Friday, February 27, 2009

on the eve...

It was tough saying goodbye to cross season last weekend. It was so awesome being able to watch the WCs, SPs and GVAs this season on the web. I'm a big Nys fan, so the last GVA capped off the season in a way that made me smile.

So what now? As the cross racers take a well deserved nap, it's now time to get super pumped for the Classics. So, on the eve of the second best season of the year, let's raise a glass to the sick pups who thrive on 6 hour battles in the pissin' rain.









Monday, October 6, 2008

The WI racers know how to party

Hey, it's been awhile. How y'all doin'? We got our first taste of WI cross a couple of weeks ago at the Jonathan Page Planet Bike Cup. Let me tell ya. This gang of merry cross racers know how to party. And yell. And ring bells. Oh yeah, and pedal really hard. The only bummer from the spectator standpoint was Wells not having a fair shake on Saturday with a flat early, which made JP's win a bit of a formality. Still an incredible show of horsepower though. Sunday's race was a bit more interesting, with JP visiting the pits a few time. Then watching him close the gaps and then winning the sprint. Again, too bad Tim had some mishaps. But Troy and Michael Mueller made the race interesting too. All good stuff.

The good doctor has been on a roll. A sixth and fifth the first weekend and then a fifth and third this past weekend has her sitting pretty in fourth for the cat 3 women's points series. It's really a lot of fun watching her settle in and race a new group of faces. It always amazes me how cool the ladies are to each other. Two weeks in and they are all chatty and they do their post-race, war-story, cool-down laps together. Really good stuff.

The courses have been interesting. The JP cup was along the lines of Canton for you New Englanders. A lot of really hard pedalling sections and some good turns to test the handling and accelerations. This past weekend was different though. Rebecca said Saturday's course was the most fun she has had on a cross bike. I thought it was fun too. The only thing I can really compare it to is the Winding Trails mountain bike race course, but on cross bikes. Lots of fun ups and downs and twists and turns. Yesterdays course was fun because it got a little slick with some rain. So all in all there have been some fun races.

Oh, me? Pfft. After 8 weeks off the bike and only about 1600 miles this spring/summer before the hiatus in July and August, let's just say I am only trying to avoid being lapped. And I haven't been very successful. I keep telling myself that I am out here to practice technique and get in a good workout. It's all good.

Other than racing, Wisconsin has been a lot of fun. The weather was awesome in September and we are starting to find our way around. The road riding is really nice and we are looking forward to getting the mountain bikes out.

Oh, and if all of you back home think you have it rough having to pay $4 for parking at Look Park, we had to shell out $18 just to park yesterday. Get this. $10 for the car and $4 for each bike on the car. It's like that at all of the state parks. I'm glad we didn't bring pit bikes. We were hunting for change in the seats as it was!

Best of luck to everyone at Gloucester this weekend. We'll be ringing cow bells and wishing we were there. It'll be the first Gloucester we've missed. I hope it's the first and last one at that.

Hey, thanks for reading! Miss you all.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cross in New Germany?

So, we are here. Here being our new home of Milwaukee, WI. It was a long drive, but we had a tremendous surprise mid-way when we had breakfast with Rosey at an IHOP in Avon, OH. Our paths crossed simply by chance and what a great treat it was. That boy looks fit and appears happy after riding 3800+ miles across the country. He has inspired me to ride home from WI next summer. And even though my trip will only be 20% of what his is going to end up doing, I will feel a bit connected to him by it. Maybe I can even talk him into coming with me!

Everyone has been incredibly nice and helpful so far. It's a wonder we actually get by in spite of ourselves back in New England. Rarely do you see people go out of there way for a stranger. It seems like the norm here. If only...

Rebecca is flying right now and is really psyched for cross. I, on the other hand, am a bit behind in my preparations. But I will be going back to MA for the month of August to do three things: finish the bikes I have on order, study for the MCAT and ride my fat ass off. Well, at least 5 pounds of my fat ass hopefully. Judging by my current condition, I am writing off September and most of October with the hope of coming on strong later. Maybe I'll even give a poke at Nationals. Hell, I'd have the opportunity to race the collegiate race and the 30+ race. Pretty cool, right?

More updates to come. But I can say one thing. All of the bike riders I have met out here so far are psyched for cross. I'm looking forward to ripping it up with them!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My birthday present, her no-reason presents

3 months and 16 days until the start of the 2008 WI cross season. And that just happens to be my brithday. Not a bad way to celebrate if you ask me. We are getting ready for our move to Milwaukee at the end of July. Lot's of bikes to build before then though. I got around to assembling the wifey's weapons for the fast approaching season. I built these frames some time ago, but didn't have the parts. She hounded me long enough and I got them together. There was one happy camper in the house that day!
Everything else is pretty much the same. I hope everyone is doing well. Happy riding to you!






Thursday, February 28, 2008

My cross budget currency and they aren't dollars

This past season was pretty enlightening. It gave me some clear ideas of what gear is actually important and influential in the outcome of my race. And also what is not at all important. It was further reinforced by my trip to cross worlds. Hey, I know they are paid to ride what they ride, but it speaks volumes to me when I see a pro be ultra-anal about anything. I have never seen pros be more nuts about anything more than how nuts the crossers were about tread selection and pressure. From talking with people (pros and mechanics alike) on the mountain and road sides of things, I get the sense that there are a lot of pros who simply ride whatever the mechanic puts in their hands. The crossers, on the other hand, paid strict attention to all details. It reminded me of a pilot doing final checks before taking to the air. This was true of both the men and the women. And the last thing that was always checked and checked again was pressure. We also got to see them on Friday when they were out testing different treads and widths out on the course. The mechanics had lots of wheels in the pits and around the course for testing. That drove home the point even further.

Okay, I'm getting to my point now. We all have budgets to spend on our bikes. But around the late fall, I started to think of every cycling dollar I spent in terms of "could I get a bigger return on that dollar if it went towards another wheel set/tubular combination rather than what I am thinking of spending it on?" They weren't dollars anymore, they were tubulars.

There has been a lot of "ultimate build this" and "perfect frame material that" talk lately. You obviously need a bike to race. A reliable one that makes it through a race is the second most important thing. Even better if the bike fits and handles the way you want it to. But when you are 30 minutes into a race, I don't think it matters if you have D/A or 105 on your bike (provided the parts are in good working order and maintained). Your tires are still working for you though. Maybe they are even saving you! If given the option, I would always choose three sets of wheels and different treads over one set of bling wheels. The only wild card in this whole budget conversation and what should take priority is whether your area requires two bikes (like Portland) or if it is a nice to have (like New England over the past couple of seasons).

Cross is hard. The engine and mind are first and foremost important. Then you need a bike that will get you through a race. But in your preparations, what is the next most important thing? I’m truly beginning to believe that it is your selection of wheels, tires and a good pump and not a top-tier group set or a ti bolt kit or some such other nonsense.

Happy off season to you. The pre-season is right around the corner.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

One of those days...

Click me...

Hump days, I tell ya.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Super-Euro-Geek Status

I first saw one of these sweet inflators at Natz a couple of years back. Then I saw Stu wielding one in the Cyclocrossworld.com pits all season. The straw that broke the camel's back was EVERYONE had one in the team boxes at Worlds. In my never ending quest to be the world's biggest cyclocross poser, I knew I had to have one. Rumors ran rampant that they were no longer made. Yes, the Wurth-produced model is no longer available, but Craftsman to the rescue! Behold, my new favorite toy...

Set the pressure you want (up to 40 psi), hold the trigger and it shuts off automatically when it hits the pressure. The inflator itself will inflate to 200 psi, but the auto shut-off does not work over 40 psi. But for cross, who cares? You shouldn't be running your cotton casing tubs over 30 psi anyway. You aren't, are you?


The inflator comes stock with a hose for Schraeder valves and an adapter for Presta. But the only way to fly is to use a Silca head. Yes, I sacrificed the hose from my 19 year old Silca pump.

I took the old barb that screws into the Silca pressure guage, turned it down to fit into the inflator and added a few ribs to give it some bite. I am sure there other creative ways to make it work if you don't have a lathe handy. But I do. So I used it.


Want one of your own?
http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00911586000P
You also need to buy the battery pack and charger.
http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00911374000P
http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00925926000P

Ridiculous waste of money? You bet! But now the good doctor can pump up her tires exactly the same way every time. Be the first on your block to have one...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Overheard...

"Do you think anyone will notice if a couple of those PRO-issue-only 46 tooth DA rings go missing?"

Which way?

The bikes of Sven. Remarkably boring in the best way possible. Perfect, reliable race machines. Nothing at all odd. Except maybe one thing. Yes, one thing in particular caught my eye. Can you pick it out? Here's a hint. The second photo.






Worlds Mascot

Ummm.....sure.....


It's a rock. Lake Bandie is full of stones and no sand. The rock guy is the mascot. Come on, get it?

At the expense of my good friend who will remain nameless...

Saturday night. Dinner in Venice.

My good pal orders a beer. A Hoogarden. Good stuff, right?

Beer comes in a MONSTER glass. Doublegood stuff, right?

Sunday. Spectating during the men's race.

My good pal, with his chest puffed out, recounts his AWESOME HUGE beer to our new Belgian buddies.

Belgian guy says "Hoogarden? That's girl's beer."

Ouch.

Anyone care for a Lightweight?

Santa? Santa, are you out there?

The view

Way harder than Gloucester...


Those hills were pretty nasty.

Pearls of wisdom...

During the men's race, we were sandwiched in with some very cool Belgian folks. The Erwin Fans Club surrounded us, which was awesome. They asked us all about veldrijden in the US, told us about how Erwin loves to travel and race in the states and told us how they want to come visit. Ironic, isn't it?

One of our cheering-mates was Tom De Kort. He races for the AVB-USSPA Cycling Team, which is the feeder team for Fidea. Super nice guy. He was happy to offer some advice, and I think taking it from him was a no-brainer.

"I focus 110% on my handling techniques. That is my strong point. If I can make 1 second up in 5 corners per lap of a 10 lap race, that's 50 seconds."

Talking with him further brought out that if you are faster in the corners, you must lead through them. It will either a) force your opponent to burn energy to close the gap or b) force your opponent to make a mistake. The feeling I got from him was not to rest by following into the corners because your opponent can then dictate a comfortable pace for himself. Your advantage has effectively been neutralized.

Oh, and he loved the New Belgium flag. So much so that I gave him my sweatshirt.

It runs deep...

Met a nice couple at dinner one night...

Italian Lady: Are you here in Bologna for vacation?
Me: Si, we viewed Campionati del Mondo di Ciclocross en Treviso. Then we came here.
Italian Man: Ahhh, ciclismo.
M: Si. Are you a fan?
IM: Some....ahhhh...how you say....I loved Pantani.
M: Me too. He was one of my favorites.
IL: It was a very sad day.
IM: Very hard, I cried.
M: Me too.

Overheard...

"Vai, Vai, Vai!"
"Hop, Hop, Hop!"
"Venga, Venga, Venga!"
"Allez, Allez, Allez!"
"Hup, Hup, Hup!"
"GO JONATHAN!!!"

The misses has some lungs I tell ya. Do you hear that ringing?

Monday, February 4, 2008

How to look like a jackass in front of Rabo mechanics...

The Rabobank mechanics for Lars Boom stayed at our hotel. His camper was there and everything. Well, everything except Lars. At breakfast Sunday morning, there was a little small talk.
I asked "so will it be Sven Nys or Lars Boom?"
Very puzzled look from Mr. Rabo. "Huh?"
"To win today, Sven Nys or Lars Boom?"
"I don't understand what svennees is"
"Sven or Lars?"
"Oh! You meant to say 'Nys'"

Lesson learned. It's Nys as in nīs, not nēs. Get it right, jackass.

The Belgians love the Belgians. The Italians love everyone. Except maybe...

Belgian goes by...everyone cheers
JP goes by...everyone cheers
Italian goes by...most everyone cheers, but the Italians make up for those who aren't by cheering really freakin' loud and going bonkers
Last placed rider from Norway goes by...I cheer with the Italians and the Belgians look at me funny
Next lap Parbo goes by...I cheer and even the Italians look at me funny

One guy looks at me and points at Parbo.

"Hairy legs."

No respect.

Mandatory...

If you like cyclo-cross, you owe it to yourself to go to Worlds at least once in your life.
If you love cyclo-cross, you must go to Worlds as soon as possible.

Water? Nah...

Trattoria Owner: Posso offrirle qualcosa?
Me: Il Vino rosso della casa, per favore.
TO: Aqua?
M: No, grazie.
TO: [in English] Water is for washing in the morning anyway.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

TK rules

So what's on my mind 8 days prior to our departure for Treviso? My pal TK sent me this and it sums it up just about perfectly.

GO USA!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Simple setup tricks

After assembling hundreds of bikes over the years, I have refined my approach to how a bike should be cabled. I have two goals when running cables on a bike.
1. Create the cleaniest, most efficient route with very easy loops rather than harsh bends.
2. Keep the housing off the paint.

First, cut the front sections of housing so that there is one arc around the head tube. A lot of riders will try to have the rear derailleur housing on the right side of the head tube. All this does is force the housing onto the head tube and the paint. And it creates another bend in the housing. A SRAM setup will look the same as the Campy setup below. A Shimano setup will have even easier bends coming from the STI levers.

The rear brake enters the left slot, the rear derailleur enters the middle slot and the front derailleur enters the right slot. Then, cross the derailleur cables. This allows the rear derailleur cable to exit from the right slot. On bikes with down tube routing (this includes road bikes of course), the derailleur cables will cross under the down tube. On some frames, the layout of the braze-ons will not allow this. In that case, you will have to run your cables the more common way.

Create your housing loops at the seat cluster such that the housing rest on the seatpost rather than the paint on the frame. And better yet, you may put a wrap of tape on your post for the correct saddle height and then have the housing rest against the tape. Nothing gets rubbed by the housing except the tape. Also remember to run the housing in such a way that you can get to your seat post binder bolt.

And that's it! You are left with very tidy housing runs and none of the housings are touching your frame.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tim's new kit...



Courtesy of singlestoph over on the WW board. This was the Swiss cat 1 race where he finished 8th. Interesting race venue. Imagine racing on a runway in an airfield? Reminds me of Jalabert's win on the runway in Mende at the 95 Tour .

The slowest month of the year...

Look. I don't complain much. But the boredom is driving me to do this.....

Father time slammed on the brakes. Doesn't January feel like slow motion?

Time began hitting warp speed in August (August!) this season. The anticipation of the weekend cross races made the weeks fly by. The day job was tolerable, for there were great times that lie ahead on Saturday and Sunday. Trips were planned. Friends peppered each other with texts and emails. Things were good.

Cross season ended, but the Christmas season began. Parties, road trips, and plenty of other fun to keep one's mind occupied.

Then, my least favorite day of the year. January 1. The cross season is over. The Christmas season is over. The work season has arrived. It warps space-time worse than a super-massive black hole. And sucks the fun out of the room in a similar fashion.

This blast of nice weather has certainly helped. But can someone please hit the fast forward button? We leave for Treviso on the 24th. It feels like months from now. Thank God our vacation will carve out a week's worth of the slowest month of the year. Just get me through to February.

On a happier note, JP is starting to kill it over in the Motherland. A fine 5th place yesterday ahead of some top runners. And it looks like Tim and Jeremy are finding their legs too. I have to say I am not a big fan of Tim's new National Champion kit. Please just give me the traditional stars and bars in the appropriate colors. I don't think trying to incorporate the national colors into the existing team kit ever looks good. But what do I know. Here's what I know. The last good National Champ kit I can remember was Freddy's Domo kit. Proper.

I'm off to take some freakin' happy pills.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What's worse than golf?

Being put into a foursome who you don't know and having to pretend like you care. Yup, I'm being pissy about it. I hate golf. It bores the living hell out of me. Throw in a little forced small talk with other sales people I don't know and I am in my own freakin' purgatory.

Maybe I need one of these. The golf sucks survival kit.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

It's a new year...

Last year was a good year. Lots of great fun. I reflect back and try to figure out ways that I could have had more fun and then set goals based on that. If I was going faster, would that have made the races more fun? Good question. Probably not. How much fun I had at the races this season (and every year in the past) depended largely on the gang of people at the races. I guess that is why I have had more fun at cross races than mountain bike races over the past 5 or 6 years in general. I don't know many people at the mountain bike races anymore. In the early to mid 90's, there was a large group of us from Berkshire County that went to every mtb race. When I was at UMass in the late 90's, a bunch of us from the team went to all of the Pedros races together. We had a blast and it was very much like how the cross scene is today. A lot of those folks don't race anymore. Some don't even ride. Now when I go to a mtb race, I typically go, race, and leave. Hopefully I get to see Kerry, Karen and Jeff, CTodd, Colin R, Rosey, PVB, Milliman, Doug, Sean C, the Oakes family, Johny J and Donna and a few other very friendly folks. But the vibe is just different. So one goal for 2008 is to get to know more of my fellow mtb racers better.

The cross community is just unreal. And I was very privileged to get to know quite a few people much better this year. By the end of the season, our gang of hell raisers and crazy super fans grew to ridiculous proportions. I can only hope the races in WI, MN and IL are similar. Going to the races can't be just about the race itself, can it?

OK, so maybe I lied above. Yeah, it would have been cool if I was faster towards the end of the season and could have hung with Kenny, Rosey , Colin, Cort, Ronnie, Christian and Chris B. They got faster as the year went by. Surely, racing tête-à-tête against your buddies is much more fun than racing some dude you don't know. So yes, I want to get faster.

I know, I know. I'm not going to be racing in New England during the 2008 cross season. I will be racing a bunch of people I don't know, so what does it matter anyway? Well, I still want to get faster. My buddies will get faster this year and I don't want to be way off the back when I get to race them in 2009. Achieving these goals ought to help make that happen.

Goals
1. Get down from 71 kg to 65 kg (there is plenty there to lose)
2. Increase my FTP from 240 watts to 260 watts
3. Increase my 1 min power from 535 watts to 575 watts
4. Increase my 5 min power from 350 watts to 375 watts
5. Increase my 20 second power from 840 watts to 900 watts.

For cross, I think the shorter duration max power numbers are more meaningful than 60 minute FTP. It's not a 40 km time trial. There isn't much steady effort happeneing in a cross race. It's all about hard accelerations followed by 1-3 minute periods of riding over threshold, rest in a corner and repeat. So that is what I am going to focus on. During the spring and early summer, I will focus more on FTP and threshold for the longer mtb races. But I have no use or need to go out and do 4-5 hour L2 rides. Frankly, I don't have time for it and I don't really see how it will help me get faster. I won't be racing at 175 watts. Why the hell do I need to go out and do 175 watts for 5 freakin' hours then?

I don't know if the power goals are attainable, but I think an improvement of 7-9% seems reasonable. I really just started training again in July after quite a few years of just riding (and not riding). So a good step up should be within reach. I think the weight goal is attainable though. I was still pretty chunky at 156#. And looking back in my logs from college, I was down around 145# when I was riding well.

I didn't put any race results in my goals because there are too many variables that go into the outcome of a race. But I would like to win a Sport mountain bike race and earn my Expert upgrade. And I would like to win a cat 3 cross race in WI and earn my cat 2 upgrade. I would like to make it back east for Gloucester. I would also like to make it to KY for the GP and Kansas City for Natz. OK, one stretch race goal would be a top 15 finish at New Belgium Worlds.

So that's it. The main goal this year is the same as every other year. To have fun with the gang, make new friends and hopefully bump into a friend from the past. I don't get paid to ride my bike. I'm not going to act like I do. There's nothing to get stressed out about. After all, we're adults riding bicycles. Why the hell would you want to turn that into work?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cheers!

Here's to a great season. We will miss you all next year. But we will be back to good ol' New Belgium for 2009. In the meantime, if you find yourself in Cheddar Country after August 1st, look us up!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Catching up

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I am behind in everything. Work, bikes, riding, the house, etc.

A quick recap of Sterling and Palmer before the PDX report.

Sterling

I got my head on right for this race. I started hard, rode in the top 10/15 for the first few laps and faded as my lack of riding and lack of fitness caught up with me. But it gave me great hope for next year. It was fun going that fast for 20 minutes or so. I did what I could to hang on for a top 30, and 29th is where I landed.

Palmer

Super fun course, as it always was all those years in the past. A few of us racked our brains trying to remember the last race there. I was pretty tired from the day before and started pretty conservatively. I got into a groove and started going by a few people. On the last run up I just tagged onto the back wheel of the guy who won the 4 race the day before in Sterling. I gave him a little run for his money but he had some good tactics to keep me behind him at the line. I didn't feel like going straight into the cone at the line, so I backed off. No need to get hurt over 6th place. 7th was fine with me.

I am working on some photos from PDX. All I can say is it was fun, muddy, and well worth the trip out. Portland is an amazing cycling city. Some of the things they have done there to incorporate cycling and bicycles into the daily culture simply blew me away. New Holland? Yeah, I'll take some shit for that one, I'm sure of that.

Preview pictures from last Sundays course after it rained a few inches the night before.








Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm ready

Warning. Sappy ramblings ahead. Mostly for me as therapy.

Lot's of thought over the past couple of days. Hey, I know I'm not making my living at this. But I have always been a competitive person. Primarily competitive with myself.

A timeline

First three races of season

No expectations. Rode as hard as I possibly could. Left it all out on the course. Didn't care if I crashed. Didn't care if I blew apart. Things were good.

Gloucester

Quote from yours truly - "Everything from here is icing on the cake"

What a dumb thing to think or say 5 weeks into the season. I was basically setting myself up for accepting lower results.

Middle of season

Complacency began to set in. I started having expectations. High expectations for 3/4 races and low expectations for 2/3 races. Began looking around more than forward in the races. Became conservative in the first laps. Interestingly, Southington stands out as a race I dug really deep in. I rode as hard as I could for the full 60 minutes. It was a 1/2/3 race. I had no expectations. Just gave it my all. See a pattern developing here?

Trenton

What a learning experience. For the first 5 minutes of each race, I didn't want to risk anything. If someone wanted the line and was prepared to push me for it, I backed off. After there was some sorting out, I started riding and running hard. Hard enough that the top 20 was in reach both days after coming from the mid 40s. The legs were good, but I didn't give them a remote chance of showing it.

Conclusion

So what does all of this mean? What the hell are you getting at zank?

Occam's Razor approach. Take out as many variables as possible. I think it boils down to this.
Good legs + Good mind = Good results
Good legs + Bad mind = Less than Good results

Big surprise, right? Sure, hindsight is 20/20. But it's tought to figure out what's going on at the time.

I'm ready to have some fun again this weekend. A couple of days ago, I thought I peaked at Amesbury. The truth is I think my legs are better now than they were then. My brain just needed a taper. Insert cone head joke here_________________

Happy Thanksgiving to all! And to all a good night.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The legs are there. Same can't be said for the head.

The racing at the USGP in Trenton, NJ was an absolute blast. Lived with Matt, Kenny and Kerry for the two nights. Hung tight with Josh, Sarah, Chris, Brant, Ryan, PVB, Cary, Jeremy and all of the other New Englanders who traveled down. Finally got to do a race that had some slippery mud on the surface. Actually got two really good numbers in the random sort (25 and 36 on the grid Saturday and Sunday, respectively). But, I'm falling back into my old routine. Passive manners have never won a bike race. I am getting spooked by the starts again. Today was silly. Going into the sandpit (about 7 minutes into the lap) on the first lap, someone yelled 46 to me. 46. WTF? How did I get there? Simply put, I let people by. I don't know where my head was at, but it wasn't in Mercer park. The 46 woke me up. By the end of the second lap, I had moved up to 23rd and was closing fast on the top 20. And then I started falling down. I crashed three time on the 3rd lap. I lost a few spots, but hung onto 27th. Why didn't I ride harder at the start? Beats the hell out of me. Yesterday was a similar story. After a very passive start, I was 38th going into the 2nd lap. By lap 6, I moved up to 20th, was with my teammate Josh and felt really good for the final lap. But I sucked my chain up coming out of the sandpit with half a lap to go and lost 8 places. 30 seconds was 8 places. That's racing folks.

Don't get me wrong. I had a blast. Those MAC guys are swell in my book. A few quirky things happened in the races that don't typically happen up here. But they are great hosts and a lot of fun to hang out with. And the course goes down in the top 5 of my favorite course of all time. One particular Devens course and the old UMass course are my favorite courses that are now defunct. And Warwick, RI is my favorite course that is still an active race. But this one was a lot of fun. Some hard false flats, lots of cool off-camber corners, an 80 meter sand pit, a cool fly-over. All good stuff.

Anyone know a good shrink?

See you at Sterling. Maybe Tom Turkey will have some advice for me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quick report

More later. I am running out the door for NH and ME travels this week. Quick thoughts.

Two awesome races. Finally some biting cold temps. Some sweet slick-as-snot mud at Putney.
The Hup women are riding out of their minds.
Jimbo, Matisonic and Jay looked awesome flying the Hup flag for the men.
Great to see Bob T getting some great results again after his battle with Lyme.
GeWilli makes fantastic cookies.
The Waterboy and his son Sean get stronger every freakin' week.
Brant had a storming ride at Putney.
Cort is now making quick work of the Bs. That didn't take long. Sandbagger :-)
I have to re-glue Josh's other wheel for him. There must have been a glue shortage in ME when these were originally done.
Don't underestimate an expert mtb racer's tactics in a 4-up sprint.
Don't make a tactical blunder going into a 4-up sprint and expect anything better than 4th in said sprint.
Chris B has a big motor.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Socially Challenged

OK, two things I have witnessed in my work travels this week. Both guarenteed to make your life as someone trying to sell something harder. Sales 101 here people. Don't do either of these things if you want to keep the attention of your customer for more than 5 seconds.

1. When you are sitting in a room with a customer, please turn your freakin' cell phone off. Yes...OFF. Not vibrate. Do you really think that having the damn thing bounce up and down on the table in vibrate mode is any less annoying than having the ringer go off? And beyond that, if you are dumb enough to keep it in vibrate mode, don't just stare at it when it goes off. Freakin' push the button to ignore the call or email. For crying out loud. What message are you trying to send to the customer? Because they are certainly thinking to themselves "wow, she must have some other stuff going on that is way more important than me."

2. Take the dumb bluetooth thing out of your ear when you walk into a meeting. Nothing says "I'm waiting for someone more important to talk to to call me" more than leaving that ridiculous thing in your ear. Not to mention that you look simply foolish with that blue thing flashing every 5 seconds.

Now, both items can be translated to real life. I have been known to be a prick, but only when you are violating a rule of common sense and being socially inept. Don't start a conversation with me with one of those damn bluetooth things in your ear. I will (and have) ask you (tell you) to take it out. Or if you're constantly checking your phone while we are mid-conversation because I'm not important enough to talk to with your full attention, don't be surprised if I walk away.

Honestly, what happened to common courtesy? Give people your full and undivided attention when you are with them. And if you don't, don't be surprised when they tell you to flip off and walk away. You may think the other person is the a-hole, but you are the one who is socially challenged.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dog days of cross?

Lots of long-faced race reports from the weekend. What's up? Come on fellow racers. We just turned the half way point. There are still at least* 10 more New Belgium races left on the schedule. I can understand. Going into Agawam and Sucker Brook, people were psyched because cross was finally here. Then, New Belgium Worlds in Gloucester kept people full of piss and vinegar. But the intesity is hard to keep up with. And expectations grow. And we are all a "you're only as good as your last result" type of crowd. And the races are getting harder on the legs. And there is less daylight to ride/train in. Hey, that's cross. These are the things we look forward to from January until August. So turn that frown upside-down. You will be a better person and bike racer for it. Stay focused. Work really hard on your recovery after races. Be efficient with your riding time. Make it count or simply rest. No time for junk miles now. Consider this weekend. Two of the longest running and hghly touted New Belgium races of the year at Plymouth and Putney. Race on the courses where legends were made and souls were crushed. Then we are treated to either our "local" GP down in Trenton or the choice between 3 great races up here. Then Sterling, which is quickly becoming a classic thanks to the design and organization talents of one Tom Stevens. The return of the Palmer race! Another grass roots weekend to work off the left-over turkey (or tofurkey) sandwiches. And the culmination of season at the final Verge weekend. Make it hard! Combine the two beach sections at Warwick! We aren't sissies!

So for Runkel's sake. Would ya smile? Stop being tired or sick or bruised or bleeding or whatever. It's cross season. The greatest time of the year.

*stay tuned. RFLCS is trying to put something together.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hard weekend

Instead of the standard blow by blow, I wanted to do something a bit different this week. Kind of an overall account of Chainbiter and Cycle-Smart. Frankly, it is because I had two pretty boring races. They both went like this. Started slow. Got faster in the middle. Felt great for the last two laps. I wish they were both two laps longer.

At first I was a bit disappointed with my results (24th on Saturday and 35th on Sunday). But looking back, I am very pleased. I think both of the races were harder and more selective than Gloucester. The courses, Chainbiter in particular, were much heavier on the legs and I think bike-handling skills counted more. And I think the competition is pretty fierce in our group. Everyone is pretty tight. On a sharp day, when you have those hard accelerations in your legs, you can get top 20. On a duller day, when you lose 5 extra seconds a lap, you are back in the 30s or 40s. It's relentless. I love it.

More later. I am headed to Syracuse for work this week. I will be on my trainer in the hotel room pissing off the people below me.

Congrats to all on their fine finishes this weekend. It's been awesome seeing our band of merry bike racers get bigger every week. I don't know what Rebecca and I will do next year when we show up to the cross races and not know a soul. My voice won't be as roughed up on Mondays from all of the yelling. Who will we share cake with?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Get this monkey off my back

My last go in the Bs at Framington. And I remember suffering like a dog.

11/12/05
Chainbiter
Place Time Bib Name Team
85 pulled 202 Mike ZANCONATO HUP United

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Much junk in the trunk

Today, I was supposed to do one of my favorite workouts. One hour at tempo with a 10 second sprint every 3rd minute. I usually have a lot of fun with this one, because it's fast and I am constantly trying to get the peak watts number up higher on each succesive sprint. I felt tight and labored even during my warm up. I gave it a go, but 15 minutes in I was fighting to keep the watts over 200. The target was 225-240. And the sprints were barely breaking 900 watts. I am usually at 1050-1100. Canton chewed me up pretty good I guess. I backed off, enjoyed the crisp autumn air and took in the sunset. Not a bad day on the bike. But really...is there ever a bad day on the bike? Think REALLY hard before you answer that one. Barring crashes and accidents, I would take a horrendous day on the bike over lots of other things...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Just past the half way point

Damn. This season is going by fast. Time flies when you are having fun. Surprisingly light attendance this weekend. I didn't see many familiar names in the Kentucky results. Where were you guys??!!!

We just past the half way point this weekend and I past the half way point for my cat 2 upgrade. There are 6 awesome weeks of racing left before Nationals.

Dayville was a good warm up for Canton. Lots of rain, 60% singletrack and very small fields. There was one moronically placed set of hurdles that claimed the season of one of our good pals. They put a set of hurdles in a covered bridge with a downhill dirt road approach. Hey, I'm all for a challenging course, but not dangerous. With the rain, you couldn't see in there. Matt Simpson (Feltslave) took a nasty crash into the barriers and was left with a concussion, a broken nose and 7 stitches. We wish him well on a quick recovery. We probably should have spoke up before hand. But nobody wants to be the one to do it. Next time, I'll be the one.

Canton is becoming a monument on the New Belgium calendar. A race to show at. Lots of hard riding, fast corners, the famous Boston Cross mini-hurdles, and much wind on your nose. Polar opposites, with on exception. Awesome people all around.

We got to Dayville in time to see Dan and Tony finish strong in the cat 4 race and then we watched GeWilli kick some butt in his Masters race, eventually earning a nice 4th place. Nice rides, guys! The Women's 3/4 race looked like a Hup cross clinic. The good doctor focused hard to earn 2nd, Sarah came in just after Rebecca in 3rd and Kerry looked super-strong despite not having a warm up and a bit of a frantic pre-race preparation. Our race got underway with 10 guys on the line. I knew that Ronnie, Josh, Colin and Matt would be the guys to watch. I grabbed the hole shot and led up into the sandpit and through the first bits of singletrack. Josh pulled through for a brief moment before losing his front wheel. I don’t recall seeing him again. Ronnie pulled through into the run up and then I took over again after the start/finish for the start of lap 2. I controlled the pace for lap 2, feeling the effects of not riding since last Sunday. Colin came through on me in the sandpit of lap 3, got a gap and pegged it. That was the last time I saw him. Ronnie and I shared the work for the next 3 laps, but I botched the remount and little downhill after the run-up coming into the bell lap. He got a gap and I rode hard to close it down. I just made contact going into the sandpit, but he rode away from me. Ronnie has a big motor. I conserved on the last lap and tried to ride smart to hold onto me 3rd place.

Canton was a great show. It was a little odd that the cat 4 race had over 90 guys and the 2/3 race only had 50. Did a lot of the 3s do the ¾ masters race? I got there in time to see Tom N have a sterling ride in the cat 4 race, right up until a flat on the last lap. He was rockin’ in 5th. That fella is consistent. Nicely done, Tom! Mattison showed some good legs with a strong finish and Tony did well in what I think was his first double weekend. The ¾ women’s field was very large at around 30 I think. Smiles (Dianna) showed everyone her killer remount skills. It’s nice to have a great teacher for a new hubby. Sarah rocked for another top 10 and Kerry looked really good after a better warm up for a top 15 I think.

I thought I won the first race of the day getting to the front row. Then they put the IBC and NAV teams on the front. Oh well. Second row ain’t bad I guess. It was a pretty stacked field. But we missed Yash, who was on the sidelines with injury, and Scott, who was probably hung over from a wedding the night before. Yash was there cheering like a mad man. He’s the best.

The gun goes off and it’s a mad dash to the field. I got a bit swarmed and entered the field pretty far back. I think Josh was on my wheel and he said he was in the 40s. I took every opportunity I could to move up on the first two laps, but there was a lot of soft pedaling going on due to traffic. I eventually worked my way up to a good sized group that contained Kenny, James and a few other familiar faces. Colin M integrated with the group at the same time and then proceeded to shred it with a good attack going up the start/finish hill with now 3 to go. That was just what I needed to get me going. Kenny was right there and we latched on. I kept seeing Myette on some of the switchbacks. He did a storming ride for 4th. He got pipped at the post though by one of the NAV guys I think. Back to where I left off. Poor James had a bit of a fumble in the low hurdles and his derailleur got sucked into his wheel. Total bummer. And then Kenny got a flat. Again, total freakin’ bummer. I got caught behind James a bit as he was suffering his mechanical, so there was a gap to Colin and NEBC Scott. It took some work, but I caught on going into the hurdles by the pit. We got 2 to go and it looked like our group of 3 might work well together to catch Thom Parsons just up the road. But Scott crashed going into the run up and I wedged my front wheel between his down tube and front wheel. Thankfully, we both had the calmness to get things untangled quickly, but Colin was up the road never to be seen again. I buried myself on the last lap trying to catch him and I could feel Josh starting to come up on me as well. That youngster is getting fast. I had a feeling that after he got the mechanical gremlins off his back, he would be a force. But, there was’t enough real estate left for either of us to accomplish our goal. I had to settle for 8th just 3 seconds behind Colin and Josh was just behind me. I was very happy considering the last time I did a B race at Canton a couple of years back I was 42nd and thought I had a great day.

Next weekend is the huge Chainbiter/Cycle-Smart Verge weekend. I am already feeling pumped for it. The goal is to improve on the 30th place I had at Gloucester. The stretch goal is still that one Verge point I want so badly.

Send some good wishes to Yash today. He is going under the knife tomorrow. And also to Matt, who is recovering from his crash on Saturday. Heal quickly, fellas!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A good scrap is in store

Tomorrow will be fun. 7 or 8 of us will fight tooth and nail for the title of Dayville Adventure Sports Cross Cup cat 3/4 champion. The easy call would be a Ronnie, or a Colin, or a Josh, or a Kenny to win. But there are some other scrappers in the mix. Oscar could surprise, Feltslave could destroy souls and Matt could put someone's heart in the blender. I see this one getting personal. Much attacking. Much name calling. Much bumping. Much down and dirty, take no prisoners, spit in your opponent's eye racing.

Whatever the result, one of us will be able to stand tall at Canton the next day as the DAS Cross Cup cat 3/4 champion. If I win, I am going to have a special skinsuit made.

Monday, October 22, 2007

ups and downs

Two great CT races this weekend presented a couple of opportunities to prepare for Canton next week. Two great courses. Mansfield is always a blast and I encourage everyone to consider it for next year. They had HUGE payouts (as in money) for most fields. A really hard course. Free food. Good tunes. The most under-rated race on the circuit. Southington was also a great race. I really like this course too. Very few sections to rest. Three sand features. Lots of good turns. Just a blast.

Also got to do some carpooling with Myette and Kenny this weekend. And I was psyched that the bride was able to come down and spectate on Sunday, even though she just finished an overnight shift and slept for only a couple of hours. It's so much more fun to drive with someone than drive alone. I get enough of driving alone for work. We had Matt's kids, Charlie and Cory, on Saturday and they are so much fun to have around. So darn cute! We also got to have Hup teammates Josh and Sarah stay with us Friday night. We ate burritos, watched Spinal Tap, and laughed about the generation gap. I think we figured out that I did my first cross race when Josh was 4. Time moves on.

Mansfield Cat 3/4
No comment. Well OK, small comment. Flatted in the first corner. Watched everyone ride away. Got to the pit and changed front wheels and then checked on Matt who was stopped on the side of the course. We rode the rest for training. Hands on the tops. Go hard when you want. Saw Oscar J off in the distance on the last lap. Decided to catch him. Led him out for the sprint. Good fun and a good training ride. 18th out of 32 starters.

Southington Cat 1/2/3
60 minutes. I haven't done a long one like this yet. The first three laps were a blur. There were some fast A racers in the group and they got an immediate gap. There was a group forming just ahead of me. Looked to be about 7 riders strong. It included Rosey, Kenny, and Sean C from Bethel. Super fast, super nice guy that Sean fella. They didn't show lap cards until going into our 4th lap. 6 to go (total of 9). Funny thing happened at that moment. That group shattered. I think some of the guys were just a little demoralized by the lap count. So, while I never caught that group ahead, I went by some of the splinters. I think I gained 3 spots on that lap. All that remained from that group ahead of me were Rosey, Cav, Kenny and one other fella I didn't know. They popped Kenny with 2 to go and I caught him. We stayed together for a bit, but I wanted to dish out a little revenge for Gloucester and charged up one of the harder pedalling sections. That's how it all settled out for the last two laps. Cav ended up getting the better of Rosey, the other guy finished between me and Rosey and Kenny was just behind me. End result was 14th out of 32 starters. I was pleased that I felt good going the extra 15 minutes.

From here on out, all of the races are 2/3 races except for the 3/4 races at Brockton, Plymouth and Putney. So my cat 2 upgrade points chase may be over for the most part. But it will be awesome battling in those fields. Next up is a fun race on Saturday and one of the best races of the season at Canton. Hey, thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome to the get spanked session

Looking at the pre-reg list for Sunday's combined A/B race at Southington, it looks like an A race plus me and Josh. Ouch. It's a smaller field so far, but all of the dudes are freakin' fast. It will be a good taste of racing with some of those guys. And it's a really fun course, so it ought to be a blast.

A little clarification

I don't think the message that I wanted to send came across in my last post.

For the record:

I love hurdles. Bring 'em on. Just be creative about where you put them. One set in the middle of a 300 meter grass straightaway does very little to change the face of the race. But the set at Sucker Brook was well placed in my opinion. They hurt pretty good coming off that little rise.

I love getting on and off my bike. I have worked hard over the years to become somewhat decent at it.

Stairs would be cool. I envy the guys in Portland who have that one course with a couple of sets of stairs.

Bring on the sand. A 300 meter beach section would be sick.

I really like hard courses. The point I was trying to make is I think who shows up on race day is more important to cross racing than the course that is put together by the organizers. I would prefer tough competition over a tough course anyday. And having both would be the best case scenario.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why does cross have to be "something" except hard?

I hear it all the time. "Cross is this" and "cross is that". Or something along the lines of "it's not cross because it's not fill-in-the-blank". Common forms are below.

It's not cross if there aren't hurdles.
It's not cross unless it's raining.
Cross is all about mud.
It's not cross if there's singeltrack.
Cross shouldn't be a grass crit.
It's not cross if it's 70 degrees.

I'll tell ya one thing. The only thing cross should be is hard. Cross isn't anything in particular. The racers make it a race. Not the course. Not the weather. Not the current UCI regulations. Not the temperature. Gimme a break. Race each other. Not the course.

I don't know why, but the hurdles thing really bugs me. It's a bike race. It's not a get-on-and-off-your-bike race. Throwing random hurdles into a field is rather unimaginative and rarely changes the face of the race. Obstacles should be there to break the rythm of the race and force changes.

What's the point of all this? As usual, I don't have much of a point. It just makes me giggle when I overhear a rider in their second season of racing cross telling someone else what cross "should be" or "isn't". The only thing it should be is hard. Now go race your bike.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gloucester delivers...

Awesome friends. Perfect weather. First-class promotion, organization and officiating. A super-fast course. What more could one hope for? New Belgium Worlds delivered on all of the hype with two spectacular days of the hardest racing so far this year. And to be honest, I'm glad it wasn't a GP this year. Less hype and more down-home-tooth-and-nail-racing. I think racers in every category had some large tales of rubbin' elbows and tradin' paint. And the pain caves? Deeper than ever. Forget the pitch forks and shovels. We're talking blasting out entire new caverns and veins into the cave. OK, enough of the that. Let's talk racing.

First, just a quick overview of the course. It was similar to years past, but with a few tweaks. The start/finish road is a long drag race up a hill that feels like Alpe D'Huez 7 laps in but something you wouldn't even notice out on a road ride. The start is at the bottom and the finish is at the top. So, drag race up the road, funnel into grass, but still 3 or 4 wide. Down a hill, 180 left back up, hard right traverse, hard right back down the hill into some sweeping right turns and out onto the cinder seawall road. Super fast on the seawall, up a little bit of broken pavement and then a hard, loose right back onto the grass. A quick right and up a short sandy steep hill into two left turns and thne back onto the grass for some more sweeping rights. Then, into the chicane and run up. I really liked the way they set this up this year. Up the hill, hard right 180 and down, hard left 180 and up into two planks. There were many different approaches on how to get over these fast and smooth. I focused more on the fast part than the smooth. It was just hard and there was no way to look like you knew what you were doing. So just freakin' do it, right? At the top of the run, you went down to the backside of the course. This section featured some long hard ridin' sections with some 180s and lots of wind. Then a sand pit that was easily rideable by the time our race hit it. Then another long straight section into another cool chicane and ride up and zip zag down. Then out onto the baseball field, hard right into the finish straight and another drag race into the finish. Most of the spectators were hanging out at the two chicanes and the start/finish hill. It was exactly where you needed to dig deep. Lap times were in the 6-7 minute range.

The good doctor had a couple of fantastic days in the 3/4 womens races. It was the fastest groups of ladies we have seen yet. I am going to try to get her to write something up, but she finished 24th out of the 47 finishers on day one and 21st out of 39 finishers on day two.

Day 1. Wake up the legs.

For day one, they called up the top ten on overall points from last year's Verge series. Some of the guys have moved up to the elites, so that left five call ups. And then they stacked us by order of registration. Due to my lack luster registration skills a few weeks back, that meant a fifth row start spot. The start road bends left and the field tends to hug the bend. So Scott, Kenny and I lined up on the right and went as hard as we could up the right side. I made up some places before going onto the grass. The first two laps were ridiculously fast and everything was a blur. The one thing that I remember distinctly though was I felt pretty blocked up. It was really hard to accelerate and I felt like I was going backwards. Someone said I came through the first lap in 25th or so wiht Kenny, and then I lost contact with him and started to do the slide. It was brutal. At the end of the 3rd lap, we saw 4 to go. I heard a lady say "41st and 42nd" to me and the guy I was with. Something clicked. Anger? Physiology? Determination? No clue. But I started to open up and go harder. I made a couple of spots on lap 4 and went super hard on 5 and 6 and went through some groups and caught Kenny. We were hovering right around 30th, but lost a couple of places to some hard charging guys. Kenny beat me in the sprint for 32nd, so I ended up 33rd. I think I went as hard as I could for 45 minutes, because my hands and arms locked up in a death grip on the drops as I sprinted up the finish hill. I could not open my hands for a minute or two. It was awesome racing with Kenny and we had our own epic battle going on. The speed and depth of the field was incredible. Less than 2 minutes seperated me in 33rd from 2nd place. More importantly, I was just 1 minute out of 15th and the Verge points that I want. About 9 seconds a lap. Within reach? Yup.

Day 2.
My legs felt much better Sunday morning during my warmup. Today, the top 15 from Saturday were called up based on their newly earned Verge points. So that meant another fifth row start for me. But I felt much better going up the right today and made up more spots. Today, Kenny, Rosey and I were sporting the zank blue kits and at one point, the three of us were riding together. I got some nice comments on the blue train after the race. The first couple of laps were crazy fast again. But this time, I heard 20th and 21st when Kenny and I were riding together. We stayed together the whole race, but he was clearly stronger. I could only try to respond to everything he threw at me. I always closed the gap on the sand pit and the two chicanes. But he was turning me inside out on the fast sections. We both started to slow down with 2 or 3 to go and a couple of small groups went through us. We caught PVB with 2 to go and we rode together for the last two laps. Kenny attacked me and Pierre hard on the bell lap, and I was in damage control mode at that point and could not respond. I lost Pierre as well and rolled in for 30th, 2:15 behind the winner. But this time, only 41 seconds out of the top 15.

A few interesting points. On day one, I started slow but opened up and went faster on the last three laps and made up 8 or 9 spots. On day two, I started faster and slowed down on the last three laps and lost 8 or 9 spots. I guess I have to tune my training so that I can start fast and finish fast. Geez, why didn't I think of that before?

I need to learn to corner faster. I felt like I lost ground in every corner. I had a few brilliant turns where I actually went faster than the guys I was with, but I need to do that more often. Am I losing 1/2 to 1 second on every corner? Maybe. That would be enough in itself to get me to the top 15.

Cross is awesome. There are so many amazing people to hang out with at the races it blows my mind. I heard every single cheer. On some laps, I couldn't make out the voice because I was in purgatory, but I really appreciated it all. I was thrilled to see Myette back in the mix after the major scare with his ankle. I am really enjoying getting to know the gang of guys I am racing with in the Bs. Tal I, Colin R, Colin M, Carey F, all super nice guys who can pedal really hard. And being tight with Myette, Kenny, Rosey, Ronnie, PVB, Yash, Jamner, Ziemba, and CTodd helps so much to keep my head in the game and not give in to the pain. GeWilli constantly makes me laugh.And I really apprecaite all of the support and good wishes from everyone who has seen me transition to the Bs this year.

Everything is icing on the cake from here. Myette commented on Friday that if anyone in our little gang could pull a top 30 in our respective races, it was like a win. It felt like that for sure. But I still have some goals for the season. I still want my cat 2 upgrade and I still want a Verge point. Mansfield and Southington will be two good races this weekend to prepare for Canton the following week. And then another big Verge weekend with Farmington and Northampton. Time to sharpen the fitness and the cornering skills.

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's time...

to go. See you all in Gloucester. It's Worlds time. 1287 pre-registered for 2 days of racing. Crazy. We've come a long way, baby.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Calm before the storm

So this weekend was really, really productive. I hated missing the races, but I took a ton off of my plate (not the plate at the dinner table either). It was awesome hearing about so many great rides by many pals. Some great wins by Tom, Justin and Colin. Nice work fellas!!! So many super-positive reports from all over Hup nation. Upgrade points earned, stutter-steps banished, and handling the dreaded "12" lap card with much confidence. I wish I could have seen it all, but be sure that I was cheering for all of you from the confines of my workspace.

Five days remain until Worlds. My biggest goal this week is to stay very cool, relaxed and focused. I had a great 4+ hour ride on Friday that sent me home cracked like never before this year. I had a great over/under workout today and felt really well recovered. The legs feel sharp. I just can't waste any precious energy. I know I have a huge task ahead of me. I will be called up in 40th or so, so finding my way to the front group will make the first two laps super hard. I would rather get to the front group and blow up like you read about to finish 110th than ride conservatively. Maybe I'll watch Rocky III tonight. Hmm, or Rocky II? Tough call.

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's all puppy dogs and rainbows...or something like that

I have this epic training ride planned for today. I am not going to LI this weekend because I need to finish some bikes before New Blegium Worlds next weekend. So today is a monster. I'll be lucky if I can walk later.

Anyway, Josh and Feltslave have both commented on what they think about when they ride. The long, solitary miles gives one much time to think. I think a lot. About my wife, my family, my friends, the world, my job, my co-workers (the other group that doesn't fall under the "friends" tag), frame building, politics, physics, medicine, engineering, effing car, the MCAT, going back to school, physiology, dang she was cute, kids some day, house some day. Oh, and bike racing. Oh oh! Don't forget! A rainbow jersey some day.

Yeah, as dumb as it sounds, I think about a rainbow jersey some day. If you are going to dream, why not dream big? Goals and dreams are different. I know it will never be a white rainbow jersey. But what about a blue rainbow jersey? The place? Mol, Belgium. The event? The Master's World Cyclocross Championships. From what I understand, that course is HARD. Lot's of sand, lot's of heavy pedalling sections, lot's of pain. Lot's of tough old Belgians, Dutchmen, and French dudes just looking to rip the legs off some cheeky American and stuff his heart right into the microwave. Press high for 45 minutes until the damn thing explodes. Eff 'em I say. I'll crush their souls and ride away on a bike made of their bones.

I envision the kit. That beautiful blue rainbow skinsuit. The rainbow has to go all the way arond. No side panels and the bands MUST line up perfectly. How freakin' cool would it be to have the Hup United logo on a rainbow skinsuit? The anti-team team scores big. But what to do with the bottoms? Boonen/Bettini style with the rainbow bands running along the little triangle on the front of the bottoms? Or Cipo style with the bands running horizontally along the bottom of the short panel? A "U" panel with the rainbow bands running along the middle of the panel and around the back across the butt? Would Campagnolo sponsor me if I was Masters World Champion? That would be cool. Ohhhhhh, maybe Francois could make me some sick tubulars with blue sidewalls and rainbow bands. Some crazy cool knee warmers and leg warmers with the rainbow bands would be a must have. I have sketched out every piece of kit in my mind. From the skinsuit, jackets, vests and tights to gloves, shoe covers, caps and leg warmers. one must revere the rainbow and show proper respect with a classy kit. A full kit. Everything must be spotless on the start line. I heard that Sven had a new skinsuit for every race when he was World Champion. It must be tough with white. I wonder if he had lots and lots of jackets made because the mud from his warm ups may not come out perfectly in the wash. You can't have spots on the white rainbow jackets! It will be easier for me to keep the blue rainbow jackets clean.

Hey, dream big. Why not? Your thoughts are free. Spend them with abandon. I'm headed out the door with some tough old Belgian in my sights. I will cross paths with him some day in the future in the sand in Mol. I will get the holeshot. I won't look back. 45 minutes later, I will have that rainbow on my back. Why the hell not? I've already won this race 1000 times over in my head.

And that's what I think about when I ride.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The black cat got lucky this time

That kitty was lucky I wasn't a car or motorcycle. On my way home last night from my ride, a black cat darted out into the road right in front of me. Oh crap. Weight back, lighten the front end. Ba-Thump Ba-Thump. Cat darts away. It felt like a root at Amesbury. Lucky for the kitty I lost twenty pounds. Luckier still I wasn't on a Ducati. Sad for me though. A Ducati would be nice to have.

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Belgium Worlds

Warning! More sappy ramblings ahead....

Gloucester, MA holds a very special place in my heart. My wife's family is from Gloucester and I fell in love with my bride-to-be over the course of the summers of 1998 and 1999 in Gloucester before proposing in 2000. Coincidently, this fledgling little bike race began to take root around the same time. 222 racers showed up in Gloucester in 1999. A huge race in those times. There was no Master's 3/4 race or Women's 3/4 race. You could race A Men, B Men, C Men, Women, Masters, Juniors, or Cub Juniors. I remember the race really well. It was my first fall out of college. I was racing with my pal Major Michael Shenk, who was an instructor at and raced for West Point/Army in around 20th place. On the last lap, a nail found its way through my rear tire and into my rim. That bit of bad luck cost me about 2 minutes and 15 places.

B Men - 55 starters
35 211 Michael Zanconato Northampton CC Pittsfield, MA

Over the next few seasons, Goucester became more and more epic. What was it about this particular race that turned it into one of the premier cross races in the US? Well, the dedication of ECV to put on a world class event was a huge part of it. But why this race? Why Gloucester? Cetainly the views don't hurt. And how the city has embraced the race is great. Not to mention New Belgium in October is breath taking. Was it the freak snow storm? Maybe having Vervecken and Pontoni over helped. Certainly watching local PRO Tim Johnson's wins drew a crowd. My theory is it falls just at the right time in the season. The fair weather cross racers are still enjoying the tail end of their season. The die-hards want bragging rights for the next 2 months. The PROs want UCI points. The leaf peepers see something funny going on in the park and they stop for a look. The kids are psyched to race, with the inevitable win by an Anthony (how many kids are in that family anyway?). It kicks off one series or another, so a good show there gets you the coveted call up for the rest of the season. All of the planets align I guess to draw some of the biggest crowds to the races. Over 1000 racers are already pre-registered for two days of racing. It is our Worlds. New Belgium Worlds. The biggest race of the season.

I have watched the event grow from day one. Sadly for me, I missed racing in 2000, 2001, and 2002. I was there, but not in racing shape. I cheered a lot, but didn't turn a pedal in anger. In 2003, I returned to what was called the Beginner class that year. 19th out of 51 starters. In 2004, I tried my hand at the Bs again. I remember thinking "oh my God, they are going so effing fast." I finished 91st on day one out of 93 finishers and 69th on day two out of 77 finishers. The blizzard of 2005 took its toll on me with a nasty crash on the first lap. I dragged my body around to 76th out of 81 finishers. In 2006, it was back to basics in the C race. I remember psyching myself out right at the start, feeling like I had no business being there. I rode to 23rd on day one out of 50 finishers and 17th on day two out of 49 finishers.

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing really. Except for the fact that I will thinking back to 10/16/99 a lot over the next two weeks. I want the top 20 B race finish at Gloucester that I didn't get back in 1999. No nail this time. I will see that yellow and black Army jersey of Major Shenk leading me around the course. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have the legs and the head for a top 15 and earn the one Verge point that I so badly want this year.

See you at Stage Fort Park.

Seven minutes of fame

New Belgium cross is in full swing now. The fields are getting pretty darn big. The road guys have shifted their focus, the specialists are showing up in droves, and first-timers are digging their new tunnels into the pain cave. We missed some mountain bike racers due to the Vermont 50 though. We will see them all at Gloucester though in two weeks.

Amesbury, MA was the site of the race yesterday. I really liked the course. The first "half" was in the woods. Lots of sandy turns and exposed roots. I thought it was very similar to Caster's in Warwick, RI. For obstacles, there was one set of planks, one steep downhill with a left 180 at the bottom and then a set of ridable stairs that went back up, and a cool off camber section on the grassy side. The grassy side was where the guys with power turned on the after-burners. A couple of nice long straights and some 180 corners. Overall, the course was very well laid out. But I am not one to complain about a course anyway. We all have to ride the same one. There were a lot of comments on the roots and the sandy corners. Hey, that's cross! You guys will get your grass freeway in two weeks at Gloucester. I rode the FMBs at 30 psi and they hooked up nice.

The good doctor has come out of her shell. It was a very large 3/4 women field (about 30-40 I would guess). Kenny A's wife Dianna toed the line for her first cross race on her shiny new Redline. We have nicknamed her "smiles" because that is what she did all the way around the course! I think she is hooked. To all of you women out there who are thinking about giving cross a try, go for it! It's a blast! And all of the boys will cheer for your guarenteed. Sarah and Kerry were also there representin'. Kerry is a machine. After doing the 3/4 race, she lined up with the 1/2/3 women later in the day. Her tunnel in the pain cave took a few new turns this weekend!

Rebecca got herself on the front row and had a great start. She was third going into the woods, but she tanked it on the first tricky right hander on the roots. She came through the planks in about 14th. Something must have clicked in her head though, because I don't think I have ever seen this type of aggression in her. On the next lap, she came through in 10th. Holy moly. She was picking off people on the stair run-up and on the long straights. Next lap she was 7th! Moving up. On the last lap, she was 4th and closing in on Rachel B in 3rd. Out into the grass field and she closed it right down and went by her. Unfortunatley, she got stuck behind a lapped rider going into the off camber section and didn't really know how to handle it. Rachel got by on the little run up and took her advantage to the finish. But Rebecca was thrilled with her 4th place, earning some valuable upgrade points for her cat 3 upgrade.

We watched the Masters races while warming up for the 3/4 race. Lot's of pals had some really good rides going. Then, the first race of the day. To the start line we go. I secured a nice spot on the left side of the front row, which gave me a nice line for the holeshot. We almost had a full Hup B squad there, but Rosey was away for work. Bummer. Josh also had a nice spot on the front row with me and PVB and Yash were stalking just behind us in row 2. Lyne Bessette lined up to my right and we jabbered about last weeks race in Bedford. But, I was inspired by Colin R's post about how us B guys should be ashamed about letting Lyne get the holeshot. I went into this race with one goal. To see what it was like to ride on the front and to see how long I could hold it. The problem was I hadn't really given much thought to what I would do when I got there. The whistle blows and I got into the woods in third and then made my way to the front on the first right hander. First into the hurdles and I actually had a gap. WTF? I kept looking behind me thinking WTF. So bad actually that I almost missed a turn and brushed the course tape. I got my act together and just rode. It is nice having the course clear in front of you. You get to pick your own lines and not get held up. I settled into a pretty solid state of pain and tried to focus as best I could. I rode up the stairs except for one dab at the top. Out into the grass, through the off camber and to completion of lap 1. But I kept hearing the cheers for Tal behind me. The freight train was coming and my 7 minutes of fame was about to end. I held them off through the woods and I rode all the way up the stairs this time. But Tal came by me on the little uphill drag just after the stairs, followed quickly by Carey. Then out in the field another fella went by. I held onto this group for the remainder of lap 2, but lap 3 was major purgatory. Lyne caught me on lap 3 and I tried to hold her wheel as I got my act together again. We came through to see 3 to go and that gave me a huge boost. I was fully expecting to see 5 to go. I think the officials may have made a boo boo with the timing. Anyway, I kept yo-yoing off of Lyne, closing in through the woods and losing her on the open field. She just laid down the power in the field. By lap 4 I figured out that running the stairs was probably faster, so that is what I was doing. I kept seeing Ronnie just behind me closing the gap. I dug super deep on the last lap to hold my position of 5th and even gave Lyne a little run for her money through the off camber and up the finish straight. But it was just for show. There was no way I was coming around her. I was happy with my 5th and 5 more upgrade points. It was fun being on the front. It feels pretty strange. But, it's something I want to try again.

So here's the deal with LI. We plan to go, but itdepends on how much work I get done this week. If I need the days to work, I will skip it. If I get everything done, we will be there. Otherwise, we'll see everyone in Gloucester for New Belgium Worlds on the 13th.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Simple mods

A few people have asked about the adjusters on the Spooky brakes. This simple mod showed up on the Weight Weenie Cross Forum and then on Roues Artisanales. Those Euro guys are wicked smart. I think this will also work on Froglegs, but I have never done it and can not confirm it. Here are the steps.
The brakes have two anchors. Use the one without the set screw. I know that is common sense, but I am trying to be as clear as possible here.
Drill out the existing hole with a 4.2 mm drill. I know metric drills are hard to come by. You can also use the next smallest decimal equivalent, which is a #20 (0.161")
Tap the hole with a M5 x 0.8mm tap. This is the same tap size as a water bottle boss.
You can use adjusters from Shimano down tube cable stops, such as the CS50 here. Campy adjusters do not work because the thread is too fine.
Thread in the adjuster and set the brake for your widest rim. That way, when you switch wheels, you can take out the slack. This is very handy when switching from Reflex rims to something else. The Reflexes are a couple of mm wider than most other rims.

It's fast, easy and a great time saver.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Second thoughts

Do I really want to go to Long Island? There are only 5 people registered for the 2/3 race on Saturday and 4 on Sunday, including me. 54 people total on Saturday and 49 on Sunday, but most of them are elite men or women. It will feel like going to watch a pro sporting event. Yawn. Yeah, Erwin will be there. That's a plus. But it will be odd lining up with only a handful of guys. This year, I want to race, not watch. I was hoping for a primer before Gloucester. Is it worth $120 round trip for a ferry ride? Well, hopefully there will be a surge in entries over the next week and a half!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bittersweet

Yikes! What a mess behind!

deep in the pain cave
Yesterday was hard. Yesterday was fun. Yesterday sucked. Quad Cycles hosted their first annual cross race in Bedford, MA on Sunday. e-RICHIE commented on how the club did a fantastic job putting on the race and how the venue is perfect for cyclocross. I have to agree. It was a good, hard race that was very well run.

The day was going very well. The good doctor got a taste of leading a race for a lap, Sarah and Mattison continue moving up the ranks in their fields, Josh and Tom stomped the front of the 4 race, Mikey S made his first showing of the season disguised as old captain grey beard, Mark "The Waterboy" crushed the souls of all others in the 3/4 35+ race with a huge win, CTodd pedaled his crushed soul to 3rd behind Mark, Brant had a killer ride in the 1/2/3 35+, and so many of our pals were there to hang out with.

The first bummer of the day was some pals were shut out of races due to small field limits. Kenny A was psyched to race, but was not allowed to start. PVB and James did the 1/2/3 race. The second, but more major, bummer came during our race. I lined up for the 3/4 race in the new zank kit. Rosey and I were flying UTR in royal blue. Yash and Josh were in there in Belgian Blue. Hey, who's that in the Quebec "national" kit? Damn good lookin' legs for a fella. Whoa! Look at that tush. Damn he's hot! Oh wait. That's Lynn Bessette.

This course was a little more heavy than Sucker Brook. The grass was a little slower and there was a good run up to test how us bike racers do on foot. Some fun "S" turns, one set of planks, lots of other corners and some good false flat uphills.

I was in the second row of the field of 50 starters. Not ideal, but there was plenty of room to pass. The gun goes off and it was a little sketchy through the first few corners. I picked my way through as best as I could until the run up. The traffic made the descent a little hairy as seen in the photo above. Thanks for the photos, Bob! As I came down into the field, I got a clear view of the field. I was sitting around 4th and Myette was leading the way. He had super legs going, putting the hurt on everyone. I was working hard with my pal Ronnie. Rosey bridged up to us by lap 3, rode with us a little bit, then leapt across the gap to Myette and a Cambridge Bicycles guy who is the current World Messenger Champion and an accomplised cat 2 on the road. Lynn also went through our group and up to Scott, Matt and World's fast guy. So the 4 of them were duking it out and I was with Ronnie and another dude. Our group of 3 was working well together, but I came unglued right around 2 to go. And that was the point of major bummer number 2. Myette rolled his ankle something major. Photos and story here. Matt has been working so hard all season and is in super shape right now. The good thing is this guy is a hockey player. He knows what its like to work through pain. Mark my words. He'll be back on the trainer by the end of the week and will be on the start line at Glouecster. The guy is all heart.

Anyway, I gave it everything I could through the last two laps. I just tried to limit my losses and consolidate my place. The heat and dust were putting the hurt on me. With Matt's unfortunate exit, I was sitting in 6th. But Colin R was charging hard behind me. He passed me just after the "S" turns and kicked it hard to establish a gap. I had no answer. There was another guy gaining ground too, but I held on for 7th. Completely cracked. I don't know how some of you guys do two races in one day. I was destroyed. Yash rocked it and made his goal of top 20. PVB and Dan C had fantastic races in the 1/2/3 race, which was dominated at the front my Jeremy Powers and Matt White.

3 more points in the bank. I would have much rathered 2 though with Matt still in the race.

Last weeks rest week bored me to tears. Lot's of hard miles planned for this week. Then Amesbury on Sunday. Should be a hoot!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The elusive 70 kg barrier

Warning! Boring reading ahead...

Back in January, I set a goal for myself to lose some weight. At the time, I weighed 78 kg (172#). I knew the weight was hampering every aspect of my cycling except for going down hill. I went back through some of my old notes and "training" diaries. I say "training" because I really haven't taken my cycling seriously since my first senior year of college in 98. Yes, I had two. I highly recommend it. That year, I believe I logged about 6000 miles, which was a great year for me. I also weighed about 68 kg. In 99, I didn't have as good a spring as I did the year before due to a heavy class schedule and interviewing for jobs. But, I started kicking it in around April and got myself somewhat fit for Fitchburg. I got myself back down 68 - 69 kg. Then, real life happened. Full time job, second job trying to get the frame building business off the ground, I started travelling for work, blah, blah, blah. I went from rice and beans while in school to these crazy over-sized sandwiches we would bring in when we had customers into our facility. Dinners out, food at airports, fast food in the car, the whole enchilada (sometimes a plate of 3). And I didn't have a grasp on time management (I continue to work on that. Certainly not my best quality). So with all that, I ballooned up to a high of 83 kg in 2003. Shit, I could have been on Super-Size me. My cholestorol was up, blood pressure was up, liver functions were up. Not good.

Cross has been my savior. That, and meeting some of the greatest people in the world to ride with. Between my pals in the Worcester and Boston areas and my Hup teammates, I have received so much support to get myself back into racing. I did my first cross race back in 92 as a junior. The BCA race was tiny back then and was at Pittsfield State Forrest. I remember thinking it was some wierd kind of mtb race, with these funny looking bikes. I did my first full season of cross in 97 when I was at UMass. Everyone there on the team raced cross. It was mandatory in some ways. We even had a little points competition between the guys living in our house. Much fun.

Fast forward to 2003. Super pal Zac Daab starts this Hup thing. Cool. I get my first green kit to race in. I could have given the Michelin Man a good run for this money. Enough was enough, and the good doctor was getting concerned about my health. I have been coming down steady over the past couple of years, hovering between 168 and 175 depending on the time of year. But last year I earned my cat 3 cross upgrade. I knew that racing the 3/4 and 2/3 races was going to be tough, so I committed to doing this. By June 1st, I was down to 166. Then the big push came. I started training really hard for cross on July 2. It's been twelve weeks. I am certain that the higher intensity training is what has done the trick. That and eating smaller portions at every meal. Do I still give myself a treat? Yup. Just not nearly as often. Why was I giving myself a treat to begin with? I didn't earn it. And now I don't mind being hungry.

I like to be able to say that I am in the 60 kilo range. It's all in my freakin head. 69 is better than 70 because there is a 6 there. I am currently at 71 kg. I want to be able to say 69 kg by Gloucester. 2 kg in 3 weeks? I am going to try my best.

See you at Bedford on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Well, I guess we go to LI

Erwin is pre-registered for the LI UCI races. Port Geoffe fairy, here we come. I'll do anything to see the rainbow jersey on this continent.

http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=5253
http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=5255

Monday, September 17, 2007

3 points in the bank, 22 to go


Wow, where do I begin? Yesterday was off the charts. I will start with praise to the promoters of Sucker Brook Cross. As a sponsor of the event, I couldn't have been more pleased. The way the course was laid out, regsistration was orchestrated, results were provided and everything else you expect from a promoter, this event felt like an international level event. I was blown away when I got there and everything was up and ready to go at 7:00. The course layout was awesome and it was double-tape most of the way around. JJ and Jack went way over the top to put on a truly top-level event. They were rewarded with 100+ more entries than they got last year. And all proceeds went to a local girl who is fighting cancer. Awesome.

It was awesome seeing everyone again. Let the party/season begin! I saw countless friends and it was like a huge cross reunion. I drove up with the good doctor and pal Myette early in the am so that Rebecca could attend the clinic that Rebecca Wellons put on. Rebecca was psyched to have a pro give her some great advice. She lined up with her Hup teammates Kerry and Sarah. They were the third group to get the whistle for the 9 am race, behind the cat 4 men and the kids 10-14. Rebecca continues to gain confidence and placings. There were 3 ladies off the front of her race, but she hung tough with a group of 6 or 7 women through the whole race. It was fantastic seeing the women racing each other in a group like this rather than 1s and 2s coming through alone. Sarah and Kerry weren't far behind this group and they both looked strong on the long field sections and the planks. Good technique all around! Rebecca almost hung on in the sprint for 8th, but got pipped at the post for 9th. One of her goals this year was a top ten. Mission accomplished.

Ok, the time was here. How would it go? The bike was dialed in (though I still need to work on tire pressure), legs felt good during warm up, but I made a major blunder. I lost the first race fo the day and that is the race to the start line. We were out on a lap right after the 1/2/3 Masters race and we thought the 3/4 race was getting pushed back. Alas, I found myself in the third row. Didn't everyone else get the memo? There were about 60 riders in the field, and everyone looked a bit tense. Yash, PVB, Ziemba, Ronnie and Rosey all had prime start positions. Bummer that Kenny, Myette, Manard, Jamner and I weren't so on top of things. Anna Milkowski was one row in front of me and I hoped she would take me to the front after the first corner. Gun goes off, clean entry into the pedal and we were racing. The scrum wasn't so bad, and Anna gave me a clear line through it and out into the field. I did some passing all along the field section on the first lap. It was chaotic at best and I don't know who was around me at the time. Things started to file out on the second lap and third laps. At this point, I could see PVB with 3 other guys in the lead group. So I was driving in 5th and our little group had Rosey, James from Serotta and a couple of others. I was getting a little cooked and Rosey pulled through. Then James made a great surge off the front of our group. He eventually bridged up to the lead group and would finish 2nd. Nice work! After the 4th lap, we got lap cards. 4 to go, which was what I was expecting. Things didn't change much from this point on, but Josh gave us quite a scare when we saw him down in a ditch with the medical staff giving him attention. It's amazing the way rumors get started. I heard he broke his collarbone, arm, got a concusion and was in rough shape. Thankfully, we saw him right after the race and there were no broken bones. But he did have a good shiner and was visably shaken. Rosey ended up doing most of the work in the second half of the race. He made me hurt pretty good on a few sections. The funny part was on the planks, I went from 2 or 3 stepping beween them on the first laps to tip toeing through on the last laps. Thankfully, it was a tunnel of noise and I could hear every person's voice willing me through the pain. In the later stages of the race, the only spot on the course I felt faster than Rosey was through the sand. So I tried to give him a good line through there. On the last lap, I fumbled getting clipped in after the planks and he put a little gap on me, but I closed it going through the sand. I sat on his wheel coming through the last corner and gave him the best sprint I had. I was going to make him work for 6th. But he got me with ease. With the 7th place, I picked up 3 points for my cat 2 upgrade. But it was also a huge confidence boost. Now I feel like I deserve to start on teh front row. At one point on the 7th lap, Rosey asked me when was the last time I lapped someone in a B race. Easy answer. Never. I don't think I have ever placed top 10 in a B race, even back in the 90s when the B races were a little different.

Next stop for us is Bedford on the 23rd and then Amesbury on the 30th. We will probably take the ME weekend off. And then the G-Star extravaganza!

Nice work everyone. Let the games begin!