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Entries from January 18, 2009 - January 24, 2009

Now I'm REALLY weepy

My friend Mark French is over in Belgie-land on business but the true inner-'crosser motivated him to cruise down to Za Beach in Mol to see the Master's World Cyclocross Championships today. He snapped a few pics and it's clear they changed up the course this year, almost as if they ran it backwards! I need to talk with some of the homies who went over there for a report. Anyways, as it comes to pass, our 'master's master' Edwin Raats DID win today. Congrats man! This is a pic Mark nabbed coming through possibly the worlds LOWEST set of barriers I've ever seen. I mean, we're Masters UCI people, but c'mon! We can get the legs a little higher! We're not THAT old! Ha!

Apparently the Italian, Massimo Folcarelli, was bringing the heat and was off the front but Edwin was able to nab him and put a massive gap he held through to the end. Sweet.

Henry Kramer still impresses with a top 10, taking 7th. He WILL get those stripes. I know this.

I can not tell you how weepy I am not being there. The one taste I had is never going to leave me. Ever. I hope I can hold this momentum like I did in 2007 to get there. One whole year of thought on it. And it was an awesome, awesome pay off.

Master's WK's today. I'm weepy.

Did Edwin pull it off in our group this AM? I'm waiting to hear! He just nabbed the Dutch amateur title (and as mentioned before, the amateur class and its National title is a big deal in Europe).


Henry K pulled off his usual win or two in the lead up races teh week leading to the WK and those world strips have just been out of his reach these last few years. I'm thinking unless he mechanical'd, he's on the podium again today. The Belgians fear him over there. It's funny. They treat him like a full up rock star! He's an American they love!

365 days to go. Can I keep focused again?

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!

Picture Rock

Today is MLK Day, a National Holiday. For many it is a day off of work, for others it's business as usual. Pete and I both had to punch in to the clock at our respective quarries today but not before we got in a little pre-work ride in the still insane January weather out here in Boulder: 65 and sunny!

We hit Picture Rock Trail, having started from Heil and it was spicy. Dry and flowy and epic. Perfect. Pete was instrumental in the development of Picture Rock and now Valmont Bike Park as one of the most sought after trail designers in the country. It's great riding with him as he'll tell you everything on the history of the land, to the challenges in getting approvals for trails, to the type of rock we're riding over to making trails sustainable. Long live IMBA!

If you want to see a great gallery of the building of Picture Rock, hit Mountain Bike Mike's Picassa gallery. I just snapped a few...

The Great Wall of Heil
Pete waxing poetic on the nuances of trail building
The Great Wall if Heil....close up.