Monday, October 31, 2011

A Handout on #Cyclocross Hand-ups

No sorry.  I'm vegetarian.
The one-upmanship is worrisome with two UCI level events on the horizon, (The Cincinnati UCI3 and the USGP in Louisville.)  A disturbing trend is emerging on the cyclocross circuit as evident in this weekend’s OVCX Storm the Greens race in Louisville.  Every week riders are being forced to make harder and harder choices.  A few weekends ago at a muddy race in Indiana it started with the traditional dollar bill hand up, which turned into an internet video sensation (see below).  A week or so later, the unimaginable happened.  With the threat of their skinny jeans being revoked, I actually saw hipsters break their 11th commandment and give away cans of PBR at the John Bryan Classic in Yellow Springs, OH.  Yesterday, fine salted cure meats became the hand-up of choice, ala Dino's Gorilla Grill’s Famous Bacon.  What’s next?  Suddenly a Smart Car hand-up doesn’t sound so ridiculous.

PBR on a Platter
I fear the worst is yet to come.  Friday’s UCI race at Devou Park outside of downtown Cincinnati marks the first of 5 UCI events in the Ohio River Region.  The stakes are higher, and no doubt one crispy piece of bacon, one delicately placed dollar, or an ice cold can of Milwaukee’s favorite will not offer enough reward to risk a pro career.  In a local race, a rider may risk getting tripped up with a one handed bike carry on the barriers to snag a dollar.  I snagged some Mardi Gras beads and a dollar yesterday on Rachel’s drop.  Of course I was far out of the top 20 payout.  However, at a high level event, what will it take?  Let’s go to the crooked chart of Hand-Up Incentive versus Risk:

Incentive                 PBR    Bacon   $1          $5          $10
None                        Yes     Yes       Yes        Oh Yes  F Yeah!
Losing to Rival          No      Maybe  Yes        Uh huh   For Shiz
Last Payout Spot      No      No        Toughie  Yes        Heck Yeah
Age Podium              No     No         Hmm     Oh Boy  Lunch money!
Overall Podium         No     No         No         No        Bar Tape!
UCI Points               No     No         No         No        Sorry, no.

My Best CX Season p/b Pearl Izumi
Hence, my fear.  What kind of hand up will it take to get someone contesting a deep UCI payout to grab the prize?  The taste, novelty and value of hand-ups must increase for top level events.  There is obviously no food tastier than bacon.  Or is there?  A cupcake perhaps.  You may as well leave your dollars in your pocket and instead offer up that Visa or Best Buy gift card.  Even then you’d have to get creative and make that gift card a lovely garnish on a piece of cheese cake, maybe offer a vegan option for Molly Cameron. 

Prerequisites for good hand ups:
Lightweight. Item should not impede the rider past the point of inception.
Grabability.  Items must initially fit into one hand.
Stowability.  Item must be easily stashed under shorts, around the neck, between the boobs, or ingested.
Placement.  Item must be small enough to be placed as not to affect race outcome or impede others.

Beads and a Buck for a Brotha!
Items not recommended:  bowling balls, puppies, hot coffee, oatmeal, spaghetti, a dozen long stem roses, frozen turkeys, coffee table books, toasters or other small appliances, and children over 20lbs.

That leaves us with high value gift cards for I-Tunes and Best Buy, six packs of microbrew, Groupons to the Gap, brand name backpacks (a nice Dakine perhaps), CDs/DVDs, easily pawnable gold rings, I Phone 3’s, Pearl Izumi arm warmers, shots of top shelf liquor, gourmet meats such as prosciutto, delicacies like finger caprese salad, designer jeans, boutique chocolates, Marriot rewards points, and ultimately plane tickets to Belgium.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sunday Schooled: The Stations of Cross

How’d your race go?  Well I got forced off my line and into the deep mud and lost two spots.  Pow!  I can only train an hour a day and that’s what happens.  Ka-pew!  I got my foot tangled in course tape.  (Gesturing tying a noose around my neck.)  I biffed it in the sand.  (Make believe slitting wrists.)  I was wheezing like a donkey in the dust.  Asking, “How’d your race go” is like stealing Medusa’s hat and letting the negative snakes loose. 

My Best CX Season p/b Pearl Izumi
Still, those are some of the answers I’ve heard the past few weeks of racing cyclocross.  Surprisingly, many of them came from riders finishing in the top 5 or 10 in their fields, riders finishing better than 35 or 40 competitors.  Maybe it’s a humble Midwest thing.  Nobody wants to sound like they’re bragging by pointing out the great things they did in their race.  Yet these excuses are presented as if the rider were the victim of some unforeseen uncontrollable event or something impossible to overcome.  They are not. 

Gatch Front Row 2nd From Right Seconds from Doom!
Saturday at the Ohio State Cyclocross Championships I witnessed the Cyclocross Stations of the Cross.  For those who skipped Sunday School more than I, it’s the series of events leading up to the Crucifixion.  Without breaking out my notes, Jesus fell a few times along the way, died, was resurrected and is now seated at the right hand of God…aka the holy podium. 

Chasing Gatch...Again.
Saturday at the Masters 45+ Ohio State Champion Race, John Gatch, without question one of the fastest 45+ riders in the state missed his pedal at the start.  Sweetness!  I heard the gears crunch down his cassette, looked under my elbow to see him struggling.  Some call it smelling blood.  I smelt it and dealt it.  I drilled it at donkey wheezing pace hoping to put a definitive podium contender behind me in the first 100 meters.  I nabbed the holeshot at the first corner.  Gatch gone.  Two corners later I was passed and grabbed the wheel of defending gold medalist and eventual winner Brent Evans, right where I wanted to be.  Riding 2nd wheel to last years champ, I just had to hang on and wait for my best opportunity to pounce or be trounced.

Gapped by Gatch for Good
After a few off camber ups and downs, Gatch came raring back through the start-finish, passing me…only to wipe out 45 seconds later on a snotty left hander around a tree.  Blood!  I punched it again, nearly closing the gap to Brent in the process.  Gatch was gone for good and I focused on trying to stay as close as possible to Brent’s fading jersey.  Two straightaways later, Gatch was back like a swarm of locusts.  He came around for a third time before the next muddy section, only to bobble exiting the mud.  BLOOD.  I passed and drilled it for a third time.  It was like trying to kill a zombie.  He passed again on a tight left hander headed back toward the pit.  Apparently fueled by 5 minutes of pure adrenalin, he was on fire.  I couldn’t hold his wheel.  I never would gain contact with him again, yet he would drop his chain mid-race and still make the holy podium, finishing third.  That's determination.  That's taking every spot and overcoming the obstacles while everyone is kicking you when you're down.  

So what’s your excuse again?  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zombie Boogers: My Cycling Comfort Foods

They’re the foods that fuel your ride or welcome you home after suffering in the saddle.  They’re your weird, bizarre, locked up in a closet personal favorites.  After getting soaked for the last hour of that Sunday hammerfest, you don’t want a sandwich to get the feeling back in your fingers.  You need Usinger's Braunschweiger on soft Italian bread with brown mustard, real butter and onions.  You don’t want a cookie in your bag after the cyclocross race; you want a molasses cookie from the box on the counter at your grandmother’s house.  It’s not the Campbell’s tomato soup, it’s the 15 saltine crackers crumbled over the top and so thick a little person could run across it.  Or, is it the crusted three square inch burn the roof of your mouth hot cherry pie in the corner of the Hungry Man TV dinner.  These are some foods that reward my ride.

I’m sure it’s what they use for zombie boogers at Haunted Houses, but I love to eat it.  It’s green, long, slimy, gushy and wet.  If you threw one against the wall it would smack, stick and slide down like a night crawler.  Still, since I was a kid when every vegetable was disgusting, it’s one of my all time favorite foods.  I’ll only eat the long spears, only from a can and it absolutely must be Green Giant asparagus spears.  I do like fresh asparagus, especially grilled with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Without preservatives, I’m sure it’s healthier, but that’s hoidy toidy to me.  They serve that with $30 steaks at Jeff Ruby.  Not to mention you have to cook it. I don’t need a bowl or a fork, only a can opener or my Leatherman multi-tool.  I thoroughly enjoy pulling them out of the can with my fingers, tilting my head back and dangling them into my mouth.  It’ll probably be my last meal when I’m 120 years old and a need to be fed by a nurse.  “Head back Mister Biker.  Eat your spears.”  Nom nom nom.

My wife calls them “Joe foods” and second on my list and in my lunchbox right now is Windmill cookies.  It confounds me how inexpensive yet so intricate they are.  I think the box of 12 I bought was under $3.  Maybe it’s because I’m a quarter Dutch, but my affinity for the Windmill cookie runs deep.  With each one, I marvel at the detail.  The almond slivers almost give the illusion of textured stone made from tulip field mud.  If you look closely at the photo there are 3 separate designs on the mill: a cross at the top, two (E) shapes left and right and a diamond in the center.  You can stick your tongue in the doorway, or let it be the axis of the windmill blades.  I’m not entirely sure there’s a specific brand I like or what brand these are, maybe there’s only one.  It’s not like chocolate chips with a million varieties.  At the grocery you’ll be lucky to spot them.  Almost glad they weren’t hanging out with the other lesser cookies; I found these in the health food section at Kroger.  As it turns out, these are completely vegan.

The all time greatest culinary creation is Candy Raisins.  How can you not love a candy with a smiling sun on the package?  They are not candied raisins, contain raisins or even taste like raisins.  The only thing they have in common with actual raisins is that they are wrinkly on the top.  They’re comparable in texture to the candy Dots.  They feel the same way in your mouth, but the flavor is unlike any candy you’ve ever tasted.  The website Save The Candy Raisins describes them as “a translucent, honey colored candy…with a light ginger taste.”  I grew up in Wisconsin, and from what I can gather they were only made by Stark, a division of the NECCO candy company.  As you can gather from the website, sadly, after shutting down a plant in Pewaukee Wisconsin, they are not being made anymore.  I have not had a candy raisin in at least three years.  If I saw them, even on Ebay, I swear to God I would spend at least $10 a bag to attain them.  I love them so much; I’d accept a box as my only Christmas present.    

Maybe it's crunchy peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches you crave like our reader Lloyd, tell us your favorite weird foods.  Leave a comment below or "Like" us on Facebook here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Cycling Travel Formula™: Is The Ride Worth The Drive?

Plug your numbers into The Best Bike Blog EVER’s Cycling Travel Formula™ and find out if the ride worth the drive.

HSR = or > HSD – F x DQ

(HSR) Hours Spent Riding should be equal to or more than the (HSD) Hours Spent Driving minus the (F) number of Friends traveling with you multiplied by the (DQ) Disappointment Quotient.  I just blew your mind didn’t I?  You might want to read that again.

Sweeky sweeky.  The hamster is running on the wheel between your ears.  You put index finger and thumb to your chin and ponder.  You’re saying, “Hmm…he could be on to something.”  You know, I am.  I’ve practiced this theory for years, only now have I put it to paper.  Like Einstein on a bike, I’m a genius.  Of course The Cycling Travel Formula™ all hinges on the DQ, the Disappointment Quotient and slightly on the number of friends you travel with.  It was precisely the reason I chose not to travel from Cincinnati to the cyclocross races in Columbus, OH and Bloomington, IN this weekend.
Only Crazy Glue Would've Saved His Teeth
The disappointment quotient is a measure of buzz kill, the chances of something bad happening in the following six departments: a flat, mechanical, disappointing result, domestic dispute, bonk or injury.  The highest possible DQ is 6.  Flats are separate from mechanicals, because for some rides or races you may not bring a multi tool or a truing stand.  Of course the DQ is completely subjective to your personal situation.  For example at the Mohican 100, you could easily achieve a 6 by making your spouse mad by spending your rent money on the entry fee, doing the race with no tools or food, crashing in the rock garden and bonking at aid station 3.  Since the round trip drive to Mohican from Cincinnati is 6 hours, such a debacle would ruin the entire trip no matter how many clowns you crammed in your car.

The DQ can be brought down by negating the possibilities of those buzz kills.  Depending on the situation, a pump, spare tube, patch kit and/or pit wheels can negate the chances of a flat.  A multi tool, spare chain pin or pit bike can nullify a mechanical.  A gift from Nordstrom could quell a domestic dispute.  Then again, inappropriately spent money can cause a domestic dispute.  Be wise.

In the case of a ride or a race with a potentially high DQ, it mathematically makes sense to travel with more friends.  Hence the hours of driving are directly and proportionately affected by the number of friends in your car.  The more the merrier.  The more friends the less the chances of a total suckfest.  Remember Aron Ralston, the guy who had to cut his hand off to escape death in a Utah slot canyon?  He drove all night to get there for a solo day hike.  Imagine if he took even one friend along.  A ha!  He may still have his hand and not have had to drink pee.  That’s what friends are for, a helping hand if you will.

HSR = or > HSD – F x DQ

Do The Math B4 You Mount The Bike
Take Haw Ridge, TN for example.  It’s four hours away from Cincinnati, 8 hours of total driving.  If you bring your spouse, tools, plenty of food and water and a first aid kit with more than Band-Aids and Bactine, the disappointment quotient barely registers, maybe a 1, only a broken bone or a deep laceration could kill your buzz.  To make the 8 hour round trip worth while you need to have 4 friends in the car and ride for at least 4 hours, totally doable. 

MTB Haw Ridge TN:  HSR 4 is = or > HSD 8 - 4 Friends x DQ (1)

Sadly it’s what makes a cyclocross race in Bloomington, IN a complete conundrum.  Even if you race the 60 minute Elite race, at the most you might ride is 2.5 hours with a warm-up and cool down.  Its six hours of driving. With spare wheels, a pit bike or two, giant duffle bags and coolers the most you can travel with is 3.  You need a negative DQ to make it work.

CX Bloomington IN: HSR 2.5 is not = or > HSD 6 – 3 Friends x DQ

While I had a chance to travel with friends, the DQ for me was still too high.  When I opened the front door to grab the paper on Saturday morning a blizzard of cat hair wafted up the stairwell with the breeze.  To cut my DQ I would have to clean the house or risk domestic dispute.  Of course spending the whole day on my feet hunched over brushing toilets, scrubbing floors and vacuuming stairs increased the chance of a disappointing finish especially against those fast Indiana guys.  I don’t have a pit bike and have rolled tires in the last two races.  My DQ was nowhere near negative.  I bailed on the race.  It just didn’t add up. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Test of the Emergency #Vegan System

Free for the Taking, an Izzy's Sandwich on Servatii's Roll
This is the vegan equivalent of finding a Brinks truck crashed on the side of the road with $100 bills scattered across the shoulder.  Do you take it and buy a Dura Ace equipped carbon wonder bike from Italy?  Or do you do the right thing, call 9-1-1 and be the hero?  This is a made-in-Cincinnati Izzy’s Reuben Sandwich.  In the world of salted cured meats, nothing trumps the corned beef and sauerkraut piled high, slathered in Million Island dressing and served on Cincinnati’s famous Servatii’s pretzel bread bun.  Simply pulling the meat off would be like "fixing" the smile on the Mona Lisa. 

Did You Say Catnip Tuna?
Maybe I haven’t been clear in my description.  This is two great tastes in one entity.  It’s like Cincinnati Skyline Chili topped with Montgomery Inn Ribs.  Mmmm.  An Izzy’s Reuben on a Servatii’s roll is to Cincinnati as Jerked Chicken on the side of the road served with a Red Stripe beer is to Jamaica.  It’s Saz’s Barbecue with a side of George Webb’s breakfast to a Milwaukeean.  Its Gino’s East pizza covered in Southside Polish sausage to Chicago.  It’s a Thurminator burger topped with a pair of Blue Jacket’s tickets to those in Columbus.  It’s Christmas’ candy cane covered gingerbread house.  Its catnip covered in tuna juice to Juneau… my cat, not the city.

The choice between that bag of money or this sandwich is a life changing decision.  Consultants and advisors from GE and P&G may need to be called in.  Since they’re no longer working on the Space Shuttle program, I may dial-up NASA's best mathematicians to pour over excel spreadsheets and sandwich trajectories to help me decide which would have a better impact on my life. 

Sure you could take the bag of money and go out and buy an Izzy’s Reuben and have enough left over to quit your job and eat it while riding off the threat of clogged arteries on your new Trek Madone, but you’d be missing the point.  I did hill repeats last night.  I’m 4 pounds below my target race weight.  It’s 9:30am.  I just ate half an apple.  I have an appointment in 30 minutes and I am surrounded by hungry native Cincinnatians.  This is about instant gratification.  This is about taking the kill before the Hyenas get it.  This is a case of how much would it really hurt.  This sandwich is now or never.  Dammit they’re taking it into the work kitchen.  Noooooooo!

My Lunchbox
Right down the hall is a free Izzy’s Reuben Sandwich served on special edition Servatii’s pretzel bread.  In my 2010 Vancouver Olympic lunchbox is a bag of carrots, a tub of hommus, a box of raisins, a banana, a fruit strip, half a Honeycrisp apple, and leftover vegan Tikka Masala in a plastic Glad container.  This is a test of eating a plant based non-processed food diet.  This is a test of the Emergency Vegan System.  This is only a test.

Thankfully, I passed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

#OVCX Gun Club: This Is What CX Is About

I’m curled up in a fetal position clutching my Simon Burney book “Cyclocross – Training and Technique.”  I used to think cross was a balancing act between our checkbook and a functioning bike, IPA and body weight, hill repeats and a healthy marriage, core workouts and clean dishes, recovery rides and a well kept lawn.  I’m realizing cyclocross is more of a 60-40 or 75-25 than a perfect 50-50 balance approved with a gas-pump type sticker autographed by Dusty Rhodes, our Hamilton County Auditor. 

While I have yet to be able to sit through more than one minute and twenty seconds of one, this is precisely the reason there’s countless videos with superheroes satirically presenting the life of an “Elite Cyclocross Racer.”  I’m trying to choke back the paranoia, trying not to become a robotic voiced Rain Man cartoon of Cyclocross, definitely, but it’s becoming seriously obvious cross is testing my sanity as well as my skills and fitness.  I’m coo-coo for cyclocross!  I’m coo-coo for cyclocross!

My Best CX Season p/b Pearl Izumi  
The warning signs were there.  I dismissed them all.  It started in July, pre-season.  Faced with needing two new primary tires glued, a chain, a cassette, and a saddle in August, I spared our bank account the added deductions by choosing not to reglue the tires on my 2nd wheelset even though the glue was a smidgen crusty and few months past a year old, found an end of season sale on a Fizik saddle in Park City, Utah that came with sub-par but free bar tape and struck a blog deal with Pearl Izumi (thank you) for new shoes, a base layer and some other goodies.  I saved $4-500.  Ba bam!

I slightly rolled one of those old glue job tires last weekend at OVCX John Bryan.  I chanced it and I lost.  When I brought the wheel into BioWheels, Mitch, the shop owner, said I should just bring in the other wheel as well.  It was probably due.  I forgot to bring it in.  I had dishes to do, laundry to fold.  At the race yesterday, OVCX Gunclub, a teammate joked, “If you don’t put wheels in the pit, you’ll never need them.”  After the race, after running the last 500 meters of the course, after having passed me with 3 other guys, after rolling the other old glue job tire, of course he prodded, “Told you so.”  Butt wipe.

Having the Best Race of the Season-my balls not so much
I was having the best race of my season.  John Gatch, the race promoter, shouted from the pit, “21st Joe!  Close that gap.”  I was wheel bumping with the last place payout spot.  While eventually, I got passed by three admittedly faster racers (Jason Karew, James Billiter and Nate Mirus), 25th was still a good place and I had it locked.  With a gap to 3-4 chasers at the top of the “run-up,” I remember telling myself, “steady and clean.”  With 500 meters to go, literally 3 turns and two straightaways from the finish, on a quick downhill-up hill U-turn, FA-BOMP-FUMP. 

My tire rolled and lodged in my frame.  I didn’t even look to confirm.  I knew by the noise.  The FA-BOMP-FUMP never lies.  Knowing I was past the pit, I picked up my bike and ran, or better put, sort of peg-leg jogged as fast as I could.  My abs ached and my quads begged.  Seriously blurry-eyed, I committed to the run and finishing as best I could.  The three behind approached.  “What’s wrong Joe,” my teammate shouted.  I didn’t answer.  I didn’t need to.  “Oh no,” I heard Mike Schulze say as he passed.  He saw.  I ran…and ran and ran.  I reminded myself, back straight, chin up.  “If you can’t ride you run, “the race announcer chirped as I approached 50 meters to the finish, “This is Joe from The Best Bike Blog Ever!  This is what cyclocross is all about people.”  Through a gauntlet of “good jobs”, the finish line crowd applauded and I smiled.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

#Fall: It's Not All About Cyclocross

It's About Looking Up!
It's About Grabbing A Little More Brake.
It's About Sharing The Experience With Someone Close.
It's About The Snack Break.
It's About Stepping off the Trail for a better peek at Versailles SP Fall Colors.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#Vegan: The Cheesepocalypse is Neigh!

Sign off I-94 North of Illinois 
There is no cheese in our house, and I’m originally from Wisconsin.  I know.  I’m probably going to hell for that.  The only thing saving me from the eternal deep fryer is a box of Cheese-Its in the cupboard, which is certainly not a whole food and may or may not contain actual dairy products.  I’d have to squint too hard and they’re too damn tasty for me to bother to check the label.  Two weeks ago we began the switch to a plant based whole foods diet.  

We still have a few meat, dairy and processed food items in the kitchen.  However, when the Cheese-Its are gone, the needle on my cheese-o-meter will be at zero and the seven signs of the cheesepocalypse will begin, starting with my name being put on some sort of black list at the Wisconsin border.  Personally I think it’s kind of fun that the only sausage in our house is in a package with a label ending in “furky.”  Furky is funny, as is Tofu.  Still, I attest.  I’m not a Vegan.  I'm not doing this to save the animals, to better the environment, to cleanse or challenge myself.  While those are admirable noble pursuits, when it comes to food I'm a selfish idiot.  This is for me.  

My Lunch: May Be Vegan  
So don’t refer to me as Vegan.  You got that punk?!  However I do like the sound of vegetarian.  It's sort of smart sounding like librarian.  This may come off a bit ethereal, but I can’t live within the walls at 123 Vegan Street.  It really struck me when I washed the egg container from the fridge and stored it away in the pantry for good.  Even with no more eggs in the house, I have no goal to be Vegan, vegan...whatever.  The label sort of annoys me.  

To me, this change in diet is not a final destination.  I’m not quitting meat, dairy and processed food.  I like to see things more positive.  I’m simply trying to eat a plant based and non-processed food diet.  You don't quit smoking.  You put more fresh air in your lungs.  To me, even as a bike crazed dufus, giving up entire groups of foods is like a New Year’s resolution to exercise everyday, a maddening premise destined to disappoint, a recipe to over promise and under deliver.  The way I see it, I equate this change in diet more to yoga.  You’ll never be perfect.  The benefit lies simply in the practice.  While there may come a day when I wish there would be a cheese-patch to deliver a steady stream of melty-gooey goodness into my veins, eating this way is simply a day to day, meal to meal exercise in being healthy. 

Furky...that's funny!
Seriously, I’m not Vegan or vegan, and I'll struggle with the capitalization issue and the fact that the word vegan has the same amount of letters as pagan for the rest of this article.  Regardless, to me, being vegan implies judgment.  I can’t live with that over my head everyday.  For goodness sake I grew up Catholic.  I may not be able to handle guilt, but I can eat a plant based whole food diet and reduce my risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer.  Easy peasy.  It’s not about whether I’ll eat turkey on Thanksgiving, have a meat drawer full of fruits and vegetables, have a homemade Christmas cookie with real butter or whether or not I'll be able to finish that never-ending big 'ol tub-o-mayo in my fridge by 2019.  If the question is can I be Vegan, the answer is: maybe.  If the question is can I give myself a better shot at living a long healthy life, the answer is: certainly.  There are more than 20 stages in the Tour De France.  You don’t need to win them all to take home the yellow jersey.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

#OVCX John Bryan: A TT with Beer & Cash

My Best CX Season Ever P/B Pearl Izumi

No where in the cyclocross training handbook is there a sentence that reads, “Loosen up by bunny-jumping lumps on the course just because it’s fun.”  Even with bright tall socks, beer handups and handlebar streamers, I’m nearly certain Cyclocross is a serious calculated business.  Just like pole dancing, it takes mad skillz to ride one handed through a sandpit for a dollar.  Still, headed into my 12th week of dedicated training, not missing a single work-out, I felt good…maybe even frisky.  Meow. Down to 156 pounds, a week ago I set my best time on a local hill, strong, skilled and thin.  This OVCX race at John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs Ohio marked the last hard workout of the past 3 months.  With a rest week, Crosstober, a month-long pursuit of an elusive piece of the top-20 Elite payout, was beginning.  Dammit, this was to be the month of Joe.  Don't make me break out my Sven Nys Prayer Candle.

Women's Elite Masters Podium
“I I I, I work owwwt,” Bridget let loose an X-Factor cast-off worthy wail over her iPod ear buds to LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I know It.”  Soon after the course opened for warm up, behind a teammate on my 2nd easy paced “scout” lap, I saw a jumpable lump.  I pulled up on the bars and pedals, went sideways in the air and came down front end first and twisted, like a couch coming out of a garbage truck at the dump.  “I’m good.  See.  I’m okay.  Just a little dirt on my knee,” I reassured with a smile.  A spectator approached after the incident and said her daughter in her arms was concerned that I hurt myself.  How cute.  Truthfully, I gave myself a mother of a charley horse in my right thigh.  Feeling sheepishly stupid in public, I picked the grass out of my shifter and shoe buckle and fast pedaled to our tent.

The Battle of Doug and Don-Bill
“You guys got a massage stick?” I asked.  “Jimmy usually has one,” Bridget replied.  ADD Jimmy never sits still.  I’ll never find him I thought.  Using my years of cycling first aid experience, I slathered some embrocation on the bruise hoping to feel searing heat rather than my throbbing pulse, got on the trainer and attempted to spin the mooglie out.  It sort of worked.  Little did I know my bike was also hurting with a slightly rolled tire from my auger into the dirt.  As the Cat 3’s wrapped up, my hot-lap began.  Even on the gutsy wheel of eventual 45+ winner Fred Rose, I held tight and so did the tire with 15 month old crackly glue.

My Sven Nys Prayer Candle
The whistle blew.  From the 4th row of the Elite race I dodged a mis-clip from Chris Durand and shot up the right side.  With a wide course for the first 300 meters, I knew it’d be a merciless start and I showed none, slotting into 20-25th by the first real corner.  Like I planned, I chilled for 10.5 seconds and fired off the 2nd bullet heading toward the pits moving up a few more spots.  I was a spot or two in front of nemeses Corey Green and Peter Hills, right where I wanted to be.  It may sound cold and calculated, but that’s how I know when I’m riding well.  I find calm in the confusion.  I bagged another spot before the sand, shot out the other side, hit the U-turn onto the pave and rubababubububub.  My front tire nearly washed out.  Two riders slid underneath.  Like a NASCAR under steer, into a series of five off-camber up-downs, I’d turn the bars left and my bike wanted to go right.  My tire was still on, but I knew I had rolled it.

Jeff: "This is how we do it"
“Front Tire,” I shouted to my teammates watching.  After a few corners, I saw Jaden running to the pit.  I ducked in.  “Where’s your wheels,”  he shouted.  “Next to Steven’s,” I said.  “Which ones are Stevens?”  Oh Jesus.  Two stooges.  I swear I saw 9 guys pass under my elbow.  Still trying to be Cancellara calm in the wheel change as another guy in the pit kindly undid my front skewer and brake cable, I said, “the white bag.  Mine are the Zipps next to ‘em.”  The silly thing was the white bag was a Zipp bag and if you’ve ever seen the pits at a Masters cross race, even everyone’s 2nd set of wheels is carbon and 65% of those are Zipps.  Essentially I was pointing at one egg in a carton and saying, “No THAT egg!”  Of course I didn’t open up the skewer to drop-out width before I put my spare wheels in the pit.  Of course Jaden had trouble getting in on.  Still I stayed as chill as possible and got back on course DFL but with a guy in front still in sight. 

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My hopes of a top 20 payout were dashed so it became a time trial…but with beer and cash.  Knowing at best I was looking at simply getting series points for finishing and maybe picking off a few spots, I kept it smooth.  Then the guy held out a can of PBR.  WTF.  I snagged it.  With a cheer behind me, I chugged.  Maybe I have a Wisconsin bred gene to not waste beer, so, hoping for it to land upright, I slightly slowed and softly dropped it.  I nearly barfed 200 meters later after a stomach stirring run over the barriers. 

A Line In The Sand
Then the dollar bills came out at the sand pit.  Essentially forcing riders to ride one handed through the worst line possible in deep sand for even a chance at snagging a buck.  I got the first, got the 2nd, but dropped the 1st.  Who knew I could ride sand one handed.  The next lap, the PBR guys moved to the log barriers.  They shouted, “Bunny hop ‘em!”  I did the first and, with total alligator noodle arms from chasing hard for 2 laps, ram-rodded the 2nd, nearly getting a saddle enema.  “That’s gonna be on You Tube,” someone shouted.  I nearly lost the three spots I had gained since the PBR.  Bunny hopping was out.  I put it in hammer mode, snagged another one-handed sand buck, got lapped by Ryan Knapp and finished.

At the tent, I pulled two sweaty dollars from the neck of my skinsuit.  Finally I made the payout.