Friday, July 22, 2011


I'm not exactly the kind of guy that strikes fear into his competitors when I throw a leg over my cross bike. Yet something about racing on that bike seems to lead to an inordinate amount of attention in the media.

It started after Cyclocross Nationals when this picture was featured in issue 02 of Peloton Magazine. You have to be pretty familiar with the back of my helmet to know that it's me, but it's on the same page as Katie Compton, so I'll take it.


Shortly thereafter, Cyclocross Magazine published this shot of my lower half (as their centerfold, no less) in issue 12.

Then just this week, Velo News ran an article on The Crusher in the Tushar, including a full results page.

The first two were just dumb, random luck. The last perhaps the best and only perk of racing with the big boys rather than racing for placing in my age group. Regardless, I'm sure that the stories behind each one and the descriptions of my performances will become infinitely better by the time I have grandchildren.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whiners and winners

This year's edition of Le Tour has been a good one. Instead of Contador running away with it the way he did the Giro, he's been trailing since the outset and has demonstrated both his mortality and his dominance while opening the door for some other contenders to showcase their mettle. Can't wait to see how it wraps up.

Although to date, we haven't had a chaingate, certain riders have found no shortage of controversy--contrived or otherwise--to complain about. Others have chosen to STFU, HTFU*, and show what it means to be a bike racer. Some examples:

*Hoogerland The F*ck Up, for those not familiar with the term. The replacement of the first word in this acronym needs no commentary.

Tyler Farrar
Tyler finally lived up to his promise by winning a stage and paying tribute to his late friend, Wouter Weylendt. You'd think beating Cavendish would get that monkey off his back, but it hasn't. I don't know why it isn't obvious to the sprint teams, but the way to beat Cavendish is not to sit his wheel and try to come around him after he accelerates. That approach just doesn't work--his acceleration is too fast, leaving you with too much ground to make up.

Instead, teams need to get their train lined up behind HTC, force them to work during the chase, then in the final K, come to the front and let your guy make the first move. Force Cav to make up ground. He's the fastest guy over 25 meters, not 250. Go at 250, force him to use his 25 meter kick catching up, and then keep driving it from there. Farrar went first when he won, Greipel went first when he won. Why then would you not go first every time?

Most importantly, though, Tyler, no matter how suspicious you are about what Cav did to make the time cut in a mountain stage, don't whine about it the next day after he beats you. Implying that Cav shouldn't have made the time cut and therefore shouldn't have been in the race to beat you tells us exactly where your head is: even though you've beat him, you still don't believe you can.

Thor Hushovd
Hard to believe that for all the sniveling Farrar had done, he's on the same team as Thor. Farrar whines about Cav making the time cut, but Thor didn't utter a word of complaint when he lost his spot as his team's marquis sprinter when his team merged with Farrar.

Instead of whining, Thor led his team across the line in the TTT, wore yellow for several days longer than anyone expected, and then once they finally tore it from his back, he went on to win two mountain stages. Thor doesn't seem to care that his own team isn't giving him a crack at the sprint stages because he knows he's hard enough to get over the mountains with the breakaway specialists and then just ride away from them in the final kilometers. Farrar need not even leave the team bus to learn what it means to be a hard man.

Andy Schleck
Le Tour is not an uphill time trial, it's a grand tour. And that means going down the hills that you go up. The thing Andy seems to forget in the midst of all his bellyaching over the treacherous descents is that he had already lost time before they started descending.

As if not being able to ride down the hills in the team bus were not enough of an inconvenience, Andy also bemoaned the fact that he had to do two doping controls on one day, the second in a restaurant while he was eating dinner. I am somewhat hopeful that his naivete around the second control's purpose--ensuring he didn't microdose following the first control--is an indication that he's clean. Either way, his reaction is a clear indication that he's a crybaby. Not surprisingly, his sponsors have silenced his twitter account, so now he only gets to whine in interviews.

Thomas Voeckler
If Hinault was The Badger, then Voeckler is The Honey Badger. Not supposed to be a GC contender? Honey Badger doesn't give a shit. Watching this tenacious Frenchman race his bike has only been rivaled by watching his no-name, low-budget team ride at the front of the field as if their presence there is the most natural thing in the world. As brilliant as Cadel has been, I hope Tommy V. holds onto yellow all the way to Paris. Even if he doesn't, it's going to take a lot more than a cobra bite (or a pistol shot) to wrestle it away from him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Crusher

If you're wondering what I was alluding to in my Up to Something post last week, I was gluing tubulars for the inaugural Crusher in the Tushar. Actually, I was not gluing tubulars specifically for this race, rather, I was gluing tubulars on which I intend to race cross this season, but on which I also chose to race the Crusher. I just now have my tires glued two months early. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

There was much contemplation and consternation over various and sundry equipment choices for this race. So much so that Ryan at Revolution told me he was starting to feel guilty about the amount of money people were spending prepping their bikes for this one event.

My approach was a little different. I looked at the course profile and figured that fire roads and pavement would probably go faster on my cross bike, so that's what I decided to ride. I became a little apprehensive after hearing the course recon stories about the super sketchy descent. The descent turned out to be a graded dirt road as wide and nearly as smooth as my driveway. It was steep, but nothing technical and nothing dangerous. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My super-secret stealth training program consisted of riding my bike most days for as far and as hard as I felt like riding it. Some days that was pretty hard and pretty far, like hundred miles of nowhere. But most of the time I either commuted to work on my road bike or did a lunch ride in the Orem foothills or a lap or two in Corner Canyon on the MTB. If I didn't feel like riding, I went to the pool with my kids and worked on my suntan.

When we got to Beaver for packet pickup on Friday night I got the idea that I should change categories, and rather than race the 30-39 age group, I would race with the pro men. The genesis of this idea was the guidance given regarding categories that Pro/1/2 or A flight road racers should race pro. But I had ignored this guidance because amongst those signed up in the pro category were six-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson, MTB legend Tinker Juarez, Giro d'Italia veteran Jeff Louder, as well as Tyler Wren, Zack Vestal, Evan Hyde, and Paul Mach, amongst others. Throw me into that mix and one of these things is clearly not like the others.

Nevertheless, when else would I have the chance to race against* (not just on the same course as) the aforementioned pros? So I changed categories.

*In this case, "race against" means "have my ass handed to me by."

Saturday morning, Bruce, the race announcer, made us all feel confident about what was ahead when he told us "no matter what bike you chose, at some point you are guaranteed to have been absolutely wrong." That was comforting. And then we were off.

Caught up as I was in the celebrity of the field, I quickly pulled to the front, telling Tim Johnson as I went by "I have to at least be able to say I took a pull." Peter Archambault and I traded work on the front for a few miles until the road kicked up. The big guns attacked, and I went from first to last just like that. I rode in a small gruppetto for quite a bit of the first climb, but when that broke up, I figured I was on my own for the rest of the day.

I also figured the age group riders would catch and pass me, and sure enough they did. Start order was men 20-29, 30-39, and then 40-49. The first rider to pass me was T$, who would go on to win the 40-49 group. That means he rode past the 20-29 fields and 30-39 fields in their entirety. Wow.

When I reached the aid station at the top of the first big climb, I heard my teammate Pete McMullin call my name. He said he'd been following me for quite a while. He was near the top 5 for the 30-39 age group, so I wanted to try to help him on the flats at the bottom of the hill.

Problem was, he went down the hill quite a bit faster than I did. I got caught and passed by two more riders on the dirt descent, but once we hit pavement, I really opened it up and brought one back. I caught the other two--Pete and Zach Terry--on the flats, and the three of us rode together for a while.

When we hit the dirt again, Pete punctured a tire and was delayed, so it was Zach and me. Zach was complaining about the heat, and I started telling him how I like racing in the heat because it seems to have more effect on other people than it does me. As if on cue, Zach fell behind, and I was on my own again.

The second big climb was the same road we had descended. It seemed steep but not that steep going down. Oh how steep it felt going up. My low gear was 39:27, and I think I was turning it around as slowly as I possibly could without falling over. Nevertheless, I caught and passed quite a few racers on the climb, and as I neared the KOM, I saw Evan Hyde up ahead. I'm sure Evan found this annoying as hell, but I was gaining on him, so I kept pushing it and crossed the KOM just ahead of him. He returned the favor by riding away from me, never to be seen again, moments later.

With about 15k to go, my legs started cramping. I thought I just needed some water and was close to the last aid station. Water helped me feel better for a while, but then the cramps came back. Peter A., whom I had passed on the climb, caught and passed me. I tried to stay with him, but the cramps flared again, to the point that I had to stop twice and get off the bike to stretch them out.

Shortly thereafter, Slyfox pulled up to me on his scooter and said that the women's leader was getting close. Six time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes was the next to pass me, but this time I managed to keep her in sight. As we approached the final climb, I figured if the road ever leveled out, I would pass her. It never did.

I crossed the line right behind Clara (nevermind that she had started eight minutes behind me) and promptly laid down on the pavement. Tyler Wren had finished over an hour ahead of me, with Zach Vestal, Benjamin Blaugrund, Jeff Louder, and Paul Mach rounding out the top five. Local hard man Reed Wycoff finished sixth, just eight minutes behind Tyler. I was 19th in Pro Men, and I'll be honest, I feel pretty damned good about that result.

A few minutes after I finished, Bruce announced Pete M. After four minutes of effort, he got the puncture to seal and ended up fourth in 30-39. Right after Pete was Grizzly Adam. I never saw Adam on course, but we must have been close all along. Adam was easily the best-prepared racer, and it paid off.

Racers continued trickling in, including the Suncrest crew, Jonnie J, JW, Sam, Evil, Bright, and GRust. My teammate Alex Kim, who refers to himself as a fat crit racer, and to whom I had insisted that 'cross bike gearing would be plenty low, came across 11th in the 40-49 category.

Amazingly, everyone had a look of agony at the moment they crossed the line, but within minutes, it was all smiles. The reason for the smiles was that Burke did a fantastic job organizing the race. Burke is a racer, and this was a racer's race. You could tell he's done a lot of events over the years and knows the characteristics of a quality race. Enough cannot be said for the volunteers. The aid stations were staffed by some of the friendliest people I've ever met, and the public safety officials who were dispersed throughout the well-marked course were full of smiles and encouragement.  As Adam said, this race is an instant classic--be ready at registration next year, because it will fill and fill quickly.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wasatch Omnium

Last weekend the Four for the Fourth Terry McGinnis Memorial Crit Series ran as an omnium to reward the most consistent riders throughout the four races. I got a late start* to the competition so decided to create a weekend omnium of my own.

*Because mentally I wasn't ready to race crits. Last Wednesday there was a crash at the DMV crit that resulted in a fatality. Then, on Friday night in the Midvale crit, Sleevie crashed after winning, fracturing his elbow. I wasn't sure I'd race at all until Saturday when I watched the Lehi race, which was conducted on a safe, wide-open course where there were no incidents.

Stage 1: Alpine Loop lunch ride
Met up with Elden for a road ride around the Alpine Loop from the Sundance side, which I rarely ride. So, so nice, as it always is.

Stage 2a: Mountain Biking in American Fork Canyon
Aaron, Adam, Chad, and I met up Saturday to ride mountain bikes on the trails near where I'd ridden my road bike the day before. The inevitable question is if you had to choose between riding mountain bikes and riding road bikes in American Fork canyon, which would you choose? Thankfully, no such choice has to be made, and we can do both.

Stage 2b: Lehi Criterium Spectating
Great race on a great course. Steve took third behind Dave Harward and Evan Hyde. He rode strong all night. Fun to watch, enough so to remind me how much I love racing crits.

Stage 3: Bountiful Criterium
Sunday was ridiculously hot. Which is great for me--I ride well in the heat. Given my lack of confidence, I opted to race Masters. Still feeling a bit skittish about being in the midst of a group and wanting the race to be as hard as possible in hopes that a few contenders would expire in the heat, I hit it hard from the gun and went off the front for three laps.

Once I got caught, there were several counterattacks. Of course the one that I wasn't able to cover was the one that stuck. The chase was pretty much just Dirk Cowley (FFKR) and me. We rode hard--hard enough that the break was whittled down from five to four to two, but not hard enough to catch the two.

With two to go, Jess (RMCC) went to the front, then on the last lap, Norm Frye (Ski Utah) took a flyer. I held Norm's wheel, which provided the perfect leadout, and was able to come around him to win the bunch sprint and third overall. First podium of the year, and I won a prime lap besides, so I was pretty happy with the race.

Stage 4a: Baldy Main Chute
If you can ski on the 4th of July, you should. There's still a lot of snow up there, so we did.

Looking down on our objective.

But before skiing, we had some donuts to eat.

And some other festivities.

And then some skiing.

Stage 4b: Holladay Criterium
With as good as I felt Sunday and as much as I like this course, I had high hopes for the Holladay Criterium. The Ski Utah team, however, also noticed that I was feeling good. Every time a break went up the road, I chased onto it. Every time I got on, they chased me down, even though they had a guy up each time.

Coming into the last lap, Jess had taken a flyer off the front. Even though we're not teammates, Jess is my friend, so I wasn't willing to chase. I sat in while Ski Utah chased, and that little recovery meant my legs felt great. I got on Rich Vroom's wheel, because I knew he'd go on the hill and try to get a gap. I figured I could follow him and come around at the end.

The problem is that we were racing in the rain. And when crosswalk paint gets wet, it gets slick. And even though we'd been racing on the slick surface for nearly an hour, a certain racer somehow forgot it was slick, was too light on his rear wheel, and went down in the first corner of the last lap, taking Rich with him. I was behind the two with nowhere to go and went down, along with Cam from Ski Utah.

I have never been more confident I could win a race, and instead I came home with a scraped elbow and knee and some chewed up bar tape. Winning two primes took out some of the sting, but I'm still bummed about the result. Justin and Steve took third and fourth in the P/1/2/3 race, so that was some redemption. And my result notwithstanding, the city of Holladay deserves a huge shout out for putting on a fantastic event.