Entries in 2010 cross racing (13)
The plan was simple: Stay smooth. Stay consistent. Keep moving forward. Your equipment is the best. You are a better bike handler than 99% of these guys. Just flow, race my race and go as hard as your under-tuned body can push you was my inner-chanted mantra. That, and stay out of the shit-show many riders would demonstrate given the conditions we faced. I was lined up 6th row…close enough to see the smiling faces of my brothers on the front line, Webber, Dubba, WB, Robson, Jonny C which gave me some hope and confidence. Yet turning around in the start grid seeing the masses lined up behind…some 17 or 18 rows deep…was daunting. 180+ riders in all. I have no idea what it would be like if the conditions were dry and fast. It would be a scoring nightmare as we had no ankle transmitters.
Friday - The Time Trial
The day before those that either were out of the top 8, did not do Nationals the year before or upgraded to a new age bracket could participate in a time trial to help seed your position. Any little advantage would help. I am a fast starter and while the TT course was well designed to challenge you, it felt pretty manageable to me. There was a beautiful and treacherous run up of ice and snow featured at the midway point, with fast and flowing trails leading to it and from it...trails which were a lot like what you’d experience short tracking. Leaders were doing it in about 6 to 6:15. I pre rode and felt fairly good. Legs were still a little under-whelming but I knew I could push through it. I pre-rode everything…twice mind you…with the exception of the very first section of the course…a critical mistake.
Three, two, one, go! I am off and Robson is yelling at me to stay smooth. The beginning threw a few paved 180’s at you and then immediately puts you into the dirt. I flow into a section super hot shortly after entering the dirt (e.g. unsmooth) that had a radically arced turn (that of course I missed by not pre-riding). I completely blow this corner to the extent that I am off course, in the brush and off the bike. Being off your bike is not fast. I remount and start ‘er up again, pushing hard and find a rhythm. I hit the run up and find myself Mario De Clercq-ing up the run up ‘fast feet’ style, truly bounding up this thing. I complete the course including a set of barriers about 30 seconds off the winning time set by my boy Michael Robson to put me in 40th position, seconds separating riders 10 at a time.
Saturday - The Main Event - Men's Cat 1/2/3 40-44
My compatriots Dave Weber, Jeff Wardell and I were at the start line together. We were shivering, hopping up and down in the grid partly due to nerves, but mostly due to the conditions which were unlike anything I’d faced in the time I’ve been racing. It was a rain and snow squall alternating between the two every few minutes. Looking up into the sky was surreal. The Pacific Northwest was literally raining down snowflakes as big as golf balls. I’ve raced in all types of conditions: It’s been colder than hell racing here in Colorado, for sure. It’s rained on my races plenty of times for sure. But the combination of the two yesterday was such a vicious cocktail, racers would push themselves to new levels…insane levels…to finish and to say ‘they were there.’ We were, for all intents and purposes about to participate in the Woodstock of cycling folklore.
From the sound of the whistle the starting group blasted off the line. The paved start chute was a sea off slush, each riders wheel making a wake and massive frozen rooster tail into the riders faces behind them. It was a ‘pray-for-your-life’ scenario. You can see it all here, from the slush to the mass of humanity racing in the event as captured by Colt and crew. I come in to the first chute off the pavement in the first 40 riders or so (at 00:36…yes, Colt, this needs to be BlipSnippable!)
By lap three I have a brother with me in Jeff Wardell. I am feeling better, railing lines and generally feeling pretty motivated. Surprisingly I don't necessarily feel I am going backwards but gaining ground. Having Jeff there would be a great carrot. I know I was motivated as I could feel the cold but it wasn’t the most ‘present’ thing. Railing the lines were and I felt simply great on my Rhinos doing exactly that.
So as I am flowing with Jeff, an S & M guy and a DeSalvo guy attach to the group and we tractor-pull through a grassy slog which nearly everyone identified as a major leg sapper. This flowed out to a paved path that shot the riders up and over a pretty rad bermed embankment. On the paved lead up into the berm the S&M guy makes a move and we start to tangle bars. I yell at him ‘No! No! No!” as I feel we are both a second or two from hitting the deck. We untangle and he moves on yelling ‘Come on man! It’s racing!” To which I agree but if I could get that guy to see my season through my eyes and the desire to not end up on the ground (again) he’d appreciate the need for me to yell.
100 meters later we are all three shooting to the bermed embankment. S&M guy is through, then DeSalvo and I head in and up. There are two lines and he takes the low, me the high. We converge on the exit, now bombing down the embankment when DeSalvo guy comes unglued and yard-sales in front of me. I hit him t-bone square-on and go over him, his bike and onto the pavement.
I can’t believe it. I open up a cuss-fest and I jump back on and try to pedal and already hear/feel something wrong with me and the bike. Leg warmers are torn and my hip is shooting bullets at my brain. We head into the woods and the rear end of my bike starts making carnival-like noises. Some dude yells at me “Your derailleur's broken!” and I look down and sure enough it’s in the wheel. And so, my National Championship cross country running race begins.
I ran for minutes and minutes, even making some ground on dudes still trying to pedal who went out too hard too early who look like they were in the Bataan Death March. I could feel myself getting pinned from running but finally see the pit. I raise my hand to my dear friend Chris ‘Shotty’ Shotwell who is faithfully manning the pits in the freezing cold for me personally. The course lead up into the pits is painful. I am literally at a point where the pits are 10 feet away as the crow flies, but 100’s of feet away given the course I have to still run to get there. So frustrating as I can see Shotty prepared but it was a lifetime to get around the course. I eventually make it into the pit and toss in my wasted bike and Chris hands me the clean one.
And right there when I tossed in the bike, I had ‘that’ moment.
As I remount the clean bike, I could feel demoralized, gassed and simply shattered from this season. Every single thought ran through my head…the most prominent of which was ‘crawl off’. I am tired of sucking. Tired of complaining. Tired of lots of things. I was hurt and for the next few minutes as I eventually pedaled on truly questioned what I am doing and why (on many levels). It was short lived thankfully. I just sucked up the fact that I simply am not fast and I will work harder next year if I can find the focus in my life to devote to it wholly.
As I come through on the bell lap, my spirits lift a bit. Dave Towle sees me and cheers me on over the course P/A system which made me smile. He also was calling out the fact that my dear friends and team mates Pete Webber and Brandon Dwight were pushing hard at the front with our Colorado compatriot Jon Cariveau murdering himself behind Brandon by mere seconds. I knew even with my running race I had made it into the bell lap safely. That fact and the fact my boys were flying ahead of me and Colorado was slaying the field. My mood went from piss poor to pretty incredible in a matter of pedal strokes.
The elation aside, the suffering on the bell lap was incredible. I barely realized I crossed the finish when I eventually came through 7minutes down on Za Webber in an illustrious 70th place and just kept pedaling and circled back to our tent where we all sat and began our bouts with hypothermia. Webber, Brandon, Ward Baker…we all were in an extremely bad way. Friends were piling in to the tent to literally begin to rescue us as it became pretty scary. Uncontrollable shaking, lips turning blue, no motor coordination, completely slurred speech. It truly was happening and we were going hypothermic. I had the Hogan family (Karen and Mike) on me. Each tearing off clothes, boots, helmets, base liners. Mike literally had to get me naked and wrapped in blankets. I had enough focus to ensure he know I was having a Seinfeld-esque ‘Shrinkage!” moment when I was naked. We then all got corralled into the Moots Sprinter van, its heater blaring we all sat inside and literally on each other unable to hold in our hands the amazing warm treats the Hogans and others were bringing. Literally shaking so bad that the coffee could not be brought to one’s mouth.
Thank you Mike, Karen and EVERYONE who helped us after the race.
After warming up from our near-hypothermic experiences on Saturday, we proceeded to watch the remaining races and I prepared for my role as pit crew chief for Brandon and Pete in the Elite Men’s race the next day by downing a gaggle of Deschutes Porter. Time to let go a little I guess. There were some amazing spectacles to watch from Danny Summerhill’s win in his last U23 performance, to Matt Pacocha and Jon Baker’s age group wins. All fellow Wednesday Worlds compatriots. (Side note, we’ve got to erect some sort of trophy wall at Elks given that one park has produced a number of National Champions. Amazing.)
Sunday’s races would be raced in almost balmy conditions compared to the day prior. Sunny yet still super wet. I was able to pit with good friends Dan Farrell and Dave Weber out in shirt sleeves. It was a muddy mess but simply great to be outside in. Dan and I had Brandon and Pete’s bikes dialed and ready for action while other Coloradan’s tended to our other teammate Allen Krughoff’s pit services.
We had a great time, sharing lanes with Mr. ATMO himself, Richard Sachs and our friends from KCCX. I think I saw a bloody shard of my vocal chords pop out of my mouth I was yelling so hard at Boulder Cycle Sport and all Coloradans to keep their mojo and their tempo high. Frankly any racing mope that came within site of me got yelled at to motivate them.
Pete, Allen and Brandon all had unbelievable rides…Brandon starting literally from the very last row to a 24th place finish, Pete 20th and Allen Krughoff right in front of him at 19th. Just amazing to see this especially after Brandon and Pete’s insane battle at the front of our race yesterday. It is amazing to see how being smooth and consistent keeps moving you up and up and up. That’s the game and these guys are absolute masters of it. Not sure if I’ll ever get it.
The weekend was capped off with an epic after party on Sunday. Each year it’s like a reunion. I’m in desperate love with the spirits that inhabit our sport, from the comedic to the serious to the God-gifted. We suffer so greatly together that so much is just understood without speaking about it between us…from an Elite Champion to a Cat 4 newbie to the sport. The conversations I had at the Summit Bar with my friends…both old and new…were amazing. These conversations had a theme and I was truly 'hearing’ what was being said. While the words were flowing in to my brain, I’m balancing them with my thrashing uncertainty of where ‘am’ in this sport. "What is my place in this sport I love?" proverbially speaking. I won’t be a National Champion in the Elites…likely never in my age group. I am confused at what fast means and how to get there even after 14 years of racing this insane sport. What I do know is that I love it and those that stopped me that evening and put a hand on my shoulder to simply say ‘thanks for writing’ meant so so much to me. They were the words I needed to parse and balance with everything else pinging around my brain these days. I was able to 'hear' them. Truly.
It’s odd, I want to write about crushing the competition and having arms up again and being some sort of alpha-winner. At least that is a part of the vision I thought I should have. Winning and personal bests will happen again some day when I can devote what I need to, to it. But maybe that is not my ‘role.’ Maybe it is about expressing the need to just keep going. To not extract yourself and take your toys home because an aspect of your goals like winning or “personal best” is met unfulfilled. It’s so frustrating, yet the sport is 360 degrees around us. It’s the people, the courses, the equipment and nerdery around it. It’s the ability to get over embarrassment and embrace failure. It’s the need to know you’re doing this because you love it…and where would you be in life without it.
My life is what it is because of cyclocross. And it is beautiful. And that is not an embellishment.
I will try again next year to be better if life will have it. To fly. To have my legs feel supple and fluid again. The leaves are off the trees now and flowing in the heavy breezes that mark our winter here in Colorado. And before we know it they will be changing colors again. You are my anchor, cyclocross.
This is a story about the ebb and flow of life. This is more importantly a story of the main protagonist understanding that life itself ebbs and flows. Those reading this fairly predictable ‘page turner’ are willing the protagonist to desperately understand this as he fumbles about in his own existence…willing him to learn that life itself is designed to do ebb and flow so that the most open-minded in the universe can feel this and learn from the constant peaks and valleys. Life with a constant progression…even a positive one…is a boring existence. It is a meal with no flavor. A song with no de-crescendo. A race with no drama. Anyone can see that. And so, I need reminders of this as the story will tell.
Saturday – Alpha Cross, Arapahoe Park
Pulling myself out of the mental dumps from having an accident has been challenging. I will not lie. The reality is, I put so much mental capital into the sport that I love, it’s often hard to withdraw some of that precious capital when it needs to be channeled….and rightly channeled…to more important places in my life. Saturday’s race in Centennial at Alpha Cross and my ridiculousness that followed would be a prime example of this.
Pinning the number on in the cold morning air I was feeling motivated. Everything felt perfect. The equipment was dialed and my pre-ride of the course found my legs seemingly feeling pretty good, even if I knew the course would be pretty difficult for me. It combined long straight grass slogs with some technical off camber sections. I predicted a yo-yo kind of day and good for training…but my yo-yo unraveled and found me all caught up in my own personal string.
The first lap saw me go from my 3rd row call up to top 5. I was happy and the picture I had in my head was to sit in and just re-coup some points. My teammate Brian and I worked super well together for laps 1 and 2 and my flow through the off camber was pretty dialed. I ran Typhoons at super low front and normal in the back as I needed to hook up on the hillside which was becoming greasy but needed the stiffer rear to push hard on the long slogs. And then…it just came undone.
By lap 3 I am gapped. Hogan bridged and yelled at me to stay with him but couldn’t. This happened again and again and again. Literally my dear buds…fellow racers!…would say to me as they bridge to me: Keller, c’mon man, just dig in and stay on. But…nothing. I simply shut down. I pedaled in circles. I found my mind drifting to anything but the race I was in. I even thought I felt a cavity in my teeth my mind wandered so much. I will never pull out of a race unless I am bleeding or a bone is protruding where it shouldn’t…yet I came extremely close yesterday. I rolled in for 20th. My teammate Tim Faia crushing it for the win. The bitterness in my performance began almost as soon as I rolled over the finish tape.
After any race, all the boys always hang out, talk, revel in the funny occurrences of the race and then we all hi-five, pack and leave. I don't think I’ve ever left a venue faster. I simply don't know who I think I am…but these are my FRIENDS! I just packed and jet from the scene…and sulked. The hour-long drive home had me worked up into a lather. Coming home I was ‘angry dad’. Not saying much even while my boys…who haven’t seen me all day mind you…simply wanted to play. They don’t care if I win, or flat, or come in last. They just want to play with their dad.
My selfishness was at it’s peak. My youngest, Seamus, would refuse to give up on me…trying to get me to play. To engage with him. Aiden had long since recognized his dad was being a dolt since coming home from the race and decided to just put a big distance between himself and me. Seamus hasn’t learned these nuances yet in character (or the lack of it). He kept approaching me…
“Dad, look what I found in the closet! It’s a model of the Wright Brothers plane! Let’s build it!”
And I’d say ‘no, not now, Seamus.’
Seamus needed me. He wanted his daddy to do this with him. to spend time with him. And so he pursued. And pursued. And pursued.
“NO SEAMUS! NOT NOW!! Put it away!!”
I actually had the audacity to raise my voice to him. My own absolute pettiness injected itself right into everything that is dear to me…took control of me…spewed out of me.
Seamus proceeds to open up the box and says: “But daddy, your daddy wanted us to build this.”
And my world stopped.
Seamus hands me a card that was inside the model box…which was sent to me ages ago for me to build with my boys. It’s what he and I used to do together. My dad’s own handwriting on the card saying “…keep the faith. Love Dad.”
At that moment it was as if this amazing force ripped through me…enlightening me. What is WRONG with me? Why do I take this all so seriously? I kissed Seamus and apologized and just sat with him. Explaining everything…well, everything that a 6 year old needs to understand…in a way that he knows I was being a poor loser and not a good sportsman…and by extension not a very good friend, father and husband.
This helped us all considerably. There would be tomorrow. There would be another sunrise and yet another chance to be a sportsman, a friend and most importantly a daddy and husband.
Sunday – Cyclo-X, Union Reservoir
I spent that night in bed restless. Happier, yet still restless from being the antithesis of who I was less than 24 hours earlier. Waking up I felt lighter however. More grounded. More focused on going back out, pinning on a number and simply being with my FRIENDS. The venue was totally new to all of us. A pancake flat venue which featured sand, barriers and a BMX pump track! It was as if some hobbits made this course for me personally…knowing I needed to rip and combine elements I am good at.
Leaving Boulder for the venue it was 47 degrees. By race time it had dropped to below 30! People were complaining but for some reason I was warm and content. Some of this was due to the Northwest Knee Warmers embrocation, but mostly was that I felt the need to absolutely uncork one.
From the whistle I shot off like a bullet. I took the hole shot and just pushed. Michael Robson and Mike Hogan staying with me. During warm up I had taken the sand section in a way that I thought I’d run it. Coming into the beach in the lead, I did my 'practiced thing’…dismounted and ran yet I watched Robson and Hogan take a line that I NEVER would have seen. They gapped me and from then on, I re-traced their line riding every lap as it was WAY faster.
I ripped in 3rd place for most of the race feeling fantastic. Smiling even. Coach Frank yelling his guts out at me. By the closing laps, Mark Wisner and Ward Baker bridge to me. We are all three flowing awesomely. I had a bobble in a section and Ward could see this. What does he do? Not take advantage but pulls up next to me, leans into my face and YELLS at me “You are not going to get gapped! This is your race!” He pushes me so hard from behind it was like a rocket pack lighting up.
This is how we do it in Boulder. This is the quality of the men who pin up every week motivating each other.
In the bell lap Ward is now in 3rd, Wisner 4th and and I am right behind him in 5th. We come flying into the beach section one last time. I totally buy it in the sand, get up and again fight back from the gap. Baker is now on a tear at about 5 seconds ahead. Wisner comes in super hot into a critical section and burps a tubeless while an amazingly strong JP Boylan bridges to us both. Mark puts in a hard effort and JP attacks and I follow…we come blasting into the last few sections of the course and James gets a tiny gap and is able to hold it for 4th, me 5th and the Wis, 6th. Robson wins with a smooth Hogan 2nd and of course the amazing Ward Baker 3rd.
I feel redeemed. I helped make a race. I put in efforts I knew I had in me. I let my body just do its thing.
On the drive home I thought about the weekend and all the themes I experienced woven through it. I kept gravitating to this meme…
Give and receive. Not give and take. The selfishness that can consume us all is dangerous. It can erode amazing relationships you have in your life…even the most sacred of them: your family. I do this for fun. For the love. For what it gives me. I give so that I may…give. Not as a pre-requisite to receive. I receive as it is quid pro quo between amazing people who feel generally lucky in life to be able to do this. The receipt is the byproduct and being ‘open’ to life. Truly understanding what makes us beautiful…and what makes us ugly.
Do not give to receive. Give to give even when you need to dig deep to find the strength to suck up your own personal drama and be positive. At the end of it all, no one really cares. Your drama is precisely that: yours. It is not any greater than anyone else’s…which we all face in this life.
You ever leave a concert hall in the wee hours of the morning and your head is hurting and your ears are ringing? That is precisely how I felt after this amazing weekend of racing, color-commentary announcing and general cross-nerding with our community.
For the past few months, Colorado has been a true desert…hot and dusty races with your skin suit unzipped and your mouth as dry as a cotton ball. The racing has been fast, but we all were lusting true ‘cross weather and so it came and greeted us in Fort Collins at the New Belgium Cup, the most recent stop of the USGP series.
Let the truth be told: I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It was my first race back after crashing 3 weeks ago and the conditions…while SUPER fun, muddy and crossy…still had me in a mental bind. I did not want to get caught in a pile up, and I did not want to hit the deck on my own accord. Pre-riding the course it was obvious that if you did not flow on the courses super fast descents or rail the off camber corners coming out of them, it could be your demise. So I made it a goal to just ride the course and stay out of trouble and get back to racing again locally to ‘be in it’ so to speak so I can continue to work for a good showing later in the season.
The weather was super cold as we waited in the grid, a group of roughly 75 racers from Colorado and many of the Nation’s best Masters from around the country. We all focused down the start/finish pavement section for the signal from the UC official’s start gun. POP! We all got underway cleanly nearly instantaneously into mud off of the pavement. I settled in mid pack and that is where I’d stay for the day. Keeping people away from me and attempting to keep myself out of trouble!
My compatriots, Ward Baker, Pete Webber, Jon Cariveau (coming back from a super scary injury in the beginning of the season) and Michael Robson would have banner days…They pushed the pace hard from the get go….with Pete Webber coming from nearly the back to the front by the end of lap one. For the next two days he would put on a clinic of bike handling and flow…combined with a level of fitness that no one would even come close to matching. My race was one being fought ‘in the middle’. For roughly 3 of the 5 laps, I was happy to race with a hero of mine, Ned Overend. Everyone on the sidelines was going nuts for us and even
Ned when we traded turns would yell at me ‘Come ‘on! Hup!”. The guy is gold. It was super rad and watching him flow was great…made me realize that my lines weren’t all that bad either!
Brandon and Josh were faithfully working the pits. I was happy to have three bikes to play with…one that was in there as an ‘emergency.’ so to speak…with Typhoons on and was truly only a ‘break glass if necessary’ situation. The other bikes had Rhinos and hooked up SO WELL it was crazy. It was like cheating. Coming into the pits later in the race there was some confusion and I was handed that Typhoon-laden bike. Talk about hilarity in motion…even with pressures in the 20’s, the bike was like a deer on ice. I had no game! I was laughing my way around the course…and running many sections I’d ride with the Rhinos as the rubber simply would not…COULD not…hook up. Honestly, no excuses, stronger dudes with ONE bike showed more grace than I but the point being it was amazing to me the difference between the tread patterns in these conditions.
I made my way around the course taking my time and re-learning how to feel blood in my lungs again…and it was good. Coming across the line I was happy to be back in the game again…even if the game was MINUTES ahead compliments of Mr. Webber. I took a ‘meh’ 24th but I survived and was truly happy. The people around the tape shouting for me I want to say THANK YOU and much love. It was humbling and motivating all at the same time.
I awoke to the sound of the alarm at 6:30. I was sore…but a good sore. I had a massive task in front of me: Get these bikes in SOME sort of racing condition! They were shattered from the prior day’s racing…with mud and grass still embedded in places that I did not know mud could enter! Two hours of cleaning, scrubbing, polishing and lubing later…I packed up and headed north again for the second day of racing.
Day 2 would be a sort of carbon copy of Day 1 for me…even though I was actually going to ‘attempt’ to race and suffer a bit more. Moreover it would be a carbon copy for the leaders with Pete Webber again demonstrating a cannibalistic tendency to eat Master’s racers alive. No one, not a single racer, could match his flow. It was an impressive display of athleticism.
Photo by Dave Weber
The course on day 2 was a bit modified….adding in some new features like a stair case run up which many of the pros would ride to our astonishment. My race was super interesting. I suffered more than I thought I would but I felt like I railed better. Most of my day was spent racing with a well known Master competitor, Richard Feldman. He was having an obviously tough day in the mud and I tried to simply stay as clear as I could so I could race my own race, but there we were locked in virtually the same rhythm until a gap opened up that I could cover on the last lap. I ended up virtually the same as the day before…26th…having again raced my own race once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to truly be anywhere near the true action.
Racing aside, I was able to have a boatload of fun with some race-announcing action. Colt from Cyclingdirt reached out to me a while back to ask me of my interest in helping do some color-commentary for the Open Women's and Men's races. I took on the challenge as I’d had fun working with Dave Towle at Schoolyard Cross a few weeks prior. I did this on both days and had a BLAST. It was tough hurrying from the finish of my race directly to the booth. I was hypoxic and FREEZING but I hope what I said on the mic sounded decent and made people laugh and appreciate more of the goings-on from a racer’s perspective. Day 2 features me with my friend and Boulderite Jeremy ‘JHK’ Horgen-Kobelski. We had a blast and I think I saw a glimmer in his eye that he really wanted to be out there racing…and not in the booth!
All in all a fantastic weekend. My love for the game has never been stronger and the pride I felt having all my friends yell their guts at me around the course was again, truly humbling. It is a direct reflection of the community we have built amongst and within each other’s spirits that continues to draw me to the start grid every weekend, no matter what.
I am indebted.
“There are no accidents.” A theme that my Amy taught me on the first night we met, 13 Halloweens ago. And it’s a theme that I’ve wanted to kick, then embrace….then kick again throughout the last decade as I’ve struggled with its meaning.
But alas there are no accidents. And I am embracing it. Last week’s mishap and my current rehab are what they are: a focus on really what’s going on around me which only helps to enhance the appreciation and love I have for my sport. So I used that focus with great intensity Saturday as my son donned a number for the family at the Colorado Cross Classic at the Boulder Reservoir.
Aiden suited up and was so excited. The course promoters put the Junior races deeper into the day at a time when tons of fans would be around. It made these little kids feel exceptionally PRO as fans and racers alike all crowded the tape to cheer them on.
Of course, I was a crazy man, running with my camera from one end of the course to the other, pulling “OJ Simpsons” to get to the opposite side of the course to take pics. Upon the start, I lost sight of the mini-peloton until I see Aiden barreling down the single track towards the beach for the first time.
“I’M OUT FRONT! I’M OUT FRONT” he screams as he sees me and I yell back “YES YOU ARE!! Now just keep going forward!! Don’t look back!!”
He listens to me as a gaggle of other kids come barreling in to the beach section hot on his heels. Aiden Seamus and I have spent a lot of time together nerding-out in the local parks practicing cross. And when Aiden hit the sand, I could see ALL those skills come to life. He remembered! He instinctively jumped off, and pushed the bike through the sand, running like a gazelle. It was amazing to watch. And yes, as you see below, Aiden is a ‘dirty-side’ remounter, Kevin Pauwels style…
He pushed himself ALL the way to the end. Little strongmen like Peter Doorn and Vin Hludinski making him work hard for it the whole time.
Aiden came across the line in 1st place, his first ever victory and he was so blown away as Dave ‘the voice Towle was screaming his name. It was absolutely PRO. Everything done for the Juniors as would be done for the Masters and Pro events. Dave just made it all ‘very real’ that this was a bike race…and an important one for these little athletes at that.
As they finished, Aiden and his friends all got together and hugged. They quickly turned their attention to the Coke they got…a treat for going so hard out there. After hearing about the race, our good friend Tim Johnson rolled over to the kids and said congrats to them all. Amazing act of class as he spent time with them all and asked them about their races. Aiden was floored when he realized who he was…confused with Tim’s VeloNews jersey donned for a special photo shoot as he knows Tim as the “guy with the American Flag uniform.”
Dave then called up all the early race podium finishers, Junior Men 8/9 included. He called them all out one by one to take their step. It was an unbelievable moment as ALL these people assembled to cheer them on. We taught the boys to shake hands with each other to congratulate their efforts, and finally were asked to put arms up. Look at the expression on Aiden’s face. This is true accomplishment. This is, I hope, a moment he never forgets and creates a foundation for his confidence for the rest of his life…
I used my son’s successes on Saturday to fuel my own fire. I am so excited to get back into the fray in the next few weeks with my boys, focusing on doing everything Ann Trombley, Olympic athlete and amazing PT working with FasCat Coaching, tells me to do to get back to health and a strong shoulder. I spent 4 blissful and rare hours training in the mountains on skinny tires…seeing snow for the first time at 9K feet and just climbing…and climbing…and climbing. Injecting some rare mid season base into my legs and making them hurt entirely differently than in a cross. I was envisioning being smooth. Being fast. Being competitive again.
I can’t wait.
This is going to be a super interesting course. The 2010 Boulder Cup wraps itself amazingly around a relatively obscure but terrain-rich course surrounding the Flat Irons Mall. Super interesting and reminds me of how designers in Europe can 'materialize' a fun course virtually anywhere (think: Diegem weaving through alleyways and back yards!)
Have a look-see at the course from this gun-camera view. Tell me this isn't going to be hard.
I'm jealous of you punks who get to race this weekend!
Photography Credits Below
I’ve known Bill a long time. And homie speaks the truth when he says: "I pulled a Keller! I won the hole shot and hero’ed for a lap or so before imploding and getting passed by by like 10 guys…”
I’m still up to my idiotic race start tactics so Bill’s words were a good reminder that I’m not nearly fit enough to even come close to playing power plays against guys who are FLYING. But alas I re-played them for all my bros to see…again…to use me as a launch pad for their smarter efforts. I’ll get smart one of these days. Let me get back to that in a sec.
This weekend was the first Colorado Cup race, 2 hours and 45 ‘glorious' minutes away out in Buena Vista CO. And, yes, it was a ‘good view’ making the drive worth it. The ‘Collegiate’ 14’ers all around us at a park adjacent to a beautiful river…thus it’s namesake: ‘Cross at the River.’
Boulder Cycle Sport was in the house for the 35A race with the previous days winner at Interlocken, Mark Wisner, in good form and an always strong Brian Hludzinski raring to race (he’d spent the whole day prior as race promoter at his Interlocken race). Our ‘ringer’ Timmy the truth Faia had a nasty crash at Interlocken the day before and needed a day to rest to come back stronger next week. We’d face the Moots duo of Michael Robson and Glen Light and a cast of other strong characters like Clay Harris, Jeff Cospolich and our State Champion Ward WB Baker.
The pre-ride showed us all that this would be a crit style race. The wind was howling and the course had essentially straight slogs into the wind, then recovering somewhat with the wind at your back. It had some interesting features like some run ups, a barrier set and a great sand pit. Yet I think they will be able to do some really interesting things with this course in the future as there is plenty to work with. A few more twists and turns and this could become a staple of the early season calendar, somewhat like Frisco has become for us. ACA racers should ensure you input opinions to the apres-race survey!
We took to the start grid, lining up from last year’s standings. The start chute, while long, apexed hard right onto the course between a gate and would present a challenge. The appropriate words by Mr. Robson to take ‘er easy as gentleman’ before the whistle blew were understood by all.
At my current state, I feel raring to go. I am hungry to lay it down…but my eyes and mind are biting off too much for me to chew these days. On the gun, I settle in nicely behind Michael and Glen as they tear into the sketchy first turn. We all make it safely as we head into the first obstacle, a rutted sketchy run up. We all pile into this obstacle and I fly up the right side over rocks and essentially run past Michael and Glen…literally laughing and doing the Simpson-esque ‘ha-ha’ laugh as I remount in front of them.
Oh shit. The wind.
The moment I remount and start to drive, I can feel the snot getting sucked back into my head with the wind howling in my face. I drive into it setting what I think is a conservative tempo. I’m looking back occasionally to see who will come by and start to work with me (pa-leeze Greg). As we are pushing the pace, a tree limb was hit by someone behind me that swung back and apparently caused a nasty crash…taking out my team mates Wisner and Brian. Arrgh! Some made it through with our group but created a huge gap. So I go harder. By the start of lap two, my ‘moto pacing’ services were done and Michael is off…off to the races basically from there all the way to the finish. Amazing. He crushed it basically from the GUN!
As the race wore on, I of course need to pay back the huge withdraw I took out to mortgage my race. I start to unravel and I proceed to get passed. And passed again. Just too worked from the early efforts and nary a moment to feel recovered. As the snotcicle started to form and my head and shoulders began to slump, I thought about the day before at Interlocken as I am trying to dig deep and I found the motivation through the absolute bravery my son showed me at his race. He is such a hard little man, doing what he can to show me he can do this. It will forever stick in my brain to never give up and I am lucky to have filmed it! If you know how deep this grass was, you’d be amazed. This is a non-trivial course for adults, for kids its murder. I saw kids weeping…
So all the lessons I need to re-learn aside, I pushed hard and I ended up taking 11th on the day. I continue to learn and working hard to evolve my skills and needs to really read races, gauge efforts and use the things I have to make me faster.
With that effort in our legs, me, The WB and Robson decide to pin up again and race the Opens. If we’re driving almost 3 hours to race, we’re going to get every pennies worth. Webber (left) and Dubba were raring to go as was another new teammate of ours, Ross Holbrook. My plan was to start smart and literally practice chase/bridge/recover/chase bridge/recover. I would use this race LITERALLY as a ‘live fire’ training ground. You just can’t mimic this in training so doing a double, even if just part of it, is huge for training and trying out new things.
I lined up at the back and the start was pandemonium. Dudes going through tape on that first sketchy apex turn, flailing around, botching run ups, wheels slamming into my helmet…so I literally throttled back. I wasn’t going to let some young whipper snapper take me out! When we settled in, my legs started feeling OK. I found Ross and practiced my first bridge and effort to get to him and then simply stop and recover. Hmm, funny how that works…and feels good! From there we started working. We had a strong Courtney Gregory from Mafia Racing with us and the three of us traded blows. 3 or 4 laps of attacking, bridging, recovering and I could honestly say it felt great. 45 minutes in, 2 to go, I’d had the perfect amount of work put in and pulled the plug. Frankly my IT bands and sciatic nerves were yelling at me loudly and I decided there was no need to go any deeper into the hole. The efforts were put in.
Anyways, fall is REALLY here in Colorado. The Aspens are blowing up and I’m REALLY looking forward to Chris Grealish’s Aspen Lodge race next weekend in Estes Park, one of our state’s most scenic areas. It’s the 2nd race in the Colorado Cup series so people will be all fired up. I’ll have family in town to come watch the spectacle as well so it’ll be a super fun day.
Finally, have a gander Rod ‘Colorado Perma-fit’ Yoder’s video from the 35’s. You’ll get an idea about the course…although it belies the strength of the wind.
It was a true taste of the coming of fall this weekend here in Colorado. We pinned up numbers at the Frisco Nordic Center for the annual double weekend at Frisco Cross…a traditional season-opening race for many Coloradans who are getting their season kicked off. The Aspens were blowing up and the hint of coolness in the air for the 35A race (~ 55 degrees) had me reaching for the first time this season for the Northwest Knee Warmers Embrocation (review coming soon).
I’d been feeling pretty OK. The legs turning well in training and I knew I’d only be doing 1 of the 2 days so I wanted to get some deep hurt on. And I’d accomplish that mission fo shizzel. I had my teammate Tim Faia with me who is always going well no matter the season. My plans were simple: Start hard, race hard and flow. No goals….just flow. I’m still a bit freaked about pushing the envelope. I constantly hear the sound of my collarbone breaking in my head and I’m just getting used to trusting rubber again. I had a quiver of tires with me but I ran the Hutchinson Bulldogs as they simply felt ‘right’ over this pretty brutal Colorado course. There is a ton of woodchip and rock covered terrain to deal with and I felt best on this tire.
The start was classic me, pushing the pace super high for the first lap…starting up a gigantic twisty paved climb...with a lot of matches burned early. Fast forward and I’ll get to the punchline: Took 8th place and could not stay in contact with the lead group. Timmy won brilliantly with a last lap attack over Robson and Hogan with great performances by Mr. Yoder, Clay Harris, Brian Maslach and a surging Pat Gallegos. Here’s a few minutes of the race before Mr. Yoder lays down his obscene power causing great discomfort to us all:
The 10K feet of altitude, slow ramp up of intensity this early season and not being smart on the gun kept me out of the nosecone of the bullet train up front, but I accomplished a massive amount of training depth which was sorely needed. I also really fell in love with bike handling again. I don’t know what it is but while not tubulars, those Bulldogs just felt…right. I’m giving them the crappy-conditions-tire award for good handling over truly bad elements.
More season building this week I am stoked for. Still taking this season literally one day at a time. One watt at a time. One corner and dismount at a time. I am so in love with it all again it makes me weepy.
…where the beer flows like wine. Or something like that.
Chris G and Joe DeP sent over some info about the Colorado Cup race being held up at the Aspen Lodge (near Estes Park...not Aspen actually) on Sunday October 17th. From the looks of it, the scenery and location look spectacular! What a new and fresh place to have a cross. Lots of pine needly forest, lake front and natural obstacles to get our hup on and around. Reminds me of a mix of the old Breck course and the course we did in Shriek-Grootlo back in Za Motherland.
Here’s some previews…
This is going to be SICK!
Here’s the deets. Note the differences in start times for your categories!