Monthly Archives: January 2017

January 1st

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Today is the start of a new year.  Funny how us humans think that is important.  At least some of us humans.  There are for sure places in the world where today is just another day.  People trying to subsist.

Not us Americans.  We celebrate the start of a new year like it is going to reset all our problems, at least give us a chance to address them better.  I wonder why that is?

Anyway, today is a good day really.   I’ve just been doggin’.  Walking Nic and Jack is always fun. More for them than me.  Even though for me it is pretty enjoyable.  It is nearly impossible to match a dog’s exuberance when they think they are going out to romp.

I have some toilet repair to do still, so the day isn’t a complete write off.  It is going to be in the 40’s today, so I’m going to go for a ride too.  I’m kind of setting around a 2 hour limit to rides now.  I doubt that I’ll adhere to that if I was somewhere warmer.  Actually, I have no intention to do that.

It is the start of a new year, which is something.  Sort of special.  For the dogs, it is just another day.  The dogs are just doing their normal dog thing, much like the humans in less fortunate countries.   If one thing, we should all understand how lucky we are.  I am.

Nic at sunset.

The local dog park.

It has pretty cool gate latches.

Nic found a friend to play with this morning.

Nic is exhausted now.

So is Jack.

And Tucker has taken over Dennis’ chair up in Cable. He is so happy in the snow.

Thinking about Skiing

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All my friends were up in Cable skiing between Christmas and New Years.  I’ve done that for a really long time.  I’ve only missed it a few times when I was hurt or because I felt I needed to train more for cyclocross Nationals in January.

I think cross country skiing is good for balancing a cyclist out.  We use the same muscles in such repetitions, that we get out of whack.  Skiing fixes that somewhat.  I’ve had some of my best early seasons after spending a few weeks skiing.

When I ski, I normally tend to ski a bunch.  Normally 2-3 hours at a time.  Cycling allows that.  Of course, the first few times I’m pretty wobbly after doing it.

I was thinking about this when I was riding yesterday.  It was kind of cold out and I felt like just tooling around.  I just rode over to Red Rocks again and looked at the city.  I started thinking about when I first learned to ski.

It was back in the early 90’s when I was first tried to skate ski.  I had traditional diagonal skis back when I was young.  Anyway, skate skiing was becoming the norm and all my friends up in Iowa were doing it.  Michael Fatka was selling skis at his shop and they were skiing a bunch.

I went up to Ames and started skiing with Michael and the other guys I rode with.  We were just skiing at a barely groomed park.  It was normally, Michael, Harold and me.  I wrote a post about Harold.  

Anyway, we started driving up to Minneapolis and Wisconsin to ski on “real” ski trails.  It was a super cold winter and it was nearly always below 0 temperatures.  I never used any wax other than Start green then.

We finally decided to go to a race.  It was a marathon race up in Superior.  It was super cold, as usual.  We drove up there and waxed our skis the night before.  Start green.

The next morning, I think the race was supposed to start around nine in the morning.  But it was -10 or something.  We called the number on the entry and they said the race was postponed until noon.   Then they would decide if it was going to happen.

We called back at 11:30 and they said the race was happening at noon.  We jumped in my Isuzu and drove there.  We were barely dressed and it was still -5.  Right we we got out of the car and had our boots on, they blew off the gun.  We didn’t have our skis on and weren’t even at the course really.

So we ran over there, put our skis on and got going.  I passed a ton of guys early and when I got into the woods, I needed to look down to make sure I didn’t step on anyone’s skis or poles.  Even my own. But by doing that, my glasses crystallized up so I couldn’t see anything.  So I took my glasses off.

That was a mistake.  When I got towards the end of the first lap, out of three 15km laps, it got back into the open.  It was windy and cold.  My eyes started freezing together.  It was bad.  I had to look down again to stop my eyelids sticking together.

I skied by the parking lot and looked over to my car.  It had exhaust coming out of it, so it was running.  I thought, screw this, I’m not skiing 30 more kilometers with my eyelids frozen together.  So I skied over to the car and Michael was sitting there with the heater going.

I was pretty frozen.  I got into the car and gave Michael shit for not even starting.  After a couple more minutes, I was watching and Harold skied by.  Harold was a farmer and had frozen his face a few times.  Enough, that whenever his skin got cold, his face looked like he had extreme frostbite.

I sat in the car talking to Michael, feeling guilty I had stopped.  I sat there for another hour, thinking I should get out and ski the last lap with Harold.  So I got dressed and got waited for Harold to ski by.  I got out of the car, put on my skis and got going.

It took me a little while to catch Harold.  He skied pretty good.  He was surprised to hear my voice when I skied up behind him.  I just skied behind him, talking.

Harold kind of started bonking with about 1/2 a lap to go.  He was skiing slower and slower and told me he needed something to eat.  I told him I had a Powerbar in my jersey pocket.  He just stopped.

I took off my pole to reach into my pocket to get the Powerbar.  Then I attempted to unwrap it. He told me to just give it to him and that I should just keep skiing.  I said that would open it.  He went on to say that he was worried that I wasn’t going to become a good skier when I just skied with him when he was blown.

I was amazed, and still am, that was his concern.  He was more worried about my advancement in the sport of skiing than himself needing some assistance.   I finally opened the Powerbar and it was frozen like a rock.  I was still well below zero.

Harold’s hands were pretty done and he couldn’t really break a piece off, so I used my teeth to break up the Powerbar and give it to Harold to eat.  He ate most of it and then we skied to the finish together.

Harold was a genuine guy.  A farmer.  He died.  If you click on the link above, I wrote a little about it.  I miss the guy and think about him every time I ski up in Cable.

The gang on New Year’s Eve out in the forest.

And at the River’s Eatery for pizza.

Okay, About Wearing a Helmet

This entry was posted in Comments about Cycling on by .

I’ve sort of taken some grief the last couple months since I crashed and fractured my skull without wearing a helmet.   I guess it should be expected.  People are pretty opinionated about their positions on wearing a helmet while riding a bike.  Probably the same with riding a motorcycle I’d guess.  Anyway, I thought about writing about it, then figured I’d wait until next year, which is now.

I’m not big on wearing a helmet.  I never liked it and still probably don’t.  I think I understand the risk/reward deal about helmet usage, but am not sure I really ever took that much into account.

I started riding, then racing, in the pre-helmet era.  When I first started, the only helmet that nearly everyone raced in was a leather strap helmet, or hairnet, as it was called.  We never wore them until we absolutely had to.

That changed when the USCF passed the “hard helmet” rule.  I was on the USCF board of directors and voted for the change of rule.  I sort of wrote a post about it a couple years ago.  I wasn’t big on it, but as it was presented to us, bike racing was going to seize to exist in the US if we didn’t make the rule change.  That was really a fabrication, but it was probably for the good. The European riders didn’t like the whole deal, but eventually, the rules were changed worldwide and everyone had to race, full time, with a helmet.

Anyway, I’ve never trained with a helmet.  I just don’t like the way it feels and really like riding much more without it.  Like I said above, I am fully aware of the risks.  I could show you a few papers on how much safer a helmet really is while riding a bike, but like all things, those papers wouldn’t change a person’s formulated opinion.

I’ve crashed hard quit a few times, wearing a helmet and not.  I flipped over my bars over 100kph in England, with only a strap helmet on and was out for a while.  I broke my collarbone, leg, hand and was pretty concussed.  But I didn’t fracture my skull.  That was while wearing virtually nothing.

This past crash is pretty indefensible in the helmet discussion.  I hit a dog at around 30 mph and flipped directly into the pavement, head first.  A pretty unusual crash.  First time in all the years I’ve been riding.  I don’t hope to ever do it again.

Do I wish I was wearing a helmet on that day?  Absolutely.  I wish I was wearing a motorcycle helmet even.  Obviously, after the fact, anything I could have done different to change the outcome of that crash, I would gladly sign up for now.  But I wasn’t wearing a helmet, so I don’t have that option.

Saying that, do I promise to wear a helmet forever after now?  Probably not.  Am I going to wear a helmet training and racing for the next few months, or maybe a year?  Absolutely.  But, I can’t promise, publically, that I am never going to ride a bicycle without a helmet ever again.  That most likely wouldn’t be true.

Maybe wearing a helmet training for the near future will warm me up to the whole deal?  I would like that.  Really.  I just don’t like riding as much with a helmet, so I never did.  Maybe that will change now.  I can only hope.

Even after we passed the hard helmet rule, here in the US, if the race was a “Pro” race, we could race without them.

This is the same even, the Coor’s Classic, 5 years earlier.  Me following Eric Heiden.

Andy (Hampsten), on his way to winning the Giro in 1988. Looks like a day to wear if there is one?

My strap helmet.

In my defense, here is a picture from Holland, where cycling is much more “popular” than here in the US. The article is about how overcrowded bike lanes are, not about why 95% of the people don’t wear helmets.

 

 

Stuck in Denver / Cross Natz Sledding

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It has been snowing in Colorado for over a day now.  Up in the mountains, it is dumping.  Now down in Denver it doesn’t seem that bad, but the guys at the airport must have gotten behind.  All the flights are way delayed.  Southwest sent me a text saying my flight was 4 hours delayed and I could change it for no extra charge.

So, I am flying tomorrow.  I was supposed to fly to Chicago today and then drive back towards Kansas tomorrow.  Now I’m off a day.  It’s fine I guess.

Have you seen some of the video footage from Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford?  That is crazy.  I’m not sure why each year cyclocross nationals get super unlucky with weather?  And I’m not sure why the guys running the race can’t make course adjustments to allow the riders to compete fairly.  I saw a post on Facebook from Mark McCormick that said something like you shouldn’t have to know how to sled (slide on your ass) to race cyclocross.  That isn’t really even close to what he said, but it gets across the general topic matter.

The course looks way too severe, like  up and down, plus too slick, to race.  Especially for these early week events that the riders aren’t so adapted to these conditions.  Maybe no one would be good at these conditions.  I’m not there, so I can’t really tell how horrible it is.   But, from some of the videos that people are posting, it looks terrible.  You can click here to see some of the “fun” the past couple days there.

Okay, I’m going to go shovel snow for a bit.  That is my exercise of choice today.  Not really my choice, but I do like it sometimes.

Vincent’s back porch this morning.

Nic being an exhibitionist/bed hog last night.

This is a photo from two days ago when there was still some grass for traction. It is much worse now.

 

 

Best MTB Rider Ever? John Tomac

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I was looking around the internet last night and saw this interview, by Neal Rogers, at Cyclingtips, with John Tomac.    I guess Neal did the interview last year at Ned and Todd’s Gran Fondo in Durango.  I went there and rode and talked to Johnny T. a little.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time and he hadn’t really changed at all, which is great.

The interview is pretty good.  John was always modest and talked more with his legs than his mouth.  And, in my opinion, he did that better than any rider I had the pleasure to race with. Sure there are some other guys who might compare with John, but when you throw both cross country racing and downhill together, he’s my pick.

I raced with John pretty much throughout his career.  I rarely beat him ever.  I beat him in a few Specialized Cactus Cup Fatboy races, but that was riding a tight criterium on mountain bikes. Off-road, he would kick my ass.  Especially if it had a technical downhill on the course.

I thought I was going to beat him at the Olympic Trials in Atlanta, in 1996, gaining a minute on him the on the first part of the last lap, but then it got to a big technical rock section and he rode away, leaving me to finish 2nd.

Anyway, John was, by far the best downhill rider of that time period.  By far.  If they wouldn’t have let any rider pre-ride a course and everyone just went down it once, first time, John would have won all the races.  Plus, John was racing the cross country races before the downhill usually.

At the World’s in Italy, Johnny T. had the first XTR setup I’d ever seen.  And I was riding for Shimano too.  I might be wrong, but I think it went from a 28 big cog in the back to 32.  Those 4 teeth allowed him to ride the steep walking section.  I remember seeing the race on TV afterward and at the start, there was a huge pack of 150 guys climbing, with Johnny T. already a 100 meters ahead by himself.  He won the World Championships handily that year.

Last year, in Durango, I was at the start of the ride and lined up next to John.  He looked over at my bike, which was an Eriksen.  It was 9 speed XTR, hardtail.  John looked over and saw my barends and said, “Barends, I need to get me some of those”.    He nearly always rode what he thought made sense and made him faster.

Anyway, if you have some time and want to learn a little about him, click the link above.   It is a good interview.

Photo, by my friend, Tom Moran.  The photographer of the first era of modern day MTB racing.

Cyclocross Nationals – Live Streaming

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Cyclocross Nationals has been going on all week.  I haven’t been there, but from the photos and videos I’ve seen of the previous races, the course is ever changing and technical.  Mud that has turned to snow is now the course.  Right now it is 8 degrees in Hartford, with a high at 3 o’clock of 22.  So, the course is going to stay mostly frozen, depending on how sunny it is.  There might be a certain amount of thin, wet mud where it gets direct sunlight.  Not good for the cleats if this is on a south facing runup.

The schedule today is as follows –

9 a.m. – Junior men 17-18
10 a.m. – U23 women
11:30 a.m. – U23 men
1:15 p.m. – Elite women
3 p.m. – Elite men

I don’t really have any for sure predictions for the results of the Elite races today, since I haven’t been there and seen the course.  I’m sure it is going to be the usual suspects fighting for the jerseys.

I don’t see Katie Compton not winning her 13th straight Nationals Championship, but 13 isn’t a very lucky number.  Even with that, I think she will win.

I’m hoping the best for Amanda Miller. She had put a lot of effort into this season and her results show that.  If the course is right, and the stars were aligned just right, she has a chance to add to her Fatbike National jersey from a couple years ago.  This would be special.

The men’s race, well, depends too.  Of course J-Pow and Stephen Hyde.  They will both be riding at the front if things go good for them.  It is hard imaging a different result than one of them, but it is cross and the course might dictate a different result. Should be a great race to watch. (Thanks to a comment from my friend, Bill Elliston, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jonathan Page as a contender for the win.  When it is tricky, he excels.)

The live streaming begins a tad before 9 am, east coast time.  I’ll post the video here as soon as they start streaming.    It’s an all day affair.   If you want to watch some of the other Nationals in Europe, click here for the links.   Enjoy.

 

 

 

Cross Nationals – Pretty Severe Conditions

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Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford, CT yesterday was epic.  The course decided much of the race. Either you had the ability to ride the course or you didn’t.  It was close to singletrack much of the way.

I think the course was too severe the whole week.  From unrideable mud to frozen footsteps, you want a cross race to be decided by ability.  Not that, in the end, at least at the Elite level, it wasn’t.  Both in the Elite men’s and women’s races, the pre-race favorites won their respective events.

So the favorites won.  But riders that maybe could have had an opportunity to shine, didn’t get that chance because the starts of these races were so important.

Katie Compton rode a very good race.  She had a little trouble everyone once and awhile, but all and all, she rode a very good race for the conditions.  She was the best rider in the race.

Amanda Miller finished 2nd and rode super also.  She is very comfortable in harsh conditions and her bike handling skills are excellent.  Very deserving result for someone that has put in her time this year.

The men’s race, well that was interesting.  Maybe not the final result, but the last bit. Stephen Hyde was good.  He got the hole shot and then proceeded to make errors so that he was well back.  Since the start went up a long singletrack dismount, any error was exaggerated.  It was a little bit of carnage there the first lap.

But, he did the same thing at the World Cup in Iowa City and rode back to a top ten finish,  so I figured it was just a matter of patience before he did that.  He got to the front and immediately slid out on a off-camber descending corner.  He kept his cool and started riding consistently fast.

The crazy thing about the race was the last bit.  Hyde had a low front tire and somewhere on the last hill, just before the finish, tore his rear derailleur off his bike. So he came onto the finish stretch, not able to ride.  He coasted a bit and then got off his bike and walked to the line.  Jimmy Driscoll was closing fast.  If the line would have been 50 meter further down the stretch, the results would have been different.  I’m glad it wasn’t.  Pretty unusual finish, to say the least.

Jamie rode an excellent race, but Stephen Hyde deserved to win.  I did a short post on him after the World Cup in Iowa.  He is the real deal.

Jonathan Page finished 7th and Todd Wells 8th.  Glad to see a couple of the guys I who’ve been around for awhile, have top 10 finishes.

The whole races are on the video on yesterday’s post.  If you want to see how close the end of the men’s race, click here for a twitter video.  

The season is over for the majority of riders, but not all. There are still a few races left before the World Championships.

Amanda riding this section super. It doesn’t look so tricky, but was.

Katie winning.

RIght after the race, 1st and 2nd hug. Katie seemed pretty happy.

Right after Stephen Hyde got back into the lead, he bobbled.

The finish. Notice his rear derailleur hanging. Jamie was just behind. Crazy finish.

Stephen Hyde’s bike at the finish.