Monday, November 30, 2015

Green Monster

Not that Green Monster. This Green Monstah...the Green Monstah below is of course my Zank SSCX bike. It was first given the name Green Monstah by Mr. Matthew Pierce in the beginning of the season at Quad CX. The name fits. The bike is a beast. Custom built alloy SSCXy goodness by Mike Zanconato himself. It was built as a SSCX race bike. But as is my nature everything ends up turning into a woods bike. Really doesn't matter what bike we are talking about in my garage. At the end of the day they ALL need to be fun to ride in the woods.

But this specific "project" has been percolating for about five years now. Lots of people think aluminum is too stiff to ride all day in the woods. They are crazy. Or just set in some misguided mythology about bike frame manufacturing. I have ridden ti bikes that are so stiff they are unrideable. It is not the material it is the builder and the components you put on a bike that make it comfortable to ride in the woods all day. I have been drifting towards a monster cross bike for a while. Our love of adventure riding and taking CX bikes in the woods and shredding is obviously driving this. Not just me obviously but lots of people are heading in this direction. It oddly is still sort of a trigger topic for lots of people. When I say my CX bike can ride everything in the woods the diehards start getting hot under the collar. I am not saying I am going to huck my CX bike off some rock ledge in NTF and expect anything but the obvious to happen. Riding a CX bike in the woods requires a bit of finesse. That is actually why I think a lot of us like this type of riding. It makes trails that would be "boring" on a mountain bike really fun. And you can ride literally all day. And cover a ton of ground. 20-50 mile trail rides are pretty much the norm for us right now. 

But let's take a step back from this love fest of the monster cross bike for a second. I have had some of the worst crashes of my life on a CX bike in the woods. And again I am not trying to start flame wars here just stating my opinion and personal experience. Yours may vary according to luck, skill and experience. Most of my crashes have involved speed, wet roots and rocks. I blame the tires and cantilever brakes. There I did it. Cantilever brakes suck. Mini-Vs are somewhat better but suck also. The new hydro disc brakes for CX and road bikes are next level. They are safer and allow for more control. Now add big fat tubeless tires into the mix and you have a CX bike (ok maybe its a mountain bike with drop bars now...) that can handle almost anything. And it can do it without white knuckle braking and tip taping down trails. There is a HUGE difference between how a tire handles at 30 psi and 45 psi. A tubed tire in NTF at 30 psi will last all of about 1 second. Literally. At 45 psi you still might not get out of NTF without a flat. I remember one Ronde where we went over Blue Hills on our CX bikes. I am pretty sure one of my teammates (who won't be named) had no less that four flats. Four. That will ruin your day.

But back to a more positive note and to where I am right now with this bike. I (believe it or not) am a late adopter of technology. Especially with CX. Not that I am retro just that maybe I like to wait to see how the new technology sorts itself out. Tubeless is a perfect example. As is hydro disc. Both in my opinion are now 100% reliable and ready to be adopted by those who are interested in making the leap. It is weird how both of these technologies are 100% reliable and accepted on a mountain bike. There have been some hiccups along the way but take for example the Green Monster in its current set up. TRP knocked it out of the park with these SSCX brakes. The fact that they are SSCX specific is mind boggling. Lots of racers have been using them with Di2 sprint levers tucked into a little port that TRP smartly built into the brake lever. The brakes work flawlessly. Great lever feel and solid braking. A bit more "feel" if you will than the Shimano hydro. With Shimano the brakes are one finger on and then off. Legit one finger braking. The TRPs are a bit "softer" which is kind of nice actually.

But the wheels. Holy shit. The first time I heard of November bikes was through my good friend Lesli. She raved about them and how nice they were and how great their wheels were. Then I saw Mike Wissell rocking some November wheels at Quad CX. I talked to Dave over the next couple of months and we decided on a set of Grail rims to November house branded hubs. The wheels came out amazing. So CXy and a total game changer. I hate flats. But really to me what its about is being able to run low pressure in the woods for performance. As stated earlier a tire (especially a big tire like the WTB Nano 40) at 30 psi acts very different than the same tire at 45 psi. At 45 it deflects off everything and beats you up. Tires in my opinion are what really beat you up on a bike. Not frame material. Tires at low psi roll so smooth it saves your back and hands from so much jarring. The Nanos are my favorite woods tire. And they actually roll pretty fast on pavement and fireroad. Its basically a 1.5  29er tire. Which makes me happy.

The rides that have been epiphanies for me are the Ronde and the VT Overland. You don't hear too many people talking about epiphany rides here on the east coast. Maybe they worry it makes them sound like a dirty hippy. I am ok with my inner dirty hippy. And most epiphanies I have are on rides. Its where and when I figure out my life. And think about bikes and rides and how to take the whole weird ride and take it to the next level. The Ronde as most of you know is the original bandit mixed terrain ride in the NECX. It pretty much got this whole weirdo mixed terrain adventure ride thing going around here. I am forever thankful for Rosey for giving us this Spring classic. Each year its gotten harder and harder. Last year I rode it on my 29er. And frankly had a blast. Rosey rode it on the same bike pictured above only much larger as I am a Hobbit. Rosey stuffed a 29er tire on the front and a mud on the rear. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And made me think about the possibilities. Then at the VT Overland Todd kicked all our asses with a 29er with 40s. Another epiphany. The Green Monster is my sort of mash up of these two ideas. 2016 is going to be ALL about monster cross riding. Definitely going back to VT Overland. And this time I am not bringing a butter knife to a gun fight.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The F Word

Not that F word. I use the word Fuck conversationally and on a regular basis. It is pretty much a birthright as a card carrying Masshole. Fuck is used as a noun, adjective and verb in the wonderful State of Massachusetts. I am certainly not shy about saying the word "Fuck" It is good as a point of emphasis. "Fuck, this is a great cider donut!" It can be used to describe a particularly bad day or moment..."Fuck, fuckity fuck..." can be almost cathartic at the right time. It is rarely used in anger but does do a nice job of communicating one's dissatisfaction with say a referee making a bad call or some douche bag cutting you off on the Pike. I am speaking of a much more despicable F word. One that really should never be named. It is like saying Valdamort or Candyman. Might as well say Beetlejuice three times. Its like you want to bring down the seventh circle of hell upon your household. Yeah the word I am talking about is Flats. F to the L to the A to the T to the S...A word most bike racers never say for fear it will curse them to a deflated tire or series of deflated tires that can only be stopped by a series of bizarre rituals that we won't go into on today's Cheshire CX blog post.

So the bad thing already happened so I can speak about it. I have had some bad flat karma of late. I don't usually have a problem with flats. Tubulars with Stans are pretty much bomb proof on most CX courses. And the one's I have been running all season are pretty much unkillable. The main thing they have going for them is that they are bombproof. Its actually become fairly annoying as I have been waiting to flat or roll them so I can replace them with the BALLER green casing FMB Supermuds I got from Molly back in September. September! I know. I know. But I am a cheap bastard and just cannot tear off a perfectly functioning albeit fairly crappy riding tubular just to put on some shiny new thing. And we really haven't had any real mud to speak of so there was no real reason to pull the MXPs off.

My luck racing CX this season has been fantastic. I really have only flatted once or twice in an actual CX race to be honest. I tend to ride fairly "light" for a not so light rider. And even the two times I have flatted the people who glue my tires do such a fantastic job that the tire stays glued to the rim. This is definitely one of the advantages of tubulars over tubed or tubeless. If the tire does go flat you can ride it to the pit. A rear one is NBD other than its going to take LOTS of Watts to keep the bike going. A front flat gets "exciting" which if you are off the back in the scrub zone can add to some epic cornering.  If you like that type of excitement and know how to ride a bike it can actually be highly entertaining. Or you could die. One of the two. But at least you will go out with glory. Riding a flat into the pit or to finish a race to me is living the Death Before DNF lifestyle. I hate running. Hate it. I sure as hell am not going to run to a pit. But I will ride a flat to the pit.

 Ok so onward and upward to this post about Cheshire CX. Cheshire is the last race on the Zank SSCX series World Tour before the finals at Ice Weasels. Cheshire is also one of the coolest grassroots races in the #NECX. Hunter and Gary and the whole crew down in Cheshire are amazing. They are so much fun and just get it. They always work so hard to make sure the racers have such a great day. It is also one of the most brutal course in New England. I have to race it next year on a geared bike as well as the SSCX. Riding the runnup up is definitely on my bucket list. 'The Hill" can be ridden on a SSCX but you burn soooo many matches it isn't worth it in my opinion. The Hill is a steep fireroad climb. It would be a selection spot in a mountain bike race for sure. A great place to attack. On a SSCX bike it is a section to just survive. And to take dollar bills out of a pigs butt. Or grab a Flabongo. Or a Harpoon from a good friend. The Hill People as they are called come out in large numbers. It is LOUD. It is probably the most animated runnup I have ever seen. Ok other than SSCXWC in Philly. That was insane. But this has horns, drums, people screaming. Lots of next level LARPing. You are so in the red zone and hypoxic from the run that you end up doing so many double takes. "Did I just see a dude in a shark suit?" Yes. Why yes I think I did.

As I have stated earlier the series is coming down to the wire. This race seemed to be the one that would decide it. Both the men's and women's were separated by two points. So pretty much anyone with a fight in the race did what ever they had to to get to Cheshire. It was a cool reunion of sorts. So many rad people I only get to see at this race. And a less intense vibe so I can actually spend time with my friends at a cross race and hang out without a ton of freaking out. I received some next level life coaching/CX hacking from Resultsboy before the race. He had just finished racing the elite race and was dolling out some serious truth bullets. He was pretty much a quote/heckling machine. While drinking a recovery beer he had some nice compliments for my Zank. "Sick dedicated bike. That paint is sweet. Hey don't take this the wrong way but those tires ride like a garden hose. The only thing they have going for them is they are bombproof" Hmmm see what happened there? I didn't even know it but this little exchange sort of awakened the flat Kraken. I didn't even realize I had slipped into a conversation that may have included the "F" word. I boasted to Colin that these tires do in fact suck but they are so bomber you just can't kill them. Mistake #1. Hubris is a dangerous thing my friends.

So I am feeling all giddy after seeing Colin and having a nice chat. I head to my car and see my good friend Matt Lolli. I fiddle with my bike a bit. The good news with a SSCX bike is you really don't need to do anything to it. But bike racers are creatures of habit and messing with the race bike relaxes us. So I inflate the tires a bit and check a bolt or two. Then mistake number 2 happens. As I am inflating the front tire I get sprayed with Stan's all over my face. Nice. I wash it off and start wondering if Stan's is toxic. Hmm my lips feel a bit numb. They sort of feel like they are gluing shut. So I pour more water on my face and wipe it off. Lolli must be thinking I have lost my shit. But he is helpful. We set the valves so they stop spraying Stan's everywhere and to Colin's advice set the pressure at 30. That seems high. Because it is. But even though I am not consciously freaking out about flats there is a dull alarm going off in my head. Cheshire has a reputation as being a buzz saw. Its why we love the race. It is super challenging. Some great fast rollers in the woods. And lots of spots to destroy your bike and body. Its not rocky but there are rocks. Last year Mike Wissell, MKR and Kevin all got taken down by troll hammers. I believe Wissell had three flats in his race.

So I get my act together but there has been a lot of talk of flats. I have maybe used the F word a few times. Not good Chip. Not good at all. You know this stuff. Why would you awaken the BEAST? A whole legion of singlespeeders stage up for the start of the race. I get a pretty good start. Locked in behind Rosey for a bit. Then we turn out on the grass field heading into the finish straight and I lose a little contact. SSCX gear selection how does it work? We make the turn onto the boney gravel road and I start smashing off seemingly every rock on the course. Rim definitely pinging off the rocks. But nothing bad has happened. I am registering in my mind the fact that I am riding like a bull in a china shop and to tighten this shit up. One of my favorite parts of the course this year was the "Pick your Adventure" More CX races need this. Basically you had option 1. a super steep runnup or option 2. a nice fun bermy ride up. You all know how much I HATE running right? So yeah I took option 2 every time. It was faster as well.

I felt pretty good. Got locked in with an old CT SS friend Fabian. He was on his 29er as were a bunch of people. Definitely the smarter choice for the race although I honestly felt 100% comfortable on my SSCX. Fabian at one point goes flying off the course and somehow does not die. Mad respect to that guys skills! He missed the trees and somehow didn't kill himself. First time up The Hill I hear a nice voice halfway up. "Chipper you don't look to be suffering ironically at looks real" "Have a beer you deserve it" Best hand up and heckle of the season right there from Resultsboy.

I try and get my ass in gear. A little group of three of us have formed but we are pretty off the lead groups. Mentally I start breaking the race down into thirds. The course has such a great flow to it. Grassy off cambers and turns, woods rollers, then runnup. After the runnup I would be so blown to pieces the descent became fairly challenging to see straight. I can't tell you how many times I almost blew the little ramp transition at the bottom. A few inadvertent nose wheelies may have happened. So I think we are gathering where this is all heading right? My hypoxia driven bull in a china shop riding style is adding up to the F word. In spades. I come bombing down the boney descent, make the transition, go over the barriers, remount, hop the curb to the parking lot and pffffttttt. Front flat. I don't even say the F word. Fuck that is not Flat. I am sort of in denial. I am like ahh its fine I only have one and a half lap to go.

I get to the top of the grass climb and make the first long turn on the offcamber and almost face plant. Okay then. Yes the tire is flat as a pancake. So I start outriggering like a boss. I see a few familiar faces and tell them I have a flat. The consensus is "Suck it up buttercup" So I put the pedal to the metal and come through the finish right before the leaders sprint to the line. I earned that last lap so I am definitely going back out. But I am not stupid nor do I have a death wish. Riding a front flat on grassy chicanes is one thing. Riding one on a high speed dirt roller coaster is suicide. Or at least really unfun. So I lurk into the pit and see if I can borrow a wheel. Scott is so nice and offers me a front wheel. But it is a thru axle. No go. He offers his gorgeous bike. But its geared. Then I see Jesse. He just came in third and offers me his wheel. His front tubed wheel that earlier before the race Jesse, Colin and I joked would surely flat. So we do a definitely non-UCI legal wheel change and I jet back out and finish my lap. And my race in true Death Before DNF fashion. Jesse's wheel rides way better than my tubie and more importantly does not flat. Moral of the story a non-flat tire is always better than a flat one. And sometimes tubes beat tubie.

HUGE thanks to Jesse, Colin Scott and everyone for helping me finish this one. No way I would have been able to without them.

What a rad day. Cheshire rules. Thanks Gary, Hunter and everyone who worked so hard on the race.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Two Points

Two points are all that separate the overall leaders in the mens and womens fields in the 2015 Zank SSCX series. It is all coming down to two races. Cheshire on Saturday, November 14th and Ice Weasels on Saturday, December 12th. To say I am excited is an understatement. Three HUP are right at the top of the overall. It shows just how committed to SSCX HUP is. Really looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out over the next two races. I don't think we have ever gone into the finals without the series decided. This may make for a very different SSCX race at IW. Usually IW is just a keg party where a SSCX race breaks out. I suspect the top racers will have to forgo the Flabongo's and cupcake handups and be all business at the front. We can still party at the back of course.

SSCX is alive and well here in the #NECX. Not only do we have the Zank SSCX series but we have local promoters adding SSCX categories to their races. Respect to them for including SSCX into their races. The local grassroots race scene has been so great this season. Its always nice when new races pop up and others explode. Grassroots racing is why the SSCX series was formed. We really wanted to support and champion the grassroots races. Each series race has become a mini-handmade bike show. So many cool handbuilt SSCX bikes showing at the races. I am obviously biased but this latest bike Mike Z built for Lesli Cohen is amazing. The pictures don't do it justice. The paint is a Bass Boat green with gold metallic flake.

The parts and build selection are spot on. The gutted Campy levers have such a nice feel. Paired with Paul's cantis the stopping and modulation is phenomenal. Tubeless setup up from November and signature purple Endless cog and ring.

 As stated before Lesli has been so integral in growing the series. She races so hard but also always takes the fun factor up to 11 at each race. Hopefully see a ton of you at Cheshire. And I am personally really looking forward to Ice Weasels at Riverpoint. I do love Jungle Cross and I have heard Riverpoint is legit. Thanks again for a great season of SSCX. The raffle as always will be held at the finals at Ice Weasels. If you are new to the raffle or series each race you enter earns you a raffle ticket. We have great prizes to raffle off. The Mac Daddy of all raffle prizes is of course a custom made Zank frame!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sponsor Spotlight

I can't believe this season flew by so fast. It is how CX season is every year. We wait for it and prepare for it and then boom! Its here and its full gas for three months and then its ovah! We have a solid 5 weeks left. Two great Zank SSCX series races on the calendar. Cheshire on Nov 14 and Ice Weasels on Dec 12. Both the men's and women's overall standings are so tight its going to come down to the finals. This has been the closest the series has ever been in the overall standings in five years. Do not miss either of these races! The fun is just about to kick into Warp Factor 11. Today's post is titled Sponsor Spotlight. And for good reason. We are so lucky to receive so much love from our friends, sponsors, racers and promoters. This series literally could not happen without a collective effort. I want to personally thank everyone who has come out and raced, promoted a race, taken photos, sponsored the races, heckled, cheered, worn a costume or just in general championed this grassroots SSCX series and turned it into something really special. This season has been a HUGE success. I have never seen anything like this. Hugs and high fives to all of you!

I would like to point out a few sponsors and friends who have really done so much for us this season. First of course is Mad Alchemy. Pete and his family are from the NECX and were a big part in building this community we now have. They still are a huge part of the NECX even if they now reside in Colorado. Mad Alchemy stepped up this season and became our presenting sponsor. They have always supported all our races and rides in the NECX. But to become presenting sponsor and support us on a large scale like they did this season means everything. The limited edition NECX blend is fantastic. The aroma of maple and the warmth it gives your legs (and back!) on a cold rainy day can not be measured. Walking through the pit and smelling maple embro at Providence brought a smile to my face. Mad Alchemy not only makes great embro but chamois cream and some of the most stylish socks in the bike game. 

Harpoon. What can I even say about Harpoon. Love Beer. Love SSCX. And they do love CX. We have had podium beer as part of the series because we want to always remember we do this for fun. Harpoon is one of the most supportive sponsors I have ever worked with. They love to hear about the races and hear about what beers everyone is enjoying. Having one of the series races next to the brewery in Windsor, VT takes the whole relationship to another level. Paradise CX frenzy is one of my favorite races of the season. Harpoon not only makes great beer but they are great people. A huge thank you to them for always being so supportive.

Woodshed Roasting Company is a new sponsor. Our good friend and supporter Eric Lovering introduced us to them this season. Their Zanc Series blend is fantastic. A medium-dark roast that gives you just the right go to get out and shred on the SSCX bike.

Resultsboy may not race SSCX but he was one of the first promoters to include a SSCX race in his race. Colin, Thom and Kevin basically invented SSCX in the NECX. Ok they didn't but it was at Ice Weasels where Zank, Jerry and I cooked up this unholy idea. And we just ran with it. Colin has always been a huge help with the series. Specifically, using his results mojo to tally series points and give us weekly and timely updates on how the points race is shaking out. A huge thank you goes out to that man and his crew. Thom P and Kevin deserve high fives as well. Thom's Dirtwire coverage of the series has been critical in showing off just what we are doing. Sure my interviews always look like I am huffing too much Mastik one but my ADD is sometimes hard to corral. Especially at a cross race.

Some shout outs for some individuals is in order as well.  Like I said earlier this series cannot happen without the help of so many people. We have a long series with 12 races. Its virtually impossible for me or Zank to be at all 12. Lesli and Kevin have been dragging the HUP Death Star (and new this year Mad Alchemy tent!) to the races for a few years now. Its not easy setting up shop and being the ringleader but both of them do it so well. And they both never hesitate when I text them or email them and ask for help. They both kick ass and have done so much for the series and the team. Hug them and high five them next time you see them.

And what to say about the dude picture below? This is why I LOVE cross and will never retire. You meet people like Eric. And make friends and do crazy ass rides and become closer than you could with a person outside of cycling. I just don't think there is anything like the friends you make on the bike. Eric Lovering of Chainline Cycles has been a great friend, spokesperson and sponsor of the series. He and his crew have jumped in with both feet and have brought so much to the series and our little band of hooligans. I love racing and riding with that dude. And I think him and the whole Chainline crew for all their support this season. 

As a side note we still have a limited number of Zank SSCX series hoodies and tshirts. The hoodies are available in black with white ink or orange with black ink. Both are super comfy and cost $40. We have tshirts in orange and teal. The tshirts are available in unisex or women's sizings and cost $20. For more info or to purchase one before they are all gone email me at or look for us at Cheshire and Ice Weasels.

Again I want to thank each and every one of you for being so rad and giving SSCX a shot. It is a blast. I hope to see a ton of you at the next two races. Ice Weasels is going to be at a new venue this year. Its a tradition. Never race Ice Weasels in the same spot two years in a row! This year it will be at Riverpoint in Warwick, RI. I hear great things about the venue. Looking forward to getting my jungle cross on at the next two races! Cheers VCB

Monday, November 2, 2015

West Hill

West Hill or "Putney" is one of the most iconic CX races in New England. I believe it is the longest continuously run CX race in New England. I love the race. The course "suits" me. It has lots of things I am "good" at and two things I am really not good at but somehow I do ok with them at West Hill. Its weird. Part of it for me is I just love VT. Any chance I have to race in VT I jump on it. This past Sunday was the 25th edition of West Hill. My CX season has been a bit of a teeter totter. Balancing #dadlife with CX is not always easy. And I have been getting a bit chewed up lately by the bike. This post was going to be titled "An Open Letter to my Body" The brunt of the post was going to be "I am soooo sorry for all I have done to you the last 20 years. I blame cyclocross, and mountain biking, and shower beers, and bacon, and cupcakes, and the internet" Mid-week we got one of those calls from the insurance company. You know the ones: "We would just like to understand how you ended up in the ER and if anyone was responsible" Insurance speak "who can we sue to get some of these dollars you keep draining us of with your incessant trips to the ER" Grown adults don't hurt themselves like this. Or if they do its from falling in the bathroom or tearing an achilles at the company picnic. We joke that the Woods/Bakers should have a wing at the ER. It certainly would be more efficient. I really should have gone into nursing....

I have been nursing a bruised tibia from Community CX and Syd the kid love her little heart got me sick mid-week. Who isn't sick right now? But no way was I missing Putney. Especially considering this year West Hill was added to the Zanconato SSCX Series. We have been trying to make a VT SSCX double out of Paradise and Putney for a few years. When the West Hill crew agreed to it I was ecstatic. Some details had to be sorted out. There is only so much daylight once you get to Nov 1. So we were added in with the 3/4 race at the end of the day. Perfect. I love going last! Especially when you have to drive 2.5 hours to VT! I pounded herbal tea and did my best to get better. I joked that this race happened because of KT tape and ricola cough drops. And Skratch labs. Not drinking beer when you are sick actually helps as well. Weird. Like bacon I always thought beer was good for you. What's next? Next they will tell us coffee is bad for us. I can't live in a world without coffee people.

So I pack the van and head to Putney. Lesli aka the Zip-Tie Fairy brought the Death Star to Paradise and then to Putney. When I pulled into the parking lot I saw one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The HUP Death Star right at the top of the run up. The run up at Putney is a thing of Legend. It is where the race is one. Who ever is to the top first wins. Or who ever clips in first once they remount at the top anyway. The finish is about 300 yards on a flat straight away. The run up is brutal. People think the right is faster. Its not. The VT State Champion agrees with me so it has to be true. The left is faster. The left side allows to you ride up to the mid-point, dismount, shoulder your bike and transition on a fairly flat step up before pitching up a nasty rutted run up to the upper flat.

I have raced West Hill a bunch of times. The course usually remains the same. Its a three-headed beast of a cyclocross course: Upper "mountain bike" pump track, Corn Field where souls go to die, and an ass kicker of a runnup. When people think of Putney they immediately assume its "technical" it really isn't. The chute/drop off everyone freaks out about is just a little dirt ramp. It is very tame. And the pump track is just a nice dirt track. We have much more technical courses. But the X-factor if you will is the weather and the "greasiness" of the course. Putney dirt is slippery. It is weird. It can be hero mud one second and then like a sheet of ice. Maybe there are little trolls just waiting in hiding and then they pop up and hit you with their troll hammer and the next thing you are on the ground wondering where that hero mud went.

Speaking of bodies hitting the floor. So like I alluded to earlier, in an effort to work within the daylight confines we combined the SSCX and 3/4 mens fields. I wasn't sure how this would go. But I was game. It couldn't be worse than starting behind two fields of Junior racers like we did at Community. The 3/4s take off. We get about 30 seconds and then we go off. The King of the Apples drops a chain and goes from front row to dead in the water. This confusion and perhaps a good gear choice on my part allows me to stay pretty close to the front as we climb the start loop into the pump track. As we come to the barriers I see an explosion and what can only be described as some scene out of Braveheart. There are bodies and bikes stacked all on the ground in front of the first barrier.

We get around the scrum. I invite Eric to lead into the pump track as he has way better skills than I do and I am hoping he may get rad. We are in a good position and I somehow don't feel like total ass which is amazing considering how sick I had been all week. I guess VT CX fixes everything. Then I try and get waaaayyyy too cute on a double log transition. I have done this transition a million times. You come down a dirt track and then there are basically two "stairs" the stairs are logs. Its like a horse jump. I decided to do my best Danielle Pontoni move. I swear I wasn't trying to step-through. Ok maybe I was. I was about 10 feet out. My right foot was right next to my (clipped in) left foot on the pedal. I took my right hand from the bar and put it on the top tube to execute what was going to be the most BALLER dismount and launch me ahead of Eric. He was going to talk about this pass for years!

And then my front wheel hit a root or gravel. Or a troll jumped out and hit my wheel with his troll hammer cause that is what trolls do. I went down so hard. Left foot still clipped in just smashed into a cheese grater of good old VT gravel. I go into the fetal position. Then pop up and drag my bike off the track. I somehow don't get run over by Spencer and a legion of SSCX wild dogs who are in full chase mode.

I don't have time to think about my stupid body I just grab my bike and go. My hands are on fire. Good thing I didn't wear gloves. I blame Tim Johnson for that one. Ok not really. I can see chunks of flesh hanging off my knee but I am not hurt so we just go back to smashing pedals and trying to catch people. And there were lots of people to catch. Oddly racing with the 3/4s was sort of a good mix. You could motorpace them in the cornfield and move up. There were enough turns that their gears didn't help them get away. Until the road to the runnup anyway. But most people used that to recover before the effort to the top section. Again, there was zero reason for me feeling good. I should have been sucking wind. Its the reason you got to races. Maybe you feel like shit. Ok just see how it goes. You never know. Showing up is 50% of the recipe for success. Two of my teammates and I formed a little HUP train. I don't know what it is about these VT races but it always seems to happen. John, Mike and I worked well together for about three laps. It was a blast.

West Hill is one of my favorite races of all time. It was such a great race. Perfect weather, perfect course, great crew on hand hanging out and everyone in a good mood. I can't thank them enough for adding us into their race. I can't wait for next year!