31 October 2007

Quick update

Working from home today, have been going almost non-stop trying to answer all the e-mail inquiries generated from the MSNBC article. Very cool.

I say almost because I just got back from 'cross practice, oh yeah. I was worried about killing the white frame completely this season, on account of the dents it sustained at the bottom of the pile-up in Longmont, so I had Lou put together a new ride ... and he came through big-time, with next-day turnaround. While he was at it, I made the leap complete -- now the only non-SRAM bikes I own are my pit bike/commuter (which will change soon, I'm sure), and my Specialized road bike, which has been in pieces and unridden for more than 6 months. I didn't realize just how awesome SRAM on a 'cross bike would be. Yeah, baby! (Full build with Rival, 17.8lbs, by the way.)

Let's see, only other news of note (and it's a biggie) -- I heard yesterday that the last road race of the season is November 11 -- in Lusaka, Zambia. I've been invited to compete. How surreal is that?!?!?

I BELIEVE ...

... in the Bike Fairy!

30 October 2007

NBC

NBC correspondent John Larson was in Zambia a couple of weeks ago. This is why I do what I do every day:

http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/10/30/436585.aspx

29 October 2007

USGP the Second

Consistency. At least I have that going for me -- except that the results seem to be missing a few folks, so I can't really say for sure that I was 68th on day two as well. Regardless, I definitely made up more spots than I did on Saturday.

It still kills me, though, when I see guys who started next to me, or behind me (not on Sunday obviously), who end up in the top 50, or even the top 30. Physiologically, I have the capabilities to ride with these guys. Equipment, don't even go there. So from a skills standpoint, I know there's tons of room for improvement, but c'mon, am I really that slow off the line?

Yesterday was a test of mental strength -- DFL draw on the start list, faster and shorter course. Goal became move up, be aggressive on the start, and try to make it to 1 lap. Managed to avoid the carnage through the first couple of obstacles -- high-speeds (finally!) and the first sand pit. Made it up to Ernesto's group again, and then he drilled it just as the guy in front of me imploded and went down, and the gap was there. I spent the next few minutes closing down on the guys as they slowly came off of Ernesto's wheel, made up maybe three or four places.

Dropped one guy and hit the big sand pit, rode it well only to come around to the small one and dump it sideways. Jumped back on, and my saddle is busted -- I figured TJ was right behind me, so I sort of sat up. Lost three places. Then decided I could still get another lap, and started riding again -- went to sit down and put the rails through my ass! Woops! The saddle was gone completely!

I railed the corners to the pit (ha, ha), and grabbed my Cannondale. Damn it, I was going to get another lap if it killed me! I chased the guy in front of me, and we made it to the pavement -- no whistle. Sweet! He gapped me as my legs sort of died, but then we passed another guy, and then TJ came FLYING past us about 2/3 through the lap. Tree Farm was the only other rider to catch us, just at the end of the lap. So technically I went -2, but the gaps were pretty big on a pretty short course. I have to remember never to sit up, even for a minute -- had I kept going when my saddle broke, I probably could have pulled out another lap. Crap.

Hit Waffle House just outside of Indy on the way home ... yeah baby. That's what I'm talking about!

By the way, it's worth noting that both JPow and TJ were running SRAM Red this weekend. Represent!

27 October 2007

Sixty-eigth

I only ended up making up two spots. Still better than I've ever done against a field of this caliber, even if it's a long way from anything impressive. Stayed upright even through the slick stuff, rode the sand traps every time, managed a full hour of racing. Now it's time for bed, after a good dinner with some pretty serious heavy hitters from the other end of the results list. My, how my life has changed since a year ago!

USGP II

Before I forget -- BIG shout-out to Jeffweinert.blogspot.com -- Jeff represented the Midwest in a big way in the 35+ race, bridging from 3rd row and taking control on lap 1 -- the announcers didn't even know who he was at first, and he walked away with the first USGP jersey of the year! What a way to begin the season!

USGP!

Wow. Never thought I'd find myself at Churchill Downs, let alone being there as a representative of my employer. Crazy. Last night's number ceremony was pretty cool, if only because it was in the hallowed halls of horse racing's elite. I drew pretty bad start positions this weekend, but such is life -- 70th today, 79th tomorrow.

Today's race went OK. Results haven't been posted, but I survived -- in fact, I only went 1 lap down, and only got passed by the first 4 guys before they pulled me. So technically this is my first UCI placing. Not wonderful, but it's a step in the right direction -- because of bone-headed traffic, I found myself DFL partway through the first lap, and then spent the time just picking people off. What is with me and starts?

I did manage to tag onto enduro stud Ernesto Marenchin partway through, and then put in an attack to get away from him and the guy he was riding with. That made me feel pretty good -- in fact, I think I managed a full extra lap because of that little move -- I think Ernesto got caught and pulled as the guy I was with from Trek/VW were the last to go +1.

More later if I get a chance -- why is it that cheap hotels have free Internet, and the nice places make you pay? Anyway, it's free here, just a matter of finding the time to post.

Good luck to everyone tomorrow, whether it be Washington Park or Chicago!

23 October 2007

Wanna' glide down over Mulholland

Sitting in the hotel room, remnants of room service scattered on the table. Over my shoulder is a crystal-clear view of downtown L.A., to the left the Hollywood hills, to the right the Hollywood theater. Eighteen floors above the craziness, the sounds of traffic on the Boulevard just barely audible over the sound of the air conditioner ... I could get used to this.

The smoke has cleared off for the moment, but the sunrise this morning belied the overnight struggle of the firefighters in streaks of orange, red and grey. It was beautiful in a way that can't be described -- the plume hanging above the skyscrapers as if to remind us that Mother Nature is, in fact, still very much in charge, even in this place. Driving down from Redlands last night was surreal, looking over our shoulders to see the hills backlit in red against a black sky, looking for all the world like an erupting volcano sitting above the L.A. basin. The winds had died off, but the thick smoke that hung above Irvine and Ontario made the OC the place not to be -- especially when they announced Irvine as an arson investigation. The Santa Ana winds are said to bring out the crazies, and this time is no exception.

I will have bittersweet memories of this trip. This is where I was born, and the sights and smells, the hills and valleys have strong associations for me, though I haven't lived here in many, many years. Visiting with my cousin, his wife and 2-year-old son was very special, and spending time with the family at Vince's was a way to connect with the past that we don't often get to share. My great-grandparents visited this simple spaghetti house in the 1940s, because it was the halfway point on the way to the cabin at Big Bear, and it was fun to watch the fifth-straight generation slurping his noodles and giggling as the sauce splashed on his face, climbing on the benches, just like I used to do. Coming from a small family that does not have strong ethnic roots, this is my connection with those who have gone before.

Which is part of the reason yesterday was so difficult. Vince's represents my mom's family, the Montgomerys. My father's side, the Strouts, also live in the area, and my grandfather and grandmother owned a house in Riverside for more than 60 years. This is where my father grew up, and where we used to play when we were children.

I have not seen my grandfather in several years, ever since my grandmother passed away. Since then, he has developed Alzheimers, and was put into a home a couple of years ago. We were warned going in that it may be difficult, but I was not quite prepared for what Kim and I encountered -- a healthy, vibrant man, looking physically better than I had ever seen him, who had no concept of who we were. He celebrates his 90th birthday next month, and I swear he looks as though he may outlive us all -- except that his concept of reality is deteriorating, and his only connection to family is through the structure of geneology, lineage without emotion. Most prized is a photo of my grandmother in her prime, a wonderful shot of her in a sun dress, exactly as I like to remember her, smiling and beautiful. It was hard for me to hold back tears as he spoke of the photo as a living being -- keeping her warm under his pillows because she couldn't change her sun dress, that she was locked in the frame by the hooks on the back -- only to realize that he does not know who it is in the photo, only that it is his most precious posession.

But he is happy, and soon he will be at peace. This is perhaps the last time I will see him, so to know that he is cared for and healthy is a blessing. I can now put to rest the part of me that feared the label "rest home." His daughter visits often, and my uncle and his new bride live just 4 miles away. We shared a fantastic meal with them last evening, and it is good to know that Ken is happy as well.

So I will fly home this afternoon, and put this trip behind me. More travels await, and while special, none will have quite the gravity of this one. I will forever hold in my mind that photo of my grandmother, the acrid smell of smoke in the air, and the fierce winds of change that blow so strongly down from the mountains.

22 October 2007

How can we sleep?

In SoCal now, sitting at a super-rad coffee shop in Redlands called Stell. We knew we were in the right place when we saw the 'cross flyer on the door, and the Mustache (handlebar) Ride sign on the back wall! The two servers working right now have their Stumpjumper and full-D/A TT bikes parked out front ... and, oh yeah, thier coffee is fantastic!

Funny how we would find this place right around the corner from where my grandfather is now living, just down the street from my aunt and uncle. Seems I can't get away from the work connection! The barista saw my shirt and before I knew it I was talking bikes in Africa and Rival, Force and Red ...

In the meantime, we've had a really good time with my family, just hanging out and relaxing. Southern California is burning -- BAD -- with huge fires being driven by Santa Anas that have come early this year. Malibu was on fire yesterday, and today the big fire is up here in the hills -- funny thing is, last time Kim was here was the last time they had massive fires up here too. She's an omen ... The air quality is crap, it smells like camping everywhere, and visibility is only a few miles. Thankfully the winds have died down a bit today, which should help, but up in the canyons they're still blowing, and it's never good when it gets down into Irvine and closer to the city ...

Saturday's race went OK. The course was the same as last year, albeit a LOT dryer -- which made for super-fast laps. When the Cat. 4s were running 3:30s, we knew we'd have a lot of laps ahead of us ... and with each lap including 3 long running sections, I knew my leg would be in for a workout ...

Good start, sitting in the front group through the first two runs. But I couldn't clip in to save my life, and by midway through the first lap I was on my own. Just 14 laps to go, fighting the wind the whole way ... I had trouble staying positive, especially when Phillips put in a dig with about 6 to go to get away from me. That was pretty demoralizing, and I nearly gave up. But I stuck with it, and in the end caught him at the line -- he was either fading or had sat up in the last 2 laps once we were lapped by the three leaders. With a healthy leg, who knows whether I may have made up a place or two, but as it was, I'm glad I got the intensity and survived pretty much intact. With three days of nothing right now -- inlcluding nearly 12 hours of sleep last night -- I'm healing up and getting ready for the GPs this weekend ...

Hope all is well back home -- I have to say, even with the fires, sitting outside at a coffee shop in upper-70s weather is pretty awesome for the week before Halloween ...

20 October 2007

On so many levels

Velonews.com, asking Sven Nys about his propects for the 2008 Olympic mountain bike team. His answer exposes some things that are wrong on so many levels:

SN: I am qualified, but right now our biggest problem is the United States. They are standing sixth in the overall country rankings not so many points behind [Belgium in fifth]. The first five countries get three riders, so right now we have three riders. But it is dangerous for me because I am the third rider behind Roel Paulissen and Filip Meirhaeghe.

19 October 2007

Caffeine drip

Coffee in the morning, coffee at night, coffee in the morning, fight fight fight!

I need to stop drinking before I hurt someone. Or myself.

Last night was great, the Bike Fed of Wisco puts on a good show, even if we couldn't hear Phil very well.

Not enough sleep and too much Perkin's coffee later, and I'm on email at 5:30 a.m. Hi Lee!

Then it's rocking the SRAM Volvo down Lake Shore Drive, Dunkin' in hand.

More emails, and phone calls, and all of a sudden it's almost lunch time. I think -- my clock is messed up.

Leg is OK, I think. Stretched easy this morning, and it felt 100% all of a sudden. Which scares me. Especially with the rain. Do I just ride at home tomorrow, and then get stuff done since I'll be gone so much? Staying home means coming into the office, though.

Then I saw this:

Renee is an evil temptress.

18 October 2007

Uh, oh

Did a run on Tuesday, nice n' easy, felt OK. Then at the end of the work day yesterday my right leg seemed a bit off -- like my body was compensating for the knot and bruising I still have from Sheboygan (on the opposite leg). No big deal, I thought ... until I tried to go over the barriers last night at 'cross practice. No go. Holy crap did it hurt. Feels like my right groin muscle is on fire.

Rest, NSAIDs, arnica ... and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. Wish me luck!

17 October 2007

Ramblin' man

Today is my last full day in the office for a while. Gulp. For the next 6 weeks I'll be on a mission ... or rather several:

Today: Chicago
Tomorrow: Madison
Chicago
Whitewater
Corona-Redlands-Los Angeles
Chicago
Minneapolis
Louisville x3
Chicago x4
Apache Junction-Fountain Hills-AJ
Chicago for 42 hours
London
Lusaka-Mpika-Lusaka (7 days)
London-Manchester
Chicago
Madison
Chicago x3 + Algonquin (Thanksgiving!)
Chicago
Iowa City x2

Holy cow. For someone who likes to travel, even this is looking a bit over the top.

Astute visitors will notice a major change in the schedule at about line 8 ... reason I love my job #346 is that SRAM is a sponsor of the USGP of Cyclocross! I just found out that we'll have a major presence down in Luhville, and what better way to fly the flag than sign up for the elite race each day ... Woo hoo! I'm looking for ride share if anyone else is heading down on Friday, back on Sunday ... sorry to say I won't be at Washington Park that weekend, but you can't pass up a chance like this!

Also, I got a call from the Bike Fed of Wisconsin yesterday, a very nice personal invite to the gala tomorrow night up at Saris. I'll be rocking the SRAM NRS Volvo for the trip to Mad-town -- see you all there!

15 October 2007

Chasing the Badger

I love Badger Prairie. Not only does Renee put on an awesome event every year, but I love the course, the venue, and two years ago decided 'cross was for me after all on these very trails. So I was looking forward to Sunday, and it didn't disappoint.

First off, big thanks to the JPEs for the accomodations -- I got a full 7 hours of sleep after dinner on Saturday, and it was nice to have plenty of time to hang around before heading across the street -- literally! -- to the race. It rained off and on all morning, and the track was getting wetter and muddier, so I opted to skip the pre-ride window and just jog a bit to the backside of the course. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the World Bicycle Relief tent to say hi and participate in the raffle!

So then it was time to get ready ... and the slick grass race had become another mudder. I don't go very well in the mud, it doesn't suit my power base, I don't have that much experience, I hadn't pre-ridden the course, the field was deeper than it was on Saturday. I was not a happy camper as I geared up, but I figured I'd make the most of it and just ride around for an hour. What could go wrong with that?

I decide on the Cannondale with the Michelin Mud2 clinchers -- I want the tyres, and I haven't taken the time to set up the Colnago with the clinchers yet, so I opt for the heavier bike with bigger gearing (48 up front). Not the best choice, but I'm glad I stuck with the tyres -- that said, the 42 up front on the Colnago would have been nice.

Line up, and it's funny listening to the USCF road official stumble over names like Lalonde and Stawicki, names that to the mountain bike world are akin to Sampson and Mercury. It's cold, but it's stopped raining. More than a few faces who missed yesterday, and the field is nearer to 20 -- but with Jesse, Ron, Brian Conant, Bender and a few others, I'm not feeling optimistic. Plus, when it's cold, I somehow lose my aggression -- something I need to work on, and soon.

It's go time, and I jump. OK start, Conant speeds past, and I just settle in. I'm passed left and right -- I'm being cautious -- I'm not sure how that turn is going to be, and I don't want to get into the carnage. So I get passed some more. I'm not comfortable in the mud, and I find myself tacked onto the back of the train, with a few stragglers behind. I'm pretty much DFL.

Lap 1, and I'm not working very hard. I'm with a few guys, and I give Kim the thumbs down -- the front of the race is gone, and I've barely lifted my heart rate above 155. I don't want to ride their lines, and I'm not feeling good on the slick stuff, so I just sort of ride with no purpose.

Lap 2, and I've gotten away from a couple of guys on the road and begin to find my own lines. Wait a minute, I learned something last year at Whitewater, and all of a sudden I'm riding! I decide my race is going to be all about staying upright. If I can finish without crashing, that will be a victory.

Lap 3, and all of a sudden I'm coming up on a small group being drilled by Lee Unwin on his converted Van Dessel MTB. Lee is good, Lee is strong -- maybe I'll just sit on them and see what happens. I follow their lines, and it is good -- I learn, and get even more comfortable. There's three of them, and me, and I'm at the back hurting pretty good to stay with them. Gaps open, I close them, and I settle in for a while.

Lap 4 and I'm struggling. But I'm at the back, and they don't know how bad I'm hurting. Lee looks good. The other guys look good. I look haggard -- the photos at the run-up should be interesting. But this is 'cross, damn it! It's my sport, not Lee's. What to do? We hit the run-up together, and I'm still last. I recover on the road just a bit, and fly through the U-shaped singletrack. Back on the road, it's uphill, left on the gravel and ATTACKATTACKATTACKATTACKATTACKATTACKATTACK! Lee goes right, I go left, and as I pass him he mutters "nice!" No one responds, and I've got a gap!

Into the pavillion area and everyone is screaming for me. Everyone, except the announcer with the microphone -- he's cheering local boy Lee, which just adds fuel to the fire. I dig just before the barriers, I fly through them, and I dig again after the pit on the other side. Kim is there cheering, and I rail the off-camber corners. Slowly, but upright. Onto the road and DIGDIGDIGDIG ... I let out a yell as I see 4 to go on the lap cards and realize I've snapped the elastic. Lee is gone.

Lap 5, and I'm all alone. Can I hold it for 4 more laps? Feeling good, I run a perfect lap with great lines. Where did this come from? Through the pavillion and a PCW guy is RIGHT THERE, Kim yells he's 7th place. Wtf? From DFL to top 10? Cool!

Laps 6 and 7, I jump him on the road as we see 3 to go. He hangs, I concentrate on keeping decent lines and staying upright. I dig on some hills, and we see Brian Conant ahead. Oh, yeah ... I tell PCW that "it's personal" for me and I set out to chase. "I'm just along for the ride" he says. He sees my lines, but doesn't come past. Hmmm ... I dig a couple of times, but Brian puts in his patented closing-lap surge, and I can't get to him. PCW is indeed along for the ride. I give up the chase and start playing -- after the pit I let PCW take the lead. 1 to go, bell lap.

Last lap, PCW leads and gets 4-5 seconds on me. I stay smooth, we pass his lapped teammate in the close of the first widetrack. He shouts encouragement, I'm closing ... and PCW goes into the weeds. On his wheel, I've attached by the run-up. We crest together and out onto the road. Still playing -- I need to lead by the barriers, but not before. Through the U, he's got a huge stick hanging from his derailleur. Onto the gravel and GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO! I dig hard in the same place as before, taking myself to the edge ... and getting a gap! I hold it through the curves, left around the tree and DIGDIGDIGDIGDIG up to the barriers, smooth, recover on the downhill, through the pit and jumpjumpjump but then easy on the turns and onto the road SPRINT!!!! and done. Whew. 7th place!

Not the greatest result, but the race was such a far cry from my previous mudders that I can take some measure of satisfaction from it. And I'm competitive this year -- sure, we were missing some of the bigger names, but there was enough quality competition there to make a go of it. Different conditions, and who knows where I'll sit? Trying to power those slick hills was a mistake, and I can't wait to get out on some fast grass pretty soon ...

So it's now 'cross season, and I'm loving it. Maybe I'll hope for a little rain this week pre-Whitewater? And a little next week before we hit Milwaukee? Hmmmm ...

Thanks again to everyone for the cheering, and to Renee for such an awesome event! See you next week!

14 October 2007

Racing for a cause

While it's all well and good to have fun on the 'cross course this weekend, I can't forget a BIG CONGRATS to Katie Bolling, IRONWOMAN!!

Katie has raced in support of World Bicycle Relief all summer, and despite some pretty rough going at times (including the beginnings of a stress fracture as she tapered!), Katie finished at Kona yesterday in less than 12 hours! WOOO-HOOOO!

And get this ... she's been battling a stress fracture in her foot, right? She edged out her nearest competitor by just SIX SECONDS at the end of a 4:17 marathon, at the end of an 11:48 Ironman ... HOLY COW! That's so awesome! Go Katie!

(Shameless plug: Check out the Team Members page at www.worldbicyclerelief.org for more information on how you can contribute to support Katie's mission. Good stuff!)

2-fer!

Well, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the opening of my 'cross season this weekend -- after all, it's been a long time since I raced twice in a row, let alone raced a 'cross bike ... I'm happy to report, so far, so good! 2nd place yesterday!

First off, huge thanks to quite a few people: JPE and Renee and Paul for supporting World Bicycle Relief and letting us set up a tent in the expo areas; JPE and Michelle for offering to let us stay at their place; Kim for all her volunteer help and race support; and all the GREAT superfans out there, cheering my name along every section of the course -- I couldn't have done it without you! Dave, Renee, Jim, Shannon, Holly (but probably only after the first couple of laps, right?), Kim, JPE, and anyone else I'm forgetting -- it was AWESOME to hear you guys as the laps wound down and the race heated up ...

We shot down to the office real quick yesterday and loaded up the World Bicycle Relief tent, raffle prizes and collateral for the trip to Cambridge. Cam-Rock Area 2 is one of my favorite 'cross venues, and Paul and the gang did not disappoint. Despite the signs warning us of an ongoing archery hunt (thank goodness for light blue clothing!), they mixed up the course from previous years and put together an awesome layout with great spectating options and incredible flow. I was getting excited as I watched the 40+ race and the early categories go off ...

Kim and I set up the tent and signage, and then I tried to chill as much as I could. After the 2+-hour drive, I was pretty amped, but as the racing started and things settled down, I stayed off my feet a bit and concentrated on staying warm. Then, before I knew it, it was time for course preview, and I hustled to get dressed, get my brakes set, and get out there ...

Pavement start, a bit up from past years. Up the hill, through the finish, right 180 next to the pavillion to drop into the woods. This section was the same as last year -- down, left, s-curve, hard left on mulch, s-curves, short hill. Somehow the hill didn't seem as bad as I remembered. Then, in a change from last year and a return to years past, we dropped back down the steep drop with the left-hander and the mattress-covered tree, then along the river to the uphill switchback into the false flat. Wooo-hooo! This is my favorite part of the course, and I have always felt good here ...

Up, down, up, s-curves and we're out in the field using last year's barrier configuration. Only instead of heading down the road like in the past, we 180 back up to the pavillion, past the double-sided pit (very well configured this year!), and across the road -- to a quick s-curve and a nice little run-up with a couple of barriers. Ouch! Remount on the crest, and drop down via some winding turns to the old course. Out through the small mud pit, to the mulchy 180, into the logs -- Jeremy rode them in pre-ride, but I just can't seem to get over my mental block and had to run. That would cost me later, even though it was smooth and fast ... Remount, and then some good flow through the fields (again, not as bad as I remember), some tight turns at speed, and an uphill sprint to the end.

And did I mention the roots?! Holy crap! Especially in the first and last sections, there were roots EVERYWHERE! I added about 5lbs. of pressure to my tires, and I was still bottoming out the whole way 'round ...

Chilled out a bit in the tent with Jeremy, Jerry and some others. Scott McLaughlin from SRAM rolls up. Oh, man. Now it's on -- he's just back in from Colorado, but with our history this could get interesting. He's the mystery man who grabbed the last podium spot at Carpentersville last year after he nose-dived the barriers and I dropped my chain ... and then he overheard me telling another coworker how badly I wanted to beat him at Palos to get even, and I did, but just barely ... so the rivalry has been set, and we're both out for blood today ...

Before I know it, it's time to warm up. Spend some time on the road with Scott, Jeremy and Jerry, before doing a lap behind Kevin, who's looking silky smooth through the roots. Jerry and Jeremy are doing the 30+; the 1/2/3s field isn't big but includes Rob Springer (second race of the day for him), Scott, Kevin, and a bunch of guys I don't know. The big guns are on vacation, or working, or racing Beechwood, or in Ohio for the UCI weekend ... Craig gives us the instructions, they announce the first-lap beer prime, and then it's Riders Ready Go!!!!

I lead for about 30 meters, then settle in an allow another guy to jump in front of me. He rabbits hard, and I let Scott around me to lead the chase. We're still pretty much all together, and another rider gets in there putting me in fourth. But I'm OK with this -- no gaps, flowing well, still together ... through the barriers, and 30 seconds later the rabbit done died -- I'm in third but ramming my way through the roots and not liking it very much ... The guy in second attacks Scott, who's breathing a bit; he grabs the beer prime as Scott, me and Kevin set in to chase ...

Scott's hurting just a little on the hills, Kevin's hanging in, and I realize that I'm feeling awesome. "Breathing through my nose" as it were. WTF? I suppose I shouldn't think about it too much. But first place is up the trail, and we're losing time ... through the barriers, through the run-up, down, around, Scott's riding the logs when I run, but I catch back up, and there's my shot ... GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!

I dig hard, and Scott and Kevin are off. Jam it up the hill, try to smooth it out down and around, use Scott's lines from the first lap where I can. A little too much braking, but enough climbing that Scott has popped, and I'm on my own chasing. 10 seconds. I'm alone.

10 seconds becomes 15 becomes 20 in the next few laps, until the elastic breaks and all of a sudden it's 30, then 40. All the while, Scott is behind me, creeping ... with three or four to go, all of a sudden I can see him, and I go into damage-control mode. How bad am I hurting? Should I put in a dig or settle and wait? Just keep it steady/strong, make him work for me, and then see what happens? I choose the latter, and since first is up the road I concentrate on 2nd place ...

Everyone is screaming -- Scott's been away from the Midwest for too long, and everyone is screaming for ME! Go Chris! (Except one lady, but she was with Scott, and somehow I heard her EVERY lap near the pavillion.) He's gaining, gaining -- I lose time on the twisty stuff, gain it on the hills, and then lose more on the logs. I know I'm not as smooth as he is, and I can feel it every time I take a bad line, or bounce off a root, or roll over a log stump ... Some guy tells me there's two guys chasing, oh crap I will NOT finish 4th!!!

Scott catches me with 2 to go, and it's game on. (The other guy must have been a lapper.) I let him past, and even though he opens a 3-4 second gap, I'm OK with that -- the hills are still mine, and there's no full advantage yet. I put in a dig on the steep just before the field, and he's gapped, but claws right back on. Hmmm ... He's smoother through the barriers, faster on the turns, and I keep making stupid mistakes that put me in the weeds. I'm more tired than I know, but I'm not cramping and I'm able to charge back up.

And then we hit the logs. He hops, I run ... and there's a gap. 5 seconds. CRAP!!! It's pucker time ... he's smooth through the turns, and we pop out on the road with me trailing as we get the bell ... oh, no, this is NOT happening ... my plan is to attack him in the hills, it's my only chance, I MUST have a gap before the barriers and run-up ... but I have to be on his wheel to make that happen ... Closing on the start hill, he descends smoother than me but I finally lay off the breaks ... I have to be perfect through here ... I am, whew! ... we hit the hill and I GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!

I gap him. He's there as we descend, but I jam hard on the false flat, and harder on the next steep. Verge of cramping, heart in my throat. Have to be smooth, have to be smooth. Gogogogogogogogogo ... Screaming fans, Dave is going wild, over the barriers, 180 a bit wide as I catch a glimpse of Scott running ... he's right there gogogogogogo ... good lines, good runup, need to be perfect again ... make it happen ... lap traffic, crap, good lines, c'mon, go, smooth, turn, good, logs off ... SHIT! I crotch my saddle on my skinsuit on the remount, and all of a sudden I'm stuck ... hanging off the back of my bike, I can't clip in but I can pedal one-legged while I try to regain my composure ... Scott is there, just behind, hopping the logs, C'MON, this is NOT HAPPENING YOU IDIOT!!!!! There. On the saddle. GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!

I jam on the flat, knowing that I need to have perfect lines and a strong sprint to beat him. My lines are good, he's still back there, and we pop out onto the pavement and I jam it. 100 meters, 80, 50, and whew. It's over. 2nd place!

Kim asked me later if I was happy with my race. For the most part, yes -- I needed to go with the leader when he went, instead of sitting back, but I can say that this was one of my better races and I was able to make it happen instead of waiting for it to come to me. Racing Scott was fun -- we're pretty evenly matched, in that he has a TON more experience and right now I've got the edge a bit on fitness -- and Kim said you could see it on his face that he did NOT want to finish behind me. So from that perspective, I feel good -- it was a fun way to open the season, and an encouraging start to my campaign. And did I mention it was fun?!?!?

Standing on the podium was surreal -- I never thought I'd see that day, especially in Wisconsin. I always seem to manage 4th or 5th, so it was a lot more fun to have to climb the step up! Congrats to Jeremy for 3rd AND the beer prime -- seems he's starting to get the hang of this 'cross thing? And to Kevin for hanging on in 4th as Scott and I battled it out ...

It's raining today, so we'll have a slick course, and I hear a few of the big guns will be coming back for it. Scott will be there too I hear ... this is gonna' be fun ...

11 October 2007

Practice, practice, practice

Another great 'cross practice last night -- we reversed the course, so it was all new, all night. Fast with the wind, brutal into it, but it was 'cross weather baby! The kids on the soccer fields were heckling us, but when they asked us whether we were triathletes and we said no, cyclocrossers, they knew exactly what we meant. Cool.


The leg is coming along. Still sore, but now it's just charlie horse sore. Still a lump but I should be good to go this weekend.


Check out what I saw on the way home from work the other day -- I had to do a U-turn in the middle of Clark Street to take these pics with my camera phone ... best bumper stickers I've seen all year! Have you hugged YOUR Goat today?

10 October 2007

Con - fer - mation

It's ON!!!

5:25 p.m. 11/6: Depart ORD
7:20 a.m. +1 Day: Arrive LHR
6:40 p.m.: Depart LHR
6:50 a.m. +1 Day: Arrive LUN

Woo-hoo! I'm pretty psyched, as you can imagine. Sure, it means no Iceman for me, but I wasn't signed up anyway. It also means Angell Park will be an interesting event -- I may just exhibit that day and not try to race, considering I'll have been back in the Midwest for only 48 hours by race time. But who knows? Nothing like a 'cross race to shock the body back to reality!

And yes, you're reading that right: an 11-hour layover in London. I've been told on the way out to go in and enjoy Kensington Gardens, and on the way back to just find a hotel for a few hours. London's not my favorite town, but it'll be fun nonetheless! Tally ho!

Oh! And at least I don't have to fill out any silly forms!

09 October 2007

It's 'crosser-bashing time

IT'S CROSS SEASON!!!!!!!

Kim accused me of not being as excited for this 'cross season as I have been in the past. I suppose in a way, that's true -- I've had a pretty fun year so far, so it's not like I need 'cross to feel better like I have in the past. Job is good, riding is good, life is good ... and 'cross is suffering, pure suffering!

Add to that a crazy travel schedule -- I will be in six time zones, four countries and four states in the span of four weeks coming up -- a lack of UCI racing (except Jingle 'Cross, of course!), and a ton of work stuff, and it's hard for me to concentrate one day ahead, let alone 8 weeks. But that's where we're at now -- this Sunday will mark 2 months until Natz!!

So don't take the lack of cross-talk as a lack of enthusiasm. I'm super-psyched for this year -- I won't be racing quite as much, but I think I'm better rested and in better shape than I've ever been at this time of year. It'll be a bit hectic fitting everything in, but with a killer weekend in Madison to open it up in a few days (two of my top-3 favorite courses), I'm ready. Bring it on!!

Leg update: I've still got a big knot on my quad, but I was able to do a light workout this morning with no immediate side-effects. I can't stand and power yet, but with judicious care I should be good to go for this weekend.

Bike update: I stripped down and rebuilt the pit bike this weekend. Just waiting on some bar tape, and it'll be ready to go. At right around 19lbs., it's not bad to have a pit bike you can rely on!

Trip update: Still finalizing details, should know for sure today. At the very least, we'll be in California with family in two weeks, Arizona for family (and probably an MTB race!) two weeks after that, and then 42 hours on the ground in Chi-town before I head to Heathrow and on to Lusaka. Yikes!

07 October 2007

That sucked

Last WORS race of the year. Fun course. Lots going on in life, no chance to pre-ride. Drive up with anticipation, looking forward to it. Check out parts of the course during warmup ... oh, yeah, I remember now. Lots of roots.

Goooooooo ... and 8 minutes later my MTB season was over. OK start, nothing spectacular (still have to work on that), stood my ground when we got to the singletrack, following and not loosing too much to the guy in front of me ... and then I was standing, pedaling, and hit a root. My chain dropped, and before I knew it I was on the ground, tangled in aluminum.

By the time I got rolling, I was dead last, with the Comp start echoing in the background and the women all past me. I figured I'd try to ride a couple of laps, but it wasn't to be -- I had a welt the size of a tree root developing on my quad muscle, my knee was swelling, and the charlie horse I was experiencing was so painful that I couldn't put any pressure on my left leg. I made it 3/4 of the way up the Equalizer before my body realized how much pain I was in, and that was it.

What a crappy way to end a disappointing WORS season. Only 3 finishes, and none of them very good. I think what pisses me off the most is that this DNF wasn't my fault. It wasn't a mechanical that dropped the chain, it was just a freak moment of bounce just as I tried to pedal. And now it's put the start of my 'cross season in jeopardy -- the quad injury is that deep, but we'll see how the week progresses.

At the very least, I'll be changing my WORS number next year. 58 was my high-school football number ... what the hell was I thinking, choosing something with that much baggage? And it's not even a good number to begin with!

And that's where I'm at tonight, mentally. I'm looking forward to 'cross, but ending the cross-country season on such a low note makes me want to get back out there ... can't wait to start training for next year ...

BIG congrats to Brad Majors for destoying the field at the 24 Hours of DINO -- kicking some Hoosier butt! Way to go!

04 October 2007

Pre-flight

Almost ready to book it!!

Enduro love ...

Check it:

http://www.ride424.com/reviews/

It was cool to meet Karl out at Interbike; I wish I had seen this story sooner!

Big cuppa'

Today is a big cup day. I barely made it out of bed on time, and the entire ride to work was just a bit on the sore-and-painful side. Starbuck's House Blend cures all evils.

Just 4 days to go in the mountain bike season, and 5 until 'cross season officially starts for me. Last night was my second full-on 'cross practice, and I nailed it -- hard. First time out on the A bike, two solid 10-minute efforts (short course, which means a TON of barriers), some starts, and a bunch of hill repeats on Mt. Trashmore until it was so dark I couldn't see. Or maybe that was the blood rushing to my head. Thanks to Amy for sticking around to cajole me into completing the full workout, or I may have gone home early.

We've got a conference call with a major TV network in 45 minutes, and the Northwestern U student TV station will be here in just over an hour to film interviews for a program that will air on Channel 20 on Sunday night. Very cool.

I *think* I'm ready for Sunday -- I won't be able to preride the course since we have an event on Saturday night, but I figure I'll hit certain areas of Palos as a pre-ride to get myself ready. (Cemetery Hill = Equalizer?) I'm not too stressed about it -- by this point in the season, I've done all I can on a mountain bike racing-wise, and pre-riding would probably only get me a couple of minor placings. Instead, I'll take it as a challenge -- my ability to read new trail has come a long way in the past 2-3 months, and this will be a perfect chance to try it out in a race situation.

The Goat has posted some awesome video that is sort of charging me up -- I'm pretty bummed that the Roots of All Evil is running downhill, though. That was my favorite part of the course last year.

I'm kind of interested to see how it goes -- this will be the first repeat Elite race for me, as Sheboygan was my first-ever Elite race last year. I almost passed out twice ... will I be willing to push myself that far again? Will a full year of riding translate to better skills? Will the hardtail prevail over the Rush? Stay tuned ...

03 October 2007

Well, we don't recycle, but ...

Check it:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/Story?id=3682322&page=1

And oh, my gosh. The Heartland looks amazing. So excited. More soon, need to catch up on emails and voicemails ...

02 October 2007

"Day off"

So today was my day off. Ha!

Slept in until 9, got up in time to grab breakfast and get on a 9:30 conference call. Done about 11. Return emails. Grab Kim's bike -- the only one not in pieces -- and get down to the dentist. Done about 2. Ride up to Heartland Cafe to hang Leah's photo's for Saturday's event (7 p.m., also hanging all month -- check it out, it's awesome!). Come home, return emails in between core workout sets. Quick run, then rebuild my Cannondale.

I still haven't unpacked.

Strange thing is, I'm totally energized right now. So many awesome, great, cool things are happening (think two major media network contacts in the past 24 hours!!!!), and I can't wait for the next thing to come along. I just need to keep up!

01 October 2007

The truth

Watching the industry cup finish over and over again today at work:

http://tinyurl.com/2w597a

Reality is, some dipsh*t throws a bottle at the crowd coming through the start/finish, then loses control and takes himself down. Zellmann pile-drives him and cartwheels, sending his bike into the crowd. Check out at about 1:01 on the video, then keep watching for the replay.


Cipo got through clean, but then sat up and went back to check on the other riders. Classy move.


In the meantime, the K-monster turned 4 on Monday! She had to wait until Uncle Chris got home to celebrate ... and celebrate she did. Happy b-day -- check out those pretty nails!!