Monday, December 17, 2007

Bernie loves the snow. Here is some low quality video of the nut this last weekend.
video

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Illinois State Championships




















I am still beat from Sunday. The result wasn't what I was hoping for, but I feel like I raced really hard, and that is all I can ask for. As you can see the conditions were really tough, but along with a nicely designed course it made for great racing. It was great to get to race with teammate Brian Parker for most of the race. We really fed off of each other and used a bit a team tactics to catch and drop a couple of guys. I am always sad after cross season ends, but it's only 9 more months until the next cross race!!
Photos Courtesy of Ed White and Ansgar Graw.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wisco State Championships and Special Days in the Saddle

It was late winter in Lexington, KY circa 1997 when I headed out with teammate John Koury for an interval workout on the beautiful country roads that meandered through the horse farms of the Bluegrass. Temps were in the mid 30’s and the skies overcast. As we completed several tough repeats it began to snow. Not just snow, but huge flakes that made it difficult to see and covered the road. We continued on with our work out, completing the intervals as planned. We headed home freezing cold, knowing we did something that most people would have quit early and headed home to the warmth of their house.

It may have been that same year as above, when John, our other friend Mark and I headed to Blacksburg, VA for a Spring Break of road riding in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. Each day we were there it was overcast and rained at some point during the ride. One particular day we were driving to the start point of the ride and it began to rain. It wouldn’t stop for the entire ride that day, which included some climbs used during the Tour DuPont. After a couple of missed turns and several steep climbs we found our way to the road that lead back to the car. We had 20 miles to a small town followed by one last mile long climb. The rain was still coming down, the temperature dropped as the miles ticked by slowly. Each 5 miles there was a sign showing how many miles to the town. We were all hungry and cold, as tempers flared at the smallest accelerations in paceline. The last five miles to the town were down a winding road, and I was being followed by a semi-trailer. My brakes barely worked, I couldn’t feel my fingers and all I could do was hope to stay upright. Finally reaching the town we had one last climb back to the warm car.

Fast forward to the Wisconsin State Cyclocross Championships in Hales Corners, WI on December 2, 2007. The night before 3-4 inches of thick slushy snow came down on southeast Wisconsin. On the drive to the race venue it was raining and sleeting and the temps were in the mid 40’s. I was super excited. After getting signed up, setting up the bike, and getting changed it began to sleet harder. These were some serious cross conditions. By the start of the 3’s race there was a steady sleet coming down. Race starts and I am going nowhere. I picked the wrong starting location and was bogged down in the ruts. I was in last place after 100 meters. Through the sandpit and I pass one guy. Great, now I am 2nd to last.


Through a couple of off-camber turns to the first set of barriers into a winding run-up. Onto some asphalt back onto the snow and mud. Past the wheel pit heading to the backside of the course. I passed one or two more guys on this straightway. Over a footbridge to some tight chicanes into a long uphill section. At this point on the 1st lap I am stuck behind a slower rider. Pass him on the climb, but getting out of the main line is tough when riding into the deep rutted snow. 180 degree turn back down the hill into an off camber turn into another 180 degree turn followed by a triple set of barriers into another run up. Through some more chicanes and twists, back over a bridge to the start/finish line. This was really a great course. After the fist lap, the course was getting rutted and smoother lines were more perceivable. Mud flying everywhere, tripod around the corners when needed, and lots of shouldering of the bike (my shoulder is really sore today). As the race went on the corners got muddier and slicker, while the straights became smoother and faster. We ended up doing 4 laps in 45 minutes, and I rolled in 12th. I couldn’t feel my toes and was so happy to find out the park district building had hot showers. This was the ticket to warming up post race. I felt like the pros after Paris Roubaix taking the showers at the velodrome. My start really blew it for me. I was stupid to line up to the outside and not in the center where the course was more worn in. I know this cost me a few spots in the end. Oh well.

Like the stories above, this day will go down as one of the classic hard man days of my life. I will always remember the mud, snow, sleet, the cheering teammates, the guy with the horn, and all the cowbells. These are the days, good or bad, that make up my cycling memory; not the perfect sunny 70 degree days in the middle of June, where everything goes smoothly. These are the days that make you feel closer to your heroes, like Hampsten on the Gavia or Jonathan Page riding to a 2nd place at the Worlds only a few months after injuring his shoulder. Suffering is universal throughout the sport of cycling, and is the thread that connects the weekend warrior to the Pro, and its a big reason for this sport being so great.

Photos courtesy of madcross.org