It's cold. And snowy. And we're smiling here in Boulder. The motivation of the crew here in Boulder is extremely high to perform well in Madison and in Louisville. Almost all training exclusively outside., suffering gladly in the bitter cold. It's so inspiring to push each other as hard as possible as we all want to see that sweet Colorado flag flying high on podiums and for our own personal bests at the Big Shows. Our beloved 'Parc des Champions' has become a playground-cum-battleground to push each other to red-line limits while ensuring our bike driving is as smooth as ever...
For me, I will be absent from Madison. My eldest going in my place to rip up the 10-12's in his first Nationals appearance. He's stoked. And my wife is the best for inspiring the idea that she is taking him to the great white north while I am here in Boulder busily working and training for Louisville.
One month to go. I am deeply excited and motivated to shred. Giddy up.
The sunset of the season. The closing cowbell of a long and trying campaign of racing against the fastest masters in the country. Four final races that tested everything out of me. Mainly testing my patience, focus and belief in where I belong and how to stay focused on doing the best that I possibly can. So, here's the quick dump of a lot of drama, fun and anticipation for Worlds and 2013.
Bowl of Death - Louisville
Next to Elks (Official Course of the U.S. National and World Champion), this is the world's crappiest venue. But we love it. It's fun, flowy, bumpy and hard...and a lot of time into making it as good as it can be happens by guys like Mike Hogan and Philip Ball.
I got a great start like last year (although last year we were in 6" of powder) and broke the selection free pretty immediately.
Photo by Michael Schaub
The course undulates with lots of punchy climbs and on/off bike work (which is my strength). Here, I can control my adversaries (a.k.a. my best buds like Jeff Cospolich and Ward Baker below) to check their speed. Shame that they can pedal those bikes faster than me between the technical sections! Ha!
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.