Archive | October, 2005

Pro Cycling News -Moratorium Declared on Stories Involvling Words "Basso," "not" and "Giro"

31 Oct

Alright, kiddies; today’s post is going to be something of a cycling news bouillabaisee, so read slowly and hold on to your butts. First item of importance: Cyclocosm is declaring a unilateral moratorium on reporting that Ivan Basso is not doing the Giro. I think the world freakin’ gets it, already. You know, it was news when I made fun of Eurosport for being like “Basso might not race,” after Bjarne Riis had said “Basso won’t race,” it was funny when Velochimp made fun of everyone for being like “hey, you hear the news that Basso won’t rac the Giro?”, but this (scroll down) is getting (scroll down) ridiculous (scroll down). Everyone who cares, already knows. Don’t the big cycling news organizations mine the blogosphere for stories and fresh opinions? Honestly, if this page were The Drudge Report and cyclingnews were CBS, someone would have been fired by now.

Moving right along, there appears to be trouble brewing (scroll down – again) on the new Milram team. Despite earlier reports that “y’know, it’ll be cool, having two top-level sprinters on the team. Petacchi, will get the Giro, Zabel the tour,” Petacchi’s new ambitions (which sound about as legit as Brad McGee’s Grand Tour hopes did) might upset this balance. I’m just astounded that only one dude was able to pick up on this. I must have gotten too worked up ripping into Dick Pound. Whatever, man; Pound, you still suck.

In case you’ve been on Mars for the past decade, in a cave with you eyes shut, and your fingers in your ears, Lance Armstrong hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend. Though the performance wasn’t very funny, cyclingnews’ washed-out pictures of a TV screen are absolutely hilarious. Hey, guys, it’s called TiVo. How do you think folks got all those shots of the “wardrobe malfunction” on the internet mere seconds after it went down. Anyway, point is, Lance, not that funny. Dave Z, on the other hand, is way droll. So for those among us who’d rather not pay the $35,000 clams to get dropped by Lance (un-funny), there’s an online auction to ride with DZ (funny) here.

And to close out the post, we’ve got this post at Velogal, that reports the Tyler Hamilton IMAX movie from the ’03 Tour is coming out soon. Thing is, on the movie poster, they seem to have replaced Tyler Hamilton with Jimmy Casper. Now, I know Tyler’s not the most handsome guy on earth, but Casper’s not exactly Brad Pitt, either. I don’t see why they’d swap the…oh yeah, that doping thing. Guess the filmmakers weren’t swayed by the whole “vanishing twin” dealie. But hey, you never know, the case is, after all, still pending.

Pro Cycling News – Magnus Falls Short, Why 'Cross is Awesome

30 Oct

Magnus Backstedt’s derny-paced hour record attempt fell well short (scroll down), yesterday, as the big Sweede was behind Matthe Pronk’s 66kph pace from the first time split. I know I had promised not to report on this earlier in the week, because gimmick hour records are stupid, but because Maggie sacked up and finished the hour for the crowd, despite being out of contention for the record and in visible difficulty, I’ll give it some press. Many suggest that Backstedt’s choice of a colossal 60×12 gear (a step up from the merely enormous 60×13 he had been training on) may have cost him the record. For comparison, you’d have to kit out your regular road rig with one of these to get that heavy a gear.

I’ve been trying not to get sucked into reporting on cyclocross (except for my own bush-league racing) because I don’t want to have to cover it year-round. But dang, cool sh!t happens so much at ‘cross races! First, we got this Czech dude, coming in second (behind Sven Nys/Nijs) in a ‘cross world cup. But what’s that say on his shirt? No, it couldn’t be…hell yeah, it is! “Your Ad Here!” Plus it’s got a number so you can crank call him pretending to be Kona, or Johan Bruyneel or Ugo DeRosa or something. Then check out the conditions in Gloucester (that’s pronounced “GLAW-ster,” by the way) yesteday. Remember when they cancelled Het Volk? Man, roadies are so namby sometimes. Even Cyclingnews’ venerable Jeff Jones (there really is no one page to link to), himself no slouch on a bike, was put off by the conditions. It’s not like riding in the snow can’t be done; heck, you don’t even need a bike like this to do it. Racing in conditions like those is why ‘cross racing will always have a place on this page.

Pro Cycling News – Please, No More Tour Presentation News

29 Oct

I’m so sick of it. What was it, two hours of sitting a Paris auditorium, watcing a video, a slide show, and listening to a few speakers? And Velonews is picking it apart like a raven on a moose carcass. Yeah, there’s more stories; so many I’ve lost count. There’s this, which I guess means the UCI will longer recognize the Tour de France per se, just refer to it as the “French Grand Tour Entity.” I bet the guys over at ASO are laughing their tails off, saying “Whoa, who brought the hard guy?” in real sarcastic French to each other every time someone mentions this UCI/TdF feud. Like anyone will care about the ProTour if the Tour de France isn’t in it. I’d appreciate the UCI attempts to play hardball and “stick it to The Man,” except that a) the UCI has no leverage at all in this situation and b) the UCI is the man.

And it’s not like VN are the only ones to blame, here, either. They’re just the easiest. For example, John Wilcockson referring to the 1987 and 1989 Tours de France as being exciting because they were “post-Hinault.” John, man, what about your boy Greg? A few weeks ago, he was “fuoriclasse”, and now he’s table scraps from the Hinault era? And then there’s Fignon, who put it to The Badger like no other back in 1984. You want to call his epic duel with Lemond a side-effect of Hinault’s retirement three years earlier? And the ’97 Tour? That was exciting for you? Watching Ullrich put nine minutes on the field had you on the edge of your seat? And ’98? Do I even need to mention why cycling doesn’t need another ’98 Tour?

Woooo. Ok. Time to calm down, take my medicine, move on to other news. Like Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong squashing the beef. Yeah. They’re friends again. I could give you a whole cluster links, but why, when one will cover all the bases? And let’s look at some nice, soothing tech stories. And maybe a link to one more random cluster of news story to better fill out this undersized little paragraph.

Pound, Don't Be A Dick – Rant

28 Oct

What is your deal, Dick Pound? The very first time I heard your name, I was like “what sort of douchebag named ‘Richard Pound’ would go by ‘Dick?'” Little did I know, I was soon to find out. Pretty much from your first day as WADA chair, you went on steaming tirades about how cycling was full of dopers. You weren’t long on evidence, but for someone with an advanced degree in Law, you didn’t seem particularly concerned about it.

Your utter disrespect for due process further belied your extensive legal education. You dismissed the scientific objections of an expert lab director in the Hamilton case as “a hissy fit,” and suggested that Hamilton should give back his medal, despite the fact that, through the process you helped design as IOC vice-president, he was entirely cleared. And, after the (hopefully) final round of allegations against Lance Armstrong, you began spewing accusations so haphazardly that your own underlings had to come out and reign you in.

These things were troubling. But this, this is taking it too far. It’s not your pollution of the young and open minds that read Britan’s most liberal paper that bothers me; it’s that as a partner in a major Canadian law firm, the Chancellor of a prestigeous Canadian university and the Chairman of an international organization to persuade people not to dope, you couldn’t put forth a convincing argument to save your life. Allow me to elucidate:

“Imagine waking up one morning to learn of a poll that said almost 80% of the population believed that the sport they most identified with doping was cycling. Recently, in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, countries in which cycling is particularly popular, that is precisely what happened. Think of it – four out of every five people surveyed chose cycling as the sport with the greatest drug problem. This is a stunning indictment of failure on the part of officials, organisers and riders.”

Ok, first off, what is this “Imagine waking up” crap? You sound like that faux 50’s filmstrip from “The Simpsons” that tells of the horrors of a world without Zinc. Secondly, you know why cycling is most associated with dope? Because cycling has the most stringent dope regulations in the world. People are getting caught and reported on every few months, and that keeps it in the public eye. Take baseball in 1997. As we know now, there were enough steroids going around to make Ben Johnson spray his shorts. Did 80% of people associate baseball with drugs then? Nope. So by your logic, the sport must have been clean.

“What has been the traditional response of cycling when reports of rampant drug use surface? If from riders, the riders are immediately denounced, marginalised, written off as cranks or sued. If from the media, they are dismissed as untrue, exaggerated, not representative or taken out of context.”

Well, the rider accusations tend to be a bit warped. Philippe Gaumont admitted in his own book that he was whacked off his gourd on pot belge half the time. Jesus Manzano openly admitted that revenge was a motivating factor in his Kelme exposé in 2004. And the media? l’Equipe’s attack on Armstrong this August involved anonymous, six-year-old urine samples, hardly up to WADA’s procedural code. But were these “marginalized” or “dismissed?” Well, let’s see: Cofidis immediately suspended itself from the most important one-day races of the year, conducted a full investigation and fired two riders, all because of Gaumont, while Manzano’s accusations got Kelme banned from the ProTour. And would you call the two-month media firestorm that resulted from Armstrongate a “dismissal?”

“When confronted with the increasing number of deaths among young riders, cycling officials brush off the statistical anomalies by explaining, vaguely, that the athlete must have had a heart problem. When observations are made that cycling’s testing programmes do not seem to be effective, officials complain that they do more testing than in any other sport and that they should be congratulated, instead of criticised, for their efforts – even if it seems they are unable to find a drop of water in the ocean.”

Excuse me? The last “mystery rider death” I read about was in early 2003. Young riders are far more prone to dying on car bumpers than in their beds. At any rate, I know the first thing on everyone’s mind when they hear about a “mystery death” isn’t “heart condition,’ it’s EPO. And considering the number of positives testing turns up each year (Danilo Hondo, Tyler Hamilton, Aitor Gonzalez, Santi Perez, Stephan Van Dijk etc., etc.) I’d say it’s pretty effective. Can you name 5 top-level athletes in any sport who were busted for drugs in the past two years? Or are you “certain” that all other sports are clean for the same reason you’re “certain” that cycling is dirty?

“Take the Tour de France. It is one of cycling’s marquee events, famous all over the world. It is a gruelling event (some say too much so, and thus one of the reasons for doping), lasting almost a month, covering some difficult and mountainous territory. There is no doubt that some riders in the event are doped. In 1998, the extent of the doping became all too clear when the Festina team was found with industrial quantities of drugs and related equipment and arrests were made by the French police. This should have served as a call to arms for cycling. Apparently not. Drug use, within entire teams, continues unabated.”

Again, Dick, you’re really weak on evidence and research here. The tour used to cover far more ground, well over 4,000km in 25 stages in 1988, sometimes in chunks as large as 300k. After Festina, the race was intentionally shortened to reduce doping pressure. But you, omniscient god of drug in sport, don’t simply suggest, but indeed, know that “some riders in the event are doped.” Where’s your evidence? It is that the race is hard? Could you seriously be implying that humans cannot overcome momumental physical challenges without using drugs?

“Get something straight. This drug use is not the accidental ingestion of a tainted supplement by an individual athlete. It is planned and deliberate cheating, with complex methods, sophisticated substances and techniques, and the active complicity of doctors, scientists, team officials and riders. There is nothing accidental about it. All this cheating goes on under the supposedly watchful eyes of cycling officials, who loudly proclaim that their sport is drug-free and committed to remaining so. Based on performance, they should not be allowed outdoors without white canes and seeing-eye dogs.”

Remove the word “cycling” from this paragraph and it could be about any sport. But, Dick, you shouldn’t be allowed out of the library, even with a cane and a dog, until you crack the books and do some friggin’ research. 1) No one believes “accidental ingestion” cases. It is, after vanishing twin, the lamest excuse out there. Athletes know, and have known for many years, that they are 100% responsible for what’s in their bodies; 2) No one in their right mind proclaims that cycling (or any sport) is drug-free, and no one else believes people who do. It would be like believing, oh, I don’t know, the rantings of some old Canadian windbag, who insists wihtout evidence, that all cyclists are on drugs.

“Faced with overwhelming evidence that doping continues and that its own testing programmes are not effective, cycling should outsource them to an independent agency and act effectively to impose meaningful sanctions when positive cases arise. Testing needs to be targeted, with no notice, and from the moment a rider has been notified that he has been selected for a test he must be supervised until the sample is provided. The programme must operate 24 hours a day, to include the time when the doping activities occur.”

Dude, again with the “evidence.” Just tell me where it is. I will get it and publish it on this very web page. Oh, wait. I know where it is. It’s over in Iraq, in the Sunni triangle, with those elusive WMDs. Damn. Well, we’ll get it someday. As for the rest of this paragraph, I’m fine with it. Unfortunately, this is the closest you’ve ever come to a constructive solution to the problem of doping, and it’s two sentences out of what, thousands?

“Is cycling serious about doping? How about a biblical answer: there are none so blind as those that will not see. Until cycling itself acknowledges that there is a problem, it will not be able to find a cure. Ritual denial and organisational omerta are not solutions.”

Here’s my biblical response, Dick: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:2). Currently, Dick, you are nothing more than flaming, anti-everything mouthpiece, alienating valuable allies in your fight against drugs in sport. You get a lot of headlines, but you sure as sh!t don’t get a whole lot done.

Cycling does acknowledge its problem, otherwise they wouldn’t test as rigorously as they do. So stop running your trap and tone down the holier-than-thou act. Try working with the UCI for a change, instead of pissing all over them. Try giving a little credit when it’s due, and issuing criticism only when it’s warranted. There are a lot of people out there, Dick, who think that WADA might actually help reduce doping in sport someday. And at the moment, you owe us a whole lot more than you’re putting out.

Pro Cycling News – Tour Route Wrap-Up, They Took the Bar!

28 Oct

You want to know why everyone likes Cyclingnews so much? No, it’s not the fact that their staff is pretty good at writing, or that their webpage is simple and straight forward, or even that they’re constantly making sweet references references to everything from “South Park” (search “profit”) to The Italian Job. No, it’s their brevity and concision. They had two short flashes (one reporting, one analysis), then one feature on reactions (by the way, Johan B is a funny, funny man) from yesterday’s TdF route presentation. God, it’s like they planned it or something instead of just vomiting up articles (here’s another one, by the way) as they came in. Heck, even Pez, sometimes way too eager to prove they really do have people in Europe at events (try searching their page for “Lombardia”) has kept it to one tight report (and one decidedly underdressed Thomas Voeckler) so far.

Outside of the Tour thing, news is a bit slow. That is, perhaps, why no one can seem to agree on who this Tour favors. With more news out there, riders, reporters, analysts and general hacks would give the route a brief whitewash, and move on to more important things. Instead, now everyone needs their own “special” take: Cyclingnews has called it “cautious,” Velonews says “difficult,” Michael Rasmussen says “easy,” Daily Peloton has called it a “climbers'” race, Rudy Pevenage says it will “favour all the main contenders,” and one poster on Usenet called it “an Ullrichfest.” So what do I think? I think it will be a week and a half of suspense and crashing followed by immense boredom (see 2004). Per Tyler Hamilton’s concerns, the cobbles have been swaped for the low hills of Belgium and Germany, and there’s and earlier TT, but still, the 100k of chrono isn’t enough to favor the fat, powerful riders. Whichever skinny jerk (Basso, Valverde, Cunego, etc) is the least beat after 2 weeks of racing will ride away from everyone, just like Armstrong did. Except that now, this “drama” of taking the peloton out behind the woodshed, will once again be “epic,” because for the first time in 7 years, it’ll be some other dude administering the beatdown.

Of course, there’s other news out there, too. O’Grady to CSC has been getting a fair amount of press, and Landis at the Giro has raised a few eyebrows as well. Disco’s Hayden Roulston got in another fight, but the team appears to have his back. And the freaking Magnus Backstedt derny hour record has been getting way too much attention, and I refuse to link to it (until he dumps the derny). The big news for me is here (scroll down): No more ‘cross beer tents. Having recently enjoyed a beer tent, I can safely say that there is almost not risk posed to riders (at least, those riders who are not cutting the course) by having beer on site at ‘cross races. No word on how the Belgians plan to react to this, but I know how someone else would.

Pro Cycling News – Tour Route Revealed, O'Grady to CSC

27 Oct

Yup, that’s the only news around. Eurosport has three stories about it (including what appears to be an Eminem reference. Velonews adds four more features, including one addressing the issue of doping, yet without mentioning Dick Pound’s formless, meandering diatribe in yesterday’s Guardian. Way to cover relevant news stories. It’s like all of American cycling coverage slides off the face of the earth when the words “Tour” and “de” arn’t followed immediately by “France.” And speaking of my boy DP, don’t think I forgot about my threats from yesterday. I lit pound up but good in a Rant that’ll be posted tomorrow, when the page stops looking like crap. That way, when people link to it, it’ll look respectable and whatnot.

So what is the ’06 Tour like? Like no Tour’s been for a while. Flat for a week, then a TT, then only two days in the Pyrennes, then two flat stages, then 4 days in the Alpes, then a TT and home to Paris. All the action in the last two weeks with little futzing around waiting for tour to end so the guy in Yellow can win. It’ll also be chaotic for the first week, so lookout, Tyler Hamilton, if your doping chrages get dropped. Also, I wonder who gave them the more chronos idea. But what to the riders and coaches think? Well, Bjarne Riis is clearly bummed that they’ll be no TTT, Johan Bruyneel thought he was singled out in doping discussions, Basso is revved up, but Valverde says he needs to do some serious TT tareja. Partick LeFevere thinks there at 10 stages Boonen could win (that’d be a record, or something), Floyd Landis thinks its ok, Ullrich’s coach Rudy Pevenage thinks there’s something for everyone, and Rassmussen says it’ll be harder to win the dots this time around.

Velonews, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, has put up another story, bringing their total to five. Though cyclingnews is currently asleep down in Australia, they’ll be hard pressed to match that kind of production. Oh, yes, this most recentl article is just another “France hates Lance” sort of thing; Jean-Marie LeBlanc, introducing his last TdF as ASO chief, referred to the Armstrong era as “a very, very long chapter.” Here are some other pieces on the topic, while the “other” news today is that Stuart O’Grady has signed with CSC.

Pro Cycling News – More Tour Speculation, More Italians in Flanders, More Dick Pound

26 Oct

Ah, you gotta love wild media speculation. You may recall that yesterday, I threw caution to the wind and published some dude’s wild tour route speculations. Well, looks like I’ve started a trend. Yup, and if they’re not guessing at the route, they’re guessing and who’s gonna ride it. Eurosport thinks Ivan Basso might skip the Giro to focus on the Tour, while everyone else is pretty much certain. Since OLN recently purchased rights to the Giro, San Remo and Lombardy, American viewers might actually get to see the Giro to find out. And while were on the subject of Italian cycling and linking madly to Velochimp, fast man Alessandro Petacchi seems to have thrown his hat in the Flanders ring for ’06. Some of you may recall that Paolo Bettini has also expressed interest in Flanders next spring, though his announcement was less of a suprise, since he’s won a few classics that don’t end in group sprints.

And then there’s Dick Pound. But first, I’m gonna show you some tech stuff because Dick Pound sucks. Why does Dick Pound suck? Here’s a brief example: “Drug use, within entire teams, continues unabated.” That’s an interesting thing for Dick Pound to say. In my country, America, one is at least expected to fabricate some sort of evidence when making accusations. The fact that Dick Pound is from Canada apparently excludes him from this expectation. Canadians must feel much the same way about Dick Pound’s nationality that I feel about Tom DeLay’s. Look, his wild accusations make the young Frenchman Jerome Pineau cynical about his future in cycling (scroll down). Don’t worry, Canadians and Jerome, I’ll see to it that Dick Pound gets his (in so far as I can see to it) later today. Until then, Daily Peloton has some nice team rundowns for 2006.

Exte Ondo Onther Gloves – Review

25 Oct

No, that’s not a typo. I, cheapskate of all cheapskates, did in fact buy a high-end ($45 retail for a pair of short-finger gloves) cycling product. I just wanted to see if all this talk that spending big for a high-end product would really save you money in the long run. That, and I needed a new pair of gloves after my Cipo’ specials disintegrated in my most embarassing crash this summer.

Style: 5. Smooth and simple. At the end of the “Crash!” DVD, when Laurent Jalabert abandons the ’96 TdF (back when people thought he might win it), he buries his face in an ONCE pink pair of these. That’s classic. Name another style that’s been in the cycling world for a decade.

Construction: 2. Kind of a let-down. No hidden jabby parts, but tons of loose threads and bad stitches. I ripped a seam the first time I put them on. And the thumbs are way, way to small. Maybe Euros all have small thumbs (or I have fat ones?) It was weeks of struggling before I get them on and off smoothly.

Features: 4. Best snot rag section ever. Huge area, good shape. Plus it catches the goobers enough to pull them off your face, but not enough that they stay on and harden. The spandex backing stretches tight and keeps the hand cool, and the dual-mesh sections of the palm add toughness without water absorbancy. My only beef was with the extra padding, which, though tough, breathable and not at all bulky, didn’t extend to the base of the hand, where I like it most on the road (though it did extend to between the thumb and forefinger, so riding on the hoods on a bumpy road won’t hurt so much).

Durability: 3. It’s a tough call here, because these absolutely shrugged off a very, very fast crash a few days after I bought them. And none of those broken seams or stitchings have spread. In fact, most of the currently visible wear came in the like first week or two I had them. But still, after 2,000 miles of wear, they look as beat other gloves I’ve had. Longer term, I expect they’ll wear less annoyingly (the Cipo’ gloves had an awful habit of letting fingers combine as seams broke), and in the end, outlive my other pairs, but right now, gotta go with 3.

Cost: 1. $45 dollars for gloves? For freakin’ gloves? Without neoprene, or Thinsulate or Gore-Tex or anything? Without even having long fingers? $45 f-ing bucks? Take a hike, Jack. (Of course, if you can find them somewhere for, say $20, I’d give them a 4. For $10.98, a definite 5.)

Final Thoughts: I really like these gloves. The bad seams soured me on them early, but they’ve earned my respect throught being there when I need them (like on days when it’s really hot, or when I crash, or when my nose is really runny). And a simple Internet search should get you right around that obscene price tag. It’s just a bummer that I have to keep moving my hands because the base of the palm gets sore from no padding.

Where they really shine for me is XC mountain biking, where your hands get way sweatier, crashes are more common, and the mid-palm padding lines up better with where my hand rests on the bar. These gloves wick faster, resist falling apart better, and keep your hands not sore better than any light MTB glove around. The only psuedo-downside is now your gloves don’t look like they just came off the motocross cicruit, but with all the 14-year-olds using 8-inch travel machines to ride to school, then calling themselves “freeriders,” I see that as a major plus.

Pro Cycling News – Tour Route Excitement, McEwen Perjures Self

25 Oct

Today I’m gonna switch it up and start with the month-old Interbike news, even if it is a little moldy (get it? Carbon fiber frames are made in molds? Hello? *tap-tap* Is ths thing on?). Anyway, the big news this week is gonna be the announcement of the 2006 TdF route. If you’re in Paris on Thursday, don’t think you can just drop by in your Levi’s and Chuck Taylors; it’s a fashonable, invite-only affair. I tried to scam a ticket from Velogal, but she was unresponsive. No matter; though all we know officially is the prologue route, thanks to the magic of Usenet and people who have less of a life than I do, here’s a speculatory route for the 2006 TdF.

Meanwhile, Robbie McEwen, who got attacked yesterday, seems to be a little, uh, unclear on what went down. Here’s his report from yesteday’s Sportal:

“There were three guys walking towards me and as we got level one of them king-hit me. I don’t know if [the attack] was an attempted mugging but it was definitely a cowardly act. I lost my footing after getting punched but managed to get back up and win the fight by 50 metres. I might have to look at an athletics career if cycling fails.”

But then, in today’s edition (scroll down) of cyclingnews, they reused parts of an interview with Cycling Australia:

“Three guys coming from the other direction, nothing going on, and they just about got level with me when one king hit me. Don’t know if it was an attempted mugging or thrill attack for the hell of it but definitely a cowardly attack. I didn’t hang around to find out. I managed to stay on my feet, spun around and won by 50 metres. There might be a career for me in athletics if cycling fails.”

“Lost my footing?” “Managed to stay on my feet?” Which is it, Robbie? Was it one of those, lost-my-footing-but-recovered-before-I-fell-all-the-way things? Did you ever have more than two points of contact with the ground? I mean, I’m not gonna think you’re any less tough if you fell over, but if police ever catch these punks, the defense is gonna have a field day with this, man. Oh, and we have clarification on the definition of “king hit” (scroll down); it’s more a really hard sucker punch, like blindsiding someone.

Catamount Cyclocross Weekend – Report

24 Oct

Well, not really the whole weekend, just Sunday. I skipped Saturday because I was trying to sleep off an injury from Friday night that left me digging a quarter-inch chuck of glass out of my left foot. At 2am Sunday (there was a “The Shield” marathon on), it was hurting like no other, so I cut it back open, peroxided the crap out of it and packed it solid with Neosporin before bed. At 7am, it still hurt too much to really put weight on. But whatever man, just wear like 4 thick socks, and it’s good to go. Rendezvous with Jon Shea at 8 and we’re off to Williston VT on scenic I-89.

Checked out the night before for registration information, but they just sent me to the event webpage, which sent me back to bike reg. So assuming a day-of fee, jshea and I stop for gas and cash. A few minutes up 89 after that, we’re immersed in winter wonderland, looking at 4-6in of heavy wet white stuff. So much for foliage. Images of a superultamega epic day dissolve, though, as just 20 minutes south of our exit, it goes back to being October. In fact, it may have been nicer at the race site than it was in Hanover. Ah well.

Head over to registration, and it’s a nice farmhouse porch (with a roaring fireplace, for some reason…) complete with Alan Atwood. Shea destroys me during the registration form competition, but everyone’s a winner because registration (even day-of) is a mere 10 bucks. Rock on. Only losing a limb or castrating myself of on the top tube could bring me down from that. Bathroom, change up, peer-pressure Jon Shea out of his “get dressed 30 minutes before start” routine and check out the course.

Start was in a swampy field, up some gradual climbing, then two barriers (around a 90-degree corner), run up, more climbs interspeesed with short, but not too challenging downhill corners, then a three-barrier run up, followed by a tricky descent with many tight corners, ending in a no-holds-barred fireroad blast into “the swamp.” In drought conditions, this might (maybe) have been regular grass/dirt. But given recent weather, it was a miracle it was not underwater. Actually, no; some of it was underwater. But for the most part it was a brown slurry the color and consistency of Nutella, occasionally with blades of grass growing out of it. That led into water, which became gravel, then barriers, then a way-sloppy uphill sprint to the finish. And in the middle of all that was what Shea called “The Who-Ha:”

It was, if you can imagine, a 90 turn to the right, about 3 steps
of pure mud downhill, 180 hairpin, 3 steps back up, and back on the
bike. So narrow that it was 1 person at at time, and was completely
unridable. Some people, on first seeing it, would try to ride it
(Steve Weller, me) with usually hilarious results. Most people just
took it all on foot. I tried to coast down it on 1 peddle, and then
plant both my feet into a skidding stop, which was fun if not fast.

Yeah, so technical race, fitness section followed by technical crap with a short bit of power at the end of each lap. Jon and I almost miss the start, but the friendly, rustic atmosphere (and people later than us) kept that from happening. I ditched everything but a jersey and shorts at the line (45 degrees, medium wind, intermittant drizzle) but it was the right call. Alan says go and we do. Having one gear makes for quick-off-the-line starts, but drafting was possible (if only psychologically speaking) on the first light climbs, so I eased off, finally settling for 2nd as the race became a string of riders. My glasses were fogging immediately, so I removed them with seconds to spare before the first barriers/run-up, which cost me a spot or two.

I was riding ok, with a group at the head of the race while some UNH kid got a big old gap (hey, a UNH kid cruising to the podium in a beginner race? What’s next? Knobby tires on ‘cross bikes?). I worked with the dudes around the first lap, taking the lead, even, on the fast part of the descent, but it was pretty clear that, killing myself, I could keep with them for (maybe) one more lap. The fat tires (1.55in) weren’t cutting the nutella as well as real ‘cross tires would, and the smaller wheels (26in) aggravated matters. Plus, though ideal for the dry parts, the 42×18 was plum to big for anything wet. Oh, and finding the hidden rock around off-camber hairpin #2 didn’t help, either.

So I began a nice little slide back through the field, until with two to go, I was in a three man group with Jay-Sheezy and some other guy named John. Now, I wasn’t hurting too bad in this group, but it was that awful, dull, “not fit enough” hurt, rather than the searing-but-satisfying agony of tearing up App Gap earlier this fall. Maybe I could have attacked, but I had faith in my sprint, so I sat on. On the lap before the bell, Shea lost his front wheel on the descent, prompting me to improvise a line through some tall grass, and hammer back to the other John. I think we were all back together again by the last lap.

As the bell rang, I just concerned myself with holding otherJohn’s wheel as we hit the wetter sections of the first climb. That task having been accomplished, I busied myself with mind games, half-wheeling the guy and running up close, but not quite next to or past him, on the run-ups and barriers. It really pisses my sh!t right off when people do that to me, so I’m hoping he found it equally annoying. As we hit the three-barrier run-up, Jon shot around me, bike on shoulder. I had been anticipating this, as Shea’s got way more guts than speed, and didn’t react, leaving the pursuit to otherJohn. Pursue he did, and we roared downhill still pretty close.

Coming out of the “Who-Ha,” Shea surged again. otherJohn followed again and opened up a pretty good gap to me, as this was the slowest part of the course for me. Coming out of the water, Jon was pretty much clear of John, and it was about as far back to me. I glanced down at the bottom bracket for a moment and was inspired by the Paris-Roubaix style mud, and ground as hard as I could through the slop. Clearing the barriers, it was apparent that otherJohn was trying to coast in uptempo, rather than hammer to the line, so I was like “ok, we’ve got a shot, here.” The sloppy “watergrass” (like the aforementioned Nutella, but completely covered with grass) made it hard to get things turning over, but fortune provided a harder surface as we approached the line, and I got it spun up proper, came around like Boonen on Valverde and finished with an absolutely goregous bike throw as insurance for 7th (jshea was one spot up in 6th). I sure hope someone got a picture of that.

Post race, I got washed, cleaned the bike and – get this – they had beer in the hospitality tent. Nice beer. Stella, Urkell, some other stuff. Sweet. So I chilled out (it was a bit chilly) in the pit with some other geeks, sipping brau and talking bike during the women/masters race. Man, what great atmoshpere. Sure beats the heck out of the “hold-your-fµ¢&ing-line-and-don’t-fµ¢&ing-talk-to-me” vibe in the pack at Jiminy Peak or Tour of the Hilltowns. Even the fines were assessed with good humor: the Women’s 2nd place finisher was assessed a (meaningless) 20-second penality for (and this was the official language) “dropping an F-bomb.” Yeah. Jon Shea and myself even got official clearance to stand over a shameless cheater line one of the expert men had cut past the toughest off-camber corner. If only such two-wheeled ecstacy could be had for a mere 10 dollars throughout the year.