Thursday, October 27, 2016

Orange is the new Black

Hunting season in New England is open. Be safe out there. Bow is Oct 17-Nov 26. Shotgun in Nov 28-Dec 10. Check your state and local regulations. I do a ton of mixed terrain riding. Park to Park. What ever you want to call it. I can cover a good amount of terrain right out my front door. The woods are my church. A lot of these parks don't allow hunting but a lot do. Its probably not a bad idea to wear some hi viz in general this time of years as the weather gets a bit nastier and we lose daylight. I started wearing my orange moto helmet. I like it. It makes me feel a bit safer. I get that some people feel afraid at the thought of someone hunting while they are riding in the woods. I saw a bow hunter come out of the woods just as I was popping into a new section of the Charles River Trail. He certainly looked a bit like Rambo. All decked out in full camo and with his bow. Calling it "hunting" around here sort of cracks me up. Deer are pretty used to people around here. I don't think you need to do too much "hunting" to find one and drop one. Not that this will make you feel any safer but the regulations clearly state that hunters can not hunt near the trails.  

Speaking of the woods and mixed terrain. I love adventure riding. It is really what I do on a bike 99% of the time. I am not doing it to hide away from the roads and traffic. I like roads. And road riding. But the woods are just where I can find peace. When its cold this time of year it is always warmer in the woods out of the wind. And it is always changing. Trees fall down and create fun challenges to hop. The trails get covered in leaves and become almost impossible to follow. I have been mainly riding my 29er. After being off it so long and riding my CX bike almost exclusively since July the 29er feels like my fat bike. Slow and fun. The upright position is perfect for this time of year. The big tires just roll over the leaf hidden rocks and roots that might cause you and your bike some serious damage on the skinnier tires. It is slow. Sometimes its good to slow down. I have been in exploration mode and found a really nice connector to Pegan Lane. It always existed but was pretty bushwhacky. The new trail is fabulous. It puts you right up on the top of the fields with a great lookout of the farm and woods below. 

We are truly blessed to live in this region with so much open space and real seasons. It is easy to complain about the cold and the leaves and the work that comes with Fall and Winter. But I love the leaves. I love seeing them change color. And I love when they fall across the trail creating a blanket of orange and yellow. The cold is a shock to the system at first. But the best way to deal with it is to get outside and experience it. It is embro and buff weather. Time to dig out the layers. After a couple or rides in the cold you will acclimate. Again you might have to slow down a touch. Bust out the winter boots if cold feet are an issue. Find some gloves that keep your hands warm. Really feet and hands are the key. As long as those stay at least unfrozen you can handle about anything. A buff or scarf certainly makes the ride more pleasant and is stylish. Everyone looks cool in a scarf. 

With the changing of the season we are in the home stretch of the Zank SSCX series. We have some great races coming up. Cheshire, Paradise, Putney, Secret Squirrel and of course Ice Weasels. We have a bunch of the special Zank SSCX series Koozies available. Get yours before the season is ovah! We will have them with us at the races. It has already been one of the more memorable seasons on record. Really looking forward to the next 6 weeks. And counting down the days until we enter the Danger Zone at Ice Weasels! HUGE thanks to everyone who has made this SSCX season so rad!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Green means GO!

Woody Allen once said "80% of success is showing up" This applies so much to CX. And certainly was the mantra for MRC CX. There were lots of excuses I could have used to NOT go to MRC. Frankly I was so close to not going. I worked Night Weasels and had promoter legs. I had woken up at 5 am on Saturday to take Syd the kid to hockey. I was out late the night before at Roger Williams Park at the Pumpkin Festival. It was pouring rain and the bed was so cozy. On and on. Actually the rain is what got me out of bed. I would have been so mad if I missed this one. Luckily giving zero fucks about how I perform at a race makes it much easier to get out of bed and go race. I get it. If you care about your placing and feel work and life will limit your placing in the bicycle-pedal contest perhaps you will hate yourself if you don't place in the top ten. Or beat your rival and leave their cross results page one big flaming couch. But honestly I gave up worrying about beating people at races years ago. #Dadlife really is freeing. I only care about the actual racing part. How I do is meaningless.

But I definitely pushed it. I slept in. Had coffee with my wife. Left way late. Luckily the bike was already dialed and everything was in the van. Still it was probably the least prepared I was to race in a while. This happens with races that are close to home. So I went full couch to SSCX. I had switched my gearing to 42 x 19 from 42 x 18. Not a big difference but frankly I am so happy I did. Despite how I may appear I am not a masher of gears. I spin. And like to flow a bit. Having to get on top of a big gear doesn't really work for me. And the cog is green so it was a slam dunk of a decision. I was very #hyped to race in the pouring rain and mud. I didn't get to pre-ride so I had no idea just how incredible it was going to be. Frankly after a month of racing in a dust bowl these conditions were like a 50 year storm of CX. You had to be there. It is like when Mavericks goes off for surfers. CX racers love mud. And nastiness. It is why we got into this oddball sport in the first place. No sane person would choose to ride a glorified road bike on grass and run up hills with said bike on shoulder all while being elbowed, punched and chopped by 50 over hyped racers unless there was a real payoff. Playing in the mud is that payoff. 

Todd driving by Katie Busick

How often do you get to get that dirty and basically engage in an adult slip and slide on two wheels? There was a great crew of SSCX racers at MRC. Even Gewilli was there! It was so good to see him back out on the SSCX bike! Gewilli is built for these days. All power and bike handling skills. He smashed it and came in top ten. So happy for him. Lancaster is a really cool place to race bikes. It is always funny having two such different races at the same venue in the span of two weeks. Midnight and MRC couldn't be more different. Its weird. I love both. And both have a tendency to shred me to pieces. Luckily the mud and nastiness slowed things down a touch and made it a bit more manageable especially with my current state of fitness.

Pete in the pain cave by Katie Busick

I can't remember the last time I raced in actual rain. Maybe SuperCup out in PDX years ago. Maybe Downeast one year. But it was not only raining it was pouring rain. The start was the usual insanity. I didn't honestly notice any difference between the 18 and 19 tooth cog. I like how the start at MRC works. Straight away into a nice turn onto "grass" then back out on the pavement. In this case the "grass" was a mud bog. I came in way too close to the trees and actually took a branch to the head. Which is saying something as I am so short. How I didn't get knocked off the bike is beyond me. I try and chase and hold on to the fast people. We hit another heavy section with a climb and I am doing ok all things considered. Griggs comes flying by. We get to the top and start flying down a nice greasy section. 

HUP there it is by Katie Busick

We get through the first trip into the barn without incident. I come through the weird turn heading to the Go Cart track and see Eric on the side of the course. Flat. Myette was out right at the start. Such  bummer to see fast friends out of the race so early. I could tell it was going to be one of those days. Attrition is always a factor in any CX race but on days like this the toll gets high on bikes and riders. I was riding well which was weird. Maybe it was all the cider donuts I had eaten on the way up. There were some really fun features on the course. A sick horse jump was definitely one of the highlights. On the backside I came through the coral and not having ridden the course before had no idea how deep the "puddle" was. Now calling this body of water a "puddle" is an understatement. I went too far outside and found out just how deep it was. It also smelled bad. Like really bad. After that first lap I did all I could to hug the inside as much as possible.

With a couple to go my good friend 20 Pound Skull caught me. Right after the nasty puddle. As he came by he said "BATTLE OF THE GREEN BIKES" We both ride super nice green bikes. I tried my best to take a page out of Resultsboys CX race tactic book and just sit on Todd's wheel. I think for this to work you have to actually stay on the riders wheel. Todd out drove me why lie. He and I are so well matched as riders. I love racing with him. I tried to hang and came close to reconnecting a few times but it was over. At that point I did my best to just hold off anyone catching and passing me and tried to keep riding as smoothly as possible. Really though it was just one of those courses were racing was secondary and ripping around the course became what it was all about. I had some weird flashbacks to racing at the Watsonville Fairgrounds in NorCal.

Women's podium by Lesli

Watsonville was one of my favorite places to race. NorCal when I first started CX was in a rainy cycle. There were so many mud fests when I first started racing CX. Sunday was such a reminder of why I fell in love with CX. After the race finished up we all hung out and ate frites under the Landrys tent and drank 3Cross beer. This is why I love the Zank SSCX series. It was freezing. Racers were shivering and cold. But we all huddled together and shared fries and drank beer. People had huge grins on their faces. Mike Wissell our Middle Earth Spirit Animal smashed it again. Leslie Lupien came back and took the top step in the women's field. Such a great day.

Captain Morgan Podium by Lesli

Next stop on the Zank World Tour is Hanover CX. This course is a classic and not to be missed. After that we have Cheshire. Cheshire is literally one of my favorite races of the season and happens to be on Halloween weekend. You know what that means. Special secret prizes to the best costumes at Cheshire. Thanks once again to all the SSCX racers who are coming out and making this season so special. See you all at the next race!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nacht Van Weasel

Shane on the top step photo by Katie Busick

This post may be a bit of a hot mess. I apologize in advance. Basically I have "retired" from bike racing, bike race promoting and the bike industry about a million times. But its like the mafia. You can retire but they keep bringing you back. Well in the mafia there really is only one way to retire. And its permanent. I would rather be funemployed  as they say. And honestly as hard as promoting races and bike racing can be it has to be fun. I have always sort of celebrated and struggled with the idea that my only friends are bike racers. If I actually retire would I have friends. I am sure I would but I would miss so many people. Its ok to be slow and getting older. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is not seeing my friends. They are like a second family. Always have been. P-Bob once told me that. About 30 years ago. CX is a family. And it truly is.

Alex doing some course destruction by Jon Nable
 Night Weasels is on its seventh edition. I don't even know how this is possible. It has flown by. Night Weasels has endured a lot of challenges. Bog Weasels was probably the toughest one. I am shocked we kept going after that. But to my early point. Night Weasels is a family. Ski Ward, our host, is a family run business. They are amazing. They work so hard on the event and are always so stoked to see us and seem to enjoy the race almost as much as we do. Its awesome. Honestly it is what keeps me so stoked to put the race on each year. So this is a post about friends and family. I hope it isn't too over the top.

Bandit SS by Jon Nable
I will just say it. This Night Weasels was the best ever. We had one bummer over the course of the evening but it is bike racing and these things happen. Frankly, how we responded to that incident made me even more proud to be a part of this Night Weasels family than I already am. Like I said we have been putting on this crazy night CX race at Ski Ward for seven years. Colin, Sara and I are a really funny team. I maybe didn't notice it until this year but we really compliment each other so well.  So it in a way is "easy" Bike race promoting is never easy. It is way harder than racing or working to be honest. Its like hosting a huge keg party for all your best friends. You don't know who will show up and you don't know if you have enough beer or red solo cups. You stress about whether you picked the right music and hope no one gets in a fight. We have a whole legion of other supporters that maybe most people don't even "see" but who we could never do this without. Ryan Kelly is on the top of that list. Frankly I don't think we could do it without him. He is so critical. JD is another one. I don't even know how he does it. 400+ racers go by with folded numbers in a night race. How do you even score that? But he always sorts it out.

Pie Plates are for the cool kids by Doug Kwan
Michele and her "NO" t-shirt always keep things dialed at registration. The whole crew at Ski Ward is amazing. I have worked on World Cups and big events like the Sea Otter and I have to say the people at Ski Ward work harder than any other host I have ever worked with. They help us build the course, they open up the lodge and have worked with us to build a beer garden and offer food bike racers love. Its awesome. I can't think of a lot of CX races that have a heated lodge with a beer garden right on the course. It is pretty special I will just say that. And we really have gotten to know them well. Its like a family reunion in a way when we roll into Ski Ward each year. 

Joanna Wang by Chris McIntosh

Each year is different of course. I keep coming back to help with Night Weasels because I want to support my friends and help grow grassroots cyclocross. If you know me that is my white whale. I support the highest level of CX and am stoked to see Hyde and Noble et al crushing it. But I love seeing the grassroots grow and flourish. Honestly I have so many highlights from this year but I think the one that stands out the most is Joanna Wang. I walked the course with her and my good friend Guthrie. Guthrie gets me going. His pure stoke on bikes is infectious. We walked the course and talked a bit about it. I had never met Joanna. She is a friend of a friend so she is a friend. Then she crushed it. And waited sooo long for the podium. All the other ladies for the Cat 4 podium had gone home. I get it. It was cold. The temp had dropped about 20 degrees. But Joanna was a champion. She stuck around for her podium. Ryan and I were so amped. I am pretty sure I owe her a pie. We will make it happen.

Dragon Breath by Chris McIntosh
 The biggest changes this year were the death of Holy Week and a new title sponsor! We have never had a title sponsor. We have always worked with friends and relied on those we really believe in. We do this as a labor of love. We have never been in this for anything other than throwing a rad CX party for our friends. But a partnership arose and it happened to be with friends I have known and trusted for a long time. Verge is synonymous with New England Cyclocross. They have been a part of this scene forever. I reached out to them and they were so into it. They have been the best sponsor ever. The podium jerseys are off the charts. People were so stoked to win them.

Podium Pie by Chris McIntosh
 Speaking of winning jerseys. I rolled up to the race a tad early for me. The #CBL can get kinda hectic. I am basically a stay-at-home dad. Why lie. I have been a stay-at-home dad for 16 years. Its nuts. Best job I have ever had. But it is my job. And I treat it as such. But the kids have gotten older so I have some flexibility. The first thing I hear is there is a French kid here who wants to pre-ride. I mean its like 1:00 PM. Cat 5s don't even show up that early. We sort of joke at his expense. "Is he Quebecois?" Mais, NON he is zee FRENCH. God we are such ugly Americans. He gets his laps in and we build the course and get things set up. And then I forget about it.

Resultsboy by Chris Macintosh

I am way too occupied being FULL Podium Boy at this point. I sort of suffer from ADD. I probably should have gone into the trades. I need constant supervision and stimuli to stay out of trouble. Bike Race Promoting is actually very good for me. I run around setting up podiums, prize bags, etc. We decide to do some fun primes. And as I am up on the hill judging the first stair prime I get a text from Michele. It is a picture of a pie plate. Hahaha. #occupynightweasels is now in full effect. Four hearty, dedicated aka crazy single speeders have decided to #makesinglespeedgreatagain and go Full Crusty Cruiser Cup on us. I of course support this 100%. What is the Crusty Cruiser Cup? The CCC was basically the first SS race series. The Zank SSCX Series is inspired by the CCC. The CCC was a race series within a series. They didn't have a dedicated SS category in Norcal in the late '80s early '90s. People showed up on single speeds. They raced. Then they did their own little weird podiums and kept points. It was beyond awesome. It is how I got into riding mountain bikes and single speeds.

Odin's Spear about to smash by Chris McIntosh

Mike Wissell has embraced our weird band of misfits with open arms. I am not sure this is a smart life choice on his part but I never flinch in face of genius. He raced Midnight on a hybrid. Ok that is Thom talking. He is racing a BALLER 29er SS. I like to call it Odin's Spear. He won Midnight CX. He smashed the top ten of the f'n ELITE race at Night Weasels on a 36 x 15. I can't even fathom that. I love that Mike is smashing it. We had three other rad riders racing SS. Kevin Church, Tyler Knapp and Matt Myette.

French kid doesn't play by Chris McIntosh
 The evening of racing was so exciting. The women's elite race was won by Kate Lysakowski. The men's race was won by, wait for it..... the French Kid. I mean he literally destroyed all the local riders. I am not sure if Lindine were here that he would have beaten the French Kid. People better be watching this kid at Gloucester cause he looks like a kid but he is not playing. They just make them faster in Euro-land. Maybe its in the water. Who knows. But it was so cool once again having a French speaker on the podium at Night Weasels. This is a new Weasels LLC rule. There has to be a French speaker on the podium. If it is not the Luna crew or a Canadian it better be an actual French rider.

Elite women podium by Chris McIntosh
We could not do this without the HUGE support of our sponsors: Verge, Mad Alchemy, Scratch Labs, Landry's, Shimano, Mighty Leaf Tea, Jakes, Pedro's, Drink Maple and of course our host Ski Ward. The amazing volunteers, the Pedal Power Team, JD, Ryan Kelly (ISMYHERO) and all of you bike racers that come out on a Weds night and make CX amazing. Thank you all. You ALL rock! I know I can't stop talking about podium pie but seriously. Podium pie.

Podium Pie was a huge hit by Chris Macintosh