Monthly Archives: July 2012

NCL – World Champion

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I am World Champion in another aspect of cycling. I’m not actually sure what it is exactly, but back in the 90’s, there was a new idea for the sport called the NCL, the National Cycling League. It was somehow structured after the NFL. It was so closely tied to the NFL that Franco Harris, Hall of Famer from the Pittsburg Steelers, was the owner of the Pittsburg NCL team. I’m not sure how many years they did the series, maybe 4???

The format was two criterium point races per day, in different cities all over the country. I was racing MTB bikes at the time and only made it to a couple of the events. But, I did go down to Miami for the “World Championships” in 1992.

I rode for a team called the Houston Outlaws. I don’t really remember everyone on the team. I know that I was riding with my ex Wheaties/Schwinn team mate, Alan McCormick and also Andy Paulin, ex Levi’s team mate. Also, I remember Joe Parkin, ex Bikes by Kyle, Philadelphia Flyers team mate.

There were lots of guys that I raced with normally in “real” races. We were all pretty much doing it for some extra money. I think we all got paid per event.

Anyway, the Houston Team had gotten 2nd the year before (I wasn’t riding with them). The race my year was in Miami. I think were were racing against teams from Portland, Pittsburg and Miami. I don’t remember a bunch of specifics from the two races. We did maybe a 30 minute points race, then 1/2 time and then another 30 minute points race. I know during the half time, Andy Paulin had an episode with his heart that was the first sign of a heart problem that he has had to deal with ever since. I was riding next to him when he said he felt weird and was bonking. He slowed, fell over and passed out. He didn’t race the 2nd race.

I know we barely won the whole thing. Alan scored a ton of points. I just marked breaks and picked up the scrap points. Our team was owned by some rich guy in Austin, I believe. Our owners were thrilled after the race. We celebrated and went out for a super nice dinner. I think you can tell by my complete recollection of the whole thing how important it was to me.

They took our rings sizes and a few weeks later we received our rings. They were huge, made at the same place they make the rings for the NFL, NBA and MLB. I compared mine to Franco’s super bowl ring and they were the same size. The reason the rings are so big is because the hands of all those guys are huge, so the rings looks silly small.

I saved all my stuff from the defunct league. I have a contract that is something like 80 pages long, but missing 15 or more pages in the middle. It was pretty much a NLF contract. I have a couple skinsuits that say Houston Outlaws and my number, 78. Maybe 100 years from now it will be worth something because cycling is so popular and this was the first attempt to bring “real professional” cycling to the US.

I did take my ring with me once up to Cable, Wisconsin, in the winter when I was skiing with Greg LeMond. I pulled it out one night and told Greg that with all the silly racing over in Europe, he never had a chance to get one of these (rings). He tossed it across the room. Enough said about that.

My World Championship ring from the 1992 NCL World Championships.

The rings are huge.

Each ring is custom with the team’s name, the rider’s name and number.

Logos from the Miami Wave and Houston Outlaws courtesy of James Brookshire’s toolbox.

What’s With all the Empty Seats at the Olympic Games???

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I’ve been watching the Olympics as much as I have time for and I can’t believe how many empty seats there are in all the venues. I’d heard that most all the events were sold out, but even in the swimming finals, there seems to be blocks of empty seating. It seems weird.

The men’s road race had an estimated 1,000,000 spectators, but most of that was free to watch. I think the Olympics is important enough now that maybe all countries should pitch in funds to make the games possible. They said an estimated 1,000,000,000 people were going to watch the opening ceremonies on TV. That is unreal.

But, it is a shame that events have empty seating. I’m watching women’s tennis right now and the place is abandoned. Something is wrong with that. They should give the tickets away if there are empty seats. I’m sure that they could find people that would happily like to watch just about any sport in the Olympics for free.

Man, This Sport is Very Hard- Springfield Criterium

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I raced in Springfield Missouri a couple times yesterday. It’s only 250 miles from Topeka, so that is kind of a stone’s throw away in Midwest standards.

The deal with the day was it was hot. Super hot. Not super, super hot, just super hot and muggy. It actually rained for 5 minutes a couple of times right before the Pro 1/2 race at 2:40, just adding to the misery.

Bill and I both raced the Master’s Race at 10:30. Neither of us have raced since The Tour of Lawrence, so we thought we were pretty stale. It turned out to be a very good idea for both of us, because we were both really stale. Bill won the race, off the front with one other guy and I won the field sprint, but we were in different categories, so we both got 1st.

I was not good the whole 45 minutes. Not even close. And it was barely 100 degrees. We rode back to our hotel and sat there for an hour, trying to cool down before the Pro 1/2 race. Neither of us were very enthused about racing again. We both felt bad. Mainly my stomach was bad. That happens sometimes in extreme heat.

The Pro 1/2 race was a lot hotter. It was 104 degrees and like I said above, pretty stifling muggy. I have been riding a bunch in the heat, but not in the humidity. It is a lot different. One thing, the officials allowed hand ups, so we could get as much water as we wanted.

Brad Huff, a Springfield local, flew back from Michigan after finishing 2nd in the Professional Criterium Nationals the day before. I think it is super cool that Brad makes a big effort to return to his hometown, to race and support local cycling in the area. He even sponsored the race with a bunch of primes. You don’t see that much nowadays in cycling.

Anyway, Brad is obviously hard to beat in a criterium. Any criterium. He is ranked 1st in the USA Cycling Criterium Rankings and has won the Professional Criterium Nationals before, so he is nearly impossible to beat locally in a crit.

I felt pretty shitty the first few laps as everyone attacked and attacked and got overheated. Brad rolled off the front with a couple guys and the field kind of split into a lot of pieces chasing. I missed it all and had to bridge back up to the front 20 guys right when it came back together. I rolled off the front with a couple guys and then Adam Mills, my friend and ex-team mate came up and that was it, sort of. The 4 of us distanced ourselves from the field pretty quickly. But, I knew that Brad would be there soon. He didn’t come as soon as I had anticipated. He waited until we were over 20 seconds away before he bridged up. I’d told Brad before the race that I didn’t have any intention of winning and if he needed any assistance, just ask. He said we should just race, which I had planned to do anyway.

So, the 5 of us went around and lapped the field. Adam put in a pretty good dig, very unexpected, right before we were lapping the field. But, we all got into the field. Then it turned into a attacked fest, kind of. Guys were trying to get away and the 5 of us were watching each other. Brad got away alone a few times. He attacks at sort of strange times and very often, so it is pretty hard trying to read whether he is just messing around or serious. He’s always done that, so I should be used to it by now. I chased him a few times. I really can’t explain why, other than I was feeling a ton better than the earlier race and felt like riding harder.

Towards the end of the race, Adam, Brad and I separated ourselves from the other two guys and ended up in a group with Bill and Austin Vinton, Adam’s Mercy team mate, also from Springfield. Austin eventually rode away and got the next place, 6th, and the rest of us were left to sprint it out. There was a time when I could sprint with Brad, but not recently. Brad lead it out from 1/2 a lap to go and led into the 2nd to last corner. It was 75 meters before the final corner, which was 150 meters from the finish line, uphill and tailwind.

I jumped Brad for the last corner. It wasn’t going to really matter where I started, he is a ton faster. I came out of the corner in the led, but Brad went by me easily. Adam was just a little bit behind in 3rd. Bill ended up finishing 10th, which was the last paying place.

I can’t really complain how I felt the 2nd race. I really needed to race. I need to race much more in general, both road and MTB. I didn’t really have the right mindset to really try to win the race. It would of been a supreme effort for that to happen and I don’t have that in me right now. I don’t understand I can feel so bad and then a couple hours later, when the conditions are worse, feel better. I think one of the reasons the Masters race was hard was because the wind was exactly opposite than during the Pro 1/2 race. The course roe much easier with the strong wind at your back up the start/finish hill. There is no way to warm up as hard as the Master’s race. Usually in hot conditions, I hardly warm up at all. Hopefully, this stupid weather is over soon and it will be back to normal, which is more reasonable 90 degrees.

Adam rode a great race. He attacked pretty hard quite a few times and was riding really strong. He relishes riding in the heat. I’m not sure why, but it usually seems to work out well for him. I ended up with close to 70 miles for the day, all hot miles, so that is something.

I’ve raced this race a few times. The first time maybe 20 years ago. I won that year. I don’t really like the course much. It doesn’t have a hill, for one. It is a rectangle, but only two of the corners are 90 degree, the other two are sweepers. I hate corners like that. It makes for dangerous racing. But, I think there was only one crash in the Pro 1/2 race, so it wasn’t too bad. The promoters did a great job though. It takes so much effort into putting an event like this on, so hats off to them, especially considering the conditions.

It is funny how racing a local race is usually harder than a bigger event. I think it is because you’re in the wind much longer and there are a lot more efforts, without the aid of drafting. The changes of speed are much greater too, which makes the races harder.

We got back to Lawrence by 8, in time to eat dinner at FreeState and have a couple beers. Trudi is off to California/Utah now, so I had to drive her to Kansas City, which is an hour, to drop her off for a 7 am flight, so I got 4 1/2 hours sleep. She has to work for BMC the next month and then a couple weeks in September for the Canadian World Cups. The cats are going to miss her like crazy.

Click to enlarge.

At the finish.

Me, sandwiched between two Springfield locals, Brad Huff and Austin Vinton.

Bill pulled us around the last few laps.

Brad beat me pretty handily in the end. I think he was just ready to be done with the day.

Bromont was overheated most of the day. He slept through most of the race.

Racing in Springfield /Olympic Road Race

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The races recently in the midwest have been slim pickens. I haven’t raced for the past two weekends and have trained in the heat for much too long. Today in Topeka, the high is supposed to be 107 degrees, so we decided to drive Southeast 250 miles and do a criterium in Springfield Missouri. It’s only Bill and I, plus Trudi and Bromont, of course. Bromont missed the Tour of Lawrence because of the heat, so he hadn’t been to a race in nearly a month. That is probably the longest time period he hasn’t been to a race his whole life.

The high today in Springfield is supposed to hardly be 100, so it is hardly hot. We’re thinking about maybe racing the Master’s races at 10 and then the Pro 1/2 race again at 2:30. I usually only race Masters races when I am under raced and am playing catch up, which would apply currently.

I’ve been feeling pretty okay riding, but yesterday I was horrible. I felt shitty, plus one of my bearing in my bottom bracket fell apart so I had to limp the 10 miles back with my cranks all wobbly, so my right knee is sore.

Trudi has to fly out to S.F. to get a car and drive back to Utah for the start of the Tour of Utah Monday, so she has a short turn around.

Everyone get a chance to watch the men’s Olympic Road Race? That race looked super hard. I can’t decide if the lack of radios or only 5 rider teams made the race more exciting. I truly don’t understand the tactics of some of the teams. I don’t really understand why some teams didn’t put more riders up at the front of the chase after the top of the last climb with 25 miles to go. And why so many guys ganged up on the British team. Tejay Van Garderen really made a huge difference in that race himself. I can’t believe that he nearly single handily held off the field for the better part of 20 miles, after towing Taylor Phinney back up to the front group over the top of the climb. It sort of surprised me how few riders in the front group were willing to work too.

If Cancellera would not have made a disastrous turning error, I believe the finish would have been much different. But, we’ll never know, will we. I can’t say I’m that stoked about Vino winning the race. Actually the opposite. I don’t think he should have even been in the race, personally, but it isn’t up to guys like me. Adding to my dislike of him is because he really never fessed up or even sort of apologized for his doping issues. It seems wrong to me that he gets to have an Olympic Gold medal, for life, after he has abused his sport so much. But, he did make a very good move to get into the break and in the sprint. I guess that Columbian doesn’t sprint too much, because I have never seen anyone blow a sprint as bad as he did there. But, he is probably stoked to have a silver medal from the Olympic games, so I’d bet he isn’t beating himself up too much about it.

Okay. I hope the women’s road race finishes before I have to leave to head over to the race.

Reattaching my crank after the bearing fell out.

Fabian feeling all down and out after crashing.

“This is the Best Water I’ve Ever Had!”

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We came in from a 55 mile ride last week and it was a pretty normal day here in Kansas. Something like 104 degrees, but dry. It only got muggy recently. Anyway, the wind was blowing pretty good too and even though 15 people started the ride, there was only 5 left at the end. Everyone else had turned off somewhere along the way.

I was feeling pretty good and was riding hard. It was only 5 miles from where we sprint at the end and there isn’t any major hill to break up the group. But, it broke up on its own.

First Jack, who is normally great, but was off, plus riding a 28 lb. cross bike with heavy ass tires, got dropped on something that I never would consider a hill. Then my brother came off on the next rise. That left just Eric, Catherine and I. Catherine demanded to take a pull, just to slow us down. Afterward, she said something like, a good defense is a weak offense. Or something like that. But, she didn’t last too long. I was riding around 26 into a head cross wind and Catherine popped after a couple miles.

Just when Catherine was coming off, Eric was saying that he would stay on, but only on the condition that we stopped at the BP station (the sprint) and get some water. So, Eric and I kept going, actually I kept going and Eric just cursed, but we finally got to the end. Eric immediately turned into the gas station and I turned around and joined him.

So, we went into the store and filled our bottles with crushed ice and water. Catherine, Kris, and Jack showed up a couple minutes later. They got water and we started riding slowly the 5 miles home.

I don’t know how many times the next 15 minutes I heard the sentence, “This is the best water I’ve ever had.” It was over 5 for sure. By at least 3 people. I have to admit, the water was excellent. Beyond excellent.

Like I posted before, with these extreme conditions, I think you need a bottle about every 10 miles are so. One bottle every 30 minutes seems about right. Obviously, if you only have 2 bottles on your bike and you rode 55 miles, then you are short some liquid.

We all packed too much ice into our bottles, so we ran out of liquid super fast, so we stopped on the bike path, at a drinking fountain, and refilled them less than a mile from my house. And that water was great too. It is sort of weird how few drinking fountain there are anymore. They used to be everywhere, but they are a dying breed, much like payphones.

I can just imagine how a settler felt, 150 years ago, walking across the prairie for days and days, only getting warm water from muddy creeks and rivers. I bet they thought it was just as good as the ice cold water we had after the ride. It is funny how you perceive things in different situations.

We’re very lucky we live in a place, and at a time, that you just stop at any convenience store or gas station and fill you bottles with ice. It’s not something to be taken for granted.

We are very fortunate to be able to have this about any time we want.

Topeka put these fountains in along the bike path. Dog friendly, but expensive.

Olympics – Who’s Winning Today?

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Who wins today. One of these two? Or maybe the guy behind Sagan in the photo? Should be interesting. For some reason I just can’t imagine Mark Cavendish not getting up the climb to vie for a gold medal on home turf, but I’m thinking Sagan wins the race because of the tactics. But, with a maximum of only 5 riders a country, there is a very good chance that a big group will escape and then it could be just about anybody. Should be interesting.

Okay, I didn’t realize that Cavendish had number 11 today, so I’m going to have to change my pick to him.