You've probably seen this elsewhere on the tubes, but just in case you didn't, the MM Racing Kickoff Party is at Wheelworks this Thursday night from 7pm-10pm. Like everyone else who aspires to be cool, I will be there. Luckily the bar for "cool" is pretty low in a group of cyclists, so can probably just show up, even if you have no interest in being cool.
Last year this party was basically a money-raising scam, when I bought 5 or even 10 dollars worth of raffle tickets and all I got for it was a ton of food, beer and raffle prizes. What a rip off!
Seriously, it was one of the most stacked raffles I've ever seen. It defied logic and reason.
This post is up today to give you 24 hours notice on this killer event, and also to buy me 24 hours of time to finish the Vermont Day 1 race report!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Alrighty, so we're doing these in reverse chronological order because I have much less to say about the second race, but much more awesome seat cam footage ready to go, thanks to Jerry's ability to bang out workshopy stuff the way I bang out websites.
The new extra-steady seat cam is much improved. Check it out! All credit goes to Jerry, I just whined about my "cross gut" while he welded stuff.
As for the actual race, I had high hopes for slick carnage while listening to the rain overnight, but the course was disappointingly tacky by the time Elite Men hit the course at 3pm. The corners were kind of tricky but the defining feature was straight, bumpy false-flat climbs.
Last year I complained about this and then went out and got 2nd place anyway. Yeah, well, this year I have a UCI License, and thus I'm back to whining about power sections, and unlike last year it's for good reason. I was looking at Simon Lambert-Lemay's calves while I was trying to draft him and I think they are as big as my thighs.
Anyway! Race goes off, I'm in the fourth row out of 40+ starters, Ryan spends most of the holeshot screaming with glee and is never seen again after the first turn. I settle into the conga line in the mid-20s without incident.
The first excitement comes on the top field when there's a crash behind me, and then Nathaniel gets jacked sideways in the groove (if you raced, you know how dangerous the muddy groove was in traffic) and everyone breaks rank trying to avoid him. The disgust on his face when's he's caught behind me on the next turn as we bottleneck is priceless. Yeah, being at the back with scrubs like me sucks, huh?
The switchbacky descent was fun, although I couldn't pass anyone on it. I am still somewhat intimidated by the "elites" and thus I let people get away with taking lines that a more... Myerson-ish... rider would jump all over. Ah well. I'm hoping Cary upgrades soon so I'll have someone I actually want to elbow in the pack.
Now where was I? I made some sweet moves on the BMX track to get some places and zero sweet moves anywhere else on the course. I was in the thick of the biggest group on the course, killing myself to try to get across to a group of 5 or 6 with Pete Smith ahead, while there was another train of 6 or 7 behind me. I was not bored, which you can't take for granted on a course this lame*.
Anyway, the pain factor was high as usual, but I was certainly planning on trying to keep it going for sixty minutes. Planning being the operative word. When I realized I had a softening rear tire near the end of lap 2 (on Linnea's brand new Fangos! dammit!), the prospect of my fifth mechanical in four races broke my spirit.
I successfully managed to avoid doing the emo-bike-throw or emo-crying-on-the-handlebars, but I did decide to drop out instead of go get my pit bike. I regretted it about 60 minutes later, good thing it's only six days until Gloucester!
* - I mean, I'll race anything you put in front of me, but I don't see the point of making a 10 minute lap that's mostly on the backside of a hill. Worst spectator course ever.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
After the deadly biological/mechanical combination failure at Waterville I realized that needed to get my act together for cross season. 3pm race starts on a bike I haven't really maintained do not go well when I eat poorly.
I started by addressing the first problem, and it only took me an hour of monkeying around to get the shredded cable housing under the bar tape replaced. I am not going to be a professional mechanic any time soon, but at least I got it done.
With Linnea heading to Mt Snow to race mountain bikes, and rumors of Sucker Brook being "faster than ever" I took the opportunity to steal her Edge 2.68s for my bike. It took me another half hour of fighting with the brakes to get the carbon-specific pads installed, but when I was all done I had a 17.6 lb bike with CAHBON WHEELS. Look the eff out, Sucka Brook!
It should be noted that I've never ridden Sucker Brook before. Turns out there's a rocky fire road descent (sounds like a mountain bike feature, right?) with loose rocks, and you hit it wheel-to-wheel at 20+ mph. Scariest thing EVAR when you're riding borrowed $2,000 wheels. I took a couple rim shots on the preride lap and heard about a guy who had busted a carbon wheel in the 3/4 35+ race and that was it, I can't ride down that 10 times while being terrified of blowing up one of the $1000 bills I have on each wheel.
Ok, back to my wheels, boohoo. This necessitated another pad change, and after all the trouble I had getting the pins out last time I decided not to wedge them in that deep this time. FOREBODE.
It was my first day running the seat cam and I was STOKED to overlay some techno on people riding behind me after the race. Only problem was that I forgot to turn it on because I was too busy being social on the start line. Dammit Colin, less chatting, more filming!
I realized I had forgotten on the first straightaway. Literally, while sprinting, that's what I thought about. I had the brilliant idea to try to turn it on after the first corner. This didn't work, but it did cost me 10 places and place me nearly DFL. Oh, but I wanted the video so bad!
I remembered that I also wanted to not suck so I gave up on the camera and started racing my bike. I made up a few places on lap one only at the cost of too many matches (patience, grasshopper!) and then some guy in his second race of the day totally imploded after three minutes of euphoria, and next thing I know I'm gapped. Hard.
At this point my plan of "make the first or second group and sit in as much as possible" was out the window, so I started chasing hard. For two more laps I kept the gap to the 10 leaders steady at 15-20 seconds, they were tantalizingly close but I just wasn't quite there.
Eventually I cracked and they started rolling away. I fell into a group with PVB, Ryan Larocque and someone else (Corey Lowe?). First I was driving the group. Then I was second wheel. The PVB gaps me, and Ryan rolls up (sounding far too composed, I might add) and asks "can you close that?" I said no, so he went around and closed it for me while I tumbled into the pain cave trying to hold his wheel. Six to go. This is trouble.
A few turns later, while clinging to the back of the PVB train, I hit the brakes and hear the sickening sound of metal on metal. Next turn and there it is again. Something bad has just happened to my bike. I'm off the train immediately. My spirit is broken, just like my bike.
But wait, is it really that bad? Time for the gentleman's DNF, where I tell PVB that I was totally going to counterattack him if I didn't have a mechanical.
So anyway, you know those little pins that hold your cantilever pads in place? You should make sure they're seated really well, because cross is rough, and you can't race very fast when your brake pad falls out.
Now I'm sitting here seething at how badly I performed (both days involved biological issues, not just mechanical ones) and suddenly terrified of the UCI Cross season that I signed up for. If you're wondering, one bad weekend of cross can completely ruin any confidence you might get from a good mountain bike season. It sucks when you suck. True story.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A wise man once noted, "it sucks when you suck." This weekend I drove around New England with a cross bike sucking at various venues. I'll spare you the excuses for why I sucked and get right to the how I sucked.
Saturday Linnea, Cary and Kris loaded up the Fit (to the brim) and headed to Waterville for a new race, put on by my 24 hour teammate Curtis and his team.
The race was lightly attended for something only two hours from Boston, but we got the standard 11 starters in the 1/2/3 race, with the Corner Cycles guys there to make it legit. The course was... interesting... with 3 dismounts and a lot of bumpy power sections in a sub-four-minute lap. The best feature was a monstrously long, faster-to-run sand pit allegedly built by Jerry. 16 times through that had me questioning my "you don't need to run much for cross" training philosophy.
So anyway. Race starts. I get the reverse holeshot for a second, but it's a cross race so the adrenaline soon gets the better of me and I start moving up. Tom Sampson is there and it's apparently his 2nd time ever on a cross bike, so I actually have a chance of beating him on a bike for once. After five laps I'm on his wheel in 7th and the stomach cramp from hell makes an appearance.
Apparently my decision to drink a lot of gatorade because I couldn't find any other calories did not agree with the roughness of this course. I've fought through cramps like that before, but with 11 laps to go I'm not interested in fighting the cramp for that long. So I decide to sit up and completely softpedal a lap. Ah, wussing out never felt so good. Four minutes later Cary has passed me and I can breathe with out a knife stabbing me in the gut. Good trade.
So I set out chasing Cary, who was actually flying, because I was barely closing on him while we were both reeling Tom back in fast. Turns out he flatted on lap one and has been flying since... scary. Just as I get up to him I finally push it too far and lay it down on the off camber, and due to SUCKING can't seem to grab the bike and run out of it. The gap gets big, really fast.
Back on the bike I seem to have lost my top three gears, which is strange because they were there a minute ago. A lap later I notice something is poking me in the hand -- oh hey there SHIFT HOUSING THAT BUSTED UNDER MY BAR TAPE. The valley girl in me thinks "omg how does that even happen" and the idiot in me decides to keep riding a single speed for a few laps.
Finally I realized that Linnea had a working/awesome bike, so I asked her to bring it to the pit, then rode the last 3 laps on it. It was a great idea, the last 3 laps were the highlight of the day.
First off, holy crap, carbon wheels. Now I know why people race those. Her Edge 2.68s made the bike feel incredible. So stiff, so light, like riding on air. Uh... really firm air. Anyway, they fly. I gotta find a way to get some.
I had been getting goaded by the snow pit attendees to take a beer feed, so I did, and while I barely dented that can of PBR I sure put myself in some hurt. I finally got the beer out of my windpipe just in time to get lapped by Jonny and Kevin with two to go.
Since I had a sick bike with carbon wheels, though, I just rode along behind them for two laps and then attacked at the end to get back on the lead lap. Seriously. I know they were going pretty easy at that point, but still, recovering while riding Jonny Bold's wheel is not something I thought I'd ever do.
Despite my "heroics," the 9th/11 finish definitely left something to be desired. Luckily, it being cross season, there was always the Sunday race to make amends...
Meanwhile, Linnea killed it and looked good doing it. And got rich, too -- the women's race paid $500/5 deep, equal prize money with men. Come do this race next year.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This past weekend's Landmine Classic was the finale of the GT Golden Bike series, as I'm sure you've heard. The series has been widely ridiculed for rewarding sandbaggers with an ugly bike and cheerleaders. While this is an accurate summary of what it's all about, does that make it dumb?
My initial reaction was that this was totally stupid. How much does it cost to fly and accommodate four cheerleaders, a couple GT reps, and a golden bike winner and friend to six different events? How much does it cost to give every golden bike winner a bike?
Oh, and your USA-centric perspective probably assumed this promotion was limited to the States. It's not. So take the cost of the US series and (more than) double it for the international series.
Yeah. GT threw down a lot of money to do this. Pretty dumb, because "we" all know GT bikes are crappy and "we" buy Trek/Fisher/Specialized/Giant, whatever the shop gets us deals on, and some over-the-top series (did I mention cheerleaders? yeah. cheerleaders) ain't gonna change "our" opinion.
Here's the catch. "We" are not the target audience for this thing, and "we" probably don't know much about marketing. Back in the day, GT mountain bikes were the sheeeeeeit. Remember the "triple triangle design"? I still have a poster of Rishi Grewal rocking his. If you were buying a high-end mountain bike in the 90's, GT was a solid choice.
Somewhere along the line, that all changed. GT merged with Schwinn, went bankrupt, got acquired by Dorel Industries, and looked to be following Mongoose on the path to department-store-bike status. Could you even buy a proper GT mountain bike in 2005? I sure didn't see any.
But now, at the end of the decade, GT decided it wanted to make real bikes again. I don't know why, it might be because someone up high loves cycling or it might be because some suit ran the numbers and thinks it'll make Dorel's stock go up. It doesn't matter why, they're going for it.
So how would you get your brand's name back out there when it's been sullied by bankruptcy and cheap-bike production? Sponsor a pro team? Oh, that's creative. Because pro mountain biking is so big right now, all those sport riders (a.k.a. "your market") pay so much attention to it.
Like they care what Marko Lalonde rides.
The Golden Bike promotion is miles above sponsoring pro riders. Look at me, I'm writing a blog post about it. Look at James, he's writing a race preview about it. Sure, we think the bike is dumb, the cheerleaders are dumb, but we know about it.
12 months ago I didn't even know GT still made race bikes. Now I do. Sure, I get my bike through the shop, but you think that sentence doesn't hold true for every one else who showed up at Landmine, many of whom may actually by a bike at retail price in the next few years?
Just like the web, it's all about user impressions. There were 404 racers at Landmine, 489 at Ore To Shore, those a big number for mountain biking. Racers have families and friends, races lead to press releases (and we all read the web), that's a lot of people who are all aware now that GT makes race bikes AND does over-the-top promotions.
Plus, they did it in a down economy. Remember the dot-com boom, when every pile of venture capital was trying to make the most insane Super Bowl ad? Do you remember any of them, or did they all just blur together?
But in 2009, most companies are dialing back and being conservative with money, so GT's crazy promotion dollar goes a lot further, because there's no competition. GT dumped a ton of money on the mountain bike scene (don't forget the Dirt Coalition they started this year) while Specialized/Trek/Giant/Kona/etc were doing nothing.
Or were they doing nothing? I don't really know. They probably sponsored some dudes, some shop teams, whatever, same old same old. Nothing worth raising an eyebrow over -- nothing like this Golden Bike shit. And that's the point.
It's hard to put a price on brand recognition. Ok, so flying ~10 people all over the country six times is expensive, giving away bikes is expensive, buying print ads and online ads and building a website is expensive. But Dorel grossed 2.2 billion dollars in 2008, with a profit of $113 million dollars. With a balance sheet like that, you can probably find a couple hundred thousand bucks to run the biggest promotion in mountain biking history, right?
I'm not buying a GT bike anytime soon. I think cheerleaders at a bike race are the silliest thing I've ever seen. I think GT is crazy to throw away money on this. Crazy like a fox.
Posted by Colin R at 8:53 PM
Monday, September 14, 2009
While prepping for this race, I realized that I hadn't done a proper xc mountain bike race since Mount Snow back in July. What was that, six weeks ago? I didn't mean to semi-retire from the Root 66 series, but I guess I did. I even started to entertain thoughts of giving up on the mountain bike season early (since my wheel was still dead from the Darkhorse) and just heading to Bedford to race cross.
Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and I eventually got myself mildly interested to race the Landmine Classic/GT Golden Bike Series Finale/Root 66 Virtual Series Finals*. Cary and I went down Saturday for a preride, which got cut short by Cary's freehub exploding. While packing up to leave, though, Golden Bike Guy showed up to scout the course. His accent made it clear that he was "not from around here," and since it was currently pouring rain onto a very rocky and rooty New England course, two things happened:
1) I realized Kevin Hines was going to win the Golden Bike.
2) I became very motivated to race my bike.
I generally hate people who put their "my region is betta than yo region" attitude in your face, but I have to admit, I really wanted to beat this guy.
So I went from almost not racing on Thursday to losing sleep over it Saturday. That's a good thing, believe me, with 3 months of CROSSCROSSCROSS coming up. So I flipped out all morning (just ask Linnea, it was ugly) and then lined up with 16 other locals, plus GOLDEN BIKE GUY, in the Pro/1 race.
It was the same old fast Wompy start that's not representative of the rest of the course, but after feeling the burn big time in the latter half last year I was considerably more relaxed this time. Not quite a reverse holeshot since there were spun-out singlespeeders involved, but still, hanging at the back.
On the first real technical section it was madness (as always) with guys dismounting left and right in traffic. I managed to stay on, while using the energy I was saving to heckle Mike Rowell about running. The leaders (including GOLDEN BIKE GUY and Kevin Hines) were long gone already -- such is the price of the reverse holeshot. But let's not pretend I have a chance of riding with Kevin, I was just hoping Golden Bike Guy would get off his bike and cry at the first rock garden. No such luck.
After things stabilized a bit I ended up rolling around with James Harmon and another rigid 29er guy for several miles. Since I was riding a dualie with gears, I felt like I should probably be doing a lot better than two rigid singles, but then again James basically owns me, so maybe the equipment difference was the reason I could keep up for once.
I dropped James at the first feed zone, but no sooner did I congratulate myself for this than I discovered a large object bouncing off my thighs. Initially I assumed it was my large and manly testicles (did I mention I was beating James Harmon? YEAH!) but further inspection revealed it was just a broken seatbag. So James caught back on while I addressed that, and now I had a seatbag wedged in one jersey pocket.
I dropped him again on a long fireroad section (dude, gears) and then we hit some pavement so I took out my seatbag and started distributing its contents among my pockets so I could throw it out. When I finished, I looked up and realized that I was not on the course any more.
I can't tell how I knew, but somehow, I knew that the course had turned right back there. Instead of backtracking I headed across the many trails in the campground, trying to find it. I came to another road I recognized, freshly spray painted with course markings. I headed down it, and then had the sickening feeling that I might have just cut the course and ended my race. I turned around.
I was about to start retracing my steps when good old James came around the corner! I have never been so happy to get caught by a racer in my life. If James is here than I didn't cheat and I can keep racing!
So off we went again.
Eventually the toll of riding a rigid bike at Wompy took its toll on James, and I dropped him for good around mile 12. This made me feel like a rockstar, but then I remembered feeling great until mile 16 last year. The second half is much harder than the first.
Soon I heard the telltale clang of chainslap through the woods and picked it up bit. After several more miles of hammering I discovered it was Mike Joos I was stalking, and that I was closing on him very slowly.
We had many more miles to go, so I eventually made contact. After riding behind Mike for a while I realized that he was going at about 99.9% of the speed I wanted to ride at. obviously the thing to do in this case was to ride with him and try to beat him at the end.
So when he made a tiny bobble at mile 17 I decided to take the lead and start riding at 110% of how fast I wanted to ride. For one whole mile I was kicking his ass by like, 8 seconds, until the effort caught up with me and I started riding into stuff. He easily caught and dropped me, and I decided that I officially wanted the race to be over now. Oh well. At least I made it two miles further this year!
Mike was quickly out of sight as I dealt with the consequences of my stupidity. Two gels, two miles, and a coke later, I felt like racing bikes again. Well, kinda. I would not have objected to the finish line secretly being moved to mile 20.
There was a two-way section near the end and I saw Kevin Hines going the other way on it. Initially I through he was only 6 or so minutes ahead of me, but it turns out he was twelve minutes up on me and seven minutes ahead of Freye and Foley. At age 48. If I hadn't seen him do stuff like that before (on a less technical course, too) I'd have sworn he cut the course. His time was insane.
The last two miles of the race are pretty fun because you end up on a very technical section of the beginner course while the beginners are finishing. It was littered with people walking their bikes... almost as good as spectators! I got so stoked by how many people were out there racing (and watching me ride stuff they couldn't... don't pretend you wouldn't have felt the same way) that I found a second wind and started legitimately hammering again. In the last thirty seconds of the race I even spied Mike Joos ahead of me, but a very slick wooden bridge and some beginners prevented me from launching a ninja attack on him.
GOLDEN BIKE GUY ended up 4th, behind only two pros and Kevin. Pretty legit performance from a guy who must not race this kind of terrain very often, but hey, that's why he's got THE GOLDEN BIKE and I don't. I was actually the third Cat 1 (8th overall), so if Kevin and Ted both get struck by lightning during the offseason, I would get to defend the Golden Bike at Sea Otter next year. Can you imagine how badly that would go?
So I definitively didn't suck, in fact, this was probably the best mountain bike race of my life. Linnea didn't suck either, as she was second behind Alessandra from Poland, which she described as "almost like winning."
Thus, it can be concluded that if you race almost every weekend from April to mid-August and then take a few weeks off to have an active vacation... you will ride fast when you come back. Shocking!
That, or the New Zealand food is full of EPO. Either way I might have to go back next year.
* - the last race of the series was moved to Mt Snow (on the mountain). It will be the third time racing there for many competitors. I'm skipping it in protest.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I'm pulling a Thom P and just referring you to the CX Magazine Report that I wrote. If you wanna hear me talk about me today (and why else does anyone come here??), go over there!
Oh wait. Some people are probably here for the Linnea update. A disturbingly high number of you, in fact. Well... she won. She killed it. She lapped second place. Unlike me, she was head and shoulders better than the competition.
There's not much about her actual race in there because UTTER DOMINATION is boring to read about, right? I've never actually done it myself... so I dunno.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
If you're a dedicated North American nordic skier with some money (do those exist??), you could be here for roughly $1200 (Boston to Queenstown NZ -- 50k away). It would be the best $1200 you ever spent.
Even if you're a dedicated, albeit poor and nomadic, nordic skier -- the place is full of foreigners doing seasonal work. You could be one of them...while getting the best training/vacation/non-dryland August possible. If I was a proper nordic skier, I'd be here every year.
Posted by Colin R at 5:25 AM
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
This post is for the five nordic skiers who read this in the summer.
We headed up another yet another insane road to Snow Farm today. Even though it's "winter" in the valleys of New Zealand, we finally found real winter here, up at 5000 feet. Six inches of fresh powder and not a tree to be seen -- we had no choice but to shred as much gnar as can possibly be shredded on nordic skis.
The only problem was that we had to earn our vertical on groomed trails. That's a problem? It is when you're accompanied by Ben Koons (probably heading to the Olympics for NZ this winter) and some Canadian Ski Team guys. First day on snow + too much pride = extreme soreness imminent.
Lots more to talk about once we stop doing stuff and driving a million k per day.
Posted by Colin R at 5:42 AM