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Five Questions with Brian Vernor | From Pure, Sweet Hell to The Cyclocross Meeting and beyond

I don't know where to begin. Insane jealousy maybe at his ability to capture what we all see and feel in still and moving celluloid as cyclocrossers. Or maybe it's his ability to keep focused on the true core of who we are, what we do and most importantly why we do it weekend in and out. I'm speaking about Brian Vernor, photographer, videographer and historian of what will become 'our time' in cyclocross here in the United States.

In 2005 I was invited to see a debut of his movie here in Boulder, only a year after I'd left the Bay Area. What I saw was...well...a big part of my life actually. Pure Sweet Hell, Brian's break through movie captured so much of our 2003 racing season in beautiful film, it's a special keepsake for me. Seeing how Brian has evolved both in video and in his amazing still photography blows me away...shot quite often without all the fan-dangled digital apparatus that hacks like me rely upon. Instead Brian relies upon methods from yesteryear with good old film and true artistry in knowing how to operate f-stops, aperture and lighting.

At the 'cross Nationals in Bend in December, folks will be lining up to see the debut of his new movie, The Cyclocross Meeting. It will be obvious after seeing it how Brian will help you relive what we do and why we do it. I wanted most importantly to give people a better lens into Brian and what he does for our sport. I've also peppered the post with some imagery from Brian to whet your appetites.And without further adieu, Five Questions With: Brian Vernor.

1) Brian, you are a crosser and only a crosser can appreciate the depths we go through in our minds bodies and souls on any given weekend. Your media reflects this (photos and video). Tell me about how you got into 'cross, those that inspired you and what you love about our sport.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, CA I was exposed to mountain biking very young. Since my friend Justin Robinson was racing (on the Yeti Cycles team), I learned about racing, and this extended to cyclocross with the Surf City CX Series (the longest continually running series in the US). Some of the first races I attended were only two blocks from my house, so it seemed like not that much effort to do it in the first place. When something is accessible like that you don’t have to justify it with great ambitions, you just do it because if you weren’t racing you’d be riding some trails anyway. I think races were $8 for juniors. This was 1993. I went to the Nationals that year as a junior, in Tuolumne, CA, and I saw one of the greatest last lap battles in US cross nats history, which was between Don Myrah and Peter Webber. There were only about a hundred people watching but still there was so much energy following that race. Having that public display of suffering and potential failure is a huge part of the racing for me. I don’t get nearly as excited for forms of racing where the individual racer’s breaking point is not absolutely going to be witnessed.

2) Your Pure Sweet Hell was a break through for our family of crossers. It was perfect (and so much of our racing in Santa Cruz/Bay Area was captured in 2003 in that film! Such great memories!). Tell us about that film and the struggle to put it together. The results are astounding...but the path there was invariably hard. What were your greatest challenges?

Pure Sweet Hell was only a struggle to make once the heart of the editing was happening. Until that point I had never made a film over five minutes in length, and assembling a film about something we cared so much about was painful. I just pictured it failing so many times. The worst would have been people just shrugging and not really caring about it. Some people have pretty strong opinions about PSH which is the best way to have it, whether they are good or bad opinions doesn’t really matter because there are both perspectives out there. When we started filming we had a totally lame idea of what the film would be (kind of Hoop Dreams on bikes), and if there was a struggle, it was in finding a way to make only what mattered to us come through in the film. It is really not easier now than it was then, though now I have a little less anxiety about not finding the way.

3) Your eye captures inexplicable beauty...frozen in time...for us all to appreciate and smile about. What to you prefer most? Shooting still or shooting motion?

That is really strong praise, thank you. I like when I succeed at accomplishing my own standard of beauty, whether with stills or motion. Both formats I use hoping to achieve a similar result depending on what is appropriate. I’m not a gear-head, the equipment is not enjoyable in and of itself, so I have to care about the communication that is the result of the image.

4) Tell us about the Bay Area 'cross scene. The mafia out there is so core (and I miss them dearly!). Rick Hunter, Paul Sadoff, Justin many! What encapsulates the Bay Area cross scene in a paragraph?

The Northern California cross scene is stubborn. There are very strong ties to and awareness of the history of the sport here. There is a reluctance to accept a new direction defined from outside this region. That means our races are focused on the atmosphere as much as the racing, and the ideal is founded on our past and present community, not some inflated view of Belgium, or Eurocross, or something the racing here never was or will be. The racing in Europe is amazing and the character of the race scene is unique from the US. That is a good thing. I think it is fine that cross develops in unique ways in each region. As a documenter I want to be honest about what those unique qualities are and focus on them. The guy wearing Belgian blue, eating frites and drinking a Chimay is not that interesting to me unless I’m in Middlekerke, Belgium.

Northern California promoters have given the middle finger to USA Cycling and I don’t see anyone here anxious to jump into the UCI affiliated races game, but it will happen again due to a sense of responsibility to the regional racers with national ambitions. I do think this would be good for our community regardless of the hassles.

5) Everyone is amped to see "The Cyclocross Meeting" in Bend at Nats! Newt and Wicks get their (more than) 15 minutes in this one. What a unique vantage point to take...'crossing in Japan. Tell us about this movie and what the greatest challenges were in making it. And what was the craziest thing you saw in Japan (besides anyone rocking SRAM...).

The Cyclocross Meeting is about expanding your own community via cyclocross. It is amazing that we can go to Japan and find that we are passionate about the same thing as people we’ve never met, and who come
from a completely different reference point. I mean, we’re so lucky that we’re involved in something that universally brings joy to people. That said, it’s also about going really fast. I wanted to mostly focus on Elite racing, both as an update of where the US scene is at the highest level, and then as a comparison to an emerging scene. Pure Sweet Hell was about the whole scene, pro and amateur, and I didn’t want to show the same thing. I also find that really fast people are much more compelling to watch, unless a slow rider is crashing, puking, or trying to drink a beer while running in ankle deep mud (I’m sure someone is filming SSWCCX).

Japan is a crazy experience the moment you leave the airport. To see an industrialized country with such different priorities of space compared to our own to inspiring. It is very isolated in some ways while also obsessively studying outside cultures, but Japan does everything it’s own way. Respect.

A cyclocross race decomposed | Brian Patrick's video of the Blue Sky Halloween Cup

Brian has outdone himself. What a fantastic keepsake for our tribe of 35 Open racers out here in Colorado. He filmed this and spliced together all the sound to punctuate the action with the racer's commentary. Listen close and you'll see what I mean.

I can't wait for my boys to see this when they're older.


Valmont Bike Park Groundbreaking Cross | Daily Camera Video

I'll have a race report coming up shortly but this is from Boulder's local paper, the Daily Camera. Have a look see. Some of my favorite people interviewed including Brooke Watts of Cross Partners (e.g. Cross Vegas) and Bobby Noyes...who has pushed this Park selflessly over the last decade and then some.

Welcoming a new church member

I'm heading to BlogWorld in a few days where I get to wax poetic on some cool trends we're seeing about bloggers and their readers who visit their sites. But secretly I'm trying to bust my way into the raddest group of bloggers on the planet my friend Micah intro'd me to: The Blogs with Balls crew. One dude who is responsible for capturing video at the Blogs with Balls and BlogWorld events with his ninja-like viedography skills is Ben Eckstein...and Holmes just filmed his first 'cross at Gloucester....and he NAILED IT! My god Ben captured a 'weekend in the life' And he's already contemplating his assault on the 'cross scene himself next year! A new disciple. 

Have a gander at his video below and the accompanying blog post on how it was made.

Gran Prix of Gloucester - A Cyclocross Film from Benjamin Eckstein on Vimeo.

Interlocken 'Cross | A cockpit view

All around good-guy and hard man Rod Yoder captured our 35 Master's race Sunday on a cold and frozen day on 'the grass' at Interlocken...BoulderRacing's 2nd race in its 4 part series. Have a look-see at the video carved out into three parts. Most impressive is Rod's wattage from how many crashes he goes through to bridge back and drop the included! Ha! Home boy is a stud.

Full race report forthcoming by the way.

Interlocken CX 35+ (Part 1) from Rod Yoder on Vimeo.

Interlocken CX 35+ (Part 2) from Rod Yoder on Vimeo.

Interlocken CX 35+ (Part 3) from Rod Yoder on Vimeo.

Global Rides ‘Hawaii Rides’ | Training DVD’s That’ll Make Riding Indoors Impulsive

image300 days of sun a year. That defines Boulder and yes, it’s unbelievable. But when it rains here, it rains…and when it snows here, it snows. And therefore for Boulder-ites, being Type A++++ and cycling mad, a rainy day can’t interrupt ‘precious’ training time and therefore will be moved indoors. And as we know, riding the rollers for an hour or more is paramount to mental torture by way of boredom. Unless, that is, you have something to take your mind away…

Welcome to Global Rides DVD training series….Hawaii Style! I was able to scope out and evaluate this fantastic training DVD series on a few of those remaining 65 non sunny days Boulder gets this spring and was pleasantly surprised with how engaging the product kept me as I spun circles, first longing to be outside in our beautiful town…then suddenly wishing to be transported to Maui given the epic scenery and rides i was ‘taken’ on.

Three DVDs came with my set called ‘Hawaii Rides’ each with a slightly different program to follow:

  • Maui Rollers…has you flowing up and down the roller known as the Hana Highway. Undulating and sort of like long interval sets. Gorgeous.
  • Oceanside Ride…has you thinking you are going on a flat coastal ride but punches in great efforts to up tempo.
  • StrenDurance…is where you get your power on. Climbing and distance in one session that essentially has you wasted after the effort. It focuses on the need for sustained power over long-ish periods.

The neat part about the DVD’s is their production quality. From the very beginning the user is provided tons of options like if you want music or coaching…and if you want coaching, do you want it from an American an Aussie or others!


Once the course was selected, the DVD utilized some modern and ‘web 2.0’ methods to explain the route which was really clever and cool and invariably most people can understand these days…and afterwards be inspired to jump on their Macs and PC’s to go investigate a bit more with Google Maps:

Once set up and you are warmed up, you are treated to maddening sites and sounds. The music was super ambient yet motivating using a pretty quality DJ and not some music by a Fred. The coaching was ‘just intrusive’ enough….meaning its there and gives you a great framework to follow audibly, yet not a cheesy drill sergeant yelling at you incessantly. If you need that…well, you probably would be ostracized from Hawaii for being too agro.

Ultimately the videos had fantastic visuals and it was matched fairly well with what my perceived tempo was as I was on the rollers:

Each of the videos in the Hawaii Rides set were more engaging than the last and had me (re)fall in love with Hawaii…the place my wife and I spent two glorious weeks a decade ago on our honeymoon. So much so that for our 10th anniversary, these videos were inspirational enough to look into a bike tour on the islands! Cross fingers…

MSRP for this three box set is $75 although individual DVDs can be purchased as well for $30. The three seemed to work well together though in terms of weaving together a three day indoor training block if you’re forced to be inside when the weather is foul enough to make it dangerous to ride outside. You can pick them up directly here on the Global Rides Shop Site.

Freecaster.TV | Free live MTB World Cup Coverage

Wow. Just watched the WHOLE World Cup in Houffalize Belgium today. Unbelievable! Freecaster.TV is now my go-to site for watching this stuff....all in HD.


OnSight Media's 2008 CO CX States now on CET!

Our friends over at OnSight Media...who bring you many of those great videos you watch on VeloNews TV while on your 'lunch break', have finished the 2008 Colorado State Cyclocross Championship video and is now on Comcast CET!

Check out this link here for CET's schedule for March (search for 'cyclocross') and set your DVR's! Also, scope out OnSights blog post on their release of the video to CET. They nicely laid out the times for us:



March 1 - 12:30pm
March 2 - 5:30pm
March 5 - 6:00pm
March 8 - 7:00pm
March 9 - 8:30am
March 10 - 8:30am
March 12 - 7:00am
March 13 - 9:30pm
March 15 - 9:30am
March 18 - 6:00pm
March 19 - 7:00pm
March 24 - 8:30pm
March 26 - 6:00pm
March 28 - 12:00pm
March 29 - 9:00am

7 more months until 'cross....

Photo by yours truly.


The Last Waltz of '09: Sunday @ Oostmalle

I'm such a weak-ass blogger these days....sorry! My focus is about work these days. Getting in the riding at odd and random times to keep me from turning into a Michelin man, but the balance is imbalanced these days to say the least.

Anyhoo, my main man Geert in Za Motherland reminded me that 'cross is alive and well! And the last one, a GVA, will be at Ooostmalle this Sunday and bright to you in live streaming technicolor by our friends at Sport.BE. I'll set this post to go off again Saturday PM to remind you all for Sunday but figured I's send this out now.

Zondag: de superprestige Hoogstraten hier live

Set your alarm clocks for tomorrow's SP at Hoogstraten. Race is at 2:30PM in Belgie-land and is 8 hours time difference from MST. So do the math for your region...