Thursday, January 24, 2013

King’s Int’l CX brings World Champion to Cinci

Limited Edition James Billiter Poster Available Here
The Belgians are coming to Cincinnati, and so are the Swiss, Czech and the Danes.  With the Cyclocross World Championships coming to Louisville, many of the World’s best cyclocross racers are choosing to keep their legs fresh by racing at the King’s International Cyclocross race Saturday, January 26th at Kingswood Park off Irwin-Simpson Road in Mason.  We hope to see you there, perhaps eating a Taco, drinking a beer and ringing a cowbell.  With the attention of the world wide cycling media, this is the Ohio Valley's chance to show the world Cincinnati's scene.  

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for cycling fans in Cincinnati to get a photo, an autograph and even race with the best Cyclocross racers in the World.  Elite women start at 2pm Eastern, men at 3:30pm.  The event is free and open to the public.  Fans can enjoy food and drink from area food truck vendors while watching the racing action.  Proceeds benefit the Lionhearts Junior Cycling Program based in Cincinnati, the next generation of area riders.

This is also the only opportunity for fans to see the World Champion Niels Albert race in rainbow stripes, others in National Champion colors and sponsor team kits from around the globe.  In Louisville, racers will wear the colors of their national federation team.  Noted confirmed riders attending include: World Champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), US National Champion Jonathan Page (Engvt), and the 2012 US National Champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus).  On the women’s side fans will be treated to the USA’s Georgia Gould (LUNA) and Meredith Miller (Cal-Giant) along with former Czech champion Katerina Nash (LUNA), Swiss National Champion Jasmine Achermann (Rapha-Focus), and European Continental Champion Helen Wyman (KONA).

While the professional riders see the race as a tune-up for the World Championships in Louisville, locals see an opportunity to tow the line with the best in the world or simply see stars of the sport compete in their backyard.  The Cincinnati Cyclocross race is presented by Toyota, Reece-Campbell General Contractors, United Dairy Farmers, Magnum Ice Cream, DeFeet and Enzo’s.

Race director Corey Green says, “It is a rare opportunity to witness our US elite up against European elites in a non-Worlds environment.  It is also a rare opportunity to race as an amateur on the same course, on the same day as the reigning World Champion. We may be the first opportunity in the US to say that.”

Kings CX is home to the Lionhearts Junior Racing team, a 53 member juniors only team with kids ranging from 8 to 15 years old.  The event is a fundraiser for the team.  The Lionhearts will be running a chili and waffles stand, as well as selling coffee and hot chocolate.  Food trucks will also be on site.

A full schedule of events will be featured at Kings beginning at 8:30am for beginners, juniors, and masters.  Registration is at BikeReg.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mike Hanley from Team 7-Eleven to Now: The Official's View on Doping

Mike Holds up Scott McKinley in 1988 Tour of Texas Pit
Most of you know Mike Hanley as the chief referee at Ohio Valley cycling events.  In the 80's he worked with Andy Hampsten and the 7-Eleven Cycling team, the team that led the American charge on the then European dominated peloton.  Mike offers a professional, historic, and an official's perspective on doping that only a select few in the sport can deliver.  He answers the question of what it means to us, the amateur/local racers and riders, and what we can do to preserve and grow the sport.  I am both humbled and honored he gave his permission to share his opinion.  Thank you Mike. 

by Mike Hanley
Executive Director
Indiana-Kentucky Cycling Association

(Indianapolis, IN) After the first Oprah/Lance interview I sit here wondering what my friends in cycling think about the recent developments in the Lance Armstrong saga. 

Most of you know me as the chief referee that runs the majority of the races around these parts. And a few of you know that I work behind the scenes with race organizers to develop the annual schedule of events. After watching the first Lance/Oprah interview I feel the need to share my thoughts about Lance Armstrong and how recent revelations/admissions may impact what you and I do as amateur bike racers.

Professional cycling, like most endurance sports, has a long history of performance enhancing (PED) drug use. In the early days, there was a distinct advantage over the competition when athletes at the top of a sport were experimenting with PED's. Over the past 30 years, coaches, team doctors and sports scientists, have developed a sophisticated system of doping with the goal of circumventing current testing methods. That has been the game behind the scenes and that's why Lance has been able to claim he's never tested positive.

The one thing that Lance said during the Oprah interviews that I thought was truly relevant was that he didn't feel he was cheating, just ensuring a level playing field. I get that. During the 1980’s I worked for the 7-Eleven Cycling Team which was the first organized American foray into European cycling. I didn't know it at the time but we learned a lot about racing in Europe, and the most obvious lesson was that we needed to get on the program. A program that was firmly entrenched in a culture of doping that included all the champions in recent memory and a majority of the riders in the peloton during the most formative years of the sport. How can we expect Americans to be successful at a European game if we aren't entitled to a level playing field? What I'm saying here is not justification for Lance’s behavior or an endorsement of PED's, its a question of 'how is one to be competitive when facing a stacked deck?'

I'm proud to say that 7-Eleven, for the most part, and specifically Andy Hampsten, raced clean. There were times when we pushed the envelope (or, more accurately, certain riders took chances) but overall we were the new kids on the block and we brought a distinctly American (read, clean) approach to pro racing in Europe. It wasn’t easy. But with a tireless staff, great coaching and a brilliant team doctor we earned every win and the eventual respect of the European cycling community.

Lance Armstrong’s confession was watched by millions of people who, I’m afraid, now believe that all cyclists are dopers. I hear it every day. However, when applied to amateur racing, nothing could be further from the truth. Doping, on the local and regional level in the U.S., is virtually non-existent for two reasons. First, the cost of PED’s is prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthy. And second, U.S. rider demographics are predominately over 30, educated, professional and family oriented.

If those of us on the front lines of local/amateur racing hope to quiet the outrage associated with Lance and professional cycling, and preserve our heritage of club sport and athlete development, we must take every opportunity to inform our friends and families that Lance's world is about fame and fortune, not what we do as amateurs and weekend warriors. We are riders who simply love the sport for the lifestyle and health benefits it offers and who will never succumb to the pressures of competing in Europe.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why My Daughter Cares About #doprah

Corey Green is part of the leadership team for the Lionhearts Junior Cycling Team and Program in Cincinnati and over the past few days, like Luke Armstrong-Lance's son, those juniors had to field questions about doping at school too.  It brings an interesting side to the conversation.

Days prior to Lance's #doprah special we got tidbits of "leaked" info, primarily that he "did it". You couldn't turn on a TV or even listen to the radio without hearing that Lance was going to admit Thursday night to Oprah.

As I thought about the proceedings and the forthcoming admission, I decided I didn't really care. I watched all his Tour de France's over and over on my basement trainer. I know every excruciating detail of those tours from Armstrong riding away from Zulle in 1999 to chasing down Fillipo Simeoni in 2004 to the famous "look" back to Ullrich on L'Alpe-d'Huez in 2001.  I have a barely worn t-shirt commemorating the look from Armstrong's Ride for the Roses ride in 2002.  Roughly 8000 others from that ride do too.  

I had watched this footage over and over, I knew there was no way Armstrong did it clean. When you watch him pull away from every previously confirmed doper, year after year, it doesn't take a genius to know it isn't a matter of "if" its confirmed, its "when". 

Still I needed to know more.  I needed to watch the Lance interview on Oprah, but not for me.  As you know from reading, I have been working with juniors for several years.  They would have questions and may even watch themselves. So I watched, curious what I would see and even more curious whether I would learn something.

The first night, I learned almost nothing, except for Lance Armstrong confirming his brash, unyielding and stubborn persona.  Night two I contemplated whether I should spend another hour watching.  The same conversation went through my head.  I was glad I watched.  Lance nearly broke down, but not for the reasons I had suspected. 

Lance nearly lost it when talking about Luke, his 13 year old son, defending his father at school. After the USADA report was delivered it had become increasingly difficult for a 13 year old to withstand the constant questions from other kids. The teen years are awkward enough without having to defend your dad's actions daily.

That's when it clicked with Lance.

As a dad I could see the anguish in Lance's eyes. It was easy for Lance to lie, control other people, inject EPO into his body, or meet in secret hotel locations to discuss strategy with doctors referred to as vampires. However, to uphold his secret, to maintain his control, it now meant his son, an impressionable teen, would have to lie too. He would have to continue to defend his dad no matter how complicated the situation, no matter when or where.

He told his son "don't defend me anymore." I can't imagine having that conversation.  I can't imagine what I would have do to put myself in the situation to have that conversation. It's quite a leap from the Easter Bunny.
Juniors on the Podium at Chicago Cup CX 2013
I hadn't expected the questions our juniors got at school. Other kids at school asked my juniors, my kids about drugs, why cyclists took drugs, and whether one of them did drugs themselves to improve their performance.

Until Lance on Oprah, I thought the situation only impacted current cyclists and riders from the previous generation, the guys who "did it." Tyler, Floyd, Ivan, Alex, Jan, etc, etc had taken the drugs and received their suspension.  Some disappeared.  Others returned to ride again. Without being known worldwide, their impact on the general public was minimal, and their issues came and went without my kids knowing.

Lance was different. Yellow LiveStrong bands graced the wrists of school kids of all ages. Certainly they didn't know the depth of LiveStrong and what it stood for, but they knew it was Lance and the bracelets were cool. He dated Sheryl Crow, hung with Robin Williams, was on Letterman and Leno every year, and even hosted Saturday Night Live.  The other kids at school knew who he was, what he did, and associated our kids with him because they were junior cyclists.

Pro CXer Kaitlin Antonneau Gives Tips To Junior Racers
Our quest is harder now. Lance didn't make adults 30 and over wonder about drugs and question whether all cyclists took drugs to go faster, he made anyone who could watch TV wonder.  Now, kids of all ages who love taking their bike out to the park to race and recently built a wealth of experience in Madison at Nationals were having to answer Oprah's questions. They didn't have to defend Lance - he excused himself - they had to defend their sport.

Lance wants a comeback.  Frankly I don't care if he rides or races or not, but his rehab program should include education to all of America that cycling isn't an evil sport. The world needs to know cycling is a community of good people, people who care not about themselves, but about a sport that provides lifetime fitness, a sport that Lance used and abused like a rental car to bring him fame and fortune. 

Funniest part of this whole story is how much Lance was just like the teens I spend my time working alongside. Teens are a combination of mature and immature at the same time. They understand complex emotional situations and teeter on the edge of making good and bad decisions. Their success rate is poor at times, but we all chalk it up to growing up and "those dang teen years." What do you do when a teenager needs an attitude adjustment or needs to see the fallacy in their decision making?

You take away something important to them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pushing The Lance Boulder Down The Hill

The elephant is in the room riding a tandem and twirling a soccer ball on his trunk, and only CNN last night got a glimpse of it.  It’s bigger than Oprah.  It’s bigger than Lance’s ego.  I watched Mike and Mike on ESPN this morning.  While they summarized the interview well, they quickly breezed through and went right on to the bigger, easier and tastier story of the day, the poor Notre Dame football player who got catfished.  I don’t blame ESPN.  It has to hurt when the self proclaimed world wide leader in sports gets scooped by Deadspin, the world wide leader in telling Donald Trump to go F himself.  Not to mention, catfishing a college football player is way more interesting to the majority of viewers than doping in a sport that only makes the news for three weeks in July.  But, what if there’s a bigger fish to fry?

My TOC Photos Take on New Meaning
What if there is systematic doping in Soccer, Football, Baseball, Basketball…sports where the money is bigger, the fame more intoxicating and the rules are way more lax?  What if your kid, your nephew, the high school phenom next door doesn’t have a shot at making the team unless Mom starts making room in the fridge pronto to store some blood?  On Oprah, you may see a mature man in his early 40’s, but think about how young he was when it started to get real.

Who’s asking these questions Sally Jenkins?  Isn’t it obvious that if Lance says he saw himself as being on a level playing field, that this is way bigger than we can imagine?  C’mon it’s cycling.  By salary comparison, most cyclists don’t make in a career what most football players make in a year.  Still, Lance alludes to a peloton 200 or so deep, all with their doctors and support staffs systematically doping, for at least 7 years.  Doping has to be engrained deeper in other sports.  Maybe that’ll come out on part two tonight with the 2nd place world wide leader in sports, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

What's behind those drawn shades?
Let me help pull the wool jersey from over their eyes.  It couldn’t have stopped with Lance.  It couldn’t have stopped with baseball player hearings on Capitol Hill.  It must be still happening.  It can’t be one or two bad apples.  It’s has to be orchards upon orchards.  Sure cycling now has the biological passport and out of competition testing, but come on.  They don’t do a whole lot of that in football or baseball, where penalties are measured in days not years.  I’ve never seen a doping control tent at a ball game stadium.  History has shown us that doping has a way to stay a wheel length ahead of the knock on the door.  It can’t be only cycling.  Who’s shining the light on soccer, football, baseball, basketball?  Who’s nosing around those doctor’s offices?  Who’s swinging by the baseball team locker room for a look?  What’s going on in the college team hotel before the big game?  What are those kids really doing after school?

Damn I Loved George
Maybe it is up to Deadspin to dig it up and steal some more world wide thunder.  Last night we saw the fastest guy from the fastest team admit to years of systematic doping.  While Lance danced around giving “the look” to specific others, journalists could pull up any team roster from any sport and find some names, players, doctors, trainers to start with.  February sweeps are right around the corner.  If anything, Lance proved it’s not a witch hunt and more likely shooting fish in barrel. 

When you discover that doping likely didn’t come to a magical halt with cycling in 2005, and probably takes place in other sports, sports with crazy rock star money, sports with much more lax penalties for doping, then you’re getting at something.  Then take a look at how these athletes get to the pro level.  Who missed the cut?  Who’s next in line to make the pro jump?  Look at the feeder leagues.  Look at college sports.  Seriously, take a look at high school. 

Right now there are talented 14 year old kids out there who might have a chance to go pro, only they need to be much bigger, much faster and have much more endurance to compete with all the drug users and enablers that currently occupy the team rosters and staffs.  Put your arm around one of those kids, read the “side effects” of EPO, Testosterone, and Steroids and ask yourself, does it really matter if everyone is doing it?

Or, you could just run with this catfish thing.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

S4: E5: Juniors Day at #cxnats

Boys 13-14 Start
A few weeks ago during the Christmas to New Years week I found myself glued to streaming video from Europe watching the Christmas week races astounded at how fast the Belgians rode and how utterly ridiculous they make the rest of the world look, sans a select few. As I watched sketchy descents, slimy mud riddled uphills, and wicked off camber I came to the realization that if we want to be as fast as the Belgians we have to ride in those conditions - cold, wet, muddy, crazy disgusting days where it is way easier to pull up a Family Guy repeat on Netflix than it is to get on our bike and trash it riding laps at Kings in mud puddles. I even downloaded a preview of the Dutch Rosetta Stone thinking maybe I should dig in and listen to the announcers - that they would hold some secret to understanding how they do it.

Ed Fritzinger on his way to 3rd place
Today our juniors competed in arguably the toughest conditions I have personally witnessed on a cross course - and in recent years we have witnessed some crazy stuff. From 10 degrees and a foot of snow in Bend, mud puddles as big as a lake the following year in Bend, and mud to your ankles last year in Madison seemed really harsh - until this year.

We awoke to a hazy fog - that cool, damp, misty fog you get when the temperature warms up and the 12 foot piles of plowed snow start to evaporate. It had rained about 3/4" in the past 12 hours, putting more water on a frozen substrate, combined with the snow and black ice that was already on the course and basically turned the course into three courses. You could ride in slushy snow, black ice, or slushy half frozen mud - you had your choice. The only issue was that you didn't know where or when either of those existed.

This is the experience we need in America.
Boys 15-16 before pit #1

The trick to the course was knowing when to go fast. This is what I believe the Belgians know way better than America knows, and I am only beginning to understand. To ride the course this week you had to have a patience that surpassed your emotion. Time after time you would see guys power up big to go fast, only to end up on their backside kicking the bike back off them. The Belgians understand this - they understand that smooth is fast and that smooth is a matter of interpretation. And they have ridden that instance enough to know how to ride it again and again.

Spencer Petrov being interviewed
Practicing in these elements and repeating this for 11 days of insanely difficult races around Christmas has become their secret ingredient. For the US this is the second year of racing Nationals after the New Year and in line with the European Nationals calendar. For the sake of the future of our juniors we have to remain on this date. The experience they got today gives them a taste of what Christmas Week means in Belgium - our own little one-day EuroCrossCamp if you will. Each of the last two years it has been these elements.

It pains me to say that. I liked having it over before Christmas and being able to move on to road season. But the Belgians aren't going to change their ways - Christmas Week will live on, and we will continue to send our juniors and seniors over to compete against them. To compete on that stage we have to continue to build this skill, build this ability to ride on days when we don't want to ride - the days that take hours to clean up kits and bikes.

It is the only way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

S4: E4: #cxnats Course Pre/Review

Our typical nationals strategy is to partake in the B races, see how the course shapes up and then attempt to predict how the course will shape up based on weather predictions through the week. Usually the courses see continual degradation as the week progresses and the ruts get ruttier earlier in the day on each progressive day.

This year the course is going to be a mess from the start.

Early morning and still solid
The first B race this year was at 9:30am, with nearly a perfectly frozen course. The corners were sketchy, there was soft snow in places, but really the course was sort of predictable and very little mud on the bikes after this race. By the 10:30am race that was changing very, very rapidly and by the 3:00pm single speed race it had started to refreeze.

Refreeze you say? At 3pm?

Before we all got here Wisconsin was cold - like really cold. Up to three weeks in advance of us arriving the the temps struggled to get into the 20s and the tundra froze to a solid state. Whether those of us who only visit Madison on the first full week of January want to admit it, the temps really are typically very cold in January. The air temperatures aren't really the deciding factor on the surface area of the ground thawing, but rather the sunlight. Where there is ample sunlight there is thawing. As soon as that sunlight dips to an acute angle, things start to refreeze.

The kicker of this is that the low temperature for Thurday night and Friday night is in the mid-30s - but it won't matter. The ground is so frozen a lot of the areas will freeze back up as soon as the sun is gone - that snow layer is protecting the ground from thawing.

But it gets better.

Mid-day thaw - some water appearing
On top of very frigid temperatures, they got about 18" of snow. The course is plowed in its entirety from the start to the finish, leaving a 8"-18" berm, depending on location, along the course on both sides. At first it looks like Cottonelle tissue stacked and lining the course to prevent any injuries should you run astray from your intended target. While it is softer than the ground below it, it is creating a different problem - it is also thawing. In places this thaw is creating a  flow of liquid along the course, over the course, down hills, essentialy the path of least resistance. In the final 3:00pm course some of these areas were freezing and becoming slick while the race was in progress.

But, wait, there is more.

More you say? Sure, there is also rain in the forecast. Mid-30s, a solid breeze at 15-20 mph, and rain. What will rain do to course already surrounding by a large amount of frozen water? Worst case scenario planning has the Lionheart coaches heading to the local bait-n-tackle shop for some 40 lb test line, a rod and reel suitable for a Marlin, and a quick refresher on big game fishing. With a lot of rain this place will be undoubtedly wet and definitely deeper in mud.

What will it be like during my race?

Late day thaw with a stream of water
Who knows. Seriously, planning tires for the course right now is like sticking a dollar in a slot machine in Vegas - odds are not in your favor. Your tire of choice may work at the start, then be awful at the end. You also probably won't find a tire that works for the whole course. The shady parts continue to be snow/ice, the sunny parts have surface mud and very slippery, and the parts only partially in the sun are refreezing.

My perspective is that the focus may not be on the surface, but rather the solid underlayer. The much that does exist is not deep, and the ground seems colder and more frozen than last year, so odds are that it will stay frozen longer. Target the base, get a tire that makes you feel good, lower the pressure as low are your eardrums can handle and go for it.

Partial shade = half and half

Puddle of thaw beginning to refreeze

Apparently this is a sand pit

Black ice waiting to happen

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

S4: E3: #CXNats Junior Jitters & Preview

In the past couple years USA Cycling has created the racer ranking system.  At least to some degree, it has helped demystify racing at CX Nationals. For the juniors supported in this final week of the National scene it has done nothing to calm their nerves - in fact it may have made it harder. A large number of OVCX kids are highly ranked, so let's take a look at each of the junior races and see who has a shot at a podium in Madison.

Before the ranking system the races were a lot more random.  Knowledge of the other kids was non-existent. The staging was based on last year's podium plus a few other non-racing related criteria. You really didn't know until right before race. With the huge growth comes huge pressure on getting it right.  While there are some flaws in the ranking system, it seems to be the most consistent and fair way to execute the call-ups for Nationals. Our masters racers might not agree when they are racing 6 rows deep, but that is the beauty of racing at a national level.

For the kids it is harder. Remember back to 7th grade? Remember that kid that was a puny 4' 5" twig when you left school last summer? Seemingly over the summer he developed the ability to grow a 5 o'clock shadow by 2:30pm when the bell rang for the end of the school day. Having been to the last four CX nationals that is exactly what happens in the junior races. The kids that were slow (or fast) last year may not be so the following year. Sweaky voiced and hairy, puberty is the great unknown.

As the kids prepare for their races they have no idea who in the United States has suddenly developed Eric Heiden's thighs while maintaining Tyler Hamilton's scrawny upper body. A kid growing a mustache in the 10-12 juniors race tends to quickly intimidate an 9 year old with his seat slammed to the top tube on his hand me down 44cm Redline.

Junior 10-12

The 10-12 age group is probably the single hardest category to predict. Last year we watched Sydney Lach demolish the race on a physically demanding course. Just being large enough to ride a 700c wheeled bike is an immediate leg up on this field as the 24" Redlines are very popular in this crowd. On a physically demanding course the advantage in this crowd goes to the best overall athlete. This year they changed the 10-12 race, putting it on a shorter course and removing the pieces that were the most physically demanding. With the hardest element being a set of barriers the playing field is a bit more level, as the emphasis is on riding fast on relative flat ground.

OVCX Girls - 2 - (9) Kate Seiler and (10) Amber Payne

OVCX Boys - 10 - (1) Will Bobrow, (2) Thomas Francisco, (3) Nicholas Petrov, (6) Lucas Stierwalt, (8) Gabe Dobrozsi, (9) Brennan Foster, (13) Jacob Krynock, (16) Lewis Gatch, (19) Garrett McNear, (30) Keaton Adams

Wow!  TEN boys in this age group at Nationals? This race will be really fun to watch, particularly with the OVCX currently holding FIVE slots on the front row. Congrats to Greg Keller of Mud and Cowbells Blog and Boulder Junior Cycling for bringing an armada of young juniors. Out of the top 20 ranked boys, OVCX holds nine slots, and Boulder Junior Cycling holds seven. It will be a battle to see which program can gather the most podium slots.

Junior 13-14

While the 10-12 race is hard to judge going in, the 13-14 has a huge range of abilities. OVCX has kids in the 13-14 age group racing at the top of our Cat 3 races - in fact several of them. But this is also the category that sees the most "man-children" that hit puberty on the early side and make grown men jealous. If you look through some of the podium pics from the past few years it almost seems unfair that  these kids have to race against each other.

OVCX Girls - 5 - (1) Kennedy Adams, (4) Sydney Lach, (8) Veda Gerasimek, (14) Kate Dietrich, (17) Emma Hayes

OVCX Boys - 8 - Ed Fritzinger, Alex Christian, Jackson McNear, Enzo Allwein, Dylan Rockwood, Eli Woodard, Cameron Fisk, Mark Myles

Junior 15-16

Kids entering the middle teens start to resemble adults.  In some cases they start making adults cry. In our own OVCX series we have seen the development of a trio of 15-16 juniors to the top of the Elite field.  Sons start to stomp on their fathers leaving tears of pain and joy. Our 15-16 girls have fought their way to the top of our growing women's elite field as well, giving them the race experience they need to do well in Madison.

OVCX Girls - 4 - (2) Katherine Santos, (6) Mackenzie Green, (9) Rachel Dobrozsi, (10) Emily Falk

OVCX Boys - 9 - (3) Ian McShane, (4) Spencer Petrov, (5) Gavin Haley, (9) Nicholas Vorwerk, (15) James Francisco, (21) Jedidiah Fritzinger, (22) Zachary Ross, (29) Justin Bird, (30) Nathan Ross

Junior 17-18

At this age the kids, well really they aren't kids anymore. When Drew Dillman was still racing age 18 (just last year) he was making our Elites feel the pain and racing in Belgium. Kids on the podium in this race have a ton of experience and many of them have experience beyond the US.

OVCX Boys - 6 - (3) Stephen Bassett, (4) Gunner Dygert, (7) John Francisco, (20) Luke Beemer, (25) Nolan McQueen, (50) Daniel Santos

In all that is forty-four kids with OCVX racing experience heading to Madison to represent our region. Whether you are from Indiana, Kentucky, or Ohio take a moment to root for these kids and if you are friends with one of them on Facebook or follow one of them (or their parents) on Twitter take a moment to give them a shout out. You have supported them all year, whether you knew it or not, by giving them a fantastic opportunity to develop their skill in preparation for this moment.

Monday, January 7, 2013

#CCCNYR Roadtrip: It’s not about the Bikes

Podium Girls?  No.  Snowmen in Chicago
The fire alarm went off just past 3am on Saturday night at the Hilton Indian Lakes Resort, host of the Chicago Cyclocross Cup New Years Resolution UCI races.  Sunday morning, the race announcer would remark, “I’ve never seen so many pro’s in their underwear!”  You learn neat little revealing tidbits about people on bike road trips, things that could make or break a fun trip.  Choose your room/car mates wisely.  Ask yourself, what would you do if you were in your boxer-briefs, in a post-race deep coma and the place caught fire when it’s 19 degrees outside?  Would you put on pants and boots?  Grab your car keys?  Make your teammate get his skinny butt out of bed?  

Despite knowing that fire can sweep through a house in like 4 minutes, we assumed a false alarm.  BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.  It went off again!  I could hear the alarms start in the south part of the building and, like a wave, reach our room.  “Oh, this must be real.” I jumped out of bed, slipped on my pants and Crocs, donned a baseball cap, grabbed the room key off the coffee bar and headed out the door.  In a muffled southern drawl, Gers muttered a joke about a smoker jonesin’ for a grit and gathered more pillows around his ears.  I left him to die.

J-Pow! Leads Sand on Saturday
Out in the lobby were about 100 guests in various states of readiness, like my buddy Peter and his family.  His wife clutched her purse and car keys, kids clinging to her legs.  Others, like me, had exposed toes and a two day old t-shirt, no wallet, coat or car keys.  Still no one was stepping into the frigid night until smoke reached our eyebrows and the pajamas started to feel warmer than normal.  Remarkably with a hotel full of racers and $5000 rigs, not one person in view opted to save their bike.  The ladder truck rolled up.  A fireman put a key to the alarm console at the concierge desk.  It shut off.  We sighed.  Then, it blared again starting from the far south of the building.  Uh-oh time.  The firemen returned with axes and more gear.  Something was on fire.  It must have been minimal.  Within a few minutes, the all clear sounded.  I returned to the room.  Gers grumbled something.  We never heard the cause.  The next day he admitted he had a plan to escape certain death.  He would break our 1st floor window with my trainer. 

Gers Couldn't Resist the Instagram Allure
“They should have windmill powered cars,” Gers said as our 4 and a half hour road trip conversation turned to inventions.  On our way up, we were passing the giant wind farm between Chicago and Indianapolis along I-65.  Gers googled, “Did you know there are 87 windmills?  Looks like a shit-ton more to me.  I mean look at ‘em.”  I nodded and filled the pause, “You know, a windmill powered car would be the perfect closed circle of propulsion.  The faster you go, the more energy you create.”  Gers agreed, both of us completely neglecting the physics of friction and aerodynamics.  We still had 200 miles to go, conversation was imperative.  Gers would invent the modular trailer 20 miles later, like Legos with stackable and removable compartments depending on how big or small the load.  It seemed brilliant at the time.  You could put your bikes in one, gear in another.  Now I’m struggling with how they’d latch together.  The corn fields and miles whizzed by.

Saturday Chicago Cross Cup Elite Men Podium
South of Chicago we flipped on the famous radio station Chicago’s Finest Rock, 93 WXRT.  It was Gers first time listening.   With my background in radio, I explained what a rarity this station was, surviving with an odd mix of eclectic classic rock, new alternative hits, authentic Chicago blues artists and Grammy worthy nuggets in between.  Segueing from the Rolling Stones to Peter Gabriel to Mumford and Sons, I was digging it.  Growing up in nearby Milwaukee and having lived in the northern Chicago suburbs for a few years, I appreciated every song that dripped out of the speakers.  Then the true test came.  I turned up the volume for The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man.”  Gers started singing it, “26 dollars…in my hand.”  “Yeah,” I thought, “he’s cool.”  This is a guy I can share a hotel room with.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

S4: E2: #CCCNYR Pro race review

Chicago Cross Cup New Years Resolution, aka #CCCNYR, is seen by many as a tune up for the National Championship race a week from today in Madison, WI. If the racing seen the past two days is any indication we will have quite a race to watch on Sunday.

Saturday and Sunday were similar and different all at the same time. On Saturday snow fell literally right before the elite race, with the women racing through almost blinding snow at times. The racing was very, very fast with a strong group at the front trading punches. Sunday was without snow and with the sun during the day have become almost tacky. Again the racing was super fast with a large group trading punches. 

J-Pow sighting - somewhat rare in recent weeks.
The field Saturday featured Jeremy Powers, Tim Johnson, Troy Wells, Yannick Eckmann, Brian Matter, Tristan Schouten - and even our own Ryan Knapp. With the course lacking a lot of technical features, tire selection and grip in the corners was key today. Jeremy Powers seemed to struggle with tire pressure as he was in and out of the pits frequently and even admitted on Twitter to have taken a non-standard line a couple times to prevent the tire from bottoming out.

That action was fast all race long with each of the stars in the front six trading punches trying to split others off the back. Eventually J-Pow punched late and went on to victory with Driscoll close by in 2nd place. Eckmann and Johnson battled for third with Eckmann taking the final podium spot. Our own Ryan Knapp fought to 7th place after an initial separation during a dual 180 off camber twist.

First bottleneck proved costly for some - this wreck gave Johnson, Powers, Matter, 

Eckmann and the leaders through the sand.

Tripods were very common.

Former teammates converging in the sand.
Sunday the lineup was similarly star studded, but without snow. This lead to an even larger front group and extremely fast action. I believe the racers did 10 laps of the course which is a blistering pace to keep. Similar to Saturday a large group of stars formed at the front with Page, Johnson, Driscoll, Matter, Eckmann, Wells, Werner, and Marion. Marion? Yeah, Robert Marion - a relative unknown - was hanging in this crowd.

As the race progressed road race tactics started to play out on the course. Without a lot of technical features it was attack/counter-attack lap after lap with no one getting away. All the attack/counter-attack action had Robert Marion (Carpediem Racing) on the ropes about halfway through the race. But, the lead group of seven checked up through the start-finish and started trading quiche recipes, giving Marion a chance to catch on.

He thought catching on meant counter-attack (classic road strategy) and almost as soon as he caught the sleepy group of riders he punched it. Cannondale had two riders in the group and road strategy played with Johnson letting Driscoll attack and chase Marion. Page was following Johnson everywhere and given that Johnson stayed in the larger group Page was content to hang out. This left Wells, Eckmann, Werner, and Matter to do the chase making with Johnson disrupting when given the chance. In short order Driscoll had caught and passed Marion and had built a 10 second gap on Marion with another 12 seconds to the group.

Having seized the day Marion was now in no-mans land riding his guts out, snot frozen to his scraggly beard, laying everything out trying to nail a podium spot in the race. With a lap and a half to go the gap remained the same, but the tension was mounting. The CCCNYR was cheering Marion at every turn, knowing at some point Page and Johnson were going to try to nail him back.

With a lap to go Marion still have 12 seconds, but then Johnson started to drill it. Everyone watched the suspense as Johnson reeled Marion down to 5 seconds, then finally passed through the sand section with only a four turns left to the race. Now the attention turned to Page and his chase of both Marion and Johnson. Relief spread through the crowd as Marion was able to hold off Page to score a podium position with Driscoll and Johnson.

If the racing of the last two days is any indication of the horsepower that will be in Madison, then Sunday this week will be a special treat - don't leave Madison can be late to work on Monday, just tell them The Best Bike Blog Ever said it was OK.

Great elite field with Page making a rare US appearance.

Page leading the initial line through the sand.

Drisoll getting some air out of the sand dunes.

Drisoll leading Marion after splitting the group.

All eyes on Page as the chase continues.

Robert Marion - clearly the man of the day.