Monthly Archives: January 2012

Gotta Take Risks

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I was watching the GVA Trophy Cyclocross at Baal (GP Sven Nys) this morning, under slept, and the one thing that became struck me was that every one of these guys screw up a fair amount in a muddy cross race. I already knew that, but watching the race this morning drove it home.

So, for my New Year’s Resolution, I’m going to state that I’m going to take more risks. Not only in cycling, but in life in general. It is hard to amaze yourself when you always stay within your comfort zone. The most memorable accomplishments are the ones that you have to go into that “dark” area of uncertainty. That is when the rewards pay dividends.

I already do this on a fair basis. But when I’m teetering, I’m going to try to take the plunge more. But not stupid risks, just new life experience risks. The ones that keep life fresh.

If we take this back to cycling, especially MTB racing and cross, there are lots of reasons to have limits. But I found out, pretty late in my life, that being embarrassed or self conscious about ones performance, is not a restriction that ever helps you progress.

When I first started racing MTB bikes on a Professional level, I thought I was going to kill everyone from the start. That didn’t happen. Not even close. Much of my early disappointment involved not being able to technically ride sections that some others, usually John Tomac, could clean easily. Up and down I was having troubles. I was racing a World Cup in Vail and was having issues cleaning a dusty descent that was surrounded by a huge crowd. I fell at least 50% of the time. I was so embarrassed. Then later the next week, when I was watching the race on TV, I saw that a lot of guys, most everyone, was falling. I think 3 out of the top 5 finishers fell on the last lap, less than a couple kms from the finish. I got a lot better at the sport that day. From watching a race on the television, I realized even the best guys fall. That one revelation removed a huge barrier that was stopping me from getting to the next level.

I don’t think we can easily recognize where these barriers are in real life. But, when we do encounter them, I think we should all try to get over a few more in 2012. Happy New Year.

Along with the risk thing, I'm going to try to eat more fresh foods this year. After making pizza, I always have a bunch of dough that I just throw onto the stone that makes this simple bread.

How about fresh fruit on January 1st. It's a pretty incredible time we live in. Our grandparents would of never had this in the winter.

I've been eating a lot of cage free, brown eggs recently. I'm going to get some chickens this year.

I Wonder what Sven’s Mechanic Makes?

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Yesterday, as I was standing for the 6th hour, and high from breathing glue fumes, I was wondering what a guy like Sven Nys’ mechanic makes for $$$. Whatever he’s getting paid, it is not enough. He has an unbelievably hard job. I can’t imagine he got any sleep at all during this last stretch of races between Christmas and New Year’s. Each race was a muddy mess and Sven was probably going through at least 4 bikes each day. Then the guy has to stand out in the wet and cold for the whole race experience and then go back and practically completely rebuild each bike. That doesn’t allow much extra time during the day, or night for that matter.

Well, I’m done messing with bikes now, before the race. I have two pretty much dialed in. I thought I’d be racing electronic shifting, but that didn’t materialize. That’s fine, it’s a little late to change up equipment anyways. I have the best tires in the world as far as I can figure. Tires are super important, sometimes. I like tread. I’ve never been in a situation, off road, and thought, man, I have way too much tread on my tires, I wish I was riding something smoother.

We’re leaving tomorrow morning sometime. Trudi’s mom has a condo in Delavan, WI, which is about an hour away from the course. We have a hotel room in Madison the whole time too, but that is just for convenience.

After seeing the results from the Chicago cross races, I wouldn’t bet against Ryan Trebon next Sunday. Jonathan Page seems to have pretty good form also, with two top ten finishes over the holidays in Belgium. But, the way Trebon spanked everyone by so much time, on Saturday at the UCI race, I’d have to pick him as the favorite. Nothing like a 7 week break to get your form on.

I am not a fan of the 80% rule in cross. Look at the time gaps below to Tristan, who they pulled with 2 to go. I’m sure Tristan wasn’t having his best day, but come on, that is a huge amount of time. I think it is completely wrong to apply this stupid rule in the US National Championships. The race isn’t only for the guys that win, it is for everyone that spends the season on a cross bike. Pulling guys way too early in a race makes the results completely invalid. The race on Sunday could be real spectating disaster. The speed that Trebon is going, there might only be 10 guys riding around the course the last 15 minutes. That sure will be exciting to watch.

I’m really enjoying riding my bike nowadays. I’m not sure why that is, but I seem to be especially happy when I’m out. Yesterday I was trying to rest, but ended up riding for 3 hours on hilly gravel roads north. It wasn’t that warm, but not really cold either, around 40. I stopped at a house that seemed really out of place out in the country. It was a huge brick house, maybe 5000 square feet, with tons of out buildings, maybe 15 or 20. It was all overgrown and eery. I wandered around a little while. Someone had come in a stripped all the cooper wiring out of everything. What a shame. There were AC compressors laying on the porch, fountains pumps, everything I could see. It was like a cult had lived there and abruptly left. I went into the oldest barn and it was super cool. I’ll put a couple pictures below. I love exploring on easy days.

Okay, I have a ton of stuff to pack. I wrote a short piece for Cyclcocross Magazine about dressing for the cold, but didn’t see it on their site. It was kind of last minute anyway. It does take an enormous amount of clothing to prepare properly for adverse conditions in cross. Especially for 4 races in two different cities. The weather up in Madison looks pretty good really.

Finally complete.

Madison's weather for the next week.

They could use a new roof on this super cool barn

This is really rough cut.

Full results Chicago UCI Race
1 Ryan Trebon (USA) LTS/Felt 1:04:40
2 Jeremy Powers (USA) Rapha-Focus 0:01:42
3 Christopher Jones (USA) Rapha-Focus 0:01:51
4 Brian Matter (USA) Gear Grinder 0:02:00
5 Travis Livermon (USA) Smart Stop-Mock Orange p/b Ridl 0:04:00
6 Barry Wicks (USA) Kona 0:04:17
7 Adam Myerson (USA) SmartStop / Mock Orange Bikes p 0:05:26
8 Jerome Townsend (USA) Smart Stop-Mock Orange p/b Ridl 0:05:36
9 Sean Babcock (USA) Kona 0:07:33
10 Justin Lindine (USA) / Joe’s Garage / Sc 0:09:16
11 (-2 laps) Tristan Schouten (USA)

It’s Always Something

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Cyclocross has always been an energy intensive endeavor off the bike. It doesn’t matter if you have your own mechanic, there is a ton of stuff to do that you don’t have to do for road racing or MTB racing. It probably has to do with the fact that you have to have so much equipment. And things go wrong.

The night before we were leaving to go to Plymouth, MA, where I won my first cyclocross National Championship, we were packing gathering up everything to go into the van and someone noticed that the lug on the head tube of one of my 753 Raleigh cross bikes had a small crack in it. I wasn’t too concerned because we had spare frames and there were mechanics there to change over the equipment. Upon closer inspection, we saw that nearly everyone of our bikes had cracks. It was a complete disaster. I should have know, because I had broken off the head tube of a 753 frame the year before at Nationals in California.

Then the next year, I was racing the Sorrento Valley Cyclocross at the UCSD campus in San Diego the week before Nationals in Santa Cruz. There was a huge dip, something that you had to hit with an enormous amount of speed to get up the other side, on the course. We had custom built Raleigh frames built by Marinoni, from Canada. I won the race and was feeling pretty great afterwards, having good form for the Nationals the next weekend. Then I looked at my frame and both the head tube and down tube had big cripples in them. It wasn’t as bad as the year before because I had a week to get a 2nd replacement frame. I ended up with an Alan aluminum frame, which was the cross frame of choice in the 80’s. It had a flat top tube for shouldering and was way lighter than a steel frame. (I have it down the basement still. I bet it is more whippy than a wet noodle.)

Anyway, nothing like this has happened so far this trip. But, I haven’t left the driveway yet. Okay. That’s all I got this morning. It is super cold and windy this morning. North wind. It seems like I’m always driving against headwind for some reason. I can’t figure that out. Along with a ton of other things.


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I can hardly wait for the next week and a half to be over. And there is only one reason, I hate constantly doing system checks on my body. If there is one aspect of being an athlete that I could remove from the equation, that would be it. It really would. I love racing big races and everything that it involves, but the systems check thing is something I could do without.

It starts even before I wake up. When Bromont does a lap on the bed, I wake for an instant and usually do a leg stretch or something, just checking on my feelings. For sure when I am awake, but before I get out of bed, I do a full system check. I’m not exactly sure what the check list is for that, since it’s not a conscious act, but it definitely covers my legs, back, shoulders, neck, stuffy nose, sometimes even a skin fold check on my stomach.

I have been taking a shower in the morning recently. I usually don’t. But I’ve been showering to loosen up some for the rest of the day. I do a couple hamstring and shoulder things that are supposed to be therapeutic, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference. But, I do a system check in the shower comparing my feelings to the previous days.

It keeps going all day. Going down/or up the stairs is a big one. How much I feel like napping after breakfast. It goes on and on. And it doesn’t really matter until I actually get on my bike. And, of course, that starts a whole new process of evaluating how I’m going.

The funny thing is that I intellectually realize that none of this matters very much. Once in a blue moon one, one my thousands of system checks actually benefits me for the race and has some merit. I guess that is the reason I’m doing them.

Most of my system checks have been going pretty great recently. That starts a whole new set of worries,. How long can I keep the feeling going and should I rest or just keep the same intensity or what.

The mental aspect of the sport is very important, especially in cyclocross where you have to constantly keep on top of it. And the weird thing is that you really don’t know until you clip in when the gun goes off how you are physically. And sometimes not even then. I know instantly whether I’m good, but if I’m not, sometimes I can fool myself into being good, mainly because of all the positive system checks I’ve done the over the past weeks. I guess they are good for something after all.

The van yesterday morning. 7 bikes, plus 4 people's stuff inside.

This is a parking lot outside Starbucks in Delavan Wisconsin. Man, they use a lot of salt here.

I saw this van in Kansas City of all places. It is the most rust rotted vehicle I've ever since. The photo doesn't do it justice. The whole van is painted with rust inhibitor, but it looks more like Swiss cheese everywhere. I can't believe that it's legal to drive it.

Cross Nationals Course Madison Wisconsin

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We got to Madison a little after noon yesterday and got in just a couple laps of the course. I was so surprised that everything is completely frozen hard. Really hard. Everything but the course, which is frozen medium, with 1/2 inch or more of mud and grass on top. I really can’t predict how the course is going to be on the weekend, but it is changing up hour to hour during the day.

I’m going over to the course right now, at 8:30 am to preride the course at 9 am, which is when I race tomorrow morning. I think it is going to be frozen hard completely today, since it was in the lower 20’s last night. It might be a waste of time because I think the low tonight is only supposed to be in around 34, so the course most likely won’t freeze hard. Whatever the temperatures, it is going to be slick.

The course is really wide open most of the time with a pretty substantial climb that you go up twice. I felt pretty good again yesterday, so that’s a good sign. The run up is pretty long with an off camber remount at the top. I’m going to ride the Dugast Rhinos today. Yesterday I rode the FMB tires and they seemed to work pretty good. I’m going to ride a little harder pressure because after you get through the mud, you get down to real hard, sometimes, sharp ground.

Catherine is racing at 11:30 this morning, so I’m going to ride a couple laps with her after she gets over to the course and then change into warm clothes to help out/spectate. Bill doesn’t race until Saturday. I’m going to try not to stand around at the venue too much the next few days, but I know how that goes.

I guess there are 103 Elite guys registered for Sunday. That should make for an interesting start for everyone with no UCI points. Even for the guys with UCI points. Trebon is going to be going so fast at the start that there are going to be guys that are -5 or -6 laps, with the 80% rule in force. I would say my chances of riding the complete distance is very slim. I hate it, but that is how it is scored now.

My bike was pretty gummed up after only riding two laps. I was having some issues clipping back in after walking up the run up. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had any trouble getting back into XTR pedals. And always before it is a situation where there is wet mud, but the air temperature is way below 32 degrees, making frozen mud on the bottom of the shoes.

Talk about a muddy situation, how about Valverde coming back to the sport and saying that he has a “clear conscience” and that he felt cheated because they matched his “DNA in that country without my presence.” I don’t thing he could have done much to help those guys do his DNA test. And I don’t think a DNA test is very complicated. Neither did WADA or CAS. I guess it was a big conspiracy against him since he was slaughtering everyone so badly. Well, he’s been training hard during the timeout the last 18 months and can restart slaughtering everyone once again.

Okay, time to go get cold and muddy. It’s a pretty harsh way to start out the day. I hate this early morning, winter bike racing stuff.

My bike after just two laps yesterday.

The trainer tent. It's going to be fun to see when it fills up.

A bike rag I spotted in the back of Catherine's car.

Catherine moved her yard sale out to the hallway last night.