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Entries from December 1, 2007 - December 31, 2007

NorCal's Finest

No, not the 'finest' from that far NorCal of, say, the Humboldt variant. No, I'm speaking about the finest of the ferrous and non-ferrous variant. Like you, I scoped out the article on Cycling News and was stoked to see Sycip getting some air coverage for their Diesel 1 x 1. Jeremy and Jay Sycip (say: SEE-sip not SIGH-sip) are brothers who have made the bicycle their "trade"...but not without wrapping the trade in a thick layer of gooey art that draws you into their product like a moth to a flame. A welding torch and the most insane paint jobs are their rough parallels to oil and canvas. Outside bicycles, if you get the chance, you should check out some of the custom designed furniture these guys produce. Sick.

I am totally biased here having been a Sycip owner since 2001. The first time I saw these guys was at the 1999 Super Cup/National Championships when we raced in the beautiful Presidio in San Francisco (and we'll never be able to again. Long story...). I finished my race and walked past their hobble of a booth where they had like one bike on display. It was this sort of mint green and black thing I recall that shone like a beacon and it just drew me in. One side was the mint....the other was the black. Extremely unique paint job....which I would later find out is call their "split personality" paint scheme. I scoped out the bike and studied every detail form the paint to the over sized Columbus tubing used. Love. Or maybe lust. So I saved my pennies (it took me a while as a struggling computer guy living in a 200 square ft apartment in SF at $1000 a month) and by 2001 I ordered my custom Sycip. I walked down to the piers in San Francisco on the Bay where they had their 'laboratory'. They fit me, asked me questions and we assembled a combination of Columbus tubing for the main triangles and Tange for the chain stays which were stiffer and made for track bikes....all designed to some how find a balance for a bike that I would use all around...from climbing to sprinting. They NAILED it. From crits to Colorado dirt road races (we do a LOT of those out here), the bike Jeremy and Jay made me is irreplaceable. I do not know how I will be able to sit on a 'new' frame and not be able to judge it against the Sycip. Having ridden steel, carbon fiber and titanium road bikes, the Columbus tubing just makes this bike feel perfect in and out of the saddle, at speed or on slow technical climbs.

Anyhoo, go talk to them if you are interested in a new frame. There's my plug.

The REAL intent of the story here is the NorCal builder's story...and to expose you to some rich history and some other builders from the Bay Area. All of these NorCal manufacturers have a very intertwined and incestuous ancestry. Obviously, this is a personal story of some 'connections' between builders connected to my life, but the NorCal builders 'history' is legendary and well documented already.

As you read in the Sycip Diesel article on CyclingNews, Jeremy Sycip apprenticed under my long time friend Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster Cycles. It was there that Jeremy learned the ins-and-outs of welding frames and getting to know the characteristics of how various materials from steel to Aluminum, to Scandium to Titanium get 'glued' together. As you'll see, it seems like a LOT has been inspired from the hallowed halls of Paul's Rock Lobster 'laboratory' in Santa Cruz. Let's start there...

Paul is a Brooklyn-ite who emigrated to the Left Coast ages and ages ago. He found his way to Santa Cruz and befriended the likes of builders such as Keith Bontrager (who also was building bikes and bits in his garage) and Salsa Cycle's Ross Schafer (with whom Paul plays music with as they are both insane musicians). When you look at the styles of their frame building, so much of their influence rubbed off on each other. Look at the rear triangles of a Rock Lobster and a Bontrager and you'll see what I mean.

Paul's reputation grew as his frames carried various known names to 'cross and track national titles. In the late '90's, a 'boy' at the time, Mike Ahrens was nearing graduation from his university, and his thesis in his engineering program was a full suspension bike frame design. Mike did the engineering and he solicited Paul's help given his reputation to apply 'truth' to the design vis-a-vis materials, etc. Together they built what would later be called the "Pinch a Log" (see photo to the right). I also ran this FS rig for a while helping Mike dial in the characteristics. With Paul's guidance over the years and a helluva lot of engineering savvy on his own behalf, Mike has since gone on to create his own company, Ahrens Bicycles. I am absolutely looking forward to getting my Ahrens Revolver 29'er built up this spring!

While all this 'apprenticing' activity was going on at Paul's shop, another welding torch was burning bright right within the same space. Paul shared workspace in this small studio with another Santa Cruz artist: Rick Hunter. To see his bikes is to get a sense of retro-meets-modern-meets-funk. Rick's bikes are epic. His signature now is curvy top tubes as well as truly unique designs...but some things have remained the same such as his use of razor thin seat stays that shout out to Bontrager and Rock Lobster designs of 'back in the day'. I'm not necessarily saying Paul rubbed off on Rick given the close proximity of their work stands...but I wonder of there was a bit of that apprenticing going on as well. In any event, Hunter frames get worked in the West Coast mud weekend in and out by folks wearing lycra....or in drag.

I'll be attempting to bring some of that NorCal mojo with me to za Motherland in a week's time to dip these frames in the Holy Mud Water. I hope the pilot can give these storied fames justice!

An encapsulation of the season....

So, as I prepare for my remaining four races, I was reflecting on the season at large. The specific goals I initially set for myself were not 'met' per se, but I am still happy. Racing against some of the best racers in the country over 35 years old and making the race with them is not only an honor but a rush.

Lots changed this year in terms of how I raced and how I prepared for the season. After 10 years of 'crossing, you STILL learn things about yourself and the game. Amazing. Having Taro in my corner helped immeasurably to provide me another lens into what my strengths, but more importantly, my weaknesses are. Training "less" in terms of volume but very focused on quality training ranging between 6-10 hours a week through power metering also was new to me this year and paid dividends. Way more important than being a watt-weenie though was resting. I never rested before! I would going inexplicably hard week after week in seasons past until December where I would feel like a shell of a person. I felt totally different this year and the suffering was different. I felt really fresh at CO States as an example. Overall, I felt lighter on the bike, quicker in terms of leg speed, my running game was infinitely better with running training 3 x per week on average and I could feel exactly what I needed to tune each race as my body was saying things to me and I was taught to listen to it. All this in contrast to season's past being cross eyed each race praying I come across the line in a good place and looking forward to the last race of the season by mid November. This year I felt more in control and had motivation for more and more (generally speaking! Read some of my earlier race report rants and you may disagree).

What I was not in control of though was my shit luck! Ha! Tires, tires and more tires were my nemesis this year. Rolled Dugasts, failed Challenges....it never seemed to end and each race it seemed was a Ground Hog day of feeling really good and confident, pushing the pace initially, tire implosion of some variant...then play catch up the rest of the race.

My team mate Chris V captured this all on film in Gunnison and demonstrates what is a fantastic encapsulation of the shite.

The race begins with me feeling on fire. I want to hurt guys early on.

I create the split I want with a team mate. Sweet.

I start to hear noises in my rear wheel and at the end of this clip, I drop my head to see whatup.

More of the same per above. I am looking down and trying to figure out WTF is going on. I then roll RIGHT BY the pits and past my spare bike. Smart, man. Smart.

Voila. I am gone. Wheel implosion about 10 seconds before you see Karl, Chris and Ward come through the barriers.

I'm back! But who's bike am I on?

I drop of that bike and CV and Brady Kappius help me with a change to my back up Rock Lobster. The chase from last place is on.

Catch one...move on...catch another...move on. The pick off game is in effect.

And so it went like that for many races for me this season. I'm definitely not crying a river here but would love to have seen how I could have done without so much drama! Fun as hell though and the guys I get to race with every weekend are filled with za class.

I got some revenge in the Opens later that day with a good start...

And a consistent job through out the day after putting it all out playing catch up earlier in the 35 Opens....

So there we go. Wish me luck for no more drama in these last four races but rather technically clean races with rubber stuck firmly to carbon.

Thanks Chris for sending me the vids!

TJ's got his stars-n-bars skinsuit...

So I made mention that I'd love to see TJ rockin a legit National Champion's skinsuit instead of the podium jersey he was rocking. Looks like the got it to him post haste although we did not get to see much of it due to issues TJ had apparently at the GVA held in Loenhout:They could've shipped him a red white and blue Giro though! Ha! By the way, the picture above was taken by the person shooting Geoff's folks at Cross Camp. Lots of good shots of the various races the Euro Crossers are competing in while over there.

He even grabbed a nice shot of Paco suffering it out against the big'uns in Torhout!

More from Mr. Sales

So a few days ago I posted about photographers growing around the country and really 'getting it'. Again, Joe Sales impresses. He posted this pic below and it epitomizes his strength as a photographer but also as a person who understands 'cross to its core. The last time I said that it was about Brian Vernor when he did his photographic essay at the GP's a season or so ago. This photo is creepy as it is as if Joe molded these racers in wax. Time truly standing still. The strobe behind them is what is giving it that 'staged' appearance as if said "Cut! OK guys, let's do it again."

Sick.

Zoopa fans

Let's face it. Sports is a heavier subject in many households than religion or politics. People would throw themselves directly in front of a bullet to save their start quarterback than their local beloved politician or spiritual leader.

So let's observe some of these species around the world, shall we?

The Tennis fan:

The Hockey Fan

The English Soccer fan

The American Collegiate Football fan:

The German fan (who gives a shit what sport):

And, last but not least, the Cyclocross fan:

I am proud to share a heritage where incredibly bad footwear combined with insane amounts of alcohol can allow any person to join in the fun and speak the language. It's all slurred together and guttural anyways.

Thawing of my body is not possible.

Shhhhhhhiiiiiivvvvveeerrrr. I am still shivering as I type this. 12 degrees when I rolled out of my garage this AM. I do not think it is going to be possible to truly thaw out and repair all that frost bite damage. I sure as shit hope nothing bad is going on with them toes!
Today saw some true suffering. The irony it was not the legs and body suffering from 'too much work', but the elements took their toll on me.

Today was what I think is the LAST Poormans session for 2007. In 2006 and years prior, I probably went up that slog like 10 times merely as a connector/cut-off road from the high mountains down back into Boulder. In 07 and Za Plan, it became a 'tool'. I now know every single solitary nook, cranny, hitch, bend, rise and rock on that God-forsaken hill. The Sessions Taro has lined up are extremely difficult, one building on to the other, week after week. Today I struggled through all of teh prescription but was so dodgy given the ice and 10 degree weather in the shade (plus wind howling) that it was sloooow going. I couldn;t stand to get in a huge effort as the back wheel would slide out. So seated at a slow an deasy tempo was about all that could happen.

My session began with a hard tempo up Sunshine Canyon (see photo above). It's a slog of a climb used for mountain time trials in the summer. I then dumped onto the top of Poormans and had to catch my breath less from the effort, and more due to the view (see right). Sick. So cold but super clear. Note the wind blowing the snow in the distance in the picture.

I'm feeling pretty good and back down to fighting weight which I am happy about. Taro has me loaded up with the required work in my legs and lungs with some further tuning to do over the next week before the rest is enforced before Belgium.

While on Poormans and under stress during the workout, my mind wanders. I keep thinking about what it will be like...I hope my bikes make it OK....am I fit enough...do they really spit beer in your face. Granted, I'll be at some local yocal races and not a World Cup, but 'cross is 'cross over there! I get into this monotonous thought skipping while I stare at my shadow as I try and get the legs lifted, one after the other slogging up the beast.

I hear Michel in my head from a recent email thread:

Let me repeat, be ready to fight hard, expect less than your normal placing and remember a Belgian will sprint to death even for a 40th place...

I have no expectations but experience and fun. But I am not rolling over like a lamb. As cheesy as it sounds, I am going to do what I can to show that Americans can cross....or at least give a shit enough to go all the way to Belgium and throw down. Honestly, when the Japanese or Dominicans came to NYC as a kid to do exhibition baseball games, I was amped to see it. Always a step behind the American sluggers, but they seemed to 'look' like they had it. I hope that is the case in the Motherland. And I hope that the experience leads to stories which leads to more Americans going over there to crack the code on it.

Less than two weeks...

Endless Winter

Man oh MAN! Things are going OFF over there in the Mother Land. Geoff P's got the boys amped and racing hard....even with all of the crazy logistics and skewed travel plans many faced with planes missed, bikes not showing up, etc. Catching up on their blog, it's great to see Danny, Brady and the rest of the local boys throwing down. I race against Brady's dad (trust me....you know exactly where the genes come from if you should race against Mr. K). It's great to see them there giving everything. It is especially rad to see Tim Johnson there with the stars and bars. I would LOVE To see Cannondale rush a skinsuit to him so he doesn't look so bush league with the podium jersey he got at Nats. C'mon! So un PRO!

Sager's team mate Mitchell Peterson is there as well. He has a great race report here. Some observations:

Observation No. 1: Mitchell Peterson is the 2nd coming of Charlie Hayes.
Have you ever seen these guys together? Have you? Mitchell could be the spawn of the legend and my hero Charlie Hayes.
Observation No. 2: Mitchel is spanking Kamiel Van den Berg
I love this shot. Go lay the smack down on Kamiel, Mitchell. If you've seen it, Kamiel is the guy who on the 1st lap of the 2006 World Championships from The Netherlands who gives that group of jeering Belgium spectators the finger. After taking the hole shot, Kamiel implodes like a dying star on the 2nd lap. Ouch. So this whole shipment of Americans over to the Mother Land (including myself in a week!) is sort of like the Endless Summer....of the Winter variety. We are on a quest to catch the biggest and the best waves all for the experience. To really understand what this sport is about come good or come bad.

Tick tock tick tock.

NOT your Father's Chimay

Holy crap on a poop stick. I've found it...and all this time it's existed so near me...in the form of a dear friend who's SO PASSIONATE about making it! I can barely type as I type this. The beeer si tooo gud, and a wee bit alkeehawlik. My boy Hix gave me a Christmas present in the form of his home brewed "No Room at the Inn" Christmas style Blegian Ale. I just got around to opening it. In Hix's words:

It's a belgian christmas ale, so think affligem noel or st. bernardus noel.

Dark, caramel, a little sweetness, some spice, lots of "warming" alkyhawl. i didn't think it was going to be quite ready in time for christmas, but the one i opened last night was pretty danged tasty.

It will have a short-lived head and won't be terribly carbonated (high aklyhawl). i'm going to set aside some of it for 6+ months from now.

Verdict: ALL TRUE.

This is a man who Rides now a Ridley X-Night and MADE THIS BEER. I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!

Thank you my friend.

(And, no, I am not operating heavy machinery whilst imbibing).

(Yes this helps my recovery you weenies.)

Petition to USA Cycling for Kansas City Master's Race Issues

While I was not there to witness this first hand, I have been hearing about specific issues going on with respect to race logistics for the Master's categories at Kansas City. There is a petition circulating for people who were there/are interested in changing the logistics for next year. You may find that information and enter your 'e-signature'

>> HERE <<

Stylin

We got the Vito dialed in for pickup at the Brussels Airport. Pimp. They sent me a picture with my order confirmation:

Mmm. Eurotrash. Mmm.