Sunday, April 6, 2014

February & March Part I: Italy

It's been a crazy 2014 for me so far.  In January I did a fat bike race up around 3000 m in Como, CO.  It was rad, and fat bikes are also rad, if you live in an area that get sufficient snowfall.  I do, so I could totally justify buying one.  It's definitely on the bottom of my list of future bike purchases, though.  I suppose I'm lucky enough to have friends with fat bikes.
Como, CO.  Fat bike racing at 3000 m.

The venue.

My borrowed Borealis Yampa. A carbon fat bike that rode just like a regular MTB.
I participated in the 4 person relay with teammates Jonathan, Les, and Brian.  We won that category, mainly thanks to a blistering lead-out lap by Brian.  Since that race was the Colorado Fat Bike Championship, I suppose that we are the 4 person relay fat bike champions of Colorado.  Special jerseys are in route...

No that long after that I found myself lining up for a month of traveling for work.  First up was a week long maintenance trip to a mine in Safford, AZ.  I had a semi-chance meeting with Tom McD in Phoenix, and, since he had a spare bike with him, I managed to sneak in my last ride of the month on the McDowell Mountain trail system.  It was pretty fun.  Smooth and ripping fast desert singletrack.  Two days after getting back from that trip, I was on another plane...

DIA with snow.
... to Italy.  I never thought I'd really get a chance to go across the pond, let alone basically for free because I was visiting the head office of the company I work for.  It was a pretty cool.  I spent 2 weeks in Pisa (where the office is), and traveled everywhere I could.  When I say "I," I really mean "we" as I went with two of my coworkers.  We traveled overnight through through Philly and Munich.  When we arrived in Pisa, we immediately walked into the center of town to try and find some towers.  We found them (it) after a few hours of walking.

The River Arne.

It definitely leans...
Just a Tower peaking around a corner.

My favorite picture of the day.
We spend the week at work learning about our equipment, and how the company in general works.  The next weekend we found our way to a train station, and ended up in Florence.  That was probably my favorite part of the trip.  We walked around for a long time, ate the best steaks of our lives, drank in a bunch of bars and clubs, then walked around some more the next day.


Of course when I saw a bike shop, I had to visit.

Duomo group selfie.

Duomo.

Fantastic stonework.

Inside the dome.

I climbed this tower.

Top of the Tower.

Best steak ever.  4 cm thick and as raw as is healthy to eat.  Sold by the kilogram.

After somehow making it back to Pisa, we worked for another week, then headed home via a 300 km/hr train to Rome.  I liked the fast train, and really wish the US had more of these.  They totally make sense given how huge the country is.  If you take a train from Chicago to Denver, a distance of 1600 km, it takes you 18 hrs on the California Zephyr.  The train we took to Rome would do it in 5.5 hrs.  When will this country every come into the 21st Century?

Colosseum.

Entrance to the Forum 

One Centurion wearing Timberlands, one in period sandals.  The one in sandals was playing with an iPad.

The Wedding Cake.

Vatican City

Forum ruins.

My favorite picture/spot from the whole trip.  Trevi Fountains at night.  Taken on my cell phone.
The next morning, we were on a plane to Philly.  Our plane was delayed at the gate due to mechanical issues (something with a temperature sensor).  We sat there for three or four hours and watch two planes arrive and leave from the gate next to us.  By the time we got to Philly and through customs we had about five minutes to make it completely across the airport to our Denver flight.  Needless to say we didn't make it.  The airline put us up in a hotel and gave us some food vouchers.  My parents ended up driving down into the city for a surprise dinner at our hotel.  It was cool to see them.  The next morning we were up super early for our flight back home.  It was a good thing that we had all taken the next day off work to sleep because we ended up not getting back home until about 2 PM the next day.  Much sleeping was done.

Tune in soon for some bike racing reports...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Big Classic

Sometimes living in Colorado is great.  This weekend our Big Classic ride saw temperatures in the mid 60s by the time we reached Boulder.  We did a ton of climbing, and I got to see some pretty cool views.  Sometimes, though, it isn't so great.  While my friends back east were enjoying cold, calm rides in the woods, I was fighting very strong headwinds at around 9000 ft.  I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed it.  I'd also be lying if I said I didn't.

We left The Shop early in the morning and began heading northeast.  The plan for the day was about 65 miles of dirt and paved roads totaling about 10000 ft of vertical on our mountain bikes (because we're, you know, mountain bikers).  This ride could just have easily been done on a cross bike or a properly equipped road bike, but it makes sense to break out the full knobby tires if your goal is to ride them fast.  Horses for courses and whatnot.  After the first hour the wind, which had been blowing at the start, died down a bit, and we soon found ourselves in Boulder.  Well, when I say we, I mean that I made it to Boulder probably 15 or 20 minutes after the rest of the group did (I may be mostly acclimated to the elevation, but I don't have big mountain legs yet).  One of our number turned back to make a shorter day, and we picked up one more for the climb up Sunshine Canyon.  Just to give some perspective: Most people (roadies) only do the paved part of Sunshine (5.7 mi, 6%, 1699 ft of gain), and that's considered a solid ride.  Something to do after work on a Tuesday.  We were doing the whole climb all the way up to Gold Hill (9 mi, 6%, 2938 ft of gain).  More accurately we were doing the whole climb all the way to the Peak to Peak Highway (16.3 mi, 4%, 3809 ft of gain).  It was a lot of climbing.  Once I hit the dirt sector, the winds kicked back up again, and by the time I got to Gold Hill, I had all the clothes back on that I had removed down in Boulder.

If was feeling confident when I got to Gold Hill, it was the seven miles between there and the Peak to Peak that destroyed me.  The road goes just about due west, and with an estimated 30 mph wind with gusts up to some speed which stopped me in my tracks and made me put a foot down a few times, the nice circles I had been pedaling quickly turned into clumsy squares.  By the time I got to the Peak to Peak, I was ready to be done.  Luckily I knew that it was mostly downhill to Nederland.  In Ned, I found a cool coffee shop, and called the shop for a pick up.  I had about 15 miles of highway to cover to get back to the shop, and I knew there were a bunch of two to three mile long climbs in between.  Given that, the fact that the wind on the Peak to Peak is notoriously ridiculous, and the fact that I was running out of daylight, I decided that calling it would be the best idea.  Luckily, the shop owner's wife happened to be there to pick up the phone, and she volunteered to come pick me up.

Final tally, I got about 53 miles of the ride, and 8226 ft of climbing.  Next time I'll get the whole thing.  Maybe even do what Jon did and add in one more climb just for the fun of it.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cyclocross Nationals: Photo Dump and News

Before I get into my photo dump, I have some news.  Since the fall of 2010, I have raced in the glorious colors of the Darkside, C3-Twenty20 Cycling.  I have loved every minute of every race and ride with my Brothers and Sisters of C3, especially since I was living in Maryland at the time.  Now, though, I live 1700 miles away from the C3 heartland.  As much as I would love to still fly the black, I am anxious to get integrated into my new community.  Through the magic of the Internet, I have gotten hooked up with a group of like minded ladies and gentlemen with whom I will be racing in 2014 and beyond.  This marks a bit of a change for me, as they are a mountain bike-focused team.  They enjoy long, hard rides in the mountains, and plan their seasons around events like the Breck Epic.  Henceforth I will be racing for 92Fifty Cyclery, a team run by one of the countries best endurance racers.  I'm looking forward to learning all that he has to teach and to making a bunch of new friends.

That brings me to my second piece of news, and it's something that I've been debating for a few months now.  I think 2013/2014 will be my last cyclocross season for a while.  It's certainly not because I have no more love for cross.  I was unsure about my reason why I felt this way before this weekend, but now I am not.  I have felt something has been missing from my cross season this year, and now I know that it was the people that I so loved racing cross with.  Cross is just not the same without my MAC Brothers and Sisters.  I think next year I will step back from cross for a bit.  There are some races that I would still like to do (the Boulder Cup weekend and MACISTAN ex-pat Jay Zorn's Cross of the North races come to mind), but I don't think I'll chase the Cyclo-X series like I did this year.  I'd like to extend my mountain bike season into October, and spend a lot of time hiking above treeline.  I will be back to a full cross schedule eventually.  Someday I'll have the speed to chase UCI points in the MAC and NECX and I'll make a vacation out of Holy Week, but not now.  Now I will enjoy my new mountains, post a ton of pictures to make everyone super jealous, and cheer from afar as I watch everyone spin laps around Charm City, Gloucester, or HPCX.  So... I'm really looking forward to getting to know all my new friends on the 92Fifty team.  From what I have seen so far they are all great people.  In fact, they roped me into the Colorado Fat Bike Championships in a few weeks, which we are doing as a 4 person relay.  Like the Marysville one, but a longer lap.  I'm really excited to do it.

Now for photos...

Auer, Sam, Bill, and I awaiting the Women's start and trying not to get blown onto the course.

Chicken man?

Compton is first through the off-camber.

Anderson second... foot out = flat out.

Anthony uses the top tube scoot technique.

Antonneau (had to look that up).

Gould  shredding the off camber with both feet attached to her bike,

Dennis shredding the photo area.

Maybe the first crash of the race?

Nikki right before the big dip sitting around 20th.

Nikki after the Belgian Stairs

Colt broadcasting live from a cold looking tent 
Compton onto the finishing straight to take her 10th title

Powers got a gap early and held it the whole race

Trebon was forever 30 or so seconds back

And Johnson was a ways back from him

Local Alan Krughoff had a fantastic day.

Local Danny Summerhill, not so much

Lindine

Kerry Werner did both the D1 Collegiate race and the Elite... won the first and got 11th in the second

Lindine and Summerhill battled most of the day for 7th

Page got dropped by the Raleigh/Clement duo and solo'ed in for 6th

Powers sandwich

Sam O'Keefe (C3 and Middlebury College) on the podium in 2nd in the D2 Collegiate race

Compton sandwich

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cyclocross Nationals: My Racing

Cyclocross is fantastic.  The most wonderful thing.  I can think of almost no better way to spend a weekend.  Cyclocross bikes are versatile.  You can spin them around in a complex circle for an hour, or you can throw on some bottle cages and hunt for the loneliest dirt road in the vast mountains to the west, or you can rally them around the smooth singletracks out in the plains.  If a non-biking friend asks what kind of bike they should buy I'm more likely to tell them a cyclocross bike than anything else.  Needless to say I was very excited when I found out that we were moving to Colorado on the eve of Cross Nats coming to Boulder.  I would get to attend another National Championship, and I could sleep in my own bed every night.

I'm in a precarious when it comes to racing Cross Nats.  I'm a Cat. 3, and my racing age is 27.  Therefore, I am only eligible to race the Men's Non-Championship 10 - 29 and the Men's Singlespeed Open.  They are both on the same day, so I decided to do them both...

The 10 - 29 race was... interesting.  I swear I was the oldest person in the field.  I lined up on the left side of the grid and I swear I could see clear over every head to my right... plus I had to tilt my head down to meet anyone's eye.  Needless to say, it was weird.  But, of course, since this is Boulder, all those kids were a hell of a lot faster than me.  I got gaped pretty good at the start, and managed to avoid the overzealous-junior-caused crash that happened right under the finishing arch.  On the climb up the backside of the course Kyle blew by me, as I expected.  On the ensuing descents/climbs/stairs I went around many small people who didn't have the experience/leg length to move quickly through the trick bits.  And this course was half trick bits.  Quite frankly it was the best cyclocross course I've ridden all season, and I know I've said that a few times already.  There was mud, oh glorious mud!  I could slide corners, and the off camber after the stairs (Pete's Plunge) actually required some foot out Fred Flintstone action (Enter high and dive, dive, dive!).  I was a little nervous at first since it had been more than a year since I have thrown my bike at a muddy parcours, but the mudder in me quickly resurfaced.  The rest of the lap was the usual flowy Valmont stuff.  There was another small set of stairs, and a set of barriers for your added dismounting pleasure (unless your name is Cody Kaiser).

Goddam kids get off my start grid!

Out to the flat part of the lap.

5280 Stairs.  Gloucester has it's beach and it's rock and Valmont has these bad boys.  They make flat-landers cry.

Blue skies, mountains, and slidy-ness.

Same as above. 

A happy and mud-splattered Holeshot.

I have a hard time racing your juniors, especially ones as small as I was racing against.  My natural instinct is to ride behind them and encourage them to do better, not put them in the tape around the next corner.  It took me a lap and a half to figure out that I could race them and be my normal self at the same time.  I ended up 34th, which put me just outside the top 50%.

The Singlespeed race was a different kind of fun.  The kind of lining up at the back and chilling out with 100 of your best friends you don't know yet fun.  I knew that it would be tough for me to last the full 40 minutes in this, as there were a bunch of pros lining up in front of me.

This counts as a SSCX bike, right?

Carebear. 

The top tube scoot, soon to be followed by the dive and rip.

It went about as well as I expected.  I got 80%'ed after 2 laps, but it was still cool.  I had a great time racing.  I went to work for the next two days, and returned for the big shows on Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday I assisted Darth Auer in the pits for the U23 race.  Sam O'Keefe was our man, and he pulled a solid 14th place.  Sunday I worked the pits for Sam again for the Collegiate D2 race, which saw Sam finishing the first lap sitting comfortably second wheel.  When the group next came towards Pit 1 Sam was no where to be seen.  Auer and I exchanged worried looks, and Sam came into view a few seconds later, down in sixth or seventh.  He changed bikes telling us that he rolled his front tire and something about his drivetrain as he sped off.  After putting on a spare wheel (side note: Sam started the race with Chicane's front and rear, and after pitting got Chicane rear, Limus front, which was probably the perfect tire combo for the quickly drying, but still slick off cambers of the course), and having the Shimano neutral support check his drivetrain (no issues), Sam got his A bike back and started absolutely charging through the field.  Rarely have I seen such inspired racing.  After pitting to get his A bike back, Sam looked absolutely focused each time past, and quickly made his way up to second.  Unfortunately, there was not enough time to close the 20 sec gap to first place.  It was a fantastic race to be a part of.

I'll post up some pictures of the Elite races later.  Now, I'm going to bed.