Monday, July 29, 2013

Taylor Swift Legs

Not gonna lie. This one may be a hot mess of a blog post. Where to begin? Hmm we could do the Five stages of denial of bike racing. That could work. Or we could talk about our feelings. Or Taylor Swift and how much "I love her." Ok let's start from the beginning. So Barn Burner may be my new favorite mtn bike race of all time. Literally. Not metaphorically. Or figuratively. But actually like my favorite race. Ever. But how is that possible? I guess its sort of like a Field of Dreams. Build it and they will come. Build it 6 miles from my house and yeah I am gonna get excited. Build it near one of the coolest ice cream shops in the metro Boston area and yeah I am going to freak out. Set the ACTUAL course up two weeks in advance and invite all of us in the surrounding area to come ride it and guess what? If the course is fun word of mouth is going to spread fast. Like a Zombie Virus. This course has to be the most pre-ridden race course in the history of racing.

But to recap. Blue Hills Cycling. My new BFFs. Worked their asses off to clean up the course. They dialed it in. And actually there was a true mad genius to getting it set up so far in advance. Have you ever raced Pats Peak? Hmmm. How do you feel about the words Fresh and Cut? Not so good am I right? Fresh cut sucks. Totally. You should never, ever race fresh cut. But as I said Pete at BHC is a mad genius. They arrowed the course, taped it off and had it set. Sure the first time I rode it I got sort of wicked lost down some powerline trail but frankly that was sort of fun. And I saw some ten point buck.  That is winning. I had heard about these trails in whispers but never had ridden them. They were a mix of Cutler and Stewart State Forest. Really nice flowy single track.

The night before the race I took my wonderful daughters to their first concert. It was at the Razor. AKA Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the home of The New England Patriots and the Gnar Weasels. Gnar Weasels is about a 1/4 mile from the visitors end zone. I have an 8 and a 12 year old. My wife bought these tickets back in November as a surprise. The tickets sold out in 11 minutes. My only fear was that I knew we would be at the show late. And we would likely be standing on our feet for hours. Concert legs and all. The show was amazing. And Talks with Taylor were the highlight. What were Talks with Taylor? Talks with Taylor were these amazing pauses in the show. Taylor Swift would stop mid song and just talk to the audience. I have never seen a performer with such poise and command over 60,000 fans. I certainly don't know much about her music etc but it was impressive I have never witnessed anything like it. There was something so mesmerizing about it. Almost Wiccan. Or ritualistic. Its hard to explain. You had to be there.

But I will tell you something. I loved the concert. Taylor Swift is an amazing performer. My girls had a magical time. That is all that matters to me. Fresh legs are for suckers. We got home so late. And then I started to freak out about racing. Luckily Abel showed up and was my wingman. That settled me down. It took us a total of 15 minutes to get to Adams Farm. Once there it felt like an #NECX reunion party. I had a ton of thoughts swirling in my head before the race. Concerns about teamates etc. My own racing was secondary. At best. But I was psyched for it. So many people were there. It was incredible. They went from 50 prereg to 300. I don't even know what the day of was. The great thing about mtn biking is while everyone is nervous its way more casual than say Gloucester. You can actually talk to people. Gerry came up to me and said "Chip, the bridge is a bit sketchy as its wet." It was his nice way of saying "Dude you cannot cash that check today" I hear you. Loud. And. Clear. Tom Ritchey and all them Euro crossers are who I cut my teeth learning the mtn bike racing. Fastest from Point A to B. Style doesn't add up to jack. Don't crash. Don't destroy your bike. Win the War of Attrition. So we get it all together and line up. Somehow I am right next to the Nuge. Or Ted Nugent for those who missed the 80s. Brosephs arms are bigger than my thighs. He has a cutoff Tomac jersey. And a head band. If this was a cross race I would move as far away from him as possible. But this is mtn biking. Come on!

Some of my friends are getting twitchy. The Nuge thinks he is gonna win this. He's not. My friends are fearing death. Or losing massive amounts of flesh when Broseph assplodes in front of us. I go all The Dude on them. Chillx. The Nuge is NOT even gonna make it a lap. Trust me. They don't. Whistle goes off. I sort of maintain and stay in the top half. With an eye on the Nuge. The Nuge is freaking out. The first 1/4 of the course was sketchy at race pace surrounded by 45 of your closest friends. Bad things were going to happen. I waited for them. Bombs went off. Nothing major. We get through all the nasty. I tell myself its a cross race. Dismount. Run. Remount. Shred. Pedal. Hard. Harder. Make them suffer on the climbs. Then I hear what sounds like a bear attack. Or an Org. FUCK. I PAID NINETHOUSANDDOLLARSFORTHISBIKEAND ITSUCKS. FUCK. And smashing. Lots of Hulk smashing. The course has so many turns. So like a cross race. So you can hear what is going on on the other side of the "tape". We come up to The Nuge. He is beating his bike with a rock. Oh wait I forgot the best heckle of the race. At least early on. We came through the first dismount. And Matt Sousa ( I think) is screaming in my ear hole "CHIP, a DUDE in a SLEEVELESS jersey is beating you!!!! GETHIM" I am like dude, I got this. He isn't surviving a lap. So we come across Broseph in his Tomac kit with the arms cut off (was there an actual USAC official on hand?) And I literally almost fall off my bike laughing. The train behind me is nervous. I understand. This dude looks "scary" So I poke the bear. I say in my loudest voice. "YO,DOMORESTEROIDS!!!" "THEYAREWORKING!!" He flips out and throws his wheel in the woods. We can hear him yelling expletives for what seems like miles. We never see The Nuge again.

So now that the Brosephs have left the building we can actually race the bikes. So many turns. Lap one and two are uneventful other than I keep telling myself to pedal harder and to stop slamming my XX1 chainring into logs that I hop. That shit can not be cheap to replace. By lap 3 I am able to clear it without smashing it. Lap 3 is probably one of the most magical laps on a mtn bike in my life. I have this friend Gerry. He is beyond rad. Badass technical rider. And has the tenacity of a pit bull. He raced singlespeed. And started a minute behind me. The course really was perfect for singlespeeding. Flat except for some power ups. So many turns. Super flowy. I wondered at what point I would be caught by them. I was in sort of hunter/hunted mode at this point. To me mtn bike racing is training. Its like a long CX race. I actually am happy if we have to run up a hill or dismount and remount. You can't get enough of that. But I didn't want to get beat by my friends or teammates. I have known Gerry for a long time. He is the owner of the Washington Square Tavern and Beaver Brook Bottles. He supports so many of the rides we do. The Ronde de Rosey starts and finishes at the Tavern. He is an incredible host and friend. But I have really never ridden with him. The first time was at Gnar Weasels. But that was very brief. He was gone in a blink of an eye. But at lap two I heard a very familiar voice moving up behind me. As Gerry got closer I heard him say "Hup, Hup" then he passed me. Like I was standing still. I have mentioned he was on a single speed right? Sure he had a 17 pound singlespeed which is not unlike cheating but still.

So Gerry passes me. He says "Chipper, I am beating you on a single speed, you owe me HUP kit!" You really can't argue with that logic. And frankly, it would be an honor to have Gerry in HUP kit. I told him it would delivered to him this week at the WST. Then he dropped his chain! Some expletives may have flown out. And I may have heckled him in his distress. After I asked him if he was ok to take care of it. I think I said "You should have a proper singlespeed not some janked out carbon franken bike!!!" Hahaha. Good times. But the guy in third in SS passed him with a geared "teammate" so now that Gerry was on HUP and I was his teammate I did what a good teammate does and regulated that shit. I chased those dudes down. And I know what its like racing ss against geared. Its not always fun. especially as you are cramping at the end of the race. Did I block him so Gerry could catch back on? Maybe. I like to call it lulling him to sleep. I caught on and just started talking to the dudes. Hey how you doing? How do you like the course? Blah, blah. blah. Get them out of the ZONE. Gerry came charging up and I let him through. And it was like a clinic. Watching him shred was sick. I swear I learned more riding behind him for 1/2 a lap than my entire mtn bike career. The he dropped me. On a fire road. I know. That is wicked embarrassing. But seriously, Gerry is a XC killing machine. So now I am in survival mode. DO NOT get beat by the 3rd place SS guy. Ok got that. We start lapping a lot of traffic. I see my good friend Ben taking photos. I try and keep it together and not crash at his feet. Then I pop out right before the finish and see Nick. And he is on a road bike. And he starts rappping Killer Mike in my ear cause I am sooo cracked I can't even pedal. It might be the highlight of my racing career. I love that kid. And I some how roll in. In one piece. What an amazing day on the bike.

I can't even say enough how rad it was seeing everyone. It was an #NECX reunion. CXisComing. Fast. And I have so much respect for all my teammates. Especially Carrie. Damn. She strives. And battles. Leah same deal. Meg. Oh damn. She is full, straight up OG HUP. I wasn't expecting to see her. When I did I got so stoked. Litka. Not a teammate but she is such a part of the whole SSCX series. Great seeing her and her husband Andy. My good friend Art. Did his first ever XC race on a 40 pound DH bike. And crushed it. And had a blast. Gerry and I need to get him a proper XC bike and he will smash. So skilled and such a great attitude. Ok I am going on and on. Love my team. Love the #NECX. Love that so many people rode their bikes out and shot photos or watched the race. This is what mtn biking can be. Oh Ben Stephens. Yeah. Rock star. Russ Campbell. I don't even know what to say. He is beyond rad. He is one of those people who you just want to spend more time with. Deitch. Joel. Abel. Eli. Michele and Ed. The raddest couple in the world. Thank you Barn Burner for making this happen. Going to surf this MTB mojo a bit. Hope y'all are ok with it. See you in Sept. My head says Quad but my heart says Wompy. Those two promoters need to work it out cause a Wompy/Quad weekend would be sick.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Barn Burner

I am almost always positive. On more than one occasion I have been described as a cheerleader. I have seen photos of myself. I am more Chucky than Cheerleader. But I do get excited about all things two wheeled. And I get myself worked up pretty easily if it involves dirt and big wheels. It stems from my childhood. It was pretty much in my job description for my whole youth to wreck myself on a bike, trike or anything with wheels. Ok skates as well. But for this blog post we are gonna flip it for a second. I am gonna go negative. Not because the Barn Burner isn't the greatest thing since peanut butter and fluff found each other. But because you would have to hate so many things to NOT show up for this bike race. So here we go. 

Top Ten Reasons to NOT race Barn Burner.

1.) You hate fun. Literally. The Barn Burner is the POLAR opposite of Gnar Weasels. There is something so Zen about doing these two back to back. The fact that they are almost in the same zip code is mind boggling. So to break it down for you all. Think fast, flowy, woodsey goodness. About zero Gnar. A race that is 80% singletrack. Great for a SS. I would go with a big gear. 32 x 18 at the minimum. If you wanted to win you might go 33 x 17. Too fast and too furious. And yes there is enough "Gnar" to keep it east coast. A few rock gardens, one "dismount" across a stream/mud hole, some fun boulders to hop, and one rickity bridge. I am taking the "B" line race day. Unless I have a clear shot at it and then I may just come in hot and shred it. Cause Abel will love me for it ; )

2.) You HATE beer. And ice cream. And fun. And hanging out. Adam's Farm is 6 miles from my house. And 5 minutes from Bubbling Brook. What is BB? One of the best ice cream stands in ALL of New England. So let's recap. You get to SHRED a sick flowy course on loam and then go get a burger and an ice cream right afterwards. Am I the only person who finds this amazing? My formative years racing mtn bikes involved driving 5 hours to the boondocks, racing for 3 hrs and then eating at McD's. Yes I have scars. Psychic scars that will never be healed. Although Barn Burner may be a beginning towards real healing

3.) You HATE beer. Ok I said that in #2 but did not elaborate. There is a Harpoon beer tent. Sweet baby cheezits in a gold lame diaper. So I get to race my head off, come back to the Death Star and get a cold beer and hang out in my kiddie pool? Amazing. Oh and yes they have space for team tents. Like Gloucester. Which brings me to #4.

4.) You HATE cyclocross. What? What does CX have to do with this mtn bike race? I mentioned this race was 6 miles from my home right? My home is in the epicenter of the Boston bike scene. So Barn Burner is say 30 an hour from most neighborhoods in Boston. How many CX racers live in Boston? A SHIT TON. Am I right? How many venues do we have 30 minutes from Boston? Not too many. Adam's Farm would make a sick CX venue. I have pre-ridden the course twice. Each time I looked at the venue and was like: Sand pit? Check. Plenty of parking? Check. Fireroad start? Yes. Fields of dreams? Check. It would be a beyond rad CX venue. And most importantly they allow beer. Boom.

5.) You hate racing. I think lots of roadies and cross racers "hate" or "fear" mtn biking because a.) they don't feel they are racing or b.) they fear death. Neither of these come into play here. Remember when I said it was fast and flowy? I was NOT blowing smoke up your ass. This one is gonna be a ripper. And in some ways zero fun. If you are "racing" that is. If you are racing you had better KILL yourself to get the holeshot. And then you better go deep into the pain cave to stay off the front. And if you crash and dab its your own damn fault cause it will be like Canton CX. 20 people will go by you in a blink of an eye and you will be off the back faster than you can say get the point.

6.) You love Gnar. Ok for the real mtn bikers. The ones who SHREDDED Gnar Weasels and put a smack down on all us posers (yes I include myself in that category). They may be less than stoked. But knowing most of these real mtn bikers they are going to love the whole scene. They will love the beer. They will love that the Blue Hills Cycling busted their asses to buff a sick trail system that hasn't been given much love lately. And this is why I LOVE real mtn bikers. Like I said I pre-rode this twice already. Both times with real mtn bikers. They were all smiles.

7.) You love driving. Nothing pisses me off more than driving 3 hours to race a 45 minute CX race. It is such a colossal waste of fossil fuels. It makes zero sense. Guess what unless you live in Quebec this is an easy drive. But carpool. While their is parking it may be tight for this one.

8.) You hate singlespeeds. Who could hate singlespeeds? Seriously? This one is as close to Stewart State Forest that I have seen. Seriously. Its a great venue for rocking the SS

9.) You hate bike racing? Did I mention this already? Ok sort of different here. Blue Hills Cycling busted their butts to get this ready. The trails were cleared and arrowed and marked a week before the race. That is incredible. They did a ton of work to make it a really fun race. Show them you actually like bike racing and support the race. And then thank each and everyone of them

10.) You hate trail access. WHAT? This is a mtn bike race, what the hell does that have to do with trail access? Everything. NEMBA works so hard to keep our trails open. They build bridges. Literally and figuratively. The race and our support will help NEMBA to keep trail systems like this open to mtn bikes. By coming to the race, supporting NEMBA and Blue Hills Cycling and Adam's Farm you can help ensure we have both sick places to race and ride.

Ok see you all next Sunday. The HUP tent will be in full effect. Kiddie pools will be procured.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rock the Vote

We all complain about USAC. Its part of the job description. But if we really want actual change and to have it be by the people and for the people we need more of us on the inside. Paul Boudreau is one of us. I have stood beside him at more than one Ice Weasels laughing my ass off. His club ECV does more for bike racing in New England than most teams combined. I don't usually get all political on here but in this case its something I believe strongly in. If you are a cross racer or a USAC member vote for Paul. It will make CX better. Go to the USAC member page and log in and vote! Yes you need to renew or be a member to vote. Cross will be here in the blink of an eye anyway and you will need that license.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Yes. I was a HUGE Doors fan as a kid. As an exchange student in Paris my ONLY mission in life was to visit Jim Morrison's grave. My Tunisian host was confused by this but played along. We made our pilgrimage and it was a life altering event. I may have left roses on his grave. Those words still resonate. No One Here Gets Out Alive. So true. And when Thom and Colin started tweeting that we were all going to die at Gnar Weasels I made peace with it. I am a fairly fatalistic person. I frankly didn't think I would live past 30. How the hell did I get so old? This was never how it was supposed to end up. But, while people were literally losing their minds over the thought of going to race ALL the Gnar. I was secretly getting excited. One. Colin has some weird ass mind control over me. Thom is a close second in this department. Throw in KSweens and Christin and yeah you had me at hello. So I was all in. But I was not so secretly afraid it would either a.) kill my whole team b.) my whole team would quit bike racing after this debacle c.) they would all come looking for me with baseball bats cause I thought this would be "fun" d.) all of the above. Ok before I get too far. All the good photos in this post are by my good friend Russ. Russ WON his race! And did a ton of work on the course and obviously shooting incredible photos. His rad Gnar Weasels gallery is here

But you know what? While HUP will always be a cross racing team first our appetite for dirt is becoming fairy insatiable. We have had some hard knocks. But getting smashed builds character and toughness. And nothing brings a group of people together like adversity. So yeah, lots of people were like FUCKYOUCHIP I am not going to Gnar Weasels and risking death, dismemberment, tooth loss, brain damage, spinal injures or the destruction of my cross season. M'kay. Wow. All I said was hey come and ride some rad trails with us and maybe have a beer or two. I kid. I am a kidder. In reality I was fearful for my own safety and anyone who sucked more than I did. And I was fearful of those who thought they were rad and would do something so rad they would have to be hauled off on a backboard. Yes I blame this on The Ring Of Fire. What the Hell is TROF? It was a sick old school mtn bike race in Northern California. And where Tom Ritchey almost died and did serious damage to his trademark stash. Basically TR got way to gnar and put his face through a tree. That story still haunts me. The race was coined TROF because my good friends who worked at Ibis at the time cleared the course and got the worst case of Poison Oak in all of history. Head to toe. Brutal. It was at the time, for me, the most technical mtn bike race I had ever done. In the words of Igrette from Game of Thrones, I knew nothing. But what it had on top of all that gnar was an amazing party/festival feel. You wanted to be a part of it. Missing out was not an option.

Much has been written throughout history and mythology about fear. Some great quotes. Henry the V comes to mind. Herodotus. Braveheart. Dune. I have used them. All of them. For Best Buddies rides and for Verge races. To motivate you need material. But I won't lie I have lost my mojo a bit. Getting old yada yadah yada. Little flicker of my past self has been haunting me. My old moto of "come home on your shield, or with it" hasn't been resonating so much. 529s. 5 year plans. College. Retirement. It drowns out the siren song of the wolf pack. So I turned to the Bhagavad Gita and Arjuna's tale. Why the Gita? For a race like Gnar Weasels its the only way. You have to go full Zen (I know the Gita is not Zen) . Turn the brain off. Stop judging your "performance" and try to flow. I knew it was going to be a beat down. I did not want to die. One of the stanzas that has always resonated with me is "..if you refuse the call to a righteous war, and shrink from what honor and duty dictate, you will bring down ruin on your head. Decent men, for all time, will talk or your disgrace; and disgrace, for a man of honor, is a fate worse than death" I blame a lot of this on comics. Obviously. But you get where this going. Sure Thom did his best "reverse marketing" approach on all his social media channels warning us we would all die. It had the desired effect. Those not comfortable with "dying" stayed home. Those who were ok with it showed up to party.

And it was a party. I have no idea what hold Thom and Colin have over me. They may have planted a chip in my head or something years ago. But they get me going. They could do a Lawn Darts Weasels and I would show up with fricking body paint ready to GO! I some how lured a A-Team of HUP/Stampede/Shred Bettys/ GPM to attend this here soon to be Classic Mtn Bike race in the NE. To most of us on the eastern seaboard the pinnacle of mtn bike race promotion comes from Dark Horse cycles. They just know how to do it. Great courses, great crew, beer, fun, equal parts party, equal parts bike race. Gnar Weasels was all of that. They (Weasels Productions) have set the bar pretty high. Is it at SSPalooza level? No. But for their first effort its pretty damn close. Beer Marshals, Taco Truck, Low key atmosphere, 100% Gnar. I LOVE a race that rewards the racers who have actual skill over watts. This may seem counterintuitive as I have zero skills. In fact I suck. Have I mentioned my epic crash on the warm up? Um yeah. So we go out to pre-ride. I am cruising along feeling good about myself. I see a nice boulder. SWEET! I rail up it. I get to the top and run out of momentum. Have I mentioned it rained the entire am? Yeah so I push down the pedals and my rear wheel spins out. I start falling backwards. I clip out and put my feet down. And like a cat on ice I start trying to get some traction to arrest my fall. Did I mention I still had my toe spikes in my dragons? Metal toe spikes do NOT interact well with wet rocks. So I do the only thing I can do I got flat and superman down the boulder. The shame burnt a lot more than the flesh that had been ripped off my forearms.

So after that I am obviously freaking out. Shit. How could I crash on that? Brian McInnis sees me on the way to the start grid and gives my tires the Medford Handshake. We take a BUNCH of air out. Oops. I get to the start line and everyone is nervous. Kittenbat has my 29er Zank SS. Her old bike is a bit of a disaster. Gnar requires suspension and tubeless tires and actual brakes that work. But yeah, as much as I knew this bike was going to change Leah's life I was nervous. The good news is she and I are like the Wonder Twins of bikes. Somehow our fit and style on a bike is a cookie cutter of each other. I knew she would shred on the Zank. But we talked a bit on the line. Then I heard the call up to my group and had to go. At the start grid I bump into Gerry and his crew from the Washington Square Tavern. Damn. I have been trying to ride with Gerry forever. The fact that the first time I was going to ride with him was at Gnar Weasels was mind blowing. So Gerry sees me and says "Chip!!! Ride with us!" Hell yes. After my near death on the slick boulder I needed all the help I could get.
Air horn goes off and we are "racing" I am just riding with Gerry hanging out as he smashes through all the riders ahead of him. I stay in contact with him for about 20 minutes then he hucks off some boulder and is GONE.

The first lap is a lesson in just flowing. Bad shit is happening all around me. If the course was dry it would have been pretty fast. But as I have stated a million times I suck at technical mtn biking. I am getting better and if I have ridden somewhere I can fake it but first tracks with a bunch of amped up mtn  bikers is a bit out of my paygrade. I keep just letting the bike do what it does best. I resist my usual urge to smash through everything and pick lines and find my way around. There is literally zero flow. No place to pedal. Its all Gnar, all the time. I pass DD fairly early on. His bike has betrayed him once again. I am going to create a Kickstarter just for David and send in the photo above. Dear X, my name is David. Yeah I am sure you have a whole crew of "R&D" experts to test your products. They ain't got jack on me. I am the Nightrider! I'm a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out of controller! Send me stuff. I will destroy all your products. The products I don't destroy are indestructible. Dave showed up in Jorts. And looking like the bastard child of Adam Craig and one of the Village People. I LOVE him for it. He does what I wish I could do. In all facets of radness.

So I see DD and his destroyed machine on the side of the trail. I keep slogging. Wet root, rock garden, drop off, rinse repeat. I am channeling Thomas Frishknecht and Rachel Atherton. It is sort of working. I keep telling myself to breathe. I only almost die once or maybe twice on the first lap. I come through the start/finish and pull off at the water stop. Brian McInnis magically appears on his party bike as I am hyperventilating. He says "that is a great idea." "Grab a GU and drink something" Ok ready he says? Ready? I was just hoping to not die and finish one lap without embarrassing myself. But he is so damn upbeat and seems to think that I can do this that I get off my ass and get back on my bike. I follow him for a bit. He lets me get in the front for a bit. I hear him behind me yelling at me "CHIP! SLOW DOWN" In my addled brain I snap back to reality and see I am about to go off a 4 foot drop. I surf the ridge of the boulder to the end of the ramp and avoid death. Thanks Brian! I see Shane. He is deep into the Beer Marshal beers. Like 3 deep. He wants me to stay but I am like dude if I stop the mosquitos will drain my body of all its blood. So I keep moving. I bump into a dude who looks totally out of it. He also looks like an expert. Very athletic. A lot of expert and elite riders had been riding up the course to warm up so I just assumed he was one of them. I ask him if he is ok. His answer is not confidence inspiring. He says he hit his head and can't feel his foot. I am like WHAT? 

I suggest perhaps dropping out and heading back to the aid station. He says he doesn't want to quit. This is the effect Thom and Colin have on people. They get you so pumped up you don't care if your body is totally destroyed you want the Red Badge of Courage of finishing the hardest mtn bike course in New England. I bid my friend godspeed. I come across numerous trail zombies on the final lap. At one point I hear some rider coming up on me fast. I saw the Gnar Weasels 7 mile sign not too long before. So I am thinking FUCK I have to race this late in the game even though I am SMASHED. Ok fine. No way I just did this race to be pimped with 200 meters to go by some jackass. He gets close and I ask him why he is so "fresh" He says he isn't racing and just happened to be riding and thought it would be fun to jump in. Fun? I have been killing myself to keep some dude at bay who isn't even racing and its fun? Kidding. He was actually a really nice guy. I rolled in totally shattered. But so stoked.

To recap. Hardest Race Ever. In my life. Most fun race ever. Leah winning on the Zank Hovercraft? Yes Leah WON!!! On a bike she had never raced before. That speaks volumes about what Mikey Z knows about SS 29ers. I am never seeing that bike again am I Leah? Its ok. You won. You get to keep that bike. Gerry smashing it and then hanging out with his crew. Love that man. He does so much for the NECX and seeing him in HIS element was amazing. His dog Bruno is pretty rad as well. Major shout outs to everyone who showed up and got rad. NO ONE DIED!!! That is bananas. And speaks volumes to how tough you all are. Even racers who destroyed their bikes or bodies had smiles on their faces. The DNF % had to be off the charts. In the short time period I was Beer Marshaling we came across two racers having less than great days. We handed them an ice cold Harpoon and got them back to staging. Dan's quote was hilarious " after I endoed and folded myself in half I figured it was time to call it a day" All with a smile on his face. We need more of this. It is both old school and new school. Thom. Colin. KSweet. Christin. You all rock. Kick ass race. Can't wait till next year

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lucky 13

The Zanconato SSCX series starts in 62 days. Quad CX will be opening day. We have ten races on the schedule this year. The series is set. No mid-season additions this year. We have a great line up. Some great grassroots races, New England Regionals, and a Friday evening race on the Hallowed Grounds of Providence for Holy Week! Each year we try and kick it up a notch. But the core idea that CX should be fun remains our primary reason for doing this. A couple of rules, or perhaps tone setters. There are no rules. Ok there are rules as we are under the USAC guidelines. So yeah it won't be all Flabongo, all the time. Even at Ice Weasels they had rules. Although I can only remember the one rule Colin told me. He said its all fun and games till a naked man tackles a bike racer. Yeah I can agree with that. Even though a half-naked man met me on the course and handed me an ice cold 'Gansett and it didn't ruin my race at all. In fact it may have enhanced it. But according to USAC beer and cupcakes are PED so we will honor their commitment to "clean" sport and try and keep our beer drinking and cupcake eating in the Death Star.

Ok I have gotten wayyyyyy off track! Its really a shocker that Zank let's me "run" this thing. OK HUGE NEWS! ENGVT the company owned by Jerry Chabot, one of the Zank SSCX founders, is presenting sponsor! What does this mean? It probably means there will be a foam party at one of the races (Providence sounds like a good fit). We will have more on this later. But for now, in all seriousness, I just want to say thank you to Jerry. Thank you for being a driving force in the NECX. Thank you for pushing us to do the Zank SSCX series. And thank you for forgetting about that "incident" at Midnight Ride...I still say its 20 Pound Skulls fault. If he wasn't so big I could have moved over a touch and let you through...

So what is the Zank SSCX series and why should you do it? Do you like fun? Do you like CX? Adam Myerson has been quoted on more than one occasion stating CX is NOT FUN. And he is right. At the highest level and to be halfway good at it you should be destroyed at the finish. Leave it all on the course. I have had a few races like that. I felt pretty proud of the efforts. But doing that for a whole season is a one way ticket to zombie land. Sure some of you are poised to take on the World Cup and perhaps take the top step at Nationals. For the rest of us this is Beer League Softball (*yes I got that line from Fatmarc!) It can still be competitive. The fun aspect of CX and this series are the little battles. Battling your friends and frenemies. SSCX throws some real challenges at you. Dare I say it makes you better at CX? Sure. You have to actually think about turns and transitions. Have to embrace the "No Brakes Lifestyle".

It couldn't possibly be easier to get started. Show up at one of the races. Come see us. We will have zip ties. We can zip tie your levers and voila singlespeed. Or you can show on a SSCX bike dedicated for radness. We like seeing dedicated bikes. But we like all bikes. No one has more SSCX street cred cause they show up on a dedicated bike. So zip ties are COOL. You may even see a t-shirt pop up with some sick zip tie art. Racing SSCX is not some political statement it just adds a new wrinkle to a sport we all love. CX is getting big. I am not a numbers guy but the growth numbers I have seen are pretty impressive. Just go to a big race in NE and you can see how big it has gotten. I am more interested, personally, about growing the sport from the bottom up, than the top down.

We really love seeing new people giving it a go. Fast, slow, young and old. Its all good to us. I have two highlights from last season. One was meeting a Jr who had done her first SSCX race at the finish line with a plush unicorn. She gave me a high five and was so stoked it was ridiculous. The other highlight was when Leah and I did the two-person coed class at Ice Weasels. I am pretty sure we are 2-person coed SSCX Champions of the world.

This season we really would love to see growth on the women's side. There are so many rad women riding bikes and racing CX. It would be beyond rad to see some of you come out and try SSCX. If you hate it no worries, but at least give it a shot. I swear it is fun.

A lot of people work to make this happen. Even though we don't put on our own race there is a lot of behind the scenes plotting and scheming that goes on. Hold on one minute!? Did I just say "we don't put on a race?" It is true. We are sort of like the Lamprey of the NECX. Each promoter runs the race as they see fit. Some are more open to working with the schedule than others. Some add their own twists. But at the end of the day its their race and we are their guests. We add a real value to their race. We promote their race and hopefully make it more rad. One of the main reasons we started this series was to bring some of our favorite grass roots races together and to help them grow. Mansfield Hollow is a good example of this. WE LOVE Mansfield Hollow. It is one of the best CX races in NE. But for some reason people don't know that much about it. We try and spread the word. But as a rough outline here is how we are doing it. 

• 10 races 

9/8-Quad CX
9/21-CX @ White Park
9/22-Sucker Brook

10/4-Providence Cross Festival
10/12-Mansfield Hollow
10/13-MRC CX
10/27-Orchard CX

11/17-Cheshire CX
11/23-New England Regional Championships

12/14-Ice Weasels

• It is a series. We will publish the points structure before the season starts. Winner of the series wins a sick trophy! And probably a case of beer. At the end of season keg party we will do a sick raffle. Each year it gets better and better. Each race you do, you get your name in the raffle. 10 races=10 chances to win cool stuff! 

• Zip ties are COOL! Oh I said that before didn't I? Its the concussion. I forget easily. 

• We will stage up as the promoter dictates. Zank SSCX series preferred staging is men go first then a 1 minute gap then the women go. This will at least limit total chaos at the start. Lapping may happen. Please try not to use other racers as traffic cones. 

• We have been talking about doing a clinic or series of practices to introduce SSCX to racers. One of the NECX's finest may be leading this. I will be doing the Flabongo hand up drills. I hope that is cool. Its important. All eyes are on us. You think I am kidding. I wish I was. One dropped hand up. One lame Wizard's staff and ALL of the Pac Northwest is laughing their asses off that us type A east coasters can't even learn to have fun. 

• Research. An instructional website for the SSCX curious. I present Death Touch CX

• I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few items to appease or new rad sponsor ENGVT. One. No Uni-cycles. Ever. Ever. Ever. And no costumes. Ok at Orchard Costumes are cool. And Ice Weasels. Ok fuck it I like costumes. I may race the whole season as Bob Seals. Google it. It won't be pretty

• One last thought. SSCX Worlds are in Philly. Bilenky is working with the promoter to have a two-day race weekend filled with Mayhem. Who wants to go with me and win Philly and bring SSCX Worlds to the NECX? Thom? Buddy? You in? I know you can drink a pint glass of maple syrup. We got this. Ok party people. Start working on your waffle handups. And leave the 4 loko at home. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013


July 1st my Cross alarm clock starts ringing. LOUD. Really Loudly. I DO NOT HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON. I know this drives the roadies and mtn bikers nuts. Yeah, yeah its July. TdF time. Peak Mtn bike racing season. But CX will be here in 70 days. It takes preparation. Maybe not for people who are fast etc. Or are naturals. But I suck. If I were to divulge how long I have been at the CX game people would laugh their asses off. Hey its easy being good at something. It takes real work to be mediocre. This season my CX alarm clock threw a curve ball at me. I won't lie. I have been evolving lately to be more mtn biker than crosser. Not by any means the type of east coast mtn biker that most of my friends are. I still have night sweats thinking of axe head rocks ripping away chunks of my flesh. And hucking is not and never will be in my vernacular. 

But I love it. I love the woods. I love how you step into another world. SS Mtn biking was a gateway drug for me. The Honey 29er with XX1 was a revelation. And I have been starting to feel really good about myself. When Matt Myette describes you as "sneaky fast in the woods" it can swell one's head. I had a good run. And maybe in my old age I had forgotten one of my favorite Simon Burney quotes about cross. Who is Simon Burney? That is like asking who is Herodotus. But I digress. I had this tradition in Norcal. One I attributed to many factors. But Burney's quote sums it up. To paraphrase "you will need a gentle reminder of the things you can do on a mtn bike that you cannot do on a 'cross bike." In my case these "gentle reminders" were never very "gentle." Rooter (Resultsboy/Colin) once described a Cross bike as being like a pencil and a Mtn Bike being an eraser. I think that is spot on. I love going on "mtn bike" rides on my cx bike. Its almost the perfect combo. You can cover ground fast. Road sectors aren't like wet concrete. In the woods the CX bike can shine. But you have to use skill not just rely on 100 mm of travel and 2.3 inches of rubber to erase your crappy line selection.

Have I mentioned I had been running file treads for about 3 weeks? Clement LAS. 33mm of CXy hot goodness. But as I have learned on more than one occasion file treads giveth and file treads taketh away. And file treads are like some drunk Irish Uncle from Rozzie. One second you are laughing on his knee on Thanksgiving thinking this is the best Thanksgiving ever and the next second you are on the floor and bottles are being thrown around the room, cops are rushing up the stairs and all you want to do is go back to signing "Danny Boy." I rode the hell out of the LAS's. Raid on Rockingham, HUP Camp. Rode some serious gnar. Wet and slick. Hub deep mud pits. NBD. LAS have fat casings. They are super plush. But file treads don't have a real working edge. A Mud2 will give you some feedback when its about ready to go. A file tread when it goes it goes. Like the rug being pulled out from under you. So I am riding The Loop. Its part of the Ronde. I was done. 20 minutes from home. I am descending a fireroad I have ridden a million times. But am going fast. Alarms are going off in my head. I think the last thing I remember is Rob Warner calling the Fort Williams downhill. Then I am flying through the air and land on my ribs on a rock pile.

Heaviest crash I have had in a long time. As I am lying there pretty sure I just broke ribs or worse a 15 year old girl with two pugs runs over to me on the ground. "Sir, are you ok?" "I ride bikes and that looked really bad!" The pugs are licking my face. I think they were laughing at me. But frankly no oxygen was going to my brain. "Do you want me to call 911?" I got up. Assured her I was ok. I was sure I wasn't. Got on the bike. Rolled down to the road and headed home. Long story short Newton-Welleslely ER for x-rays. "Dr" Brian didn't do jack. Headed home. Body was so messed up. Concussion and major bruising. Mojo somewhat smashed. Got a CX wake up call and a Hubris check. Its been about two weeks. Still have lingering concussion symptoms. Not as bad as some of my friends. And its sort of a running joke with my wife and daughters. But it does make one pause. You start looking back at the wrecks and the injuries and the little voice starts talking in your head. Luckily, one of the major side effects of this concussion is euphoria. Feeling happy is good right? Now if I could only get my sense of direction back. Crazy when you forget little basic stuff about where the car is or which turn you take to get home.

Head injuries are weird. Your only option really is to shut it down. So I took a few weeks off. Cape Vacation didn't include any riding. Except that one time I rode to JTs with Zoe to get a soft serve. And she crushed me. And she got super pissed at me when I rode down a boardwalk to the beach. Odd that my family doesn't find my shenanigans amusing. My usual secret training camp was crushed. I resorted to jumping off a jetty and eating lobster rolls. Then I started noticing the carnage popping up on twitter and facebook. There is something about July. Its like a perfect storm for bikecatastrophes. So many friends down. So you just embrace the HTFU motto. Heal, rest, try and get your mojo back. I have eased back into it. In some ways getting hurt has been the best thing for me. Mud2s are back on the bike. Focus is on CX. And D2R2. And the Dirty 40. Maybe JAM Fundo. Oddly the CX crash is still in my head. Need to get back on the mtn bike. Gnar Weasels is in a week. Not sure what to think. #dronkreg'd for the SS men. All the cool kids are going. My team is all excited about it. Hopefully I remember how to flow like water on the Gnar. That or I will be getting some Tough Mudder style running in. Maybe I will just wear a red speedo and a cape. Give these kids a little Bob Seals history lesson.

70 days. The Zank SSCX series is coming. Beer sponsors need to be secured. Need to rally the troops. Zip ties will be a way of life. ENGVT is on board. And will save SSCX on the east coast. Did I mention IronCross? Oh man. So much work to do. Time to get out the hard hat and lunch pail. Once more unto the breach my friends. See you next Saturday. Wonder if Colin and Thom realize they scheduled the race that will be the wrecker of souls on the 13th? Probably not.