AB Bike Racing, What Goes On?

May 27, 2013

In the words of Chuck-D, “What goes on?”

Glad I opted not to go out to PL after hearing about all the crashes. Scary stuff. STARS air ambulance, the works. Hope that everyone impacted heals up fast and is back on their roll soon, with no more than just a bit of road rash scars to remember it with. Also hope someone figures out a way to make the racing safer. Learn to race clinics sounds like a good start, but what do you do when it might be more of a learn to think situation? There’s a problem, that’s for sure.

This here’s the anthem for picking yourself up – or for road riding in general.

Hard, just like that.


Your new warm up song. Your new intervals song.

May 23, 2013

This is a really nice, bright, optimistic piece of music courtesy of the Daft Punk boys along with some vocals courtesy of Panda Bear. Loving it.

If you do it right
Let it go all night
Shadows on you break
Out into the light

If you lose your way tonight
That’s how you know the magic’s right.

And this track is right after that one on the new album. After about 3:20 you’ll know what I mean. The last 20-seconds of this is pretty much how I feel every time I do a hard interval. That whole feeling of increasing, rising. overwhelming white noise and intensity as you try to not give up. What’s rad is that this was done with DJ. Falcon, old school French House in tha house. Kill-er.


The black heart of a great mystery…

March 4, 2013

I found this book, Bone Games, by this guy Rob Schultheis. He’s a climber, wanderer, vagabond, nomad kind of fella. He was a war journalist during the first Gulf Way and very likely saw some pretty heavy shit. I stumbled across his book through a blog I read, where it was quoted. The rest of the title is “Extreme Sports, Shamanism, Zen, and the Search for Transcendence.”

That should give you an idea of what the book is about. It opens with the author conveying an anecdote of a near fatal climbing fall, one of those instances where he came out of it in one piece but if fate had decreed he was but an inch in any direction he surely would’ve died horribly, bouncing off the limestone of a 60 degree slope for a few thousand feet. He relates how he was forced to climb, without gear, through brutally loose and chossy rock from a small ledge. He describes finding himself in a state of impossible focus, his movement perfect and sublime, his mind clear, at peace, and utterly empty of thought. This heightened physical state is accompanied by a similarly unreal mental state. He exists in this state for nearly six hours, saving his own life by accomplishing the unfathomable. And as he does it, a passenger in his own body, he calmly bears witness to every infinite detail, his mind cataloging the porousness and grain-texture of the several thousand rocks his hands touch as he descends to salvation.

So, of course, he spends the rest of his life trying to find that state. Whatever it is.

His book asks this, but pushes the conversation beyond merely documenting a mental phenomenon that would probably be explained through heightened brain chemistry, neurological wiring, or ‘flight or flight’ shots of adrenaline if you were someone with a conviction for the mundane. Schultheis links to Tibet and beyond, relating elements of spirituality to this elusive state as he attempts to bring it about intentionally.  Satori, Mushin. Whatever you want to call it. Anecdotes can easily be found merely by searching. Martial artists describe it. Runners feel it. I’ve even heard reference to professional tennis players mentioning something like it. What is that? Why is that there? Perhaps the fact that some of us willingly expose ourselves to dangerous situations could be suggested as evidence to hint at it’s reality. Why else would we do these things? Climb, surf, BASE jump, glide, explore. Is there some innate yearning to find that unfindable thing, once known, but since cut off? Perhaps.

More than anything in his book, I was floored by a paragraph. His description of a behaviour and a sense that I have absolutely personally felt, at times, since I was fifteen years old. Every time I’ve had this feeling I’ve literally thought to myself that I was just a fraction away from awakening to something. Like a fish a millimetre below the surface of the water, knowing, somehow, that another reality exists just beyond reach and comprehension. I couldn’t believe that he had described this very thing that I had thought simply just a unique flight of fancy conjured up only in my own fertile imagination, way back when. As an adult every experience of this sense would remind me of it’s discovery when I was a kid. I know the feeling he describes well.

“The mountains smell sweet and wild, an incense compounded of wet stone, wet amber brush, wet moss, humus, generations of pine needles…and almost unbearable lovely smell; despite the cold I pull open the window to catch it all. The rain hisses down into the black heart of a great mystery that I am on the verge of discovering. Any moment now, I am sure, it will drift in on the mountain rain, into my life. Only it never ever quite arrives.”

That’s the feeling. I’m going to track down Mr. Shulthesis and at least let him know that I, too, have felt this brush of ‘more’, whatever it is. He even compares himself to yamabushi a sentence later. This is a term that tells me, directly, that this paragraph was unequivocally tucked away there, in that book, specifically for me to find and heed. As crazy as that sounds. So how am I supposed to just troop around normal life after finding something like that?


The rain and the sea and the hours.

December 26, 2012

Bernard Sumner stumbled into singing and he wasn’t ever particularly good at it, despite now being recognized as the unforgettably iconic voice of New Order. While he does a pretty good job singing this one what I love most about it is that you get this beautiful sentiment out of Sumner that you’d never, ever get from Ian Curtis. I mean, really, could anyone see Joy Division doing a song like this? Not a chance. But the sound of it is, of course, tinged with that haunting legacy of Joy Division hiding out underneath it all.

For me it’s the merger of those two things that makes this such a great track. The Village is a wonderful surprise and I think this is the song that Sumner probably actually sang best. It’s a surprisingly optimistic and organic song for a group that really was at the forefront of electronic music and pioneering those kinds of sounds – traditionally a lot of New Order stuff felt more alien, even when it was juxtaposed with more intimate or personal feeling in the words. With The Village you’ve got the natural world overlapping with all kinds of sentiment about love and emotion. Wow, it’s almost like the two things are inseparable. And if you’re a transcendentalist or romanticist you’d know that they’re forever entwined. I’m guessing he’s named it The Village as a reference to the place he refers to being in – ‘same place, same time.’

But tell me this doesn’t pull in all kinds of Whitman, Wordsworth, RWE. “Oh, our love is like the flowers?

And now imagine hearing this on vinyl in 1987. At 16.

When a new life turns towards you
And the night becomes a day
We shall remain forever
Everyone who meets his way
Oh, our love is like the flowers
The rain and the sea and the hours
Oh, our love is like the flowers
The rain and the sea and the hours 

When the rain falls to the sea
They’ll be waiting for you and for me
And the sky reflects our image
Trying to sleep right through our lives

Oh, our love is like the earth
The sun and the trees and the birth
Oh, our love is like the earth
The sun and the trees and the birth

I am still here two days later
Same place, same time
And I’m stuck here two years too long
Same place, the wrong time

Oh, our love is like the flowers
The rain and the sea and the hours
Oh, our love is like the flowers
The sun and the sea and the hours

Their love died three years ago
Spoken words I cannot show


Cross Crusade Wrap Up Party

December 16, 2012

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“Ok, let’s do these kid’s awards fast so we can drink grain alcohol and watch adult movies.”

Oh yeah, I JUST remembered why we were so fuzzy headed before the GPTB. It’s because what we did right after racing in Eugene and arriving in Portland was to go drink delicious Ninkasi microbrew beers at the Cross Crusade awards party. This thing was fun. Brad Ross, the head crusader, aka Dungeon Master, is one funny dude. He’s kind of like a funnier Ed Garvin. No offense, Ed. Same dry sense of humor and the guy that takes it all on and delivers. It was really interesting to see how the Crusade does this stuff. There’s so much that Alberta could borrow, even if we’d never hit the same scale. I was told that they will get A THOUSAND racers to the first Cross Crusade every year. I don’t even know where we could hold that in AB! Imagine racing a Masters heat with 200 people? 200. Two hundred. Blows my mind. And get this – the Crusade is the biggest OR ‘cross series, but its one of three. There is also the Psycosis series and the GPTB series. Any one of the three is about 4 times the size of the Euro Cross event that BiciSport and my club, Synergy, put on. Euro Cross was a great event for the first year, with around 300 racers over the two days, but it’s crazy to compare the two regions.

One thing that I think would be really neat for Alberta is to do an awards night for the ABA Cross series. It would take some doing but I bet it could be done. Slide show, awards, a bit of food, a bit of beer, a late night dance party, whatever.

Anyway, I would guess that there was 400-500 people at the event and many were dressed to kill. Justin and I rolled down in our road trip clothes, still haggard from the whole mega drive to a mega mud bog that the last three days had entailed. But 2-3 of those delicious beers set things straight right away. They were throwing so much stuff into the crowd I think everyone snagged something. Justin and I both were arbitrarily handed a box of Clif bars, and he also got some kind of pretty good looking Bob’s Red Mill cereal as well. They had awards for everything. Juniors, to Beginners, to Elite, to Best Crash, to Most Cipollini in men’s and women’s.

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GPTB Wintercross 2012

December 13, 2012
Justin gets us from Psycosis to a shower and late check out.

Justin gets us from Psycosis to a shower and late check out.

I suspect this post will get a bazillion more hits than all the other mediocre posts I fire off, willy-nilly, into the grand thing that is the Internet Cosmos. The reason why I feel that is because, despite the huge scene and incredibly cool vibe and attendance of this event, for all intents and purposes it has ceased to exist on the webs. I can’t find any photos, aside from one really great gallery that my road trip partner J-Mass was able to track down. So I think in the void of information, my humble little recap might be one of the few things the media-hungry GBTP bike racer will stumble into.

Here’s hoping!

BOOOM! And In Rolls Hot Sauce McConnell.

So, from Eugene and onto Portland and our cool digs down in Milwaukee. Really close walking distance to food, coffee, laundry, and a short drive to some great bars and lounges, plus River City Bikes. Kid in a candy store time, aw yeah. I booked our place on Air BnB. It was great – a little stove for warmth, everything you’d ever need. It sure got pretty ‘Man Cave’ in a hurry. Especially when cx racer extraordinaire Mark McConnell popped in on his way south for a few days. Mark was my road trip partner doing these races last year and we had a great time, it was super cool to have his company for a few days before we all hit Bend and he and Schooler headed off to the Belgian Big Leagues to race World Cups.

PDX Digs

McConnell at rest, amid some bike stuff.

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I think there was seven bikes and eight wheels sets in here.

 

We both woke up in the morning with absolutely no intention of racing. Ffffff no! Two full days in a car, a race the day before, then a 2 hour drive to Portland to settle in. We were loading and unloading all of the wheels, all of our bikes, and all of our gear at every stop. It was so nice to just get to one place to stay that the last we felt like doing was loading it all back up again and heading off to Washougal. Plus, I recall that we went out the night prior, nothing crazy but enough beer to merit a sleep in.

“To Race or Not to Race, that is the Question…”

Us going was a bit of a last second decision. We mulled it over. Both unable to properly sleep that night ’cause I think we were too excited. But we went from zero to a hundred in a heartbeat and I’m glad we did. I will always remember that. This lesson: just go, just go, just go, just go. Sign up, line up, see what happens. You can always fade to the very back and just finish a few laps or DNF if you have to.

I opted to race C instead of Clydesdale, which gave us more time to get out there, and Justin was just after me, with the Bs again. I’d been out to Washougal the year prior so I had a rough idea of the route to take. It was only about 30 minutes but we had to stop to get some food as we hadn’t even gone grocery shopping. We got there with about 15 minutes before my start and I had to get new numbers. Justin had pinned my Clyde numbers on but then we had to go and re-pin the new ones. So I had about 5 minutes before the start once I was clipped in and riding so I lined up in the last couple rows or so, content to just put in a lap or two and then flake out, forgiven.

“To Race! Of Course! For Whether ’tis Nobler in the Mind to Suffer the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune, or to Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles!”

But they blew the whistle, the one that sounds like the one used in the trenches in WW1 to coordinate the next futile surge of soldiers into the storm of lead, and we all headed off, a huge motley crew of riders all bumping and jostling, and all thoughts of not racing vanished. Once you start that boulder on the top of the mountain its just gotta roll. I didn’t think once about quitting, only about passing, which is rare for me. The fast guys that were eager for a good showing all lined up at the front and they were way off ahead of the collisions and calamity. I realized that I could’ve raced the B race as I hammered like mad, like normal, to get a good position, and found myself moving halfway up the field in the first quarter lap. There was some contact as I went up one side and I’m pretty sure the other guy went down. Ugh. I sure felt bad. I actually heard him go, “aaaargh!”

I rolled off to the side, stood up, looking back, wondering what to do, as people passed me.

A guy whipped by and said,”He’s fine, just ride!”

I was like, “Ok!”

So I got back on it.

Once things spaced out it was harder to pass but I was doing pretty good in this one super long peanut butter mud section that had to be run. I was moving up 3-4 guys per lap and really enjoying the whole “hey I’m racing my bike thing.” I went down a couple of times but nothing that caused any slowing down or bike mess-ups. The very last lap I just pinned it down this muddy decline, smoothly up over a single barrier, and then down a long descent that let you charge this wide, sweeping gravel turn with epic mach speeds and one knee out. I carved around there just flying into the last 1/4 lap section. My favourite part was this technical off camber climb that many guys were crashing at but I was able to ride. I got up that thing, rolled it down this little hill with one foot clipped in and then there was this wall of a run-up with steps pretty much kicked into it. This steep grass wall. I don’t know if it was the beer from the night before or the lower altitude but I hit that thing like a goddamn Marine, jumping off my bike and charging up like it was Hamburger Hill, grit teeth, guttural noise, the whole deal, passing a guy on the thing. So rad. People were yelling and drunk and freaking out and I loved it. I remounted and since one pedal was a total bitch to get into, I just mashed away like a 12 year old kid on a slurpee run and went as hard as I could up the next sustained climb to the finish, getting around one more guy on the way.

Afterwards I could barely see, barely breathe, just felt crucified to the bike, but was elated with the way I’d raced. The guy I passed on the run up came up to me and said, “Nice pass, man.” I could barely think but I thanked him and he said it again, “No, really, nice pass.” That was pretty close to my favourite bike race ever just in terms of the sensations and the rush of it. If I had lined up at the front I think I would’ve had a pretty good showing. I finished 19/60 and I had started around the 50′s. Next year I’ll do the B race as that seems more fitting. But it was sure fun to make some passes like that. This is why bike racing and cx especially is so rewarding, no matter your level.

J-Mass Is Here to Stay

3 wins in 3 cross races? 3 wins in his first 3 cross races? Yep, Justin Masse of Steep City Cycles in Nelson BC is a cross convert, for sure. My boy was on fire! I was lined up to wash my bike and saw their start. He was leading by the time they came around near where I was, about 500 metres into it. I was like, ‘woah’, and yelled something at him with a thumbs up. Then I started taking pics and texted pics and checking out messages and stuff ’cause I had wireless in that spot. I would look up to the see the group come by but no Justin. I thought maybe he had a mechanical or crashed out. I kept not seeing him. I hear the crowd, look up, and it would be the 5 guys on the front but no Justin. Well, that was ’cause he’d come through about a minute earlier to absolute dead silence. Ha! The second time I saw him was when he rolled up to me and said it was over and he’d won it. Oh. Well. I had no idea! Pretty crazy. Last year I came down with McConnell and he won the Elite race. This year it was Justin having people google it up to see who this dude was. Right on, Masse.

*All pics are mine except for the one of me in the mud (great shot!) which is from Leonard Johnson.


Psycosis Cross, Eugene, OR

December 12, 2012
Happy bike racer.

Happy bike racer.

Alright, let’s do this. We arrived in Eugene pretty late, sort of dawdling on our drive down from Kennewick. I picked up a cool little point and shoot camera at Best Buy ’cause it was an amazing deal and I wanted to better document our road trip. Then we hit REI on the outskirts of Portland to pick up some supplies, Justin was rad and drove that whole leg. I was a bit shot from the drive to Salmo, only an 8hr leg but it was foggy and a bit icy.

Nice to meet you, Eugene.

I had no idea what to expect in Eugene as far as the racing is concerned. The town is pretty cool, even though we didn’t really get a chance to check out too much of it. It’s the home of the University of Oregon and so there’s lots of activity and energy all the time. We found a great grocery store and stocked up on some stuff then hit the sack to get some zzzz’s. We wanted to spin our legs out after being in the car for two straight days – 22 fricken hours since I left Calgary – but it was too late to get kitted up and go out in the rain so I just opted to stretch and sleep.

ORBA Champs. B? C? Clyde? Beginner?

Morning came pretty quick but we were psyched, and nervous, about getting out to race. I opted to race in the Clydesdale category as I had a lot of fun doing that one at Washougal Wintercross in 2011. I wasn’t sure if I would be C or B if it wasn’t for the Clyde category. Oregon has a beginner category, too. I thought that since I raced in the lowest category in AB, and was typically middle of the pack on a good day, that I might also be beginner in OR. It was good to see the other racers in Eugene because it made me decide on C for the Washougal race the next day. I could’ve done Clyde in Washougal as well, but it was two hours earlier so I opted for the later race as we still needed to drive to Portland and get settled after the Saturday event. In hindsight, after looking at the lap times, I could do C and be in the top 15% or do B and be in around the middle mark. Next time I will do B if there isn’t a Clyde race to do. The dearth of categories is an indicator of just how strong the cx community is in Oregon. A guy I met in Bend, Terry, was telling me that the Master C 35+ group gets 200 (!) guys in a Cross Crusade race. C-razy!

Justin had talked to the ORBA rep about what category to enter and the rep suggested C. Despite that Justin opted instead for B, which is a good thing as he won the race by a pretty respectable margin. He would’ve killed C. I think it was a pretty fair assessment to go into B as he’d only ridden one ‘cross race before in his life. I’m sure some of the local guys will think he’s some Canadian sandbagger but, for real, he’s pretty new to ‘cross. This is my third season and I’m still in Sport in AB, with no upgrade points. Some of us are tuned a bit differently and you just never know!

Bike Racing, F-Yeah!

My race was a total blast. Right off the start it looked like it was going to be a battle between 5 or so more avid racers. There were only around 10 guys in the category which was a little disappointing, I had read that the Clydesdale CAT gets over 50 at Cross Crusade and thought that it would be a bigger race ’cause it was State Champs. I even thought there’d be some normally A or B guys that were bigger dudes that would do the Clyde race just ’cause of that. But anyway, once you’re racing its only ever a battle between you and 2-3 other people anyway, which is how it turned out. I ended up in front over the barriers and just decided to stay there even though I hadn’t pre-ridden the course. I felt pretty good despite the 22 hour drive and that this was the first time I’d been on my bike since getting out of the car. I led for about 2 laps, I think, and then one of the other guys easily rode passed me. I knew there was no way I could stay with him so I concentrated on holding second for the last 3 laps but crashed coming off of a fairly easy off camber turn and was passed. My seat twisted about 30 degrees and I had to jump off of it and punch it into place. That was it, no way I could catch 2nd again. The guy in 4th was getting closer and I really wanted to keep that spot so I laid down an attack on this really rocky riser and it was enough to keep the space.

The Course

The course was absolutely killer. I encourage every Albertan, or anyone, to take a trip there to do a race or two in Oregon. The scene is amazing, the people are incredible and the courses are brilliant. Mud, run ups, water, stutter sections, rocks, roots, single track, fans, cowbells, cupcakes, waffles, beer, kids, the works. So cool. A huge near lake had formed in one area and you had to choose between riding on the side of it and staying dry, or arcing your turn right through the heart of it – the fastest line but way, way more water. On the first lap, I immediately charged right through the middle, no hesitation. On subsequent laps I would build speed on the narrow line between the lake and the course tape and then apex my turn right through it. People were yelling and cheering, “Yeah, Clyde!”

The Weight of the J-Mass

Boooom! Justin had a great race. I had no idea how he would do so I was surprised as anyone when he rode up to me after my race and told me he’d won. They started his group five minutes ahead of mine so I had no chance to see how he was doing. After the race we chatted with Carl, the second place finisher. He’s a senior tech guy with Felt and was sporting the Parrallax hydraulic brake set up that Ben Berden has been sporting. Pretty cool to see it in person and hear him talk about how it all works.

Race 1 in the books and we both had ourselves a souvenir.

**Thanks to Effie Siverts, and Virginia Xing for the photos!

Next up: GPTB WinterCross…


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