Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I Know It's Over

‘Cross season is over for me. When Natz Schmatz got cancelled due to ten inches of snow I lost all motivation, there was no way in Hell I could wait another three weeks to begin faffing off completely. I’ve got a 100 miler looming in April, without a solid month off inbetween this season and the next I would breakdown both physically and psychologically. Besides I have lots of cake-eating, beer(not to mention Creamy Italian Dressing) drinking, and laying about watching bad movies to catch up on.
Laying about and faffing off still involves riding to work both ways four or five days a week, at least that keeps me honest (and not quite morbidly obese). Don’t have any incredibly ridiculous tales of commuter angst to share, actually not much bike related material to share in general, and since this isn’t my “I Hate My Job Blog” I don’t have much to say. Don’t really understand how that one works, like your boss and higher ups don’t know you have a blog…yup, they never see all the smack you talk about your work place. If you buy that maybe you’d be interested in this bridge I saw on Craigslist…it’s built on some prime real estate in Florida, the seller is a prince from Africa, his financier just needs your checking account routing number.

The other day I went to see a useless Orthopedist at Mt. Auburn, this is what my bike looked like when I came out. I say useless because these guys generally don't get the whole competive athlete thing. "Ah, you look fine when you walk, just don't ride a bike". Thanks buddy, maybe I'll take up competitive walking...or just walk in right in front of an MBTA bus.

This is my street, often it is the hardest part of my commute. A few days ago, I ate it, hard just a block from the house. Went lowside on some glare ice around a righthand corner, then somehow managed to change it into a highside, landing on my left hip, sliding uphill. I don't think I was subsequently killed by an oblivious driver. If I was, the after life is just like the before life, only I get less sleep and drink even more coffee.

Miriam and I went out for Sushi (this is not bike related, but it is weirdness related) the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom had an oddly shaped was meant to be operated with your elbow. OK, that's not weird, it's awesome, now if they'd just make the flush handle on toilettes a foot pedal.

The weird thing was this - there was a bag of meat in the sink. Not Japanese-type meat,it was a form of sausage. Maybe it was just "Sink Meat". I don't eat meat, I'm not an expert.

Riding home at night, sometimes I see the most strangely beautiful things.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoppy Hoppy Grasshoppers

"I don't want to take anything away from him, he won the race, but I was the best rider today. I was just unlucky – but that seems to be my season this year."

-Jonathan Page on why Tim Johnson beat him

"I won because I was lucky - lucky to wind up in a [race] full of losers!"

-Tim Johnson on why he beat Jonathan Page
(he didn't, I say DID NOT actually say this, keep reading)

That's ridiculous, no one would ever be a big enough dick to say things like that.
But Page did - Tim did not, that absurd Tim quote was adapted from the little film "Highway 61".
A character who thinks he is Satan himself says it after being accused of cheating at a seniors Bingo Night.

Not to take anything away from JP...but winning is winning (unless you cheat). Losing is always losing, no matter what. Losing like Trebon did in Kansas is "unlucky". He had nothing to do with what happened to him. Not being able to control your bike in adverse conditions in not "unlucky", it is "unskilled".
I suppose JP also thought he was unlucky when someone threw those giant padded barriers at him during Asper-Gavere. I seriously don't mean to trash the guy so badly, but Tim won Nationals fair and square, the rider who stays on his bike, rides it the fastest, doesn't have a technical, doesn't drop out because he's having a bad day, and crosses the line first is the best rider...period.

What I really wanted to share today were my picks for "Best Barrier Hoppers in 'Cross today". I took this little video of Wells at the Verge NBX race. He had retired the hopping for the most part, for quite a while. He brought it back in force, showing he is still one of the most talented Hoppy Hopping dudes around.

Todd Wells at NBX

It was sick, he actually aired out over the first barrier and rarely even came close to touching the second. He either gained time or maintained position throughout the race by hopping. All the better that he did it while battling it out with Jeremy Powers, one of the most consistent hoppers of all time. Powers may not have the cleanest, sexiest hopping style, but he is always willing to risk it and he gets the job done. For whatever reason he was not hopping that day, he did, however win the race, which may have made him feel more adequate.

Jeremy Powers at New Gloucester

Another incredibly consistent hopper is Matt White, he hops at speed, in traffic, utilizing his tops, so his fingers are nowhere near his brake levers. This video from my friend Andy illustrates just how effective his skills are.

Matt White at Canton Cup 2006

You'll notice that he gets a half a bike length on the other rider. Nay sayers will tell you that it is NEVER faster to hop. So who would you use to test this theory? Who would be one of the fastest transitioning riders out there to go head to head with a hopper? How about Mark McCormack? That other rider was Mark. And Bob's yer uncle.
I couldn't find the video of Nys and Stybar doing their synchronized "dolphins on the bow wake of a ship" hop, so I just used the photo at the top of the post. This may have seemed strange at first with all the ranting about poor sportsmanship and whatnot. If anyone knows where to find that vid, I'd love to see it again.

No real conclusion about, I'm Thom Parsons, not only do I approve of barrier hopping, I think it's Awesome!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Verge NECCS #7 NBX GP of Cross
Warwick, RI

My alarm didn’t even get a chance to go off, I was up and out of the house in no time, I felt rested, felt good, I was utterly prepared to Rock-uh. During the warm up my legs no longer had the ooky feeling of the day before. The course conditions had changed, what was mud was now frozen weirdness, the texture of freezer burnt ice cream. This was the single speed hell course of last year, flat, parking lot start, downhill finish, hardpacked and fast, the race hadn’t started and I was already in survival mode.
Got the call up again, I was now joined by the guy I am tapping as next season’s Uber-Sandbagger, Colin Reuter, who had picked up some points the day before. “Oh god, I’m behind Thom Parsons, he starts like a slug” he says. That and I don’t EVEN sprint like a Hippo (they are very fast in short bursts, Richard Fries should watch more Animal Planet) I sprint more like Rush Limbaugh (before he got hooked on diet pills and got all svelt) after he’s washed down a bottle of Oxycontin in the bathroom of The Old Country Buffet with a tall, cool glass of chocolate pudding.
We took off, me on Brendan Cornett’s wheel, things weren’t looking too bad, then John Peterson tried a new tactic, leading the field into the tape fifty yards shy of the actual corner. I didn’t get completely screwed but I didn’t get off easy either, dropping back into the twenties. Somehow Cornett went clear, bringing with him Colin and Ryan Rumsey, leaving me in the dust, and by dust I mean wet sand and gravel. I wasn’t able to ride the first sand section which put me back some more, the barriers were daunting, I felt like I’d never done a dismount before, I swear I had this stuff down better in my rookie season last year. The wet, sandy, paved corner by the Gazebo was just about the scariest thing I’d ever seen. I’ll barrel down a fire road at 40mph on the mountain bike, but put a little bit of grit and water on some asphalt and I’m shaking in my cleats.
Going into the first few hairpin corners I could see Rumsey and Colin up there absolutely killing it, I was happy to see some new faces on the front, I cheered them on from the backseat with fifteen riders between us. I was in a bad ass group with Cambridge Bike riders Pete Smith and Jeremy Dunn, I was struggling but holding on, then going into the second beach section I bobbled. I tried to cut to the inside line and crashed immediately, this forced me to run the entire length of the beach, running is not my forte and I went deeply anaerobic, unable to recover after the run up, I lost contact and lapsed into no man’s land.

The Sven Nys of the 2/3's catches up to me after a rough start

I accidentally kick him the arm for his trouble on the remount

After that stuff happened…y’know…things…’n’ more stuff ( There were five guys in front of me, Colin was up there, I could see Rumsey leading Cornett (yeah buddy, you go my Mt. Bike brethren) Rowell and some dudes including IBCer Jim Newton were just behind me and looking hungry for blood, my blood. I was riding the sandpits in various horrifically ineffective ways, trying to figure out the absolute worst way to do it. I never did exhaust all the possibilities. I did hold off the chase group and the Zanconato rider who made a solo charge across the gap, coasting down the hill to 12th place, my second best finish in one of these things ever.
I thought it was pretty cool, after an entire season of seeing the same faces on the podium to have Ryan Rumsey win this thing, he’s always been a solid rider, but I don’t think anyone would have picked him to pull of a big fat W in a Verge Series race, he definitely earned it. Colin Reuter’s 10th wasn’t to shabby either, can’t wait to see what’ll go down next season when (if) the guys who should upgrade actually do so.

Below is a nice sequence from Jason Girouard (above photos are his as well).
I wasn't able to ride this thing most laps, sometimes because of traffic, sometimes because I sucked at riding my bike. At one point the Bart Wellens of The Verge 2/3's rode up behind me and warned "you better be able to ride this" (oddly he spoke in English not Flemish) the rider in front of me bobbled, so I bobbled, so Bart bobbled, he got wicked pissed. "Silly Bart, you shouldn't even be in this race, especially not behind a kooky single speeder" I thought.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Verge NECCS #6, W.E. Steadman GP
Warwick, RI

We finally got the conditions I’d been hoping for all season (mud)…then I showed up at the race with the legs of an arthritic Corgi, the heart of an Ant Lion, and the lungs of a three pack a day smoker. My brain on the other hand was not taking no for an answer. The little, grey, slimy bastard was hell bent on destroying what was left of my body.
The course was a vast improvement on The ’07 Caster’s cup from my standpoint (the standpoint of a guy who maxes out at 15mph on flat ground).The start and finish were on an uphill, there were tons of slippery, muddy corners, things were looking good.
As a result of my, er…result at Sterling I got myself a call up, I lined up second row behind Awerbuch and the other fast kids and we took off. I wasn’t that bad off initially, I was sitting in the top ten, spinning up the paved hill…but the hill flattened out for a while before the hole shot, I got swamped, call up was for naught. Thing is, I wasn’t even riding the corners very well, my head was not in it, my eyes felt tired, I wanted to take a frickin’ nap.
Honestly, I was so out of it through most of this thing, I’m not going to be able to put together anything like a coherent report. There was a whole lot of mad, frantic spinning, legs pooling lactic acid, hips and back aching, anaerobic panting, tongue wagging, gaps not closing, and backsliding, but my brain kept flagellating my body “Keep digging your on grave fruitboots!”, but I had all the form of a weird Jello salad mold.
Converse to my usual schtick I had started toward the front and was now getting caught and then dropped by groups of riders and left behind without any answer. I passed Colin Reuter and motioned for him to get on my wheel, by the time we got to the top of the paved hill he demonstrated that he needed my wheel like Joan Rivers needs another face lift.

Me, looking at the clock, Colin listening to his corner tell him to go for the knockout

R. “Ben Stiller in Dodgeball” Kelly groaned as I came past him, I was making his bad day even worse. “Damn you and your bike handling skills” he said after the race. Whatever my alleged bike handling skills may have gained me in the tricky stuff, I lost on the flats and straightaways. I was even spun out on the paved uphill, at least when I was trying to stay on Jeremy Dunn’s wheel, the guy is powerhouse. I looked pretty skilled too as I slid out on the off camber section by the crossing at the gazebo, real skilled…at sliding on my ass for ten feet. At least Richard Fries didn’t catch it and yell “Down goes Parsons! Down goes Parsons!”. Anyone else think that guy can be a bit harsh on people sometimes? “Todd Wells sprints like a Hippopotamus”. Not very nice.
Alright, I’m going to wrap this one up, it’s awful whiny, even for me. In the end I didn’t even do that badly, I finished 14th, in the points, but I was really hoping to do better than my 10th in Sterling.
It was all part of my master plan to not get called a “Sandbagger”. God forbid I should feel compelled to upgrade.

One Last Chance

to not get beat by the single speeder!
I've signed up for both the 2/3's
and the Elites at Natz Scmatz Winter 'Cross.
They say they need 50 entries or it'll get cancelled, there are 14 people preregistered right now and I'm two of them. This means that if they combine the two fields I will be lining up behind myself. During the race me and myself will have exchanges like "Dude, I'd pull through but I'm on a single speed" and "Dude, I can't go any faster...I'm on a single speed". Please don't let this happen, register now, it will shorten the span of time where you sit around going "Is it 'Cross season yet? Is it 'Cross season yet? Is it 'Cross season yet?".

Stupid, whiny Stedman report is in the works, check back later.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I Got a Right (hand brake lever that is)

The brake lever on my sweet, pink, fix-ed gear bi-cycle is mounted on the right and I will now tell you why. Technically, and I say technically one of the reasons (unless you are from the U.K.) your right brake lever operates your rear brake caliper is that you have to apply more force to the rear lever to obtain anything like the amount of stopping power your front brake has...most people are right handed...their right hands are stronger...thus they operate the rear brake with the stronger hand. Since I am not a technical type guy, this has absolutely nothing to do with my reason for running my brake like I do.

It has more to do with the fact that I am much more comfortable holding a coffee in my left hand while my right is on the bar and close to the lever. Yes, you can stop a fixed gear without the brake, but it's awkward and nearly impossible to do in a pinch with just one hand on the bar. In this situation I recommend first throwing your coffee at the car which is cutting you off, then grabbing the brake...or not.

Another good reason I adopted this style was from mesengering. Often you have to carry one to three loaded copy boxes on your bars (sometimes with two in your bag, fun stuff) in this case I prefer holding the boxes with my left arm, while my right hand is free to operate the brake. Nowadays the only type of box I carry on my bars is a case of beer.

It's raining in Warwick, let it rain.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Fish and The Dragonfly (an unpublishable children's story)

"Nothing to do, sit around at home
Sit around at home, stare at the walls
Stare at each other and wait till we die
Stare at each other and wait till we die"

-Big Black "Kerosene"

Successfully resisted temptation of car, car bad, car make head cloudy and angry. When commuting by bike I can have an "incident" with a motorist and ride it off before I get home or to work. If I drive it stays with me, I stay angry, it's no fun. I feel like I'm repeating myself, I'm sure to do a lot of that this winter.
Funny, but the some of the worst offenders on the road these days are Prius drivers. I just don't think they are engaged in the act of driving a car. They are preoccupied with their feeling of superiority over all other motoring beings. Guess what Prius driver? I am higher on the environmentally correct food chain than you. They're quiet too, they sneak up on you like a shark, like a Basenji. I will likely get run over by a Prius before I get run over by an Escalade, at least the Escalade driver will do it intentionally not obliviously.

"Yes, I know, you are so f-in' oppressed". That is my standard comeback to the evil eye I get from drivers who have to wait for two seconds before turning left. This is your Darfur you poor left turning driver you.

The pedestrians...the sidewalk becomes covered in the thinnest layer of snow and they head to the street. The roads are already shrinking, the shoulders filled with lumpy ice, I'm already way out in traffic, then you come along, putting me in the path of danger, and death, and dismemberment. It's bad enough with the runners coming at you all year long, running in the road against traffic, now you suits who can't be bothered to change into a pair of high top Reeboks with Velcro straps so you can walk down the sidewalk like a..."not-moron" are out there in your traction-less dress shoes. I don't like you, I can't be taught to like you, I can't be tortured and re-programmed to like you.

Here's a message to the driver who honks at the cyclist who runs a red light (knowing full well in this case that the left turn lane is empty and oncoming traffic has a green arrow, i.e., it is totally safe and without risk to themselves or anyone else). This act is akin to a fish making angry fish noises at a Dragonfly hovering above the water because he is stuck under the water swimming around like god damn idiot (probably with that poo thing hanging off his dirty fish butt) doing stupid fish things while the Dragonfly is free to fly and do whatever other cool Dragonfly things he feels like doing.
Fish-Driver-Guy, maybe think of yourself as a little Dragonfly Larvae, a Dragonfly puppy, kitten, or whatever. If you want to you can blossom into a beautiful Dragonfly and fly through lights as well. All you have to do is come out of your car-coon., that's quite enough out of me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ice Floe, Nowhere to Go

I'm little Johnny Frostbite,
movin' around,
freezing you up,
freezing you down like an icicle,
coming in your tent in the pink light scissor bite.
Arctic death,
infinite night.

-The Mighty Boosh
Tundra Rap

It’s here, the clothes I require just to ride to work measure over fifteen feet when laid out to dry, they weigh in excess of five pounds…easy. While riding some part of me is always uncomfortable, too hot too cold, numb, sweating, chafing. For the next few weeks a have access to a car, the temptation to be soft and lazy is there. Must fight the sloth…he’s slow but he has those three incredibly strong claw/toes and whatever he gets a hold of, he’ll pull to his mouth and rip to shreds. At least that’s what I learned from William Burroughs.

Much better weather for sledding really, Lyla seems to think so as well, especially when she gets a lift to the slope.

Just last week it was arm and leg warmer weather, those were the days. This morning I found out just how much it sucks to do your recovery ride into a headwind when it's 28° out. This after not doing anything like a cool down after Wrentham. I would have it was just that it wouldn't have been a cool down so much as a deep freeze. Gotta get the legs going again for The last two Verges this weekend. I'm hoping that they at the very least run the course in two different ways. Maybe one will be completely different from last year's...not my favorite course of all time. Who nows, maybe this looming snow will effect things in a positive way, i.e., totally wreck it and make a bloody mess of it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, December 03, 2007

MRC Cyclocross Wrentham, MA

The day before this race a few of the IBCers and special guest star Colin Reuter of fame had met up at IBC Newton for a little ‘Cross practice. For me it was as much about figuring out what to wear while ‘Crossin’ it up in the severe cold as anything else. I also proceeded to demonstrate that the only time I can keep a ‘Cross bike upright is during an actual race. “Hey kids, follow me, check out these great natural barriers, like this big log, what’s that? You don’t see it? O.K., let me point it out…with my head!”. I don’t really know what happened, but I found myself lying there with a brake lever lodged in my back and my head resting on a log as C Todd and Colin stepped over me going “how does this guy even get to work alive, never mind finish a ‘Cross race?”. Then I found out that my Solutions for Cyclocross DVD didn’t teach me absolutely everything there is to know about transitioning (the getting on and off the bike bit). One dismounting technique which had heretofore eluded me was the very popular with the Pros it seems “Step around, unclip at the last second but land with your left foot forward” style. I’d always done the “unclip left foot, step through” dealy…now I was confused.

Eating right on schedule driving 80MPH with my right knee

It was cold Sunday, I mean it was kill a Ton Ton, eviscerate it, and crawl inside it’s stinking body cavity cold (Check out Gewilli’s blog for tales of Ice Goatees and Phlegmsicles). Do I warm up or sit in the car with the heat blasting? I did get out of the car long enough to do four practice laps. I wanted to figure out how to ride the giant log on the course, but my warm up gloves were too big and bulky, I couldn’t get a good enough grip on my hoods to even attempt it. Hopefully during the race I’d be able to work it out. “If you can’t do something ten out of ten times in practice…try it during a race”. Isn’t that what they say?
The course was 90% the same as 2006, unfortunately they’d removed one of my favorite natural obstacles, the giant rock. We also didn’t go as far down the dirt road before heading back up the hill to the field. The conditions were significantly different as well, what was a soft, semi-boggy field was now frozen solid and rutted, the corners were tricky, they had all these little steps, probably tire tracks from pre-rides in softer conditions which were now as hard as rock. The ground was so hard that when we dismounted for the barriers our bike shoes sounded like horse hooves on asphalt.
We lined up according to our rankings, which put me in the second row, next to fast Circle A guy Dan Langlois. I wasn’t on the start line long enough to get nervous, I took off my jacket, took one last swig of coffee, and we took off. Dan jumped ahead of me falling in line behind all the guys from the front row, his was the wheel I was watching and I jumped on it as we came into the first few turns. Riding at the front of the race is much easier than my normal M.O. of starting at the back and working my way up. Usually I have to ride the entire race like a fighter with his eyes swollen shut, swinging blindly for the fences (always good to insert a Baseball metaphor into your fighting metaphor), as he gets used as a human punching bag.
There were a few legitimately fast dudes at the front of the train including Toby Marzot, I think I was sitting in about tenth first lap, not sure if the gap to the top five opened up first or second lap, I do remember that I was in contact with the Marzot group for longer than I thought I’d be. The gap opened after the uphill corner onto the dirt road, there were a couple guys in front of me, they didn’t close it down, I didn’t have the horsepower to come around and do anything, then Kevin Hines jumped up out of nowhere and blazed across solo. This after he had just won the Masters race, the nut.

For the next lap I was hanging onto a group of five or so by a bunch of sheets knotted together, only I had forgotten how to tie anything but a granny knot (I got my Arrow of Light a long ass time ago) and my sheets were coming apart, leaving me dropped off the back repeatedly behind Ryan Laroque and Dan Langlois. There was another guy in the group who was letting big gaps appear every time he was in front me, I’d pass him back and close it, then he would pass me…and let a big gap open. On the awkward run up (which I never mastered, I felt like a Giraffe on rollerskates every time we hit it) I bumped his wheel and grumbled “run faster”, not a very nice thing to say. Eventually he and the other couple guys in the group popped and it was just me, Ryan, and Dan. The pace had become more tolerable or I had finally warmed up, either way we were holding the gap to the leaders at about thirty seconds.

In Step

Throughout the course my fans (my family) were rabidly cheering me on. My niece and nephew yelling “Go UncleThom!”, “Go as fast as a Jet!”, “Make me some eggs!”, and “I want Mickey Mouse Pancakes!”. I had to show off a bit so I went for the log jump, I now had lighter gloves on, but my fingers had gone numb, they wouldn’t do what I told them to do. Dan was in front, Ryan behind, I did kind of a chainring bonk, teetering over, almost eating it, and putting my foot down, not ideal. Hmm, that went well, I’ll try that again next lap.

It was slightly faster...if you did it right, I didn't always do it right

A little less than half way through Dan led into the downhill/uphill hairpin, he slipped in the corner then had a gear issue, Ryan moved to the front and upped the pace, I sat in, just riding around without anything like a plan yet. The five in front were extending the gap while the gap to Dan was increasing behind as well. I went to the front and tried to pick things up but the leaders advantage only grew. “Hey, this is just like the Vermont 50” Ryan exhaled (We had ridden the last hour of the Vermont 50 together). In that case, I was in a group that had left the line five minutes after his, I was wishing that I had that five minute advantage .

By now I had figured out the log jump and I was getting small gaps on Ryan coming out of it, my style wasn’t nearly as smooth and clean as Jerome Townsend’s method from last year, but it got the job done. There were a few other areas where I could open some real estate between us but his cruising speed was faster and he’d reel me back in. My attacks became more frequent, I’d up the pace after the corner onto the uphill in the woods, then gun it at the top, threading the needle between the tree and the tape without touching my brakes…and still I could not get the guy off my frickin’ wheel. I could hear him making kind of distressed noises so I knew he wasn’t just comfortably sitting in waiting to make a move while I did all the work.

On me like a rat on cheese

With two laps to go I was getting desperate, I didn’t want to leave it up to sprint, historically those do not go well for me. Coming into the penultimate lap I still had not put any distance between me and Laroque. He was back there planning something, I was sure of it. I kept my left ear cocked waiting for the click of gears, trying to preempt any sudden move, trying to keep the pace high to discourage any such shenanigans. We came down the finishing stretch, I expected him to come around me here and block my log maneuver to be safe, but he didn’t. My heart was hanging out my nostrils approaching the log, this was where I’d faceplant for sure…but I didn’t. Ryan made a cheeky move, coming through on the inside, running like a mad man, my hopes of beating him sunk, but I was already in my pedals, I stomped on them, getting up to full single speed, er speed and crossing the line first…for sixth place.

Set up for the sprint

It was a great day, the course was killer, I had a good ride, went one on one with a bad ass competitor, it was awesome having my family there, and I left feeling that I did as well as I possibly could have done. I suppose I could have done without the frozen “Gentleman’s Area”. I think just post race I actually said “Um, my weenie’s frozen”. The part of my brain that houses euphemisms for the male anatomy beyond what a five year old would use was apparently frozen as well.
Thanks to Miriam for the videos and photos.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Natz Schmatz Winter 'Cross

I just saw this on Bikereg:
they say it won't happen unless 50 folks preregister,
so I'm doing my part to spread the word. I'm not going to Nationals and if you aren't either you should come down. The fact that they mention BEER on the registration page
probably means that they won't be DISQUALIFYING RIDERS FOR BEER FEEDS, like a bunch of silly, sally, morons.

And Justice For Some

Every day I commute to work by bike, every day at least three incidents occur which completely piss me off, usually two of these are life threatening. I take a deep breath every morning and get on my bike with a positive mental attitude, within a few minutes a motorist has done something stupid or insane and my PMA (Bad Brains-speak, not Myspace acronym jibberish)is completely blown. By the third such incident I am a fire-breathing hell-monkey. But that's beside the point.
This morning I was ten minutes into the ride on Huron Ave. where are there many residential side streets opening up onto a kind of main drag. Often (very) folks come jamming out of this streets, not really wanting to stop at the stop sign at the end. Sometimes (not often) they see me and come to a screeching halt, other times they blaze into my path causing me to swerve to the center line and tap their window. Invariably they scream at me and flip me off because I am obviously a bad person doing bad things and breaking laws. This very thing happened this AM, but in a pretty extreme manner, this woman came flying up to the stop sign, I anticipated that there was no chance she was stopping, I swerved wide, gave her a bit of reprimand (understatement), and hoped to catch her at the light and realy let loose. This turned out to be unnecessary as Cambridge cop in a Bronco came careening out of the street behind her. No way, I thought, he can't possibly be about to pull this person over, not in my world, but he did.
Instead of hollering bloody murder at her all I had to to do at this point to make her week suck more was to give her a thumbs up and smile as I rode past. I found all of this so awesome, I was happy riding into a brutal headwind all the way to work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New England Verge Series #5 Sterling, MA Cat 2/3

This was the first truly cold race of the season but it was a gorgeous day and I was feeling good as I spilled oatmeal and coffee all over the interior of the car rolling up route 2. At first glance the venue looked like your typical grass crit based around a middle school athletic field. Upon closer inspection I realized that this was not the case at all, this course was damn interesting with lots of tricky bits. I found this out the hard way on my first pre-ride. First off I come to the run up, I’m wearing road booties, I dismount, when my foot hits the ground I slip, slamming my knee into the frozen ground. I then tried to run up this thing which must have looked like something from the Ice Skate chase scene in Blades of Glory, I had all the traction of Formula One car in the snow. Eventually I summited the run up by using my bike as an ice axe, turning it cross ways to the pitch with the brakes locked. This took three hours and I missed my race, thank you, good night! I joke, the funny part is coming up. So then I start riding down the hill and is often the case when I begin riding in cold weather my eyes welled up with tears, blinding me temporarily, just temporarily enough to keep me from realizing that I was now plummeting toward a corner at Mach McCormack (that’s really f-in’ fast). When I started to lean into the corner I found that the ground was comprised of ice and lumpy grass much like the run up, both wheels began sliding, I corrected, riding straight through the tape in front of a bunch of folks. “Nice One Lance!” Jerry Hughes yelled back at me. Always good to have that guy around.
I survived the pre-ride and hit the road for a spin, getting back to the car just in time to balm it up, grab my coffee and head to the start line. Somehow, even with the two and a half hours of lead time before the race I got the start with four minutes to spare, barely made the call up for my last row slot (second to last really, but there were only a handful of guys in the true last row so I was assimilated into that group) because I was peeing behind a shed. Jerry Hughes lined up next to me, I shared the last of my coffee with him and left him holding my bike as I looked for a trashcan, telling him I’d be back in five minutes with three minutes to go.
And we were off, I hadn’t ridden the track during warm up and it was GREASY, I also didn’t know we were going twice around before the hole shot. “Um guys, you’re going the wrong way…all seventy two of you, huh, I guess I’ll come to”. There were crashes before we even made it the hole shot, then more when we hit the run up. If I wasn’t in dead last after the track, I was now. I made the downhill corner this time, didn’t wreck on the horse jump barrier thingy, and began the process of clawing my way out of the back of the pack.
This is where details such as names and chronology will suffer due to low altitude self-induced Hypoxia. There was some jumping between groups going on, the legs were happy, the lungs were working hard, the cold air was painful to get down, but all systems were go. I do recall nutting (yes it’s a word spellcheck, Wiki it you burk!) myself when I didn’t clip in after the uphill/downhill hairpin dealy. There were only a few spots on the course I could make a pass and have it stick. One of these was the slight grade up the track area, I’d recover through the corners leading up to it, maybe squeak a pass in before the gravel section, but then when I got to the little hill I’d rail it on the tops then look for a wheel to take me around the track.
It took nearly half the race to gap up the Reuter group (sounds prestigious doesn’t it?) he swiftly went down in a corner just like we Mountain bikers tend to do. I think we feel that it is expected of us to corner well so we over do it, often with hilarious results. Ahead I could see Scott Rosenthal and some other dudes I didn’t know, they were the next target. I don’t know what was going on but tons of fast guys were getting popped, maybe they tried too hard to match the pace set by guys like John Peterson, Brendan Cornett, and R. Grizzly Adams. Whatever was going on I soon realized that the only group between me and the unattainable actual chase group containing Todd Rowell was a group of five or s made up of Ryan Rumsey, Mark Bavineau, and some others. Again I made my move on the small hill and closed most of the remainder of the gap before the run up.
Now this crew was tough, any attempt I made to shake things up was rendered useless as gaps got shut down, a sense of complacency set in, I was pretty sure I was in the points and I was hurting, I didn’t feel like going anywhere. The words of a Sea Otter competitor from ’06 echoed in my bobbling head “Be happy when you’re done. Now get the fuck Up there!”. I began scheming, O.K. I can’t gap to Rowell, my best bet is to sit in, recover and attack that climb before the finish. Although my shrinking brain didn’t know how the finish even worked, “Do we just go the start line or do we go all the way around the track (into oncoming traffic…entertaining yes, but likely NO. You god damn moron) and then finish?” “I don’t know, go ask your liver”. I was in about third or fourth wheel, as we rounded the loose corner into the hill, first wheel already had a gap, so I blasted out around the right side into the chop, passing everyone else and closing down on him. As we hit the track there was no chanced of catching him so I just drilled it, looking back to see where Bavineau was, as I did this I caught a muddy rut which damn near sent me into the crowd, I totally lost control of my bike but righted it and came across the line in one piece.
The results say I was 10th but given the fact that they had second place finihser Brendan Cornett down in 62nd I do believe I will get bumped to TOP ELEVEN. Just where I like to be. Gee, does this mean I’ll get a call up in Warwick?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


On Saturday night a driver, in all likelihood a drunk one ran into the rear wheel of my girlfriend’s bike sending her flying face first into the pavement then drove off. That night I sat up thinking about what I could do, she didn’t really see the car, no one saw what happened, no one stopped to help, to see if she was o.k.. If you saw her face you would have called 911 and waited with her until the ambulance got there, she was hurt that bad, she looked like she’d fought Tyson in the eighties.
In the days that have elapsed since the incident I have thought of all sorts of venomous, horrible, bile-ridden things to say about drivers and their general disconnect when it comes to navigating thousands of pounds of metal around unprotected beings made of flesh and blood with total disregard for their well being, but I’m not going that route. What I want to do is to say how thankful I am for the fact that she came home alive, banged up, but alive, with all her faculties intact, she is lucky and so am I.

Since I’m doing the silly thanksgiving themed deal here I’ll also say that I feel pretty lucky that I woke up this morning and went for a foggy, slippery, hoot of a ride in The Fells with a small posse of friends. I then had a huge dinner with my family who I genuinely do love down to my Aunt’s Jack Russell Terrier, Pickles. Tomorrow I’ll go to my job where I work with a great group of folks who give me nothing but support for my racing endeavors. Saturday I’ll race my bike (hopefully on a nice wet course). Sunday I’ll spend the day with my girlfriend who’s not dead, and then Monday I “Manny” for my sister’s kids Noah and Lyla who are a big part of why I love spending time on this planet. Hopefully by the time they’re riding bikes on the road we’ll have run out of fossil fuels and all cars will be the size of shopping carts and entirely made out of plastic and down pillows.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sometime last winter on an incredibly, brutally, cold, windy day I went and met Chris Milliman for an Ibex Clothing photo shoot. Aside from the fact that I couldn't feel my face or my my feet it was pretty fun. I guess the part of my brain that housed the memory of this event was frozen as well because I forgot all about it until soemone sent me the link for the photo. This was the first appearance of "Mr. Pink" as a commuter not a 'Cross racin' machine, he's served me well in that role for many months now. Amazingly enough I don't get too many Newton townies in Nonantum yelling out epithets questioning my sexual preference. Of course I do wear headphones.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Plymouth South Cyclocross

“Mom I don’t wanna go to the race today, I want to stay home and watch cartoons all day…and drink beer”.

The alarm cycled three times before I was able to open one eye, then the other a moment later, rolling to my stomach, then into a push up position, a while later into a downward dog Yoga pose. From there I backed my way off the bed, pulling my ear plugs out as I went, shutting down the alarm once and for all. I stumbled heavy-footed to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, something I call “The Sploosh”, without which I cannot start my day. The coffee maker was set to brew on timer, I filled a mug and padded into the living room to sit on the couch and contemplate the absurdity and futility of racing in the state that I was in. This was the first time all season that I didn’t want to race, I wasn’t feeling it, I wish I could tell you what motivated me to grab my milk crate of race accoutrements and get in the car but I can’t.
After I got to the venue and had a pre-ride on the course I was psyched I’d made it, it was killer, a few good corners, some singletracky bits, two sand pits, and one set of barriers. There was an actual climb, way too steep to ride up comfortably on the single speed, I thought I’d be running it, it was nasty. This was just my second Elite race so I was taking a relaxed attitude toward it, “I just don’t want to get lapped ha, ha (Mark McCormack rides by) heh, um, ya…not get lapped”. I lined up in the back, took the Lantern Rouge going into the hole shot, and tried to settle in.
Going through the first couple corners Todd Wheelden laid his bike down on a paved section, he remounted and ended up one rider in front of me, this rider wasn’t going super good so I came around him as things opened up. There was this little uphill deal with a sharp, loose corner at the top, Todd crashed again, forcing me off course, I rode it out through the brush and high grass, hopping the tape and coming back on course at the bottom. Now I had a gap on Todd and the other rider.
Things had already spread out ahead of us, this was course was ideal for seeing just how badly you were getting your ass kicked and I could tell McCormack wasn’t riding just as fast as he needed to, he had dropped pretty much everyone and was well on his way to lapping me. I was catching other riders though, John Peterson pulled off to the side, possibly with a mechanical, then I caught Patrick Goguen, he dropped out as we passed through the start/finish area. Nice I was still beating one guy…who just caught me, that’s just swell. Wheelden caught back on then promptly dropped my ass, gapping up to Pete Smith. Luckily I had a Popeet container of courage in my back pocket, I took the courage out, closed the gap to Pete, then collapsed the amazing telescopic, accordian type device back to a very small size and stashed it my jersey. Of course Pete dropped out as well, leaving me dangling in the breeze, between Mark The Shark and my first ‘Cross lapping. The last time I got lapped was at The Massachusetts State Mt. Bike Championships in 2003. I was fat and out of shape, riding like crap, and Jonathan Page showed up, he came by me like a ton of bricks in the trunk of a Lamborghini (no need to point out that Lambos don’t have trunks because even if they did they certainly couldn’t hold a ton of bricks).
A big problem I was having was recovering after the climb, I’d have to tack up half the thing, using all the strength I had in my legs, at the top I’d have nothing, I’d gasp my way to the next little descent, never really getting over it. The laps were so fast, we probably hit that thing about twelve times. Then the sandpits came at you, the first was unrideable most of the time, it was in a corner, then you’d run over the barriers, remount and do the straight shot sandpit. One lap there’d be line, the next it would be buggered and you’d get knocked off. I was so spent half way through the race that these things were eating me alive.
During the last couple laps I could see the gap to McCormack coming down in reverse, he was eating up ground like Takeru Kobayashi goes through hot dogs.
The lapping was imminent. For whatever reason I drilled it, laying it down, looking over my shoulder every two seconds, as I came onto the pavement, Mark was coming out of the sandpit, he was less than ten seconds behind me. The announcer said as I passed the start/finish “Thom Parsons riding for International Bicycle Center…if he’d just slow down a little bit he’d save himself another lap…but he’s not going to”. Not getting lapped felt like a huge victory at that point.
The lap was basically my cool down, my body shut down after I crossed the line, it was incredibly hard to get up the slightest rise. It would take two donuts, a large coffee, and three hours on the couch before I was ready to take my cool down ride to the bar on the Schwinn Varsity.

The shot at the top of this post is actually a Michelle Hurley photo from Northampton, but it portrays the effort I had to use to get up the hill so well I thought I'd use it here (that and I had no photos from this race).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Verge Cycle-Smart International
Northampton, MA

To a perpetually sleep deprived insomniac like myself daylight savings makes about as much difference as shooting a squirt gun at a California wildfire. I woke up feeling like death over hard, despite the “extra” hour of sleep. The IPAs from the night before haunting me, the fact that I’d stayed up watching Wilco on Austin City Limits at The Holiday Inn instead of counting sheep jumping over UCI regulation size barriers now seemed like a mistake. We called in room service and got ourselves some Friendly’s egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches. Butter was not one of the listed ingredients, but as I gripped the soggy, yellow bread and grease ran down my arm I was pretty sure that one of Elvis’ old chefs had found his way into the kitchen over there. When I’m racing mountain bikes I wouldn’t dream of eating any dairy in the AM, but since ‘Cross, for me is entirely about having fun and suffering immensely while doing it I wolfed down this cheese and butter bomb and it was GOOD. As if this wasn’t a dumb enough thing to do I followed it with home fries, fried food…not something I usually eat anywhere near a race. Each piece of deep-fried goodness a seed of regret being planted in my stomach.
We were only about fifteen minutes from Look Park, so I was there nice and early to warm up for my “12 O’clock start”. Miriam took off for a road ride, as I pre-rode the course and chatted to too many people as usual. The warm up was spot on, I rode into Northampton with a ripping tailwind, spinning madly, getting nice and loose, then I hammered back against the wind, getting my heart rate nice and high. I showed up to the line sweaty and breathless and ready to go…only there were women and small boys on the line, this was not my race, had my race already happened while I was out warming up? For the sake of my sanity I hoped otherwise, if I’d thrown a bike the day before during that tantrum there was no telling how I’d react to missing my race. I went up to the tent where Jon Lewis had his Cycle-Ops trainer demo set up, there were bunch of IBCers there, I asked what was going on, was there a delay again? Everyone else was clear on the One O’clock start time for the 2/3’s…I am, apparently a raging lunkhead. Could have been worse, I could have thought my race was later and missed it. So I went off and dorked around for a while then reinitiated warm up procedures, wasn’t sure what my body was going to say to all this.
Despite the fact that I was incredibly early, then my race was an hour later than anticipated I was at the car drinking the last of my Starbucks Redeye and taking off my leg warmers as the final call up occurred. I’d registered early for this one so if I couldn’t claim my spot at the line I was going to be an unhappy camper, I dashed through the course, up the ride-up/run-up dealy, hurdling the course tape with bike in hand. When I got to the line I dropped my bike against the hurricane fencing and ran off in the woods to have a piss, two of my teammates standing behind the group shouted “Thom what ARE you doing?”. Hey, pee weighs a pound or more, I don’t want to be carrying around a pound of pee, people pay over a dollar per gram to get a bike down from 18 to 17lbs and I’m going to carry a pound of something I can get rid of for free? No way Hans Rey. I settled into the back, asked someone what my number was, looked ahead to where I should be, but didn’t deserve to be after my shenanigans, then I said “F that, I’m getting up there”. I squeezed up, no one gave me any crap except for Big Sean Cavanaugh but he was just messing with me, and about two seconds after that we were off.
Things went well initially, we hit the first corner, there was some clatter to my right, I stayed clear, getting good lines through the first few tricky curves leading up the first of three mini-railroad track jumps. My method for the track wasn’t to be all Mt. Biker on them, skying out, or table topping, I stayed grounded, letting my super-over-glued tubulars (I wasn’t faffing about after Canton) just suck it up, beginning to corner while still on the tracks. The field section was windy as all hell, I tried to stay out of it as much as possible, trying not to ride like a bonehead. Things were fast, I haven’t spun this much during any race all year, I was pinned, then we hit the sand pit which unlike last year was absolutely unrideable, the running killed me, I was sucking wind and eating sand. Getting on top of the gear and catching back on after the pit was brutal. My stomach and chest started to ache, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the mass of butter, eggs, and cheese in my distended gut,
I wanted to puke. I think I was about half way back at this point, I had to just settle in and recover, try to work this stuff out, bide my time hoping that a late surge might be salvageable.

I think I'm going to be sick

The ooky feeling subsided and I began to close gaps and jump from group to group, I knew I wasn’t that far off the front, about a minute or so, I could see Peterson and the other super fast dudes on the pavement as I exited the barriers, this seemed like a good sign. One funny thing about ‘Cross is that from one day to the next riders can perform in entirely different fashions, you have to have a combination of fitness, perfect preparation, and luck to get over on the rest of the field on any given day. Finally I bridge up to the group being driven by a brutal task master by the name of Colin Reuter, he was having a break out ride, just killing it. I rode with that group for a while then tried to bridge to the next, details are foggy, I think I left that crew, but Colin held on, maybe check his blog for his side of the story.

This is the corner that took me out

I found myself in a group of three with Brian Keegan and Steve Roszko, I knew Keegan was fast so this I thought was good. Up ahead was a group containing Todd Rowell and Ryan Rumsey, I wanted to get up there but it wasn’t happening. Maybe one lap to go we three came into the run up Roszko bobbled allowing me to come around, then Keegan dropped a chain or had some type of mechanical, I took advantage, attacking into the rooty corner past the gazebo…and ate it, big time. It was like I hit a patch of ice, my tire slid out so fast on those pine needles, I didn’t even know what hit me. Roszko passed me back, I never did close the gap to him and rolled in safely in fifteenth place, scoring my first and only Verge point which I think at this point in the season is virtually useless.

The "ride up" hurt bad on the S.S.

To continue the theme of my bike racing/culinary blog…M and I stopped off at La Veracruzana in Northampton for the best burritos this side of Valencia St. then grabbed an exceptionally good cup of coffee and a mini pumpkin pie at Haymarket and the weekend was complete. Haven’t decided on Plymouth or Putney next week, I know I love the Putney course but Plymouth is so damn close, maybe I’ll stay home and eat all day, we’ll see.

All Photos and video Taken by Miriam Kornitzer

Verge Chainbiter 9.0
Farmington, CT

Alright, let’s get this one over with, not my finest hour…er, more like ten minutes. This’ll be over quick, just like a swift kick in the nuts and just about as fun. It was a whacky weather day with the hurricane passing through New England, never did really do anything spectacular, except for nearly blowing my Ridley off the roof rack on 91 after the race. Caught a glimpse of it flopping out at a 45° angle through the sun roof A.K.A. “The Bike Viewing Window”. My old Thule trays are clapped out as all hell, this is not the first time this has happened. Thankfully this time the drop out didn’t break off the fork, I moved the bike to one of the Yakima trays and we were good.
There was a huge IBC presence at the event, I won’t try to name everyone because I’ll forget someone and then they’ll hate me forever. The start was delayed due to a medical emergency, turned out that Lea Papas-Barnes had gone down in a bad crash during the women’s 4 race. Her boyfriend Peter Bradshaw (wicked fast Cambridge Bike rider) left the start line to be with her, he is a stand up guy, class act all the way. I’d pre-ridden the course and I was psyched, it was a rollercoaster, incredibly fun stuff, there was even a legitimate climb in there, a single speeder’s dream. Unfortunately, after what seemed like a not-total-crap start my right cleat decided to loosen and then give out completely at the most inopportune of moments. There was this ride/run up, the way I was going at it I’d stay clipped in to the last possible second then unclip and run the last little bit to the top. First lap I hit it hard, went to unclip, my foot pivoted as I twisted my body weight to the left, resulting in me hurling myself to the ground like John Belushi doing a Joe Cocker impression, then I got run over. The best part of it was that my bars became entangled in the other rider’s bars like two Elk trying to assert their dominance over one another, only I didn’t want to assert my dominance, I just wanted to not completely screw up this guy’s day as well, I was sunk, he didn’t have to be. I apologized up and down as we detangled the bars and got going again. I clipped in, knowing that if I had to unclip my right foot the same situation would ensue.
Just after passing through the start/finish the cleat let go completely, preferable to being locked to my bike like a kitten super-glued to a ceiling fan but still sucky nonetheless. I hobbled on, riders passing me left and right, me actually waving them past, I was hating life. I made it through most of the second lap then as we were about to descend down toward the tennis courts, a pretty rough little chute, I bailed, I decided that my result was guaranteed to be total shite and I was quite likely going to get maimed trying to finish. Here’s the part I’m not real proud of…I went prima donna, hurling my bike over the tape, catching the tape and ripping it. It took me exactly two nano-seconds to begin regretting my behavior , maybe the regret began as the bike was still hurtling through the air. Ass. I helped fix the tape, then hopped on my bike and rode down an uninhabited corridor between two hedge rows back to the parking lot , stopping to cheer people on as I went, trying to get my head back on straight. As if I didn’t feel like a complete and utter dick already I then noticed that my bars were cocked to one side by about 5°. I had bent my brand new, not cheap bars, now my self-loathing was off the Prick-ter scale. But wait…under closer inspection I discovered that it was not my bars but my stem that was twisted, torsionally twisted by 5°, truly bizarre, I have never seen anything like it. The funny thing is that I had brought a back up stem because the carbon face plate on my Deda Newton stem was developing hairline fissures, yes it was unbelievably sketchy for me to be using this stem in the state it was in, I’m lucky I didn’t take a steerer tube to the sternum.
Eventually I cheered up, had some cocoa and some veggie chili and after a stop at Competitive Edge Bike and Ski in Northampton for some new cleats I’d be ready to roll the next day at Cycle-Smart International. The latter part of the day and evening went much better than the earlier part. Dinner at The Sierra Grill in Northampton was really good, killer spot there. I prepped for the morrow with Belgian fries complete with Aioli and although I prefer west coast IPAs to Belgians I did sip on Miriam’s Chimay between my several pints of Bear Republic Racer 5. During dinner we were trying to remember the name of the bar an ex-local had given us, we could only come up with the first part of the name. We asked the couple next to us if they knew where a place called “the Dirty, er something” was. This got a laugh, in some towns you might end up at an entirely different type of place than “The Dirty Truth” which turned out to be one of the finest pubs I’ve ever been to, the draft selection was frickin’ overwhelming. Bike racing is dumb, I’m just going to drink beer and eat food and write about that from here on out, how about that?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Canton Cup Cyclocross – Doing The Double

Since I was volunteering for this event which gave me a free entry and NAV owed me an entry for a race I couldn’t make it to earlier in the season, and because of the way the categories worked out (2/3 and Pro 1,2,3) I could conceivably do two races at this event. I’ve been meaning to petition to get into the women’s Elite races. I figure if Lyne Bessette can sand bag the men’s B races I can do the same with the Women’s Elite races, and I promise not to use the term “retard” even in the French sense of the word while I’m doing it. In reality I’ll turn 35 (I move in geological time) before I get around to that so I’ll be able to take my beating from the Scary Masters’s before I do the Elite race at local events if I so choose.
Woke up early, grabbed myself a “Venti” “Red Eye” at the Starbuck’s on the way to the highway (yes I patronize Starbucks, but only when it’s nowhere near a CafĂ© worth a damn),
promptly got on 93 going in the wrong direction. Pretty much all Mt. Bike events are to the north, I was on auto-pilot so that’s where I headed, then I turned around and went back in the direction of Canton. It was a lovely morning, the inclement weather of the day before had blown away, leaving the world a bit damp, but otherwise quite pleasant. There was no real hope for mud seeing as it has been dry for longer than I can remember. First it was global warming, now it’s global drying. Showed up to the venue a good five hours early…I require a very thorough warm up, that and I was volunteering at registration. I got to register a whole bunch of Cat 4’s then watch them come back all bloodied and battered a while later, telling tales of slick corners onto bike paths and other treacherousness.

Photo Courtesy of Jason Girouard

Around eleven I threw on my kit and went out to warm up. On the back side of the course there were these miniature barriers, I thought I should, on principal, hop them, I am a Mt. Biker after all, it would be expected of me. First attempt I clean the first one, Rock Star! Come into the second a bit slow, give the pedal a kick to give me some more height, come down all askew in the front end, skidding laterally on the front tire, front tire rolls off, jams in fork, I vault off the bike looking as graceful as a pig running on a wet tile floor (they have cloven hooves, they don’t run on wet tile floors too well, trust me). So I run off to borrow a wheel, I explore a few options before winding up with Tal Ingram’s wheel, thanks to Rachel and Greg for the offer of theirs, I’m lucky to have so many generous teammates.
At the start the host teams get call ups, I’ve never had a call up before, I usually start in back and work my way up. I was up there with five other teammates, it was pretty cool. The start was uphill which gave me some hope, Tal, Mike, and I ended up in good position after the hole shot, I think I was about 9th, I could see the front of the race for once which was odd and nice at the same time. The difference between starting at the back and working your way up and starting at the front is that when you do the latter the guys around you are generally as strong as you or stronger and often have decent skills which makes it an entirely different experience than what I’m used to. The course was excellent, three sets of barriers, one run up, a track section, lots of turns, a high speed winding bike path section on the back side, and plenty of spots to lose it.

At the end of the first lap a Bike Barn rider came by like a rocket monkey, I hopped on his wheel for about two seconds, realized I couldn’t hold it to save my life, and hopped off. This was John Peterson, the guy that had won both days of Gloucester in the 2/3’s. If I remember correctly I held onto third place for about a minute, then faded and let a few guys past. I could see Peterson ahead through the marsh, closing on Auerbuch at an alarmingly fast rate. Peterson’s victory was a much of a foregone conclusion as the victory of that group of guys that aren’t from Boston but who get paid a lot of money to live in (gated communities outside) Boston and call themselves “The Red Sox” over that other group of high paid guys who aren’t from Colorado but call themselves “The Rockies” in that thing so inaccurately called “The World Series”. For you super fans, I’m kidding, now don’t come to my house and turn over my car during a joyous riot.

Writing ‘Cross reports is way harder than writing mountain bike reports. Mountain bike races are usually four laps tops, they are slightly slower paced, there are fewer riders in them, each eventful thing that happens sticks in your mind. ‘Cross, it’s a bunch of panting, drooling, riders passing, riders falling back, it’s harder to keep track of what went on and when. All I know is that I need to go out and do some more ‘Cross practice. Last season I made light of my ignorance pretty regularly in my write ups, then I learned some of the ropes, but by now I have forgotten almost all of it…I am a complete spazz out there, a total mess on two wheels. Every time there was something that was Cyclocross technical I would freak out and lose countless bike lengths. I think I’ve said it before, the saying goes “It’s just like riding a bike” not “It’s just like riding a bike WELL”.
The 2/3 race ended with me getting gapped on the pavement by a hard charging Cambridge Bike rider to finish 6th out of forty something, I was happy with that. I wasn’t really sure what to do during the hour interim between that race and the Elite race. I kind of pedaled around, had an Accel Gel and some drink, chatted to some folks, then prerode the course once again before lining up to for the kick in the pants party. It was nice lining up for that race, I was way more relaxed, just ready to go out and ride hard for an hour, I knew that flagellation and humiliation were imminent, but I didn’t care so much. We went, I was third to last into the hole shot, geez, I thought I was going faster than that, I guess Elite guys go fast, who knew? I’d thrown a bit more pressure in my (Tal’s) front tire, it made all the difference, I was able rail the corners way better than during the previous race. My legs were shredded but I felt like I was going faster, I felt like I was riding my bike better, and most importantly I was having more fun.

Photo Courtesy of Jason Girouard

Eventually I caught up to Jon Bruno who was going mighty fast considering he hasn’t ridden a bike in months, he lost a leg in a shaving accident, and all he’s eaten in weeks are Cheetos and mayonnaise. Jon could have beaten me with a thought, but he just didn’t feel like it so I carried on, gapping up to some other dudes. Then I saw the pink and blue CCB kit ahead, it was Bernhard, it was time to redline, time to die. Not sure when Todd Rowell came into the picture, if I caught him or he caught me, but I spent a lot of time riding with him, trading off, I think I used him to reel in Bernhard. Once I got Bernhard he wouldn’t say die, I finally gapped him with an uncharacteristically smooth ‘Cross Ninja maneuver, remounting after the uphill barriers my right pedal was right where I wanted it, I landed on it with all my weight, clipping in the left foot nicely as well and powering up the small rise after. He didn’t let up for a couple laps after that, always lurking, clawing back to me.
During the last lap I tried to rid myself of Rowell (I didn’t know who he was at the time, now I know he’s a wicked fast roadie) by attacking on the one straight away in the series of corners before the run up to the track. I got around him and lead into a corner where he had gone down earlier, hoping he would over cook it again, no dice. The gaps were small, but they were there, he ate them back up for the most part on the track, leaving me with almost nothing going onto the pavement after the last set of barriers. I think he actually apologized as he blasted away up the finishing straight. “That’s the problem with single speeds” he said as I high fived him after crossing the line. Nope, that’s the problem with this guy right here trying to outsprint anybody, nevermind a legitimately fast Cat 2 Roadie.
It was a fun day, a long ass day, and I can’t tell you how pissed my body is right now. I’m an arthritic three toed sloth on Dilaudid. Still, I wish I could do the double again, but the way the categories work, I usually can’t. Oh well, guess it’s no holds barred ass whuppings for me from here on out.
Thanks to C Todd of IBC and Todd C. of NAV for putting this thing together, altogether a great event, can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"He's 33 Years of Age Now...

so time's beginning to run out for him."

Thanks Phil. That quote has nothing to do with the following post. I'm just sitting here half-watching the Vs. coverage of The Giro Di Lombardia and Phil just uttered that statement about Bettini. I'm 33 as well, I don't feel old, every year I get faster (it helps that I was really slow when I was young), and better at what I do. The age thing is relative, look at Steve Tilford and Ned Overend. When you hang around with a bunch of healthy, active people your preconceived ideas about age go right out the window. When I was a kid I looked at people in their fifties and thought they were ancient...they were. They spent their lives eating crap food, drinking, and smoking. The only exercise they got was pulling the lever on their recliners as they watched Jeopardy. My perception has changed since then.
It's like Chris Rock said:
"People tell you life is it's not. Life is LONG.
Especially if you make the wrong decisions."
I might have gotten a late start in the sport, but I'll be damned if I'm not still racing when I'm sixty.

The above photo is of John Allis, he is the man. Last I checked he was pushing 65 and still coaching and riding with The Harvard team four days a week.

Now what was this post about? Oh yes, flats, more on flats and flatting and tubes pinching with the air gushing out and the suck of it all. Just before yesterday's Fells ride I chucked my Switchblade back on. Still haven't hooked up the tubeless on the training wheels and once again I paid for it. I was on my way out, late for a movie date, hammering at close to race pace in the fading light, WHAM! Bottomed out the front tire on a root or a rock. The air escaped within seconds. I got to it, fastest flat fix ever go! What the? You have got to be frickin' kidding me. I had grabbed a 26" tube for my 29" tires, no problem I had a back up as was a 700c road tube, wouldn't cut it. Plan C, stretch 26" tube like a tubular onto the rim, then install tire. What a pain, it eventually worked but what a huge pain in the ass. Then my pump blew a gasket, luckily another rider happened by on his giant dually. He hooked me up with a working pump and I was finally on my way out.
No more tubes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Just Riding Around

Took the weekend off from 'Crossing. There was nothing going on too close to home and most weeks I get but the one day off. Makes things tough if that day off is a race day. Went out for a little ride in the Fells with friend Matt, just out messing around. I've spoken of Matt before, he's one of the guy's who's riding style I try to emulate as best I can. It's a combination of fluidity, playfullness, and weightlessness. It makes the woods feel like a playground, almost like snowboarding,
always a good thing to sit on his wheel and get a refresher course.
I started riding a mountain bike in the fall so the season has positive associations for me, and now with the racing all the frickin' time it's the season when I get to go on group rides and generally spend more time on the mountain bike,
which is where I like to be really, not out on the road riding up some god damn hill next to Route 2 ten times on my way to work. It's also a nice time because the woods transform, you can read the lay of the land better, trails which were hidden by dense brush all summer are suddenly unveiled. Fall just smells good too.

I'm not running tubeless on my training wheels which is apparently something I must change. I double flatted on this ride, once on the way to meet Matt and once after. I was only carrying one tube because "I don't flat". Which is entirely true, I didn't have one flat or mechanical all season long. I ran non-UST wire-beaded WTB Nano-Raptors with Stan's sealant, they worked out great. For anyone who is still not running tubeless, have your care taker or helper monkey go out and get you some Stan's while they're out getting your adult diapers. There is absolutely no point in not running tubeless, it's just as easy to throw a tube into a tubeless tire as it is on a conventional tire. You are just WAY less likely to get a flat in the first place, especially if you run Stan's sealant even in a well sealed UST tire. Just ignore this rant if you are one of hold outs who likes running 45psi in your tires so you don't flat or if you just really enjoy that down time which fixing a flat provides you. It's true, with tubeless you have way less opportunity to take in nature and feed the mosquitoes.
Sweet Tubeless!