Wednesday, November 29, 2006

He is the Nightrider...cruising at the speed of fright!

The plan was to do a Wedneday Nightride out of IBC Newton, throughout the day I received more and more cancellations until it looked as if I were rolling solo. In reality things were pointing toward my couch and beer and back to back viewings of Arrested Development, especially after my conversation with Chris McQueen about evil (hillbilly) spirits that attack travelers in the night.

He hypothesized that they might also go after cyclists and assured me that they were very fast, great. I'm the guy who's afraid of lakes and streams, my imagination doesn't need a jumpstart.
Thankfully Uri showed up

Yes, he looks like a guy out of an Assos catalog, make fun of him and his vintage DiamondBack EX
with Biopace chainrings and a U-brake all you want, he won't be able to hear your dropped ass as he crashes through the woods with only a Cateye commuter light to show him the way. What you can't see can't hurt you (especially if you blindly slam into it hard enough).

The conditions were surreal, super low visibilty due to fog and incredibly slippery due to mud and wet leaves. We did a loop around Cutler park in Needham, charged like lemmings toward a boggy dead end, realized the error of our ways (not before Uri lost a shoe... fn evil spirits)

and made a u-turn, heading over the traintracks into Millenium Park. Without the uncanny pathfinding skills of Adam Branfman it took us a few attempts to find the passage through to Wells Ave. but we were eventually successful, making it back to IBC without a hint of Demonic possesion...or did we?

Monday, November 27, 2006


Lake Pleasant Cyclocross

There is no rhyme or reason as to why I do well or completely flail at a race. Over the past few days I have eaten like a sumo wrestler in training, I have not ridden my bike, I have stood on ladders in the cold painting a house, last night I hardly slept, and I woke up this morning with two by fours where my legs should have been. This was the type of morning where if I hadn’t preregistered for the race I would have bagged it, that would have been a shame.
I woke up at the crack, drank coffee after coffee until my right eye began to twitch, loaded up the car in the dark, and headed over to pick up Adrian
We made better time than I’d anticipated, then proceeded to get lost due to a thick fog both on the roads and in my brain. We wound up at the bike swap which was being run in conjunction with the race first, a guy there gave us directions to the venue. When we arrived at the venue we found it wasn’t your typical ‘cross event. Most folks were just parked along the side of the road and any overflow was on a dirt road off to the side, the start finish was down a cleared path through the woods, interesting. As I pre-rode it became even more interesting still, it was the most wallowed out, rough, nasty ‘cross course I’d ever seen, or a real tame mountain bike course…bonus.
The course: The start was on a wide open fire road, into a narrow corner, onto a more gnarly fire road, then a left into some powerlines which were all whoopty and crazy with corners and ruts everywhere, then the barriers came, they were super slow motion and really far apart, then you barrel down a hill onto another fire road which thankfully began going uphill at a slight grade (yes, I’m still all single speed all the time) , then a left onto some jeep trails, a few swooping corners, into some singletrack, more singletrack, more powerlines, another set of slow motion barriers, a downhill (pretty scary for a ‘cross course), bit more mountain bike stuff, a run around a steep, slippery hairpin,

Fletch Foto Video
more downhilling, then the penultimate climb which lead right into a steep long run up, the combination of the two likely constituting a human rights violation, a hundred yards to the line and repeat until your lumbar vertebrae are beaten to a fine powder and your hands feel like you’ve been hanging off the ledge of a tall building in the rain while Rutger Hauer tells you about how he's seen things you wouldn't believe like attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.
My start was typical, typically bad that is. It was a flat fire road start but I could have done more I think, I ended up well to the back, next to a guy on a mountain bike (who is probably saying “ya, I had a wicked bad start, I was back with the guy on the pink singespeed”). Actually when I prerode I was wishing I’d brought a mountain bike. I did have to have the rider next to me at the line switch my number from the left to right side of my jersey (a little miscommunication at registration), all the while having to shout “wait, wait, we’re not ready!” of course everyone was ready except for me. When the gun went off I was adjusting the Velcro on my glove. I immediately went into my “oh well, I guess I’ll pick off as many guys as possible” mode. It’s always amazing to me how strung out things get right away, as we came into the powerlines the leaders already had a substantial gap. The first time we hit the fire road with the slight uphill grade of maybe 2% I was able to blast by a handful of dudes, pick off a few more in the corners, another four in the hairpin runaround corner as they tried to ride and I dismounted and ran the inside line, and came past a few more guys on the massive run-up, and finished lap one in a much better position than I began it.
The following laps were more of the same only less dramatic as I passed riders steadily, I could see Ryan Kelly the UNH rider up ahead, he had whupped me in the sprint at Plymouth the week before and I knew if I could reel him in I’d be in good company, easier said than done. He was moving right along, the gap was closing, but not fast, the upside was that as I tried to draw him in I was passing more people all the while. Eventually I overtook him, he kind of overshot a corner, and I was able to open a small gap up. I didn’t know where I stood so I kept pushing. With one lap to go I saw a couple guys who were within my grasp, I made contact with Dan from Circle A Cycles just as he was coming up on a Cyclenauts rider, then Cyclenauts bobbled and dropped his chain, allowing both of us to get away. I accelerated out of every corner, trying to drop Dan, he didn’t go anywhere. When we came into the nasty descent I went brakeless, taking big chances, hoping my alleged mountain bike skills would buy me some daylight, but I turned to see I had done nary a bit of damage. Somewhere in the last few turns I did produce a gap and drilled it up to the run-up, totally redlined, gasping and heaving my way to the top, but Dan had closed it back down, he was literally bumping my wheel. We both hopped on our bikes at the top, I thought I was cooked, that he’d come around me in the flat sprint like Ryan and Pete had the week prior, but I guess he was as hurtin’ as I, because I held him off to the line.

And here’s the funny thing, I didn’t know I’d won, a few people told me I had but I’ve been in that situation before and I wasn’t taking anything for granted. Eventually I accepted the fact that I’d just clinched my first ‘cross win. I felt like going back and riding across the line so I could at least get a victory salute in, maybe some dance move from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video with an inadvertent impression of Hincapie’s crash at Paris Roubaix thrown in for good measure. So not a bad day on the bike, got myself some cash and a pint of fresh honey, thanks Adrian and Kerry for cheering me on, you were an enormous help.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Slick Willy ‘Cross Lowell, MA

This is the story of a one legged man. This one-legged man, he was an accomplished Para-Olympian but one day he decided to compete in the regular Olympics. He didn’t do too badly, but in every event he participated in someone was bound to exclaim “Hey, you’re doing GREAT…for a guy with one leg.” Or “Man! This is demoralizing, getting beat by a one-legged guy” or “Hey, one-legged guy, you are a frickin’ animal…like a three-legged tiger or a centipede…with 99 legs”.
O.K. so this analogy is slightly extreme, I do ride a single speed due to a mental handicap, I am too dumb to use gears. That’s a lie, I’m a bike mechanic so it must be that I’m clinically insane, I could use gears but I choose not to, much like a man that decides to not wear pants to the grocery store or write on bathroom walls with his own excrement.

This was the second of two races I did this weekend, the start was on a dead flat dirt running track so a good start was out of the question, then it was a run up over three steps, an uphill, downhill, a screaming corner onto the road, up more hill, into steep, long thing that geared riders mostly rode while I was forced to run and put myself in arrears, a whole lot of twisting and turning, some downhill switchbacks, across a field, into some woods, more fun corners, out into the field again, over a double barrier, and back around the track.
The track was really the only spot I got spun out, otherwise I was over-geared, or perhaps I was simply under-legged after Saturday. My start was decent considering the extent of the flatness but not great, I could see the leaders up until the run-up/ride-up then I got gapped big time. My teammate Jeff made the selection, although when I saw him cruising around the track a couple laps later while I was still in the woods I just thought he was kicking some ass not sitting on third wheel in contention for the win. I know he’s a bad dude on the mountain bike but I didn’t expect him to be up in front at what was essentially his second ‘cross race, and he ended up finishing second, siiiick.

It’s usually the climbs where I make up time on the SS but with my shattered legs it was all I could do not to get dropped and then I’d actually make up some ground on the flats and corners, spinning like mad. Somewhere in there someone yelled that I was 11th so my goal became to pick off and then hold off enough guys to get into the top ten. The two dudes I was hanging with most of the race were tough to drop, I tried to make the move through the last section of singletrack, blasting through the corners with abandon, sliding both wheels across the trail, spitting out rocks. By the time I made it to the barriers I’d gapped both of them but one came back as I spun out on the track, unable to go any faster, he sat on me and then came along side, not so much trying to come off my wheel it seemed as to outsprint me head to head, and he got me as I came across the line at 8,000 RPM’s gasping for breath like a free-diver reaching the surface (took me a minute to find a metaphor there, couldn’t think of anything or anyone that gasps for breath harder than a bike racer after a sprint, free-divers probably have it though).

For whatever reason I wasn’t super happy with my performance but any issues I might have had were drowned in beer and donuts shortly after the race. Thanks to me mum and dad for coming out and big ups to Jeff W for his earth-shattering ride.
Thanks to Kerry and
Fletch Foto
for the photos.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Plymouth Cyclocross Report

My preparation for this race was ideal as usual. I rode my Schwinn Varsity fixed gear across town to the opening night of Casino Royale (pretty good really, like the Batman Begins of the Bond films, dark i.e.), had a few pints, got home at midnight, ate a couple slices of Cinderella’s pizza containing about three pounds of cheese, and went to bed. In the morning I went with rice and egg burritos, my staple pre-mountain bike race food which I had sidelined with the idea that I shouldn’t be eating something so substantial prior to ‘cross races, after my decent performance at Putney where I had fallen back on my old standard I decided to stick with it once and for all.
My buddy Jeff met me at the house and we headed down to Plymouth Mass. I had rained for a couple days leading up to the race, but on race day the weather was beautiful, sunny and mild, about fifty degrees, kind of perfect, muddy course…no rain.
Of the ‘cross courses I’ve seen this was by far the best. The start was semi-uphill through the start/finish, up a grassy knoll, into some singletrack, out into a field, over a single barrier, another knoll, back over the other end of the same single barrier, a few twists and turns through the field, up a muddy run-up, down through more of the field with more turns, down a real mountain biky? bikey? Bike…eeh!? Decent with lots of roots, very nice, out on to a sidewalk which was uphill (thank you to the gods which watch over guys with one gear, except for The Great Bull of Heaven cuz he threw poop at me that one time, big jerk), where was I? Sidewalk, right, then up some more grassy stuff, around a tennis court, down a thing, up a thing that was very hard to get up an over on my gearless bicycle,
And back to the start/finish.
This is the weird part, I got the hole shot, I don’t know how, but I came through the start/finish first, I wish someone had caught the incredulous look on my face. My position didn’t last long as at least a couple guys came around me by the top the hill. I’ve learned by now that you must endure about ten minutes of “jesus christ, I’m going to puke, I’m going to die, I’m going to die covered in my own puke, how horribly indecorous!” before you settle into a steady “my head and arms are numb and I’m drooling like the lobotomized offspring of a St. Bernard and the creature from Alien” for the rest of the race.
It was a bit hectic early on, fighting to hold position, but eventually we became a solid group of three or four with some guys yo-yoing off the back. The ultimate winner of the event gapped us all early on, right after he went all Adam Craig and hopped the barrier, we never did get close to him again. Eventually I collected what pass for my wits and formulated a game plan, this entailed trying to get in front in the areas I was stronger and hang on where I wasn’t, it kind of worked, although I was later told my onlookers that I was dragging two or three guys around like a dumb animal for most of the race.
Going into the final lap (I’ve learned to mind the lap cards…BIG VICTORY!) my tactic was to get into the woods first where I was able to produce a gap earlier on, this was not to be, the two dudes left in my group (Pete Smith and Ryan? I think) played it so right, teaming up and blocking me.
I sat on as we cruised up the sidewalk, then I went again trying to shed them through the last couple undulations before the finish but I was too redlined at the top of the ride up/run-up and the boys tacked back on, I tried to recover and sit in for the sprint but they chewed me up and spit me out like a dog which had snatched an object which had fallen off a dinner table out of the air only to realize to it’s horror that it was a totally unpalatable item such as a garlic stuffed olive. That’s me, I’m a frickin’ garlic stuffed olive, but I did finish 4th, my best result so far in this wacky sport, where you are forced to jump off a perfectly good bicycle and run like an idiot. Except I do feel that things are kind of beginning to come together, I placed another piece of the puzzle with my inexplicably good start. I still don’t know what the finished puzzle will look like, maybe it’s a shirtless Viking atop a unicorn on a misty Scandinavian mountainside wielding a broadsword with a scantily clad maiden clinging to his mid-section…at least I hope so.

I do have to thank all the “rabid fans” that yelled at me throughout the course, particularly Alexandra who opted not to go to “Build-a-Bear” (she’s six) and come out to a bike race instead. It was kind of embarrassing to tell the truth, I was riding with these dudes whose names I didn’t know and they sure as hell knew what mine was, so thanks guys.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Putney West Hill Cyclocross Reportage

This is one of the few 'cross races I've actually done before, it was
two years ago and I did it on the mountain bike, it was a killer
course and it didn't go too terribly wrong, so despite the forecast
for sub-fifty temperatures and rain (or especially because of it) I
set out for Putney Vermont. I arrived just as the C race was going
off, I watched as this poor dude got the hole shot only to trip over
his bike and fall shoulder first into the barriers, completely
destroying his front wheel on the polar opposite side of the course
from the pits, ending his race after just about twenty seconds. Note
to self: unclip your left frickin' foot!
By start time there was still no rain, it was downright
balmy out, not the ideal conditions for the single speed but whatever,
I'll take it, they'll be plenty of time to freeze to death later on in
the season. I squeezed in three pre-laps, the course was even better
than I'd remembered. The start is on an uphill dirt road (not bad for
the S.S.), you hit some pavement then enter the course just before the
first set of double barriers, the uphill road business only happens
the first lap, then it's replaced with the run up from hell (more on
that in a moment), you enter some slippery single track, come into
this really hard to figure out forced run up, basically a muddy lump
broken up by two logs, you loop around the newly expanded West Hill shop)
(lookin' good guys), hit some more singletrack, drop into the
treacherous downhill which spits you out onto a muddy, rutted
"arrhythm section", then out into a cornfield, which was not as flat
and fast as I recalled, in reality it was soft and kinda slow, just
as the field has sucked away the last bit of your lifeforce you hit
the second set of barriers before the one paved section of the course
which leads up to the loosest, steepest run-up you will likely ever
see (and I speak from experience, I have seen at least FIVE 'cross
courses FIVE!), then you do it again, but it hurts worse.
My start was not my worst, I tried to stay with my single
speed brother Ethan Parsons, he's not really my brother but we share
the same last name and a predilection for pushing one gear, that and
I'm a stinky hippy who goes around calling everyone "brother". He got
a much better start, falling into third wheel as I battled for 20th
going into the cornfield. As usual I spent the entire race playing
catch up, moving from group to group, getting a little gapped on the
one paved section, then making it back up on the run-up. I never did
figure out a graceful way to tackle the weird birch log run-up thing,
but it was a consolation watching the elites do it later on showed me
the only the very best riders like Johs Huseby (the winner of the
day) could do it with any semblance of style.
Early in the race I passed a Dartmouth rider sidelined
with a mechanical, he battled back, blowing through groups of riders
like a Buick Skylark with a geriatric driver succumbing to a massive
coronary behind the wheel, his spasming foot mashing down on the
accelerator as he plows through a crowd of shocked pedestrians in an
open air mall. I tacked on as well as I could and hitched a ride into
the top ten. The gearing was feeling spot on, 38 X 17 seems to be the
combination, I only got spun out on the pavement, everywhere else I
was having no trouble keeping up or passing for a change.
The lesson of the day was this: take note of where the lap
counter card is before the race begins and all the blood and oxygen is
diverted from you brain and you devolve into a pair of legs and lungs
with the sole purpose of turning over the pedals as fast and hard as
possible until you crash into a tree or someone tells you to stop. The
fact that I paid no attention to the lap cards until the last lap, and
I mean the last ten seconds of the last lap may have cost me a place
or two, I should have been sprinting it out, not asking the announcer
"how many to go?" as I cruised the last few yards of the race,
watching the guys in my group blast across the line in front of me.
Even still, it was by far my best 'cross ride, all the
skills I've been working on came together and I felt all natural and
crap out there, I can't wait for Lowell and Plymouth this weekend.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross

Here I continue my fruitless masquerade as a Cyclocross rider, in this installment I venture out to Northampton a land of women who like women and hippies who like their parent’s money and not bathing. This is one of the few races I have done before so I had some idea what I was in for…and that would be a treat, a treat in the form of a ‘cross course sculpted like a fine Rodin, laid out like a Tibetan Mandala. I was not disappointed, all was the same as I remembered with the exception of the deadly corner which had so rocked Logan Hodson (a dominant force in The Killer B’s two seasons ago before he was abducted by aliens with chronically sparse facial hair who yearned to learn his secrets of massive beard cultivation) just after he took the hole shot.
I arrived plenty early, immediately got on the bike and began spinning around, registered, balmed my legs up with “I can’t believe it’s not Mace, the Ointment”,
and got a couple laps in on the course.
The course has a paved start into a few tight corners, then the first of three jumps over these mini train tracks, a little bit too much pedaling through a grassy field, a ride/run through a sandpit, a few more grassy corners, a paved lead into a massive, brutal run-up, a few rooty corners, a small descent, more grass, another train track jump, a ride/run-up, a set of double barriers, then back onto the pavement. Not too bad of a singlespeed course, even the paved section wasn’t that awful, I was usually able to tack onto a few geared guys and draft along to the run-up where I would come around them and get a gap. Even after all the ‘cross practice I’ve been doing I felt like a drunk cape buffalo trying to run on it’s hind legs over the double barriers, everything else I felt decent on.

One positive thing about starting at the back of the pack and starting badly to boot is that you spend the entire race passing dudes. The drawback is that all your progress nets you is a barely top thirty finish (29th actually, about as at the bottom of the top thirty as one gets.
You know what’s funny? (I mean besides those stickers people put on their cars that make it look like a baseball is smashing through their window, those get me every time and I laugh and laugh) When a race goes well, or reasonably well you don’t have as many funny anecdotes. So why you might ask do I not have any funny anecdotes? Well, wise-ass the tippety-top of the top twenty is not too bad for me in a ‘cross race at this point, I’m working on it O.K..

Thanks To Jason Girouard for the sick photos


Canton ‘cross Report

OK I’ll make this one quick, not my favorite race, this has nothing, I say nothing to do with the organization, the course, the venue, whatever, all that stuff was spot on, truly a great event. It’s just that it rained three inches on Saturday before the race, I thought this would lead to a muddy, quagmire of a course, so I kept my gearing light, 34 X 16. No dice, dry as an Xmas tree in march out there. The experience was very much like Gloucester, totally spun out, next to useless, trying to fight off the geared riders was an act akin to beating a cow to death with your bare hands. Incidentally this is where my dietary beliefs stem from, I won’t eat anything I can’t kill with my bare hands. Of course I mean this in more of an emotional sense since I don’t eat bunny rabbits and hamsters and I do eat Mako sharks and tuna fish, so ya, that’s completely made up.
The best part were the midget, I mean "little people" barriers, on the back side of the course which allowed the riders less proficient at the bunny hopping to play like Matt White and hop the barriers. Matt White was able to hop the extra huge barriers by the pits, check out the video on Andy’s blog(
Hopping Video)
to see why being raised by a clan of bike Ninjas on a secret island off the coast of Japan pays off.

Since I was at such a disadvantage on the flats I tried to make some ground up by railing the corners at godspeed (according to Eddie Izzard that’s really f-in’ fast) and generally riding like a bit of prick, all elbows and expletives. I did receive my comeuppance when I slid into a rock and flatted. I was about as far as possible from the pits and I didn’t feel like totally thrashing a rim so I hiked it out, grabbed a coffee and began watching the elite women’s race.
Even though I supposedly don’t care about the whole ‘cross thing I’m just doing it so I can “drink as much beer as I want and not get fat” I still felt a bit dejected afterward,
But then the great thing about ‘cross is that there’s always next week.

Thanks to Adrian Fletcher for the lovely photos


Catamount Cycloross weekend #1 and 2, Williston, VT by Thom P.

I once saw an art exhibit where a woman had attempted to recall from memory all the works of Shakespeare she had ever read, scrawling what she could on large pieces of paper. Great concept and like all great conceptual art you didn’t even have to see it to get the concept. I bring this up because I have been remiss in getting my reports up in a timely fashion and now I must try to recall whatever details I can from these events which occurred in the distant past, and even though you didn’t see the races you may get the concept.

We packed up the family truckster, joined up with our caravan and hit the road Friday night, by the time we hit White River Junction it was snowing, this was bound to make for some interesting racing the next day. One cool thing about doing an event at Catamount is that my Auntie Ann lives in Essex, less than ten minutes away, she is always ready for company and her fridge is chronically overstocked with wonderful food items.

Saturday AM there was a good four or five inches of snow on the ground and it was not warm, really not warm, I think the Eskimos have thirty-seven phrases for “really not warm”. As I pre-rode the course it didn’t seem so bad out, but it got bad real quick at the start. I’m a bad starter so I got doused with rooster tails of cold, muddy water as the other twenty something riders took off in front of me. I began the race wet, cold, and blind like a naked mole rat who had just gotten out of shower only to find that the heat had been turned off and that his roommate had used the last clean towel, yes, just like that. After that I don’t really know what happened, but it hurt, each lap as we went through that wet grassy area of the course my life meter dropped drastically, leaving me nothing to attack the following climb with. But all was not lost, I activated my wonder twin powers and said “form of a guy with ice flippers for hands and ice buckets for feet!”. Why? Why do I ever choose anything besides “The Ice Battelship”? That thing can usually handle any situation. In the end I wasn’t beaten by everyone, I actually beat over half the dudes, this is how I started mountain bike racing as well, trying to finish in the top half, then the top twenty, then top ten, top five…then maybe an occasional freakish win. Getting cleaned up and de-thawed after the fact was nearly as hard as the race, I wasn’t looking forward to day two.

Day two proved a bit warmer, the sun was out, the wind had died down, but the course was still nice and muddy, wicked. Got a better warm up in, spun on the road for a while, not spending much time on the course like I had the day before gumming up my drivetrain and brakes, soaking my feet, and putting a nice racing stripe up my back. The field was greatly reduced as well, about fourteen dudes and the start went straight up hill allowing single speed boy to get a fair shake, falling into 5th position. This is basically where I stayed, yo-yoing off the dude who’d beaten me the day before, closing it down on certain parts of the course and then letting him open it back up in others. The three guys in front of us were WAY in front of us, no hope of catching them. The conditions were perfect, all slimy, twisty, off camber stuff, awesome run up over birch tree barriers in the woods, fans building snowmen on the course for riders to run over. Late in the race I was able to reel my temporary nemesis, overtake him, and finish him off, finishing fourth, way better day than Saturday altogether, and my feet weren’t even ice buckets.