Friday, October 30, 2015
Love Beer. Love Life is our sponsor Harpoon's motto and we encourage all of you to do just that. This weekend is featuring a double VT double Zank SSCX weekend. Its a double we have been wanting to make happen for a long time. Paradise CX Frenzy and Putney are very close to each other. It makes it very easy to make a weekend out of it. The two races are both so much fun. Different styles of courses and both have awesome venues to both race, spectate and hangout. I mean how could it be better than Paradise? The Paradise course goes literally right by the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT. And Harpoon always welcomes us with open arms. This year, like past years each 21+ registered racer gets a token for a beer or rootbeer redeemable at the Riverbend Taps on Saturday. This year we will also be holding a costume race! It is Halloween after all! Best male and female costumed racer in the SSCX race will win one of our super limited edition Zank SSCX orange hoodies.
Putney the following day is a legendary race in the NECX. Pretty sure it is the longest continually run CX race in New England. The course is PURE VT. Held at West Hill and on a course that throws a lot of different features at you it is to me the defining course in the NECX. I love both courses. Paradise has a great grass course with lots of turns and a sneaky runup. And of course a run through the beer garden! Putney is all dirt, pump track, drop off, corn field and one of the nastiest runnups around.
We will have the new Zank SSCX series tshirts and hoodies as well as the final jars of Mad Alchemy NECX blend! We have nine left. Get them while they are hot! And they are hot. The aroma of maple goodness gives you watts. If you want a jar email me at email@example.com or come look for us in the HUP Death Star. We are in the sweet spot of CX season. The weather is getting cooler, leaves are at peak foliage and there may even be mud!!! Hopefully see a ton of you up in VT!
Thursday, October 22, 2015
The orange jumpsuit has a soft spot in my blackened heart. The Three Amigos are a legend out West. Or notorious. Stevil is one of the most talented artists I know. And a true champion of bike culture. He's always been a great supporter of all we do here in the NECX. Which is amazing considering the NECX is probably considered Boulder-lite by many people. We do take our bicycle pedaling contests pretty darn seriously around these parts. But Stevil has always been open to helping and pushing our kind of shenanigans to the masses through his webpage and just being an all-around rad dude who has been an inspiration for most of what I have done over the last ten years living in Boston as it applies to bike culture.
The other character I know who dons the Orange Jumpsuit on a regular basis is of course Gewilli. These two in some ways remind me of that episode of Star Trek where there are two Captain Kirks. If the two ever met on the world they inhabited the world would explode. I think of these two in the same way. I can't even imagine what would happen if Gewilli and Stevil met. I would pay good $$$ to witness this. Racing against the orange jumpsuit always guarantees a good time. How the hell can it not? Following a giant man in an orange jumpsuit full of pocket beers can only lead to fun times. And chaos. Most of the highlights of my SSCX career include some kind of Gewilli antics.
So when it came time to do a tshirt for the Zank SSCX Series it only made sense to do it as an homage to the orange jumpsuit. I was beyond thrilled when Stevil agreed to do the art for the tshirt. I was a little worried I might have scared him with my full auto velocb emails. If you aren't used to full auto velocb and my unique kind of radness starts laser locking on your direction it can be a tad overwhelming. But Stevil was a true professional and took my thoughts and created the most awesome SSCX art I could have imagined. It is also an homage to when I was a kid and I worshiped on the altar of Rat Fink and hot rods.
We will be offering two tshirts. The tshirts will come in orange with black ink and teal with black ink. We will offer both men's and women's sizings. The tshirts are high quality and super comfy. The cost per tshirt will be $20. We will also be offering a limited run of hoodies. They will be black with white ink. The hoodies will cost $40. To order paypal me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email or message box on paypal let me know what size, quantity and style you want. And if you need it shipped or delivered. We will hopefully have the tshirts in time for the double VT weekend.
HUGE thanks to Stevil, Jon Nable, and everyone who always makes SSCX so rad. See you in 10 days in VT. The VT double is going to be bananas. Paradise CX on Halloween and Putney the next day. We have some pretty awesome things cooked up for that weekend. Have I mentioned the Paradise CX race is held right next to the Harpoon Brewery? And we will be having a costume contest? Yeah it is going to be rad.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Pictured above is my good friend and ex-pat NECXer Starr Walker. Starr is a badass. Obviously. Starr currently lives out in PDX and is always getting rad. I am not going to say Starr coined the term Death Before DNF but she sure made a cool image and tshirt to remind us all to HTFU and not drop out of CX races when things go bad. I love the whole concept. But sometimes life throws funny karmic high and inside fast balls at your ego to remind you just who is boss. What am I talking about? Well this weekend was a funny one. We not only had one SSCX race this weekend but 3! How is this possible? Hanover is a big part of the Zank SSCX series. Its put on by two good friends and is 100% rad. As you know I love rad courses. But the #CBL doesn't always allow for me to be gone all day living the SSCX dream. But luckily there was a "new" race close to home. Community CX in Myles Standish was a total unknown. But they had a dedicated SSCX class and there was rumor of it being a serious old school jungle cross course. And Mike Wissell was the course designer! Holy crap.
So I obviously got excited. What is new right? I get excited pretty easily. Especially when I hear the words loam, sand and logs. Mike kept tweeting out rad photos and showing log hopping videos. I felt bad about missing Hanover but less bad at the prospect of racing a sick course and being home in time to take the kids Halloween Costume shopping. Win, win. As is my usual, the closer a race is to my house the more discombobulated I become. I always miscalculate the actual driving time and leave everything to the last minute and forget critical things. Like shoes. And helmets. Luckily with a SSCX bike you don't really have to worry too much about it. Inflate tires and shove it in the van. Easy breezy. I got down to Myles Standish and pulled in to a parking spot right behind Matthew Pierce. Gewilli pulled in right as I was kitting up with Black Sabbath blaring out of his car. Ok Black Sabbath like I had never head it before. It was going to be a good day.
I did a quick warm up lap with Matt. Course was beyond rad. Super fun. Like racing in Cutler. But substitute vicious roots with loam and sand. But same turny woods goodness. How have I not raced in Myles Standish before? Such a great place for a CX race. We got off the course as the 4s were trying to get the hole shot. Got to witness my first Cat 4 bike tosser. Why bike tossers why? Your bike loves you. Why do you hate it so....its not the bikes fault you don't know how to back pedal and just ripped the rear derailler off. Really bro. It wasn't even a good toss. Maybe 2 feet? So we sort of chuckled and went to line up. Then we saw the juniors were starting in front of us. Hahaha. Ok I wasn't actually laughing. But it is what it is. I was just happy to be racing. Juniors go off. Then we go after them like some horde of Visigoths. Not surprisingly we catch them right at the logs. Its actually helping me as its keeping the race all together. I am locked in with Spencer and Grant which is nice. People are taking questionable line choices which is super funny.
We hit the first runnup and I almost blow sky high. But I do pass a couple of people. Doing my best to get up to Spencer and shake off Grant. We get mixed up with some juniors and a few Landry's riders. We get back through the start/finish and I am oddly feeling good. Other than the beast of a runnup this is MY type of course. No high speed grass chicanes just gnar and CX skills in the woods. I get a little gap on Grant. Then pass one Landry's guy on the run up. Settling into a good battle with the other Landry's rider. We come through on lap 2 and I see Utah just shredding. I think to myself I need to get up there and party with Matt. We blast down the loam descent. Swing through the first sand pit. Then I just stack it in the second one. No one's fault but my own. Came in way too hot and tight and got hung up on the turn. But as I go flying through the air I take my bike to my leg like a baseball bat. I didn't really think about it. Just remount and pedal. Turn descend. Hit the long sand pit at warp speed. Get off and OH FUCK. Almost collapse in pain. Literally can't even put any pressure on my right leg. Limp up the runup. Hobble down the other side. Hop up the other side.
Remount and pedal. Right leg doesn't even work. Try and just pedal through it. Losing count of how many people have passed me. Rob Hale starts heckling me severely. He doesn't know how hurt I am so I just grimace and try and say something but can't. Get to the log hop and try and stand and pedal. Pain just shoots right up my leg. Ok I am done. I get off and try and massage it. Nope. The women have now caught me. I just pedal one legged back to the start and roll up to the officials and tell them I am a DNF. Mike came over and was so nice. I just told him what happened and rolled to the car.
Such a bummer. But if you can't walk, pedal or run you can't race. I have ridden home with a broken arm, broken ribs, collarbones, concussions. Leg injuries are different. You just can't do anything. So I got to the car and Gewilli was there. He gave me some great advice and a hug. Live to fight another day. Still one of my favorite courses. And Community Racing, November, Mike and everyone who made it happen deserve high fives! This is a race to build on. It adds so much to the season to have cool races like this so close to Boston. The good news is it was just a stinger. Ice, Traumeel, KT Tape and rest and its manageable. We will see if I can race this weekend. But driving home I thought my season was done.
On another note this is happening:
Yes. That amazing bit of radness is going to be a tshirt! I asked my good friend Stevil if he could do a drawing for a tshirt for the Zank SSCX series. All I asked him was to see if maybe he could do a drawing in the style of Rat Fink. My god he nailed it. Jon Nable did the font wizardry and design. We will be doing pre-orders on this soon! We will be offering two tshirt styles. The one pictured we like to call Orange Jumpsuit. The Petey will be a teal tshirt with black ink. And yes a limited run of hoodies will be black with white ink. If you are interested you know where to find me!
Monday, October 12, 2015
Yes, I feel slightly dirty quoting Drowning Pool for my blog post title. I suspect Drowning Pool is the "metal" equivalent of Nickleback to lots of metal fans. I am a dinosaur so metal to me is Zeppelin. Or Sabbath. Not a lot of modern metal I actually like. But this song is catchy. And certainly embodies a big part of racing. Crashes are inevitable. The worst ones are those at the start. Especially in CX. CX is an oddball cyclesport. The sprint for the most part happens at the start. Most other cycle pedal events the sprint is contested after two hours of slugging it out. CX sometimes comes down to a sprint finish but the start is EVERYTHING in a 40-60 minute race. That is part of the appeal. You sit at the start grid waiting for the chaos. The official starts the countdown. Two minutes. You bring your pedal stroke leg up to 3 o'clock. For most its their right leg. Some are lefties. It always freaks me out seeing someone with their left leg locked and loaded. Some racers put their butt in the saddle. Others on the top tube. Everyone is wound up and poise to explode off the line. One minute.
At 30 seconds everything goes dead silent, waiting for the gun to go off. In New England we have the "secret start" you never know. The official could blow a whistle, hit an air horn or say go. Or everyone just goes when one racer twitches. I won't lie. I am not really religious. I am spiritual. I say a prayer at each start for all the racers to have a safe race. Its a ritual. I bow my head, say the Lord's Prayer, say a CX specific prayer..." please let these racers ride safe, with strength and good sportsmanship" Then I cross myself. I may not be a practicing Catholic but its a birthright in Boston. The start at MRC/Midnight is always hectic. Start on a gravel road, go warp speed and then take a hard right again on gravel. Get to the grass and you are good. Up until then really bad things can and do happen. Oddly on Sunday I wasn't that stressed out about it. I was in a great spot. Second row right behind Spencer. Spencer was in his new Cats jersey. It was very calming. I was surrounded by riders I trusted. NBD.
Hahaha. You silly CX racer. Its like a bad horror movie. Its always when things have finally calmed down and everyone is happy that the dude in the hockey mask comes through a window and chainsaws everyone to death. So the whistle goes OFF! We accelerate. I am locked in on Spencer's wheel thinking about the upcoming right turn. Then bikes and bodies start flying through the air. We are literally 50 yards off the line. My teammate blew out of his pedal and took a stem to the nuts. He was front row and is a very large dude. People hit him at about 18 mph and hit the deck hard. Hitting him would be akin to hitting a parked car. I can't even imagine what the women cued up to start next must have thought as they peeled the bodies and bikes off the gravel. I somehow missed the crash and got away with Spencer. At the sandpit we were locked into an awesome train of Spencer, Eric, Me and Gewilli. You can imagine how this went down.
Gewilli is one of my favorite friends to race with. One he is a beast. Dude has watts on top of watts and is a phenomenal bike handler. As we hit the sandpit I hear G in his big boy voice in race heckling. "I have the three of you JUST WHERE I WANT YOU!!!" Haha G can be like a Visigoth rampaging through a CX course. We got hung up by a dad and his kid as we started into the chicanes. Gewilli started some in race coaching to try and get the Cannondale speed bumps to get the F out of the way. I believe " PEDAL THROUGH THE CORNERS!!!" What is wrong with you people. I literally was laughing so hard I thought I was going to crash into Eric. Eric had already been crashed out once during the day in the 3/4 race. I certainly wasn't going to add insult to injury.
G barrels around the green speed bumps and takes off with Spencer leaving Eric and I to deal with these two. The MRC course is the PERFECT SSCX course. Legit. So much fun. I loved the flow and the cool weird stuff MRC threw at us. A 4 pack of logs! And a single barrier right before a grassy uphill to a chicane turn. Super thought out. 42 x 18 is too big a gear for me. There I said it. Its a great gear on the flats but really limits the ability to pedal corners. I made up some great time on the flats. And could accelerate out of the corners. But the actual corners and two climbs were taking their toll. Syd the kids cheering and the cider donuts were the only thing keeping me going.
It was such a great race. I got to heckle the crap out of my teammate DJ Robert who was blatantly CHEATING!!! Ok he wasn't actually cheating but I was heckling him MERCILESSLY for his ghost shifting. He had zip tied his brand new bike and I could hear his damn SRAM shifters pop, pop, popping through the gears. I kept yelling at him to not shift. He yelled back across the tape that he had too many watts! I have been there. It sucks. I crashed last year at PVD with a zip tied bike and ended up in a 34 x 25. Yeah that is not good. I told him to pit. I had high hopes I could catch him. The bastard fixed his bike and went on and had a great race! What a fun day. Love, love, love this group of racers. So much fun. Thank you to all who have supported the series!
Friday, October 9, 2015
SSCX is HARD. There I said it. Its not just a: Hipster Tractor Pull/Donut Race/Costume Race/Freak show. Its fucking hard. Real hard. You know all those times you shift racing CX? Try not doing that. You know when you climb up some nasty muddy off camber in your 34 x 32. Yeah try 42 x 18. See how that that goes for you. Try riding a flyover. Its hard enough with ALL the gears. Do it on a SSCX and tell me how silly SSCX is. Its not an equipment choice its a big F U to the system. The system that tells us we need more gears to be faster or to have fun. The system that tells us $5,200 bikes are budget conscious. The system who tells us we can't take hand ups but totally screws up results at races. The system who says its trying to "grow" the sport and then holds an industry race and a donut race during prime Nationals race slots. Yes. SSCX is a bit of an F U. Doesn't mean we don't love CX. We do. We just get tired of 200+ fields and $45 race fees. We want to race our bikes. And have fun. And yes we are the red headed stepchild of CX. Or the Omega in this CX Wolf Pack. Go ahead take yourself too seriously. Kick down 6k on carbon wheels and a $200 skinsuit. We will laugh our asses off as we ride up over your back on a sketchy off camber in VT. Seriously. Racing SSCX is hard.
So why do it? Why strip off 20 gear options on your cyclo-cross pedal bike? For the glory? The hand ups? Sure. Yes. Is there glory winning (or top tenning) your special snowflake masters age group? Yeah sure. But true glory comes with suffering. True confession time. I have only dabbled in SSCX. Yes I know. I have been promoting a SSCX series for five years. That is weird. Not really. SSCX is an oddball. I have had my hands full trying to grow this. Racing and promoting at the same time doesn't always work. But the last two years I have been able to race. But this year was really my first year "racing" Its still participating as we have been so successful I am getting my ass handed to me every weekend. But I have gone all in. Dedicated bike. Freak outs about gearing. Settled on 42 x 18. Which is great but isn't. Because that is how SSCX is. Your gear is going to be great 30 % of the time. The rest is going to suck. You think you can get away with not running for CX? Yeah maybe. But not for SSCX. If you run a gear to do well....aka BIG. You are going to run way more than usual. And momentum while always super important to a CX racer now becomes life or death to a SSCX racer.
You don't carry momentum you run. Or stand and pedal. Or go harder. Or get dropped. And in SSCX when you get dropped its over. There is no big ring and heroics courtesy of 21 speeds. You have One. Fucking. Speed. But its awesome. I have really grown to love it. When we first started the series. I honestly was like "yeah this is just for fun" A way to support the grassroots races and build from the bottom up. In New England I was honestly worried the grassroots races would be smashed by the big UCI races. This is not Oregon. The UCI rules here much to my dismay. Its not about handups and costumes and fun its about growing a sport from the grassroots UP. Not from the top down. Or mortgaging the beginners, masters, women and promoters futures for 3 PROs who could maybe one day compete in Belgium. You want to compete in Belgium? Move to Belgium. No way racing in the US will prepare you for Belgium. Just look at the palmares for US CX (not named Katie Compton) and its not pretty.
So yes. I want to grow the grassroots. No I do not want to be PDX. FPDX. I like costumes but as a man who is 50 years old I don't need to engage in LARPing. I do like a beer hand up and hug from my good buddy Shoogs. And I like rad courses. I do not need PRO only sections. If you can't ride it walk it. If you can't walk it slide it. Do they have PRO only sections in MTB? No they don't. And we wonder why we suck on the World stage. But back to SSCX. What we have built in the NECX is something different. Everything here is serious. We welcome everyone. We let people lock their gear out with zip ties. Or singulators or what not. Just make it one speed. We don't care how you do it.
But holy crap the racing has been fierce. I was poised to retire. Seriously. At 50 I have zero interest in age group racing. 3s are way out of my league. But SSCX is how CX used to be. Fierce. Great battles. But you hang out before the race, rub elbows and battle during the race, drink beers after and make lifelong friends. I have made more legit friends in SSCX the last five years than during my entire life. And contrary to public opinion it is family friendly. Just ask Syd and Elliot. I am not a huge fan of the whole drunk fest that seems to predominate "real" SSCX. Sorry. Not Sorry. If you need an excuse to get that wasted maybe its a sign of a problem. I am not against the whole SSCXWC. I think its cool. Its sort of jumped the shark. I didn't go to Louisville but Philly was to me the Pinnacle. No way anyone tops that. Ever.
So do what you want to do. Come join us. Or hate us. Its up to you. We have something really special cooking. Like I said its how CX used to be. I miss those days. We have two amazing races this weekend. Mansfield Hollow and MRC. Then we head to NH for Hanover. Then a double VT weekend. Then Cheshire. The ICE WEASELS! We are at about the half way point. Thank you to all who have come out and raced and made this season incredible. Thank you to our amazing sponsors - Zank, Mad Alchemy, Harpoon, and our supporters. You all rule.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Holy Week has been beyond words. Holy Week if you are new to this blog or cyclocross is a stretch of 6 races in New England that actually go for more than a week. Technically speaking. It goes more for about two weeks to be honest. It features two night races and two UCI classics. Or Meccas. Choose your metaphor. All 4 races have lives of their own. The night races could not be more different. Midnight is always warm, dusty and just a flat out speed fest. Night Weasels is ALWAYS muddy and brutal. So much climbing and technical descending. Gloucester like Midnight with the earlier date is always hot and dusty and FAST>. Providence. Dear god what do you say about that race? The history is like something out of some Dystopian novel. May the odds ever be in your favor because Roger Williams Park gives zero fucks about your feelings. So many souls crushed on that course. It is always nasty. We were "blessed" with true CX conditions this year. Holy Week has destroyed and elevated so many CX careers. Survive it. And you can survive anything.
But this wasn't meant to be a tribute to Holy Week. It is an ode to the NECX. Holy Week arguably was very responsible for forming the NECX. The NECX is New England cyclocross (no hyphen). Cyclocross doesn't get hyphenated in my world amigos. Sorry. Not sorry. I moved here in 2004. I literally had panic attacks when my lovely wife told me we were relocating from PARADISE (Norcal) back to this HELLHOLE. My wife and I left Boston for a reason. We celebrate Townie-life and East Coast culture but it is hard. Real hard. Shit happens and it scars you. Moving was for survival not for some life affirming boondoggle. Its great that kids get to backpack all over the world and find themselves. That was not my childhood. You survived it. And moved if you were lucky. I loved Norcal. I did not ride bikes when I lived in New England. No one did. You played hockey, drove muscle cars and went to keggers. But an earthquake and luck landed me right smack dab in the middle of SF bike culture. I loved it. All my friends were bikers. I lived, breathed and ate cycling. It was more a surfer lifestyle than what you would call the classic cycling culture. Especially at that time when road cycling was king.
But fast forward and we drop in on Boston. We have our second child just as the Red Sox win the pennant. Life feels good. I still rode for a Norcal team. Sycip. Then I met Zac Daab. And Yash. And joined HUP United. And that my friends is when everything changed. I am not saying HUP started the NECX. Of course we didn't. But it was a big part of it. The idea that community mattered. That building something that everyone could add to mattered. That CX mattered. We had one real bylaw. Roll with a good crew. And to this day I think that is what the NECX is about. Every region has its own flavor. I am not for a second saying the NECX is "better" than PDX, or Seattle, or Norcal, or Boulder etc. Each region is just unique. Even in this day when we are all "friends" and those old rivalries have died off. But I love the NECX. More for what it continues to become than what it is. That probably doesn't make sense but let me elaborate. Its like the snowball effect. You have big teams and icons of the sport living and working and striving to make CX a thing here in New England. They are passionate and so diverse in backgrounds and yet somehow work together as a collective.
Like any family that is so diverse there are fights. Feuds. Even some badblood. But it gets put aside every Fall when CX season rolls in. Its how we roll. What is truly amazing is that not only do the same people who maybe "started" the NECX keep putting their heart and soul into this thing but new people jump in and take it to the next level. Colin aka Resultsboy is a perfect example of this. What he has done is remarkable in many ways. The new teams that pop up are the same way. As are the older teams with history like ECV. So what is the NECX? In a nutshell its not unlike the region we live in. A rag tag bunch of misfits with a shit ton of genius, talent and a nice dose of Yankee resolution thrown in for good measure. This season has been one that truly has left its mark. Its early too which is weird. But maybe its the Colorado influence in a way. A bunch of NECXers have moved to CO in the last couple of years. It makes sense. When I drove across country after college and saw the Rockies I about lost my mind. It is mind blowing. So gorgeous. Especially for those who love the outdoors.
But when your friends who move away keep showing you the love and coming "home" and supporting you it oddly means even more than those you lean on every day. I know that sounds strange but it means a lot to me. Its easy to move on. Especially when you move. I have stayed in touch with a bunch of friends from Norcal but its hard. The fact that Pete (of Mad Alchemy) and James and so many more NECXers who have moved still show me and the NECX so much love means everything to me. Once you are a part of the NECX. And James and Pete (and Pete's family) will always be a part of the NECX. It is just the way it is. I have never had friends like this. It is like a family. And a good family that holds you up and makes you strive to be the best you can be. I know I am getting way too emo with this. I wanted to just put down some words about how special this beast we have is. Colin, Sara, Dana, Gewilli, Matt & Mo, Aumiller, Pete, all of HUP, Roger Cadman, Shoogs, the list just goes on and on. I would not be who I am without each and everyone of you.
Why am I so moved by all of this right now? Because really its never been better. I have been home 11 years. My first real race in the NECX was 2005 at Gloucester in a Blizzard. I laughed my ass off on the start grid. And that was when I was HOOKED. I was faster then. Skinnier. Had better skills. But I am still striving. I tried to retire this year. Colin and Sara did not let me. I love them for that. I will never retire. I want a Viking funeral on a pile of CX bikes. Its just too incredible. Yes, this Holy Week and Night Weasels were off the charts. Katerina Nash racing Night Weasels and leaving her and her Luna teammates bikes in the Chainline tent at Night Weasels was life altering. They are what is right with CX. They get it. World Class talent having fun and smashing. We all say CX is fun and get in trouble for it. If the best in the world can have fun I think the rest of us can too. That is what keeps us in the bike game.
What does it mean to be a part of the NECX? Don't be a vampire. Help out. PMA. Be nice. Don't be a dick. But race HARD. And train hard. Work your ass off. Lift people up. Never forget we are all in this together. Racing is hard. Promoting races is hard. Building a community is hard but is so worth it. Thank you to everyone who built the #NECX. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the tipping point was the skinsuit party at Reuter hall. It wasn't pretty. There were some growing pains. But at the end of the day we all came out of that stronger, closer and ready to create this thing we have today.