Monday, December 28, 2009

A Year in Review-2009

Yeah, that's right, as you can tell from the title I'm going to do a write up on 2009 and my personal highlights both on and off the bike.

So, where to begin? Oh, I know! Internet accomplishments:

The Internet
I really did a lot this year on the interwebs, quite a bit in fact. Well, I helped a lot with the ECCC, where I was a webmaster, but mostly just updated calendars, results, etc... I also started the ECCC Blogosphere which turned out to be amazing! The blogosphere got a huge response, garnering over 600 hits on mondays following race weekends during the ECCC road season, that's nearly 2/3 of the conference. As a result of this effort I was also a featured speaker at the Echelon Collegiate Leadership Conference at Collegiate Road Nats this past spring. Also, (with some help from Sully) did my 2nd ECCC Road Survey, which is as usual was ridiculous. I wrapped up the year by launching the New England Cyclocross Blogosphere, which also got a good response and I eventually caved in and got my self a twitter.

Academia
This year I also had a major lifetime accomplishment by graduating "on time" from Union College with a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Which, needless to say is a fantastic feeling and I was then unfortunately in the position of graduating into the worst job market in twenty years, but I ended up having two jobs for about 5 months. Oh and I also finalized my senior project of designing a full suspension linkage system for a mountain bike, I didn't get to build it, but it was a fun academic task.

Bike Racing
Well, as they say on Marketplace, "lets do the numbers:"
  • I raced for 4 different teams (Union College, North Atlantic Velo, Green Line Velo and Wheelworks)
  • I had 30 mass starts on the road, between training races, collegiate races and USCF events.
  • I had 25 starts in cyclocross
  • I raced in 12 different states (CO, CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT)
  • I had TWO top tens (both in Cyclocross)
Other highlights on the bike:
Photos of the Year


(NAV taking Charge at the Saratoga Crit)

(Pinning it during the Yale Crit)
(Supa-Fast at the Cycle Smart International)

Moving On...
I guess the last part of the year has been great too, as previously mentioned, life is pretty awesome. I currently live in Colorado, I'm heading to Israel next year for 5 months and I'll be back stateside in August, when I actually have to start my life, but who knows.

Lastly, I just want to thank all my friends, at school, at work, in racing, from home for making this such a great year and hopefully I'll keep it up in 2010.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

5 Reasons Life is Awesome Right Now

Oh, so much has happened recently, and it's collectively been great. So, I guess I'll just dive straight into the list, (in no particular order).

1) The Ice Weasels Cometh! As mentioned previously, it was the best race ever. I haven't had that much fun at an event in a while. I was even complimented on the interwebs on my incredible commentating skills on the PA: "Steve H. who turns out has some real announcing experience from the collegiate racing scene. The kids got potential." So, all I have to say is I'm coming for your jobs Richard Fries and Dave Towle!!! I also found a photo of me at the Weasels:

(I've got mad skills, photo: lodri)

2) 23rd Birthday was on Dec. 14! Yeah, I'm older, it's pretty sweet. Had a bunch of people given me calls, e-mails, facebook posts, etc... so thanks all. Got some good presents and a great dinner with the family.

3) Going to Israel next year! That's right, I'm heading off to the mother land for 5 months from March until August of 2010 to live in Tel Aviv. While there I'll be in an internship and while there I'm definitely going to crush some souls in the mountain bike race scene, maybe on the road too if I can figure out how to get 2 bikes and gear over there.

4) I moved to Colorado! After 3 days or so of driving (photos) I made it to my winter residence in Longmont, CO. I'm renting a room from ECCC alum, and Pro MTB'er/Crosser Kat Statman and his Fiancée Shannon until my aforementioned trip to Israel. The weather's great, the skiing is going to be good, and I'll have plenty of time to ride bikes too. I spent my second day in town on a short MTB ride with Kate, which involved the following:


5)Ski Season! Oh, it's December, the temps are dropping, the snows are falling and I got a sweet birthday present: Season Pass to Arapaho Basin, Breckenridge and Keystone. Can't wait to hit the slopes.

In summation, life is good. I may need to get a job soon, but I can manage for a bit.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Ice Weasels Came... and KICKED ASS!

Ok, I may have said earlier that Northampton was the best weekend of the cross season, I'm going to amend that. The Ice Weasels Cometh rocked! Using a very scientific scoring method which took in the amount of free beer, snow, donut hand-ups, heckling, heckling over the PA, general chaos, huge crowds and free beer I've made the following chart to illustrate just how cool the weasels was:
How It Went Down:
I signed up for the cat 3 race, and learned upon arrival that I'd be racing with the master's 35+ cat 3's as well, bringing the field to about 40 starters. Which was a new thing and kinda co0l. Anyways, thanks to my CrossResults.com points I got a pretty sweet third row start. I immediately tried to be really crafty and take the right hand line over the cabbage to get to the front with no success and settled in the top 10. Then the race lined out as we went through the first lap and I tried my best to settle in with the leaders. But I got distracted when the AWESOME CROWD was screaming for us as we went through the barriers:

(Wicked Awesome Peeps! photo: Joshua Garlich)

So after the barriers the field to continued to line out and I just decided to ride my race. But on the 2nd lap I crashed on an icy turn around a tree and lost a spot, then at the end of the 2nd lap I crashed on another icy turn just after the finish line, and on the third lap I cased the barriers and fell on my face, but the crowd cheered me on and I got going again. So, on the fourth lap I took a beer feed at full speed going over the barriers while I was in 7th place or so and the crowd went nuts! That was great. From there I had a little back and forth with BU Matt, but he got away from me eventually and I wrapped up the season with a solid 10th place finish.

Post Race
After the race I immediately pounded some brews, then changed and ran over to the PA system to begin an afternoon of heckling via loudspeaker. I managed to get most of the people I know pretty well and hung there for the Women's Race and the Men's 1/2/3 race. The number 1 victim: Ryan Kelly. Who got double lapped, but had a six lap advantage on the leaders because he was awarded a lap by me for every beer he drank on course. Also, Kyle Smith took a beer feed, but his white shoes kept on going. There was guy in a speedo and Mike Rowell took third place on a single speed. Also, by some miracle Colin started way in the back and crushed souls to eventually finish in 5th, while taking dollar preems, and beer feeds. Everything was supa-fun and I got to meet Thom, who was chief assistant heckler on the day.

This report is kinda short, but the crowd was great, the course was great, the weather was cold, the beer was free, the heckling was first class and I had an enormous amount of fun. Very special thanks to Colin, Thom, Kevin, Wilcox and the others that put on the standard by which all over grassroots events should be compared!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ice Weasels Pre-Race Report!

Oh, I am so ready for the Ice Weasels. I'm excited, it's for sure the biggest race of the season, I think there's some other local race out in Oregon this weekend, but WHO CARES? I mean the race has WEASELS in the name! How could it not be awesome!



Anyways, I've got plans, big, enormous, outrageous, ludicrous, splendorous, fantastical plans for complete and utter domination in the 3/4 race. It's a big deal, a really, really big deal. Probably going to be the most important race I ever do in my life, way bigger than when I did collegiate nationals this spring, way bigger than Gloucester and way, way bigger than any Verge race, because honestly who cares about verge points? I don't!

So, over the last few weeks I've been building up to my training plan to peak just in time for the weasels, it wasn't that I had bad races out in Sterling or at NBX, not at all, I was actually just tapering in preparation for the Weasels. You know that old saying"go slower to get faster," that's exactly what I've been doing.... Because unlike everybody else I've been focusing my whole season around the Ice Weasels, so while everybody else is burned out I'll be ready and roaring to go. In fact, my heart rate is spiking in anticipation of 11am this Saturday at White Barn Farm, crap I better calm down so I can maximize my recovery.

Ahhhhh, deep breaths, Ahhhhh.

So I don't want to say to much and give away my secrets, but I'll leave you all with some pictures of what I've been doing in preparation:



The final result should look like this, but add cyclocross bikes and snow:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NBX Race Reports

I'll be pretty brief with these two race reports, because frankly they are both pretty uninteresting.

Day 1
On day one the weather was cold and wet and windy and I started in the 3rd to last row. I was wicked timid at the start and spent a while at the back of the race. About 2 laps in I was moving up and found myself around the usual suspects but for whatever reason I just couldn't get going, my heart rate was way low, I was not really psyched to race and I basically just phoned it in once I decided do ride the whole beach, which I did, but then I got pass by 15 people on the short run at the end. So, I kind of gave up and rode tempo the rest of the day, finishing 66th of 82 and not being lapped, which is pretty good especially when I actually tried last year and came in DFL on day 1.


(At the barriers on lap 1, I think I'm already giving up, Photo: lodri)

(Riding the beach "wicked fahr dude!" photo: lodri)

Oh and at one point I just threw my bike over the barriers and then ran to go pick it up to keep riding.

Day 2
On day 2 I was a bit more motivated, it had snowed the night before and the skies were clear and sunny. I started in the second to last row and moved up pretty quickly hearing from the fans that I had made my way into the top 25 or so, but I faded a bit as the race went on and finished in the 30's, it was a better day, a good way to cap off the season and the course was fun so I was happy. Although, I was hit with the sad realization that after 14 races I had accumulated exactly ZERO Verge points. I'll get 'em next year!

Wait, I forgot to mention that I had an epic battle with Johnny, how could I forget that! Right, so he started well in the back like me and about 3 laps in he had made it up to my wheel, so I tried my best to get a gap and get rid of any stench of UVM that would be anywhere near me and I thought I lost him. But on the last lap after the second beach section Johnny had made his way back up to me and was right on my wheel. So I did something really crafty, I sat on a Corey Masson's wheel until the very last woods section and passed Corey on the inside of a turn, leaving only one inch between Corey and a Tree for Johnny to sneak through. And I put on the gas, but the little basterd wouldn't go a way and he managed to get back on my wheel down the finishing straight, I tried to out sprint him, but he just came around me at the end. Actually, I wasn't sprinting, I let him take 33rd because it was his birthday and I'm a nice guy like that.

Oh, by the way thanks Matt, for telling me to ride through that big puddle each lap, my toes froze over!

Day 2 Heckles:
  • "Steve you look pretty!" - Colin
  • "Make me proud or make me laugh!" -Liz
  • "Steve- Johnny's coming to get you!" -Hamlin
  • "Steve, are you kidding me? Quit phoning it in!" -Bramhall?
  • "Wheelworks, you know you want a cookie feed!" -Anonymous
Stay tuned for my Ice Weasels preparation report!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday Night Super Prestige Finals Race Report

Yeah, that's right, I'm doing a WNSP race report! Why? because I don't want to talk about Baystate 'Cross, and WNSP is way cool.

The field was stacked. I couldn't believe it, there was UCI points hero Pete Bradshaw, the Alpha Colin ,McKittrick , the former enemy #1, Mashburn, Mr. White Sidi's Smith, Matt, Yash, Natalia, and Christine, along with a few others. Also, the weather was freakishly warm for a December night, a balmy 50 degrees and I knew that I was in trouble I hate racing when it's hot. So with these two key factors I imeditaly assumed that my ass was going to be handed to me on a silver platter.

Right, so we set up the bikes for the lemans start in the dark and line up a 20 meters away. Matt cheated by using a rock to prop his bike upright, while the rest of us had to pick up our rigs from the grass. So the Alpha Colin gives the "GO" and wins the hole shot, because he's a cheater, but then he dialed it back a bit because he, "felt bad about it." Meanwhile I run to my bike and get entangled with McKittrick who inadvertantly knocks my bike over while I'm picking it up. But soon after we get going and I find myself in a respectable 4th position behind Bradshaw, Kyle Smith and McKittrick. Things stay this way for the first few laps as I try my darndest to hang up with the big boys.

Sometime later though McKitttrick and I get gapped a little bit, and I do a huge pull to get us up to Kyle, the Alpha Colin and Bradshaw. Whew, what a relief, just as I get ready to sit up and recover the Alpha Colin attacks and Mckittrick pulls through to try and cover. But we can't.

Then McKittrick crashes soon after, around a tight corner while muttering "fucking file treads" and I'm all alone trying to catch the leaders. But by know McKittrick is bearing down upon me again, with Glowa and a Back Bay Rider with him. A lap or so later they catch me and all 3 pass me. I try disparately to hang on but I get gapped and can't close it down. So I ride another few laps by myself before dropping out.

Then I watched for a bit, jumped in again on the Bradshaw/Alpha Colin train and followed them around for a few laps, dropped out again and then got the Bradshaw train for the last 2 laps. It was fun to sit on while those two duked it out.

Post race was Burritos and Beer (hosted by the Alpha Colin), made some new friends and rode 45 minutes home in the rain before passing out for the evening.

Great way to end the WNSP season.

NBX up this weekend.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Am Fastest Guy Without a Verge Point!

Ok, well not really, according to the data I am actually the 2nd fastest guy without a Verge point. (DAMN YOU OWEN POPE!) Which is like being the king of the losers to the king of the losers, it's sad, it's pathetic, and it is gosh darn frustrating.

So remember way back when I changed my season goals? Yup, I've failed, although I do have MAC points... Whatever, I've had fun along the way. At least I'm leaps and bounds over teammate Jeff Z, JElie, BU Matt, and Dave Chiu's Carbon wheels.

Other titles for the fastest guy without a verge point are:
  • Captain of the USS Mediocrity
  • Lord of Shit Island
  • The Fastest Guy to Not Go Fast
  • Chairman of the "Almost There" Club
  • King of the Guys who place 26th->40th
  • His Emmence, the Ruler of Suck
These were the rules:
-Only applies to Verge NECCS Races.
-Riders that have finished in the points (Top-25) are not eligible.
-Scoring:
26th -10pts, 27th-9pts, 28th-8pts, 29th-7pts, 30th-6pts, 31st-5pts,32nd-4pts, 33rd-3pts, 34th-2pts, 35th->40th-1pt. (Last one because that means you're usually top half)
-Valid for riders that have competed in at least 4 Verge NECCS Races.

Oh, and if he hadn't gotten his lone top 25 this weekend, Bramhall would be the fastest guy without a Verge Point.

Lastly, I'm implementing a rule that anyone who has Verge Points is banned from the 3/4 race at Ice Weasels! Wait, I'm not sure I have that kind of power....yet. Ok, I'll give you endless grief about it.

Thanks to Colin for data wrangling.

Ok, NBX is now a last ditch effort to not suck.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Baystate Cross Shout Outs and Call outs

Ok fans, the race report will be coming in a day or two, but for now here's some shout outs and call outs from the weekend:

Shout Outs:
  • Adam Snyder hopping the barriers both days, and the "horse" jump on day 1
  • Powers hops the barriers on day 2, and wins both days.
  • James Morrison wins the cat 3 race both days, with from what I hear a broken finger on day 2
  • Pete Bradshaw comes up big with first UCI points on Sunday!
  • Frances gets double sixteens in her UCI debut.
  • Teammate John Crushes the Masters 45 race on Sunday.
  • Durrin misses his call up, starts in 7th row and still pulls of 8th place on day 1
  • Tim comes up big with a top ten on day 2 in the 3 race, but Union beats RPI in hockey on Saturday, SO I WIN!
Call Outs/Rants:
  • Durrin missed his call up on day 1 because he's a dink
  • Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com team is Sandbagging America
  • Cat 3 race lost like 35 dudes over the weekend, COME BACK BOYS, I need more people to beat to improve my crossresults.com points!
  • Why wasn't the day 2 course used before this year? It was awesome!
  • F-You Bramhall for beating me both days.
  • I'm convinced Dave Chiu's carbon wheel supply is keeping him in the running for the "Fastest Guy without a Verge Point"
  • Chris Eager is driving me nuts, beating me 7 times this year!
  • Liz looked like she was giving up in her races both days, remember: "winners never quit and quitters never win!"



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whitmore Cup Weekend Race Report

Instead of doing the logical thing by staying local and racing in Lowell, I did the more awesome thing and headed on down to Southampton Long Island for the Whitmore Super Cross Cup. I spent the boat ride with Colin, Linnea and Sara and was picked up on the other side of Long Island Sound by Cornell Jake , who graciously hosted me all weekend.

The major reason for going was that I had challenged Sully to go and the stakes were high, six of belgium's currency to the victor each day. There was also the added benefit of rubbing my glorious victory in Sully's face after he called me out on the interwebs.

Day 1
There's really not a whole lot to say about my race on Day 1. But, here goes:
Had a pretty good start and tried to find a rhythm early. I eventually found myself away from the key players, but somewhere near "Vente" as a CRCA Foundation fan cheered to his teammate in front of me. I then hung in this spot for a while with a group of 5 or 6 until Buckley came along and we separated ourselves. Then after a short conversation we agreed he'd pull on the flats and I'd lead through the technical sections until we got to the finish. Problem was, he was a little too strong on the flats and dropped me pretty quickly.By this time the UVM fan-base had instructed me that I had a solid gap on Sully, so I was content to maintain position.

(Day 1 Barriers were SUPA-fast)

Soon after I started to catch people on my own and found myself in a group of 5 including Bramhall. But things changed on a weird sandy section though when I was 3rd wheel and the guy in front of me bobbled causing me to be gapped. Bramhall then came around offered to pull me back to the group. I hung on through the long tarmac section, but then got gapped in the woods. I rode the rest of the race by myself and finished 24th of 46, but I had soundly beat Sully and I was happy. I then spent the afternoon doing this, it was a crowd pleaser.

Day 2
On day two all I really wanted to do was have a solid race, my day 1 result was ok, but hoped I could do better on day 2. Which I did, after some hardship.

At the start we go flying down some tarmac, until a right hander onto some grass. As I'm trying to stay with the field I felt some wheel clip the back of my bike, but I fight to stay upright, as a Rutgers rider goes down onto the grass (See Video below at 5:01). I take a breath of relief as we go through the finishing stretch back onto tarmac. I'm finally ready to move up when the course makes a left hand turn onto some grass, so I shift up and prepare to accelerate. Then Disaster strikes. My chain gets stuck and I go flying over the handle bars and curl into the fetal position as the pack rips by, praying I don't get run over. When they pass get up and I fix my bike, which apparently had the rear wheel knocked out of the dropouts by the aforementioned Rutgers rider and after 30 seconds I get going again, seeing the back of the race off in the distance.

I now go full gas to get back in the race. I soon close down the gap and after half a lap I'm back in the game at the back of the race. I start weaving around people and move up, a lot. I catch Cornell Jake and Sully, and then drop them, and I continue to move up. This trend happens for the rest of race and I finally get so far forward that I get 4-5 seconds behind Cornell Jake, and go as hard as I can on the last lap in an attempt to lap him, but he just beats me at the finish (see video below 11:48). Final result 19th of 47, sweet, better than the day before. And yes, I bested Sully once again.

Lastly, Pete Bradshaw took made this cool video of the races from both days, I make appearances at, 0:45, 1:52 on Day 1, the crash from Day 2 is at 5:01, and I can be seen at 11:22 and 11:48.

Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup, B Men from Peter Bradshaw on Vimeo.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dear UVM Cycling,

Over the weekend it seems as though I've caused a stir with you guys over this photo. But before you send out a squadron to:

"smite him into the earth with the power and force of a jackhammer."

Just let me say this, "Friends stab you in the front" ~Oscar Wilde.

So here, hope this mends some fences:

"UVM Sucks" Sign meets its end from SHopengarten on Vimeo.







I love you guys, UVM cycling best embodies the spirit of collegiate, and you all are probably the biggest reason I've stayed involved in collegiate cycling post-graduation.

Final Note: Not that anybody seems to care, but I was actually cheering on The Jamey Driscoll as loud as I could.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mercer Cup Race Report.

First, let me just say McKittrick wrote a great wrap up of how terribly the event was organized and how lame the course was, which can be found here.

Now on to my race report.

Day 1

I actually skipped day one to attend the ECCC annual fall meeting and add some input to the new rule changes as an "officer" of the ECCC (ok I'm the web guru). It was fun and followed it up by a dinner with some friends in downtown Hoboken, NJ. Which I understand was pretty fortunate because from what I'm told the day 1 conditions were terrible and seriously lame. So I'm glad I missed it.

Day 2

Anyways, I spent the evening at my uncle's house and woke up at 6 to head down to the event, for my 9:30 start. (Sidenote: Why do I have to race 9:30, I've been loving the 12:30 starts in New England).

Got to the course, registered and picked up a transponder which I guess was really important and headed over to my car to pre-ride. At which point I ran into McKittrick, who told me "Don't even bother pre-riding dude, it's a waste of time." I nodded and assumed he was wrong and off to pre-ride I went.

About 8 seconds into my lap I realized McKittrick was right and I wished I hadn't decided to ride as huge globs of mud were attaching to my frame, so lame. I eventually finished the lap and headed over to the bike wash, but the line was to long, and then went to the power-wash, and the line was to long. So I just grabbed the huge clumps of grass off my frame and hung out with Eric and Cornell Jake by my car until it was time to start.

When I got to the start I lined up and realized I made two major mistakes, one being I had forgotten to put on my transponder and the other is that I had put my number on the wrong side, oops. After the go I just tried to hang in and I slogged through the course with everybody else. It sucked, it was hard, I moved backwards, but I eventually found a rythm. Which was totally ruined by some weird black tape getting stuck in my rear cassette, forcing me to stop and lose twenty places in the process while removing the obstruction.

(Mud everywhere, Photo: Joe Mallis)

Back on the bike I went and eventually started to pass people. When disaster strikes again and I can't pedal. So again I stop, lose 5-10 places and dig grass out of the rollers on my derailleur only to find a pebble stuck between and I remove it. Away I go again and it's finally the last lap, I finished the last slog around the course and looked forward to crossing the finish line. But I don't get the chance, because as I reach the last gravel section I hear the Masters Race go off in the distance, and when I reach the finishing straight an official pulls me off and records my number. Lame. Final result: 73rd of 78 finishers.

(I only added 5lbs of grass and mud to the bike)

In summation it was hot, the course sucked, the mud sucked, and I had bad luck. At least Joe Kopena and Caitlin had been cheering on my pathetic efforts.

Heckle of the race goes to Joe Kopena: "Hopengarten, I can see that kit from a mile away!"

Post race, had lunch, pitted to Linnea in the Women's Elite race and helped Jake with the CX Magazine live commentary. Spent the night in NJ with Kat at awesome host housing and gave him a ride to LaGuardia on Monday.

(Pro Tip from Kat: "Saran wrap Bike boxes")

Note:
I Am captain consistency, just check out this chart:
(Oh yeah, I am so consistent. from: crossresults.com)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cycle-Smart Weekend!

Oh yeah, game on. Cycle-smart international so happened, it was awesome, the weather was awesome, the courses were awesome, the free beer was awesome, my team was awesome, I was a little less awesome, but whatever. Best weekend of the season for sure.

Friday
So, here's how it went down. I started by heading out far too early and left home on Friday afternoon to head to the cool kids "Pick up you numbah" party at New England Bicycle Consulting. It was cool, some friends were there, some pro's were there, and of course there were free health snacks such as twinkies, donuts and candy, not to mention free beer. So I was off to a good start.

Then I went off to Greenfield, MA to crash with the UVM Cycling crew (and 2 colby kids), a good time was had, along with delicious dinner courtesy of Ben Danson (Dan Benson) and his folks. They are winning the lifetime weekend host awards.

DAY 1
Anyways, 5:45 wake up to help set up the Wheelworks tent, van, barbecue and cheer on Andy in the 4's race. I yelled, I screamed, I had a bagel, I was in a good mood. Then I watched Frances crush the 3/4 women's race (again) and now it was time for race prep.

So, change, pre-ride, hit the trainer, the usual business and I'm thinking to myself, "wow, my legs feel pretty good, better not suck." I had also convinced Liz (MHC) that she needed to amass a cheering section for me to keep me motivated throughout the race.

Ok, social time comes to an end and I cruise over to the start and wait for the start. "GO" and I immediately speed up, then slow down, pretty much to a stop. Yeah, there was a curb, it was lame, but at least I didn't get caught in a crash, like pretty much every other race on course that day.

(Jake and I are talking about the weather here, photo: lodri)

So the first half lap is chaos and I just try to move up a bit, this works pretty well until we hit the run-up, where I find my self next to Cornell Jake and we have a casual conversation because we've come to a complete stop and are walking the run-up behind all the traffic. After that I go out pretty hard, but not too hard for the first 2 laps and eventually settle in on Cim's wheel, knowing he's kinda fast as he had finished on the podium each day in the 4's last year, and from there I pretty much stayed put.


(Barriers Day 1, I'm all like "whatever,"Photo: Liz)

I passed a few, got passed by a few, but essentially I just tried to stay with Cim and the others in my group and hoped for the best. Final result 36 of 108, not great, but I rode pretty well. I did however have the added bonus of beating every UVM rider in my race, so take that UVM Cycling!
(Just barely not hitting the tree on Day 1, Photo: Uri)

Heckles/Cheers from Day 1:
"My mother rides faster than you!"
"You look more pro than you are right now!"
"You look so euro!"
"You better close that 3 minute gap to the leaders!"

Post race, I grab some free beer, begin a long "who you know"- off with Cornell Jake and watch the elite races and then have and uneventful, but pleasant evening in Greenfield and fall asleep at 9:30.

DAY 2
After having a good, respectable day 1, I really didn't put a whole bunch of thought into day 2, just hoped to have some good 'ole fun. Like the day before, I was there early to set-up and watch the 4 race. Which was definitely highlighted by heckling Chuck to the maximum amount, I got a few stares from the other spectators when I said "What are you doing!? YOU NEED TO MOVE UP 60 PLACES! DON'T SMILE! GET TO THE FRONT OF THE RACE AND STOP SUCKING!" Then Frances won the women's 3/4 race again and I summarily gave her a bag of sand.

Right, so did the usual pre-race routine, mostly socialized and resumed my "Who you know off" with Cornell Jake. Went to the start and was feeling good. Got the go and moved up, a lot. In fact, I may have moved up way too much and gone out too hard, and knowing from what happened at Providence Day 1, I dialed it back a bit and settled behind an Embrocation Rider's wheel, and holy lord he was fast. Ever single time we came out of a corner he would gun-it and I had to do everything in my power to get back up to his wheel, and I mean everything. It was so freaking fast, I was on the rivet and that became my entire game plan.

After 4 laps of this blistering pace I started to hear my cheering section say I was in the top 30 and all I kept thinking was "Verge Points, Verge Points, Verge Points" All the while Lee passed me about halfway into the race and I greeted him with a friendly "F%^& you Lee," to which he responded "F%^& you Steve!" and away he went. I was busy wheel-sucking and wasn't going to chase him down.

(On the off-camber ride up, Day 2, Photo: Liz)

A lap later I see Lee crash and I pass him, going full gas to catch back up to my group and away we go. By this point, my legs are really burning and it's taking more effort to stay with my group, but I try my best to hold on. Then, on the last lap disaster strikes. We hit the sandpit, I fumble and I'm immediatly passed by Cim, Lee and Jim, all people I know, WTF! So in panic mode I go all out to get back up to them, only to be out-sprinted and I coast in.

Post race I was searching for my result, some people said top 15, others top 30 and I had no clue. After what feels like eternity I see the results, 27th. AHHHH! 1 F^&*ING PLACE BEHIND LEE and 2 PLACES AWAY FROM VERGE POINTS!!! I SHOULD HAVE RIDDEN THE SAND BETTER, MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE RUN IT! AHHH! After being furious for 30 seconds, I went back to being happy with my race as it is now my best Verge series Result. Also, I caught up with Lee and we had a break-down of our epic battle from the day.

Post race more free beer, Jake and I continue the "Who you know"-off and start a new series of bets on Podiums in the elite race, (I won that by the way). Then I helped clean up, went out to the bars and crashed in NoHo, 'cause I had no reason to go home.

Monday
Since I had nothing better to do I spent Monday at New England Bicycle Consulting and got to see what they do and meet the man behind it all, Carl. Definitely a unique business model and I hope it works out for them. Also got in a skills ride and checked out the NFG Cycles shop, had some bagels and home I went.

Seriously, seriously awesome weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Banning Aero Gear is Good for Collegiate Cycling

Ok, first I'm just going to state that I am fighting for the little guy. I'm talking about all of those small collegiate teams out there with limited budgets, a couple of elite riders and even fewer resources.

Now on to my rant.

Eliminating aero gear from collegiate cycling is what best serves the collegiate cycling community as a whole. Primarily it is in tune with the basic principles that are outlined in the collegiate cycling mission statement, most notably:

"(d) Ensuring that the sport we love is low cost and accessible to any student who wants to race a bike."

Simply put, eliminating aero gear cuts costs all around and in turn levels the playing field between larger and smaller programs. And hey Big teams, there's a reason collegiate entry fees are fixed, to keep costs low, why shouldn't we roll this out to equipment as well?

The most obvious cost difference is that of the equipment itself. On the high end of the cost spectrum is full on time trial bikes, used only for time trials, which can run in the thousands of dollars per bike. Additional equipment that can be added to a mass start legal bike, such as carbon wheels, which can be in the thousands as well per wheel set, and clip-on aero bars are certainly less expensive but not free. So for two TTT teams there's a minimum of $800 dollars more ($100 clip-ons x 2 four person teams) and a maximum of $16,000 extra ($2000 bikes x 2-four person teams).

Now on top of the equipment costs there is also a significant increase in transport and travel costs for teams that need to lug around this extra equipment to and from races, most notably at nationals. If team show up with TT bikes for both the men's and women's squads, that's an additional 8 bikes that need to flown, shipped, hauled across the country to wherever the national championships happen to occur. Likewise, this has an impact on racing within each conference as it does cost real money to bring two bikes per rider to each event, which may result in extra, unnecessary vehicles or trailers brought to each event.

In short, having TT gear costs a lot, and while it is unfortunate that teams who have already invested in aero gear are losing on their investment, they can still sell of some of that gear and recoup some of their costs. Simply put, it sucks for those teams, but frankly it's a lot easier for the few varsity/sponsored/large teams to bite the bullet than to have the hundreds of smaller teams spend more money in order to close down the gap.

Say, for example a new, small team just happens have one or two elite riders and then your team grabs a B rider to join the TTT squad. This could easily happen on any one of the hundreds of teams out there, who did not plan six month's earlier that they'd need aero gear to be competitive; rather it puts them on the same level as well funded, well established programs right away. This kind of opportunity is already available to individuals in mass start events, who if they are talented make their way to the top, so why shouldn't it be the same for teams. I can attest to this from personal experience, when I entered a few individual time trials as an "A" category rider this year.

(Here I am at the Rutgers No Aero TT, happy as a clam, photo: BRob)

In addition to cost arguments from teams that are taking a hit, I've also heard many times the argument that "taking away aero gear harms development of elite riders."

Sorry, but I just don't buy that, time trials are not mass start events, the skills learned in a TT can be learned on a training ride, it is not the same as riding in the pack or in a break, and that is why TT's are not used for upgrade purposes. While it's important for collegiate to be a elite development program, riders at the top are going to be racing beyond the 10 week collegiate calendar and will have opportunities to use aero gear. They use collegiate races as quality, fast and fun events to help them prepare for the rest of their season.
If they are going to be racing outside of collegiate cycling, they are going to have more opportunities aside from collegiate to ride time trials, with aero gear.

In summation, yes big teams, who have spent money are getting screwed, but they just have to take one for the team, because now we've just made it fair to all those small teams out there who didn't have the means to buy their way onto the podium.

Eliminating aero-gear best embodies the spirit of collegiate cycling, while still retaining the tough competition. The best riders/teams will win because they are the fastest and not just because they've got the best gear.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Disaster Strikes again, and the Canton Cup I guess.

Update 5:27 PM: Photos Added!

Some races happened. Mostly in the suck, here's how it went down. I was hoping to improve on my serious bad luck from Maine.

Day 1 - Canton Cup

Right, so Canton is a wheelsucking super fast course, almost zero recovery anywhere and I decided before the race I was going to be in the suck for a littany of reasons:
  • Got there early to volunteer, which meant standing around giving people directions and making sure they didn't ride backwards on the course for 2 hours
  • Didn't warm up enough because I was too busy socializing
  • Did a warm up lap and tried to hop the barriers, only to land on the top of my head, it made me dizzy
  • I was tired.
Front row start because I was on the host team, and even then gave up. Yeah, I rode tempo the whole race. By the time I saw lap cards I was just hoping not to get lapped. I didn't, but the race still hurt, a lot. I'm not good with super-fast races with no recovery spots. But whatever.

Post race, I thought about doing the elite race, but then decided against it, because I'm seriously not fast right now and I would have been murdered. So I watched the elite race and then spent 3 hours tearing down the course and moving heavy stuff (it is SOO good for recovery).

Here I am cleaning up in Canton Photo by Uri

Day 2 - West Hill Shop Cross

I woke up on Sunday on the fence about racing at all, but I ended up waking up at 6 because of day light savings and decided to drive 2 hours out to Putney, VT to do the 3/4 race at the West Hill Shop.

Key Detail: I decided to go to Putney because it had a 3/4 race, I could have raced in Hampton Falls, NH which was 1 hour closer each way, but opted against it because I would have been forced to do the Pro/1/2/3 race.

So I got to Putney nice and early. I got registered, I warmed up. I was feeling good. I pre-rode the course, I ate and by my noon start I was ready and roaring to go. I was stoked. I sneaked on to the front row and waited for the whistle.

"Go" I moved up, kind of and tried to stay in the top half. The course had enough wide sections that I figured as long as I don't go too far back I can move up later. So I make it to a small riser, and I fight for a line, only to get shouldered into a bush. Ok, damage control, remount, pass people, whew know I'm relieved.

No, wait, disaster strikes again some guy yardsales on a muddy section and stops all traffic behind him. Ok, dismount, remount and I'm moving up again in the wider sections of the course.

Finally I make it to the run-up and I'm thinking I'm moving up, time to just ride my race. I remount at the top and have a little trouble clipping in to my pedals, eh, whatever it's probably just mud, and onwards I go. I get to the barriers and I cant clip out with my right foot. Ok, panic time, and I slam on the brakes before I smash into the barriers. I finally wiggle my way out of the pedals and walk over the barriers, and then I can't clip in. So I look down at the bottom of my shoe and see that my cleat has 1 screw holding it in place and it is rotating about.

Fine, whatever I'll try it for a lap and I start screaming to spectators "Does anybody have a size 43 SPD shoe?" No response. I ride the lap quasi-clipped in and hit the run-up, hoping someone has taken pity on me and brought a shoe to the pit, no luck.

So I pull off at the finish line, throw my bike in frustration and some dude tells me to cheer up, I explain my shoe is broken and he offers me his shoe. I throw it on, it's WAYY to big and I finally give up and tell the officials I'm quitting. Argh. Seriously, I can't go a race with out a disaster.

Ok, now it's bad decision time. All the people I know start showing up and ask me how my race was, I tell the tale and at some point the decision arises to do the Pro/1/2/3 race, cause I drove all the way out here, I'm freaking going to get a race in! Also, the weather is AMAZING and the course is SUPER fun.

So I hang out for a while, eat a sandwich, catch up with some people who are doing the elite race, and BEG Nate Ward and Al Donahue not to lap me.

Also, I learn that NAV'ers are taking bets that I'll get lapped after 3 laps. I tell them I'll hold'em off till 4 laps in.


Right, back to the start line, get the go, go straight to the back of the group and start my Solo Time Trial off the back. 4 laps in, I'm not lapped and I see 7 laps to go, awesome. I make it another lap until i get lapped by leading duo Nate Ward and Ethan Gilmour, the a minute or two later by Al Donahue. I make it another 2 laps until I get passed by Kirt Fitzpatrick and that's it, I spend the rest of the race by myself.

(Way off the back, Photo: Alan Atwood)

The only highlights were shouting at the NAV crew that I made it 5 laps before I got lapped and I had somehow gained a fan club made of some kids and parents who kept cheering me on, saying I was their favorite.

(On the "Longest Run-Up in New England" Photo:Alan Atwood)

Oh right, so I finish the race, and wait for the results. I got 11th, (WOO HOO) out of 13 starters, But the worst part is I finish ONE F*&KING PLACE out of the money. AH!!!!

WTF Weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Downeast Disasters

What can I say? This weekend was so frustrating, nothing went my way, but whatever, there's always another bike race. I've just got to put this behind me.

Oh, wait, I've started summing up before explaining what happened.

Day 1

Right, so day 1, was cold, wet and muddy. I had a slow start and didn't care. The course was so wide I figured that people would just fall over and I would move up. Which is exactly what happened. I didn't try to pace with people, I didn't try and chase, I didn't to anything but ride a pace I could manage.

It working out great, I was in the top 25, VERGE POINTS! I was riding a good tempo and I just was hoping to hang on. But of course, I flatted just before the bell, lost 10 places, got a neutral wheel and eventually came in 35th. F@#K! Oh wait, that is still my best Verge finish. WTF! Why am I so mad!?

Day 2

Day 2, not much better. While the skies had cleared, and it was a beautiful sunny day, the course was still a super muddy affair. The game plan was the same, stay upright and on the bike, ride my tempo and pass people who fall down. Again, worked out great, I was moving, the first climb I must have passed 20 people. I was moving up so well I was in the top 10 or 15, just slogging along without a care in the world.

Then disaster strikes, coming around a corner I bashed my shoulder into a fence post, and crashed. Then I come through the barriers and not 15 seconds later I crash again on an off-camber dip. So I quickly get up, run to the pit and get a bike, which Buckley had graciously lent to me for the day.

I was like, "ok, I've got a clean bike, I can see the leaders and I'm feeling good. What the hell is this red stuff on my hands and top tube? " Apparently it was blood gushing from my nose as I bombed down the hill, and it was not clotting. So I did what I thought was the wise decision and dropped out before I got too light headed. Argh, frustration, but yeah there's always another bike race.

Redemption... Kind Of.

After the race though, things picked up, I was asked to pit for Canadian Couple Natasha Elliott and Derrick St John for both the Women's Elite race and the Men's elite race. That was cool, I stood in the pit (with Frances) and we tag teamed the catch and release pit method, and washed Natasha's bike. It was pretty fun and Natasha got 3rd. Then I did the same for Derrick on my own and he got 8th, after breaking his A bike on the last lap.

So, it wasn't a total loss. I didn't race well, but I had a good time.

Other Stuff from the weekend
  • UVM kids, Lee, Buckley, and even Pat are hilarious.
  • I heckled Nate Ward with "I wish I took a class at Schenectady Community College with Professor Ward!" His response "That's INSTRUCTOR Ward to you!" with a big 'ol smile.
  • Nevin and his parents being Awesome hosts
  • Frances is now a sandbagger, she won both of the Women's B races.
  • Colin flipped me off on day 1, not really sure why....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MRC Cross EPIC Race Report

So, MRC Cross happened down in Wrentham on Sunday. It was "INSANE" according to Jeff Z, I would agree.

(Best part of this post is the post race recap)

Pre-Race

First, let me state that I decided to do the race THAT Morning. That's right, it wasn't a situation that I had pre-registered and I was like, "I paid, I'm racing," which happens on a occasion. Nope, I woke up at 8, got a call from Jeff Z and knowing the forecast was in the Low 40's, high winds and heavy rain, still decided to go do the race. OH YEAH, it's on!

So, we get to the race and register. By this point it was still relatively manageable, rain, upper forties and there was a crowd. Takes little bit, but we set up the tent and hang in the car to stay warm. But then a few minutes later a woman and some dude just walk under our tent and start pinning numbers or something.... Jeff and I look at each other and are like "Is this chick seriously under our tent without at least asking us if they can use it?" So we get out, say hi and then they ask us, of course we say yes, but it was still pretty weird and awkward.

Then we spent a while talking to Wheelworks Master's Bad-ass John who was doing his third race of the weekend (after winning the Mansfield Masters 2/3/4 and 4th in the regular 2/3/4 the day before). He later goes on to get 3rd in the Masters 1/2/3 race. Dude is a machine.

Finally, I change, ride a couple laps of the course and learn that basically, the 3 uphill sections in the field are totally muddy and need to be run (one has barriers), also the long wooded section of the course has 6 inch deep puddles with rocks at the bottom that you can't see, and all the grass switchbacks are totally rutted out and muddy. Oh, and now the temperature has started to drop and the winds have picked up. Awesome, I hate running.

Race

Go to the start, see like 25-30 dudes who have also decided that it would be a good idea to race in this non-sense and get the whistle. Had a bad start, what did I care, it was the P/1/2/3 race and I was doing it for no apparent reason. Anyways, I try to sit on Colin's wheel with no success, and I see somebody on a 29'er single speed, (the only better bike choice would have been a rigid 29er with gears). Anyways, I stay the main group for the first lap and then slowly fall off. Find myself in a chase group and fall off that as well.

A few laps later I see 5 to go and I'm thinking holy shit. But by this point I'm 30 seconds behind the guy in front of me and 30 seconds ahead of the guy behind me, so I just ride my race. I spend the most of the race in this limbo and at 4 to go get lapped by a Keough (now 3 to go), then 2 minutes later lapped by BW and Dylan McNicholas, whatever, I'm not too worried about it.ing. And just after that things become really miserable.

I lose all feeling in my fingers, and shifting on SRAM Rival becomes a complete nightmare, and it's pretty much a miracle that I can shift at all anyway because of the 9 pounds of wet grass and mud that has accumulated on my bike. But I see the 2 laps to go and think "Fuck it, I'm almost done. Just two more laps with 8 more dismounts and 6 more run-ups."

During this period I actually pass a Landry's rider and think I'm not doing that bad. Then I do the final agonizing lap and make it to the finish at a blistering 3MPH. The official says,
"Can you believe you paid for this? Now go warm up, the results will be posted online tomorrow. Looks like you did pretty well," Me,
"Sweet."

Post Race


Now here's where the day get's interesting. Since I've stopped racing my body essentially shuts down as I stand under the tent. So first I take off the top of my skinsuit and my base layer and I immediately begin to layer my upper body with:

1) T-shirt
2) Hooded Sweatshrt
3) Fleece Cycling Jersey
4) Softshell Fleece Jacket
5) Snowboarding Jacket

After that I spend a solid 5-10 minutes shivering uncontrollably, and wincing from the pain in my hands. Highlight though is just before get I my dexterity back and can take off my shoes it starts snowing. A few minutes later I take off my leg warmers, and my skinsuit and finally put on pants and shoes and jump in the car with the heat full blast. I spend the next 30 minutes sitting there as waves of chills come through me and I stuff my face with Pizza and a sandwich. And eventually I get the feeling back in my toes and then it's time to pack up the car.

Jeff and I then get around to taking down the tent which has an inch or so of snow on top and loading up the bikes and our gear before getting on the road. We were the last people out of the parking lot. The race had ended an hour and a half earlier.

On Wednesday I get to see the results, 11th of 17 finishers, I'm guessing 15 people or more did the logical thing and dropped out.

I'm so glad I raced.