Sunday, October 29, 2006


Rushin' Revolution Midnight Crit Report

Scott Mullen the Great Gatsby of Boston cycling and the mastermind behin Rushin' Revolution came back from Chicago to rally the troops for a semi-impromptu midnight crit in Kendall Square Cambridge. These things are drunken, they are dangerous, they are highly illegal, but given the circumstances I had to participate. I will not do one of these races on a fast bike,
alcohol and fast bikes mix like milk and hairballs so I opted for my Schwinn Varsity,
a fixed gear cruiser with flat pedals and a huge basket. This wonderful machine was bequeathed unto me by none other than Todd Downs, I'm still baffled as to why he really gave this treasure to the likes of me but it may have had something to do with my extreme fondness for it which I expressed often times after returning from a coffee run on it as Todd and I worked together at The Ace Wheelworks.
The evening began at The Independent in Union square where we sat until the gears of poor judgement were adequately lubricated and it was time to roll over to The Gehry building at MIT and discover the true location of the Midnight Crit.
There were all sorts of folks there from BU racer boys in their full spandex kits, super-commuters, the obligatory contingent of messengers on brakeless fixed gears,
and the usual suspects like Luke Brunelle and Kevin Porter. The always dangerous Alex Whitmore had opted to sit this one and coordinate things.
From the start I sprinted to stay with he leaders, getting spun out and dropped as we hit the first corner. I hovered within sight of them, my large Kryptonite lock bouncing and rattling in my Wald basket as I went. I pushed the limits of my gum wall tires, feeling both ends of the bike begin to slide out in a pulsating fashion as I pedaled through the corners. By the third lap I'd adopted an aero tuck utilizing the basket, gripping the front of the wire mesh and resting my elbows on the bars, incredibly unstable yet effective. The rattling of the lock in the basket subsided suddenly as the lock was ejected into the path of another rider, who stopped to pick it up like a charging Grizzly Bear thrown a backpack by a fleeing hiker.
There was some confusion about the final lap so I think I ended up sprinting at one lap to go and then kind of rolling in with my little group. I took first in basket class, and landed in the top ten overall I guess, winning a jar of strange, spicy, preserves and some chain tensioners.
Thanks to Mully and Alex and all the others who make these things happen.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October 8th/9th Gran Prix of Gloucester Report

"Nice bike!" they screamed as I gasped my way around the Gloucester course on a pink single speed 'cross bike with riser bars and v-brakes which is only sort of mine. I've always subscribed to the "if you don't know what you're doing you shouldn't look like you know what you're doing" school of thought. I despise the folks with all the gear and none of the skills to back it up, therefore I didn't want to show up to a USGP race looking like Sven Nys while I have all the 'cross aptitude of Star Jones, or Catherine Zeta Jones, or all the band members of Jesus Jones...except for that one dude with the hat, he might know more about 'cross than I do. For christ's sake look at how I'm holding my bike on the run up, I look like a hipster with a white leather studded belt, aviator shades, and a trucker hat carrying my brakeless fixed gear with a top tube pad up the stairs of my apartment building in The Mission.

Day one was insane, 120 guys in my field, I'm used to racing against maybe fifteen guys, more if it's at an endurance event, but then the starts are much more manageable, sedate even. This was nuts, we all piled into that first corner, a dozen guys stopped or fell over, second corner, same thing. The funny thing is that people were actually whining about it "get the frick outta my way, I'm a B racer coming into the hole shot in 88th place, can't you see I'm in contention, if you don't let me by my sponsors are going to be pissed and they might not let me buy a jersey next year!". Easy Jetboy. After the hole shot we rode around in circles for forty minutes then decided to stop and eat donuts and kettlecorn for the rest of the day and watch the pros do it right.
The Haitian National Team was in attendance both days, they were on clapped out road bikes with no knobbies and their boxer shorts were hanging out of their bike shorts and John Candy was nowhere in sight. Paul Curly was also there, coke bottle glasses, helmet mirror, rear disc wheel, and road tubulars, except unlike the boys from Haiti he was going really, really fast in the master's race.

Day two I upped my gear slightly though not nearly enough to deal with this glorified road course, man I can't wait for some inclement weather, I want shit to get all Belgian, then maybe this ridiculous single speed business will pan out. As it stands I'm a guy on a pink hybrid "discomfort bike" out there trying not to look too incredibly stupid. Who knows maybe by the end of the season I'll have white bar wrap on my riser bars.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


EFTA Grillz Memorial Race Report

Why? Why, when there was a NORBA Root 66 race less than hour away in Connecticut did I decide to get up at 5:30 AM and drive for close to three hours to an EFTA race in coastal Maine when the forecast was for fifty degrees and rain? I’ll tell you why. All right I can’t really tell you why I decided to do such a thing, I can tell you why it ultimately turned out to be a good decision. I did the Brialee, CT NORBA last year, it was all right, but I wanted something different, I hadn’t raced in Maine all year, I’d heard this race was full of sick, technical, goodness, and my special girlfriend and I has just come into possession of a fine Swedish automobile which was just crying out for a roadtrip.

It was dark when I awoke, not like that bluish, the sun’ll be up soon dark, it was really REALLY dark, I mean the C.H.U.D.s were still out. I had everything ready to go because I am clinically uh, “differently abled” in the morning if you can call 5:30 AM “morning”. I ate my rice and eggs, rushed through a little Yoga session, threw my gear in the car, and bolted. About twenty minutes later I realized I didn’t have the oh so elaborate and complex directions to the venue…shnikey. It was early, too early to call anyone for help so I fired off a few text messages for people to call me when they got up. I knew the highway directions, so I figured someone would get back to me before I had to get off in the sticks and begin winding my way down to Reid State Park in Georgetown Maine.
My plan to open up the new car on the highway was not meant to be, there were Staties everywhere and I was one of about five cars on the road at that hour, oh well, set the cruise control for 79 and turn up Slade on the stereo. After getting no response to my texts I called up my sister’s house (a house of small children is always early to rise) and enlisted my brother in law to mapquest up some directions. Of course I had nothing to write on and the directions were pretty involved, luckily I spotted Matt O’Keefe (one of the fastest guys to ever do the EFTA circuit) and knew that the only business he had in the area was the race so I followed him.
For once I had time to warm up, I got out on the course, adjusted the tire pressure, got all pumped, I don’t know why but I had a very relaxed attitude about this one. Something Mike Ramponi said on the 101 trip kept resonating with me, “y’know what ? Tomorrow I wanna ride my bike in the woods…all day”. I wasn’t going to be riding all day, but I was pretty stoked to ride my mountain bike on some real mean, Maine singletrack, just like I was on a solo hammer ride through The Fells back home.
At the start I could see a couple of the usual dangerous suspects, Andrew freye, Michael Patrick, Matt O’keefe, only one of which was in my class, I got behind Andrew and tried to follow him from the gun, it worked until we hit the flat parking lot and I went “oh ya, single speed, buh-bye”. Despite the geared friendly hole shot I got into the woods in good position, up with the juniors and senior I’s, some of whom go off like nitro burning funny cars, expending all their fuel by the end of the first lap. Got a bit of ‘cross practice in with some dismounting and running like hell early on as things bottlenecked, I actually chose to run a few sections every lap because it was that technical of a course.
My Stan’s No-Tubes experiment seemed to be working out, I was running non-UST tires on my Stan’s rims, after a few nerve wracking bottom outs on some rocks and roots I realized that it was really working and I had nothing to worry about, awesome.
The course was broken into two sections, the first one being very technical with some wet rooty uphill scrambles, a whole lot of off camber stuff, but generally pretty fast. Then there was intermission, a few minutes (a few too many for a single speed) of high-speed fireroad, just undulating enough so that it wasn’t a total rout, except when Skip Brown passed me like I was a Geo Metro on the Autobahn. Some of the other Expert geared riders gave me a little bit of grief on this section but I was able to gap back up the second we hit the woods again.
Aside from the first lap and a half I was solo, I caught up to a couple of the overcooked young guys going into the second lap, as I came by one he gasped “oh man, that is just demoralizing”, I don’t know if he meant the fact that I was close to fifteen years older than him or the fact that I was riding a single speed or both. After I got by the juniors there were two more geared Experts going back and forth with me for a bit. One kind of faded as the other lead through the fireroad section back into the singletrack, a photographer on course warned us of a slick bridge ahead, and then WHAM! The rider in front of me went down hard, I shot off the side of the bridge and looped up around him, he said he was all right but I never saw him again. From then on I was all alone, just out there having a good time riding my bike in Maine, trying to clean as much stuff as possible and not die doing it, or trying to do it.
When it was over I was fifth overall, third in my class, it was my first EFTA podium of the season, and a nice way to end things on the mountain bike before I begin embarrassing myself on the ‘cross circuit.


Vermont 50 Report

Mountain biking is dead, that’s what they say anyway, I say bollocks as I sit in front of my computer in early may with five browser windows open to the registration page for The Vermont 50 (which takes place in late September), hoping to become one of the lucky few (seven hundred actually) to get into this race. Each year it has gotten more difficult to get in, it used to fill up in a reasonable amount of time, then it was just a few days, then a few hours, and this year it was really just a matter of minutes. Did I mention that the entry fee has doubled and that this fact has not dissuaded a single person from signing up? I think maybe promoter Michael J. Silverman should talk to the folks at NORBA.
So for those of you not from New England this thing is a big deal, it’s THE Vermont 50, it’s an institution, it’s epic, it’s hard as hell, so hard that it’ll even put a hurt on those who eat hundred milers for breakfast. The forecast for this year’s race was lousy, I was prepared for the worst, a rainy 6:15 AM start with temperatures in the forties, what we got was nothing of the sort, it was sixty and not raining in the morning, and nary a raindrop fell until noon, when most of the experts were already in. The course was muddy and soft, not bad by any means, but not the fastest conditions ever.
We stayed at my friend Sue Lee’s about ten minutes away from Ascutney Resort in her brand new A-frame. I was planning on waking up at 4 AM but due to proper hydration I was up at 2:50 so I decided since I was getting crap for sleep I should at least get some serious food in my belly so I wolfed a pint of left-over pasta and some bread and then laid in bed trying to relax for a while. We were up and out and over to the venue while it was still pitch dark out, I had a couple cups of coffee, and snuck up to the front of the Expert class which I knew was absolutely pointless as I was on the single speed and the start is downhill on the road for about three miles, I was spit out the back and started the first climb in about 80th place…rockin’. I was with a few other single speeders since we’d been separated from the group like the wheat from the chaff, of course in the confusion of the massive mass start I had completely lost track of where I stood, it was time to just begin the reeling and allow the war of attrition to begin.
I’ve done the this race a couple times before so I knew the true brutality wouldn’t begin until well after mile twenty, so if you see anyone laboring hard before then you likely will not see them later. My plan was to warm up on the course, stay well fueled and hydrated, and then pour it on two hours into the race. This is always a hard thing to do when your inclination is to do battle with every single knucklehead that comes anywhere near you. I saw a few familiar faces early on, Big Jason Hughes among them, my two time 24 Hours of Great Glen Teammate, always a good-natured super aggressive rider. I also ran into a guy named Chris who I’d been following at The 101 when I snapped my stupid Paul brake lever and ate it.
I yo-yoed off a couple other Single Speed dudes for a while, one looked pretty tough, he was wearing a plaid shirt and baggy shorts and he said he’d just moved to northern Vermont from Colorado so you know he had climbing chops. The other guy was looking rough already and I assumed he was going to pop sooner or later. As I was riding up one of the many dirt road climbs former VT 50 winner (on a single speed) Troy Michaud came by me doing a wheelie and gave me a pleasant greeting. He told me that he’d busted some ribs in the early season so he wasn’t quite on form, that explained why he was back with me and not up front snapping people’s legs off. We rolled together for a while and until he showed me how to descend like a true champion and dropped my ass. I caught up to him at the next aid station and we kept on, passing more and more tuckered out geared riders as it got late in the race.
At mile thirty or so I calculated that I was on a 4:30 pace, I knew this probably wouldn’t last but I kept the throttle twisted regardless. Troy dropped back eventually and I got the other two SS guys in my sites and began reeling them in. The one I thought to be the tougher of the two fell by the wayside as the haggard looking Kona rider grabbed my wheel. He walked and pushed the uphills as I mashed up them, arms cramping, each time I thought I had him on the ropes he bounced back, not looking strong but not going anywhere either despite my best efforts.
Some of the singletrack in this race is pretty special, nothing too technical, most of the hairy stuff involves hitting rooty sections at speed (something which took me out early on, sending my glasses sailing into the bushes). There is a piece of real twisty stuff where I was reminded repeatedly that I had not remembered to cut down my 660mm bars. After hooking them a couple times I began kitty cornering them through the tight tree gates at speed. I caught a few more geared riders in this stuff, their big rings rendered useless by the countless corners and soft earth.
Although I hadn’t pre-hydrated very well due to the grim weather predictions, I did catch up and then some and was forced to evacuate off the bike while rolling not once but twice, I never did have to stop or fill my left shoe (I “dress left”) with urine like I had the past two times I’d done this race. There’s was no way I was going to finish the race and find that I had lost a place by around a minute and know that it had been because of a “natural brake”, no way.
The singletrack stuff in the last fifteen miles was particularly vicious for a single speed, real soft and undulating, I had to run a bunch as I got torqued out. The other SS guy was on my wheel most of the time at this point. I decided not to fight him until the last three miles after the final aid station, where we’d pass between a barn and a farm house which might as well be the gate to hell. It’s a climb through a tall grassy field that goes on forever, I was going to be happy if I could just stay on the bike. There’s one last tricky woods section before the climb from hell and somewhere in there I hit a wet bridge, slid to the side where my rear tire caught on an inch high board and burped some air, it held so I plodded on, now with the other SS guy in the lead, I kept him there, letting him pull me up to the last aid station where I saw Sue Lee, out on a run and hurling words of encouragement, she said I was in 19th place, cool, top twenty I just had to drop this crazed monkey on my back.
We came through the gate to hell and I saw maybe five geared riders up ahead, churning along, “let’s get ‘em” I said to my tenacious friend, “you’re a better man than I” he said as I hit it, determined to nab a few spots in the last few miles, so much better than being the one getting nabbed even if I wasn’t having the absolute best ride of my life. Shortly I started passing them, getting a gap on the SS rider while I was doing it. I can’t really describe how crampy and hurting my legs were here, my arms were seizing up, I was just playing a game called “stay on the bike, don’t frickin’ walk, don’t get off, stay on the damn bike”. I made it to the traverse which meant the end of the grassy suckiness and from what I remembered a free ride to the ski hill descent back to the Ascutney lodge…wrong. The traverse was rolling, lots of short spiky climbs hitting me like jackhammers to the knees, I felt like I was running in water with cement blocks zip tied to my feet. I did get past a couple more dudes in the traverse, then I saw the mile to go marker and drilled it, determined no to give up any of the spots I gained. No one caught before the line as I rolled across grinning and stoked to see my teammate Jeff sitting there like he’d been in for a while. I ask him what he did “4th” he said…wow. He did flat and he’s not one to shoulda coulda, woulda but I say without the flat he coulda won it that day, next year Jeff…next year.
There were varying reports on which place single speed I was on the course, in the end it turned out I was second SS, with Bryan Lyster taking first, just goes to show, fast guys are still fast guys on a single speed. The race was great, the weather held until the barbecue, and I was pretty happy with my ride. My one gripe is the kind of treatment the single speeders received, we started with the experts, a bunch of us finished real high up (Lyster was 3rd overall, I was 14th), but during the awards we were called last, and unlike every other category including Clydesdale and tandem (much smaller categories) where awards went three deep our 27 person class only went one deep. Even on the results page on the site, we’re way down the bottom, I don’t know what’s up with that, if you’re going to offer the category, if it’s going to be that deep, you have to show it some respect. As it stands I’m planning on gears next year.