Monday, November 7, 2016

Five points

The original name for this post was going to be "YO HANNEN" in honor of my friend who has lit my proverbial couch on fire. What the hell is Chip talking about? Crossresults unless you have been living under a rock or think USUCK created their own race predictor is the BIBLE of CX in the NECX. It changed everything. Literally. It moved us out of the Dark Ages of race staging scrum into the new millennial. We are now staged by wait for it our actual ability to do well in the race. The way slow as fuck people aka me stay out of the way of the really fast people. It may shatter some people's over inflated view of themselves and maybe crush expectations of a legion of special snowflakes but guess what it works. And one of the many amazeballs features of is the couch fire. Your Crossresults page is sort of your personal walk of shame of CX. No hiding out. And if you lose X amount of races to a certain foe they light a couch on fire on your page. #sorrynotsorry. We had a really rad thread about how to put out couch fires. There is only one way. Bathe in the blood mist of your frenemies. 

Colin Johannen is a good friend. A super rad dude. Rides fat bikes. Wears costumes. Races SSCX. And gears. Doubles up most races. Waaaayyyy better CX racer than I am. But a boy can dream. We have had some good "battles" but he has always bested me. A few close ones. I think in general I get close when it gets tight and twisty and maybe a tad euro. I make no bones about my focus during CX season. I am more about the fun side of things. Grow the sport through community and just getting people stoked. I love competition and racing. It can draw a lot of people to our sport. But the real lure is the family we have. It is a amazing group. I have more friends now than I ever have in my life. It is bizarre. Its not supposed to be this way. So 10% of my brain is like "Yo, bitch how about you frickin' stop messing about and do some damage." "Go point hunting. Put them couch fires out!!!" So maybe I do my usual soul rides with a few spirited efforts but I haven't trained in about a decade. Its all fine. I have bigger fish to fry. Like keep this rolling SSCX party growing in the #NECX.

But I won't lie I do want to maybe do OK. So I found myself close to Colin I thought to myself hmmmm maybe we can put that fire out today. And what more perfect place than Putney. There are a few words that shape an entire place. Teahupoo, Repack, Kamikazee. Putney is the heart and soul of New England Cyclocross. The longest continuous CX race in New England. Maybe the US. Held in VT at an awesome bike shop. Course is legit. Oddly people lose it about the upper course. Its a bmx/mtb pump track for those who have never really ridden a legit pump track. It has a drop off. Kind of. It is NBD. But for roadies it is "scary" I used to joke that the corn field that was a part of the course was where souls and dreams go to die. It was a bizarre counterpoint to the upper radness. It had this perma freeze thing that could happen turning a seemingly easy corn field into a slick covered hockey rink. I have crashed so many times on that corn field its not even funny. So when we heard the corn field was out I won't lie I breathed a sigh of relief. 

I actually kind of got excited about the new course. I love VT. Love Putney and the crew. It is literally on my always go list. I could be on death's doors step and literally put me on my bike prop me up and let me race Putney. It would be the perfect CX Viking Funeral. But we had no idea what the new course would be like. I got up there early. The Chainline Party zone was set up at the perfect spot. Next year we need to put a full tent row up top. But the Chainline crew just get it. They get CX and the NECX so much. I checked in with Kevin and Eric. Eric won the raffle last year. What raffle? The Zank SSCX series has an end of series raffle. Each year Zank donates a CX frame. Each racer gets a ticket for each race they enter. Eric won last year. It was beyond awesome. No one was more deserving than Eric. Zank surprised Eric with the raffle bike! It was bespoked with Chainline glitterbomb pink. Eric has done so much for the SSCX series. His crew are so rad, Kevin is probably one of my favorite people in the #NECX. Kevin reminds me of Roger Moore in Ffolkes. Roger Moore in Ffolkes is an SAS agent who loves cats and knitting. And is an assassin. That is Kevin. In a nutshell. And the whole Chainline crew. They will smile as they bury you. And I love all of them.

But back to the topic at hand. YO Hannen. So as previously mentioned Colin has lit my couch up. Big time. So when the first lap insanity shakes out and the dust settles I find myself very close to Colin. He is sort of talking to himself. "Colin nice body english" "Colin, why did you do that!!!" as he overcooked a turn. Frankly at this point I was focusing on Kate Northcott. She is a local West Hill rider and all around amazing person. She flew by all of us. I knew she had the course dialed so I was looking past Colin to her to see the good lines. But every dog has his day. And oddly I felt ok. Th great thing about SSCX is you sort of have a restrictor plate on the bike. Or maybe its like one design windsurfing. It keeps it tight for a bit. Tactics. Smart moves. Smoothness matters. So I went full slow is smooth and smooth is fast. I was in my usual spot in the party zone but felt ok for a fat old dude. So when I saw Colin close I was like ok. Maybe today we put the fire out.

 And then I saw Big Bikes Thom on the run up. Laughing and with a bag of beer. Sort of like Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. And like Harley Quinn I fell hook line and sinker. Sometimes well everytyime hand ups > putting out couch fires. Thom gets it. He is like the Lancelot of SSCX. He keeps us honest. He came to Putney to have fun and did. He went looking for hand up beer and all he could find was super hoppy artisanally crafted beer. You do not want overly hopped beer on a run up where you can't even see straight because you are so hypoxic. You want a light lager. Myette has shown me the way. Its a hockey thing. You can drink 24 coors lights no problem. But one Heady Topper would crater you on a first lap run up. So I took that hand up. And every other hand up Thom offered. Thom was on fire. I love that dude. We had some bobbles. Frankly at lap two Colin was complaining about the run ups. I would stop and have a beer with Thom and then chase Colin some more. It was hilarious. I would give Colin the gap. Then chase him down. Then give him the gap them chase him down. But it was literally the best race ever.

Maybe couch fires are things to be celebrated. Colin is a badass. I am a soft, aged dad. Just being able to mix it up with him was so rad. One of my favorite in race heckles was when a spectator cheered us on and I heard Colin say " OH I KNOW WHAT CHIP WANTS!!!" Hahah I did want to beat Colin. I won't lie. But sometimes honor and duty come first. No way I was leaving Thom hanging with a cold beer in his hand. No way I wasn't gonna battle in the mucky muck. But Colin is faster than me. And I respect that. Putney was amazeballs. HUGE respect to West Hill for taking the heart and soul of the NECX and kicking it up to 11. If you didn't make it put it one the calendar for next year. Seriously. 

The most rad part of Putney was Pete Smith finally taking a win in the Zank SSCX series. He has been so close. But at Putney it all came together. Huge congrats to Pete. He earned it. Two more races left in the series. Secret Squirrel and Ice Weasels. The Quest for the Vest is close. Last year it was decided by 5 points. Who is going to win? Same Bat Channel. Same Bat time. See you in a few weeks at Secret Squirrel to find out!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Race to the Race

photo by Jacob Kravitz

I pretty much retire every cross season. I have been retiring and "un-retiring" for about 10 years. The first year we moved back home from Norcal I raced. That was a pretty good season for me. But the last ten? Yeah its been a beautiful hot mess. I might have had one good year in there probably about five years ago. But there are a few races that I just refuse to miss. I am in full dad mode right now. Having two teenage daughters keeps you busy. I will never be one of those parents who goes full whacko and thinks their beer league softball is more important than the kids formative years. So sacrifices are made. But I won't lie. I like hanging out with my family. We do a lot of cool stuff. It is never boring I will say that. So barring some legit family activity like Comic-Con or a hockey game I will get to those ten or so CX races a season. And the Zank SSCX races take top billing in that department. 

photo by Jacob Kravitz

I am what you would call a SSCX specialist. It fits very well into my CXenduro lifestyle. Honestly I don't think I have raced cyclocross with more than one gear in about two years. Maybe three. It isn't like I am anti-gears or anything. I just like racing SSCX. Certainly Heckle Hill at Cheshire made me question this lifestyle choice but running up Heckle Hill gives you more chances to get hugged by a drunk snowman or grab some dollar bills. Speaking of Heckle Hill and Cheshire it is one of those races I just try my best to never miss. It is that rad. Heckle Hill is one of the best run up/ride ups in New England. The Hill People bring it. Full costumes, hand ups, noise, full party mode. But what is even more awesome than all the chaos is they do it right. As Pete said after the race it is very civilized. It is all positive. And in the perfect spirit of the #NECX.

photo by Jacob Kravitz

So when I saw the schedule it got a huge red star on the calendar. Our sports schedule this time of year is relentless. Hockey is like a full time job of shuttling kids around, watching games at rinks and then digging out after the game. Takes up the entire weekend most weekends. But the schedule seemed doable. Syd's game was in Brighton at a reasonably early time. Cheshire is really only 2 hours away. So I got Syd to the rink and was ready to do the drop and go. Then the coach wanted me to fill water bottles. Then run the line up to the other coach. Then she asked me to be on the bench. FULL STOP.....I love hockey. I love that Syd plays. I am so proud of her. It is in my opinion the toughest sport to be good at on the planet. Especially when you only started skating two years ago. So I support her anyway I can. And I won't lie being on the bench during the game was so rad. I got the defensive responsibilities. Its really only opening and closing a door and making sure the D sub out and are fresh. Maybe a bit of advice here or there and reminding them to drink water. But anyone can do it obviously. It was the highlight of my day to say the least. But put me about 2 hours behind schedule. 

photo by Jacob Kravitz

Walking out on the ice in tennis sneakers was a bit sketchier than anticipated I actually was worried I might slip and kill myself. But thankfully the hockey gods were watching out for me. So I hop in the car and then get home and throw all the things in the van. Then haul ass to CT. It was tight. I knew it would be but man I do not usually feel ok with this little window. I basically just let myself accept that if I missed the start I would just run around and cheer everyone and still have a blast. I got there at 3. Race started at 3:45. I got my number, kitted up and headed to staging. No warm up. No pre-ride. No fiddling with the bike. Oddly it made the whole thing more relaxed. I mean at this point I had so many excuses for sucking in my back pocket it really didn't matter how the race went. My only real goal was to shred the roller coaster section and have fun on Heckle Hill.

photo by Jacob Kravitz

There are a lot of reasons I love Cheshire. Number one is the course. I think it is my favorite course in New England. It really has a bit of everything. Starts and finishes on a grass field. Has some nice off camber grass bits. It has a legit sand pit. Frankly all races need sand pits. It has the roller coasters and it has Heckle Hill. Basically the idea is get rad for the 3/4 of the course then survive HH. Then recover then get rad. Rinse and repeat. The second reason I love it is I get to see all my CT friends. I have so many rad friends from CT. CT has some of the best CX races out there. Reason three is Hunter and his crew. They just make the race so much fun. You feel welcomed. The race is really well done. Ok the drunk announcer is rad. I don't know if he was actually drunk. He may just have been really naturally funny. But he was on fire. 

photo by Jacob Kravitz

My favorite in race heckle from an announcer in a long time was when I was coming through the sand pit and Colin yells to me "CHIP, I GOT THE STUFF!!" You can imagine the heckles. Its like Colin and I just did a CX parking lot drug deal. We didn't. Or did we? For all the above excuses I oddly had one of my better races on the SSCX at Cheshire. Not sure why but I felt good. All of the photos in the post are from Jacob Kravitz. He really captured the essence of the race and Heckle Hill. It was so good seeing everyone and like every SSCX race in the series we all hung out after and drank beer and talked story. The series is so awesome. We are in the final sprint to the finish to the Danger Zone at Ice Weasels. Rumors of some cool new features. The Quest for the Vest is heating up. I don't think we have had such a close race before. But Bob Stine and Pete Smith are in a battle for the overall. The two of them have been so great for the series. Competition only makes racing better. And those two race with pure heart and class. Proud to call them both friends. On the women's side Mellisa has utterly smashed it. Love how much radness and fun she brings to the races. It has been so awesome having her lead the charge and making the women's races so rad. 

We have four more races. A double VT weekend this weekend, then Secret Squirrel and then Ice Weasels. Come out and join us. Don't miss out on all the fun. HUGE thanks to Jacob for letting me use his photos!