I’ve been asked a bunch what was the coldest I’ve ever been at a race. The ice dip at the UCI Cross race in KC (description below) wasn’t that cold. I was putting out an enormous amount of heat, riding so hard, so my hands got frozen solid, but my core was OK. During the Tour of Bisbee, back in the 80’s when I was riding for Levis, it rained the whole 90 mile road race. The last hour it started sleeting. Roy Knickman and myself ended up finishing 1-2 in the stage and overall. When we finished, we sat huddled in the corner of a local bar, wrapped in wool blankets shivering for an hour. That was really cold. But, the all time coldest I’ve ever been, by far, is when Outside Magazine came to the Sea Otter Classic to take a photo of me for an article they were doing. We raced the “dirt” criterium at the raceway in the early afternoon Saturday. It was a flowing mass of mud. When I finished, the photographer from Outside, came and introduced himself. He said that I had the “look” he wanted right then. I was covered head to toe with mud. I said let’s do the shoot then. He said he needed the light at sunset, so I was supposed to meet him in 3 hours at the top of the hill at the race track. I went back to the hotel, cleaned up and waited. I came back near sunset and rode around the crit. course for a few minutes to get “the look”. Then I rode up to the top of the hill to meet the gang. It was the photographer, his camera assistant guy, and a couple girls holding big light mattress things. Anyway, the photographer said I didn’t have enough of the mud look, so asked the girls to get some fresh mud to enhance my look. That was the start of one of the worse hours of my life. Me standing there at the top of the Laguna Seca Race track having new mud and water throw on me every few minutes. It was in the upper 40’s and he wind was blowing about 20mph. I was completely done after 30 minutes, but the guy keep shooting more film. I finally gave the guy a five minute deadline. He told the girls that I was drying out. When the girl came over to spray me with water, she aplogized. She said, “I’m freezing myself and I’m wearing a down coat.” I was shaking uncontrollably. The second I got released, I went back to hotel, sat in a super hot bath for at least an hour. I never got warm again the rest of the weekend. The photo was the perfect Outside shot. Rider standing with a sun halo. He got his shot, but it ruined my weekend. It was a frozen smile for sure. And it was the coldest I’ve ever been. Photo below.
I saw on cyclingnews a couple days ago the Nokere Koerse results for this year. I have very few regrets in my years in the sport of cycling. There are too many moments that come and go during each race to be second guessing yourself. I hate the should of, could of, would of stuff. Obviously, hind site, after the race, analyzing your tactics, etc. is easy.
But, my Kokere experience is different. I’m guessing the year was 1991. I was over in Belguim training for MTB races by mainly riding PRO road races. Trudi was working for Motorola, so Ghent was home base. I’d been doing a bunch of kermises. I think the true definition of a kermis is a festival or carnival held in the summer in Belgium or Holland. But, they often hold bicycle races concurrent with these small town fairs. These races can have anywhere from 30 riders to 300. There are special PRO teams in Belgium that concentrate only on these events. These races are usually on weekdays and start mid afternoon to finish in the early evening.
I had been riding these races a couple times a week. The first one had maybe 35 guys. Normally there are around 100 riders. The kermis teams plus the other pros that lived in Belgium from PRO Tour teams that weren’t racing with their team, make up the field. I rode down to Hulste where the Motorola team was based. I was there early, but when I got there a bunch of the Motorola riders wanted to race. But, they weren’t getting ready fast enough. Anyway, I was with this guy from Belgium, Luc Eysermann, a whole story in himself. He knew how to get there. So, Nathan Dalberg, New Zealand guy, Luc and myself ditched the rest of the Motorola guys and went. Trudi and Jody(another sougneir from Motorola) waited for their team.
Entry into these races is crazy. Typically, you go into a dark bar, completely filled with smoke. Not just any smoke, but smoke from the foulest smelling cigar type things in the world. There are a bunch of old, ex pro bike races sitting around drinking and smoking. You show a guy your license, he types you name onto a start sheet and they hand you a number. No $ exchanges hands. They take the start sheet and print up a million copies and hand them out to the crowds. And, there are crowds. As soon as the start sheet is distributed, I normally got swarmed by people wanting to take a photo of me. Only a head shot for their “pro bike racers head shot collection”. Or, better yet, if I had trading cards with me, it would turn into a feeding frenzy. They all wanted the never heard of PRO American’s trading card. A real treasure!!
Anyway, Nathan and I got entered and swarmed. Trudi and the rest of the Motorola guys got lost riding there. They barely made it to the start. I was suprised about how many real teams and riders were at the race. I thought it was just a normal kremis. But, all the real teams were there with full squads. I’d ridden 30 miles, maybe more, to get to the race. It started crazy fast. Normally these races cruised for the first lap, 10km or so, and then started racing right at the end of the warmup lap. But, this went from the gun. Kremises were never controlled. That is dope controlled. So, a lot of the guys were crazy out of their minds on amphetamines. Kermises, could and sometimes, were the fastest races on the planet.
The Nokere course, as now I know, is famous. It finishes on a cobble/brick climb. It is pretty hilly for a Belgium race. This day was weird. It was sunny and nice in Nokere. And raining and sleeting on the backside on the course. Pretty miserable.
I never saw a Motorola guy from the get go. I don’t think any of them stayed on the first lap. I was lucky enough to be at the front when they blew off the gun. It immediately went into echelons. And it stayed that way for the remainder of the day. Finally, after 3-4 hours, I found myself in a group or 6-7. All the good teams, plus Steve. I didn’t know any of the other riders of course. I was riding good. But, the conditions were brutal on half the course. It was so strange. Going through Nokere, where the festival was, it was sunny and warm. On the back side, it was raining and freezing. This was a total distance of less than 5 km away. Only one valley over. Trudi told me after the race she was wondering why we were covered with road spray looking beat.
Anyway, after 100 miles or so, I’d been in this break for a couple hours. I was feeling great, but was riding well within myself. These guys had no idea who I was and didn’t expect me to do much of anything. Everytime I went through Nokere, I was looking for Trudi for my rain jacket. She and Jody were always in the same place drinking beer. But, I didn’t have much luck communicating my wishes.
With about an hour to go, Trudi was after the finish line and I thought she told me that she was taking the Motorola riders that quit back to Hulste. I thought, shit, I need to get my stuff from the car because I had to ride 30 miles back to Ghent. I’d already ridden something like 130 miles and figured that was enough for the day. I rode just another mile up the road and turned around and went to the car.
The car was there, but Trudi wasn’t. I went and found them in the crowd. It turns out she said that the Motorola guys were leaving. Riding back. But, she and Jody were staying. At the time, I didn’t really care about stopping. It was just a kermis. So, Luc and I rode back to Ghent. He took us out of the way to ride a bunch of the famous climbs from all the classics in Belgium. I was feeling great. It was a super fun day! I was stoked to have nearly a 100 miles of racing plus the 60 miles there and back.
The next day, I rode to Hulste to visit Trudi. Noel Dejonckheere, director for the Motorola Team, asked me about the race from the day before. He said “what happened to you in the break?” I said how did he know I was in the break. He said he was watching it on TV. He said one minute I was there and one minute gone. I told him the turn around, training story.
Then he proceeded to tell me what an important race this was. How the town had passed a law about leaving the main street cobble for the race. That Gerrie Knetemann and Freddy Maertens (past World Road Champions) had won the race previously. It was the most famous kermis in Belgium. Plus, it was something like 5K to win.
I had no idea. I’d raced a bunch of different kermises in Belgium. I’d finished in the top ten. I’d never received a penny. A lot of the time they left my name out of the results in the news paper the next day. It was a super cool race. I was having one of those days that don’t come along that often. But, I was there to MTB race. And use road races for fitness. But, on a yearly basis, when cyclingnews prints the results, I do have to reminisce about what could of, should of , would of happened if…..
Here’s a photo Greg Demgen sent me of him winning the 1984 Nevada City Classic. I’m the other guy. This race was the day before the start of the 1984 Olympic Trials in Spokane. The first day of the Olympic Trials was the individual time trail, so Greg, Andy Hampsten and myself decided to go the mercenary route and double up with Nevada City and the Olympic Trials. We weren’t the only ones though. Alexi Grewal (Olympic Gold Medalist-Road Race), Dale Stetina (Coor’s Classic Winner, etc.), Jeff Pierce (Stage winner Tour de France) and a bunch of others were there too. I’ll post the story of the race sometime, but the three of us won a ton of $$$. The first place medal was handmade of 24K gold and was worth nearly a grand on it’s own. Anyway, pretty cool photo.
This is the reason that guys shouldn’t be taking their hands off of the bars during a bike race to push another rider. Theo Bos (Rabobank Continental) should of been using his hands to pull his brakes instead of whatever he was doing. The officials totally screwed up the ruling with no penalty or sanction. This hand tapping/pushing is occurring constantly now in US racing and is total bullshit. If you click here on YouTube.com and watch one of the videos of the whole last kilo, you’ll see a bunch of riders falling. It isn’t good bike racing.
Drove up to Iowa with the gang for the Iowa City Road Race and Old Capitol Criterium. Both the races are good. Nice courses. Well promoted. Just a fun bicycle racing weekend. I won the Iowa City Criterium nearly 25 years ago. I think I’ve only raced it twice. A couple years ago, Brian Jensen and myself were 1st & 2nd. Our team, TradeWind Energy/Trek Store have 4 guys here, which is a good number for a regional race. Not too big to overwhelm the field, but enough to take turns and ride a good strategic race.
The road course today was a 13 mile loop with a couple big ring climbs. It historically has been very windy, but the storm that was supposed to pass through midday never came. So, it was relatively calm. Less than 10 mph for the majority of the race. But, the temperatures were in the 50’s and it was damp. Kind of cold standing around for sure.
Anyway, the race was a little negative from my perspective. But, I think that is nearly always the case when the course or conditions don’t help make the selection. We only race offensively. It is way more fun and the results usually reflect the efforts. I wasn’t having a great day, but not horrible either. I got into a couple moves, but didn’t have enough to just ride away from the field. Finally after 50 miles or so, the field started getting a bit tired and the wind picked up a tad. On the last lap of 5, I went pretty hard up a hill with Brian on my wheel. The wind was coming from the left, so I knew there wasn’t going to be much of a field left. Brian jumped over the top with 3 riders in tow. I should of went, but thought that might be too greedy. In retrospect, it was an error, but you can’t kick yourself for making a decision on the road afterwards. Only learn from it.
Brian rode away in a group of 5. The rest of the field seemed pretty done. I rode away virtually at will pretty much the last 6 miles, but never could stay away. I had the wind, but not the power I guess. Brian shelled the break as soon as they started sitting on. 6 miles to go. I got caught the last time with less than a mile to go. Brian won alone. I got a OK leadout from Bill, but ended up getting beat in the field sprint by last years winner, Dan Ajer I believe. It was only for 6th place.
Catherine Walberg, Kenda, who seems to be always getting a mention nowadays, won the women’s event handily. There were nearly 40 women there, so it was a pretty good race for them. We still need to figure out a way to take credit for her results somehow.
So, now I’ve raced the Iowa City weekend 3 times and I’ve either won or a team mate has won every event I’ve entered. That is kind of lucky I’d guess. We’ll see if we can extent the streak for one more year tomorrow. Maybe Iowa City is like Japan for me. I am undefeated in the nation of Japan racing bicycles. 3 times racing MTB and once on the road. I probably shouldn’t go back there to race and just leave well enough alone.
For the tourist in you – The road was held in Kalone, Iowa. 25 miles Southwest of Iowa City. It is Mennonite country. Lots of carriages. Home cooked pastries and bakery items were.75 cents. Huge, homemade cinnamon rolls to die for. I definitely gained weight.
Tomorrow the criterium is next to the University of Iowa around the Old Capitol. It has a pretty good climb in it and lots of corners. It is supposed to rain nearly all day. Should make for an interesting race. It’s raining already. Stay tuned.
I’ve been in rain for the past two weeks. I haven’t ridden much at all. Plus, I’ve been driving across the country. I hardly ride inside at all, so I had to ride some in the rain. I don’t ride too far wet if I don’t have to. But, I don’t mind riding in the rain if it’s not too cold out. I usually only ride by myself if it’s raining. Road spray is bad enough from my own wheels, let alone someone else’s. Rain has been good for the garden. It’s doing pretty good.
Leaving to go to Arkansas for Joe Martin Stage Race NRC. I glued a tire onto a super light wheel that I’m going to use for the hill climb TT. I’m getting sort of anal about glueing tubulars onto carbon rims. It is kind of weird how many rolled tires I see. Especially in cyclocross. But, on the road too. I’ve gotten to the point that if I’m home, I’ve been using a ratcheting tie-down to strap around the tire until the glue dries. It is overkill in my estimation, but it doesn’t take much extra time and it’s better to be safe than sorry I guess.
To tie the above two subjects together, the best tires by far to race in the rain are Vittoria tubulars. I’m not so concerned about the tread pattern. The rubber is so much better than other brands that the tread pattern is nearly irrelevant. If you are looking for a specific tread, then the KX or CG pattern would probably be the best for a wet criterium. The new CX , 320 thread count, would work great too. In a 23mm size would be best. But, any Vittoria is better than any other tubular tire. And any tubular tire is usually better than most clinchers. If you’re riding clinchers, I’d use Michelin PRO Grip in the rain. I’ve ridden one wet criterium with these tires and they worked 90% as good as Vittoria sewups. I wasn’t big on riding carbon rims that day, but I’ve gotten past that with SwissStop yellow pads. And, don’t ride high pressure. 90 psi or less.
Update from Joe Martin later this week.