Monthly Archives: December 2011

Last Ride of the Year

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It is that day. The day for the last ride of the year. Today, here in Topeka, it is going to be really warm for the season. Close to a record high. But, with that you have to pay the price of wind. It is already howling and it’s not even close to what it’s gonna be, approaching 40mph. There is a ride scheduled at my house at 12:30. I suppose a fair amount of people will show up even though there is a cyclocross in Kansas City. I decided not to race just because it takes too much effort and time and I’d rather put in one more day of hard training. I rode to Lawrence on gravel yesterday, which is close to 70 miles and had to fight a good headwind all the way back. I can’t complain about how I’m riding. But that is a fine line of course.

I’m still not big on the Nationals being moved to after Christmas. I don’t think most guys like to train through the holidays. I really don’t mind it so much, but I ride most of the year anyway. I don’t really think it is good for the health of the sport.

I guess tonight is when you supposed to make some new resolutions. I really don’t. I do plan to mix up my riding a bit more this next year. That is going to probably mean I’m going to be racing my MTB bike more. Riding a bicycle, through the woods, is a means of catharsis for me. Especially going at race speed. I love the concentration and focus it demands.

11-11-11 has come and gone and I’m still around. So much for superstition. Anyway, I hope everyone has a chance to clip in once more in 2011 and has a great New Year’s Eve.

The gravel roads are in perfect condition, other than where they are grading.

We got stopped by a train yesterday for a bit. I love seeing trains, wondering where they are heading and what they are carrying.

We got back a little late yesterday, but it is my favorite time to ride.

Bumper Stickers were invented in Kansas

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Kansas is famous for lots of stuff, but one I didn’t know about was bumper stickers. The modern sticky bumper stickers were invented in Kansas by Forest P. Gil from Kansas City before World War 2. I’m not sure what we would do without the ability of expressing our believes on our car bumpers.

I heard on NPR today that Topeka High, my high school, was the first high school in the country to cost more than $1,000,000 to build. I’m not sure why they decided to spend that kind of money in 1931. It is a very ornate building and one of Topeka’s city landmarks for sure.

And now there is controversy about whether the chimp that recently died in Florida was really Cheetah, the origianl chimp from Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan. That sure would have been a really old chimpanzee. I hope it is true and not a fake. I loved Tarzan and have every one of Edgar Rice Burroughs books he wrote and have read them more than once.

Something that has amazed me recently is how many rich people there are in this country. Maybe not exactly how many rich people, but how much wealth. It constantly bewilders me when I’m riding around these towns where the real estate seems astronomically high how many homes there are that cost zillions of dollars. I always think that when I’m walking around downtown Manhattan in New York. I think that somebody owns every one of these buildings. And they go on for miles upon miles. Then there is Austin. It isn’t a cheap place to live. The housing is expensive. Plus, the property taxes are out of this world, something close to 2.5% as far as I can figure. (There is no state income tax though.) And I can ride for miles upon miles and there are just huge houses upon huge houses. It doesn’t seem like there is enough money or high paying jobs to support the infrastructure.

Talk about infrastructure, Topeka’s has gone down the toilet. It seemed like this fall, all the city did was try to repair roads. And it didn’t work. The repairs crack nearly as soon as they open the road. I was riding my bike at night when I got back from Christmas and it’s nearly too dangerous to do with the conditions of the roads. There are so many pot holes that could launch you if you didn’t see them. I don’t see anyway to catch up with the situation any time soon.

Okay, enough of this. I have a ton of stuff to do toady. I got a couple new pairs of Shimano shoes for cross and need to set up the cleats. They aren’t that easy to mimic the position of my old shoes since the bottoms are much different. I’m a little worried that the plastic on the bottoms are too hard of a durometer if my pedals get wet. There doesn’t seem to be any rubber which is always good for grip when it is wet. Plus I have to ride over to Lawrence and get some small parts from Sunflower. That is 70 miles round trip. It is supposed to be near record high in Kansas tomorrow, mid 60’s. That is always good in the winter.

This is a great bumper sticker.

The entrance to Topeka High School.

The original cast of Tarzan. They look so happy up on their tree limb.

A lot of our roads here in Topeka really suck.

And I have no idea why many people don't think that the curbs in front of their houses are their responsibility. I can't stand it when the sewer grates are clogged and leaves are normally the problem.

I've been switching between my road pedals and MTB pedals, but I'm going to ride these until Nationals to make sure they are going to work.

Midweek Bike Racin’ under Lights

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Last night I went local cyclocross race, the Grote Prijs Shawnee in Kansas City. I’ve been putting in some hard training days. I haven’t really been able to tell how I’m going just training, so thought that it was a good time to race. If I jacked up my hamstring or some other mishap, I still have over a week to recover. I’ve been kicking around just skipping Nationals in Madison and going straight to Louisville, but I can’t really see missing the best racing weekend of the season, by far.

Last night was super fun. The course was lite as best a local even can be. Mark Thomas had rented a couple big, generator run stadium lights, but it was still dark in a few places, which just made it all that more exciting and seem that much faster. I have no idea why a person’s mind perceives speed differently when it’s dark. It always seems like I’m going so fast, on the road and off road, when I’m riding at night.

I had ridden an hour and a half with Bill in the afternoon pretty hard, so I didn’t feel the need to warm up so much. I don’t think there is a better warm up for a race than riding for more than an hour, earlier in the day. That is the reason that lots of times you’ll see the domestic Pros going for a ride in the morning before a criterium.

I rode a few laps on the course between the races. The course was tight and tricky. The ground was a little soupy, thawed and refrozen turf, which got slicker as the evening progressed. I felt pretty good warming up and was looking for a good work out.

I got a fair start, going into the grass third. Starting used to be my forte, but it seems to have alluded me recently. I moved up to 2nd early, behind Brady Kappius, Clif Bar, Littleton,CO. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to catch his breathe from starting or that was going to be his pace. I was well within myself, which is a very nice thing in cross. I was hoping that I’d actually be racing someone most of the day. I felt like I needed to be stressed by someone else’s tempo at times. And I like seeing where others expend their energies on a course. But after about 1/2 a lap, I knew I was going to be riding by myself the whole day. I felt good and wanted to put in some big surges. I got a gap on the field, but Brady came back by me hopping the barriers much faster than me.

I rode just a little while longer with him and then rode the rest of the race on my own. I can’t complain about my form or feeling. It is nice to be able to exert power on grass when you need it. I do have to admit, that after one long boggy section, I was looking forward to the next few turns to rest some.

The race was less than an hour, which was fine. My lower back and stomach has been kind of sorts the last couple weeks. My back was fine during the race, but still felt shitty driving home. I have no idea what that is all about. Normally, I don’t has any issues with those parts of my body. It’s always something I guess.

Since we’ll be talking so much about promoters, I have to go on record that promoting bike racing is a very hard job and greatly under appreciated. It has to be under appreciated because it’s such a hard, thankless job that it is only for the passionate. That is the best thing about the US cross scene. The passion. We all have it. There were probably around 150 riders total at the race last night. And every one of them had a great time. So, thanks Mark Thomas and all the other guys out there that would rather be racing, but instead expend their energy so others can race.

It’s going to be warm here the next few days. Nearly 60 today. I’m still going to be riding pretty hard the next few days. I’m training through Nationals, hopefully going fast for Louisville. It’s a very inexact science in my case. I’ve never been very good at it.

First lap over the barriers. Brady was ahead of me after the 2nd barrier.

The race for 2nd and 3rd was heated all night between Brady and Daniel Miller.

Catherine won the women's race and looked like she had some form, which is always nice.

I was trying to stand and get back up to speed as often as possible. I've probably been watching too much super charged cross racing on the internet recently.

It's only appropriate to ride by a chicken coop in a cross race.

UCI Wants Growth for Cross – It ain’t gonna happen

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I read this article this morning about how the UCI says they would like Cyclocross to grow as a world sport and the domination by the Belgians is bad for the sport. The article goes on to say about the growing number of participates in the US, how it is becoming more popular here and that the Worlds being held here the next two years is very good for the sport.

I hate to burst Peter Van den Abeele’s(UCI guy) bubble, but cross here in the US is barely a niche sport at best. Granted, more people are participating, but for a sport to flourish, it has to have an economic base. And cross has no economic base. It is a closed system with the only money going into the sport is the money of the participates. Very little sponsorship, no spectator funds, no TV dollars.

I doubt there are 5 riders, here in the US, that make a living racing cross. And that living is meager at best. There is no professional sport that has 5 professionals as their base. Everyone else is just trying to cover equipment and expenses.

If cross is going to succeed here in the United States, there needs to be a economic way for the best riders to exist. And that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. It would be cheaper for an American to move to Europe and race there completely unsponsored than to try to do the US racing “circuit”. There isn’t a circuit. You can say anything you want about the Gran Prix Series, but it doesn’t constitute a race series. It is a bunch of races that try to add prestige to their events by designating themselves something special. They have the same bullshit prize list, that the UCI supposedly mandates, and the same high entry fees. The prize list at an UCI C2 race is $2068 for 25 places. Divide that out and you get an average of $82.72 per place. About like a good prime in any local criterium. Then subtract the $45 entry fee and you’re getting close to nothing.

In Belgium and most everywhere I’ve raced in Europe, the riders are paid by the races to come and compete. The start money is much more than the prize money. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sven Nys makes somewhere between 5000-10000 Euros everytime he suits up. There is very little, if any, start money ever paid to start an UCI race in the United States. Some races offer riders some travel money and waive their entry, but that is the extent of their generosity. With that being said, there is an exodus of the best cross riders leaving the sport for the road. Lars Boom a couple years ago, now Stybar is going to focus solely on the road. The cross attraction, even is Belgium, is not enough to keep the best riders in it exclusively.

Paying $75 plus to ride our National Championships at the Elite level seems like robbery. Same for the Masters Worlds. I think I paid 10 Euros, maybe a little more, to race the same race in Belgium last January. That is less than $15. I really don’t understand why the promoters of our sport are the only ones that seem to be able to make any money from it.

The sport of cyclocross is succeeding here in the United States because the participates have a passion for the sport. If that is going to be sustained, then everyone involved, that is the industry, USAC, the race promoters, everyone, has to have that same passion and desire to make it viable. That isn’t happening here. I hate to say it, I doubt it ever will.

Below are a couple shots I grabbed off the screen of the GVA Loenhout this morning in Belgium. Each spectator probably paid at least 10 euros to watch. It is self sustaining at that point.

Heaven on Earth???

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Yesterday, driving back from Chicago, I was listening to NPR most of the whole way back. It starts repeating about every 4 hours, so I move around to the BBC. Anyway, I heard a segment about a bunch of Libyans that are in a Boston hospital getting some help after getting injured pretty bad in Libya during the uprising over there.

Anyway, this is the line that struck me – “In our culture we say one thing about the American nation: ‘You live your heaven on Earth in the States,” he says through the translator. And this guy is hanging out in a hospital in Boston. (You can listen or read the segment here.)

The Libyan guy had a mixed up perspective on the United States mostly, but that was because he was so new to our country. But he did know that the US was a much, much better place than where he came from.

I was thinking about it the whole way home. I was thinking how nice it was that I didn’t have to stop at any check points and show identification. I didn’t have to worry about getting blown up or shot or robbed while driving back from Christmas. We take these things for granted, but it isn’t the norm for much of the rest of the world.

The holidays are a pretty good time to reflect on our lives. Maybe we should all remember that we won the lottery when we were born here. We did. And that there are lots of other people on this planet that would gladly die to give their children a chance to be in our places. That is how many of the rest of the people on this planet think. There are lots of things wrong with this country, but I think we all take a lot of what we don’t have to worry about for granted. It’s not available to most of the world. It couldn’t hurt if we could try to be a little more humble and not arrogant with our power and flaunt our wealth. After all, that’s probably not how people from heaven would act.

70 miles on Christmas Day

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I’m not sure I’ve ever ridden 3 1/2 hours on Christmas Day. Maybe one winter I spent in Southern California. I didn’t expect the weather in Chicago to be anywhere near as nice as it was yesterday. It was nearly 50 I think. But, super windy, like Kansas windy. I have been feeling kind of funky since I left, but I wanted to get in a longish ride. Mainly to burn calories. So, I decided to ride with tailwind first to make the ride longer.

The wind was from the West/Northwest, so that had me heading towards Chicago. I thought that would be fun anyway. I knew there wouldn’t be much traffic on the road, so it might of been the best day of the year to ride into the city from the suburbs. Mt. Prospect, where Trudi’s mom lives, is 30 miles Northwest of the city. I rode straight East to Evanston and then down the edge of Lake Michigan into Chicago. It was really enjoyable.

I was wearing headphones. That was probably, definitely, not a good idea. It is super unsafe riding in traffic with not much hearing. I hardly ever wear headphones riding in the country around Topeka. Anyway, I was wearing headphones playing music. The traffic didn’t get sort of concentrated until I was South of Evanston and entering Chicago. The wind was blowing 20 to 25 mph and it was pretty much at my back all the way there.

I rode into the center of the city, by the lake and did a U-turn and rode back nearly the same way I went out. It is great just looking around at the houses and buildings. Super interesting. Especially the humongous houses in the neighborhoods North.

I have an App on my iPhone that works like a Garmin and maps my route, average and max. speeds, mileage, etc. I used it on the way back and had around a 18 mph average coming back against the headwind, stopping for a fair amount of lights. It is strange, because I felt pretty weak and unmotivated riding out, but somehow turned that around after an hour and 45 minutes. I didn’t feel great riding back, but acceptable. I’m having a few issues, but I don’t think I can do anything about them in the next two weeks, so it is what it is.

We heading back to Kansas this morning. It’s 600 miles. I have a bunch of new bike parts on the way and a hot water heater to install, so it’s where I need to be. There are two UCI races cross races in Kansas today, Wednesday night and then again the 31th, so I’ll probably race on Wednesday and then again on the 31st.

Okay, got to get driving. It seems a shame I’m just going to be back up here in a little over a week, but I didn’t plan on staying here, so that is how it goes. It is amazing that the weather is as good as it has been. No snow anywhere up here, including Madison. That could very easily chance in the next two weeks.

The skyline of Chicago is pretty dramatic approaching it from the North.

Lake Michigan looked pretty barren the whole way.

This is one of the favorite houses I saw. It's on North Lake Front Drive I think.

I think this is the National Headquarters for the Elks Lodge. Pretty impressive building.