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

7 comments:

Brent said...

B say, movies don't work, me angry need movies now!

Colin R said...

the difference is how you and i described our meeting is... significant.

Colin R said...

hey thom, this is a random inquiry, since you're Mr 29'er these days does that mean you have any 26'er parts you want to get rid of? like say... forks of any flavor, rigid or suspended? I have needs.

Thom P. said...

Ah, I sold that stuff off last spring, the only remnants of the 26" days are a few sets of tires. I'll ask around.

skullhead said...

Hey Tom,
Found your blog through Doug Jenne. Just curious, what gearing do you run on your cross rig? Thanks!

Thom P. said...

I'm running a 39 X 16 right now, ran a 42 X 16 at Gloucester. Last season I was all over the place gearing wise. I've been meaning to do a single speed 'cross related rant, there's a lot of silly information out there.

Anonymous said...

im looking for jon lewis's phone number? an internet search sent me to your blog. whats the luck you have it? thanks.


planesteve@gmail.com