race possible. No way we could do this without you all. So the first order of business is THANK YOU. From all of us at Das Weasel Inc. This year was the best Weasel to date. As I was walking through the dark I heard someone say "Weasel satisfaction at an all time high" And they were spot on. This year we brought in our good friend Sara Bresnick and her Pedal Power Training Solutions crew. Sara kept me and Colin on track and brought a real stabilizing influence to the race.

And Newbury Comics what can you even say. They have done soooo much for the NECX. They have backed Night Weasels three in row. They are the best sponsor you could ever hope for. This year they took that support to 11. Brought the P/A, dropped off the barriers, the list is long. They also just bring the radness in spades. Thanks to Roger, Billy, Nick and Tom F.

All these gorgeous photos are by Russ Campbell. They are PROer than PRO. He helped in ways far beyond these great pictures. Not only is he a great photographer he is a race promoter (MRC race in Lancaster) and a cross racer. Everytime I needed him he was there before I had to find him. Spot on. Thank you Russ. Our other Media ringer was Ultra Enduryo Guy. Thom brought his whole Cyclingdirt radness to NW and the videos and interviews he did captured the night in all its grit and glory.

And these two. Ryan Kelly and Greg Whitney. The Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Night Weasels. They have a future. If these two want to be the next Voice of the NECX its theirs for the taking. I am always blown away by how talented my friends are. Not just on the bike but off. They were so PRO. Sure Myerson punched Ryan in the balls for heckling him mercilessly during the elite race about his saddle position but I think it was more a love tap

Hup United's Children of the Night. We had 300 races and a ton of spectators. It was a great night. Thank you to our sponsors and friends: Newbury Comics, Pedal Power Training Solutions, Mad Alchemy, Ryder Sunglasses, Craft, Shimano, Pedro's, Landry's Bicycles, and Ski Ward. They added a beer garden this year and their crew works really hard to set the course. Go out this winter and say hi to them. They would love to see some bikers show up for tubing etc.

This is the only photo here not by Russ. This one is by Matt Roy and taken right after Mo won the Elite Women's race. It was so great to finally have Mo at NW! Made me so stoked to see her hold up that Skunkadellic trophy! Pretty badass that Mo won and that both her bike and the trophy were made at Seven!

Skunk makes some awesome art. Huge thanks to him for making these rad trophies. Lastly thanks to all of you cross fanatics for supporting the NW and coming out and racing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Be Prepared

Markie Mark Day 2-Russ Campbell

Not in the Boy Scout sense. F the Boy Scouts. They have nothing on cross racers. Nothing. And a weekend like we had last weekend at Gloucester pushes you way past the limit. Matt Roy who coined  the 6 Ps- Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance is the master of this. This past weekend I got a bit of a wake up call in this department. Not in the racing. As much I am a shitshow 90% of the time running around crazy with my life when it comes to the racing I get a bit of tunnel vision. My ADD slows down and I focus. And I to my wife's dismay I do show up prepared. Bike is ready. Kit is packed etc. Its why I love racing. But we have had a really mild fall. I had been sharing the video from 2005's Blizzard cross with my teammates. Just to impart the true epicness that Gloucester can be. It didn't even dawn on me that conditions could get like that. At all. So I did my usual throw EVERYTHING in the van routine. Get to tent row early cause Meg emailed me to warn me it was first come first served. I got there before the sun rose. And got a BALLER spot. Thanks Meg!

It was drizzling but it didn't really register. Got the whole Death Star set up and went out for a pre-ride. It was incredible. Technical course. Perfect. Knew I was going to get hammered on the paved start finish as I always do but the rest of the course was perfect. So much mud. I did an extra lap just because it was so much fun to ride. Some people hate this type of course. I love it. I love having to figure out the lines and make sense of the off cambers. Go low or go high? All that stuff gets me going. So I come back in and then realize I am cold and wet. Oopsies. Everyone is in technical wear. I have jeans. And shorts. And no hat or anything remotely warm or waterproof. Proof once again I am an indoor cat. It reminds me of when we were kids and I would be going up the ski lift frozen like a dungaree popsicle and some WASPy kid would be in some day glo yellow ski suit. There was enough to worry about in the tent to keep me from worrying about my potential hypothermia. We were dialing in the 3/4 women's bikes and helping the 3 men get ready. We had so many Hup racing. And so many friends of Hup coming by. They don't call this race New England Worlds for nothing. Fatmarc and his MAC crew were two doors down. Brad Evans, my new favorite secret Hup rider, was up for the race. It was also the first time I got to ride the FMB Supermuds and damn. All I could think about was how incredible they were. So much nicer than a Rhyno. And that is saying something as a Rhyno is the mud tire for cross.

I went and found Andy in the parking lot and he hooked me up with some fangs for my Dragons. My old sidis were thrashed. So for G-star I went with some new shoes but I didn't have any spikes. The power of twitter saved me. Because if there was ever a day for spikes this was it. I owe him big time. I never would have made it up the greasy run up without some spikes. I got staged up about 8th row. Maybe further back. Gloucester is HUGE. The fields are massive. I am pretty sure the Cat 3 and 45+ both sold out by noon when they put up registration. Gloucester is not so much about thinking you are going to do well or win unless you are the 1% that are actually fast. Like really fast. The rest of us our World's is beating our nemesis and getting heckled by the legions of fans. Being back in the 45+ was pretty cool. Way more chill. After Midnight Ride I sort of missed those crazy killer bees but it was nice to see some old friends I hadn't had a chance to race with all season. We went up the paved straight and it was on. I felt oddly really, really good. Wasn't a special day or anything but I have only missed one Gloucester since 2005 so even though the course was unlike any I had done it was like CX Valhalla. You had to really think and stay on top of it. Great race. If you are a cross racer you have to do this. Put it on the cx bucket list.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out, eating chowder, having a beer, watching all the racing and just getting so stoked to be at NE Worlds. Have I mentioned how awesome my team is? Damn. I have never seen anything like this. So special. And I am so proud of them. I could go on and on about each one and how they strive and are always smiling and helping each other. And not to embarrass them but Ed and Michele are my heroes. I have kids. And an awesome wife. And I know how hard it is. But they bring both kids to the races. And race. And are smiling ALL the time. None of the usual drama that parents face in these situations. Michele goes from caring for her 3-4-month old (not sure of the exact age) baby right to the line of the toughest race in the US. And does fantastic. Ed was chasing there older son all around with his friend Brad and both of them are just cracking up. And then they go race. Amazing. They are an inspiration. I mean people lose their shit before a race if there favorite socks went missing cause it will screw up their race. Hup gets it. Its like one big family. And I love that.

The boys day 2. Abel, Mark B, Deitch

The other part of this crazy season that is just really blowing my mind is how great the NECX has come together. We have hit our stride. All the teams, the photogs, the mechanics, Pedros is BACK!, All the MAC crew, love, love, love seeing Fatmarc and Diane and all of them, 3 races down 3 to go in Holy Week. How you holding up? Night Weasels is going to be awesome. And Providence is well PVD. It is Hallowed Ground. That course is a great one. Thanks to ALL of you for all you do. So many thoughts and things that happened but its near impossible to put it all down in any way that makes any sense at all. Guess that is my failing. But last thought. One of the highlights of the whole day was walking back from heckling the Elite men with the Newbury crew I see Mo out of the corner of my eye. She was talking with someone so I didn't go over and interrupt her. But it put a smile on my face seeing her. I love Mo and Matt and they just warm my heart. So I am all feeling warm and fuzzy when blammmm! Mo puts a full on leg sweep on me and then grabs me in a huge hug. Well as huge a hug as a 90 pound woman can. It was awesome. And that is Mo in a nutshell. Fierce warrior and a warm heart. NECX you rock.