Sunday, December 24, 2006


Cyclocross Nationals Day Three B Men U35

Ouch, did not want to get up, woke up feeling like it was 3AM, couldn’t possibly be time to WAKE UP! It’s 7AM time to eat something, well shite, not even, no time for that, just a Clif Bar (an old one at that, the consistency of window putty) and some coffee. Got over to Roger Williams with plenty of time to warm up, no chance to get out on the course, that’s all right, I’d done god knows how many laps Friday, no surprises right? Riiiight. I lined up next to fellow 100 mile single speed type guy Matt Ferrari, I’d seen his results in a couple big B races at UCI events. On the mountain bikes we are similar, on the ‘cross bike he is substantially faster, I thought it would be a good idea to follow him from the start, maybe he’d drag me from 100th place up to the front. This did happen in a sense, except he went to the front, carving through the fray like a Ginsu knife through a tin can (or a tomato).
I was like W.C. Fields hacking a path through a wall of human flesh, dragging my canoe behind me, but I didn’t get very far. We went through the same craziness over the curb into the first couple turns then the surprise came. What had been a totally rideable grassy off camber section Friday was now completely grease slick, it became a bowling alley, the riders at the top knocking the riders below on their asses, even those who chose to dismount couldn’t hold their footing, some sliding under the tape. I laughed my way through, biding my time until I could actually ride my bike.

By the time things opened up I found to my dismay that the snap I had in my legs had left, I was pushing a bigger gear than I had all year, basically my street gear, 38 X 16, it wasn’t horrible, made me wish I’d upped it sooner. Friday I’d been able to close down gaps and overtake groups ahead of me, not today, I eventually hit a plateau and stayed there.

One small victory was catching the guy that took me out Friday and getting a way from him, I made sure to call out “on your left” nice and loud as I came past, he didn’t go for the block again.
Can’t recall anything remarkable occurring late in the race, I was shocked when I heard the one lap to go bell, I wasn’t ready to stop, I felt like hell, but I wasn’t ready to be done for the season, but when I rolled across the line in an anonymous 42nd place, deeply, deeply tired I was entirely ready to hang up the bike for a while.
Thanks to everyone that made my first ‘cross season so enjoyable, the New England ‘cross scene is a great place to be and I look forward to coming back next year, and hey, word to all you roadies that dig riding around in circles in the dirt and mud…there’s this crazy sport called “mountain biking”, it’s nuts and they don’t even make you get off your bike and run up stairs and jump over sideways planks. I’d love to see some of you all out there.


Cyclocross Nationals Day Two Strictly Spectating

No race for me today, just came down to see the Trebon clinic, he didn’t let us down, we were left to watch the race for second place.
Miriam and I made our way to the final run-up to see how things would pan out. Stanley Kubrick came back from the dead to shoot this amazing tracking shot of Johnson, Page, Wells, and Powers going into the final stretch. Johnson went first and Page came around him for second, exciting stuff.

While Stan was there I gave him crap for making “Eyes Wide Shut” instead of “A.I.” before croaking on us. I told him they haven’t yet invented words harsh enough to describe how abysmally A.I. sucked so I’d have to get back to him on it.
That night we grabbed dinner at The Red Fez,
which was awesome in every way then hit The Hub party for a while, returning to the hotel just late enough and just inebriated enough to make Sunday AM an exercise in auto-torture.

In this unintentional art installation the white hanger hung high in the tree represents the good night's sleep that was out of my grasp on saturday night.


Cyclocross Nationals Day One Masters 30-34

When I signed up for this race I don’t really know what the hell I was thinking. I knew I’d be at Nationals all three days and I knew I wanted to race as much as possible, the only events I was eligible for were B men U35 on Sunday AM at 9-frickin’-thirty and Masters 30-34 on Friday. My thought was that it wasn’t a real masters race, all the mean dudes are over thirty-five, but wait…anyone without a pro license between 30-34 who felt like doing this race could if they wanted to…I’d made a huge mistake.
Thursday night I installed a Thule rack on our car in the dark, fun stuff, in the AM I met up with Greg “The Leg” Montello, my buddy Seth, and his dog Chloe, uh I mean Sophie (sorry, all Labs look alike to me AND they come up here, take all our jobs, control the media, commit crimes, get drunk, cook stinky food, and try to turn all our children gay with their subversive sitcoms while they should be engaging in more decent white human, Christian behavior like starting wars, committing genocide, and enslaving entire races of people).
We got to Roger Williams Park about three hours early, yet somehow I didn’t get a full warm up in and only rode about a quarter of the course. This was due in part to a problem I’ve encountered at most ‘cross races this season, people are just too damn friendly, you gotta stop and say hi to folks left and right. I now understand the value of sitting on your trainer by the car or along the course, that way you can yammer away while you spin, next year for that.
I lined up next to Jim Wirtanen from Harris Cyclery, we used to work downtown messengering together at MJ’s Express in the early part of the millennium, he’s a funny guy and always a calming influence. We took off, it was mayhem as usual as we hit the first corner, amazingly 81 guys couldn’t bunny hop the curb onto the grass in unison smoothly and the first big accordion effect slowdown occurred, the second muddy corner was a mess as well, actually most of the first lap was a nightmare. I had some snap in my legs and I was able to move up well when the opportunity to arose, the gear was slightly light, I was running the 38 X 17 which had been good to me for so many races, here it was just barely the right ratio.

I couldn't fit this video into the appropriate post, it's Matt White hopping the huge barriers in traffic during the Super Cup Sunday.

The course was incredible, lots of great corners and rhythm sections, one set of barriers, two run ups, one of them extraordinarily long, maybe not the most technical single speed friendly thing, but super fun nonetheless. I never did figure out how to dismount well into the two run ups, but I didn’t lose any time there either at least to the guys directly around me… I didn’t gain anything either. There were certain areas of the course where I could make up ground so I’d punch it. One of these was a slight grade parallel to the barriers heading in the opposite direction. During the last part of the last lap I had gapped up to a group of about five and then gapped them in the first couple corners, I attempted to extend the gap by railing up the aforementioned grade. There was a rider in no man’s land in front of me, I swung wide around him traveling significantly faster than he, he heard me coming and in what could only have been an entirely ill conceived blocking maneuver he jerked his bike three feet to the left hooking my bar. We both went down, he on top of me, slamming into my right arm, my head thumped the ground hard, I was seeing stars. We got up, the five riders behind barreled past like a freight train, our bikes were entangled , I tried to wrest mine free, as I freed it, homeboy began shoving my bike as he began running up the rest of the hill. At first I thought it was part of him trying to get our bikes apart but he kept it up, my first inclination was to do something really stupid and disqualification worthy, I settled on gently shoving him back, and we kept pushing each other back and forth until we reached the crest of the hill. He gapped me on the paved section before the final run-up, I stayed on him, totally furious, he started talking trash on the run-up, called me an expletive, the pejorative term for a sphincter, I returned the insult added a comma and a “AND you can’t ride your bike”. We hit the pavement coming up the finish line, I sat on for a second then went early taking the sprint for…33rd or 34th (woo-hoo) depending on where you look up the results.
Friday night I drove back to Somerville completely steamed about the whole thing, I’d never experienced something so lame during a bike race. I spun on the trainer and had a few beers trying to clear my head.

This unintentionals art installation expresses my repressed angst.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Flyin' Brian

Went out to the Trek demo at Blue Hills yesterday, rode a Fuel EX, it was ill-fitting and the suspension wasn't adjusted very well for my weight so it wasn't a great experience, but it was cool to get a feel for the new XTR. Riding gears was weird, I didn't know what to do, felt like a spaz, got bounced around all over the place. Had a great time on a Fisher Fat Possum just crashing into stuff, felt way more like playing than bike riding. Brian hopped on a Session and showed us crosscountry types what skills look like, the video doesn't really capture how insanely skecthy the landing and run out were, this guy is a nut:

And I really wish I could refrain from letting out that one lame adjective while filming these things,

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Alternative Openers

Didn't feel like riding my bike this week, decided to bust out some openers for Nationals on the skateboard. Thing is I really haven't ridden a skateboard in over ten years, luckily my body remembered some "sick moves" and after a half-dozen attempts I was able to pull this off:

It's just like riding a bike only way more painful and difficult. I'm psyched, Iwas going to do a lot of "Gymkata" (The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate) this winter as crosstraining, now I'll be skating instead. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holy Frickin' Crap

Watch this:
I.F. Music Video
Those guys from Industrial Light and Magic are amazing, they got it to look like Lloyd is actually dancing. You know it's got to be C.G.I. because there's no way he was that drunk at work.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Breakthroughs & Breakdowns
Caster’s Cup Cyclocross Report

Ya, this is a great course for a single speed and Russia is a great country to invade in the winter, just ask Napoleon and the Nazis. Actually a touch of winter would have helped my cause, instead I was met with a dusty, dry course which was primarily flat, the corners were wide and far between, I was spun out and spit out like a chipmunk caught in the spokes of your front wheel then ejected, limp and lifeless into the bushes alongside the bikepath. The start was right out of the Single Speeder’s Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook, a downhill, paved road into a parking lot for the first half mile or so before the hole shot onto a beach leading to a run up. Funny the S.S.W.C.S.S.H.’s recommendation for surviving this situation was almost identical to the advice which the actual Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook gives to those trapped in free-falling elevator :“lie flat in the center of the elevator, covering your head for protection”. For this scenario they advise:
“Lie flat on the start line covering your eyes (if you can’t see the other competitors, they can’t see you) wait for the other riders to leave then rise and flee the scene as quickly as possible”.
After preriding the course I told myself that if I didn’t overcook at least a couple corners I wasn’t trying hard enough, and the corners were the only place where I was going to do a lick of damage.
Here’s the funny thing, spinning out is often more painful than mashing a big gear, the aerobic exhaustion which occurs is devastating. I knew this from going out on group road rides on the fixed gear, you pray for hills while you’re on the flats pacelining at 140 RPMs gasping for breath. At one point I literally succumbed to hypoxia, losing consciousness for a few seconds behind the handlebars. I have proof, look:

When it was all over and man, I was glad it was over, I took 24th which means I must have passed a couple people considering my last row start, but it was far from my favorite day on the bike. Some of the only real excitement of the race came from Ronnie Steers and C. Todd Lombardo who I was trying to close on but couldn’t reel in, they worked together to hold me off successfully. Creeping up behind were Scott Rosenthal and Steve Morse who made contact for a while until I poured my guts out on the last few technical sections before the accursed paved downhill finishing straight and held them off to the line.
Now to rest up and practice my Kung Fu dismounts for Nationals, Hi Ya!

Thanks to Jason Girouard for the photos.

Stedman Grand Prix Cyclocross Report

Originally I hadn’t planned on doing the Verge races this weekend, but after a couple breakthrough rides over the past couple weeks I opted to jump in, registering late Thursday before the race, guaranteeing a less than optimal starting position (67th out of 67). It was a beautiful day in the Ocean State, sunny but deceptively cold and a bit blustery, not a warm up balm day, more like a knee-warmer day. Wow, we’re already talking about the weather, worst…date…ever.
My first impression of the course was that it kinda sucked, looked like Gloucester, a whole bunch of the course was comprised of taped off corridors through a grassy field. Once I prerode the course I learned that it was much more exciting, quite a few interesting spots, weird off camber stuff, and this double stepped run-up/ride up. It was rideable, but not if you were in traffic (or on a single speed…urgh), even if you were a seasoned pro. See Jeremy Powers cleaning it in the clip below, also see everyone including Tim Johnson running it behind him. Adam Myerson gets my vote for the guy who cleaned it with the most style and speed, I would have gone sliding through the tape…upside down and backwards, like a reject from Cirque Du Soleil.

Essentially the hole shot was the first turn around the fenced in tennis courts, you blew around this corner straight onto a crazy off camber scramble which lead to a little chute going down to a fireroad. When the B’s hit this bit it was utter mayhem, I have no idea how the elites cleaned it one and all:

Like I said, 67th on the line, maybe worse I don’t know what the final head count was, off we went, at least it was an uphill start, I passed a few dudes before the courts, but the first time I got a look at the front of the race those guys were already in a different time zone. Time to put my head down and spin and churn away and see if I could improve the situation, slow going on this course though, not too many real mean sections to attack on. Seemed like most folks made up or held ground working hard through the open fields, not much I could do there except spin away.
On the first lap I wailed a rock hard, bottoming out my rear tire bad, I really thought I flatted, I kept tripping, staring at my rear tire, thinking it was losing air and beginning to wash out in the corners…crackhead. I didn’t have a flat at all, just low pressure and an overactive imagination. I wasn’t feeling great, the discomfort I generally feel at the start of these things which usually gives way to a 3rd lap NOS injection only gave way to a case of fatigued, wobbly legs. Here I fake it for a moment as I run the barriers:

I’m tired, a lot of people are, I’m looking forward to the end of the racing and the driving and the totally shot weekends, I want to stay up all night and drink beer, I want to wake up late, go for a mountain bike ride in The Fells, then go to brunch with my girlfriend. It’s time to get a life and let the bike gather some dust. That said I’m bringing my A-game to Nationals, I’m ready for a war, I’m bringing my “A-war”…I’m kidding, that’s joke-sport-smack-talking there.

To finish off this here lackluster report, I’ll say that things didn’t go as awesomely as they could have, but they didn’t go as not-awesomely as they could have either. In the last lap I caught on to
Ryan Kelly and Dan Langlois, both of whom seemed to be having mechanicals. Dan’s proved too substantial to overcome and I was able to get away from him. Ryan, however tacked onto my wheel going into the finishing straight, I tried to go early knowing he’s a strong roadie type bloke, but he’s also smart and he both overpowered and outmaneuvered me, taking 15th to my 16th.
One thing I have to do is stop listening to people who have opinions on what makes something a good single speed course or not, even other single speeders. The consensus was that The Caster’s Cup course was going to be a far superior for a single speed, I actually got my hopes up for a finer result than my Stedman performance…read my next report to see how well that went.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nightride 12.6.06

Big ride last night, BIG ride.
It was me, Uri, and John Lewis braving the sub-forty temperatures out in Cutler Park, A.K.A. "Naked Man", so called due to the one time sighting of a man running through the woods sans clothing. I've heard of a naked man running out in The Middlesex Fells, reports describe him as an otherwise serious runner-type-guy wearing nothing but a pair of expensive running shoes.
This was the first ride of the year where we were actually riding over ice, you'd ride into a mud puddle and it would let out a resounding CRUNCH! Unfortunately Uri once again lost a shoe in one of these areas, it isn't fun and games until someone loses a shoe damnit. It was cold out, damn cold, but once we got in the woods it wasn't so bad, I may have even broken a sweat. A highlight was coming up to the tunnel under the train tracks in the middle of Cutler to see a commuter train's light cutting through the night, next time I'll try to be quicker with the camera.

We did not brave the never-ending mud bog to pointless dead end section, opting to do a few laps of the "totally sick" BMX track and make our way over directly to Millenium Park instead. As we left Millenium and took off full bore toward Wells Ave. a recently installed downed tree almost took all of us out. Earlier in the ride John had mentioned something about a bump in his tire, just after the log incident we heard an enormous and bizarre THOOMP! (not to be confused with a "Thomp!")like noise.
It sounded like a tubeless tire blowing off the rim...but John wasn't running tubeless. His tube had almost entirely hemmhoraged out of the tire. Somehow, against all laws of physics and probability he managed to deflate it and stuff it back inside the bead before it went "KA-BLAMMO!". Truly amazing.

While John dealt with his situation Uri expressed his angst, here he lies under a fallen tree limb holding a small twig, I believe it's meant to represent a soul in torment.

If you are close enough to read this you are coming on the next IBC wednesday nightride.

Monday, December 04, 2006


When You’re a Jet - MRC Cyclocross Wrentham, MA

Saturday night was rough, the anticipation of this race lead to a full on sleep robbing anxiety attack. Why you ask would I have a bad case of nerves prior to a small local race like this? Wrentham is my hometown, just about my entire extended family lives there, the race venue is on the property of the old State School which my Great Grandfather ran for years, and my Grandmother would be attending one of my races for the first time ever. I hadn’t felt so much pressure since…well, ever, I was more relaxed going into Sea Otter, Mt. Snow NORBA Nationals, Single Speed World’s, and The USGP’s at Gloucester. Hell, I’ll likely be more chill going into my first ‘Cross Nationals in two weeks. The thing is, you don’t decide when you’re going to freak the frick out for no reason at all, the freak out finds you and rides you like a pony at an eight year old’s birthday party and there’s nothing you can do about it, unlike a pony which can rear up, throw a child off it’s swayed back, and trample it beneath it’s dainty little hooves.
I awoke feeling haggard, pounded the coffee, rushed through my race morning routine so fast I had enough time to redundantly clean my bike, I even hit the road a bit early for once. I knew there was a Patriots game at Gillette Stadium at one o’clock, therefore I had given all my peoples a heads up to go the back way, I did not heed my own advice, thinking that I was going so early that I’d squeak through…think again. Pats fans show up FIVE HOURS early to tailgate and get drunk in the freezing cold before the game, who knew? Probably a whole lot of people, but not me, I was hardwired not to pay any attention to the “big” sports from birth, I went straight from eating snickers bars by the case and playing Nintendo, to skateboarding and snowboarding, then to bikes without ever collecting a baseball card or memorizing a single “stat”. Skaters didn’t have stats, “dude, did you know that Tony Hawk’s F.K.F.L.P.V.C (fakie kick flips landed per vert contest) record is 33 and 4 and 0? (I don’t even know what that means) Sick.” Is it considered digression if you never begin to make your point in the first place?
I didn’t get too tangled up in traffic, although another rider did so badly that he was at risk of missing his race. He jumped out of the car, rode ahead to the traffic cops, and delivered a line about how someone was about to give birth, they let the cars go and he made the start. Good thing they didn’t offer an escort, “uh ya, our midwife is at this bike race…what’s that you say? I’m not showing, that’s because I’m actually a surrogate mother for a husband and wife who happen to be Chinchillas, they are very small you see, hardly the size of a Ju Ju Bee at birth”. Focus, must focus, race report, c’mon race report.
I got to the venue very early, got at least three pre-laps in, including a super-fast one just before the start, I found the course to be nothing short of awesome. Lots of turns, berms, one set of high double barriers on a flat, a fire road uphill, a tight uphill/downhill hairpin, a pretty technical rock to ride over and off, more turns, a real hard to dial in downhill hairpin into a double barrier run up,
more twists and turns through a field, a long, boggy straightaway up to a huge log which the USCF official had told the promoter not to offer up primes for jumping (unofficial primes were offered and folks did plant their faces in the dirt, see Wunderkind Jerome Townsend cleaning it like a pro below), then back through the start/finish.

Jeff Whittingham and myself both lined up late, landing in the second row, but nice and warmed up, like saltines in a Brisker. The start was a flail on my part, it didn’t begin so bad but next thing I knew there were half a dozen dudes between me and Jeff, ack!. I came through lap one in 14th place watching Jeff lead the race from about 45 seconds up, his lead looked insurmountable, like a Trebon or Nys maneuver. By lap two I’d clawed my way past a few guys mostly on the slight uphill fireroad section where I could really wind up my gear. It didn’t and did hurt that around every corner I had a cousin or a mom or an uncle or or a friend or an aunt or girlfriend or a grandmother cheering me on, it’s great motivation and it’s incredibly painful because when someone’s watching you, you can’t be sitting in or biding time, you have to be attacking, putting on a show for them, frickin’ ow.

By lap three I had caught on to the main chase group of about five guys, Jeff and maybe two other riders were out in front, I started to think podium, I just had to figure out how to do it, had to pick my spot. I don’t recall how things went down exactly but I became separated from that group, got in front of them, produced a gap, maintained and extended gap, and began closing on the top three. I spent a while jockeying for third with Tal from Harborside Cycles, he was strong, not one to let a spot go without a fight. Maybe I was a little too crazed, the details evade me but somehow I got away from him and got closer to Jeff and the other guy, at some point they changed positions, Jeff taking up chase. I thought if I could get up to Jeff we could work together to catch the leader then battle it out for first, but sometimes things don’t go as planned…they go better. Just as I was about to make contact with Jeff someone yelled “the guy in front flatted, go!”. Seems like he got caught going over the big, gnarly rock, I felt bad, but not bad enough to put him on my top tube and double him to the finish. I tacked onto Jeff’s wheel just before the close of the second to last lap and we began the bell lap together. I’ve raced against Jeff before, we’ve battled on the MTB circuit but it was never this close, I didn’t quite know what to do. Just after we hurdled the double barriers, Jeff said he had a stomach cramp, he dropped back a bit and I thought this was the easy out, I’d just ride away, no way, this is Jeff Whittingham I was dealing with, he goes to the pain cave as often as most people check their Myspace profile during work every day. Not only did he not go away, he attacked and attacked again, I answered and counterattacked, I was basically anaerobic for the last ten minutes of the race.
In fact Jeff’s wife Jen commented to my Significant other Miriam that I was breathing really hard. Miriam suggested that maybe that wasn’t the best thing for people supporting other riders to hear so Jen said loudly “I can’t believe that Thom P. sings when he rides, what was that? Something from West Side Story?”. Now that is demoralizing.
I can honestly say I have never pushed so hard, my best attacks only realized the most marginal gains, I had to block Jeff and stay in front because I was absolutely pinned. As we came across the big log jump for the last time (I never did fall prey to the temptation to ride it) I got a little gap and just drove it to the line, coming into the last corner with Jeff right on me, I spun it up to about 8,000 RPM’s and crossed the line first knowing that if Jeff hadn’t been off the front half the damn race he would have tossed me aside as an Orca would throw a dead sea lion to one of it’s Orca friends.

This was quite possible one of the best days of my life (I can hear the groans, shut it!) after my race we rolled back to my Grandmother’s house for kick-ass lasagna courtesy of my mom and other assorted good stuff created by my extra-special friend Miriam, then we went back up to the race venue, to see Jon Bruno leading Mark McCormack around before finishing second in the elite race, then back to the house for more feasting, couldn’t have been more perfect.

Big, BIG thanks to all the family that came out, to Miriam, to Jeff and Jen, and especially to my grandmother, who at age 84 could have won the elite women’s race on a forty pound Raleigh three-speed. Most of all I want to thank my grandfather, Dr. Bradley Raymond who left us this summer. I can’t begin to describe the kind of man he was and what he means to me. His heroic lifelong battle with the effects of Polio, which decimated his body at an early age has always been a great inspiration to me in all my athletic endeavors, he suffered more in a day than most bicycle racers suffer in a lifetime and he did it with stoicism and a singular sense of humor and wry wit. It’s a small thing but I dedicate this victory to him.