We're in it now, folks. The meat of the season. Bodies either feeling good or feeling smashed. Equipment is beginning to show some wear and the need to stay focused and push through to your end goals is front and center. I am looking at the coming months while trying not to forget my here-and-now with some of the widest eyes I've had in a very long time. Staring down some basic truths that I've needed to embrace so I can get back to enjoying my sport, being a crazy supportive daddy and generally keep on keepin' on. They're simple truths about myself, my racing and my 'real' life. "The balance", remember? Like all y'all face every season I'm sure. I'll weave all this in as I digest the last couple of weeks of racing...
Sienna Lake brought out the first real test of 'crossers resolve. The day started off calm and overcast for the early AM categories, but by mid-morning would produce a maelstrom of intensely crossy weather...challenging the racers skills and fortitude. Especially the little ones.
Both my little men raced but the limited imagry was due to the extreme lack of spectators! It was simply too crazy to be standing outside on the course tape. Seamus came to the race not well, but decided to jump in and participate with his BJC teammates. He rode super well to a 3rd in the 8-9's.
By the time Aiden's group raced, the weather was becoming evil. The precip turned to ice and hail and came from all directions. The crew got off to a clean start (there's always that panicked moment at the start of a junior 'cross...waiting for the pile up.) and began to challenge themselves on the icy, slimy course.
Photo by Ralph Hart
The kids got after it, flowing super well. Proud of their absorption of all the lessons they've learned from practice. They truly look great at what they do....
Boulder's 'Big Show' UCI weekend came and went in what most consider dream conditions - a snowstorm late in the week with sunny skies and melting snow over the weekend. A spectators delight...let alone a joy for the true crossers who relish in the conditions and courses that favor the bike drivers of the lot of us. We saw some maddening racing with Ben Berden taking advantage of Trebon's mishap Saturday and Ryan getting vengeance Sunday but having to beat Summerhill first. Crazy good racing.
But alas, let's recount the old guy and kid races...cause that's where al the real drama is! Ha!
Colorado Cross Cup - Boulder Reservoir
My main man Boups impressed yet again with his Rez course. Every year the complaints start about the Rez a few weeks before the race....Oh the goatheads! Oh the sand! Oh it's flat and boring!....but every year Boups impresses. The course assembled was downright fun. The precip made it more so with frozen snow in the AM and by the time the 35 Elites took off at 11:30, we saw no less than 3 or 4 stages of the course changing. From greasy mud to tacky ripping speedway....all in 45minutes. Awesome.
Photo by Mountain Moon Photography
I'd come off a high the weekend before podium-ing at Xilinx. I trained hard through the week and hit the weekend equally hard. Saturday felt good from the gun
Photo by Dejan Smaic - Sportif Images
Ups and downs...highs and lows. It was a weekend full of 'em! The Boulder-area had some of our classics this weekend. Interlocken on Saturday and Xilinx on Sunday are two of the most revered and favorite courses by the locals run by some of our best promoters, Boulder Racing and Blue Sky Velo.
The weather the Front Range has been experiencing is classic Indian Summer - warm sunny days with dry and fast conditions. But we can always artificially make a 'cross
The big show. The Grand Prix's. The circus comes though once a year to Colorado and it's fantastic to see great friends as they follow the caravan from city to city. But alas, I've had a love/hate relationship with the USGPs. It's a crap shoot so for me, I can really set no audacious goals. Just train within the tempo of the folks who have been racing or are peaking for these two days. And that's exactly what I did. With no meaningful call up procedure (my sorry ass was in the smoking section both days), I had to just look at personal objectives: ride smooth, attack all the hills, stay in the wheels. I still can not figure out why the GP's can not use USAC's ranking system to determine call ups. Order of registration feels like a cop-out as we've now compiled and can access much more sophisticated data to lay out a start grid. But I digress.
It seems like the weather gods know exactly where to be on the first Saturday of the Colorado leg of the GP's: Directly over Fort Collins. The morning races were gorgeous....but by mid day (the Junior races and elite master races), the skies opened up, temps dropped and the rain began to piss down.
My oldest, Aiden (10), is now in full swing racing in his 3rd season of cross. He gets it all...the mud, the suffering, the self control...but on the start line he and all the other brave kids were standing there in a collective vibrating mass. All shivering. Nerves, fear and cold all building up waiting for the whistle. Aiden, on the front row was looking at me terrified. Then the chief referee signals "30 SECONDS!!!". Aiden looks forward, breathes and stops shivering. Today he's racing with the BIG kids. The teenagers. His calmness inspired me and when that whistle blew, he ripped to an incredible 14th amongst a huge field in horrible conditions. So proud of him. I can only envision what he is learning about himself at this age. Let's face it, when I was 10 years old, I was not doing this. Not even close. Shivering on the bench in a hockey arena or soccer field can not compare to this level of bravery.
Photo by Amy Keller
The 35 Masters then lined up. I'm in the back of the bus in the 6th row and I can see my teammate and current world champion Pete Webber not too far ahead. I'm thinking: "How can a world champion not get a courtesy call up? When he goes to Belgium
Oh. Whoa. It's here! Cross is upon us full stop here in Colorado. Already some 4 weekends in, it's on like Donkey King as our bud Dave Towle rips over the mic. For me...tranquility. Injuries are a distant memory and I am just melting into the season slowly and progressively. Pete Webber is keeping my body and mind moving forward with incredibly fun training and yet again I am back again to try and be the best that I possibly can in this life and in the sport that I bleed for.
The Boulder Cycle Sport Ambassadors Team is back and in effect. More on this as we get into the meat of our season. We've graduated Allen to his first pro contract with Raleigh-Clement, and have taken on a new Boulder transplant and all around good guy, Russ Stevenson. So stoked to have him and his knowledge on the team.
Now...let's nerd-out: The bikes. Oh yes. BCS riders have embraced bear hugged the disc movement with Ridley's newest 2013 X-Fire Disc. I'll do a dedicated post on the details but let's just say: I get it. Yes, the weight needs to come down and it will. But it is exactly like the moment we made the leap from V-brakes to discs in the early 2000's en masse and people simply could not believe why they waited. The one finger speed shaving let's my hand stay in a natural position in lieu of trying to gobble the levers with multiple fingers. The modulation of the Avid BB7's is extremely smooth. None of the ON / OFF syndrome people feared with discs on a rigid carbon fork and skinny knobbies. They modulate smoothly and totally predictably. I am praying for the rain gods to piss on us and turn the earth to shit.
Below is bike one in the stand with a set of training wheels on (and that is yet another discussion...as these are tubeless and are incredible). Oh, and yes, did you catch that? That's two maddeningly hypocritical statements of mine so I'm eating my hat. I'd said 'NO' to discs in a Mountain Bike article some years ago and anyone who knows me knows how I've thrown tubeless under the bus. They are not tubulars, no. But the combo of Clement and Stans Iron Cross rims feels...well, solid. A bit wide (35+ mm) but fun and cushy. And thus far, the bead is sick. Pas des burps.
So while all this bike building, rehabbing and working is going down, other good stuff is happening. Got to spend time with US Pro Challenge stage winner Rory Sutherland who manned the taps at Rocky Mounts with Timmy Duggan. Love these guys. Rory sought me out
Everything in its place, ready to go. Bikes, body, mind. Check them. Then re-check again. Check myself, then re-check me again. In my bike racing past, each summer leads up the same in that I am burning mental matches thinking how fast I need to be. Then never having the experience enough to relax and truly understand the body matches that are needed to be preserved for the moments you need to strike them. Struggling as I open the 3rd beer that its a weight that I should just tie to me as that's what it's doing...but oh how it sooths the brain for those precious few minutes. It's all kind of pathetic and silly. I guess I'm just self proud and like what it feels like to win...on bikes, in business and at home. And I needed ways and things to grasp on to.
And then you crash and it all sort of goes sideways. And you do that again and again.
Alas, no longer. I'm getting too old...not to not care per se. Because I care and care deeply. I'm just getting more patient and know that the sun always rises. I know that I'm not running out of time like I saw my father do through his self-inflicted sorrows. I know I do what I can to be happy and make those around me happy. I know I do what I can to be healthy and to continue doing what I love on bikes. And I know now more than years past that seeing my sons ride their bikes with their little friends laughing and doing Starsky and Hutch 180 degree power skids ('cause it's fun) is magic and mentally massaging.
I'm going to go race my bike again starting this Sunday.My bikes are in shambles, I'm relaxed on my state of fitness and yet...I'm ready. Happy. I am going to feel deep love for my hobby as I've lost focus on that. It's a hobby. It's easy when you're wired the way I'm wired. I'm going to do my best, then go and do it again. Because I can and I'm in love. Everything now in its proper and meaningful place.
Preparation. Patience. Staying focused. Taking the long view. It's all the stuff I have essentially plastered on my mental walls these days to remind myself to 'remain calm and move forward.' I've made a call in an attempt to act like an adult to push back my racing a bit. While the legs and heart feel great, I simply do not think that I can take a risk jumping into racing after more or less exactly 4 weeks since breaking my clavicle again. I have great mobility but it's still a bit sore and I can envision the sort of havoc I'd wreak on it jumping into full combat this weekend. I'll miss one of my favorite courses at Xilinx but there will be more....
All my attentions now are on my sons, however. (Poor kids?). Ha. But it is such a rush to see the boys railing and laughing and having fun. Each attempting to out 'smooth' each other with their newly found re-mounts. The race at Valmont this weekend was classic Colorado: dusty, fast and 90 degrees. The kids were absolute heroes. It's unbelievable what they can do with their little bodies. Especially when motivated by an ice cream at Spooners afterwards.
So, for me, more of 'das training' and more focus down the road and the promise of feeling great when I really need to. Maybe for once this will teach me! I'm just as excited as every to race. Building the new bikes will be a great distraction and less stressful to get 'em done right away...
In my father's era, a trip like this would never have been possible. I mean, how is it that the many beautiful parts of the world not so long ago were completely inaccessible due to communism. Well, luckily for me and my generation, Glastnos changed all that and we can now see some incredible places on this globe of ours. Like Slovenia.
A dear friend and mentor of mine, Seth Levine, inspired a group of his friends to come celebrate his birthday with him....in Slovenia! Some cyclists, some tech nerds but all good buds, this trip would see us on a 5 day bike tour on some of the sweetest roads in the Julian Alps (wedged in the corner of Slovenia, Austria and Italy). I had salivated it from the moment the invite came to the days leading up.
And then that silly cow had to ruin my fun! Crash...broken collarbone 2 weeks before I was to leave.
I shook it all off and I decided that I really needed to go and celebrate with Seth. No bikes, just be there to celebrate his birthday and the incredible lives we share here in Boulder as friends with this group of guys. We're all working hard to build businesses run by great people. And the values we all share are in lock-step.
So after the collarbone thing and deciding to go, I packed lightly...no bike, no equipment. Only the Slovenia jersey Seth gave us all to celebrate the trip as the only bike-related thing. On the first day of the bike tour, everyone assembled for pictures in the jersey...and then it came over me. I've gotta ride. I asked the tour guide to bring down one of the Cannondale touring bikes form the racks. Set it up as best I could...all 30+ pounds of it and took it for a test drive (top most picture). I said: "Let's go" and before I knew it, donned a helmet and a water bottle and set out with the boys. And yes, they were baiting me the whole night before after tons of beers. Time to man-up...
It was worth every minute (and risk...shhhh). Views like this (Lake Bled) were absolutely stunning.
We had a day or two of sight seeing. This is the view from the castle in Ljubljana.
We'd stop in cities and everywhere you'd see Soviet-era art. Massive masterpieces like this re-enforcing a time that was.
The trip was supported by an amazing tour group, Austin Lehman, and they had everything dialed.....including this rolling Service Course.
And the roads we traversed...all 74km's that day, were epic. Rolling hills, steep climbs, perfect pavement, densely forested in places....and yes, cows properly gated within their fences.
It's a trip I will never forget and so intensely happy I rode with the boys that day.
Thank you sincerely, Seth and Greeley! And happy birthday Seth. It was nothing short of amazing.
Shit was getting real. I mean really real by 2001 with Lance. This was an era in my life when it seemed everything was unstoppable. Everything was firing around me perfectly...recently married, job escalating into the stratosphere and no chain on my bike as I learned how to really race. Plus, all the decades of fear people had over cancer could virtually be put to rest because we were watching someone who'd fought the good fight, beat it and was now laying waste to the European peloton.
Life was good.
We all had lived through the Festina affair in 98 and witnessed a balling Richard Virenque crying like a baby when his team was jettisoned from the Tour for being a collective of dopers.
But little did we know everyone was.
Even as the testing got better over the years and more bone-heads got nabbed, we could not take Lance (and by extension his heroic American team and teammates) off their well dusted and prized mantel. They were shining objects. Americans. Impossible for many American minds to allow themselves to connect the 'character' of a cheating, lying, whining, nefarious doper (yes, how we saw these strange Europeans...there I said it) from the visions of super heroes we were creating here in the U.S. battling on the roads in Europe.
You could almost see the capes flapping in the breeze from within the peloton.
Little did we know that big business was helping steer and certify a legend in the making. The Thomas Weisels of the world injecting monies to feed virtually anything this legend needed. The right teammates. The right equipment. The right medical programs.
We had to be able to compete right? Even Superman needs something to combat the Kryptonite flowing in the arteries of the Euros. So why not poison him with Kryptonite too and acclimatize him.
I've read all the threads from every angle. The tweets and FB posts from teammates who were there training with him to those that know he had an extra special engine. Conversely, I've read all the same media on those attacking him and desperately want to expose Lance for some reason. I can't instinctively say if it;s to better the sport, or to effectively put their own guilt to rest. A guilt I am sure that has been weighing on them and their very Puritanical American up-bringings. Up-bringings that can't have any of that. Or if you do, you don't get caught. Just like Wall Street, right?
It's time for this facade made of paper machet to collapse. It can not support the weight of the guilt, nor the weight of the trophies and medals our clean young riders are generating these last few years. In fact, it's completely unfair for Lance's Affair to consume all the attention, kudos and focus from our newest and brightest we are raising like a Black Hole sucking the gravity out of the universe. That is the greatest shame. It's a tabloid sidebar column at best. Stealing any opportunity for great press to be concentrated on those that deseve it.
You cheating fucks need to go away. Walk silently out the side door and close it behind you. Softly. We are giving you this opportunity. We as the clean and as parents and coaches who are trying to guide and focus our youth to do the right thing are giving you this opportunity. Right now. An opportunity to leave and allow us who care to move forward and re-build this sport we love right.
And make it beautiful again. Like we saw in Boulder this past weekend.
The buds of our tree of cycling are beginning to blossom again. We've got past the nuclear winter of fraud and can start to bask in the sun to let these newbies grow, compete, do their best with what they were given.
The bikes are waiting. Just like me. I can do this. I'm mending, having the patience to breath, feel the breath and know that I can do this again. To try my best to be at the top. On the front. Making races.
The bikes can wait as I mend. I am so relaxed as I know what being hurt means and know what I need to do to heal. I have pushed aside all the drama that I seem to make with these ridiculous crashes and set backs. And I hate that. It's embarrassing. I want to have a clean run at my goals one of these years but maybe my path in life is to really and truly understand complications and know how to handle them for the time being. Maybe it is my goal to learn to deal with them not for bike racing...but for other things in life that need my resolute focus on 'overcoming.'
We hiked as a family today. My son says..."Dad, we're so lucky." And it was like the wind that the America's Cup sailors only dream of swept under me and stretched my eyes wide open as we wound ourslves through the single track in the woods. He continued as we hiked along..."I mean, I have these awesome friends and I love school and you and mom love each other and talk a lot together." That is verbatim. And that is better than the calcium that is knittng my bones together. It is this soulful wisdom that I needed to hear to correct my mind-wandering. To check my self and the rapid idiocy that can develop from self pity. Fuck that.
And that's it. That's all that there is. I am 41 and I want to win hard races...I want to win in business....I want us to win around the kitchen table...and thankfully we have everything we need and dream of as a family. Our health. Our friends. Our life here in Boulder our good food on the table and a path that is being set by nothing but love and confidence in each other as parents to our children....and children to their parents.
Everyone should snap a clavicle every now and again. I recommend it.