By intent, I’ve kept my mouth shut. Never any pressure on them to ride…or even less, to race. In fact, quite the opposite. If there was any inspiration I tried to convey to my young’uns, it is to try EVERYTHING.
And so my boys did. Both of them gravitating towards bikes....with some baseball and rock climbing thrown in for good measure too.
Today was massive for a father and a son. Aiden, raced his first ‘cross. A hot an dusty one in Golden…the Green Mountain Sports Race 1 of their series.
I think I was infinitely more stressed than my boy pre-race. He was just amped to get under way. We pinned him up and he and I went about doing a recon lap or two, me explaining the fine points of tire pressure and what lines to take…he, not giving a rats ass about tire pressure, call-ups, hydrating and any of the lessons I was giving up for free…but simply stating: “Dad this is AWESOME! We get to ride our BIKES on these trails???!
That was what I needed to hear. And from then on I just watched him. Smiled. Flowed.
When they sent off his wave of 8-9 year olds, I couldn't help myself. I just got on my bike a pedaled behind them. Watching him lead out, crash, then get back up and just keep going. No complaints. Just his focus ahead. He noticed a while in that I was around, and he just blurted out like a banshee:
” I…am…having…FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. Reminders of why we do it.
Yet a bittersweet taste was present this AM and I felt it run deep in my soul as I rode behind him, smiling. I kept thinking back to my own father. My own one-on-one time with him, as rare as it was. I was the youngest of five and the reality is, the age disparity was simply too great for him to be active with me. He did, however, try to teach me how to throw a mean knuckle ball…his forte’. I never could get that right. Kept beaning batters sending them crying to their moms.
But alas, I thought of him and am sure he was smiling at the scene, the pride, the time being spent between father and son.
At the end of my boy’s race, it was dad’s turn. No warm up to speak of after his race ended. I was on a high watching him. I had a bud pin me up, I tightened down my shoes and got to the line. We had call ups from last year which enabled me to take a front row seat. Many of my buds were there today. My teammates, Faia and Wisner, Legg-Compton, Cospolich, Harris, Hogan, and of course Mr. Michael Robson. We lined up just like old times, and settled in for our pain-cave session.
Let me digress for a moment if you’d humor me however.
In June I sat on the couch with a snapped clavicle thinking “Oh well, maybe I can at least take picture this cross season if I can’t race.”
But today, 3 months later, I was smiling in the sun. The human body is amazing. I had no expectations for today other than to get a massive workout, feel the joy of pinning on a number again, and test our Mr. Robson’s tubeless set up he prepped for me (Mavic Ksyrium ES’ with new Hutchinson Bulldogs).
Today's course was Colorado to the core. Fast and flowy dirt trails, mixed with a wee bit of grass. They feature-ized well with a very creative stair case run-up timed nicely after a fast ingress turn into it.
Along with the tire testing, my plan for today was to literally focus on lines, technique and tire pressure. Tubeless for the first time. All executed to plan. At the whistle I feathered a bit to let a few guys like Faia and Robson move to the front and let them pull around. Mark Legg-Compton came through second lap and put it down and tore Faia and Robson with him which was too rich for my blood today. (Yes, Frank, I could feel your presence rationing-out only a few matches to me.)
To the tubeless testing: Many of you have been tubeless for ages. I run them on my MTB, but the burping in cross I witnessed time and time again last year was too risky to try. This year, with Hutchinson's updated kevlar bead, things were VERY tight to get on, but super solid under my 180lbs. Roughly 34psi in the rear and 32 in the front. The feel is not the same as a tubular. Quite frankly, they aren't as supple (at all)…but really felt pretty remarkable on this radically bumpy CO course. I intentionally would dive into corners, trying out some lessons in counter steering Pete Webber walked me through this week, and they felt fantastic. Not one wash-out or any un-hooking in corners. So, I am definitely impressed with this years Bulldogs.
By mid race it settled into pretty fun pack racing. Wisner attacked our group and went to bridge ahead while I worked with a Green Mountain guy and my man Mike Hogan for the remainder of the race. Like the crafty national MTB champion he is, Mike attacked perfectly and I covered but felt myself starting to pay for it, decided to keep the change in my pocket and let him slip away. I yelled at him in the final turn ‘great race you crafty sombiotch!’. I took 7th on the day and all within the limits I set.
Picking races to focus skills on is critical…especially early season. Smarter racers than I have been doing this for their careers. Me, even 14 years on in this sport, it’s still an educational evolution. It’s GREAT to take a mental break from racing…while racing! I want to take on this season way differently this year. I want to feel fast when I want and need to feel fast. And I want to feel like I’m riding my bike every race moving forward…not licking my stem in agony. Today, I accomplished that.
Off to Vegas this week for Interbike and Brook Watts’ Cross Vegas. Robson, Cariveau and I will represent CO in the Industry Cup. FINALLY I am thinking sensibly and get to watch the Elites with a beer, instead of racing it and making it a goal not to get lapped before 50 minutes.
Hup hup, buttercups. We're underway!