I've been thinking a lot about my blog recently. I've been posting regularly here since the summer of 2007, a few months after graduating college and there's a fairly major blog milestone coming up in the next few weeks, so I feel that this is a pretty good time for some introspection.
Initially, I started blogging because a writer I know, Stephen D. Price, told me that if I wanted to be a journalist, I should have a blog. I wrote my first post mere hours after receiving his counsel. I know when to heed the advice of my elders, and he said this was a first step in beginning a career in journalism.
In the interceding four years I've worked in three jobs at two publications and had lots and lots of positive experiences -- all despite the fact that I'm a member of, in Price's words, a "profession of rejection." Over that time, this blog has held different meanings and purposes for me. At first, it was a receptacle for random thoughts, loosely relating to cycling. At other times, it was a launching pad for a series of essays I wrote for the Embrocation Cycling Journal. I've even done real journalism on this blog, posting popular race previews particularly related to the Tour of the Battenkill. Mostly, over the years, it was just a place for my random, semi-formed thoughts. Somehow, despite my apparent lack of focus, I have managed both to keep the blog going, and to enter a challenging field. Simply amazing.
Lately, though, I'm not really feeling like it's enough. I've also realized that I've been writing more lazy, poorly-conceived posts, and both you my readers, and me, deserve better.
The thing is, though, writing better takes more time. For years and years I've been posting on evenings, Sunday-Thursday. I like to think that such a schedule gave folks something to read on work days. But, I'm sometimes left wondering why anyone would interrupt their workday to read.
So, I'm going to try a different approach. Instead of pushing myself to post every night, I'm only going to post when I have something worth posting. I expect that I'll still be posting race recaps and other adventure stories on Sunday nights to kick off the week. I'm also aiming, with fewer posts to hammer out, to offer more substantive material. To put it another way, I'm going to focus on improving the quality of my writing here, and stop worrying about quantity. I hope you'll enjoy, but for those of you who can't get enough, there's always this.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I've been thinking a lot about my blog recently. I've been posting regularly here since the summer of 2007, a few months after graduating college and there's a fairly major blog milestone coming up in the next few weeks, so I feel that this is a pretty good time for some introspection.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
At lunch today, Matt and I headed over to the Parkway to test out some 'cross bikes for an upcoming online feature.
Matt was riding a highly unusual bike, a Boo with a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. It was fortunate that we didn't come across any pandas. Had we, I'm sure they would have been all over Matt's bamboo bike, like, well, pandas on bamboo. Unfortunately for Matt, the Edge (must have been an older model) tubular wheels were glued with Challenge file treads, which proved to offer slightly less traction than the medium treaded-clinchers on the Fulcrum wheels that came on the Focus Mears CX I was testing. Combined with the relatively poor braking of a carbon wheel, he was sliding all over the place.
We only rode for about an hour, a pretty standard lunch ride, but it was the first time I'd ridden off road in quite a while. There was one, very brief moment of epiphany that rekindled my interest in 'cross, and in riding off road in general. It was a very small moment, and I'm quite sure that Matt didn't notice, but as we were riding down a gravel path, a foot-wide rut ran diagonally across a small descent. The roadie in me wanted to stay to one side, hoping to ride around the rut, but a latent instinct form somewhere deep down took over and I steered toward the rut, lofting the bike up and over.
The brief flight, combined with the bike's shocking lightness and the sturdy feeling wheels was revelatory, and pretty fun.
Of course, I still managed to stumble all over myself when I attempt a running re-mount, but it didn't take much of the hour-long ride to remember that 'cross bikes are pretty awesome. The big wheels and drop bars let you go pretty fast, while the extra traction and powerful brakes let you tackle a variety of terrain. Best of all, instead of a heavy mountain bike to lug around, 'cross bikes are only marginally heavier than their road-bound cousins, so there's less to throw around, and just marginally more maintenance.
I've spent these fives grafs talking myself into racing 'cross this year. Bring it on!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The short daylight hours these days mean that you're racing darkness as you ride back into town toward 7 p.m., making it harder and harder to squeeze in a two-hour ride after work. I guess that means I'm going to have to start coming in earlier in the morning, with the goal of leaving earlier in the afternoon to get out to ride while there's still time.
That, or I'll have to rely on my little and big lights to keep me safe.
Cyclists live for the longest days of the year, which come in May and July, with the best and longest days in June, around the solstice. In the dead of winter, it's cold out and you're not motivated to ride anyway. Or, if you're me, you're resigned to riding the rollers. But these days are harder. It's still really nice out. Yesterday and today were almost like summer, so, of course everyone wanted to ride, and wouldn't have missed the opportunity.
Today, a co-workers suggested that an alternative might be to get up before work and ride, but I am not really a morning person, as much as I aspire to be, and the dual challenges of getting up earlier and getting into bed earlier feels like too much of a reach. Besides, it's colder in the morning than in the evening, even if the darkness is about equal.
Mostly, it's important for us all to stay safe out there, and remember our lights, when we're riding around the margins of light.
Mostly, I just hope to stay safe on the roads.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I say this once a year: Stick a fork in me, I'm done. With two last races over the weekend, I'm officially calling an end to my 2011 road season. I'm hoping to race the training crit Thursday, but otherwise, I won't turn a pedal in competition until 2012, unless it's on a 'cross bike.
It's been an interesting season. I had some good rides in the spring, and I had an injury, and I had some bad rides in the summer, during my big comeback. In some ways, it's too bad the season is ending: With the Green Mountain Stage Race in my legs, I was actually starting to feel some form returning, just in time for the bike reg listings to thin out to nothing. The end of the season is bittersweet. I love racing my bike, traveling to races and seeing friends from all over -- and I miss it all when it's done for the year. But, I'm tired. It'll be nice to have less pressure to train and travel.
As for this weekend's races, there were no great success, only great failures.
OK, that's a bit of an overstatement, it was actually a pretty good weekend of racing.
Saturday's race, the Mengoni Grand Prix in Central Park, was a moderate success insofar as I didn't crash on the rain-slicked 6-mile circuit. The race was really fast, and more than a few fast guys were going out that back of the single-file peloton. I was happy to sit in. I hit the front once, on the second to-last lap, when there was a small group dangling off the front. Of course, there was no help on the chase, so I quickly returned to the safety of the peloton. There was a break up the road, which appeared to not be coming back. Indeed, it did not come back, and the winner came in about 14 seconds ahead of the group sprint. There was a crash in the sprint, which I was happy to avoid, while coasting in mid-pack.
I don't get to race in Central Park too often, but I really do think it's one of the most fun circuit races I've ever raced, owing to near-constant smallish power climbs, combined with fast flat sections and an uphill finish that can suit non-sprinters in certain situations. Plus, as I noted on Facebook, there always lots of attractive women running and riding in the park, even at 6:30 a.m., when the start pistol goes off.
Sunday's race was truly a failure. This was the Lake Desolation Hill Climb, an event I'd won in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Needless to say, I had an interest in defending my title -- so much so that I threw together a spur-of-the-moment plan to drive to Saratoga for a quick, overnight visit (I thought the race was in October, it's traditional date). In so doing, I missed an exciting trip to the Sands Casino -- that was how much my title meant to me.
The record for the 4-mile Lake Desolation climb is 16:20, set in the late '80s by Davis Phinney, when he was in town visiting Serotta. Of course, Phinney probably doesn't remember setting the record, or know that we all still look up to him. But we do. Legend holds that Phinney, a sprinter by all rights, rode the climb with three team mates on the day he set the record. The modern hill climb, organized by Aaron of Tinney's Tip Top Tavern, bears little resemblance to that ride. Instead of three people, as many as 30 take the mass start at the bottom of Lake D, starting the clock as they roll over a bridge at the bottom of the climb, and racing to the bridge at the top, across from Tinney's and on the banks of the lake.
When I was at my best as a cat 3, in the two seasons that saw me earn my elite upgrade, I regularly spent afternoons riding up and down the challenging climb, and I sorely miss having climbs of that length and difficulty down here in PA. Once I got a flat halfway up, and, discovering I was without a spare and without a cell phone, made a fast friendship with a fellow transplanted Brooklyn Jew who happens to live on the hill. Last fall, I won the event with a time of 17:21, after sprinting away from the fly-weight upstart Nick, from somewhere out near Johnstown. It was quite a bit slower than Phinney, but it was one of the faster times ridden by a mere mortal, it was my fastest time to date, and was my hardest-fought Lake D win.
On Sunday, I expected Nick to again be my greatest challenger, and I knew that he had enjoyed a productive season as a cat 4 and had earned his cat 3 upgrade. I know that because the night before the hill climb I spent several hours drinking with friends from the Saratoga cycling community who were all too eager to dish about who was fast and who was not, in addition to expounding on a number of other topics. Of course, Nick, who is just a kid, was probably in bed as we were cracking open another round, and another, which I'm sure did nothing for my chances the next day, but it was a lot more fun than an early bed time. Of course, all of my slightly older friends were quick to remind each other and me that he might weight 120 pounds, when he's dripping wet. I was probably the next-lightest male rider on Sunday's start line, and I weigh 160 pounds, depending on how many cookies I'd eaten on the previous night.
On Sunday, the race got off to a lackadaisical start with no one seeming to want to take the initiative. Nick must have known he was the favorite, because he got to the front as soon as we hit the first of the steeper slopes and started turning a big gear. Zack, who won the spring hill climb in June, got on his wheel and I sat on Zack, having determined that after my up-and-down season, a defensive approach would be best for me.
Nick set the pace as we climbed past the farm that marks the start of the most difficult pitches, and that's where Zack started to come undone. I sprinted to get onto Nick's wheel, and Nick betrayed his inexperience by complaining that no one was pulling through. No shit, no one's pulling through: A minute later we climbed past the quarry and I came off the wheel. We were close to the top at that point, so I thought I'd be able to recover over the top, accelerate up the rollers to catch the kid before the finish.
Unfortunately, I'd already overtaxed myself -- my Garmin told me later that I'd ridden at or above 490 watts for more than 10 minutes at the point where I'd been dropped, with my heart ticking along between 198 and 208 beats/minute. I dragged my ass over the last roller and turned the biggest gear I could muster, but I'd been so thoroughly beat on the climb that catching Nick was out of the question. His winning time was 16:46, and I hit the bridge 40 seconds later to take second.
I'm sad to have lost my crown, but heartened that it was a good race and that I lost in fair fight. Chapeau, Nick! Congrats. I'm coming for you in 2012.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
*Whoever said, "two dudes on bikes = a race" hit the nail on the head. Even yesterday, while out filming Matt for an upcoming video, I couldn't help but sneak past him on a few occasions, effectively cutting him out of the frame but also showing that I could go faster. Pretty dumb, right?
The originator of that statement would love The Derby, the twice-weekly group ride that rolls out from the Velodrome on Wednesday evenings (until daylight gets too short) and Sunday mornings. The route is always the same but the ride never is, as the last 10 miles are effectively an unsanctioned race back to the start.
On a warm Sunday morning in June or July, you might get more than 100 people on the Derby, often including some of our local pros, retired pros, former world and national champions and other assorted fast folks. On a bad day, such as tonight's Derby -- dark and rainy -- you still get a crowd that puts even the best-attended Blue Sky Bicycles Tuesday Night Worlds to shame, and you still get lots of fast people in the mix. In fact, it seems that the non-pro fast guys are the most hardy, and the most likely to show up in any weather.
All that's a roundabout way of saying that to win the Derby can mean something, even if it's just a bunch of folks out for a ride. Last Sunday, before leaving for Interbike, I rode the Derby and came into the final sprint on the wheel of United Health Care's Scott Zwizanski. He won (I finished third), a result that probably didn't mean all that much to him, given his impressive palmares, but being able to ride with such a successful racer -- and many of his colleagues -- means a lot to me, and, I imagine, to all the other riders in this area like me -- enthusiasts who will never be pros, no matter how many intervals we do, or what ludicrous training plans we may subscribe to.
Pride and satisfaction aside, winning or placing at the Derby doesn't net you upgrade points, there's no results sheet and no photographs to post on facebook, but it's still an achievement.
Someday, I aspire to win a big derby with all the guys who are a lot faster than me. For now, I'll take the win tonight, in the rain and dark, and absent many of (but not all of) the local fast guys. In a way, it's an analogy of my entire racing career -- sometimes I can do well at smaller races, but generally I'm outgunned. So it goes.
The Derby tonight was a little hesitant, due to the wet roads, but when Torch and Jess opened a gap going into the last turn, the race was on, so I attacked, forgetting as I always do, that it's still a long way to the finish from there. Fortunately for me, the chase was either too slow coming out of the turn, or not motivated, and I goaded my burning legs into just enough revolutions to make it to the finish line, first by several lengths. Woo Hoo!
Of course, had it come down to a sprint, I surely would have been beat. It's a good thing I know my strengths.
Bring on the hate, haters!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Today's rainy weather had me feeling really lethargic. Not helping matters was that the seat of my pants got pretty wet on the ride in to work (I need to switch bikes or put fenders on the ChampSys). There were a few moments during which was seriously considering closing the door and the light and curling up under my desk for a Costanza-style snooze (minus the bomb threat).
Fortunately, I pushed through the tired haze and had a fairly productive day at work, capped with a video shoot in the early afternoon -- by which time the sun was making a half-hearted appearance over the valley. Matt is making a promo video for our upcoming Bicycling Fall Classic, so we took the opportunity to test out a helmet camera we've had around the office for a while. Since he had the appropriate attire at work, Matt served as the model, while I was the camera man. I can only hope that my head was relatively stead and that my "pans" were smooth. The HD camera we were using will, I'm sure, appropriately show off our area's beauty.
Of course, I'll post the finished product here as soon as it's ready. And, if you haven't already, you should sign up for the event today! It's going to be a great ride.
I'll be riding the Bedford, of course, because it's awesome. But also, my Champion System bike is beginning to show its age, so I'm doing what I can to limit the number of miles I put on it. The thing about race bikes is: The don't last all that long. The bike may be young in years, but it's been ridden pretty hard and abused plenty over the past two seasons. The frame, at present, is cracked in two places, and while neither crack places the bike in immediate danger of catastrophic failure, neither one is a particularly good omen. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on both cracks, and hoping that neither gets much larger. So, if you're riding behind me and hear any odd squeaks that ought not be there, please let me know!
If only my power meter would fit on a BB30 frame. Oh well.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Recently, on the way to Vermont for the Green Mountain Stage Race, I listened to an audiobook of Tina Fey's Bossypants. As a big fan of Fey's since the Weekend Update days, and as a huge 30 Rock fan, I was looking forward to reading the book. After all, if I learned one thing from Steve Martin, it's that comedians can write funny books, in addition to making funny movies.
Also, it was a really long drive, and I figured an entertaining book would make the time go by faster (this was, in fact, true).
But I found the book to be more than a little disappointing, especially in light of the fawning New York Times review. I know it's easy for journalists to get caught up when writing about so-called media darlings, as Fey certainly is (I've been there -- as a journalist, that is, not as a media darling), and the book's meteoric rise up the best sellers list would have made it hard to be a critic. But here's the thing: The book's best jokes were recycled from Saturday Night Live or 30 Rock. They're good jokes -- I mean, Fey's really funny! -- but, they were funnier the first time around.
More to the point, Fey spends a significant portion of the book recounting her life, which is really a fairly normal life, and although I wouldn't have wanted to miss the description of her "boss, bold, bladed motherfucker" father, it's a fairly uninteresting life, and without a few self-deprecating jabs, it wouldn't have been amusing any more than listening to any other stranger's life story. As a memoir, in that regard, the book kind of fails. Maybe it's because Fey's still so young with so much life left to live, but I think it's more because she doesn't teach us a lesson based on her life experience, as a memoir should. (Unless you consider advice to stay away from comedy writing a lesson).
Maybe that's not Fey's purpose. Really, what's interesting about Fey, whether or not she knows it, isn't the famous people she's met and performed with, or experiences she's had in the entertainment industry, but it's her ability to make us laugh. Instead of focusing on making us laugh with her words, Fey seems to use most of the book to recount her career, and I was hoping for more.
The other problem that I had with the book was the Wizard of Oz effect. Because her career is so closely intertwined with public works, the book has the effect of lifting a curtain, which proved not to be a totally comfortable subject, for me at least. You know that creative types love to stay up writing all night, but you don't want to hear about it, it kind of ruins the magic. I don't want to know that Alec Baldwin strung the network along for months before signing on to 30 Rock. That should be in his memoir. Also, the cover is creepy.
Not related to the book itself, but I feel compelled to out that when you search "Bossy Pants" on NYTimes.com, this is the top hit. I'd guess that Fey wouldn't approve.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
But I did come home with a load of books
That's A. A. Milne's The House At Pooh Corner on top
I'm back from the wild, wild west! I knew Interbike would be an intensive week, but it proved to be even more exhausting than I'd anticipated. Instead of getting up early to race on Saturday, after arriving at my parent's house at 1:30 a.m., I slept in -- to 11 a.m., the latest I've stayed in bed in a long, long time (without sensual inducement, anyway).
To make up for my laziness on Saturday, I thought I'd get up early to race on Sunday morning -- it wasn't even that early, just 7:30 a.m., instead of 5 a.m., as would have been required on Saturday -- but when the alarm went off, all I could do was whimper, pull the blanket over my head and go back to sleep.
Now, happily ensconced on my sofa on the Emmatian triangle, I've had a minute to reflect on the whole trip. Aside from being exhausting, it was a very productive -- I met a lot of new people in the industry, solidified relationships with folks I'd only known via the phone, checked out lots of cool new products, and thought lots about directions we can take the Gear section in the next year. And, of course, where else but Vegas can you line dance, sing karaoke, pay $8 for a PBR, and ride a mechanical bull, all in one bar? Right?!
Sadly, I didn't get the chance to gamble. Hopefully I'll make better use of my time next year.
Of course, I also had the chance to spend a little time with my Mom, who recently broke her ankle and is laid up at home. Although it was nice to see her and keep her company, my time at home was also marked by time contemplating my parent's upcoming downsizing -- they're planning to convert their house into two units. Fiscal ramifications aside, it also means that the family has to consolidate a house full of crap. Fortunately, I'd already thrown out a lot of the vestiges of my childhood when I moved to Saratoga in 2007, but more stuff remains. Mostly books.
So, today I filled a box with some of my favorite books and lugged it home to PA. Of course, I'm out of book shelf space, but it does feel good to have some of my favorite works here under one roof with me. I've not got my complete Vonnegut, Wolfe, Kerouac, and Kesey collections, among other books. It'll be a few more trips before I move the rest of the books, but it was a good start. More than that, as a true bibliophile, it was a fun way to dig through my shelves, look at titles I haven't seen in a while, feel the worn spines against my palm and flip through dusty pages. When the box was full, my hands at taken on that wondrous scent that stayed with me all the way home to Emmaus.
On a related noted, I don't think I'll be hauling my Hardy Boys mystery novels west to PA, so shout if you want them!
Monday, September 12, 2011
Some years ago I wrote an essay that recalled my experiences on 9/11. As much as I was writing about the day’s terrorist attacks and my fears about my Mom, who then worked across the street from the World Trade Center, it was really a piece about my relationship with my brother. I was 16 then and for the previous twelve and a half years he and I had maintained a somewhat contentious relationship. But that year was the beginning of a shift for us; owing nothing to the terrorist attacks, we had started to figure out that we were stuck with each other, and that we might as well enjoy each other’s company. Happily, we’ve continued to do better in this regard since.
I’d been thinking about brushing up my old essay and reposting it today, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, but after re-reading it, I suddenly found it somewhat wanting. After all, tales of brotherly love are great and have their place, but I didn’t see the relevance to the 10th anniversary. Plus, I can only recycle the same words so many times.
So, what to write about on this momentous date? Surprisingly, or maybe not, I find that I don’t really have that much to say about it at all. Between all the coverage in the mainstream media and everyone’s lame posts on Facebook, most of the many varied sentiments about the anniversary have been covered. So, I talked to my family about it all, to get their take.
My Dad said that 9/11 was one of the worst days of his life. I don’t think it was quite at that level for me, but I was only a kid, and I didn’t (and don’t) have his perspective. So, what does someone who saw that day as singularly abhorrent think about the multitude of memorial activities on Sunday? He didn’t see any value in it. Neither, for that matter, did my Mom, who was closer to the attack than most others, having fled her office on foot when the second plane hit, eventually walking back home to Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge. My favorite part of the story is how she went to the other side of her building to a friend’s office to get a better view of the fire, before understanding what had happened, and what was happening. Apparently, there was never a formal order to evacuate her building.
Are my parents un-American for failing to properly grieve the dead? No, it’s not that, not at all – we all agreed that the thousands killed deserve to be memorialized, and so to the thousands of soldiers dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of whether or not you agree with those conflicts. Reading the names seems to be an important, cathartic exercise for the families of the dead, and I can’t imagine anyone would want to deny the injured their ability to grieve.
But remembering only gets us so far. Actually, it doesn’t really get us very far at all. My brother likened the whole thing to a breakup. At first you’re upset and can’t picture yourself living without the comfort of your erstwhile lover: Despite the fact that you’re no longer enjoying a physical relationship, you still exchange texts or talk on the phone. Maybe you hang out in the company of mutual friends. Eventually, though, you realize that you haven’t moved on, you haven’t been able to look at another girl, let alone contemplate dating someone else. Or, if once you’re ready to move on, you’ll still find yourself worried about what the other will think, should you start dating someone.
In his view, that’s where we’re at with 9/11 – still hung up on a tragedy that occurred a decade ago, we haven’t been able to move forward. We’re embroiled in two wars that started as a direct result of the attacks, and while one is beginning to wind down, American soldiers continue to fight and die in the other, with no real end in sight.
And what have we gained?
This past decade has arguably been one of the worst in American history. Our economy is continuing to fall apart, people are out of work in record numbers, we’re still fighting these unpopular wars, and one natural disaster after another has pummeled our country, further eroding moral. Worst of all, in my estimation, is that the nation is becoming wary of a government that is looking increasingly impotent in the face of such challenging obstacles.
What can we do? Instead of reading from the bible (a text that helped get us into this mess in the first place), I would have liked to have seen President Obama tell this nation what we need to have learned from 9/11, and to lead us in an intelligent discourse about moving forward, about mending our broken position in the world, and most importantly, about being kind to each other and to our neighbors. We are the United States, we should be a world leader that shows other nations the way with our charisma and just actions. Instead, we’re bullies incapable of discovering why we behave the way we do.
In a word, I’m saying that I would have liked our leader to show some leadership on a day that holds great importance to many Americans. I know that’s asking a lot – after all, Obama is the product of an election in which being a down-home Uhmerikan was considered an equal qualification to experience in governance – but I think we’ve earned it.
*A quick programming note: This post is coming to you from Las Vegas, where I’ve just landed ahead of the Interbike tradeshow. This is an extremely busy week for us at Bicycling, so I will be forced to suspend posting on the blog for the remainder of this week. I look forward to resuming regular posts on Sunday, Sept. 18. Have a great week!
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Greetings from the world headquarters of Saratoga Spa Cyclocross, and please pass this on to your club members!
Planning is going forward at full steam, and we're really excited to have you back to the historic Saratoga Race Course on Oct. 23!
This year, we are part of both the NYCross.com series, and the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. In addition to series points and schwag from Gore Bike Wear, Sigma Sports, Elevate Cycles, Blue Sky Bicycles and other cycling industry members, you'll have the chance to compete for our distinctive, hand-made medals, suitable for display.
Registration is now open on bike reg: http://www.bikereg.com/events/
Don't forget to bring your family and friends to the race -- our expo area is coming together with a mix of cycling industry vendors to display the latest and greatest technology, and food vendors from the Saratoga region. Kids can join in the fun, with a dedicated kids' course set up all day, and kiddie age group races at noon.
Stay up to date on the latest Spa:CX news on our blog: www.spacx.blogspot.com
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
So, the revelation I had this weekend while racing the Green Mountain Stage Race was this: While I always want to do well at races, I'm increasingly not bothered when I don't do well.
Here's the thing, I really like riding bikes. I suppose that goes without saying at this point. I also like racing bikes, a lot, and have dedicated a tremendous amount of time to racing over the past eight years. Mostly, I'm in it for the awesome lifestyle, the great people you get to meet, the physical challenge, and the occasional satisfaction of a good race. Sometimes it's all much more than awesome, especially when I have fun friends to hang out with at the races, as was the case this weekend, when I spent a thoroughly relaxing race weekend with my friend Emma Bast and her wonderful family, and Evan Cooper, who we somehow picked up along the way. Among our little microcosm of racers, Evan was the most results-oriented, talking at length about this climb and that wattage. Emma was just quietly fast, winning the green jersey in the women's Pro/1/2. While I, with my nose stuck in a pulpy Michael Crichton novel (I was taking a break from reading about the Holocaust), was quietly slower.
But, I had a great weekend: I relaxed in Vermont, leaked sweat in the humidity, raced in the (brief) rain on Sunday, and thoroughly loved it. Although I was never in contention for the GC, and didn't have much of a chance for any of the stage results I was seeking, I was able to be a part of the race. I chased for a team mate, I spent some time off the front.
This attitude will probably never net me the cat 1 license that so many of my racing peers are clamoring for, but that's alright with me. At the beginning of the season I set out with the goal of being competitive in races. I happily achieved that, and was having a good season, until I broke my wrist. It's been a slow return to fitness since then. Now that the season's all but over (with Fall Bear canceled this weekend, and me heading to Interbike in Vegas the week after, it'll be hard to keep my fitness up, though I do have one race remaining), I think I'll do it again next year.
After all, I don't know if I'll win any races, but I'd hate to miss out on the fun.
Now, on to Spa:CX!
Monday, September 05, 2011
One-quarter of the planned racing up at GMSR was unceremoniously canceled today, when part of the crit course flooded in the midst of a steady, soaking downpour.
The net effects of the stage being canceled are three-fold: 1) The Champion System Racing did not get the chance to try and move Sergio onto the points podium. 2) I was deprived of the opportunity to embarrass myself in front of the crowds of adoring fans, as I have done each year I've raced GMSR. And, 3) I got home much earlier than anticipated, despite driving home the whole way in terrible weather -- and now have a little time for a quick race report. I had something of a revelation while racing this weekend -- a revelation that can only come in the midst of a hard stage race, at the end of a trying season.
I need to think my revelation out a little more fully before I write about it here, so stay tuned!
As expected, the race was a wash, results wise. Also as expected, I really enjoyed spending the weekend in Vermont, and found the race to be a lot of fun, and well worth the (long -- nearly 1,000 miles) drive.
I did have good legs on stage two, which was a modified circuit race in Hinsburg, a last minute substitute for the traditional course in Waitsfield, which was ruined by Hurricane Irene. With long climbs at a shallow grade, I found that I was able to stay comfortably in the field, even when the pace ratcheted up, and thanks to some confidence-inspiring wheels, I was able to descend well enough to maintain position, instead of doing my escape-out-the-back routine. Sergio snapped up some sprint points at the first intermediate sprint, so we both thought it would be a good opportunity to get him a stage result.
Unfortunately, the run-in to the finish was on a narrow road with exceptionally shitty pavement (even before the hurricane). While trying to advance my position on the right shoulder in the last seven miles as we rolled along at speeds around 30mph, I, rather abruptly, found myself out of pavement, and careening across a sandy turn-out. A few others had taken similar detours. My wheels made horrible noises as I hit a few larger rocks and I thought I was going to die. I didn't, though. The back of the bike fishtailed a bit in the sand, but I kept rolling, eventually slowing enough to hop back onto the road. Once back on the pavement, since I hadn't died, I decided to see about getting back into the race.
Of course, by that time, the peloton was a good 300 meter ahead. There was a CCB guy between me and the peloton, so I figured I'd catch him and we'd work together to get back into the race. A big effort got me onto his wheel, but I quickly realized he was done for the day, so I pressed on along, burying myself to make contact -- which I eventually did. In retrospect, I should have called it a day at that point, been thankful not to have been dropped, and chilled at the back of the field all the way home, while Sergio took care of business on his own. Instead, I immediately started to advance through the field, again on the right shoulder. I had made it about half way through the field, and we had about 3 miles remaining, when I got pushed into a second sand trap. I hit this one at a slower speed, so it felt safer, but I instantly lost all the ground I'd made up -- and decided to pull the plug. I rolled home a few minutes after the field, while Sergio, who pretty much doesn't need any help (especially not from me) sprinted to 9th on the stage.
The next day saw another modified race, thanks to Irene. We still started at the Sugarbush ski area (albeit, at a different base area from usual), and kicked off the race with a long, neutral descent. Then, instead of turning south along the ruined Mad River Valley, we turned north and followed the first portion of the original circuit race course. After the KOM, a small break went off for the sprint points, so I went to the front for a few miles to try and keep Sergio close the points. Unfortunately, neither of us had thoroughly read the race bible -- all three point spots were already up the road, but we both thought there were two more up for grabs. So to, apparently, did the three guys who tried to beat Sergio. He did, however, win the meaningless field sprint. The race's first 30 miles were pretty fast -- we covered them in 1 hour and 10 minutes, even with the slow neutral parade through Waitsfield-- but the race slowed a bit when we hit a short dirt section.
That was followed by a climb that was substantially less fearsome than either the Middlebury or Brandon gaps (both out of the race due to Irene), but did role and step for a while, and deposited us into the face of a strong head wind as we headed back south. Knowing that I didn't stand much of a chance of being able to keep up with the climbers on the Baby and App gaps, I made an attempt to get up the road -- bridging to a CCB rider who apparently had the same thought. Unfortunately, the douche from JAM Fund/NCC who had the yellow jersey jumped onto my wheel, where he sat and refused to pull through, dooming our move (which didn't have much of a chance anyway) with his presence in the process. Oh well. Perhaps he didn't know that I was significantly down on GC?
Predictably, I got dropped on Baby Gap, then it started raining as I dragged my sorry ass to the finish.
Monday, by comparison, was much more successful: Once the stage was canceled, I had a nice lunch with Ben and Marcus from Round Here Racing, then drove home in on-and-off rain, and on-and-off traffic. All in all, a great weekend of racing!*
*Note the omission of any mention of the stage one time trial..