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Dream course

Did you catch the World Cup on Sporza? Ho-le-maz-kino-lee. That was a S-I-C-K course! The Italians know their 'cross! What a race....

A commentary on (due) process

Page is cleared. It's been blogged, printed and tweeted. This is a good thing. A very good thing. It's setting new precedents. It's showing progress. But first, let me get something out of the way:

I believe in Jonathan.

Feel free to comment as you like on my posturing of Jon's innocence (especially in the light of this fiasco...and fiascos like it) but how I stand on Jon is not the intent of this post. The post is about process but I'll get to that.

So back to my first comment. I believe in Jonathan as a clean rider. I believe in what he's doing as a family man and ultimately doing what he was made to do and bringing what he's hope, in skills and in the abilities of his the place where the work is. I believe in what he is doing to take those materials to where it matters: to Europe. And all matters of his non-participation in the US 'cross scene...and the apparent ill will it apparently harbors is just misunderstanding. Page doesn't say much. Doesn't need to. He works, raises a family, and tries to do what is his calling to put bread on the table. And you can forget about rock star salaries here. It's a tough go. Start fees are what bring bread to that table. But the boisterous Americans, the pointing fingers and prying characters can not compute or translate introversion and focus and mistake it for arrogance. So, bottom line, I believe in him. I have to. Or so my heart tells me.

Page's clearance announced today was supported by two very close family friends of mine acting as his legal team. They believe in Page as well. I am proud of them and their willingness to take this head on with Jon and Cori. After reading the VeloNews article today my friends and I spoke. Actually, it was me speaking...ranting....about process. First, I recognize the need to advance the dragnet of anti doping in our sport. But we've now vaulted ourselves into a very bad place. We have literally eclipsed the riders ability to 'work' in a many ways. Or keep focused 100% on their jobs. And when riders have to dig extremely deep into their wallets and fly BACK to the US, plead their innocence, and lobby to the extremes they must, it is the antithesis of process. It is a debacle. Let me explain...

Let's look at Koksijde. Page crashes out. Page in fact has a concussion and when he gets to his camper, his wife focuses on him. Oh, his wife is his "team" on this day. Thoughts are flailing from getting him to a hospital to risking not racing the next day....and with that no-show, losing critical start money. The Page 'team' is focused on Jon's health and mistakenly, his posse 'forgets' to go determine if Jon has doping control. Proactively hunting officials as racers are now 'conditioned' to go and seek it out, to avoid this EXACT predicament they eventually find themselves in. Missed controls = Doper. As luck should have's his day, and he as we know the rest of the story.

Pause there.

Now, a hypothetical. Assume Jonny Rocket, the hot 22 year old from Louisville, goes solo to Belgium to try out his talents against the best. Jonny rips it in some backwater regional non UCI-categorized race, taking an 'impressive' 32nd place. He doesn't go directly to his rental car to change after the race due to hearing 'stories' back in the US on how Americans are targeted for control He goes immediately about on his own to find the officials booth and asks for control. "Doping control?" he asks the man with the officials jacket on. No English. "Doping control?" he asks another official looking person and in perfect English gets a direct response: "Here? No. No doping control out here today." Weeks later USADA sends him a suspension letter for his missed control.

What's the difference? Nothing. Same results with or without proactivity...or the intent of proactivity.

It's all about Process.

To this point, we've done amazing things in the labs and within team cultures to weed out the cancers that have tarnished our sport. I think we all can agree things are shaping up on those fronts. But while labs and teams are beginning to pull ahead on their own processes and new forms of testing, the racing circuit (racing series, promoters AND the UCI) need to apply the same amount of efforts on 'race day' testing methods and racer selection protocols. In my opinion, anti-doping authorities need a core understanding of how races actually work...and what fail safe process can be put in place to catch the bad guys, but ensure the innocent aren't continually wrongly condemned. Wasting massive time, massive money and massive credibility. Page's example and that of my fictitious Jonny Rocket are just the tip of a large iceberg of a process void.

Chaperones were an initial stop-gap for this. But this assumes the rider comes across the finish line and the chaperone is 'responsible' from there, escorting the racer to the control. An excellent move and assurance the racer doesn't do anything stupid like take a masking agent or leverage the condom of 'clean' pee he's put in his nether-regions in the case there is a control (yes, I read Dog in a Hat). Where was the process to have the chaperone come find Page...or Cori...after his DNF. He was on the list, right? I was not there but no effort was apparently made to find him. The Pages can speak the language they would have heard their names blaring over the hi-fi on the beach at Koksijde. Why aren't there signs posted prominently with the racers required for doping? Why isn't there a continually revolving speaker for 15 minutes post race asking in Dutch, French and English for the required racers to come to control? Why aren't ALL officials at a race briefed on the fact that there *IS* a doping control that day? Maybe this does happen....

Honestly, I am just angry. Cycling is a career but race promotion is a business. Any business worth their weight in salt focuses on process. Why isn't this being vaulted to the fore-front by the cyclist-workers who are part of the business machinery....enabling the business of race promotion to exist....and make money. Oh, yes, money. 30 EURO per head at large races times 25,000 spectators mind you. There may be stronger more process-oriented race promoters who have this totally dialed. But it just seems preposterous when these unbelievable issues arise...which can be easily solved if focus is applied to matters of process. Perhaps using some of those profits to hire a process architect to ensure racer ('worker') benefaction.

Again, comment any way you like on this. I'm just having a visceral reaction to all of this. Like you, I am a fan. And yet I find myself rolling my eyes in situations like this. It's a joke. No business would allow for massive holes in process like this (well, OK, we all can name a few business fiascos), but this is such a tightly-scoped problem space, it seems impossible we can better race-day procedures.

OK, I'm done. It's the weekend.

Sacrificing for the shot

So I've probably said it a million times on this here blog, how I admire photographers of our beautiful sport. They, like us who race, stand out in shitty fields, in the piss and rain, shooting us with mud in our teeth. But while I love the drama captured of the racing action, for me, it's ALL about what happens in and around our races that intrigues me.
For a lone time now I've waxed poetic about Joe Sales and his obvious abilities behind the lens. I love his work so much, I get to see it every time I have to look at my CrackBerry (which, yes, is often and yes, is truly a CrackBerry). FINALLY, I was able to meet Joe in person at Nats in KC and gushed about how I admire his shots. He, like you and I, is a super fan of the sport. You may have seen his latest shots in CX Mag perfectly capturing Bart Wellens violent style of barrier work. Anyone who has been to my clinics knows how I explain Bart's technique and the power he demonstrates flowing through the barriers and Joe nailed it in rapid sequence.

So back to the 'behind the scenes' moments captured on film. You've seen my attempts at photography and while I like shooting the racers, I enjoy grabbing those moments that define our sport. Like this junior's grandmother power washing sonny's B-bike. I love that pic as it typifies the sport, especially the European side of the sport as it is truly a family outing for most.

With that photo in mind, Joe sends me the photo you see below. Unbelievable. It's exactly what I love to see. In his words about it:

I took this shot on the weekend at Roubaix. That's Vervecken's dad on his knees cleaning Irwin's bike after his big win. I thought you would like this shot. It's probably my favorite of the day. I'm not sure who the guy is that's looking right at me wondering WTF I'm doing laying on the ground snapping pictures like an idiot but I did have an official photog bib on.

I love it. Sacrificing for the shot. On the belly, Belgian hard men looking at you like you are insane. All for the sport. And now Joe's handiwork. How PRO is THIS??
Thanks Joe!

One tough BK parcours

Check out the pics from the BK course recon yesterday. Tough, tough, tough. Still looking to see if it is being carried live. VT4 does not seem to be streaming it today. French championships being played LIVE right now (7:55AM MST)

TJ's got himself a new site...

The @ Missing Saddle crew have leveraged their digital hammers and chisels to carve out a forum for Tim I wished I lived in Boulder but I'm helplessly East Coast Johnson. Love you TJ. Anyhoo, I'll have a link to his site in my Cyclo Bloggers section but have a visit here.

Super Prestige met Landbouwkredit (and Sven!)

Race Fans!! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!! Click the image below at a 7:30AM PST, 8:30AM MST, 10:30 EST and get the live streaming goodness of Sven and Co throwing down at Ruddervoorde.

TRP Euro X Magnesiums in the Mother Land

You all absolutely noticed Price Albert's white sex braking power, right? Behold...

Photo (c) Isosport.

And I got my Magnesiums before he did! Yeah boy! Honestly though, I LOVE watching this kid race. I think he is still not sure he's racing with the big boys as he literally looks like he stole a 100 bucks from Sven with his attacks off the front, Amazing stay-out-front persistence. I love it.

Random thoughts on the passed scene...

I'm back at it this week...already traveling for work getting buried with lots to do. Getting the training in too as we have some fun races coming up in the following weeks. It seems like a month ago that I was getting my ass rightfully handed to me at CrossVegas...all the while having the time of my life. It was, as I reported, sick. Completely off the hook.

But something occurred to me. I totally forgot to tell you that I met my ABSOLUTE all time hero: Thomas Frischknecht!

Hype is not Frischi. Style is omnipresent in everything he graces when he’s on two wheels. Especially when those wheels have knobbies…which is most of the time. It was such a bizarre scenario at CrossVegas but perfect in the same sense. Hoards of cameras, lights, microphones, BlackBerries and iPhones….all pointed at Lance. Massive hype. Hype before the race. Hype during the race. Hype after the race. And all the while that spectacle is going on, Frishi is present, smiling and keeping consistent with, again, the grace he exhibits. It’s his RETIREMENT race. His last race after an amazing career that saw him race every Worlds since they decided it was probably a good idea to have a championship for these fat tire klunkers back in 1990. A Mountain Bike Hall of Famer. Anyways, the race ends and I crawl off my machine and see my friends from Ritchey at the Scott/Ritchey tent and I get waved in and handed a beer nearly instantaneously. The scrum around Lance is going off a ways away and there is Frischi. Just chilling, smiling, with a frosty Corona.

I hung out a bit with my bros recounting the race and the overall spectacle, having beers late into the already late evening and just couldn’t take it anymore. I walked up to Thomas and just laid it out. Simply and succinctly:

“Thomas, it’s bizarre for me to say this but I have to. I never had any typical ‘heroes’ in sports as a kid. OK, maybe Bucky Dent but I digress. But following your career and having put you on a pedestal of ‘core’ dope free mountain bikers who grit and get it done year after year, you have been that hero for me. I can NOT believe I just raced in the same race with you and for that I am honored. I love you Thomas. Have my children.”

Something like that anyways….

Thomas gushed. Again, grace personified. We talked a bit, clinked some beers and celebrated a great night.

On my way...

I'm finally at SFO ready to depart my old home and City by the Bay San Francisco on my way to the City of Sin, Las Vegas. I stayed up in Marin this week and it was super mellow commuting to Oracle Open World with the masses to the Ferry Terminal in SF. I stepped off the boat yesterday and walked through the terminal and did a double take when I saw this just SITTING there right in front of this salami shop at the Terminal:

God it is BEAUTIFUL! Jeremy and Jay do such incredible work. I LOVE my Sycip as you all know. (And Jay is now a Chris King employee and resident of Portalnd!).

So by now you all know that LA is going back to Johan's bubble (Good luck with that Alberto). My sources this AM through 'official' SMS text have confirmed that the peeps of LA have confirmed his CrossVegas participation. One would suspect that Chris and Brook will give LA the 'i'm famous' call up next to Ryan and Tim and the guns up front. But the sadist in me wants his non-UCI-point-having ass to line up right next to me and the other pack fodder in the back of the bus. Bring it.

Lastly, my good friend Zach is at the course site helping to get it built. He sent me an email describing it...

Course update, the grass was freshly mowed this am, although it still feels like shag carpet. Wide, diamond tread tires have been the general tire talk of the day.

We got denied our small stair step run up by the UCI official, so we only have one section with two barriers...first barrier is 35mm tall, second is 40....and on the lip of a hill... So bunny hopping would be super hard.

The course in general is more compact than last year, while being longer per lap...2.8k or to per. Its 95% grass, and then a little concrete.

Chris g. & brook watts have set the course to be great for spectators while Joe D adds to the mix with a racers point of view.. They are quite a team together!

Jonathan page, jeremy powers and jamie driscol all paid a visit to the course today.

The course opens at 5:00pm for practice if you want to swing by early.

I am getting butterflies. HA! This entirely old bag of cross loving bones is going to go balls out tonight. I know pops is with me.

Lance - Cross Vegas. Game on.

My sources have revealed that Lance - I gotta be like Mike - Armstrong will be lining up at Cross Vegas. You did(n't) hear that from me.

I am now fired up.

Or more fired up than I was if that was possible. After standing my aging, aching carcass in my 'biz dev' guy monkey suit and shaking likely disease riddled hands all day at this massive trade show and feeling the legs cankle-ify even further, I am finally back in my hotel room and have just been able to squeeze my swollen ass into my Skinz "i gotta feel mentally they're really working"recovery tights. Damn straight. I'm recovering so I can take on Lance in a battle royal. I'll be doing my best to pace with him and critique his rather poor remounting capabilities as witnessed by has 2003 'field trip' on his way to Gap when an EPO-laden Vino crushed the field. Lance's ride....essentially bunny hoppy Beloki and bombing the farmer's field...was awesome. Like hearing an incredible crecendo to a song.....but the remount when he got back on the road was like the record SCREEEEEEEEEEEEETCHING and put 'crossers in agony with that God-awful double-tap.

I'll ensure Lance get's 'crossy.

Hup hup, butter cup.